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North Korea will face end of regime if it uses nuclear weapons, warns South Korea

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Seoul, April 23 (IANS) North Korea will face the end of its regime if it attempts to use nuclear weapons, the South Korean defense ministry warned on Tuesday, after the former said it conducted rocket drills simulating a nuclear counterattack.

North Korea’s state media said leader Kim Jong-un on Monday guided a tactical drill simulating a nuclear counterattack involving super-large multiple rocket launchers against enemy targets, Yonhap news agency reported.

“If North Korea attempts to use weapons, it will face an immediate, overwhelming and decisive response from the South Korea-US alliance, and the North Korean regime will face its end,” ministry spokesperson Jeon Ha-kyu said in a regular press briefing.

Jeon said North Korea’s continued provocations would only strengthen South Korea’s military capabilities and US extended deterrence, and their trilateral security cooperation involving Japan.

Extended deterrence refers to America’s commitment to using the full range of its military capabilities, including nuclear, to defend its ally. The allies have been pursuing an integrated form of extended deterrence with Seoul leveraging its high-tech conventional military capabilities.

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The Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said the North’s latest missile tests appear to be “a show of force” against the ongoing military drills between Seoul and Washington as well as demonstrating its capabilities in lieu of its delayed spy satellite launch and arms sales abroad.

The South Korean military said earlier North Korea appears to be making preparations for its next launch of a spy satellite, although there are no signs of an imminent launch.

JCS spokesperson Lee Sung-jun evaluated North Korea’s claim of a nuclear attack capability as “exaggerated” and the South Korean military is ready to detect and shoot down its ballistic missiles.

“North Korea is known to have not yet concluded its experiments with small tactical nuclear weapons,” Lee said during the briefing.

The North’s super-large multiple rocket launch system is classified as a short-range missile that could put the entire South Korean territory within range. Pyongyang has claimed a tactical nuclear warhead could be mounted on such a weapon.

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The North said Monday’s missiles accurately hit the target island within a 352-kilometer range, which is enough to hit South Korea’s Gyeryongdae military headquarters, 160 kilometers south of Seoul, and an air base in Gunsan on the southwestern coast, where the joint aerial drills have been underway.

On Tuesday, JCS Chairman Adm. Kim Myung-soo visited the 707th Special Mission Group, an elite counter-terrorism unit under the Special Warfare Command, to review its military readiness.

Kim highlighted the special force’s role in eliminating the enemy’s leadership in covert operations during a conflict and called for heightened vigilance against North Korean threats.

–IANS

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International

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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Gaza aid deliveries restart from Egypt via Kerem Shalom crossing

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Cairo, May 26 (IANS/DPA) Badly needed aid to the Gaza Strip started coming from Egypt through the Kerem Shalom crossing for the first time in nearly three weeks on Sunday, an Egyptian TV station reported.

The state-affiliated al-Qahera News TV said 200 trucks carrying humanitarian supplies were moving from outside the Egyptian side of the Rafah border crossing, heading to the Karm Abu Salem crossing or Kerem Shalom.

According to the broadcaster, these included four fuel trucks and began moving through Karen Shalom.

Earlier this month, Israel took control of the Gaza side of the Rafah, crossing with Egypt, in an operation that halted aid deliveries via the vital facility into the heavily populated strip.

Since the closure of the Rafah crossing, Egypt has indicated it will not coordinate aid transports through Rafah until the Israeli forces withdraw.

Hamas has recently attacked the Kerem Shalom crossing and Israeli settlements with rockets.

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Earlier this week, US President Joe Biden and Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sissi agreed on aid deliveries to Gaza through the Kerem Shalom crossing.

Egypt, in a temporary arrangement, will hand over humanitarian aid and fuel to the United Nations at the crossing until a legal mechanism is reached to reopen the Rafah crossing from the Palestinian side, an Egyptian presidency statement said.

–IANS/DPA

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Taiwan thanks the US, others for supporting peace in the region

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Taipei, May 26 (IANS/DPA) Taiwan President Lai Ching-te on Sunday expressed his gratitude to the US and the international community for support amid higher tensions in the region, calling on China to jointly shoulder the important responsibility of regional stability.

“I am very grateful to US President Biden, the US government and Congress, and other countries around the world for their firm support for peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait,” Lai told reporters in southern Taiwan at an event held by his independence-leaning Progressive Progressive Party Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).

During his inaugural speech on Monday, Lai stressed that peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait are indispensable to global security and prosperity.

“Any country that creates disturbance in the Taiwan Strait and affects regional stability will not be accepted by the international community,” Lai said.

Lai said he is very much looking forward to enhancing mutual understanding and reconciliation through exchanges and cooperation with China in order to create mutual benefits.

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Lai’s comments came just a day after Washington said it was “deeply concerned” about China’s military drills in the Taiwan Strait and around Taiwan, which were conducted days after Lai’s inauguration.

“We are monitoring PRC activities closely and coordinating with allies and partners regarding our shared concerns,” US State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said in a statement on Saturday.

“We strongly urge Beijing to act with restraint. Using a normal, routine, and democratic transition as an excuse for military provocations risks escalation and erodes longstanding norms that for decades have maintained peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait, which is critical for regional and global security and prosperity and a matter of international concern,” Miller said.

–IANS/DPA

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