Lloyd Jones, AAP World Bureau Chief
(Australian Associated Press)
TOP INTERNATIONAL STORIES OF 2018
- Donald Trump continued to dominate international news in 2018, upsetting friend and foe alike with his grandstanding style of America First politics.
- His summits with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Singapore in June, and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki in July, achieved less than expected.
- Trump took credit for easing nuclear tensions on the Korean peninsula but caused outrage when he appeared to side with Putin in his denial of any Russian interference in the 2016 US election.
- Throughout the year Trump wielded trade tariffs as a weapon, pointedly imposing massive imposts on Chinese imports, prompting retaliatory measures from Beijing.
- Some easing of tensions occurred at the G20 summit in Argentina in December when the US and China agreed to halt additional tariffs in hopes of reaching a deal within 90 days.
- Trump upset European allies and other nations in May by pulling the US out of a 2016 nuclear deal with Iran.
- But the president took a big hit in the November mid-term elections when Democrats won control of the House of Representatives, giving them the power to block Republican legislation and initiate inquiries into the Trump administration.
THE SKRIPALS AND KHASHOGGI
- Two nasty incidents involving state-backed assassination teams prompted worldwide condemnation of Russia and Saudi Arabia.
- In March former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were found on a bench in the English city of Salisbury, poisoned with a nerve agent.
- Moscow denied involvement but the UK, followed by other Western nations, expelled Russian diplomats in response. The Skripals recovered but an English woman exposed to the poison later died.
- British authorities in September named two Russian military intelligence officers they had charged in absentia over the poisoning.
- The following month dissident Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi was assassinated in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
- After initial denials the Saudi regime admitted a hit squad was involved and vowed its members would be punished. But the regime denied that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the kingdom’s de facto ruler, ordered the killing.
- Despite the CIA concluding the prince ordered the assassination, Trump vowed the US would remain a “steadfast partner” of the Saudis.
- He indicated that US interests in Saudi oil production, Saudi purchases of billions of dollars of US weapons and the kingdom’s support for US policies in the Middle East were more important than holding an ally to account.
WARS AND PROTESTS
- Khashoggi’s killing fuelled calls for renewed peace efforts in Yemen where Iran-backed Houthi rebels have been fighting former Yemeni government forces and a Saudi-led coalition.
- Tens of thousands of people have died in the fighting or as a result of an ongoing famine due to the civil war, with the UN warning of a humanitarian crisis in which millions of Yemeni civilians could starve.
- In Syria the Assad regime, with Russian military backing, gained the upper hand over rebels, pushing them out of urban enclaves and reimposing control over large areas of the country.
- The Israeli-Palestinian conflict flared along the Gaza border as mass protests prompted sharp Israeli retaliation, with army snipers killing around 170 Palestinians.
- British Prime Minister Theresa May battled through the year to fashion a Brexit deal that the European Union finally agreed to.
- But she put off a scheduled December 11 vote on the deal when it became clear it would not pass in a divided British parliament, including strong opposition by members of her own Conservative party.
- The EU signalled it would not renegotiate the deal, including the thorny issue of the Irish border, meaning a chaotic no-deal Brexit looked more likely for the March 29 deadline in 2019.
- Britain’s EU “remainers” meanwhile, continued pushing for another referendum to give Britons the chance to vote to stay in the bloc after all the turmoil of trying to leave it.
- Disasters of all kinds took their human toll across the world during 2018.
- In Indonesia earthquakes in Lombok and Central Sulawesi, where a tsunami also hit, killed more than 2500 people.
- Airliner crashes in Indonesia, Algeria, Cuba and Russia claimed more than 600 lives over the year.
- In November the deadliest and most destructive wildfire in Californian history ripped through the town of Paradise, killing 88 people.
- Other US states, including Florida and the Carolinas, took a battering from hurricanes Florence and Michael, with dozens killed.
- Massive storms, including super typhoon Mangkhut in September, caused widespread destruction and many deaths in the Philippines, China, Japan and other Asian nations.
- A series of mass shootings in America, meanwhile, claimed more than 60 lives, including 11 people gunned down at a synagogue in Pittsburgh in the deadliest attack on the Jewish community in the US.
THAI CAVE BOYS
- One emergency gripped the world’s attention for weeks and ended in the dramatic rescue of a boys ‘ soccer team from a flooded cave in northern Thailand.
- The Wild Boars, aged between 11 and 16, and their 25-year-old coach, became trapped on June 23 when a downpour flooded the tunnels.
- British divers found the 13, hungry and huddled in darkness on a bank, 10 days after the boys entered the cave.
- A multi-national rescue operation was launched and on July 10 the last of the boys were brought out, with Adelaide doctor and expert cave diver Richard Harris playing a key role.
- Another bright news event watched by millions around the world was the royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.
- The fairytale wedding, in the ancient St George’s chapel at Windsor Castle, had an American twist thanks to Meghan, with pastor Michael Curry delivering a fiery address on the power of love and a gospel choir singing at the event.
- The newlyweds kissed on the chapel steps then climbed into an open horse-drawn coach to be driven past tens of thousands of cheering well-wishers cramming Windsor’s streets to see them.