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Global Pulse: A breakthrough on the Korean peninsula is on the horizon

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On Thursday, North Korea withdrew a long-standing demand for the United States to withdraw its forces from South Korea in exchange for denuclearization. “Illiberal democracy” is flourishing in Poland, becoming a major source of concern for the European Union. Also, the damage to the Great Barrier Reef is irreversible, changing the ecosystem forever.

A thaw on the peninsula

South Korean president, Moon Jae-in, said Thursday that North Korea will allow United States military presence in South Korea, as well as give up its nuclear programme, in a diplomatic breakthrough for all parties in involved.

“The United States has about 28,000 troops stationed in South Korea, a presence that has long irked North Korean leader Kim Jong Un,” reports Euan McKirdy in CNN. “The South Korean leader, due to meet Kim next week for a historic summit in the Demilitarized Zone, the border separating the two countries, said the North was concerned about its security.”

With this move, the US and North Korea will sit down to conduct talks. Both North and South Korea will conduct “rehearsals” for this inter-Korean summit before the meeting.

“The concession comes as President Donald Trump insisted Wednesday he’d be willing to leave a highly anticipated summit meeting with Kim should it fall short of his expectations,” writes McKirdy.

“In a similar vein, Kim signaled in March that he would not oppose joint US-South Korean military exercises, which had been postponed while South Korea hosted the Winter Olympics.”

“The two Korean leaders prepare to meet next week in what is seen as paving the way for the US-North Korea summit. This week it emerged that CIA Director Mike Pompeo, Trump’s nominee for secretary of state, traveled to the North Korean capital for secret, preliminary talks ahead of the Trump-Kim meeting, which is set for late May or early June.”

“A Polish pickle”

Poland is the gravest challenge to what French president Emmanuel Macron calls a “European civil war” over the rule of law, writes The Economist.

“Since taking office in 2015 the nationalist Law and Justice (PiS) party has stacked the courts, skewed public media and stuffed the bureaucracy with supporters. Its judicial reforms flagrantly violate EU treaties. That matters not only for Polish democracy: EU countries have to trust each other’s courts to uphold the law that underpins the single market.”

Negotiations over the next budget start in May, and member states can either haggle with Poland or “establish a way to suspend payments to governments that violate the rule of law.”

“The EU faces a dilemma. Go soft on PiS’s leader, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, and Europe’s next would-be autocrat will be emboldened. But pushing too hard risks bolstering PiS’s claim that meddling outsiders are undermining Polish democracy. As the giant of eastern Europe, Poland matters. The EU’s growing east-west cleavages over migration and money cannot be healed if it is sent out into the cold.”

“This week Mr Macron repeated his call for a “hard core” of EU countries to pursue integration if others ignore their commitments. Poland’s government says it does not want to be left behind in Europe’s slow lane. But if it continues to undermine independent institutions and violate the rule of law, that is what will happen.”

Death of a natural wonder

“An underwater heat wave that damaged huge sections of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef two years ago spurred a die-off of coral so severe that scientists say the natural wonder will never look the same again,” writes Jacqueline Williams in the New York Times. 

According to scientists, one-third of the reef’s coral died when temperatures spiked in 2016 because of global warming. “The reef is home to thousands of species, including sharks, turtles and whales. Australia relies on it for about 70,000 jobs and billions of dollars annually in tourism revenue, all now threatened by years of accumulated damage.”

“Corals require warm water to thrive, but they are extremely sensitive to heat, and an increase of two or three degrees Fahrenheit above normal can kill them.

Scientists said that if nations honored global commitments in the Paris climate accord aimed at preventing temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius, Australia would still have the Great Barrier Reef in 50 years. It would still look very different from today.

But if greenhouse gas emissions continue on their current trajectory, the reef will be unrecognizable, they said.”

“The Great Barrier Reef has bleached four times since 1998, according to scientists. Record high temperatures in 2016 were followed by another bleaching event last year.”

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