Jan 7: Xi issues Taiwan ultimatum, German politicians hacked, and Pelosi takes gavel

North America

  • California Democrat Nancy Pelosi has again been elected as Speaker – the third most powerful role in Washington – in the US House of Representatives. She reclaimed the gavel after the most diverse class of lawmakers were sworn in and as Democrats took control of the House after mid-term elections gains.
  • Russia’s FSB state security agency says it has arrested a US citizen “caught spying” in Moscow. It named him as Paul Whelan, saying he was arrested in Moscow on 28 December and charged with “espionage”. The FSB gave no further details.
  • US Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren has announced that she is establishing an exploratory committee to consider a presidential run in 2020. The move, the first by a high-profile Democrat for 2020, allows Ms Warren, 69, to ramp up her fundraising.
  • Former Republican US presidential candidate and incoming senator for Utah, Mitt Romney, has launched a scathing attack on Donald Trump, saying he has caused dismay around the world. Writing in the Washington Post, he said the US president had not “risen to the mantle” of the presidency.
  • US agents have fired tear gas over the border into Mexico at migrants trying to enter the country illegally. Around 150 Central Americans tried to make the crossing near the town of Tijuana to the south of California on New Year’s Day. One US official described the migrants as a “violent mob”.
  • Apple has rattled investors with news that its sales have been slowing, blaming economic weakness in China. In a surprise disclosure, the iPhone maker said it anticipated revenue of about $84bn (£67bn) for the three months to 29 December. In November it forecast sales of at least $89bn – a prediction that had already disappointed investors.
  • Democrats have vowed to pass bills that would end a government shutdown as they took control of the US House of Representatives last Thursday. But the bills will not include funding for President Donald Trump’s Mexican border wall, the cause of the shutdown. The impasse will therefore continue, as Republicans still control the Senate and say they will not pass the funding bills without Mr Trump’s approval.
  • The US state department has urged Americans to “exercise increased caution” when travelling to China after a spate of high-profile detentions. Its updated advice says dual US-Chinese nationals are at particular risk from so-called exit bans that prevent them from leaving. Canada also revealed that 13 Canadians had been detained since 1 December.
  • A US delegation will visit China next week for talks aimed at defusing the trade war between the world’s two largest economies. The closely watched meeting follows a dismal week for US markets, with losses fuelled partly by trade fears. It will be the first face-to-face meeting since the two countries agreed not to impose new tariffs for 90 days.
  • US President Donald Trump has said he could declare a national emergency to build a US-Mexico border wall without the approval of Congress. It came after he met senior Democrats, who refused his requests for funding. He said he was prepared for the partial government shutdown – now in its third week – to last years.
  • The US economy created many more jobs than expected in December, according to the latest government data. Employers added 312,000 jobs, far ahead of predictions of 177,000, the Labor Department said. The unemployment rate nudged higher to 3.9%, but is still near historic lows.
  • Department of Defence chief of staff Kevin Sweeney has resigned, a month after the Defence Secretary James Mattis announced his departure. He is now the third senior Pentagon official to announce his resignation since President Donald Trump announced US forces would leave Syria.

Latin America

  • Brazil’s far-right President Jair Bolsonaro has used his inaugural speech to promise to build a “society without discrimination or division”. The former army captain told Congress he wanted a “national pact” to free Brazil of corruption, crime and economic mismanagement. In a swipe at the left, he vowed to free Brazil of “ideology”.
  • US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says he is “deeply concerned” about the increased production of coca leaf, the raw material for cocaine, in Colombia. At a meeting with Colombian President Ivan Duque, Mr Pompeo said the two countries would try to reduce coca production by 50% by 2023. Colombia has already vowed to step up its coca eradication programme.
  • Former Cuban President Raul Castro has accused the US of returning to its policy of confrontation. Mr Castro, who is still head of Cuba’s ruling Communist Party, was speaking on the 60th anniversary of the revolution led by his brother, Fidel. He urged Cubans to prepare for all scenarios to defend their independence and said the revolution “had not aged”.


  • North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has said he is committed to denuclearisation, but warned he will “consider a new way to safeguard our sovereignty and interests” if the US continues its sanctions. He made the remarks during his closely-watched annual New Year’s address.
  • Chinese President Xi Jinping has urged the people of Taiwan to accept it “must and will be” reunited with China. In a speech marking 40 years since the start of improving ties, he reiterated Beijing’s call for peaceful unification on a one-country-two-systems basis. However, he also warned that China reserved the right to use force.
  • South Korea’s spy agency has told officials that North Korea’s ambassador to Italy has disappeared. The announcement follows unconfirmed reports that Pyongyang’s top diplomat in Italy had sought asylum from an unidentified Western country. Jo Song-gil, the acting North Korean ambassador to Rome, is the son and son-in-law of high-ranking North Korean officials.
  • Violent protests have paralysed the southern Indian state of Kerala after two women made history by entering a prominent Hindu temple. Schools across the state are closed and public transport too has been suspended. One person was killed in clashes on Wednesday. The Sabarimala temple was historically closed to women of “menstruating age” – defined as between 10 and 50.
  • China’s population will peak in 2029 at 1.44 billion before beginning a period of “unstoppable” decline, a government report says. The China Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) study says the country must implement policies to handle a smaller workforce and an older population. Both changes combined could cause “very unfavourable social and economic consequences”, the report says.


  • French President Emmanuel Macron used his traditional New Year’s Eve speech to sound a warning to extreme elements among anti-government protesters. He promised to keep order “without complacency” and decried self-appointed “spokespeople for a hateful mob”.
  • The number of people caught trying to enter the EU illegally has fallen to its lowest level in five years, the bloc’s border agency says. An estimated 150,000 illegal crossings were registered by Frontex last year, the lowest amount since 2013. It highlighted a sharp fall in the numbers crossing the Mediterranean to Italy, where a populist government has refused to allow rescue boats to dock.
  • Hundreds of German politicians, including Chancellor Angela Merkel, have had personal details stolen and published online. Contacts, private chats and financial details were put out on Twitter that belong to figures from every political party except the far-right AfD. Data from celebrities and journalists were also leaked.
  • Theresa May has warned the UK faces “uncharted territory” if Parliament rejects her Brexit deal as she vowed to redouble her efforts to win MPs round. This week’s vote would “definitely” go ahead, she told the BBC, as she promised new safeguards for Northern Ireland and to look at giving MPs more say in shaping future EU negotiations.
  • Thousands of demonstrators in Serbia have rallied for the fifth week against President Aleksandar Vucic. Protesters say the president has seized control of the media and launched attacks on the opposition and journalists. An attack on opposition politician Borko Stefanovic by unknown assailants in November triggered the marches.

Middle East

  • The World Food Programme has demanded Yemen’s rebel Houthi movement stops diverting desperately needed food aid from people in areas under its control. The WFP said lorries were illegally removing food from distribution areas, with rations sold on the open market or given to those not entitled to it.
  • The trial of 11 individuals over the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi has begun in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, state media report. Prosecutors have asked for the death penalty for five of the defendants.
  • A new regulation in Saudi Arabia is set to stop Saudi women from being divorced without their knowledge. Starting from Sunday, courts will be required to notify women by text on rulings confirming their divorces. Local female lawyers suggest the measure will end what are known as secret divorces – cases where men end a marriage without telling their wives.


  • The internet has been shut down in key cities in the Democratic Republic of Congo a day after the much-delayed presidential election. Telecoms minister Emery Okundji said he was unaware of the situation. Observers have complained of widespread irregularities during the poll.
  • Somalia has expelled the UN’s top envoy, Nicholas Haysom, accusing him of “shaming” the world body by acting like the country’s ruler. Mr Haysom had raised concern about the killing of protesters allied with ex-militant Islamist Mukhtar Robow. Security forces were allegedly involved in the deaths of about 15 of the protesters and the detention of about 300 people, the UN says.
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