Meridian Reads: North Korea, Antarctica and a diplomacy caucus



Happy December, Meridian Readers. We hope you had a restful thanksgiving and are gearing up for all the holiday festivities to come. Let’s jump into this week’s international affairs round-up.

North Korea says U.S. must choose “Christmas gift” as nuclear diplomacy deadline nears

Publication: CBS News | Via Associated Press

  • In case you haven’t heard, North Korea recently urged the Trump admin to salvage ongoing nuclear negotiations.
  • A statement attributed to a senior diplomat said it was entirely up to the United States to choose what “Christmas gift” it gets from the North.
  • The point of that ominous statement?
    • Unclear. It came as North Korea continues to dial up pressure on Washington and Seoul ahead of leader Kim Jong Un’s end-of-year deadline for the U.S. to offer mutually acceptable terms for a deal.
  • Negotiations have faltered since a February summit between Kim and President Donald Trump broke down after the U.S. rejected North Korean demands for broad sanctions relief in exchange for a partial surrender of its nuclear capabilities. Does your family drama seem a little less intense now?
  • Ri Thae Song, a vice foreign minister handling U.S. affairs, accused Washington of repeating talk offers aimed at buying time without offering real solutions.
    • “The dialogue touted by the U.S. is, in essence, nothing but a foolish trick hatched to keep the D.P.R.K bound to dialogue and use it in favor of the political situation and election in the U.S,” said Ri.
  • We’re not sure how this will play out. However, if a Christmas gift is at the center of this, we may know in a few short weeks.

The largest ever women’s expedition to Antarctica will upscale science diplomacy

Publication: Forbes | By Emanuela Barbiroglio

  • Let’s follow that nuclear war update with something positive, shall we?
  • In late November, The Homeward Bound Program took 100 women from 33 different countries and 25 different disciplines to Antarctica, in the largest-ever all-women expedition to the continent.
    • Homeward Bound is based on the idea that the climate crisis is not reducible to an environmental issue.
  • At its fourth edition, the program is promoting women in science diplomacy and climate action. We’ll clap for that.
  • The women involved are convinced that the real problem with the climate is a leadership crisis at all levels and across all sectors of society.
    • “One of the ways to tackle this problem is by building a more diverse and inclusive leadership structures,” explained the Spanish science diplomat Marga Gual Soler, who is taking part in the expedition. “As for me, I look at the global framework – and it is a challenge for diplomacy and the way in which countries choose to collaborate or compete with each other.”
  • The group chose Antarctica as the symbolic place of scientific collaboration and a sentinel for climate change.
    • “Nobody owns Antarctica, it belongs to all of us, we must speak for this land that has no indigenous people,” Gual Soler added.
  • Quick stat lesson: According to the latest UNESCO report, 72% of researchers globally are men. Only one country out of five reaches what is classified as “gender equality,” meaning women make 45-55% of researchers. In Europe, women represent 41% of scientists and engineers.
  • “This campaign wants to put us in a position to promote ourselves as Silicon Valley men do when they face an audience of investors,” said Gual Soler. “Sometimes it is crazy how much money they can collect with the sole passion and strength of their speech, even without having fully developed their idea.” Here here!

Lawmakers form a diplomacy caucus

Publication: Foreign Policy | By Robbie Gramer U.S. diplomats William Taylor and George Kent testify at House impeachment hearing

  • Here’s the scoop: A bipartisan group of lawmakers are forming a new caucus aimed at strengthening support for U.S. diplomats as the State Department finds itself at the center of a fraught political battle over the impeachment investigation of President Trump.
  • The caucus, the members say, will bring together members of the House of Representatives interested in crafting new legislation to strengthen U.S. diplomatic institutions and showcase bipartisan congressional support for an embattled diplomatic corps.
  • Who’s part of this caucus?
    • Two Democrats and two Republicans.
  • “Since the beginning of our country’s history, thousands of Americans have put their lives on the line in the name of furthering our nation’s diplomatic mission and hundreds have made the ultimate sacrifice,” said Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, a Pennsylvania Republican and one of the four co-founders of the caucus.
  • Democrats involved in the caucus have tied its founding to the ongoing impeachment investigation, centered on whether President Donald Trump improperly withheld U.S. military aid to Ukraine unless it agreed to investigate one of his Democratic presidential rivals.
  • “With America’s diplomacy and American diplomats at the center of a lot of the Ukraine scandal, the public getting a sense of what these people do in terms of serving the country, we thought this would be an optimal time to start a bipartisan group that could support American foreign policy,” said Democratic Rep. Ami Bera, another co-founder of the caucus.
  • What can the caucus do?
    • The caucuses themselves have little authority or legal sway, but it will provide a platform for members with similar interests and agendas to collaborate and eventually craft legislation on the issue in question.

That’s it for this week, we’ll catch you next time.