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US expects Pakistan to act on Pathankot attack, but no deadline

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Blowing hot and cold, the US says it expects Pakistan to thoroughly investigate the terrorist attack on an Indian Air Force base and bring the perpetrators to justice, but could not force its pace.

“The Pakistanis said they’re going to investigate, so we look forward to seeing the results of that investigation when it’s complete,” State Department Spokesperson John Kirby told reporters Thursday.

“But as for how long it’s going to take and the scope of it, I think you need to be talking to folks in Islamabad about that,” he said.

Asked if the US had reached out to Pakistan after India named banned terror organisation Jaish-e-Muhammad and its chief Maulana Masood Azhar as being responsible for the Pathankot attack, Kirby said: “Of course, we’re talking to Pakistan about this”.

But he gave no details of “the specifics of diplomatic discussions” and simply repeated “the Government of Pakistan itself has condemned this attack and made clear that they’re committed to investigate it.”

“So let’s let them do that and let’s see where the investigation goes. We obviously would like to see it investigated too, as completely and as thoroughly as possible, so that we can better understand what happened,” Kirby said.

Taking Islamabad’s statements on face value, the spokesperson said, “The Government of Pakistan has also said that they’re not going to discriminate between terrorist groups as part of its counterterrorism operations.”

Pakistan “knows well the threat of terrorism. is a regional challenge that requires real regional solutions,” he said, “and we want Pakistan to be a part of those solutions.”

Reminded that after the Nov 2008 Mumbai terrorist attack in which six American were killed too, the US had asked Pakistan to act, but to no avail, a defensive Kirby said nobody can look at the US “counterterrorism record over the last decade or so and say we’re not doing anything.”

The countries in the region too could do more, he said “Which is why we continue to encourage bilateral, multilateral efforts in the region to get at this particular threat.”

“The relationship with Pakistan’s complicated, I get that. And we don’t always agree on everything,” he acknowledged.

“And I can’t speak for how long it might take them to complete an investigation or the degree to which they intend to be transparent about it after they’ve completed it.”

“And as for the Mumbai attackers, we’ve said and I’ll say it again today: We obviously want to see all the perpetrators brought to justice,” Kirby said.

“We know that that can take a long time. It took an awful long time to bring Osama bin Laden to justice, but we did. So it can be hard.”

Asked about a former CIA analyst Bruce Riedel’s opinion that Pakistani spy agency ISI was behind the terrorist attack in Pathankot and also in Mazar-e-Sharif, Kirby said he was “not in a position to confirm the veracity of his conclusions.”

The US didn’t “have an independent assessment of who was behind this attack,” he said. “A, it just happened two days ago; B, it’s being investigated by the Pakistanis. They’ve condemned it, we condemned it,” Kirby repeated. “Let’s let their investigation move forward and we’ll see where it goes.”

“It’s not for us to ascribe a timeline to somebody else’s investigation,” Kirby said. “We’ll certainly defer to Pakistani authorities to determine their own timelines and their own deadlines.”

Asked if he believed the Pathankot attack was carried out to derail the peace process between India and Pakistan, Kirby said: “I have no idea what the motivation for that attack would be.”

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Japan’s Abe lifts state of emergency

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Tokyo, May 25 (IANS) Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Monday lifted the countrys nationwide state of emergency, ending restrictions in the remaining areas where the order was still in effect due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We had very stringent criteria for lifting the state of emergency. We have judged that we have met this criteria,” the BBC quoted Abe as saying said in a televised address to the nation on Monday.

He said the country had managed to control the spread of COVID-19 since issuing the order in some areas on April 7, then later extending it nationwide.

Japan has been easing restrictions since mid-May, but kept several areas, Tokyo included, under watch to ensure the outbreak had been contained.

Unlike other major economies, Japan has endured a relatively limited outbreak of OVID-19, recording 820 coronavirus-related deaths and 16,550 infections as of Monday.

Initially, Japan was criticised for its handling of the pandemic, prompting the prime minister to declare a state of emergency in metropolitan areas on April 7, later expanding it nationwide.

Monday’s decision came after the number of infections and the situation of the health system in Tokyo, the three neighbouring prefectures of Chiba, Kanagawa and Saitama and the northern Hokkaido, the only ones where the state of emergency remained in effect, reports Efe news.

The group of experts advising the government appreciated the efforts made by citizens to comply with the recommendations to achieve the target of reducing interpersonal contact by 80 per cent, top government spokesperson Yoshihide Suga said at a press conference on Monday.

The recommendation for citizens to avoid unnecessary trips outside and the request for non-essential businesses to close were not mandatory nor accompanied by fines or other penalties for non-compliance, unlike the stricter containment measures implemented in other countries.

The government had already decided to lift the emergency in 39 prefectures on May 14 after they reported a marked decrease in the number of infections, leaving out the more populated regions such as Tokyo and Osaka.

To avoid new outbreaks of the virus, Abe has urged people to become accustomed to a “new lifestyle” that includes maintaining social distancing, the use of masks outside as well as a series of guidelines for the reopening of shops, restaurants and public facilities.

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UK PM aide’s row overshadows plans to ease lockdown

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London, May 25 (IANS) Pressure was mounting on UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson to act over his senior aide Dominic Cummings’ lockdown trip, as the cabinet is slated to met on Monday to discuss plans to ease the country’s COVID-19 restrictions.

Cummingss, the former Vote Leave chief who was the architect of Johnson’s Brexit strategy, is facing calls to resign after it emerged that he travelled from London to his parents’ home in Durham with coronavirus symptoms during the lockdown, reports the BBC.

Speaking at Sunday’s Downing Street briefing, Johnson said he believed Cummings had “no alternative” but to make the journey at the end of March for childcare “when both he and his wife were about to be incapacitated by coronavirus”.

The Prime Minister said he held “extensive” discussions on Sunday with Mr Cummings, who he said “followed the instincts of every father and every parent – and I do not mark him down for that”.

However, the BBC report said that the Prime Minister was finding it difficult to shift the political focus away from his key adviser.

Speaking to the BBC, Acting Lib Dem leader Ed Davey said that the row over Cummings was “preventing the government from getting on and doing its job, and doing it better”.

He said that Johnson should sack Cummings “so the government has more credibility in what it says about public health”.

“The instruction the Prime Minister gave us all to stay at home has been breached by his top adviser and that’s what you can’t get away from in this story, its pretty simple.

“I hope the prime minister will come to his senses, recapture his judgement and reinstall authority on this crisis by acting,” he told the BBC.

Meanwhile, some of the scientists that advise ministers were also concerned that Johnson’s decision to back Cummings would undermine the message on controlling the virus.

Stephen Reicher, a professor of social psychology who has advised the government on behavioural science during the pandemic, told the BBC that trust was vital to maintaining public health measures, adding: “You can’t have trust if people have a sense of them and us, that there’s one rule for them and another rule for us.”

Also responding to the row, Bishop of Leeds, the Right Reverend Nick Baines, said Johnson was treating people “as mugs” and the Bishop of Bristol, the Right Reverend Vivienne Faull, accused the Prime ,inister of having “no respect for people”.

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Seoul kindergarten student tests COVID-19 positive

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Seoul, May 25 (IANS) A kindergarten student in Seoul has tested positive for the novel coronavirus, the South Korean capital city’s education office said on Monday.

The development comes just two days ahead of the planned second-phase resumption of South Korean schools, including kindergartens, reports Yonhap News Agency.

The six-year-old student is believed to have contracted the virus from his art teacher at Young Rembrandts, a private art school in Magok .

The teacher, who tested positive on Sunday, had taught 35 students at the institute until Friday and had contact with three other staff members.

The teachers all wore masks and followed the institute’s quarantine guidelines and social distancing rules, according to the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education.

The art school’s 91 students, three teachers and two parents have been tested for the virus and are awaiting their results, which will come out on Tuesday.

The teacher’s 38 contacts have been ordered to self-quarantine for 14 days, and 13 educational institutes in the same building as the art school will be closed for disinfection.

The boy’s kindergarten, 10 nearby kindergartens and five nearby elementary schools will remain closed for two days for disinfection and other precautionary measures, said the Yonhap News Agency report.

Under the government’s phased school reopening plan, schools are scheduled to resume in-person classes for the two lowest grades of elementary school, kindergarten students, middle school seniors and second-year high school students on Wednesday.

High school seniors returned to school last week after more than two months of delay due to the COVID-19 pandemic which has so far infected 11,206 South Koreans and killed 267 others.

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