Tag Archives: Defense Ministry

China criticizes US force strengthening in Asia

In its latest account of national defense efforts, China said Tuesday that the United States is destabilizing the Asia-Pacific region by strengthening its military alliances and sending more ships, planes, and troops to the area.

The U.S. policy known as the “pivot” to Asia runs counter to regional trends and “frequently makes the situation tenser,” the Defense Ministry said in its report on the state of China‘s defense posture and armed forces.

“Certain efforts made to highlight the military agenda, enhance military deployment and also strengthen alliances are not in line with the calling of the times and are not conducive to the upholding of peace and stability in the region,” spokesman Yang Yujun told reporters at a news conference marking the report’s release.

“We hope that the relevant parties would do more to enhance the mutual trust between countries in the region and contribute to peace and stability,” Yang said.

China has consistently criticized Washington’s deployment of additional ships and personnel to Asia, along with increasing cooperation both with treaty partners, including Japan, South Korea, and the Philippines, as well other countries such as Vietnam that aren’t traditional allies.

The U.S. is winding down its fighting in Afghanistan and calls the restructuring a natural reallocation of resources to the world’s most economically dynamic region.

Beijing, however, sees it as specifically designed to contain China‘s diplomatic, military, and economic rise, and has sought to reassure Asian nations that China poses no threat to them. Despite that, China‘s fast-growing military and increasingly firm assertions of its territorial claims have concerned many countries, pushing them to seek stronger relations with the U.S., the region’s traditional military superpower.

The pivot will see 60 percent of the Navy’s fleet be deployed to the Pacific by 2020. Singapore will be home to four new U.S. Littoral Combat Ships designed to fight close to shorelines, while Indonesia is looking to buy a broad range of American hardware and take part in joint maneuvers. The Philippines is seeking to host more U.S. troops on a rotating basis and australia has agreed to allow up to 2,500 Marines to deploy to the northern city of Darwin.

Meanwhile, in the face of natural disasters and North Korean threats, U.S. military relations with treaty partners South Korea and Japan are closer than ever.

From: http://feeds.foxnews.com/~r/foxnews/national/~3/SCKpL2rV3ik/

China says US is destabilizing region by increasing presence in Asia

In its latest account of national defense efforts, China said Tuesday that the United States is destabilizing the Asia-Pacific region by strengthening its military alliances and sending more ships, planes, and troops to the area.

The U.S. policy known as the “pivot” to Asia runs counter to regional trends and “frequently makes the situation tenser,” the Defense Ministry said in its report on the state of China‘s defense posture and armed forces.

“Certain efforts made to highlight the military agenda, enhance military deployment and also strengthen alliances are not in line with the calling of the times and are not conducive to the upholding of peace and stability in the region,” spokesman Yang Yujun told reporters at a news conference marking the report’s release.

“We hope that the relevant parties would do more to enhance the mutual trust between countries in the region and contribute to peace and stability,” Yang said.

China has consistently criticized Washington’s deployment of additional ships and personnel to Asia, along with increasing cooperation both with treaty partners, including Japan, South Korea, and the Philippines, as well other countries such as Vietnam that aren’t traditional allies.

The U.S. is winding down its fighting in Afghanistan and calls the restructuring a natural reallocation of resources to the world’s most economically dynamic region.

Beijing, however, sees it as specifically designed to contain China‘s diplomatic, military, and economic rise, and has sought to reassure Asian nations that China poses no threat to them. Despite that, China‘s fast-growing military and increasingly firm assertions of its territorial claims have concerned many countries, pushing them to seek stronger relations with the U.S., the region’s traditional military superpower.

The pivot will see 60 percent of the Navy’s fleet be deployed to the Pacific by 2020. Singapore will be home to four new U.S. Littoral Combat Ships designed to fight close to shorelines, while Indonesia is looking to buy a broad range of American hardware and take part in joint maneuvers. The Philippines is seeking to host more U.S. troops on a rotating basis and australia has agreed to allow up to 2,500 Marines to deploy to the northern city of Darwin.

Meanwhile, in the face of natural disasters and North Korean threats, U.S. military relations with treaty partners South Korea and Japan are closer than ever.

In its report, the Defense Ministry again sought to assuage concerns about its more than 500 percent increase in defense spending over the past 14 years. China‘s defense budget is now the second largest in the world after the U.S., allowing it to acquire everything from better submarines and missiles to state-of-the-art fighters, aircraft carriers and electronic warfare systems, and helping spawn an arms race across Asia.

Much of the report was devoted to the military’s contribution to U.N. peacekeeping efforts and disaster relief, portraying the People’s Liberation Army as a force for regional and global stability.

Yet it also asserted the PLA‘s role as a guarantor of China‘s core interests, vowing to tolerate no violation of those.

“‘We will not attack unless we are attacked, but we will

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North Korea delivers new round of war rhetoric, claims it has 'powerful striking means'

North Korea delivered a fresh round of rhetoric Thursday with claims it had “powerful striking means” on standby for a launch, while Seoul and Washington speculated that the country is preparing to test a medium-range missile during upcoming national celebrations.

On the streets of Pyongyang, meanwhile, North Koreans celebrated the anniversary of leader Kim Jong Un‘s appointment to the country’s top party post — one in a slew of titles collected a year ago in the months after father Kim Jong Il‘s death.

The Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland, a nonmilitary agency that deals with relations with South Korea, didn’t elaborate on its warning of a strike. The statement is the latest in a torrent of warlike threats seen outside Pyongyang as an effort to raise fears and pressure Seoul and Washington into changing their North Korea policy.

Officials in Seoul and Washington say Pyongyang appears to be preparing to test-fire a medium-range missile designed to reach the U.S. territory of Guam in the Pacific Ocean.

Such a launch would violate U.N. Security Council resolutions prohibiting North Korea from nuclear and ballistic missile activity, and mark a major escalation in Pyongyang’s standoff with neighboring nations and the U.S.

North Korea already has been punished in recent months for launching a long-range rocket in December and conducting an underground nuclear test in February.

Analysts do not believe North Korea will stage an attack similar to the one that started the Korean War in 1950. But there are concerns that the animosity could spark a skirmish that could escalate into a serious conflict.

North Korea has been, with its bellicose rhetoric, with its actions … skating very close to a dangerous line,” U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said in Washington on Wednesday. “Their actions and their words have not helped defuse a combustible situation.”

The missile that officials believe Pyongyang is readying has been dubbed the “Musudan” by foreign experts after the northeastern village where North Korea has a launch pad. The missile has a range of 3,500 kilometers (2,180 miles) and is designed to reach U.S. military installments in Guam and Japan, experts say.

Bracing for a launch, officials said could take place at any time, Seoul deployed three naval destroyers, an early warning surveillance aircraft and a land-based radar system, a Defense Ministry official said in Seoul, speaking on condition of anonymity in line with department rules. Japan deployed PAC-3 missile interceptors around Tokyo.

But officials in Seoul played down security fears, noting that no foreign government has evacuated its citizens from either Korean capital.

North Korea has continuously issued provocative threats and made efforts to raise tension on the Korean peninsula … but the current situation is being managed safely and our and foreign governments have been calmly responding,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Cho Tai-young told reporters Thursday.

The war talk is seen as a way for North Korea to draw attention to the precariousness of the security situation on the Korean Peninsula and to boost the military credentials of young leader Kim Jong Un.

The Korean War ended in

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Guatemala war trial puts past closer to president

Guatemala‘s struggle to deal with the war crimes of the past, including bringing an aging former dictator and his officers to justice, has taken a sharp turn to the present.

A mechanic testifying at the genocide trial of ex-strongman Efrain Rios Montt, now 86, became the first person to directly accuse current President Otto Perez Molina of ordering pillaging and executions in the 36-year civil war, which killed a total of 200,000, mostly indigenous Maya.

Such rumors and accusations had surfaced about Perez before, but without proof or formal charges. He has called Thursday’s testimony “lies.”

But the national talk continued Monday, four days after Hugo Reyes told a stunned courtroom: “The soldiers, on orders from Major ‘Tito Arias,’ better known as Otto Perez Molina … coordinated the burning and looting, in order to later execute people.”

Prosecutor Orlando Lopez said Reyes’ testimony is 100 percent credible, but he has to study the accusations before he can say whether they would result in criminal action against Perez.

Right now I’m focused on the Rios Montt case,” Lopez said Monday. “I don’t know what will happen after that.”

Perez said he researched Reyes’ record with the Defense Ministry and the mechanic wasn’t in Nebaj, the base in western Quiche state where soldiers operated at the same time as Perez.

“I have nothing to hide. I did not participate in a single situation where someone died that was my responsibility,” Perez told reporters on Friday. “I’m not going to deny that I was in Nebaj; it’s true. But I was there to rescue the civilians, combat the armed guerrillas and help the civilians.”

The testimony is shaking up Guatemala‘s attempts to settle its past. A U.N. truth commission said state forces and related paramilitary groups were responsible for 93 percent of the killings and human rights violations that it documented. Yet until now, only low or middle-level officials have been prosecuted for a war that ended in 1996.

Rios Montt is the biggest by far, on trial along with his former head of intelligence, Jose Sanchez, in connection with the deaths of 1,771 Mayan Indians during the military dictatorship he headed from March 23, 1982, to Aug. 8, 1983, during which he led a U.S.-backed counterinsurgency against guerrillas.

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China says its flares didn't hit Vietnamese boats

China said its navy fired flares at Vietnamese fishing boats but denied Hanoi’s claim that a vessel was damaged in an incident that is highlighting tensions over disputed South China Sea islands and surrounding waters believed to hold a wealth of oil and natural gas deposits.

Sailors on board a Chinese navy craft fired two flares at four Vietnamese boats that had earlier failed to respond to whistles, shouts and signal flags demanding that they cease fishing and leave the area, which China claims as its territorial waters, the Defense Ministry said in a statement issued late Tuesday.

It said the ships were fishing illegally in Chinese waters off the Paracel Islands on March 20 and both flares burned out in the air. Chinese forces did not fire weapons and no Vietnamese boats caught fire.

Vietnam, which also claims the Paracels, said one of the boat’s cabin’s caught fire in the incident, which it called “very serious.” The government lodged a formal complaint with the Chinese Embassy in Hanoi, seeking compensation for the alleged damage and punishment of the Chinese sailors responsible.

The fishing boat was near the Paracels when an unidentified Chinese vessel chased it and fired the flare, the Vietnamese government said in a statement issued late Monday.

The claim that a Chinese ship started a fire was a “sheer fabrication,” the Chinese statement said, citing an unidentified navy spokesman.

China‘s Defense Ministry said the boats were in Chinese territorial waters and China was acting within its rights by driving them off.

“It is completely legitimate for Chinese vessels to expel boats that illegally enter China‘s territorial waters to safeguard the country’s territorial sovereignty and marine interests,” the statement said.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said Tuesday that China had taken unspecified but “legitimate and reasonable” actions against Vietnamese boats working illegally in Chinese waters. He denied that any boats had been damaged, but gave few other details.

There have been other clashes in the waters, often related to claims of illegal fishing or violations of fishing moratoriums unilaterally imposed by the Chinese.

Vietnam and China each claim large parts of the South China Sea. The Philippines, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei also maintain that parts of the …read more
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Transfer of US prison to Afghans delayed again

The long-awaited transfer of the U.S. detention center in Afghanistan has been delayed once again as a deal struck between the two governments broke down the day before a planned handover ceremony.

As recently as Friday morning, Afghan workers at the Defense Ministry were arranging transport for dignitaries and journalists to attend Saturday’s ceremony at the detention center adjoining the Bagram Air Field, a U.S. base about an hour outside of the capital.

Then on Saturday morning, organizers told journalists that the ceremony had been canceled. Afghan officials declined to give a reason for the cancellation.

U.S. forces spokesman Jamie Graybeal says details of the transfer still needed to be worked out and a full agreement has not been reached.

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China claims its military and defense sites were hacked by U.S. attackers

In a move to counter recent reports claiming that a special unit in the Chinese Army is behind repeated cyber attacks on U.S. institutions, the nation Thursday claimed its military and defense ministries websites are routinely hacked from IP addresses originating within the United States.

More than 144,000 hacking attempts per month are targeted at the China Military Online and Defense Ministry websites, Defense Ministry spokesman Geng Yansheng said at a news conference, Reuters reports. Close to two-thirds of those attacks (62.9 percent) originated in the United States, Yansheng said.

The problem with numbers like that is they include almost any network activity as an attack, says Richard Stiennon, chief research analyst with IT-Harvest, a cyber defense industry research firm in Birmingham, Mich. “Everybody in the industry knows those numbers include port scans and probes, which don’t make an attack,” he said in an interview.

He recalled a cyber attack scare that erupted in 2010 when a Congressionals committee was told 1.8 billion cyber attacks per month were launched against Congress and government institutions.

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China says US-based hackers target its websites

China‘s military says overseas computer hackers targeted two of its websites an average of 144,000 times per month last year, with almost two thirds of the attacks originating in the United States.

The comments by Defense Ministry spokesman Geng Yansheng on Thursday followed accusations last week by an American cybersecurity company that Chinese military-backed cyberspies infiltrated and stole massive amounts of data from U.S. companies and other entities. China denied the allegations and its military said it has never supported any hacking activity.

Geng told reporters at a monthly news conference that an average of 62.9 percent of the attacks on the Defense Ministry‘s official website and that of its newspaper, the People’s Liberation Army Daily, came from the U.S.

China says its military cyberforce is purely for defense.

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Suicide bomber attacks Afghan army bus; 7 wounded

A suicide bomber attacked a bus carrying Afghan soldiers to work in the capital early Wednesday, wounding seven people in an explosion that engulfed the undercarriage of the bus in flames, officials and witnesses said.

The attack comes three days after a would-be car bomber was shot dead by police in downtown Kabul. That assailant was driving a vehicle packed with explosives and officials said he appeared to be targeting an intelligence agency office nearby.

Wednesday’s attacker was on foot. He wore a black overcoat and carried an umbrella as he crossed the snowy street toward the bus, said Ahmad Shakib, who was waiting on the opposite side of the street for a car from his office to take him in to work. The Afghan government uses buses to ferry soldiers, police and office workers into the center city for work every day. These vehicles, which run regular routes, have been a common target for insurgents.

The attacker set down his umbrella in the middle of the road as he approached the bus, then lay down next to the bus and pushed himself underneath, Shakib said.

“I thought to myself, ‘What is this crazy man doing? And then there was a blast and flames,'” Shakib said.

Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid claimed responsibility for the attack in a text message to The Associated Press.

The early morning blast in western Kabul wounded six soldiers and one civilian, the Kabul police chief’s office said in a statement. Spokesmen for the Defense Ministry and the Interior Ministry said no one was killed in the blast.

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Afghan army trains women for special forces

The Afghan army is training female special forces to take part in night raids against insurgents, breaking new ground in an ultraconservative society and filling a vacuum left by departing international forces.

“If men can carry out this duty why not women?” asks Lena Abdali, a 23-year-old Afghan soldier who was one of the first women to join one of the special units in 2011.

Night raids have long been a divisive issue between Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who doesn’t want foreign troops entering Afghan homes, and the U.S.-led coalition that says the raids are essential to capturing Taliban commanders.

Many Afghans, however, have complained that the house raids are culturally offensive. Having male troops search Afghan females is taboo. So is touching a family’s Quran, the Muslim holy book, or entering a home without being invited. Another focus of anger has been the disregard for privacy and Afghan culture because women and children are usually home during the raids.

The raids now are conducted jointly by U.S. and Afghan forces, but the female Afghan special forces soldiers play an important role. Their job: Round up women and children and get them to safety while guarding against the potential dangers of female suicide bombers or militants disguised in women’s clothes.

The missions have taken on increasing importance and the Afghan government and the U.S.-led coalition have stepped up training of the Afghan special forces as international troops prepare to end their combat mission in 23 months.

President Barack Obama announced earlier this week that he will withdraw about half of the 66,000 U.S. troops now in Afghanistan within a year. He did not spell out what U.S. military presence would remain after 2014.

Afghan women have been part of their nation’s security forces for years, but they didn’t start being recruited for the special forces until 2011. Defense Ministry spokesman Gen. Mohammad Zahir Azimi said more than 1,000 women were in the army — a small fraction of the total force of 195,000.

The role of female soldiers also has come under debate in the United States after the Pentagon decided last month to open up front-line combat jobs to women.

Col. Jalaluddin Yaftaly, the commander of the joint Special Unit of the Afghan National Army, said villagers don’t like foreign forces …read more
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China, Russia deny Japanese charges of air space intrusion

Japan‘s defense minister on Friday accused two Russian fighter jets of intruding into Japanese air space, heightening regional tensions as Beijing denied Tokyo‘s claims that Chinese naval vessels had locked their weapons-targeting radar on to a Japanese destroyer last month.

Tokyo said two Russian Su-37 fighters entered Japanese air space off the northern tip of Hokkaido island for just over a minute Thursday, prompting Japanese air force jets to scramble and fly alongside the two Russian planes.

Russia denied any border violation, but Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera said Friday that Tokyo will deal with the incident “strictly, within the bounds of international law.”

The alleged intrusion happened when Japan was observing “Northern Territories Day,” when it holds annual rallies urging Russia to return a series of islands off eastern Hokkaido captured at the end of World War II. The islands, called the Southern Kurils in Russia, are 400 kilometers (250 miles) southeast of where the alleged intrusion took place.

In Beijing, China‘s Defense Ministry issued a statement denying Japanese claims that Chinese naval vessels had locked their radar on to a Japanese destroyer and helicopter in two instances last month in the East China Sea.

The countries are embroiled in a territorial spat over a cluster over tiny, uninhabited islands — called Senkaku in Japanese and Diaoyu in Chinese — in the vicinity that are controlled by Japan but also claimed by China and Taiwan.

“The Japanese so-called claims that the Chinese navy locked on to Japanese ships and aircraft with fire control radar are not factual,” the Chinese statement said.

It also accused Japan of repeatedly fabricating reports to smear China over the normal training actions of its military and building China up into an international threat.

“The Chinese side wishes that the Japanese side take practical actions, cease creating a tense atmosphere in the East China Sea, and refrain from issuing irresponsible statements,” it said.

Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida rejected Beijing‘s denial as “completely unacceptable.” He told reporters that a thorough review of data by the Defense Ministry confirmed that the Chinese naval ship and locked on with its weapons targeting radar.

…read more
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South Korea, US begin naval drills amid North Korea nuclear threat

South Korean and U.S. troops began naval drills Monday in a show of force partly directed at North Korea amid signs that Pyongyang will soon carry out a threat to conduct its third atomic test.

The region is also seeing a boost in diplomatic activity focused on North Korea‘s announcement last month that it will conduct a nuclear test to protest U.N. Security Council sanctions toughened after a December satellite launch that the U.S. and others say was a disguised test of banned missile technology.

Pyongyang’s two previous nuclear tests, in 2006 and 2009, both occurred after it was slapped with increased sanctions for similar rocket launches. As it issued its most recent punishment, the Security Council ordered North Korea to refrain from a nuclear test or face “significant action.”

North Korea‘s state media said Sunday that at a high-level Workers’ Party meeting, leader Kim Jong Un issued “important” guidelines meant to bolster the army and protect national sovereignty. North Korea didn’t elaborate, but Kim’s guidelines likely refer to a nuclear test and suggest that Pyongyang appears to have completed formal procedural steps and is preparing to conduct a nuclear test soon, according to South Korean analyst Hong Hyun-ik.

“We assess that North Korea has almost finished preparations for conducting a nuclear test anytime and all that’s left is North Korea making a political decision” to do so, Defense Ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok told reporters Monday.

The spokesman said he couldn’t disclose further details because they would involve confidential intelligence affairs. Recent satellite photos showed North Korea may have been sealing the tunnel into a mountainside where a nuclear device could be exploded.

On Monday, South Korean and U.S. militaries kicked off three-day exercises off the Korean Peninsula’s east coast that involve live-fire exercises, naval maneuvers and submarine detection drills.

South Korea‘s Joint Chiefs of Staff said the maneuvers are part of regular joint military training that the allies had scheduled before the latest nuclear tensions began. But the training, which involves a nuclear-powered American submarine, could still send a warning against possible North Korean provocation, a South Korean military official said, requesting anonymity because of department rules.

North Korean state media on Saturday described the drills as a joint exercise for a pre-emptive attack on the country. North Korea has said similar things when South Korea and the U.S. conducted other drills; the allies have repeatedly said they have no intention of attacking the North.

North Korea says U.S. hostility and the threat of American troops in South Korea are important reasons behind its nuclear drive. The U.S. stations about 28,500 troops in South Korea, a legacy of the 1950-53 Korean War, which ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty.

North Korea also has denounced sanctions over its rocket launches, saying it has the sovereign right to launch rockets to send satellites into orbit under a space development program.

North Korea‘s two previous nuclear tests are believed to have been explosions of plutonium devices, but experts say the North may use highly enriched uranium for its upcoming test. That is a worry to Washington and others because North Korea has plenty of uranium ore, and because uranium enrichment facilities are easier to hide than plutonium facilities are.

Diplomats are meeting to find ways to persuade North Korea to scrap its nuclear test plans. New U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and his South Korean counterpart Kim Sung-hwan held a telephone conversation Sunday night and agreed to sternly deal with any possible nuclear provocation by North Korea, Seoul’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

The chief nuclear envoys of South Korea and China met in Beijing on Monday and agreed that they would closely coordinate on ways to stop North Korea from conducting a nuclear test, according to Seoul’s Foreign Ministry. China is North Korea‘s main ally and aid benefactor.

China has refused to say whether it was sending an envoy to North Korea or whether Pyongyang has informed Beijing about its plans for a nuclear test. China‘s Foreign Ministry on Monday reiterated Beijing‘s opposition to a test, though it did not mention North Korea by name.

“We call on all sides, under the current circumstances, to avoid taking measures which will heighten regional tensions. We hope all parties concerned can focus their efforts more on helping to ease tensions on the peninsula and throughout the region and jointly maintain peace and stability on the peninsula,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said at a daily media briefing in Beijing.

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Brazil may buy Russian missiles

Brazil‘s Defense Ministry says it is interested in buying Russian anti-aircraft defense systems.

General Jose Carlos De Nardi is the head of the joint chiefs of staff of the Brazilian Armed Forces. He’s quoted in a Defense Ministry statement as saying, “We are interested in the acquisition of three batteries of medium level Pantsir-S1 missiles and two batteries of Igla missiles.”

He says that if an agreement is signed it would include the construction of a factory in Brazil and the transfer of technology.

De Nardi says the possible purchase will be discussed with Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev who is scheduled to visit to Brazil at the end of the month.

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Myanmar gov't agency drops suit against magazine

A court in Myanmar on Thursday formally closed a defamation lawsuit that a government agency filed against a magazine after the two sides reached a settlement.

The Dagon Township Court in Yangon announced that the Mining Ministry had agreed to withdraw its lawsuit against the Voice weekly magazine. The suit was filed last May after the magazine published a story about misappropriation and irregularities in four ministries’ financial accounts. The article cited a report from the auditor general’s office to the parliament’s Public Accounts Committee.

The case was one of the first of its kind under elected President Thein Sein‘s government, which has eased restrictions on the media as part of its reforms after almost five decades of repressive military rule. Under previous military regimes, strict media censorship determined what could be printed and violators faced arbitrary punishment and severe penalties.

The Voice on Jan. 14 published an announcement expressing regret that its story could have affected the ministry’s dignity and thanking it for dropping its lawsuit. The magazine did not retract the story.

The magazine’s editor, Kyaw Min Swe, said the settlement was reached with the help of the Press Council.

Myanmar announced the end of censorship in August.

An interim Press Council was set up last September to help resolve media disputes and to draw up a new media law, with Kyaw Min Swe as its general secretary.

Asked about the settlement, he said: “The result is satisfactory, as I believe that it’s win-win situation. We didn’t publish false news — we reported official information. So, there’s no reason for us to step back. When the country is on the track to becoming a democratic country, it’s not good that the government and media have conflicts. If the Press Council had not gotten involved, one side would win and one side will lose. Then the conflicts between the media and government would get bigger.”

All three of the country’s daily newspapers are state-owned, though it has been announced recently that applications will be accepted to set up new privately owned newspapers.

The court’s action came the same day that two of the state-run dailies published an apology for running a photo that purportedly showed the result of an attack by ethnic Kachin rebels in the country’s north. The photo — pirated from the private Myanmar Times weekly — actually showed a motorcycle that was damaged in an airplane accident in Shan state on Dec. 25.

Government forces are battling Kachin rebels in northern Myanmar. The apology in the two Myanmar-language dailies said mistakes such as the misidentified photo could weaken public trust. The third state-owned daily, the English-language New Light of Myanmar, also carried the falsely identified photo but did not apologize Thursday.

The same issue of the papers carrying the mislabeled photo also published a statement from the Defense Ministry accusing some media of distorting the facts about the fighting and failing to report atrocities committed by the rebels.

The state-run newspapers are filled with mundane government news, and have long had little popular appeal.

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Iraq: 2 soldiers killed near rally shooting site

Gunmen killed two Iraqi soldiers and abducted three others in Fallujah on Saturday as hundreds of mourners gathered in the restive western city for the funeral of protesters killed during a shooting by army troops a day earlier, according to officials.

The attacks and kidnappings appeared to be in retaliation for the deaths of protesters in clashes Friday, and are likely to further strain tensions between Iraq‘s minority Sunnis and the Shiite-led central government.

Also on Saturday, Iraqi lawmakers said parliament has approved a law that would limit the terms of the prime minister, president and parliament speaker to a maximum of two terms. The measure, which must still be approved by Iraq‘s president, could pose a challenge to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s plans to seek the post again in 2014.

Fallujah police Maj. Rasheed al-Adeeli said one of the soldiers killed was hit by a sniper on the outskirts of the city. Another was shot dead when gunmen attacked a military post where soldiers were packing up their equipment on the northern edge of the city.

Gunmen ambushed the car of three off-duty soldiers on the outskirts of Fallujah and kidnapped them, according to state television and a provincial police official reached by The Associated Press. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release the information, said authorities have launched a manhunt for the missing men.

Mourners hoisted caskets and waved Iraqi flags while shouting “Allahu Akbar!” or God is great. The funeral procession took place in central Fallujah, not far away from the city’s cemetery.

Iraqi soldiers opened fire Friday on stone-throwing demonstrators near Fallujah, killing at least five, according to local authorities. Two other soldiers were killed Friday in apparent payback for the protesters’ deaths.

Sunnis angry over perceived second-class treatment and what they see as unfair policies targeting their sect began demonstrating last month in Anbar. The protests have since spread to other predominantly Sunni areas.

The protesters are demanding the release of detainees and the cancellation of a tough counterterrorism law and other policies they believe overwhelmingly target Sunnis. Many link their cause with the broader Arab Spring and are calling for the downfall of the government altogether.

International rights group Amnesty International pressed the Iraqi government to immediately investigate the protesters’ deaths and make its findings public.

“Anyone found responsible for abuses — including anyone found to have used excessive force against protestors — must be brought to justice,” said Ann Harrison, Amnesty’s deputy program director for the region. She also urged authorities to ensure security forces are properly trained and equipped to deal with demonstrators in a way that respects human rights.

Iraqi state television aired a statement from the Defense Ministry on Friday evening saying it would investigate what happened in Fallujah. Repeated efforts to reach ministry officials directly were unsuccessful.

The United Nations envoy to Iraq, Martin Kobler, said the U.N. is increasingly concerned about the rising level of tension within the country. He said he would welcome a decision by the defense ministry to investigate the incident.

“We urge the government to exert self-restraint in law and order, and respect human rights,” he said in an interview. “Our message to the demonstrators is to exercise their right to demonstrate peacefully.”

Kobler also called on political leaders across Iraq to “sit together in a constructive dialogue.”

Muhammed al-Khalidi, a Sunni lawmaker, said that 170 lawmakers voted in favor of the law limiting the terms on the prime minister and other top officials. He said lawmakers from al-Maliki’s State of Law bloc boycotted the session.

Mushriq Naji, a lawmaker from the bloc headed by firebrand cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, confirmed the vote. He said the measure is needed “to prevent the return of the dictatorship to Iraq.”

“This law ensures that no person can stay in power for an unlimited time and that democracy will continue in this country,” Naji said.

Putting the law into force could prove challenging, however.

Iraq‘s president must sign off on the legislation. The current president, Jalal Talabani, is incapacitated following a stroke and is being treated in a German hospital, and it is unlikely he would be able to sign the law into force.

Legal expert Tariq Harb downplayed the significance of the vote. Even if it were to be enacted, the supreme court could rule that it contradicts the constitution and is therefore invalid, he said.

“This vote could be part of a political game because the Iraqi constitution does not limit the terms for the prime minister and the parliament speaker,” he said. “Also, the same parliament could convene at any time in the future and decide to abolish the new law if the political map changes.”

___

Yacoub reported from Baghdad. Associated Press writer Adam Schreck in Baghdad contributed reporting.

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Gunmen in Yemen kill intelligence officer

Yemeni security officials say two gunmen on a motorbike have shot and killed an intelligence officer in a southeastern province.

The officials said the officer, Mutea Baqutian, was on his way to work Saturday in Hadramawt province when the gunmen stopped his car and shot him, then fled.

The government has blamed al-Qaida militants for similar assassinations of several senior military and intelligence officials this year.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity according to regulations.

Meanwhile, Maj. Gen. Ahmed Seif, who is commander of Yemen‘s central military region, said the Defense Ministry has deployed an infantry brigade in the northeastern province of Marib to stop armed tribesmen who maintain cordial ties with al-Qaida from attacking oil pipelines and power generating stations, as well as to counter al-Qaida militants.

Source: Fox World News

South Korea warns that North Korea has developed rockets that can reach the US mainland

By David Piper

South Korean officials say analysis of debris from the latest North Korean rocket shows it has the ability to reach the US mainland.

At a news conference in Seoul on Sunday, Defense Ministry officials made the announcement after their experts looked at parts of the rocket that fell in the sea after Pyongyang’s successful launch on Dec. 12.

They have only recovered part of the first stage of the rocket from the Yellow Sea off South Korea‘s West Coast.

But that has shown them, they believe, that North Korea now has the ability to fire it.

Their estimate comes from analyzing an oxidizer container, which stored red fuming nitric acid to fuel the first-stage propellant.

“Based on our analysis and simulation, the missile is capable of flying more than 10,000 kilometers (6,200 miles) with a warhead of 500-600 kilograms,” a defense ministry official told reporters.

South Korean missile experts believe the use red fuming nitric acid shows it was an intercontinental missile test.

Red fuming nitric acid was used in missiles developed by the Soviet Union,”
said a member of the South Korean Defense Ministry team.

“Because it used red fuming nitric acid as an oxidizer, which can be stored for a long time at normal temperature, the team concluded that (the rocket) was intended for testing (the North’s) ICBM technology, rather than developing a space launch vehicle.”

The analysis will give support to the argument by America and its allies that they believe North Korea the rocket launch was an attempt to test an inter-continental ballistic missile rather than, as Pyongyang maintains, part of a space program.

South Korean Defense officials say though its impossible to determine if North Korea has developed re-entry capability, a key element of an inter-continental ballistic missile, until they recover parts of the second and third stages of the rocket.

Defense experts believe Pyongyang has shown with the successful launch of an object into space via a three-stage rocket that it has moved a major step forward in developing inter-continental missile technology.

“In technological terms, the launch moves North Korea a major step closer to developing an inter-continental ballistic missile. It demonstrates the successful development of a three-stage rocket design, which, although not a ballistic missile,” James Hardy, Asia Pacific Editor, IHS Jane’s Defense Weekly told Fox News.

Its widely thought that it will be many years before North Korea can develop a long-range missile that can carry a nuclear warhead but it has surprised many by its ability with its latest rocket launch.

Even if a nuclear threat to the US West Coast may be far in the future there is a real danger now that Pyongyang will press ahead with an attempt to develop a shorter range missile that can carry a nuclear warhead.

Jim O’Halloran, a weapons analyst with IHS Jane’s, told Fox News that “this particular missile bears no direct threat to the US continent and indeed will be some time, probably many years, before this could happen.”

“It will on the other hand give rising concern to North Korea‘s neighbors in that they must now start addressing their previous concerns about how long it will take the North Koreans to develop long-range missile technology into some kind of intermediate/long-range ballistic missile that can carry a warhead that can threaten those countries.”

While there were mass celebrations in North Korea following the successful rocket launch it only raised tensions in the region that was already reeling from rows over disputed islands between China, Japan and South Korea.

Even the celebration of Christmas has now become part of the tense Korean standoff.

About 100 Christians attended the ceremony to light up a giant Christmas tree this weekend near the border with North Korea.

It was an annual ritual that was stopped back in 2003 to try to improve relations between the two countries.

But it has now resumed following a deadly artillery attack by North Korea on a South Korean island.

Pyongyang says the tree is psychological warfare and has nothing to do with Christmas and could cause more conflict.

Source: Fox World News

Thousands rally in Yemen to support military shakeup as 3 Westerners are kidnapped

Hundreds of thousands of Yemenis rallied across the country Friday to support a military shake-up this week that limited the powers held by loyalists of the country’s ousted leader, including his son.

President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi‘s measures on Wednesday brought the military’s Special Forces and Republican Guard run by ousted leader Ali Abdullah Saleh‘s son, Ahmed, under the control of the Defense Ministry.

Restructuring the army was a top demand by Yemenis after Saleh’s ouster in February. He ruled the impoverished Arab nation for 33 years and was forced to step down following massive protests during the country’s Arab Spring uprising last year.

The United States and powerful Arab Gulf nations led by Saudi Arabia helped broker the power-transfer deal, which eased him out of office.

Saleh has been blamed by many over the past year for using loyalists and relatives in powerful posts to stall reform efforts by the new leadership under Hadi, who was the former leader’s deputy before becoming president.

On Thursday, the White House said President Barack Obama‘s counterterrorism chief John Brennan called Hadi to convey U.S. support for the Yemeni leader’s “steadfast resolve to continue on the path of political transition.”

The White House said the move advances the goal of a unified, professional military that serves the Yemeni people. The statement also said the two discussed “the importance of international support for Yemen‘s economic development and the need to sustain close cooperation against Al Qaeda.”

Washington considers Al Qaeda in Yemen as the militant group’s most dangerous branch.

Al Qaeda militants took advantage of the political turmoil last year to overrun entire cities and towns in southern Yemen.

With U.S. support, the Yemeni military managed to take back control of southern territories earlier this year, but Al Qaeda militants have still been able to launch attacks against the army. The attacks have killed hundreds of security forces.

In a sign of Yemen‘s still volatile security situation, three foreigners — two men and a woman — were kidnapped on Friday by unknown gunmen from the center of the capital, Sanaa, the city’s governor said.

The assailants fired bullets in the air before taking the three in a white unmarked Land Cruiser, Governor Abdel-Qader Hilal told The Associated Press. The nationalities of the three were not disclosed.

In Friday’s demonstration in all 17 provinces across Yemen, people expressed support for the shake-up, chanting: “Move forward, Hadi, for the dreams of our nation.”

Hadi’s measures also included the naming of a new commander to replace Saleh’s nephew, Yahia, as head of the Central Security Forces.

The president also merged another unit headed by Yahia, the Anti-Terrorism Force, to the Defense Ministry. In addition, the president dismissed the ousted leader’s brother Mohammed, who was among at least seven deputies of chief of staff removed in the shake-up.

Source: Fox World News

Rallies across Yemen support military shake-up

Hundreds of thousands of Yemenis are rallying across the country in support of a military shake-up this week that reduced the powers of the ousted leader’s son and relatives.

President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi‘s shake-up brought the Special Forces and Republic Guard run by ousted leader Ali Abdullah Saleh‘s son under the control of the Defense Ministry.

Saleh ruled Yemen for 33 years and was forced to step down after massive protests during the Arab Spring uprising. The United States helped broker the power-transfer deal, which eased him out of office.

Since his ouster, Saleh has been blamed for using loyalists in powerful posts to stall reforms by the new leadership.

Demonstrators on Friday voiced support for the shake-up, chanting: “Move forward, Hadi, for the dreams of our nation.”

Source: Fox World News

Yemen's President shakes up army

Yemen’s president has ordered a shake-up of the country’s Defense Ministry, removing the powerful son, relatives and aides of the ousted leader.

According to Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi‘s orders, the Republican Guard and special forces, which were commanded by ousted leader Ali Abdullah Saleh‘s son, Ahmed, merged under the ministry.

Hadi also named a new commander to replace Saleh’s nephew, Yahia, as head of the Central Security Forces and merged another unit headed by Yahia, the Anti-Terrorism Force, to the Defense Ministry.

Hadi also removed Saleh loyalists to from top positions in the ministry, such as deputy of chief of staff.

Restructuring the army was a top demand by Yemenis after Saleh’s ouster in February. The military is engaged in battles against al-Qaida militants in the south of the country.

Source: Fox World News