Soldiers march during a parade to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the founding of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) in Pyongyang, DPRK, on Sept. 9, 2018. (Xinhua/Xing Guangli)

Sept 17: DPRK’s nuclear no-show, America commemorates Sept 11, and the Sino-Russo diplomatic dance

North America

  • US President Donald Trump has decided to impose tariffs on $200 billion in Chinese goods. The new tariffs would apply to more than 1,000 products, including refrigerators, air conditioners, furniture, televisions and toys. The tariffs could reach as high as 25 per cent. Meanwhile, the Trump administration has invited Chinese officials to restart trade talks. The timing and the location of the proposed meeting remain unclear.
  • California launched its first ever Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco. Helmed by governor Jerry Brown, the climate change summit challenges President Trump’s decision to plan to withdraw from the Paris Agreement. During the summit, governor Brown also announced his grand plan to build a satellite system to track major emission sources.
  • Americans commemorated the 17th anniversary of the 9/11 attack with tributes, volunteer projects and a new monument to victims. Survivors and family members of those killed gathered around at Ground Zero, while President Trump and First Lady Melania attended a ceremony in Shanksville, Pennsylvania honouring the heroes of Flight 93. Meanwhile, rebuilding continues. A subway station that was destroyed finally reopened recently while the 3 World Trade Center, one of several rebuilt office towers that have been constructed or planned at the site opened in June.
  • US has threatened the International Criminal Court (ICC) with sanctions if it goes ahead with prosecutions against Americans over alleged detainee abuse and related war crimes in Afghanistan.
  • The White House is working on a second Trump-Kim summit after President Trump received a request from North Korea’s Chairman Kim Jong Un for a follow-up to their June meeting.  

South America

  • Two Venezuelan former deputy ministers have been charged in Andorra over a 2.3 billion graft scheme. Prosecutors alleged that they were a part of a network of corrupt officials who received bribes from companies in return for lucrative contracts with Venezuela’s state-run oil company, PDVSA. The money was then laundered and hidden in Banca Privada d’Andorra bank.
  • Brazil’s leftist former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who is currently in jail for corruption, formally gave up his spot to run for the October election and named former São Paulo Mayor Fernando Haddad as his replacement candidate.


  • North Korea celebrated its 70th anniversary with fireworks and mass games. The hermit kingdom has put forth and emphasised its desire to pursue peace and economic prosperity instead of nuclear might. Senior statesman Kim Yong Nam, the head of North Korea’s parliament, has also called on the military to be ready to work to help build the economy.
  • North and South Korea have set-up a liaison office where they could now communicate with each other 24/7. The opening of the office, which is located on the North’s side of the militarised border, comes ahead of a meeting between the two Koreas. The two sides in the past communicated by fax or special phone lines, which would often be cut when relations soured. In the new office, meetings between the two will be held weekly.
  • Malaysia’s opposition-led Senate has blocked an effort to repeal a law against “fake news”. Despite Mahathir’s landslide victory to become the new government in May, the upper house of parliament continues to be dominated by the defeated Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition which can continue to block bills and delay government initiatives.
  • Singapore has entered into a debate over whether to keep or repeal Section 377A of the Penal Code after a similar ban on gay sex in India was struck down. The issue was further thrust into the spotlight after Ambassador-at-large Tommy Koh, in a Facebook comment on a post, suggested that the local gay community bring a class action to challenge the constitutionality of Section 377A. Petitions for and against the repeal are ongoing and both have gathered more than 41,000 and 102,000 signatures respectively.


  • Russia kicked off the largest war games since the fall of the Soviet Union and also hosted a bilateral meeting between President Vladimir Putin and Chinese leader Xi Jinping. Defense ministers from both sides have also agreed to conduct joint military drills on a periodic basis. The exercises coincide with the fourth Eastern Economic Forum (EEF) where deals worth 400.6 billion roubles were signed during the three-day event.
  • As Brexit gets closer, London mayor Sadiq Khan has called for a second referendum on the issue because of the government’s “abject failure” to negotiate a deal with Brussels. By this he meant “a public vote on any deal or a vote on a no-deal, alongside the option of staying in the EU.”

Middle East

  • As the battle for Idlib continues, Turkey is worried that launching a major military offensive to the area will cause a ‘new wave’ of Syrian refugee crisis from Turkey to Europe. The area, which is controlled by various armed opposition groups has been experiencing an intense military campaign launched by those loyal to Syrian president Al-Assad since early September. To further aggravate matters, Damascus has recently announced plans to launch full-scale military attack to the area. The UN warns that such an offensive would lead to the “worst humanitarian catastrophe in the 21st century.”


  • Nigerian finance minister Kemi Adeosun has voluntarily resigned to protect government integrity after being accused of forging a document to avoid compulsory national service. Prior to the scandal, she helped lead the economy out of its worst slump in 25 years; instituted a whistle-blower policy; and pushed reforms to boost Nigeria’s tax collection to increase non-oil revenue. The opposition has called for her “immediate arrest and prosecution for deserting national service.”
  • Burundi has threatened to quit the UN Human Rights Council over a perceived “politicisation” following a report pointing to crimes against humanity in the country.  UN investigators found many violations were committed by the intelligence services, police and army as well as the ruling party’s Imbonerakure youth wing but the nation has rejected those findings. A meeting between both parties is in the pipeline to sort the issue out.
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