North Korea on Thursday called Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe an "idiot" after he criticized a recent weapons test by the North.
In a statement attributed to a foreign ministry official, Song Il Ho, North Korea described Abe as an "idiot and villain" who was overreacting to what the North described as a test-firing of rocket artillery last week "as if a nuclear bomb was dropped on the land of Japan."
The statement ridiculed Abe's expressed willingness to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, saying he would be "well-advised not to dream forever of crossing the threshold of Pyongyang" after insulting the North's "just measures" for self-defense.
North Korea has said it conducted its third test-firing of a new "super-large" multiple rocket launcher system last week, although the Japanese Defense Ministry assessed them as ballistic weapons.
During a regional summit in Thailand earlier this week, Abe reportedly condemned the North's latest test and described it as a clear violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions. He also said he's eager to meet Kim "without conditions."
"Abe is also a rarely ignorant man who dreams of making Japan a military power, failing to distinguish between multiple rocket launchers and missiles, and he is an under-wit as he is only able to say such crude words as 'provocation,' 'outrage,' 'violation,' 'abduction,' and 'pressure,'" said the statement carried by Pyongyang's official Korean Central News Agency.
"It is too natural that Abe is treated as a poor dog and dwarf that fails to enter the international political arena with the Korean Peninsula as a center," it said.
North Korea has often unleashed crude insults against foreign leaders and politicians to criticize what it sees as slanderous remarks toward its leadership or hostile policies against Pyongyang. The insults have included racist and sexist diatribes, including against former U.S. President Barack Obama and former South Korean President Park Geun-hye, the country's first female leader.
In May, the North labeled Democratic U.S. presidential hopeful Joe Biden a "fool of low IQ" and "imbecile bereft of elementary quality as a human being" after he called Kim a tyrant during a speech.
Asian stocks were mostly lower Thursday after a meandering day of trading in the U.S. left stock indexes close to their record highs.
The Shanghai Composite Index declined 0.3% to 2,969.81. Tokyo's Nikkei 225 was down 0.1% at 23,275.17. Hong Kong's Hang Seng sank 0.4% to 27,589.65 and South Korea's Kospi shed 0.2% to 2,140.64.
Sydney's S&P-ASX 200 advanced 0.9% to 6,717.40, making it the best performer across regional markets. India's Sensex gained 0.5% to 40,651.44. Benchmarks in New Zealand advanced while Taiwan and Singapore declined.
Earlier, a Reuters report that the United States and China may delay signing "Phase 1" of their trade deal until December sent U.S. shares decisively lower by midday. However, the drop didn't last long.
After sinking 0.3%, the S&P 500 erased its loss within about two hours. The index closed 2.16 points, or 0.1% higher, at 3,076.78. It's within two points of its record.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average less than 0.1% to 27,492.56, and the Nasdaq composite fell 0.3% to 8,410.63.
The U.S.-China trade war has been a top concern for investors since early 2018, and momentum has recently been tilting toward at least a partial agreement. That, combined with encouraging reports on the economy and corporate profits, have recently propelled U.S. indexes past their prior peaks from July to all-time highs.
While acknowledging that trade talks could easily falter again, Jeff Mills, chief investment officer at Bryn Mawr Trust, said both sides have an incentive to come to a deal. China's economic growth has slowed under the weight of increased U.S. tariffs. President Donald Trump's chances of re-election, meanwhile, likely hinge in large part on the economy, and a worsening trade war would only sour it.
Mills is optimistic the economy will show more life after the Federal Reserve cut interest rates three times this year, if trade tensions continue to ratchet lower. It would be a sharp turnaround from just a few months ago, when worries were spiking that Trump's trade war and four interest-rate increases by the Federal Reserve in 2018 could tip the economy into a recession.
"People know this intellectually but tend not to focus on it: Changes in interest rates impact the economy with a significant lag," Mills said. "What we've been seeing the last year or so is the economy absorbing the rise in interest rates that we experienced in 2018."
Early next year, the economy should start to get a boost from the Fed's three rate cuts since the summer, "and I would expect the market to see the recession narrative as overblown," he said.
Until then, though, markets are still trading on every whiff of news about trade. Wednesday's moves following the report of a possible "phase one" delay demonstrated that.
"Trade is a key issue but it's difficult to gain an edge because no deal has been signed," said Tom Hainlin, national investment strategist at U.S. Bank Wealth Management. "It's proving to be challenging for investors."
One thing more certain for investors has been the steady flow of better-than-expected profit reports from big companies. Over the last month, hundreds have told investors how much they made from July through September, and in most cases the declines were not as steep as analysts had forecast.
Benchmark U.S. crude lost 3 cents to $56.32 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It gained 12 cents to close at $56.35 per barrel.
Brent crude, used to price international oils, fell 2 cents to $56.33.
The dollar fell to 108.68 Japanese yen from 108.96 yen. The euro declined to $1.1058 from $1.1068.
A Chinese court sentenced three fentanyl traffickers Thursday in a case that was a culmination of a rare collaboration between Chinese and U.S. law enforcement to crack down on global networks that manufacture and distribute lethal synthetic opioids.
Liu Yong was sentenced to death with a two-year reprieve, while Jiang Juhua and Wang Fengxi were sentenced to life in prison. Six other members of the operation got lesser sentences.
Working off a 2017 tip from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Chinese police busted a drug ring based in the northern Chinese city of Xingtai that shipped synthetic drugs to the U.S. and other countries from a gritty clandestine laboratory. They arrested more than 20 criminal suspects and seized 11.9 kilograms (26.23 pounds) of fentanyl as well as 19.1 kilograms (42.11 pounds) of other drugs.
Liu had been accused of manufacturing and trafficking synthetic drugs from the lab in eastern China's Jiangsu province. Death sentences are almost always commuted to life in prison after the reprieve.
Austin Moore, an attaché to China for the U.S. Homeland Security Department, said the case was "an important step" showing that Chinese and U.S. investigators have the capacity to collaborate across international borders.
U.S. officials say China's vast chemicals industry is the main source of illicit fentanyl. Chinese officials deny that, blaming greedy pharmaceutical companies, lax regulation, and out-of-control demand as the reasons America has an opioid abuse crisis.
The president of Buffalo Wild Wings met with officials of a Chicago suburb where customers of a restaurant were asked to move to different tables because a patron didn't want to be seated near black people.
Company president Lyle Tick met Tuesday with Naperville officials, customers and restaurant workers to learn from the incident. In a statement Wednesday, the company also said "leadership does not condone in any way what happened" at the restaurant.
Attorney Cannon Lambert, representing the customers who say they were asked in October to move because of their skin color, says a lawsuit won't be necessary if Buffalo Wild Wings changes the way it hires and trains employees.
In their Wednesday statement, the company said the families brought up several "great" recommendations and requests, "all of which we can positively address."
The Saudi government, frustrated by growing criticism of its leaders and policies on social media, recruited two Twitter employees to gather confidential personal information on thousands of accounts that included prominent opponents, prosecutors alleged Wednesday.
The complaint unsealed in U.S. District Court in San Francisco detailed a coordinated effort by Saudi government officials to recruit employees at the social media giant to look up the private data of Twitter accounts, including email addresses linked to the accounts and internet protocol addresses that can give up a user's location.
The accounts included those of a popular critic of the government with more than 1 million followers and a news personality. Neither was named.
The complaint also alleged that the employees — whose jobs did not require access to Twitter users' private information — were rewarded with a designer watch and tens of thousands of dollars funneled into secret bank accounts. Ahmad Abouammo, a U.S. citizen, and Ali Alzabarah, a Saudi citizen, were charged with acting as agents of Saudi Arabia without registering with the U.S. government.
The Saudi government had no immediate comment through its embassy in Washington. Its state-run media did not immediately acknowledge the charges.
The complaint marks the first time that the kingdom, long linked to the U.S. through its massive oil reserves and regional security arrangements, has been accused of spying in America.
The allegations against two former Twitter employees and a third man who ran a social media marketing company that did work for the Saudi royal family comes a little more than a year after the execution of Jamal Khashoggi. The Washington Post columnist and prominent critic of the Saudi government was slain and dismembered in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
Saudi Arabia under King Salman and his son, 34-year-old Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, have aggressively silenced and detained government critics even as it allows women to drive and opens movie theaters in the conservative kingdom.
Prince Mohammed also has been implicated by U.S. officials and a United Nations investigative report in the assassination of Khashoggi. The prince has said he bore ultimate responsibility for the kingdom, though he denies orchestrating the slaying.
The criminal allegations reveal the extent the Saudi government went to control the flow of information on Twitter, said Adam Coogle, a Middle East researcher with Human Rights Watch.
The platform is the main place for Saudis to express their views, and about a third of the nation's 30 million people are active users. But the free-wheeling nature of Twitter is a major source of concern for the authoritarian regime, Coogle said.
The government has used different tactics to control speech and keep reformers and others from organizing, including employing troll armies to harass and intimidate users online. It has even arrested and imprisoned Twitter users.
The crown prince's former top adviser, Saud al-Qahtani, who also served as director of the cyber security federation, started the "Black List" hashtag to target critics of the government. He ominously tweeted in 2017 that the government had ways of unmasking anonymous Twitter users.
"Does a pseudonym protect you from #the_black_list? No," al-Qahtani wrote, according to a report by Coogle released this week. "1) States have a method to learn the owner of the pseudonym 2) the IP address can be learned using a number of methods 3) a secret I will not say."
"If you combine that with what we know about at least these two individuals and what went on in 2014 and into 2015, it's pretty chilling," Coogle said.
Al-Qahtani has been sanctioned for his suspected role in orchestrating the brutal killing of Khashoggi. His Twitter account was suspended in September for violating its platform manipulation policy.
Twitter acknowledged that it cooperated in the criminal investigation and said in a statement that it restricts access to sensitive account information "to a limited group of trained and vetted employees."
"We understand the incredible risks faced by many who use Twitter to share their perspectives with the world and to hold those in power accountable," the statement said. "We have tools in place to protect their privacy and their ability to do their vital work."
A critic said Twitter didn't live up to its principle of restricting access to information about private individuals to the smallest possible number of employees.
"If Twitter had implemented this principle, this misappropriation of information would not have been possible," said Mike Chapple, who teaches cybersecurity at the University of Notre Dame's Mendoza College of Business. "Social media companies must understand the sensitivity of this information and restrict access to the smallest possible number of employees. Failing to do so puts the privacy, and even the physical safety, of social media users at risk."
Abouammo was also charged with falsifying documents and making false statements to obstruct FBI investigators — offenses that carry a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison if convicted.
At his appearance in Seattle federal court Wednesday, Abouammo was ordered to remain in custody pending a detention hearing set for Friday.
His lawyer, Christopher Black, declined to comment, as did Abouammo's wife, who did not give her name.
The complaint said Abouammo, a media partnership manager for Twitter's Middle East region, and Alzabarah, a site reliability engineer at Twitter, worked with an unnamed Saudi official who leads a charitable organization belonging to a person named Royal Family Member 1.
Prosecutors said a third defendant, a Saudi named Ahmed Almutairi who worked as a social media adviser for the Saudi royal family, acted as an intermediary with the Twitter employees.
The complaint said Almutairi recruited Alzabarah and flew him to Washington, D.C., in the spring of 2015, when a Saudi delegation visited the White House.
"Within one week of returning to San Francisco, Alzabarah began to access without authorization private data of Twitter users en masse," the complaint said.
The effort included the user data of over 6,000 Twitter users, including at least 33 usernames for which Saudi Arabian law enforcement had submitted emergency disclosure requests to Twitter, investigators said.
After being confronted by his supervisors at Twitter, Alzabarah acknowledged accessing user data and said he did it out of curiosity, authorities said.
Alzabarah was placed on administrative leave, his work-owned laptop was seized, and he was escorted out of the office. The next day, he flew to Saudi Arabia with his wife and daughter and has not returned to the United States, investigators said.
A warrant for his and Almutairi's arrests were issued as part of the complaint.