Despite repeated assurances by US President George W. Bush, the Russians remain needlessly worried about the expansion of NATO closer to their border, US Secretary of State Colin Powell says. \nThe alliance, in weighing new weapons and deploying four F-16 fighters in the Baltics, is mounting a defense against "other new threats that are out there," Powell said Friday while flying home from a NATO meeting in Brussels, Belgium. \n"We are not worried about the old threat of the Soviet Union," he said. \n"And, my God, if I can say that, it is time that you guys start believing it." \nPowell said he had spoken with Russian Foreign Minister Serge Lavrov about deploying the four F-16s to defend new NATO members, bringing the warplanes closer to Russian territory. \n"The Russians would have preferred they not be deployed, but there was not massive reaction" from the government, although the Russian parliament, the Duma, criticized the move, Powell said. \nHe said his advice was "just take things in stride," and Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov, who will be in Washington next week for talks, knows the Bush administration has no threatening intent. \nIn fact, Powell said, the US is reducing its troop presence in Europe and a review on deployment of nuclear weapons the administration has underway "is something we do all the time." \n"So, if they look at what we are doing they know, as an analytical manner, that this is not something that they really should be worrying about," Powell said. \nIn Moscow, meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Friday that Russia did not fear the expansion of NATO or the EU. \nBut he acknowledged that Moscow has disputes with the EU and said NATO's eastward march would not improve international security. \nAfter meeting with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, Putin said that because more than half of Russia's trade will be with the expanded EU, "We have spoken about how relations between the Russian Federation and the expanding European Union should be built." \n"None of us wants modern Europe to be divided by new, and this case virtual, Berlin walls," Putin said. \n"The question of how to find the path to this cooperation is not simple. We really did have -- and still have -- certain concerns. But dialogue is developing quite constructively at the moment." \nPutin stressed that Russia's relations with NATO "are developing positively" despite any reservations that Russia has about NATO. \nWhile he said that Russia has "no concerns about the expansion of NATO in terms of the security of the Russian Federation," he warned that "today's threats are such that the expansion of NATO will not remove them."
South Korea yesterday said that it would lift COVID-19 restrictions on social gatherings next week as the country prepares to switch to a “living with COVID-19” strategy amid rising vaccination levels. A new panel established this week is drawing up a plan for a gradual lifting of curbs, aiming to lift restrictions and reopen the economy next month on the expectation that 80 percent of the adult population will be fully vaccinated. From Monday, the South Korean government is to allow gatherings of up to four unvaccinated people and ease operating-hour restrictions imposed on venues such as restaurants, cafes and cinemas, South
Japan’s Mount Aso erupted yesterday, spewing a giant column of ash thousands of meters into the sky as hikers rushed away from the popular tourist spot. No injuries were immediately reported after the late-morning eruption in southwest Japan, which sent rocks flying in a dramatic blast captured by nearby CCTV cameras. People were warned not to approach the volcano as it ejected hot gas and ash as high as 3,500m, and sent stones tumbling down its grassy slopes. Authorities were checking if any hikers had been trapped or injured, officials told local media, as TV footage showed dozens of vehicles and tour buses
‘AVOIDABLE SITUATION’: After being tortured in his home country, a Sri Lankan and his family are at risk of deportation from the UK, despite his academic fellowship A scientist conducting groundbreaking research into renewable energy is facing deportation with his family to Sri Lanka, where he was tortured, after receiving contradictory information about his case from the British Home Office. Nadarajah Muhunthan, 47, his wife, Sharmila, 42, and their three children, aged 13, nine and five, went to the UK in 2018 after Muhunthan, who is working on thin-film photovoltaic devices used to generate solar power, was given a prestigious Commonwealth Rutherford fellowship. The award allowed him to reside to the UK for two years to research and develop the technology. His wife obtained a job caring for
A top global law firm is no longer representing the University of Hong Kong (HKU) in seeking the removal of a Tiananmen memorial from its campus after it came under heavy criticism in the US for helping China purge dissent, the Washington Post reported. Mayer Brown is the latest international company to face pressure over how its actions in China contradict its more progressive statements in the West. The 8m high Pillar of Shame sculpture by Danish artist Jens Galschiot has stood on HKU’s campus since 1997, the year the city was handed back to China. It features 50 anguished faces and tortured