Japan wants allies to address N.Korea threats; Greek PM urged to end asylum 'containment'

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  • The North Korea threat has reached a “critical and imminent level” that requires action, says Japan Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera. The statement came during a summit with U.S and South Korean officials in the Philippines.
    • U.S Defense Secretary James Mattis, who was at the meeting, remains committed to pursuing diplomatic solutions to the North Korean nuclear crisis.
  • Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras was urged to end “containment” of asylum seekers on Greek island camps in a letter signed by more than a dozen human rights groups and aid organizations. The 19 signatories include Amnesty International, Oxfam and Human Rights Watch. They wrote to the prime minister saying the refugee camps had been “transformed into places of indefinite confinement.” More than 13,000 people, mostly Syrians and Iraqis fleeing years of war, are living in five camps on Greek islands close to Turkey. Some of the camps are holding two to three times more people than they were designed for.
  • United States Secretary of State Rex Tillerson made an unannounced visit to Afghanistan. The State Department said he went to Kabul for talks with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani to outline the Trump administration’s new South Asia policy. According to the Associated Press, the meeting marked the third leg of a trip which began in Saudi Arabia. Tillerson will visit Pakistan on Tuesday and India on Wednesday. It’s his first trip to Afghanistan as the top U.S. diplomat.


  • Argentina’s center-right governing coalition, led by President Mauricio Macri, won mid-term congressional elections. His party, Cambiemos (Let’s Change), won in 13 of Argentina’s 23 provinces. The former left-wing president, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, came second in the province of Buenos Aires. However, she still secured a seat in the senate which gives her immunity from arrest, although not trial, after she was charged with corruption last year. She dismissed the corruption accusations as politically motivated.
  • The Japanese prime minister, Shinzo Abe, promised strong “counter-measures” against North Korea, after being re-elected in yesterday’s snap election. His ruling coalition retained a two-thirds majority in parliament. Abe said he called an election for a greater mandate to deal with the growing threat from North Korea, which fired missiles over Japan in recent months.
    • Abe previously set a 2020 deadline of revising Article 9, which renounces war. But he appeared to ditch this target today, saying it was “not set in a concrete schedule.”
  • Russia accused the U.S.-led coalition, the Syrian Democratic Forces, of bombing the Syrian city of Raqqa “off the face of the earth.” Russian defense ministry spokesman, Maj Gen Igor Konashenkov, said “Raqqa has inherited the fate of Dresden in 1945, wiped off the face of the earth by Anglo-American bombardments.” He said the West was hurrying to send aid to Raqqa to cover up evidence of its crimes. Russia was accused of committing war crimes for its bombardment of Aleppo last year.
  • Two of Italy’s richest northern regions voted for more autonomy. More than 90 percent of voters in the regions Lombardy and Veneto voted yes to more powers after non-binding referendums. The move comes on the heels of the Catalan independence vote on October 1, and Madrid’s subsequent declaration that it will take control of the rebel region. Catalonia’s foreign affairs spokesman, Raul Romeva, said Catalan authorities will not follow orders from the Spanish government if it tried to reassert control over the region. In the Italian situation, the presidents of both Lombardy and Veneto belong to the Northern League, which has long argued that the north is subsidizing the poorer south.

What we’re reading

  • In an interview with the Dhaka Tribune, a representative from the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army, a Rohingya militant organization, offers a glimpse into the group credited for sparking the latest episode of violence in Rakhine State. The spokesman said the army will disarm if the UN sets up guarded “safe-zones” for the Muslim minority. – Charles Turner
  • A feature in The Washington Post explores how sexual assault allegations against President Trump did not garner the same reaction as those against Harvey Weinstein. Eleven women came forward alleging that the president had touched them inappropriately, but renewed debate about powerful men abusing their power has reminded the women that accused Trump that the electorate was willing to overlook such claims. – Lydia Morrish
  • An interview with the ‘master of mindfulness’, Jon Kabat-Zinn, from The GuardianHe was in London to give a talk to parliamentarians. His mindfulness techniques have their critics, but supporters say he will one day be mentioned in the same breath as Darwin and Einstein. – Angela Long

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