What’s Happening in China, India, and the Koreas?

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As the United States experiences two simultaneous, potentially transformative domestic crises – the COVID-19 pandemic and the nationwide uprisings sparked by unarmed Black man George Floyd’s murder – other countries have experienced turmoil that extends beyond their borders. Currently, China and India are sparring over disputed territory in the Himalayas, and diplomatic relations between North Korea and South Korea are falling apart. Learn more about each of these crises below.

The India-China border dispute

For over half a century, India and China have disputed the Himalayan border dividing the two countries near Ladakh, a region of Kashmir, which is among India’s northernmost areas. Although violent occurrences are not unheard of in this region, a clash between Indian and Chinese soldiers on Monday evening is the deadliest since 1967 and the first deadly event of any sort since 1975. The fighting broke out when Chinese soldiers allegedly pushed an Indian soldier into a river gorge. India confirmed that 20 of its soldiers ultimately died in the subsequent fighting, though China has yet to confirm any deaths among its troops.

Monday evening’s violence follows an escalation of affairs in the disputed region in April, when the Chinese government sent thousands of soldiers into the area with weapons and vehicles. Experts say that the increased Chinese military presence in the region is a result of government efforts to stop Indian military developments. Fighting has been common in the area ever since the war that India and China fought over the territory ended in 1962, but previous fights – including two in 2013 and 2017 – have not led to deaths on either side. Although both countries have attempted de-escalation efforts in the time following China’s movement of its soldiers into the area in April, many experts say that Monday evening’s event may mark a point of no return.

The crumbling of Korean diplomatic relations

In the wake of World War II, Korea split into North Korea and South Korea, and eight years later, when the Korean War ended, the two countries agreed on a ceasefire but not a peace treaty. The fragile state of affairs between the two nations came to a recent tipping point on Tuesday when North Korea demolished its joint liaison office with South Korea. 

Located in Kaesong, a North Korean border town near the demilitarized zone dividing both countries, the joint liaison office was constructed in 2018. That year, South Korean President Moon Jae-in met with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at least three times. Since then, relations between the two countries have declined.

Following the destruction of the Kaesong building, North Korea has threatened to move troops into the demilitarized zone. Doing so would reverse the diplomatic agreements that Kim and Moon agreed upon in 2018. It would also be a move possibly taken not by Kim Jong Un, but by his sister, Kim Yo Jong, who has emerged as a newly prominent figure in North Korea’s international relations. When Kim Jong Un went unseen for several weeks earlier this year, Kim Yo Jong became widely seen as the country’s current, if not future, leader.

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