The US and South Korea begin large military drills to boost readiness against North’s threats

The US and South Korea begin large military drills to boost readiness against North’s threats
Protesters shout slogans during a rally demanding to stop the joint military exercises between the US and South Korea, in Seoul. (AP)
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Updated 04 March 2024
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The US and South Korea begin large military drills to boost readiness against North’s threats

The US and South Korea begin large military drills to boost readiness against North’s threats
  • North Korea had no immediate response to the major annual drills it regards as a rehearsal for invasion

SEOUL, South Korea: South Korea and the United States began large annual military exercises Monday to bolster their readiness against North Korean nuclear threats after the North raised animosities with an extension of missile tests and belligerent rhetoric earlier this year.
The South Korean and US forces began a computer-simulated command post training called the Freedom Shield exercise and a variety of field exercises for an 11-day run, the South Korean Defense Ministry said.
North Korea had no immediate response to the major annual drills it regards as a rehearsal for invasion. The North has staged provocative weapons tests in the past in reaction to its adversaries’ joint drills.
South Korea’s military said last week that it would conduct 48 field exercises with the US forces this spring, twice the number conducted last year, and that they would involve live-firing, bombing, air assault and missile interception drills.
Since early 2022, North Korea has conducted more than 100 rounds of missile tests to modernize its arsenal as talks with the United States and South Korea have been stalled for an extended period. In response, the United States and South Korea have expanded their training exercises and increased the deployment of powerful USmilitary assets such as aircraft carriers and long-range nuclear-capable bombers.
This year, North Korea carried out six rounds of missile tests and barrage of artillery firing drills. Its leader Kim Jong Un also said North Korea would scrap its long-standing goal of peaceful unification with South Korea and take a more aggressive military posture along the disputed sea boundary with South Korea. He also vowed to “annihilate” South Korea and the United States if provoked, a threat that he had previously issued.
The North Korean steps raised worries that it might make provocations along the tense Korean sea and land borders. But experts say the prospect for a full-blown attack by North Korea is dim as the North knows its military is outmatched by US and South Korean forces.
North Korea’s moves to raise tensions are likely related to upcoming elections planned by its rivals: the US presidential election in November and South Korea’s parliament election in April. North Korea believes an advanced nuclear arsenal will increase its leverage in future diplomacy and it can win concessions like the easing of international sanctions, experts say.


French MP says waving Palestinian flag was protest at ‘massacre’ in Gaza

French MP says waving Palestinian flag was protest at ‘massacre’ in Gaza
Updated 4 sec ago
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French MP says waving Palestinian flag was protest at ‘massacre’ in Gaza

French MP says waving Palestinian flag was protest at ‘massacre’ in Gaza
PARIS: A hard-left French lawmaker sanctioned for raising a Palestinian flag in parliament on Tuesday said he would “rather be on the right side of history than stick to the rules of the National Assembly.”
The lower house of parliament voted to suspend Sebastien Delogu, a deputy for the hard-left La France Insoumise (LFI) party, for 15 days and to half his pay as a lawmaker over two months, the harshest sanction possible.
“It’s the first time that a foreign flag has been raised in the assembly, but it’s appropriate given what’s at stake, when you have people, who are like us, on the other side of the Mediterranean being massacred,” Delogu told Reuters at a pro-Palestinian protest in Paris on Wednesday evening.
LFI has positioned itself as a defender of the Palestinians, making the issue central to its campaign for the June 9 European Parliament election.
Unlike other parties, LFI has not described the Oct 7 Hamas attack on Israel as a “terrorist” act. Some critics of LFI have accused it of antisemitism, which the party says is not true.
Delogu raised the flag during a session of questions to the government, while another LFI deputy questioned a minister about the situation in Gaza.
There have been protests and spontaneous gatherings happening in Paris everyday this week since 45 people were killed on Sunday in a massive blaze in a tent camp in the Gaza city of Rafah following an Israeli airstrike.
Of the strikes, French President Emmanuel Macron wrote on X on Monday that he was “outraged” and “these operations must stop,” however Delogu said that the government is not doing enough.
“I point the finger at France... because they continue to sell arms (to Israel), which means they are complicit in this massacre,” he said.
Defense Minister Sebastien Lecornu has previously said that France will not stop sending weapon components to Israel. He has said the components are used for Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense and others are sold to Israel for re-export. Lecornu has said Paris does not provide lethal weapons to Israel.
The Elysee presidency and the defense ministry did not immediately reply to a request for comment.
Israel’s offensive on Gaza has killed more than 36,000 Palestinians since Oct.7.
National Assembly rules forbid lawmakers from brandishing flags during session. In 2019, a lawmaker from Macron’s party held up a white flag with “France kills in Yemen” written in red. He was given a warning.
Another LFI MP, David Guiraud, called a Jewish colleague a “pig” and a “pork” during a heated exchange shortly after the flag-waving incident. That MP, Meyer Habib, has said he would file a complaint for antisemitism.

Jury starts day two of Trump trial deliberations

Jury starts day two of Trump trial deliberations
Updated 32 min 42 sec ago
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Jury starts day two of Trump trial deliberations

Jury starts day two of Trump trial deliberations
  • There is no time limit to deliberations but an acquittal or conviction would require unanimity

NEW YORK: Jurors return Thursday to a second day of deliberations in Donald Trump’s criminal trial, leaving the Republican presidential candidate and the country waiting for a decision that could upend November’s election.
After weeks of testimony from more than 20 witnesses on Trump’s alleged fraud in covering up a politically damaging tryst with a porn star, the spotlight is now on the 12-strong New York jury.
The jurors — their identities kept secret for their own protection amid nationwide political tensions — are working behind closed doors in a separate room.
The only clues to the direction they are taking come through requests for clarifications. They were due to start off Thursday by reexamining testimony from two witnesses and also hear again the judge’s instructions on how to interpret the law.
Trump, 77, is required to stay in the court building while deliberations unfold.
Although barred by Judge Juan Merchan with a gag order from attacking witnesses, he has taken out his anger daily on the judge and what he claims is a politically motivated trial.
“It’s a disgrace,” he said late Wednesday. “There’s no crime.”
There is no time limit to deliberations but an acquittal or conviction would require unanimity. If just one juror refuses to join the others, the judge would have to declare a mistrial.
Trump is accused of falsifying business records to reimburse a $130,000 payment to silence adult film star Stormy Daniels, when her account of an alleged sexual encounter could have imperiled his ultimately successful 2016 presidential campaign.
Prosecutors say the fraud was motivated by a plot to prevent voters from knowing about his behavior.
If Trump is found guilty, the political repercussions would far outweigh the seriousness of the charges as, barely five months before the November 5 presidential election, the candidate would also become a convicted criminal.


In closing arguments on Tuesday, Trump’s defense team insisted the evidence for a conviction simply did not exist, while the prosecution countered that it was voluminous and inescapable.
“The defendant’s intent to defraud could not be any clearer,” said prosecutor Joshua Steinglass, urging the jurors to use their “common sense” and return a guilty verdict.
If convicted, Trump faces up to four years in prison on each of the 34 counts, but legal experts say that as a first-time offender he is unlikely to get jail time.
A conviction would not bar him from the November ballot and he would almost certainly appeal. In the case of a mistrial, prosecutors could seek a new trial.
Trump — required to attend every day of the proceedings — has used his trips to court and the huge media presence to spread his claim that the trial is a Democratic ploy to keep him off the campaign trail.
Polls show Trump neck and neck against President Joe Biden, and the verdict will inflame passions as the White House race intensifies.
In addition to the New York case, Trump has been indicted in Washington and Georgia on charges of conspiring to overturn the results of the 2020 election.
He also faces charges in Florida of hoarding huge quantities of classified documents after leaving the White House.
However, the New York case is the only one likely to come to trial by election day.


Ukraine says Russia building up forces near Kharkiv region’s north

Ukraine says Russia building up forces near Kharkiv region’s north
Updated 49 min 5 sec ago
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Ukraine says Russia building up forces near Kharkiv region’s north

Ukraine says Russia building up forces near Kharkiv region’s north
  • Col. General Oleksandr Syrskyi said Russia was continuing to send additional regiments and brigades from other areas and from training grounds

KYIV: Russia is building up forces near the northern part of Ukraine’s Kharkiv region where it launched an offensive this month, but it still lacks the troop numbers to stage a major push in the area, Ukraine’s top commander said on Thursday.
Ukraine says it has stabilized the front in the northeastern Kharkiv region where Russian forces launched a cross-border assault on May 10 that opened a new front in the 27-month-old war and stretched Kyiv’s outnumbered troops.
Col. General Oleksandr Syrskyi said Russia was continuing to send additional regiments and brigades from other areas and from training grounds to bulk up its troops on two main lines of attack in Kharkiv region’s north.
That includes the Strilecha-Lyptsi area between two small villages and the vicinity of the border town of Vovchansk where there has been street fighting.
“These forces are currently insufficient for a large-scale offensive and breakthrough of our defense,” Syrskyi said in a statement on the Telegram messaging app.
He said Ukraine’s “creation of an ammunition reserve” had also reduced the offensive capabilities of Russian forces.
The remark suggested Kyiv’s acute shortages of artillery ammunition had eased since the United States finally approved a major aid package in April after months of delay.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Wednesday that American weapons being delivered were helping to stabilize the Ukrainian front lines.
Russia has concentrated most of its offensive pressure in Ukraine’s east where its troops have been able to make slow incremental advances since capturing the town of Avdiivka in Donetsk region in February.


India’s capital sees first heat-related death this year, media reports

India’s capital sees first heat-related death this year, media reports
Updated 30 May 2024
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India’s capital sees first heat-related death this year, media reports

India’s capital sees first heat-related death this year, media reports
  • India experiencing a severe heat wave conditions for weeks, and the temperature in Delhi reached a record high of 52.9 degrees Celsius

NEW DELHI: India’s capital Delhi recorded its first heat-related death this year as temperatures reached record highs, media reported on Thursday.
Parts of northwest and central India have been experiencing heat wave to severe heat wave conditions for weeks, and the temperature in Delhi reached a record high of 52.9 degrees Celsius in Mungeshpur neighborhood on Wednesday.
That reading may be revised however, as maximum temperatures in other parts of the city ranged from 45.2 C to 49.1 C.
The capital territory’s first heat-related fatality this year was a 40-year-old laborer who died of heatstroke on Wednesday, The Indian Express newspaper reported.
Delhi’s lieutenant governor on Wednesday directed the government to ensure measures were taken to protect laborers by providing water and shaded areas at construction sites and granting them paid leave from noon to 3 p.m.
Delhi recorded a temperature of 36 C which felt like 37.8 C on Thursday morning, according to India’s weather department. It has predicted heat wave to severe heat wave conditions over northwest and central India will begin reducing gradually from today.
India classifies a heat wave as a situation where the maximum temperature is 4.5 C to 6.4 C above normal, while a severe heat wave occurs when the maximum is higher than normal by 6.5 degrees or more.


NATO meets as pressure grows to let Ukraine hit Russia

NATO meets as pressure grows to let Ukraine hit Russia
Updated 30 May 2024
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NATO meets as pressure grows to let Ukraine hit Russia

NATO meets as pressure grows to let Ukraine hit Russia
  • The gathering in the Czech capital is meant to focus on efforts to support Ukraine at NATO’s summit in Washington in July

PRAGUE:NATO foreign ministers meet in Prague on Thursday in the face of growing calls for leading allies to lift restrictions stopping Kyiv from using Western weapons to strike inside Russia.
The two-day gathering in the Czech capital is meant to focus on efforts to hammer out a package of support for Ukraine at NATO’s summit in Washington in July.
But the swirling debate over whether to let Kyiv use arms sent by Western backers to strike inside Russia risks overshadowing the meeting.
Ukraine has been pressing its supporters — chiefly the United States — to allow it to use the longer-range weaponry they supply to hit targets inside Russia.
The United States and Germany have so far refused to permit Kyiv to strike over the border out of fear that it could drag them closer to direct conflict with Moscow.
Ahead of the NATO meeting — which starts with a dinner on Thursday — alliance chief Jens Stoltenberg said repeatedly it was time for members to reconsider those limits as they hamper Kyiv’s ability to defend itself.
French President Emmanuel Macron appeared to shift the dial on Tuesday when he said Ukraine should be allowed to “neutralize” bases in Russia used to launch strikes.
German chancellor Olaf Scholz, however, remained less committal, saying Ukraine should act within the law — and Berlin had not supplied the weapons to hit Russia anyway.
Across the Atlantic, the White House said it still opposed Ukraine using US arms to strike inside Russia, although Secretary of State Antony Blinken hinted that that strategy could change.
Moscow, meanwhile, has reacted strongly — with President Vladimir Putin warning there would be “serious consequences” if Western countries give approval to Ukraine.
Those pressing for Ukraine to be given a freer rein say they hope momentum is building for the United States and others to change course as Kyiv struggles to stop Russia’s offensive in the Kharkiv region.
“Clearly president Macron’s ideas help allies who believe this rule should change,” said a diplomat from one NATO country.
“I hope the debates in the US will take Macron’s ideas into consideration.”


As NATO allies wrestle with that issue, ministers in Prague are also trying to come up with a support package that keeps Ukraine satisfied as its hopes of eventual membership remain a distant prospect.
After pressing hard at a summit last year, Kyiv has been told firmly by NATO countries — led by the United States and Germany — that it should not expect any concrete progress toward joining the alliance in Washington.
NATO chief Stoltenberg instead wants to get alliance members to make clear, multi-year commitments on how much aid they’ll give to Ukraine in the future.
Last month he floated an overall target figure of 100 billion euros ($108 billion) over five years, but that fell flat among allies confused over what it would involve.
“People understand you need to announce something, but they don’t just want it to be air,” the Western diplomat said.
Diplomats say debate is still ongoing as allies try to work out what any pledges would cover and how they might be structured.
One area where NATO does seem closer to agreement is a plan for the alliance to take over from the United States coordination of weapon supplies to Ukraine.
So far, Washington has been in charge as NATO has stayed clear of involvement in delivering arms due to worries it would incite Russia.
Proponents say making the alliance overall responsible could help insulate future deliveries against a possible return of Donald Trump to the US presidency.
But others fear it might just add more bureaucracy.
“The first hope is to not make it less effective than the current system,” a second Western diplomat said.
Diplomats say that to avoid opposition from Hungary — one of the friendliest countries to Russia in the alliance — Budapest has been given an “opt-out” not to be involved.