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.

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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.

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China Pleads for Unity, Prosperity and Stability in European Union

Chinese prime minister, Li Keqiang, advocated for unity, prosperity and stability of the European Union (EU), it transcended here today.

Meeting this Tuesday with the EU representatives for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vicepresident of the European Commission, Federica Mogherini, insisted on the importance given by Beijing to relations with the EU, as well as the EU commitment to comply with its international obligations.

According to the official media, Li asked to work with the EU with a spirit of mutual respect and reciprocal treatment to advance in conversations on the treaty of bilateral investment and in the viability study of the free trade agreement.

We will work with the EU to approach differences in an adequate manner and improve relations China-EU inside the international order based on norms and contribute with vitality to world economic growth, declared the prime minister.

He asked both China and the EU, to adhere the purposes and principles of the United Nations Charter before the complex and changing panorama.

In the Chinese leader's opinion, both parts should send a positive signal to maintain regional stability and world peace, face global challebnges, reform and improve international governance and defend economic globalization and free and just trade to face the uncertainties of the world scenario through stable cooperation between China and the EU.

Mogherini,for her part, consiodered that the EU and China share the responsibiluity of maintaining international order, face global challenges as terrorism, cluimate change and promote world peace and development.

She also stressed that for the EU is vital to maintain the multilateral system and comply with its international obligations.

She asserted that the EU will work with Beijing to strengthen cooperation, tackle adequately the differences and facilitate the progress in negotiations of the treaty on bilateral investments.

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‘Riskier than striking Syria’: Beijing warns US against attacking North Korea

China has warned the US against using military force against North Korea, after a surprise redeployment of an aircraft carrier group. Washington’s regional allies said they expect it to consult with them before any action.

Tension is mounting in the region as US President Donald Trump said he would solve the “North Korean problem” with or without China’s help. The warning came amid the diversion of the aircraft carrier group ‘USS Carl Vinson’ to the Korean Peninsula and a week after Trump ordered the US Navy to fire a barrage of 59 Tomahawk missiles at a Syrian airbase as punishment for an alleged chemical attack in Idlib province.

 
FILE PHOTO: The aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson. © U.S. Navy Photo

Responding to US belligerence, Beijing called against using force against Pyongyang.

“Military force cannot resolve the issue,” Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told reporters in Beijing. “Amid challenge there is opportunity. Amid tensions we will also find a kind of opportunity to return to talks.”

An editorial in the influential newspaper Global Times, which is published by the Chinese Communist Party’ People’s Daily, said the situation on the Korean Peninsula could not be compared to that of Syria.

“Taking military actions against North Korea is much more risky than launching a missile strike on Syria. Pyongyang is able to deal a heavy blow to South Korea. Regardless of Pyongyang's nuclear capability, a radiological dispersal device, or a ‘dirty bomb,’ if thrown on the South, will cause nuclear pollution, which will be unbearable to this US ally,” the newspaper warned.

The paper said Washington needs to accept the reality that it “has no power to put global affairs in order at the moment” and work with other leading world powers on the Korean situation through the UN Security Council, a body that the US has shun by the unilateral attack against Syria.

US allies in the region, South Korea and Japan, have both asked Washington to consult with them before taking military action against Pyongyang. Both countries station thousands of US troops on their territories.

The escalation comes as North Korea prepares to celebrate the birthday of its late leader Kim Il-sung on Saturday, which is a state holiday called ‘Day of the Sun’. Pyongyang has a record of timing demonstrations of military strength to the date, as many observers say it might to so this year to test Trump’s resolve.

A Washington-based think tank, 38 North, claimed on Wednesday that satellite images of the North's Punggye-ri nuclear test site indicated an imminent new test. South Korean officials disagreed, saying no new activities were evident, but added that a sixth test may be conducted at any time.

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China, Cuba pledge further development of military-to-military relations

Chinese Defense Minister and State Councilor Chang Wanquan on Wednesday held talks with visiting Cuban Minister of the Revolutionary Armed Forces Leopoldo Cintra Frias.

Chang said China is willing to work with Cuba to implement important consensus reached by leaders of the two countries and make positive contributions to the development of military-to-military relations.

As an important part of China-Cuba ties, military-to-military relations are characterized by a solid foundation, strong vitality and broad development prospects, Chang said.

Cintra said Cuba is willing to continue enhancing pragmatic exchanges and cooperation with China in all fields and at all levels, and elevate military-to-military relations to a higher level.

Cuba is grateful to China for its support and help over the years, according to Cintra.

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Almost 9,000 Suffer From Earthquake in China's Southwestern Yunnan Province

About 8,960 people suffered from an earthquake that shook the province of Yunnan in the southwest of China earlier in the day, local media reported on Monday.

 

BEIJING (Sputnik) According to the CCTV broadcaster, about 2,000 households suffered in the earthquake, with some of local residents wounded lightly, but the exact number of the injured was not reported.

Many buildings reportedly showed cracks after the earthquake and lessons were canceled in schools.

According to other media reports, the earthquake had impacted 15,800 people and the consequences are still being addressed.

The earthquake of a 5.1 magnitude was registered at 7.55 a.m. local time (23:55 GMT on Sunday), with several weaker shocks following shortly after.

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China promises ‘firm response’ if Japan interferes in South China Sea

China pledged to have a “firm response” if Japan further fans regional tensions and “threatens China’s sovereignty and security.” The statement comes after a Reuters report that Japan will send its largest warship to the disputed South China Sea.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said at a press briefing on Thursday that based on its own interests, Japan has recently been compromising stability in the South China Sea, “causing strong dissatisfaction and opposition from the Chinese people.”

“If Japan persists in taking wrong actions, and even considers military interventions that threaten China’s sovereignty and security… then China will inevitably take firm responsive measures,” she said.

Hua’s comments come after Reuters reported earlier this week that Japan plans to dispatch its Izumo helicopter carrier to the disputed waters of the South China Sea for a three-month tour starting in May, citing three separate sources.

The anti-submarine Izumo, which measures 249 meters (816 feet) long and can operate up to nine helicopters, will reportedly make stops in Singapore, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Sri Lanka before joining the Malabar 2017 trilateral naval exercise with Indian and US naval vessels in the Indian Ocean in July, marking Tokyo’s biggest show of naval force since World War II.

Read More Malabar 2016: Japan, US & India hold joint naval drills

Hua already commented on the report this Tuesday, stating that China was waiting for an official word on whether the report is correct, and why Japan plans to send the warship on the tour through the South China Sea.

Hua did not say on Thursday if China had received any official confirmation of Japan’s plan, but said that the South China Sea issue “did not concern” Japan and warned the country to “reflect deeply” on its “disgraceful” past invasion of the Paracel and Spratly Islands which China claims as its own. 

Japan controlled the islands during World War II, until it surrendered in 1945.China lays claim to almost all of the South China Sea, which has rich fishing grounds, oil and gas deposits, and through which around $5 trillion of global sea-borne trade passes each year, despite competing claims from Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia, and Brunei.

Japan does not have any claim to the waters, but has a separate maritime dispute with Beijing in the East China Sea. It has also repeatedly angered Beijing by criticizing its actions regarding the South China Sea disputes.

Both Japan and its ally the United States have been concerned with China’s growing military presence in the waterway, which prompted Washington to hold regular air and naval patrols in the region, allegedly to ensure freedom of navigation. China, however, has regularly stated that all local disputes should be resolved without interference from non-claimants.

Earlier this month, China’s ambassador to Japan accused Tokyo and Washington of portraying Beijing as an enemy to strengthen their security alliance. The statement came after the Trump administration vowed to maintain Washington’s long-standing security alliance with Japan, especially when it comes to the East China Sea. Beijing has repeatedly warned Washington and Tokyo against direct interference in the region, either with military drills or freedom of navigation patrols. It has vowed to do everything in its power to protect China’s sovereignty claims.

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