Russia Points Missile at China While Holding Military Exercises With Beijing in Europe

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NEWSWEEK)

Russia Points Missile at China While Holding Military Exercises With Beijing in Europe

July 13, 2017, 5:44 pm

Russia and China are joining forces for historic exercises in the Baltic Sea this month, but recent missile deployments along the two countries’ mutual border in the far east may indicate that both powers hold reservations about the other’s military growth.

A fleet of Chinese warships conducted live-fire drills Wednesday in the Mediterranean Sea as they prepared to link up with Russian vessels to conduct joint military maneuvers in the Baltic Sea, according to the Associated Press. The Sino-Russian exercise, known as Joint Sea-2017, has regional countries concerned about the introduction of another major military power on behalf of Russia, which Baltic countries and other allies of U.S.-led NATO accuse of pursuing an aggressive foreign policy.

Russia and China have also taken steps toward aligning their positions toward their mutual neighbor, North Korea. Russia and China have politically backed the reclusive, militarized state since its establishment after World War Two and throughout the Korean War in the 1950s. North Korea’s development of nuclear weapons and ICBMs, however, have drawn condemnation from both Russia and China, among other countries. The U.S., which backs South Korea, has been the foremost opponent of North Korea’s nuclear ambitions and, under President Donald Trump, has boosted its military presence in the Asia-Pacific, something that Russia and China deeply oppose.

Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Russian President Vladimir Putin last week to discuss closer bilateral cooperation, including on security and regional affairs. After their meeting, Xi said relations between China and Russia were at their “best time in history,” according to Russian media cited by CNBC News. Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Yi shared similar remarks, according to China’s state-run Xinhua News Agency.

China and Russia aren’t entirely getting in bed together, however, As China fired away in the Mediterranean, Russia held electronic missile launches Wednesday night to test its nuclear-capable 9K720 Iskander-M missile system in the far eastern Jewish Autonomous Region, which borders Heilongjiang province in China.

Related: Russian military bombs ‘enemy submarine’ in drills near new U.S. war games

“Upon arrival in the specified area, the squads completed the tasks of deploying the missile systems, determining the data for missile strikes and electronic missile launches,” the region’s press service said in a statement cited by Russia’s Defense Ministry and Interfax News Agency.

Chinese officers from the Command of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Hong Kong Garrison speak to a crew member (2nd R) of the Russian guided missile cruiser Varyag (011), during a non-official port visit in Hong Kong on June 5, 2017. Russia and China’s armed forces have sought closer cooperation to counter U.S.-led NATO’s moves in Europe, but recent missile deployments may indicate mutual suspicions between the two in Asia. ANTHONY WALLACE/AFP/Getty Images

Russia’s ground missile forces in the region received their fourth and latest Iskander-M missile system last month, replacing the aging 9K79-1 Tochka-U tactical ballistic missile system, according to The Diplomat. Iskander-M, known to NATO as SS-26 Stone, is a highly mobile, short-range missile platform that has already been deployed to Russia’s militarized, Baltic exclave of Kaliningrad, near which this month’s Joint Sea-2017 takes place. The weapons’ appearance in the far east, however, suggests China is the most likely target as major U.S. installations in Japan and South Korea are reportedly out of range for the missiles, which are capable of accurately hitting targets between 250 and 310 miles away.

China, for its own part, has also reportedly brought missiles to the border. A Dongfeng-41 nuclear-capable intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) was moved to China’s northeastern Heilongjiang Province, according to The Global Times, the nationalist outlet of China’s ruling Communist Party. Dongfeng-41 has a projected range of up to 9,320 miles, making it potentially the longest range missile in the world.

Gregory Kulacki, the China project manager and senior analyst at the Union of Concerned Scientists, disputed the claims, which were also carried by international media, that a Dongfeng-41 missile was spotted in northeastern China. He said the missile seen in the video that supposedly corroborated the initial reports, was actually a new, smaller missile that may have an even longer range than the Dongfeng-41. China’s foreign ministry dismissed the claims as baseless rumors.

“According to the information provided by the Ministry of Defense, reports of the so-called military deployment are nothing more than speculation circulated on the Internet,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said January 25 during a regular press briefing. “China highly values and commends the high-level performance of the China-Russia comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination.”

Russian servicemen equip an Iskander tactical missile system at the Army-2015 international military-technical forum in Kubinka, outside Moscow, Russia, June 17, 2015. Russia has deployed the highly mobile, nuclear-capable weapons on its far eastern border with China, indicating what may be residual distrust at a time of heightened military cooperation with its neighbor. Sergei Karpukhin/Reuters

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Russia Points Missile at China While Holding Military Exercises With Beijing in Europe

China’s Strongman Has a Weak Point: North Korea

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES)

President Xi Jinping of China, center, in June. Mr. Xi has been reluctant to take on North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un. CreditPool photo by Dale De La Rey

BEIJING — Xi Jinping, China’s leader, is known as the Chairman of Everything. He makes decisions daily on the economy, the military, foreign policy, human rights and more.

Yet on North Korea he is stuck. A strongman who usually acts with precision and boldness, Mr. Xi has been reluctant to take on the North’s leader, Kim Jong-un, ostensibly a Chinese ally, whom he privately disparages to Western leaders as young and reckless.

The July 4 test of the North’s first intercontinental ballistic missile has raised the question of what is China’s red line for its ally, and whether the test will force Mr. Xi to act decisively against North Korea as the Trump administration is asking him to do.

The answer? He will probably do little, if anything.

As much as Mr. Xi disapproves of North Korea’s nuclear program, he fears even more the end of Mr. Kim’s regime, a unified Korea with American troops on his border and a flood of refugees from the North into China. And despite North Korea’s missile advancement on Tuesday, Mr. Xi still has some breathing room, Chinese military and strategic experts said.

Chinese military experts are assessing the launch more conservatively than their American counterparts, saying they were not convinced the missile was actually an intercontinental ballistic missile.

“This test may or may not be an ICBM,” said Wu Riqiang, associate professor of international affairs at Renmin University. He said the missile was “probably unable to hit Alaska.”

In contrast, American experts said the North Koreans had crossed a threshold, if only just, with a missile that appeared able to reach Alaska. While the missile traveled only about 580 miles, it did so by reaching 1,700 miles into space and re-entering the atmosphere, North Korean, South Korean and Japanese officials said.

South Korea’s Defense Ministry suggested on Wednesday that the North’s missile had the potential to reach Hawaii, about 4,780 miles from Kusong, the North Korean town from where the missile was fired, and farther than Alaska.

Photo

A photograph released by the Korean Central News Agency showing Mr. Kim after the launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile on Tuesday. CreditK.C.N.A., via Reuters

On Wednesday, the top American general in South Korea, Gen. Vincent K. Brooks, said that self-restraint was all that kept the United States and South Korea from going to war with the North.

Mr. Wu said the North’s long-range missile capabilities were less threatening to China than to the United States. China would be more concerned if the North had tested a short- or medium-range ballistic missile, he said.

China has always considered itself to be less threatened by North Korean nuclear capabilities than the United States, but it does fear American countermeasures, like its recent deployment of an antimissile system on South Korean soil to deal with the threat from the North. South Korea’s new president, Moon Jae-in, recently suspended deployment of that system, and there was no sign after the North’s missile launch that he was changing that position.

China may be increasingly frustrated by the North’s behavior, but it has never been the target of Mr. Kim’s weapons. The United States is the North’s declared enemy and the ultimate target of its nuclear arsenal.

More worrisome to China than the missile advances was the prospect of North Korea’s sixth test of a nuclear bomb, Mr. Wu and other experts said. China’s northeast, a depressed area of smaller cities and rusted industries, runs along the border with North Korea, not far from the tests. The nuclear testing site at Punggye-ri in North Korea is so close to the Chinese border that residents in the city of Yanji have complained that their windows rattled during the last several tests.

When the North tested a nuclear weapon in September 2016, local residents said they were afraid of large-scale leaks of radioactive material. Some said they were concerned that the North may actually use the bomb against China. There have been fears in the last few years of soil contamination in the northeast from the North’s nuclear testing.

“For China, a sixth nuclear test represents a graver threat than an ICBM test,” said Feng Zhang, a fellow in political science at the Australian National University. “North Korea’s ICBMs threaten the U.S. more than China, but North Korea’s nuclear weaponsand the testing of them near the Chinese border are a strategic and environmental threat to China.”

Mr. Wu said, “The missile launch just isn’t as pressing for China as a nuclear test might be.”

But no matter the North’s behavior, it would be very difficult for Mr. Xi to declare a red line with Pyongyang, either officially or unofficially, said Cheng Xiaohe, associate professor of international relations at Renmin University.

“The ICBM is not a Chinese red line — even the U.S. does not draw that line clearly and unequivocally,” Mr. Cheng said. If China did draw such a red line, he said, “China or the U.S. must automatically take retaliatory actions,” such as Beijing cutting off oil supplies to North Korea.

Photo

Chinese residents near the Friendship Bridge on the Yalu River, which connects China and North Korea.CreditNicolas Asfouri/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

But China cannot afford to squeeze the North so hard — by cutting off fuel, for example, or basic trade — that the country destabilizes, sending refugees pouring over the border.

Mr. Xi is at least publicly expressing disapproval of North Korea’s latest actions. He was in Russia visiting President Vladimir V. Putin when the North announced it had successfully tested an ICBM. The two leaders issued a joint statement calling for negotiations that would aim to freeze the North’s arsenal in exchange for limitations on the American military posture in South Korea.

Instead of penalizing North Korea, China has been calling for such negotiations for many months, but the Trump administration has declined.

Beyond cracking down on trade between the two nations, Mr. Xi holds very few cards against North Korea, and he has little choice but to rely on a kind of strategic hesitation, said a Chinese analyst of foreign affairs who sometimes advises the government.

“Xi as a strategist is facing an anguished choice to use up his means on Kim Jong-un while having no confidence at all that it would be effective,” said the analyst, Shi Yinhong, a professor of international relations at Renmin University. “What can this strategist do? A sort of hesitation is unavoidable.”

Mr. Xi is facing an increasingly “determined and decisive” Mr. Kim, and he is also confronted by an American president who is not easy to deal with, Mr. Shi said. “Xi and Trump are unable to see eye to eye for long, and even if they were it would extremely difficult to thwart Kim for long,” he said.

In Washington, Mr. Trump repeated his impatience with Mr. Xi. In a post on Twitter on Wednesday, the president said China’s trade with North Korea had grown by almost 40 percent in the first quarter. “So much for China working with us — but we had to give it a try,” he said.

It was not clear where Mr. Trump got his 40 percent figure. A South Korean trade group said on Monday that China had imported much more iron in the last few months than previously. But the group also said that the North was a long way from making up the lost revenues from China shutting down its North Korean coal imports.

China’s trade with the North grew 37.4 percent during the first three months of the year, compared with the same period in 2016, Chinese trade data released in April showed. China said the trade grew even as it stopped buying North Korean coal.

China Needs To Eliminate N Korea’s Crazy Little Fat Boy Before He Gets Thousands Of His People Killed

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

North Korea claims to have conducted its first successful test of a long-range missile that it says can “reach anywhere in the world.”

Tuesday morning’s missile test, which was conducted on the orders of the country’s leader, Kim Jong Un, reached a height of 2,802 kilometers (1,741 miles), according to state broadcaster Korea Central Television (KCTV).
That’s the highest altitude ever reached by a North Korean missile, and puts the US on notice that Pyongyang could potentially hit the US mainland.
The regime appears to have timed the launch for maximum political effect, giving the order to fire on the eve of the July 4 holiday, just days after US President Donald Trump spoke with Japanese and Chinese leaders about the North Korea threat and before this week’s G20 meeting.
The fear is that North Korea may one day develop the technology to mount a miniature nuclear warhead on a long-range missile, something analysts say it may have already achieved.

How true is claim?

Euan Graham, director of the International Security Program at Sydney’s Lowy Institute, said that one apparently successful test doesn’t necessarily mean that North Korea has the global capability it claimed.
“If the North Koreans are claiming they can launch an ICBM (to) anywhere in the world, that needs to be looked at through a technical lens,” he said, using the acronym for intercontinental ballistic missile.
“One successful test doesn’t get them over the bar; they’re claiming more than they can deliver at the moment.”

Most successful test yet

The missile, referred to as Hwasong-14 on state TV, flew into waters east of the Korean Peninsula and may have landed in Japan’s Exclusive Economic Zone, which extends 200 nautical miles from its coastline, according to a Japanese defense official.
The US Pacific Command said it tracked the missile for 37 minutes and described it as a “land-based, intermediate range ballistic missile.” Japan reported that its flight time was 40 minutes.
It was launched from Panghyon, in North Pyongan province, and traveled more than 930 kilometers (578 miles), according to South Korea’s military — further than a May 14 missile launch that analysts described as its most successful test ever. That launch reached a then-record altitude of around 2,100 kilometers (1,300 miles).
South Korea’s evaluation found the missile had an “improved range” compared to the May missile, said Cho Han-gyu, the director of operations for South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff.

A photo from the North Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) purports to show the missile launch.

Bruce Bennett, senior international/defense researcher at RAND Corp., said North Korea had aimed high to limit the distance traveled and avoid a major international incident.
“You can’t hardly fire a missile from North Korea that’s got a thousand-kilometer range without it going into somebody’s exclusive economic zone. The bottom line is, they’ve flown it very high so that they can test the range of the missile. If they were to shoot it on a normal trajectory, it’s probably going to go out 6,000 or so kilometers. By definition, anything over 5,500 kilometers is an ICBM,” he said.
Russia, which shares a small border with North Korea, cast doubt on Pyongyang’s claim that an ICBM was fired.
The Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement it believes the missile reached an altitude of only 535 kilometers (332 miles) and traveled 510 kilometers (317 miles), according to state-run Sputnik news.
“The parametric data of the ballistic target’s trajectory matches the performance characteristics of a medium-range ballistic missile,” the statement said.

How much damage can North Korea's weapons do?

How much damage can North Korea’s weapons do?

Trump responds to launch

It’s North Korea’s 11th missile test this year and comes amid increasing frustration from Trump about the lack of progress in curbing Pyongyang’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs.
Soon after the launch, but before North Korea announced its unprecedented height, the US President responded on Twitter.
“North Korea has just launched another missile. Does this guy have anything better to do with his life?” Trump asked, referring to Kim.
“Hard to believe that South Korea and Japan will put up with this much longer. Perhaps China will put a heavy move on North Korea and end this nonsense once and for all!”
Melissa Hanham, a senior research associate at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, said the ICBM test puts the US in a difficult negotiating position.
“I think there’s room for negotiation, but it’s not the kind of negotiations we want,” she said.
The US can now only work toward limiting, not eliminating, the North Korean missile threat to the US mainland, she added.

Why does North Korea hate the US?

Why does North Korea hate the US?

Asian powers condemn action

China, North Korea’s northern neighbor and one of the only countries in the region with diplomatic ties to Pyongyang, urged restraint after the launch.
“The situation on the Korean Peninsula is sensitive and complex,” said Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Geng Shuang. “We hope all relevant parties will exercise restraint and avoid taking actions that may escalate tensions.”
Chinese President Xi Jinping is in Moscow to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin. Neither has commented on the launch.
South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in warned North Korea not to cross the “bridge of no return” and called on China to play a stronger role in resolving the situation.
Language from the Joint Chiefs of Staff’s Cho was much more dire in tone.
“If North Korea ignores South Korean military’s warning and carries on reckless provocations, we warn that the Kim Jong Un regime will face its destruction,” Cho said.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said the launch “ignores repeated warnings from the international community,” and shows the threat had “further increased.”

North Korea's Hwasong-14 missile in a photo handed out by North Korean state media.

‘Out of control’?

Trump has repeatedly urged China to bring its influence to bear on the issue. He recently tweeted that Chinese efforts on North Korea, while appreciated, had “not worked out.”
On Monday Liu Jieyi, China’s ambassador to the UN, warned of the risk of escalating tensions on the peninsula.
“Certainly we would like to see a de-escalation of tension,” he said in remarks to the media as China assumed the United Nations Security Council presidency for July.
“Certainly if tension goes up and goes up only then sooner or later it will get out of control and the consequences will be disastrous,” Liu said.

Trump Criticizes Kim Jong Un After Missile Launch: ‘Does This Guy Have Anything Better to Do?’

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TIME NEWS AND THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Trump Criticizes Kim Jong Un After Missile Launch: ‘Does This Guy Have Anything Better to Do?’

11:14 PM ET

(WASHINGTON) — President Donald Trump is criticizing North Korean leader Kim Jong Un after that country’s latest missile launch, asking, “Does this guy have anything better to do with his life?”

Trump says on Twitter that it’s “Hard to believe that South Korea … and Japan will put up with this much longer.”

And he urges North Korea’s biggest ally, China, to “put a heavy move on North Korea and end this nonsense once and for all!”

South Korean officials said early Tuesday that North Korea had launched another ballistic missile toward Japan, part of a string of recent test-firings.

The Defense Department says it is working to confirm the initial reporting.

Shortly before Trump’s tweets, the White House said he had been briefed on the South Korean report.

U.S. announces sanctions on Chinese bank, arms-sales package for Taiwan

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

U.S. announces sanctions on Chinese bank, arms-sales package for Taiwan

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on June 29 announced sanctions against a Chinese bank in relation to the North Korean regime. (Reuters)
 June 29 at 6:08 PM
The Trump administration on Thursday announced new sanctions on a Chinese bank accused of laundering money for North Korean companies and approved a $1.4 billion arms sales package for Taiwan, a pair of measures that is certain to ruffle feathers in Beijing.Officials said the actions were unrelated and emphasized that the administration was not targeting China. But the moves are likely to raise concerns among Chinese leaders who had sought to get off to a good start with President Trump.

Trump has shown signs of losing patience with China after personally lobbying President Xi Jinping to put more pressure on North Korea to halt its nuclear and ballistic-missile weapons programs. Trump wrote on Twitter last week that China’s efforts have “not worked out,” a declaration that came after the death of American college student Otto Warmbier a few days after returning to the United States following 17 months of detention in North Korea.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the administration was moving to cut off the Bank of Dandong from U.S. financial markets in an effort to block millions of dollars of transactions that funnel money into North Korea for use in its weapons programs.

Under the sanctions, U.S. citizens also will be generally prohibited from doing business with Sun Wei and Ri Song Hyok, who are accused of establishing and running front companies on behalf of North Korea, and Dalian Global Unity Shipping Co., which is accused of transporting 700,000 tons of freight annually, including coal and steel products, between China and North Korea.

The administration announced the sanctions just hours before South Korea’s new president, Moon Jae-in, arrived at the White House for a two-day summit with Trump. Moon campaigned on a platform of greater engagement with Pyongyang, and he has questioned the need for the U.S.-backed THAAD missile defense system that is being installed on the peninsula, which Beijing and Pyongyang have opposed.

Mnuchin said that the United States is “in no way targeting China with these actions” and that U.S. officials “look forward to continuing to work closely with the government of China to stop the illicit financing in North Korea.”

Mnuchin added that this “very significant action” sends the message that the United States will follow the money trail leading to North Korea and continue to crack down on those assisting the country.

“North Korea’s provocative, destabilizing and inhumane behavior will not be tolerated,” Mnuchin said. “We are committed to targeting North Korea’s external enablers and maximizing economic pressure on the regime until it ceases its nuclear and ballistic-missile programs.”

China has repeatedly made clear it opposes “unilateral” sanctions in addition to those agreed to by the United Nations Security Council. Only last week, Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said his country opposed the “long-arm jurisdiction” of the United States in this matter.

“We have repeatedly stressed this stance in our communication with the United States, and the U.S. side is also clear about it,” he said during a regular news conference.

In a separate announcement, administration officials said they had approved an arms package for Taiwan that includes advanced rocket and anti-ship missile systems — another measure China has repeatedly said that it firmly opposes.

The package is slightly larger than one that was put on hold at the end of the Obama administration, the officials said, but includes largely the same weapons capabilities.

The sale is considered relatively modest compared with past arms packages. Still, China views the self-ruled island as part of the country and is likely to oppose any such arms transfers.

As president-elect, Trump broke with protocol and accepted a congratulatory phone call from Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen in December, angering Xi.

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Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, Trump’s national security adviser, said Thursday that China had significant economic leverage over North Korea and suggested that it could put more pressure on Pyongyang.

The Trump administration had long signaled that it wanted to move forward with an arms sale to Taiwan but held off because officials worried the sale would make it harder to secure China’s cooperation on North Korea.

“It shows, we believe, our support for Taiwan’s ability to maintain a sufficient self-defense policy,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said Thursday of the arms deal. “There’s no change, I should point out, to our one-China policy.”

Trump is scheduled to meet with China’s Xi on the sidelines of an economic summit in Hamburg next week, White House officials said.

Simon Denyer contributed reporting from Beijing.

ISIS Murderers 2 Chinese Missionaries In Pakistan For Sharing The Gospel

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CHRISTIAN POST)

ISIS Kills 2 Chinese Missionaries Accused of Violating Visa Rules in Pakistan by Sharing the Gospel

Jun 13, 2017

The Scottish Episcopal Church approves gay marriage
Pakistan’s interior ministry has said the two Chinese nationals who were kidnapped and killed by Islamic State-affiliated militants last month were preachers who allegedly violated their business visa rules.

(Screengrab: JustPaste.It) A masked ISIS militant reads the charges facing the two men tied to a cross, who were later shot in the back of the head for banditry, Mosul, Iraq.

According to Reuters, the terrorist-linked Amaq News Agency announced last Thursday that IS (also known as ISIS, ISIL or Daesh) was responsible for the killing of two Chinese nationals who were abducted last month in the Baluchistan province and were believed to be Mandarin language teachers.

“Islamic State fighters killed two Chinese people they had been holding in Baluchistan province, southwest Pakistan,” Amaq was quoted as announcing in a statement.

On Monday, the Pakistani government identified the two Chinese nationals killed as 24-year-old Lee Zingyang and 26-year-old Meng Lisi. The interior ministry also claimed that both Lee and Meng were in violation of their visa rules because they were preaching instead of learning Urdu.

“Instead of engaging in any business activity, they went to Quetta and under the garb of learning (the) Urdu language from a Korean national … were actually engaged in preaching,” Reuters quoted the ministry as saying in a statement.

The statement didn’t indicate whether the Korean national was from South Korea or North Korea or what the Chinese nationals were preaching.

According to the online news outlet Quartz, The Global Times and Shanghai-based The Paper, the slain Chinese nationals belonged to a 13-member Christian missionary group in China being led by a South Korean national.

Quartz also cited Chinese reports indicating that a local Muslim community complained about the group trying to evangelize to them. Additionally, Quartz reports that a Chinese journalist has said that Chinese foreign ministry officials briefed reporters in a closed-door session and gave them much of the same information that has been reported.

Following the killing of the two Chinese nationals, Pakistan’s interior ministry has decided to “streamline” its visa policy for Chinese nationals, Pakistan’s The Nation quoted a ministry spokesperson as saying.

According to The Nation, Interior Minister Nisar Ali Khan called for a databank of Chinese nationals present in Pakistan during a meeting.

“This data bank, to be prepared by National Database and Registration Authority, should be shared with all security agencies,” the minister said, reiterating their claim that the deceased Chinese nationals violated the terms of their visas.

The killing of the two Chinese Christians come as IS has attempted in the last year to establish its presence in Pakistan, just like it has in Iraq, Syria, Egypt and Afghanistan. IS-linked militants have carried out a number of attacks in Pakistan this year, including a suicide bombing at the shrine of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar in Sehwan that killed at least 90 and injured over 300 in February.

Last month, IS claimed a bomb attack on a convoy of Senate Deputy Chairman Abdul Ghafoor Haideri south of Quetta that killed 25 people.

Additionally, this is not the first time that IS has claimed responsibility for the killing Chinese nationals.

In 2015, IS in Syria killed 50-year-old Beijing native Fan Jinghui who was held hostage for months.

Dennis Rodman says he’s in North Korea to ‘open a door’

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ESPN)

Dennis Rodman says he’s in North Korea to ‘open a door’

PYONGYANG, North Korea — Dennis Rodman, the former NBA bad boy who has palled around with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, flew back to Pyongyang on Tuesday for the first time in Donald Trump’s presidency.

He said he is “just trying to open a door” on a mission that he thinks his former “Celebrity Apprentice” boss would support.

Rodman, one of the few people to know both of the nuclear-armed leaders, sported a black T-shirt advertising a marijuana cybercurrency as he talked to reporters briefly before his flight from Beijing to the North Korean capital.

Asked if he had spoken to Trump about his trip, he said, “Well, I’m pretty sure he’s pretty much happy with the fact that I’m over here trying to accomplish something that we both need.”

Rodman has received the red-carpet treatment on four past trips since 2013, but has been roundly criticized for visiting during a time of high tensions between the U.S. and North Korea over its weapons programs.

His entourage included Joseph Terwilliger, a professor who has accompanied Rodman on previous trips to North Korea.

Rodman said the issue of several Americans currently detained by North Korea is “not my purpose right now.”

In Tokyo, a visiting senior U.S. official said Rodman’s trip is as a private citizen.

“We are aware of his visit. We wish him well, but we have issued travel warnings to Americans and suggested they not travel to North Korea for their own safety,” U.S. Undersecretary of State Thomas Shannon told reporters after discussing the North Korean missile threat and other issues with Japanese counterparts.

In 2014, Rodman arranged a basketball game with other former NBA players and North Koreans and regaled leader Kim Jong Un with a rendition of “Happy Birthday.” On the same trip, he suggested that an American missionary was at fault for his own imprisonment in North Korea, remarks for which he later apologized.

A foreign ministry official who spoke to The Associated Press in Pyongyang confirmed Rodman’s visit was expected but did not provide details. He spoke on condition of anonymity because the ministry had not issued a formal statement.

Any visit to North Korea by a high-profile American is a political minefield, and Rodman has been criticized for failing to use his influence on leaders who are otherwise isolated diplomatically from the rest of the world.

Americans are regarded as enemies in North Korea because the two countries never signed a peace treaty to formally end the 1950-53 Korean War. Thousands of U.S. troops are based in South Korea, and the Demilitarized Zone between the North and South is one of the most heavily fortified borders in the world.

A statement issued in New York by a Rodman publicist said the former NBA player is in the rare position of being friends with the leaders of both North Korea and the United States. Rodman was a cast member on two seasons of Trump’s “Celebrity Apprentice.”

Rodman tweeted that his trip was being sponsored by Potcoin, one of a growing number of cybercurrencies used to buy and sell marijuana in state-regulated markets.

North Korea has been hailed by marijuana news outlets and British tabloids as a pothead paradise and maybe even the next Amsterdam of pot tourism. But the claim that marijuana is legal in North Korea is not true: The penal code lists it as a controlled substance in the same category as cocaine and heroin.

Americans have been sentenced to years in North Korean prisons for such seemingly minor offenses as stealing a political banner and likely could not expect leniency if the country’s drug laws were violated.

North Korea’s Insane Dictator Fires Off 4 More Missiles

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

North Korea fired four anti-ship missiles into the sea east of the Korean Peninsula Thursday, according to US and South Korean military sources.

South Korea’s joint chiefs said the projectiles were believed to be surface-to-ship missiles and were launched near the eastern port city of Wonsan.
The missiles flew about 200 kilometers (124 miles), South Korea’s military said in a statement, adding the US military was undertaking a more detailed analysis.
“Our military has strengthened surveillance and alertness readiness in cases of additional provocation by North Korean military and is maintaining all readiness posture while we are tracking and monitoring related situation,” the statement read.
The official tells CNN that the Pentagon is not expected to release the typical statement about tracking the launches because these were not ballistic missile capable of posing a long-range threat.
North Korean state media has made no mention of the reported launches.
This is the fourth missile test since South Korean President Moon Jae-in took office in May. The preceding test came at the end of May when North Korea fired what it claimed was a new type of ballistic missile. That projectile also was fired from Wosnan. Japanese and South Korean monitors said it flew 248 miles (400 kilometers) over the Sea of Japan, also know as the East Sea.
South Korea’s new government has suspended the deployment of a controversial US missile defense system that strained relations with China and angered North Korea.
Thursday’s launch is the first since the United Nations Security Council unanimously passed new sanctions last week.
The resolution slapped even more sanctions on North Korea and condemned the regime’s continued proliferation of its nuclear and ballistic program.
The sanctions extend a travel ban and asset freeze on high-level North Korean officials and state entities that deal with the program, according to the resolution.
China has called on Pyongyang to suspend its testing while calling on the US to stop military exercises on and near the Korean Peninsula, which North Korea sees as a threat to its sovereignty.

Philippines: Gunman Murders At Least 36 In Marriott In Manila

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF REUTERS NEWS AGENCY)

By Manolo Serapio Jr and Neil Jerome Morales | MANILA

A gunman burst into a casino in the Philippine capital Manila on Friday, firing shots, setting gaming tables alight and killing at least 36 people, all suffocating in thick smoke, in what officials believe was a botched robbery.

There was no evidence linking the attack at the Resorts World Manila entertainment complex to fighting between government troops and Islamist militants in the country’s south, said Ernesto Abella, a spokesman for President Rodrigo Duterte.

“All indications point to a criminal act by an apparently emotionally disturbed individual,” Abella told a news conference. “Although the perpetrator gave warning shots, there apparently was no indication that he wanted to do harm or shoot anyone.”

The gunman killed himself in his hotel room after being shot and wounded by resort security, police and Resorts World management said. A second “person of interest” who was in the casino at the time was cooperating with the investigation, police said.

Most of the dead suffocated in the chaos. Fire bureau spokesman Ian Manalo said many guests and staff had tried to hide from the gunfire rather than get out of the building when attack began shortly after midnight (1600 GMT) and fell victim to the choking smoke.

Oscar Albayalde, chief of the capital’s police office, said those who died were in the casino’s main gaming area.

“What caused their deaths is the thick smoke,” he told reporters. “The room was carpeted and of course the tables, highly combustible.”

A Resorts World Manila official said the dead included 22 guests.

DEATH IN ROOM 510

At dawn, the body of the suspected gunman was found in a hotel room in the smoldering complex, which is close to Ninoy Aquino International Airport and an air force base, police said.

A injured policeman is seen at the entrance of a hotel after a shooting incident inside Resorts World Manila in Pasay City, Metro Manila, Philippines June 2, 2017. REUTERS/Stringer

“He burned himself inside the hotel room 510,” national police chief Ronald dela Rosa told a news conference. “He lay down on the bed, covered himself in a thick blanket and apparently doused himself in gasoline.”

Resorts World Manila Chief Operating Officer Stephen Reilly said casino security guards had shot and wounded the gunman – armed with what authorities described as a “baby armalite” – during the attack.

“Severe loss of blood from the gunshot wound significantly slowed down the assailant and resulted to his holing up in the room where he took his own life,” Reilly said.

Officials said at least 54 people were hurt, some seriously, as they rushed to escape what was at first was believed to have been a militant attack.

Survivor Magdalena Ramos, who was a guest at the hotel, said people began shouting “ISIS! ISIS!” when the gunfire began. The 57-year-old said she hid in a kitchen and then fled when the smoke became too thick.

But police quickly said they did not believe the attacker had any militant connections.

“We cannot attribute this to terrorism,” national police chief dela Rosa told DZMM radio.

“We are looking into a robbery angle because he did not hurt any people and went straight to the casino chips storage room. He parked at the second floor and barged into the casino, shooting large TV screens and poured gasoline on a table setting it on fire,” he said.

Earlier reports said the gunman may have been white, but police later said he appeared to be Filipino, although they were still establishing his nationality.

Kimberly Molitas, a spokeswoman for the capital’s police office, said 113 million pesos ($2.27 million) worth of casino chips stolen during the raid had been recovered.

GUNSHOTS, PANIC

Videos posted on social media showed people fleeing as several loud bangs went off.

“Even the security personnel panicked,” casino guest Jeff Santos told a radio station. “Definitely us patrons we did not expect that, everyone ran away.”

Jeri Ann Santiago, who works in the emergency room at the San Juan de Dios hospital, said patients were suffering from smoke inhalation and some had fractures. None had gunshot wounds, she said.

The Philippines has been on heightened alert amid a crisis in the south of the country, where troops have been battling Islamist rebels since May 23.

Duterte declared martial law on the southern island of Mindanao last week and has warned it could become a haven for Islamic State supporters fleeing Iraq and Syria.

Security was tightened around the presidential palace on Friday, with armored personal carriers stationed on approach roads and river ferries barred from passing close by.

Taiwan’s foreign ministry said four Taiwan nationals were among those killed and a South Korean foreign ministry official said one South Korean had died, apparently after a heart attack.

Shares in resort owner Travellers International Hotel Group Inc, a joint venture of the Philippines’ Alliance Global Group Inc and Genting Hong Kong Ltd, fell 7 percent.

(Additional reporting by Peter Blaza, Clare Baldwin, Karen Lema, Manuel Mogato, Enrico Dela Cruz and Martin Petty in MANILA and Ju-min Park in SEOUL; Writing by Alex Richardson and Lincoln Feast; Editing by Robert Birsel and Nick Macfie)

Japan’s military begins major drill with U.S. carriers watching North Korea

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF REUTERS NEWS AGENCY)

Japan’s military begins major drill with U.S. carriers watching North Korea

Japan’s navy and air force began a three-day military exercise with two U.S. aircraft carriers in the Sea of Japan on Thursday adding pressure on North Korea to halt an accelerating ballistic missile program.

Japan’s Maritime Self Defence Force has sent two ships, including one of its four helicopter carriers, the Hyuga, to join the U.S carriers, the USS Ronald Reagan and USS Carl Vinson, and their eight escort ships, Japan’s military said in a release.

Japanese Air Self Defence Force F-15s are taking part in simulated combat with U.S. Navy F-18 fighters at the same time, the military said.

“It’s the first time we have exercised with two carriers. It’s a major exercise for us,” a Japanese military spokesman said.

The Sea of Japan separates Japan from the Korean peninsula.

The United States sent the warships to the region after a surge of tension on the Korean peninsula over fears the North was about to conduct a sixth nuclear test, or another test in its bid to develop an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of hitting the mainland United States.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has vowed to work with other countries to deter North Korea, which on Monday conducted a short-range ballistic missile test.

The missile reached an altitude of 120 km (75 miles) before falling into the Sea of Japan in international waters, but inside Japan’s exclusive economic zone where it has jurisdiction over the exploration and exploitation of maritime resources.

The launch followed two successful tests of medium-to-long-range missiles in as many weeks as North Korea conducts tests at an unprecedented pace,

North Korea can already strike anywhere in Japan with missiles, raising concern in Tokyo that it could eventually be threatened by a North Korean nuclear strike.

South Korea’s new liberal president, Moon Jae-in, who took office on May 10, has taken a more conciliatory line than Abe, pledging to engage with his reclusive neighbor in dialogue.

(Reporting by Tim Kelly; Editing by Robert Birsel)

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