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North Korea calls South Korea, US and Japan ‘Asian version of NATO’

South Korea and the United States have accused the North of supplying weapons to Russia that are being used in the Ukraine war. Both Russia and North Korea deny any such transactions.

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North Korea criticised a joint military exercise by South Korea, Japan and the United States held this month, state media said on Sunday, saying such drills show the relationship among three countries has developed into “the Asian version of NATO”.

On Thursday, the three countries began large-scale joint military drills called “Freedom Edge” involving navy destroyers, fighter jets and the nuclear-powered U.S. aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt, aimed at boosting defences against missiles, submarines and air attacks.

The exercise was devised at the three-way summit at Camp David last year to strengthen military cooperation amid tensions on the Korean peninsula stemming from North Korea’s weapons testing.

Pyongyang will not ignore the strengthening of a military bloc led by the U.S. and its allies and will protect regional peace with an aggressive and overwhelming response, North Korea’s foreign ministry said in a statement, according to KCNA news agency.

The ministry also said Washington was continuing its effort to link up South Korea and Japan to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), adding South Korea’s attempts to supply weapons to Ukraine is one example of that effort.

Seoul’s defence ministry said in a statement that the “Freedom Edge” exercise was in response to North Korea’s nuclear and missile program while dismissing Pyongyang’s criticism.

South Korea said it would review the possibility of supplying arms directly to Ukraine, in protest against a recent mutual defence pact signed between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

South Korea and the United States have accused the North of supplying weapons to Russia that are being used in the Ukraine war. Both Russia and North Korea deny any such transactions.

North Korea’s ruling party held a meeting over Friday and Saturday presided by Kim, who on the second day addressed “deviations” hampering economic development and laid out the focus for the second half of the year, state media said.

North Korea has long condemned joint drills between the United States and South Korea as a rehearsal for invasion and proof of hostile policies by Washington and Seoul.

Last year, the U.S., South Korea and Japan staged joint naval missile defence and anti-submarine exercises to improve responses to North Korean threats. – Reuters 

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Biden says Israel-Gaza war should end now and Israel must not occupy Gaza

A dozen U.S. administration officials have quit, citing opposition to Biden’s Gaza policy. Rights advocates also note a rise in antisemitism and Islamophobia in the U.S. amid the war, Reuters reported.

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U.S. President Joe Biden said on Thursday the Israel-Gaza war must end now and Israel must not occupy the enclave after the war, telling reporters his ceasefire framework had been agreed on by both Israel and Hamas but there were still gaps to close, Reuters reported.

“That framework is now agreed on by both Israel and Hamas. So I sent my team to the region to hammer out the details,” Biden said in a news conference.

Biden in late May detailed a proposal of three phases aimed at achieving a ceasefire, the release of hostages in Gaza and Palestinian prisoners held by Israel, Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza and the rebuilding of the coastal enclave.

CIA Director Bill Burns and U.S. Middle East envoy Brett McGurk were in the Middle East this week meeting with regional counterparts to discuss the ceasefire deal.

“These are difficult, complex issues. There are still gaps to close. We’re making progress. The trend is positive. I’m determined to get this deal done and bring an end to this war, which should end now,” Biden said in the press conference.

Palestinian Islamist group Hamas has accepted a key part of a U.S. plan, dropping a demand that Israel first commit to a permanent ceasefire before signing the agreement, read the report.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has insisted the deal must not prevent Israel from resuming fighting until its war objectives are met. At the outset of the war, he pledged to annihilate Hamas.

Netanyahu’s office said on Wednesday he was committed to securing a Gaza ceasefire deal provided Israel’s red lines were respected.

Biden told reporters on Thursday that Israel must not occupy Gaza while also offering some criticism of Israel’s war cabinet, saying “Israel occasionally was less than cooperative”.

Biden also expressed disappointment at some of his steps not having succeeded in Gaza, citing the planned winding down of the U.S. military’s humanitarian pier off the coast of Gaza as an example. “I was hopeful that would be more successful,” he said.

The Biden administration has faced international criticism for its continuing support of Israel in the face of growing civilian casualties.

The United States, Israel’s important ally, has seen months of protests around the country in opposition to the war and to U.S. support for Israel.

A dozen U.S. administration officials have quit, citing opposition to Biden’s Gaza policy. Rights advocates also note a rise in antisemitism and Islamophobia in the U.S. amid the war, Reuters reported.

The latest bloodshed in the decades-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict was triggered on Oct. 7 when fighters led by Hamas, which controlled Gaza, attacked southern Israel. They killed 1,200 people and took around 250 hostages, according to Israeli figures.

The Gaza health ministry says that since then over 38,000 Palestinians have been killed in Israel’s assault on the coastal enclave, which has displaced nearly all its 2.3 million population, caused a hunger crisis and led to genocide allegations that Israel denies.

 

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NATO slams China over Russia support, backs full integration of Ukraine, draft communique says

NATO countries are meeting Tuesday through Thursday in Washington to mark the 75th anniversary of the alliance, read the report.

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NATO allies will pledge to support Ukraine on an “irreversible path” to integration and call on China to cease all support for Russia’s war effort against Kyiv, according to a draft joint communique seen by Reuters on Wednesday.

China has become a decisive enabler of Russia’s war effort in Ukraine and Beijing continues to pose systemic challenges to Europe and to security, according to the draft communique being developed at the NATO summit in Washington.

NATO countries intend to provide Ukraine with minimum funding of 40 billion euros within the next year and establish a mechanism to coordinate the provision of military equipment and training for Ukraine, according to the draft communique.

The allies will pledge to support Ukraine on its path to full Euro-Atlantic integration including NATO membership, it said. An invitation to join the alliance will be extended to Kyiv when allies agree and conditions are met, the draft said.

The draft also discusses the importance of the Indo-Pacific to NATO, as developments there directly affect Euro-Atlantic security, and the alliance welcomes enhanced cooperation with Asia-Pacific partners to support Ukraine, it said.

The alliance is also concerned by developments in China’s space capabilities and activities and urges Beijing to engage in strategic risk reduction discussions, the draft said.

NATO allies are willing to maintain channels of communication with Moscow to mitigate risk and prevent escalation, it said.

NATO countries are meeting Tuesday through Thursday in Washington to mark the 75th anniversary of the alliance, read the report.

 

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Russian missile attacks kill at least 41, hit children’s hospital, Ukraine says

Zelenskiy, addressing a news conference in Warsaw alongside Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk, called on Kyiv’s Western allies to give a firm response to the attack.

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Russia blasted the main children’s hospital in Kyiv with a missile in broad daylight on Monday and rained missiles down on other cities across Ukraine, killing at least 41 civilians in the deadliest wave of air strikes for months, Reuters reported.

Parents holding babies walked in the street outside the hospital, dazed and sobbing after the rare daylight aerial attack. Windows had been smashed and panels ripped off, and hundreds of Kyiv residents were helping to clear debris.

“It was scary. I couldn’t breathe, I was trying to cover (my baby). I was trying to cover him with this cloth so that he could breathe,” Svitlana Kravchenko, 33, told Reuters.

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, who stopped in Poland before heading off to Washington for a NATO summit, put the death toll at 37, including three children. More than 170 were injured.

But tallies of casualties from the sites of attacks in different regions totalled at least 41.

Writing on the Telegram messaging app, Zelenskiy said more than 100 buildings had been damaged, including the children’s hospital and a maternity centre in Kyiv, children’s nurseries and a business centre and homes.

“The Russian terrorists must answer for this,” he wrote. “Being concerned does not stop terror. Condolences are not a weapon.”

The Interior Ministry said there had also been damage in the central cities of Kryvyi Rih and Dnipro and two eastern cities.

The government proclaimed a day of mourning on Tuesday for one of the worst air attacks of the war, which it said demonstrated that Ukraine urgently needed an upgrade of its air defences from its Western allies, read the report.

Air defences shot down 30 of 38 missiles, the air force said.

An online video obtained by Reuters showed a missile falling towards the children’s hospital followed by a large explosion. The location of the video was verified from visible landmarks.

The Security Service of Ukraine identified the missile as a Kh-101 cruise missile.

Kyiv’s military authorities said 27 people had died in the capital, including three children, and 82 were wounded in the main missile volley and a strike that came two hours later.

Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said the attack was one of the largest of the war, causing damage in seven city districts. The Health Minister said five units of the children’s hospital were damaged and children were evacuated to other facilities, Reuters reported.

Eleven were confirmed dead in the Dnipropetrovsk region and 68 were wounded, regional officials said. Three people were killed in the eastern town of Pokrovsk where missiles hit an industrial facility, the governor said.

Zelenskiy, addressing a news conference in Warsaw alongside Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk, called on Kyiv’s Western allies to give a firm response to the attack.

“We will retaliate against these people, we will deliver a powerful response from our side to Russia, for sure. The question to our partners is: can they respond?” Zelenskiy said.

The attack came a day before leaders of NATO countries were due to begin a three-day summit, with the war in Ukraine one of the focuses, read the report.

U.S. President Joe Biden said that Moscow’s deadly missile strikes in Ukraine, including on the children’s hospital in Kyiv, were “a horrific reminder of Russia’s brutality”.

In a statement released by the White House, Biden added that Washington and its NATO allies would be announcing new measures to strengthen Ukraine’s air defences.

Diplomats said the United Nations Security Council would meet on Tuesday at the request of Britain, France, Ecuador, Slovenia and the United States.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Türk, deplored the attacks, saying: “Among the victims were Ukraine’s sickest children.”

Russia’s Defence Ministry said its forces had launched strikes on defence industry targets and aviation bases.

Moscow has repeatedly denied targeting civilians and civilian infrastructure, although its attacks have killed thousands of civilians since it launched its invasion in February 2022.

Ukraine’s Prosecutor General said he discussed the attacks with International Criminal Court Prosecutor Karim Khan, adding that his office would be sharing evidence with the ICC.

Ukraine’s Defence Minister Rustem Umerov said Ukraine still lacked enough air defences and urged Kyiv’s allies to supply more systems promptly to protect cities from Russian attacks.

Air Force representative Colonel Yuri Ignat said it became more difficult to repel Russian attacks as Moscow’s forces kept enhancing their bombardment tactics.

“Enemy missiles are equipped with additional means, including radar and thermal traps,” Ignat wrote on Facebook.

The missiles flew at extremely low altitudes during Monday’s attacks, he said.

DTEK, the largest private power producer, said three electricity substations and networks had been damaged in Kyiv.

The power system has already sustained so much damage from targeted Russian air strikes that began in March that electricity cuts have become widespread.

 

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