IRAN WILL BE HELD FULLY RESPONSIBLE FOR THE UNREST: TRUMP The United States is sending around 750 more troops to the Middle East immediately, following an attack by pro-Iranian demonstrators on the U.S. embassy in Baghdad, the Pentagon said on December 31. More troops from a rapid response unit of the 82nd Airborne Division are prepared to deploy over the next several days, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said in a statement. "This deployment is an appropriate and precautionary action taken in response to increased threat levels against U.S. personnel and facilities, such as we witnessed in Baghdad today," he said. "The United States will protect our people and interests anywhere they are found around the world." The United States has no plans to evacuate its embassy in Baghdad and additional forces are being sent following violent demonstrations outside the compound by protesters and militia fighters enraged by American air strikes, U.S officials said on Tuesday. U.S. President Donald Trump blamed Iran for "orchestrating" the attack on the U.S. embassy in Baghdad and said he would hold Tehran responsible. "U.S. personnel are secure and there has been no breach. There are no plans to evacuate Embassy Baghdad," a State Department spokesperson said. The spokesperson added that the U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Matt Tueller had been on previously scheduled personal travel and was returning to the embassy. President Donald Trump said on Tuesday he expects Iraq to "use its forces" to protect the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad as he blamed Iran for orchestrating an "attack" that breached the wall of the compound. Iraqi supporters of pro-Iran factions protested at the Embassy on Tuesday, chanting "Death to America," throwing rocks, tearing down security cameras and setting a sentry box ablaze in anger over weekend air strikes that killed two dozen fighters. It was the first time in years that protesters have been able to reach the U.S. embassy, which is sheltered behind a series of checkpoints in the high-security Green Zone. "We expect Iraq to use its forces to protect the Embassy, and so notified!" Mr. Trump tweeted, saying Iran "will be held fully responsible" for the unrest. In his tweet, Mr. Trump said the U.S. had "strongly responded" to the attack that killed the U.S. contractor, and "always will." NORTH KOREA LEADER PROMISES LOOK AT NEW WEAPON SOON North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has accused the Trump administration of dragging its feet in nuclear negotiations and warned that his country will soon show a new strategic weapon to the world as its bolsters its nuclear deterrent in face of "gangster-like" U.S. sanctions and pressure. The North's state media said Wednesday that Mr. Kim made the comments during a four-day ruling party conference held through Tuesday in the capital Pyongyang, where he declared that the North will never give up its security for economic benefits in the face of what he described as increasing U.S. hostility and nuclear threats. Mr. Kim's comments came after a months long stand-off between Washington and Pyongyang over disagreements involving disarmament steps and the removal of sanctions imposed on the North. "He said that we will never allow the impudent U.S. to abuse the DPRK-U.S. dialogue for meeting its sordid aim but will shift to a shocking actual action to make it pay for the pains sustained by our people so far and for the development so far restrained," the Korean Central News Agency said. Mr. Kim added that "if the U.S. persists in its hostile policy toward the DPRK, there will never be the de-nuclearisation on the Korean Peninsula and the DPRK will steadily develop necessary and prerequisite strategic weapons for the security of the state until the U.S. rolls back its hostile policy," according to the agency. "In the past two years alone when the DPRK took preemptive and crucial measures of halting its nuclear test and ICBM test-fire and shutting down the nuclear-test ground for building confidence between the DPRK and the U.S., the U.S., far from responding to the former with appropriate measures, conducted tens of big and small joint military drills which its president personally promised to stop and threatened the former militarily through the shipment of ultra-modern warfare equipment into (South Korea)," the KCNA quoted Mr. Kim as saying. CARLOS GHOSN ESCAPES FROM JAPAN On Tuesday, Carlos Ghosn, the ousted chairman of Japanese carmaker Nissan, was at his childhood home of Lebanon after fleeing from Japan, where he was awaiting trial for financial crimes. Arrested in Tokyo in November 2018, Ghosn was released on bail in March this year, only to be rearrested within weeks on related charges. He was again released on a $9 million bail bond with stringent conditions that had raised eyebrows in the West. Ghosn's escape has added a new twist to the story, and many have been left guessing how such a high-profile accused was able to flee Japan. Ghosn, aged 65, is of Lebanese descent and was born in Brazil. He holds Lebanese, Brazilian, and French passports. Out on bail, Ghosn had several harsh restrictions imposed on him, such as not being able to leave Tokyo, not having access to the internet except from his lawyer's office, and not being able to meet with his friends without informing the court. The court also did not allow Ghosn to have any communication with his wife. Then on Tuesday, Reuters reported that Ghosn was in his mansion in the Lebanese capital of Beirut, where he enjoys significant popularity despite his fall from grace in Japan. Ghosn's arrival in Lebanon raised questions on he was able to escape from Japan where he had been under strict surveillance by authorities while out on bail, and had also surrendered his passports with his Japanese lawyers. In a statement, Ghosn has said, "I am now in Lebanon and will no longer be held hostage by a rigged Japanese justice system where guilt is presumed, discrimination is rampant, and basic human rights are denied." Ghosn's trial in Japan was expected to begin in April 2020. U.S.-CHINA 'PHASE ONE' TRADE DEAL TO BE SIGNED IN JANUARY A partial new U.S.-China trade agreement will be signed in the middle of next month, U.S. President Donald Trump said on Tuesday, announcing that he will also then travel to China for continued talks. Mr. Trump's tweet, sent moments before Wall Street opened for the year's final trading day, set a calendar date for an event that had hung in uncertainty in recent weeks as details remained scant. Washington and Beijing earlier this month announced a "Phase One" trade deal, de-escalating their nearly two-year trade war as Mr. Trump reduced or cancelled some tariffs while Beijing promised to adopt trade reforms and buy more U.S. farm exports. The text has yet to be made public pending what U.S. officials say is a largely technical review. "I will be signing our very large and comprehensive Phase One Trade Deal with China on January 15," Mr. Trump tweeted. "The ceremony will take place at the White House. High level representatives of China will be present." U.S. and Chinese officials have said the agreement includes protections for intellectual property, food and farm goods, financial services and foreign exchange, and a provision for dispute resolution. FRENCH PRESIDENT SAYS HE WANTS SOLID TIES WITH POST-BREXIT BRITAIN French President Emmanuel Macron said on Tuesday that he wanted a strong relationship with post-Brexit Britain and also pledged to push through an overhaul of the pension system, after weeks of nationwide strikes by trade unions. Speaking in his traditional televised New Year's eve address to the nation, Mr. Macron said: "The United Kingdom's departure from the European Union is a test for our country. I will strive to maintain a solid relationship between our two countries." Pension reforms Mr. Macron said he expected his government to quickly find a compromise with unions on the reform, but without departing from the principles laid out by ministers. Unions are trying to force the former investment banker to abandon his overhaul of France's pension system with nationwide strikes since Dec. 5 that have crippled public transport. "The retirement reform that I've committed myself to before you will be carried through because it is a project of social justice and progress," he said in the prime-time televised address to the nation. Mr. Macron wants to replace France's current system of 42 different sector-specific pension schemes with a points-based system for all, which his government says would be fairer and more transparent. While Mr. Macron's government has rejected union calls to drop the reform altogether, it has offered concessions to a growing list of sectors as it seeks to defuse tensions. CHINA, IRAN SLAM 'BULLYING PRACTICES' China's foreign minister has decried international "bullying practices" while meeting with his Iranian counterpart on Tuesday, in the country's latest criticism of American foreign policy under the Trump administration. Wang Yi reaffirmed the strength of bilateral relations in opening remarks at the beginning of talks with Mohammad Javad Zarif. "We need to stand together against unilateralism and bullying practices," Wang said. Without directly mentioning the US, Wang said China and Iran would stand up for their national interests. Zarif responded that the two countries were united in, "our common effort to fight unilateralism and to promote multilateralism" in 2020. - AP "We need to stand together against unilateralism and bullying practices."-Wang Yi, China's Foreign Minister "The two countries are united in efforts to promote multilateralism in 2020." -Javad Zarif, Iran's Foreign Minister RUSSIA, UKRAINE REACH GAS TRANSIT AGREEMENT Moscow and Kiev on Monday signed a five-year agreement on the transit of Russian gas to Europe via Ukraine, finalising months of difficult talks just ahead of a New Year deadline. The current deal between the two ex-Soviet countries expires Tuesday and ties between them have been shredded since Moscow annexed Crimea in 2014 and supported a separatist insurgency in eastern Ukraine. About 18 percent of the European Union's annual natural gas consumption comes from Russia via Ukraine, putting additional pressure on EU officials who helped to broker the deal. "Ukraine has signed a five-year transit contract," Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky announced. BANGLADESH SHUTS DOWN TELECOM SERVICES ALONG INDIA BORDER 'FOR SAKE OF SECURITY' Bangladesh's telecom regulator has ordered operators to shut down services along the border with India citing security reasons, authorities said in a statement. Mobile network coverage has been suspended for one kilometre along the entire border with India until further notice "for the sake of the country's security in the current circumstances", officials said in the statement, which was released on Monday. One official on condition of anonymity said the decision was taken out of concern that Indian Muslims might seek to enter Bangladesh after India introduced the Citizenship Amendment Act which has triggered violent protests across India.