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A curated weekday guide to major national security news and developments over the past 24 hours. Here’s today’s news.
U.S. RELATIONS – FLYING OBJECTS
American fighter jets destroyed three flying objects over Michigan, Alaska, and Canada, a week after the U.S. shot down an unmanned Chinese balloon over the Atlantic. U.S. officials said they shot down the latest object yesterday over Lake Huron. On Saturday an American F-22 jet downed an object over the Yukon Territory. The day before, President Biden ordered another unidentified object to be shot down over waters near Alaska. Officials say they have not yet determined what the objects were. Daniel E. Slotnik and Amelia Nierenberg report for the New York Times.
China’s foreign ministry said that the U.S. has flown balloons into its airspace more than 10 times in the past year. “It’s not uncommon as well for the U.S. to illegally enter the airspace of other countries,” said foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin at a regular press briefing. He said that Beijing had responded to these incursions in a “responsible and professional manner,” adding that the U.S. should “undergo some self-reflection, instead of smearing and accusing China.” Kelly Ng reports for BBC News.
The U.S. intelligence community has developed a method to track China’s fleet of surveillance balloons that was only discovered within the last year. According to sources, after a Chinese spy balloon briefly transited the continental U.S. in 2021, the U.S. was able to use that balloon’s signals to develop a consistent technical method that has been used to track potential surveillance balloons in near real-time across the globe. The existence of this method could further inflame criticism from Republican lawmakers that the administration didn’t act quickly enough to prevent the balloon from entering U.S. airspace last week. Natasha Bertrand and Katie Bo Lillis report for CNN.
DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS – CLASSIFIED DOCUMENTS PROBES
Two lawyers for former President Trump appeared before a grand jury last month as part of the special counsel investigation into the handling of classified documents found at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence. Christina Bobb and Evan Corcoran, who have represented Trump in dealings with the Justice Department over the classified documents, made their appearances in the early weeks of January, according to people familiar with the matter. C. Ryan Barber and Alex Leary report for the Wall Street Journal.
Trump’s legal team last month turned over to federal agents an additional folder with classification markings found at Mar-a-Lago. According to sources, the folder was discovered in a box with additional papers. A copy of the box’s contents was made electronically, raising questions about the existence of any additional electronic records that may be relevant to the investigation. A laptop belonging to a current aide of the former president was also provided to federal agents. Katherine Faulders and John Santucci report for ABC News.
The FBI found several documents, including one with classified markings, during a search of former Vice President Mike Pence’s Indiana home on Friday. In addition to the classified document, the FBI also removed six additional pages for further review, a spokesperson for Pence said in a statement. Pence has “directed his legal team to continue its cooperation with appropriate authorities and to be fully transparent through the conclusion of this matter,” the statement added. Sadie Gurman and Alex Leary report for the Wall Street Journal.
TURKEY, SYRIA EARTHQUAKE
The death toll from the earthquake that hit Turkey and Syria last Monday has passed 36,000. According to a report by the World Health Organization about 26 million people across the region have been affected by the earthquake. At least 15 hospitals in Turkey have suffered damage, while 48 health facilities in northwestern Syria have been affected. Annabelle Timsit and Kelly Kasulis Cho report for the Washington Post.
The U.S. ambassador to the U.N. yesterday urged the U.N. Security Council to authorize more border crossings to rebel-controlled northwestern Syria. In a statement, Linda Thomas-Greenfield called for an immediate vote on a resolution for the authorization of additional border crossings for the delivery of humanitarian aid. “People in the affected areas are counting on us,” she added. Michelle Nichols reports for Reuters.
The devastation caused by last Monday’s earthquake has raised questions over an amnesty that allowed property owners in Turkey to have construction violations forgiven without bringing their buildings up to code. According to building experts and survivors, poor construction likely exacerbated the scale of the earthquake’s destruction. While the Turkish government has responded by arresting contractors with ties to collapsed buildings, some have questioned this emphasis, pointing instead to the role of the current and previous governments in keeping the system as it was. Ben Hubbard, Gulsin Harman and Safak Timur report for the New York Times.
President Biden will visit Poland later this month for the one-year anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. During the three-day visit, which will start on Feb. 20, Biden will meet with Polish President Andrzej Duda and leaders of other NATO allies. Michael D. Shear reports for the New York Times.
Brazil will not sell weapons or ammunition to Ukraine, Brazil’s new president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva said in an interview on Friday. Instead, the Brazilian leader, who had met with Biden earlier in the day, said he wanted to try to help mediate peace in the conflict. Jack Nicas reports for the New York Times.
NATO is set to host a two-day gathering of defense ministers in Brussels starting tomorrow. Ukraine’s appeals for advanced military aid, including fighter jets, are likely to be on the agenda, amid concerns from some members about the depletion of the West’s own stocks of weapons. Rachel Pannett and Leo Sands report for the Washington Post.
The Russian paramilitary organization Wagner Group claims to have taken the village of Krasna Gora on the outskirts of Bakhmut. This is according to a statement made by the press service of Yevgeny V. Prigozhin, the group’s founder. The claim is yet to be confirmed by Russia’s Defense Ministry. Shashank Bengali reports for the New York Times.
OTHER GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS
Israeli President Isaac Herzog yesterday asked Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to delay making sweeping changes to the country’s judicial system. The plans, which opponents say threaten the country’s democracy, would give the government control over appointing judges and allow a simple majority of lawmakers to override decisions by the Supreme Court. Tens of thousands of Israelis have protested the proposal. Michael Amon and Dov Lieber report for the Wall Street Journal.
Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen yesterday ordered the shutdown of one of the country’s last independent news outlets. Hun Sen said he was angry at a reference to his son and presumed heir, by the outlet, as was not satisfied with the apology he received. The decision to close the Voice of Democracy comes as the country’s leader seeks to suppress opposition ahead of elections in July. Seth Mydans reports for the New York Times.
Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi will meet with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping in China this week. The announcement was made yesterday by Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying, who added that Raisi’s visit was at Xi’s invitation. During the visit delegations from the two countries will sign cooperation documents, according to Iran’s state news agency IRNA. AP reports.
The Philippine Coast Guard has accused China of shining a “military grade” laser at some of its crew aboard a vessel in contested waters in the South China Sea. The incident occurred on Feb. 6 and disrupted a mission to resupply the Sierra Madre, a navy transport ship that was intentionally grounded by the Philippines in 1999 and is still manned by Filipino marines. Brad Lendon reports for CNN.
COVID-19 has infected over 102.850 million people and has now killed over 1.14 million people in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there have been over 672.929 million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 6.85 million deaths. Sergio Hernandez, Sean O’Key, Amanda Watts, Byron Manley and Henrik Pettersson report for CNN.
A map and analysis of all confirmed cases of the virus in the U.S. is available at the New York Times.
U.S. and worldwide maps tracking the spread of the pandemic are available at the Washington Post.