I Overview

China:

• Chinese Economy posts positive growth in Q2
• China undertakes Phase – 2 trials of an anti Covid-19 vaccine
• China launches its first Mars mission
• China told to close its Consulate General in Houston, retaliates by shutting US Consulate General in Chengdu

Japan:

• Covid cases spike in Japan
• Japan’s H-2A Rocket launches UAE Mars probe
• Annual Defense of Japan White Paper released

South Korea:

• South Korean economy contracts in Q2 
• South Korean Trade Minister vies for top WTO job
• South Korea launches 5G networks on subway lines

North Korea:
 
• DPRK declares state of emergency after Covid-19 case
• India extends humanitarian assistance to DPRK


II Developments in China
 
Chinese Economy posts positive growth in Q2

China projected GDP growth of 3.2% in Q2 of the current year, a rebound from the -6.8% of Q1. For June 2020, retail sales fell 1.8% as compared to the same month previous year, while industrial production rose by 4.8%. Average real disposable income fell 1.3% in the first half of 2020, while fixed asset investment declined 3.1% in the same period. Some analysts question the growth figure saying that it does not tie in with other figures.

China undertakes Phase – 2 trials of an anti Covid-19 vaccine

China has successfully undertaken the Phase-2 trial of an anti Covid vaccine it is developing with 508 participants in the central Chinese city of Wuhan. The Phase-1 trial was conducted on just 108 participants.

China launches its first Mars mission 

On 23 July, China launched its first Mars mission Tianwen – 1 on a Long March – 5 rocket from the Wenchang space launch site. This is an attempt by China to land a Rover on the planet. It will search for underground water on the red planet. Incidentally, China’s first attempt at Mars in 2011 ended in failure when the spacecraft failed to get out of Earth’s orbit.

China told to close its Consulate General in Houston, retaliates by shutting US Consulate General in Chengdu

China was directed by the United States Government to close its Consulate General in Houston due to spying activities being carried out from there. China has protested the move and retaliated by asking the US to close down its Consulate General in Chengdu. These tit-for-tat closures takes the relationship between the two nations to a new low level.


III Developments in Japan

Covid cases spike in Japan
The number of new Covid positive cases in Tokyo spiked to 240 on 22 July, sparking criticism that Japan is not testing enough for the virus. Total number of new infections also peaked that day for Japan as a whole at 795 cases. Despite this new development, Japan continues to be a success story in the battle against Covid-19 as total confirmed cases are a mere 29,698 with just 7134 active cases and 997 deaths.

Japan’s H-2A Rocket launches UAE Mars probe

A Japanese H-2A rocket of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries carrying the UAE Mars probe named Amal or Hope was launched from the Tanegashima Space Centre at 6:58 am on 20 July. The probe successfully entered its earth orbit and is scheduled to reach Mars orbit in February 2021. The Japanese rocket has successfully completed 36 consecutive launches. The rocket series has a success rate of 97.6%.

Annual Defense of Japan White Paper released

The annual Defense of Japan White Paper was released on 21 July and spoke of China’s relentless efforts to unilaterally change the status quo around the Senkaku Islands and its use of propaganda, including misinformation, about the spread of the novel corona virus. These were seen as factors affecting Japan’s national security. North Korea’s continuing development of nuclear and other weapons was also seen as a threat to Tokyo.


IV Developments in South Korea

South Korean economy contracts in Q2

The South Korean economy contracted by 2.9% in Q2 of 2020, its worst performance since Q4 of 1998 when it had shrunk 3.8%. It may be recollected that in Q1 the economy had actually grown by 1.4%. The lockdown effected in that country was the factor behind these figures. It was led by a 13.6% drop in Korean exports in Q2. Domestic consumption also remained weak in Q2 with a drop of 4.1%.

South Korean Trade Minister vies for top WTO job

Trade Minister Yoo Myung-hee is one of the candidates for the post of Director General of the World Trade Organization (WTO). She argues that she will rebuild trust in the organization by making it more relevant, resilient and responsive. She competes with candidates from 7 other countries vying for the job.

South Korea launches 5G networks on subway lines

South Korea’s 3 major telecom operators announced recently that they have completed establishment of 5G networks on nine subway lines across the nation as they look to accelerate rollout of this new technology. They intend to launch such 5G network nation wide by 2022.


V Developments in North Korea

DPRK declares state of emergency after Covid-19 case

North Korean strong man Kim Jong Un declared a state of emergency after the border city of Kaesong reported a suspected case of Covid-19. The pre-emptive measure completely blocks Kaesong city from the rest of the country and each district of the city is being isolated to prevent the spread of the virus. Those who have been to Kaesong city over the past few days will also be traced and put under strict quarantine. So far the DPRK has not reported a single confirmed case of Covid-19.

India extends humanitarian assistance to DPRK

The Government of India has extended medical assistance worth about US $ 1 million to DPRK in response to a request from the WHO. This is in the form of anti-TB medicines.

 


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(The views expressed are personal)
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About the Author

Ambassador Gautam Bambawale

Former Ambassador of India to China and Distinguished Fellow, Ananta Centre Former Ambassador to Bhutan, China and High Commissioner to Pakistan

Ambassador (Retd) Gautam Bambawale was a member of the Indian Foreign Service from 1984 to 2018. He was India’s Ambassador to Bhutan, Pakistan and China.

Bambawale was stationed in Washington DC in 2004-07 during the Indo-US nuclear deal which transformed ties between the two countries. He has been India’s first Consul General in Guangzhou (China) 2007-09. He was Director of the Indian Cultural Centre, Berlin 1994-98.

Ambassador Bambawale worked in the Prime Minister’s Office 2002-04. At the Ministry of External Affairs he was Joint Secretary for East Asia from 2009-2014. Bambawale has dealt with China for 15 years of his 34 year diplomatic career. He is fluent in Mandarin Chinese and German.

Ambassador Bambawale is currently Distinguished Professor, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, Symbiosis International University, Pune and teaches a course on Diplomacy and International Governance at the Symbiosis School of International Studies. He has an M.Phil. in Economics from the Gokhale Institute of Politics and Economics, Pune.