Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Sitrep - 10 Feb, 2016

North Korea announced a third satellite launch, putting South Korea, Japan and the US on red alert. Activity around the launch site over the past few weeks indicated a launch was imminent. The launch occurred early 7 February. US and South Korean vessels are presently recovering the missile’s wreckage in the Yellow Sea and listening for signals from the newly placed satellite.

The fresh launch will invigorate the planned talks between South Korea and the US for the placement of a terminal high-altitude area defence (THAAD) anti-missile system on the peninsula. The launch follows a surprise nuclear test in January, however while both programmes bear close surveillance, they are equally primitive and do not constitute an increased threat from the kingdom.

A passenger aircraft flying from the Somali capital Mogadishu to Djibouti made an emergency landing after a small explosive device ignited. The explosion tore a hole in the fuselage just forward of the wing but appears only to have killed the terrorist. CCTV footage reportedly shows airport workers collaborating with the alleged terrorist prior to boarding.

While no official claim of responsibility has been received, immediate suspicion points to the al Qaeda affiliate known as al Shabaab. The group has operated alongside other al Qaeda groups in the past, and may have used a similar laptop or “soda can” explosive device used by the more competent al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). The attack highlights both the continued vulnerability of and attack desire against passenger airlines and the relative incompetence of most terrorist operatives.

A banking crisis still simmers in Italy after Rome and Brussels reached an agreement earlier this month to intervene in the struggling country’s high debt. A CEO of a major Italian bank this week encouraged investors to purchase new bank shares – given their low rate – while another official demanded a revision of the EU’s so-called “bail in” rules.

The slow breakdown in Italian banks bears close watching because the country is the fourth largest economy in the EU and the eighth largest in the world. Presently the problem stems from massive nonperforming-loans (NPLs), making up 17% of Italy’s GDP. A recent decision allows the government to offload these loans to new entities, but investors and citizens will bear the initial brunt of any debt repayment which could cause significant unrest.

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