Briefing: Catalonia declares independence, North Korea allegedly stole secret documents from South

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  • The regional president of Catalan claimed independence from Spain but said the mandate would not immediately come into effect, allowing for a negotiated solution with Madrid. (Full story here).
  • The U.S. and South Korea flew two military jets each over the Korean peninsula in a show of strength directed towards the North Korean government.
  • Hackers from North Korea stole Seoul-Washington military documents from South Korea that include a plan to assassinate leader Kim Jong-un, Seoul lawmaker Rhee Cheol-hee told the BBC. He said the information came from South Korea’s defence minister. The hack allegedly took place in September 2016 though North Korea has denied the claims and accused S. Korea of fabrication. Relations between North and South Korea have been tense since the split in 1945, and has worsened since Pyongyang’s series of recent nuclear activities.
  • Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte has struck a deal to form a four-party coalition government after seven months of talks, the longest in Dutch history since WWII. The country’s second-most popular force, the far-right, anti-EU and anti-Islam Freedom Party led by Geert Wilders, is not included. The issues that slowed down the deal include migration, taxes and euthanasia. Rutte, who leads the liberal The People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD), will form a coalition with the D66, CDA and Christian Union parties on the right.


  • The United Nations banned four ships that violated North Korea sanctions from visiting any global port. Hugh Griffiths, co-ordinator of a UN panel on North Korean sanctions, described the move as unprecedented, according to the BBC.
    • All ships must be registered to a country. The four ships banned by the UN are listed under Comoros, St. Kitts and Nevis, North Korea and Cambodia according to
  • Iran said that the U.S. would be “joining the terrorists’ camp” if it chose to designate Tehran’s elite Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) as a terrorist organization. U.S. President Donald J. Trump is expected to make an Iran-related announcement this week – which according to Reuters will pertain to the 2015 nuclear deal and will potentially give the Revolutionary Guards a terror designation.
  • Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen vowed to defend her nation’s freedom amidst heightened tensions with China, according to The Washington Post. China ceased talks with Taiwan’s government shortly after Tsai Ing-wen’s inauguration last year and has said it will only resume them once she endorses Beijing’s view that Taiwan is a part of Chinese territory. Beijing has threatened to use force to seize control of the island and has steadily increased pressure on Taipei.

What we’re reading

  • A piece in The Atlantic – America’s Many Divides Over Free Speech – looks at whether America’s first amendment right to free speech has gone too far.
  • In a statement which may send shudders through U.S. internet “platform” companies like Facebook and Google, the British media regulatory agency Ofcom said she thought there was a case to regulate them like publishers. Here’s coverage of her testimony to a parliamentary committee from The Guardian.
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