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India, US, Japan, Australia discuss Indo-Pacific cooperation

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Manila, Nov 12: India, Australia, Japan and the US on Sunday agreed that “a free, open, prosperous and inclusive” Indo-Pacific served long-term global interests, giving an impetus to an emerging quad of democracies amid Chinas growing military and economic power.

An External Affairs Ministry statement said foreign officials from India, Australia, Japan and the US met here and held consultations “on issues of common interest in the Indo-Pacific region”.

“The discussions focused on cooperation based on their converging vision and values for promotion of peace, stability and prosperity in an increasingly inter-connected region that they share with each other and with other partners,” the statement said.

The countries “agreed that a free, open, prosperous and inclusive Indo-Pacific region serves the long-term interests of all countries in the region and of the world at large”, said the statement.

The officials also exchanged views on addressing common challenges of terrorism and proliferation linkages impacting the region as well as on enhancing connectivity.

Indian officials highlighted India’s Act East Policy as the cornerstone of its engagement in the region.

The four countries are working to revive their quadrilateral dialogue. Another meeting of the officials from the countries is likely to take place on the sidelines of the East Asia Summit in Manila on Monday.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday morning arrived here to attend the summit.

Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono in October said Tokyo favoured a dialogue between Japan, the US, India and Australia to boost strategic partnership among them in the region amid growing Chinese assertiveness over the South China Sea.

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Japanese PM Shinzo Abe wins 3rd consecutive term as ruling party president

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Tokyo, Sep 20: Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe won the ruling Liberal Democratic Partys (LDP) leadership election on Thursday, securing a historic third term that will effectively extend his time in power by another three years.

Abe comfortably beat his only contender, former Defence Minister Shigeru Ishiba, by securing 553 out of a total 807 votes, reports The Japan Times.

He won 329 out of the 402 valid ballots cast by LDP MPs and 224 out of the remaining 405 votes allocated to party branches in each prefecture based on the number of members age 18 or older who have paid party fees.

His extended term in office signals the possibility that Abe, who has already been at the helm of the world’s third-largest economy for nearly six years in his second stint as Prime Minister, may become the longest-serving premier in Japanese history.

With his renewed leadership, Abe is likely to reshuffle his Cabinet in the coming weeks, reportedly as soon as early October.

Abe has credited himself with “restoring a decent economy” under his Abenomics policy and taking the Japan-US alliance to a stronger level.

He also repeated that it’s the “responsibility of the LDP” to revise the war-renouncing Article 9 of the Constitution to formalise the ambiguous status of the Self-Defense Forces – the nation’s de facto military – which he said “protects the peace and independence of Japan”.

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Donald Trump visits areas affected by Florence, promises residents aid

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Washington, Sep 20: President Donald Trump on Wednesday visited the two states most heavily affected by Hurricane Florence and promised that “a lot of money” will be coming from Washington and significant resources will be invested in reconstruction in the region, although he also sparked controversy by expressing interest in an area where he owns a golf course.

Trump travelled to North and South Carolina, which were deluged last week by a storm that killed at least 36 people in the region, forced the evacuation of thousands and caused economic damage valued at up to $60 billion, according to preliminary estimates, Efe reported.

“To the families who have lost loved ones, America grieves with you, and our hearts break for you. God bless you,” the president said in a statement.

“We will never forget your loss. We will never leave your side. We’re with you all way. And to all those impacted by this terrible storm, our entire American family is with you and ready to help. And you will recover,” he added.

The president, who last year visited Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico after the passage of several hurricanes, repeated several activities that he had undertaken there, distributing hot dogs and other food to people forced from their homes and chatting with some of those affected.

During one stop in the coastal town of New Bern, North Carolina, where heavy flooding damaged more than 4,300 homes, Trump was surprised to see a yacht that had been washed against the back porch of a home.

“Is this your boat?” the president asked the homeowner, and when the owner said no, Trump reportedly smiled and replied, “At least you got a nice boat out of the deal.”

Although the president avoided mistakes such as he made last year in Puerto Rico, where he downplayed the tragedy and said that Hurricane Maria had not been a “real catastrophe,” he did spark some criticism by taking advantage of his trip to visit Navy installations in North Carolina to ask about the condition of Lake Norman.

“I love that area. I can’t tell you why, but I love that area,” said Trump, avoiding mentioning that one of his golf courses, Trump National Golf Club, is located on the shore of Lake Norman, near Charlotte.

Trump also had a sober warning for South Carolina, whose authorities still fear significant additional damage due to flooding caused by Florence.

The president said at the emergency centre in the town of Conway that the help that local residents had seen is “nothing” compared to what will be arriving soon.

South Carolina’s Republican governor, Henry McMaster, said that “the worst is yet to come,” and predicted that the floodwaters could reach some five feet in height, adding that the storm and its aftermath could be the worst disaster ever to hit South Carolina.

Meanwhile, in North Carolina, about 10,000 people are still being housed in shelters and “thousands” of people have not had the power restored in their homes, the state’s Democratic governor, Roy Cooper, said in his meeting with Trump.

Of the 36 people confirmed dead in the storm by local authorities, 27 died in North Carolina, eight in South Carolina and one in Virginia.

Crops of cotton and peanuts in those states have also suffered and 3.4 million chickens and 5,500 hogs drowned on North Carolina farms, according to official calculations.

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Avenfield case: Pakistan court orders release of Nawaz Sharif, Maryam

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Islamabad, Sep 19: The Islamabad High Court on Wednesday suspended the jail terms of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, his daughter Maryam Nawaz and son-in-law Muhammad Safdar in the Avenfield case.

Justice Athar Minallah and Justice Miangul Hassan Aurangzeb gave the ruling on petitions filed by the three challenging the July verdict against them, Geo News reported.

Justice Minallah quashed the sentences handed to them by Accountability Court judge Mohammad Bashir.

Sharif, Maryam and Safdar had been awarded imprisonment of 11 years, eight years and one year respectively for owning London properties disproportionate to their sources of income.

Delivering the judgement, the judges also asked the three to submit bail bonds worth Rs 0.5 million each.

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