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US Defence Secy to attend talks with S. Korean, Japanese counterparts in Singapore

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Washington, May 25 (IANS) US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin will attend a trilateral meeting with his South Korean and Japanese counterparts on the margins of an annual security forum in Singapore slated to begin next week, the Pentagon has said.

Austin will attend the Shangri-La Dialogue set to take place from May 31-June 2, during which he will join the three-way meeting with the Asian allies, and bilateral meetings with China’s Minister of National Defense Adm. Dong Jun and other counterparts, Yonhap news agency reported, citing the Department of Defense.

His trip comes as tensions persisted in the region over China’s military exercises encircling Taiwan this week and apparent signs of North Korea preparing to launch another military reconnaissance satellite, as well as Russia’s prolonged war in Ukraine.

At the security forum, Austin plans to deliver plenary remarks. He is also set to meet Singapore’s new Prime Minister Lawrence Wong and other senior Singaporean officials and convene a multilateral meeting with his counterparts from Southeast Asia, according to the department.

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“Secretary Austin’s tenth trip to the Indo-Pacific comes as the Department of Defense continues to strengthen US relationships with allies and partners in support of a shared regional vision for peace, stability, and deterrence,” the department said in a release on Friday.

In Cambodia, the secretary will meet with senior officials following his 2022 visit to Phnom Penh for a regional gathering of defence ministers.

Austin will conclude his trip in France, where he will mark the 80th anniversary of the Normandy landings in 1944 during World War II.

–IANS

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Singapore to take additional check to prevent F-16 crash

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Singapore, June 20 (IANS) Engineers of Singapore Air Force will periodically test gyroscope assemblies on F-16 jet fighters to prevent malfunction of such components and ensure flight safety, the Defence Ministry said.

A Singaporean F-16 crashed after taking off on May 8 due to the malfunction of pitch rate gyroscopes, Xinhua news agency reported.

In the accident, the flight control computer received erroneous but similar inputs from two out of four pitch rate gyroscopes in the F-16 and rejected the correct data, according to an investigation document released by the Ministry.

The computer manoeuvred the aircraft in response to the erroneous feedback from the two degraded gyroscopes, making the pilot fail to control the jet, the document noted.

The F-16 aircraft was maintained following established protocols and the Air Force had adhered to required maintenance inspections, the investigation concluded.

F-16 producer Lockheed Martin said this was the first of such failure since F-16 first flew in 1974.

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–IANS

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Putin arrives in Vietnam after visit to North Korea

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Hanoi, June 20 (IANS/DPA) Russian President Vladimir Putin arrived in Hanoi for a state visit following a meeting with Kim Jong Un in North Korea, the Russian presidency said.

Putin is visiting the Vietnam capital at the invitation of General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong.

He travelled to Hanoi from North Korea on Wednesday evening after a two-day visit.

On Thursday, the Russian leader will take part in a welcome ceremony at the Presidential Palace, before engaging in bilateral talks with Communist Party Chief Trong. He will also meet Vietnamese Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh and Vietnamese who studied in Russia.

Putin will also attend a state banquet.

Having been isolated on the international stage, Putin is seeking to shore up support from Russia’s remaining allies.

It remains unclear exactly how Vietnam hopes to gain from hosting a visit from Putin, who remains under an arrest warrant from the International Criminal Court for alleged war crimes against Ukraine.

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Commentators suggest Putin’s brief tour of Vietnam and North Korea is of practical as well as symbolic importance.

“Putin’s trip to Vietnam will reinvigorate their comprehensive strategic partnership and shore up economic relations through trade and investment commitments by adopting a rouble-dong currency exchange mechanism for goods and services payments,” said Carl Thayer, emeritus professor of politics at the University of New South Wales in Australia and a Vietnam expert.

During his stay in Hanoi, Putin will stay at The Sofitel Metropole, a French-owned hotel.

Before his arrival, a Russian-chartered jumbo jet shipped in limousines for Putin’s use throughout his visit.

–IANS/DPA

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US Army kills senior Islamic State official in Syria

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Washington, June 20 (IANS/DPA) The US Army has said they have killed a high-ranking member of the Islamic State terrorist militia in Syria in an airstrike.

“US Central Command conducted an airstrike in Syria, killing Usamah Jamal Muhammad Ibrahim al-Janabi, a senior ISIS official and facilitator,” the US Central Command, or CENTCOM, said in a post on social media platform X on Wednesday.

“His death will disrupt ISIS’s ability to resource and conduct terror attacks,” it added.

“There is no indication any civilians were harmed in this strike.”

US troops are stationed in Syria to prevent a resurgence of Islamic State. They are deployed in areas controlled by the Kurdish militia YPG and its allies.

Despite the military victory over the extremist militia announced in 2019, its cells are still active in the country.

According to observers, however, the US is also seeking to limit the influence of its arch-enemy Iran with its continued military presence in the region.

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According to a defence official in Washington, around 700 US soldiers are still in Syria. Their deployment has become more dangerous with the outbreak of the Gaza war.

Pro-Iranian militias have repeatedly carried out attacks on the often small US military bases in the desert.

–IANS/DPA

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Another Indian-American on strong track to be elected to US Congress

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New York, June 20 (IANS) “Samosa Caucus” — the group of Indian-Americans in US Congress — has a strong chance of getting another member next year with the victory of Suhas Subramanyam in the Virginia Democratic primaries.

He won the intra-party election on Tuesday to pick the Democratic candidate to contest the November general election for the House of Representatives from a constituency held by it.

The constituency includes some suburbs of Washington.

Meanwhile, in primaries in New Jersey last week, Indian-American Rajesh Mohan won the Republican ticket for a House seat but faces an uphill battle because it is in a strongly Democratic constituency.

There are now five Indian-Americans in the House of Representatives, all Democrats who call themselves the “Samosa Caucus”: Ami Bera and Ro Khanna from California; Pramila Jayapal from Washington State; Raja Krishnamoorthi from Illinois, and Shri Thanedar from Michigan.

A State Senator, Subramanyam bested 11 other candidates in an ugly contest where his main adversary faced allegations of sexual harassment.

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He was backed by the retiring House member Jennifer Wexton, who flipped the seat to the Democratic side in 2018 and was re-elected twice, winning 53 per cent of the votes in 2022 making it a safe seat for the party.

Subramanyam’s family is from Bengaluru.

A 37-year-old lawyer, he was President Barack Obama’s technology advisor working on cybersecurity and modernising government agencies.

In 2019, he was elected to the Virginia General Assembly, and the State Senate last year.

He is also a volunteer medic and firefighter.

Mohan, who defeated his three Republican rivals, will be contesting from a constituency held by a Democrat.

Andrew Kim, who is giving up the seat to run for the US Senate, flipped it from the Republican Party in 2018 and won his second re-election in 2022 by 55 per cent.

Three ratings of the race surveyed by Ballotopedia declared it a solid or safe Democratic seat.

A cardiologist, Mohan received his medical degree from the Delhi University College of Medical Sciences.

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In New Jersey, Ravinder Singh Bhalla, the Mayor of Hoboken, lost the Democratic Party primary for the House seat to Rob Menendez who currently holds the seat.

The sitting representative’s father, Senator Bob Menendez, is on trial on corruption charges but undeterred, he waged an ugly campaign against Bhalla, a turban-wearing Sikh, alleging that he made quid-pro-quo deals with the Mayor of a neighbouring city and used images marring his appearance in TV ads.

Susheela Jayapal, the sister of influential Representative Pramila Jayapal, lost the primary for a Democratic seat in Oregon.

Pramila Jayapal heads the Congressional Progressive Caucus, a group of leftist Democratic Party legislators.

She represents a constituency in Washington State, a neighbour of Oregon where her sister Susheela Jayapal was a county commissioner and was among several leftist candidates who faced an ideological backlash in the Democratic primaries.

(Arul Louis can be contacted at arul.l@ians.in and followed at @arulouis)

–IANS

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New Zealand PM's Japan trip witnesses significant business deals

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Wellington, June 20 (IANS) New Zealand Prime Minister Christopher Luxon’s visit to Japan this week has witnessed the signing of significant business deals in the areas of space, renewable energy and investment.

Aerospace company Rocket Lab signed on Tuesday the biggest single launch deal in its history, with Japanese company Synspective, which will see 10 dedicated launches for Synspective from Rocket Lab’s site in Mahia, Hawke’s Bay in New Zealand.

This cements Rocket Lab and New Zealand’s reputation as a global force in space innovation, Luxon said on Wednesday as quoted by Xinhua news agency report.

Japanese company Toda Corporation will invest in Queenstown’s luxury hotel industry, via Auckland-based Coherent Hotel Limited.

Regarding investment deals in renewable energy, Christchurch-based Fabrum, a leading player in the green hydrogen industry, will supply its proprietary liquid hydrogen storage system to Japanese company Toyota.

–IANS

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