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The Diplomat Brief
October 14,
The Diplomat Brief
2020 WA-ASEAN Trade and Investment Dialogue
Welcome to the latest issue of Diplomat Brief. This week our top story is North Korea’s military parade, which put its nuclear ambitions quite literally on display. We also have an interview with Vipin Narang, associate professor of political science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and member of MIT’s Security Studies Program, about nuclear arms racing and the accompanying risks in the Asia-Pacific and beyond.
Story of the week
A Nuclear North Korea’s Wake-up Call


A Nuclear North Korea’s Wake-up Call

What Happened: On October 10, as expected, North Korea held a large military parade to mark the 75th birthday of its ruling party – culminating with the reveal of North Korea’s largest known ICBM.

Our Focus: “For the United States, this missile is not good news,” Ankit Panda writes for The Diplomat. “Not only does it underscore the failure of the Trump administration’s diplomatic attempts to constrain North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs; it also emphasizes the continuing growth of Pyongyang’s qualitative capabilities.”

What Comes Next: As expected, the parade showcased progress in North Korea’s missile program, raising more questions about the potential for diplomacy to ever walk back those advances. The world will be watching to see if Pyongyang decides to test any of the missiles that were paraded on October 10, especially in the politically charged run-up to the 8th Party Congress in January 2021.

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Behind the News


Vipin Narang

Nuclear security expert Vipin Narang on China’s new emphasis on nuclear weapons: “My main reaction to Chinese nuclear modernization is: What took it so long to start?”

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This Week in Asia

Northeast Asia

China’s Southeast Asia Gambit

China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi is making a tour of Southeast Asia this week, just after hosting officials from Indonesia and the Philippines in Beijing. Wang’s tour covers mostly friendly ground, so expect him to take full opportunity of receptive audiences to hammer home China’s narrative on the emerging geopolitical competition in the region.

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South Asia

Anti-Government Protests in Pakistan

A coalition of 11 opposition parties in Pakistan, led by Islamist cleric Fazlur Rehman, is scheduled to hold its first rally on October 16 in Punjab province’s Gujranwala city, followed by another rally in Karachi on the 18th. By going after both the Imran Khan government as well as the country's powerful military, the coalition is aiming big. However, Rehman's leadership of the opposition movement is not being seen as a net win for pro-democracy voices in the country.

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Southeast Asia

Will Malaysia’s Government Change Hands – Again?

Long-time Malaysian opposition leader (and erstwhile PM-in-waiting) Anwar Ibrahim continues to insist he has the backing to unseat Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin. If he succeeds – and that’s far from certain at the moment – it would be the second time in less than a year that parliamentary realignments brought in a new government.

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Central Asia

Chaos in Kyrgyzstan

Kyrgyzstan’s political crisis has entered its second week. Two main questions are expected to be answered soon: Who is Kyrgyzstan’s prime minister? What’s happening with regard to new elections?

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Visualizing APAC


Which Countries Are For or Against China’s Xinjiang Policies?

Once again, rival blocs of countries have submitted statements to the U.N., either criticizing or justifying China’s treatment of the Uyghurs. Which countries are on which side?

See the full picture
Word of the Week



Azadi, meaning freedom in Urdu — The name adopted by Pakistan’s opposition parties for their planned mass protests against the government.

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The Diplomat BriefMaster's Program - Asian Studies
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The Diplomat Magazine | October 2020

U.S. Alliances Under Trump

This month, we take stock of the state of U.S. alliances in Asia after four years of the Trump administration. We also decipher the role China plays in Myanmar’s peace process, scrutinize the civil-military nexus taking shape in Pakistan under Imran Khan, and highlight the major developments that have molded Fiji over its 50 years of independence. And, of course, we offer a range of reporting, analysis, and opinion from across the region.

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Diplomat Risk Intelligence
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