While You Were Sleeping: 5 stories you might have missed, June 6

Taiwanese soldiers take part in an anti-aircraft combat confrontation drill in Hsinchu, Taiwan.
Taiwanese soldiers take part in an anti-aircraft combat confrontation drill in Hsinchu, Taiwan.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

US preparing to sell over US$2 billion in weapons to Taiwan, testing China: Sources

The United States is pursuing the sale of more than US$2 billion (S$2.7 billion) worth of tanks and weapons to Taiwan, four people familiar with the negotiations said, in a move likely to anger China as a trade war between the world's two biggest economies escalates.

An informal notification of the proposed sale has been sent to the US Congress, the four sources said on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to speak about the possible deal.

The potential sale included 108 General Dynamics Corp M1A2 Abrams tanks worth around US$2 billion as well as anti-tank and anti-aircraft munitions, three of the sources said. Taiwan has been interested in refreshing its existing US-made battle tank inventory which includes M60 Patton tanks.

The United States is a main arms supplier to Taiwan, which China deems its own and has never renounced the use of force to bring the self-ruled island under its control.


US detained 144,000 migrants at Mexico border in May, up 32 per cent since April

US authorities detained or blocked more than 144,000 migrants at the border with Mexico in May, up 32 per cent since April, as Central Americans flock to the United States seeking asylum, official figures showed on Wednesday.

Customs and Border Protection officials said most of the migrants were families from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, and the total included some 57,718 children.

The total number of migrants detained in the past month was nearly triple that of a year ago, underscoring the surge that has overwhelmed border agents and sparked a deep crisis in US relations with Mexico, which Washington has accused of abetting the immigrant flow.


Trump casts doubt on reports of North Korean executions

US President Donald Trump on Wednesday appeared to cast doubt on news reports of North Korean executions as part of a purge in the aftermath of a failed Hanoi summit and lamented that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un was blamed too quickly.

Asked about South Korean reports that North Korea had executed a top diplomat, Trump said, "I don't know if the reports are correct."

"They like to blame Kim Jong Un immediately," Trump said during an appearance with Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar.


GameStop stock drops nearly 40 per cent as gamers brace for new era of consoles

Shares of the video game retailer GameStop cratered on Wednesday after the company reported steep sales declines on gaming consoles and pre-owned software and hardware, highlighting fundamental challenges for the brick-and-mortar business selling digital media, akin to video and record stores of the past.

GameStop's overall sales fell to US$1.5 billion (S$2 billion) during the first quarter of 2019 compared to US$1.8 billion in the same period last year, the company said in its earnings report on Tuesday, revealing a drop of about 13 per cent.

Part of GameStop's immediate troubles are cyclical. Two of the current major consoles, Sony's PlayStation 4 and Microsoft's Xbox One, were released in 2013, and both tech companies are expected to launch their next-generation platforms next year.


Actor Jussie Smollett not returning to Empire, TV creator says

Jussie Smollett will not be returning to US television series Empire, the show's creator says, marking the first public confirmation that the actor has been dropped after a furor over claims that he was the victim of a hate crime.

Responding to a Variety report that writers were discussing scenarios in which Smollett's character would return towards the end of the sixth and final season, Empire creator Lee Daniels wrote on Twitter on Tuesday; "Jussie will NOT be returning to Empire."

Smollett, 36, who is black and gay, ignited a firestorm by telling police in January that two apparent supporters of US President Donald Trump struck him, put a noose around his neck and poured bleach over him while yelling racist and homophobic slurs on a Chicago street.