NAIROBI, Kenya — Military forces detained Sudan’s prime minister early on Monday in an apparent coup that endangered the northeast African nation’s fragile transition to democracy from authoritarian rule.
The Sudanese Ministry of Culture and Information said in a Facebook post that the joint military forces had placed Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok under house arrest and pressured him to release a “pro-coup statement.” After refusing to “endorse the coup,” the ministry said, Mr. Hamdok was then moved to “an unknown location.”
The military also detained several top cabinet members and civilian members of the Transitional Sovereignty Council, the ministry said.
The detentions came about one month after the authorities said they had thwarted a coup attempt by loyalists of the deposed dictator Omar Hassan al-Bashir.
As news of the arrests spread, protesters filled the streets of the capital, Khartoum, early Monday. Television stations showed people burning tires in Khartoum, with plumes of smoke filling the skies. The information ministry also said that internet connections had been cut and that the military had closed bridges.
The possibility of a coup has haunted the country’s transitional government since 2019, when Mr. al-Bashir was overthrown, and Sudan has been rocked by protests from two factions. One side had helped topple Mr. al-Bashir after widespread mass protests, and the other backs a military government.
On Monday, pro-democracy demonstrators chanted: “The people are stronger. Retreat is impossible.” Some clapped, and the procession of demonstrators grew larger.
Relations between the leaders of the transitional government, which is made up of civilian and military officials, have been strained. In recent days, pro-military protesters have demanded the dissolution of the transitional cabinet, a step many pro-democracy groups have denounced as setting the stage for a coup.
The Sudanese Professionals Association, the main pro-democratic political group, had warned on social media that the military was preparing to seize power. The association urged residents on Monday to take to the streets to resist what they called a “military coup.”
“The revolution is a revolution of the people,” the group, which is made up of doctors, engineers and lawyers organizations, said in a Facebook post. “Power and wealth belongs to the people. No to a military coup.”
As the protests intensified on Monday, NetBlocks, an internet monitoring organization, said there had been a “significant disruption” to internet services affecting cellphone and some fixed lines in the country. That disruption, it said, “is likely to limit the free flow of information online and news coverage of incidents on the ground.”
For months, the country has been wracked by political uncertainty and the challenges brought by the coronavirus pandemic, and Sudan’s economy is in a precarious state, with growing unemployment and rising food and commodity prices nationwide.
The army chief of staff had been expected to hand over leadership of the transitional cabinet to Mr. Hamdok in November, which would have given him a largely ceremonial post, but one that would have signified full civilian control of Sudan for the first time in decades.
On Saturday local time, Jeffrey Feltman, the United States special envoy for the Horn of Africa, met with the Sudanese prime minister and reiterated the Biden administration’s support for a civilian democratic transition.
On Monday, Mr. Feltman said the United States was “deeply alarmed at reports of a military takeover of the transitional government.”
“This would contravene the Constitutional Declaration and the democratic aspirations of the Sudanese people and is utterly unacceptable,” Mr. Feltman said in a statement. “As we have said repeatedly, any changes to the transitional government by force puts at risk U.S. assistance.”
After the detentions on Monday, state television played national patriotic songs, and local news reports said that Lt. Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, the head of the sovereignty council, was expected to make a statement about the unfolding events.
After President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, who ruled Sudan for nearly 30 years, was ousted in a coup in 2019, the country began taking tenuous steps toward democracy, but has been plagued with unrest and an attempted military takeover.
His government was replaced by an 11-member sovereign council consisting of six civilians and five military leaders, who were given the task of preparing the country for elections after a three-year transition period.
The council appointed Abdalla Hamdok, an economist who has held several United Nations positions, as prime minister, and his government immediately embarked on an ambitious program designed to placate pro-democracy demonstrators and rejoin the international community.
Mr. Hamdok’s government eased decades of strict Islamist policies, scrapping an apostasy law and abolishing the use of public flogging. It also undertook a political and economic overhaul. It revived talks with rebel groups, and began investigations into the bloody suppression of the Darfur region under Mr. al-Bashir, promising to prosecute and possibly hand over to the International Criminal Court those wanted for war crimes there.
But stubborn obstacles to progress remained, including the coronavirus pandemic, stagnant economic growth and continued violence in Darfur. Mr. Hamdok survived an assassination attempt, and concerns of a coup swirled when the country entered lockdown last year to limit the spread of the coronavirus.
Last month Sudanese authorities said they had thwarted an attempted coup by loyalists of Mr. al-Bashir. Soldiers had tried to seize control of a state media building in the city of Omdurman, across the Nile from the capital, Khartoum, but they were stopped and arrested.
Mr. Hamdok blamed the failed coup on Bashir loyalists, both military and civilian, and described it as a near miss for the country’s fragile democratic transition.
The army chief of staff had been expected to hand over leadership of the sovereign council next month to Mr. Hamdok — a largely ceremonial post, but also one that signifies full civilian control of Sudan for the first time in decades.
Three years ago Sudanese protestersprotested against the government of President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, who had ruled the country for three decades since a 1989 coup.
Mr. al-Bashir had led his country through disastrous wars and famine, but it was anger over the rising price of bread that incited the first protests in December of 2018. After nearly four months of demonstrations and dozens of deaths at the hands of security forces, Mr. al-Bashir was forced from power in April 2019.
He had ruled Sudan longer than any other leader since the country gained independence in 1956, and was seen as a pariah in much of the world. He hosted Osama bin Laden in the 1990s, leading to American sanctions, and in 1998 an American cruise missile struck a factory in Khartoum for its alleged links to Al Qaeda.
Mr. al-Bashir presided over a ruinous 21-year war in southern Sudan, where his forces pushed barrel bombs from planes onto remote villages. The country ultimately divided into two parts in 2011, when South Sudan gained independence. But Mr. al-Bashir kept fighting brutal conflicts with rebels in other parts of Sudan.
In addition, he sent thousands of Sudanese soldiers to fight outside the country, including in the civil war in Yemen.
Mr. al-Bashir, 77, has been imprisoned since his ouster. He has been wanted by the international court in The Hague since 2009 over atrocities committed by his government in Darfur, where at least 300,000 people were killed and 2.7 million displaced in a war from 2003 to 2008, the United Nations estimates.
The international court has been pressing Sudan’s transitional government, which took over after Mr. al-Bashir was deposed, to hand him over along with other leaders accused of crimes in Darfur.
Sudanese courts convicted Mr. al-Bashir of money laundering and corruption charges in late 2019 and sentenced him to two years in detention. He still faces charges related to the 1989 coup, and could be sentenced to death or life imprisonment if he is convicted.
The U.S. envoy for the Horn of Africa was in Sudan as recently as Saturday, urging the military and the civilian leadership to continue the country’s planned transition to democracy as protests broke out.
Jeffrey Feltman, the U.S. special envoy for the Horn of Africa, met in Sudan’s capital, Khartoum, with Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok on Saturday. They were joined by other leaders, including Lt.-Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, who heads the military and the sovereignty council, and Gen. Mohammed Hamadan Dagalo, also known as Hemedti, another senior military member of the council.
Mr. Feltman “emphasized U.S. support for a civilian democratic transition in accordance with the expressed wishes of Sudan’s people,” the American Embassy in Khartoum said on Twitter. He called on all parties to stick by the constitutional declaration that the military and opposition signed after Mr. al-Bashir’s ouster and a peace agreement reached last year by the government and rebel groups.
Sudan spent the better part of three decades isolated from the world, as its former leader Omar Hassan al-Bashir housed terrorists, including Osama bin Laden, engaged in bloody wars with his own people and squandered revenue from oil production.
Since Mr. al-Bashir was ousted in 2019, the leadership of the nation, part civilian and part military, has made overtures to Israel, the United States and the international criminal court in The Hague, where its former leader is wanted. The country’s hope was that by normalizing relations with former antagonists it could lure badly needed investment.
In 2011, South Sudan split from Sudan and formed it own nation, taking with it claims to more than 90 percent of the region’s oil reserves. That was a blow to Sudan’s economy, already beleaguered by sanctions.
After the new government formed in 2019, it began taking steps to improve foreign ties.
The United States, which lifted many sanctions on Sudan in 2017, took the country off the list of nations that support terrorism last year. President Trump had announced the decision, saying the removal was made in exchange for a $335 million compensation payment to the victims of the 1998 Qaeda attacks on American Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.
That deal was made possible after Sudan agreed to recognize Israel, part of a Trump administration effort to pressure Arab nations to normalize relations with the country. Sudan’s move, however, appeared short of actually establishing full diplomatic relations with Israel.
Sudan’s cabinet also voted in August to ratify the Rome Statute, the treaty that created the criminal court, and said it had agreed to extradite Mr. al-Bashir.
But his extradition remains a contentious issue in Sudan, and could now be in serious doubt. Some of the country’s military leaders were implicated along with Mr. al-Bashir in the atrocities in Darfur, a western region. If he were to be extradited, he might give evidence that could expose Sudan’s military leaders to prosecution.
Even as the United States finalizes its departure from Afghanistan, it faces a dilemma there as wrenching as any during the 20-year war: how to deal with the new Taliban government.
The question is already manifest in the debate over how deeply to cooperate against a mutual enemy, the Islamic State branch in the region, known as ISIS-K.
Another: Whether to release $9.4 billion in Afghan government currency reserves that are frozen in the United States. Handing the Taliban billions would mean funding the machinery of its ultraconservative rule. But withholding the money would all but ensure a sudden currency crisis and halt on imports, including food and fuel, starving Afghan civilians whom the United States had promised to protect.
These are only the beginning. Washington and the Taliban may spend years, even decades, pulled between cooperation and conflict, compromise and competition, as they manage a relationship in which neither can fully tolerate nor live without the other.
already seeking from the United States.
Washington, for its part, sees Afghanistan as a potential haven for international terrorists, a center of geopolitical competition against its greatest adversaries and the site of two looming catastrophes — Taliban rule and economic collapse — that could each ripple far beyond the country’s borders.
At home, President Biden already faces a backlash over Afghanistan that would be likely to intensify if he were seen as enabling Taliban rule. But he may find that securing even the most modest American aims in the country requires tolerating the group that now controls it.
His administration got a taste of this new reality last week, when American forces evacuating Kabul relied on Taliban fighters to help secure the city’s airport.
testing quiet, mostly tacit coordination.
The United States has a long history of working with unsavory governments against terrorist groups.
But such governments have routinely exploited this to win American acquiescence, and even assistance, in suppressing domestic opponents they have labeled extremists.
This dynamic has long enabled dictators to disregard American demands on human rights and democracy, confident that Washington would tolerate their abuses as long as they delivered on terrorism matters.
less extreme opposition groups.
It may ultimately be a question of whether Washington prefers an Afghanistan divided by civil war — the very conditions that produced the Taliban and now ISIS-K — or one unified under the control of a Taliban that may or may not moderate itself in power.
A Diplomatic Dance
The Taliban, desperate for foreign support, have emphasized a desire to build ties with Washington.
The longer the United States holds out recognition, formal or informal, the more incentive the Taliban have to chase American approval. But if Washington waits too long, other powers may fill the diplomatic vacuum first.
Iran and China, which border Afghanistan, are both signaling that they may embrace the Taliban government in exchange for promises related mostly to terrorism. Both are eager to avoid an economic collapse or return to war on their borders. And they are especially eager to keep American influence from returning.
“Beijing will want to extend recognition to the Taliban government, likely after or at the same time that Pakistan does so but before any Western country does,” Amanda Hsiao, a China analyst for the International Crisis Group, wrote in a recent policy brief.
Iran has already begun referring to the “Islamic Emirate,” the Taliban’s preferred name for its government. Iranian missions remain open.
eased. But the former enemies have drawn much closer over one issue that is not likely to apply in Afghanistan, extensive trade, and another that is — opposition to China.
Many Afghans fear that American recognition, even indirect, could be taken as a blank check for the group to rule however it wants.
Still, some who are fiercely opposed to both the Taliban and the American withdrawal have urged international engagement.
“Everyone with a stake in the stability of Afghanistan needs to come together,” Saad Mohseni, an Afghan-Australian businessmen behind much of the country’s media sector, wrote in a Financial Times essay.
their origin story and their record as rulers.
Who are the Taliban leaders? These are the top leaders of the Taliban, men who have spent years on the run, in hiding, in jail and dodging American drones. Little is known about them or how they plan to govern, including whether they will be as tolerant as they claim to be. One spokesman told The Times that the group wanted to forget its past, but that there would be some restrictions.
Neither engagement nor hostility is likely to transform the group’s underlying nature. And even when engagement works, it can be slow and frustrating, with many breakdowns and reversals on a road to rapprochement that might take decades to travel.
The Other Looming Catastrophe
Perhaps the only scenario as dire as a Taliban takeover is one that is all but assured without American intervention: economic collapse, even famine.
Afghanistan imports much of its food and fuel, and most of its electricity. Because it runs a deep trade deficit, it pays for imports mostly through foreign aid, which amounts to nearly half of the country’s economy — and has now been suspended.
The country holds enough currency reserves to finance about 18 months of imports. Or it did, until the U.S. froze the accounts.
As a result, Afghanistan may soon run out of food and fuel with no way to replenish either.
“Acute famines generally result from shortages of food triggering a scramble for necessities, speculation and spikes in food prices, which kill the poorest,” a Columbia University economist, Adam Tooze, wrote last week. “Those are the elements we can already see at work in Afghanistan.”
As the United States learned in 1990s Somalia, flying in food does not solve the problem and may even worsen it by putting local farmers out of business.
according to Save the Children, a charity. The group also surveyed some of the thousands of families displaced from rural areas to Kabul and found that many already lack the means to buy food.
It is difficult to imagine a harder sell in Washington than offering diplomatic outreach and billions of dollars to the group that once harbored Al Qaeda, barred women from public life and staged public executions.
Republicans are already seizing on the chaos of the withdrawal to criticize Mr. Biden as soft on adversaries abroad.
He may also face pressure from Afghan émigrés, a number of whom already live in the United States. Diasporas, like those from Vietnam or Cuba, tend to be vocally hawkish toward the governments they fled.
The administration, which is pursuing an ambitious domestic agenda in a narrowly divided Congress, may be hesitant to divert more political capital to a country that it sees as peripheral.
Still, Mr. Biden has seemed to relish rejecting political pressure on Afghanistan. Whether he chooses to privilege geopolitical rivalry, humanitarian welfare or counterterrorism in Afghanistan, he may find himself doing so again.
AFAR, Ethiopia — The road, a 300-mile strip of tarmac that passes through some of the most inhospitable terrain on earth, is the only way into a conflict-torn region where millions of Ethiopians face the threat of mass starvation.
But it is a fragile lifeline, fraught with dangers that have made the route barely passable for aid convoys trying to get humanitarian supplies into the Tigray region, where local fighters have been battling the Ethiopian army for eight months.
the world’s worst humanitarian crisis in a decade.
wrote on Twitter. “People are starving.”
Ethiopian prime minister, Abiy Ahmed, who won the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize, said last week that his government was providing “unfettered humanitarian access” and committed to “the safe delivery of critical supplies to its people in the Tigray region.”
But Mr. Abiy’s ministers have publicly accused aid workers of helping and even arming the Tigrayan fighters, drawing a robust denial from one U.N. agency. And senior aid officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity to avoid jeopardizing their operations, said the government’s stated commitment to enable aid deliveries was belied by its actions on the ground.
Aid workers have been harassed at airports or, in the case of a World Food Program official last weekend, have died inside Tigray for want of immediate medical care.
Tigrayan fighters had marched into the regional capital, Mekelle, hours after beleaguered Ethiopian soldiers quit the city. The city airport was shut, so the only way out of Tigray was on a slow-moving U.N. convoy that took the same desolate route out as the fleeing Ethiopian soldiers.
We drove down a rocky escarpment on a road scarred by tank tracks. As we descended into the plains of Afar, the temperature quickly rose.
publicized the flight but made no mention of the delays or harassment — an omission that privately angered several U.N. officials and other aid workers who said it followed a pattern of U.N. agencies being unwilling to publicly criticize the Ethiopian authorities.
Further complicating the aid effort: The war is now spilling into Afar.
In the past week Tigrayan forces have pushed into the region. In response Mr. Abiy mobilized ethnic militias from other regions to counter the offensive.
Mr. Abiy has also resorted to increasingly inflammatory language — referring to Tigrayan leaders as “cancer” and “weeds” in need of removal — that foreign officials view as a possible tinder for a new wave of ethnic violence across the country.
Ms. Billene, his spokeswoman, dismissed those fears as “alarmist.” The Ethiopian leader had “clearly been referring to a terrorist organization and not the people of Tigray,” she said.
Inside Tigray, the most pressing priority is to reopen the road to Afar.
“This is a desperate, desperate situation,” said Lorraine Sweeney of Support Africa Foundation, a charity that shelters about 100 pregnant women displaced by fighting in the Tigrayan city of Adigrat.
Ms. Sweeney, who is based in Ireland, said she had fielded calls from panicked staff members appealing for help to feed the women, all of whom are at least eight months pregnant.
“It brings me back to famine times in Ireland,” Ms. Sweeney said. “This is crazy stuff in this day and age.”
Famine is now knocking on the door of Ethiopia’s Tigray region, where a civil war that erupted last year has drastically cut the food supply and prevented relief workers from helping the hungry, the top U.N. humanitarian official has warned.
In a confidential note to the United Nations Security Council, the official, Mark Lowcock, the under secretary general for humanitarian affairs, said sections of Tigray, a region of more than 5 million people, are now one step from famine — in part because the government has obstructed aid shipments.
The note, seen by The New York Times, was submitted Tuesday under a Security Council resolution requiring such notification when conflicts cause famine and widespread food insecurity.
“These circumstances now arise in the Tigray region of Northern Ethiopia,” Mr. Lowcock said in the note. While below-average rain, locusts and the Covid-19 pandemic have all contributed to food scarcity, he said, “the scale of the food crisis Tigray faces today is a clear result of the conflict and the behavior of the parties.”
since last November. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and neighboring Eritrea ordered their military forces into the region to crush Mr. Abiy’s political rivals and strengthen his control.
What Mr. Abiy, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, predicted would be a short operation has instead become a quagmire that threatens to destabilize the Horn of Africa. Ethiopian and Eritrean troops have been accused of ethnic cleansing, massacres and others atrocities in Tigray that amount to war crimes.
While the United Nations and international relief organizations have achieved some cooperation from the Ethiopian authorities in gaining access to deprived areas of Tigray, Mr. Lowcock said in his note, such cooperation has deteriorated in recent months. “Humanitarian operations are being attacked, obstructed or delayed in delivering lifesaving assistance,” he wrote, and at least eight aid workers have been killed.
“As a result of impediments and the effect of restrictions, not nearly enough support is being provided,” he wrote. He urged Security Council members “to take any steps possible to prevent a famine from occurring.”
His warning was echoed by Samantha Power, the administrator of the United States Agency for International Development, the main U.S. government provider of humanitarian assistance to needy countries. Ms. Power, a former American ambassador to the United Nations, said in a statement that one of the aid workers killed had worked for the agency she now runs.
took the unusual step of penalizing Ethiopia over growing American exasperation with Mr. Abiy’s actions in Tigray. Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken announced visa restrictions on officials linked to the conflict, preventing their travel to the United States.
Ethiopia’s Foreign Ministry reacted angrily, calling the restrictions “extremely regrettable” and suggesting they would “seriously undermine this longstanding and important bilateral relationship.”
NAIROBI, Kenya — Growing American frustration over the war in the Tigray region of Ethiopia spilled over into an open confrontation on Monday when Ethiopian officials lashed out at Washington over new restrictions including aid cuts and a ban on some Ethiopians traveling to the United States.
The restrictions, announced by Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken on Sunday, amount to an unusual step against a key African ally, and a pointed rebuke to Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, a Nobel Peace Prize winner whose troops and allies have been accused of ethnic cleansing, massacres and others atrocities that could amount to war crimes.
Despite “significant diplomatic engagement,” Mr. Blinken said in a statement, “the parties to the conflict in Tigray have taken no meaningful steps to end hostilities or pursue a peaceful resolution of the political crisis.”
American visa restrictions will apply to all actors in the Tigray conflict, Mr. Blinken said, including current and former Ethiopian and Eritrean officials, ethnic Amhara militias and Tigrayan rebels.
a statement on Monday, Ethiopia’s foreign affairs ministry reacted with an expression of regret and what appeared to be thinly veiled threats. It accused the United States of meddling in its internal affairs and trying to overshadow national elections scheduled for June 21.
And it said that Ethiopia could be “forced to reassess its relations with the United States, which might have implications beyond our bilateral relationship.”
gave $923 million, according to USAID, although the vast majority of that money was for humanitarian purposes — health care, food aid, education and democracy support — that will not be hit by the new measures.
The United States had already suspended $23 million in security aid to Ethiopia. Officials say the new measures will preclude any American arms sales to Ethiopia, although much of the country’s weapons come from Russia.
Still, there could be other impacts. Western diplomats say the United States could block international funding to Ethiopia from the World Bank and International Monetary Fund — integral to Mr. Abiy’s economic plans.
dispatched by President Biden in March, and Jeffrey Feltman, the recently appointed Horn of Africa envoy.
American officials worry that the growing chaos in Tigray could destabilize the entire Horn of Africa region, or jeopardize efforts to mediate a high-stakes dispute with Egypt over the massive hydroelectric dam that Ethiopia is building on the Nile.
The growing humanitarian crisis, including the threat of a famine within months, is also driving the sense of urgency.
Those responsible for the Tigray crisis “should anticipate further actions from the United States and the international community,” Mr. Blinken said. “We call on other governments to join is taking these measures.”
After graduating in 1953, Mr. Yuan took a job as a teacher in an agricultural college in Hunan Province, keeping up his interest in crop genetics. His commitment to the field took on greater urgency from the late 1950s, when Mao’s so-called Great Leap Forward — his frenzied effort to collectivize agriculture and jump-start steel production — plunged China into the worst famine of modern times, killing tens of millions. Mr. Yuan said he saw the bodies of at least five people who had died of starvation by the roadside or in fields.
“Famished, you would eat whatever there was to eat, even grass roots and tree bark,” Mr. Yuan recalled in his memoir. “At that time I became even more determined to solve the problem of how to increase food production so that ordinary people would not starve.”
Mr. Yuan soon settled on researching rice, the staple food for many Chinese people, searching for hybrid varieties that could boost yields and traveling to Beijing to immerse himself in scientific journals that were unavailable in his small college. He plowed on with his research even as the Cultural Revolution threw China into deadly political infighting.
In recent decades, the Communist Party came to celebrate Mr. Yuan as a model scientist: patriotic, dedicated to solving practical problems, and relentlessly hard-working even in old age. At 77, he even carried the Olympic torch near Changsha for a segment of its route to the Beijing Olympics in 2008.
Unusually for such a prominent figure, though, Mr. Yuan never joined the Chinese Communist Party. “I don’t understand politics,” he told a Chinese magazine in 2013.
Even so, the Xinhua state news agency honored him this weekend as a “comrade,” and his death brought an outpouring of public mourning in China. In 2019, he was one of eight Chinese individuals awarded the Medal of the Republic, China’s highest official honor, by Xi Jinping, the national leader.
Mr. Yuan is survived by his wife of 57 years, Deng Zhe, as well as three sons. His funeral, scheduled for Monday morning in Changsha, is likely to bring a new burst of official condolences.
A spike in sales to Chinese customers helped Volkswagen rebound strongly from the disruption caused by the pandemic, the carmaker said Thursday, underlining China’s importance to the German economy.
Sales in the first three months of 2021 rose 13 percent compared to a year earlier, to 62.4 billion euros, or $75 billion, while profit rose nearly sevenfold to 3.4 billion euros, the company said. Vehicle sales in China, which is Volkswagen’s largest market, rose more than 60 percent.
The recovery in sales bodes well for the German economy. Vehicles are the country’s biggest export product. But Volkswagen also illustrates Germany’s dependence on China when tensions between Beijing and the European Union are rising because of the Chinese government’s treatment of minority groups and its crackdown on dissent in Hong Kong.
As is typical for Volkswagen, the company’s Audi and Porsche divisions generated most of the profit. The luxury vehicles have a higher profit margin than the more affordable cars that account for most of Volkswagen’s volume.
shortage of semiconductors that has afflicted all carmakers in recent months, but warned that the chip famine could become more acute in months to come.
Volkswagen sold 60,000 battery-powered vehicles out of a total of 2.4 million during the quarter. That may be a disappointment to the company, which has staked its future on a new line of electric cars, the first of which went on sale late in 2020.
The pandemic has contributed to soaring hunger and acute declines in maternal health care that threaten tens of millions of people, the United Nations said Wednesday, underscoring the disproportionate spillover effects on the world’s poor.
The number of people worldwide requiring urgent food aid hit a five-year high in 2020 — reaching at least 155 million — while the risk of maternal and newborn deaths surged because of a shortage of at least 900,000 midwives, or one-third of the required global midwifery work force, the United Nations said in a pair of reports produced with other groups.
The World Food Program, the anti-hunger agency of the United Nations, said in a statement that the key findings from the food report showed that its warnings of severe hardships during the pandemic had been validated, and that “we are watching the worst-case scenario unfold before our very eyes.”
The food report covered 55 countries and territories, including three — Burkina Faso, South Sudan and Yemen — where it said that at least 133,000 people were suffering famine, the most severe phase of a hunger crisis.
report, the United Nations Population Fund, the world’s leading provider of family planning services, said the pandemic had made a worldwide midwife shortage worse, “with the health needs of women and newborns being overshadowed, midwifery services being disrupted and midwives being deployed to other health services.”
It cited a study published in The Lancet medical journal in December, showing that alleviating the midwife shortage could avert roughly two-thirds of maternal and newborn deaths and stillbirths, saving 4.3 million lives a year.
SEOUL — On a bright August morning in 1960, after two days of sailing from Japan, hundreds of passengers rushed on deck as someone shouted, “I see the fatherland!”
The ship pulled into Chongjin, a port city in North Korea, where a crowd of people waved paper flowers and sang welcome songs. But Lee Tae-kyung felt something dreadfully amiss in the “paradise” he had been promised.
“The people gathered were expressionless,” Mr. Lee recalled. “I was only a child of 8, but I knew we were in the wrong place.”
Mr. Lee’s and his family were among 93,000 people who migrated from Japan to North Korea from 1959 to 1984 under a repatriation program sponsored by both governments and their Red Cross societies. When they arrived, they saw destitute villages and people living in poverty, but were forced to stay. Some ended up in prison camps.
renewed interest in North Korean human rights violations, and when leaders in Japan and South Korea remain particularly sensitive about opening old wounds between the two countries.
“It was my mother who urged my father to take our family to the North,” Mr. Lee said. “And it was her endless source of regret until she died at age 74.”
The Lees were among two million Koreans who moved to Japan during Japanese colonial rule from 1910 to 1945. Some went there looking for work, others were taken for forced labor in Japan’s World War II effort. Lacking citizenship and financial opportunities, most returned to Korea after the Japanese surrender.
Citizens’ Alliance for North Korean Human Rights.
Japan approved of the migration despite the fact that most Koreans in the country were from the South, which was mired in political unrest. While Japanese authorities said ethnic Koreans chose to relocate to North Korea, human rights groups have accused the country of aiding and abetting the deception by ignoring the circumstances the migrants would face in the communist country.
Japanese women married to Korean men and thousands of biracial children. Among them was a young woman named Ko Yong-hee, who would later become a dancer and give birth to Kim Jong-un, the leader of North Korea, and grandson of its founder.
When Mr. Lee’s family boarded the ship in 1960, his parents thought Korea would soon be reunited. Mr. Lee’s mother gave him and his four siblings cash and told them to enjoy their last days in Japan. Mr. Lee bought a mini pinball-game machine. His younger sister brought home a baby doll that closed its eyes when it lay on the bed.
“It was the last freedom we would taste,” he said.
He realized his family had been duped, he said, when he saw the people at Chongjin, who “all looked poor and ashen.” In the rural North Korean county where his family was ordered to resettle, they were shocked to see people go without shoes or umbrellas in the rain.
In 1960 alone, 49,000 people migrated from Japan to North Korea, but the number sharply declined as word spread of the true conditions in the country. Despite the watchful eye of censors, families devised ways to warn their relatives. One man wrote a message on the back of a postage stamp:
“We are not able to leave the village,” he wrote in the tiny space, urging his brother in Japan not to come.
Mr. Lee’s aunt sent her mother a letter telling her to consider immigrating to North Korea when her nephew was old enough to marry. The message was clear: The nephew was only 3.
To survive, the migrants often relied on cash and packages sent by relatives still in Japan. In school, Mr. Lee said, children called him “ban-jjokbari,” an insulting term for Koreans from Japan. Everyone lived under constant fear of being called disloyal and banished to prison camps.
refugees, spending two and a half years in prison in Myanmar when he and his smuggler were detained for human trafficking. After arriving in Seoul in 2009, Mr. Lee helped smuggle his wife and daughter out of North Korea. But he still has relatives, including a son, stuck in the country, he said.
His wife died in 2013, and now Mr. Lee lives alone in a small rented apartment in Seoul. “But I have freedom,” he said. “I would have sacrificed everything else for it.”
Mr. Lee has formed an association with 50 ethnic Koreans from Japan who migrated to North Korea and escaped to the South. Every December, the group meets to mark the anniversary of the beginning of the mass migration in 1959. His memoir is nearly complete. His generation is the last to have firsthand experience of what happened to those 93,000 migrants, he said.
“It’s sad that our stories will be buried when we die,” Mr. Lee said.
Around the world, auto assembly lines are going quiet, workers are idle and dealership parking lots are looking bare.
A shortage of semiconductors, the tiny but critical chips used to calibrate cars’ fuel injection, run infotainment systems or provide the brains for cruise control, has sent a shudder through the automaking world.
A General Motors plant in Kansas City closed in February for lack of chips, and still hasn’t reopened. Mercedes-Benz has begun to hoard its chips for expensive models and is temporarily shutting down factories that produce lower-priced C-Class sedans. Porsche warned dealers in the United States this month that customers might have to wait an extra 12 weeks to get their cars, because they lack a chip used to monitor tire pressure.
The French automaker Peugeot, part of the newly formed Stellantis automaking empire, has gone so far as to substitute old-fashioned analog speedometers for digital units in some models.
consumer electronics, which tend to be more lucrative customers.
German economic research institutes warned in a joint report this month.
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The crisis has exposed not only how dependent the car industry is on a few suppliers, but also how vulnerable it is to disruptions. Supply chain managers shuddered last month when an early-morning fire knocked out production at a factory owned by Renesas Electronics in Hitachinaka, Japan, north of Tokyo. Renesas is a crucial supplier of chips used to monitor brake functioning, control power steering, trigger airbags and in many other tasks.
Storms in Texas earlier in the year temporarily forced the shutdown of three semiconductor factories. And Taiwan is in the midst of a severe drought, analysts at IHS Markit warned in a recent report. Chip manufacturing requires large amounts of very pure water.
Even without a pandemic and supply chain disruptions, the auto industry is in turmoil. In the United States, sales have been basically flat since the early 2000s. Profit margins are slim. Some big automakers may not survive the shift to electric cars.
“If I were a chip manufacturer I wouldn’t start investing in a new plant unless I got free money from the government,” said ManMohan S. Sodhi, who teaches supply chain management at the business school at City,University of London.
Ford Motor said Wednesday that it would keep several U.S. plants idle longer than expected because of the chip shortage.
The auto industry has been paralyzed by supply chain disruptions before. Mr. Källenius recalled an episode when a hurricane struck Puerto Rico and shut down production at a factory that, to his surprise and pretty much everyone else’s, was the only source of a coating essential to some kinds of auto electronics.
Automobiles have tens of thousands of parts and so many layers of suppliers and sub-suppliers and sub-sub-suppliers that even carmakers have trouble keeping track of every component’s provenance.
The economics of the industry are such that only suppliers with the highest volume survive. Smaller suppliers tend to die out because they can’t produce parts or materials as cheaply as the big players, leaving the industry dependent on one or two manufacturers of high-pressure fuel lines, for example, or a certain specialized plastic.
The current semiconductor shortage may not be the last. The auto industry’s need for semiconductors is expected to explode in coming years because of autonomous driving features and the increasing popularity of electric vehicles, which are more reliant on software than internal combustion engines.
Mr. Källenius said, though, that the most sophisticated chips were not the ones currently giving him headaches. “We are missing the most simple of chips, that maybe only cost cents or dollars,” he said. “That’s holding us up from building a product that costs $75,000.”