North Korea tests ballistic missile
SEOUL, Nov 29: In the dead of night, North Korea test-launches its most powerful missile yet. Six minutes later, rival South Korea unleashes a barrage meant to show it will hit back — hard — if war ever comes.
The nightmare scenario, made reality again on Wednesday, is terrifying and increasingly routine. Yet there are signs it might also signal something surprising: A calculated bit of restraint as Pyongyang nears a unique potential declaration, possibly in leader Kim Jong Un’s annual New Year’s Day speech. The North, some speculate, may announce that since it now considers itself a nuclear power equal to the United States, it can put more effort into Kim’s other priority of trying to fix one of the world’s worst economies.
In short, could the end be near for North Korea’s years of headlong, provocative nuclear development?
Wednesday’s test of what the North called a new ICBM capable of hitting the entire US mainland was, like all the others, calibrated to both convey defiance and boast of a dramatically improving military capability to Washington. But Pyongyang also did very specific things that kept the launch well back of the point of shoving US President Donald Trump toward any military attack:
— It did not shoot its missile over Japan, which it has done twice in recent months.
— It did not fire its missile, as it previously suggested it might, into the waters around the US military hub of Guam in the Pacific.
— It did not conduct potentially the most worrying next step short of war: An atmospheric test of a nuclear weapon flying onboard a long-range missile over the Pacific.
Small victories, maybe. Certainly no guarantee of what the future holds for a country that prides itself on keeping outsiders guessing and on pushing its weapons development to the brink. But the glimmer of restraint suggests the North may see itself nearing the point where it can claim military victory, however far that might be from the truth, and turn more toward other matters by next year, the 70th anniversary of the country’s founding.
A strong indication backing this analysis is right there in Pyongyang’s official statement on the launch, which was read on a special TV broadcast hours after the missile lifted off.
After watching the Hwasong-15 missile blast into the pre-dawn darkness, “Kim Jong Un declared with pride that now we have finally realised the great historic cause of completing the state nuclear force, the cause of building a rocket power.”
While everything North Korea says in its propaganda must be viewed with extreme scepticism, the country does have a habit of laying out goals and meeting them, or at least claiming it has met them.
North Korea’s test could indeed indicate that the country will soon consider its nuclear program “done” and focus on its sluggish economy, said Vipin Narang, a nuclear strategy expert at MIT. “But there are many things that can intervene to accelerate or decelerate it,” he says.
“The pessimist in me says they are trying to get the range (of the ICBM settled) first, and then, if we still doubt” their abilities, could conduct a full-blown operational atmospheric test of a live nuclear warhead atop a ballistic missile, Narang said. “But the optimist in me says that’s so risky it would take a major provocation or insult to get them to try it.”
Trying to predict what North Korea will actually do next — a favourite if frustrating game of analysts and government officials for decades — is notoriously futile. And Pyongyang may simply continue its torrid testing pace of its weapons, which, despite internal and global hype, are not yet a match for those of any of the established nuclear powers.
It’s important to realise, Narang says, that the North’s programme is truly developmental, which means “it needs to hit certain milestones. Range, reliability and re-entry are what they are probably focused on most intently at the moment.”
Many observers expect at least one more big test aimed at showing the full range of the ICBM by sending it flying over Japan and deep into the Pacific. And the North has yet to perfect its submarine-launched missiles.
A bigger worry would be if the North, trying to quiet doubts about whether it has a warhead small enough to fit on a long-range missile, attempted a risky thermonuclear atmospheric missile explosion. North Korea’s foreign minister in September suggested his country may test a hydrogen bomb in the Pacific Ocean.
Amid the speculation over what comes next, the North chose words Wednesday that suggested it was aiming to reassure, not to panic.
The new ICBM, it said, “meets the goal of the completion of the rocket weaponry system development set by” the North. In a reference to Kim Jong Un’s double-pronged goal of boosting both the nuclear program and the economy, it shows the North Korean people’s ability to uphold “simultaneous development of the two fronts with loyalty” so that they can stand up to the U.S. “nuclear blackmail policy” while enjoying a “peaceful life.”
After months of tests and a drumbeat of war threats by both Koreas and the United States, many will be eager to accept the North’s claim of nuclear “completion.” But Pyongyang’s suggestion that it signals a “peaceful life” around the corner? That’s a much harder sell.
Hafiz Saeed release is Pakistan’s attempt to mainstream terrorists, reveals its true face: India
NEW DELHI, Nov 23: India on Thursday said mastermind of the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks Hafiz Saeed’s release from house arrest shows that Pakistan wants to mainstream terror organisations.
“It is evident that Pakistan has not changed its policy of shielding and supporting non state actors, and its true face is visible for all to see,” MEA Raveesh Kumar said during his weekly media breifing on Thursday.
“India is outraged that a self-confessed and UN-proscribed terrorist has been allowed to walk free. Pakistan’s lack of seriousness in bringing perpetrators of terror to justice is evident,” Kumar added.
The Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) founder and Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) chief walked free on Thursday after being put under house arrest in January.
A Lahore high court review board on Wednesday rejected an appeal of the Pakistan government seeking to extend Saeed’s detention for more three months and ordered his release.
Responding to a separate query, Kumar said India has sought sovereign guarantee from Pakistan on the safety and security of Kulbhushan Jadhav’s wife if she visits that country.
Earlier this month, Pakistan said that it will allow convicted Indian death row prisoner Jadhav to meet his wife, months after India had requested Islamabad to grant a visa to his mother on humanitarian grounds.
‘Past is past’: Dalai Lama says Tibet wants to stay with China, wants development
KOLKATA, Nov 23: Tibet does not seek independence from China but wants greater development, Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama said in Kolkata Thursday.
China and Tibet enjoyed a close relationship, though there were occasional “fights”, he said at an interactive session organised by the Indian Chamber of Commerce.
“The past is past. We will have to look into the future,” he said, stressing that Tibetans wanted to stay with China.
“We are not seeking independence... We want to stay with China. We want more development,” the spiritual leader of the Tibetan people said.
The Dalai Lama also said China must respect Tibetans’ culture and heritage.
“Tibet has a different culture and a different script... The Chinese people love their own country. We love our own country,” he said.
Holding that no Chinese “understand what had happened in the last few decades”, he said the country had changed over the years.
“With China joining the world, it has changed 40% to 50% of what it was earlier,” he said.
The Dalai Lama referred to the ecological significance of the Tibetan Plateau and recalled that a Chinese ecologist had said its environmental impact was like that of the South Pole and the North Pole.
“The ecologist called it the Third Pole,” the Buddhist leader said.
The Dalai Lama said, “From Yangtze to Sindhu rivers, major rivers ... come from Tibet. Billions of lives are involved. Taking care of the Tibetan Plateau is not only good for Tibet but for billions of people.”
The Dalai Lama also pitched for respect and recognition of the ‘Hindi-Chini bhai bhai’ spirit to take Sino-India relations forward.
“India and China should eventually find respect for ‘Hindi-Chini bhai bhai’,” he told the media when asked on China’s objections to President Ram Nath Kovind’s visit to Arunachal Pradesh.
He said “China needs India, India needs China” and “they have to live side by side”.
“There is no other way except to live peacefully and help each other,” he said.
Pak court frees Hafiz Saeed
LAHORE, Nov 22: A Pakistani court on Wednesday ordered the release of Hafiz Saeed, the chief of Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) and one of the alleged masterminds of the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks that killed more than 160 people.
A review Board of the Lahore High Court overruled the government’s request to extend the detention citing that Saeed’s release may trigger international sanctions against Pakistan.
“Concept of justice cannot be brutalised and terrorised in the name of fight against terrorism,” the High Court said in its ruling.
“The review board looking into the case... has refused to extend his house arrest as the government failed to provide any evidence against the charges,” Ahmed Nadeen, a spokesman for the JuD, said.
Saeed, who carries a bounty of $10 million announced by the U.S. for his role in terror activities, has been under house arrest since January this year.
He was greeted by dozens of his followers outside the court after the verdict. “Hafiz Saeed is a free man. God is great,” his social media spokesman tweeted.
Last month, authorities had withdrawn terrorism charges against Saeed and the JuD, a front of the terror organisation Lashkar-e-Taiba, and kept him in detention under the Maintenance of Public Order Act, paving the way for his release.
Saeed’s detention was extended four times since January when the government cracked down on the JuD and its charity arm Falah-e-Insaniat Foundation.
Saeed challenged his detention in the Lahore High Court in February. Lawyer A.K. Dogar had urged the court to order the release of Saeed and his four aides as no formal charges had been filed against them after months of detention.
Analyst and retired Pakistani general Talat Masood said that Saeed is given special treatment by the government “because they think that his organisation was supportive in Kashmir”.
Saeed said later in a video message that he was detained because of his association with Kashmir.
“It’s because of Kashmir that India is after me, but all her efforts have been in vain and Allah has set me free,” he said in the video released by his party’s media team. “This is victory of Pakistan’s freedom and God willing Kashmir will also be freed because I’m fighting Kashmir’s case,” Saeed added.
Following a brief period of house arrest in 2008, Saeed led a high-profile public life and regularly delivered fiery anti-India speeches till January this year.
After Pakistan frees Hafiz Saeed, Trump administration says he is a terrorist leader designated by UN, US
WASHINGTON, Nov 22: Mumbai attack mastermind and banned Jamaat-ud-Dawah (JuD) chief Hafiz Saeed is a terrorist leader designated by both the United Nations and the United States, the Trump administration said today, hours after a Pakistani court ordered his release from detention.
The banned Jamaat-ud-Dawah head, who carries a bounty of USD 10 million announced by the US for his role in terror activities, has been under detention since January this year.
“The US is aware of media reports that Pakistan (court) ordered release of Lashkar-e-Taiba leader Hafiz Saeed from house arrest,” said a State Department spokesperson when asked about the decision of the Judicial Review Board of Punjab province which refused to extend Saeed’s detention.
As such, Saeed is all set to be released from house arrest after the expiry of the detention order tomorrow. Responding to a question, the State Department was quick to express its displeasure over the potential release of Saeed from house arrest.
In May 2008, the United States Department of the Treasury designated Saeed as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist under Executive Order 13224, the spokesperson said.
“Saeed was also individually designated by the United Nations under UNSCR 1267 (UN Security Council Resolution) in December 2008 following the November 2008 Mumbai attack,” the official said. LeT and several of its front organisations, leaders, and operatives remain under both State Department and Treasury Department sanctions, the State Department official noted.
“The US reiterates its stance that LeT is a designated Foreign Terrorist Organisation responsible for the death of hundreds of innocent civilians in terrorist attacks, including a number of American citizens,” said the spokesperson.
The JuD is believed to be the front organisation for the banned Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) which is responsible for carrying out the Mumbai attack.
Robert Mugabe resigns as Zimbabwe President, wants ‘smooth’ transfer of power
HARARE, Nov 21: Robert Mugabe resigned as Zimbabwe’s president on Tuesday a week after the army and his former political allies moved against him, ending four decades of rule by a man who turned from independence hero to archetypal African strongman.
“I have resigned to allow smooth transfer of power. My decision to resign is voluntary on my part. Kindly give public notice of my decision as soon as possible,” Mugabe wrote in the letter.
Wild celebrations broke out at a joint sitting of parliament when speaker Jacob Mudenda announced Mugabe’s resignation and suspended the impeachment procedure.
People danced and car horns blared on the streets of Harare at news that the era of Mugabe - who has led Zimbabwe since independence in 1980 - was finally over.
Some people held posters of Zimbabwean army chief General Constantino Chiwenga and former vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa, whose sacking this month triggered the military takeover that forced Mugabe to resign.
Mugabe is the only leader Zimbabwe has known since a guerrilla struggle ended white-minority rule in the former Rhodesia.
During his reign, he took the once-rich country to economic ruin and kept his grip on power through repression of opponents, although he styled himself as the Grand Man of African politics and kept the admiration of many people across Africa.
The army seized power after Mugabe sacked Mnangagwa, ZANU-PF’s favourite to succeed him, to smooth a path to the presidency for his wife Grace, 52, known to her critics as “Gucci Grace” for her reputed fondness for luxury shopping.
But Mugabe refused to resign, prompting the impeachment procedure which would have been the only legal was to force him out.
Mnangagwa, whose whereabouts are unknown after fleeing the country in fear for his safety, is expected to take over as president.
A former security chief known as The Crocodile, he was a key lieutenant to Mugabe for decades and stands accused of participating in repression against Zimbabweans who challenged the leader.
Reuters reported in September that Mnangagwa was plotting to succeed Mugabe, with army backing, at the helm of a broad coalition. The plot posited an interim unity government with international blessing to allow for Zimbabwe’s re-engagement with the world after decades of isolation from global lenders and donors.
Mugabe led Zimbabwe’s liberation war and is hailed as one of post-colonial Africa’s founding fathers and a staunch supporter of the drive to free neighbouring South Africa from apartheid in 1994.
But many say he has damaged Zimbabwe’s economy, democracy and judiciary by staying in power for too long and has used violence to crush perceived political opponents. The country faces a foreign exchange payments crisis and roaring inflation.
Since the crisis began, Mugabe has been mainly confined to his “Blue Roof” mansion in the capital where Grace is also believed to be.
Modi attends opening ceremony of 31st ASEAN Summit in Manila
MANILA, Nov 13: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday attended the opening ceremony of the 31st ASEAN Summit here.
Doordarshan posted a video on Twitter in which Modi was seen sharing the stage with world leaders and shaking hands with them.
Earlier on Sunday, Modi interacted with world leaders, including US President Donald Trump, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, at a gala dinner reception hosted by Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte ahead of this year’s India-Asean and East Asia Summits.
Ahead of the summits, Modi will hold a bilateral meeting with Duterte, and the Prime Minister is also scheduled to hold a bilateral meeting with Trump.
Modi would also speak at the Asean Business and Investment Summit and attend an Indian community reception to be hosted by the Ambassador of India to the Philippines
This year marks the 25th year of the India-Asean dialogue partnership and the golden jubilee of the formation of the ASEAN regional bloc.
The Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) comprises Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
Over 400 dead after 7.3 magnitude earthquake hits Iran-Iraq border
BAGHDAD, Nov 13: A powerful 7.3 magnitude earthquake near the Iraq-Iran border killed over 400 people across both countries, sent residents fleeing their homes into the night and was felt as far away as the Mediterranean coast, authorities said today.
Iran’s western Kermanshah province bore the brunt of the temblor Sunday night, with authorities saying the quake killed 407 people in the country and injured 6,700. Kermanshah is a rural, mountainous region where residents rely mainly on farming.
In Iraq, the earthquake killed at least seven people and injured 535, all in the country’s northern Kurdish region, according to Iraq’s Interior Ministry.
The quake was centered 31 kilometers outside the eastern Iraqi city of Halabja, according to the most recent measurements from the US Geological Survey. It struck at 9:48 pm Iran time, just as people began retiring for the night. It could be felt on the Mediterranean coast, some 1,000 kilometers away.
The earthquake struck 23.2 kilometers below the surface, a shallow depth that can amplify damage. Magnitude 7 earthquakes can be highly destructive.
Iranian social media and news agencies showed images and videos of people fleeing their homes. More than 100 aftershocks followed.
The quake’s worst damage appeared to be in the town of Sarpol-e-Zahab in Kermanshah province, which sits in the Zagros Mountains that divide Iran and Iraq.
The US Geological Survey said the quake measured magnitude 7.3. An Iraqi meteorology official put its magnitude at 6.5 with the epicentre in Penjwin in Sulaimaniyah province in the Kurdistan region close to the main border crossing with Iran.
War with India not an option: Pakistan PM
LONDON, Nov 6: Pakistan Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi has said that war is not an option with India and that only talks can resolve all outstanding issues including Kashmir.
Addressing a conference on 'Future of Pakistan 2017' at the London School of Economics' South Asia Centre here on Saturday, Abbasi described Kashmir as a "core issue" and said relations with India will remain tense until that is resolved.
"Kashmir is the core issue with India. Until that is resolved, Pakistan-India relations will remain tense. We are always open to talks at any level and talks are the way forward. War is not an option," Abbasi said.
Highlighting India's Cold Start Doctrine among recent developments, Abbasi said Pakistan had a "deterrent" in place.
"We have a deterrent to that (Cold Start Doctrine) but I don't think deterrents where both sides are nuclear powers is a solution to any problem. The only solution is continued talks," the Pakistani leader noted.
He, however, expressed little hope of any significant movement with talks between the countries as both are prepared for elections - Pakistan next year and India the year after.
"Any expectation of a great initiative is probably misplaced," Abbasi said.
He also dismissed any support for an independent Kashmir on the ground, while addressing questions from students at the LSE conference on Saturday.
"I have not seen support for that concept (independent Kashmir). This is something that is floated often but it really has no basis in reality. The solution lies with the Security Council resolution that the people are given the right of determination," he said.
Abbasi, who took charge of the Pakistani government in August following the disqualification of the Nawaz Sharif led PML(N) government by the country's Supreme Court, said that while there was "never a dull moment in Pakistan's political life", the country has achieved a level of stability despite the challenges that remain.
The central message of his keynote address at the conference was that the world must acknowledge Pakistan as the country fighting "the largest war on terror in the world".
Paradise Papers leak: Prominent politicians, corporates among 714 Indians listed
NEW DELHI, Nov 6: A vast leak of financial documents could expose the secret wealth of hundreds of rich Indians, including politicians, corporate heavyweights and entertainment leaders, who are suspected to have used offshore tax havens to dodge taxes.
“Paradise Papers”, as they are being called by a collective of international journalists who pored over it for months and presented their findings on Sunday night, is a clutch of records and internal communications from Bermuda’s Appleby and Singapore’s Asiaciti.
The findings from the documents have reportedly identified former and current ministers, members of parliament, a steel conglomerate and a prominent Bollywood icon as names from India that figure in the documents.
India ranks 19 out of the 180 countries represented in the data in terms of the number of names. “In all, there are 714 Indians in the tally,” the report said in its front-page report published in the Monday edition.
Figuring in the documents — 13.4 million records — does not necessarily mean the people named are involved in crimes, Indian Express reported in an explainer.
“Normally, a company is entitled to arrange its financial affairs in whichever way it wishes to reduce its tax liability. Merely the fact that the motive for a particular transaction is to avoid tax does not invalidate the transaction unless the law of the land specifically says so. There is a corporate army engaged in imaginative bookkeeping to discover and exploit legal loopholes and evade tax under the corporate veil,” it said.
Appleby and Asiaciti are among the “corporate army” that help companies and individuals set up businesses, make investments and carry out financial operations. Such firms usually specialise in law, chartered accountancy and banking.
Data from Appleby and Asiaciti were obtained by German newspaper Suddeutsche Zeitung, which shared it with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.
The revelations could give clues to regulators and financial investigators to shift focus on individuals and organisations as India strengthens its efforts to catch tax dodgers.
Some of the revelations in the Paradise Papers include millions of pounds from Queen Elizabeth II’s private estate that has been invested in a Cayman Islands fund and some of her money that went to a retailer accused of exploiting poor families and vulnerable people.
The documents also detail extensive offshore dealings by US President Donald Trump’s cabinet members, advisers and donors, including substantial payments from a firm co-owned by Russian President Vladimir Putin’s son-in-law to the shipping group of the US Commerce Secretary, Wilbur Ross.
Social media giants Twitter and Facebook received millions in investments that can be traced back to Russian state financial institutions along with aggressive tax avoidance by multinational corporations, including Nike and Apple, the documents also purported to reveal.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s chief wealth manager is also among people figuring in the papers.
Russia, US send nuclear bombers to North Korea as Kim Jong-un tensions rise
NEW DELHI, Nov 2: RUSSIA and the US have both flown nuclear bombers near North Korea as tensions grow over tyrant Kim Jong-un’s atomic threats.
President Donald Trump sent a nuclear-capable B-2 stealth bomber from Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri on a long-range mission to the Pacific this weekend.
And the Russian Defence Ministry today announced that US and Japanese jets escorted Russia’s missile-carrying Tupolev-95MS strategic bombers during flights over the Sea of Japan and the Pacific.
A spokesman said: “Two strategic bombers Tupolev-95MS of Russia’s Aerospace Force have carried out routine flights over international waters of the Sea of Japan and the western part of the Pacific Ocean.
“At certain sections of the route the Tupolev-95MS crews were accompanied by a pair of F-18 fighters (of the US Air Force), and a pair of F-15, F-4 and F-2A fighters (of the Japanese Air Force).”
The threat of nuclear missile attack by North Korea is accelerating, US defence secretary Jim Mattis warned at the weekend.
Mattis made his remarks as he accused the North’s leader Kim Jong-un of “illegal and unnecessary missile and nuclear programmes”.
Speaking in Seoul alongside South Korean defence minister Song Young-moo, he warned: “North Korea has accelerated the threat that it poses to its neighbours and the world.”
Because of this, he said, military collaboration between the US and South Korea had taken on “a new urgency”.
Mattis added: “Any use of nuclear weapons by the North will be met with a massive military response.”
The news came shortly before reports emerged of a tunnel collapse at an underground nuclear test site, prompting fears of a radioactive leak.
The North says it needs nuclear weapons to counter US efforts to strangle its economy and overthrow the Kim government.
Nato chief Jens Stoltenberg called North Korea a “global threat” today and said he backed tighter sanctions against it during a visit to Japan, which has been targeted by Pyongyang’s provocations.
Stoltenberg is in Tokyo to meet Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and other senior officials including defence minister Itsunori Onodera later in the day.