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US will increase nuclear arsenal if others don’t ‘come to their senses’: Trump

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WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump has warned that the United States will increase its nuclear arsenal until other nations “come to their senses”, days after he said the US would pull out of a Cold war era arms control treaty with Russia.

Trump has confirmed that he would withdraw the US from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty with Russia that limited the number of missiles in the two nations, accusing Moscow of violating the deal.

The treaty was one of those agreements and is set to expire in the next two years. The 1987 pact helps protect the security of the US and its allies in Europe and the Far East.

 

”We will build it (nuclear arsenal) up. Until people come to their senses — Russia has not adhered to the agreement. This should have been done years ago. Until people come to their senses — we have more money than anybody else by far, we’ll build it up until they come to their senses,” Trump told reporters at the White House.

The US now wants to leave the INF. I’m terminating the agreement because they violated the agreement. I’m terminating the agreement, he had said.

”When they do, then we’ll all stop. We will not only stop, we’ll reduce, which I would love to do. But right now, they have not adhered to the agreement,” Trump said.

Reiterating that Russia had violated the treaty, he said, “They have not adhered to the spirit of that agreement or to the agreement itself, Russia – China’s not as good at the agreement, they should be. But until they get smart, there’s nobody that’s going to be even close to us.”

”It’s a threat to whoever you want, and it includes China, and it includes Russia and it includes anybody else that wants to play that game. You can’t do that. You can’t play that game on me,” Trump asserted.

Russia has denied it is in violation of the treaty.

Senator Jim Risch supported the move toward withdrawal from the INF treaty.

”At a time when the United States and the Soviet Union were the only global superpowers, the INF Treaty was a landmark agreement that helped provide stability and security in Europe,” he said.

The INF treaty was signed between the then US president Ronald Reagan and his USSR counterpart Mikhail Gorbachev in 1987 on the elimination of intermediate-range and shorter-range missiles.

For the past several years, the Russian government has systematically violated the INF Treaty and deployed systems around Europe that undermine the stability that the INF Treaty helped create, Risch alleged.

Russian actions represent a material breach of the Treaty, and it is abundantly clear, the United States is the only country limited by the INF Treaty, he said.

”In addition, new strategic threats from a rising China requires the United States to consider the alliances we have around the world and the commitments to uphold international security. The United States cannot help provide effective deterrence in Asia as long as we are limited by the INF treaty. The time has come to set the Treaty aside and develop alternative avenues toward the security the treaty once provided,” Risch said.

Senator Dianne Feinstein, however, warned that withdrawing the US from the INF treaty would be a strategic mistake that would weaken national security and the security of key allies.

”Since the Cold War, this arms-control agreement has banned an entire class of dangerous nuclear weapons, reducing the threat of nuclear war,” she said.

”Alleging that Russia has violated this treaty for several years, Feinstein said the US must take strong diplomatic actions to address that violation. However, withdrawing from the treaty will only accelerate a nuclear arms race, leaving us far less safe,” she said.

Noting that the US is already investing more than USD 1 trillion to modernize its nuclear arsenal, including developing a new air-launched cruise missile and a dangerous ‘low-yield’ ballistic missile, she said US does not need to spend more money on more nuclear weapons.

”President Trump should be leading non-proliferation efforts around the world, not undermining existing treaties. Rather than abandon another nuclear agreement, he should be working with our NATO allies to counter Russia’s deployment of banned weapons and search for ways to reduce both countries’ nuclear arsenals,” Feinstein said.

Senator Bob Menendez echoed Feinstein.

”There is no doubt that Russia is responsible for the degradation of the INF treaty. However, withdrawing from this treaty without a comprehensive strategy for addressing its underlying strategic implications and without consulting Congress or our allies threatens long-term United States’ national security interests,” Menendez said.


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International

Trump to meet Kim Jong-un again in late February: White House

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WASHINGTON: The White House announced that US President Donald Trump will hold a second summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in late February.

During the meeting, the two leaders will hold talks over the steps taken by Pyongyang to dismantle its nuclear and missile programmes. It may be recalled that the first meeting between the two leaders was held on June 12, 2018 in Singapore. The White House, however, did not reveal where the two leaders will meet in February.

The White House made the announcement shortly after Trump held a meeting with North Korean envoy, Kim Yong Chol, on Friday for a discussion that included talk about Kim Jong-un’s unfulfilled pledge to dismantle nuclear weapons programmes of North Korea.

 

“President Donald J Trump met with Kim Yong Chol for an hour and half, to discuss denuclearization and a second summit, which will take place near the end of February. The president looks forward to meeting with Chairman Kim at a place to be announced at a later date,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement.

The press secretary told reporters: “We continue to make progress, we continue to have conversations. The US is going to continue to keep “pressure and sanctions” on North Korea until “we see fully and verifiable denuclearization”. We had very good steps and very good faith from the North Koreans with the release of hostages and other moves and so we’ll continue this conversation.And the President looks forward to it next February.”

Kim yong Chol arrived at the White House after meeting with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and US special envoy for North Korea Stephen Biegun at a hotel in Washington.

“The Secretary, Special Representative Biegun, and Vice Chairman Kim discussed efforts to make progress on the commitments President Trump and Chairman Kim Jong Un made at their summit in Singapore. At the conclusion of the Secretary’s meeting with Vice Chairman Kim, the two sides held a productive first meeting at the working level,” State Department Deputy Spokesperson Robert Palladino said.

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Blast targets Al Qaeda ally in Syria, kills 11

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BEIRUT: An explosion outside an office belonging to an Al Qaeda-linked group in Syria’s northwest killed at least 11 people and wounded several others, opposition activists said.

The blast comes a week after members of the Al Qaeda-linked Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, Arabic for Levant Liberation Committee, or HTS, took over control of wide parts of Idlib province and the surrounding countryside after forcing rival insurgents to accept a deal for a civil administration run by HTS in their areas.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and Smart news agency, an activist collective, said the blast occurred on the southern edge of the rebel-held city of Idlib.

 

The observatory said 11 people were killed in the blast, including seven HTS members. Smart said 12 people were killed, many of them militants.

In the country’s east, an air strike in the last area held by the militant Islamic State group killed at least 20 people.

State news agency SANA said 20 people were killed in the air strike on the IS-held village of Baghouz, while the observatory said 23 people were killed including 10 IS members.

They both blamed the US-led coalition that has been providing air cover to the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces in their monthslong offensive to capture the area from extremists near the Iraqi border.

The SDF has intensified its offensive over the past weeks on the IS-held area.

Meanwhile in Turkey, President Tayyip Erdogan met with US Republican Senator Lindsey Graham to discuss the situation in Syria as the United States prepares to withdraw troops.

Graham, a prominent voice on foreign affairs in the US, met with Erdogan and other Turkish officials on Friday for talks that were also expected to include a proposal for the creation of a “safe zone” in northeast Syria.

The visit comes days after a suicide bombing, claimed by IS, killed two US service members and two American civilians in the northeastern town of Manbij.

Graham has said he is concerned that US President Donald Trump’s troop withdrawal announcement had emboldened IS militants and created dangerous uncertainty for American allies.

The Pentagon identified three of the four Americans killed in the suicide bomb attack in Manbij Army Chief Warrant Officer 2 Jonathan R. Farmer, 37, of Boynton Beach, Florida, who was based at Fort Campbell, Kentucky; Navy Chief Cryptologic Technician (Interpretive) Shannon M. Kent, 35, from upstate New York and based at Fort Meade, Maryland; and a civilian, Scott A. Wirtz, from St. Louis.

The Pentagon hasn’t identified the fourth casualty, a civilian contractor.

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Pakistan rules out India’s role in Afghan peace process

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Islamabad: Pakistan has ruled out any role for India in the Afghan peace process, the media reported on Friday.

“India has no role in Afghanistan,” Foreign Office spokesman Mohammad Faisal said at the weekly media briefing on Thursday while responding to a query about Islamabad’s position on New Delhi’s part in the reconciliation process.

Faisal acknowledged that Pakistan has a difficult relationship with India, saying that despite Pakistan’s efforts for normalisation, no concrete progress could be achieved in ties with India, Dawn news reported.

 

“You all know that India is not willing to engage with Pakistan,” he reminded.

Faisal’s remarks were in sharp contrast to what Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi had told the National Assembly last month.

“Since India is present in Afghanistan, its cooperation in this regard (facilitating a negotiated settlement of the Afghan conflict) will also be required,” he had told legislators.

Meanwhile, US President Donald Trump’s Special Envoy on Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad arrived in Pakistan on Thursday to discuss with the senior civil and military leadership the latest efforts to bring peace to the war-torn country.

Khalilzad, who met Taliban representatives last month in Abu Dhabi, is leading an inter-agency delegation to India, China, Afghanistan and Pakistan from January 8-21 to “facilitate a negotiated settlement to the conflict in Afghanistan”.

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