Leaders participating in talks at NATO arrived at the headquarters in Brussels on Thursday (March 24) and are set to warn Russian President Vladimir Putin that his country will pay “ruinous” costs for invading Ukraine.
The unprecedented one-day trio of NATO, G7 and EU summits will be attended by U.S. President Joe Biden.
The hectic day of summitry to maintain Western unity will kick off at NATO headquarters in Brussels, where the transatlantic defence alliance’s leaders will agree to ramp up military forces on Europe’s eastern flank.
Alarmed by the prospect that Russia might escalate the war with its neighbour after a grinding month-long conflict, the 30 nations of NATO will also agree to send Kyiv equipment to defend against biological, chemical and nuclear attacks.
“Nobody can feel safe now. Maybe it will be Poland, maybe it will be Baltic states but nobody in Europe, even those countries which are distant from the direct border with Russia, even those countries, are not safe today,” Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda told reporters, as he arrived for the NATO summit.
The resolve to punish Moscow with massive sanctions will be underlined by an emergency meeting of the G7 advanced economies.
Then, with a summit of the 27-nation European Union, countries representing more than half of the world’s gross domestic product will have met in one day.
Turkish airstrikes on Syrian border posts kill 17
Turkish airstrikes on Syria border posts run by regime forces killed 17 fighters on Tuesday, according to a war monitor, prompting the Damascus government to threaten retaliation.
“Seventeen fighters were killed in Turkish airstrikes that hit several Syrian regime outposts… near the Turkish border,” the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
It did not specify if the victims were affiliated with the government or Kurdish forces.
At least three Syrian soldiers were among the dead and six were wounded in the Turkish raids, said the official SANA news agency, citing a military source.
“Any attack on a military outpost run by our armed forces will be met with a direct and immediate response on all fronts,” read the report.
The strikes took place near the Kurdish-held town of Kobane, the site of overnight clashes between Turkish forces and the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).
Kurdish forces also struck inside Turkish territory overnight, killing one soldier, Turkey’s defense ministry said.
“Thirteen terrorists were neutralised” in retaliatory attacks by Ankara inside Syria, the ministry said, adding that operations in the region were ongoing.
Turkey has stepped up its attacks in Kurdish-controlled areas of Syria since a July 19 summit with Iran and Russia failed to green-light a fresh offensive against Kurdish fighters viewed by Ankara as terrorists.
Turkey has fervently opposed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, backing rebels calling for his removal and opening its doors to refugees.
US, South Korea, Japan hold missile defense exercise with eye on North Korea, China
The United States, South Korea and Japan participated in a ballistic missile defense exercise off Hawaii’s coast last week, the Pentagon said on Tuesday, reviving combined drills with an eye on North Korea as well as China.
It was the first time the three countries have held such drills since 2017, after relations between Seoul and Tokyo hit their lowest in years in 2019 amid renewed historical disputes dating to Japan’s 1910-1945 occupation of the Korean Peninsula, Reuters reported.
South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol, a conservative who took office in May, has vowed to improve relations with Japan and deepen the U.S. alliance to better deter North Korea, including by expanding or resuming joint drills.
The missile warning and ballistic missile search and tracking exercise took place Aug. 8-14 during the multinational Pacific Dragon drills, and demonstrated the three countries’ commitment to respond to challenges posed by North Korea, protect shared security and bolster the rules-based international order, the Pentagon said in a statement.
The participants shared tactical data link information in accordance with a trilateral information sharing agreement, the statement said.
U.S.-led joint missile defence measures have been a sore point with China, which retaliated economically against South Korea’s 2016 decision to host a U.S. military Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) battery.
Beijing says the THAAD radar can penetrate its territory and has called on Yoon to honour assurances made by his predecessor to not to increase THAAD deployments, participate in a U.S.-led global missile shield or create a trilateral military alliance involving Japan.
Yoon has said those do not represent formal agreements and that Seoul is not bound by them.
South Korea’s ministry of defense also confirmed on Tuesday that its troops would resume long-suspended live field training during their joint military drills with the United States to be held from Aug. 22 to Sept. 1.
The two sides have scaled back combined military drills in recent years due to COVID-19 and efforts to lower tensions with the North, which has accused the exercises of being a rehearsal for invasion.
Putin says Russia and North Korea will expand bilateral relations
Russian President Vladimir Putin told North Korean leader Kim Jong-un the two countries will “expand the comprehensive and constructive bilateral relations with common efforts,” Pyongyang’s state media reported on Monday.
In a letter to Kim for Korea’s liberation day, Putin said closer ties would be in both countries’ interests, and would help strengthen the security and stability of the Korean peninsula and the Northeastern Asian region, North Korea’s KCNA news agency said.
Kim also sent a letter to Putin saying Russian-North Korean friendship had been forged in World War II with victory over Japan, which had occupied the Korean peninsula, Reuters reported.
The “strategic and tactical co-operation, support and solidarity” between the two countries has since reached a new level is their common efforts to frustrate threats and provocations from hostile military forces, Kim said in the letter. KCNA did not identify the hostile forces, but it has typically used that term to refer to the United States and its allies.
Kim predicted co-operation between Russia and North Korea would grow based on an agreement signed in 2019 when he met with Putin.
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