China, Cuba sign agreements to expand economic, trade ties

China and Cuba on Wednesday signed five cooperation and legal agreements, which reaffirm the willingness of both nations to strengthen and expand their economic and trade relations.

According to local media, Rodrigo Malmierca, Cuban Minister of Foreign Trade and Investment, and Chen Xi, the Chinese ambassador to Cuba, signed the documents, including a donation of one million U.S. dollars by the Chinese government to help the recovery of areas affected by Hurricane Irma.

Both nations also formalized a new credit line granted by China to remodel and modernize Cuba's electronic industry.

The Cuban official said these new agreements are a sign of the "friendship and brotherhood" between China and Cuba.

"The accords are aimed at supporting the process of recovery of the damages caused by Hurricane Irma. China was one of the first nations to express its condolences and willingness to help," added Malmierca.

Both sides signed a record of delivery and receipt of emergency humanitarian aid granted by China, consisting of relief materials such as tents, generators, mattresses, blankets, water pumps, and lighting, among others.

Chen said these new legal documents and agreements are a "testimony of the existing friendly relations between the two countries."

"Immediately after the impact of the hurricane, the Chinese government prepared a humanitarian aid package aimed at helping Cuba succeed in its recovery," he added.

In 2016, China became Cuba's biggest commercial partner with bilateral trade reaching 2.5 billion U.S. dollars, according to the Cuban Bureau of Statistics and Information.

  • Published in Cuba

China says it will never allow war or chaos on its doorstep as tensions escalate on Korean Peninsula

Beijing has said it will not allow war or chaos on the Korean Peninsula, as two US B-1B bombers conducted a new flight in the area, joined by South Korean and Japanese fighter jets in a show of force amid mounting tensions.

The statement was made by defense ministry spokesman Ren Guoqiang at a monthly news briefing on Thursday, Sina reports.

Six American warplanes - two nuclear-capable B-1B strategic bombers and four Marine Corps F-35Bs - held a joint flight operation with Japanese F-15 fighter jets on Thursday, Japan’s Air Self-Defense Force (ASDF) said in a statement. The squadron flew near the island of Kyushu, south of the Korean Peninsula.

Following that, the US warplanes, accompanied by South Korean F-15K fighter jets, conducted a joint operation over South Korea as well as bombing drills over the Pilseung range in the eastern province of Gangwon, according to Yonhap.

The maneuvers come just two days after North Korea’s launch of a missile over Japan.

Ren Guoqiang also reiterated China’s position that the North Korean crisis should be resolved through dialogue, and insisted on the denuclearization of the peninsula, according to Sina, citing the spokesman.

Russia also insists that there cannot be any military solution to the crisis on the Korean Peninsula. At the latest UNSC meeting, Russia’s permanent representative to the UN, Vasily Nebenzya, reiterated Beijing and Moscow’s ‘double freeze’ initiative, recommending Pyongyang halt all nuclear and missile tests while the US and South Korea cease the military build-up in the region.

On Thursday, the Chinese Foreign Ministry also expressed concern, saying that the Korean issue is serious and not a computer game, Reuters reports, citing the ministry’s spokeswoman, Hua Chunying.

During a previous news briefing, Hua responded to British Prime Minister Theresa May’s call on Beijing to exert more pressure on Pyongyang voiced during her trip to Japan on Wednesday. Hua also questioned whether other relevant parties implement the UN resolutions “without holding back anything.”

“They are the loudest when it comes to sanctions, but nowhere to be found when it comes to making efforts to promote peace talks. They want nothing to do with responsibility,” Hua told reporters on Wednesday. 

READ MORE: Tokyo & Seoul seek ‘maximum pressure’ after UNSC condemns Pyongyang’s ‘outrageous’ missile test

The flyover of the North Korean medium-range missile was unanimously condemned by the UN Security Council, which convened for an emergency meeting following the test. The UN called on Pyongyang to halt their activities, which are “not just a threat to the region, but to all UN member states.”

US President Donald Trump said on Tuesday that “all options are on the table” regarding North Korea, later tweeting that “talking is not the answer.” Trump also said that Washington has been paying Pyongyang “extortion money” while negotiating for over two decades.

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Russia, China to sign cooperation deal on Moon exploration

Russia and China will sign a space cooperation program for 2018-2022 in autumn to jointly explore the Moon and conduct the Earth’s remote probing, Glavkosmos space launch operator told TASS on Thursday.

"Work is nearing completion with the direct role of Glavkosmos to draw up a program of Russian-Chinese space cooperation for 2018-2022, which should be signed in the autumn of 2017," the company said.

lavkosmos is the coordinator and the contractor for a portion of the works in this program.

As Glavkosmos explained, cooperation with Chinese partners envisages the following areas: the exploration of the Moon and outer space, space vehicles and ground infrastructure, hardware components and materials, the Earth’s remote sensing data.

Glavkosmos is also working with Chinese commercial partners on the issue of holding experiments aboard the International Space Station and providing the data of the Earth’s remote sensing from Russian satellites, the company said.

Apart from China, Glavkosmos is also considering the possibilities of space cooperation with India, Brazil, South Africa, Nicaragua, Myanmar, Chile, Peru and Armenia and their involvement in Russian projects, the company said in its annual report.

Specifically, Glavkosmos is holding preparations in Brazil for a tender for the delivery of space images to that country.

It was reported earlier that China was interested in buying the world’s most powerful Russian-made RD rocket engines produced by Energomash while Russian Space Systems showed interest in Chinese electronic components.

Russia and China are also working on making their GLONASS and BeiDou navigation satellite systems mutually complement each other and on installing adjusting ground-based stations on the territory of each other.

Besides, Russia and China are working within the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) format to create a unified system of the Earth’s remote sensing.
International cooperation

As Corresponding Member of the Russian Academy of Cosmonautics Andrei Ionin said, Russia needs to look more actively for international partners to develop space projects.

"Building international partnership is, perhaps, the main strategic task for the entire Russian cosmonautics today. This is because the technological revolution, first of all, in micro-electronics, has made it possible from the viewpoint of investments the creation of space systems consisting of dozens and even hundreds of Earth remote sensing or communications satellites whose commercial success requires work on the markets, and also considering that the next stage of piloted flights is related to movement outside the bounds of the near-Earth space, which will require a sharp increase in expenditures on outer space," he told TASS.

According to the expert, broad and versatile international cooperation in the current situation is seen as a solution for Russian cosmonauts as it will help unite participants’ technological competences and their markets, share risks and expenses.

"Moreover, the international status of a project is practical and insurmountable protection from the Finance Ministry’s regular attempts to sequester space programs," the expert said.

In his opinion, considering the Western sanctions imposed on Russia, new potential partners should include, in the first place, BRICS countries and also, possibly, Indonesia, the UAE, Vietnam, Iran and others.

"In this context, the agreements for the period until 2022 between Russia and China, which has both the competences and the resources and the vast internal market, are a move in the right direction but, considering the scope and the severity of the problems and tasks faced by our space industry, a move that displays little initiative, is too cautious, insufficiently large in scope and extremely slow," the expert said.
Glavkosmos

The space launch operator Glavkosmos was established in 1985 in the USSR Ministry of General Machine-Building. The company engaged in the space rocket industry’s foreign economic activity, organized and held researches and participated in the work to convert defense enterprises to civil output.

Today Glavkosmos participates in the implementation of contracts for the launch of Soyuz rockets from the Kourou spaceport in French Guiana, organizes foreigners’ flights to the International Space Station and cooperates with India and China in the space sphere.

The Russian government wholly owns Glavkosmos.

It was reported earlier that Glavkosmos got the status of an authorized operator of Soyuz-2 carrier rocket commercial launches from Russian cosmodromes.

Apart from this, Glavkosmos has received the exclusive rights to distribute images received from Russia’s Kanopus-V and Resurs-P Earth’s remote sensing satellites on foreign markets.

In 2017-2018, Glavkosmos plans to act as the operator of the launches of over 100 commercial micro-satellites as an additional load while orbiting three satellites under Russia’s federal program. Of this number, 72 satellites were launched from the Baikonur spaceport on July 14. Another 40 satellites are planned to be launched from the Vostochny space center in the Russian Far East at the end of the year.

Russia’s State Space Corporation Roscosmos announced in May that Glavkosmos and Kosmotras had set up a joint operator for the launch of spacecraft by Soyuz-2 and Dnepr carrier rockets from the Russian spaceports. The new operator was named Glavkosmos Launch Services (GK Launch Services). Glavkosmos holds 75% and Kosmotras 25% in the new operator.

Cuba to revive mining sector with new lead and zinc mine

A new lead and zinc mine in northwestern Cuba is on track to start production in October as part of the Caribbean island's attempt to revitalize its mining sector, said a representative from Emincar, the government-backed mining company overseeing the project.

While nickel exports are already one of Cuba's main foreign currency earners, the cash-strapped country has untapped potential in other mineral deposits, according to the US Geological Survey.

The $278 million Castellanos mine will produce 100,000 tons of zinc concentrate and 50,000 tons of lead concentrate annually, said executives at Emincar, the joint venture between Swiss-based commodities giant Trafigura and Cuban state firm Geominera.

"We are reviving the small and medium-size mining sector in Cuba from this investment," said Justo Hernández Pérez, Emincar's deputy general manager, during a visit from foreign journalists to the mine in the province of Pinar del Rio.

Many mines, including a gold mine at the site of the new Castellanos mine, were abandoned in the 1990s and 2000s in the wake of the fall of Cuba's then key ally - the former Soviet Union, and the collapse of the economy.

"We are now exploiting the deposit below oxide cap," said Emincar general manager Jose Vila, noting that it could prove profitable once more for gold mines there.

The Castellanos mine holds reserves for 11 years of exploitation, while the nearby Santa Lucia deposit has enough for another 10 years, Vila said. Emincar will go on to exploit that deposit, tweaking its factory accordingly, once the Castellanos mine is exhausted.

In its annual investment portfolio released late last year, Cuba published dozens of opportunities for foreign investors to explore, exploit and commercialize precious metals, base metals and other minerals of interest.

Cuba hopes foreign investment will boost its economy, which managed to climb out of a recession in the first half of 2017. The island is under severe strain due to lower exports and a drop in cheap oil shipments from ally Venezuela.

  • Published in Cuba

Gutierrez saves Cuba’s semifinal hopes

Miguel David Gutierrez was once again the driving force in Cuba’s success at the FIVB Volleyball Men’s U21 World Championship. In their last match of the second stage of the tournament, the Cubans claimed a hard-fought 3-1 (25-21, 25-23, 24-26, 27-25) victory over China to keep alive their chances for making the semifinals.

Gutierrez hammered out 24 points to become the best scorer of the match. His teammate Miguel Angel Lopez and China’s Yuantai Yu were next on the chart with 20 points each. After China’s out-of-this-world blocking performance on Wednesday, on Thursday it was their opponents who defeated them with their own weapon – 14 kill blocks, with Jose Israel Masso responsible for as many as six.
The match started well for China, but between the two technical time-outs Cuba came back from behind to take the lead and cruise on to a 25-21 win. The Cuban spikers became even more efficient in the second set to keep their team in the lead, but the Asian squad made sure to stay close behind – 25-23 in favour of Cuba. The Caribbean team reached match point at 24-23 in the third set, but the Chinese reacted with three in a row to take the set and stay alive. They saved three more set points for Cuba in the fourth set, but on the fourth one they surrendered against the double block of Javier Octavio Concepcion and Miguel David Gutierrez.
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South Korea Orders Probe into Extra, Undisclosed US THAAD Missile Launchers

Since its deployment in March, the missile defense system has caused controversies both inside South Korea and abroad.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in has ordered a probe into the presence of four additional launchers for the controversial U.S. THAAD anti-missile system in the country as the Defense Ministry failed to inform the new administration, his spokesman said on Tuesday.

RELATED: South Koreans Protest US THAAD Anti-Missile System as Installation Starts

The Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system was initially deployed in March in the southeastern region of Seongju to counter the perceived growing North Korean missile threat. 

“The president was briefed on the fact that four THAAD launchers, in addition to the two deployed in Seongju, have been brought into the country,” Yoon Young-chan, chief presidential press secretary, said.

Yoon said Moon confirmed the information with Minister of National Defense and said it was "very shocking."

Moon had ordered an investigation into “how the launchers were brought here, who decided on it, why the ministry kept it secret and why it did not report the fact to the new government," Yoon added.

A ministry official denied the accusations, saying Wee Seung-ho, deputy minister for policy, had briefed Moon's national security adviser Chung Eui-yong on the issue Friday. Moon’s office refuted the statement, according to South Korea’s Yonhap news agency. 

During his successful campaign for the May 9 presidential election, Moon called for a parliamentary review of deployment of the system, a decision made by his predecessor Park Geun-hye to help counter North Korea's missile threats.

In another controversy, U.S. President Donald Trump said last month that South Korea should pay for the US$1 billion defense system. The government then said according to the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), South Korea provided the site for the anti-missile system and other infrastructure while the U.S. would bear the cost of deployment and operation.

Local residents protested against the system, concerned that Seongju will become a primary target for North Korean missiles.

Neighbouring China also has been infuriated by the deployment of THAAD, arguing that the radar of the system could be used to spy in its territory and that it’s a threat to its national security.

In a meeting with Seoul's envoy to China Lee Hae-chan on Friday, China's top diplomat Yang Jiechi said China "hopes that South Korea can respect China's major concerns (and) appropriately resolve the THAAD issue," the official Xinhua news agency reported.

  • Published in World

Group Thought to Be Behind NSA Tool Leaks Threatens New Round of Spy Tools

The NSA used the Microsoft flaw to build a hacking tool that ended up in the hands of a mysterious group called the Shadow Brokers.

A group that has taken credit for leaking NSA cyber spying tools — including those used in the recent WannaCrypt global ransomware attack — has threatened in a blog it is believed to have authored to release more recent code to enable hackers to break into the world's most widely used computers, software and phones.

Using trademark garbled English, the apparent ShadowBrokers communique promised that, starting next month, it will begin releasing tools on a monthly basis to anyone willing to pay for access to some of the tech world's biggest commercial secrets.

It also threatened to dump data from banks using the SWIFT international money transfer network and from Russian, Chinese, Iranian or North Korean nuclear and missile programs, without providing further details. "More details in June," it promised.

"ShadowBrokers are back" tweeted Matthieu Suiche, a French hacker and security researcher who has tracked the group. Among the notable claims, he said, was that it had newer exploits for Microsoft's Window 10 operating system dating from after 2013.

The NSA used the Microsoft flaw to build a hacking tool codenamed EternalBlue that ended up in the hands of a mysterious group called the Shadow Brokers, which then published that and other such tools online. 

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China and the U.S. Advocate for Greater Bilateral Coordination

Chinese president Xi Jinping and his U.S. peer, Donald Trump, agreed today over the telephone to increase coordination in global issues.

Both discussed bilateral links and the situation in the Korean peninsula and committed to keep a close contact through several channels and exchange perspectives on the main issues of common worry.

Xi emphasized that China firmly opposes any action that violates resolutions of tyhe UN Security Council and expressed his trust that the parties involved exercise contention and prevent taking steps that heighten tension in the península.

He also advocated for the parties to achieve denuclearization of the Korean peninsula as soon as possible in a peaceful way.

He affirmed China is ready to work and do everything possible with all parties involved, including the United States, to materialize peace in the Korean península, Northeast Asia and the whole world.

He recalled the important consensus reached with Trump during a meeting at Mar-a-Lago, Florida, previously this month and indicated that both have kept a very good communication recently, obtaining the positive evaluation of the Chinese and U.S. peoples and the rest of the international community.

With a quick change of the international situation, it is very necessary that China and the United States to maintain close contact and exchange points of view on important issues in an opportune manner, he considered.

He advocated that the two biggest world powers implement the consensus achieved between both nations and consolidate the thrust of a stable development of bilateral links.

The Chinese president also called the work teams of both territories to strengthen coordination on a good preparation of the visit of Trump to China this year and the prompt opening of the bilateral four-way dialogue mechanism, which includes the areas of foreign affairs and security; economy; application of the law and cybersecurity; and social and personal exchanges, as an important result of the meeting between Xi and Trump in Florida.

In the same way, the leader of the Asian giant called on Beijing and Washington to promote the economic and comercial cooperation, expand the exchange in the military field; the application of the law; Internet and interpersonal exchanges, strengthen communication on the main global and regional issues and promote China-U.S. relations to continue achieving new progress.

For his part, Trump described as very good his meeting with president Xi in Mar-a-Lago and expressed his satisfaction over the development of relations between both countries.

He considered relevant to keep in close contact and coordination over the main issues.

He calle don Xi to meet again in the short term and exposed his will to visit this country.

  • Published in World
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