Daily Memo: North Korean Weapons, Clashes in Yemen, a Russian Explosion

All the news worth knowing today.


More weapons tests. For the fifth time in just over two weeks, North Korea carried out a weapons test, this time launching two short-range ballistic missiles early Saturday morning off its east coast. U.S. defense officials said the missiles, which flew about 250 miles (400 kilometers), resembled other recent tests. U.S. President Donald Trump shrugged off the launches – noting that they were of short-range missiles – while praising a new letter from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Trump acknowledged that the tests were intended to show Pyongyang’s discontent with U.S.-South Korean military exercises and voiced his own displeasure with the cost to the U.S. of such joint drills. North Korea has not tested any long-range intercontinental missiles since late 2017, a sign that, the White House says, the diplomatic track has borne fruit. American allies in the region like South Korea and Japan, which are within range of the missiles now being tested, are less enthusiastic about the fact that the North has effectively been given a green light to test increasingly sophisticated short-range weapons. South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said more missile tests were highly probable. Meanwhile, Trump tweeted today that Kim expressed an interest in restarting U.S.-North Korean talks once the ongoing U.S.-South Korea drills are over.

Clashes in Yemen. Fighting in Yemen between supposedly allied forces entered its fourth day. Southern separatists and government forces clashed around the presidential palace in Aden, and the Norwegian Refugee Council warned that prolonged fighting in the southern port city could interfere with efforts to replenish already meager humanitarian supplies. The fighting killed at least eight civilians on Friday, according to medical sources. The Yemeni government called Saturday’s violence a coup and said separatists had captured every government military camp in Aden. Al Arabiya TV reported Saturday that the United Arab Emirates-backed separatists had captured their second military base from the government in less than a day. Al-Masdar Online, meanwhile, said separatist forces had taken over the interior minister’s home; there is conflicting information on whether he had escaped earlier in the day or whether he was killed. The U.N. and the UAE are among the chorus calling for calm, but that looks unlikely.

Russian explosion. The death toll from an explosion during a failed missile test in northern Russia has climbed to five, according to state nuclear agency Rosatom. The Russian Ministry of Defense had initially said the test involved a liquid propellant rocket engine, despite the “short-term” spike in background radiation in the area, according to a local government spokeswoman. On Saturday, however, Rosatom admitted that the accident involved “the engineering and technical support of isotopic power sources in a liquid propulsion system.” According to experts, Russia may have been testing a nuclear-powered cruise missile that Russia calls the 9M730 Buresvestnik (SSC-X-9 Skyfall in NATO parlance). A local media outlet said there had been a run on iodine, with several pharmacies having run out.

Kashmir protests. Indian officials started relaxing restrictions in Kashmir on Friday, which they’re hoping will soothe protests over the decision to revoke the region’s special status. But an anonymous police official said police had used tear gas and pellets to rein in a group of some 10,000 protesters – the biggest protest so far, according to the officer – in Srinagar on Friday, sending 12 people to the hospital in the process. The officer also said more than 500 people had been arrested, including ministers, lawmakers and political leaders. Naturally, the official narrative is a little different: A Foreign Ministry spokesman said normalcy had returned just outside of Srinagar and described the unrest as temporary. Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, following a meeting in Beijing with his Chinese counterpart, said his government would raise the Kashmir issue at the U.N. Security Council and that China had assured him of its full support.

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