26 June 2017

News Report: Not Negotiable - North Korea Sticks to Its Guns on Nuclear Weapons

Pyongyang has reminded Seoul that its nuclear weapons program will continue, regardless of any diplomatic overtures for peace.

Responding to renewed suggestions from South Korea that the People's Democratic Republic of Korea (DPRK) return to the negotiating table, Pyongyang has warned that its program of nuclear weapons development is not subject to any debate.

In a Sunday editorial published by the state-run Rodong Sinmun newspaper, North Korea promised to continue its development of nuclear weapons and the ballistic missiles necessary to deliver them to any target on the planet, regardless of whether bilateral diplomatic negotiation takes place, according to a report by Yonhap News Agency.

Stating that Seoul and Washington must stop attempting to get Pyongyang to end its nuclear weapons program, the editorial took an offensive tone, asserting the increasingly isolated nation's right to defend itself as it pleases.

News Report: Daesh Declares War on Taliban - Reports

The Daesh (banned in Russia) terror group intends to eliminate militants of the Taliban terrorist group (also banned in Russia) anywhere, including in Afghanistan, media reported Sunday.

MOSCOW (Sputnik) — The Tasnim news agency referred to a Daesh [IS/ISIS/ISIL] commander specifying that the decision to declare war was based on the Daesh belief that Taliban members were betraying Islam.

The Daesh decision came in the follow-up to an announcement by the Taliban of its readiness to target Daesh members, made earlier to Tasnim by the Afghan Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid.

Afghanistan has long been facing instability due to continued fighting between the government forces and the Taliban, which seized vast territories in the Afghan rural areas. Besides, the instability in the country prompted the emergence of the local cells of other extremist organizations such as Daesh.

This story first appeared on Sputnik & is reposted here with permission.

News Report: Ying and Yang - China Implements New Strategy Amid Shifting Balance of Power

The first Chinese-US Diplomatic and Security Dialogue (DSD) recently ended in Washington. The DSD framework is expected to help lay the groundwork for building constructive relations between Washington and Beijing.

In April, United States President Donald Trump met with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping in Mar-a-Lago in Florida. The sides agreed to reset bilateral relations, including establishing several new formats of dialogue on economy, security, etc.

At the first Diplomatic and Security Dialogue the US was represented by State Secretary Rex Tillerson and Defense Secretary James Mattis, while the Chinese side was represented by their Chinese counterparts State Councilor Yang Jiechi and General Fang Fenghui, a member of China's Central Military Commission (CMC) and chief of the CMC Joint Staff Department.

The talks were focused on regional crises and how to resolve them, including the situation around North Korea’s nuclear and missile program and tensions in the South China Sea.

Ahead of the talks, Washington once again intensified pressure over Beijing, including threatening sanctions against Chinese companies working with North Korea and tariff barriers for China-produced steel imports in the US.

"If taken seriously, Washington’s message to Beijing ahead of the talks was clear – China must pressure the North over its missile program if it does not want sanctions," Dmitry Kosyrev, political commentator with RIA Novosti, noted in his op-ed.

News Report: Daesh Kicked Out of Bin Laden's Former Hideout in Cave Complex

Afghan military pushed Daesh terrorists out of the Tora Bora cave complex, where infamous terrorist Osama bin Laden used to hide in 2001, acting Defense Minister Tariqshah Bahrami said Sunday.

MOSCOW (Sputnik) — Tora Bora is a cave and tunnel complex in the Nangarhar Province of eastern Afghanistan. On June 14, the area changed hands from the Taliban to Daesh terrorists after a week-long terrorist assault.

“The security forces were able to completely re-take the Tora Bora area and clear it of all insurgents. We decided to create a strong base in here so that Daesh insurgents cannot take it back,” Bahrami said as quoted by TOLO media outlet.

The minister added that the militants suffered heavy casualties in the operation.

Afghanistan has been experiencing significant political, social and security-related instability for decades, as terrorist organizations, including Daesh terrorist group, continue to stage attacks against civilian and military targets.

This story first appeared on Sputnik & is reposted here with permission.

News Report: China, US to Work Toward 'Complete, Verifiable' Denuclearization of North Korea

China and the United States, often at odds as to how to handle the regime of Kim Jong-un, have agreed that denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula should be “complete, verifiable and irreversible.”

High level talks in Washington this week resulted in the two sides reaffirming that they will pursue the "complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula," according to a consensus document released by the Xinhua news agency.

The document emphasized the need to fully adhere to UN Security Council resolutions and push for dialogue and negotiation. The statement also said it is necessary to upgrade military-to-military exchanges and establish mechanisms of notification in order to avoid the risks of "judgement errors" between the Chinese and US militaries.

On Tuesday, US President Donald Trump tweeted that China had been ineffective so far in its efforts to use its leverage with Pyongyang. China's Foreign Ministry responded by saying that China has played an important role in seeking peace in the region and shouldn't be regarded as the crux of the issue.

News Report: Japan Protests Chinese Ships Entrance in Territorial Waters Near Senkaku

Japan’s Foreign Ministry lodged a protest Saturday against China with regard to the latter’s ships entering the Japanese territorial waters near the disputed Senkaku Islands, or Diaoyu Islands, in the East China Sea.

TOKYO (Sputnik) – Earlier in the day four vessels of the Chinese Coast Guard entered the Japanese territorial waters near the Senkaku Islands and stayed there for two hours regardless of the Japanese maritime security service’s calls to leave the area. Kenji Kanasugi, the director-general of the Foreign Ministry’s Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau conveyed the Japanese protest through the Chinese embassy in Tokyo by phone.

"The Senkaku Islands are Japanese indigenous territory. The intervention in the territorial waters violates Japan’s sovereignty and is completely unacceptable," the ministry said, as quoted by the NHK broadcaster.

The Asia-Pacific region faces several territorial disputes in South China and East China seas, involving China, Japan, Vietnam and the Philippines. The Senkaku Islands have long been a stumbling block for Japan and China. The former claims it has possessed the islands since 1895, however, Beijing recalls that the Japanese maps made in 1783 and 1785 pictured the islands as belonging to China. After World War II the islands were controlled by the United States which returned them to Japan in 1972. Taiwan and mainland China still believe that Tokyo keeps control over the islands illegally. In turn, Japan sees China and Taiwan as seeking the right to possess the islands to access their marine minerals discovered in 1970s.

This story first appeared on Sputnik & is reposted here with permission.

News Report: China Reiterates Warning to India Not to Meddle in South China Sea

China has again warned India to stay out of the South China Sea and the geopolitics that surrounds it. It asked both India and the US not to disturb peace in the region which Beijing considers its backyard, just a few days ahead of the Modi-Trump meeting in the US.

New Delhi (Sputnik) — Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is visiting the United States for bilateral talks with President Donald Trump on June 25 during which the South China Sea issue is likely to be discussed.

“India and the US should not disturb peace in the South China Sea and play a constructive role in the disputes,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said.

“With concerted efforts of China and ASEAN countries, the situation there is cooling down. We hope other countries especially non-regional countries can respect the efforts by the non-regional countries to maintain peace and stability in the South China Sea and play a constructive role in this regard,” Geng Shuang said.

It’s not the first time that China has warned India to stay from the disputed region. China claims almost all of the South China Sea which is the bone of contention as other countries such as Malaysia, Philippines, Taiwan, Brunei and Vietnam also have their counter claims.

This story first appeared on Sputnik & is reposted here with permission.

News Report: Death Toll of Bombings in Pakistani Cities of Quetta, Parachinar Rises to 58

The death toll of twin blasts occurred in the Pakistani city of Parachinar has risen to 45, while the death toll of a separate blast, which also occurred on Friday in the city of Quetta, remains at 13, bringing the total amount of casualties to 58, media reported Saturday.

MOSCOW (Sputnik) — The blasts in the northwestern city of Parachinar took place at the Akbar Khan Siraye Market, injuring at least 75 people, the Firstpost media outlet reported.

A total of seven policemen were among of 13 victims of a blast near the police office in Quetta, while 21 people were injured.

No group claimed responsibility for the attacks.

Pakistan has been targeted by a number of attacks conducted by different militant groups for years. Pakistani police have intensified efforts in combating terrorism following deadly a terrorist attack on a shrine in the Pakistani southern city of Sehwan that was carried out on February 16 and claimed lives of over 80 people.

This story first appeared on Sputnik & is reposted here with permission.

News Report: Thousands of Troops Rush to Kashmir as Mob Stones Police Officer to Death

Mobs outside the Jamia mosque of Srinagar have lynched a senior police officer of Jammu and Kashmir Police on Thursday night. This is being considered a result of growing anti-India sentiment induced by separatist leaders in the Kashmir Valley.

New Delhi (Sputnik) — Local media reports claimed the incident took place when Deputy Superintendent of Police Ayub Pandith was clicking pictures of the mosque.

The incident shocked the state police administration as the police officer in the case was deployed for security and not for intelligence gathering around the mosque. "An officer being lynched by the very people he had gone to protect proves we have reached a stage where very little difference is left between humanity and barbarism," SP Vaid, the state police chief, told reporters.

News Report: Defense Deals on the Agenda for First Trump-Modi Talks

Steve Herman

WHITE HOUSE — The bearers of two potentially clashing slogans, “Made in India” and “America First,” will finally meet Monday at the White House.

“It’s going to be a robust discussion,” White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said of what will be the first face-to-face talks between India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi and U.S. President Donald Trump.

“We’re really seeking to roll out the red carpet,” a senior U.S. official said of the visit, which will feature the first dinner Trump will host at the White House for a foreign dignitary.

“It’ll be a long interaction and lots of time for the two leaders to get to know each other,” the senior official told White House reporters Friday.

“These are two very populist leaders,” with aspirations for transformation, notes Satu Limaye. He is director of the Washington office of the East-West Center, an American nonprofit group dedicated to promoting public diplomacy in the Asia-Pacific region.

News Report: China Begins Mediation Bid to Ease Afghanistan-Pakistan Tensions

Ayaz Gul

ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN — China has formally initiated a mediation bid to ease Afghanistan's tensions with Pakistan and to encourage the two uneasy neighbors to jointly work for countering terrorism and promoting regional peace.

Beijing's diplomatic offensive comes as relations between Islamabad and Kabul have deteriorated in the past two years over mutual allegations of sponsoring terrorist attacks on each other's soil.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi traveled to Kabul on Saturday, where he met with President Ashraf Ghani and other senior Afghan officials to discuss ways to improve ties with Pakistan.

An official statement later quoted Yi as telling his Afghan interlocutors that "if required, China will be ready to observe and explain steps" both Pakistan and Afghanistan are taking against terrorism and extremism.

News Report: Will Downing of Tehran Drone Hurt Pakistan-Iran Relations Further?

Madeeha Anwar
Mehdi Jedinia

Pakistan's claim this week that it shot down an Iranian drone that had crossed into its airspace is heating up tensions already on the rise over cross-border skirmishes and diplomatic rifts over alleged militancy, analysts say.

"This is an unfortunate situation as it will only increase the mistrust which already exists between Pakistan and Iran," Zubair Iqbal, an analyst at the Washington-based Middle East Institute, told VOA.

Both sides of the porous 900-kilometer (560-mile) Pakistan-Iran border have long been rife with drug smugglers, separatists and militant movements. The drone apparently went down Tuesday in violence-racked Balochistan, Pakistan's southwestern province, where insurgents and nationalists are active in launching attacks against government interests and neighboring countries.

"The drone was hit by the Pakistan Air Force as it was unidentified and flying around 3-4 kilometers inside Pakistani territory," Pakistan's Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

News Report: Spyware to Tap Into Smartphones Puts Users’ Rights at Risk

Michelle Quinn

SAN FRANCISCO — Governments around the world are using surveillance software that taps into individual smartphones, taking screenshots, reading email and tracking users’ movements, according to security experts and civil liberties groups.

The rise of so-called spyware comes as electronic communications have become more encrypted, frustrating law enforcement and governments’ surveillance efforts.

Over the past several years, private companies have begun selling advanced software that first appears as a text message with a link. When a person clicks on the link, the phone becomes infected. A third party can then read emails, take data and listen to audio, as well as track users’ movements.

The companies that sell this spyware exclusively to government agencies insist that the software must be used only in a legal manner, to fight crime and terrorism. However, security researchers and civil liberties groups contend that some governments use the programs to track human rights activists, journalists and others.

A recent story in The New York Times focused on activists and journalists in Mexico who have received text messages and emails with links that, if clicked on, would infect their devices with spyware. In some cases, the messages appeared to come from legitimate sources, such as the U.S. Embassy.

The Mexican government says it does not target activists, journalists and others with spyware unless it has “prior judicial authorization.”

News Story: China, Pakistan to stand by each other on their core interests - FM

ISLAMABAD, June 25 (Xinhua) -- Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said here Sunday that China and Pakistan will firmly stand together to continuously support each other on their core interests and issues of major concern so as to safeguard their legitimate interests as well as regional peace and stability.

Wang made the remarks during a joint press conference with Pakistani top foreign affairs advisor Sartaj Aziz before concluding his two-day visit to Pakistan.

The foreign minister said during his visit here, the two sides conducted strategic communications and deepened strategic consensus, which are conducive to the further development of the bilateral all-weather strategic cooperative partnership.

Wang highlighted the smooth development of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), saying it has gained important early achievements which brought tangible benefits to Pakistani people, adding that China will work together with the Pakistani side to push forward the construction of CPEC.

Read the full story at Xinhua

News Story: China, Afghanistan, Pakistan agree to maintain regional peace, stability

ISLAMABAD, June 25 (Xinhua) -- China, Afghanistan and Pakistan are all committed to maintaining regional peace and stability, enhancing regional connectivity and economic cooperation and promoting shared security and development, according to a trilateral joint statement released on Sunday.

The joint press release by the three countries came after Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi's shuttle diplomacy in Afghanistan and Pakistan that concluded Sunday.

It said that both Pakistan and Afghanistan "are willing to improve relations with each other, strengthen political mutual trust, enhance cooperation in various fields including counter-terrorism, and jointly meet security challenges."

According to the statement, Afghanistan and Pakistan has agreed to establish a crisis management mechanism, which will include prevention through timely and effective intelligence and information sharing and other mutually agreed measures. "This would enable the two sides to maintain timely and effective communications in case of emergencies, including terrorist attacks," it said.

The three parties also agreed to establish the China-Afghanistan-Pakistan Foreign Ministers' dialogue mechanism to cooperate on issues of mutual interest, beginning with economic cooperation, said the paper.

Read the full story at Xinhua

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Story Quote: "Wang stressed that China never interferes in other's internal affairs, never imposes its will on others, nor does it get involved in geopolitical competitions"

PacificSentinel: Try telling that to the ASEAN claimants to the South China Sea, they'll laugh their ass off.

News Story: Militants kill 10 policemen in Afghan western Herat province

An Afghan Police Officer (File Photo)
HERAT, Afghanistan, June 25 (Xinhua) -- Taliban militants attacked a police checkpoint at nearby of a dam in Afghan western Herat province Sunday morning, killing 10 police personnel, a local official said.

"A group of Taliban insurgents attacked a checkpoint at nearby of Salma Dam in Chasht district early today and fled away after killing 10 police personnel," local official Jilani Farhad told Xinhua.

Read the full story at Xinhua

News Story: Afghan president calls upon Taliban to join peace process

KABUL, June 25 (Xinhua) -- Afghan President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani once again called upon Taliban militants on Sunday to give up fighting and join the peace and national reconciliation process.

"If you are Afghans you should join the peace process to help stabilize peace and security in the country," President Ghani said in his message after performing Eid prayer in Presidential Palace.

The president also warned the Taliban fighters by saying that "you (Taliban) don't have more time and your supporters are alone and you will also be alone."

Read the full story at Xinhua

News Story: China calls on Pakistan, Afghanistan to improve ties

ISLAMABAD, June 25 (Xinhua) -- Visiting Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said Saturday that tensions between Pakistan and Afghanistan are not conducive to their stability and development as well as regional cooperation, calling on both countries to meet each other halfway so as to improve bilateral ties.

Wang made the call during his meeting with Pakistani top foreign affairs advisor Sartaj Aziz. He said that Pakistan and Afghanistan should send the international community a positive signal that the two sides are willing to restore mutual trust and conduct cooperation through bilateral channels.

Wang also said that China supports the two sides in seeking to establish a crisis managing mechanism as quickly as possible so as to properly deal with contingencies and to form a trilateral meeting system among foreign ministers of China, Afghanistan and Pakistan in order to enhance dialogue and cooperation in all areas.

For his part, Aziz said that Pakistan is willing to intensify communication and improve relations with the Afghan side and to support the political reconciliation process in Afghanistan as these are in line with both countries' common interests.

The advisor said that the Pakistani side has made political and diplomatic efforts on the issue and is willing to activate relevant dialogue mechanisms and channels, adding that it requires the two sides to meet each other halfway.

Read the full story at Xinhua

News Story: China, Afghanistan to strengthen anti-terror cooperation & China wishes earliest achievement of Afghan national reconciliation - FM

China, Afghanistan to strengthen anti-terror cooperation

KABUL, June 24 (Xinhua) -- Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and his Afghan counterpart Salahuddin Rabbani on Saturday pledged to enhance cooperation in the fight against terrorism.

Wang Yi, on a visit here, expressed the hope that both countries will continue to support each other on issues of core interest and deepen cooperation in anti-terror fight. He also said China welcomes Afghanistan to actively participate in the Belt and Road Initiative.

Wang reaffirmed China's steadfast support for the Afghan-owned and Afghan-led reconciliation process. He reiterated that China supports the revival of the Quadrilateral Coordination Group of Afghanistan, China, Pakistan and the United States and supports the activation of the work of the liaison group between the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and Afghanistan, which will help create favorable atmosphere for the peace process.

Read the full story at Xinhua

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China wishes earliest achievement of Afghan national reconciliation - FM

KABUL, June 24 (Xinhua) -- Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Saturday said China hopes Afghanistan could achieve peace and national reconciliation as soon as possible.

Meeting Afghanistan's National Security Advisor Haneef Atmar here, Wang said China and Afghanistan are close friends and good neighbors. China supports Afghanistan in its efforts to seek a development path suitable to its national conditions, and sincerely hopes Afghanistan can reach national reconciliation as soon as possible in order to realize peace and reconstruction.

He hoped Afghanistan can strengthen unity and consensus, take full advantage of peace talk mechanisms like the Quadrilateral Coordination Group of Afghanistan, China, Pakistan and the United States and adopt active and flexible measures to promote the peace process.

Noting that Afghanistan and Pakistan are close neighbors, Wang said as a good friend of both, China hopes the two countries can improve their relations, rebuild mutual trust, co-exist peacefully and cooperate to mutual benefit. This is a must and of great significance not only to their own development, but also to regional anti-terror efforts and peace and stability in South Asia.

Read the full story at Xinhua

News Story: Russia, India to hold joint military drills in fall

MOSCOW, June 23 (Xinhua) -- The joint Russian-Indian exercise, Indra-2017, is planned to be held in the fall in Russia's Eastern Military District, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said Friday.

"Military cooperation is an important component and pillar of Russian-Indian strategic interaction. A particularly important aspect of this cooperation is joint military exercises," Shoigu said at a meeting of the Russian-Indian intergovernmental commission on military-technical cooperation with Indian Minister of Defence Arun Jaitley.

Such drills contribute to an increase of the prestige of the armed forces of the two countries and demonstrate the readiness of their defense departments to effectively counter modern challenges and threats, Shoigu said.

Read the full story at Xinhua

News Story: China, U.S. aim to build productive military-to-military relationship

WASHINGTON, June 23 (Xinhua) -- China and the United States agree to actively pursue a productive military-to-military relationship that is "constructive, pragmatic, and effective," according to a statement released Friday.

"Both sides recognized the China-U.S. military-to-military relationship is an important stabilizing factor to the overall bilateral relationship," said the statement released after the First Round of China-U.S. Diplomatic and Security Dialogue.

Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi co-chaired the dialogue with U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Secretary of Defense James Mattis in Washington D.C. on Wednesday.

Read the full story at Xinhua

News Story: DPRK warns 2nd Korean War could break out on war anniversary

PYONGYANG, June 24 (Xinhua) -- The Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) warned Saturday that the United States could start a second Korean War anytime, on the eve of the 67th anniversary of the outbreak of the three-year war.

The United States "is driving the situation on the Korean Peninsula to the brink of war by massively bringing its strategic assets one after another to put under its complete control the peninsula, which is of geographical importance in realizing its regional and global hegemony," said a commentary carried by the official Korean Central News Agency.

Tensions remain high on the Korean Peninsula due to the U.S. threat to launch military strikes against Pyongyang over its nuclear and missile programs.

Read the full story at Xinhua

News Story: S. Korea-U.S. alliance stands at 'critical juncture' amid threats from N.K.

SEOUL, June 25 (Yonhap) -- South Korea and the United States stand at a "critical juncture" in their alliance in the face of the rapidly growing threats from North Korea but they will surely achieve their "common goal" to successfully address the problem, Seoul's top diplomat said Sunday.

Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha made the remarks in her speech to troops of the U.S. 2nd Infantry Division stationed north of Seoul. She visited the ground unit to commemorate the 67th anniversary of the outbreak of the Korean War.

"In the decades after the Korean War, the ROK-U.S. alliance has been the guardian of peace and prosperity on the Korean Peninsula," Kang told the troops. "For our two nations to go together... we must resolve our common threat. That is rapidly the growing threat posed by North Korea's nuclear and missile programs," Kang said.

"The ROK-U.S. alliance stands at a critical juncture to address this existential threat from North Korea and to ensure durable peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula," she added.

Read the full story at YonhapNews

News Story: Upcoming summit to set tone of alliance under new S. Korean, U.S. leaders

SEOUL, June 25 (Yonhap) -- South Korean President Moon Jae-in is set to meet his U.S. counterpart Donald Trump this week with the meeting expected to set the tone for the future of the alliance amid escalating North Korean threats and growing geopolitical uncertainties.

The new South Korean president will hold the two-day talks in Washington on Thursday and Friday (U.S. time). He will head for the United States on Wednesday for his first-ever summit with a foreign leader.

Their meeting will likely entail somewhat painstaking discussions on many urgent issues, such as North Korea's evolving nuclear and missile capabilities and the currently suspended deployment of the U.S. missile shield to South Korea.

However, officials from South Korea's presidential office Cheong Wa Dae note the most important and urgent issue, if not an outcome, of the summit may be for the two leaders of the allied countries to "hit it off."

   "The alliance has always remained strong, but we still have seen the alliance affected by the personal relationship between the countries' leaders," a Cheong Wa Dae official said, asking not to be identified.

Read the full story at YonhapNews

News Story: THAAD controversy looms over Moon-Trump summit

SEOUL, June 25 (Yonhap) -- The deepening controversy over the now suspended deployment of an advanced U.S. missile defense system in South Korea will likely be one of the major issues to be discussed between their leaders when they meet in Washington later this month, experts said Sunday.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in is to meet with his U.S. counterpart Donald Trump on Thursday and Friday (local time) in their first face-to-face talk since they both took office.

The summit takes place amid growing worries that the controversy and seemingly increasing cacophony between the allies over the deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system on South Korean soil.

Ever since its installment decision was announced in July last year to better defend against North Korea's threats, it has mostly caused friction with China worrying that it could compromise its missile and military capabilities.

Beijing has taken what appears to be retaliation against South Korean businesses ever since.

The THAAD issue, however, seems to have morphed into something causing an unexpected divide between South Korea and the U.S. when Trump earlier caused a stir here by calling on Seoul to pay for THAAD, estimated at US$1 billion.

Adding to this controversy, President Moon called for due installation process for THAAD, and ordered a special investigation into what was seen as a secret or undisclosed THAAD installation process.

Moon was quoted as saying that he was "shocked" not to be reported on deployment of four more rocket launchers in addition to two already in place. The whole installation has been suspended pending the survey, which could take months, if not years.

The suspension sparked speculation that it might be a first step toward eventually reversing the THAAD installation decision. Moon has repeatedly denied it, saying that there will be no turning back.

Read the full story at YonhapNews

News Story: Presidential office expresses anger over 'false reports' by Japanese paper

SEOUL, June 24 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's presidential office Cheong Wa Dae expressed dismay Saturday over what it called "false" reports by a Japanese newspaper that suggested a possible crack in the South Korea-U.S. alliance.

The rare rejection by Cheong Wa Dae came after Japan's Asahi Shimbun reported that the U.S. has urged South Korea to allow complete deployment of the THAAD U.S. missile defense system here before the year's end.

Quoting unidentified U.S. sources, the Japanese daily said such a request was filed by Thomas Shannon, U.S. undersecretary of state for political affairs, during his trip to Seoul earlier this month.

Yoon Young-chan, the chief press secretary for South Korean President Moon Jae-in, flatly dismissed the report, calling it "incorrect."

"The Asahi Shimbun's report that U.S. Undersecretary of State Thomas Shannon demanded the deployment of the THAAD before the year's end in a meeting with our government officials is not true," the Cheong Wa Dae official said in a released statement.

Read the full story at YonhapNews

News Story: N. Korea repeats call on S. Korea to halt joint drills with U.S. forces

SEOUL, June 24 (Yonhap) -- North Korea once again urged South Korea to remove all sanctions against the communist country and stop the latter's joint military exercises with the United States as part of conditions to resume inter-Korean dialogue.

The North, however, insisted its nuclear issue must stay off the dialogue table between the divided Koreas, despite the issue possibly being the largest reason the new Seoul government seeks to resume dialogue with the reclusive North.

In what it called an "open questionnaire" addressed to South Korean authorities, the North's Consultative Council for National Reconciliation accused South Korea's new Moon Jae-in administration of keeping silent about the "fundamental and principled issue" for improving the relations between the two Koreas.

Such fundamental issues, according to the questionnaire carried by the North's official Korean Central News Agency, apparently included an immediate and unconditional halt of joint military drills between South Korean and U.S. troops.

"Can you make a decision to stop the South Korea-U.S. joint military exercises, main factor of aggravating the situation on the Korean peninsula," it asked.

It also urged the South to stop working with any other countries seeking to punish the North for its military provocations.

Read the full story at YonhapNews

News Story: HPC Chief Says Taliban’s Fight Is A Mistake

By Hamed Nazari

The head of the High Peace Council (HPC), Mohammad Karim Khalili, at a gathering on Friday called on the Taliban to join the peace process and said ‘the continuation of fight by the Taliban is a mistake’. 

“We urge all the armed anti-government groups, especially Taliban to join the peace process and take more steady steps in this respect,” he said.  

“We have said repeatedly and now also we say that there is no unilateral lost in peace process,” Khalili added. 

The HPC chief invited Afghans for national unity and said solidarity among the people was a need to stand against terrorists. 

“One of the old wishes of armed anti-groups in Afghanistan is to create sectarian and ethnic divisions. We have felt and tasted sectarian and ethnic divisions and our people will not go back to those days,” said Khalili.

Read the full story at TOLOnews

News Story: Afghan Envoy Slams UN Policy Towards Pakistan

By Gulabuddin Ghubar

Mahmoud Saiqal, Afghanistan’s permanent representative to the United Nations, in an interview with TOLOnews said the UN Security Council (UNSC) is not ‘honest’ in coercing Pakistan to withdraw its support from terrorist groups. 

The Afghan envoy said some members of the council do not agree even to mention Pakistan as a country that supports terrorists. 

When we name Pakistan, we see they (some UNSC members) are not agreed. There are individuals who use terrorist groups for their personal interests,” said Saiqal.  

Saiqal accused Pakistan of supporting terrorists groups.  

“Terrorist attacks on the Supreme Court, on the Shaheen Military Corps, on Military Hospital and insome other places showed that the attacks were masterminded on the other side of the Durand Line,” he said. 

Read the full story at TOLOnews

News Story: Ramadan Deadliest Month For Afghanistan In Past 15 Years

By Samim Faramarz

A study by TOLOnews shows that the holy Ramadan month this year (May 27 to June 25), during which Muslims from all over the world fast from dawn to dusk, was the deadliest month in the past 15 years with deadly terrorist attacks in Kabul, Paktia, Herat and Helmand provinces, which claimed more than 230 lives and wounded over 800 others. 

In this month, in addition to military places, insurgents targeted sacred places such as mosques which faced serious reaction from religious scholars. 

“This never can be called Jihad. It is the murder of the people, it is not rational, it is unfaithful. It shows they (insurgents) have not realized religion and Islam,” said Ghulabuddin Rashikh, a religious scholar. 

The following are the deadly incidents happened during the Ramadan month this year:

Read the full story at TOLOnews

News Story: China’s FM Meets Rabbani In Follow Up Of Shanghai Summit

China’s Foreign Minister, Wang Yi arrived in Kabul on Sunday morning for scheduled talks with a number of high-ranking government officials. 

On arrival, he met with Afghan acting foreign minister Salahuddin Rabbani and number of other officials where they discussed the agreements forged between the Afghan and Chinese presidents at Shanghai Summit in Astana earlier this month. 

At the time, President Ashraf Ghani and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed to the need for a joint fight against terrorism and extremism, to expand both regional cooperation and China’s support in the Afghan peace process. 

Read the full story at TOLOnews

News Story: U.S Moves To Close Afghanistan, Pakistan Affairs Office

By Samim Faramarz

U.S State Department officials have told American media organizations that the State Department’s Special Representative Office for Afghanistan and Pakistan will be closed. 

A well-known American diplomat, Richard Holbrooke, established the office for Afghanistan and Pakistan affairs during former president Barack Obama’s administration in January 2009. 

Although the State Department has not officially said anything in this regard, a number of U.S media outlets stated that the acting director and deputy director of the office both left on Friday. 

According to these officials, the office will be absorbed into the State Department’s Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs. 

“The strategic relations and cooperation between the United States and Afghanistan will continue, either through its office for Afghanistan, through the State Departments’ offices for regional affairs, or through the embassies of the two countries,” said Shekib Mustaghni, a spokesman for the Afghan foreign ministry.

Read the full story at TOLOnews

News Story: Indonesia arrests 41 suspected militants in May attack

Jakarta (VNA) – Indonesian police announced on June 22 that they have arrested 41 suspected militants following last month’s suicide bombings in Jakarta that killed and injured 15 people.

According to national police spokesman Major General Setyo Wasisto, nine of them have been named as suspects in connection with the May 24 attack targeting police. Five people were released due to a lack of evidence.

The militants were detained in terrorism crackdowns in Jakarta and the neighbouring provinces of West Java, Banten, Sumatra island and West Nusatenggara, Wasisto said.

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News Story: Malaysian PM calls for peace, unity among Muslims

Kuala Lumpur (VNA) – Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak expressed his hope that Muslims in general and those living in Malaysia in particular will take the occasion of the Eid al-Fitr holiday to promote peace and unity as Prophet Muhammad said.

On his blog at NajibRazak.com, the PM said if Muslims choose to practice hostile politics, it is possible that the relationship between Muslims and non-Muslims in the country will be worse.

According to the leader, Muslims needs to forgive each other for the sake of unity, which will inspire the spirit of forgiveness in others regardless to their beliefs and ideologies.

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News Story: Show sincerity, Palace tells Reds amid attacks

New People’s Army (NPA) rebels
By Alexis Romero

MANILA, Philippines - Malacañang expressed disappointment yesterday over the recent attacks of the communist New People’s Army (NPA) guerrillas in Mindanao that cast doubt on the rebels’ sincerity towards the peace process. 

Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said the NPA offensive operations “disrupt the conducive and enabling environment indispensable in peace making and peace building.”

“Several recent serious offensives in Mindanao and elsewhere in the country allegedly committed by the CPP-NPA-NDFP (Communist Party of the Philippines- New People’s Army-National Democratic Front of the Philippines) forces further fueled the public’s doubts on whether it is still worthwhile to continue the peace negotiations with them,” Abella said. 

“We are disturbed by the recent NPA attacks considering that their leaders in Europe issued a statement condemning the incident in Marawi, even offering to refrain from undertaking offensive operations in Mindanao to enable our government forces to deal with focus on the rebellion still happening,” he added. 

Abella said the government would undertake corresponding and appropriate steps to deal decisively with the development.

The government suspended the fifth round of negotiations with the NDF after the CPP had directed the NPA to intensify offensives against government forces implementing martial law in Mindanao.

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News Story: AFP chief - IS funded Marawi siege through Malaysian

MARAWI — Middle East-based terror group Islamic State (IS) helped fund the month-long siege of this city through a Malaysian militant who was reportedly killed by troops, the military chief said Friday.

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief Gen. Eduardo Año said Malaysian Mahmud bin Ahmad reportedly channeled more than $600,000 from the IS to acquire firearms, food and other supplies for the attack in Marawi. Money believed to be from illegal drugs also funded the uprising, he said.

Mahmud was wounded in the fighting last month and reportedly died on June 7, he said.

But when asked by AFP for confirmation of Mahmud’s reported death, Malaysia’s Inspector General Police Abu Bakar said: “Not true. He is still alive.”

A local militant leader, Omarkhayam Maute, is also believed to have been killed in the early days of intense fighting and troops were looking for their remains to validate the intelligence the military had received.

Troops are seeking the help of villagers to pinpoint the spot where Mahmud was reportedly buried, Año said.

In Kuala Lumpur, Malaysian police chief Khalid Abu Bakar acknowledged that Mahmud was in Marawi fighting with insurgents but said he believed the militant is still alive. Malaysian authorities are trying to determine the number of Malaysians who joined the siege but said at least four may have been killed in clashes.

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