North Korea

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Guest Post: Does The World Need China's Leadership?





For more than two decades China has abided by former leader Deng Xiaoping’s “keep a low profile” strategy in foreign affairs. But things are changing — China is ready to take on a leadership role in international affairs, and the world may benefit from it. Does the goal of a more stable and prosperous world necessitate a China that’s more active and assertive in global affairs.

 
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Britons Rate Russia More Favorably Than European Union, Israel





One would think that for all its demonization in the Western press, not to mention the countless comparisons to Hitler and/or the Antichrist, that Putin's Russia would be viewed relatively negatively especially in that bastion of western thought: Britain. Yes, perhaps: it certainly doesn't have a sterling image. However what is remarkableis that depite recent events in the Crimea, Britons still see Russia in a more positive light than the European Union, despite recent tensions with Moscow over Ukraine, according to a poll published on Saturday. Perhaps this is not surprising, because as AFP reports, voters in Britain are also equally divided about whether to remain in the 28-member bloc, a subject on which Prime Minister David Cameron has promised a referendum in 2017 and which is the reason for the blistering ascent in popularity of such political parties as the UKIP. The league table of 27 "liked" countries and institutions put the European Parliament -- for which elections are being held in May -- sixth from bottom, and the EU fourth from bottom.

 
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Futures Surge Overnight In Crimean Referendum Aftermath On USDJPY Levitation





It took only a 60 USDJPY pip overnight ramp to send US equity futures 20 points off the overnight lows in the immediate aftermath of the Crimean referendum, which from a massive risk off event has somehow metamorphosed into a "priced in", even welcome catalyst to buy stocks. The supposed reasoning, and in a world in which Virtu algos determine the price action of the USDJPY from which all else flows based solely on momentum we use the word reasoning "loosely", is that there was little to indicate that the escalation between Russia and Ukraine was set to accelerate further. As we said: an annexation is now seen as risk off, something even Goldman appears unable to comprehend (more on that shortly). In macroeconomic news, European inflation - at least for the Keynesians - turned from bad to worse after the final February inflation print dropped from the flash, and expected, reading of 0.8% to just 0.7% Y/Y, a sequential increase of 0.3% and below the 0.4% expected, confirming that deflationary forces continue to ravage the continent. The only question is how soon until Europe comes up with some brilliant scheme that will help it join Japan in exporting its deflation.

 
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Deluded Currency Cultists Believe The Dollar Is Invincible





At the onset of the derivatives collapse in 2007/2008 it would have been easy to assume that most of America was receiving a valuable education in normalcy bias. As much as we are for people waking up to the nature of the crisis, there comes a point when those who are going to figure it out will figure it out, and the rest are essentially hopeless. The cultism surrounding the U.S. economy and the U.S. dollar is truly mind boggling, and by “cultism” we mean a blind faith in the fiat currency mechanism that goes beyond all logic, reason and evidence.

 
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Libya Impounds North Korea Oil Tanker From Rebel-Held Port





Two months ago we noted the clashes between the Libyan government and the rebels over selling oil. It appears the rising threats are reaching a crescendo as AABAA reports the Libyan Navy has impounded a North Korean oil tanker trying to export oil from a rebel-held port of Es-Sider, and is on its way to Western Libya. Interestingly this comes just a day after the US issued a statement strongly condemning "illicitly obtained oil from Libya." We suspect Kim will not be a happy tyrant this evening and also note that the rebels deny the vessel is under government control.

 
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Guest Post: Understanding Why It Feels Different This Time





There probably isn’t a more over-used phrase thrown across the media landscape than, “It’s different this time.” One can’t look at the financial markets, the political stage, and more without shaking ones head. Nothing seems to make sense. Yet if one wants to lazily answer, “It’s different this time.” Things become crystal clear. Water now seems to run uphill. The definition of words no longer mean what they once did. (we’re still marveling on what is – is) Free society means the loss of only a few freedoms per year, as opposed to everything at once. Work is a bad thing however, if someone else goes to work and pay for your things – then that’s good. You can keep your plan if you like your plan – but if we don’t like it – well – you can’t. The Federal Reserve would never monetize the debt – however if you’re a preferred dealer in the QE (quantitative easing) program – they’ll do it for you. These precarious times leave many scratching their heads. Expressed another way, When everyone is on the band wagon – except the band. You had better take notice.

 
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One Emerging Market To Buy





South Korea stands out as a buying opportunity amid the indiscriminate emerging markets sell-off.

 
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Ukraine's NATO Member Neighbors To Boost Air Force Presence





As the big questions surrounding the future of the Ukraine crisis persist, the countries neighboring the former communist nation, and especially the Baltic states which are members of NATO, are asking for safeguards should Russian ambitions end up just a little too big to be contained solely by the Ukraine. As a result, the WSJ reports, they are considering calling for a greater North Atlantic Treaty Organization presence in their countries “if the situation gets worse” in the Ukraine, Ojars Kalnins, the chairman of the foreign-affairs committee of the Latvian parliament, said Monday. Mr. Kalnins said that a worsening of the Ukraine crisis “such as an outright invasion” of areas outside Crimea would present a threat to all of Russia’s neighbors, including the Baltic states–which are members of NATO. Such an expanded conflict should be reason for NATO to “bring extra military support to the Baltic region as a safeguard.”

 
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Global Equities Tumble Over Ukraine Fear





We were perhaps even more amused than our readers by our Friday headline "Stocks Close At New Record High On Russian Invasion, GDP Decline And Pending Home Sales Miss." It appears that today the market forgot to take its lithium, and is finally focusing on the Ukraine part of the headline, at least until 3:30 pm again when everything should once again be back to market ramp normal. As expected, the PMI data from China and Europe in February, was promptly ignored and it was all about Ukraine again, where Russia sternly refuses to yield to Western demands, forcing the shocked market to retreat lower, and sending Russian stocks lower by over 11%. This is happening even as Ukraine is sending Russian gas to European consumers as normal, gas transport monopoly Ukrtransgas said on Monday. "Ukrtransgas is carrying out all its obligations, fulfilling all agreements with Gazprom. The transit (via Ukraine to Europe) totalled 200 million cubic meters as of March 1," Ukrtransgas spokesman Maksim Belyavsky said. In other words, it can easily get worse should Russia indeed use its trump card.

 
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Why The Periphery Is Crumbling: The Spoils System Is Cracking





Why is the periphery crumbling? It's simple: the conditions that enabled rising national surpluses and the distribution of spoils is breaking down for three reasons:

  1. Energy is no longer cheap (compared to past prices)
  2. The low-hanging fruit of higher productivity has all been plucked
  3. The free-money flood of cheap, limitless credit is drying up

As regimes find surplus and credit are both contracting, their ability to placate every key group with spoils is also declining, and the conflicts between them can no longer be patched over with bribery or brutality. Instability starts on the periphery and moves into the core.

 
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President Of China's Marine Institute For Security: "Glory Drenched In Blood Will Pave China’s Road To Revitalization"





"In 2013, China embarks on a new road after the conclusion of the Third Plenum of the 18th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party. On December 26, China solemnly commemorated the 120th anniversary of the birth of Mao Zedong. On this same day, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe provoked China by visiting the Yaksukuni Shrine in Tokyo. In response, the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman quoted Mao Zedong’s “On Protracted War,” and implied that the final victory will belong to China. The new China is born in blood and fire, and is not only unafraid of war, but also courageous in welcoming reasonable and lawful conflict, because defending the country from aggression serves to further boost the development of the state’s power. The Chinese nation loves peace, but there is little doubt that glory drenched in blood will pave China’s road to revitalization. This is the glory that generations to come will treasure.  Sound the alarms for war preparation, remold our firm convictions, wake up the fearless people, and revive our strategic industries—our country is moving forward and our future is bright!" - President Of China's Marine Institute For Security And Cooperation

 
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Don’t Be Fooled: North Korea Is Getting Ready To Provoke





All signs suggest that North Korea is laying the groundwork to begin a new round of provocations. Despite its deliberate (and successful, in the U.S. at least) attempts to portray itself as an irrational actor, North Korea’s provocations usually follow a well-worn playbook. North Korea has carefully put all these pieces into place over the past few weeks.

 
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Guest Post: Shinzo Abe’s Nationalist Strategy





The world is now beginning to realize Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s true intentions. With his controversial visit to the Yasukuni shrine, which memorializes war dead, including Class A war criminals such as Hideki Tojo, he is no longer hesitant to reveal his true nature: without question, the most conservative leader in Japan’s postwar history. By encouraging a spirit of nationalism, Abe is hoping to engender self-confidence and patriotism among the Japanese public. But what exactly is his future agenda?

 
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It Doesn’t Take Much For People To Start Behaving Like Crazed Lunatics





If an ice storm can cause this much panic in our major cities, what will a real crisis look like?  The biggest news story in the United States right now is the "historic ice storm" that is hammering the South.  Travel will be a nightmare, schools and businesses will be closed, and hundreds of thousands of people will lose power.  In fact, it is being projected that some people could be without power for up to a week.  But at the end of the day, the truth is that this ice storm is just an inconvenience.  Yes, the lives of millions of Americans will be disrupted for a few days, but soon the ice will melt and life will be back to normal.  Unfortunately, it doesn't take much for people to start behaving like crazed lunatics.  As you will see below, the winter weather is causing average Americans to ransack grocery stores, fight over food items and even pull guns on one another.  If this is how people will behave during a temporary weather emergency, how will they behave when we are facing a real disaster?

 
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What Would Chinese Hegemony Look Like?





East Asia is becoming, in the language of international relations theory, "bipolar." Until recently, Asia was arguably “multipolar” - there was no one state large enough to dominate and many roughly equal states competed for influence. China’s dramatic rise has unbalanced that rough equity. Until recently, China pursued a “peaceful rise” strategy, one of accommodation and mutual adjustment. This approach sought to forestall an anti-Chinese encircling coalition. Since 2009 however, China has increasingly resorted to bullying and threats. All this then sets up a bipolar contest between China and Japan, in the context of China’s rapid rise toward regional dominance and such goals would broadly fit with what we have seen in the behavior of previous hegemons and a potential Sinic Monroe Doctrine.

 
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