N. Korea’s Kim congratulates Putin on election victory

SEOUL, South Korea (AFP) — North Korean leader Kim Jong Un sent “heartfelt congratulations” Tuesday to Russian President Vladimir Putin on his election victory and wished him success in building a powerful nation. In contrast to some other international leaders who have been slow to send congratulations, Kim said Putin’s re-election “is an expression of your people’s great support and trust in you”. The North’s leader, in a message quoted by the state KCNA news […]

Work starts to clear mines from traditional site of Jesus’s baptism

  Jerusalem (AFP) — Israeli and international experts have started clearing thousands of wartime landmines and explosive devices from one of Christianity’s holiest sites, in the occupied West Bank, the Israeli defense ministry said Tuesday. It said work began this week to clear about 3,000 pieces of ordnance believed to be scattered around the Qasr al-Yahud Greek Orthodox monastery, on the banks of the River Jordan, at the spot where many believe Jesus was baptized […]

State video shows Syria’s President Assad driving his way to battle-scarred Ghouta

A video posted by the Syrian Presidency on YouTube showed Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad driving to Eastern Ghouta on Sunday (March 18). Assad paid his first visit in years to the battered enclave to congratulate his troops for their bloody assault on rebels. Syrian state television also broadcast photos of the president dressed in a shirt and jacket surrounded by soldiers, some perched on a tank behind him, in an unspecified part of Eastern Ghouta. […]

Empowered Xi says China ready to fight ‘bloody battle’

by Laurent Thomet and Ryan McMorrow Agence France Presse BEIJING, China (AFP) — President Xi Jinping delivered a blistering nationalist speech on Tuesday, warning against any attempts to split China and touting the country’s readiness to fight “the bloody battle” to regain its rightful place in the world. Xi’s address capped an annual session of the National People’s Congress that paved the way for him to rule for life, as China’s most powerful leader since […]

China promotes foreign minister, names new defense chief

BEIJING, China (AFP) — China on Monday elevated the status of its current foreign minister and selected a new defense minister as the country deals with rocky relations with the United States and expands its military. The rubber-stamp National People’s Congress endorsed the appointment of Foreign Minister Wang Yi, 64, as state councilor, making him a ranking member of the country’s “cabinet.” He replaces Yang Jiechi, China’s former top diplomat, who was tipped for a […]

Xi applauds Putin re-election, hails ‘best level’ ties

BEIJING, China (AFP) — Chinese President Xi Jinping on Monday congratulated Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on his re-election, saying Beijing was willing to work with Moscow to bring ties to a “higher level.” Putin won in a landslide on Sunday, one day after China’s parliament unanimously re-appointed Xi to a second term. Xi has drawn a comparison with Putin as the Chinese leader has consolidated power and gained a path to indefinite rule after the […]

China widens Xi’s corruption crackdown

  by Ryan Mcmorrow © Agence France-Presse BEIJING, China (AFP) — Millions of Chinese public sector workers will be exposed to the harsh policing tactics of the Communist Party as President Xi Jinping brings his corruption crackdown to China’s sprawling bureaucracy. The campaign to clean up the party’s pervasive corruption has arguably been Xi’s most popular initiative, pressuring its 89 million members to toe the line — with more than 1.5 million officials punished in the […]

Russia votes with strongman Putin set for fourth term

by Theo Merz © Agence France-Presse MOSCOW, Russia (AFP) — Russians headed to the polls Sunday in elections set to hand President Vladimir Putin a historic fourth Kremlin term, as the country faces increasing isolation over a spy poisoning in Britain and a fresh round of US sanctions. With the vast country stretching across 11 time zones, polls opened in the Russian far east at 2000 GMT on Saturday and will close in Kaliningrad, the country’s […]

Xi gets second term with powerful ally as VP

By  Laurent Thomet and Ryan McMorrow Agence France Presse China’s parliament unanimously handed President Xi Jinping a second term Saturday and elevated his right-hand man to the vice presidency, giving him a strong ally to consolidate power and handle US trade threats. Xi’s reappointment by the Communist Party-controlled legislature was a foregone conclusion, but all eyes had been on whether his former anti-corruption enforcer, Wang Qishan, would become his deputy. The National People’s Congress has […]

Top officials scramble to make Trump-Kim summit a reality

by Dave Clark / with Gael Branchereau in Stockholm Agence France-Presse WASHINGTON, United States – Senior officials staged a flurry of calls and top-level meetings on Friday as they scrambled to make a proposed nuclear summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korea’s Kim Jong Un a reality. There was no immediate breakthrough, but North Korea’s foreign minister was to remain in Stockholm into Saturday for further talks with Swedish leaders, as the Scandinavian […]

Hillary Clinton fractures hand on India trip

  NEW DELHI, India (AFP) — Hillary Clinton has fractured her hand during a tour of India, reportedly slipping in a bathtub at a luxury hotel in a former palace. A doctor at the private Goyal Hospital told AFP Friday that Clinton had undergone screening after suffering pain in her right hand following a fall. The 70-year-old former presidential candidate was staying at Umaid Bhawan, the palace of the former royal family of Jodhpur in […]

S. Korea, US to scale down military drills: report

SEOUL, South Korea (AFP) — South Korea and the United States will scale down and shorten annual joint military exercises in light of a diplomatic thaw with Pyongyang, a report said Friday. The Key Resolve and Foal Eagle drills held every spring regularly infuriate the nuclear-armed North, which usually condemns them as preparations for invasion and responds with provocations of its own, ratcheting tensions higher. But the two Koreas and the US are in the […]