North Korea fired two suspected short-range ballistic missiles (SRBM) on Monday from an airport in its capital city of Pyongyang, South Korea’s military reported, the fourth test this month to demonstrate its expanding missile arsenal.
Japan also reported the launch, with chief cabinet secretary Hirokazu Matsuno condemning it as a threat to peace and security, Reuters reported.
In less than two weeks, nuclear-armed North Korea has conducted three other missile tests, an unusually rapid series of launches. It said two of them involved single “hypersonic missiles” capable of high speed and manoeuvring after launch, while a test on Friday involved a pair of short-range ballistic missiles fired from train cars.
Monday’s launch appeared to involve two SRBMs fired east from Sunan Airfield in Pyongyang, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said in a statement.
North Korea used the airport to test fire the Hwasong-12 intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM) in 2017, with leader Kim Jong Un in attendance.
The missiles fired on Monday travelled about 380 km to a maximum altitude of 42 km, the JCS said in a statement.
Japanese Defence Minister Nobuo Kishi said the missiles appeared to have landed in the ocean near North Korea’s east coast, Reuters reported.
“It is self-evident that the aim of North Korea’s frequent missile launches is to improve their missile technology,” he told reporters.
“The repeated launching of North Korea’s ballistic missiles is a grave problem for the international community, including Japan,” Kishi added, noting that the launches were a violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions that ban North Korea from all ballistic missile development.
The U.S. military’s Indo-Pacific Command said it assessed that the launch did not pose an immediate threat to the United States or its allies, but “these missile launches highlight the destabilising impact of (North Korea’s ) illicit weapons programme”.
The pace of testing and the different launch sites suggests that North Korea has enough missiles to feel comfortable expending them on tests, training, and demonstrations, and helps reinforce its deterrent credibility by emphasizing the volume of its missile force, said Mason Richey, a professor at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies in Seoul, Reuters reported.
North Korea has not tested its longest-range intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) or nuclear weapons since 2017, but after denuclearisation talks stalled in 2019, it began unveiling and testing a range of new SRBM designs.
Many of the latest SRBMs, including the hypersonic missiles, appear designed to evade missile defences. North Korea has also vowed to pursue tactical nuclear weapons, which could allow it to deploy nuclear warheads on SRBMs.
Teenage gunman kills 19 children and teacher at Texas elementary school
A teenage gunman killed at least 19 children and two adults after storming into a Texas elementary school on Tuesday, the latest bout of gun-fueled mass murder in the United States and the nation’s worst school shooting in nearly a decade.
The 18-year-old suspect, who was killed apparently by police, also had shot his own grandmother before fleeing from the scene, then crashing his getaway car and launching a bloody rampage at Robb Elementary School in the town of Uvalde, Texas, about 80 miles (130 km) west of San Antonio.
The motive was not immediately clear.
Law enforcement officers saw the gunman, clad in body armor, emerge from his crashed vehicle carrying a rifle and “engaged” the suspect, who nevertheless managed to charge into the school and open fire, Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) Sergeant Erick Estrada said on CNN.
Speaking from the White House hours later, a visibly shaken U.S. President Joe Biden urged Americans to stand up to the politically powerful U.S. gun lobby, which he blamed for blocking enactment of tougher “common-sense” firearms safety laws.
Biden ordered flags flown at half-staff daily until sunset on Saturday in observance of the tragedy.
Governor Greg Abbott said that the suspect, identified as Salvador Ramos, was apparently killed by police officers, and that two officers were struck by gunfire, though the governor said their injuries were not serious.
Authorities said the suspect acted alone.
After confusing early accounts of the death toll, the state attorney general’s office in an official statement put the tally of lives lost at 18 children and two adults, including the gunman. A Texas DPS spokesperson later told CNN that 19 school children and two adults were killed, not counting the shooter.
The school’s student body consists of children in the second, third and fourth grades, according to Pete Arredondo, chief of the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District Police Department, who also addressed reporters. Pupils in those grades would likely have ranged in age from 7 to 10.
The carnage unfolded 10 days after 10 people were killed in Buffalo, New York, in a predominantly Black neighborhood. Authorities have charged an 18-year-old man who they said had traveled hundreds of miles to Buffalo and opened fire with an assault-style rifle at a grocery store.
Tuesday’s bloodshed in Texas began when the suspect shot his grandmother before going to the school, Texas Department of Public Safety officer Chris Olivarez said on Fox News, a development Abbott mentioned earlier in the day.
“I have no further information about the connection between those two shootings,” the governor said.
University Hospital in San Antonio said on Twitter that it had received two patients from the shooting in Uvalde, a 66-year-old woman and a 10-year-old girl, both listed in critical condition.
Uvalde Memorial Hospital said 15 students from Robb Elementary were treated in its emergency room, with two transferred to San Antonio for further care, while a third patient transfer was pending. It was not immediately clear whether all of those students survived.
A 45-year-old victim grazed by a bullet was also hospitalized at Uvalde Memorial, the hospital said.
Hours after the shooting, police had cordoned off the school with yellow tape. Police cruisers and emergency vehicles were scattered around the perimeter of the school grounds. Uniformed personnel stood in small clusters, some in camouflage carrying semi-automatic weapons.
EPIDEMIC OF GUN VIOLENCE
The rampage was the latest in a series of mass school shootings that have fueled a fierce debate between advocates of tighter gun controls and those who oppose any legislation that could compromise the constitutional right of Americans to bear arms.
The shooting in Texas was one of the deadliest at a U.S. school since a gunman killed 26 people, including 20 children, at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut in December 2012. In 2018, a former student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, killed 17 students and educators.
Firearms became the leading cause of death for U.S. children and adolescents in 2020, surpassing motor vehicle accidents, according to a University of Michigan research letter published in the New England Journal of Medicine last month.
The day’s horrors were reflected on the Facebook page of Robb Elementary School.
Earlier this week, its posts showed the usual student activities – a trip to the zoo for second-graders and a save-the-date for a gifted-and-talented showcase. But on Tuesday, a note was posted at 11:43 a.m.: “Please know at this time Robb Elementary is under a Lockdown Status due to gunshots in the area. The students and staff are safe in the building.”
A second post was more explicit: “There is an active shooter at Robb Elementary. Law enforcement is on site.” Administrators asked parents to stay away. And finally, a note was posted advising parents that they could meet their children at the small city’s civic center.
FACTBOX-Grim chronology of mass shootings in the United States We have to act,’ Biden says after Texas massacre, offers no specificsQUOTES-‘How many more lives?’: Reactions to Texas school shootingTexas elementary school’s end-of-year plans shattered by shooting
Two killed, 120 wounded in Abu Dhabi restaurant gas explosion
Two people were killed and 120 injured on Monday when a gas cylinder exploded inside a restaurant in the United Arab Emirates’ capital Abu Dhabi, police said.
Civil defense firefighters managed to contain the fire, which damaged several shops and the facades of six buildings, the police added.
They had said earlier that four buildings were evacuated.
Pictures published by local media showed glass debris and some rubble strewn along the sidewalk. The restaurant is located in Khaldiya, a district close to the sea front.
Ukraine’s Zelenskiy says he would meet with Putin to end the war
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Monday that President Vladimir Putin was the only Russian official he was willing to meet with to discuss how to end the war, Reuters reported.
Zelenskiy, addressing by video link an audience at the World Economic Forum in Davos, also said that arranging any talks with Russia was becoming more difficult in light of what he said was evidence of Russian actions against civilians under occupation.
According to Reuters Russia denies targeting civilians in what it calls a “special operation” to degrade Ukraine’s military capabilities.
“The president of the Russian Federation decides it all,” said Zelenskiy through an interpreter. “If we are talking about ending this war without him personally, that decision cannot be taken.”
Zelenskiy said the discovery of mass killings in areas occupied by Russian troops earlier in the war, particularly outside Kyiv, made it more difficult to arrange talks and he would rule out any discussions with other officials, read the report.
“I cannot accept any kind of meeting with anyone coming from the Russian Federation but the president,” he said. “And only in the case when there is one issue on the (table): stopping the war. There are no other grounds for any other kind of meeting.”
According to Reuters Russian and Ukrainian negotiators have held sporadic talks since Russian forces poured into Ukraine at the end of February, but both sides say the talks have stalled.
Zelenskiy told Ukrainian television last week that it was impossible to halt the war without some sort of diplomacy involved.
In his remarks to the audience in Davos, Zelenskiy also said that war came at a huge human price for Ukrainians. The country’s forces, he said, were making gains, notably near the second city of Kharkiv, but “the bloodiest situation remains in Donbas, where we are losing too many people”.
He added that any notion of recovering by force the Crimea peninsula, seized and annexed by Russia in 2014, would cause hundreds of thousands of casualties, Reuters reported.
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