Beijing scrambles jets and ships to expel US warship in South China Sea: PLA
BEIJING, April 29: China scrambled aircraft and sortied ships to track and expel a frontline US warship from near a Beijing-controlled island chain in the South China Sea on Tuesday, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has said.
Accusing the guided-missile destroyer USS Barry of carrying out a “provocative act” and violating Chinese sovereignty, the PLA’s southern command said the intrusion of the American warship prompted it to “track, monitor, verify, identify and expel” it.
A Chinese military spokesperson later had a piece of advice for the US military: Focus on Covid-19 prevention at home rather destabilising regional peace and security.
The incident took place off the Paracel Islands, known as the Xisha Islands in China, and the Hoang Sa Archipelago in Vietnam, in the South China Sea.
A cluster of more than 30 islands, they are controlled by Beijing but also claimed by Taiwan and Vietnam.
China claims nearly the entire South China Sea but those claims are disputed by several maritime neighbours including Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Indonesia besides Vietnam and Taiwan (which China says is a breakaway region.)
The route taken by the US warship, which also earlier crossed the Taiwan Straits, prompted strong response and reaction from China.
“The US’ provocative actions seriously violated international law and related norms, seriously violated Chinese sovereignty and security interests, and intentionally increased regional security risks,” a statement posted on the military unit’s WeChat social media account quoted Li Huamin, a command spokesperson, as saying.
Referring to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, Li added that the incident could have “…easily caused an accident, and is against the context in which the international community is making concentrated efforts to fight the pandemic and the common will of countries in the South China Sea to safeguard peace and stability in the region”.
“We urge the US side to focus on the epidemic prevention and control on its homeland, contribute more to the international fight against the pandemic and immediately stop military actions against regional security, peace and stability,” Li said.
According to the US-based non-profit US Naval Institute, the The FONOP (freedom of navigation operations) from the Japan-based USS Barry closely follows the destroyer transiting the Taiwan Strait twice this month.
“A day after Barry’s April 22 transit, the Chinese (aircraft carrier) Liaoning Carrier Strike Group also transited the Taiwan Strait. In addition to the presence operations, the destroyer has been active in the South China Sea operating with guided-missile cruiser USS Bunker Hill (CG-52) and amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA-6) off the coast of Malaysia near an ongoing dispute over mineral exploration between Malaysia and China,” the USNI said.
South Korea says it knows Kim Jong Un’s location
SEOUL, April 28: Top South Korean officials said they know Kim Jong Un’s location, in the strongest remarks yet from Seoul since the North Korean leader disappeared from public view more than two weeks ago.
“The government is aware of Kim Jong Un’s location” Unification Minister Kim Yeon-chul said when asked directly in a parliamentary session on Tuesday, without elaborating.
Asked separately if South Korea informed President Donald Trump of Kim Jong Un’s whereabouts and condition, Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha said the U.S. leader was in constant communication with South Korean officials and “should have been notified.” She later clarified that Trump was aware of Kim Jong Un’s condition but not his location.
In a press briefing hours earlier, Trump said he knows the health status of Kim Jong Un while saying he “can’t talk about it now.” The U.S. president also said that “nobody knows where he is.”
Speculation about the 36-year-old North Korean leader’s health accelerated after the Seoul-based news site Daily NK reported April 20 that he was recovering from surgery, citing an unidentified person inside the country. Since then several different theories have emerged, including that he’s merely social distancing due to an outbreak of Covid-19 in the country.
South Korea has persistently said there have been no unusual movements, and that Kim has been staying “in the Wonsan area” on North Korea’s eastern coastline.
Shooter kills 22 in Canada
OTTAWA, April 24: The worst mass shooting in Canada’s history started with the suspect assaulting his girlfriend, and this may have been the “catalyst” for the 22 grisly slayings that followed, police said Friday.
Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) Superintendant Darren Campbell, at a news conference describing the 13-hour manhunt for the shooter, said his motives are still under investigation.
But the suspect’s beating of his girlfriend, who managed to escape and hide in nearby woods and later informed police that her attacker wore a patrolman’s uniform and drove a mock squad car, “could very well have been the catalyst to start the chain of events.”
“It was a significant assault,” Campbell noted, suggesting also that her escape may have enraged the shooter, identified as 51-year-old denturist Gabriel Wortman.
Police previously described the girlfriend simply as “a key witness” who helped them identify the armed suspect after she emerged from hiding Sunday morning, about nine hours into the shooting and arson spree.
Thirteen victims had been identified by then in the quiet and sparsely populated Nova Scotia seaside community of Portapique where police set up a four-square kilometre (1.5 square mile) perimeter to try to contain the suspect.
Overnight, the shooter may have fled the area by driving through a field or, disguised as an RCMP officer, slipped past barricades, Campbell said.
“I can’t imagine any more horrific set of circumstances when you’re trying to search for someone that looks like you,” Campbell said.
This “obviously complicated things” and gave the suspect an “advantage” over police, the public and “every person that he encountered through the course of his rampage.”
Authorities noted also that they learned of three “plated” Ford Taurus cars owned by the suspect -- the same make and model as RCMP squad cars -- but were not initially aware of a fourth made to look like a squad car and driven in the attacks.
Their investigation has so far uncovered where Wortman purchased the lightbar for the vehicle and may have sourced decals.
His guns, police said, were purchased in Canada and the United States.
He also took the sidearm and magazines off a veteran policewoman after killing her in a confrontation shortly before he was gunned down by a tactical officer who caught up with him at a gas station near Halifax.
“While he was at the gas pumps, one of our tactical resources came to the gas station to refuel their vehicle,” he said.
“When the officer exited the vehicle, there was an encounter and the gunman was shot and killed by police at 11:26 in the morning.”
Pakistan pledges $3 mn to Saarc Covid-19 Fund
NEW DELHI, April 9: The Pakistan government on Thursday pledged $3 million to the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation’s (SAARC) Covid-19 Emergency Fund on the condition that the facility be administered by the Saarc secretariat.
Pakistan is the last of Saarc’s eight members to contribute to the fund, which was created with an initial corpus of $10 million provided by India following a video conference of leaders of the grouping on March 15.
“While communicating Pakistan’s decision to the Saarc Secretariat, it has been conveyed that all proceeds of the Fund should be administered by the Saarc Secretariat and that the modalities for the Fund’s utilisation should be finalised through consultations with the Member States as per the Saarc Charter,” said a statement from Pakistan’s Foreign Office.
“Pakistan’s perspective in this regard was also conveyed during a telephone conversation between Foreign Secretary Sohail Mahmood and Secretary General SAARC Esala Ruwan Weerakoon, today,” the statement added.
According to New Delhi, India’s engagements with Saarc members on Covid-19 related matters are stand-alone events whereas Pakistan has sought to bring all issues under the Saarc secretariat in a bid to block Indian initiatives.
On Wednesday, Pakistan skipped a video conference of senior trade officials of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc), saying it chose not to participate since the Saarc secretariat wasn’t involved in organising it.
Canada govt might hold virtual parliament session
TORONTO, April 5: The Canadian government is exploring the possibility of holding virtual sessions of Parliament to pass legislation, as part of emergency measures to counter the impact of Covid-19 crisis.
The idea has been mooted by Pablo Rodriguez, a leader of the ruling Liberal Party in the House of Commons, in a letter to the Speaker Anthony Rota, as well as leaders of three major Opposition parties.
The proposal comes as the government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau attempts historic bailout measures for employers and workers across the country. As the coronavirus crisis became pronounced in March, the House of Commons was suspended, but sittings with the minimum number of members required were held on March 23 and 24. While the House remains suspended till April 20, Trudeau has called for another emergency session in the week ahead to pass more measures.
Rodriguez’s effort comes in that context, as he wrote to the Speaker seeking to gauge “ability of the House of Commons administration to support and facilitate virtual sittings”. He pointed out that Canadians are working from home and only leaving for essential chores. He stated, “It is only appropriate that Members of Parliament practice these same measures, and adapt the way that we conduct our business during the time the House cannot meet on a regular and normal basis.”
While the response from Opposition leaders to this proposal has been positive, it will require changes to the Standing Orders governing the running of the House of Commons, for business to be conducted remotely.
The number of people killed by the Sars-CoV-2 virus in Canada has jumped by just over 20 per cent to 258 in a day, officials said on Sunday.
On Sunday morning, the number of those diagnosed with Covid-19 had risen by almost 12 per cent to 14,426, the public health agency said. The respective figures on Saturday were 214 deaths and 12,924 positive diagnoses.
Mastermind of Kabul Gurudwara attack, ISKP terrorist Farooqui, captured
NEW DELHI, April 4: In a massive security operation backed with pin-pointed intelligence, the Afghan security forces wiped out the entire Pakistan-sponsored module of the so-called Islamic State of Khorasan Province with the arrest of chief Mawlawi Abudullah aka Aslam Farooqui and 19 other top terrorists.
A Pakistan national and a former Lashkar-e-Tayebba (LeT) operative, Farooqui was arrested for the massacre of 27 Sikh worshippers at Shor Bazaar Gurudwara in Kabul on March 25.
During interrogation by Afghan National Directorate of Security (NDS), Farooqui is understood to have laid bare links of ISKP with Pakistan’s Inter Service Intelligence. Top ISKP operatives Ali Mohammed from Islamabad and Salman from Karachi were also arrested along with Tanweer from Bangladesh. Salman, according to officials, is responsible for ISIS media links with so-called ISIS India. The other two arrested were top fighters for the terrorist group.
“The ISKP is just a demon child of Pakistan’s ISI, which is designed to hit at targets for larger tactical purposes of Rawalpindi GHQ. Among those arrested include terrorists from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, Balochistan, Nangarhar, Quetta, Pakistan- occupied-Kashmir, Karachi and Kunar Province. This is the biggest achievement of Afghan security forces to date,” said a senior counter-terror official.
Pakistani national Mawlawi Abdullah, who was earlier associated with proscribed Lashkar-e-Tayebba group and then Tehreek-e-Taliban terror group, replaced Mawlawi Zia-ul-Haq aka Abu Omar Khorasani as ISKP chief in April 2019.
Farooqi belongs to the Mamozai tribe and hails from the Orakzai agency area on the Pak-Afghan border. His links with LeT and Haqqani network have also been revealed in the NDS official statement.
According to counter-terror operatives in Kabul and Delhi, Mawlawi Farooqi on the instructions of Haqqani Network and LeT used Kasaragod resident Muhsin Tikaripur along with three other Urdu-Punjabi speaking attackers to massacre 27 innocent Sikh men and women in Shor Bazaar, Kabul. Mushin was killed in the attack and his mother in Kerala informed of his death. The leader of Haqqani Network Sirajuddin is also the sword arm of the Taliban with very close links to Pakistani deep state. Tihan Singh an Indian national was also killed in the attack.
Although 27 Sikhs were killed in the terror attack which was criticised by US, allies and India, the main target of ISKP was the Indian Embassy in Kabul as both Pakistan and Taliban wanted India out of the developing Afghan political equation in the context of a peace deal with the US. Similar threats have been posed to Indian consulates in Jalalabad, Herat and Kandahar with India forced to withdraw its staff for purposes of safety.