This roundup covers news summaries across six regions: Africa, the Asia-Pacific, Europe, the Middle East, North America, and South America. Wherever possible I draw links to Singapore, but I think it is more important to understand geopolitical developments around the world, to draw attention to meaningful news stories, and to highlight both positive and negative events.
Around the world, I rely primarily on the email newsletters from “The Economist“, “Foreign Policy“, “Muck Rack“, “The New York Times“, “The Wall Street Journal“, and “The World Post“. In Singapore, the weekly digests from the European Union Centre and the Middle East Institute are handy. Do send me recommendations of news outlets or articles too, to jinyao.guan.yin.miao[a]gmail.com!
January 15 to 20, 2018
North Korea and South Korea agreed to march together under a unified Korean flag at the Winter Olympics, which will be held in Pyeongchang, South Korea next month. This follows a series of recent breakthroughs between the two countries – which are technically still at war, given that no peace treaty was signed after the end of the Korean War in 1953 – including the first inter-Korean talks in more than two years, North Korea’s offer to send a high-ranking delegation next month, and also the sending of a 140-strong orchestra to perform at the games. This eagerness for North Korea to participate could be contextualised by its bombing of Korean Air Flight 858 in 1987 (which killed all 115 on board), in the lead-up to the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, South Korea, which was intended to frighten international teams from participating.
These moves, however, have sparked “a sharp public backlash” in South Korea, causing President Moon Jae-in’s approval rating to fall.
- Maritime security has been a priority for African states, but a continental framework – through which “different regions can learn from each other’s successes and failings” – should be the goal.
- Nine people were killed in Libya, after fighting broke out in the country’s only working international airport. The airport was a former airbase, and right now also functions as a prison to more than 2,500 people.
- At least 10 people were killed in Nigeria, after four female suicide bombers detonated explosives.
- After three years of unprecedented drought, Cape Town, South Africa is set to be “the first major city in the world to run out of water“, in about 90 days. Household water usage has been capped, and rationing is underway.
- An Iranian oil tanker off the coast of China, which has been burning for a week after a collision, sunk. Three bodies have since been recovered, and “Iranian officials said the remaining 29 crew members and passengers of the tanker were presumed dead“.
- More than 70 people were injured in Jakarta, Indonesia, after the collapse of a walkway at the Indonesia Stock Exchange.
- A passenger bus fire in Kazakhstan left 52 people dead.
- By setting up five transit camps in Bangladesh and two reception centres in Myanmar, both countries agreed to complete the return of 650,000 Rohingya refugees. Some have said that “the Rohingya should return voluntarily only when they feel it is safe to do so“.
- North Korea said it would send a 140-strong orchestra to perform at the upcoming Winter Olympics in South Korea. This follows the first inter-Korean talks in more than two years and the offer to send a high-ranking delegation next month.
- Protests – “against police inaction in the case of a seven-year-old girl who was raped and murdered” – erupted in Pakistan. The girl was raped and strangled to death, and was the 12th child to have been murdered in the past year within the area.
- A study in Vietnam argues that climate change – as a dominant factor, in addition to others such as poverty – is “forcing 24,000 people to leave the [Mekong Delta] region every year“.
- Three people were killed in the Czech Republic, following a collision between a public transport bus and a car.
- Bulgaria has just taken over the rotating presidency of the European Union, which is now “preparing to pledge a 2025 deadline for the next wave of enlargement“. Candidate states include the Western Balkan countries of Montenegro and Serbia.
- A powerful storm in Germany and in the Netherlands killed five people altogether.
- Kosovo Serb Oliver Ivanović, a prominent politician, was shot dead. His death halted “talks [on normalising relations between Kosovo and Serbia] between Kosovar and Serb delegates that had been set to resume that day“.
- As compared to the “botched reshuffle” of the cabinet in the United Kingdom, there was a more sweeping reshuffle in Poland, with several government ministers removed and the introduction of faces “friendlier to Europe“. In December last year, the European Commission had triggered Article 7 against the country for “a risk of serious breach to the rule of law”.
- In August last year, the headless torso of Swedish journalist Kim Wall was found, and two months later bags containing her head, legs, and clothing were also found. Danish submarine inventor Peter Madsen admitted to dismembering her body, but not to intentional murder. Now, after multiple versions of events, Danish prosecutors have formally charged Mr. Madsen for murder.
- The second largest construction firm in the United Kingdom and one of the government’s biggest contractors, Carillion, went bankrupt. It is raising questions about privatisation in the country, and about transportation secretary Chris Grayling, “who kept funnelling fresh contracts to the firm this fall even as its financial condition deteriorated“.
The Middle East
- In the aftermath of the Iranian demonstrations two weeks ago, the judiciary said a total of 25 people were killed during the unrest.
- Double suicide bombings in Baghdad, Iraq, killed at least 26 people. There has been no claim of responsibility for the attacks.
- To save the local currency in Yemen from “complete collapse“, Saudi Arabia transferred two billion dollars (S$2.64 billion dollars) over to the country’s central bank. Yemen has been roiled by two separate but overlapping conflicts.
- President Donald Trump said he would not visit the United Kingdom, over a false claim of a bad deal by the Obama administration.
- The death toll of the mudslides in Southern California has increased to 20.
- A false alert went out in Hawaii, warning of an imminent missile attack. Investigations are now ongoing.
- Ahead of a visit by Pope Francis in Chile, vandals attacked four churches with homemade bombs. His planned mass is expected to attract more than half a million people, though protests are also expected.
- The collapse of a bridge in Colombia killed at least 10 people.
- The derailment of a train in Mexico City, Mexico, killed at least five people.
- A strong earthquake in Peru – which was also felt in Chile – left at least one people dead.