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North Korea agrees to shut down missile site, says Moon

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…As China hits back at Trump, adds tariffs to $60B of U.S.-made products***

Kim Jong-un has agreed to shut down one of North Korea’s main missile testing and launch sites, says South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in.

After meeting in Pyongyang, the two leaders “agreed on a way to achieve denuclearisation,” said Mr Moon.

The agreement was described by Mr Kim as a “leap forward” towards military peace on the peninsula.

Mr Kim also said he hoped to “visit Seoul in the near future” – he would be the first North Korean leader to do so.

Summit results: Denuclearisation

The main focus of the summit was the issue of denuclearisation. While the US and North Korea agreed in broad terms earlier this year to work towards that goal, negotiations have stalled.

Pyongyang has now sought to reconfirm its commitment.

Mr Moon said Mr Kim had “agreed to permanently close the Tongchang-ri missile engine test site and missile launch facility” and, crucially, that this would be done “in the presence of experts from relevant nations” who could verify it was no longer operational.

He said Mr Kim had also agreed to shut down the Yongbyon nuclear facility – where North Korea is believed to have produced the material used in its nuclear tests – but only if the US took some reciprocal action. The details of that were not specified.

North Korea blew up its main nuclear testing site at Punggye-ri shortly before Mr Kim’s meeting with US President Donald Trump in June.

“The outcome is a big win for Moon Jae-in, who has managed to extract a series of positive headlines from Kim Jong-un related to denuclearisation,” Ankit Panda, editor of The Diplomat, told the BBC.

“None of the concessions are truly costly to Kim and won’t help move North Korea toward short-term disarmament, but provide a further basis for confidence building on which US-North Korea talks can move forward.”

In the meantime, China will impose retaliatory tariffs on $60 billion of American-made goods, hitting back at the U.S. just hours after President Donald Trump announced a massive escalation in tariffs on $200 billion in imported goods from Beijing.

The Chinese Finance Ministry announced Tuesday it would go ahead with plans announced in August to tax 5,207 types of U.S. imports, ranging from coffee to farm machinery. The smaller, mismatched dollar amount reflects the fact that China is running out of American goods to tax, due to its trade imbalance.
The new round of tariffs is aimed at curbing “trade friction” and the “unilateralism and protectionism of the United States,” the ministry said on its website.

The new tariffs, levied at a rate of 5 percent and 10 percent, will come into effect on Sept. 24 — the date Trump laid out for his latest round of punitive tariffs.

Trump has repeatedly said his goal is to force partners to the table to renegotiate current trade deals that he and his supporters view as unfair to American economic and security interests. Foreign businesses have long complained that China’s protectionist policies are pushing them out of promising economic opportunities.

The Chinese Commerce Ministry said Tuesday it had been forced to react because the U.S. was creating an “economic emergency.”

Economists have warned that the escalating battle could knock up to 0.5 percentage points off global economic growth through 2020.

BBC with additional report from NBC

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U.S. strikes 2 targets in Syria in response to ‘continued attacks’

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The U.S. military struck two facilities in eastern Syria used by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and Iran-affiliated groups in response to “continued attacks” against U.S. personnel in Iraq and Syria, the Pentagon said on Sunday.

The strikes were conducted against a training facility in Abu Kamal and a safe house in Mayadin in the eastern governorate of Deir Ezzor, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in a brief statement.

The U.S. struck similar targets in eastern Syria in October and earlier in November.

Pro-Iranian militias have intensified their attacks on U.S. military bases in Syria and Iraq in recent weeks as a response to the Israeli military campaign in Gaza.

The security situation in the entire region has been particularly tense since Oct. 7, when Hamas militants staged deadly attacks in southern Israel.

Israel is responding with an overwhelming air and ground offensive in Gaza.

As a deterrent, the U.S. has moved more weapons systems, warships and air squadrons to the Eastern Mediterranean, and is deploying several hundred troops to the Middle East to support US units there.

U.S. President Joe Biden had ordered Sunday’s action to make it clear that the U.S. was defending itself, its personnel, and its interests, Austin stressed.

The U.S. is prepared to take further necessary measures to protect its own people and interests.

  • dpa
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Russia writes off $23bn debt for Africa – Putin

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Russia sends almost 12m tons of grain to Africa says Putin

…Pledges additional $90 million***

Vladimir Putin, the Russian President, says the Russian Government has written off $23 billion debt burden of African countries.

Putin spoke at the plenary session of the ongoing second Russia–Africa Summit 2023 held from July 27 to July 28.

He said Moscow would allocate an additional $90 million for these purposes.

Putin said Russia was advocating the expansion of representation of African countries in the UN Security Council and other UN structures.

“Russia and Africa strive to develop cooperation in all areas and strengthen ‘honest, open, constructive’ partnership.

“Russia will also assist in opening new African embassies and consulates in Russia,” he said.

According to him, the reopening of embassies in Burkina Faso and Equatorial Guinea is going as planned.

He said sovereignty was “not a one-time achieved state,” and it must be constantly protected.

Putin also offered assistance to Africa in countering threats such as terrorism, piracy, and transnational crimes adding that it would continue to train personnel from African countries.

He assured that Russian businesses have a lot to offer partners from Africa.

Putin said transition to national currencies and the establishment of transport and logistics chains would contribute to the increase in mutual trade turnover.

“Russia is ready to provide trade preferences to Africa, support the creation of modern production sectors, agricultural sector, and provide assistance through relevant international structures and agencies.

“Russia will always be a responsible international supplier of agricultural products,” he said.

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U.S. Coastguard Finds ‘debris field’ Near Missing Vessel

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A “debris field” has been discovered within the search area for the missing Titan submersible, the U.S. Coastguard (USCG) said on Thursday.

The agency said a remotely-operated vehicle made the discovery near the wreckage of the Titanic on Thursday.

The hunt for the missing deep-sea vessel is still an “active search and rescue” mission after it lost communication on Sunday.

The vessel was about 700 kilometres south of St John’s, Newfoundland, during a voyage to the Titanic shipwreck off the coast of Canada.

Coastguard officials said they were “evaluating the information” following Thursday’s debris discovery.

A press conference will be held at the Coastguard base in Boston to “discuss the findings” at 8pm (1900 GMT).

Rear Admiral John Mauger, the first Coastguard district commander, and Captain Jamie Frederick, first Coastguard district response coordinator, will lead the press conference.

Founding member of the Board of Trustees of The Explorers Club, Hamish Harding, was on board the undersea craft, alongside UK-based businessman Shahzada Dawood, his son Suleman Dawood, and OceanGate’s chief executive and founder Stockton Rush, as well as French submersible pilot Paul-Henri Nargeolet.

The USCG said the ROV that made the discovery was from the Canadian Horizon Arctic ship – with the debris being found on the sea floor near the Titanic wreckage.

Assistance from the Royal Air Force (RAF) is due to arrive in St John’s on Thursday after it confirmed a request was received overnight for help with the movement of additional commercial equipment.

Two RAF planes, a C-17 Globemaster and A400 Atlas, departed RAF Lossiemouth in north-east Scotland on Thursday.

A British submariner and equipment from a UK firm have been sent to help the search at the request of the U.S. Coastguard, Downing Street said.

Royal Navy submariner Lieutenant Commander Richard Kantharia, who was on exchange with the U.S. Navy, has been seconded to the search and rescue team.

OceanGate Expeditions estimated the oxygen supply on the 6.7 metre-long vessel would last 96 hours, giving rescuers a deadline of around midday on Thursday.

Experts said the chances of finding the sub and rescuing those inside were diminishing.

Former Royal Navy submarine captain Ryan Ramsey told the PA news agency: “The outlook is bleak, that’s the only word for it as this tragic event unfolds and almost the closing stages of where this changes from rescue to a salvage mission.”

The Titan is believed to be about 900 miles east and 400 miles south of Newfoundland.

It is not known how deep the vessel is, with the seabed being around 3,800 metres from the surface. 

– dpa

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