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N.Korea tests railway-borne missile in latest launch amid rising tension with U.S

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North Korea tested a railway-borne missile in its firing drills on Friday, state media KCNA said on Saturday, amid a U.S. push for fresh sanctions against the isolated state following its recent series of weapons tests.

South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said two short-range ballistic missiles (SRBMs) travelled about 430 km (267 miles) to a maximum altitude of 36 km (22 miles) after being launched eastward on the northwest coast of North Korea.

The official KCNA news agency did not specify the missiles’ range, or trajectory, but said a firing drill was held in North Pyongan Province to “check and judge the proficiency in the action procedures of the railway-borne regiment.”

The country tested the rail-based system for the first time last September, saying it was designed as a potential counter-strike to any threatening forces.

Since New Year’s Day, North Korea has launched three ballistic missiles in an unusually fast sequence of weapons tests. The previous two launches involved what state media called “hypersonic missiles” capable of high speeds and manoeuvring after launch.

Hours before the latest test drill, North Korea slammed the United States for pursuing new sanctions in response to its recent missile launches, calling it a “provocation” and warning of a strong reaction.

U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration imposed its first sanctions against Pyongyang on Wednesday, and called on the U.N. Security Council to blacklist several North Korean individuals and entities.

North Korea has defended the missile tests as its sovereign right to self-defence and accused the United States of intentionally escalating the situation with new sanctions.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un did not attend the drill. KCNA said the military leadership had ordered the test “at short notice” and the system precisely struck the target set in the east coast with “two tactical guided missiles.”

The system “demonstrated high manoeuvrability and rate of hits,” KCNA said, adding its success led to discussions to “set up proper railway-borne missile operating system across the country.”

North Korea has been steadily developing its weapons systems, raising the stakes for stalled talks aimed at dismantling its nuclear and ballistic missile arsenals in return for U.S. sanctions relief.

South Korean Chung Eui-yong and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken condemned the latest launch during their phone call on Saturday and coordinated responses to the North’s recent missile tests, the State Department said.

Both sides highlighted the importance of maintaining firm combined readiness posture and urged Pyongyang to return to a negotiating table, Seoul’s foreign ministry said.

‘AT SHORT NOTICE’

Cheong Seong-chang, director for North Korean studies at South Korea’s Sejong Institute, said the test could be an “instant display of force” to protest against the U.S. sanctions push, noting that it was not planned in advance and unusually took place in the afternoon.

“It’s a message that they would take an ‘eye to eye’ approach if Washington presses for sanctions for testing non-long-range missiles,” Cheong said.

KCNA released photographs showing a missile trailing a column of smoke and flame as it was launched from the top of an olive-green train in a mountainous area, before arrowing down on a small island, sending up a cloud of smoke and debris as it hit.

Despite North Korea’s limited and sometimes unreliable rail network, rail mobile missiles are a relatively cheap and efficient option to improve the survivability of their nuclear forces, making it difficult for enemies to detect and destroy them before being fired, analysts said.

Kim Dong-yup, a former South Korea Navy officer who teaches at Seoul’s Kyungnam University, said North Korea appears to have fired KN-23 SRBMs, which were also test fired in September, when they flew 800 km (497 miles).

First tested in May 2019, the KN-23 resembles Russia’s Iskander-M SRBM visually, and is designed to evade missile defences and conduct a precision strikes, experts said.

 

(Reporting by Hyonhee Shin and Josh Smith; Editing by Leslie Adler, Sandra Maler & Simon Cameron-Moore)

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Ellen DeGeneres makes her final entrance onto the Ellen Degeneres Show

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Los Angeles, United States of America (USA)- Ellen DeGeneres yesterday made her final appearance on the Ellen Degeneres Show after 19 seasons.

The Ellen DeGeneres Show began back in September 2003 and has been host to various issues and people.

“Mary and Andy you have been with me since day one, and I am so grateful, I am so lucky that I have two executive producers that not only knew how to make a great show but make a great show for me because you understood me, you got me, you knew who was.

You have been with me for 25 years. We have been through everything together, 25 years, thick and thin. We have laughed, we have cried, you have been my constant source of support and love and I thank you. You are brilliant, you are talented, you are super smart, I admire you, I respect you, and I love you.

To all of you who have watched this show and supported me thank you so much for this platform and I hope that what I have been able to do over the last 19 years has made you happy and that I was able to take a little bit of pain away from a bad day or anything you are going through and I hope I have been able to inspire you to make other people happy and to do good in the world to feel like you have a purpose.

I have said it before and I will say it again if I have done anything in the past 19 years, I hope I have inspired you to be your true, authentic self and if someone is brave enough to tell you who they are, be brave enough to support them, even if you don’t understand. They are showing you who they are and that is the biggest gift anybody can ever give you, and by opening your heart and your mind, you are gonna be that much more compassionate and compassion is what makes the world a better place.

Thank you so much for being on this journey with me. I feel the love and I send it back to you. Bye,” said Ellen.

In May 2021, Ellen announced that the 19th season of her show would be her last. However, the show will continue to air new episodes with guest hosts and re-runs throughout the course of this year.

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US maintains it does not support Taiwan independence, China hints at chopping hands

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Washington DC, United States of America (USA)- Secretary of State, Anthony Blinken, has reiterated that the country’s policy on Taiwan remains resolute.

Under the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act, the US recognizes but does not endorse, China’s sovereignty over Taiwan. While the act codifies the US’ one-China Policy, it also authorizes informal diplomatic relations with the government of Taiwan and allows Washington to provide Taipei with enough military support to enable Taiwan to maintain sufficient self-defence capabilities.

“In Taiwan, our approach has been consistent across decades and administrations. As the President has said, our policy has not changed. We do not support Taiwan’s independence, and we expect cross-strait differences to be resolved by peaceful means,” said Blinken.

However, Senior Colonel Wu Qian, spokesperson for the Chinese Ministry of National Defense, has said some people in the US will have their hands chopped if they play the salami-slicing tactic in dealing with the Taiwan question.

“We want to make it clear to some people in the US that their hands will also be chopped off when they play the salami-slicing tactic in dealing with the Taiwan question. The People’s Liberation Army is ready to take all necessary measures to crush any form of Taiwan independence moves and to safeguard our national sovereignty and territorial integrity.

The US has been continuously marginalizing and diminishing the one-China principle. It wants to use the salami-slicing tactic to play the Taiwan card to contain China and that is a complete illusion.

We request that the US stops disguising its own rules as international norms and promoting the US-style, hegemony-based order. It must accept China’s peaceful development with a rational, objective perspective, which is in the interest of Sino-US relations and the world’s peace and stability,” said the Senior Colonel.

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BBC to layoff 1 000 staff workers

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London, Britain- The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) has revealed plans to layoff 1 000 of its staff within the coming few years.

According to the corporation, BBC World News and BBC News channels will merge to create a single 24-hour TV news channel serving both Britain and international audiences as part of the corporation’s wider plans.

Regional TV news programmes in Oxford and Cambridge are also among the services being scrapped merging with the BBC’s Southampton and Norwich operations.

BBC Four and Children’s BBC will no longer be aired as traditional broadcast channels after the next few years and will end as linear TV channels and are expected to move online to the iPlayer, while Radio 4 Extra could become available on the BBC Sounds service only.

According to Tim Davie, BBC’s Director-General, the layoffs will save at least £200 million (US$252 million) annually.

“When I took this job, I said that we needed to fight for something important, public service content and services freely available universally for the good of all. This fight is intensifying, the stakes are high.

Driven by the desire to make life and society better for our licence fee payers and customers in every corner of the UK (United Kingdom) and beyond. They want us to keep the BBC relevant and fight for something that in 2022 is more important than ever. To do that, we need to evolve faster and embrace the huge shifts in the market around us.

This is our moment to build a digital-first BBC. Something genuinely new, a Reithian organization for the digital age, a positive force for the UK and the world. Independent, impartial, constantly innovating and serving all. A fresh, new, global digital media organization which has never been seen before,” said Davie.

The move comes off the back of remarks made by Nadine Dorries, the Culture Secretary, in January, that the licence fee will be frozen at £159 (US$201) per annum for the next two years.

 

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