The U.S. and South Korea Hold Largest-Ever Live-Fire Drills

Welcome back to World Brief, where we’re looking at the United States and South Korea holding military drills, a boycott by the Indian opposition, and refugee relocation in Malawi.

Welcome back to World Brief, where we’re looking at the United States and South Korea holding military drills, a boycott by the Indian opposition, and refugee relocation in Malawi.

“Peace Through Overwhelming Strength”

The U.S. and South Korean militaries held their largest-ever live-fire drills near the North Korean border on Thursday, the first of five rounds of such drills that will be carried out between now and the middle of the next month. The exercises marked seven decades of military alliance between the two countries and were intended to demonstrate their ability to counter threats from North Korea in order to maintain “peace through overwhelming strength.”

The so-called combined annihilation firepower drills involved 2,500 troops and 610 weapons systems, including attack helicopters and tanks. By comparison, the most recent such exercises in 2017 involved about 2,000 troops and 250 weapons systems. The U.S. and South Korean militaries also conducted large field exercises earlier this year.

These live-fire drills follow a visit by South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol to the White House last month. The visit, which included a state dinner, resulted in a declaration signed by Yoon and U.S. President Joe Biden that committed to enhancing nuclear deterrence coordination between the two allies. The declaration also aimed to reassure South Korea that it remains protected under the U.S. nuclear umbrella and thus doesn’t need to consider acquiring its own nuclear arsenal—a diplomatic move that Graham Allison called a “big win for Team USA” and for nuclear nonproliferation.

North Korea previously warned that it would not tolerate what it calls “war rehearsals” and said the United States and South Korea would face unspecified consequences for their “madcap nuclear war racket.” Pyongyang has test-launched more than 100 missiles since the beginning of 2022 in what it says is a response to expanded military drills, though most experts say the primary aim is to improve its weapons development.

India’s opposition boycotts inauguration. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is set to inaugurate a new parliament building in New Delhi this weekend. However, Indian opposition leaders, who say the president, not Modi, should be inaugurating the building, plan to protest the event.

Nineteen parties, including the main opposition Indian National Congress party, have said they made a “collective decision” to boycott. “When the soul of democracy has been sucked out from the parliament, we find no value in a new building,” the parties said in a statement. Modi’s governing Bharatiya Janata Party has in turn accused the opposition of “playing political games.”

Germany in recession. Europe’s largest economy fell into recession in early 2023 thanks to last year’s energy price shock and its subsequent impact on consumer spending. According to Germany’s Federal Statistical Office, the country’s gross domestic product dropped by 0.3 percent in the first quarter of the year, following a drop of 0.5 percent in the fourth quarter of 2022. A recession is commonly defined as two successive quarters of contraction.

“The persistence of high price increases continued to be a burden on the German economy at the start of the year,” the Federal Statistical Office said. “This was particularly reflected in household final consumption expenditure, which was down 1.2 percent in the first quarter of 2023.”

Natural gas prices are now down to the level they were at in late 2021. And inflation, though still high, is easing, and it’s believed consumer spending is bouncing back, which would mean the recession could be short-lived.

Forcible refugee relocation. More than 300 refugees have been rounded up over the past week in Malawi’s capital, Lilongwe, and moved to a government camp roughly 30 miles away. The government alleges that the refugees were taking jobs and opportunities from Malawi’s citizens.

The camp, called Dzaleka, was constructed in 1994 for people fleeing violence in other countries. It was built for 12,000 people, but around 50,000 people are thought to be there currently.

“[The] government is committed to respect the rule of law by protecting its citizens and people from other countries, including refugees and asylum seekers—some of these people are economic migrants who came to do business and they do not pay tax,” said Ken Zikhale Ng’oma, Malawi’s minister of homeland security, who warned evictions could spread to other parts of the country.

Danish painters in the 19th century are now believed to have prepared canvases using the leftovers from brewing beer. Researchers found that paintings from the Danish Golden Age had traces of grain and yeast, suggesting that painters used brewery byproducts to prepare their canvases—which is to say, beer may have made art possible.

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