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The U.S. Wants South Korea To Help Take On The Chinese Military As Well As North Korea Beijing 'worried' that New Zealand is increasingly speaking out on South China Sea, Chinese diplomat says UN says North Korea faces ‘acute food insecurity’ but excludes it from aid plans High-level US, EU diplomats express worry over China’s ‘bullying’ of Taiwan and Lithuania Democracy activist Law urges Hong Kong voters to ignore Dec 19 election Trump Doubts Biden Will Seek Reelection in 2024: 'I Would Not Imagine He Would Be Running' Putin to demand legal guarantee against NATO expansion in call with Biden Tourists wade through floodwater in Venice's St. Mark's square Solar Eclipse brings minutes of darkness to Antarctic summer South Korea and the United States are working on a new joint war plan as the two allies seek to keep pace with North Korea’s rapidly developing military capabilities. The new operational planning will also respond to the growing military threat presented by China, with the aim of increasingly including South Korea within a broader regional posture, as Seoul also looks to its own security challenges beyond the peninsula. The evolving war plans for the Korean peninsula come against a backdrop of U.S. overtures toward Pyongyang with a view to resuming talks, so far without success. Defense Secretary Austin again stated that diplomacy was the best approach to dealing with North Korea but at the
same time the U.S. military is reinforcing its presence in the South by stationing more units there. The Pentagon had previously announced its intention to permanently base a U.S. Army AH-64 Apache attack helicopter squadron and artillery division headquarters in South Korea, while troop numbers in the country will remain stable at around 28,500. China is “worried” that New Zealand is increasingly speaking out about China’s actions in the South China Sea, attributing the tougher stance to pressure from the US and Australia. Wang Genhua, China’s deputy chief of mission and current chargé d’affaires, said the relationship between New Zealand and China was “basically stable”. But in the past six months he had noticed a change, Wang said in an interview over Zoom from the embassy in Wellington, due to Chinese Covid-related protocols. “New Zealand is undergoing some pressure from outside and tried to have more voice on South China Sea ... We feel worried about that, and we don’t know the reason,” he said.
The New Zealand Government, along with many other liberal democracies, has grown steadily more concerned about China’s increasingly aggressive posturing on the global stage in recent years. That includes its expanding influence in the Pacific, as well as its militarisation of the contested South China Sea – a potential flashpoint for conflict between countries including the Philippines, Vietnam and Malaysia. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in July said China’s “artificial island building, continued militarisation, and activities which pose risks to freedom of navigation” in the South China Sea was a “serious concern” for New Zealand. This message was reiterated by Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta during a trip to Indonesia last month. In August, New Zealand told the United Nations in a diplomatic statement that claims of “historic rights” to the South China Sea – as China claims – had no legal basis.
But Wang said New Zealand misunderstood China’s historical claim to the South China Sea and its construction of military bases in the sea was an issue of the country’s sovereignty – therefore not for outsiders to intervene. It has been uncommon for Chinese officials in New Zealand to speak publicly, particularly on contentious issues, but Wang has been outspoken. Last month, he told a public event that Australia would inevitably acquire nuclear-weapons as part of the AUKUS defence pact – something all members of the pact have promised will not occur. Wang said he was “optimistic” about the New Zealand-China relationship and said the “general trend” was not changing. He said
New Zealand government officials listened to China’s views when they wanted to, primarily on trade and economic policy. The U.N. has dropped North Korea from a key humanitarian response plan for the second straight year, as the country’s severe COVID-19 restrictions continue to hamper international efforts to provide much- needed food aid and other assistance. In the latest Global Humanitarian Overview report published Thursday, the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)
states that, “Afghanistan, DPR Korea and Myanmar are facing acute food insecurity situations, which are likely to deteriorate further by the year’s end.” Despite this assessment, North Korea is not among the countries targeted for assistance through interagency coordinated appeals, though Afghanistan and Myanmar are. OCHA says the U.N. and partner organizations seek to help 183 million people worldwide in 2022, at a cost of $41 billion. The DPRK has limited nearly all cross-border movement of people and goods since the pandemic began, as well as most movement within the country, making it nearly impossible for the U.N. and nongovernmental organizations to operate. NK News reported in March that there were no international humanitarian workers left in North Korea.
OCHA records show that it has received reports of just $15.4 million in humanitarian funding for North Korea this year as of Nov. 22, dropping from $40.3 million for all of 2020 and $45.9 million for 2019 Meanwhile, the country’s pandemic restrictions have also led to a sharp reduction in trade, likely contributing to shortages of goods and exacerbating the food situation. North Korean state media reported in June that the country faces a “food crisis.” Despite signs pointing to the imminent resumption of overland trade, North Korea does not yet appear to have reopened its borders to rail shipments from China or Russia. The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimated last year that about 60% of North Korea’s population is “food insecure,” and the U.N. Food and
Agriculture Organization recently reported that 10.9 million North Koreans were undernourished from 2018 to 2020 A 43-member Slovak delegation led by the country's deputy economic minister will visit Taiwan in early December, the first such trip since Slovakia opened a representative office in Taiwan in 2003 Deputy Economic Minister Karol Galek's delegation during the Dec. 5-10 visit will consist of 18 senior officials and 25 business representatives, marking an important step forward in Taiwan-Slovakia ties, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) said Friday. Galek will also co-host an economic meeting covering investment, education, culture and tourism with a Taiwanese official during his stay, according to MOFA.
The visit comes at the invitation of National Development Council (NDC) chief Kung Ming-hsin ( 龔 龔 龔 ), who led a 66- member delegation to Slovakia in October. Taiwan's ties with the central European country have shown signs of warming in recent months after Slovakia signed a legal assistance agreement with Taiwan in August and donated 160,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines in September. Senior diplomats from the US and European Union voiced their growing concern about China’s pressure campaign and “bullying” against Lithuania and Taiwan, as the two democratic governments continue to defy Beijing’s demands and forge a closer relationship. “We share many concerns with our transatlantic partners about the PRC’s actions,” said Wendy Sherman, the deputy secretary of state, including “bullying both Lithuania and Taiwan in response to their decision to deepen mutually beneficial economic and cultural ties.” The comments came on the second day of talks in Washington between Sherman and her EU counterpart, European External Action Service Secretary General Stefano Sannino, part of an initiative between the two governments to seek alignment on China policy, known formally as the US-EU Dialogue on China. “What is happening to Lithuania is extremely worrying,” Sannino said on Friday. “We are very worried about recent measures that have been announced by China vis-à-vis Lithuania.”
The comments came just hours after Lithuania, the EU country that has taken the hardest line against Beijing so far, announced that China was blocking the small Baltic nation’s exports – apparently in retaliation against Vilnius’ move to open a “Taiwanese Representative Office” last month that bore the name “Taiwan” instead of “Taipei”. “I regret this decision by the Chinese authorities,” Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda said on Friday. A joint statement issued after Sherman and Sannino met said the EU and US had “reconfirmed their interest in stability and the status quo in the Taiwan Strait, and both sides noted a shared interest in deepening cooperation with Taiwan consistent with their respective ‘one-China’ policies”. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said separately on Friday that the US was “resolutely committed to Taiwan, to making sure it has the means to defend itself”.
“I hope that China’s leaders think very carefully about this and about not precipitating a crisis that would have, I think, terrible consequences for lots of people, and one that’s in no one’s interest, starting with China,” Blinken said. Hong Kong democracy activist Nathan Law called on voters in his home city to ignore a legislative election this month, the first under sweeping new rules imposed by Beijing, saying they should not lend the vote any legitimacy. China announced in March broad changes to the former British colony's electoral system, reducing the number of directly elected representatives and increasing the number of Beijing-approved officials in an expanded legislature. Candidates in the election, scheduled for Dec 19 after being postponed for more than a year due to the coronavirus, are also vetted for their patriotism. "Just ignore them," Law said in an interview from London at the Reuters Next conference. "We should not give any legitimacy to the election, we should not pretend we have an election - it is just a selection by Beijing."
A spokesman for the Chinese embassy did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Law's remarks. Hong Kong's chief executive Carrie Lam said in September that the aim of changes to the electoral system is to ensure "patriots administer Hong Kong." China has said Law is a "criminal suspect wanted by the Hong Kong police" for national security offences. In the interview, Law, who fled Hong Kong in 2020 and was granted asylum by the United Kingdom, cast Chinese President Xi Jinping as an "emperor" who tolerated no dissent. The system of democracy in Hong Kong, he said, was dead but its spirit lived on in the hearts of the people.
"Democracy, if you are talking about a system, it is definitely not there - but if you are talking about the spirit of the people, fighting for democracy, it is still there." Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida is likely to cancel a planned trip to the United States for talks with President Joe Biden this month due to the spread of the Omicron variant of COVID-19, public broadcaster NHK said on Saturday. Kishida and Biden met in Glasgow last month on the sidelines of the United Nations climate summit, agreeing to meet formally by the end of the year to discuss issues of mutual concern, such as China, Japanese media reported at the time. But given the rapid spread of the new coronavirus variant as well as the U.S. political situation, Kishida is considering rescheduling the meeting after the new year, NHK said, without citing sources for its information.
A railway connecting Laos and the Chinese border was launched Friday amid concerns that the large amount of debt the Southeast Asian country owes China for the project could force it to give up concessions. The 414-kilometer, single-track railway connects the Laotian capital Vientiane with Boten on the northern border with China. The route Construction ran for over four years from late 2016 after a formal agreement between the governments of Laos and China in 2015 It was built at a cost of about $5.9 billion, about $3.5 billion of it borrowed from the Export-Import Bank of China.
Laos-China Railway Co., a joint venture 70 percent owned by China and the remainder by Laos, built the railway. It also has the right to operate the railway for the concession period of 50 years. After that, the Lao government will take over. Given most of the costs were borne by China, Laos's dependence on China is likely to increase. That has led to concerns about the "debt
trap" in which recipient countries of Chinese investment are saddled with loans they cannot repay. Laos remains one of the poorest countries in Asia. On Friday, Lao President Thongloun Sisoulith and Chinese President Xi Jinping held a virtual meeting and witnessed the railway's inauguration.
In his remarks, Thongloun touted the occasion as a historic moment for the people of Laos. Former President Donald Trump has cast doubt on President Joe Biden's 2024 re-election plans, suggesting that his political rival will not even seek a second term in the White House. Biden asserted in the spring that he anticipated running for president again in 2024, but many have speculated that he will step aside and allow another Democratic candidate to run. The president will be 81 at the time of the next presidential election, and his approval rating has plummeted over the past several months.
"I would give them an F—if permissible an F minus," Trump told Orlando, Florida's WDBO during a Friday morning interview when asked about the Biden administration's performance. "Look, he's gonna make a statement, and I don't know if anybody knows what's in their future," Trump said after he was asked about his assessment of Biden's 2024 plans. "Because, frankly, things can happen and things can happen for him, and maybe things—in his case—are already happening," the former president continued. "So I would think that maybe he wouldn't be running, based on his performance. I would not imagine he would be running," Trump said. During the interview, Trump again hinted at the possibility that he will seek another term in 2024 "A lot of your listeners are people that will be very happy with what my decision will be [regarding 2024], I believe," he said.
In March, Biden said he intends to seek a second White House term. "Yes, my plan is to run for reelection. That's my expectation," the president said during a press conference. Last month, White House press secretary Jen Psaki confirmed that Biden will seek office again. Russian President Vladimir Putin is demanding a legally binding guarantee that NATO will not expand east — including to Ukraine — and plans to raise the issue in an upcoming phone call with President Biden, according to the Kremlin.
What they're saying: Biden told reporters Friday that his top national security officials are "putting together what I believe will be the most comprehensive and meaningful set of initiatives to make it very, very difficult for Mr. Putin to go ahead and do what people are worried he may do." Why it matters: Russia has massed more than 94,000 troops on the border with Ukraine and could be preparing for a large-scale invasion at the end of January, Ukraine's defense minister said Friday. Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Stockholm on Thursday to call for de-escalation. He warned that the U.S. and its allies would "impose severe costs and consequences" — including unprecedented economic sanctions — if Russia took further action. Lavrov shot back that NATO was "playing with fire" with its exercises near Russian borders and that Moscow was prepared to take "retaliatory measures to correct the military-strategic balance."
A top foreign policy aide to Putin said Friday that the U.S. and Russia were finalizing the date for a video call with Biden. In addition to guarantees against NATO's eastward expansion, Putin will seek a ban on "weapons systems that would threaten us on the territories of neighboring countries, including Ukraine," the aide said. It will be the second time Biden has spoken to Putin since June, when the two leaders met in Geneva as part of Biden's push for a more "stable" and "predictable" relationship with Russia. A time lapse of surveillance camera footage from the top of dormant volcano showed a wintry scene on the tropical island of Hawaii. The video was filmed on December 1 and 2 at the Mauna Kea summit around the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope (CFH Telescope) observatory. CFH Telescope representative, Mary Beth Laychak told Reuters in a message that there were no staff at the summit presently as they observe the area remotely from their Waimea offices.
The National Weather Service (NWS) issued a rare blizzard warning expecting at least 12 inches of snow with wind gusts at about 100mph (160 kilometres per hour) at the Big Island summits on their Friday (December 3) weekend forecast. NWS added in a tweet that snowfall for the highest elevations (above 11,000ft) in Hawaii is "fairly common". Urban warfare has always been a challenge on the battlefield. From Stalingrad to Fallujah, fighting in close quarters can be an equalizer that negates technological advantages and results in high casualties. In the 21st century, the potential risks of fighting in a dense urban environment are magnified increases in population density. The New York Army National Guard aims to use New York City as a classroom to teach operations in such an environment.
In early November 2021, 18 officers and senior NCOs of the NYNG completed a five-day class in the Big Apple that explored the challenges of military operations in large cities. The soldiers worked alongside civilian fire officials, transit staff, and emergency managers to develop an understanding of the specific challenges that a city like New York presents. "This class was critical in terms of bridging a knowledge gap between military operations and working with our civilian counterparts," said Lt. Col. Jason Secrest, commander of the 2nd Squadron, 101st Cavalry Regiment, to the New York National Guard. "The course was helpful for whether we're involved in large-scale combat operations or if tasked with stability operations, like humanitarian assistance disaster relief at home." During the class, leaders had to account for the complexities of a crowded airspace, skyscrapers, narrow streets, dense populations and even the city's subway system. These unique factors present challenges to already complex military operations like troop movement, communication and logistical trains.
Facing deportation and extortion, migrants in Mexico have resorted to try to board 'La Bestia,' a notorious train often used by migrants travelling north- bound to the U.S. border. Waiting on its tracks in Tierra Blanca, a town in the state of Veracruz which borders the Gulf of Mexico, the train was surrounded by migrants of all ages who climbed up to the top of shipping containers on Thursday (December 2). Israel Lazo, who is travelling from Honduras, said many refuse to continue the journey on foot for fear of extortion or abuse from both organised criminals and security forces. Over the years, hundreds of migrants have been injured or killed attempting to board 'La Bestia' or falling from its many railroad cars.
Venice's famed St. Mark's Square on Saturday (December 4) was submerged in water during a period of seasonal high water common for this time of year, delighting tourists who did not miss the opportunity for a stroll through the waters. The one-meter high tide at 9.55 a.m. (0855GMT) was not high enough to activate the Mose flood barriers, which were launched last year to
Venice’s floods are caused by a combination of factors exacerbated by climate change - from rising sea levels and unusually high tides to land subsidence that has caused the ground level of the city to sink. Video released by NASA showed a total solar eclipse as seen from Western Antarctica on Saturday (4 December). The earth's southernmost continent experiences continual daylight from mid-October until early April, but the eclipse brought a few minutes of total darkness. A solar eclipse occurs when the Moon moves between the Sun and Earth, casting a shadow on Earth, fully or partially blocking the Sun's light in some areas.
For a total eclipse to take place the Sun, Moon, and Earth must be in a direct line. The only place that this total eclipse could be seen was Antarctica. The eclipse will be visible partially from South Africa, Chile, New Zealand and Australia on Saturday. These are FBNC's morning International news Thanks for watching See you in the next FBNC's morning International news