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Japan and NATO pledge ‘firm’ response to China, Russia threats

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Japan and NATO pledge 'firm' response to China, Russia threats

Japan and NATO must “remain united and firm” in the face of security threats posed by China, North Korea and Russia’s war in Ukraine, Jens Stoltenberg said Tuesday in Tokyo.

Stoltenberg, secretary general of the European and North American military alliance, warned that Beijing was keeping a close eye on developments in Ukraine and “learning lessons that may influence its future decisions”.

He spoke alongside Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida after the pair held talks as part of a trip to Asia by Stoltenberg aiming to boost ties with democratic allies.

“What is happening in Europe today could happen in East Asia tomorrow. So we must remain united and firm, standing together for freedom and democracy,” he said.

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Stoltenberg and Kishida said they were worried by the increasing cooperation they saw between China and Russia.

“We highlight with concern Russia’s growing military cooperation with China, including through joint operations and drills in the vicinity of Japan,” they said in a joint statement.

The previous day in Seoul, Stoltenberg asked South Korea to step up military support for Ukraine, which was invaded by its neighbour Russia nearly a year ago.

But on Tuesday, he praised the “strong position” and “substantial support” offered to Ukraine by Japan.

Tokyo has imposed sanctions on Moscow along with its G7 partners, and has taken the rare steps of sending defensive equipment and offering refuge to those fleeing the conflict.

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Stoltenberg said he and Kishida also shared concern over North Korea’s “provocative behaviour”, from nuclear activity to ballistic missile tests.

He said China was “not our adversary” but warned of its growing military presence in Asia “including nuclear weapons, bullying neighbours and threatening Taiwan”, as well as spreading disinformation about NATO and Ukraine.

Kishida said Japan would establish an independent representative office for its dealings with NATO as part of efforts to deepen ties.

The country will also consider regular participation in high-level meetings held by the alliance, Kishida added.

In December, Japan announced its largest shake-up to its defence and security strategy in decades.

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The new strategy includes plans to raise defence spending to two percent of GDP by fiscal 2027, bringing Japan in line with NATO member guidelines.

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White-led DA party joins ANC in South African unity government

White-led DA party joins ANC in South African unity government

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White-led DA party joins ANC in South African unity government

 The African National Congress and its largest rival, the white-led, pro-business Democratic Alliance, agreed on Friday to work together in South Africa’s new government of national unity, a step change after 30 years of ANC majority rule.

Once unthinkable, the deal between two sharply antagonistic parties is the most momentous political shift in South Africa since Nelson Mandela led the ANC to victory in the 1994 elections that marked the end of apartheid.

“Today, South Africa is a better country than it was yesterday. For the first time since 1994, we’ve embarked on a peaceful and democratic transfer of power to a new government that will be different from the previous one,” DA leader John Steenhuisen said in a televised address.

“From today, the DA will co-govern the Republic of South Africa in a spirit of unity and collaboration,” he said, adding that multi-party government was the “new normal”.

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The ANC lost its majority for the first time in an election on May 29 and has spent two weeks locked in intensive behind-the-scenes talks with other parties, which came down to the wire on Friday morning as the new parliament was convening.

The DA’s entry into national government is a big moment for a country still processing the legacy of the racist colonial and apartheid regimes. The party has struggled to shake off its image as a defender of rich white people and convince a broad spectrum of South Africans that it reflects their aspirations.

Two smaller parties, the socially conservative Inkatha Freedom Party and the right-wing Patriotic Alliance, will also take part in the unity government, they said. 

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Hamas’ armed wing says Israeli airstrike killed two hostages in Rafah

Hamas’ armed wing says Israeli airstrike killed two hostages in Rafah

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Hamas' armed wing says Israeli airstrike killed two hostages in Rafah

Hamas’ armed wing al-Qassam Brigades said on Friday that two Israeli hostages held in Gaza were killed in an Israeli airstrike on Rafah a few days ago.

The group, in a video posted on its Telegram channel, did not release the names of those said to have been killed or provide any evidence.

The Israeli government “does not want your hostages to return, except in coffins,” the al-Qassam Brigades statement said.

Israel rescued four hostages held by Hamas in a hostage-freeing operation in central Gaza’s al-Nuseirat on June 8. The health ministry in Hamas-run Gaza said more than 250 Palestinians were killed in the raid.

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The war in Gaza erupted when Hamas militants stormed southern Israel on Oct. 7, killing around 1,200 people and seizing more than 250 hostages, according to Israeli tallies. 

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US attack sub, Canada navy patrol ship arrive in Cuba on heels of Russian warships

US attack sub, Canada navy patrol ship arrive in Cuba on heels of Russian warships

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US attack sub, Canada navy patrol ship arrive in Cuba on heels of Russian warships

A Canadian navy patrol ship sailed into Havana early on Friday, just hours after the United States announced a fast-attack submarine had docked at its Guantanamo naval base on Cuba, both vessels on the heels of Russian warships that arrived on the island earlier this week.

The confluence of Russian, Canadian and U.S. vessels in Cuba – a Communist-ruled island nation just 160 km (100 miles) from Florida – served up a reminder of old Cold War tensions and of current fraught ties between Russia and Western nations over the Ukraine war.

However, both the U.S. and Cuba have said the Russian warships pose no threat to the region. Russia has also characterized the arrival of its warships in allied Cuba as routine.

The Admiral Gorshkov frigate and the nuclear-powered submarine Kazan, half submerged with its crew on deck, sailed into Havana harbor on Wednesday after conducting “high-precision missile weapons” training in the Atlantic Ocean.

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Canada`s Margaret Brooke patrol vessel began maneuvers early on Friday to enter Havana harbor, part of what the Canadian Joint Operations Command called “a port visit…in recognition of the long-standing bilateral relationship between Canada and Cuba.”

A Canadian diplomat characterized the Margaret Brooke`s arrival as “routine and part of long-standing cooperation between our two countries”, adding it was “unrelated to the presence of the Russian ships.”

Russia and Cuba were close allies under the former Soviet Union and tensions with Washington over Communism in its “backyard” peaked with the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. Moscow, which has maintained ties with Havana, has questioned the apparent nervousness of the West over the warships this week. 

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