Visiting the world’s most beautiful countries, staying in the most exclusive hotels, and dining at the finest restaurants are all part of the lavish lifestyle that world leaders enjoy, as they jet set across the globe in the name of foreign diplomacy.
However, racking up the air miles is not an accusation that can be fairly leveled at Kim Jong-un; the North Korean leader has never been on a foreign trip since he succeeded his father seven years ago.
That all changed yesterday when Jong-un was revealed as China’s secret VIP guest. He apparently spent a few days in Beijing reasserting the relationship with his country’s formal allies, a partnership that has shown signs of tension in recent years. He was there to meet with the country’s president, Xi Jinping, an encounter he used to hold what were described as successful talks over his pledge to reduce his nuclear capability.
No sooner had Kim’s armoured train rolled back into Pyongyang on Tuesday, it was confirmed that he will be hitting the road again soon. The anticipated summits with the leaders of the US and South Korea will go ahead between the end of April and beginning of May, and Kim’s visit to China has been seen as a very deliberate preparation before he faces up to President Moon Jae-in and President Trump.
Foreign policy experts predict that Kim is attempting to end his country’s isolation and having China back on their side dramatically tilts the dynamics of the upcoming discussions away from the US and the South.
For China, it confirms that they remain at the heart of northeast Asian geopolitics. Dennis Wilder, a former Asia adviser to George W Bush, said this week’s visit showed that any proposed solution will need Xi’s approval.
Those who now occupy the White House said the meeting was “further evidence that our campaign of maximum pressure is creating the appropriate atmosphere for dialogue with North Korea”. They might now suspect the administration exerting most pressure from the other side may be nowhere to be seen when they come face to face with Kim.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was last night under increasing pressure to speed up the investigations of about 75 members over alleged antisemitism, with some inquiries extending beyond 18 months. There has also been calls for the Labour party to review how it handles anti-Jewish behaviour in its ranks. (£)
A new plastic, glass and metal recycling scheme will be announced by Michael Gove, the environment secretary, today. The government in England is expected to charge up to 20p extra for drinks cans and bottles under plans expected to be more radical than previously expected.
Theresa May yesterday told a committee of MPs that she is considering a “multiyear” funding settlement to address the “serious cost and demand pressures” placed on the NHS. The prime minister said the funding would come in the next few months, as concerns grow over an underfunded health service.
BUSINESS AND ECONOMY
Nationwide, the UK’s biggest building society, has joined the race to share £425m of funds designed to boost competition in UK business banking. The funds are being awarded by RBS as part of their state bailout conditions and if Nationwide is successful, it would mean it would offer business current accounts for the first time in its 172-year history. Currently, RBS, Lloyds Banking Group, HSBC and Barclays provide more than 80% of business current accounts.
Melrose has made a number of commitments to keep GKN British after a last-minute intervention by the business secretary. Greg Clark warned Melrose that they must be listed in the UK if they succeed in their £8.1 billion hostile bid for the engineer. Melrose has appeared to accept the demands, with GKN responding to say that its suitor cannot be trusted.
Rising house prices are discouraging people from moving to London to work, despite the fact that average pay premiums continues to rise. Research by the think-tank the Resolution Foundation found that people are no more likely now to shift between the UK’s regions for work than they were ten years ago, despite the fact that average pay in the capital increased by as much as 18% in real terms in recent years.
What happened yesterday?
At the close of trading yesterday, the FTSE 100 was up more than 100 points at 6994.85, a rise of 1.54%. By early afternoon, the index had nudged past the 7000 mark, up nearly 2% on the day at 7,024.47, before falling back down by close.
The boost was part of a wider global rally that began with Asian markets, driven predominately by the dampening of fears of a future trade war between the US and China.
Ferguson, owner of Plumb Center, topped the list of companies who saw a rise in shares on the day, closing the day up 6.54% to £54.70. They were followed by GlaxoSmithKline, up 4.84%, Shire and Scottish Mortgage, which saw increases of 3.94% and 3.54% respectively.
On the commodities market, Brent crude was down very slightly at 0.1% to $70.03 a barrel, having earlier had gains of more than 1%.
PJSC Acron GDR (REG S)
Anglo Pacific Group
Arbuthnot Banking Group
Hilton Food Group
North Midland Construction
Time Out Group
Chenavari Capital Solutions Limited Red
St. Modwen Properties
Yolo Leisure And Technology
UK Economic Announcements
(11:00) CBI Distributive Trades Surveys
Intl. Economic Announcements
(07:00) GFK Consumer Confidence (GER)
(12:00) MBA Mortgage Applications (US)
(13:30) Gross Domestic Product (US)
15:00) Pending Homes Sales (US)
(15:30) Crude Oil Inventories (US)
COLUMNS OF NOTE
Martin Wolf writes in the Financial Times that China must think strategically when determining how to respond to the decision by the US to impose an aggressive trade policy. Wolf says China’s Xi Jinping must take a longer-term view of the situation if he is to effectively manage the tensions with the US and he sets out five ways in which the country could react to Trump’s “highly destabilizing” policy.
In today’s Times, Roger Boyes says that the appointment of Mike Pompeo to head the State Department and John Bolton to be national security adviser highlight that Donald Trump is planning to take on Iran in his next big foreign policy priority. Boyes argues that this is putting the Middle East at risk and he should instead focus on reaching a settlement with Kim Jong-un.
DID YOU KNOW?
Visitors to the grave of John Wilkes Booth, the man who assassinated President Abraham Lincoln, leave pennies on his headstone. The coins – which display the 16th US president – are left face up and are seen as a way to "lock the assassin in the ground".
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Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Minister for the Cabinet Office (including Topical questions)
Prime Minister’s Question Time
Ten Minute Rule Motion
Marriage (Same Sex Couples) (Northern Ireland) – Conor McGinn
Opposition Day Debate
Reductions in local government funding: Reductions in police and counter-terrorism funding
House of Lords
European Union (Withdrawal) Bill – Committee stage (day 11) - Lord Callanan
Recommendations of the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration report 'An investigation into the Home Office’s Handling of Asylum Claims Made on the Grounds of Sexual Orientation, March to June 2014' - Lord Scriven
Implementation of proposals set out in the December 2017 Green Paper, 'Transforming children and young people’s mental health provision' - Lord Cotter
Risks to community football clubs from land development proposals - Lord Kennedy of Southwark
European Union (Withdrawal) Bill – Committee stage (day 11) - continued - Lord Callanan
Finance and the Constitution; Economy, Jobs and Fair Work
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Earth Hour 2018 – Graeme Dey
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International Trade (including Topical Questions)
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British citizens' confidence in the future relationship with the EU - Baroness Ludford
Introduction of new UK passports and status of existing ones post-Brexit - Lord Lee of Trafford
Effect of EU withdrawal on health and welfare of UK citizens and residents - Baroness Brinton
First Minister's Questions
Ministerial Statement: Every Child, Every Chance: Scotland's First Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan 2018-2022
Scottish Government Debate: Scotland's Support for the (UNESCO) Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage
Stage 1 Debate: Housing (Amendment) (Scotland) Bill
Legislative Consent Motion: Laser Misuse (Vehicles) Bill - UK Legislation