German government cagey on spy cooperation in Pinochet’s Chile; The German Foreign Ministry has refused to shed light on the BND’s cooperation with the CIA to aid General Augusto Pinochet’s brutal regime in Chile. The vague responses have outraged the German Left party.The German government has offered only cagey responses to questions about cooperation between the German secret service, the BND, and military dictatorships in Chile and Greece in the late 1960s and early ’70s. The socialist Left party’s Jan Korte submitted 68 questions to the German Foreign Ministry late last year, and the incomplete answers he got irritated the Bundestag member so much that he filed an official complaint about the noncooperation of the government. “These answers are an unparalleled insult,” he told DW. “And, by the way, that is no way to treat the parliament.” The Foreign Ministry did admit that the administration of Chancellor Willy Brandt knew in advance about the imminent putsch being planned by Chilean military leaders under General Augusto Pinochet in September 1973, but offered few details on exactly how. Otherwise, the government largely refused to answer any key questions about the cooperation between the CIA (which actively supported Pinochet’s coup) and the BND, citing “the good of the state” as the main reason. “The release of information related to the cooperation with foreign security forces would breach the strict and unlimited confidentiality that forms the basis of all intelligence cooperation,” according to the government. The questions that remained unanswered include: When and in what way was the BND active in Chile? Did the CIA inform the BND about the putsch, which the US had supported both financially and actively through its intelligence agency? Was the BND involved in any way with the CIA operations in Chile? What was the central element of German foreign policy in Chile, if not human rights?
Racist or Islamist — lone-wolf attackers show similar patterns; There has been speculation as to what led a man to drive into a group of foreigners in Germany’s Ruhr region. Criminologist Britta Bannenberg says terrorists and those who run amok are similar, whatever their ideology. A 50-year-old German man, Andreas N., deliberately drove his car into groups of foreign-looking people on New Year’s Eve – first in Bottrop and then in Essen – before police could apprehend him. He injured eight people during the rampage. Currently, he is in police custody. Authorities assume his actions were racially motivated. Moreover, the welfare recipient and Essen resident is said to be mentally ill. Deutsche Welle: Seemingly racially-motivated car attacks recently carried out by a 50-year-old German man in Bottrop and Essen have captured the attention of authorities and citizens alike. What might have driven the perpetrator to carry out his New Year’s Eve attacks? Britta Bannenberg: We will have to wait before we can say with certainty. But initial indications point to a typical behavioral pattern. Young perpetrators are different from older ones, for instance. And there are a number of distinctive features among older perpetrators.
Explosion outside AfD office in eastern Germany; An explosion occurred outside of the AfD’s Döbeln office in eastern Germany. Investigators are looking into whether the attack was politically motivated. Authorities said “an unknown substance was detonated” in front of the building housing the offices of the right-wing Alternative for Germany (AfD) in the Saxon city of Döbeln on Thursday at around 7:20 p.m. local time (620 UTC), police said. Doors and windows on the building housing the AfD office as well as two neighboring buildings. Parked cars were apparently also damaged but no injuries were reported. The police did not give information with regard to possible suspects for the attack. Saxony’s State Office of Criminal Investigation were investigating suspicions that the crime was politically motivated.
Ireland to seek emergency EU help in case of no-deal Brexit; Irish PM Leo Varadkar says he’s “given up speculating” on whether the UK will strike a deal with the EU. His agriculture minister insists Ireland would need “mega money” from the EU to cope with a no-deal Brexit. The Irish government could be forced to ask the European Union for hundreds of millions of euros of economic aid, should Britain crash out of the bloc without a deal. That was the assessment of Irish Agriculture Minister Michael Creed, as he was asked what would happen if a no-deal Brexit were to become a reality. Ireland, which relies heavily on its fishing and farming sector, would be the EU member most exposed to the economic dangers of a no-deal scenario. “I think nobody wants to talk about it right now because there is still a hope and expectation that a level of sanity will prevail,” Creed told the Irish Independent newspaper on Thursday. However, Creed said he acknowledged that the odds on Britain crashing out of the EU had shortened considerably in the past weeks. Such a move could see problems for Irish farmers in accessing the UK market as before. “I think we would get help. It’s all about the level of help,” Creed said.
Brazil’s Bolsonaro begins starts firing ‘left-wing’ public servants; President Jair Bolsonaro has authorized the dismissal of civil servants who don’t share his government’s far-right ideology. The sweep will target officials deemed sympathetic to Brazil’s centrist and left-wing parties. Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s administration on Thursday launched a purge of government officials who don’t share its far-right ideology. Bolsonaro authorized the dismissal of some 300 officials on temporary contracts. The government “will clean the house,” Chief of Staff Onyx Lorenzoni told a news conference after a Cabinet meeting headed by Bolsonaro, who took office this week. “It’s the only way to govern with our ideas, our concepts and to carry out what Brazil’s society decided in its majority,” said Lorenzoni, who is seen as the second most powerful member of the executive after Bolsonaro. The sweep will target officials who are seen as sympathetic to the centrist and left-wing parties that have ruled Brazil since 1985, when the country got rid of military dictatorship.
Interpreters make really lousy spies’; Poland’s state prosecutor wants the question the former interpreter of European Council President Donald Tusk. Can or should interpreters be compelled to reveal secret information? DW sat down with one with find out. It has been almost nine years since a plane carrying Polish President Lech Kaczynski and high-ranking military officers crashed near the Russian city of Smolensk, killing all 96 people on board. The Polish Law and Justice Party (PiS) is convinced the crash was the result of an assassination plot and reopened its investigation in 2017. European Council President Donald Tusk, who was Polish prime minister at the time, has become the focus of the administration’s investigation. State prosecutors accuse him of treason and want to know what he and Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke about after the crash. The administration also wants to interrogate Magdalena Fitas-Dukaczewska, who was present at the meeting as an interpreter. In a report for the German radio broadcaster Deutschlandfunk she said she would not testify, even if the government absolved her from her obligation to maintain confidentiality. She says to do otherwise would destroy her credibility as well as that of her colleagues.
FRANCE (France 24)
Asylum-seeking’ N. Korea envoy from diplomatic family, says defector; A North Korean diplomat in Italy said to be seeking asylum is from a “prestigious diplomatic family” with both his father and father-in-law having worked in Pyongyang’s foreign ministry, according to a senior defector. Jo Song Gil, the North’s acting ambassador to Rome, went into hiding with his wife in November and is seeking asylum, according to Seoul’s intelligence authorities. It would be the first high-profile defection of a North Korean diplomat since 2016 when the then deputy ambassador to London, Thae Yong Ho, switched sides to settle in Seoul. Thae said Jo is the son of a late former diplomat, while his father-in-law served as ambassador to Thailand in the 1990s and once handled diplomatic protocol for the ruling Kim family at the foreign ministry. “I worked with Jo in the same department at Pyongyang’s foreign ministry for so long but never imagined that he would seek asylum,” Thae told Seoul’s Channel A. “The news shocked me. “I also worked for years with his father-in-law, a well-known, veteran diplomat in Pyongyang who also served as consul-general in Hong Kong in the 2000s,” Thae added in the interview late Thursday. Jo’s wife graduated from Pyongyang’s prestigious medical school, with both families enjoying privileged lives as members of the North’s “wealthy, prestigious elite”, according to Thae. The couple have one child, he added.
13 Canadians held in China since arrest of Huawei executive: official; Thirteen Canadians have been detained in China following the arrest on December 1 of a senior executive from Chinese telecoms equipment giant Huawei, Ottawa said Thursday, with eight subsequently released. Global Affairs Canada spokesperson Guillaume Berube confirmed the detentions to AFP, adding the figures excluded Hong Kong. The thirteen include former diplomat Michael Kovrig and consultant Michael Spavor, arrested on December 10, for activities said to threaten national security, as well as Sarah McIver, who was subsequently freed and returned to Canada. There are approximately 200 Canadians overall who have been detained in China for a variety of alleged infractions and continue to face ongoing legal proceedings, and the number has remained relatively stable in recent years. By way of comparison, there are almost 900 Canadians in a similar situation in the US. Some observers believe the detentions of Kovrig, who works for the International Crisis Group, and Spavor, who is frequently consulted on matters linked to North Korea, were retaliatory actions following the arrest in Vancouver of Huawei’s Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou, who faces extradition to the United States. Washington has accused her of fraud for helping evade US sanctions against Iran. She was later released on bail pending her extradition hearing. Backed by the US and several European countries, Canada’s foreign minister Chrystia Freeland has repeated called for the immediate release of Kovrig and Spavor, whose arrests Ottawa has termed arbitrary.
DR Congo’s Catholic Church urges ‘truth’ amid tense presidential vote count; However, the church did not say which candidate had won. A senior church body, the National Episcopal Conference of Congo (CENCO), said “data in its possession from vote counting reports […] points to one candidate as president.” It called on election overseers “to publish the election results in keeping with truth and justice”. The remarks came after the head of the country’s electoral commission said it may have to postpone publication of provisional results from the December 30 election, which are due on Sunday.
Bolsonaro says open to US military base in Brazil; Bolsonaro, who took power on Tuesday, said that Russia’s support of President Nicolas Maduro’s “dictatorship” in neighboring Venezuela had significantly ramped up tensions in the region and was a worrying development. Asked by the SBT TV network in an interview taped on Thursday if that meant he would allow U.S. military presence in Brazil, Bolsonaro responded that he would certainly be willing to negotiate that possibility. “Depending on what happens in the world, who knows if we would not need to discuss that question in the future,” Bolsonaro said.He emphasized that what Brazil seeks is to have “supremacy here in South America.” The far-right leader is upending foreign policy dating back over a decade, which saw the leftist Workers Party emphasizing South-South relations and sometimes tussling on the international stage with the United States. Bolsonaro, a 63-year-old former Army captain and admirer of both Brazil’s 1964 to 1985 military dictatorship and U.S. President Donald Trump, has quickly deepened ties with the Unites States and Israel. Bolsonaro’s national security adviser, retired Army General Augusto Heleno, confirmed earlier on Thursday that the president wants to move Brazil’s embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, but that logistical considerations were standing in the way. Heleno did not elaborate. But the country’s powerful agriculture sector is opposed to moving the embassy from Tel Aviv and angering Arab nations that buy billions of dollars worth of Brazilian halal or “permissible” meat each year.
Peru attorney general reverses decision on Odebrecht probe; The prosecutors, Rafael Vela and Jose Domingo Perez, had recently drawn up a plea deal with Odebrecht that committed the Brazilian construction company to providing evidence on some $30 million in bribes it says it paid to local politicians in Peru. The two are celebrated as anti-graft crusaders by many Peruvians for going after high-profile politicians, including four former presidents and opposition leader Keiko Fujimori. But late on Monday, Chavarry announced he was removing Vela and Perez from the case for exceeding their authority. By Wednesday, after protests and waves of criticism, Chavarry signed a resolution reappointing them to their posts, saying other prosecutors had declined to replace them.
Nikkei plunges during opening session; The Tokyo Stock Exchange reopened for the first time this year with investors jittery following Wall Street’s plunge. In early trading hours, the benchmark Nikkei Stock Average briefly dropped over 3 percent. Industry executives attended an opening ceremony at the exchange. Women dressed in kimono rang a bell and officials clapped their hands to mark the start of the year’s trading. Japanese Finance Minister Taro Aso said, “We are committed to the ongoing efforts to break Japan out of deflation, and will fully prepare for economic and fiscal management.” The Nikkei ended Friday morning’s session at 19,407 points. It down 607 points, or 3 percent, from the close of the previous year. The index briefly dropped 3.7 percent, or more than 700 points, in the morning session. In New York, the Dow ended the day down 2.8 percent on Thursday after IT giant Apple cut its earnings estimate for the last quarter. Apple’s share price plunged more than 10 percent from the previous close. On the foreign exchange market, investors continued to buy the yen as a safe haven currency. Market players say investors are more risk-averse after Apple’s announcement.
Huawei to invest $2 billion to improve credibility; The CEO of the Chinese telecom giant Huawei says the company will invest two billion dollars over the next five years to bolster cyber-security. In his letter to 180,000 employees, Ren Zhengfei said the company’s top priority is strengthening the security, resilience, and privacy of its products. He said the company will allocate two billion dollars for engineering trustworthy telecom infrastructure products. Huawei products are being squeezed out of the United States and Australia due to concern over national security risks. Ren’s letter was apparently designed to highlight the firm’s effort to improve the credibility of its products.
Cross-strait tension over African swine fever; Taiwanese authorities say a dead pig found on a beach on an island near mainland China tests positive for African swine fever. They say the pig originated in mainland China. The carcass was found on a beach in Kinmen County on Monday. Taiwanese officials say they have determined that the carcass drifted across the narrow strait between the Chinese mainland and the Kinmen islands. They say a DNA test detected traces of the strain of the African swine fever virus found in affected pigs in mainland China. They also note that lots of garbage from mainland China washes up on Kinmen’s beaches constantly. The officials say they informed Beijing of the infected pig and urged it to bring the epidemic under control. They accuse Beijing of not sharing enough information. Outbreaks have been confirmed at more than 100 locations across China. The disease kills many infected hogs within a few days. It causes a high fever and other symptoms. The virus does not affect humans.
S.Korea to release footage of radar incident; South Korea’s defense ministry says it is preparing to release a video clip to counter Japan’s allegation that a South Korean warship locked its fire-control radar onto a Japanese patrol plane. South Korea’s Ministry of National Defense spokesperson Choi Hyun-soo spoke of the plan at a regular news conference on Thursday. The remarks follow the Japanese government’s release of video footage taken from the patrol plane. Choi said the South Korean video clip would show what’s problematic with the Japanese footage. She said the video would also pose questions for Japan to answer. The spokesperson says the clip does not include the footage of the Japanese patrol plane taken from the South Korean destroyer. The South Korean defense ministry has alleged that the warship never targeted its weapons radar at the Japanese plane. On Wednesday, Seoul demanded that Japan apologize for what Seoul calls a threatening low altitude flight. South Korea’s presidential office announced that the National Security Council held a meeting on Thursday to discuss the issue. It said the council discussed the seriousness of the incident in which a Japanese patrol aircraft staged a close flyby at a low altitude while the South Korean ship was rescuing a drifting North Korean fishing boat. It said the council members agreed to take necessary measures based on accurate facts.
M 5.1 quake hits Kumamoto Prefecture; A strong earthquake has hit western Japan. It registered an intensity of 6-minus on the Japanese seismic scale of zero to seven in the town of Nagomimachi in Kumamoto Prefecture. There is no danger of tsunami. Japan’s Meteorological Agency says the quake occurred at around 6:10 PM on Thursday. It first estimated the magnitude at 5.0, but later revised the figure to 5.1. The agency says the focus was about 10 kilometers underground in the Kumamoto region. Jolts were felt across much of the Kyushu, Chugoku and Shikoku regions. The quake registered 5-minus in Kumamoto City’s Kita ward and in the town of Gyokutomachi in Kumamoto Prefecture. It is the first time a quake registering 6-minus or stronger has hit Kumamoto Prefecture since the major quake on April 16th of 2016.