The Japanese, Chinese and South Korean leaders have spoken out in favor of denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula at the trilateral summit in Tokyo. In other words, they backed US President Donald Trump’s decision to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
The meeting became a diplomatic success for Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Valery Kistanov, Director of the Center for Japanese Studies at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute for Far Eastern Studies, told Nezavisimaya Gazeta.
"Abe was pinning high hopes on the summit," the expert explained. "During the last five years of his tenure, he visited more than 70 countries, some of them twice. No other prime minister has ever done that. The problem is, however, that Japan has very complicated relations with China and far from flawless relations with South Korea. As a result, Japan, who has always favored increased pressure on Pyongyang actually turned out to be on the sidelines of the process of easing tensions. An agreement on Trump’s summit with Kim was clinched while sidestepping Abe. Later on, a meeting between the leaders of the two Korean states took place." When Abe convened the trilateral summit, that, of course, was a huge accomplishment for him, the expert noted.
In a word, Japan’s relations with China and South Korea have improved, while Abe has been able to again make his country a party to the North Korean settlement, the expert concluded.
At this point, the question arises: will Russia be involved in resolving the inter-Korean crisis? After all, the 1953 armistice was signed by three parties, that is, the US, the DPRK and Chinese "volunteers." Of course, Russia’s military might continues to be a factor that everyone in Northeast Asia has to reckon with. However, considering the current state of Russian-US relations, Washington could persuade its allies that Moscow’s involvement is not necessary, the paper notes.
US President Donald Trump’s decision to quit the Iran nuclear deal and impose sanctions on Tehran has triggered a surge in oil prices, with the North Sea Brent Crude price hitting $78 per barrel for the first time since November 2014.
"Investors were probably inspired by clarifications that maximum possible sanctions will be slapped on Iran and that the countries supporting Iran in the development of nuclear weapons will likewise be targets of similar restrictions," Kommersant quotes Sofiya Kirsanova, an analyst with Raiffeisen Capital Management, as saying.
Iran currently exports about 2.5 mln barrels of oil per day, while its overall oil production amounts to 3.8 mln barrels per day. "Taking into account the inelasticity of the oil market, the withdrawal of even a small amount of oil (0.5-1% of global production) generates a substantial increase in prices," said Vasily Karpunin, Head of the Department of Stock Market Experts at BCS Broker.
Despite growing geopolitical risks in the Middle East, analysts do not expect further growth in oil prices. According to Alexander Kornilov, a Senior Analyst at Aton LLC, the current situation is very different from the one that existed in 2012 when the whole world condemned Iran for developing nuclear weapons and supported the sanctions. This time European countries, Japan, China and Russia are opposed to Washington’s move.
Besides, one should not forget about the growing production in the US, where a continuous increase has been observed over the past eleven weeks, with production surging to 10.7 mln barrels per day. "So even if a certain amount of Iran’s oil does not appear in the market, all that can be eventually replaced by the US, Saudi Arabia or other OPEC Plus members," Vasily Karpunin noted.
The European parties to the deal on Iran’s nuclear program (EU Foreign Policy Chief Federica Mogherini, top French and UK diplomats Jean-Yves Le Drian and Boris Johnson) are expected to hold consultations next week on the situation related to Washington’s decision to quit the agreement.
The EU has set its sights right now on shielding its companies from being affected by US sanctions, Andrey Kortunov, Director General of the Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC) told RBC. "The key issue is the possibility of extraterritorial use of US sanctions, due to which European companies working with Iran can become subject to US sanctions pressure," he explained.
However, the expert doubts the EU will exacerbate its standoff with Washington because of Iran. European countries are currently facing economic pressure from the US, so the risks for continued cooperation with Iran overshadow any potential benefits. "If they have to choose between the Iranian and US markets, European companies will choose the American one," Kortunov concluded.
"Despite its dissatisfaction and bombastic statements, the EU will not be able to challenge the US politically and will not take serious economic risks and multi-billion losses cooperating with Iran," says Fyodor Lukyanov, Editor-in-Chief of Russia in Global Affairs foreign policy magazine.
According to Lukyanov, Trump’s decision to withdraw from the nuclear deal can result in a dramatic deterioration of the situation in the Middle East, which is an unfavorable factor for Russia, which is currently participating in a military operation in Syria. The expert noted that Trump’s decision inspired Iran’s adversaries in the region, primarily Saudi Arabia and Israel. These countries see Trump’s action as powerful moral and political support, which can lead to the escalation of regional conflicts, he warned.
Poland’s UOKiK anti-trust regulator has initiated legal proceedings against Russia’s energy giant Gazprom and five European companies (Wintershall, OMV, Engie, Uniper and Shell), which signed an agreement to finance the Nord Stream 2 project, Vedomosti writes.
"We confirm that we have received a letter from Poland’s UOKiK anti-trust regulator and are studying it," a source in Gazprom told the paper. This is the regular’s second attempt to interfere with the implementation of the Nord Stream 2 project. In 2016, it blocked a joint venture between Gazprom and its partners for the construction of the pipeline. Due to that, Gazprom became the sole shareholder of Nord Stream 2 AG, which is building the pipeline.
The Polish regulator’s investigation is bound not to halt the project. Rather, it can delay it, says Dmitry Marinchenko of Fitch Ratings. The partners could, in fact, hold off until the next tranche, he said.
"If an ambiguous situation emerges, the company should consult with lawyers and make a balanced decision. In this case, however, the suspension of funding seems to be unlikely," the paper’s source in a major rating agency stressed.
Considering Germany’s interest in Nord Stream 2, the pipeline will eventually be built, said Alexander Sobko, an analyst at the Skolkovo Energy Center. "Under these conditions, the objective of the countries that oppose the construction is understandable - to buy time, which is really precious for us," he stressed. If Nord Stream 2 is not built in time, Gazprom’s demand for Ukrainian transit will be at least 70 blm cubic meters per year, the expert added.
The European Union remains unwilling to grant membership to Turkey within the next 10 or 15 years, a high-ranking source in the European Commission informed Izvestia.
"The situation has not changed substantially. Ankara has no chances of joining the EU within the next 10 or 15 years. The reason for that is not only the political disagreements that have accumulated recently. It’s worth mentioning that no single country will be able to join the union in the near future, because there are no plans for expansion," the source noted.
At the current stage, Turkey’s accession to the EU is unlikely, MEP Nadja Hirsch told the paper. She stressed that the European Union will resume negotiations only if Turkey returns to the fundamental values promoted by the EU.
Nevertheless, despite the aggressive political rhetoric, Turkey will not be stripped of its status as candidate it has had since 1999, according to Nikolay Kaveshnikov, Head of the Department for Integration Studies at MGIMO University. "Despite the fact that Europeans criticize the growing authoritarian trends in Ankara, the European Union continues to be interested in maintaining ties with Turkey," the expert told Izvestia.
Europe will not sever ties with Turkey, since that country plays an important role in Syria and is one of the EU’s key trade partners, a primary transit country for energy resources and, of course, because it helps European countries handle the migrant crisis, Kaveshnikov pointed out.
On the other hand, these relations are important for Ankara as well. Despite all critical statements by the Turkish leadership directed at the EU, the country has retained the European vector, said Yuri Mavashev, the Head of the Political Research at the Center for Modern Turkish Studies. Ankara’s integration with Europe contributes to the country’s image. Thanks to its determination to join the EU, Turkey looks like one of the most progressive and democratic countries in the Islamic world.
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