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Roy Siemens

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Roy likes politics. Knowledge is power, Roy constantly says, so he spends nearly all day gathering information and writing articles about the latest events around the globe. He likes history and studying about war techniques, this is why he finds writing his articles a piece of cake. Another hobby of his is horse – riding.


Image source Pixabay

China has asked the US to withdraw sanctions on its military over purchases of Russian jets and missiles or “bear the consequences”.

The US says China has contravened its sanctions on Russia introduced over Russian actions in Ukraine and alleged interference in US politics.

Beijing recently bought 10 Russian Sukhoi Su-35 fighter jets and S-400 missiles.

China has not joined in the sanctions imposed on Russia by the US and its Western allies since 2014.

Beijing’s forces took part in giant Russian war games held earlier this month.

China is fast becoming a manufacturer of sophisticated weaponry in its own right but it remains eager to buy advanced Russian weaponry, especially air defense systems and combat aircraft.

Russia – after years of some reluctance – is now more willing to transfer this sort of weaponry to China.

Moscow has also criticized the sanctions on the Chinese military, warning the US against “playing with fire”.

Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said in a statement: “It would be good for them to remember there is such a concept as global stability which they are thoughtlessly undermining by whipping up tensions in Russian-American ties.”

US officials have said the sanctions are aimed at Russia, and are not intended to undermine other countries’ defense capabilities and similar action against other countries could be considered.

US to Impose New Tariffs on Chinese Handbags, Rice and Textiles

China Imposes New Tariffs of Up to 25% on 128 US Imports

White House to Announce Sanctions against China over Theft and Transfer of Intellectual Property

China’s Equipment Development Department (EDD), which is responsible for improving China’s military technology, and its head, Li Shangfu, are sanctioned for completing “significant transactions” with Russia’s state arms exporter, Rosoboronexport.

The EDD and Li Shangfu have been added to a Blocked Persons List, meaning any assets they hold in the US are frozen and Americans are “generally prohibited” from doing business with them.


Furthermore, the EDD is denied export licenses and excluded from the American financial system.

The US also blacklisted an additional 33 people and entities associated with Russian military and intelligence.

China and the US countries are currently embroiled in an escalating trade war.

President Donald Trump has imposed three waves of tariffs on about 40% of China’s roughly $500 billion of exports to the US and has also threatened further tariffs.

China has responded with tariffs on about $110 billion of US exports. In 2017, China imported about $130 billion of goods from the US.

There have also been some tensions over disputed territory in the South China Sea, which is subject to overlapping claims by six countries.

China has been accused of militarizing the sea to support its vast claims.

The US says it is “committed to a free and open Indo-Pacific” and has sailed warships close to artificial islands built by China to challenge what it sees as Chinese efforts to restrict freedom of navigation in a strategically important area.

Image source Wikimedia

According to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), at least 29 children have been killed and 30 wounded in a Saudi-led coalition air strike on a school bus in Yemen.

The kids were travelling on a bus that was hit at a market in Dahyan, in the northern province of Saada.

According to the health ministry run by the rebel Houthi movement, the death toll at 43. It said 61 people were wounded.

The coalition, which is backing Yemen’s government in a war with the Houthis, said its actions were “legitimate”.

It insists it never deliberately targets civilians, but human rights groups have accused it of bombing markets, schools, hospitals and residential areas.

Saudi Arabia Intercepts Yemen Ballistic Missile near Riyadh Airport

Yemen President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi gets Saudi refuge

Yemeni tribal elders told the AP that the bus was hit as it passed through Dahyan market and that it was transporting local civilians, including many school children.

Save the Children said it had been told by its staff that the kids were on their way back to school from a picnic when the driver of their bus stopped to get a drink.

The bus was stationary when the attack happened, it added.

The ICRC said a hospital it supported in Saada had received the bodies of 29 children, all of them under the age of 15, and 48 injured people, among them 30 children.

It sent additional supplies to the hospital to cope with the influx of patients.

Houthi-run Al-Masirah TV reported that 47 people were killed and 77 wounded, and broadcast pictures showing the bodies of several young children, some of them wearing school uniform.

The Israeli parliament has approved a controversial bill characterizing the country as principally a Jewish state, fuelling anger among its Arab minority.

The so-called “nation state” law says Jews have a unique right to national self-determination there and puts Hebrew above Arabic as the official language.

Arab lawmakers reacted furiously in parliament, with one waving a black flag and another ripping up the bill.

Om Benjamin Netanyahu praised the law’s passage as a “defining moment”.

He said: “A hundred and twenty-two years after [the founder of modern Zionism Theodore] Herzl made his vision known, with this law we determined the founding principle of our existence. Israel is the nation state of the Jewish people, and respects the rights of all of its citizens.”

Among its 11 provisions, the Basic Law describes Israel as “the national home of the Jewish people” and says the right to exercise national self-determination there is “unique to the Jewish people”.

The law also reiterates the status of Jerusalem under Israeli law, which defines the city as the “complete and united… capital of Israel”.

Controversially, the law singles out Hebrew as the “state’s language”, effectively prioritizing it above Arabic which has for decades been recognized as an official language alongside Hebrew.

Image source Wikimedia

Jerusalem Issue: Mahmoud Abbas to Reject Any US Peace Plan with Israel

Jerusalem Issue: Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu Expects EU Countries to Follow US Recognition

The law ascribes Arabic “special status” and says its standing before the law came into effect will not be harmed.

In one of its clauses, the law stresses the importance of “development of Jewish settlement as a national value”, though it is unclear whether this also alludes to settlement in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

The bill has been under discussion since it was first introduced in 2011 and has undergone multiple amendments, with the final version watering down or dropping altogether sections regarded as discriminatory.

Israel has no constitution but instead passed over time a series of Basic Laws which have constitutional status. The nation state law is the 14th such basic law.

The issue of Israel as a Jewish state has become increasingly important in recent years and a key dispute between Israel and the Palestinians.

The Israeli prime minister has repeatedly insisted that the Palestinians must recognize Israel as a Jewish state in any final peace settlement. Benjamin Netanyahu argues that the Palestinians’ refusal to do so is the biggest obstacle to peace, saying it demonstrates that the Palestinians do not genuinely recognize Israel’s right to exist.

Meanwhile, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has said he will never recognize Israel as a Jewish state, arguing that the Palestinians have long recognized the State of Israel and should not be expected to go further.

The law is important because it is hugely symbolic, and according to Israel’s large Arab minority, evidence that Israel is downgrading their status.

Israeli Arabs, many of whom identify as or with Palestinians, comprise about 20% of Israel’s 9 million-strong population.

Arabs have equal rights under the law but have long complained of being treated as second-class citizens and say they face discrimination and worse provision than Israeli Jews when it comes to services such as education, health and housing.

Israel is often accused by its fiercest critics of practicing a system akin to apartheid against Israeli Arabs and Palestinians in the occupied West Bank. Israel vehemently rejects the allegation as a smear tactic used by those who reject its very right to exist.

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The Helsinki summit between President Donald Trump and Russian leader Vladimir Putin will go ahead as planned despite tension over Russia’s alleged election meddling, the White House says.

Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin will meet for talks in the Finnish capital on July 16.

“It’s on,” White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders told reporters.

However, there are calls for the meeting to be canceled after the US charged 12 Russian intelligence officers with election interference on July 13.

For its part, Russia said it was looking forward to the meeting.

Kremlin adviser Yuri Ushakov said: “We consider Trump a negotiating partner. The state of bilateral relations is very bad. We have to start to set them right.”

The announcement that the Russians had been charged with hacking Democratic officials during the 2016 presidential election sparked a heated war of words between Washington and Moscow.

Russia’s foreign ministry said the claims were a “heap of conspiracy schemes” intended to “damage the atmosphere” before July 16 summit.

It said there was no evidence linking any of the dozen officials to hacking or military intelligence.

US Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein insisted that “the goal of the conspirators was to have an impact on the election”.

Image NBC News

President Donald Trump Prepared to Be Questioned by Robert Mueller

Robert Mueller Investigation: Michael Flynn Admits Making False Statements to FBI

Robert Mueller Investigation: Donald Trump’s Campaign Adviser George Papadopoulos Lied About Russia Links

The 11-count indictment names the Russians defendants, alleging they began cyber-attacks in March 2016 on the email accounts of staff for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.

The Russians are accused of using keystroke reading software to spy on the chair of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and hack into the party’s computers.

Rod Rosenstein said the conspirators used fictitious online personas, including “DCLeaks” and “Guccifer 2.0”, to release thousands of stolen emails.

They are also accused of stealing the data of half a million voters from a state election board website.

During a joint news conference with UK Prime Minister Theresa May on Friday, President Trump said he would “absolutely” ask Vladimir Putin about alleged election meddling.

Top Democrats have urged President Trump to cancel the planned summit altogether following the indictment.

Republican Senator John McCain said the summit “should not move forward” unless the president “is prepared to hold Putin accountable”.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller is investigating US intelligence findings that Russians conspired to sway the 2016 election in Donald Trump’s favor.

As of July 13, the inquiry has indicted 32 people – mostly Russian nationals in absentia – as well as three companies and four former Trump advisers.

None of the charges allege Trump advisers colluded with Russia to interfere with the presidential campaign.

Former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and George Papadopoulos, a former foreign policy adviser, have pleaded guilty to making false statements about their contacts with Russians.

Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his deputy Rick Gates were charged with money laundering relating to their political consultancy work in Ukraine.

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President Donald Trump has asked NATO allies to agree to double the current target of their annual GDP to military spending and to commit to 4%.

The White House confirmed President Trump had made the remarks during the NATO summit in Brussels, Belgium.

The meeting also saw Donald Trump single out Germany for criticism over its defense spending.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said the main focus should be on all members reaching the current target of 2% of GDP.

He declined to answer a specific question about President Trump’s remarks, but told reporters: “I think we should first get to 2%, focus on that now… the good thing is that we are moving to that.”

For decades after the end of the Cold War, he said, NATO countries had cut defense budgets as tensions fell – and now needed to increase them at a time when tensions were rising.

Image source Reuters

Donald Trump: “All NATO Allies Must Pay Their Fair Share of Defense Spending”

Donald Trump on Angela Merkel, Brexit and NATO

Previous US presidents have urged Europe to take more responsibility for their defense and reduce the burden on US taxpayers of maintaining forces in Europe long after the end of the Cold War – but none as bluntly as President Trump.

Confirming President Trump’s comments, White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said: “President Trump wants to see our allies share more of the burden and at a very minimum meet their already stated obligations.”

The NATO summit in Brussels comes less than a week before President Trump is due to hold his first summit with Vladimir Putin, in Helsinki, reviving concerns among US allies over his proximity to the Russian president.

President Trump’s main objection is that all but a handful of member states have still not increased their defense budgets to meet a goal of spending at least 2% of their annual economic output on defense by 2024.

Of NATO’s 29 members, just six meet that target this year: the US, Greece, Estonia, the UK, Romania and Poland.

At a news conference after the first meetings of leaders at the summit, Jens Stoltenberg insisted that more united NATO than divided it.

“We have had discussions, we do have disagreements, but most importantly we have decisions that are pushing this alliance forward and making us stronger.

“In the history of NATO we have had many disagreements and we have been able to overcome them again and again, because at the end of the day we all agree that North America and Europe are safer together.”

All 29 NATO members released a declaration which reaffirmed a commitment to increase military spending.

The communiqué also condemned “Russian aggression”, including the annexation of Crimea, the use of a nerve agent in southern England and “election interference”.

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According to new reports, the US Navy is planning to build sprawling immigrant detention centers on military bases, amid a Trump crackdown at the US-Mexico border.

A draft memo obtained by Time magazine outlines plans to build “austere” tent camps to house 25,000 migrants.

According to the memo, the camps would be built on abandoned airfields in California, Alabama, and Arizona.

A camp near San Francisco is being designed for as many as 47,000 people.

Meanwhile, a Pentagon spokesman said the military had not been asked by the Department for Homeland Security (DHS) to draw up the specific plans, but was engaging in “prudent planning… should the DHS ask for assistance in housing adult illegal immigrants”.

Image source Wikimedia

White House Details New Immigrations Measures

President Donald Trump Responds to Racism Accusations

On June 21, the US military said it had been asked by the government to get ready to house up to 20,000 immigrant children.

The US Navy memo estimates the force would spend $233 million to run a facility for 25,000 people for six-months.

The memo gives a sense of the knock-on effect of a “zero tolerance” immigration policy being pursued by the Trump administration, in an effort to deter migrants from Central and South America from attempting to cross into the US.

A decision by the administration to criminally prosecute every migrant crossing the US-Mexico border led to some 2,300 children being separated from their parents in May and June, and sparked a global wave of outrage.

President Donald Trump eventually backed down in the face of overwhelming public pressure and signed an order to halt the family separations, but he insisted he remained committed to his “zero tolerance” policy.

Migrant children taken from their parents are being held in facilities run by the Department of Health and Human Services. Images from one facility in a converted Walmart sparked outrage earlier this week, when they showed children held in wire mesh cages, sleeping on mats with foil blankets.

On June 21, a DHS official said that about 500 children had been reunited with their families since separations began in May, but rights groups remain concern that there is not adequate information to return many young children to their parents.

On June 22, President Trump brought the parents of victims of murders by undocumented immigrants to the White House, where he signed photographs of their late children and invited them to tell their stories.

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General Kim Yong-chol, one of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s most senior officials, is thought to be travelling to the US, as preparations for a possible summit gather pace.

South Korean news agency Yonhap said Kim Yong-chol was due to arrive in the US on May 30, via Beijing.

His trip to the US could be part of preparation for a proposed meeting between the North Korean leader and President Donald Trump.

The summit was thrown into doubt after President Trump pulled out last week.

However, both sides have been working to get the summit – scheduled for June 12 in Singapore – back on track.

It would be the first time a North Korean leader has met a sitting US president.

Photo AP

President Donald Trump Pulls Out of Upcoming North Korea Summit

North Korea Destroyed Punggye-ri Nuclear Tunnels

Kim Yong-chol was scheduled to fly to New York on May 30, after speaking with Chinese officials in Beijing, Yonhap reported, citing diplomatic sources.

The former spy chief would be the most high-profile North Korean official to visit the US since 2000.

The apparent introduction of Kim Yong-chol to negotiations would be significant, as it would underline North Korea’s desire to ensure the talks go ahead.

He has been part of recent high-profile diplomatic overtures by North Korea.

Kim Yong-chol, 72, is a controversial figure in neighboring South Korea, and previously served as a negotiator in inter-Korean talks.

During his time as a military intelligence head, Kim Yong-chol was accused of being behind attacks on South Korean targets, including the torpedoing of a South Korea warship which killed 46 seamen, as well as the 2014 hacking of Sony Pictures.

As a result of these incidents, the US imposed personal sanctions on him in 2010 and 2015.

Despite reportedly being punished for an “overbearing attitude” in 2016, Kim Yong-chol has continued to hold senior posts in the army and party, and was the head of North Korea’s delegation to the closing ceremony of the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in South Korea.

He is regularly seen at Kim Jongg-un’s side and has attended meetings with the leaders of China and South Korea, and met US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Pyongyang.

In February, Kim Yong-chol was sent to the closing ceremony of the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, where he sat close to President Trump’s daughter and adviser, Ivanka Trump.

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North Korea has destroyed tunnels at its only nuclear test site, foreign reporters at the Punggye-ri site in the north-east confirmed.

In a move to reduce regional tensions, Pyongyang later said the site had been dismantled.

Reporters said they witnessed a huge blast.

North Korea’s move is seen as part of a diplomatic rapprochement with South Korea and the US.

However, scientists believe it partially collapsed after the last test in September 2017, rendering it unusable.

Independent inspectors were not allowed to witness the process of the dismantling of the Punggye-ri site in the mountainous region of the country.

Image source Wikimedia

North Korea May Pull Out of Trump-Kim Summit

The move comes ahead of a planned summit between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Singapore on June 12.

However, in recent days both countries have said the meeting could be delayed or even called off, amid sharp verbal exchanges between US and North Korean officials.

Three tunnels were collapsed in a series of explosions in front of about 20 handpicked international journalists.

Two blasts were reportedly carried out in the morning, and four in the afternoon.

South Korea welcomed the news.

“[We] expect it to serve as a chance for complete denuclearization going forward,” Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman Noh Kyu-duk was quoted as saying by Yonhap news agency.

North Korea has conducted six nuclear tests since 2006 in a system of tunnels dug below Mount Mantap.

It is thought to have been the country’s main nuclear facility and until now the only active nuclear testing site in the world.

The facility is located about 230 miles north-east of Pyongyang.

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More than 100 former officers have been sentenced to life in prison for their involvement in the 2016 Turkish coup attempt, state media report.

The 104 ex-military officers were given “aggravated life sentences”, which come with tougher terms than a normal life sentence.

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had previously said he backed reintroducing the death penalty for coup plotters.

The failed coup to overthrow him left at least 260 dead and 2,200 injured on July 15, 2016.

The Turkish government has since led a crackdown on alleged coup supporters, with the dismissal of more than 150,000 state employees and the arrest of some 50,000 people.

Photo Reuters

Turkey Coup Attempt: More Than 50,000 People Purged by Government

Turkey Coup Attempt: 2,839 Soldiers and Officers Arrested

Of the 280 ex-military people on trial, the court in Izmir also served lesser sentences to a further 52 defendants.

The Izmir court gave 21 people 20 years in prison for “assisting the assassination of the president”, while 31 others were sentenced to between seven and 11 years for “membership of a terrorist organization”, state news agency Anadolu reported.

President Erdogan had backed reintroducing the death penalty for coup plotters. He also said they should wear Guantanamo Bay-style uniforms. Turkey abolished the death penalty in 2004.

The Turkish authorities accused a movement loyal to the Muslim cleric, Fethullah Gulen, of organizing the 2016 plot.

Fethullah Gulen, who has been in self-imposed exile in the US since 1999, denies any involvement, and Washington has so far resisted calls from the Turkish authorities to extradite him.

Rebel soldiers had attempted to overthrow the government overnight and plotters tried to detain Recep Tayyip Erdogan as he holidayed in an Aegean resort.

However, he had left 15 minutes before and the coup was thwarted by civilians and soldiers loyal to the president.

A purge followed the coup, in which thousands of public employees from police officers to teachers were sacked or arrested under suspicion of stirring up dissent.

Recep tayyip Erdogan’s critics say he is using the purge to stifle political dissent.

More than one hundred people have died after a Boeing 737 airliner with 104 passengers and six crew members on board crashed near Cuba’s main airport in Havana.

The crash is Cuba’s worst air disaster in decades.

Three women were pulled alive from the wreckage, but are said to be in a critical condition.

The plane, which was nearly 40 years old, was carrying 104 passengers and six crew members.

Cuban authorities have launched an investigation, and two days of national mourning have been declared.

The Boeing 737-201 crashed at 12:08 local time on May 18, shortly after taking off from Havana on an internal flight to Holguin on the east of the island.

All six crew members on board were Mexican and the majority of the passengers were Cuban, with five foreigners reported to be among them.

Image source Wikimedia

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Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel said after visiting the crash site: “There has been an unfortunate aviation accident. The news is not very promising, it seems that there is a high number of victims.”

According to authorities, it’s too early to say what caused the crash, but eyewitnesses on the ground describe seeing the jet burst into flames before crashing into a field close to a wooded area near Havana’s main airport.

Mexico’s transport department said on its website that “during take-off (the plane) apparently suffered a problem and dived to the ground”.

Boeing said that it was ready to send a technical team to Cuba, “as permitted under US law and at the direction of the US National Transportation Safety Board and Cuban authorities”. A US trade embargo has been in force against Cuba for many decades.

Four people survived the crash but one died after being transported to hospital, the director of Havana’s Calixto Garcia hospital, Carlos Alberto Martinez, told Reuters.

The three survivors are all women, according to Cuban Communist Party newspaper Granma: one aged between 18 and 25, one in her thirties and the third aged 39.

Both the Argentine and Mexican governments have confirmed nationals from their countries were among the dead.

The plane had been leased to state airline Cubana de Aviación by the Mexican company Aerolineas Damojh.

The Mexican authorities said the plane was built in 1979 and had been successfully inspected last November. Mexico has said it was sending two civil aviation specialists to join the investigation.

Aerolineas Damojh, also known as Global Air, has three planes in operation.

Cuba’s deadliest air crash was in 1989, when a Soviet-made Ilyushin-62M passenger plane crashed near Havana killing 126 people on board and another 24 people on the ground.

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North Korea has threatened to pull out of a summit with President Donald Trump if the US insists it gives up its nuclear weapons.

The highly anticipated meeting between President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is due to take place on June 12.

However, in an angry statement, North Korea’s vice-foreign minister accused the US of making reckless statements and of harboring sinister intentions.

Kim Kye-gwan pointed the finger squarely at US National Security Adviser John Bolton.

He said: “We do not hide our feeling of repugnance towards him.”

The groundbreaking agreement for Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump to meet came about as North Korea said it was committed to denuclearizing the Korean peninsula.

Photo AP

President Trump Welcomes Three American Detainees Freed by North Korea

Donald Trump to Meet Kim Jong-un in Singapore on June 12

Exactly what that would entail has remained unclear, but North Korea has invited foreign media to witness the dismantling of its main nuclear test site later this month.

John Bolton recently said North Korea could follow a “Libya model” of verifiable denuclearization, but this alarms Pyongyang, which watched Libya’s Colonel Gaddafi give up his nuclear program only for him to be killed by Western-backed rebels a few years later.

Kim Kye-gwan’s statement, carried by North Korea’s state media, said that if the US “corners us and unilaterally demands we give up nuclear weapons we will no longer have an interest in talks” and “will have to reconsider” attending the June 12 summit in Singapore.

The official said North Korea did have “high hopes” but that it was “very unfortunate that the US is provoking us ahead of the summit by spitting out ludicrous statements”.

He is known to be highly respected in the North Korean leadership and has taken part in negotiations with the US before. There is very little chance Kim Kye-gwan;s comments were not personally endorsed by Kim Jong-un.

Hours before the announcement, in a sign of growing problems, Pyongyang has also pulled out of a meeting scheduled with South Korea on May 16 because of anger over the start of US-South Korean joint military drills.

Pyonyang had earlier said it would allow them to go ahead, but then called them “a provocative military ruckus” which was undermining its diplomatic efforts.

The sudden change in tone from North Korea is said to have taken US officials by surprise. Analysts said Pyongyang could be trying to strengthen its hand before talks.

The US state department said it was continuing to plan the Trump-Kim meeting, and President Trump is yet to comment.

More than 40 Palestinians have been killed and 1,800 wounded by Israeli troops in clashes on the Gaza border, Palestinian officials say.

The clashes took place as the US opened its embassy in Jerusalem, a controversial move that has infuriated Palestinians.

Palestinians see the move as a clear US backing for Israeli rule over the whole city, whose eastern part they lay claim to.

President Donald Trump sent a video message to the opening ceremony, saying Jerusalem move had been a “long time coming”.

The president said: “Israel is a sovereign nation with the right to determine its own capital, but for many years we failed to recognize the obvious.”

Image source Wikimedia

US Embassy to Open in Jerusalem

Donald Trump’s Jerusalem Announcement Sparks Protests in Occupied West Bank

Donald Trump’s Jerusalem Announcement Sparks Outrage in Arab World

President Donald Trump Recognizes Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital

He assured the US remained “committed to facilitating a lasting peace agreement”.

Palestinians hurled stones and incendiary devices while the Israeli military used snipers, as black smoke poured from burning tires.

The Hamas-run health ministry said children were among those killed on May 14.

The mass demonstrations, led by Gaza’s Islamist rulers, Hamas, are part of a six-week protest dubbed the “Great March of Return”.

Israel’s army said 35,000 Palestinians were taking part in “violent riots” along the security fence and that its troops were operating “in accordance with standard procedures”.

It said it had killed three people trying to plant explosives near the security fence in Rafah.

Scores of Palestinians have been killed since the protests began. Thousands more have been wounded.

A 29-year-old man has been killed and other four people wounded in a knife attack in the busy Opéra district of Paris on May 12.

According to witnesses, the suspect had shouted “Allahu Akbar” (God is greatest) before being shot dead by police.

ISIS later said one of its “soldiers” had carried out the attack.

France has been on high alert following a series of attacks in Paris and Lyon. More than 230 people have been killed by ISIS-inspired jihadists in the past three years.

Security forces have identified the attacker as being born in 1997 in the Russian republic of Chechnya, although he was not carrying any identification papers and has not been officially named. Chechnya is a republic in the North Caucasus region of southern Russia.

The republic declared independence in 1991 but Russian troops invaded in 1994 to quash it, sparking a decade-long conflict.

Image source Wikimedia

Paris Attack: Gunman Shoots Dead Police Officer on Champs Elysees

How Paris Attacks Impact France’s Service Sector

Jihadist groups, including those aligned with ISIS, have long operated in the region.

The judicial source told French media the suspect had no criminal record and that his parents had been held for questioning. Another source told Reuters the suspect was not previously known to police.

The suspect is believed to be a French national.

This is thought to be the first time an assailant of Chechen origin has carried out a terrorist attack in France.

France is home to some 30,000 people of Chechen origin.

France’s Interior Minister Gérard Collomb said the man who died was a 29-year-old passer-by, but gave no further details.

The four who were injured have also not yet been named. AFP news agency, citing sources, said a 34-year-old man and a 54-year-old woman were seriously hurt, while a 26-year-old woman and a 31-year-old man were slightly wounded.

Gérard Collomb said none had life-threatening injuries.

The attacker began stabbing passers-by at about 21:00 local time.

Eyewitnesses described him as a young man with brown hair and a beard, dressed in black tracksuit trousers.

The attacker tried to enter several bars and restaurants but was blocked by people inside.

Police first tried to stop the assailant with a stun-gun before shooting him dead, nine minutes after he began the attack.

President Donald Trump has announced he will meet North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Singapore on 12 June.

The president tweeted: “We will both try to make it a very special moment for World Peace!”

Two months ago, President Trump stunned the world by accepting an invitation to meet Kim Jong-un for an unprecedented sit-down.

Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un had previously exchanged insults and threats. The breakthrough came after landmark talks between North Korea and South Korea.

The president’s announcement came hours after he welcomed home three American detainees released by North Korea.

Their release came during a visit to North Korea by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to arrange details of the meeting between Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un.

Photo AP

President Trump Welcomes Three American Detainees Freed by North Korea

Mike Pompeo Makes Second Visit to North Korea Ahead of Trump-Kim Summit

CIA Director Mike Pompeo Had Secret Meeting with Kim Jong-un in North Korea

No sitting US president has ever met a North Korean leader.

According to the White House, the American citizens detained in North Korea were freed as a gesture of goodwill ahead of the summit, which President Trump earlier said he thought would be a “big success”.

The key issue expected to be discussed is North Korea’s nuclear weapons program – over which Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un furiously sparred in 2017.

North Korea has carried out six nuclear tests since 2006, despite international condemnation and sanctions, saying it needs the weapons for its own security.

The US wants North Korea to give up its weapons program completely and irreversibly.

Ahead of the meeting, Kim Jong-un has pledged to stop nuclear tests and intercontinental ballistic missile launches, and also to shut down a nuclear test site.

However, analysts caution that Kim Jong-un is unlikely to easily abandon nuclear weapons that he has pushed so hard to obtain, and that “denuclearization” means something quite different to both sides.

The US and Singapore have a close relationship. Singapore has diplomatic ties with North Korea but suspended all trade with the country in November 2017 as international sanctions were tightened.

Other locations which had been considered for the Trump-Kim summit included Mongolia and the Korean border’s demilitarized zone (DMZ).

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is making a second surprise visit to North Korea, with speculation growing that he will bring home three jailed Americans.

His visit is intended to lay the groundwork for a historic summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and President Donald Trump.

Mike Pompeo told reporters he was hoping to finalize plans for talks, which are likely to focus on denuclearization.

However, the release of the detainees is a central issue for the Americans.

A South Korean presidential official told news agency Yonhap that North Korea was expected to release the US citizens as a “goodwill gesture”.

Mike Pompeo said he hoped Pyongyang would “do the right thing” and release three Americans imprisoned in North Korea.

He said: “We’ve been asking for the release of these detainees for 17 months.”

Image source Wikimedia

Mike Pompeo Confirmed as Secretary of State

CIA Director Mike Pompeo Had Secret Meeting with Kim Jong-un in North Korea

President Trump Fires Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Naming CIA Director Mike Pompeo as Replacement

North Korea has historically used its foreign prisoners as leverage in its diplomatic dealings.

One of the detainees was jailed in 2015, the other two have been in prison for just over a year. Their convictions have been widely condemned as political and an abuse of human rights.

The last American to be freed – Otto Warmbier, who was jailed for stealing a hotel sign – was released last year but was fatally ill, and died shortly after returning home. The cause of death remains unexplained.

Mike Pompeo said a “good relationship” was formed at the first meeting in April, which marked the highest level US contact with North Korea since 2000.

A state department official travelling with Mike Pompeo said the US would also be “listening for signs from North Korea that things have substantially changed” with the nation’s nuclear ambitions.

Last month, President Trump stunned the international community by accepting North Korea’s suggestion for direct talks – it will be an unprecedented move for a sitting US president to meet a North Korean leader.

President Trump referred to Mike Pompeo’s latest visit while announcing that the US was withdrawing from the nuclear agreement with Iran.

President Donald Trump has announced he will withdraw the US from an Obama-era nuclear agreement with Iran.

Calling it “decaying and rotten”, President Trump said the deal was “an embarrassment” to him “as a citizen”.

Going against advice from European allies, the president said he would re-impose economic sanctions that were waived when the deal was signed in 2015.

Iran has responded saying that it was preparing to restart uranium enrichment, key for making both nuclear energy and weapons.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said: “The US has announced that it doesn’t respect its commitments.

“I have ordered the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran to be ready to start the enrichment of uranium at industrial levels.”

Image source Flickr

Hassan Rouhani said he would “wait a few weeks” to speak to allies and the other signatories to the nuclear deal.

According to the Treasury, economic sanctions would not be re-imposed on Iran immediately, but would be subject to 90-day and 180-day wind-down periods.

In a statement on its website, the Treasury said sanctions would be re-imposed on the industries mentioned in the 2015 deal, including Iran’s oil sector, aircraft exports, precious metals trade, and Iranian government attempts to buy US dollar banknotes.

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The UK, France and Germany – who are also signatories to the deal – have said they “regret” the American decision.

The EU’s top diplomat, Federica Mogherini, said the EU was “determined to preserve” the deal.

However, Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu says he “fully supports” President Trump’s “bold” withdrawal from a “disastrous” deal.

Donald Trump had previously complained that the deal only limited Iran’s nuclear activities for a fixed period; had failed to stop the development of ballistic missiles; and had handed Iran a $100 billion windfall that it used “as a slush fund for weapons, terror, and oppression” across the Middle East.

Former Secretary of State John Kerry, who was involving in negotiating the deal, tweeted that pulling out of it risked “dragging the world back to the brink we faced a few years ago”.

The so-called Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) saw Iran agree to limit the size of its stockpile of enriched uranium – which is used to make reactor fuel, but also nuclear weapons – for 15 years and the number of centrifuges installed to enrich uranium for 10 years.

Iran also agreed to modify a heavy water facility so it could not produce plutonium suitable for a bomb.

The South Korean president’s office has announced that North Korea’s nuclear test site will close in May.

Presidential spokesman Yoon Young-chan said the closure of the Punggye-ri site would be done in public and foreign experts from South Korea and the US would be invited to watch.

According to scientists, the nuclear site may have partially collapsed in September.

On April 27, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in agreed to work to rid the Korean peninsula of nuclear weapons.

Their summit came after months of warlike rhetoric from North Korea.

On April 28, President Donald Trump said he would like to hold talks with Kim Jong-un “over the next three or four weeks” about the denuclearization of the peninsula.

Image source CNN

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President Moon Jae-in’s spokesman said that Kim Jong-un had stated he “would carry out the closing of the nuclear test site in May”.

Yoon Young-chan added that the North Korean leader had also said he “would soon invite experts of South Korea and the US to disclose the process to the international community with transparency”.

President Moon Jae-in’s office also said North Korea would change its time zone – currently half an hour different – to match that of South Korea.

North Korea has so far made no public comments on the issue.

Situated in mountainous terrain in the north-east, the Punggye-ri site is thought to be North Korea’s main nuclear facility.

The nuclear tests have taken place in a system of tunnels dug below Mount Mantap, near the Punggye-ri site.

Six nuclear tests have been carried out there since 2006.

After the last nuclear test, in September 2017, a series of aftershocks hit the site, which seismologists believe collapsed part of the mountain’s interior.

According to South Korea’s Yonhap news agency Kim Jong-un made an apparent reference to these reports, saying: “Some say that we are terminating facilities that are not functioning, but you will see that they are in good condition.”

The information about the Punggye-ri site has been gathered mainly from satellite imagery and tracking the movement of equipment at the location.

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Kim Jong-un has become the first North Korean leader to set foot in South Korea since the end of the Korean War in 1953.

In a moment rich with symbolism and pomp, South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Kim Jong-un shook hands at the border.

Kim Jong-un said it was the “starting point” for peace, after crossing the military line that divides the peninsula. He also pledged a “new history” in relations with his neighbor.

His visit comes just months after warlike rhetoric from North Korea.

Much of what the summit will focus on has been agreed in advance, but many analysts remain skeptical about North Korea’s apparent enthusiasm for engagement.

Kim Jong-un and Moon Jae-in were met on April 27 by an honor guard in traditional costume on the South Korean side. The leaders walked to the Peace House in Panmunjom, a military compound in the demilitarized zone (DMZ) between the two countries.

The North Korean leader then invited the South Korean president to step briefly across the demarcation line into North Korea, before the pair stepped back into South Korea – all the while holding hands.

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It was an apparently unscripted moment during a highly choreographed sequence of events.

When the first session ended, the pair separated for lunch and Kim Jong-un returned to North Korea in a heavily guarded black limousine.

When he returned in the afternoon, the leaders took part in a ceremony consisting of the planting of a pine tree using soil and water from both countries.

Kim Jong-un and Moon Jae-in shoveled soil on the roots of the tree and unveiled a stone marker featuring their names, official titles and a message that read: “Planting peace and prosperity.”

The Korean summit will conclude with the leaders signing an agreement and delivering a joint statement before dinner. The banquet will be held on South Korea’s side and the menu is as symbolic as the other rituals.

According to local sources, Kim Jong-un will serve Swiss potato dish rosti – a nod to his time studying in Switzerland – along with North Korea’s signature dish of cold noodles, and North Korean liquor.

Kim Jong-un is accompanied by nine officials, including his powerful and influential sister Kim Yo-jong.

The Korean meeting – the first between Korean leaders in more than a decade – is seen as a step toward possible peace on the peninsula and marks the first summit of its kind for Kim Jong-un.

The summit carries promise for both Koreas with topics being discussed ranging from nuclear technology and sanctions to separated families, and is seen as an opportunity to foster economic co-operation.

Ahead of talks with President Moon at the Peace House in the border village of Panmunjom, Kim Jong-un said: “I feel that [we] have fired a flare at the starting point… the moment of writing a new history vis-à-vis peace, prosperity and North-South relations.”

He also wrote in a guestbook: “A new history begins now.”

The White House has expressed hope that the talks will achieve progress towards peace ahead a proposed meeting between Kim Jong-un and President Donald Trump in the coming weeks – an unprecedented move.

Talks are likely to focus on reaching an agreement on North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, which has advanced significantly since the last summit more than a decade ago.

South Korea has warned that a deal to rid North Korea of its nuclear weapons will be “difficult” to achieve.

Kim Jong-un announced last week that he was suspending nuclear tests.

The move was welcomed by the US and South Korea, although Chinese experts have indicated that North Korea’s nuclear test may be unusable after a rock collapse following its last nuclear test.

As well as addressing North Korea’s nuclear ambitions, Kim Jong-un and Moon Jae-in are expected to discuss a formal end to the 1950-1953 Korean War, as well as economic and social issues.

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France’s President Emmanuel Macron met President Donald Trump in Washington to discuss a new agreement on Iran’s nuclear program.

After talks, President Trump, who is skeptical of an accord that was struck in 2015, spoke about “doing a much bigger, maybe, deal”.

President Macron said a new pact must cover Iran’s ballistic missile program and its role in the Middle East.

Iran warned of “severe consequences” if the US withdraws from the deal.

In 2015, Iran agreed to mothball its nuclear program in return for an easing of economic sanctions on Iran.

President Trump has been threatening to reject an extension of the Obama-era nuclear pact reached between Tehran and world powers by a May 12 deadline.

President Macron had been lobbying Donald Trump to stick with the deal, saying there was no better option.

Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel is due to visit the US on April 27 to make a last-minute bid to dissuade President Trump from potentially torpedoing the agreement.

Image source Wikimedia

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Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif was quoted as saying that Tehran would “most likely” abandon the accord if the US pulled out.

Referring to the 2015 accord which he described as “insane”, President Trump said: “They should have made a deal that covered Yemen, that covered Syria, that covered other parts of the Middle East.”

Meanwhile, Emmanuel Macron agreed that Tehran’s influence in the region must be part of negotiations.

The French president also stressed that – as well as controlling Iran’s nuclear program for the next decade as envisaged by the current agreement – a fresh deal would need to cover its nuclear activities longer-term, as well as its ballistic missile program.

Emmanuel Macron talked about working with President Trump to build a “new framework” in the Middle East – and especially in Syria.

He said he did not know whether President Trump would extend the May 12 deadline, adding: “I can say that we have had very frank discussions on that, just the two of us.”

President Trump earlier warned Iran against resuming its nuclear program.

“They’re not going to be restarting anything. They restart it they’re going to have big problems, bigger than they’ve ever had before,”

On April 23, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani threatened “severe consequences” if the US withdrew from the deal.

Meanwhile, Javad Zarif said just hours before the Trump-Macron summit that a probable response would be to restart the enrichment of uranium – a key bomb-making ingredient.

Iran says its nuclear program is solely for peaceful civilian purposes.

Ten people have been killed and other 15 injured after driver of a rented van ploughed into pedestrians in northern Toronto on April 23.

Canadian police are questioning the suspected driver, named as Alek Minassian, 25.

He was not previously known to authorities, police said.

According to officials, the incident appeared to be deliberate but the motive was not clear.

Canadian PM Justin Trudeau said the “tragic and senseless attack” had brought him “great sadness”.

Meanwhile, an officer has been praised for not opening fire during a tense standoff with the suspect, who claimed to be armed.

Video broadcast on CBC News showed a man pointing what appeared to be a gun at officers and shouting “kill me”.

The officer tells the man to “get down” and when the suspect says he has a gun, the officer repeats: “I don’t care. Get down.”

The suspect was then arrested without shots being fired.

Canadian police said the white rental van mounted the kerb on Yonge Street between Finch Avenue and Sheppard Avenue at about 13:30 local time on April 23 and drove into pedestrians along a 1.24 mile stretch.

Image source Wikimedia

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Pictures from the scene showed bodies covered in orange sheets along the van’s route. Debris and items of clothing were scattered across the pavements and road.

The van was brought to a halt by police several streets away and was quickly surrounded.

The suspect was arrested 26 minutes after the first emergency call was made to the police.

Police said Alek Minassian was from the northern Toronto suburb of Richmond Hill and was not previously known to authorities.

Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders said: “The actions definitely looked deliberate.”

Public safety minister Ralph Goodale said there “would appear to be no national security connections” and Canadian broadcaster CBC cited government officials as saying he was not associated with any known terror groups.

Alek Minassian had previously attended a school for students with special needs in north Toronto, former classmates said.

Van rental company Ryder System Inc confirmed that one of its vehicles was involved and said it was co-operating with authorities.

The incident happened while foreign ministers of the G7 leading industrialized nations – Canada, the US, Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Japan – were holding talks in Toronto.

Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said the G7 meetings would continue on April 24 as planned.

According to new reports, CIA director Mike Pompeo travelled to North Korea for a secret meeting with Kim Jong-un.

The meeting to prepare for direct talks between President Donald Trump and the North Korean leader took place over Easter weekend, unnamed officials said.

President Trump had earlier alluded to high-level direct talks with North Korea.

However, this unexpected and clandestine meeting would mark the highest level US contact with North Korea since 2000.

President Trump said from Florida, where he is hosting Japan’s PM Shinzo Abe: “We have had direct talks at… extremely high levels.”

He added that he gave his “blessing” for talks between South Korea and North Korea to discuss a peace treaty to formally end the 1950-1953 Korean War.

South Korea has also signaled that it may pursue a formal resolution of the conflict. South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Kim Jong-un are scheduled to meet at the end of April.

The news that President Trump’s nominee for secretary of state had travelled to Pyongyang for a secret meeting with Kim Jong-un was first reported by The Washington Post.

Very little is known about the talks other than that they were to prepare for the upcoming Trump-Kim summit.

According to The Washington Post, the meeting took place soon after Mike Pompeo was nominated as secretary of state and is attributed to two anonymous sources “with direct knowledge of the trip”.

Later the Reuters said the report had been confirmed to them by senior officials.

The White House has not commented.

The US does not have diplomatic relations with North Korea, although diplomats have visited in the past and there are some so-called “back channels” used to communicate with Pyongyang.

Image source Wikimedia

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Mike Pompeo’s trip was the highest level meeting with a North Korean leader since 2000 when then-Secretary of State Madeleine Albright met Kim Jong-il, the father of the current leader, in Pyongyang.

In 2014, the then-head of National Intelligence James Clapper visited North Korea in a secret mission to negotiate the release of two US citizens. James Clapper did not meet Kim Jong-un during his trip.

President Trump stunned the international community last month by accepting North Korea’s suggestion for direct talks. It would be unprecedented for a sitting US president to meet a North Korean leader.

Donald Trump said the summit would take place either in early June or “a little before that” and that several sites were under consideration but that none of them were in the US.

Analysts have speculated that a location for talks could be the demilitarized zone (DMZ) between North Korea and South Korea, Beijing, another Asian country, Europe or even a vessel in international waters.

North Korea has been isolated for decades because of its well-documented human rights abuses and its pursuit of nuclear weapons, in defiance of international laws and UN sanctions.

Pyongyang has carried out six nuclear tests, and has missiles that could reach the US.

However, South Korea’s hosting of the Winter Olympics in February gave an unexpected window for diplomacy and in the weeks since there have been a flurry of visits to North Korea from China, South Korea and now the US.

President Trump’s estimate that a meeting could take place in June or earlier appears to be one the administration is taking seriously.

However, news of Mike Pompeo’s visit is also likely to overshadow the other key diplomatic balancing act under way, which is the important relationship with Japan, a key US ally and neighbor of North Korea.

There have been fears in Tokyo that President Trump’s plans for bilateral talks could sideline Japan and Shinzo Abe is currently in Washington for talks with the US leader.

Relations between the two men appeared cordial on this, the second time that President Trump has welcomed Shinzo Abe to his Mar-a-Lago resort.

On April 17, President Trump insisted that the two countries were “very unified on the subject of North Korea”, and PM Shinzo Abe praised the president’s handling of the North Korea issue.

However, observers say Shinzo Abe’s goal for his US trip will be to persuade President Trump as much as he can not to sway from the West’s hard line on North Korea.

PM Shinzo Abe has repeatedly sought to portray a close personal relationship with President Trump and was the first foreign leader to meet him in New York after his election victory in 2016.

Multiple government targets in Syria have been bombed in an early morning operation launched by the US, UK and France targeting alleged chemical weapons sites.

The strikes follow a suspected chemical attack on the Syrian town of Douma last week.

According to the Pentagon, explosions hit the capital, Damascus, as well as two locations near the city of Homs.

Meanwhile, Russian ambassador to the US responded by saying the attack on its ally “will not be left without consequences”.

President Trump said in an address to the nation from the White House at about 21:00 local time: “A combined operation with the armed forces of France and the United Kingdom is now under way.”

The wave of strikes is the most significant attack against President Bashar al-Assad’s government by western powers in seven years of Syria’s civil war.

Image source AP

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At a Pentagon briefing shortly after President Trump’s announcement, Gen. Joseph Dunford listed three targets that had been struck: a scientific research facility in Damascus, allegedly connected to the production of chemical and biological weapons; a chemical weapons storage facility west of Homs; a chemical weapons equipment storage and an important command post, also near Homs.

Syrian state TV said government forces had shot down more than a dozen missiles, and claimed only the research facility in Damascus had been damaged.

It also said that 3 civilians had been injured in Homs.

US Secretary of Defense James Mattis told reporters there were no reports of US losses in the operation.

In his earlier address, President Donald Trump had said: “We are prepared to sustain this response until the Syrian regime stops its use of prohibited chemical agents.”

However, Secretary James Mattis said that “right now, this is a one-time shot”. Gen. Joseph Dunford confirmed the wave of strikes had ended.

Gen. Joseph Dunford said the US had specifically identified targets that would “mitigate” the risk of Russian casualties. However, the Pentagon said that Russia – which has forces on the ground in Syria in support of the government – had not been given advance notice of the targets.

On the same time, UK PM Theresa May confirmed British involvement, saying there was “no practicable alternative to the use of force”.

She also said the strikes were not about “regime change”.

According to the UK ministry of defense, UK strikes carried out by four Tornado jets hit one of the targets mentioned by the Pentagon – a military site near the city of Homs which is believed to have housed precursor materials for chemical weapons.

France President Emmanuel Macron also confirmed his country’s participation in the operation.

“Dozens of men, women and children were massacred with chemical weapons,” President Macron said of the Douma incident a week ago – adding that “the red line had been crossed”.

Syria has denied carrying out the Douma attack and Russia had warned that Western military strikes would risk starting a war.

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) has dispatched a fact-finding mission to the site of the alleged attack in Syria. Investigators were due to start their probe on April 14.

Sana, Syria’s official state news agency, called the western action “a flagrant violation of international law”.

It said: “The American, French and British aggression against Syria will fail.”

A US official told Reuters that Tomahawk cruise missiles were being used against multiple locations in Syria.

President Donald Trump has said that Russia should “get ready” for missiles to be fired at its ally Syria, in response to an alleged chemical attack on the rebel-held town of Douma on April 7.

The president tweeted: “Get ready Russia, because they will be coming, nice and new and <<smart>>!”

Senior Russian figures have threatened to meet any US strikes with a response.

The Syrian government denies mounting a chemical attack on Douma.

In one his tweets on April 11, President Trump called Syrian President Bashar al-Assad a “gas killing animal”.

In another, President Trump painted a dark picture of US-Russia relations but said it did not have to be that way.

He tweeted: “Our relationship with Russia is worse now than it has ever been, and that includes the Cold War. There is no reason for this. Russia needs us to help with their economy, something that would be very easy to do, and we need all nations to work together. Stop the arms race?”

Meanwhile, the US, UK and France have agreed to work together and are believed to be preparing for a military strike in response to the alleged chemical attack at the weekend.

Syrian opposition activists and rescuers say government aircraft dropped bombs filled with toxic chemicals on Douma.

According to the Syrian-American Medical Society (SAMS), which operates in rebel-held areas, and local aid workers, more than 500 people had been treated for symptoms “indicative of exposure to a chemical agent”.

On April 11, the UN’s World Health Organization demanded access to verify reports from its partners, which include SAMS, that 70 people had died – including 43 who showed “symptoms consistent with exposure to highly toxic chemicals”.

Meanwhile, a team from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) is due to deploy to Syria “shortly” to determine whether banned weapons were used.

The town of Douma, the last major rebel stronghold near the capital Damascus, was under renewed assault from Syrian and Russian forces last week.

Image source Flickr

Rebels have now been evacuating Douma under an agreement involving the Russian military.

Russia said it would deploy military police to Douma on April 12 and that the situation there had stabilized.

Several senior Russian figures have warned of a Russian response to a US attack, with Alexander Zasypkin, Moscow’s ambassador to Lebanon, repeating on April 11 a warning by the head of the military that missiles would be shot down and their launch sites targeted if they threatened the lives of Russian personnel.

Also on April 11, Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova asked whether the aim of Western strikes might be “to quickly remove the traces of the provocation… [so] international inspectors will have nothing to look for in terms of evidence”.

Addressing new ambassadors in Moscow, President Vladimir Putin said the world was becoming more chaotic. He said he hoped common sense would prevail and that the situation would stabilize.

President Putin said Russia would “keep all its international obligations in full”.

On April 10, President Trump cancelled his first official trip to Latin America so he could focus on Syria.

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On April 11, Defense Secretary James Mattis said the US was still assessing the chemical attack and that the US military stood ready “to provide military options if they are appropriate as the president determines”.

France’s President Emmanuel Macron said any strikes would “not target allies of the [Syrian] regime or attack anyone, but rather attack the regime’s chemical capabilities”.

However, The Times newspaper reports that the UK’s PM Theresa May has urged President Trump to provide more evidence of the suspected chemical attack.

A US Navy guided-missile destroyer, the USS Donald Cook, is in the Mediterranean Sea.

On April 10, the UN Security Council failed to approve moves to set up an inquiry into the alleged attack on Douma.

As permanent members of the council, Russia and the US vetoed each other’s proposals to set up independent investigations.

The US-drafted resolution would have allowed investigators to apportion blame for the suspected attack, while Russia’s version would have left that to the Security Council.

The OPCW’s fact-finding mission will not seek to establish who was responsible for the attack.

British PM Theresa May has announced that the UK will expel 23 Russian diplomats after Moscow refused to explain how a Russian-made nerve agent was used on former spy Sergei Skripal in Salisbury.

She said the diplomats, who have a week to leave, were identified as “undeclared intelligence officers”.

Theresa May also revoked an invitation to Russia’s foreign minister, and said the Royal Family would not attend the FIFA World Cup in Russia later this year.

Moscow denies attempted murder and says it will respond appropriately.

Addressing the UN Security Council, the UK said Russia had used “a weapon so horrific that it is banned in war”.

UK’s deputy UN ambassador, Jonathan Allen, accused Russia of breaking its obligations under the Convention on the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

He said he had heard the threats from Russia but that the UK would not be deterred.

Image source Wikipedia

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In response Russia’s ambassador to the UN, Vasily Nebenzya, denied his country’s involvement in the attack and demanded “material proof” from Britain to support its charge.

The US ambassador Nikki Haley said Washington stood in “absolute solidarity” with the UK, citing the “special relationship” between the two countries.

The mass expulsion is the largest since 31 were ordered out in 1985 after double agent Oleg Gordievsky defected.

Former spy Sergei Skripal, 66, and his daughter, Yulia Skripal, 33, remain critically ill in hospital after being found slumped on a bench on March 4.

Russia refused to meet Theresa May’s midnight deadline to co-operate in the case, prompting her to announce a series of measures intended to send a “clear message” to Russia: expelling 23 diplomats; increasing checks on private flights, customs and freight; freezing Russian state assets where there is evidence they may be used to threaten the life or property of UK nationals or residents; ministers and the Royal Family boycotting the FIFA World Cup in Russia later this year; suspending all planned high-level bilateral contacts between the UK and Russia and planning to consider new laws to increase defenses against “hostile state activity”.

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Kim Jong-un is hosting a dinner for two South Korean delegates, the first time officials from Seoul have met the North Korean leader since he took office in 2011, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reported.

The dinner has been confirmed by a South Korean presidential spokesman.

The South Korean delegation is in Pyongyang for rare talks partly aimed at restarting dialogue between North Korea and the US.

Relations between North Korea and South Korea have warmed following the PyeongChang Winter Games.

In an unprecedented move the delegation includes two ministerial-level envoys – intelligence chief Suh Hoon and National Security adviser Chung Eui-yong.

According to the North Korean state radio, the delegation was met by Ri Son-gwon, North Korea’s reunification chief, who led talks in the weeks before the Winter Olympics.

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During the two-day visit, the South Korean group will focus on establishing conditions for talks aimed at getting rid of North Korea’s nuclear weapons as well as dialogue between the US and Pyongyang.

Chung Eui-yong had earlier told a press briefing he would deliver President Moon Jae-in’s “resolution to maintain the dialogue and improvement in relations between the South and the North… [and] to denuclearize the Korean peninsula”.

On March 3, President Donald Trump said that the US would be prepared to meet North Korea, but reiterated that Pyongyang would first have to “denuke”.

However, North Korea – which has said it wants to talk to the US – said it was “preposterous” for the US to insist on preconditions.

It’s remains unclear who would represent the US in any such meeting.

The top US diplomat on North Korea Joseph Yun announced his decision to retire earlier last week, a departure which could hamper the Trump administration.

The relationship between the US and North Korea were particularly tense before the Winter Olympics, with both countries repeatedly threatening each other with total destruction.

The US has distanced itself from the North Korean overtures during the Games.

VP Mike Pence has said there is “no daylight” between the US and its regional allies on the need to “continue to isolate North Korea economically and diplomatically until they abandon their nuclear and ballistic missile program.