China, Russia rap US missile defense plan in South Korea

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov speaks at a joint press conference with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, at the Chinese Foreign Ministry in Beijing, China, on Friday. (AP)
Updated 29 April 2016
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China, Russia rap US missile defense plan in South Korea

BEIJING: China and Russia on Friday rapped US plans to put a missile defense system on the Korean peninsula, less than 24 hours after Pyongyang twice tested rockets thought to be capable of reaching American territory.
A series of missile tests and nuclear blasts by North Korea have pushed Seoul into talks with Washington about deploying the United States’ sophisticated Terminal High Altitude Area Defense System (THAAD), which fires projectiles to smash into enemy missiles.
Beijing fears that the presence of more US hardware on its doorstep will further tip the balance of power in the Pacific toward Washington.
“We both are gravely concerned about the US’s likely deployment of the THAAD system in South Korea,” Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said at a briefing with his visiting Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov.
“The move goes beyond the actual defense needs of relevant countries,” Wang said.
“It will directly affect the strategic security of China and Russia respectively if it is deployed,” he added.
Lavrov condemned Washington for using the North’s tests as “an excuse, as a pretext” to deploy what he called Washington’s “global antiballistic missile defense.”
This week’s North Korean rocket tests failed, but Pyongyang has now made three bids in two weeks to test-fly a Musudan missile, which is capable of striking US bases on the Pacific island of Guam.
“The current situation on the peninsula is indeed in a highly dangerous period,” Wang said.
He added that proper implementation of UN resolutions barring the North from developing any ballistic missile-related technology is key to bringing the country to the negotiating table.
China is the North’s biggest trading partner and its key aid provider.
South Korean military officials say the North is desperate to register a successful launch ahead of next week’s ruling party congress, at which leader Kim Jong-Un is expected to take credit for pushing the country’s nuclear program to new heights.
In recent months, the North has claimed a series of major technical breakthroughs in developing what it sees as the ultimate goal of its nuclear drive — an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of delivering a warhead to targets across the continental United States.
The achievements trumpeted by Pyongyang have included miniaturising a nuclear warhead to fit on a missile, developing a warhead that can withstand atmospheric re-entry and building a solid-fuel missile engine.
Last Saturday, it successfully tested a submarine-launched ballistic missile — a move that was promptly condemned by the UN Security Council.
Lavrov also backed Beijing’s stance that territorial disputes in the South China Sea “should not in anyway be internationalized” and should be resolved by direct negotiations between countries.
An international tribunal is expected to rule soon on a case brought by the Philippines over the issue, which has seen tensions mount between Beijing and Washington.
China claims nearly all the strategically vital sea, despite completing claims from Southeast Asian neighbors including the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei.


At least three dead in multiple shooting in Utrecht, police hunting Turkish-born man

Updated 7 min 28 sec ago
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At least three dead in multiple shooting in Utrecht, police hunting Turkish-born man

  • Police are not ruling out terrorism as a possible motive
  • ‘Threat level has gone to 5, exclusively for the Utrecht province’

DUBAI: At least three people have been killed and nine other injured in a shooting incident in Utrecht, in The Netherlands on Monday morning.

Dutch security forces were hunting for a 37-year-old Turkish man in connection with the incident, in what authorities said appeared to be a terrorist attack. The city's mayor confirmed the death of three people on Monday afternoon.

"At this stage, we can confirm three deaths and nine wounded, three of them seriously," Utrecht Mayor Jan van Zanen said in a video statement on Twitter.

"We are working on the principle that it was a terrorist attack," he added.

Dozens of armed police plus canine units later surrounded a building a few hundred metres away, an AFP reporter at the scene said, but it was not clear if the gunman was inside.

Police said they believed a red Renault Clio had been carjacked around the time of the shooting and had been found abandoned later.

The Utrecht municipality said it advised "everyone to stay indoors until more is known, new incidents are not excluded," but this was withdrawn at around 4:30pm local time. The local hospital said it had set up a crisis centre. Tram traffic in the area was halted.

Authorities raised the terrorism threat to its highest level in Utrecht province, schools were told to shut their doors and paramilitary police increased security at airports and other vital infrastructure, and also at mosques.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte convened crisis talks, saying he was deeply concerned about the incident.

Utrecht Police tweeted an image of a man named Gökmen Tanis, asking people for information on him in connection with the incident — but warned members of the public not to approach him.

The main counterterrorism unit in The Netherlands, the  National Coordinator for Security and Counterterrorism (NCTV), told the Dutch public broadcaster that the incident had all the characteristics of a terrorist attack.

Counter-terrorism forces have surrounded a building where the gunman may be located, local broadcaster NOS News reported.

There was gunfire at several locations in the city, the Dutch national counter-terrorism chief said.

“Shooting took place this morning at several locations in Utrecht,” Dutch anti-terror coordinator Pieter-Jaap Aalbersberg told a news conference in The Hague. “A major police operation is under way to arrest the gunman.”

Aalbersberg said in a statement that the “threat level has gone to 5, exclusively for the Utrecht province,” referring to the highest level. 

“The culprit is still on the run. A terror motive cannot be excluded,” he said in a Twitter message. He called on citizens to closely follow the indications of the local police. 

Police spokesman Bernhard Jens did not exclude more people might be involved. 

“We want to try to catch the person responsible as soon as possible,” Jens said.

A hotline to address queries about the situation. The Netherlands has one of the strictest gun laws and ownership is limited to law enforcement, hunters and target shooters.

Local media reports have said counter-terrorism police were seen at the scene.

“Shooting incident... Several injured people reported. Assistance started,” the Utrecht police Twitter account said. “It is a shooting incident in a tram. Several trauma helicopters have been deployed to provide help.”

The 24 Oktoberplein is a busy Utrecht traffic junction, with a tram stop. Tram traffic was temporarily stopped due to the incident, but the trams are currently running again between Zuilenstein, Nieuwegein and IJsselstein.

(With AFP and Reuters)