Top News Stories for Today – December 28, 2016
Abe tributes Americans killed in Pearl Harbor
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has expressed “sincere and everlasting condolences” to the families of the more than 2,400 Americans killed in Japan’s World War II attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, 75 years ago. “As the prime minister of Japan, I offer my sincere and everlasting condolences to the souls of those who lost their lives here, as well as to the spirits of all the brave men and women whose lives were taken by a war that commenced in this very place.”
Abe did not apologize for the Japanese attack. His staff made it clear that an apology was not his intention, and said the purpose of Abe’s trip was to show how US-Japan relations have evolved since the war.
Abe met with President Obama before the two traveled together to the base, and the two men were also scheduled to meet privately to discuss the US-Japan alliance. Earlier this year, Obama visited Hiroshima, the Japanese city hit by an American atomic bomb in 1945, becoming the first sitting US president to visit the city. Abe said his trip to Hawaii was reciprocal, telling reporters earlier this month, “This will be a visit to soothe the souls of the victims.” BBC, Politico, The Week, VOA
Russia and Turkey agree on Syria ceasefire
Turkey and Russia have agreed on a plan for a cease-fire encompassing the whole of Syria, Turkish state-run media reported Wednesday. The two nations aim to implement the cease-fire by midnight Wednesday and will present the plan to other countries involved in the conflict during talks in Kazakhstan, with the exclusion of terror organizations.
Separately, both Russia and Turkey accused the United States of supporting terrorist groups this week, with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan saying Tuesday that the US-led coalition in Syria “give[s] support to terrorist groups including [the Islamic State]” as well as to the People’s Protection Units (YPG) and the Democratic Union Party (PYD), both Kurdish organizations. “It is very clear,” Erdogan said. “We have confirmed with evidence, with pictures, photos, and videos,” although he did not expand on the alleged proof. The Associated Press, Al Jazeera, The Week
Trump rips UN
President-elect Donald Trump on Monday afternoon took to Twitter to air his thoughts about the United Nations, calling the international diplomacy group “just a club for people to get together, talk, and have a good time.” Trump said the organization has “such great potential” but neglects to use it, saying the state of the UN is “so sad!”
Trump’s missive was met with some criticism, with some former UN personnel attacking it as tone-deaf. On Friday, the UN Security Council voted through a resolution demanding Israel cease to build settlements in disputed lands in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The US. declined to exercise its veto power, a decision Trump slammed; Trump’s ambassador to Israel has called for moving the American embassy in Israel to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv, which would upend decades of precedent. Fox News, CNBC, The Week
North Korea has big nuclear plans
Thae Yong-ho, who was North Korea’s second highest ranking diplomat, defected to South Korea in August, said “With South Korea holding presidential elections and the US undergoing an administration transition, the North sees 2017 as the prime time for nuclear development,”
At a news conference Tuesday with South Korean reporters, Thae made clear he was not aware of the status of North Korea’s nuclear program but expressed confidence that China would not severely discipline North Korea for its nuclear program because the North’s disintegration could produce a combined US-friendly Korea. He said Kim is expediting the country’s nuclear development program with the intent of possessing nuclear weapons by the end of next year.
North Korea conducted two nuclear tests this year and fired over 20 ballistic missiles. And it publicly promised to develop the ability to strike the United States with a nuclear weapon. VOA
China calls Vatican for better relations
China’s head of religious affairs, Wang Zou’an, expressed hope Tuesday that the Vatican will “take actual steps to create beneficial conditions for improving relations” between the church and China, according to the state news agency Xinhua. Wang’s remarks were made at a meeting of China’s official Catholic Church in Beijing.
China severed relations with the Holy See — the Catholic Church’s supreme body of government — in 1951, two years after the Communists assumed power in China. The Vatican has maintained official ties with Taiwan, which China claims as its own. Since the split, China has maintained that the party-controlled Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association has the authority to appoint Chinese bishops. The Holy See insists that right belongs only to the pope. The dispute is one of the primary reasons Sino-Vatican relations have not been re-established. VOA
Russia admits doping
Russian officials are no longer denying alleged “institutionalized” doping of the country’s athletes during the 2014 Sochi Olympics, a report from The New York Times said. But the Kremlin pushed back against the charge Wednesday. The newspaper spoke with three top Russian sports officials. Anna Antseliovich, the acting director general of Russia’s national anti-doping agency RUSADA, called the doping program “an institutional conspiracy.”
When asked about the Times article alleging that some Russian officials admitted to the “institutional doping” by athletes, Kremlin spokesman Dimitri Peskov said, “We categorically deny it.” “From the very start (of the doping scandal) we denied any involvement of the state, state agencies, services or bodies in the possible use of doping by athletes,” Peskov told reporters Wednesday.
Hours after the Times story appeared, RUSADA issued a statement saying Antseliovich’s comments were misrepresented. “Unfortunately, [NYT reporter] Rebecca Ruiz has taken these words out of context creating an impression that RUSADA’s top management admits an institutional scheme of covering doping in Russia,” the agency said. “We’d like to stress that RUSADA does not have and cannot have authority to admit or deny such facts. Russia’s Investigative Committee is conducting an investigation into the matter,” the statement added. CNN