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Japanese rally outside PM residence to protest relaxed arms export control

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Tokyo, March 26 (IANS) Many Japanese protesters, amid heavy rainfall, gathered on Tuesday in front of the Prime Minister’s residence to rally against the government’s eased defence equipment transfer rules and further relaxation of arms export control.

Seen as a significant defence policy shift and another step contrary to the country’s pacifist constitution, the Japanese government decided at a cabinet meeting on Tuesday to lift the ban on exporting the next-generation fighter jets set to be jointly developed with Britain and Italy to third countries, Xinhua news agency reported.

On Tuesday, the updated guidelines of the “three principles on transfer of defence equipment and technology,” which would enable the fighter jet shipments, was approved by the Cabinet led by Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida after Japan’s ruling coalition, the Liberal Democratic Party and the Komeito Party, on March 15 agreed on the revised export rules.

Chanting slogans such as “No Weapon Exports,” “Strongly Oppose Becoming a Warring Nation” and “Listen to People’s Voice,” local protesters voiced their concerns against Japan’s increasing involvement in the global arms trade, accusing the government of disregarding constitutional principles and the will of the people.

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Among the protesters stood Mizuho Fukushima, head of the Social Democratic Party of Japan. She criticised that the Constitution of Japan, the Article 9 of which prohibits the export of weapons, has been gradually eroded.

“The decision to export the next-generation fighter jets overseas was made without any discussion in the parliament but solely among ruling parties. We are strongly against it,” she said, adding that the Japanese public do not want Japan to become “a merchant of death”.

Her point was echoed by Koji Sugihara, representative of a local citizen’s group named Network Against Japan Arms Trade.

“It’s as if the Article 9 has been completely disregarded, leaving only its remnants,” he told Xinhua news agency.

“This would be the first time that lethal combat aircraft are being exported overseas, and the decision was made clandestinely. What kind of democracy is this? It’s a farce!” Sugihara said with much anger.

The modification of the guidelines of the “three principles” is to pave the way for Japan to engage in comprehensive weapon exports, commented Atsushi Koketsu, emeritus professor at Yamaguchi University of Japan.

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He also doubted the procedure of Tuesday’s revision is lawful, stressing the fact that the government forced the revision through a cabinet resolution without any public discussion raises serious concerns about the possibility of further amendment.

“While the government claims that exporting the next-gen fighter jets to third countries is ‘to protect the safety of the Japanese people,’ but such a move, by blatantly denying the pacifist constitution, would instead draw Japan into conflicts,” the scholar told Xinhua news agency.

–IANS

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Nearly 1 million evacuated as Cyclone Remal approaches Bangladesh

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Dhaka, May 26 (IANS) Bangladesh has begun evacuating millions of people ahead of Cyclone Remal, which is expected to bring winds as fast as 130 kmph when it makes landfall.

The cyclonic storm in the Bay of Bengal is poised to cross the country’s coastlines between Sunday evening and midnight, Xinhua news agency reported.

Bangladesh Meteorological Department on Sunday warned of the danger of flooding, landslides and a storm surge.

The great danger signal No. 10 has been sounded for the country’s coastal districts and seaports, where fishing boats, trawlers and maritime vessels have been advised to remain in shelter till further notice.

At 9.00 a.m. local time Sunday, the cyclone was centred 295 km south of Bangladesh’s Mongla port in the southern Khulna region and 380 km southwest of Chattogram port in southeastern Bangladesh, said the bulletin signed by Kh Hafizur Rahman, a meteorologist at BMD.

Bangladeshi State Minister for Disaster Management and Relief, Md Mohibur Rahman, told Xinhua that at least 8,00,000 people from the ten most vulnerable districts have already been evacuated to shelters.

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He said Bangladesh’s navy, coast guard, police, voluntary organisations and political parties were supporting the ongoing massive evacuation efforts.

Television footage showed widespread flooding in the low-lying areas of coastal districts.

Due to the peripheral effect of the severe cyclone and steep pressure gradient, the low-lying areas of the coastal districts of Khulna and Chattogram are likely to be inundated by a wind-driven surge of 8-12 feet height above normal astronomical tide, reads the bulletin.

Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority has suspended operations of all types of river vessels on all inner routes. Authorities of Chattogram Seaport have ordered to stop unloading of cargo at the outer anchorage and asked all the vessels anchored there to go to the deep sea.

Shah Amanat International Airport in Chattogram has suspended its flight operation for eight hours from Sunday afternoon.

In 2007, Cyclone Sidr hit the country’s southwestern coastal belt, leaving more than 4,000 people dead or missing.

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–IANS

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UN official: Death toll in Papua New Guinea landslide estimated to surpass 670

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Sydney, May 26 (IANS) The death toll from a massive landslide in Papua New Guinea (PNG) was estimated to surpass 670, an official from the International Organisation for Migration told the media on Sunday.

According to Serhan Aktoprak, the chief of the UN migration agency’s mission in the Pacific island country, the scale of the impact was much greater than initially thought.

In an interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Aktoprak said that more than 150 houses might be buried under the debris six to eight metres deep, and over 670 people could have lost their lives.

The area surrounding the disaster zone in Enga province also remained dangerous, with incessant rockfalls and continuous landslides prompting the evacuation of about 1,250 survivors, the official noted.

At around 3:00 a.m. local time on Friday, a massive landslide battered a remote region in Enga province, located over 600 km northwest of PNG’s capital, Port Moresby.

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The UN office in PNG issued a statement on Saturday, offering its deepest condolences to the victims and their families in the Lagaip Porgera District of Enga province.

“While the total number of casualties is yet to be determined, preliminary reporting indicates the death toll may be significant. Search and rescue efforts are underway, although continuous landslides and falling boulders are affecting these efforts,” said a spokesperson.

–IANS

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10 members of a family killed in flooding in Afghanistan

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Islamabad, May 26 (IANS/DPA) Ten members of a family were killed overnight in a village in the capital of Afghanistan’s Badakhshan province due to heavy rainfall and flooding, local officials said on Sunday.

Rescue teams are searching for the remaining victims after four bodies were recovered, the head of the information and culture department, Zabihullah Amiri, said in a statement. There are no reports of survivors from the family.

Flooding has deepened Afghanistan’s already dire humanitarian crisis, adding to the death toll caused by multiple natural disasters in recent years.

The World Food Programme (WFP) said in a statement that floods in the past few weeks have affected at least 80,000 people in the country.

This month, Afghan authorities reported more than 400 deaths due to flash floods across different provinces. Baghlan province, in the north, was hit the hardest.

Extreme weather events such as flash floods and droughts are on the rise in Afghanistan. Experts blame the climate crisis for this. The country remains among the world’s top 10 climate-impacted nations, despite having a negligible carbon footprint.

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After decades of wars and conflicts, Afghanistan is ill-prepared to cope with the consequences of climate change.

The country is still reeling from the multiple earthquakes earlier this year and severe flooding in March.

–IANS/DPA

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Ukraine reports renewed Russian attacks in country's west

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Kyiv, May 26 (IANS/DPA) Russia subjected Ukraine to a massive drone and missile attack overnight, according to Kyiv’s military.

The Ukrainian air force said missiles, including Kinzhal hypersonic missiles, rockets and drones, were fired at western Ukraine.

Explosions were reported from the Khmelnytskyi region, where the Starokostiantyniv Air Force Base is also located.

According to the regional administration, a residential building was hit in the Vinnytsia region. Three people were injured in the attack, Governor Serhiy Borzov wrote on Telegram.

The Lviv region on the border with Poland was also attacked, Lviv Mayor Andriy Sadovyi wrote on Telegram.

An explosion was also heard near the capital, Kyiv, reported the public broadcaster Suspilne. Air raid warnings sounded across the country.

The heavy nighttime air raid was preceded by the launch of Tu-95 strategic bombers in Russia, which fire cruise missiles. Later, MiG-31 fighter jets, which are the carrier systems for the Kinzhal, also took off.

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The country has been fending off a full-scale Russian invasion since February 2022.

–IANS/DPA

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In a first, Indian Haj pilgrims travel from Jeddah to Mecca by high-speed train

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Jeddah, May 26 (IANS) In a historic first, Indian Haj pilgrims, who arrived at the Jeddah airport on Sunday, travelled to Mecca by high-speed Haramain Train instead of buses.

The arrangement, which will make the journey of the pilgrims more comfortable, has been facilitated by India’s Consulate General in Jeddah in coordination with the concerned Saudi authorities.

The Ambassador of India to Saudi Arabia Suhel Ajaz Khan and Consul General Shahid Alam accompanied by Vice President of Saudi Arabian Railways, Al Harbi and other officials from Ministry of Haj and Ministry of Transport, escorted the Indian Haj pilgrims from Jeddah Airport to Mecca on first such journey on the High Speed Train on Sunday.

With the highest speed of the train being 300 km per hour, the journey will also reduce the travel time from Jeddah to Mecca considerably.

It is estimated that about 32,000 Indian Haj pilgrims will use the exclusive service this year.

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The Indian Haj Mission – the biggest operation of its kind handled by the Indian government outside the country’s borders, has closely coordinated logistics with the concerned Saudi authorities to make the new initiative a success.

–IANS

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