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North Korea blasts US strikes on Syria

The US missile strikes ‘proves a million times over’ that strengthening North Korea’s nuclear program was ‘the right choice,’ reports state media KCNA

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North-Korea

North Korea has said the US missile strikes on Syria were an “intolerable act of aggression” that “proves a million times over” that strengthening its nuclear programme was the right choice, state media reported Saturday.

The comments were Pyongyang’s first since US President Donald Trump ordered the strikes on an air base in the war-wracked country Thursday in retaliation for an apparent chemical attack.

“The US missile attack against Syria is a clear and intolerable act of aggression against a sovereign state and we strongly condemn it,” KCNA news agency quoted an unnamed spokesman for the North Korean foreign ministry as saying.

“The reality of today shows that we must stand against power with power and it proves a million times over that our decision to strengthen our nuclear deterrence has been the right choice.”

Analysts had earlier said the strikes contained a clear message for Pyongyang that the US was not afraid to exercise the military option, and there had been speculation as to how the North would respond.

Trump has recently threatened unilateral action against Pyongyang if Beijing fails to help curb its neighbour’s nuclear weapons programme.

However, Pyongyang’s response suggested the reclusive state was determined to continue with its nuclear weapons programme.

“Swaggering as a superpower, the US has been picking only on countries without nuclear weapons and the Trump administration is no exception,” the foreign ministry spokesman said, according to KCNA.

“The Syria attack thoroughly reminds us the fact that it is absolutely dangerous to have any illusions about imperialism and only military power of our own will protect us from imperialistic aggression,” he added.

“We will keep bolstering our self-defensive military might in various ways in order to cope with the ever-intensifying US acts of aggression.”

The North has carried out five nuclear tests — two of them last year — and expert satellite imagery analysis suggests it could well be preparing for a sixth.

Pyongyang has shown no sign of reining in a missile testing programme ultimately aimed at securing the capability to deliver a nuclear warhead to the continental United States.

Health

Saudi Arabia to make COVID-19 vaccine free for citizens and residents

As per Gulf News, Dr Asiri told Al Ekhbariya that Saudi Arabia will receive vaccines through COVAX facility as well as through companies outside of the consortium.

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Saudi King Salman

Abu Dhabi: Saudi Arabia’s Health Ministry on Monday announced that it would make the coronavirus vaccine available for free to all citizens and residents.

“Those who have not tested positive for COVID-19 will be given priority in the vaccine campaign in the coming months,” said Dr Abdullah Asiri, the assistant undersecretary at the ministry.

He, however, added that those below 16 years of age will not be vaccinated unless research proves otherwise.

As per Gulf News, Dr Asiri told Al Ekhbariya that Saudi Arabia will receive vaccines through COVAX facility as well as through companies outside of the consortium.

“The Kingdom worked on two paths to obtain the vaccine, through the COVAX organisation, which the G20 had a role in creating and financing…Saudi Arabia will obtain a large number of vaccines through this facility, while the second track is directly contracting with the big companies to cover the gap that cannot be covered through COVAX,” Arab News mentioned Asiri as saying.

According to the World Health Organization, “the COVAX facility forms a key part of the COVAX pillar (COVAX) of the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator, a ground-breaking global collaboration to accelerate the development, production, and equitable access to COVID-19 tests, treatments, and vaccines.”

The Saudi Health Ministry further expected that by the end of next year, the vaccines would cover 70 per cent of the Kingdom’s population.

“One of the most important goals set by the G20 during Saudi Arabia’s G20 presidency is to support all-inclusive and equitable access to vaccines, diagnostic and treatment tools,” said Dr Abdullah Asiri.

Dr Asiri added that a comprehensive plan for vaccine distribution will be ready “in the coming weeks”.

During the two-day G20 summit hosted virtually in Riyadh, Dr Abdullah Al Rabeeah, the supervisor general of the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Centre, on Friday said that his country would be among the first ones to get hold of a COVID-19 vaccine.

Dr Al Rabeeah added that Saudi Arabia has spent over USD 200 million on COVID-19 vaccine and drug development.

Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz had in March also ordered free coronavirus treatment for all citizens.

Meanwhile, WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Monday announced: “There is now real hope that vaccines, in combination with other tried and tested public health measures, will help to end the pandemic.”

His remarks came after drugmaker AstraZeneca announced that its COVID-19 vaccine was up to 90 per cent effective. With this, AstraZeneca has become the third major drug company after Pfizer and Moderna to have reported late-stage data for a potential COVID-19 vaccine.

“The significance of this scientific achievement cannot be overstated. No vaccines in history have been developed as rapidly as these. The scientific community has set a new standard for vaccine development,” added Tedros.

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India

India To Host G20 Summit In 2023: Grouping’s Declaration

India looks forward to taking forward the G20 agenda in 2023 after the Italian and Indonesian presidencies, the source said.

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g20 summit

G20 leaders announced on Sunday that India will host the summit of the high-profile grouping in 2023 — a year later than what was decided earlier.

India was earlier slated to host the summit in 2022 with the Osaka declaration of the G20 stating last year that “we look forward to meeting again in Saudi Arabia in 2020, in Italy in 2021 and in India in 2022”.

“We thank Saudi Arabia for hosting a successful Riyadh Summit and its contribution to the G20 process. We look forward to our next meetings in Italy in 2021, Indonesia in 2022, India in 2023 and Brazil in 2024,” the G20 Riyadh Summit Leaders Declaration said.

On India now hosting the summit in 2023, a source said, “The order of the rotating presidency is decided among member states on the basis of consultations and mutual convenience.”

India looks forward to taking forward the G20 agenda in 2023 after the Italian and Indonesian presidencies, the source said.

In a statement on the summit, the Ministry of External Affairs said it was decided that the G20 presidency will be held by Indonesia in 2022, India in 2023 and Brazil in 2024.

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Middle East

G20 leadership vital in defence against Covid: UN chief

It means broadening the eligibility of the G20 debt initiatives to all vulnerable developing countries, including the middle-income ones that need it, he said.

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Antonio Guterres

United Nations: United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has said that the leadership of the Group of 20 (G20) is vital in the global struggle with the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Our greatest defence against Covid-19 is solidarity and cooperation,” the UN chief was speaking at a virtual summit of G20 leaders under the theme “Building an inclusive, sustainable and resilient future,” where he highlighted the importance of G20 leadership in the fight against the pandemic and the effort to build back better, Xinhua news agency reported.

First of all, the Secretary-General said that the G20 leadership is critical in “halting the further spread of the pandemic.”

“Yesterday, I was encouraged by the broad recognition that vaccines – as well as tests and treatments – must be global public goods, available and affordable for all,” he said, referring to the progress in the first-day meeting of the summit.

“But I want to repeat the call on G20 members to support the ACT-Accelerator and its COVAX facility. There is a financial gap of 28 billion US dollars and we need 4.2 billion dollars of that immediately for mass manufacturing, procurement and distribution around the world,” he said.

The top UN official also said, the leadership is also vital in mobilizing the resources to build forward better.

“There will be no different and better future without stronger action now to provide the necessary liquidity and tackle the debt emergency of the most vulnerable,” he explained.

“It means strengthening the firepower of the IMF (International Monetary Fund) and other international financial institutions in support of the developing world, including through a new issuance of Special Drawing Rights and the reallocation of unused SDRs,” Guterres added.

It means broadening the eligibility of the G20 debt initiatives to all vulnerable developing countries, including the middle-income ones that need it, he said.

The UN chief believed that the third important role of the G20 leadership is aligning their recovery efforts with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.

To build an inclusive, resilient and sustainable post-COVID world, public spending must be linked with achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, said the Secretary-General.

“We have a moral obligation to ensure that the trillions of dollars for Covid-19 recovery – money that we are borrowing from future generations – does not leave them burdened by a mountain of debt on a broken planet,” he said.

“The recovery must help to reconcile humankind and nature on all fronts. From climate to biodiversity, from protecting the oceans to stopping deforestation and land degradation,” he added.

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