Kim Jong-un issues nuclear warning; Iran president urges calm after demonstrations


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  • North Korean leader Kim Jong-un used his traditional New Year’s Day address to warn the United States that he has a nuclear button on his desk. But he also said he was interested in lowering military tensions in the region and improving dialogue with South Korea. He even wished his neighbor success for the Winter Olympics starting in February. In November, North Korea tested the Hwasong-15, which achieved altitudes of around 4,475km (2,780 miles) – more than 10 times the height of the International Space Station. The United Nations followed with harsh sanctions against the country.
    •  South Korean authorities seized a Panama-flagged vessel suspected of supplying oil products to North Korea in violation of international sanctions. Reuters reports that the seizure was the second to be revealed by South Korea within a few days. The report comes as the United Nations attempts to cut off oil supplies to Pyongyang following its nuclear or ballistic missile tests.
  • Security forces killed at least seven people in the Democratic Republic of Congo after protesters demonstrated against President Joseph Kabila’s refusal to step down from office. Reuters cites United Nations peacekeepers and a police spokesman confirming the deaths. They had been killed in altercations with security forces in the capital, Kinshasa.
    • Earlier, the Democratic Republic of Congo’s government ordered telecommunications providers to cut internet and SMS services across the country before protests against the president. Catholic activists have called for marches in major cities on Sunday. Protesters demand that Kabila not change the constitution so he can stand for election for a third term, and demand he release political prisoners. Kabila was required to relinquish power last December. An election to replace him has been repeatedly delayed but is now scheduled for December 2018.
  • For a fourth day Iranians demonstrated against the government and the country’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. President Hassan Rouhani said Iranians had the right to protest and criticize the authorities. However, he added: “The government will show no tolerance for those who damage public properties, violate public order and create unrest in the society.” At least two demonstrators were shot in the western town of Dorud, according to a series of videos posted on social media. One of the videos was verified by BBC Persian. Political protests are rare in Iran, however, discontent has been growing over high unemployment, inflation and alleged corruption (The Economist).
    • The Iranian government declared schools were to be closed and train services cancelled for Sunday, according to the the Jerusalem Post. According to the Associated Press, state television said: “Counterrevolution groups and foreign media are continuing their organized efforts to misuse the people’s economic and livelihood problems and their legitimate demands to provide an opportunity for unlawful gatherings and possibly chaos.”
    • Saudi-based Al Arabiya news agency reports that Iranian telecom providers have begun to cut off internet access in response to the ongoing demonstrations, an action also taken in 2009 in several Iranian cities in response to protests against allegedly unfair elections.  Separate state-sponsored rallies were held to mark the end of those protests in 2009, according to Iranian news agencies and state media.

Earlier

  • Ukrainian police freed all hostages held captive by a man strapped with explosives in a post office in the city of Kharkiv. None of the hostages was harmed. The police report that the incident was the result of a botched robbery, and unrelated to a prisoner swap between pro-Russian separatists and the Ukrainian government this past Wednesday.
  • After winning Liberia’s presidential election, George Weah told supporters that the country was open to investment and unwelcome to corruption. In his first speech to the nation, the former international football star said “those looking to cheat the Liberian people through corruption will have no place.” Al Jazeera reports that “Weah tapped into a yearning for change and widespread discontent” to win this week’s presidential run-off in a landslide. Liberian politics has been plagued by allegations of corruption which the previous leader, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, acknowledged she had failed to wipe out. (Voice of America)

What we’re reading

  • Jacque Fresco spent decades building a life-sized model of his ideal city. The central idea? If we want the Western world to overcome war, avarice, and poverty, all we need to do is redesign the culture. Here the Pacific Standard visits Fresco’s vision of the future — the Venus Project. — Charles Anderson
  • Two months ago George Papadopoulos, a young foreign policy adviser to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI. Papadopoulos became a central figure in the intelligence and security service’s investigation into possible links between Russia and the Trump campaign. His importance in the administration has been downplayed but this piece for the New York Times, outlines how the FBI became involved in the first place — a conversation between Papadopoulos and Australia’s top diplomat to the United Kingdom. Papadopoulos allegedly told the diplomat in 2016 that the “Russia had political dirt on Hillary Clinton.” — Charles Anderson
  • In Myanmar, marriage between Rakhine Buddhists and a Rohingya Muslims is rare. It’s also risky in a nation where security forces have driven more than 730,000 Rohingya into exile since 2016, carried out large-scale massacres, and burned hundreds of villages. All in a campaign the U.N. and human rights groups have described as “ethnic cleansing.” Here, the Associated Press describes such a marriage at a time where tension between the two ethnic groups is high. — Charlie Turner

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