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SITUATION REPORTJan 27, 2020 | 16:26 GMT
Global: Five Eyes Pact Agrees With France, South Korea, Japan to Increase Monitoring of North Korea
Representatives from the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing alliance, as well as South Korea, Japan and France, agreed in late 2019 to expand their activities around North Korea, according to a Jan. 27 report by The Japan Times, citing Japanese and U.S. government sources.
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Regions & CountriesJanuary 23, 2020 | 19:12 GMT
Japan
Japan

Japan is a mountainous, volcanic island chain located in the western Pacific Ocean. The islands arc from Russia in the north toward the Korean Peninsula in the south. The country has four main islands, Hokkaido, Honshu, Shikoku and Kyushu, plus thousands of minor ones extending through the Ryukyu island chain framing the East China Sea. Japan's rugged terrain and lack of interregional connecting rivers isolated its population into separate, densely populated coastal plains. The Yamato plain, which dominates the "Inland Sea," the birthplace of Japanese civilization. The Inland Sea saw the rise of early Japanese maritime culture and facilitated communication and political control. As Japanese culture expanded over the island chain, the seat of power moved to the more productive and strategically located Kanto plain, Japan's core region and home to Tokyo, the world's largest metropolitan area. The country's primary geographic challenge is sustaining its large population on an island with little arable land and few natural resources. Japan's geography has prompted the country to alternate between periods of isolationism and expansion. When Japan unifies under strong centralized control, it is often drawn toward the continent for resources and land. This happened in the late 1500s and again in the early 1900s, leading to World War II. Given its location, the Korean Peninsula has been the corridor of invasion between Japan and China, and its status remains of strategic importance to Tokyo. The lack of natural resources in Japan continues to force the country to seek them abroad, leaving the country to balance between U.S. naval dominance and China's expanding maritime interests.

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Regions & CountriesJanuary 23, 2020 | 19:04 GMT
Malaysia
Malaysia
Malaysia straddles Southeast Asia's key geopolitical divide, between the mainland and the archipelago. Peninsular Malaysia occupies the southernmost tip of Southeast Asia's Malay Peninsula. East Malaysia, however, is on the island of Borneo, over 600 kilometers away across the South China Sea. Peninsular Malaysia is defined by north-south mountain ranges flanked by coastal lowlands. The nation's core is its west coast from Penang to Johor Bahru, including the capital, Kuala Lumpur. This coastline fronts major east-west trade routes through the Malacca Strait, whose shores are divided between Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore. Malaysia's primary geographic challenge is to secure this coastline in order to extract revenue from east-west trade. Today, Malaysia's substantial manufacturing center is concentrated in this core region. Johor Bahru also benefits from proximity to Singapore, which left Malaysia in 1965. Malaysia's ethnic minority Indian and Chinese communities are also concentrated in the core, comprising 30 percent of the population. These groups wield outsized economic power and form the basis of the political opposition. Their population growth is slower than the ethnic Malay majority, creating an increasingly volatile political environment. East Malaysia makes up 60 percent of the country’s landmass but has only 20 percent of the population. This sparse population is tipped toward the ethnic Malays and is growing in electoral significance. East Malaysia is playing a growing role in energy production — key to sustaining the country’s decades of steady economic growth. Borneo also fronts the South China Sea, where Malaysia's maritime claims overlap with the claims of the Philippines, Brunei, Vietnam and China. As Borneo's offshore fields become more important to Malaysia, the nation's South China Sea claims could bring it into conflict.
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Regions & CountriesJanuary 23, 2020 | 18:43 GMT
Somalia
Somalia
Located on the Horn of Africa, Somalia shares borders with Djibouti to the northwest, Ethiopia to the west and Kenya to the south. To the north and east along the Indian Ocean, the country has the second-longest coastline in Africa. Many have classified Somalia as the ultimate failed state, as civil conflict has gripped the country for decades. Some of Somalia's problems stem from the artificiality of the country's borders, as large ethnic Somali populations reside on the other side of the border in Ethiopia and Kenya. This weakness precipitated frequent external challenges to the country, especially during the Cold War when the United States and the Soviet Union staged proxy battles for influence in Ethiopia and Somalia. Somalia's biggest challenge lies in addressing a potent Islamist insurgency, followed closely by the need to reconstruct extremely fragile or nonexistent institutions. In addition to the threat posed by Islamist groups such as al Shabaab, deep-seated clan divisions have hindered efforts to foster unity. For example, the Somali National Army has received foreign financial support and training for many years, but it is largely incapable of defending the country amid its own internal divisions. Furthermore, Ethiopia, the region's landlocked giant, is eager to prevent Somalia from re-emerging as a regional threat, as it did in the 1970s. The massive internal and external challenges facing Mogadishu suggest that international efforts to stabilize the country will continue for years to come.
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Regions & CountriesJanuary 23, 2020 | 18:41 GMT
Spain
Spain

Spain is located in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula and is bordered by the Mediterranean Sea, France, the Atlantic Ocean and Portugal. Spain is separated from France by the Pyrenees, a protective mountain barrier between the two countries. The Strait of Gibraltar divides Spain from Africa, which at its narrowest is about 15 kilometers (9 miles) wide. This eased the invasion of the Moors in the eighth century during the rise of the Islamic caliphate. The Arab presence lasted until the end of the 15th century, when Christian Spanish kingdoms unified modern Spain. This unification helped Spain compete with other maritime powers such as the United Kingdom and continental powers like France. Spain’s access to the Mediterranean and the North Atlantic, along with its need for natural resources, promoted its consolidation into one of the greatest naval and colonial powers of Europe. While Spain has had external challenges, its main geographic challenge comes from within. Spain’s core is Madrid, the country’s capital, most populated city and political center. Madrid sits on Spain’s Meseta Central and was chosen as the capital in the 16th century to allow more centralized control of the country. But Spain’s mountainous terrain has historically determined its political life by hindering communication between different regions within the country. This geography has led to the emergence of regionalist and separatist movements, especially in Catalonia and the Basque Country. Spain’s challenge, then, is to bring about a truly united nation with a balance of power between the central government in Madrid and the autonomous regions, especially as Catalonia.

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Regions & CountriesJanuary 23, 2020 | 18:51 GMT
Philippines
Philippines
The Philippines is a collection of over 7,000 islands situated at the confluence of the South China Sea, the Indonesian archipelago, the Philippine Sea and Pacific Ocean. It forms the outer edge of maritime Southeast Asia, and for much of its modern history has served as a gateway between western powers and continental Asia. A former colony of both Spain and the United States, the Philippines today consists of three island clusters: Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. Luzon, with the country’s capital in Manila, is the political, cultural and economic core of modern Philippines. It is highly urbanized relative to the rest of the country, boasts a large port and deep harbor, and accounts for roughly one-third of the Philippines GDP. Mindanao has long been a hotbed for political unrest and insurgent movements and is populated by the predominantly Muslim Moro tribes. It is also an important fruit and produce exporter. The Philippines is shaped by sharp geographic, economic and social divisions between a primarily urban north — in Luzon — and a heavily agricultural, poorer south. This, along with the fractured island geography, makes effective national integration difficult. It also undermines Manila's efforts to play a stronger role throughout the South China Sea region or guard against external infringement on its territorial waters, especially from China. That weakness is apparent today, as China's increasingly aggressive moves to assert its own maritime claims test Manila's voice in groups like ASEAN as well as its alliance with the U.S. While the Philippines’ location at the entrance to maritime Southeast Asia makes it geopolitically significant, internal imbalances continue to hamper its ability to actively defend its own claims, let alone project power.
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Regions & CountriesJanuary 23, 2020 | 15:17 GMT
France
France

France is a country in Western Europe bound in the south by the Alps, Pyrenees Mountains and the Mediterranean Sea. To the west and north is the Atlantic Ocean, and on its eastern border lies the river Rhine and the low mountains of the Ardennes, Vosges and Jura. Mountains, rivers and seas help protect France at all points but one: the North European Plain. As a result, France's main geographic challenge is safeguarding its eastern border on the path of this historic invasion route. The lack of internal geographic barriers contributed to France's social cohesion, which in turn led France to become one of the world's first modern nation-states. The Beauce region represents France's core. Its navigable rivers, warm climate, sufficient rainfall and fertile soils have made France one of the world's leading agricultural powers. At the extreme northern border of the Beauce region, where the rivers Marne and Seine meet, lies Paris — France's economic and political center. Paris' strategic location on these rivers gives it administrative control of trading routes from the Beauce region to the rest of France and Europe In modern times, the most existential threats to France have come from its powerful eastern neighbor, Germany. Between 1871 and 1945, France and Germany fought three major wars — all on the North European Plain. After World War II, France attempted to contain Germany largely through the creation of the European Union. The economic and political crisis plaguing Europe has put France's containment strategy into question.

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Regions & CountriesJanuary 23, 2020 | 15:22 GMT
Greece
Greece
Greece is a mountainous country located in Southeastern Europe. It borders Albania, Macedonia, Bulgaria and Turkey. The Rhodope and Pindus Mountains form natural barriers with its northern neighbors. The Aegean, Mediterranean and Ionian seas surround Greece giving it one of the world’s longest coastlines. The country has more than 2,000 islands and Greek life has traditionally revolved around the sea. In antiquity, Greek city-states like Athens and Sparta expanded their influence throughout the Mediterranean, with settlements in Italy, Turkey, North Africa and around the Black Sea. Today, the Greek merchant fleet is the second largest contributor to its economy behind tourism. Athens is Greece's capital and most populous city. Athens, and the Aegean Sea that surrounds it, is the country’s core. Controlling the Aegean facilitates trade, defense and communication. Protecting this core from invasion is Greece's main geographic challenge. Because of its strategic location in the heart of the Mediterranean, Macedonian, Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman empires ruled Greece for more than 2,000 years. After a long civil war, Greece achieved independence from the Ottoman Empire in 1830. The country’s rugged geography makes administration from a central government difficult. A scarcity of arable land combined with poor overland transportation also complicate capital formation, making Greece one of the least developed countries in the eurozone. Greece joined the eurozone in 2001 and is currently at the center of the European economic crisis. Overcoming the effects of the crisis will be a key feature of Greece's economic, social and political life in coming years.
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Regions & CountriesJanuary 23, 2020 | 15:21 GMT
Germany
Germany

Germany is a country located in Central Europe, bordered by Poland, the Czech Republic, Austria, Switzerland, France, Luxembourg, Belgium, the Netherlands and Denmark. The country has mountainous terrain in the south, dominated by the Alps, with a plateau and forests in the center and the north. The Rhine, the Danube and the Elbe rivers, combined with Germany's central location in Europe and its access to the North Sea, allowed the country to become a leading exporter and one of the most prosperous economies in Europe. Between the late 10th and early 19th centuries, the territories of today's Germany were the heart of the Holy Roman Empire, a collection of small kingdoms, principalities, duchies and city-states. This led to the development of multiple seats of political and economic power that achieved unity in 1871. While Berlin is Germany's capital and most populous city, the country also has several economic and political centers, including Hamburg, Munich, Cologne and Frankfurt. Germany’s location in the heart of the North European Plain has led to constant conflicts with its neighbors like France and Russia. After World War II, Germany was divided between East Germany, in the Soviet orbit, and West Germany, integrated to the European Economic Community and NATO. The country achieved reunification in 1990. Germany’s main geographic challenge is preserving its territorial unity and maintaining a political balance between regions within the country. It also seeks to maintain a political alliance with France and a balance of power in Europe to preserve peace and keep markets open for trade. Berlin's efforts to keep the European Union closely integrated amid the current economic crisis are in line with this strategy.

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