James M. Lindsay

The Water's Edge

Lindsay analyzes the politics shaping U.S. foreign policy and the sustainability of American power.

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The World Next Week: North Korea’s Satellite Launch, the Summit of the Americas, and the IMF and World Bank Meetings

by James M. Lindsay
April 12, 2012

north-korea-satellite-2012-04-12 A North Korean scientist looks at a monitor showing the Unha-3 rocket on a launch pad, at a control centre on the outskirts of Pyongyang. (Bobby Yip/courtesy Reuters)


The World Next Week podcast is up. Bob McMahon and I discussed North Korea’s satellite launch; the Summit of the Americas in Colombia; and the International Monetary Fund’s and World Bank’s spring meetings.

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The highlights:

  • North Korea looks as if it will go ahead with its plans to launch a long-range rocket in the next few days despite international condemnation. Pyongyang says that the launch, which is timed to coincide with Kim Il-sung’s 100th birthday, will only put a weather satellite called the Kwangmyongsong-3 satellite, into orbit. The United States and most everyone else says that the rocket launch is actually a ballistic missile test, which would violate UN sanctions as well as the so-called Leap Day deal in which Washington promised to send food aid to North Korea. Intelligence reports from South Korea also indicate that the North is preparing for a third nuclear test. Washington has few cards to play in this confrontation other than to walk away from the Leap Day deal. China has more cards to play, but it is far from clear that Beijing is prepared to exercise its muscle or that it will make a difference in Pyongyang’s calculations.
  • President Obama will be watching the developments in North Korea closely, but not from the comfy confines of the Oval Office. He will instead be making his way to Cartagena, Colombia, where he will be participating in the Summit of the Americas. The formal meeting agenda calls for discussions on how regional cooperation could help address the Hemisphere’s challenges on poverty and inequalities, citizen security, disasters, and access to technologies. The U.S. war on drugs and Washington’s hostility to the communist rule in Cuba could be hot topics. And Hugo Chávez could spark some fireworks.
  • While the leaders of the Western Hemisphere are convening in Colombia, thousands of government officials, private sector leaders, and civil society representatives will be gathering in Washington for the IMF’s and World Bank’s spring meetings. The big issue on the agenda is who will succeed Bob Zoellick as president of the World Bank. Put your money on Dr. Jim Yong Kim. Yes, there will be a time when someone who isn’t an American will become World Bank president. It just won’t be this year.
  • Bob’s Figure of the Week is Bo Xilai. My Figure of the Week is 281. As always, you’ll have to listen to the podcast to find out why.

Here are some suggestions for further reading on:

North Korea’s Satellite Launch. North Korea wants to go ahead with the launch despite criticism from the United States. North Korea may be doing this to garner some attention. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton expects “additional provocations” after the satellite launch takes place. Three theories are offered for why North Korea is willing to launch the satellite. South Korea’s parliamentary elections on Wednesday have implications for the country’s relationship with North Korea.

The Summit of the Americas. The official website of the summit is available. President Obama faces “skepticism and disappointment” from Latin American leaders at the summit. Colombia is making sure security is tight for the gathering. Is Cartagena, the summit’s host city, a “Davos-by-the-Caribbean?” Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez will be in attendance. The summit may become a “turning point in the war on drugs.” The last summit, which took place in 2009, was “productive” according to President Obama.

The IMF and World Bank’s Spring Meetings. The IMF provided a schedule for its meetings. World Bank presidential candidate Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala listed eleven frustrating issues of the institution. Another World Bank presidential candidate, Jose Antonio Ocampo, says the institution’s leadership race is a “test for industrial nations.” IMF managing director Christine Lagarde says “emerging market nations will get more power in the IMF.”


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