Islamabad, Dec 27 (Xinhua/UNB) - The Pakistani government on Wednesday announced to launch a wide-ranging comprehensive operation to counter-terrorism and target killing across the country in March next year.
Minister of State for Interior Shehryar Khan Afridi told media that the government has decided to launch the National Action Plan, a comprehensive action plan to crack down on terrorism and to supplement the ongoing anti-terrorist offensive.
The announcement came after the targeted killing of former parliamentarian and senior politician Syed Ali Raza Abidi who was shot dead by unknown assailants outside his house in Karachi.
The attack at Abidi is the fourth terrorist attack in Karachi during last one month, which has raised serious concerns over the country's achievements against the terrorism.
The minister said the political and military leadership and key security agencies would sit together to take decisions to bring betterment to the country's national security plan.
The minister said the government will also revive the National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA), the country's national organization established to gather intelligence and disseminate and coordinate between all relevant stakeholders to counter terrorism and extremism.
"We shall try hard to eliminate this plague from the country through joint efforts of all stakeholders including provinces and the central government, and those who want to destabilize the country will be identified soon," said the minister.
Seoul, Dec 26 (AP/UNB) — North and South Korea broke ground Wednesday on an ambitious project to modernize North Korean railways and roads and connect them with the South, but without progress in nuclear negotiations, regular trains won't be crossing the border anytime soon.
The ceremony at the North Korean border town of Kaesong came weeks after the Koreas conducted a joint survey on the northern railway sections they hope to someday link with the South. It's one of several peace gestures agreed between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and liberal South Korean President Moon Jae-in as they push ahead with engagement amid a stalemate in larger nuclear negotiations between Washington and Pyongyang.
But beyond on-site reviews and ceremonies, the Koreas cannot move much further along without the removal of U.S.-led sanctions against the North.
A South Korean train carrying about 100 people — including government officials, lawmakers and aging relatives separated by the 1950-53 Korean War — rolled into the North Korean border town of Kaesong, where they were greeted by North Koreans including Ri Son Gwon, who heads an agency dealing with inter-Korean affairs.
North and South Korean officials signed a wooden railroad tie, unveiled a new signboard and observed a ceremonial connecting of northern and southern tracks at Kaesong's Panmun Station, according to South Korea's Unification Ministry.
Officials from China and Russia were also invited to witness the symbolic start of an ambitious project Seoul hopes will one day link South Korea with the Trans-China and Trans-Siberian railways. Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana, executive secretary of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, also attended, according to the South Korean ministry.
The Seoul government plans to conduct further surveys on North Korean railways and roads before drawing up a detailed blueprint for the project. Actual construction will proceed depending on the progress in the North's denuclearization and the state of sanctions against the country, the ministry said.
"We plan to hold detailed negotiations with the North to coordinate on the specific levels we want to achieve in the modernization of railways and roads and how to carry out the project," said Eugene Lee, the ministry's spokeswoman.
Even if the North takes concrete steps toward denuclearization and gains sanctions relief, some experts say updating North Korean rail network could take decades and massive investment.
Seoul said it received an exemption to sanctions from the U.N. Security Council to proceed with Wednesday's ceremony as it involved South Korean transport vehicles and goods. The Koreas' joint survey of North Korean railways in November, which also required U.N. approval, marked the first time a South Korean train traveled on North Korean tracks.
The Koreas in December 2007 began freight services between South Korea's Munsan Station in Paju and the North's Panmun Station to support operations at a now-shuttered joint factory park in Kaesong. The South used the trains to move construction materials north, while clothing and shoes made at the factory park were sent south. The line was cut in November 2008 due to tensions over North Korea's nuclear ambitions.
The Kaesong factory park was shut down under the South's previous conservative government in February 2016 following a North Korean nuclear test and long-range rocket launch.
Shanghai, Dec 26 (Xinhua/UNB) -- China's first domestically-made regional jetliner, the ARJ21-700, completed its first manned overwater demonstration flight in southern China's island province of Hainan on Tuesday.
An ARJ21-700 aircraft took off from Haikou Meilan International Airport and landed in the airport after a two-and-half-hour flight, showcasing its operational capacity in the tropical marine climate, according to the Shanghai-based Commercial Aircraft Corp. of China (COMAC), its producer.
The demonstration flight has further expanded the aircraft's operation area in China. So far, it has completed flights between dozens of domestic airports, demonstrating its adaptability to extreme conditions, such as high temperatures, high humidity, and high altitude.
The ARJ21-700 is a jet with 78 to 90 seats and a flight range of up to 3,700 km. It acquired its aircraft type certificate in December 2014 and completed its maiden flight in June 2016. Mass production started in September 2017.
So far, the aircraft has been operated by three Chinese airlines, Chengdu Airlines, Genghis Khan Airlines, and Urumqi Air.
China has in recent years stepped up efforts to build its commercial aircraft industry. Besides the ARJ21-700, COMAC has also unveiled the larger C919 jet, a narrow-body jumbo jet designed to rival the Airbus A320 and the Boeing 737.
Islamabad, Dec 26 (AP/UNB) — Pakistani journalists, who have taken on military dictators and been beaten and jailed in the pursuit of a free press, say they now face a form of censorship that is more subtle but no less chilling, one spearheaded by the security services.
Journalists and press freedom advocates say the military and the powerful Inter-Services Intelligence agency, or ISI, are pressuring media outlets to quash critical coverage. The newly elected government is meanwhile slashing its advertising budget, squeezing a key source of revenue for private newspapers and TV stations.
Websites have been shut down, and authorities are also targeting social media, asking Twitter to suspend accounts and Facebook to take down pages.
The government denies cracking down on press freedoms, saying it only acts to prevent incitement to violence.
Tokyo, Dec 26 (Xinhua/UNB) -- Japan will withdraw from the International Whaling Commission (IWC) in order to resume commercial whaling in July 2019, the Japanese government said Wednesday.
Under IWC rules, Japan's withdrawal will become effective on June 30, enabling the country to restart commercial whaling in nearby waters and within its exclusive economic zone starting in July, a move prone to international condemnation.
Japan will not hunt whales commercially in the Antarctic Ocean although the country has implemented so-called "scientific whaling" for research purposes as it claims.
The announcement of withdrawal came after months of threatening to leave the international organization.
Established in 1948, the IWC is an international body aimed at protecting whales and upholding the "orderly development of the whaling industry." Japan joined the IWC in 1951.