Adrian Olivier,

Sunday 14 January – Sunday 21 January:

On Monday, North Korea claimed it flight-tested a new solid-fuel intermediate-range ballistic missile tipped with a hypersonic warhead as it seeks to advance its missile technology and its ability to strike American targets in the region. This is the same missile launch detected by the South Korean and Japanese militaries on Sunday and marks the first ballistic missile launch of the year by the Hermit Kingdom. The North’s official Korean Central News Agency said Sunday’s launch was aimed at verifying the reliability of the missile’s solid-fuel engines and the manoeuvrable flight capabilities of the hypersonic warhead. It described the test as a success.

On Tuesday, Iran struck Pakistan and Iraq with ballistic missiles in separate attacks. Iranian missiles impacted in the Kurdistan region of Iraq where they killed several people. In retaliation, the Iraqi government recalled its ambassador and summoned the Iranian chargé d’affaires in Baghdad to protest the strike. Hours later Pakistan reported that it too had been struck with Iranian missiles which hit a village in the south-western border province of Balochistan. Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, speaking in Davos, insisted that no Pakistani citizens had been targeted, only members of Jaish al-Adl, which has staged attacks inside Iran. “We only targeted Iranian terrorists on the soil of Pakistan,” Mr Amir-Abdollahian said. Pakistan said two children were killed and the government said in a statement that “This violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty is completely unacceptable and can have serious consequences.” They swiftly hit back, launching missiles at Pakistani “terrorist hideouts” on Iran’s side of the border on Wednesday. Iran said three women, two men and four children were killed. China on Wednesday urged Pakistan and Iran to show “restraint” and “avoid actions that would lead to an escalation of tension”. Foreign ministry spokesperson Mao Ning added that Beijing saw the countries as “close neighbours.”

On Wednesday, the U.S. announced the designation of Ansarallah, also known as the Houthis, as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist group. The actual designation will only take effect a month from now, which the administration argues will allow them to create humanitarian carve-outs to prevent the designation from affecting humanitarian supplies. 

On Friday, the World Economic Forum 2024 annual meeting, which began on Monday, concluded. It was the first Davos gathering since 2020 without any Covid-related restrictions, as fears about the pandemic almost completely receded. Highlights included a speech by Argentinian President Javier Milei which railed against collectivist political ideologies and spoke of the triumphs of capitalism and libertarianism which was not well received by many of the dignitaries in attendance.  

On Friday, The S&P 500 crossed above its January 2022 peak after weeks of wavering. Investors have been buying stocks after homing in on signals that the Fed’s campaign of raising interest rates is over. It has taken about two years for the index to recover from a slide set in motion by fears that a budding inflation problem would push the Fed to try to slow the price increases and, with them, the economy.

On Saturday, Japan became the fifth country in history to reach the moon when its Smart Lander for Investigating Moon – SLIM – made a successful soft landing on the lunar surface. The Japanese space agency, JAXA, is still analysing whether SLIM achieved its mission of making a pinpoint landing – the spacecraft was testing technology to allow moon missions to land “where we want to, rather than where it is easy to land.” SLIM, nicknamed “the Moon Sniper,” started its descent at midnight on Saturday, and within 15 minutes it was down to about 10 kilometres above the lunar surface, according to JAXA. The spacecraft also was supposed to seek clues about the origin of the moon, including analysing minerals with a special camera. The SLIM, equipped with a pad each on its five legs to cushion the impact, was aiming to land near the Shioli crater, a region covered in volcanic rock. Unfortunately, the craft’s solar panel failed to generate power, which could shorten its activity on the moon. Space officials believe that the SLIM’s small rovers were launched as planned and that data was being transmitted back to Earth. 

On Saturday, multiple ballistic missiles and rockets were launched by Iranian-backed militants on the Al-Asad Air Base in Iraq at 6:30 p.m. local time. On Sunday, U.S. personnel were being evaluated for potential head injuries.

On Sunday, Florida governor and would-be President Ron DeSantis dropped out of the Republican primary ahead of the New Hampshire Primary on Tuesday. “It’s clear to me that a majority of Republican primary voters want to give Donald Trump another chance,” DeSantis said in a video released on Twitter/X. Nikki Haley, speaking at a campaigning stop in Seabrook, New Hampshire, said “He ran a great race, he’s been a good governor, and we wish him well. Having said that, it’s now one fella and one lady left.”

On Sunday, North Korea’s state news agency KCNA reported that Russian President Vladimir Putin is considering his first visit to North Korea in over two decades since meeting current leader Kim Jong Un’s father, Kim Jong Il, in 2000. Putin spoke with North Korean Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui in a “courtesy call” while she was in Moscow last week, according to the report. Choe also met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak during her visit.

In the week ahead:

The New Hampshire Republican Primary will take place on Tuesday. The American election season is getting into gear.