International roundup: “It went higher, frankly, than any previous shot they’ve taken.”
Around the world
North Korea launched its most powerful intercontinental ballistic missile yet last Tuesday, in retaliation against President Trump’s designating it a state sponsor of terror.
- The Hwasong-15, as it’s called, flew for 53 minutes, and landed in the Sea of Japan, about 600 miles east of Pyongyang. “It went higher, frankly, than any previous shot they’ve taken,” said Jim Mattis, the US Secretary of Defense. It flew so high, in fact, that crewmembers aboard a Cathay Pacific flight from San Francisco to Hong Kong saw it as it re-entered Earth’s atmosphere.
- David Wright, a scientist with the Union of Concerned Scientists, said the missile “exhibited a potential range of more than 8,000 miles,” according to the New York Times, effectively putting all of the United States in range.
- President Trump’s response to the launch was noticeably less bellicose than on previous occasions: he tweeted that he’d spoken with Chinese President Xi Jinping and that “this situation will be handled!”
- At an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council, US Ambassador Nikki Haley claimed that Trump had urged Jinping to “cut off all oil deliveries” to North Korea, something that China has so far been unwilling to do.
- China has already been enforcing UN resolutions regarding North Korea, and it’s clearly hurt their bottom line: in October, trade between the two countries dropped nearly 20% from September.
- On Saturday, just days before the US and South Korea “launched a massive joint military air exercise” including 12,000 military personnel and 230 aircraft, North Korea’s Foreign Ministry released a statement saying the US is “begging for nuclear war.”
At The National Interest, Wallace C. Gregson argues that, to resolve the escalating crisis, the US needs to “find and destroy the North Korean support networks.”
Ahmed Aboul Gheit, the Secretary General of the Arab League, warned on Saturday that President Trump’s potential recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital would only lead to increased extremism and violence in the region.
- Jerusalem is claimed by both Israel and Palestine as their respective capitals. Israel captured East Jerusalem during the 1967 Six-Day War.
- Neither the Palestinians nor the international community recognize Israeli claims over East Jerusalem.
- Moving the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem would be a first for the US, as previous presidents have maintained that the city’s status must be decided in negotiations between the two groups. President Trump is expected to announce his decision this week.
Meanwhile, Knesset, Israel’s parliament, continues to work on legislation designed to shield Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from criminal charges brought forth by the Israeli police.
- The current bill’s language would bar police investigators from informing prosecutors if there are grounds to indict Netanyahu – although, as the Times of Israel points out, “the provision would not apply to the ongoing Netanyahu investigations.”
- Speaking of, Netanyahu is currently the focus of two ongoing corruption investigations. On Saturday, around 20,000 Israelis demonstrated in Tel Aviv against the four-term prime minister.
- The bill is expected to receive a vote this week.
As Knesset moves to shield Netanyahu from his domestic problems, Syrian state TV is reporting that Israel launched missiles at a Syrian military base near the capital of Damascus overnight on Friday.
- The base may have been operated by Iran or their affiliate, Hezbollah. Last month, the BBC reported on the construction of permanent Iranian bases inside Syria. Israel has warned that it will not tolerate these Iranian bases in Syria, raising the specter of further military action.
Elsewhere in the Middle East:
- An Arab counter-terrorism alliance founded by Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman met for the first time in Riyadh last Sunday, pledging to wipe out terrorism in their countries. The alliance includes 41 Islamic countries, including Egypt, Libya, Yemen, and Turkey. Noticeably absent from the group are Iran, Iraq, Syria and Qatar.
- Yemen’s former president Ali Abdullah Saleh was killed by Houthi rebels “as he tried to flee clashes” in Sanaa, the capital. Saleh had just announced the end of a three-year alliance with the Houthis two days earlier, in an effort to restart relations with the Saudi-led coalition that’s been fighting the Houthis since 2015.
Honduras is experiencing political unrest as its election crisis intensifies.
- Salvador Nasralla, the opposition candidate, is rejecting the results of the country’s presidential election, and calling for a new election to be held under international supervision.
- The results of the first election were marred by delays, computer glitches, and a suspicious swing in the vote counts between Nasralla and the incumbent president, Juan Orlando Hernandez.
- On Friday, the government announced a military-enforced curfew. Honduran police, however, “have announced they will refuse” to help enforce the curfew until the political crisis is resolved.
On Thursday, Egypt and Russia signed a preliminary agreement allowing Russian military access to Egyptian airspace and military bases.
- The move is surprising, considering Egypt and the US have been allies since 1972, when Egypt expelled Soviet military forces from the country.
Japan’s 83-year-old Emperor Akihito, the son of former Japanese Emperor Hirohito, will step down from his position in 2019, citing his age and health. His son, Crown Prince Naruhito, will succeed him to the throne, beginning a new imperial era in Japanese history.
Slobodan Praljak, a Bosnian Croat war criminal, committed suicide in court when his appeal was denied.
- From the BBC: “After hearing the verdict, General Praljak stood and raised his hand to his mouth, tipped his head back and appeared to swallow a glass of liquid. ‘I have taken poison,’ he said.”
Canada’s House of Commons voted to legalize marijuana, a major step toward Prime Minster Justin Trudeau’s plan for full legalization by July 2018.
Prince Harry has proposed to his American girlfriend, Meghan Markle.
- The proposal was accepted.