North Korea threat shines spotlight on Guam as drills wrap up
GUAMEX 2017, an anti-submarine exercise conducted by the US, Japan and New Zealand off the coast of Gaum, ends today.
Guam has been at the centre of international headlines this week after North Korea claimed a plan to unleash a salvo of four ballistic missiles on America’s westernmost territory would be finished within the next few days.
The island contains nuclear and conventional long-range bombers that would be critical in a US strike against North Korea. Washington has staged numerous flyovers of the Korean Peninsula from Guam. If Pyongyang were to fire its intermediate range missiles, they would likely be shot down by Japan’s Aegis defence system or the US’ THAAD, which is stationed on Guam.
While Japan and South Korea would likely disapprove of a retaliatory military strike on the hermit kingdom, it is unclear if the US’ tempestuous president would heed their cautions.
Exiled Pakistani president to announce his return
Pervez Musharraf is expected to announce the date of his return to Pakistan today.
After taking power in 1999 following a successfully-orchestrated military coup, Musharraf ruled the country for almost a decade, resigning in 2008.
The 74-year-old faced treason charges for the 2007 suspension of the constitution and enactment of martial law, which was done, ostensibly, in response to rising Islamic extremism. After five years of self-imposed exile in London, the president returned to Pakistan and stood trial for high treason. He was granted leave in 2016 to seek medical treatment in Dubai and hasn’t returned to Pakistan since.
Today’s announcement comes on the heels of the ouster of Musharraf’s political nemesis, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. The former president expects Sharif’s disqualification to pave the way for his return; he will use the circumstances to assist his party, the All Pakistan Muslim League, in the 2018 elections.
Decrying Pakistan’s long-held two-party system, Musharraf’s return could shake up the country’s political system by uniting many splinter parties to create a legitimate third force.
Iranian parliament convenes to respond to new US sanctions
Today, the Majlis re-opens after a summer recess. Topping the agenda is a response to new American sanctions targeting Iran’s ballistic missile program and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
The sanctions have been widely decried by both hardliners and moderates, who claim that they violate the 2015 nuclear deal. Foreign Minister Javad Zarif has promised to pursue legal action against Washington, and Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi signalled that Iran would retaliate by stepping up support for the Revolutionary Guard’s regional activities.
President Rouhani must walk a fine line—showing hardliners he is willing to stand up to the US while preserving the nuclear deal, which unfroze $4.2 billion in Iranian assets and boosted exports by $7 billion.
EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini reaffirmed European support for the deal at Rouhani’s inauguration last Saturday; Iranian growth hinges on European business opportunities like joint gas exploration with Total or car production with Renault.
If Iran follows through on its promised retaliation, the regional proxy conflicts in Syria, Yemen, and Lebanon could escalate into an outright confrontation between Iran and the US and its allies.
Mexico’s ruling party is expected to approve a change to its rules that will allow non-party members to run for president next July. If passed, the change will allow Finance Minister Jose Antonio Meade to run for the top job—incumbent President Enrique Pena Neto is not eligible to run for a second term under the constitution. Meade is one of the few high-profile party figures not facing corruption accusations. Whoever eventually represents the ruling PRI is likely to face off against leftist nationalist Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, whose flamboyant rhetoric has put him on a potential collision course with the Trump administration.
Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen will travel to Laos today for talks on defusing a border dispute with its northern neighbour. Some 30 Laotian troops have been camped out in a disputed border area since April in what Mr Sen has labelled an “invasion”, raising tensions between the two Southeast Asian countries. Yesterday, PM Sen gave Laos six days to withdraw its troops in the Stung Treng province or face military action.