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'All on me:' US admiral takes blame in carrier to N.Korea fiasco
by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) April 26, 2017

China urges end to US-S.Korea military exercises
Berlin (AFP) April 26, 2017 - China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi urged an end to US-South Korean military manoeuvres Wednesday as well as a stop to North Korea's nuclear programme to calm tensions on the peninsula.

He said Pyongyang's continuing nuclear tests were "a clear violation of UN resolutions", but stressed that persisting with military manoeuvres around the peninsula "is not in the spirit of the resolutions either".

"Security and stability are very fragile at the moment and the danger is great of a new conflict breaking out at any time," Wang said at a joint press conference with German counterpart Sigmar Gabriel.

"We can't risk even a one percent possibility of war," he said, warning that a conflict would have "unimaginable consequences".

"Therefore, we call on all sides to be prudent and refrain from any actions or words that could lead to new provocations," he said.

Tensions have spiked in recent weeks with missile launches from the nuclear-armed North and strong rhetoric from US President Donald Trump's administration.

A nuclear-powered US aircraft carrier arrived in South Korea earlier this month for joint military exercises.

Pyongyang condemns the annual joint drills, which involve tens of thousands of troops, as provocative rehearsals for invasion, while Seoul and Washington insist they are purely defensive in nature.

Wang was speaking after US troops began delivering a missile defence system to a deployment site in South Korea, a move of deterrence amid fears Pyongyang may be preparing a sixth nuclear test.

Washington has repeatedly urged Beijing to use its influence to rein in its ally North Korea. At the same time, Trump has warned he is willing to ramp up US military pressure.

But Beijing has long opposed such action against Pyongyang, fearing that the regime's collapse could leave the US military on its doorstep, and has been calling for dialogue.

Wang himself warned in mid-April that "conflict could break out at any moment" over North Korea.

Asked if Beijing has done enough to curb its neighbour, Gabriel said that the "primary responsibility lies with North Korea".

The US admiral who ordered an aircraft carrier and other warships toward the Korean Peninsula in a much-hyped deployment took responsibility Wednesday for any "confusion" after the ships sailed in the opposite direction.

Amid soaring tensions ahead of North Korea's apparent ramping up for a sixth nuclear test, the US Navy on April 8 said it was directing a naval strike group headed by the USS Carl Vinson carrier to "sail north" from the waters off Singapore, as a "prudent measure" to deter Pyongyang.

But the ships actually went the other way, sailing south from Singapore and toward Australia to conduct drills with the Australian navy -- though they subsequently did turn north.

"That's my fault on the confusion and I'll take the hit for it," Admiral Harry Harris, who heads the US military's Pacific Command, told lawmakers.

"Where I failed was to communicate that adequately to the press and the media, so that is all on me."

Noting that the ships had eventually gone on to sail toward the Korean Peninsula, Harris said they are still en route.

"Today (the strike group) sits in the Philippine Sea just east of Okinawa in striking range and power projection range of North Korea if called upon to do that, and then in a few days I expect it will continue to move north," he told the House Armed Services Committee.

The eventual arrival of the strike group in the region is a far cry from the impression President Donald Trump and other officials left when the deployment was first announced.

"We are sending an armada. Very powerful," were the words of President Donald Trump, and other officials made it sound like the ships were plowing toward the region.

"A carrier group steaming into an area like that, the forward presence of that is clearly... a huge deterrent. So, I think it serves multiple capabilities," White House spokesman Sean Spicer said April 11.

Pentagon chief Jim Mattis said the Vinson was "on her way up."

The ruling party newspaper in North Korea on Monday called the Vinson's deployment "undisguised military blackmail."

"Such threat may startle a jellyfish, but can never work on the DPRK," it said, using the country's official name.

Southeast Asian leaders to avoid direct China criticism
Manila (AFP) April 26, 2017
Southeast Asian leaders will express concern this week about an "escalation of activities" in the South China Sea but avoid directly criticising China, according to the draft of a summit statement. The statement, set to be released on Saturday at the end of a two-day leaders' meeting in Manila, reflects Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte's efforts to ease tensions with China over competing ... read more

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