President Donald Trump presented a special U.S.-made trophy to the winner of a sumo tournament Sunday as he got a taste of one of Japan’s most treasured cultural institutions. The honor given to Trump was part of a charm offensive by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as he courted Trump with three things close to the American leader’s heart: wrestling, cheeseburgers and golf. Sumo diplomacy, to sum it up. The president, first lady Melania Trump, Abe and his wife, Akie, joined an estimated 11,500 fans at Ryogoku Kokugikan Stadium to watch massive and muscular men, in bare feet and loin cloths, battle for supremacy in a small ring of dirt. At the match’s end, Trump stepped into the ring and presented the eagle-topped “President’s Cup” to the champion, Asanoyama. Trump, the first American president to participate in such a ceremony, said later it was an “incredible evening.” “That was something to see these great athletes,” Trump said before having dinner with the Abes at a hibachi restaurant. Trump’s four-day state visit to Japan is designed to demonstrate the strength of the U.S.-Japan alliance. Earlier Sunday, Abe warmly welcomed Trump to Mobara Country Club, south of Tokyo, for a round of golf, their fifth since Trump became president. Abe is trying to placate Trump amid growing U.S.-Japan trade tensions and the threat of auto tariffs. Japan also is contending with the continued military threat from North Korea , a concern seemingly heightened by Trump’s apparent dismissal of the North’s recent tests
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison named his new cabinet on Sunday, with most positions staying the same, saying the government had “a significant agenda” to deliver and it was time to get back to business. “I have high expectations of my ministry and clear goals for each of their roles,” Scott Morrison said in an emailed statement. Incoming Defence Minister Linda Reynolds, who served in the Army Reserves for almost three decades and rose to the rank of brigadier, replaces Christopher Pyne who has retired. Foreign Minister Marise Payne retains her position as does Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg, Finance Minister Mathias Cormann, Trade Minister Simon Birmingham, Energy Minister Angus Taylor and Attorney General Christian Porter. Morrison also created a national agency for Indigenous Australians which would report directly to new Indigenous Affairs Minister Ken Wyatt, the first Aboriginal cabinet minister. Mr Morrison said he intends to recommend Arthur Sinodinos, a senator from the eastern state of New South Wales, for the plum diplomatic post of ambassador to the United States, replacing Joe Hockey. Communications Minister Mitch Fifield will be Australia’s representative at the United Nations. A priority of the re-elected Liberal National coalition is to deliver tax cuts by July 1, a cornerstone of its election campaign, as the central bank has called for stimulus to aid a slowing economy. Morrison entered this month’s election at the head of a minority government after a series of defections, unable to pursue its legislative agenda without the support
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has swept to a huge election victory, his foreign minister said on Thursday, giving his party a mandate to pursue policies that put Hindus first, are mainly business-friendly and take a hard line on national security. Official data from India’s Election Commission showed Modi’s Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ahead in 294 of the 542 seats available, more than the 272 seats needed for a majority in the lower house of parliament. That would give it the first back-to-back majority for a single party since 1984. The main opposition Congress Party was ahead in 50 seats, figures showed. Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj, also a senior BJP leader, said on Twitter the BJP had won a “massive victory”. The mood was upbeat at BJP headquarters in New Delhi, with party workers setting off firecrackers and cheering as TV channels reported the margin of victory. Official data from India’s Election Commission showed Modi’s Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ahead in 294 of the 542 seats available, more than the 272 seats needed for a majority in the lower house of parliament. That would give it the first back-to-back majority for a single party since 1984. The main opposition Congress Party was ahead in 50 seats, figures showed. Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj, also a senior BJP leader, said on Twitter the BJP had won a “massive victory”. The mood was upbeat at BJP headquarters in New Delhi, with party workers setting off firecrackers and cheering as TV channels
Indonesia has introduced curbs on social media in a bid to prevent the spread of hoaxes, some calling for violent post-election attacks, and quell two days of protests in the capital. Fact-checkers say hoaxes and calls for violence on social media networks have spiked since Tuesday when an official election count confirmed President Joko Widodo as the winner, a result contested by his challenger, Prabowo Subianto. Six people have been killed in unrest that gripped parts of Jakarta since Tuesday night. Chief security minister Wiranto said to “avoid provocations, the spread of fake news through the community, we will limit access to certain features on social media”. The move imposes limits on the ability to upload videos or photos on social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and its platforms Instagram and Whatsapp. Communications Minister Rudiantara told reporters the restrictions were meant to slow visual content that could inflame “emotions” and would be temporary in Facebook’s third-largest market globally with 130 million accounts. Reuters reviewed half a dozen posts forwarded via the Whatsapp messenger system calling for violence and attacks to protest the election results, as well as shared doctored videos. One called for protesters to attack prominent Jakarta sights by hiding explosives in books, water bottles or walking sticks. Another video widely circulated on social media showed a since disproved siege of a mosque by police. Several versions of the video were captioned saying that the police officers were disguised as “Chinese people” wanting to attack Indonesian worshippers, while
A New Zealand lawmaker was given a security escort on Tuesday after threats against her by white supremacists opposed to her views on hate speech, a rare precaution in a country where politicians mingle freely with the public. A debate on hate speech has been raging in New Zealand since the mass shooting in Christchurch on March 15 by a suspected white supremacist that killed 51 people and wounded dozens. Green party lawmaker Golriz Ghahraman, a human rights lawyer who was born in Iran and came to New Zealand as a child refugee, has seen an escalation of threats against her in recent weeks. Ghahraman would now be accompanied by a security escort when she leaves parliament, she told reporters on Tuesday, as the police deemed the threats were serious enough to warrant the extra security. “It’s distressing to have secret white supremacist groups talking about you,” said Ghahraman, who is among a handful of parliamentarians from ethnic minority communities. “After Christchurch, New Zealand has asked us to be different. New Zealanders want us to debate issues robustly, but to keep personal attacks out of it. We have all learnt that words, including online posts, have consequences,” she told reporters in parliament. Ghahraman has called for hate speech to be monitored, infuriating opponents, some of whom have accused her of trying to curb freedom. Online threats have been more alarming. The media group Newshub gave details in a report on white supremacy of threats in private online groups against Ghahraman
For nearly a decade, Pragya Thakur was known mostly as the saffron-clad Hindu ascetic shuttling in and out of Indian courts, flanked by police, facing charges under an anti-terrorism law for plotting a bomb attack on Muslims. Last month, the 49-year-old was fielded as a candidate by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the current general election, in which he is seeking a second term. Overnight, Thakur, who has been out on bail since 2017, emerged as a symbol of a Hindu nationalist movement that is showing increasing intolerance towards Muslims in the Hindu-dominated nation. The five years of Modi’s rule have seen an increasing number of attacks on Muslims by right-wing groups. But the brazenness of Thakur’s candidacy has still stunned many. It’s the first time a leading political party in India has fielded a candidate accused of terrorism in an election. “They are addressing a very extreme form of the Hindutva fold,” said Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay, a New Delhi-based biographer of Modi, referring to the BJP’s Hindu-first ideology. Thakur says she had nothing to do with the 2008 explosion near several mosques in the Muslim-majority town of Malegaon in western India. Six Muslims were killed and more than a hundred people injured. According to court filings, the motorcycle on which the explosives were strapped was Thakur’s, and she was among those who planned the attack to avenge “jihadi activities.” Indian law allows candidates charged with crimes to contest elections, but not convicts. The trial against
Foreign ministers from the Council of Europe, the continent’s chief human rights watchdog, reached an agreement on Friday that opens the way for Russia to return to the organisation, resolving a dispute that began after Moscow’s seizure of Crimea. The agreement follows efforts by France and Germany to find a compromise among the 47-nation group and means Russia will likely take part in a meeting of the council’s parliamentary assembly in June, when key new appointments will be made. Russia has indicated it will resume payment of its membership dues as a result. It stopped payment nearly two years ago after its voting rights in the council were suspended over its 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine. Ukraine, supported by six other countries, tried unsuccessfully to block the agreement, which was approved by a qualified majority, diplomats said. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov welcomed the move. “We do not intend to leave the Council of Europe as some people are trying to suggest by spreading false rumours. And we are not refusing to fulfil a single obligation, including financial ones,” Lavrov said in Helsinki, where the meeting was held. Finland currently chairs the council. The Russian spat has prompted questions about the future and durability of the 70-year-old Council of Europe, the guardian of the European Convention on Human Rights and the creator of the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. It also left a 90 million euro hole in the council’s budget since Russia accounts for around 7%
Impoverished North Korea is suffering its worst drought in decades and food supplies are reportedly running low, but South Korea’s push to provide aid is bogged down in the growing tension marked by missile tests and sanctions crackdowns. South Korea is seeking to send food directly to the North while scaling up donations to international agencies including the U.N. World Food Programme (WFP), two sources familiar with the matter told Reuters. If it comes off, it would mark the South’s first bilateral food aid since 2010, when it delivered 5,000 tons of rice, Unification Ministry data shows. The WFP says more than 10 million North Koreans are in urgent need after crop output plunged to a decade low last year. On Monday, the Red Cross said this year’s early drought is threatening the summer harvest, adding to the crisis. A devastating famine in the 1990s, exacerbated by drought, killed as many as a million North Koreans, with many resorting to eating tree bark and grass. The North’s official KCNA news agency on Wednesday said this year’s rainfall so far was the lowest since 1982, while the Rodong Sinmun newspaper called for staging “war against the nature”, mobilising all available water pumps and irrigation equipment. But tension again has mounted since a second summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Donald Trump, aimed at bringing about the denuclearisation of the North, broke down in Hanoi in February. The North has fired two missiles and multiple projectiles in
A conservative stronghold for a century, Australia’s hinterland is now cracking like the drought-parched earth, voters say, with once-safe districts in jeopardy ahead of Saturday’s election. Driven by anger on issues from climate change to water allocation, the splintering presents a problem for the governing conservative coalition that normally considers itself secure in rural areas but is trailing in national opinion polls. In Mildura, a city of 30,000 people on the edge of the outback and part of the safest of 16 electorates held by the coalition’s junior partner, the farmer-based National Party, nobody can recall it ever needing to campaign so hard. “If you just look at the distribution of posters, they’re up everywhere,” Stefano de Pieri, a politician-turned-chef who has run a restaurant there for almost 30 years, told Reuters from his kitchen by a bend in the Murray River. Mildura was one of five constituencies to spurn the Nationals at state polls in November and March, its disillusionment stoked by a deepening drought and a feeling the 99-year-old party of “the bush” was taking voters for granted. “There is a sense of Mildura wanting to go through a political renewal,” de Pieri added, a contrast from previous years, when the Nationals were seen as sure-fire winners. In the agricultural heartland beyond, the mood is similar. “Everyone I’ve talked to is not going to vote National Party,” said Leonard Vallance, the livestock president of the Victorian Farmers’ Federation. “They need a good shake and I think they’ll get
Bill Shorten, leader of Australia’s opposition Labor party, is known as a deft negotiator who can work a room to his advantage. His ability to organize – honed while hammering out union pay deals in industries as disparate as horse racing, skiing and ports – may prove decisive at the May 18 general election. Opinion polls suggest the former trade union leader will guide a rejuvenated Labor to victory, ending nearly six years of conservative and center-right rule. “When he came onto the scene it struck me immediately that this guy was going places,” said race horse industry executive John Alducci who faced Shorten in contract talks in the 1990s. “He was aggressive, they all are. But he was intelligent and knew how to put forward a case when negotiating for stable hands.” Shorten, 52, has never been the preferred choice of voters, consistently trailing leaders of the Liberal-led coalition, including current Prime Minister Scott Morrison, in personal popularity polls. But Labor’s brand has strengthened since Shorten took over in 2013 after a period of leadership instability; a crucial detail in an electoral system whereby voters cast ballots for party members and do not directly elect the prime minister. Labor’s 2019 campaign has focused on higher spending for health and education, and more ambitious curbs to greenhouse gas pollution than his opponents. Shorten said late last month in a leadership debate that the economy was stoking inequality. The center-left Labor wants to restrict the use of negative gearing – whereby
Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar and his Russian counterpart discussed ways to reduce tension in Syria’s Idlib province, the Turkish Defence Ministry said on Tuesday, after the biggest military escalation in northwest Syria in nearly a year. Russia has backed the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, while Turkey has backed some rebels in Syria’s eight-year civil war, but they have recently worked together to try to contain fighting in the country’s northwest. That effort has been strained by the surge in violence in Syria’s last major insurgent stronghold in recent weeks. The offensive by the Syrian army and its allies, backed by Russia, has uprooted more than 150,000 people, the United Nations says, while rescue workers and civil defence officials say more than 120 civilians have been killed. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu called the attacks by Syrian forces a flagrant violation of a September ceasefire that had averted a government offensive. He said in a tweet on Tuesday it went counter to the spirit of Turkey’s efforts to work with Russia and Iran to reduce hostilities and casualties in Idlib and neighbouring areas. On Monday, rebels said they mounted a counterattack against government forces. A senior rebel commander said on Tuesday the offensive showed an array of rebel forces – from Turkey-backed rebels to jihadists – were still able to prevent the army from making major advances despite heavy air strikes. “We conducted this lighting offensive to show the Russians we are not easy prey and throw the
An inquiry into Christchurch’s mosques shooting massacre began hearing evidence on Monday, as New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern prepared to co-host a meeting in France that seeks global support to tackle online violence. A lone gunman killed 51 people at two mosques in Christchurch on March 15 while livestreaming the massacre on Facebook. It was New Zealand’s worst peace time shooting. New Zealand’s Royal Commission inquiry will look into the suspected gunman’s activities, use of social media and international connections, as well as whether there was inappropriate priority settings in counter terrorism resources. “The commission’s findings will help to ensure such an attack never happens here again,” Jacinda Ardern said in a statement announcing a second commissioner to the inquiry. The Royal Commission’s website said it would gather information until August. It will report its findings to the government on December 10. Some in the Muslim community called for better communication about the inquiry. “Many of us in the Muslim community have not received any information about the process for hearings…..so many of us in the community very much feel out of the loop,” said Wellington-based community advocate Guled Mire. “Ultimately, we want our voices to be heard and to no longer be ignored, so hopefully steps are taken to ensure information is directly communicated to members of the Muslim community.” The Royal Commission did not immediately respond to request for comment. Ardern is in Paris this week to co-chair a meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling coalition is confident of a second term in office but opposition parties are talking to each other to seal an alliance, hoping to topple him after general election results are announced on May 23. The seven-phase election started on April 11 and ends on May 19. Below is how India’s biggest parties are aligned. NATIONAL DEMOCRATIC ALLIANCE (NDA) BHARATIYA JANATA PARTY (BJP): Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist BJP leads the NDA and won 282 seats in the last election five years ago. There are 545 seats in the lower house of parliament, two of which are nominated by the president from the Anglo-Indian community. ALL INDIA ANNA DRAVIDA MUNNETRA KAZHAGAM (AIADMK): The third-biggest party and Narendra Modi’s biggest partner in the south of the country, the BJP’s weakest region. The AIADMK won 37 of the 40 seats it contested the last time, but the death of its charismatic leader, J. Jayalalithaa, in 2016 could affect its performance. SHIV SENA: The hardline Hindu party, based in India’s financial capital Mumbai, is in an on-off relationship with the BJP. The parties sealed an alliance before this election, with the construction of a Hindu temple at a controversial site in the north being one of Shiv Sena’s key demands. Shiv Sena won 18 seats the last time, making it the sixth-biggest party. LOK JAN SHAKTI PARTY: The party mainly represents lower caste Hindus and won six of the seven seats it contested the last time. UNITED PROGRESSIVE ALLIANCE
Sri Lankan authorities have arrested a Saudi-educated scholar for what they claim are links with Zahran Hashim, the suspected ringleader of the Easter Sunday bombings, throwing a spotlight on the rising influence of Salafi-Wahhabi Islam on the island’s Muslims.
Mohamed Aliyar, 60, is the founder of the Centre for Islamic Guidance, which boasts a mosque, a religious school and a library in Zahran’s hometown of Kattankudy, a Muslim-dominated city on Sri Lanka’s eastern shores.
“Information has been revealed that the suspect arrested had a close relationship with ... Zahran and had been operating financial transactions,” said a police statement late on Friday.
The statement said Aliyar was “involved” with training in the southern town of Hambantota for the group of suicide bombers who attacked hotels and churches on Easter, killing over 250 people.
During Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s first two years in office, his daughter Sara had barely any interest in politics. One year on, she is front and centre in a midterm election that she isn’t even running in, playing kingmaker for candidates allied with her father in what’s being widely seen as a not-so-subtle trial balloon for her own presidential run in 2022.
Monday’s elections are to a great extent a referendum on the Duterte administration, testing his popularity and giving him a chance to tighten his grip on power by retaining his Congressional majority, and keeping the opposition on the fringes of the all-important Senate for the remainder of his term.
Sara Duterte opted out of running for the Senate, choosing instead to manage the campaign of some of her father’s loyalists, which experts say will boost her political capital and build alliances that could come in handy ahead of the next presidential election.
“She’s projecting herself as a national personality. What’s happening today is her testing the water,” said Ramon Casiple, who heads the Institute for Political and Electoral Reform.
North Korea’s second missile test on Thursday signals it is serious about developing new, short-range weapons that could be used early and effectively in any war with South Korea and the United States, analysts studying images of the latest launches say.
Last week, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un oversaw the first flight of a previously untested weapon - a relatively small, fast missile experts believe will be easier to hide, launch, and manoeuvre in flight.
Photos released by state media on Friday showed Thursday’s test involved the same weapon. The tests have increased tensions after the last U.S.-North Korea summit collapsed in February in Hanoi with no agreement over Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programme.
The U.S. said Thursday that it has seized a North Korean cargo ship that was used to violate international sanctions, a first-of-its kind enforcement action that comes amid a tense moment in relations between the two countries.
The "Wise Honest," North Korea's second largest cargo ship, was detained in April 2018 as it traveled toward Indonesia. It's now in the process of being moved to American Samoa, Justice Department officials said.
Officials made the announcement hours after North Korea fired two suspected short-range missiles toward the sea, the second weapons launch in five days and a possible signal that stalled talks over its nuclear weapons program are in trouble. The public disclosure that the vessel is now in U.S. custody may further inflame tensions, though U.S. officials said the timing of their complaint was not a response to the missile launch.