VENEZUELA
Government blames opponents for blackout

The lights went out across much of Venezuela on Monday, reviving fears of the blackouts that plunged the country into chaos a few months ago, and the government once again accused opponents of sabotaging the nation’s hydroelectric power system.

The power in the capital went out after 4 p.m. and immediately backed up traffic as stop lights and the subway stopped working during rush hour, forcing people to flood into the streets of the capital, trying to make it home before nightfall.

Almost three hours into the blackout, authorities broke their silence and blamed an “electromagnetic attack” on a series of dams located in southern Venezuela — the same culprit it blamed for an almost week-long outage in March that left millions of Venezuelans without water or the ability to communicate with loved ones.

Communications Minister Jorge Rodríguez said authorities were working to restore electricity as quickly as possible. He said security forces had been deployed and contingency plans activated to guarantee basic medical services and keep streets safe.

Reports on social media said that 19 of 24 Venezuelan states were also affected.

— Associated Press

SOUTH KOREA
Seoul: Russian military plane violated airspace

South Korea fired warning shots after a Russian military plane violated its airspace on Tuesday, Seoul officials said.

It was the first time a Russian military plane violated South Korean airspace, according to the officials.

Three Russian military planes initially violated South Korea’s aerial identification zone off its east coast before one of them entered the country’s territorial sky, the South’s Defense Ministry said.

South Korean fighter jets then scrambled to the area to fire warning shots, a ministry official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of department rules.

The Russian plane left the area but then returned later and again violated South Korean airspace, the ministry official said. He said South Korean fighter jets again fired warning shots.

The three Russian planes had violated the South Korean aerial identification zone with two Chinese military planes.

— Associated Press

PHILIPPINES
Duterte defends policy on China as sensible

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte launched a spirited defense of his relationship with China on Monday, insisting that his refusal to challenge its maritime assertiveness was not capitulation but an avoidance of conflict.

Known for his stinging rebukes of Western powers, the firebrand leader devoted part of his annual state-of-the-nation address to arguing that it was senseless to confront a country that had a far superior military.

“If I send our marines to drive away the Chinese fishermen, I guarantee you not one of them will come home alive,” he said in a 90-minute speech to Congress.

“If I send my new frigate, they will be decimated because there are already guided missiles on that island,” he said, referring to a reef that China has turned into a de facto military installation.

Duterte has drawn scrutiny for his warm ties to a country deeply mistrusted by his U.S.-allied defense apparatus. His opponents have pressured him to take a tougher line after a Chinese vessel sank a Philippine boat last month.

China says it has the right to defend what it calls its waters, despite a 2016 international arbitration ruling that invalidated its claim to almost the entire South China Sea.

— Reuters

Congo's health minister quits over Ebola response changes: Congo's health minister, Oly Ilunga, has resigned to protest President Félix Tshisekedi's decision to take over management of the response to the Ebola outbreak in eastern Congo, which has lasted nearly a year and killed more than 1,600 people.

Jailed British Iranian woman returned to cell: The husband of a British Iranian aid worker imprisoned in Iran said she has been transferred from a hospital mental-health facility back to prison. Richard Ratcliffe said his wife, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, had been kept in solitary confinement and chained to a hospital bed. Zaghari-Ratcliffe, 40, was arrested in Iran in April 2016 and sentenced to five years in prison on charges of spying, which she strenuously denies.

Walesa told to apologize to Poland's ruling-party head: An appeals court in Poland upheld a lower court's verdict in a slander case and ruled that pro-democracy fighter and former president Lech Walesa must apologize to the leader of the country's right-wing ruling party. Law and Justice party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski sued Walesa for blaming him on social media for the 2010 plane crash that killed President Lech Kaczynski — Kaczynski's twin brother — and 95 others. Kaczynski blames the crash on Poland's government at the time, which was led by another foe, current European Council President Donald Tusk.

— From news services