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This week our top story explores the resurrection of the China-Japan-South Korea trilateral summit. We also have an interview with former Vice Minister of Economy and Development Narantsogt Sanjaa on Mongolia’s new Sovereign Wealth Fund.
The Diplomat Brief
May 29,
Taiwan Fellowship
Welcome to the latest issue of Diplomat Brief. This week our top story explores the resurrection of the China-Japan-South Korea trilateral summit. We also have an interview with former Vice Minister of Economy and Development Narantsogt Sanjaa on Mongolia’s new Sovereign Wealth Fund.
Story of the week
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With Trilateral Summit, China, Japan, South Korea Look for a Reset

What Happened: On May 26-27, Chinese Premier Li Qiang and Japanese Prime Minister Kishida Fumio joined South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol in Seoul for the ninth trilateral summit of the three neighboring countries. It was the first meeting of the once-annual summit since 2019. While tensions remain high between the two U.S. allies and China, particularly on flashpoints like Taiwan and North Korea, the three leaders agreed to expand cooperation on trade by advancing long-stalled FTA negotiations.

Our Focus: On the surface, the summit marked a return to normalcy in China-South Korea and China-Japan relations. “China is the most important trading partner for both South Korea and Japan, so economically it is in their interests to maintain a healthy relationship,” Minseon Ku, an expert on foreign policy and international security at Dartmouth College, told The Diplomat. But Beijing continues to see Japan and South Korea as participants in a U.S. “bloc” meant to contain China, as both Tokyo and Seoul have moved to upgrade their alliances with Washington in recent years.

What Comes Next: The big question is where the China-Japan-South Korea trilateral goes from here. Promises were made to return to the annual format, but past attempts to keep to yearly meetings have been spotty at best. Similarly, the trilateral FTA has been under negotiation for years with little progress. Perhaps the only major breakthrough, then, is an announcement that China and South Korea will begin “2+2” ministerial meetings in June. Security has always been a weak point in the China-Japan-South Korea trilateral, as Ku pointed out: “The opportunities lie elsewhere, primarily in terms of business and economics.”

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Behind the News


Narantsogt Sanjaa

Former Vice Minister of Economy and Development Narantsogt Sanjaa, who is currently serving as the CEO of Erdenes Mongol LLC, a state-owned enterprise, on the link between anti-corruption efforts and Mongolia’s new Sovereign Wealth Fund: “The establishment of the Sovereign Wealth Fund demonstrates the government’s commitment in action to tackling the power of oligarchs, who have for too long taken money away from the Mongolian people through corruption and other illegal activities present in the mining sector.”

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This Week in Asia

Northeast Asia

Japan’s Political Parties Lock Horns on Fundraising Reform

After a scandal involving legislators pocketing undisclosed sums of money from political fundraising events, Japan’s Diet is considering legislation to amend relevant regulations. However, opposition parties say the LDP’s proposed bill doesn’t go far enough to weed out the potential for corruption linked to fundraising. Notably, even the LDP’s coalition partner, Komeito, is pushing for more stringent reform as public outrage over the scandal remains high.

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South Asia

Pakistan Mulls New Social Media Controls

Punjab, Pakistan’s largest province by population, recently passed controversial new legislation that stiffens penalties for defamation – including comments in private posts on social media. The law caused concern among proponents of free speech and a free press, who fear it will be abused to silence dissent. Now Pakistan’s national government is mulling its own social media law, sparking similar worries. Pakistan has already blocked X, formerly Twitter, citing national security concerns.

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Southeast Asia

Synthetic Drug Production Continues to Surge

The market for synthetic drugs in East and Southeast Asia continues to expand at “concerning levels,” the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) said this week in its annual report on the Asian synthetic drug market. The UNODC reported that 190 tons of methamphetamine was seized in the region last year, 89 percent of it in Southeast Asia, the largest amount on record. As in past years, the bulk of this was produced in Myanmar’s Shan State, by organized crime syndicates in partnership with autonomous armed groups based along the Chinese border. The report noted the increasing flexibility and sophistication of these syndicates, who have begun using non-controlled chemicals in place of tightly-controlled precursors, and are using maritime routes through the Gulf of Thailand to traffic large quantities of drugs to global markets.

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Central Asia

In Kyrgyzstan: All the Khan’s Men and Their Business Dealings

A new investigative report from OCCRP, Temirov Live, and Kloop finishes “the work of those who can longer do journalism in Kyrgyzstan” by uncovering a murky network of connections profiting from state projects. That network links back to President Japarov and his associates; the Japarov-Tashiev tandem is all about the money, after all. The report also illuminates the rationale behind increased pressure on outlets like Temirov Live and Kloop – they’re digging into topics Bishkek would prefer they leave be.

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Visualizing APAC

In India’s general elections, the proportion of the BJP’s total seat count coming from the Hindi heartland has rarely dipped below 60%.

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Word of the Week



Originally a style of sushi, now slang in Korean for fake news and conspiracy theories, especially on social media.

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Thailand’s Grand Reconciliation

The Diplomat Magazine | May 2024

Thailand’s Grand Reconciliation

This month, our cover story traces the tumultuous saga of the Shinawatra clan – now back in the establishment’s good graces 10 years after a coup sidelined both the family and Thailand’s democracy. We also analyze the duopoly formed by Kyrgyzstan’s president and security chief, and probe the contours of the Afghanistan-China-Pakistan trilateral. And, of course, we offer a range of reporting, analysis, and opinion from across the region.

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