North Korean hackers leverage crypto boom


Headline NORTH KOREA: Hackers leverage crypto boom


Headline NORTH KOREA: Kim will double down on nuclear deterrent


Headline NORTH KOREA: Halting trade again will prevent recovery

Significance It also benefits from policies that heavily favour the domestic arms industry. This has resulted in a well-equipped modern military and a high degree of self-reliance in equipping it. However, this model may be unsustainable. Impacts Seoul will likely attempt to expand armaments collaboration with other countries to gain additional resources, technologies and markets. China’s military modernisation is an increasing concern, including in the context of potential war with China’s ally, North Korea. Threats from North Korea make air and missile defence the top procurement priorities.

Subject The impact of recent by-elections and an ongoing corruption scandal. Significance Lee Wan-koo resigned as premier on April 21 after just two months in post. He and seven other associates of President Park Geun-hye were named in an interview and suicide note by Sung Wan-jong -- former head of a construction firm -- who hanged himself on April 9. All deny taking money from Sung, but Lee's position became untenable. In better news for Park, her Saenuri Party won three hitherto opposition-held seats in by-elections on April 29. Her approval rating as of May 1 was 39%, up four points in a week. Impacts Park's personal popularity is holding up, but this does not imply effective policy-making ahead. The main opposition, which lost all four by-elections, is in turmoil and may split. Park may try to regain popularity by easing policy toward North Korea.

Subject Japan's military space programme. Significance Japan's national space systems, particularly when linked to those of the United States, make it one of the pre-eminent military space powers regionally, if not globally. Impacts Japan's militarisation of space indicates a determination to face down threats from North Korea and China. Augmentation of Japanese space power should enhance US deterrence against China. Japan's attempt to match China's space capabilities risks an arms race in yet another dimension.

Subject Zinc market Significance The zinc price rose by more than 50% last year -- the best performance of all base metals traded on the London Metal Exchange (LME). After approaching a ten-year high of 2,900 dollars per tonne in November, the price remains sharply higher than its low of 1,500 a year ago. Mine closures in Australia and Ireland removed 1.1 million tonnes of zinc from the market, limiting the increase in output last year to an estimated 0.5%. In contrast, demand rose strongly, led by Chinese infrastructure spending, which accounts for around one-quarter of zinc demand. The 2016 deficit was estimated at 400,000-600,000 tonnes, the fifth year of shortfalls. Impacts Northern Chinese smelters are increasingly turning to North Korea for zinc concentrate, making the country China's third-largest supplier. Namibia's Skorpion mine may close two years earlier than forecast, removing an estimated 140,000 tonnes of refined metal from the market. South Africa's Gamsberg mine, one of the world's largest undeveloped zinc deposits, is due to begin production in 2018. Rising prices are attracting more buyers for the mines that Belgium-based producer Nyrstar has for sale under its restructuring programme.

Significance Unlike during her impeachment when she resisted all summons, Park plans to appear in court tomorrow in hopes of avoiding arrest and detention. Campaigning for the election to succeed her -- originally scheduled for December but brought forward by Park's dismissal -- is already in full swing. Impacts Even a nuclear test or provocation from North Korea would not save the conservatives. Moon’s plan to re-engage North Korea suggests relations with Washington will be rocky. Corporate corruption scandals will make business-bashing popular, but promises to curb the conglomerates will be hard to deliver on.

Significance President Donald Trump said he dismissed Tillerson as he wants his cabinet to be more in line with his thinking; Trump and Tillerson had clashed over policies and priorities. CIA Director Mike Pompeo will be nominated to succeed Tillerson. The nominee to replace Pompeo at the CIA will be current CIA Deputy Director Gina Haspel. Impacts A better-coordinated foreign policy team could help Trump prepare for his new push on North Korea-US ties. Pompeo may find as secretary of state that he disagrees more openly with Trump; the CIA director is not public-facing. Conceivably, the 2018 midterm elections could further delay Trump nominees, but secretaries could work in an acting capacity.

Significance President Donald Trump’s choice of Bolton and Pompeo has alarmed US allies, in large part because both men have advocated using military force towards Iran and North Korea, two countries with upcoming deadlines for action by Washington. Impacts Washington's tough line in US-North Korea talks will be stiffened by Bolton. Bolton will see a key part of his new post to be the enforcer of the president's national security decisions. Bolton will support Trump’s tough foreign-trade-deficit-reducing agenda.

Significance The message was conveyed by a South Korean delegation in Washington, briefing Trump on its talks earlier this week in Pyongyang. North Korea had said, the delegation reported, that it is “committed to denuclearisation” if regime security is not at risk. This follows months of escalating friction between North Korea and the international community that has seen Pyongyang ramp up its intercontinental missile and nuclear testing. Impacts The risk of confrontation on the Korean Peninsula could be reduced while talks are being prepared. Trump may relax his hawkish trade policy in the interim, to avoid alienating partners he needs in managing Pyongyang, including Beijing. A successful Trump-Kim meeting could gain South Korea’s president political benefits. If significant moves towards denuclearisation did occur, Trump’s administration might revise its pro-nuclear defence strategy. Any sanctions relief could be politically beneficial to the Pyongyang regime, but too much opening up could undermine it.

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