World News in Brief: June 18

Thursday, 2020-06-18 16:25:09
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Staff members of All Nippon Airways wearing protective masks and face shields work at a boarding gate at Haneda airport in Tokyo on June 4. (Photo: Reuters)
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Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said the country would ease entry restrictions for people coming from Australia, New Zealand, Thailand and Vietnam, according to a Jiji news agency report on Thursday (June 18).

* US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met China's top diplomat, Yang Jiechi, in Hawaii on Wednesday (June 17), in high-level face-to-face talks that have become rare amid tensions between the two strategic rivals.

* Ratings agency Fitch cut its outlook for India to "negative" from "stable" on Thursday, saying that the coronavirus outbreak had an unfavourable impact on the economy. It maintained its rating for India at 'BBB-'.

* Republic of Korea's chief nuclear negotiator will hold talks with officials in Washington on Thursday amid flaring tensions with Democratic People’s Republic of Korea after Pyongyang blew up an inter-Korean liaison office and threatened military action. Lee Do-hoon's unannounced trip came days after the DPRK blew up a joint liaison office in Kaesong, near the ROK border and declared an end to dialogue with the South.

* Nearly 80 million people worldwide, or 1% of humanity, were uprooted at the end of 2019 after fleeing wars or persecution, a record figure capping a "tumultuous" decade of displacement, the United Nations said on Thursday. The figure rose by some 9 million from a year earlier and is close to double the 41 million recorded in 2010, despite COVID-19 restrictions slowing down movement, the U.N. refugee agency UNHCR said.

* Thailand on Thursday reported six new coronavirus infections and no new deaths, bringing its total to 3,141 confirmed cases, of which 58 were fatalities. Thailand has eased many of its restrictions and has recorded no new local transmissions for 24 days in a row, while 2,997 patients have recovered.

* The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany increased by 580 to 187,764, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed on Thursday. The reported death toll rose by 26 to 8,856, the tally showed.

* Iran said on Thursday its navy had successfully fired a new locally made cruise missile during war games in the northern Indian Ocean and near the entrance to the Gulf. The test-firing comes as the United States is seeking an extension of a U.N.-imposed arms embargo against Iran, which is due to expire in October under Tehran's 2015 nuclear deal with world powers. Washington withdrew from that pact.

* The Spanish government announced on Thursday a EUR4.25 billion (US$4.78 billion) plan to help the crucial tourism industry recover from the coronavirus crisis.

* President Emmanuel Macron visits the United Kingdom on Thursday to mark the 80th anniversary of General de Gaulle’s appeal to the French resistance and to talk Brexit with Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said that the visit showed that despite some difficult episodes in centuries of Franco-British relations, the two neighbours stood beside each other in times of need.

* Iran on Thursday condemned as inhumane a fresh round of US sanctions against its regional ally Syria and said it would expand its trade ties with Damascus. The United States on Wednesday imposed its toughest sanctions targeting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to choke off revenue for his government and force it back to U.N.-led negotiations on ending his country's war.

* The Czech Republic will loosen many remaining restrictions imposed to curb the spread of the coronavirus in the coming weeks, allowing larger crowds to gather, people to mostly ditch face masks and zoos and museums to return to normal operations. The country of 10.7 million has reported a total of 10,176 cases of the novel coronavirus, although almost three quarters have recovered. Its death toll of 333 people is a fraction of that in much of western Europe.

* Russia on Thursday reported 7,790 new cases of the novel coronavirus, its lowest daily rise in infections in six weeks, bringing the nationwide total to 561,091. Russia's coronavirus crisis response centre said 182 people had died in the last 24 hours, bringing the official death toll to 7,660 since the crisis began.

* Kazakhstan will close shopping malls, markets and parks in major cities on June 20-21 and make additional hospital beds available for COVID-19 patients, the Central Asian nation's government said on Thursday. The government said the restrictions were needed due to a worsening of the outbreak there. It also ordered all provinces of the country to broaden their coronavirus testing.

* Norwegian salmon exports to China fell by a third last week to 240 tonnes, Norway's state-owned seafood marketing organisation said on Thursday. The 34% decline came as imports of salmon to China were halted towards the end of the week when the novel coronavirus was discovered at stalls processing the fish at a major Beijing wholesale food market. Norway and China have both concluded that the salmon itself was not the source of the virus, Norway's fisheries minister said on Wednesday.

* Saudi Arabia has proposed a framework to end the latest standoff in southern Yemen between nominal allies under a Saudi-led coalition, three sources said, as violence escalates with the Iran-aligned Houthi movement in the north of the country. Previous clashes between Yemen's Saudi-backed government and the Southern Transitional Council (STC), a separatist group, have complicated U.N. efforts to end Yemen's ruinous conflict and protect its fractured health sector from COVID-19.

* Turkish forces have hit more than 500 Kurdish militant targets in northern Iraq as part of an operation in the region against the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), the Defence Ministry said on Thursday. Turkish warplanes struck PKK targets in various regions of northern Iraq on Sunday and Tuesday in two separate raids, which Ankara said were in response to an increase in militant attacks on Turkish army bases. Ankara launched the "Claw-Tiger Operation" on Tuesday in northern Iraq's Haftanin region.