Vice President Pence to graduates: Be prepared to be ridiculed for being Christian
Pence, who has been facing criticisms of his own religious views recently, warned graduates that they have to stay strong against the challenges they’ll get from Hollywood, the media and the secular left.“Some of the loudest voices for tolerance today have little tolerance for traditional Christian beliefs,” Pence said. “Be ready.”With his wife, Karen, sitting on stage as he spoke, Pence recounted the “harsh attacks” he said they endured when she returned this year to teaching art at a Christian elementary school where she’d worked when he’d served in Congress. Unlike her previous stint, this time Karen Pence faced scrutiny after news reports pointed out that the school bans gay students and teachers.“Throughout most of American history, it’s been pretty easy to call yourself Christian,” Pence said. “It didn’t even occur to people that you might be shunned or ridiculed for defending the teachings of the Bible. But things are different now.”Pence said the graduates will be asked not just to tolerate things that violate their faith, but to endorse them.Pence didn’t specifically mention this, but he’s been a target on the presidential campaign trail, where Democratic candidate Pete Buttigieg has gotten attentionfor questioning how Pence can square his faith with both his support for Trump and his opposition to gay marriage.And the commencement address that Pence is scheduled to deliver next week at a Christian school in his home state has divided Taylor University. An online petition started by a Taylor alum complains that the address will make the school “complicit in the Trump-Pence Administration’s policies, which we believe are not consistent with the Christian ethic of love we hold dear.”By contrast, Pence received a warm welcome Saturday at Liberty University where president Jerry Falwell Jr. is a strong supporter of Trump. Introducing Pence, Falwell called him „one of the most engaged and influential vice presidents in my lifetime,” despite facing the „unrelenting scrutiny of a hostile press.”Four Liberty University alumni work in Pence’s office. Six of Saturday’s graduates had been students in Karen Pence’s classrooms.In 2016, when release of a video showing Trump boasting crudely about grabbing women’s genitals threatened to bring down his campaign, Pence traveled to Liberty University to urge people of faith to rally for Trump.“Shortcomings are no excuse for inaction,” Pence said.After Trump took office, he chose Liberty University for his first commencement address. As Pence did this year, Trump in 2017 encouraged graduates to stay tough under criticism. And he also thanked attendees for their support.“Boy, did you come out and vote,” he said. “Boy, oh, boy, you voted, you voted.”About 81% of white evangelicals voted for the Trump/Pence ticket. That’s a greater share than supported George W. Bush in 2004, John McCain in 2008 or Mitt Romney in 2012.A recent Morning Consult survey shows why Pence’s message Saturday that Christians are under attack might resonate with his audience.The April survey asked people if they felt respected by various types of groups including late night comedians, people who work on Wall Street, national journalists, and college professors at elite universities. Less than 30% of white evangelical Protestants felt respected by any of those groups. But nearly two-thirds said that Trump respected “people like them.”“There is that feeling that Trump quite smartly identified and has made one of the central parts of his appeal,” said Daniel Cox, a research fellow in polling and public opinion at the American Enterprise Institute. “He respects conservative Christians even if he is not exactly one of them in terms of how he’s lived his life.”Graduates chat as students continue to walk in for Liberty University’s Commencement ceremony in Lynchburg, Saturday, May 11, 2019. More than 45,000 people attended the event where Vice President Mike Pence delivered the commencement speech.Pence referenced the Biblical figures of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego is warning graduates that they are going “to be asked to bow down to the idols of the popular culture.”The three men refused to worship a golden idol and were thrown into a fiery furnace. But after King Nebuchadnezzar saw them walking around in the flames unharmed, accompanied by the son of God, he had the men removed and said their God should be worshipped.“Just know this: If, like Shadrek, Meshach and Abednego you end up in the fire, there’ll be another in the fire,” Pence told the graduates, who applauded the reference.Speaking “not so much as your vice president but as a brother in Christ,” Pence encouraged the students to “stand firm” and be prepared to share the reason for their hope, doing so “with gentleness and respect.”“Because our nation and our world need that message of grace and love,” Pence said, “maybe more now than ever before.”More: Mike Pence: Why his role as Trump’s evangelical ambassador is facing new pushbackLike what you’re reading?: Download the USA TODAY app
The US aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln, on the left, sails in formation in the Mediterranean alongside British, French, Spanish and other US warships last month in an image released by the US Navy
Washington (AFP) – The United States is deploying an amphibious assault ship and a Patriot missile battery to bolster an aircraft carrier and B-52 bombers already sent to the Gulf, ratcheting up pressure Saturday on archfoe Iran.
In response to alleged threats from Iran, the USS Arlington, which transports marines, amphibious vehicles, conventional landing craft and rotary aircraft, and the Patriot air defence system will join the Abraham Lincoln carrier group, the Pentagon announced Friday.
The carrier and a B-52 bomber task force were ordered towards the Gulf, as Washington reiterated that intelligence reports suggested Iran was planning some sort of attack in the region.
CENTCOM, the US forces for the Middle East and Afghanistan, said Friday on Twitter that the B-52 bombers arrived at the area of operations on May 8, without saying where they had landed.
US President Donald Trump’s national security advisor John Bolton has said the deployment aimed to send a „clear and unmistakable” message to Iran about any attack against the US or its partners in the region.
Washington has not elaborated on the alleged threat, drawing criticism that it is overreacting and unnecessarily driving up tensions in the region.
There was no immediate reaction from Tehran on the latest US moves, but earlier in the week it shrugged off the carrier deployment.
„Bolton’s statement is a clumsy use of an out-of-date event for psychological warfare,” Iran’s Supreme National Security Council spokesman Keyvan Khosravi said.
The increasing tensions come as Tehran said Wednesday it had stopped respecting limits on its nuclear activities agreed under a 2015 deal with major powers.
Iran said it was responding to the sweeping unilateral sanctions that Washington has re-imposed since it quit the agreement one year ago, which have dealt a severe blow to the Iranian economy.
– US ‘not seeking war’ –
The Pentagon, for its part, said the deployments were „in response to indications of heightened Iranian readiness to conduct offensive operations against US forces and our interests”.
„The Department of Defence continues to closely monitor the activities of the Iranian regime, their military and proxies,” it said.
„The United States does not seek conflict with Iran, but we are postured and ready to defend US forces and interests in the region.”
Amid the rising tensions, Trump said Thursday he was open to talks with Tehran’s leadership.
„What I would like to see with Iran, I would like to see them call me,” Trump told reporters at the White House.
„We don’t want them to have nuclear weapons — not much to ask,” he said.
In the latest of a series of escalating statements, however, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo the same day threatened a „swift and decisive” US response to any attack by Iran.
„Our restraint to this point should not be mistaken by Iran for a lack of resolve,” he said, adding however: „We do not seek war.”
In May last year, Trump pulled the United States out of an agreement aimed at curtailing Iran’s nuclear ambitions and reinstated unilateral economic sanctions.
On Wednesday, President Hassan Rouhani said Iran would no longer implement parts of the deal and threatened to go further if the remaining members of the pact, including the European Union, failed to deliver sanctions relief to counterbalance Trump’s renewed assault on the Iranian economy within 60 days.
The warship, USS Arlington, is set to join the USS Abraham Lincoln group in the Gulf at a time of escalating tensions between Tehran and the Donald Trumpadministration.
The Patriot system is able to counter ballistic missiles, cruise missiles and aircrafts.
The system is currently deployed in Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.
Iran has dismissed the tensions and has described the deployment as “psychological warfare”.
The Pentagon announced the move of the defence missile system amid concerns that Tehran could be planning an attack on US forces or interests in the region.
US national security adviser John Bolton announced the warship was moving to the region due to “troubling and escalatory indications and warnings”.
The Pentagon wrote in a statement: “The Department of Defense continues to closely monitor the activities of the Iranian regime, their military and proxies. Due to operational security, we will not discuss timelines or location of forces.
“The United States does not seek conflict with Iran, but we are postured and ready to defend U.S. forces and interests in the region.”
Washington has recently tightened sanctions on Iran in a bid to reduce Tehran’s crude exports to zero.
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump is scoffing at Democrats’ attempts to pry loose his tax returns, saying his refusal to release the records as a candidate didn’t hurt him in 2016 and voters „didn’t care” about the issue.
A leading House Democrat has issued subpoenas for six years of Trump’s tax documents and given Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig a deadline of this coming Friday to deliver them.
Trump has privately made clear he has no intention of turning over the much-coveted material. He is the first president since Watergate to decline to make his returns public, often claiming that he would release them if he were not under audit.
The subpoenas came from Rep. Richard Neal, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, on Friday, days after Mnuchin refused to comply with demands to turn over Trump’s returns. Mnuchin said the committee’s request „lacks a legitimate legislative purpose,” as Supreme Court precedent requires.
Neal, D-Mass., reminded the two Trump appointees in a letter that federal law states that the IRS „shall furnish” the tax returns of any individual upon the request of the chairmen of Congress’ tax-writing committees and that his committee „has never been denied” a request.
Trump tweeted on Saturday that he won in 2016 „partially based on no Tax Returns while I am under audit (which I still am), and the voters didn’t care. Now the Radical Left Democrats want to again relitigate this matter. Make it a part of the 2020 Election!”
The White House and the Democratic-controlled House are battling over investigations into Trump, and the administration has refused to comply with subpoenas for the unredacted report by special counsel Robert Mueller and documents related to the testimony by former White House counsel Donald McGahn.
If Mnuchin and Rettig fail to heed the latest demand from Neal, he is likely to sue in federal court.
Neal, who first demanded access to Trump’s tax returns in early April, maintains that the committee is looking into the effectiveness of IRS mandatory audits of tax returns of all sitting presidents — a way to justify his claim that the committee has a potential legislative purpose. Democrats are confident in their legal justification and say Trump is stalling in an attempt to delay the issue beyond the 2020 election.
In rejecting Neal’s request, Mnuchin said he relied on the advice of the Justice Department. He concluded that the Treasury Department is „not authorized to disclose the requested returns and return information.” Mnuchin has also said that Neal’s request had the potential to make private tax returns a political matter.
Republicans say Neal is using the arcane 1924 law that empowers him to obtain any individual’s tax filing to play politics with Trump. Democrats also want to probe into Trump’s business dealings, particularly his business relationships with foreigners and to see who he owes money to.
Modesty has never been Donald Trump’s strong suit. On Friday, for instance, the president upgraded his assessment of himself the same day that he hiked tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods, a move that is likely to hurt American consumers and farmers, at least in the short run.
Economists have sought to counter Trump’s oft-repeated claim that his trade war with the Chinese benefits the U.S. economy, noting that tariffs are essentially a tax that will raise the price of consumer goods.
For the world’s “greatest” farmers, news of a prolonged trade war is not good news. China’s retaliatory tariffs on U.S. soybeans have sent farm bankruptcies soaring and soybean commodities futures plummeting.
But why argue numbers? The real story is that Trump has seen fit to give himself a promotion, after months of being content to simply call himself “your favorite President,” as a brief retrospective of his history of self-regard shows.
When Trump first made his “favorite President” boast on Twitter, he had only been in office 10 months and already his approval numbers were underwater. Perhaps this explains what might be seen as a tentative impulse of employing parentheses to remind his readers which president he meant.
Inconceivable that the government would break into a lawyer’s office (early in the morning) – almost unheard of. Even more inconceivable that a lawyer would tape a client – totally unheard of & perhaps illegal. The good news is that your favorite President did nothing wrong!
That was a reference to his former lawyer Michael Cohen, who began serving a three-year prison term this week, in part for crimes committed in service of Trump himself. The president’s tweet on July 21, 2018, came one day after an audiotape of Cohen and Trump discussing hush money payments made to former Playboy model Karen McDougal in the months before the 2016 presidential election was published by the New York Times. Trump, some readers may recall, had previously denied knowledge of such payments.
.@newtgingrich just stated that there has been no president since Abraham Lincoln who has been treated worse or more unfairly by the media than your favorite President, me! At the same time there has been no president who has accomplished more in his first two years in office!
Lincoln, who certainly had his share of detractors in the newspapers of his day, faced the secession of 11 states from the Union, won a long and brutal civil war and was assassinated while in office. Nevertheless, by the start of this year, Trump was accustomed to declaring that he had “accomplished more” than any other president in history. With relatively few legislative victories to point to — tax cuts that have swelled the deficit and modest but necessary criminal justice reform —Trump’s own summary of his accomplishments usually boils down to good economic numbers and the appointment of staunchly conservative judges.
HOLD THE DATE! We will be having one of the biggest gatherings in the history of Washington, D.C., on July 4th. It will be called “A Salute To America” and will be held at the Lincoln Memorial. Major fireworks display, entertainment and an address by your favorite President, me!
There is nothing new about the idea of an Independence Day celebration on the National Mall, but months in advance Trump was already assessing the turnout for this year’s celebration and declaring a new high-water mark. As he demonstrated on the campaign trail and in the weeks and months following his inauguration, Trump grades himself, generously, by the size of the crowds that turn out to see him. Of course, “A Salute To America” is a consolation prize, thrown together after the cancellation of Trump’s proposed Veterans Day parade last year to honor the U.S. military. Amid pushback from Pentagon officials and facing a price tag estimated at $92 million, Trump abruptly called it off in August. In promoting plan B, Trump noted that, because of the chosen day, “A Salute To America” wouldn’t incur additional costs for fireworks.
“We get free fireworks because it’s already being done,” Trump said, “so that’s very good.”
Very good? That seems uncharacteristically understated for a man who has had, to paraphrase former supporter Kanye West, one of the greatest presidencies of all time.
Ranking favorite U.S. presidents is a tricky business. Polls of ordinary Americans often give greater weight to those whose memory is still fresh. A University of Virginia Center for Politics/Ipsos poll released in February found that John F. Kennedy was rated as the most popular U.S. president. Barack Obama ranked third on that list, while Trump came in 10th place.
Polls of presidential historians routinely rank Lincoln as the greatest U.S. president, and a full assessment of a legacy takes slightly longer than it does to compose a tweet. As far as is known, Lincoln never boasted about his own greatness or compared himself to George Washington. None of this is to deny that many Americans regard Trump as their favorite president of all time.
And he isn’t about to let anyone forget it.
Shanahan wants secure border without military aid
Shanahan wants secure border without military aid
MCALLEN, Texas (AP) — Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan visited a border city in Texas on Saturday and said he intends to accelerate planning to secure the border and bolster the administration’s ability to accomplish that without the Pentagon’s continuous help.
He also offered assurances to perhaps two dozen Border Patrol agents and other officials at the McAllen Border Patrol Station that the Pentagon would not withdraw its military support prematurely.
„We’re not going to leave until the border is secure,” he said, adding, „This isn’t about identifying a problem. It’s about fixing a problem more quickly.”
Shanahan told Congress this past week that there are 4,364 military troops on the border, including active-duty and National Guard. They are erecting barriers, providing logistics and transportation service and other activities in support of Customs and Border Protection. The troops are prohibited from performing law enforcement duties. Troops have been deployed on the border since last October and are committed to being there through September.
While flying to Texas, he dismissed any suggestion that active-duty forces will extend their mission for the long haul. „It will not be indefinite,” he told reporters traveling with him.
Shanahan also said he has instructed a two-star Army general, Ricky Waddell, to develop a plan soon that will answer this question: „How do we get more badges back to the border?” — a reference to ensuring Homeland Security Department is fully capable of securing the border, its core mission.
Shortfalls in personnel and other resources have prompted DHS to periodically ask for the military’s help on the U.S.-Mexico border, without a plan for how to fix the underlying resource problems.
„What we want is for DHS to be effective and stand alone,” Shanahan said, with the Pentagon always available to help in an emergency, as it has in the past.
DHS on Friday submitted another request for Pentagon assistance, defense officials said Saturday. That request, which has not previously been disclosed, is for shelter for detained migrants, and would include tents to be set up but not secured by an undetermined number of military troops, according to the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal planning.
Shanahan announced on Friday that he was transferring $1.5 billion from numerous defense projects, including $604 million originally intended for use in support of Afghan security forces, to a Pentagon counterdrug fund that will help finance construction of barriers on the U.S.-Mexico border. That is in addition to $1 billion the Pentagon transferred for wall construction in March.
Shanahan has supported the use of active-duty troops, in addition to the National Guard, to bolster CPB efforts to handle surging numbers of Central American migrants seeking to cross the border. But recently he has hinted at impatience with the lack of a long-term strategy for ensuring border security.
In congressional testimony May 1, Shanahan said he and Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, have been considering the question of how long the military will be needed at the border and how best it can support that need.
„The question he and I are trying to answer,” Shanahan said, „is, how long will we be at the border.” He added, „We really need to get back to our primary missions and continue to generate readiness” to undertake conventional military operations.
On May 3, Shanahan told reporters that the border crisis had developed more quickly than anyone had anticipated, putting extra pressure on DHS.
„I don’t think anybody thought it would be this bad, the situation would deteriorate like it has, and that distress would be as high on those front-line (DHS) employees,” he said.
Many Democrats have questioned the use of active-duty troops on the border.
„The longer the Southwest border mission continues, the line of demarcation starts to blur in terms of where we’re drawing a line saying this is not a military responsibility, this is law enforcement, immigration, internal security responsibility,” Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said at a recent hearing.
As a prelude to the trip, the White House on Thursday announced that Trump intends to nominate Shanahan as defense secretary, ending months of speculation about Pentagon leadership. He has served in an interim capacity since Jan. 1, an unprecedented period of uncertainty at the helm of the Pentagon.
Trump elevated him from deputy secretary to replace Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, who resigned in December.
The White House has never explained why it took Trump so long to decide to nominate Shanahan, a former Boeing Co. executive. Trump himself has said he likes to keep Cabinet members in an acting status because gives him more flexibility, although it also frustrates the Senate’s efforts to exercise its constitutional role of providing advice and consent.
In March, the Defense Department’s inspector general investigated accusations that Shanahan had shown favoritism toward Boeing during his time as deputy defense secretary, while disparaging Boeing competitors. The investigation appeared to stall his nomination, but the internal watchdog wrapped up the inquiry in April and cleared Shanahan of any wrongdoing.
Four insurgents armed with rifles and grenades attacked a luxury hotel in the southwestern coastal town of Gwadar on Saturday, triggering an intense, hours-long shootout in which one hotel guard and all the attackers were killed, officials said.
In a statement, the military said troops quickly responded to the attack on the Pearl Continental hotel and that all the guests were safely evacuated. The hotel guard was killed as the assailants opened fire.
A Baluch separatist group, the Baluch Liberation Army, claimed responsibility, saying its four fighters were involved. In a statement, the group released pictures of the attackers, who authorities say were killed in the ensuing gun battle.
„All four of the terrorists have been killed,” said a senior security official.
A second security official said troops had taken control of the area after killing the assailants.
The hotel is located near the port at Gwadar, which was built by Pakistan with China’s help in recent years. Gwadar lies about 435 miles southwest of Quetta, the capital of Baluchistan province.
The region has been the scene of a low-level insurgency by separatists who demand a greater share of the province’s natural gas and mineral resources.
The latest attack came weeks after Islamabad claimed that a group of militants crossed the border from neighbouring Iran and killed 14 security officials when they were on their way to Gwadar in buses.
Pakistan at the time blamed a Baluch separatist group, Raji Aajoi Sangar, for the killings.
The Pearl Continental Hotel, located on a hillside near the port, is used by foreign guests, including Chinese project staff, but there were none in the building at the time of the attack.
A statement from the Chinese embassy in Islamabad condemned the attack and said „the heroic action of Pakistani army and law enforcement agencies is highly appreciated.”
Pakistani officials have said the security forces were on alert for attacks during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, which began in early May.
Security across most of Pakistan has improved over recent years following a major crackdown after the country’s worst attack, when some 150 people, most of them children, were killed in an attack on a school in the western city of Peshawar in 2014.
But Balochistan, Pakistan’s largest province, remains an exception and there have been several attacks this year.
The province is rife with ethnic, sectarian and separatist insurgencies, with several militant groups, including the Pakistani Taliban group Tehrik-i Taliban Pakistan (TTP), Balochistan Liberation Army and the Sunni group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi.
Saturday’s incident follows a bombing this week that targeted police outside a major Sufi shrine in Lahore, in the north of Pakistan, that killed at least 10 people and wounded more than 20, officials said.
TOKYO (AP) — The three new missiles North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has tested over the past week are eerily familiar to military experts: They look just like a controversial and widely copied missile the Russian military has deployed to Syria and has been actively trying to sell abroad for years.
Ending a pause in ballistic missile launches that began in late 2017, and alarming North Korea’s neighbors, Kim personally supervised the launch of the first missile from the country’s east coast on Saturday and two more from the west on Thursday. All splashed down in the Pacific.
The missiles were short-range and the launches do not mean Kim has decided to end his self-imposed moratorium on testing long-range missiles that could reach the United States mainland. They do indicate, however, that Kim is methodically expanding the battle readiness of his missile forces and that could have a major impact on the safety of American allies and U.S. forces in the region.
The missiles bear a strong resemblance to the Russian-designed Iskander, a short-range, nuclear-capable ballistic missile that has been in the Russian arsenal for more than a decade.
„There are Russian technology fingerprints all over it,” said Marcus Schiller, a leading expert on North Korean missiles who is based in Germany.
He added that short of actually procuring the missiles from Russia, the North could have had key parts delivered from somewhere else, perhaps not directly from Russia, while making components such as the outer shell, or airframe, domestically.
The Iskander, or something like it, would be of particular interest to North Korea.
It’s designed to fly at a flattened-out altitude of around 40 kilometers (25 miles) and to make in-flight guidance adjustments. Both capabilities exploit weaknesses in the U.S. and South Korean missile defenses that are now in place, primarily Patriot missile batteries and the THAAD anti-missile defense system.
The Iskander is also quicker to launch, and thus harder to destroy on the ground, because of its solid fuel engine and more accurate because of its advanced guidance system.
Despite claims by senior members of the Trump administration that the missiles aren’t a threat to the United States, in a battle scenario they would likely be used to attack targets well behind the front-lines, such as the U.S. military bases in South Korea. There are roughly 28,000 U.S. troops stationed in South Korea and tens of thousands more family members and civilian Department of Defense employees.
The North first displayed a mock-up of an Iskander-like missile at a military parade in 2018. This week’s launches mark its first known flight tests.
Michael Elleman, director of the Nonproliferation and Nuclear Policy Program at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, said further analysis of the missiles’ performance will provide clues as to whether it was produced by Russia.
„If its flight path and accuracy were marginal or inconsistent with known Iskander trajectories and performance, then I think some form of local development with external technical assistance is more likely,” he said. „The key here is that one cannot make a new system without undertaking certain development steps. I have seen no evidence of such activity.”
Initial reports suggested at least one of the tests did involve an Iskander-like trajectory.
The Iskander missile system has been part of the Russian arsenal since 2006. The Iskander-M version used by the Russian military is more than 7 meters (yards) long, can weigh more than 4,000 kilograms (9,000 pounds) and has a range of about 400 to 500 kilometers (250 to 310 miles).
Russia first tested the Iskander in combat in 2008, against Georgia.
The Iskander missiles have long been a source of tension in Europe and were cited by President Donald Trump as a key reason behind his decision in February to break with the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, which bans production, testing and deployment of land-based cruise and ballistic missiles with a range of 500 to 5,500 kilometers (310 to 3,410 miles).
Such missiles only take a few minutes to reach their targets, leaving no time for decision-makers and raising the likelihood of a global nuclear conflict over a false launch warning. Moscow claims the Iskander-M’s range is just below the operational limit and should not be considered a treaty violation.
From the start, Russia has seen the Iskander missile as a potential export.
To avoid running afoul of international non-proliferation restrictions, Russia produces a less-formidable version that has a reduced range and is designed to carry a smaller payload for sales abroad.
So far, it has sold that missile — called Iskander-E — to Algeria and Armenia. It has reportedly discussed exports to Iran, Libya, the United Arab Emirates, Malaysia and Saudi Arabia.
According to Siemon Wezeman, a senior researcher at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, which tracks the global arms trade, Russia has used the Iskander missile in Syria. He said Syria has expressed interest in buying its own Iskanders, but Russia has declined.
Wezeman stressed Russia cannot legally sell Iskanders of any variety to North Korea.
A United Nations embargo in place since 2006, when the North conducted its first nuclear test, prohibits supplying the North with major arms, including ground-to-ground missiles, and U.N. sanctions prohibit the transfer of ballistic missiles and related technology.
If North Korea is producing an Iskander clone, it would not be the first country to do so.
South Korea has what many believe is its own Iskander-inspired missile — the Hyunmoo-2. China also has a similar missile, called the DF-12 or M20 that was also configured with exports in mind. One of its buyers, Qatar, put them on display at a parade in 2017.
Talmadge is the AP’s Pyongyang bureau chief. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram: @EricTalmadge
The Department of Defence confirmed it was sending the Patriot surface-to-air missile system to the region in response to “indications of heightened Iranian readiness to conduct offensive operations against US forces”.
An official said the decision was made after intelligence showed Iran had loaded military equipment and missiles onto small boats controlled by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard (IRGC).
It comes amid rising tensions between the two countries after the US deployed an aircraft carrier to the Middle East this week in response to concerns Iran was planning an attack on American forces or interests in the region.
Tehran responded by announcing it would partially pull out from its commitments to the 2015 international nuclear deal and increase uranium enrichment unless a new agreement is reached in 60 days.
On Wednesday, Donald Trump ordered new sanctions on Iran targeting the country’s steel, aluminium, copper and iron sectors, and warned of „further actions unless it [Iran] fundamentally alters its conduct”.
A Defence Department official told Associated Press moving the missile system was discussed earlier in the week but it took a few days to get final approval to move the Patriot, a long-range air defence system used to counter tactical ballistic missiles, cruise missiles and advanced aircraft.
The USS Arlington, an amphibious transport ship, will also move to the Middle East earlier than expected, according to the Pentagon.
Iran and the US have each said they are not seeking conflict but both countries have adopted confrontational stances in recent weeks.
In the Pentagon statement, the Defence Department said it was “postured and ready to defend US forces and interests in the region.”
Earlier this week, Yadollah Javani, deputy head of political affairs in the IRGC, said no negotiations would be held with the US and warned “Americans will not dare take military action against us,” according to Iran’s Tasnim News Agency.
When announcing the initial move on Sunday, John Bolton, the national security adviser, cited „troubling and escalatory indications and warnings” from Iran but did not explain what they were.
On Friday, a defence official said threats could include attacks by Iranian proxies, such as Shia militias in Iraq.
US officials told Reuters intelligence indicated Iran had moved missiles onto boats along its shore and an American official suggested missiles were capable of being launched from a small ship.
However, several officials said they have not yet seen any tangible move by Iran in reaction to the US military shifts in the area. They also noted there have been no attacks.
Agencies contributed to this report
GAUHATI, India (AP) — At least 300 rare Himalayan yaks have died of starvation in the high mountains in the northeastern Indian state of Sikkim, close to the border with China, authorities said Saturday.
A team of local administrators and veterinarians visiting the heights of Muguthang and Yumthang in northern Sikkim discovered the animals’ corpses on Friday, said government official Raj Yadav. He said the semi-domesticated animals became trapped in December after their passage to the nearest village got blocked due to heavy snowfall.
Yadav said authorities tried several times to drop feed for the Yaks by helicopter but failed due to inclement weather. „The passage was cleared five days ago, after which our team trekked to the area to discover the tragedy,” he said.
The areas of Muguthang and Yumthang are favorite grazing grounds for yaks in the region.
Yadav said the government would compensate the yak owners with 30,000 Indian rupees ($430) per yak up to a maximum of three yaks per family.
„There has been human interference like construction of roads in the area,” said Usha Lachungpa, a conservationist in Sikkim. „Snow sliding down and blocking roads could be a result of such activities.”
It could take a long time for the area’s yak population to grow and reach the level before the recent catastrophe, she said.
Villagers living in the Himalayan foothills of northeastern India heavily depend on livestock, mainly yaks, goats and sheep, for their livelihoods and to feed their families.
That means war. Here’s how it goes down.
You Sunk My Carrier: How the Navy Could Sink China’s New Aircraft Carriers
That carrier-killer imagery resonates with Western audiences comes as little surprise. It implies that Chinese rocketeers can send the pride of the U.S. Navy to the bottom from a distance, and sink U.S. efforts to succor Asian allies in the process.
Ah, yes, the “carrier-killer.” China is forever touting the array of guided missiles its weaponeers have devised to pummel U.S. Navy nuclear-powered aircraft carriers (CVNs). Most prominent among them are its DF-21D and DF-26 antiship ballistic missiles (ASBMs), which the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has made a mainstay of China’s anti-access/area-denial (A2/AD) defenses.
(This first appeared several years ago. It is being republished due to reader interest.)
Beijing has made believers of important audiences, including the scribes who toil away at the Pentagon producing estimates of Chinese martial might. Indeed, the most recent annual report on Chinese military power states matter-of-factly that the PLA can now use DF-21Ds to “attack ships, including aircraft carriers,” more than nine hundred statute miles from China’s shorelines.