Sat. Jul 20th, 2024

Welcome back to World Brief, where we’re looking at a North Korean missile test, surprise resignations in Vietnam and Ireland, and Israel’s plans for a military operation in Rafah.

Welcome back to World Brief, where we’re looking at a North Korean missile test, surprise resignations in Vietnam and Ireland, and Israel’s plans for a military operation in Rafah.


Advanced Missile Threats

Pyongyang successfully tested an engine for its intermediate-range hypersonic missile at the Sohae Satellite Launching Ground in northwest North Korea on Tuesday, state media reported Wednesday. The weapon reportedly used a solid-fuel engine, which lasts longer than liquid-propelled missiles and makes launches more difficult to detect, among other benefits. Defense experts believe that the missile was designed to hit faraway U.S. targets, including military bases in the U.S. territory of Guam; areas of Alaska; and U.S. military installations in Okinawa, Japan.

The “military strategic value of this weapon system is appreciated as important as” the intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) that can target the mainland United States, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said. Pyongyang did not provide a concrete timeline for completing the weapon.

The test came one day after Kim supervised a live-fire drill with nuclear-capable multiple rocket launchers designed to target South Korea’s capital. And on Monday, Pyongyang fired three short-range ballistic missiles into North Korea’s eastern waters, coinciding with Seoul hosting this year’s Summit for Democracy and the end of U.S.-South Korean military drills, which Kim called an invasion rehearsal. This week’s launches were North Korea’s first known missile tests in a month.

Pyongyang vowed in 2021 to manufacture hypersonic missiles and other high-tech weapons systems and has since test-fired new weapons to combat alleged U.S. hostility. Last year alone, North Korea tested 33 missiles, according to the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation—a massive hike from the eight missiles that North Korea tested in 2021.

North Korea’s tests “threaten the peace and safety of Japan, the region, and the international society,” Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said, adding that Pyongyang is violating United Nations Security Council resolutions that bar North Korea from engaging in ballistic activities. Washington, Seoul, and Tokyo have all expanded their joint military exercises in response.

Solid-fuel hypersonic missiles “can potentially neutralize the South Korea-U.S. missile defense system,” Yang Moo-jin, the president of the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul, told Agence France-Presse. Last year, North Korea claimed to have successfully tested its first solid-fueled ICBM, signaling a major advance in the nation’s nuclear capabilities. And in January, it flight-tested a solid-fuel ballistic missile with a hypersonic, maneuverable warhead. Experts predict Pyongyang will increase its missile tests ahead of the U.S. presidential election in November.


Today’s Most Read


What We’re Following

Political shake-ups. Vietnamese President Vo Van Thuong resigned on Wednesday for allegedly violating Vietnamese Communist Party rules. He is the second Vietnamese president to step down in two years amidst a widespread anti-corruption campaign that has seen hundreds of officials arrested and high-ranking politicians resign. The government said in a statement that Thuong’s “shortcomings had negatively impacted public opinion, affecting the reputation of the Party, State and him personally,” though it did not say what the shortcomings were. Although the presidency is largely a ceremonial role in Hanoi, Thuong was seen as the potential successor for party leader Nguyen Phu Trong, who is 79 years old and in poor health.

Also on Wednesday, Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar unexpectedly announced his plans to resign as prime minister and as leader of the Fine Gael party as soon as a successor is chosen. He requested that a new leader be selected on April 6. Varadkar said his reasoning for leaving was “both personal and political,” adding that he believes Fine Gael will perform better in upcoming elections if he is not at its helm. Varadkar was the youngest elected, first biracial, and first openly gay Irish prime minister.

A looming Rafah offensive. On Tuesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reiterated plans to launch a military operation into the southern Gaza city of Rafah in the near future despite foreign leaders, including U.S. President Joe Biden, urging Israel to show restraint. “A major ground operation there would be a mistake,” said U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan. “It would lead to more innocent civilian deaths, worsen the already dire humanitarian crisis, deepen the anarchy in Gaza, and further isolate Israel internationally.”

Netanyahu, however, argued on Tuesday that a ground offensive is necessary to defeat Hamas. “We are determined to complete the elimination of these battalions in Rafah, and there is no way to do this without a ground incursion,” he said. Netanyahu promised to send an Israeli delegation to Washington in the coming days to hear Biden’s concerns, but he did not agree to an alternative approach to target Hamas operatives in Rafah. At the meeting, the Biden administration reportedly intends to present several other options, including a plan to secure Egypt’s side of the border with Gaza to prevent arms smuggling into the enclave.

Bolsonaro charged. Federal police formally indicted former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and 16 other people on Tuesday for conspiring to falsify COVID-19 vaccination records, including those for Bolsonaro and his then-12-year-old daughter. The police report alleges that Bolsonaro and his aides altered their vaccination status to receive certificates enabling them to “cheat current health restrictions,” including allowing Bolsonaro to travel to the United States following his electoral defeat in 2022. At the time, Washington denied entry to unvaccinated foreigners.

The far-right leader repeatedly rallied against global vaccination campaigns. In June 2023, he was barred from running for office until 2030 for falsely claiming that Brazil’s voting systems were prone to fraud. And he has repeatedly been accused of corruption, abuse of power, and inciting an insurrection. If Bolsonaro is convicted, he could face multiple years in prison.


Odds and Ends

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Manet and the town council in Footloose may have more in common than you’d think. On Monday, Hun Manet ordered a nationwide ban on musical horns after videos surfaced online of people dancing in the streets to trucks blaring funky tunes. The Cambodian leader argued that dancing poses a threat to public order and is a traffic hazard. Some provincial authorities have already barred the practice.

By admin

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