a) Big thaw on the Korean peninsula

An unusual charm offensive is under way on the Korean peninsula and the unlikely architect is none other than the North Korean Supreme Leader, Kim Jong-un. During the last three months, he has played a deft political hand, a far cry from his rhetorical exchanges with U.S. President Donald Trump. Last year, Mr. Trump was threatening the “Rocket Man” with “fire and fury like the world has never seen”; the North Korean leader described him as a “dotard” and his military called his statement “as a load of nonsense”. Now the two leaders are planning a summit in May which according to Mr. Trump could lead to “the greatest deal in the world”.
Since 2011 when Mr. Kim took over, North Korea has conducted four nuclear tests; the first two were conducted in 2006 and 2009. The sixth test, last September, had a yield more than six times the Hiroshima bomb. He has accelerated the missile programme, conducting nearly 80 tests, compared to an estimated 16 by his father Kim Jong-il between 1994 and 2011.

New Year message

In his New Year address, Mr. Kim conveyed two messages — that the entire U.S. was within range and the nuclear button was on his table, and that he was open to dialogue with Seoul and could send a team to participate in the Winter Olympics being hosted by South Korea in February. Mr. Trump responded by tweeting that his “nuclear button” was “much bigger & more powerful”. But South Korea responded positively and reaffirmed willingness to talk with North Korea at any time and anywhere. Thereafter events gathered pace.
Mr. Kim’s younger sister Kim Yo-jong attended the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics, with the two Korean teams marching together. She conveyed her brother’s handwritten note to South Korean President Moon Jae-in even as she mesmerised South Korean audiences, and TV channels carried endless discussions about her clothes, hair style and whether she was pregnant.

In early March, a South Korean delegation led by National Security Adviser Chung Eui-yong and intelligence chief Suh Hoon visited Pyongyang to explore the idea of talks. According to the officials, Mr. Kim indicated continuing restraint on nuclear and missile tests (last test was a Hwasong-15 in November with a range of 12,000 km), joking that Mr. Moon would not need to wake up early in the morning for emergency meetings, since North Korean missile tests were normally timed for dawn. According to the South Koreans, “the North Korean side clearly showed willingness on denuclearisation in the Korean peninsula if military threats to North Korea decrease and regime safety is guaranteed”. An April summit between the two Korean leaders was announced, and is now scheduled for April 27 at the Peace House in Panmunjom.

North Korean diplomacy

The two South Korean officials travelled to Washington to brief Mr. Trump on March 8. It was announced that Mr. Trump had agreed to a summit with the North Korean leader in May.
This will be the first summit meeting between the U.S. and North Korea. Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton have travelled to Pyongyang in 1994 and 2009, respectively, to meet Mr. Kim’s grandfather and father, respectively, but after their terms as U.S. President ended. There have been two earlier summits between the Korean leaders, in 2000 and 2007, though the outcomes proved to be shortlived. Mr. Moon has also mooted the idea of a trilateral summit though there has been no reaction to it from Pyongyang or Washington. In another surprise move, the North Korean leader, accompanied by his wife Ri Sol-ju, travelled by train to Beijing on March 25. It was Mr. Kim’s first foreign trip since he took over in 2011. Though described as an unofficial visit, it had the trappings of a state visit, complete with a guard of honour and a banquet with Chinese President Xi Jinping and his wife Peng Liyuan at the Great Hall of the People. The North Korean leader assured Mr. Xi that if South Korea and the U.S. responded with goodwill and took phased, synchronised measures, the issue of denuclearisation of the peninsula could reach resolution.
China has long been North Korea’s political ally and economic lifeline, accounting for 90% of North Korea’s foreign trade. It has often resisted tightening of sanctions that could lead to the collapse of the regime. However, relations between the two countries have soured since 2013 when Jang Song Thaek, Mr. Kim’s uncle who was responsible for managing the China relationship, was purged. Missile tests when China was hosting the G20 summit in 2016 and the Belt and Road Forum in 2017 together with a nuclear test during the BRICS summit in 2017 were embarrassments for China. As sanctions tightened under successive UN Security Council resolutions, North Korea blamed China for ‘dancing to the tune’ of the U.S.

However Mr. Kim realises that he needs help to handle U.S. pressure. His China visit acknowledges Mr. Xi’s extension in power beyond 2022; and for China, it reflects its pivotal role in any negotiations regarding North Korea. Mr. Xi has sent a personal message to Mr. Trump about his meeting with Mr. Kim while Politburo member Yang Jiechi is being despatched to Seoul. In Washington, recent appointments of John Bolton as National Security Adviser and Mike Pompeo as Secretary of State, both hardliners, raise the stakes for North Korea.

Reconciling objectives

Mr. Kim’s objectives are clear — securing regime legitimacy, regime security and sanctions relief. A summit with Mr. Trump provides legitimacy as long as it begins a dialogue process leading towards diplomatic recognition. In 1992, despite North Korean reservations, China recognised South Korea and today it is one of the South’s largest partners and a major investment source. How South Korea and the U.S. deal with the move towards recognition will demand political creativity.

Having achieved a certain threshold in its nuclear and missile capabilities, North Korea can afford a pause in testing in return for sanctions relief but ‘denuclearisation’ will only happen at the end of a long-drawn process which will involve discussions regarding the U.S. nuclear umbrella for South Korea, the presence of 23,500 American troops and converting the 1953 armistice into a peace treaty which will guarantee regime security.

South Korea would like to ensure that it has a veto over U.S. decisions regarding North Korea and gaining operational control over its own military forces, both of which will require protracted negotiations. Meanwhile, Mr. Moon will do his utmost to maintain credibility in Washington and Pyongyang to keep his ‘sunshine policy’ on track. In Europe, the two Germanys recognised each other in 1972 (the U.S. recognised East Germany in 1974) as part of Willy Brandt’s ‘ostpolitik’, long before German unification was achieved in 1990.

North Korea’s aggressive testing provided justification for the deployment of the THAAD missile defence system aggravating Chinese concerns. China would prefer lowering tensions though it is in no hurry to see Korean unification.

The big unknown is Mr. Trump’s idea of what is an acceptable ‘deal’. Will a process towards eventual denuclearisation tempt him or will he reject it as ‘fake news’ and revert to relying on sanctions and military pressure as some of his advisers are inclined to? Major compromises will be needed for reconciling interests of all the key players for the high stakes summitry on the Korean peninsula to succeed.

b) Cauvery again

It is unfortunate that the Cauvery dispute is once again before the Supreme Court, barely weeks after the final verdict. The Centre is to blame for the dispute going into another round of litigation. While Tamil Nadu has moved the court to initiate contempt proceedings against the Centre for not complying with the direction to frame a scheme to implement the water-sharing arrangement set out in the February 16 judgment, the Centre has sought three more months and some clarifications in the court order. It is difficult to believe the issue at hand is so perplexing that the Centre had no option but to come back to the court. It appears that it does not want to handle the issue until the Karnataka Assembly elections get over in mid-May. Political and electoral considerations appear to have dictated the Centre’s action. It is almost as if it believes that as long as the option of buying further time is available, it need not fulfil its legal obligations. It is unfortunate that just before the expiry of the court’s six-week deadline, the Centre came up with a petition asking the court to clarify whether the proposed scheme should be the same as that which the Tribunal had set out in its final award in 2007, or could be at variance with it.

It is true that there is a divergence of opinion between Tamil Nadu and Karnataka on the proposed mechanism and its composition. While Tamil Nadu wants the ‘scheme’ envisaged by the court to mean nothing other than the Cauvery Management Board and the Cauvery Water Regulation Committee, mentioned in the Tribunal’s final award, Karnataka says there is no reference to a ‘board’ in the apex court’s order, and that the Centre could frame a scheme different from that described by the Tribunal. It contends that the apex court envisaged a ‘dispute resolution body’, and not the ‘management board’ favoured by the Tribunal. Against this backdrop, the Centre could have exercised discretion and come up with a scheme that would include an inter-State body to oversee the water-sharing. At the latest hearing, the Chief Justice of India, Dipak Misra, observed that the term ‘scheme’ mentioned in the judgment did not refer to only a ‘board’. He also assured Tamil Nadu that the court would ensure that it was not deprived of its share of Cauvery water. It is an indication that it is not the nomenclature but the nature of the relief that matters. It will be wise for all parties to remember that disputes are better resolved on the basis of equity and not prolonged on expedient considerations. The Centre’s actions should not amount to undermining the finality of the highest court’s judgment, and should be unwaveringly in aid of its implementation.


1) Charm
Meaning: The power or quality of delighting, attracting, or fascinating others.
Example: “He was captivated by her youthful charm”
Synonyms: Attractiveness, Beauty
Antonyms: Unattractiveness

2) Deft
Meaning: Demonstrating skill and cleverness.
Example: “The script was both deft and literate”
Synonyms: Skilful, Adept
Antonyms: clumsy, Awkward, Inept

3) Rhetorical
Meaning: Expressed in terms intended to persuade or impress.
Example: “The rhetorical commitment of the government to give priority to primary education”
Synonyms: Extravagant, Grandiloquent

4) Dotard
Meaning: An old person, especially one who has become weak or senile.

5) Pace
Meaning: Move or develop (something) at a particular rate or speed.
Example: “The action is paced to the beat of a perky march”

6) Marching
Meaning: Walk in a military manner with a regular measured tread.
Example: “Thousands marched behind the coffin”
Synonyms: Stride, Walk

7) Mesmerised
Meaning: Capture the complete attention of (someone); transfix.
Example: “They were mesmerized by his story”

8) Delegation
Meaning: The action or process of delegating or being delegated.
Example: “The delegation of power to the district councils”
Synonyms: Assignment, Entrusting

9) Restraint
Meaning: Deprivation or restriction of personal liberty or freedom of movement.
Example: “He remained aggressive and required physical restraint”
Synonyms: Constraint, Check
Antonyms: Incitement

10) Denuclearisation
Meaning: Denuclearisation means states disposing of nuclear weaponry or power in their possession. It includes removal, banning, or eliminating nuclear weapons or nuclear power sources from a place, industry, or organisation.

11) Regime
Meaning: A government, especially an authoritarian one.
Example: “Ideological opponents of the regime”
Synonyms: Government, Authorities

12) Mooted
Meaning: Raise (a question or topic) for discussion; suggest (an idea or possibility).
Example: “The scheme was first mooted last October”
Synonyms: Raise, Bring up

13) Banquet
Meaning: An elaborate meal with several courses; a feast.
Example: “A lavish five-course banquet”
Synonyms: Feast, Dinner
Antonyms: Snack

14) Purged
Meaning: Remove (a group of people considered undesirable) from an organization or place in an abrupt or violent way.
Example: “He purged all but 26 of the central committee members”
Synonyms: Remove, Get rid of

15) Embarrassments
Meaning: A feeling of self-consciousness, shame, or awkwardness.
Example: “I turned red with embarrassment”
Synonyms: Awkwardness, Self-consciousness
Antonyms: Confidence

16) Pivotal
Meaning: Of crucial importance in relation to the development or success of something else.
Example: “Japan’s pivotal role in the world economy”
Synonyms: Central, Crucial

17) Despatched
Meaning: Deal with (a task or opponent) quickly and efficiently.
Example: “The Welsh team were dispatched comfortably by the opposition”
Synonyms: Deal with, Finish

18) Threshold
Meaning: A point of entry or beginning.
Example: “She was on the threshold of a dazzling career”
Synonyms: Start, Starting point, Beginning
Antonyms: End

19) Armistice
Meaning: An agreement made by opposing sides in a war to stop fighting for a certain time; a truce.
Example: “The Italian government signed an armistice with the Allies”
Synonyms: Truce, Ceasefire
Antonyms: Declaration of war, Hostilities

20) Veto
Meaning: Exercise a veto against (a decision or proposal).
Example: “The president vetoed the bill”
Synonyms: Reject, Turn down
Antonyms: Approve, Authorize

21) Protracted
Meaning: Lasting for a long time or longer than expected or usual.
Example: “A protracted and bitter dispute”

22) Deployment
Meaning: The action of bringing resources into effective action.
Example: “The rapid deployment of high-speed cable Internet services to consumers”

23) Aggravating
Meaning: Make (a problem, injury, or offence) worse or more serious.
Example: “Military action would only aggravate the situation”

24) Concerns
Meaning: A cause of anxiety or worry.
Example: “Public awareness of Aboriginal concerns”
Synonyms: Affairs, Issue

25) Tempt
Meaning: Entice or try to entice (someone) to do something that they find attractive but know to be wrong or unwise.
Example: “There’ll always be someone tempted by the rich pickings of poaching”
Synonyms: Entice, Persuade
Antonyms: Discourage, Deter

26) Revert
Meaning: Return to (a previous state, practice, topic, etc.).
Example: “He reverted to his native language”
Synonyms: Return, Go back

27) Inclined
Meaning: Be favourably disposed towards or willing to do something.
Example: “He was inclined to accept the offer”
Synonyms: Disposed, Minded
Antonyms: Disinclined

28) Reconciling
Meaning: Make or show to be compatible.
Example: “The agreement had to be reconciled with the city’s new international relations policy”
Synonyms: Make compatible, Harmonize

29) Dispute
Meaning: A disagreement or argument.
Example: “A territorial dispute between the two countries”
Synonyms: Debate, Discussion
Antonyms: Agreement

30) Verdict
Meaning: A decision on an issue of fact in a civil or criminal case or an inquest.
Example: “The jury returned a verdict of not guilty”
Synonyms: Judgement, Adjudication

31) Litigation
Meaning: The process of taking legal action.
Example: “The company wishes to avoid litigation”
Synonyms: Legal proceeding(s), Legal action

32) Complying
Meaning: Act in accordance with a wish or command.
Example: “We are unable to comply with your request”
Synonyms: Observe, Obey
Antonyms: Ignore, Disobey

33) Perplexing
Meaning: Make (someone) feel completely baffled.
Example: “She was perplexed by her husband’s moodiness”
Synonyms: Puzzle, Baffle,

34) Envisaged
Meaning: Contemplate or conceive of as a possibility or a desirable future event.
Example: “The Rome Treaty envisaged free movement across frontiers”
Synonyms: Foresee, Predict

35) Apex
Meaning: The top or highest part of something, especially one forming a point.
Example: “The apex of the roof”

36) Deprived
Meaning: Suffering a severe and damaging lack of basic material and cultural benefits.
Example: “The charity cares for destitute and deprived children”
Synonyms: Disadvantaged, Underprivileged
Antonyms: Fortunate, Wealthy

37) Nomenclature
Meaning: The term or terms applied to someone or something.
Example: “‘Customers’ was preferred to the original nomenclature ‘passengers’”

38) Expedient
Meaning: (Of an action) convenient and practical although possibly improper or immoral.
Example: “Either side could break the agreement if it were expedient to do so”
Synonyms: Convenient, Advantageous
Antonyms: Inexpedient, Ill-advised

39) Unwaveringly
Meaning: Never changing or becoming weaker.
Example: “Her belief in the project has been unwavering”

40) Aid
Meaning: Help, typically of a practical nature.
Example: “He saw the pilot slumped in his cockpit and went to his aid”
Synonyms: Assistance, Support

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