By Patrick Pierson.
Controversy continues to surround Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte, who this week confirmed that he personally killed suspected criminals when he was mayor of Davao City – in his words, “I was really looking for an encounter so I could kill.” He also claimed, citing his age and health concerns, that he may not be around until the end of his term. Joint military exercises between the US and the Philippines continue to be curtailed, and the country’s Foreign Minister is requesting that development aid come with no strings attached.
Progress continues on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), with Pakistan now employing a special maritime force to protect the key port at Gwadar. A US military aircraft crashed off the coast of Japan, the second crash of a US aircraft in the area in as many weeks. Speaking in Australia, a US admiral says that forces are ready to confront China in the South China Sea if necessary. This comes as new intel reveals Chinese weapons installations on artificial islands in the sea, a move that Chinese authorities defended this week. In addition, a Chinese warship seized an underwater drone belonging to the US. The head of the Tibetan government-in-exile has called on Trump to push China on human rights issues. China is making clear their discontent with a meeting between Indian President Pranab Mukherjee and the Dalai Lama this week.
The US and the EU have levied sanctions on DRC officials for their actions surrounding the country’s delayed elections. UN investigators warn of an “all-out ethnic civil war” in South Sudan. Rebel leader Riek Machar remains in South Africa amidst the deteriorating situation. Neighboring Sudan’s President al-Bashir says that civil disobedience won’t topple his government in the face of looming protests. Levels of child malnutrition in northeast Nigeria have reached alarming levels. According to a UNICEF report, a child dies of malnutrition every 10 minutes in Yemen.
The cash crunch continues in Venezuela. President Maduro closed the border with Colombia this week in an effort to disrupt “US-backed mafias” that are supposedly hoarding bank notes in order to destabilize Venezuela. Colombian leaders met with Pope Francis this week in search of common ground for the country’s peace accord with FARC rebels. Violence is on the rise in Mexico. Cuba owes the Czech Republic $276 million – they want to pay off the debt in rum.