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Regions & CountriesJanuary 28, 2020 | 22:08 GMT
Australia
Australia
Australia is an island nation straddling the Indian Ocean basin and the South Pacific. Once a colony of the United Kingdom, the country began a move toward independence in 1901. Today, the Commonwealth of Australia encompasses the mainland of the Australian continent, Tasmania and more than 8,000 other islands in the continent’s surrounding waters. Australia’s interior, known as the Outback, is mostly desert. This largely uninhabitable area is home to Australia’s iron and coal reserves, among the world’s largest. Mining has grown in importance for the Australian economy and remains a key driver of future economic growth. The Melbourne-Sydney-Brisbane corridor forms the population core along the fertile South Eastern coastline, while the capital Canberra is situated in the interior near the Murray-Darling River System. The Murray-Darling Basin is Australia's agricultural heartland but is cut off from the core by the mountains of the Great Dividing Range. Australia's main geographic challenge is managing its isolation and small population, which is stretched thinly along its coasts. These factors affect almost all domestic and foreign policy decisions. Distance and isolation mean that Australia relies heavily on shipping lanes for its economic security. This has led Australia to build close alliances with global maritime powers — first the United Kingdom and later the United States — to protect its access to ocean trade as well as deter attacks from other powers. Increasingly, Canberra must balance its strategic, military and cultural ties to the United States and Europe with greater economic integration with East and Southeast Asia, and especially China — its largest trading partner.
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Regions & CountriesJanuary 28, 2020 | 19:28 GMT
Denmark
Denmark
Denmark is a Scandinavian nation in Northern Europe. It consists of the peninsula of Jutland, most of which is flat, as well as hundreds of islands of varying sizes. Denmark’s main city and capital, Copenhagen, is located on the island of Zealand. The Kingdom of Denmark also includes two self-governing territories: Greenland and the Faroe Islands. With an open and exports-focused economy, Denmark has one of the world's highest per capita incomes. Denmark traditionally has sought to exert control over the Baltic Sea and, to a lesser extent, the North Sea. Starting in the eighth century, Vikings from Denmark raided and traded throughout Europe, conquering parts of England, France and Sweden, among others. In the late 14th century, Denmark entered a personal union with Norway and Sweden. The centuries that followed were marked by competition between Denmark and Sweden for regional control, though Denmark was often also involved in fights with its German neighbors to the south. Denmark's strategic position on the Jutland Peninsula allows it, along with Sweden, to control the Skagerrak and Kattegat straits, and thus all traffic into and out of the Baltic Sea. This control is economically and militarily relevant, because the straits are the only outlet connecting the Baltic Sea to the global maritime system. In addition, Greenland is part of the so-called GIUK gap, an area in the North Atlantic between Greenland, Iceland and the United Kingdom that forms a naval choke point. Greenland also gives Denmark a role on Arctic affairs, an area of increasing competition among great powers like Russia, China and the United States. After World War II, Denmark became a founding member of NATO. However, Copenhagen decided not to join the European Economic Community (the European Union’s predecessor), opting instead to deepen political and economic cooperation with its neighbors in the north through institutions such as the Nordic Council and the European Free Trade Association. Denmark eventually joined the European Economic Community, but it is not a member of the eurozone and opted out from cooperation on some justice and defense affairs. While modern Denmark has chosen cooperation over confrontation with its neighbors, finding a balance between its Nordic and European interests remains a challenge for the country.
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Regions & CountriesJanuary 23, 2020 | 18:42 GMT
South Korea
South Korea
The Republic of Korea, also called South Korea, occupies the southern half of a peninsula that juts out of the Asian mainland toward Japan. The country shares its only land border with North Korea, which it also borders in the Yellow and East seas. It shares maritime borders with Japan to the east and China to the west. South Koreas primary geographic challenges are overcoming internal fractures to maintain cohesion, and securing its maritime sphere and its southwest lowland pockets from its more powerful neighbors. The ancient kingdoms of Baekje and Silla occupied the distinct geographic pockets of the southern peninsula, standing in contrast to a more unified space where North Korea now sits. The Taebaek mountains run along much of South Korea's eastern coast, largely protecting the country from invasion by sea from this direction. These mountain ranges provide a level of protection to the peninsula's most vulnerable feature: a north-south corridor of lowlands and hills along the west coast. This coast (as well as much of South Korea's southern coastline) is protected from easy landing by countless islands, mudflats and tidal rips. However, the Nakdong River valley at Pusan offers a point of incursion to would-be invaders. From here, they can pass over the lower elevations of the Sobaek Mountains and onward to the western core. This has been the gateway for those seeking to control the peninsula, from the failed 16th century invasions of Japanese Daimyō Toyotomi Hideyoshi to the Japanese empire's later efforts in the 19th century. A North Korean invasion in 1950 (repelled by U.N. forces defending the Pusan Perimeter) highlights another key vulnerability for South Korea: the potential for incursions from the north via the western coastal strip. To hedge against aggression from all directions, South Korea is focused on securing its maritime space, particularly in the south and west. The country has prioritized its possession of Jeju Island in the Jeju Strait and has in the past held claims to Tsushima Island. Disputes with China over the Socotra Rock in the Yellow Sea and with Japan over Dokdo in the East Sea are also important elements of South Korea's overall maritime strategy. The Korean Peninsula's historic policy of isolation was one way of remaining out of the crosshairs of its neighbors, but it has also aligned itself with rival powers throughout its history. Most recently, South Korea has used a third party — the United States — to maintain balance against neighbors that threaten it from sea and land.
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