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North Korea fires 4 ballistic missiles

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Seoul, March 6, 2017: North Korea on Monday test-fired four ballistic missiles into the Sea of Japan, Seoul’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) announced.

The four projectiles were launched from an area near North Korea’s Dongchang-ri long-range missile site at 7.36 a.m., and flew about 1,000 km, the JCS said in a statement.

“We estimate the North fired four ballistic missiles. We are conducting an analysis (with the US) on the missiles to determine their type and other specifications. It will take a while before we can come up with a final analysis (based on American satellite data),” the statement said.

Acting President and Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn convened a National Security Council meeting after the launches, Yonhap News Agency reported.

Military officials raised the possibility that the projectiles could be intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) capable of reaching the west of the US mainland if launched at a high angle.

Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said three out of four missiles fired by the North fell into Japan’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ), some 250 km west of Akita prefecture.

The latest provocation comes a day after the US said it may consider redeploying a tactical nuclear weapon in South Korea as a deterrent against growing nuclear and missile threats posed by the rogue regime.

On Friday, Pyongyang threatened to conduct more missile firings in response to the two-month-long Foal Eagle exercise between Seoul and Washington, which lasts through April.

In its latest provocations, Pyongyang launched an intermediate-range ballistic missile into the East Sea on February 12 to boast its military readiness and test the response from the new Donald Trump administration.

It was the first test-firing of a North Korean missile since Donald Trump became the American president on January 20.

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New attacks in Syria’s Eastern Ghouta after UNSC resolution

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Syria airstrike attack which killed 28 civilians (photo credit Getty images )
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Damascus, Feb 25: Syrian government forces on Sunday continued their airstrikes and shelling of Eastern Ghouta, a rebel-held suburb of the capital Damascus, hours after the UN Security Council (UNSC) approved resolution demanding a 30-day nationwide cease-fire.

On Sunday morning, two airstrikes targeted the town of al-Shifonia, while government troops launched missiles against Harasta, Karf Badna and Jesren, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), a UK-based war monitor.

Despite fighting between government troops and the Jaysh al-Islam (Army of Islam), the SOHR reported that Saturday night was the calmest in the region since the government forces intensified their attacks on Eastern Ghouta as there were no casualties.

The attacks involved the use of heavy arms and were the first to take place in al-Shifonia since February 18, when the government forces started their campaign.

Also on Sunday, six surface-to-surface missiles were launched at Harasta, four targeted Karf Badna and Jesren and another four were launched at Hamouriyah, while al-Shifonia suffered two airstrikes, according to the SOHR.

The UNSC on Saturday unanimously approved a resolution demanding a 30-day, nationwide cease-fire in Syria, including Eastern Ghouta.

Under the cease-fire deal continued military operations will be authorised against groups regarded as terrorist organisations by the UN, including the Islamic State and Nusra Front, who now call themselves Tahrir al-Sham, which the Syrian government says is present in Eastern Ghouta.

A week of intense attacks on Eastern Ghouta killed at least 510 people, including 127 minors, according to latest figures.

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Communist Party proposes to lift two-year limit on President term, Xi Jinping may get another term in office

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In a major change in China’s political scenario the Communist Party of China Central committee has proposed to remove a clause from China’s constitution which forbids the president and vice president to serve more than two consecutive terms on the post.

President Xi Jinping’s first term will end on March 5 and as he has been re-elected so he will take on the president for the second term.

The proposal was made public on Sunday, state-owned media Xinhua reported.Other than the term the central committee has also proposed to add the Xi Jinping’s “Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era” to China’s Constitution.

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UNSC unanimously votes resolution ordering ceasefire in Syria

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United Nations, Feb 25: The ten elected non-permanent members (E10) of the UN Security Council pushed the five permanent members (P5) to reach a compromise and got an unanimous vote on a resolution ordering a ceasefire “without delay” in Syria to allow humanitarian aid to reach areas under siege.

After two days of delays and several postponements, Russia and the three western permanent members — Britain, France and the United States — agreed on Saturday, on the final version negotiated by Kuwait and Sweden with the backing of the P10.

Kuwait’s Permanent Representative Mansour Ayyad Al-Otaibi, who is the Council President for the month, said after the resolution passed that the unanimous vote was a “sign that the Security Council is united” and this could pave the way for finding a lasting political solution to the seven-year conflict.

Hoping to shame the permanent members locked in a standoff and push them to a compromise, all the the E10 representatives lined up together and held a news conference on Friday while the negotiations were on. “We want to show you the solidarity of the E10,” Al-Otaibi declared: “We are all united, we want the resolution to be adopted.”

The unrelenting push by Al-Otaibi and Sweden’s Permanent Representative Olof Skoog won praise from every one of the Council members. It was a rare instance of the E10 bending the P5, instead of the other way around.

Besides the nation-wide ceasefire, the resolution calls for the lifting of all sieges, facilitation of medical evacuations, and permitting convoys of the UN and its partners carrying humanitarian supplies free access.

However, the resolution made one notable exception to the ceasefire: It allowed continued action against the Islamic State, Al-Qaeda, A1-Nusra Front and other terrorist organisations.

The key point of contention that held up the resolution since it was formally introduced by Kuwait and Sweden on Wednesday was the timing of when the ceasefire should start. The US demanded it should be immediate, while Russia wanted lag before it went into effect and the threat of a Moscow veto hung over it.

The resolution now says it will come into force “without delay,” leaving an element of ambiguity subject to interpretations.

Speaking to reporters after the vote, Al-Otaibi said they debated about the timing during the negotiations all of Friday and into Saturday morning. “Without delay means” immediately, he said.

Russia’s Permanent Representative Vassily Nebenzia was non-commital about. He told reporters that the reason his country held out on the wording of the timing was that it was logistical issue and a “painful process on the ground.”

He added that another concern of Moscow was that resolution was not used as a pretext to launch an invasion of Syria.

With the drawn-out negotiations, Syria got three days to prepare for it.

Speaking in the Council after the vote, United States Permanent Representative Nikki Haley lashed out at Russia saying that during the time it held up the resolution to change a “few words and some commas,” mothers lost their children to bombing and shelling.

“The Syrian people should not have to die waiting for Russia to organise their instructions from Moscow, or to discuss it with the Syrians,” she added.

The action on the ceasefire was precipitated situation in East Ghouta, which UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called “hell on Earth”. One of the few rebel-held territories, the Damascus suburb has been under a siege and bombed from the air by the Syrian government forces.

East Ghouta was specifically mentioned, along with several other areas, but the Kurdish city of Afrin was not. Intense fighting has been underway in the area between Turkey’s military and Kurdish militias backed by Syrian government forces.

Asked about it by reporters, Al-Otaiby said the ceasefire applied to all of Syria and to all forces operating there.

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