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New buildings skyline in Changjon area, Pyongan Province, Pyongyang, North Korea

Eric Lafforgue via Reuters

Putin to visit North Korea and Vietnam

Russian state media reported Monday that President Vladimir Putin will travel to North Korea and Vietnam in the coming weeks as Moscow tries to build influence among middle powers in Asia.

This will be Putin’s first trip to Pyongyang in 24 years, and he’ll find the city much changed. In 2000, the massive unfinished Ryugyong Hotel loomed skeletally over Stalinist-era apartment blocks, in an almost-too-on-the-nose metaphor for the country’s paranoid and feeble state two years after the 1994-1998 mass famine. Putin was in town to officially reestablish relations with North Korea, which had ruptured following the collapse of the Soviet Union.

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The flags of Russia and North Korea.

IMAGO/Christian Ohde via Reuters

Hard Numbers: North Korean arms to Russia, terror in Brussels, Meloni eyes tax cuts, pro-Russian Georgian politicking, Palestinian-American boy murdered

1,000: White House officials say North Korea has sent up to 1,000 shipping containers of “equipment and munitions” to Russia recently. Satellite images purportedly show clear evidence of Russian ships linked to military transport networks collecting the cargo – signs that Pyongyang is aiding Moscow’s war efforts.

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A TV screen shows an image of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu in Pyongyang.


North Korea hacked who now?

For five months in 2021-2022, North Korean hackers ran wild in the systems of a top Russian missile company, according to a new report by Reuters.

The breach of NPO Mashinostroyeniya, which makes Russia’s cutting-edge hypersonic cruise missiles, was discovered by Reuters and a team of cybersecurity experts who were tipped off when an IT person at the Russian company uploaded info about the hack to a server monitored by global cyber analysts.

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Freed Houthi prisoners stand as they wait to board an International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)-chartered plane at Aden Airport, in Aden, Yemen.


Hard Numbers: Yemen prisoner swap, North Korea’s new missile, Germany ditches Russian imports, gender parity in Kiwi cabinet, Juice headed to Jupiter

900: In the biggest prisoner exchange in Yemen since 2020, 900 prisoners are expected to be swapped in the days ahead as part of ongoing talks between Houthi rebels, backed by Iran, and the Saudi-backed government. The confidence-building measure comes amid rising hopes that Yemen's brutal eight-year war might soon come to an end.

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British pound coins are seen in front of displayed stock graph.


What We’re Watching: Bank of England intervenes, Pyongyang provocations, Israel-Lebanon gas deal

Bank of England to the rescue?

The Bank of England stepped in Wednesday to try and calm markets that had gone haywire after the Conservative British government, led by new PM Liz Truss, introduced £45 billion ($49 billion) worth of tax cuts despite sky-high inflation. The bank will fork out £65 billion ($70 billion) to buy government bonds “at an urgent pace” to try to revive investor confidence and boost the pound, which recently fell to a record low against the US dollar. This development comes after the International Monetary Fund issued an unusual rebuke this week of British fiscal policy, warning that the tax cuts would exacerbate inequality. There are also concerns that some pension funds, which invest in government bonds, could be made insolvent following the collapse of UK government bond prices in recent weeks. Though the bank’s intervention is significant, there’s no indication that the Truss government is willing to reverse course (i.e. limit borrowing) to regain market trust. Meanwhile, in a keynote speech Wednesday, Labour leader Keir Starmer said Tories had “crashed the pound,” noting that “this is a Labour moment.” Indeed, Labour is currently trouncing the Conservatives in the polls, but Starmer would need to maintain this momentum until the next general election, which must be held by January 2025.

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