US, Japan, South Korea to announce deeper defense cooperation at Camp David summit

US President Joe Biden (C) sits with South Korea's President Yoon Suk-Yeol (L) and Japan's Prime Minister Fumio Kishida (R) during a trilateral meeting on the sidelines of the NATO summit at the Ifema congress center in Madrid, Spain, on June 29, 2022. (AFP/File photo)
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Updated 15 August 2023
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US, Japan, South Korea to announce deeper defense cooperation at Camp David summit

WASHINGTON: The United States, Japan and South Korea are expected to announce plans for expanded military cooperation on ballistic missile defenses and technology development in the face of growing concern about North Korea’s nuclear program when the countries’ leaders gather at Camp David for a summit Friday, according to two senior Biden administration officials.
The officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss planning for the summit, said the announcements will be part of a broad set of initiatives that will be unveiled as President Joe Biden hosts Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol for the one-day gathering at the presidential retreat in Maryland’s Catoctin Mountains.
The summit is the first Biden has held during his presidency at Camp David and comes amid a thaw in the historically complicated relationship between Japan and South Korea. Japan colonized the Korean Peninsula from 1910 to 1945.
The White House is looking to build on the recent diplomatic momentum and aims to use the summit for “institutionalizing, deepening and thickening the habits of cooperation” between the three countries as they face an increasingly complicated Pacific, one official said.
Earlier Monday, North Korea state media reported that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has ordered a drastic increase in production of missiles and other weapons. Kim’s push to produce more weapons comes as US officials believe Russia’s defense minister recently talked with North Korea about selling more weapons to Russia for its war with Ukraine.
Japan and South Korea have been rapidly mending their ties as they deepen three-way security cooperation with Washington in response to growing regional threats from North Korea and an increasingly assertive China.
The ties have improved rapidly since March after South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol’s government announced an initiative to resolve disputes stemming from compensation for wartime Korean forced laborers.
Last month, Japan reinstated South Korea as a preferred nation with fast-track trade status, ending a four-year economic row that was further strained during their bitter historic disputes. The three countries also announced in June that they would begin to share in real-time early warning threat data of North Korean missile launches by the end of the year.
Biden plans to take Kishida and Yoon on a walk of the Camp David grounds and will host the leaders for an intimate lunch, the officials said. While Biden will hold one-on-one conversations with both leaders, the three leaders will spend the bulk of the visit together, the officials said.
One official said the gathering at Camp David is meant to drive home that the progress made between South Korea and Japan is a “big deal” and that it’s critical that the relationship “only move forward.”
The leaders are expected to be dressed in shirtsleeves without ties for the private portions of Friday’s Camp David meetings. The leaders are also expected to take part in a joint news conference at the end of the summit.
Camp David has been the site of significant moments of diplomacy.
In the midst of World War II, President Franklin Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill met at the retreat — then known as Shangri-La — for planning of the Italian campaign that would knock Benito Mussolini out of the war.
President Jimmy Carter hosted Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin in September 1978 for talks that established a framework for a historic peace treaty between Israel and Egypt in March 1979.
President Bill Clinton in 2000 brought then-Palestinian Liberation Organization chairman Yasser Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak to Camp David in an unsuccessful bid for a conflict-ending accord.


Man guilty of attacks near UK mosques given hospital order

Updated 6 sec ago
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Man guilty of attacks near UK mosques given hospital order

  • Abbkr has paranoid schizophrenia and believed he was controlled by people possessed by evil spirits

LONDON: A man convicted of attempted murder after deliberately setting fire to two elderly men shortly after they left mosques in the UK was on Wednesday handed an indefinite hospital order.
Mohammed Abbkr, from Edgbaston in Birmingham, central England, deliberately set fire to Hashi Odowa, 82, and Mohammed Rayaz, 70, in February and March last year.
Abbkr, originally from Sudan, was convicted of two counts of attempted murder last year at Birmingham Crown Court in central England.
Judge Melbourne Inman told Abbkr, who has paranoid schizophrenia and believed he was controlled by people possessed by evil spirits: “You threw petrol over your victims and then set them alight — the attacks were horrific.”
“The two victims in this case were, on any rational view, chosen at random,” the judge told Abbkr, who watched the proceedings by video-link from Ashworth high security hospital in northwest England.
“You, however, genuinely believed each of them was one of those trying to take control of you.
“I am wholly satisfied that you committed both of these offenses at a time when you were suffering a severe mental illness.”
Abbkr sprayed petrol on the two men outside or near mosques they had attended and then set them alight. The attacks took place in west London on February 27 and Birmingham on March 20.
Odowa, who was attacked in London, was treated for severe burns to his face and arms. The Birmingham attack left Rayaz hospitalized with severe injuries.


70 killed as Afghanistan hit by heavy rains

Updated 25 min 20 sec ago
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70 killed as Afghanistan hit by heavy rains

  • Rains between Saturday and Wednesday triggered flash floods in most Afghanistan provinces
  • Fifty-six people injured, over 2,600 houses have been damaged or destroyed, says Afghan official 

KABUL: Around 70 people have been killed by heavy rains lashing Afghanistan over the past five days, the government’s disaster management department said Wednesday.
Afghanistan was parched by an unusually dry winter which desiccated the earth, exacerbating flash-flooding caused by spring downpours in most provinces.
Disaster management spokesman Janan Sayeq said “approximately 70 people lost their lives” as a result of rains between Saturday and Wednesday.
Fifty-six others have been injured, he said, while more than 2,600 houses have been damaged or destroyed and 95,000 acres of farmland wiped away.
Giving a smaller death toll last week, Sayeq said most fatalities at that point had been caused by roof collapses resulting from the deluges. 
Neighbouring Pakistan has also been hammered by spring downpours, with 65 people killed in storm-related incidents as rain falls at nearly twice the historical average rate.
The United Nations last year warned that “Afghanistan is experiencing major swings in extreme weather conditions.”
After four decades of war the country ranks among the nations least prepared to face extreme weather events, which scientists say are becoming more frequent and severe due to climate change.
At least 25 people were killed in a landslide after massive snowfall in eastern Afghanistan in February, while around 60 were killed in a three-week spate of precipitation ending in March.


Security Council to vote Thursday on Palestinian state UN membership

Updated 17 April 2024
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Security Council to vote Thursday on Palestinian state UN membership

  • According to the Palestinian side, 137 of the 193 UN member states already recognize a Palestinian state
  • Israel’s UN Ambassador Gilad Erdan has strongly opposed the Palestinian membership bid

United Nations, United States: The United Nations Security Council will vote Thursday on the Palestinians’ application to become a full UN member state, several diplomatic sources have told AFP.
Amid Israel’s military offensive in Gaza, the Palestinians in early April revived a membership application first made to the world body in 2011, though the veto-wielding United States has repeatedly expressed opposition to the proposal.
The General Assembly can admit a new member state with a two-thirds majority vote, but only after the Security Council gives its recommendation.
Regional bloc the Arab Group issued a statement Tuesday affirming its “unwavering support” for the Palestinians’ application.
“Membership in the United Nations is a crucial step in the right direction toward a just and lasting resolution of the Palestinian question in line with international law and relevant UN resolutions,” the statement said.
Algeria, a non-permanent Security Council member, has drafted the resolution that “recommends” to the General Assembly “the State of Palestine be admitted to membership of the United Nations.”
The vote on Thursday will coincide with a Security Council meeting scheduled several weeks ago to discuss the situation in Gaza, which ministers from several Arab countries are expected to attend.
The Palestinians — who have had observer status at the United Nations since 2012 — have lobbied for years to gain full membership.
“We are seeking admission. That is our natural and legal right,” Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian ambassador to the United Nations, said in April.
According to the Palestinian side, 137 of the 193 UN member states already recognize a Palestinian state, raising hope that their request would be supported in the General Assembly.
But the Palestinian push for UN membership faces a major hurdle, as the United States — Israel’s closest ally — could use its veto power to block the Security Council recommendation.
“We call on all members of the Security Council to vote in favor of the draft resolution... At the very least, we implore Council members not to obstruct this critical initiative,” the Arab Group said Tuesday.
The United States has voiced its opposition to full Palestinian membership, saying it backed statehood but only after negotiations with Israel, while pointing to US laws that would require cuts to UN funding if such a move took place without a bilateral agreement.
“That is something that should be done through direct negotiations through the parties, something we are pursuing at this time, and not at the United Nations,” State Department spokesman Matthew Miller told reporters in April.
Israel’s UN Ambassador Gilad Erdan has strongly opposed the Palestinian membership bid, saying in mid-April the considerations were “already a victory for genocidal terror.”
“The Security Council is deliberating granting the perpetrators and supporters of October 7 full membership status in the UN,” Erdan said.
Hamas launched an unprecedented attack against Israel on October 7, resulting in the deaths of 1,170 people in Israel, mostly civilians, according to Israeli figures.
Israel’s retaliatory offensive has killed over 33,000 people in Gaza, mostly women and children, according to the health ministry in the Hamas-run territory.


President Widodo urges Apple CEO to open manufacturing facility in Indonesia

Updated 17 April 2024
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President Widodo urges Apple CEO to open manufacturing facility in Indonesia

  • Country has ‘endless’ investment ability, Tim Cook says on visit to Jakarta
  • Tech giant announces opening of new Apple Developer Academy in Bali

JAKARTA: Indonesian President Joko Widodo on Wednesday met the head of tech giant Apple and urged him to open a manufacturing facility in the country.

CEO Tim Cook was in Jakarta following a trip to Hanoi, where the company announced plans to increase spending on suppliers in Vietnam, its most important manufacturing hub outside China.

Before the meeting between Widodo and Cook, Apple announced plans to boost its investment in Indonesia and said it would open a new Apple Developer Academy — facilities designed to nurture local talent in the tech sector — in Bali, its fourth in the country.

“The meeting with Tim Cook focused on exploring strategic plans, including the opportunity of Apple expanding to Indonesia and further integration into the global supply chain,” Widodo said in a statement.

“I invited Apple to establish an innovation hub with potential universities in Indonesia for human resources development. I also urged Apple to develop a manufacturing facility in the country.”

Apple currently does not have a manufacturing facility in Indonesia but opened its first developer academy there in 2018.

The new facility takes the company’s total investment in Indonesia to 1.6 trillion rupiah ($98.4 million), according to Industry Minister Agus Gumiwang Kartasasmita.

“After this, the Ministry of Industry will conduct a business-matching program. We already have a list of the components (that Apple needs) and mobile components that are already produced in Indonesia, so perhaps there can be a partnership,” he said.

Apple has based much of its key manufacturing of iPads, Airpods and Apple Watches in Vietnam, and more recently India, as it explores ways to diversify its supply chains away from China.

Home to more than 270 million people, Indonesia has a young, tech-savvy population with more than 100 million people aged under 30.

According to figures from Statista, as of January, Apple had an 11.5 percent share of Indonesia’s mobile phone market, behind Oppo (18 percent) and Samsung (17 percent).

“We talked about the president’s desire to see manufacturing in the country and it’s something that we will look at,” Cook told reporters after meeting Widodo.

“I thought we had a great conversation and I really appreciated the time with him. It was a dialogue about how much potential there is in the country and our commitment to the country.”

Cook later met president-elect, Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto, who will take over from Widodo in October.

“I think the investment ability in Indonesia is endless, I think that there’s a lot of great places to invest and we’re investing,” Cook said. “We believe in the country.”


Hundreds of Myanmar troops flee to Bangladesh amid clashes with anti-junta rebels

Updated 17 April 2024
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Hundreds of Myanmar troops flee to Bangladesh amid clashes with anti-junta rebels

  • Insurgents in Rakhine and Chin states launched offensive against Myanmar junta forces in October 2023
  • Bangladesh has already repatriated 300 Myanmar soldiers who crossed the border since February

DHAKA: Hundreds of Myanmar troops have abandoned their posts and crossed to Bangladesh since February amid intensifying clashes between the junta and an ethnic minority army, Bangladeshi border agency officials said on Wednesday.
Fighting between Myanmar’s military-controlled government forces and insurgents in Rakhine and Chin states began in late October 2023, with a multi-pronged offensive against the junta, which took over the country in early 2021.
Since then, the ethnic Rakhine Arakan Army has been locked in fierce battles against the Myanmar Armed Forces and border police in the two states bordering Bangladesh.
“Between last night and Wednesday morning, 46 members of Border Guard Police of Myanmar took shelter in Bangladesh through different borders of Jamchari, Rejupara and Baishfari under Bandarban district,” Shariful Islam, spokesperson of the Border Guard Bangladesh, told Arab News.
“With these, a total of 260 BGP members are currently in Bangladesh.”
The latest intrusion into Bangladeshi territory took place as authorities observed heavy gunfire on the Myanmar side of the border.
“Our border guard members are on high alert ... The battle situation is continuing between the Myanmar army, Arakan Army, RSO (Rohingya Solidarity Organization), and other separatist groups on the other side of the border in Myanmar,” said Lt. Col. Mohiuddin Ahmed, commanding officer of the BGB on Teknaf border, in Cox’s Bazar district.
“Since last February, Myanmar border guard members started fleeing into Bangladesh. When they take refuge in Bangladesh, first we disarm them and then shelter them in a safe place arranged by the district administration.”
Bangladeshi officials then repatriate the troops.
“Our top officials, home ministry, and foreign ministry contact Myanmar for the return of their border guard members,” Ahmed said. “Earlier, more than 300 Myanmar BGP members were handed over to Myanmar.”
The insurgents, who are in an alliance with Maynmar’s exiled National Unity Government, have captured a significant chunk of the territory neighboring Bangladesh, but are still far from controlling it, according to Maj. Gen. (rtd) Shahidul Haque, a security analyst who served as military attache at the Bangladeshi Embassy in Myanmar.
“The Arakan Army still hasn’t started their activities in some strategic cities of Rakhine like Sittwe, which is the capital of Arakan. There is another city named Kyaukphyu, where there are huge Chinese investments. If the Arakan Army takes over the control of Sittwe, then control of northern Rakhine will be under the Arakan Army,” he told Arab News.
While Sittwe is currently under curfew imposed by Myanmar junta forces, the escalation of fighting in Rakhine State has curtailed Bangladesh’s trade with Myanmar.
“Our official trade with Myanmar has fallen drastically as the Myanmar government officials who were in charge of different port operations have fled from those areas,” Haque said.
“It’s a huge loss for Bangladesh as we imported a significant amount of agricultural produce from Myanmar.”
The intensifying fighting was also likely to unleash a new wave of Rohingya seeking shelter in Bangladesh, which was already facing a refugee crisis.
More than a million Rohingya Muslims, most of whom fled Rakhine after a brutal military crackdown in 2017, have been staying in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar, turning the coastal district into the world’s largest refugee settlement.
“Bangladesh may face another influx of Rohingya,” Haque said.
“Myanmar military has started massive bombings in some areas. Recently, more than a dozen Rohingya lost their lives in such attacks. This will cause a dangerous situation for us.”
ENDS