Australian deputy prime minister resigns after affair with staffer

Australian Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce said he decided to quit after an allegation of sexual harassment emerged on Friday. (Reuters)
Updated 23 February 2018
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Australian deputy prime minister resigns after affair with staffer

SYDNEY: Australian Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce said on Friday he will resign as leader of his party and will move to the backbench after weeks of pressure over an extra-marital affair with his former media secretary.
Joyce said he will step down on Monday as leader of the National party, the junior partner in Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s center-right coalition. He will remain in parliament, safeguarding Turnbull’s shaky one-seat majority.
Joyce, a practicing Catholic, has been married for 24 years and has campaigned on family values but had been under sustained pressure to resign over an affair with his former staff member, who is carrying his child.
He said he decided to quit after an allegation of sexual harassment emerged on Friday. Joyce denied any wrongdoing.
“I will say on Monday morning at the party room I will step down as the leader of the National Party and deputy leader of Australia,” Joyce told reporters in Armidale, the rural town he represents about 485 kilometers northeast of Sydney.
National Party federal director Ben Hindmarsh said the party had received the sexual harassment allegation but declined to give any details.
A spokesman said Joyce had been made aware of the claim indirectly and believed it was “spurious and defamatory.” Joyce had asked for the allegation to be referred to police, the spokesman said.
The National Party will now elect a new leader, who will also become deputy prime minister under the terms of the coalition agreement with Turnbull’s Liberal party.


Japan halts missile drills after Trump-Kim summit

Updated 21 June 2018
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Japan halts missile drills after Trump-Kim summit

TOKYO: Japan has halted evacuation drills simulating a North Korean missile attack in the wake of historic talks between Washington and Pyongyang, local media reported Thursday.
Government officials did not immediately confirm the reports, but authorities in one town said they were suspending a drill planned for next week on orders from Tokyo.
The decision comes after US President Donald Trump and North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un met last week in Singapore, with the pair signing a joint document calling for denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.
Yaita in Tochigi prefecture north of Tokyo had been planning an evacuation drill for next week involving some 800 residents including 350 school children, city official Yutaka Yanagida said.
But the city suddenly canceled all preparations late Wednesday after being instructed by the government that “drills should be postponed for the time being following a change in the environment after the US-North Korea summit,” he said.
Contacted by AFP, a Cabinet Office official said the government would announce its policy on evacuation drills on Friday, declining to comment further.
Last year, Pyongyang fired two missiles over Japan and it has splashed others into the sea near the country, sparking a mix of panic and outrage.
Earlier this year, hundreds of Tokyo residents scrambled for cover in the Japanese capital’s first evacuation drill for a military attack by Pyongyang.
North Korea has singled out Japan, a key US ally in the region, for verbal attacks, threatening to “sink” the country into the sea and to turn it into “ashes.”
But the regional mood has turned toward diplomacy since the Winter Olympics hosted by South Korea, which set off a series of diplomatic moves culminating in the Trump-Kim meet.