W hile refraining from referring to North Korea’s leader as ‘rocket man’, US President Donald Trump did not mince his words when he addressed South Korean lawmakers. “Do not underestimate and do not try us,” Mr. Trump told North Korea, calling on countries around the world to deny Pyongyang “any form of support, supply or acceptance.”
A series of missile tests conducted by Kim Jong-un’s regime have raised tensions in East Asia in recent months. While sticking to bellicose rhetoric, the US president also hinted at the possibility of a step back from the brink of war, stating “we will offer you a path for a better future”.
The next stop on the president’s Asia tour was China, where Mr. Trump and the first lady received “state visit-plus” treatment, including Chinese President Xi Jinping escorting the Trumps during a visit to Beijing’s Forbidden City. Optics aside, Mr. Trump is likely to press his Chinese counterpart to do more to rein in North Korea.
Meanwhile, back at home in the US, a series of elections brought bad news for Mr. Trump who won the presidency roughly one year ago. Democrats scored several major victories, including two governorships in Virginia and New Jersey. In Virginia voters also elected the first openly transgender state legislator, who beat a Republican with anti-LGBTQ stances.
Overall, bad news on the home front for Republicans and Donald Trump before the 2018 midterm elections.
British Prime Minister Theresa May has a difficult job. At the helm of a minority government after a bid to strengthen her majority went awry in this year’s elections, Ms. May faces the daunting task of negotiating the UK’s exit from the European Union. If reports are to be believed, things are not going particularly well as time is running out on the March 2019 deadline.
Amidst all this, the prime minister’s foreign policy team appears to be in shambles. Defence Secretary Michael Fallon resigned, the first politician to do so after revelations about sexual abuse in Parliament were made public. Sir Michael said his behaviour had “fallen below the high standards that we require of the armed forces”. He was once rebuked by a journalist for putting his hand on her knee during a dinner. Several MPs and senior party officials across the political spectrum were accused of sexual harassment.
Sir Michael was not the only member of Ms. May’s cabinet to lose their job. On Wednesday, International Development Secretary Priti Patel resigned after not disclosing a series of unauthorised meetings with senior Israeli officials. Ms. Patel was told to fly back from a trip to Africa earlier in the week to meet with the prime minister. Ms. May now faces questions by the opposition about how much government officials knew about the meetings, some of which the international development secretary had said were held during a family holiday to Israel. "I think it's pretty clear that the view within the government is there was an attempt to try to shape British policy within the Middle East," said BBC diplomatic correspondent James Landale.
Prior to that Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson came under fire after making inaccurate statements that could lead to a British-Iranian woman facing more jail time in Iran. Mr. Johnson, a former mayor of London, suggested to MPs that Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was “teaching people journalism” during a visit to Iran. Her employer, the Thomson Reuters Foundation, said she was on holiday with her daughter at the time of the arrest, adding that she had never trained journalists in Iran.
Mr. Johnson has received the backing of Downing Street, but his actions have added to Ms. May’s troubles at a pivotal time.
This week saw a whirlwind of political upsets involving Saudi Arabia. Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri resigned in Riyadh, citing threats to his life. A crackdown against allegedly corrupt members of the Saudi royal family and high-profile businessmen started on Saturday, spearheaded by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. On the same day, Houthi rebels in Yemen launched a ballistic missile targeting an airport in Riyadh, which was intercepted by Saudi air defence.
In reaction to the missile strike, the Saudi-led coalition active in the war in Yemen announced the temporary closure of “all Yemeni ground, air, and sea ports” in order to address what it said were “vulnerabilities” in the current inspections regime that led to a continuous supply of “ballistic missiles and military equipment” to the Houthis. Aid organisations and the UN urged Riyadh to let in humanitarian supplies, including food and medicine. Yemen, even before the start of the war in 2015 the Arab world’s most impoverished country, heavily depends on imports.
"We are very concerned about the likely rapid negative impact of the closure of Yemen entry points on the already dire humanitarian situation in the country,” said Jens Laerke, spokesman for the UN Organisation for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. He noted that fuel prices rose by 60% overnight after the start of the full blockade.
Another senior UN official, Mark Lowcock, warned about an impending famine: “It will be the largest famine the world has seen for many decades with millions of victims.” Later in the week, officials in the southern city of Aden said the coalition had allowed the port there to reopen.
As one resident of the capital Sanaa told The World Weekly recently, “we are isolated from the world, Yemen is a big prison.”
Last weekend the US witnessed another mass shooting. During Sunday service at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, a small Texan community, Devin Patrick Kelley killed 26 people with an assault rifle before apparently taking his own life.
It emerged in the attack’s aftermath that Mr. Kelley had escaped from a mental health facility five years ago after smuggling guns onto an Air Force base where he had worked and reportedly threatened superiors. The attacker had a record of violence, including against his spouse and child, and was investigated for alleged sexual assault and rape. He served a year in military prison and was discharged from the air force.
The FBI did not see the incident as racially motivated. "This was not racially motivated. It wasn't over religious beliefs. There was a domestic situation going on with the family and in-laws,” said FBI special agent Christopher Combs. Questions remain, however, over the air force’s failure to pass on information about Mr. Kelley’s record to civilian law enforcement, which could have prevented him from obtaining the firearm used in the shooting.
The shooting once again raised questions over gun control in the US, the country with the highest rate of civilian gun ownership in the world. Despite at least 94 mass shooting in the US since 1982, according to the Mother Jones magazine, restrictions on gun control remain a controversial subject. The right to bear arms is enshrined in the Second Amendment to the constitution.
Many point to the influence of the National Rifle Association (NRA), which according to the campaign finance and lobbying watchdog Open Secrets spent $3.2 million in the first half of 2017 to advance its political agenda, more than in all of 2016 combined.
This year already witnessed the deadliest mass shooting in the US since 1991 - gunman Stephen Paddock shot 58 people in Las Vegas in October before killing himself. Whether President Donald Trump will be pushing for gun control remains doubtful.
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