Adrian Olivier,

Sunday 26 May – Sunday 2 June:

On Sunday, Chinese Premier Li Qiang and his South Korean host, President Yoon Suk-yeol, agreed to launch a diplomatic and security dialogue and resume talks on a free trade agreement a day before their trilateral summit with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida. “China and South Korea face significant common challenges of the international affairs,” Yoon said, pointing to the wars in Ukraine and Gaza as sources of increased uncertainty in the global economy. Li told Yoon their countries should oppose turning economic and trade issues into political or security issues and should work to maintain stable supply chains, Chinese state news agency Xinhua reported.

On Monday, leaders from China, Japan, and South Korea met for the first time together in four years in the South Korean capital Seoul. Chinese Premier Li Qiang – the second-highest official in China – met South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, with the three countries agreeing to revive trilateral cooperation. In their meetings, Li and Yoon agreed to a diplomatic and security dialogue and resume free trade talks, while Kishida and the Chinese premier discussed Taiwan and agreed to hold a new round of bilateral high-level economic dialogue. Yoon also asked China to play a constructive role in reigning in North Korea, which is expanding its nuclear weapons and missile arsenal. Despite the seemingly amicable mood of the meeting, however, Li at one point expressed Chinese uneasiness about Japan and South Korea’s moves to beef up their security partnership with the U.S., which Beijing views as an attempt to form a bloc to contain China.

On Monday, North Korea attempted to put a military reconnaissance satellite into orbit, but the rocket exploded midair shortly after take-off. The rocket blasted off from the Tongchang-ri space station in northwestern North Korea, but two minutes after take-off the South Koreans detected debris falling over North Korean waters. North Korea also confirmed that its launch was a failure, with the country’s state-run Korean Central News Agency reporting that its newly developed rocket booster carrying a military reconnaissance satellite had exploded in midair. The rocket flew over the sea between the Korean Peninsula and China, following the same southern trajectory North Korea had used in its previous satellite launches. This is the Hermit Kingdom’s third failed attempt to put a spy satellite in orbit. North Korea successfully placed its first spy satellite into orbit last November. 

On Monday, Ukraine conducted a long-range drone strike on a Russian radar station which forms part of Russia’s nuclear early warning system. The strike targeted a radar station near the Russian border with Kazakhstan – more than 1,700 km away from Ukraine. Ukrainian intelligence said they believed the radar station was used to detect threats from Asia. On Tuesday morning, the governor of the Krasnodar region of Russia reported that a Ukrainian drone was downed in the sky over the town of Armavir, which is home to two radar stations. Ukraine did not report any successful strikes that day. American officials are reported to be concerned about the Ukrainian strikes, worried that they might cause Russian escalation. Analysts say the Ukrainian strikes are designed to force Russia to spread out its air defence across Russia’s vast interior – to reduce air defence coverage over the frontlines. 

On Tuesday night, North Korea began floating hundreds of balloons carrying garbage across the border to South Korea. The garbage bags contained cigarette butts, plastic water bottles, paper, used shoes and compost. The South Korean military said the garbage was released by timers when the balloons reached its airspace. The unusual tactics had the South responding with chemical and biological terrorism response squads. South Korea also sent a cellphone alert to residents living near the inter-Korean border to refrain from outdoor activities and watch out for unidentified objects falling from the sky. Some confusion arose when the alert message included the auto-generated English phrase “Air raid preliminary warning.” The government said it would fix the glitch. The North Korean balloons arrived in South Korea days after Pyongyang accused North Korean defectors living in South Korea of “scattering leaflets and various dirty things” over its border counties and vowed to take “tit-for-tat action.” “Mounds of wastepaper and filth will soon be scattered over the border areas and the interior” of South Korea, Kim Kang Il, a vice defense minister of North Korea, said in a statement on Saturday. 

On Wednesday the International Monetary Fund raised its forecast for China’s economic growth. The fund estimates that China will grow 5 percent this year and 4.5 percent in 2025, 0.4 percentage points more than the estimate 6 weeks ago. The IMF that growth would slow to 3.3 percent by 2029.

On Thursday, former president Donald Trump was found guilty on all 34 counts of falsifying business records, in his New York trial. His sentencing will be in July. The Trump campaign saw a major funding boost from the judgement – it raised more than $34.8 million in six hours after the guilty verdict – roughly half of what the campaign made in the entire month of April.

On Thursday, Reuters reported that French military instructors could be sent to Ukraine. France may announce its decision next week during a visit by President Volodymyr Zelensky, according to Reuters. France plans to initially send a limited number of personnel to assess the modalities of a mission before involving several hundred trainers, Reuters said, referring to two diplomats. Training would focus on demining, keeping equipment operational, and technical expertise for warplanes to be provided by the West, the sources said. The French government would also finance, arm, and train a Ukrainian motorized brigade. 

On Friday, U.S. Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III and Admiral Dong Jun, Minister of National Defense of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), met in Singapore on the margins of the Shangri-La Dialogue to discuss U.S.-PRC defence relations, as well as regional and global security issues. On Sunday, Dong made it clear that China remained would not tolerate Taiwanese independence.“These malign intentions are drawing Taiwan to the dangers of war,” Admiral Dong said. “Anyone who dares split Taiwan from China will be smashed to pieces and court their own destruction.”

On Sunday morning, China successfully landed a lunar lander on the far side of the moon. The Chang’e-6 unmanned probe touched down on the moon’s South Pole-Aitken basin at 6:23 a.m., China’s National Space Administration said in a statement. The descent took about 14 minutes, and the probe used cameras and 3-D laser scanning to avoid obstacles as it landed, the agency said. The probe will collect samples for about two days, gathering rocks and soil from the lunar surface and also drilling down into the ground to collect subsurface samples, the agency said. It will then spend additional weeks in lunar orbit preparing for a five-day return trip to Earth. The full mission is expected to take about 53 days, according to the agency. Missions to the far side of the moon are complex because it is impossible to directly establish communications with probes there. Chang’e-6, named after the Chinese moon goddess, is the second mission to have touched down on the far side of the moon. Its predecessor, Chang’e-4, made history as the first to do so in 2019. The far side of the moon is distinct from the near side, where the United States, China and what was then the Soviet Union have gathered samples. It has a thicker crust, more craters and fewer maria, or plains where lava once flowed. It’s unclear why the two sides of the moon are so different; the samples collected by Chang’e-6 could provide some clues.