Following is a summary of current world news briefs.
China brushes off international concern over death sentence for Canadian
China said on Wednesday that it was "not worried in the slightest" by mounting international concern over the death sentence handed to a Canadian for drug smuggling. Monday's sentence for Robert Schellenberg for smuggling 222 kg (489 lbs) of methamphetamines prompted Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to accuse China of "arbitrarily" applying the death penalty.
Blast near U.S.-led coalition patrol in Syria
A blast struck near a U.S.-led coalition patrol in Syria's northern city of Manbij on Wednesday, and a war monitor said 14 people were killed including two Americans. An Islamic State-affiliated web site, Amaq, said an attacker with an explosive vest had struck a foreign military patrol in a suicide attack.
U.S. eyes Taiwan risk as China's military capabilities grow
The United States is closely watching Chinese intentions toward Taiwan, concerned that Beijing's growing military prowess may increase the risk it could one day consider bringing the self-ruled island under its control by force, a U.S. official said on Tuesday. The senior U.S. defense intelligence official, who spoke to reporters on condition of anonymity, did not predict that China's military, known as the People's Liberation Army (PLA), would take such a step but said such a possibility was the top worry as China expands and modernizes its military capabilities.
U.S., Britain conduct first joint drills in contested South China Sea
The United States and Britain have conducted their first joint naval drills in the disputed South China Sea since China built island bases there, the two navies said on Wednesday, as Washington seeks help from allies to keep pressure on Beijing. A U.S. Navy guided missile destroyer the USS McCampbell, which is based in Japan, and a Royal Navy frigate, HMS Argyll, which is on a tour of Asia, conducted communication drills and other exercises from Friday to Wednesday "to address common security priorities", the U.S. Navy said in a press release.
UK PM May faces confidence vote as Brexit ticks down to the line
Prime Minister Theresa May's government faces a no confidence vote on Wednesday after the crushing defeat of her Brexit divorce deal by parliament left Britain's exit from the European Union in disarray just 10 weeks before it is due to leave. British lawmakers voted 432-202 against her deal, the worst defeat in modern British history, triggering political chaos that could lead to a disorderly exit from the EU or even to a reversal of the 2016 decision to leave.
Iran vows to will keep military forces in Syria despite Israeli threats
Iran will keep military forces in Syria, the head of the elite Revolutionary Guards said on Wednesday, defying Israeli threats that they might be targeted if they do not leave the country. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Tuesday that Israeli forces would continue to attack Iranians in Syria and warned them "to get out of there fast, because we will continue with our resolute policy".
Germany still won't approve arms exports to Saudi: spokeswoman
Germany will still not approve arms exports to Saudi Arabia, a spokeswoman for the German Economy Ministry said on Wednesday. In November industry sources had said that German industry's voluntary halt in previously authorized arms shipments to Saudi Arabia after the killing of a journalist at the Saudi consulate in Turkey was slated to last until mid-January.
Kenyan forces kill hotel assailants who took 14 lives
Kenyan security forces have killed the militants who stormed an upscale Nairobi hotel compound, taking at least 14 lives and forcing hundreds of others to make terrifying escapes, the government said on Wednesday. More than 700 civilians were evacuated from the dusitD2 complex after a 20-hour siege that echoed a 2013 assault that killed 67 people in Nairobi's Westgate shopping center in the same neighborhood.
Turkey-backed rebels await 'zero hour' to attack Syria's Manbij
Rebel commander Adnan Abu Faisal and his army are encamped near the frontline in northern Syria, waiting to launch an offensive on his home city of Manbij. But they are not the ones who will decide whether to march on the strategically important city, held for more than two years by Kurdish forces supported by the United States.
Russia says it caught former U.S. marine accused of spying red-handed
Russia said on Wednesday that it had caught former U.S. marine Paul Whelan, who is being held in Russia on spying charges, while he was in the act of carrying out illegal activities in his Moscow hotel room. Whelan, a former U.S. marine who also holds British, Canadian and Irish passports, was detained by Russia's Federal Security Service on Dec. 28.