US/MID EAST – The U.S. Sec of Defense James Mattis will visit Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Israel and Djibouti. He arrives tomorrow and returns on Sunday. The trip includes a meeting with Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu.

N KOREA/MISSILES – During the ‘Day of The Sun’ military parade, marking the 105th anniversary of the birth Kim Il Sung, some of the hardware on display was of interest. The Pukguksong-2 missile is important because it is submarine launched. Any improvement in its capabilities extends N Korea’s range, and the fact that it is sub based increases the chances of the countries second strike capabilities surviving if its ground based systems are destroyed. Also shown were two new intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) variants which were on top of wheeled transporter launchers, and other missiles on tracked launchers. N Korea has only 300 miles of paved road, and is trying to build its capacity to move its missiles to prevent them being targeted.

COMING UP

An unsettled week can be expected with the fallout from the Turkish referendum result, the bubbling Syrian crisis, and the tensions over N Korea.  The demonstrations in Venezuela on Wednesday run the risk of descending into violence as the country heads towards becoming an impoverished one-party state. The big set piece event is the first round of the French Presidential Election on Sunday.  The two candidates who poll the most votes go through to the second, unless one polls over 50% in first round which is highly unlikely. The second round is on May 7.

DIARY

April 16/20 – Iran’s Guardian Council begins process of vetting presidential candidates

April 17 – Major rally in Paris by Presidential Candidate Marine Le Pen. Likely to be opposed by left wing groups. She moves on to Marseilles on Weds. First round of voting is on Sunday.

April 17 – S Korea: Formal indictment expected against former President Guen Park-hye re corruption allegations.

April 17 – Syrian Independence Day.

April 18 – Vote of no confidence in South African parliament against President Jacob Zuma. To pass it requires 50 ANC members to vote with opposition.

April 18/23 – US Defence Secretary Mattis tours Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Israel, Qatar and Djibouti. It’s his 4th trip abroad this year.

April 19 – Venezuela; The opposition has promised the ‘Mother of all marches’ against President Nicolas Maduro after the hand-picked Supreme Court closed the Venezuelan Parliament.

April 21 – USA: Chair of Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Joseph Dunford, speech at National Press Club in Washington.

April 21 – IMF annual spring meeting. Washington.

April 21 – Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II celebrates her 91st birthday.

April 22 – Germany: Extreme right wing AFD party chooses its candidate for the autumn’s election for Chancellor.

April 23 – First round of voting in French Presidential election.

 

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