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Missiles in North Korea, Protests in Belarus, Intelligence Hearing on The Hill: The Weekend Behind, the Week Ahead

Missiles in North Korea, Protests in Belarus, Intelligence Hearing on The Hill: The Weekend Behind, the Week Ahead

As U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson wrapped up his trip to Asia, North Korean state media reported over the weekend the dictatorship tested a new high-thrust engine, a “great leap forward” for its rocket program. Security experts warn the technological breakthrough could help North Korea develop more accurate intercontinental ballistic missiles.

North Korea’s announcement followed Tillerson’s comments that pre-emptive military action against North Korea is “on the table.” While delivering remarks along with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Beijing on Saturday, Tillerson said, “We noted that efforts made over the last 20 years have so far not succeeded in curbing the threat posed by North Korea’s illegal weapons programs. Because China’s stated policy is denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, we renewed our determination to work together to convince the North Korean government to choose a better path and a different future for its people.”

U.S. President Donald Trump, for his part, told reporters North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is acting “very, very badly.” Whether and how Kim will respond to the comments, which the president made from the Florida resort he spends his weekends, will be seen in the week ahead.

In other dictatorship news, authorities in Belarus detained the leaders of protests against a so-called “parasite tax” on the unemployed on Sunday. Since March 1, Belarus detained 150 for protesting the tax and journalists for trying to cover it. Protests continued even after the government’s March 9 announcement the tax would be suspended until 2018. Belarusian leader Aleksandr Lukashenko, known as Europe’s last dictator, hasn’t yet quashed the backlash to his attempted crackdown on “social parasitism.”

Meanwhile, Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort is wanted for questioning in Ukraine in connection with a corruption case against Ukraine’s former Justice Minister Oleksandr Lavrynovych. Lavrynovych is accused of diverting over $1 million from government funds to a New York City law firm, and prosecutors want Manafort to testify.

Speaking of potentially unsavory dealings: the House Intelligence Committee will hold a hearing on its investigation into the Trump campaign’s potential ties to Russia on Monday. The hearing is also expected to cover intelligence leaks and the president’s unsubstantiated accusation former President Barack Obama had him wiretapped.

Photo credit: STR/AFP/Getty Images