Cambodia-Vietnam Relations: Role of Cambodian Youth


Cambodia-Vietnam Relations: Role of Cambodian Youth

by Kimkong Heng & Sovinda Po

http://www.newmandala.org

Cambodia youth have crucial roles to play in improving and strengthening Cambodia-Vietnam relations, write Kimkong Heng & Sovinda Po.

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Cambodia has long been the victim of her rising neighbuors, Thailand and Vietnam. In 1863, to ensure that Cambodia could still remain united as a single country and not to be swallowed by her two stronger neighbours, King Norodom decided to invite France to make Cambodia its protectorate. A century later, with the intention to dominate and turn Indochina into a communist bloc under its control, Vietnam invaded Cambodia on grounds of liberating the latter from the genocidal regime of the Khmer Rouge in 1979.

Because of increasing diplomatic and economic pressure from the international community, however, Vietnam was forced to withdraw its troops from Cambodia in 1989. Chronic anti-Vietnamese sentiment among Cambodians, or so-called ‘Vietnam Syndrome’, has remained ever since.

One of the great challenges in Cambodia-Vietnam bilateral relations is the perception of many Cambodian people, who even long before the 1979 Vietnamese invasion, saw Vietnam as a long-term threat to Cambodia’s land. As noted in Phnom Penh Post, “quite clearly, forms of Cambodian racism towards Vietnam and the Vietnamese minority in Cambodia did not develop in a historical vacuum but rather developed in response to the expansionist tendencies of the pre-colonial imperial state”. Vietnam encroached Prey Nokor, including Kampuchea Krom (formerly a Cambodian territory) and institutionalised it as its own city, now known as Ho Chi Minh City.

Such stories and other similar narratives about Vietnam’s land grabbing ideology were taught in Cambodian schools and passed down from one generation to another. Moreover, the contemporary instances of the ongoing border dispute between Cambodia and Vietnam has also reinforced such perceptions. One Cambodian scholar posits that the border dispute, compounded by anti-Vietnam nationalism, has gained momentum since the national election in 2013 and the trend is not likely to fade away any time soon.

Cambodia’s efforts to improve the Cambodia-Vietnam Relations

The Royal Government of Cambodia (RGC) under Hun Sen’s leadership has been very active in normalising and cementing Cambodian ties with Vietnam. In June 2015 during the visit of Le Hong Anh, a member of the politburo of the Vietnamese Communist Party, Hun Sen told the Vietnamese counterpart to remain calm so that peace and stability could be maintained along the border. At the same year, Hun Sen also asked the UN for original Cambodian maps to verify the ongoing border demarcation process between Cambodia and Vietnam.

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Although this attempt has not yielded a fruitful result, because both parties have not reached common agreement, the general public in Cambodia tended to view it as a major effort to settle the border dispute. Moreover, several dimensions of bilateral cooperation between the two countries have been initiated and increased. There is much cooperation in terms of trade, investments, military-to-military ties, and government-to-government relations, but one of the most important dimensions in  Cambodian-Vietnamese relations which seems to receive less attention is people-to-people connectivity.

Cambodian youth, the backbone of the Cambodian nation, have vital roles to play to improve and strengthen relations between the two countries.

The Role of Cambodian Youth 

Despite many initiatives such as youth exchange programs both governments have introduced to salvage the troubled relationship between the two countries, youth of both nations still have crucial roles to play.

First, Cambodian youth must learn and understand their own history. Only after they have a profound insight into their own history will they be able to make sound judgment and rational decisions when it comes to issues related to Cambodia-Vietnam relations. As Chheang Vannarith notes, a clear understanding of history can help promote reconciliation between former enemy countries because history offers light for future directions.

Second, Cambodian youth must learn to develop open-minded and positive mindsets. Instead of sticking to a negative anti-Vietnamese worldview, they should learn to ‘jettison’ their Vietnam syndrome by being more open and realistic in their thinking and attitudes. Although Cambodia and Vietnam were two former foes, both nations are now ASEAN members. Thus, establishing more and improved people-to-people connectivity between the two neighbouring countries is vitally important; however, any connectivity at a micro- level will not flourish unless Cambodian youth can start learning to view their Vietnamese counterparts as friends, not traditional enemies.

Third, Cambodian youth must also learn to think and act as global citizens. Living in a global society, in particular within ASEAN, younger Cambodian generations must be able to live harmoniously and peacefully with other nationalities, especially the Vietnamese. Although Vietnam is generally not well-received among Cambodians, young and old, the country is vital to Cambodia’s national security because of its geopolitical proximity to Cambodia. In this respect, the ability to refrain from despising anything with the name ‘Vietnam’ or ‘Vietnamese’ attached to it is absolutely crucial for Cambodian young people if they wish to be seen as global citizens.

Finally, it is a must for Cambodian youth to engage in all forms of knowledge and skills development. One problem Cambodia is facing and will continue to face in the foreseeable future is the lack of a culture of reading. Therefore, as Cambodia aims to become an upper-middle income country by 2030 and a high income country by 2050 (Cambodia’s National Strategic Development Plan 2014-2018), the development of a knowledge-based Cambodian society is of absolute necessity.

In this regard, Cambodian youth who are the future for Cambodia have a pivotal role to play. They can either be future architects of the Cambodian development pathway, including Cambodia’s foreign policy, or prospective captains of the Cambodian ship. Most importantly, they can be Cambodian ambassadors in the making who are responsible for raising the profile of Cambodia in the region and the international stage. They have, in particular, active and fundamental roles to play in Cambodia’s endeavours to enhance its relations with Vietnam. All of these roles require knowledgeable, open-minded, pragmatic and outward-looking Cambodians.

Kimkong Heng is an Assistant Dean for the School of Graduate Studies, The University of Cambodia, Phnom Penh, Cambodia. He is also a lead editorial assistant of UC Occasional Paper Series. He earned his MA in TESOL from the University of Canberra (Australia) with High Distinction. His areas of interest include language teaching methodology, teacher education, teacher research capacity building, and now foreign policy. Heng is a doctoral candidate in International Relations at Techo Sen School of Government and International Relations, The University of Cambodia under supervision of Prof. (Dr) Din Merican.

Sovinda Po is a Master student in International Relations at School of Advanced International and Areas Studies, East China Normal University, Shanghai, China. His research interests include Cambodia’s foreign policy, China’s foreign policy, China and Cambodia relations, and China and ASEAN relations. His articles appear on the Diplomat, East Asia Forum, IPP Review, and Australian Institute of International Affairs.    

Diplomacy at work in Florida when DJT meets China’s Xi


April 3, 2017

Diplomacy at work in Florida when DJT meets China’s Xi

by Editors, East Asia Forum

http://www.eastasiaforum.org

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All eyes will be on Florida this week, when US President Donald Trump will host an inaugural summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

The first summit between the two leaders is always going to be consequential, given the size and influence of the two nations, and their growing competition over issues such as North Korean nuclear proliferation, East Asian maritime security disputes, bilateral trade and investment imbalances and the direction of the global economy.

But the Trump–Xi summit takes on even greater significance because of the degree of anti-China rhetoric Trump employed during his 2016 presidential campaign. There is now a high degree of uncertainty over whether President Trump will turn that rhetoric into policy.

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Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson met President Xi in Beijing

During the election campaign, Trump threatened to impose a 45 per cent tariff on Chinese imports and described China as ‘the single greatest currency manipulator that’s ever been on this planet’. As President-Elect, Trump broke with decades of diplomatic protocol by accepting a phone call from Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, and suggested in an interview on Fox News that he may use the ‘one China’ policy as a bargaining chip in trade negotiations.

So far, President Trump has not moved to enact specific policies that follow through these threats, although his appointment of Peter Navarro as the director of the National Trade Council and his nomination of Robert Lighthizer as US Trade Representative, suggested that the Trump administration was likely to take a more confrontational approach to China in the economic realm.

On security matters, there have been more contradictory signals. Despite his threats during and in the wake of the campaign, Trump told President Xi during their first phone call that he would respect the ‘one China’ policy. And although Trump’s Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, took a tough line on China during his confirmation hearing, Tillerson surprised Chinese and American audiences alike during his first official visit to Beijing last month when he appeared to take a more conciliatory approach to China and adopted Beijing’s formulation of language underpinning the ‘new model of great power relations’.

Inevitably, teething issues and missteps confound the early days of any new administration, but the degree of uncertainty surrounding Trump’s China policy is unusual. There is no doubt that we are at a precarious moment in the US–China relationship. There is much at stake for both the United States and China in the lead up to the Florida summit.

As Zha Daojiong explains in our first lead piece this week, Trump faces considerable domestic pressure from America’s foreign policy advocates — Democrat and Republican alike — for whom ‘“get tough on China” is more the norm than the exception’, and from his supporters who are now encouraging Trump to ‘live up to his own tweets about China’. Trump also faces pressure from US allies and partners in Asia who ‘demand explicit and repeated assurance of American staying power’. The combination of these pressures, Zha argues, will make the Trump administration wary of appearing soft on China.

For Xi Jinping, the primary goal in Florida is avoiding a US–China trade war that would not only harm both countries’ economies, but which would also jeopardise Xi’s desire for a stable run up to the 19th Party Congress later this year. Despite pressure on Trump to come good on election hype, as David Dollar explains in our second lead piece this week, Trump must recognise that ‘threatening high tariffs is not likely to encourage China to yield and would backfire by hurting the US economy’. Instead, Trump ‘should consider restricting SOE mergers and acquisitions in the US given the lack of reciprocity on the Chinese side’, and should focus on encouraging the domestic reforms that would push China’s economy towards greater consumption. In addition, he notes ominously that the ‘US also has trade remedies that it can deploy in individual sectors’.

But the outcomes of the summit will have consequences well beyond the bilateral US–China relationship. There is a need for a new bargain between the US and China. The risk is that in pursuing this bargain, Trump and Xi will agree to forge a ‘G2’ or a ‘new model of major power relations’ that could overlook the security and economic interests of US allies and partners, or undermine the open economic order.

Instead, as Zha argues, China ‘would be best advised to drop its past attempts at winning support from the United States for a broad framing of the bilateral relationship’ along the lines of the ‘new model of major power relations’. Failure to do so would ‘set off complicated trilateral geopolitical relations’ with countries like South Korea and Japan, and could further stymie efforts to resolve critical challenges like the North Korean nuclear issue. In Florida, Zha suggests, ‘the Chinese side should echo Trump by noting that the smooth development of ties between the United States and its Asian allies is positive for China’.

On economic issues, the two sides must resist a deal that pulls China away from greater economic openness. Instead, Dollar argues that speeding up the pace of China’s domestic economic reforms would actually help to shift China’s economy towards consumption and reduce the large trade surpluses that are so resented by the Trump administration.

‘China is keeping zombie state enterprises alive with credit from state-owned banks. [Trump] should encourage China to close bankrupt enterprises and privatize viable ones. China could easily afford more generous pensions for its large number of military and civilian retirees. This would be an immediate way to increase household income for a group that is likely to spend it. China also spends little public money on health and education, and greater social spending would increase households’ real income and bolster their consumption’, Dollar argues.

Though the Florida summit may end up being more about style than substance, the tenor of discussions between Xi and Trump, and whether or not the two sides can lay the foundations for striking some kind of bargain, will have major implications for regional and global order.

The EAF Editorial Group is comprised of Peter Drysdale, Shiro Armstrong, Ben Ascione, Ryan Manuel, Amy King and Jillian Mowbray-Tsutsumi and is located in the Crawford School of Public Policy in the ANU College of Asia and the Pacific.

A Wahhabi Prophet comes to Najib’s LaLaLand


March 2, 2017

A Wahhabi Prophet comes to Najib’s LaLaLand

by S Thayaparan@www.malaysiakini.com

“My biggest fear is that the enlightened Arab thinkers are going to leave the Arab world in search of fresh air: somewhere far away from the sword of the religious authorities.”– Raif Badawi, ‘1,000 Lashes: Because I Say What I Think’

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UMNO’s Grand Poobah and his Fan Club

A long-time reader of my writings and someone who has become a friend asked me what I thought about the visit of the House of Saud. “The Prime Minister must be really desperate,” he said and was taken aback when I disagreed.

In my opinion, UMNO President Najib Abdul Razak is in a better position than the current monarch of Saudi Arabia. Maybe it is because Saudi Arabia is heading into (1) extremely choppy financial waters, (2) waging an ideological and proxy war with Iran, (3) leading a “coalition” against Yemen, and (4) promulgating its version of Islam (Wahhabism) which has resulted in blowback across the world.

1) As reported by CNNMoney – “After years of raking in huge sums of oil money, these days Saudi Arabia is pulling out all the stops to raise cash. The kingdom is reportedly planning to take out a US$10 billion loan from a group of banks, possibly paving the way for its first international bond sale.

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“The problem is Saudi Arabia needs oil prices at over US$100 a barrel to break even on its budget. The kingdom spends heavily on perks for its huge population of nearly 30 million. Now it’s being forced to reverse some of those gifts, as highlighted by the recent 50 percent gas price hike. Saudi Arabia’s ‘lavish social spending program is on a collision course’ with cheap oil, (Zach) Schreiber said.”

(Schreiber was CEO of hedge fund PointState Capital who walked away with US$1 billion after betting that oil prices would crash three years ago.)

2) Did anyone else read Iranian Foreign Mohammad Javad Zarif’s op-ed piece in the New York Times, titled ‘Let Us Rid the World of Wahhabism’? I certainly did –

“Saudi Arabia’s effort to persuade its Western patrons to back its shortsighted tactics is based on the false premise that plunging the Arab world into further chaos will somehow damage Iran. The fanciful notions that regional instability will help to ‘contain’ Iran, and that supposed rivalries between Sunni and Shiite Muslims are fueling conflicts, are contradicted by the reality that the worst bloodshed in the region is caused by Wahhabists fighting fellow Arabs and murdering fellow Sunnis.”

3) Just last month the United Nations warned Saudi Arabia and its “allies” that war crimes may have been committed in the Yemen conflict – “A Saudi Arabia-led military coalition has carried out attacks in Yemen that ‘may amount to war crimes’”, UN sanctions monitors reported to the world body’s Security Council, warning coalition allies including the United States, Britain and France that they are obligated to respect international humanitarian law.

4) Again, from the New York Times, last year – “Small details of Saudi practice can cause outsize trouble. For at least two decades, the kingdom has distributed an English translation of the Quran that in the first surah, or chapter, adds parenthetical references to Jews and Christians in addressing Allah: ‘those who earned your anger (such as the Jews), nor of those who went astray (such as the Christians).’ Seyyed Hossein Nasr, a Professor of Islamic studies at The George Washington University and the editor-in-chief of the new Study Quran, an annotated English version, said the additions were ‘a complete heresy, with no basis in Islamic tradition’.”

Compared to the above, being labelled a kleptocrat at the centre of the country’s biggest financial scandal pales in comparison. Furthermore, unlike the wolves baying at the door of the House of Saud, the opposition towards this Najib regime is fractured, with certain members of the coalition still thinking–how naive– they can deal with PAS.

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It is pointless talking about the human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia. It is pointless pointing out the fact that the so-called moderate form of Islam practiced in Malaysia is anathema to the kind of Islam practiced in Saudi Arabia. It is pointless going over the so-called “donation” that was – or not to be – from the Kingdom.

Forestalling another Arab Spring

Remember, when Islamist political parties PAS and UMNO were arguing about UMNO actually used the donation to “uplift” Muslims?

I certainly do – “PAS Vice-President Iskandar Abdul Samad in a statement that was revealing of the UMNO strategy but at the same time an unintentional condemnation of Islam, questioned the efficacy of the use of dubious funds in the eradication of Muslim poverty, here in Malaysia.

“Would it have been acceptable to PAS if the so-called gift from The House of Saud was used to ‘uplift’ Muslims here in Malaysia? Of course, PAS splinter group Amanah is equally myopic in its version of how Islam is practiced in Malaysia.”

I contend there is nothing we can and should take from the Saudi Kingdom. I would argue that the reason why Malaysia is a so-called moderate state is because however dismally we have managed to resist the excesses of the House of Saud, we still have a multi-ethnic population whose contribution to politics, economics and culture has maintained a fast fading line between what the Wahhabis and their ilk want and what is secular and rational.

Saudi Arabia has been embarking on social programmes for years putting money in the hands of its citizens. This is not nearly enough because with records highs in unemployment and poverty, the country is the poster child for what Islamic states would look like if Wahhabism managed to overrun the world.

The issue here is not whether you think that BR1M is a question of corruption. When the UMNO Grand Poobah notes with satisfaction that the House of Saud is considering adopting a similar plan of putting money into the bank accounts of needy citizens, they are doing this because they have screwed up the economy to the point that people are living in (even more) poverty and the House of Saud is attempting to forestall another Arab Spring.

Saudi jails are filled to bursting point with not only ordinary people who have fallen foul of pernicious Wahhabi laws but also extremely dangerous fanatics who wish to wage war on the House of Saud and have bloody hands from not only domestic terror attacks but also plying their trade on foreign soil.

This of course is to be expected. If former United States Ambassador to Afghanistan and the United Nations, not to mention Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad is to be believed, officials from Riyadh admitted that they were funding extremists for years in part because of cold war hegemonic stratagems and their great game with Iran.

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Writing for Politico, Khalilzad (pic above) claimed that measures were currently under way to divest the system of its Islamic extremism. The said measures included:

  • New limits on the ability of the religious police to arrest dissidents.
  • Purges of extremists from the government and greater efforts to monitor their influence in security institutions.
  • The appointment of new religious leaders to counter Islamic extremism on theological grounds.
  • The transformation of the Muslim World League – a key Saudi arm for supporting Islamic movements abroad – by the appointment of a new leader and a decision to stop supporting Islamist madrassas abroad.

I suppose we should be grateful that Saudi petro dollars may run out and they will not be able to fund an ideology they know to be corrosive and barbaric. However, I am not holding my breath. Islamic State is a self-funded criminal organisation. The world over we have Muslims who do not think to question their religious beliefs, especially those which pits them against their fellow men and this is because of the efforts of the House of Saud.

I end this piece with another jailed Saudi dissident Raif Badawi’s quote as to what I think of this visit to Malaysia by Saudi King Salman Abdulaziz Al Saud – “Any religion-based state has a mission to limit the minds of its people, to fight the developments of history and logic, and to dumb down its citizens. It’s important to stand in the way of such a mentality, to deny it from continuing its mission to murder the souls of its people, killing them deep within while they are still alive and breathing.”

More often than not, the truth hits close to home.

S THAYAPARAN is Commander (Rtd) of the Royal Malaysian Navy.

The Kim Jong-nam Assassination: Tussle between China and North Korea


February 21, 2017

The Kim Jong-nam Assassination:Kuala Lumpur caught in an Ongoing Tussle between Beijing and Pyongyang

As dramatic and disturbing as the assassination of Kim Jong-nam is, it is simply a sideshow in the ongoing tussle between Beijing and Pyongyang. 

An uppity client state 

North Korea has long been a Chinese client state. It owes its very existence to China which also accounts for 89% of North Korea’s foreign trade. Chinese economic assistance, food aid and investments literally keep North Korea afloat.

As a client state, North Korea is expected to be mindful of China’s overall strategic interests in the region. No one, however, apparently briefed North Korea’s brash young leader about the niceties of client state behaviour. Since coming to power in 2011, Kim Jong-un’s actions have caused alarm and concern in Beijing.

His nuclear weapons programme and poorly timed missile testing threaten to upset the delicate balance of power that China is seeking to maintain in East Asia at a time when there is an unpredictable new occupant in the White House. The Chinese were also chagrined by the 2013 execution for treason of Kim’s uncle, Jang Song-thaek, who was well respected in Beijing. There were also a number of other unpleasant incidents between the two countries involving the treatment of Chinese investors and businessmen in North Korea.

More than anything else, however, a credible nuclear capability would give the North Korean dictator greater manoeuvrability vis-à-vis China and other powers, a worrying prospect for the Chinese leadership. As one Chinese professor put it, “If we choose an ally that can’t be tamed, we might become the biggest loser.”

To show its displeasure, China joined the international criticism of North Korea’s missile tests and last week rejected a shipment of coal from North Korea.

A slap in the face

Kim Jong-nam’s assassination has now plunged China-North Korea relations to a new low. It was no secret that Kim Jong-nam, the elder half-brother of Kim Jong-un, was under China’s protection, having lived in China since he fell from favour more than a decade ago. His presence in China was a constant reminder to Kim Jong-un that China had a convenient replacement, one who had perhaps a better claim to the throne as the eldest son, if he proved too unreasonable. For that reason alone, Kim Jong-nam was a marked man.

However, not even the mercurial and impulsive North Korean leader would have dared act against his half-brother while he was on Chinese soil. It would have been an insult that China would simply not have tolerated.

Malaysia, on the other hand, with its open doors, lax security and indulgent attitude towards North Korea is another story. Certainly, the North Korean leadership would not have expected that Malaysia would react the way it did. The law of unintended consequences just keeps cropping up in international affairs.

The reaction from Beijing was also not long in coming. Shortly after the assassination, China suspended all shipments of coal from North Korea until the end of the year. While the move was presented as part of China’s efforts to implement UN sanctions against North Korea, it is almost certainly a direct response to the Kim assassination in Kuala Lumpur.

As coal is North Korea’s single largest export item to China, the suspension is bound to hit the North Korean regime particularly hard. No doubt other measures are being planned as well although China is unlikely, at least at this stage, to attempt regime change in Pyongyang.

A tougher than expected response

In the immediate aftermath of the assassination, Malaysia appeared to go out of its way to avoid doing anything that would further exacerbate the situation. The Home Minister indicated that the body would, in due course, be returned to Pyongyang in accordance with international practice. He also insisted that the incident would not affect bilateral relations.

The provocative response of the North Korean Ambassador, however, appears to have stiffened Malaysia’s resolve.

In two rambling press conferences, the Ambassador accused Malaysia of a litany of offenses – colluding with his country’s enemies, scheming to implicate North Korea in the assassination, roughing up North Korean citizens and violating human rights and international law.

Failure to respond appropriately to such a provocation would have made the Malaysian government, already beset by a number of domestic scandals, look weak.

Interestingly, while the Ambassador alluded to South Korea when he accused Malaysia of colluding with “hostile forces,” his comments could apply to China as well.

Wisma Putra, which was largely silent in the early days of the drama, quickly responded by summoning the North Korean Ambassador for a dressing down. More significantly, Wisma Putra announced that Malaysia’s Ambassador in Pyongyang had been recalled for consultations – the strongest diplomatic show of displeasure short of breaking off relations.

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Recalling our Ambassador is absolutely the right thing to do given that it is now pretty clear that North Korea was complicit in the assassination. No country can look with equanimity upon such outrageous behaviour.

The North Korean Ambassador is, of course, in a very delicate situation; he has a Damocles sword hanging over him. If he is not seen to be zealous and conscientious enough in defence of the regime, he could suffer the same fate as his predecessor who found himself at the wrong end of a firing squad after being recalled from Kuala Lumpur. It is this fear of the consequences of failure, as much as anything else, that might have pushed him to the point where his actions have now done serious damage to the bilateral relations. It is hard to see him continuing in his present post for long.

Such are the perils of working in the North Korean foreign service.

Diplomatic and protocol issues

The assassination also raises interesting protocol issues. According to Satow’s Guide to Diplomatic Practice, long the go to handbook for diplomats, “If the death [of a diplomat] takes place in circumstances where ordinarily an inquest would be held, the authorities in the receiving state should if necessary be reminded that it has been general international practice not to hold an inquest where a diplomatic agent or other member of a mission dies in office, whether in inviolable premises or not.”

Some would argue, therefore, that Malaysia did not have the authority to carry out the post-mortem and that North Korea is within its rights to demand the return of Kim Jong-nam’s remains given that he was travelling on a diplomatic passport.

However, it can also be argued that although Kim Jong-nam was travelling on a diplomatic passport he was not formally accredited here and is, therefore, not subject to the same protocol.

What this means is that Malaysia has a great deal of latitude in deciding how to proceed with the case. Given that other countries – China and South Korea come to mind – also have a vested interest in the outcome, Malaysia will have to tread a careful path if it wishes to avoid being caught up in the bigger power play that is unfolding behind the scenes.

For now at least, both China and South Korea will no doubt be pleased with Malaysia’s tough stance. They will take satisfaction that the investigation has resulted in prolonged negative exposure for Pyongyang that will both further isolate and discredit the regime.

What happens now will depend, to a large degree, on how things play out between Beijing and Pyongyang. Where the remains of Kim Jong-nam finally ends up will provide interesting clues.

Malaysia, which has been increasingly deferential to China – even quietly sending back to China Muslim Uighur refugees who sought asylum in Malaysia – will likely be mindful of China’s interest in the matter.

Rethinking Malaysia-North Korea relations 

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Address: Diplomatic Enclave Munhung-dong, Taedonggang District Pyongyang …Malaysian Embassy

If nothing else, hopefully the assassination and the angry North Korean response to Kuala Lumpur’s handling of the case will prompt a reassessment of relations with Pyongyang.

For some unfathomable reason, Malaysia has had a resident diplomatic mission in Pyongyang since 2003, one of only 23 missions in the North Korean capital. Unfathomable because trade is practically non-existent (with almost zero prospects of improvement) and there are simply no bilateral issues worth talking about that would warrant the expense of a mission.

Perhaps in a desperate bid to add some substance to the relationship, both countries even explored ways to enhance tourism, never mind that North Korea is a country with no outbound tourists and only a few, possibly insane, inbound travelers.

What is more preposterous, however, was the decision some years ago to quietly take in 300 North Korean workers to work in Sarawak’s mining sector. Why Malaysia would even think of employing North Korean workers – slave labour, to all intent and purposes, toiling in a distant land to augment the regime’s scarce foreign reserves – is a mystery.

Malaysia also plays host to an approximately 1000 strong tightly knit community of North Korean businessmen, restaurant workers and other dubious ‘professionals,’ all of whom are controlled by the North Korean embassy and serve the interests of the state in one form or another.

Clearly, this is a one-sided relationship that benefits North Korea rather than Malaysia. Certainly, not many Malaysian taxpayers will lose any sleep if our mission in Pyongyang is shut for good.

 

Donald Trump’s Mexico Tantrum


January 28, 2017

The Opinion Pages | Editorial

Donald Trump’s Mexico Tantrum

By The Editorial Board–www.nytimes.com
 Credit Doug Chayka

Less than a week into the job, President Trump on Thursday raised the specter of a trade war with America’s third-largest partner, Mexico, as the White House warned that the United States could impose a 20 percent tariff on Mexican imports.

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This absurd threat, issued as a proposal to cover the cost of a border wall, came just hours after President Enrique Peña Nieto of Mexico canceled a visit to the United States. The visit was supposed to improve the relationship between the two countries, deeply strained by Mr. Trump’s relentless scapegoating of Mexicans during his presidential campaign. But Mr. Peña Nieto decided he’d heard enough after Mr. Trump issued executive orders on Wednesday to begin rounding up unauthorized immigrants and building his border wall.

The tariff tantrum was the latest in a head-spinning torrent of lies, dangerous policy ideas and threats from the White House since Mr. Trump was sworn in last Friday(January 20) . They have underscored just how impulsive and apparently ignorant the new occupant of the Oval Office is of international economic and security relationships that serve American interests. His advisers appear unwilling to rein in his impulses or, as in the case of the tariff, hapless as they struggle to tamp them down.

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It’s hard to tell whether the animus Mr. Trump has conveyed toward immigrants, particularly Mexicans, is deeply felt, or if he simply came to recognize how powerfully it would appeal to voters disaffected by an uneven economic recovery and the nation’s demographic changes.

But allowing this view to drive trade and foreign policy toward Mexico could have disastrous consequences for workers and consumers in both countries, given how tightly intertwined the two economies have become since the North American Free Trade Agreement went into effect in 1994.

Imposing a tariff on Mexico would mean pulling out of NAFTA, a move that would severely disrupt the flow of parts and goods across North America and stall production in factories in the United States and Canada. It also could lead to shortages of fresh vegetables and fruits in American grocery stores and drive up the cost of many other consumer goods from Mexico. Mexico’s economy, which is hugely dependent on American trade, would be devastated. But American businesses and workers would stand to suffer immediate harm as well. Mexico would retaliate with tariffs of its own. And no matter how Congress tried to structure the tariff, which would require legislation, it would probably still violate World Trade Organization rules.

Mr. Trump has pointed to America’s trade deficit with Mexico as a sign that the United States is being swindled. Trade with Mexico — imports to the United States totaled $296 billion in 2015 — benefits America by lowering the cost and increasing the availability of goods, like avocados and mangoes in winter. While the trade deficit with Mexico has resulted in job losses in some industries (possibly about 700,000 jobs in the first 16 years), a 2014 study estimates that 1.9 million American jobs depend on exports to Mexico. And trade, by raising wages and the standard of living in Mexico, is a big reason that illegal immigration from Mexico has dropped steadily over the years.

Sending the Mexican economy into a tailspin is the surest way to reverse that trend, which historically has been driven by market forces, and has never been deterred much by fences or walls. Besides, a tax on Mexican imports would be paid by American consumers and businesses that buy those goods. Americans would pay for the wall, not Mexicans.