The Atlas Newsletter - Volume 8

The Atlas Newsletter – World Updates & International News

Monday, March 20th, 2023

Good morning everyone,

It's been a busy week as the world continues to change to meet the rising powers and unrest plagues every continent. At Atlas, we continue to provide a wealth of content to keep you all up to date with the latest in international affairs. We've doubled our efforts on our open-source intelligence analysis to keep everyone involved in the affairs the mainstream media doesn't cover. We are also happy to welcome back a member of our team, the fantastic Tessaron News, to Instagram after an extended hiatus.

Throughout the world, we see the effects of the quiet war between China and the United States as they battle for support throughout much of the world. Japan and South Korea joined to discuss repairing relations, as North Korea continues its missile posturing and India continues a major manhunt. Notable in Oceania is the ongoing investigation into war crimes and civilian deaths by Australian forces in Afghanistan. In the Americas, thousands reel from another earthquake, and political unrest in the U.S. leads to the possibility of a former president being arrested. France continues to be gripped by protests over pension reform, and Armenia speaks out against its allies for their silence. In the Middle East, nations continue to normalize relations with Syria, and Turkey makes an announcement regarding NATO. Meanwhile, in Africa, rebels and insurgents plague the countryside as some nations make major scientific strides.

So all that in mind, I'm happy to report that it looks like just another day at the office. Let's dive in:- Joshua Paulo, Sebastien Gray, & the Atlas team


Sunday, March 19th, 2023: The Prime Minister of Japan and the President of the Republic of Korea met in Tokyo this week to renew their alliance and revitalize relations as both nations continue to prepare for the rising Chinese threat in the Pacific. Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and President Yoon Suk Yeol stressed the importance of improved relations as they began Thursday's summit, just hours after another North Korean missile launch and encounters between Japanese and Chinese vessels in disputed waters. The two promised to resume regular meetings, reversing a suspension that began over twelve years earlier. President Yoon related the two's agreement to increase ties in matters of the economy, security, and people-to-people exchange. Just before the summit, South Korean Trade Minister Lee Chang-yang announced that Japan had agreed to lift export controls on South Korea following talks this week, prompting South Korea to withdraw its complaint to the World Trade Organization once the curbs are removed.

President Yoon said Thursday's meeting "has special significance as it shows the people of both countries that South Korea-Japan relations are off to a new beginning after being plagued by various issues." He went on to add, "The ever-escalating threat of North Korea’s nuclear missile program poses a huge threat to peace and stability not only in East Asia but also to the international community. South Korea and Japan need to work closely together and in solidarity to wisely counter the threat."

The talks came with a degree of controversy, however, as previous talks were stifled by unresolved issues arising from the various conflicts the two countries have had during the previous century, as well as the Japanese occupation of Korea. In 2018, the South Korean Supreme Court ordered Japanese companies to pay reparations to the victims or their families of the occupation, causing Japan to impose trade sanctions on South Korea soon after. Demonstrations were held in Seoul during the talks, accusing President Yoon of conceding too much and being too soft on Japan, while in Japan, many are angered and worried by the Japanese Self Defense Force becoming more aggressive in its training and preparation for war, running contrary to its original founding purpose.

(Photo Credit: AP/Ahn Young-joon)

The United States seemingly had an extensive role in getting the two nations to meet and repair relations, as the feud over historical issues has undermined the U.S. desire to reinforce its alliances in Asia. Recently, both South Korea and Japan have joined Australia, the U.S., Canada, and India in increasing military drills in the region.

South Korea and Japan were also likely prompted to increase their ties due to the tensions with China and North Korea steadily growing in the region. Territorial disputes between China and Japan continue to cause unrest as the two accuse each other of violating their maritime territories. North Korea continues to fire missiles into the Sea of Japan and off the shores of Korea as the rhetoric continues to rise between Pyongyang and Washington. The summit also follows a series of recent Chinese successes in removing American influence. Honduras announced on Wednesday that it would no longer recognize Taiwan in favor of China, while last week Saudi Arabia and Iran announced a surprise agreement to renew diplomatic ties, mediated by China.


March 16th, 2023 - French President Macron has invoked Article 49.3 of the French Constitution in order to force the wildly unpopular Pension Reform Bill through parliament without a vote. The decision was immediately met with protests nationwide that have seen hundreds arrested. The pension reform bill seeks to raise France’s retirement age from 62 to 64 and has been protested continuously for several weeks. Strikes have also been ongoing and have intensified as union leaders attempt to force portions of the French economy to grind to a halt in order to try and get Macron to back down.

March 18th, 2023 - Russian President Putin visited the captured Ukrainian city of Mariupol, which was his first such trip to any territory Russia has managed to capture during the conflict. Russian state media claims he arrived by helicopter and proceeded to drive with his entourage around the city during the night. He was filmed talking to locals about a residential block that the Russians constructed in a previously open field. Ukraine’s MoD responded to the visit on Twitter, saying, "As befits a thief, Putin visited Ukrainian Mariupol, under the cover of night. First, it is safer. Also, darkness allows him to highlight what he wants to show, and keeps the city his army completely destroyed and its few surviving inhabitants away from prying eyes".

President Putin speaks to residents of Mariupol during his nighttime visit.

March 14th, 2023 - Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan held a press conference in which he claimed that "the threat of escalation along Armenia’s border and in Nagorno-Karabakh is very high now", pointing to recent Azeri rhetoric that he notes is getting more aggressive. In the press conference, he also claimed that the Azeri blockade of the Lachin/Berdzor Corridor, which has been ongoing since December 12th, is being used as "preparation for ethnic cleansing of Armenians" in Artsakh. He also touched on recent strained relations between Armenia and the CSTO after the alliance, particularly Russia, failed to support Armenia on several security issues relating to Azeri aggression. "It is not that Armenia is leaving the CSTO, the CSTO is leaving Armenia, which is of a great concern to us", he said.

Middle East

March 15th, 2023 - Nine Kurdish SDF fighters were killed after two of their military helicopters collided during poor weather conditions. One of the helicopters managed to stay airborne; the other, however, crashed. The official statement reads: "Within the framework and efforts to combat ISIS cells, a group of our SDF Counter-terrorism Units (YAT) headed to the south of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq to exchange security and military expertise that will help enhance the units’ combat and security capacity in their ongoing tasks that are combating terrorism and protecting the region of North-East Syria. While the two helicopters carrying our group of fighters were on their way to Sulaymaniyah city on the evening of March 15, 2023, they crashed due to bad weather conditions, leading to the martyrdom of nine of our fighters, including the commander of the YAT forces, Shervan Kobani".

March 19th, 2023 - Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan welcomed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad upon his arrival in Abu Dhabi this week. The trip is only Assad's second engagement in Arab countries since the start of the Syrian Civil War in 2011, after visiting Oman last month. Notably, both trips took place after the earthquake that struck Turkey and Syria in early February. Though the Assad government had been largely isolated by the international community, the near victory in the civil war is promoting a normalization of relations between Syria and many in the international community, resulting in warmer relations with nations that previously were hostile.

Assad and Nahyan shaking hands during the meeting. (Photo from Hamad Al Kaabi/UAE Presidential Court Handout)

March 17th, 2023 - Turkish President Erdogan has announced that Turkey will ratify Finland’s NATO membership request. Turkey had previously blocked Finland and Sweden's membership due to their relationships with various Kurdish groups, some of which the Turkish government considers terrorists. Finland and Sweden chose to join NATO following the Russian invasion of Ukraine; however, entrance into NATO requires unanimous consent from its members, allowing Turkey to hold up their entry.


March 13th, 2023 - German biotechnology company, BioNTech, has delivered two of its new "BioNTainers" to the Rwandan capital, Kigali. The BioNTainer is a modular manufacturing facility for vaccines. It is formed out of six shipping container-like portions, which, when put together, make the facility. It is highly mobile and will be used to create Africa’s very first mRNA vaccine manufacturing plant. At the moment, Africa imports 99% of the vaccines it uses, making it among the last to gain access to many of the COVID-19 vaccines.

One of the pieces of the BioNTainer being received at Kigali International Airport. (Credit - @Paulkagame on Twitter)

March 19th, 2023 - Nine Chinese nationals have been killed at a gold mine in the Central African Republic village of Chimbolo by an unknown group of assailants. The gunmen entered the village and rounded up the Chinese nationals, indicating they were specifically targeted. Some suspect the Coalition of Patriots for Change, an insurgent group in the CAR; however, the CPC has denied responsibility and blamed the Russian Wagner Group. The Central African Republic has yet to confirm who is responsible but has stated it is pursuing the perpetrators. China’s government has ordered all Chinese citizens in the nation to leave, except for those residing in Bangui.

March 16th, 2023 -The trial of Ousmane Sonko, the Senegalese opposition leader, has once again been postponed and will now take place on March 30th. The judge reached the decision after widespread protests throughout Senegal in his support. The trial was originally set to be held on the 16th. The trial on the 16th was in relation to a defamation lawsuit from the nation's Tourism Minister. He also faces rape charges, though no trial date has yet been set.

The Americas

March 18th, 2023 - A 6.8-magnitude earthquake struck Ecuador, 50 miles south of Guayaquil, Ecuador’s second-largest city. Thus far, it has claimed 15 lives—14 in Ecuador and 1 in neighboring Peru—with 126 people injured. Ecuadorian President Guillermo Lasso has said he will travel to the state of El Oro, where 12 of the 15 victims are from. According to government officials, the earthquake has caused large property damage, including damage to healthcare centers and schools.

A man taking photos of the damage in Ecuador. (Photo from Jhonny Crespo/AP)

March 18th, 2023 - Former U.S. President Donald Trump took to his Truth social media platform, claiming that this coming Tuesday, March 21st, he is to be arrested and for his supporters to protest this and "take our nation back". His claim originates from New York prosecutors preparing for a possible indictment over "hush money" he allegedly paid to Stormy Daniels, a porn star, in 2016. One of his spokesmen said they had received no indication of any sort of arrest, claiming he will "be in Texas next weekend for a giant rally", while the Manhattan DA’s office declined to comment on the issue.

Asia and Oceania

March 20th, 2023 - "In the interest of public safety", the Indian government has cut access to mobile internet and SMS services in Punjab state as they intensify their manhunt for Amritpal Singh, a Sikh separatist who rose to notoriety in recent months. He became especially notorious after a raid last month, in which he and his supporters raided a police station. Over 100 people, including Singh’s uncle and driver, have been arrested in the search so far. "Thirty-four arrests have been made today. A total of 112 persons have been arrested so far … and there is complete peace and harmony in the state" the government said on Monday.

Supporters of Singh blocking a Sikh temple. (Photo from Keshav Singh/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)

March 20th, 2023 - An Australian veteran has been officially charged with a war crime and placed in custody over his alleged killing of a civilian in Afghanistan. Oliver Schulz is a former Australian SAS soldier who was recorded shooting an Afghan man as he was lying down, unarmed. The video was released as part of a wider investigative report dating to 2020, known as the Brereton Report. The report and the subsequent investigation by the Office of the Special Investigator found "credible evidence" that Australian forces unlawfully killed 39 people while deployed in Afghanistan. If he is proven guilty, he will become the first member of the Australian military to be found a war criminal.

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