On November 18 Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan made two widely expected, yet still bold, decisions. He announced that his government will postpone a planned increase in the consumption tax from 8 percent to 10 percent originally scheduled for next October and also dissolve the Lower House of the Diet on November 21 for an early election.
Australia and China finalized a bilateral free trade agreement (FTA) during President Xi Jinping’s November 17 visit to Canberra following the Group of 20 summit in Brisbane. The agreement is the fruition of nine years of negotiations.
The U.S. midterm elections have passed, and, as was largely expected, Republicans now hold a majority in both the Senate and the House of Representatives. The elections, like the year that preceded them, were characterized by deep partisanship and a contentiousness that will be hard to leave behind going into the new year.
On Sunday, Brazilians reelected current president Dilma Rousseff to a second term, in elections marked by poll twists and unprecedentedly heated debates.
Last week, Venezuela was elected to a temporary seat on the UN Security Council (UNSC) as the representative of Latin America and the Caribbean.
On October 21, the U.S. State Department confirmed North Korea’s release of Jeffrey Fowle, one of the three Americans who have been detained in the country. Mr. Fowle has been charged for “acting in violation of DPRK law” and was taken into custody on June 6 by North Korean authorities after leaving a copy of a Bible in a hotel in Chongjin.
Following a surprise visit by the North Korean top officials to South Korea last Saturday, the two Koreas exchanged rounds of gun fire across the border yesterday on October 10.
On October 8, the U.S. and Japanese governments issued an interim report on a review of the guidelines for bilateral defense cooperation. The guidelines were first introduced in 1978 to clarify alliance priorities for the defense of Japan during the Cold War and then updated in 1997 with added emphasis on regional security.
On October 4, a delegation of eleven top North Korean officials, including the supposed no. 2 and no. 3 ranking leaders in the party and military, paid an unannounced visit to Incheon, South Korea to attend the closing ceremonies of the 17th Asian Games.
The past eight months or so have seen much of the international community focusing on the unfolding crisis in Ukraine, as countries and international organizations alike have struggled to respond. Over the summer, the United States and the European Union began a process of imposing sanctions on Russia in an effort to dissuade Vladimir Putin’s further escalation of the conflict.