Rahul Gandhi extends family grip on India’s Congress party

NEW DELHI, India (AFP) — India’s Rahul Gandhi took over Saturday as president of the main opposition Congress, becoming the sixth member of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty to head the party that has ruled the country for much of its independent history. Fireworks erupted over the party headquarters in New Delhi drowning out the voice of his mother Sonia Gandhi as she handed over the reins of power to her 47-year-old son. Rahul, wearing a long flowing white kurta, […]

Toll rises to two dead after Indonesia quake

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AFP) — At least two people have been killed following a strong 6.5-magnitude earthquake on Indonesia’s main island of Java, an official said Saturday. The quake struck at a depth of 91 kilometres (56 miles) just outside the coastal town of Cipatujah on Java island late Friday, the US Geological Survey said. The tremor was felt across the island including in the capital Jakarta, some 300 kilometres (190 miles) from the epicentre. A 62-year-old man […]

Japan eyes $46bn defense budget to counter N. Korea: report

TOKYO, Japan (AFP) — Japan plans a record $46 billion defence budget for the next fiscal year to strengthen its missile defence against the threat posed by North Korea, a report said Saturday. The government is expected to set aside 5.19 trillion yen for defence in the country’s initial budget proposal for the fiscal year starting April 2018, the Nikkei daily said. It will mark the sixth straight year of increases in defence outlays, topping the 5.12 trillion yen […]

Japan expands sanctions aimed at N. Korea

TOKYO, Japan (AFP) — Japan said Friday it had added 19 more entities to its list of organizations and individuals targeted by asset-freeze sanctions on North Korea. The sanctions list now comprises 103 entities and 108 individuals in total, including seven Chinese entities, five Chinese individuals, one Singaporean entity and two Namibian entities, it said. They include organizations involved in financial services, coal and minerals trading, transportation and sending North Korean laborers abroad, the foreign […]

China, S. Korea eye warmer ties following tensions

by Becky Davis Agence France Presse BEIJING, China (AFP) — The presidents of China and South Korea sought Thursday to repair ties strained over a US anti-missile defense system, but the beating of a South Korean photojournalist by Chinese security cast a pall over the summit. Relations between Beijing and Seoul have been icy since South Korea allowed the United States to install the THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense) system to guard against threats […]

EU leaders say Jerusalem stance ‘unchanged’ after Trump move

BRUSSELS, Jerusalem (AFP) — European Union leaders on Thursday rejected US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the Israeli capital, saying they stuck by their view that the city’s status should be settled by negotiation. Trump’s administration invited widespread criticism earlier this month when it officially recognized Jerusalem as the Israeli capital, effectively ignoring Palestinian claims on the city. “EU leaders reiterate firm commitment to the two-state solution and, in this context, the EU […]

Chinese, S. Korean leaders meet hoping to smooth tensions

BEIJING, China (AFP) — South Korean President Moon Jae-In will hold talks with Chinese leader Xi Jinping in Beijing on Thursday, seeking to repair a relationship strained over Seoul hosting a US missile system. Moon’s office has said he hopes to “normalize” ties during the visit after Beijing was angered by the deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD), installed earlier this year to protect South Korea against threats from the nuclear-armed North. Beijing, which […]

Harsh Singapore laws stifling free speech: HRW

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia  (AFP) — Singapore is increasingly using harsh laws to severely restrict freedom of speech and assembly, Human Rights Watch said Wednesday, urging authorities to let people publicly debate matters of national interest. A report from the New York-based rights group said that while the financial hub was an economic success, it was time to relax tough regulations which are not in line with international human rights standards. “Singapore promotes itself as a modern nation […]

South Korean leader starts fence-mending trip to China

BEIJING, China (AFP) — South Korean President Moon Jae-In began his first state visit to China on Wednesday to soothe relations strained by the US deployment of an anti-missile system that has angered Beijing. Moon is also expected to discuss the North Korean nuclear crisis during his four-day trip, which includes talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Thursday. The US military installed the powerful THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense) system in the South […]

First ‘serious incident’ for Japan bullet train as crack found

TOKYO, Japan (AFP) — A crack has been found in a Japanese “bullet train” that could have caused a derailment, officials said Wednesday, in the first-ever “serious incident” for the iconic mode of transport. Crew aboard a “shinkansen” bullet train reported a burning smell and strange noises when it pulled out of a station in southern Japan on Monday. The train stopped for checks at Nagoya station in central Japan and inspectors discovered a crack […]

Magnitude 6.2 quake hits southeastern Iran: seismological center

TEHRAN, Iran (AFP) — A 6.2-magnitude earthquake struck Iran’s southeastern province of Kerman on Tuesday, the Iranian seismological center reported, though minimal damage was reported. Eighteen people were wounded in the quake, which struck in the villages of Hejdak and Ravar in Kerman province, the national emergency service told state broadcaster IRIB. Officials said old houses were damaged in six villages, and classes at schools and universities were cancelled. The quake struck at 12:13 pm […]

Kim vows to make N.Korea ‘world’s strongest nuclear power’: KCNA

SEOUL, South Korea (AFP) — Kim Jong-Un has vowed to make North Korea the “world’s strongest nuclear power,” state media reported Wednesday, as the reclusive nation shows little sign of reining in a weapons program fuelling global alarm. The North has rattled the international community with a flurry of missile launches and its largest ever nuclear test in recent months in its bid to develop a warhead capable of striking the United States. Kim told workers […]