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North Korea to hold key meeting after signing partnership treaty with Russia

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Seoul, June 23 (IANS) North Korea is to hold a plenary meeting of the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) this week to review policy performances in the first half, amid attention over whether it would discuss follow-up measures to implement a new partnership treaty signed with Russia.

In May, the WPK’s politburo decided to hold a plenary meeting of the party’s Central Committee in late June to review progress in its economic and other projects in the first half without disclosing other details, such as the date of the meeting, reports Yonhap news agency.

North Korea usually holds a party plenary meeting for a few days in June. However, the upcoming gathering draws more attention due to the possibility that it could discuss detailed measures to expand cooperation with Russia following its signing with Moscow of the treaty of comprehensive strategic partnership.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and Russian President Vladimir Putin held a summit in Pyongyang on Wednesday and clinched the sweeping treaty that calls for providing military assistance without delay if either comes under attack.

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Article 4 of the 23-point treaty could be seen as warranting automatic military intervention in the event of aggression on either country. That would amount to the restoration of a Cold War-era alliance for the first time in 28 years since a mutual defence treaty was scrapped in 1996.

The treaty also indicates North Korea and Russia could join hands in resisting international sanctions against Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programs. Article 16 of the treaty calls for both sides to oppose “unilateral coercive measures of an extraterritorial nature.”

The new pact specifies science and technology, space, the peaceful use of nuclear power and artificial intelligence as among the areas for cooperation. This raises concerns that North Korea and Russia’s cooperation in such fields could assist the North’s development of weapons of mass destruction banned under UN sanctions.

Whether North Korea would ratify the treaty at the WPK meeting will also garner attention. Under the North’s constitution, an “important treaty” can be ratified or scrapped solely by its leader, Kim, though the Supreme People’s Assembly (SPA), the North’s parliament, approves ordinary treaties.

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After this week’s party plenary meeting, North Korea is widely expected to hold a key session of the SPA in a bid to revise the constitution. The North’s leader earlier called for revising the constitution to define South Korea as the North’s “primary foe” and clarify its territorial boundaries, including the maritime border.

Experts said at this week’s WPK meeting, Kim may issue a message critical of the United States and South Korea over the allies’ joint military drills scheduled for August.

Seoul and Washington plan to stage the annual Ulchi Freedom Shield (UFS) in August, which the North has long denounced as a rehearsal for a northern invasion.

Separately, the USS Theodore Roosevelt, a US nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, arrived in the southeastern port city of Busan on Saturday in a show of force against North Korea’s military threats. The US, South Korea and Japan will hold their first-ever trilateral multidomain exercise later this month.

–IANS

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International

Man found dead alongside his vessel in Australia

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Sydney, July 14 (IANS) A man was found dead alongside his vessel on a lake in Queensland state on Sunday, the second fatal boating incident in Australia.

The boat was reported missing in the morning. A search and rescue operation then kicked off at Lake Somerset, about 70 km northwest of Queensland state’s capital Brisbane, involving joint efforts by water police, specialist officers, aerial assets, and multiple other agencies, reported Xinhua news agency.

At 4.00 p.m. local time, police located the vessel in the water and the body of the 45-year-old man. Investigations into the circumstances of the incident are ongoing by Queensland Police.

The Somerset Lake incident occurred only a day after one man died and another survived while crossing the Tweed River bar in New South Wales’ far north.

At around 6.00 a.m. on Saturday, police attended the scene at the north wall of the Tweed River, where two people were seen clinging to the upturned hull of a 6.5-meter half-cabin runabout boat.

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One of them was taken to a nearby hospital for a precautionary examination, while the other could not be revived and was declared dead at Duranbah Beach.

–IANS

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One dead, two missing in floods in Philippines

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Manila, July 14 (IANS) At least one person died and two others were missing after floods hit parts of the southern Philippines over the weekend, a government agency monitoring disasters said on Sunday.

The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council said that the lone fatality was due to drowning, reported in Davao Occidental province on Friday.

The two missing people were reportedly swept away by a strong current while crossing a river in Bukidnon province, reported Xinhua news agency.

The agency said the flooding affected nearly 39,000 people in four regions. Around 10,000 displaced villagers of the affected population have stayed in evacuation centres while waiting for the flood to subside.

The agency recorded at least eight landslides triggered by incessant rains in the Davao region and Zamboanga Peninsula.

The floods have damaged at least 47 houses in two regions, 40 roads, and two bridges in four regions of the Southeast Asian country.

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–IANS

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Trump's shooter identified as Thomas Matthew Crooks

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New Delhi, July 14 (IANS) Thomas Matthew Crooks (20) has been identified as the person suspected of shooting former US President Donald Trump in an attempted assassination, the FBI said in a statement.

“The suspected shooter was Thomas Matthew Crooks (20) of Bethel Park, Pennsylvania, as the subject involved in the assassination attempt of former President Donald Trump on July 13, in Butler, Pennsylvania,” said the FBI.

Crooks was killed on the spot by the security officials after he fired shots at the former US President, piercing through his ear, during a campaign rally in western Pennsylvania.

The FBI had earlier said that the shooting was being investigated as “an assassination attempt” on Trump.

The motive behind the assassination attempt, however, is yet to be revealed.

Trump, who is due to be anointed the Republican Party’s Presidential candidate, had a narrow escape on Saturday when shots aimed at him at a campaign rally grazed his right ear and killed two people at the event.

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–IANS

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Maldives pledges $1.3 million in aid for Palestinians

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Colombo, July 14 (IANS) The Maldives has pledged to donate over $1.29 million in humanitarian aid for Palestine, Permanent Representative of the Maldives to the United Nations Ali Naseer Mohamed said.

The aid was announced during the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) Pledging Conference held Friday at the UN headquarters, Xinhua news agency reported.

Naseer also said that the Maldivian government has increased its annual donation of $5,000 to Palestine by 10-fold, to $50,000 this year.

The representative also urged the international community to increase their financial assistance and fulfill political obligations to progress UNRWA initiatives.

–IANS

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Six killed in road accident in Afghanistan

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Pul-e-Khumri, July 14 (IANS) Six commuters have been confirmed dead and five others injured in a road accident in north Afghanistan’s Baghlan province, police said.

The deadly road crash on Saturday occurred in the province’s Dand Ghouri district when a military vehicle collided with a passenger car, killing six travelers including a woman, and injuring five others, the statement added, reported Xinhua news agency.

Similarly, a motorcyclist was killed when his motorbike hit a vehicle in Hussainkhail region, Pul-E-Khumri city, the provincial capital of the province late on Saturday.

Road accidents are prevalent in Afghanistan due to poor road conditions, reckless driving, difficult terrains, overloading, overtaking, and overspeeding.

–IANS

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