Diplomatic Briefing

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Newsline: North Korea Diplomat’s Wife, Son Disappear in Russia

Russia’s Investigative Committee announced it has opened an investigation into the disappearance of a North Korean diplomat’s wife and teenage son in Russia’s far eastern region of Primorsky Krai. The missing persons—Kim Kum-Sun, 43, and 15-year-old Park Kwon-Chu—were last seen on Sunday in the city of Vladivostok. The weekly Argumenty I Fakty reported that they are believed to be the wife and son of North Korean Council Choi En Nam, who is reportedly working in Vladivostok. (https://www.newsweek.com/north-korea-diplomat-wife-son-mysteriously-disappear-russia-1805097) According to Siberia.Realities, the diplomat filed a missing persons report and police said the two could be trying to flee to China or South Korea.

Newsline: US top diplomat expected in Beijing on June 18

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken will travel to China next week for long-delayed talks aimed at stabilizing tense relations, and a U.S. official said he is expected to be there on June 18. (https://neuters.de/world/blinken-visit-china-talks-next-week-report-2023-06-09/) Reuters reported on Wednesday that Blinken would travel to China in the coming weeks, citing an official who spoke on condition of anonymity. An official on Friday said Blinken would be in Beijing on June 18, but gave no other details. In February, Washington’s top diplomat scrapped a planned trip to Beijing, which would have been the first by a U.S. secretary of state in five years, over a suspected Chinese spy balloon that flew over the United States. Washington has been keen to reschedule the trip, and the timing emerged after the Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday that China has reached a secret deal with Cuba to establish an electronic eavesdropping facility on the island roughly 100 miles (160 km) from Florida.

Newsline: Iceland to close embassy in Moscow from August 1

Iceland’s foreign ministry will suspend its embassy operations in Moscow from Aug. 1 and has asked Russia to scale back its diplomatic activities in Reykjavik, the ministry said in a statement on Friday. Iceland’s embassy operations are being suspended due to an ‘all-time low’ level of commercial, cultural and political relations between the two countries, the ministry said. “The current situation simply does not make it viable for the small foreign service of Iceland to operate an embassy in Russia,” Foreign Minister Thordis Gylfadottir said. (https://neuters.de/world/europe/iceland-suspend-embassy-operations-moscow-aug-1-2023-06-09/) The Russian ambassador was informed of the decision earlier on Friday by the foreign ministry, which also requested that Russia limit the operations of the Russian embassy in Reykjavik. Diplomatic relations between the two nations have not been severed, the ministry said, adding that the embassy will be reopened once relations normalise.

Newsline: Russia summons Japan’s ambassador

Russia’s foreign ministry said on Friday that it had summoned the Japanese ambassador over Tokyo’s decision to supply military equipment to Ukraine. Japan – which has backed Western sanctions against its long-time antagonist in east Asia in response to Moscow’s military campaign in Ukraine – last month promised Ukraine around 100 military-use vehicles “such as trucks”, having previously given protective equipment such as helmets and bullet-proof vests. However, Moscow said Tokyo was supplying “armoured vehicles” as well as all-terrain vehicles. “The Japanese side was told that this step would lead to an escalation of hostilities and a further increase in the number of human casualties of the Kyiv regime,” the ministry said in a statement. (https://neuters.de/world/europe/russia-summons-japans-ambassador-protest-military-supplies-ukraine-2023-06-09/) Japan’s export rules ban its companies from selling lethal items overseas.

Newsline: South Korea summons China ambassador

South Korea summoned China’s envoy on Friday to issue a protest, describing comments made by the envoy warning Seoul against making “wrong bets” in the Sino-U.S. rivalry as “provocative” and a possible interference in internal affairs. Xing Haiming made the remarks during a meeting late on Thursday with Lee Jae-myung, head of South Korea’s main opposition party, where he also urged Seoul to stop “decoupling” from China and restore economic and diplomatic ties. Xing blamed Seoul for creating “difficulties” in bilateral ties by failing to respect Beijing’s core interests, including over Taiwan, while being influenced by the United States. “China-South Korea relations face many difficulties. Frankly, the blame does not lie with China,” he said, according to a statement released by the embassy. “We hope that the South Korean side will faithfully keep its promise and clearly respect China’s core concerns, such as the Taiwan issue.” Xing warned against making the “wrong judgment” on China because of the “interference of external factors” such as U.S. pressure. “I can assure you, those who bet on China’s defeat will definitely regret it,” he said. South Korea’s first vice foreign minister Chang Ho-jin summoned Xing to warn about the “provocative” remarks and to express “strong regret,” South Korea’s foreign ministry said. (https://neuters.de/world/asia-pacific/china-envoy-south-korea-warns-wrong-bets-over-sino-us-rivalry-2023-06-09/) Openly criticising Seoul’s policy with “untrue content and intolerable expressions” could constitute an act of interfering in domestic politics, Chang said.

Newsline: US Vice President to announce new embassies on Caribbean trip

U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris will announce more than $100 million in new assistance for the Caribbean when she visits the Bahamas on Thursday, including the establishment of two U.S. embassies. Over $50 million will be spent on humanitarian aid for Haiti, a senior U.S. administration official said. (https://news.yahoo.com/us-vice-president-harris-announce-090154225.html) Harris, the highest-ranking U.S. official to visit the Bahamas since its independence in 1973, and Bahamas Prime Minister Philip Davis will host Caribbean leaders in Nassau. They will discuss topics including security and firearms trafficking to the region and U.S.-Caribbean efforts to respond to climate change. The official said the embassies would be in the eastern Caribbean but did not disclose specific locations.

Newsline: Romania tells Russia to cut its embassy staff in Bucharest by 51

Romania’s foreign ministry has informed Russia that it must reduce the number of its embassy positions in Bucharest by 51, bringing it in line with the size of Romania’s embassy staff in Moscow. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Thursday that because some of the jobs at the Russian Embassy are vacant, about 40 staff members, 11 doing diplomatic work and 29 in technical or administrative jobs, would have to leave Romania. (https://www.foxnews.com/world/romanias-foreign-ministry-informs-russia-reducing-number-available-embassy-positions-51) The ministry said the embassy was given 30 days to comply with the decision, and if it does not, some employees would have their accreditation withdrawn.

Newsline: US, Saudi top diplomats urge repatriation of detained IS recruits

The United States and Saudi Arabia urged countries to take back citizens captured in the fight against Islamic State, with the kingdom’s top diplomat saying it was “absolutely unacceptable” that wealthy countries skirted that responsibility. “I would say to those countries, you must step up,” Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan told a meeting of the U.S.-led coalition in Riyadh. Speaking at the same conference, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said repatriation was key to ensuring the lasting defeat of Islamic State. He said detention centers were holding nearly 10,000 Islamic State fighters, 2,000 of whom are from countries other than Syria and Iraq. “Failure to repatriate foreign terrorist fighters risks the possibility that they could again take up arms and attempt to restore ISIS’s so-called caliphate,” Blinken said. (https://neuters.de/world/middle-east/us-saudi-top-diplomats-urge-repatriation-detained-is-recruits-2023-06-08/) Blinken announced nearly $150 million for Syrians and Iraqis to help improve humanitarian conditions, noting that hardship and disillusionment provided a breeding ground for Islamic State recruits.

Newsline: Israel mulls diplomatic recognition of Morocco’s rule over Western Sahara

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s national security adviser visited Rabat on Wednesday as his government mulls a possible announcement of recognition of Morocco’s sovereignty over disputed Western Sahara, officials said. Morocco considers Western Sahara its own, but the Algeria-backed Polisario front demands an independent state there. In 2020, then-U.S. President Donald Trump recognised Morocco’s rule over the territory in return for its partial upgrade of relations with Israel. A diplomatic source told Reuters such a move by Israel could lead to a full upgrade of bilateral ties, with the countries’ respective missions, currently designated as liaison offices, becoming economic embassies, and a free-trade pact possible down the line. (https://neuters.de/world/israel-considers-recognition-moroccos-rule-over-western-sahara-2023-06-07/) Israel’s foreign ministry declined comment on the issue. But a source in Netanyahu’s cabinet acknowledged it was being discussed within the country’s National Security Council (NSC).

Newsline: Mexico top diplomat quits seeking presidential nomination

Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard, one of the leading contenders to be the country’s next leader, said he will resign to focus on winning the presidential nomination of the ruling party for the 2024 election. “I have resolved to request and present my resignation from the foreign ministry as of Monday, June 12,” Ebrard told a press conference in the capital surrounded by cheering supporters. (https://neuters.de/world/americas/mexico-foreign-minister-quit-seek-ruling-party-presidential-ticket-2023-06-07/) Mexico’s U.N. ambassador Juan Ramon de la Fuente and ambassador to the U.S. Esteban Moctezuma are seen by many analysts as the favorites to replace Ebrard as foreign minister. Ebrard, a former mayor of Mexico City, wants to succeed President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador as the standard-bearer of the leftist National Regeneration Movement (MORENA), which now dominates national politics. However, for months, opinion polls have tended to give his main rival, Mexico City Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum, a slight edge in the race.