World News in Brief: December 21

The Republic of Korea's military planned to facilitate tension reduction with the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), while preparing to restore its wartime operational command of RoK’s troops from the United States, Seoul's defense ministry said Thursday (December 20).

* A "Yellow Vests" protester lost his life on December 20 after being hit by a truck in a roundabout in Agen, in southwestern France where demonstrators staged more blockades of motorways to oppose President Emmanuel Macron's packages of reforms, Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said. Eight others have died in incidents linked to the movement, mostly from traffic accidents caused by roadblocks, since the movement started on Nov. 17.

* Russian President Vladimir Putin said Thursday that he is ready to meet with his US counterpart Donald Trump and discuss bilateral relations and multiple issues on the international agenda.

* US President Donald Trump took "an extremely grave decision" to pull troops from Syria, France's defence minister said on December 21.

* A methane explosion in a Czech coal mine killed 13 miners, including 11 Polish nationals and two Czechs, the mine operator OKD said on December 21.

* Outgoing UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura on December 20 expressed optimism about the prospect of a political solution in Syria although he regretted that more could have been done.

* A military satellite was successfully launched atop the Proton-M carrier rocket from Baikonur Cosmodrome on December 21, the Russian Defense Ministry said.

* The US House passed a temporary spending bill Thursday that includes funding for President Donald Trump's long-promised border wall but is unlikely to get enough votes to clear the Senate.

* A Palestinian was shot dead late on December 20 night by Israeli soldiers' gunfire north of the West Bank town of al-Beereh, close to Ramallah, the Palestinian Authority health ministry announced.

* US President Donald Trump said Thursday that Defense Secretary Jim Mattis is to retire at the end of February. Mattis will "be retiring, with distinction," after having served the administration as the defense chief for the past two years, Trump tweeted.

* Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on December 20 that he had held a phone call with US President Donald Trump over Iranian military presence in Syria.

* Switzerland announced Thursday that it had clinched a deal with the United Kingdom that allows the existing rights of Swiss and British nationals already residing in each other's countries when Britain leaves the European Union (EU).

* Norway said on December 20 that an agreement has been concluded with the United Kingdom that will ensure continuation of rights for Norwegian citizens living in the UK and British citizens living in Norway.

* Iran and Turkey agreed on December 20 to step up their economic cooperation with the aim of reaching US$30 billion annually, Press TV reported.

* Romania's coalition government, led by Social Democrat Prime Minister Viorica Dancila, survived a no-confidence vote on December 20, the second one in a year submitted by right-wing oppositions.

* The United Arab Emirates plans to deposit US$3 billion in Pakistan's central bank "in the next few days", the UAE state news agency WAM reported on December 21.

Reuters, Xinhua