Koreas on edge amid missile deployment report

April 5, 2013

North Korea reportedly deploys two missiles, Africa improves at democracy, and Spain’s royal family scrambles to save face. Today is Friday, April 5, and this is the World Wrap, brought to you by @dwbronner and @clarerrrr.

North Korean soldiers attend military drills in this picture released by the North’s official KCNA news agency in Pyongyang, March 20, 2013. REUTERS/KCNA

North Korean mid-range missiles may be launch-ready.  South Korean media thinks the North has placed two intermediate-range rockets on mobile launchers. If fired from North Korea’s east coast, the missiles could reach Japan or U.S. Pacific bases. This latest display of force upset South Korea’s markets and could have a long-term financial impact:

“The market usually doesn’t get jittery over North Korea threats. But this time is different, because they look willing to sacrifice [joint industrial park] Kaesong, which has never happened before,” said Park Hyung-joon, macroeconomics team leader at Meritz Securities.

North Korea blocked access to Kaesong, the last vestige of its cooperation with the South, since Wednesday. The U.S. said on Thursday that it will send missile defenses to Guam to protect it from a possible strike. The reported missile move follows a weeks-long escalation of threats from the North, prompted by heightened U.N. sanctions and joint military drills between the U.S. and South Korea. Analysts disagree over whether the North’s threats are sincere or mere posturing.

Democracy on the rise in Africa. Surprisingly smooth elections in Kenya and a period of economic growth indicate that Africa is rightfully beginning to shed its reputation for violence:

Last month’s generally peaceful Kenyan presidential election – and the Supreme Court process that confirmed Uhuru Kenyatta’s narrow win – confounded pundits’ predictions that East Africa’s biggest economy would tumble back into the same inter-tribal violence which bloodied a 2007 vote. The Kenyan ballot, following a line of hotly-contested but broadly smooth elections last year in Senegal, Sierra Leone and Ghana, has bolstered what many see as a spreading embrace of multi-party democracy in Africa.

Ernst & Young said in a 2012 survey that African countries largely have abandoned violent coups in favor of participatory democracy. Still, more stability on the continent could prompt a widening inequality gap, and some countries, like the Central African Republic, Mali, Mozambique and the Democratic Republic of Congo, continue to experience political unrest.

Spanish royalty realizes it’s on thin ice. Two days after Spain’s Princess Cristina was charged in a corruption inquiry, the royal family agreed it would be subject to a new transparency law, according to a palace source:

The transparency bill, and other new rules put forward by [Prime Minister Mariano] Rajoy, propose tighter regulation of tax declarations, assets and activities of public employees, rules for lobbying activities, harsher punishments for corruption, and more thorough audits of foundations, labor unions and business chambers that receive public funding.

Following criticism of the royal family for lavish spending while Spaniards suffer in a faltering economy, its move to face more public scrutiny is seen as an effort to curb public disenchantment with the monarchy. The royal family has little personal wealth, and receives a constitutionally-mandated allowance from the government.

Nota Bene: Six world powers are in Almaty, Kazakhstan, for talks with Iran on its nuclear program.


Terror via Twitter – Wired’s Spencer Ackerman interviews an Alabama man turned jihadi with a $5 million bounty on his head. (Wired)

In defense of a nuclear Iran – Nuclear expert Yousaf Butt and former IAEA ambassador Peter Jenkins discuss why world powers should encourage Iran to develop nuclear energy. (Reuters)

Topless jihad – Ukrainian feminist group Femen staged a “topless jihad” yesterday in support of a Tunisian activist. Warning: NSFW. (The Huffington Post)

“Jew In The Box” – Critics bristle at exhibit in Berlin’s Jewish museum (The New York Times)

“Leave while you still can” – Reuters photographer Jorge Cabrera visits the murder capital of the world, where he photographs harrowing crimes. Warning: Graphic content. (Reuters)

From the File:

  • U.S., Japan agree on plan to hand back Okinawa base

  • U.N. rights boss calls for closure of Guantanamo prison

  • After Cyprus, is Slovenia next euro zone domino?

  • Pope Francis urges decisive action against sex abuse

  • As Koreas face off, risk of accidental war grows
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