China urged to cease support
An alliance of China-backed ethnic rebels on Thursday called for Beijing’s help to diffuse a post-coup crisis that is ravaging the country. China is a major ally and arms supplier of the internationally isolated junta and has refused to denounce the 2021 putsch, which ousted a Aung San Suu Kyi-led elected administration. However, Beijing also backs and arms several ethnic rebel groups along its border with the country, some of which have clashed repeatedly with the military in the aftermath of the coup. The Federal Political Negotiation and Consultative Committee groups seven ethnic outfits, which together can call on tens of thousands of well-armed and well-trained fighters, analysts say. “We welcome and support China’s involvement to end domestic conflicts happening in Myanmar,” the alliance said following a meeting in an autonomous enclave run by the United Wa State Party.
Uranium gone missing: UN
About 2.5 tonnes of natural uranium stored in a site in the war-torn country have gone missing, the UN nuclear watchdog said on Thursday, raising safety and proliferation concerns. However, forces allied to a warlord battling the central government later in the day said that his fighters recovered the material. UN inspectors said they were trying to confirm that. Natural uranium cannot immediately be used for energy production or bomb fuel, as the enrichment process typically requires the metal to be converted into a gas and spun in centrifuges to reach the levels needed. However, each tonne of natural uranium — if obtained by a group with the technological means and resources — can be refined to 5.6kg of weapons-grade material, experts say.
Macron forces pension reform
President Emmanuel Macron’s administration on Thursday rammed a controversial pension reform bill through parliament without a vote, risking more turbulence and street protests after a day of high political drama. The move to use a special constitutional power enabling the government to pass legislation without a vote amounted to an admission that the government lacked a majority to raise the retirement age from 62 to 64. The Senate had adopted the bill earlier in the day, but reluctance by right-wing opposition lawmakers in the National Assembly to side with Macron meant his administration faced defeat in the lower house. “We can’t take the risk of seeing 175 hours of parliamentary debate come to nothing,” Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne told lawmakers as she announced the move amid jeers and boos from the opposition.
Surfer sets endurance record
Former pro surfer Blake Johnston yesterday shredded the world record for the longest surfing session, saying he felt “pretty cooked” after catching waves for more than 30 exhausting hours. The 40-year-old broke down in tears after beating South African Josh Enslin’s previous record of 30 hours 11 minutes. In front of hundreds of cheering supporters at Sydney’s Cronulla Beach, Johnston braved swarms of jellyfish and pitch-black seas that are home to many species of shark. Johnston briefly thanked the crowd lining the beach during one of the short food and water breaks he was allowed to take, before paddling back out to try to push the record to 40 hours. “I’ve still got a job to do. I said 40 so I’ll go and give it a crack,” he told reporters. “I’m pretty cooked, yeah, but we’ll push through.”
The US and the Philippines plan to announce new sites as soon as possible for an expanded Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), which gives the Western power access to military bases in the Southeast Asian country. Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr last month granted the US access to four military bases, on top of five existing locations under the 2014 EDCA, amid China’s increasing assertiveness regarding the South China Sea and Taiwan. Speaking at the Basa Air Base in Manila, one of the existing EDCA sites, US Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall said the defense agreements between the two countries
‘DUAL PURPOSE’: Upgrading the port is essential for the Solomon Islands’ economy and might not be military focused, but ‘it is not about bases, it is about access,’ an analyst said The Solomon Islands has awarded a multimillion-dollar contract to a Chinese state company to upgrade an international port in Honiara in a project funded by the Asian Development Bank, a Solomon Islands official said yesterday. China Civil Engineering Construction Co (CCECC) was the only company to submit a bid in the competitive tender, Solomon Islands Ministry of Infrastructure Development official Mike Qaqara said. “This will be upgrading the old international port in Honiara and two domestic wharves in the provinces,” Qaqara said. Responding to concerns that the port could be deepened for Chinese naval access, he said there would be “no expansion.” The Solomon
CONFLICTING ACCOUNTS: The US destroyer’s routine operations in the South China Sea would have ‘serious consequences,’ the defense ministry said China yesterday threatened “serious consequences” after the US Navy sailed a destroyer around the disputed Paracel Islands (Xisha Islands, 西沙群島) in the South China Sea for the second day in a row, in a move Beijing claimed was a breach of its sovereignty and security. The warning came amid growing tensions between China and the US in the region, as Washington pushes back at Beijing’s growingly assertive posture in the South China Sea, a strategic waterway it claims virtually in its entirety. On Thursday, after the US sailed the USS Milius guided-missile destroyer near the Paracel Islands, China said its navy and
Seven stories above a shop floor hawking cheap perfume and nylon underwear, Thailand’s “shopping mall gorilla” sits alone in a cage — her home for 30 years despite a reignited row over her captivity. Activists around the world have long campaigned for the primate to be moved from Pata Zoo, on top of a Bangkok mall, with singer Cher and actor Gillian Anderson adding their voices in 2020. However, the family who owns Bua Noi — whose name translates as “little lotus” — have resisted public and government pressure to relinquish the critically endangered animal. The gorilla has lived at Pata for more