Daily Briefing

Briefing:- 09/12/17

Here is CurrentHow’s Briefing™ for the 9th of December, 2017:-

1. North Korea talks to UN, blames the US for tensions:-

North Korea blamed US “nuclear blackmail” for soaring tensions over its weapons programme following rare meetings with a senior UN official, but agreed to regular communication with the organisation, state media said Saturday.

Jeffrey Feltman flew to Beijing Saturday after wrapping up a five-day visit to Pyongyang aimed at defusing the crisis, just a week after North Korea said it test-fired a new ballistic missile capable of reaching the United States.

His trip — the first by a UN diplomat of his rank since 2010 — saw him meet Foreign Minister Ri Yong-Ho and vice foreign minister Pak Myong-Kuk, and visit medical facilities supported by the UN, the North’s state news agency KCNA said.

“At these meetings, our side said the US policy of hostility toward the DPRK (North Korea) and its nuclear blackmail are to blame for the current tense situation on the Korean peninsula,” the report said.

It added that the North had agreed with the UN “to regularize communications through visits at various levels”.

The report did not mention any meetings with leader Kim Jong-Un, who has ramped up his impoverished nation’s missile and nuclear programme in recent years in order to achieve Pyongyang’s stated goal of developing a warhead capable of hitting the US mainland.

Feltman, the UN’s under-secretary-general for political affairs, visited the country just after the United States and South Korea launched their biggest-ever joint air exercise.

Pyongyang reiterated its view that these maneuvers were a provocation on Saturday, accusing the drills of “revealing its intention to mount a surprise nuclear pre-emptive strike against the DPRK”, using the initials of the country’s official name.

The UN Security Council has hit the isolated and impoverished North with a package of sanctions over its increasingly powerful missile and nuclear tests, which have rattled Washington and its regional allies South Korea and Japan.

2. Ex-Georgian President Saakashvili on hunger strike after Ukraine arrest:-

Former Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili has gone on hunger strike to protest his arrest in Ukraine on charges of trying to stage a coup sponsored by Russia, his lawyer and supporters said Saturday.

Kiev police rearrested the foe of Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko on Friday after an attempt to detain him earlier in the week dramatically failed when supporters swarmed the van in which he was being held.

“Saakashvili has announced an indefinite hunger strike,” journalist and close ally Vladimir Fedorin wrote on Facebook, in comments echoed by the former leader’s lawyer Ruslan Chornolutskyi to the Interfax-Ukraine news agency.

The 49-year-old denounced the “false accusations” against him, Chornolutskyi added.

Around 100 supporters of Saakashvili, the man who pulled Georgia out of Russia’s orbit in a 2003 revolution before becoming a governor in Ukraine, gathered outside a security service detention centre shouting “shame” on Friday following his arrest.

A court hearing on the case is expected be held in Kiev on Monday.

Prosecutors would ask for Saakashvili to be held under pretrial house arrest, prosecutor General spokeswoman Larysa Sargan said.

Since Saakashvili escaped detention on Tuesday he has continued leading protests outside parliament demanding Poroshenko’s impeachment over his failure to fight high-level corruption.

Saakashvili denies committing any crimes and says his actions have been peaceful and legal.

Tuesday’s drama marked the latest chapter in the dizzying career of a man who spearheaded a pro-Western “Rose Revolution” in Georgia in 2003 and fought a disastrous war with Russia five years later that eventually prompted him to flee the Caucasus country.

Saakashvili returned to the spotlight as a vocal champion of the three-month street uprising in Kiev that toppled a Moscow-backed government in 2014 and turned Ukraine on a pro-EU course.

Poroshenko rewarded Saakashvili for his efforts by appointing him governor of the important Black Sea region of Odessa in 2015.

But an ugly falling out between the two men saw Saakashvili stripped of his Ukrainian passport — only for him to defy the authorities and force his way back into the conflict-riven country with the help of supporters in September.

3. Israeli airstrikes kill 2 Palestinian civilians:-

An Israeli air strike on a Gaza base of Hamas’s military wing killed two people on Saturday, health officials of the territory’s Palestinian Islamist rulers said. Hamas confirms both men as militants, clarifies the name of the first.

The strike on a base in Nusseirat in the central Gaza Strip, one of several in the early hours, came amid protests across the Palestinian territories against US President Donald Trump’s deeply controversial recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

The Hamas health ministry in Gaza named the men as Abdullah al-Atal, 28 and Mohammed al-Safdi, 30.

It said that their bodies  were only recovered several hours after the pre-dawn strike on a base of Hamas’s military wing in Nusseirat in the central Gaza Strip.

The militants did not say if the dead men were its members.

The strike followed three rocket attacks Friday night from Gaza into southern Israel.

“Today… in response to the rockets fired at southern Israeli communities throughout yesterday, Israel air force aircraft targeted four facilities belonging to the Hamas terror organisation in the Gaza Strip,” an English-language army statement said on Saturday.

It said the targets were “two weapons manufacturing sites, a weapons warehouse and a military compound.”

“In each target, several components were hit,” it added.

Israeli strikes on Hamas facilities on Friday night wounded 14 people, among them women and children, the Hamas medical services said.

They followed three rocket attacks during Friday’s Palestinian “day of rage” over Trump’s decision.

4. Turkey’s Erdogan seeks to lead Muslim response on Jerusalem:-

Turkey’s leader is seeking to spearhead Islamic reaction to the US declaration on Jerusalem, but it is uncertain if he can coordinate a meaningful response among often disunited Muslim nations.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who regards himself as a champion of the Palestinian cause, had fulminated against President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital even before it was officially announced this week.

Erdogan described the status of the city, whose eastern sector Palestinians see as the capital of their future state, as a “red line” for Muslims.

With Trump disregarding such warnings, the Turkish president used his position as the current chairman of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to call a summit of the pan-Islamic group.

“He is seeking to garner an international response,” said Ziya Meral, resident fellow at the British Army’s Centre for Historical Analysis and Conflict Research, noting Erdogan had spoken to Muslim allies and non-Islamic leaders.

“What Turkey can do tangibly next is far from clear and responses have risks for Erdogan and Turkey,” he told AFP.

5. Sri Lanka formally hands over Hambantota port to China:-

Sri Lanka today formally handed over the strategic southern port of Hambantota to China on a 99-year lease, in a deal dubbed by the opposition as a sellout.

Two Chinese firms — Hambantota International Port Group (HIPG) and Hambantota International Port Services (HIPS) managed by the China Merchants Port Holdings Company (CMPort) and the Sri Lanka Ports Authority — will own the port and the investment zone around it, officials said.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe during a visit to China in April had agreed to swap equity in Chinese infrastructure projects launched by former president Mahinda Rajapaksa in his home district.

Sri Lanka owed China USD 8 billion then finance minister Ravi Karunanayake had said last year.

“With this agreement, we have started to pay back the loans. Hambantota will be converted to a major port in the Indian Ocean,” Wickremesinghe said while addressing the handing over ceremony held in parliament.

“There will be an economic zone and industrialisation in the area which will lead to economic development and promote tourism,” the prime minister said.

The government’s grant of large tax concessions to Chinese firms has also been questioned by the opposition.

The opposition and trade unions have dubbed the deal as a sell out of the country’s national assets to China.

The Sri Lankan government had signed a USD 1.1 billion deal in July to sell a 70 per cent stake in the Hambantota port to China.

Sri Lanka received USD 300 million as the initial payment under the 99-year lease agreement which the opposition had described as a sell-out.

The port, overlooking the Indian Ocean, is expected to play a key role in China’s Belt and Road initiative, which will link ports and roads between China and Europe.

In order to allay India’s security concerns over the Chinese navy’s presence in Sri Lanka, Wickremesinghe had earlier ruled out the possibility of the strategic port being used as a “military base” by any foreign country.

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