SEOUL: North Korea fired a volley of missiles Wednesday, including possibly its largest intercontinental ballistic missile, just hours after US President Joe Biden left Asia after a trip overshadowed by Pyongyang’s sabre-rattling.
North Korea has also been conducting “operational tests” of a nuclear detonation device, Kim Tae-hyo, Seoul’s first deputy director of the National Security Office, said, adding a test could come “imminently.”
His warning adds to the drumbeat of predictions from US and South Korean officials, who have been saying for weeks that Kim Jong Un’s regime is close to conducting its seventh nuclear test.
Three missiles, including one ICBM, were fired from the Sunan area in Pyongyang, Seoul said — one of nearly 20 weapons tests by North Korea so far this year — prompting joint US-South Korea live fire missile drills in response.
Pyongyang’s missile launches are “an illegal act in direct violation of UN Security Council resolutions,” Seoul’s government said after a National Security Council meeting chaired by President Yoon Suk-yeol.
The United States called for Pyongyang to “engage in sustained and substantive dialogue,” a state department spokesman said.
The three early morning ballistic missile launches came within an hour of each other, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement.
“The first ballistic missile (suspected ICBM) had a range of around 360 kilometers (225 miles) and an altitude of around 540km,” Seoul’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement.
This could have been North Korea’s largest ICBM, the Hwasong-17, Kim Tae-hyo said later.
The second ballistic missile “disappeared at an altitude of 20km” and the third — a suspected short-range ballistic missile — traveled around 760km at an altitude of around 60km.
The Wednesday launches are the latest in a blitz of sanctions-busting weapons tests by Pyongyang this year, including test-firing intercontinental ballistic missiles at full range for the first time since 2017.
The latest apparent test come just days after Biden left South Korea Sunday.
The tests were “clearly timed for President Biden’s return after his visit to South Korea and Japan,” Park Won-gon, a professor at Ewha University said, adding that Biden hadn’t even touched down in the US.
LONDON: A Syrian refugee who traveled to Britain almost a decade ago and trained as a doctor has provided volunteer medical treatment in Ukraine for war victims, The Independent reported on Wednesday.
In 2013, Dr. Tirej Brimo left Syria amid the country’s brutal conflict. He was in his final year of medical school. In 2017, he graduated as a doctor in London.
Five years later, Brimo, now an emergency doctor in Cambridge, put his skills to use in Ukraine.
In order to make the trip to the Ukraine-Poland border and the city of Lviv, Brimo used up seven weeks of his work leave.
“In Syria I ran away. I was a student and felt helpless. In Ukraine, I chose a different destiny. I chose to be there and stand up for what I believe in,” he said.
He helped launch a makeshift medical center in Lviv that treated hundreds of Ukrainian refugees as they fled eastward.
Back in Cambridge after his trip, Brimo said: “At Lviv train station, the situation was horrid. Every day we got dozens of trains from eastern Ukraine — trains full of injured people, and trains full of refugees who just wanted to flee and leave everything behind.
“In my very first week, a paramedic and I saw 339 patients. It only took a few seconds into the consultation for these emotions to come out. They had been through a lot and they had seen a lot.
“Some of them lost their loved ones, some of them left everything behind, and some of them were so in shock that they were not aware of what was happening around them.”
The experience brought back painful memories for Brimo. “Sadly, the atrocities of war are similar. The horror in peoples’ faces, backpacks that have been filled in a rush, and children who have lost their spark, are some of the images that stay with me,” he said.
“War is like a nightmare you can’t wake up from while praying for a miracle that just doesn’t happen.
“As a doctor in the humanitarian world, our fight is different. We look after those wounded by all kinds of trauma, those who have been forgotten about, those who feel rejected by life and its atrocities.
“We hope that these few minutes of care will one day be remembered as a small light in our patients’ journey. Their journey to heal from all that happened.”
Brimo praised his fellow volunteers, saying: “In a clear message of resilience and rejection of war and its violence, we started our day with a smile and we ended our day with a prayer. A prayer that we hope one day will be heard.”
DAVOS: The president of the Japanese International Cooperation Agency highlighted on Tuesday the significance of Saudi-Japanese cooperation, reiterating how Saudi Arabia has been, and will continue to be, a very important country for Japan.
Stressing the importance of maintaining good relations with the Kingdom, Akihiko Tanaka, president of JICA, told Arab News at the 2022 World Economic Forum that Saudi Arabia is important for Japan “not just as a source of natural resources, but also as a key country in the Middle East.”
Tanaka also acknowledged Saudi Arabia’s interest in “keeping collaborative relations, particularly in the area of technology advancement, standardization and future development.”
Speaking about Saudi Vision 2030, Tanaka assured Arab News that Japan will continue to contribute to the economic reforms that are being promoted under the initiative.
Tanaka explained that JICA has provided knowledge sharing and training for the dissemination of “Kaizen,” the promotion of small and medium-sized enterprises, and effective use of water resources in accordance with Saudi-Japan Vision 2030.
Tokyo-based JICA is one of the world’s largest public development assistance institutions, established in 2003, with over 96 overseas offices.
According to Tanaka, upcoming cooperation between JICA and Gulf Cooperation Council countries will focus on tackling the triple threat of COVID-19, climate change and geopolitical crises, including issues that originated with the Arab Spring, stalled peace talks between the Palestinian Authority and Israel and the impact of Ukraine crisis on the world.
“Our vision in working with Saudi Arabia is to create mutual benefit to realize a more sustainable world,” Tanaka said. “Our overall vision in JICA is to lead the world with trust, and so as a very important partner and a key actor in the Middle East, we would like to also maintain good and productive relations [based on] trust.”
JICA has been cooperating with Saudi Arabia since 1975, and their focus, according to Tanaka, has been and will continue to be human resource development.
Tanaka said that JICA has already established cooperation with Saudi Arabia in the fields of technical education, water resource development and treatment, and electricity development, adding that there were “many potential cooperation opportunities” between Saudi Arabia and Japan.
ISLAMABAD: A series of explosions shook Afghanistan on Wednesday, the Taliban said, including a blast inside a mosque in the capital of Kabul that killed at least five worshippers and three bombings of minivans in the country’s north that killed nine passengers.
The Kabul Emergency Hospital said it received 22 victims of the mosque bombing, including five dead. There were no further details on the blast that struck the Hazrat Zakaria Mosque in the city’s central Police District 4, according to Khalid Zadran, a Taliban police spokesman in Kabul.
“The blast took place while people were inside the mosque for the evening prayers,” Zadran said, adding that they were waiting for an update.
The minivans were targeted in the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif after explosive devices were placed inside the vehicles, according to Mohammad Asif Waziri, a Taliban-appointed spokesman in Balkh province. He said the explosions killed nine and wounded 15.
All the victims in Mazar-e-Sharif were from the country’s minority Shiite Muslims, according to a police official who spoke on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to give details to the media.
No one immediately claimed responsibility for the explosions, but they had the hallmarks of the regional affiliate of the Daesh group, known as Daesh in Khorasan Province, or Daesh-K.
The Daesh affiliate, which has been operating in Afghanistan since 2014, is seen as the greatest security challenge facing the country’s new Taliban rulers. Following their takeover when they seized power in Kabul and elsewhere in the country last August, the Taliban have launched a sweeping crackdown against the Daesh headquarters in eastern Afghanistan.
PARIS: French authorities have charged an 18-year-old man on suspicion of planning an imminent terror attack with a knife in the name of Daesh militants, a judicial source said on Wednesday.
Initial investigations indicated that he planned to carry out a terror attack “in the name of Daesh, to which he had pledged allegiance,” said the source, who asked not to be named.
The source added that the man had been detained in the Drome region of southeast France and charged in Paris.
The man, from a Muslim family, had adopted extremist views and was considered a threat, sparking France’s anti-terror prosecutors office (PNAT) to open an investigation on May 19, a source close to the case said.
Police arrested him on Friday and a video of him swearing allegiance to Daesh was found in his possession.
The source did not say whom he was planning to target in the attack or in which location.
France saw a wave of militant attacks from 2015 that left hundreds dead and pushed the country to its highest level of security alert.
There has been no repeat of a mass atrocity in the last years, but there have been several deadly attacks carried out by lone individuals.
ISLAMABAD: Clashes between anti-government protesters and police continued in major Pakistani cities on Wednesday as former prime minister Imran Khan set out to the capital for a demonstration he hopes will bring down the government and force early elections, denying reports of a deal with the administration and saying that he would rally until fresh polls were called.
Khan was removed from office in a vote of no-confidence last month after losing his majority in parliament. The former premier has alleged his ouster was part of a Washington-backed foreign conspiracy and refused to recognize the new government of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif. The US has denied the allegations.
Since his ouster, Khan has held public rallies across Pakistan to demand early elections. Last Sunday he announced that he would lead a massive rally to the capital and hold a sit-in until the government announced a date for polls. The government on Tuesday said it would not let Khan’s march enter Islamabad on the grounds that it aimed to spread “chaos and anarchy” in the country.
After media reports that Khan’s party had reached an agreement with the government, Khan posted “absolutely not” on Twitter.
He said: “We are moving toward Islamabad and no question of any deal. We will remain in Islamabad until announcement of dates for the dissolution of assemblies and elections are given.
“God willing we have to reach D-Chowk Islamabad. No hurdle can stop us,” Khan said in an address to supporters in Swabi en route to the capital. He was referring to a famous town square in the capital that has been a common destination for protest marches.
On Wednesday morning and well into the afternoon, the D-Chowk area wore a deserted look, sealed off with containers and guarded by a large contingent of Punjab and Islamabad Police.
At one point, about 20 PTI supporters appeared and chanted in favor of Khan but were chased off by police, batons in hand.
After brief negotiations, the protesters dispersed and the police officers sat under some trees to eat lunch. Other officers were immersed in their cell phones, following the latest developments and asking media correspondents present for inputs.
One woman, a PTI supporter, walked up to a small group of officers and said that she would return in the evening to join the protest.
“You won’t fire at us, will you?” She asked jokingly. The police officers smiled and said no.
Videos circulating on social media and local TV channels showed police clashing with protesters in Lahore and Islamabad, with Punjab police using tear gas on demonstrators in Lahore and baton charging them in the capital.
PTI supporters and police also clashed in Gujranwala when the officers tried to stop protesters with barricades but marchers forced their way through the obstructions.
According to PTI’s Gujranwala General Secretary Tariq Gujjar, 150 people from the caravan had been taken into custody.
All major roads linking the Punjab province with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, from where Khan started his march, were blocked with barricades. Police and district officials blocked the GT Road highway with shipping containers over the Attock Khurd Bridge, which marks the border between Punjab and KP. Media reported intense tear gas shelling on the bridge by anti-riot police in the afternoon on Wednesday.
The motorway M1 connecting the two provinces was also blocked off and other motorways traversing Punjab, including M2, were blocked at several points.
Section 144, which bans large public gatherings, was imposed on Tuesday in Lahore, the twin cities of Rawalpindi and Islamabad, and in Karachi, as well as other major cities in the country, while the Punjab government called in the paramilitary Rangers to keep law and order. Pakistani authorities also used dozens of shipping containers and trucks to block off major roads into the capital.
Former education minister Shafqat Mahmood from Khan’s PTI said on Twitter that police raided his house in the early morning hours of Wednesday.
“Police barged into my house without a warrant while I was not there. Do they really think these tactics would intimidate us?”
Meanwhile, PTI Sen. Ejaz Chaudhary was arrested after the Punjab government said that weapons were recovered from the vehicles of PTI’s Lahore office bearers.
An admin for Chaudhary’s account tweeted: “The place he was staying was stormed by over 100 policemen — the gate of the house broken — the family at that place harassed and phones taken. This will not dampen our spirit.”
A number of other PTI office bearers were also arrested.
Meanwhile, the Supreme Court is hearing on Wednesday a hurriedly moved petition seeking the removal of roadblocks and barricades, and the free movement of residents in the federal capital. The court asked Khan’s party and the government to agree on an alternate location to D-Chowk and inform the court. It has also ordered the government to remove all blockades and release arrested PTI supporters.