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In biggest troop cut, China to bring army down to 1 mn

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Beijing, July 12 :  China will cut down its present military force of 2.3 million, the world’s largest army, to below one million, the biggest troop reduction in the People’s Liberation Army’s history.

“This is the first time that active PLA Army personnel would be reduced to below one million,” said a report in a social media outlet run by PLA Daily.

The article on structural reform in the military said: “The old military structure, where the army accounts for the vast majority, will be replaced after the reform.”

In 2015, Chinese President Xi Jinping had announced a reduction of 300,000 troops in the PLA.

According to the report, the number of troops in the PLA Navy, PLA Strategic Support Force, and the PLA Rocket Force would be increased, while the PLA Air Force’s active service personnel would remain the same.

“The reform is based on China’s strategic goals and security requirements. In the past, the PLA focused on ground battle and homeland defence, which will undergo fundamental changes,” said the WeChat article.

China has cut down its defence spending in the past two years, with the military budget in 2017 remaining seven per cent, lowest hike in more than a decade.

Xi wants a lean but modernised armed forces.

China has been becoming a major sea power and its disputes are more on seas than land.

Of the 14 neighbours, China has land disputes only with India and Bhutan.

According to the Chinese Defence Ministry, PLA had about 850,000 combat troops in 2013.

“This reform will provide other services, including the PLA Rocket Force, Air Force, Navy and Strategic Support Force (mainly responsible for electronic warfare and communication), with more resources and inputs, and the PLA will strengthen its capability to conduct overseas missions,” Xu Guangyu, a senior adviser to the China Arms Control and Disarmament Association, was quoted as saying by Global Times.

“The PLA must be capable of spotting overseas threats and destroying hostile forces thousands of kilometers away before they enter our 12 nautical mile territorial waters,” Xu said.

“China’s overseas interests are spread around the world and need to be protected. These are beyond the army’s current capabilities,” said Xu.

The PLA structure should also fit China’s international status, Xu added.

(Gaurav Sharma can be contacted at [email protected])

By Gaurav Sharma

IANS

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South Korean former PM Kim Jong-pil dies at 92

Before becoming Prime Minister for the first time, the retired military leader and father of two created and ran the Korean Intelligence Agency and later headed the then ruling Democratic Republican Party.

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PM Kim Jong-pil

Seoul, June 23 (IANS) Former South Korean Prime Minister Kim Jong-pil died here on Saturday at the age of 92 while being taken to a hospital.

Kim, considered among the most influential politicians in the country in previous decades, served as Prime Minister on two occasions, between 1971 and 1975, and between 1998 and 2000, Yonhap agency reported.

Born in 1926, Kim graduated from the Korea Military Academy and played an important role in the 1961 military coup led by former President Park Chung-hee, who ruled the country with an iron fist until his assassination in 1979.

Before becoming Prime Minister for the first time, the retired military leader and father of two created and ran the Korean Intelligence Agency and later headed the then ruling Democratic Republican Party.

Besides holding government posts, the influential and conservative politician served as lawmaker on nine occasions until his retirement in 2004.

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Grenade blast at Ethiopian PM rally kills 1, injures 154

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Grenade blast at Ethiopian PM rally

Addis Ababa, June 23 (IANS) A grenade blast at a crowded rally in support of Ethiopia’s new reformist Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed on Saturday killed at least one person and injured over 154 others.

The explosion took place at the rally attended by thousands, shortly after Ahmed finished a speech at the capital’s Meskel Square. He soon took to public television to inform that the attack had killed people, though he did not specify the number, the BBC reported.

Ethiopia’s Health Minister Amir Aman tweeted that one person had died and 154 were injured, 10 of them critically.

Ahmed described it as an “unsuccessful attempt by forces who do not want to see Ethiopia united” and said attacks would not stop his ruling coalition from carrying out its reformist programme that seeks to increase democracy in the country.

He was whisked away immediately after the blast. According to local media, two women and a man were arrested from the scene.

Ahmed became Prime Minister after his predecessor Hailemariam Desalegn unexpectedly resigned in February. He is also the country’s first leader from the ethnic Oromo group, which has been at the centre of nearly three years of anti-government protests that have left hundreds dead.

The government has been accused of human rights violations including torture and extrajudicial killing of political dissidents.

Since taking office, Ahmed has passed a series of reforms, including unblocking hundreds of websites and TV channels. He has also said he is ready to implement in full a peace deal with Eritrea that was signed in 2000 after a two-year war.

In a Twitter post, the EU mission to Ethiopia, expressed “heartfelt condolences” to the Ethiopian people and the government for the victims of the “cowardly attack”.

The US Embassy in Addis Ababa also condemned the blast, tweeting: “Violence has no place as Ethiopia pursues meaningful political and economic reforms.”

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Nawaz Sharif’s daughter to contest from two seats in Pakistan elections

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Maryam-Nawaz-Sharif

Islamabad, June 23: Former Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s daughter Maryam Nawaz will contest from two seats in the upcoming general elections in the country on July 25.

Maryam has filed her candidature from the National Assembly (NA)-127 in Lahore and from Punjab assembly constituency PP-173 respectively for contesting in Pakistan general elections.

The returning officers (ROs) approved Maryam’s candidacies. However, she would be now contesting the polls from NA-127 and PP-173 seats.

Earlier, Maryam announced that she would contest elections from NA-120, which is considered as the bastion of the Sharif family and was represented by Nawaz himself, and later by his wife, Kulsoom Nawaz.

Nawaz’s brother Shahbaz Sharif formally took charge of the PML-N after an earlier court ruling banned the former premier from heading the party.Pakistan’s supreme court had in April banned former prime minister Nawaz Sharif from participating in elections for life.

Supreme Court Justice Umar Ata Bandial described the ban on Sharif as “permanent” in a judgement read to the court, clarifying the length of an earlier ruling that disqualified the former premier from office.

Sharifs and their supporters have repeatedly denied allegations of corruption, suggesting the former prime minister is the victim of a conspiracy by Pakistan’s powerful military establishment.

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