North Korea covertly shipping artillery shells to Russia, US says
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North Korea covertly shipping artillery shells to Russia, US says

Madison Franz

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North Korea covertly shipping artillery shells to Russia, US says
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White House says North Korea is sending a ‘significant’ number of artillery shells to Russia for the Ukraine war.

The United States has accused North Korea of supplying Russia with a “significant” number of artillery shells to be used in Ukraine, as Moscow increasingly looks to allies for help with the war effort.

US National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters on Wednesday that the alleged North Korean weapon shipments are unlikely to change the course of the conflict, stressing Western efforts to support the Ukrainian military.

“Our indications are that the DPRK is covertly supplying, and we are going to monitor to see whether the shipments are received,” Kirby told reporters, referring to North Korea by the acronym of its official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

He did not share details about the mode of transportation or whether the US would attempt to interdict the shipments to Russia.

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Tuesday’s announcement comes amid heightened US tensions with North Korea, which launched nearly two dozen missiles on Wednesday, including one that landed near South Korean waters. Pyongyang has carried out a record number of weapons tests this year in defiance of US and international sanctions.

Earlier in the week the US and South Korean forces conducted large, joint air exercises, prompting an angry response from North Korea, which described the drills as a “ceaseless and reckless” provocation.

On Tuesday, US State Department spokesman Ned Price said Pyongyang appeared to be “reaching for another pretext for provocations it has already undertaken, potentially for provocations that it might be planning to take in the coming days or coming weeks”.

The US has been warning competitors and adversaries – including China – against coming to Russia’s aid in Ukraine.

Washington and Kyiv have also accused Tehran of supplying Moscow with drones that were used in deadly attacks across Ukraine – allegations Iran has denied.

Last month, Kirby said Iranian personnel were “directly engaged on the ground” in Crimea to help train Russian forces on the use of drones.

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The US and the European Union have imposed sanctions on Iranian individuals and firms they accuse of links to the country’s drone industry and shipments to Russia.

Since Russia launched its all-out invasion of Ukraine in February, its military campaign has been mired by setbacks. In recent months, Ukrainian forces, aided by US weaponry, recaptured large swaths of territory in a counteroffensive in the east of the country.

Washington and its allies have been piling sanctions on Russia over the war and providing military and humanitarian assistance to Ukraine.

In September, the US Congress passed a bill allocating $12bn in funds for Ukraine, adding to the tens of billions of dollars in aid approved earlier this year.

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Israeli air attacks in Syria kill four soldiers, wound one

Madison Franz

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Israeli air attacks in Syria kill four soldiers, wound one
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Air raids were aimed at pro-Iranian groups in Homs and Hama provinces, war monitor says.

Four Syrian soldiers have been killed and one wounded by Israeli air strikes on military posts in the central and western regions of Syria, the Syrian state news agency SANA reported.

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At about 6:30am (03:30 GMT) on Saturday, Israeli jets flying over the Mediterranean targeted military posts in central and coastal Syria, according to the report, which cited a military source.

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An Israeli air force F-15I fighter jet releases flares over the Mediterranean Sea during an aerial show as part of the celebrations for Israel's Independence Day marking the 70th anniversary of the creation of the state, in Tel Aviv, Israel April 19, 2018. REUTERS/Amir Cohen

Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the air raids were aimed at pro-Iranian groups [File: Amir Cohen/Reuters] Four Syrian soldiers have been killed and one wounded by Israeli air strikes on military posts in the central and western regions of Syria, the Syrian state news agency SANA reported.

At about 6:30am (03:30 GMT) on Saturday, Israeli jets flying over the Mediterranean targeted military posts in central and coastal Syria, according to the report, which cited a military source.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a British-based war monitor, said the attacks were aimed at pro-Iranian groups in the provinces of Homs and Hama, hitting weapons and ammunition sites.

The Syrian Observatory also said that Israeli forces targeted a Syrian air defence battery in Latakia province.

Syria’s air defences counter-attacked, causing material damage, SANA reported.

There has been no comment from the Israeli military.

Israel has carried out hundreds of strikes on targets inside government-controlled parts of Syria in recent years, but rarely acknowledges or discusses the operations.

However, Israel has acknowledged that it targets the bases of Iran-allied fighters, such as Lebanon’s Hezbollah, which has backed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces by sending in thousands of fighters.

On November 13, Israeli air attacks killed two Syrian soldiers and wounded three in the central province of Homs, Syrian state media reported.

In October, an Israeli air strike in central Syria killed one Syrian soldier and three pro-Iranian fighters, according to the Syrian Observatory.

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N Korea warns of ‘all-out’ nuclear response to US ‘aggression’

Madison Franz

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N Korea warns of ‘all-out’ nuclear response to US ‘aggression’
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North Korea has promised to ‘resolutely react’ to the US threat of nuclear weapons use with its own nuclear capabilities.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has promised to use nuclear weapons to counter threats from the United States hours after test-firing an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICMB), the latest escalation as the UN Security Council prepares to convene an emergency session on Pyongyang’s actions.

The United Nations Security Council, at the behest of Japan, South Korea and the US will gather on Monday to discuss North Korea’s latest missile launch.

North Korea test-fired what it said was a Hwasong-17 ICBM, which can travel up to 15,000 km (9,320 miles), on Friday shortly after warning of “fiercer military responses” to Washington.

“Kim Jong Un solemnly declared that if the enemies continue to pose threats … our party and government will resolutely react to nukes with nuclear weapons and to total confrontation with all-out confrontation,” Pyongyang’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported on Saturday.

KCNA said the Hwasong-17 launched on Friday was aimed at achieving “the most powerful and absolute nuclear deterrence” and described the missile as “the strongest strategic weapon in the world”.

North Korea has long defended its launch of ballistic missiles as a legitimate defence against what it calls a decades-old threat from US military forces and its allies in South Korea.

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Kim was accompanied by his daughter, in her first public appearance, while he inspected a missile launch site on Friday. Trailed by military officials and personnel, Kim and his daughter walked hand-in-hand through the ICBM launch site where they paused to observe military hardware and multiple ICBMs.

Commenting on Friday’s launch, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said his country had “lodged a strong protest against North Korea, which has repeated its provocations with unprecedented frequency”.

“We have told (Pyongyang) that we absolutely cannot tolerate such actions,” Kishida said at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit meeting in Thailand.

KCNA said the missile flew nearly 1,000 km (621 miles) for roughly 69 minutes, reaching a peak altitude of 6,041 km (3,754 miles).

Kim hailed the test launch a success, declaring it as confirmation of North Korea’s “maximum capacity to contain any nuclear threat” and a warning to US President Joe Biden’s administration and allies that any military provocation would trigger their “self-destruction”, KCNA reported.

“Our party and government should clearly demonstrate their strongest will to retaliate the hysteric aggression war drills by the enemies,” Kim stated, according to KCNA.

Friday’s ICBM launch and sabre-rattling statements come just days after Biden pressed Chinese President Xi Jinping in their first face-to-face meeting during the G20 talks in Bali to make it known to Kim that Washington would not stand for its “long-range nuclear tests”.

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Biden promised a “defensive” response to “send a clear message to North Korea” if Xi could not rein in Pyongyang. Biden has not yet directly addressed North Korea’s Friday ICBM test.

“We are aware of the DPRK’s ballistic missile launch and are consulting closely with the Republic of Korea (ROK) and Japan, as well as other regional allies and partners,” the US Department of Defence said in a statement sent to Al Jazeera.

“The United States condemns these actions and calls on the DPRK to refrain from any further unlawful and destabilizing acts. While we have assessed that this event does not pose an immediate threat to US personnel, or territory, or to our allies, we will continue to monitor the situation. The US commitments to the defence of the ROK and Japan remain ironclad.”

North Korea’s official name is the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK).

 

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In defending Saudi prince’s immunity in Khashoggi killing lawsuit, US cites PM Modi’s example

Madison Franz

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In defending Saudi prince’s immunity in Khashoggi killing lawsuit, US cites PM Modi’s example
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The US administration ruled that Mohammed bin Salman has immunity from a lawsuit over the murder of Jamal Khashoggi.

With the Joe Biden-led administration drawing criticism over its statement that Saudi Arabian Crown Prince

With the Joe Biden-led administration drawing criticism over its statement that Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has immunity from a lawsuit over the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a US State Department spokesperson has stated that several leaders, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, were afforded the same immunity from prosecution previously.

When asked whether other heads of state or government would be given the same protection, Vedant Patel, the Department’s Principal Deputy Spokesperson, said, “this is not the first time that the United States has done this. It is a longstanding and consistent line of effort.”

Stating that the immunity “has been applied to a number of heads of state previously”, Patel cited various examples comprising “President Aristide in Haiti in 1993, President Mugabe in Zimbabwe in 2001, Prime Minister Modi in India in 2014, and President Kabila in the DRC in 2018.”

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US State Department spokesperson has stated that several leaders, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, were afforded the same immunity from prosecution previously.

When asked whether other heads of state or government would be given the same protection, Vedant Patel, the Department’s Principal Deputy Spokesperson, said, “this is not the first time that the United States has done this. It is a longstanding and consistent line of effort.”

Stating that the immunity “has been applied to a number of heads of state previously”, Patel cited various examples comprising “President Aristide in Haiti in 1993, President Mugabe in Zimbabwe in 2001, Prime Minister Modi in India in 2014, and President Kabila in the DRC in 2018.”

In 2005, the US had placed Modi, who was then the chief minister of Gujarat, on a visa ban in the wake of 2002 riots. The ban was only lifted in 2014 with his election as the PM, with the United States maintaining that it had not changed its policy.

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“This is a consistent practice that we have afforded to heads of state, heads of government, and foreign ministers,” he added.

The Biden administration ruled on Thursday that MBS has immunity from a lawsuit over the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, drawing immediate condemnation from the slain journalist’s former fiancee.

Khashoggi was killed and dismembered in October 2018 by Saudi agents in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, an operation that US intelligence believed was ordered by Prince Mohammed, who has been the kingdom’s de facto ruler for several years. In September, Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz had named his son and heir Prince Mohammed bin Salman as the kingdom’s Prime Minister.

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