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Russian Airliner crashes within minute after take-off, all dead

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A Russian airliner taking off from country’s busiest airport crashed on Sunday, killing all 71 people. Chunks of its wreckage were found scattered on a snowy field outside Moscow.

Saratov Airlines Flight 703, that was going towards Moscow, Domodedovo airport to the city of Orsk on the Kazakhstan border, was carrying six crew members and 65 passengers. The jet disappeared from radar screens minutes after take-off which went down with a fiery blast at the south-east region of Moscow.

According to a Russian official, Transport Minister Maxim Sokolov confirmed that the cause of the crash was not clear and none of the people of the Antonov An-148 have survived.

Emergency workers immediately worked on field to search for the scathed chunks of the airliner scattered around 1500 km to the south east. While the investigators went straight to the airport to search for clues to what the jet went down.

The International Civil Aviation Organization report that Russia has long a history with poor airline safety record. From 2008 to 2017, 326 people died in accidents on Russian commercial flights.

Saratov Airlines, which is a regional airline based in the Volga port city of Saratov, said the An-148 that crashed came for service in 2010. The airline official said that, relatives of the deceased would be given insurance payments of 2,025,000 rubles – about $35,000.

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North Korea demolishes what it says is nuclear test site

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North Korea has carried out what it says is the demolition of its nuclear test site in the presence of foreign journalists.

The demolition happened today at the site deep in the mountains of the North’s sparsely populated northeast.

The planned closing was previously announced by leader Kim Jong Un ahead of his planned summit with US President Donald Trump next month.

The North’s decision to close the site has generally been seen as a welcome gesture by Kim to set a positive tone ahead of the summit. Even so, it is not an irreversible move and would need to be followed by many more significant measures to meet Trump’s demands for denuclearization.

The North did not invite international inspectors to the ceremony, which limits its value as a concession.(AP)

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India would never want a relationship of dependence on US: Expert tells Congressmen

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Observing that India is different from traditional American allies for whom the US was the key security provider, a think-tank expert today told the lawmakers that New Delhi would “never” want a relationship of dependence or one in which the US has to incur all costs.

“India would never want a relationship of dependence or one in which the US has to incur all costs,” Aparna Pande, Director, Initiative on the Future of India and South Asia at the Hudson Institute, a top American think-tank, told the US lawmakers during a Congressional hearing.

Testifying on ‘Asia’s Diplomatic and Security Structure: Planning US Engagement’ at the hearing, organised by the sub-committee on Asia Pacific of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, She said India’s growing economic and security relationships and interest in the Indo-Pacific region was aligned with its deepening partnership with the US.

“However, India is different from traditional American allies whether in Europe, Latin America or Asia for whom the United States was the key security provider,” Pande said.

She said India wants to maintain its own security capabilities and does not wish to become a “burden” on the US taxpayer.

“It seeks a relationship that helps build India’s resources and capabilities so that India can play a bigger role in the Indo-Pacific,” Pande said.

Treating India as a country critical to American interests, the United States could think about a special partnership with India whereby New Delhi could be exempt from many of the export control regulations that govern military sales, she told the lawmakers.

“Thus, India would be able to develop military capabilities with the US technology without adding to America’s burden of cost,” she said, adding that any attempts to balance ties between India and other South Asian states, notably Pakistan, should be abandoned to enhance India’s capacity to confront China.

According to Pande, the economic and military rise of China over the last two decades poses a “challenge” to American preeminence.

Noting that China is gradually creating a new Asian order with Chinese primacy at its heart, she said US strategy needs to be one of renewed engagement with its partners and allies across the region — India, Japan and South East Asia — to construct a configuration that will be able to counter the Chinese march.

“Currently, China’s economic and military rise faces no structured challenge. Japan’s military role is inhibited by its Constitution while many in Australia and the United States have, for years, assumed China to be a benign power and have invested in an economic relationship favouring their potential challenger,” Pande said.

With a population of more than one billion, she said, India is also the country with sufficient manpower to match with that of China. “Thus, India would have to be central to any security architecture designed to contain China or aimed at ensuring that China does not transform its considerable economic clout into threatening military muscle in the Asia-Pacific,” Pande said.

Amy Searight, Senior Advisor and Director, Southeast Asia Program Center for Strategic and International Studies, said India is an important maritime democracy that has long been a net security provider in the Indian Ocean Region, but it has increasingly turned its strategic focus to East Asia, moving from a ‘Look East’ to an ‘Act East’ policy of more active engagement in East Asia security affairs.

Although India still has a way to go to live up to its potential as a strategic and economic partner for Southeast Asia, it has forged much stronger strategic ties with many countries in the region, including the US, Japan, Australia, and Vietnam, Searight said.

She said India’s growing voice in regional security dialogues is a welcome development since it vocally supports principles such as freedom of navigation and deep respect for international law.

Michael Swaine, senior fellow in the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace’s Asia Program, told the US lawmakers that as long as China continues to grow and develop overseas interests, it will resist, in an increasingly determined fashion, the US efforts to sustain predominance by negating Beijing’s efforts to project power along China’s maritime periphery, viewing such efforts as a direct threat to its own security.

The resulting intensifying security competition, already well underway — as reflected in the recently issued US National Security Strategy — will further polarise the region, inject zero- sum calculations and fears into almost every US or Chinese initiative, and generally force other Asian states to choose between Beijing and Washington on many issues, something they definitely do not want to do, Swaine said.

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US decision to disinvite China from RIMPAC very unconstructive: Chinese Councilor Wang

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The latest US decision on disinvitation of China from the annual maritime military exercise is a “very unconstructive” move, Chinese Foreign Minister and Councilor Wang Yi said today, hoping that the Pentagon would change such a “negative mindset”.

“The Pentagon’s decision on disinvitation of Chinese military in the RIMPAC exercise, we find that a very unconstructive move, non-constructive move. It’s also a decision that’s taken lightly. It’s unhelpful to mutual understanding between China and the US,” he told reporters in a joint news conference with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo here.

Wang said both the US and China are “big” countries and are “well positioned” to have greater cooperation at the sea. “Mil-to-mil exchanges will help to increase mutual trust. It will also help us to make greater efforts towards world peace and stability,” he said.

On the militarisation in the South China Sea, Wang said, “China is only building civilian and some necessary defence facilities on its own islands”.

“That is the right to self-defence and preservation of every sovereign state. It is a normal deployment and has nothing to do with militarisation, just like the US has military presence in Hawaii, in Guam,” he said.

Wang said the Chinese deployment was at a “much smaller scale than the US”.

“It’s just out of necessary defence purposes. We don’t hope to see any exaggeration or hype-up of this matter,” Wang said.

Pompeo said this was an issue of discussion between the two leaders. “I will leave to DOD to talk about that. Only to say that we have expressed consistent concern about militarisation of the South China Sea. We had a chance to talk about that. And I will leave it to our militaries to talk about their efforts together,” said the US Secretary of State.

Earlier in the day, alleging that Beijing is engaged in “destabilising behaviour” in the South China Sea, the Pentagon kicked out China from its annual maritime military exercise.

Asserting that the US is committed to a free and open Indo-Pacific, it said China’s continued militarisation of disputed features in the South China Sea only serve to raise tensions and “destabilise” the region.

“As an initial response to China’s continued militarisation of the South China Sea, we have disinvited the PLA Navy from the 2018 Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) Exercise. China’s behaviour is inconsistent with the principles and purposes of the RIMPAC exercise,” Lt Col Christopher B Logan said.

The Department of Defence, he said, has strong evidence that China has deployed anti-ship missiles, surface-to-air missile (SAM) systems and electronic jammers to contested features in the Spratly Islands region of the South China Sea.

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