Monday 19 April 2021
News ID: 87990
Publish Date: 26 February 2021 - 22:08
HONG KONG/BEIJING (Reuters) -- China is expected to reveal a robust increase in defense spending at the March 5 annual opening of parliament, as its economy rebounds from the COVID-19 pandemic and military tensions rise, Chinese and Western security experts said. With the coronavirus hammering its economy, China last year announced a 6.6 percent boost in defense spending to $178 billion, the lowest rate of increase in three decades. "China is facing the most severe security situation since the Korean War,” said Ni Lexiong, a retired professor at the Shanghai University of Political Science and Law. He predicts a substantial hike in China’s military budget, citing U.S. arms sales to Taiwan, regular deployments of U.S. aircraft carriers off the China coast and the recent presence of a French warship and nuclear submarine in the South China Sea.

ISLAMABAD (AFP) -- Pakistan and India on Thursday pledged to end all firing along their disputed Kashmir frontier, according to a joint statement from their militaries, after months of violence between the nuclear-armed rivals. The two nations regularly exchange artillery and machine-gun fire along the ceasefire line known as the Line of Control (LoC) that has separated the countries for decades. "Both sides agreed for strict observance of all agreements, understandings and cease firing along the Line of Control and all other sectors with effect from midnight,” read the statement. The announcement follows months of clashes with each accusing the other of being responsible for thousands of ceasefire violations in the past year alone. According to the Pakistan military, approximately 1.7 million civilians live along the LoC and increasingly rely on hundreds of bunkers to shelter during frequent skirmishes.
MOSCOW (Dispatches) -- Russia’s envoy to the European Union says his country has no plans to sever relations with the EU but if the bloc adopts further "destructive” measures against Moscow, they "definitely won’t go without consequences.” Vladimir Chizhov made the remarks in a televised interview with Rossiya-24 news channel on Wednesday, TASS news agency reported. "In case of further destructive steps from the European Union, Russia will not let grass grow under its feet, but will find corresponding ways and means to influence the situation. We can call it an asymmetric response, but those steps definitely won’t go without consequences,” he stressed. Relations between Russia and the European bloc strained when Brussels initially imposed sanctions on Russia in 2014 over the conflict in Ukraine and Crimea’s unification with Russia.
NAIROBI (Reuters) -- Eritrean soldiers killed hundreds of civilians in Ethiopia’s ancient town of Axum between Nov. 28 and 29, rights group Amnesty International said on Friday, one of several mass killings reported during a conflict that erupted nearly four months ago in the northern region of Tigray. "Over an approximately 24-hour period, on 28-29 November 2020, Eritrean troops operating in the Ethiopian city of Axum killed many hundreds of civilians,” Amnesty said, citing 41 witnesses. The rights group said that the mass execution of civilians by Eritrean troops may amount to crimes against humanity. The Ethiopian government’s emergency task force for the Tigray said on Thursday that investigations into violence in Axum were underway. The state-run Ethiopian Human Rights Commission released a statement timed to coincide with the Amnesty report, saying preliminary investigations indicated that Eritrean soldiers had killed an unknown number of civilians in Axum in retaliation for an earlier attack by soldiers of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), the region’s ousted ruling party.

TOKYO (Reuters) -- A forest fire in a sparsely populated area 75 kilometers north of Tokyo continued to rage for a fifth day on Friday, as local officials were set to ask dozens more households to evacuate hillside villages. The fire in the vicinity of Ashikaga city, in Tochigi prefecture, has continued to spread since breaking out Sunday, despite efforts by firefighters on the ground and military helicopters dousing the area. No injuries have yet been reported, but the fire has scorched about 100 hectares so far and burnt down a mountain temple, according to the prefecture. About 15 villagers had been evacuated in total as of late Thursday, the prefecture said. Broadcaster NHK reported on Friday that evacuation warnings will be expanded to cover more households.

NEW DELHI/DHAKA (Reuters) -- India’s coast guard found 81 survivors and eight dead on a boat crammed with Muslim Rohingya refugees adrift in the Andaman Sea, and were repairing the vessel so that it can return safely to Bangladesh, Indian officials said on Friday. The Indian government was in discussions with Bangladesh to facilitate the safe return of the vessel, which was found drifting in international waters having left southern Bangladesh about two weeks ago with hopes of reaching Malaysia. The boat had sailed on Feb. 11 from Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh carrying 56 women and eight girls as well as 21 men and five boys, officials said. Many of the survivors, according to Indian officials, were sick and suffering from extreme dehydration, having run out of food and water after the boat’s engine failed four days after leaving Cox’s Bazar, where refugee camps house hundreds of thousands of Rohingya who have fled neighboring Myanmar.

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