Briefing: South Korea and Japan to get more advanced weapons from U.S. as North Korea promises 'more gift packages'

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  • Reuter’s reports that the Trump Administration is preparing to announce “revised guidelines” for self-driving cars that would remove federal constraints on this developing technology. As early as tomorrow, the House of Representatives will vote on the Self Drive Act, a bill that would bar states from implementing laws that target autonomous vehicles.
  • President Donald J. Trump has indicated via Twitter that he has ceded to requests from South Korea and Japan to scrap weight limits on the weapons the U.S. can sell to those countries, as the focus of the diplomatic world continues to be trained on the activity of Kim Jong Un’s regime.

  • Officials from Bangladesh and Indonesia have criticised Myanmar President Aung San Suu Kyi for failing to get to grips with the violence that continues to drive the Muslim Rohingya minority from their homes. Reuters reports that Bangladesh, under pressure from the flood of an estimated 125,000 Rohingya refugees, is discussing plans to resettle them on an island in the Bay of Bengal.


  • North Korea has said it is ready to send “more gift packages” to the U.S. as the international community reacts to its latest – and largest – weapons test. One of the country’s top diplomats, Han Tae Song, ambassador of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to the U.N. in Geneva, said the U.S. “will receive more ‘gift packages’ from my country as long as its relies on reckless provocations and futile attempts to put pressure” but did not expand further. Yesterday’s detonation of a hydrogen bomb follows recent demonstrations of inter-continental ballistic missile capability – though there is no indication that North Korea can miniaturise a nuclear weapon to be carried on an intercontinental missile.
  • British police arrested four 22- to 32-year-old men, including serving military members, on suspicion of belonging to banned far right group National Action and plotting terrorist acts. The neo-Nazi group was the very first to be outlawed in Britain last year after the politically-charged murder of British MP Jo Cox by a man thought to be obsessed with white supremacist ideology. In August, a British senior police chief said the number of referrals to the police of suspected right-wing extremism had doubled since Cox’s murder in June last year.


  • North Korea determinedly upped the ante in its standoff with the rest of the world: daring China to act against it and calling the bluff of the United States. Extending a series of provocations since testing a new, more powerful warhead, Pyongyang apparently moved an intercontinental ballistic missile towards a coastal location. It’s just the latest in an almost minute-by-minute game of brinksmanship being played out on the Korean Peninsula. South Korea launched naval exercises and said any North Korean attackers would be buried at sea and proposed to increase the scale of American weaponry to deter any North Korean strike. The crisis overshadowed Chinese President Xi Jinping’s meeting of fast-developing countries.
    BBC diplomatic correspondent Jonathan Marcus analysed the diplomatic options for Xi and Trump.
    Financial Times analyst Gideon Rachman said Trump had created dangerous confusion.
  • Nobel Peace Prize winner and Myanmar’s effective leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, faces pressure from Muslim-majority states to condemn the actions of the country’s military — which still runs internal affairs — over its attacks on Muslim Rohingya people in Rakhine state. More than 100,000 people have fled across the border into Bangladesh in the latest flare up of attacks on the Rohingya minority. The UN special rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar said it was up to Suu Kyi to act but she is somewhat confined by the post-military regime constitution which limits her direct power on the issue.

What we’re reading and watching

  • Reuters carries an in-depth piece on the leading Zimbabweans planning for a post-Mugabe world. According to the report, documents from 2009 onwards reveal the plans for potential succession and reforms if ever the 93-year-old gives up power or dies.
  • At least 20 survivors and witnesses of the Grenfell Tower fire tragedy have attempted suicide, according to a BBC report. Support network Silence of Suicide and campaign group Justice4Grenfell said that those working with survivors had heard of 20 suicide attempts since the London fire, however the BBC was not able to verify the figure. In conversation with volunteers in the Grenfell community area, WikiTribune was told by two people about a rise in suicide attempts since the catastrophic event on June 14. (We are currently working on an essay about the Grenfell Tower community.)
  • In a scandal which has thrown light on the dirty tricks deployed by PR firms on behalf of  less than savoury regimes,  notable British public relations company Bell Pottinger was struck off an industry group months after its role in running a vicious and racially divisive secret campaign for the controversial Gupta family in South Africa. Even its founder is now forecasting the end of the once-respected company.
    An analysis in The Economist recently highlighted the risk of PR firms dabbling in dark arts.
  • A major investigation in The Guardian with the Balkan investigative reporting group the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project and Danish newspaper Berlingske exposed a multi-billion dollar lobbying and influence program on behalf of Azerbaijani leaders – with payments to politicians and journalists — to offset its appalling record on corruption and human rights.
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