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China launches relay satellite to explore Moon’s far side

in ASIA/TECHNOLOGY by

China launched a relay satellite to set up a communication link between Earth and the planned Chang’e-4 lunar probe that will explore the Moon’s mysterious far side. The satellite was carried by a Long March-4C rocket that blasted off at 5:28 am (2128 GMT) from southwest China’s Xichang Satellite Launch Center, according to the China National Space Administration (CNSA). The satellite, named Queqiao, or Magpie Bridge, was developed by China Spacesat Co., Ltd. under the China Academy of Space Technology (CAST).  “The launch is a key step for China to realize its goal of being the first country to send a probe to soft-land on and rove the far side of the Moon,” said Zhang Lihua, manager of the relay satellite project.

About 25 minutes after lift-off, the satellite separated from the rocket and entered an Earth-Moon transfer orbit with the perigee at 200 km and the apogee at about 400,000 km. Meanwhile, the solar panels and the communication antennas were unfolded. China has outlined an ambitious blueprint for deep space exploration, including the Chang’e-5 lunar probe in 2019.  After fulfilling the three steps of its lunar probe program — orbiting, landing and returning — China will further explore the Moon, including landing and probing the polar regions, said Tian Yulong, CNSA secretary general.  China will launch its first Mars probe in 2020, and it is expected to orbit, land and put a rover on the Red Planet.

Two Koreas to hold talks as North prepares to shut test site

in ASIA/POLITICS by

The South and North will hold a high-level inter-Korea meeting on May 16 in the Peace House in Panmunjom, to discuss the implementation of ‘Panmunjom Declaration for Peace, Prosperity, and Unification of the Korean Peninsula,” several media reports quoted the Unification Ministry, as saying, in a statement. The two sides are likely to discuss measures related to the implementation of agreements reached at the intra-Korean summit in April. The meet is scheduled at the border village of Panmunjom in the Demilitarised Zone (DMZ), the world’s most heavily guarded border, separating the two countries. According to several media reports, Wednesday’s inter-Korea talks will see North Korea send a 29-member delegation led by Ri Son-gwon, chairman of the ‘Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the country’. From South Korea, Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon will lead a team of five.

This comes ahead of North Korea’s scheduled dismantlement of its nuclear test site later this month in a bid to uphold its previous pledge to discontinue nuclear tests. A ceremony for the dismantling of the facility reportedly has been scheduled between May 23-25. It is pertinent to mention that the announcement of the dismantlement of the nuclear test site came after US President Donald Trump announced that he will hold a meet with Kim Jong-un in Singapore on June 12.

Merkel defends the increase of military spending in Germany to 2% of GDP

in ECONOMY/EUROPE by

Germany will increase its military spending to 2% of the GDP. Germany will adapt in this way to what Donad Trump has asked for in NATO since he arrived at the White House, despite the fact that the Berlin government continues to describe as “errors” several of the US military decisions, such as the abandonment of the nuclear pact agreement with Iran. Merkel, who did not advance specific deadlines for these increases in defense spending, reassured with these statements certain concerns arising from the German general budgets for 2018.

After the presentation of the budgets of 2018, the Minister of Defense Ursula von der Leyen did not hide her disappointment and had requested by letter to the heads of Finance of her Government an increase of the budgetary allocation of her department. The Minister of Finance, the Social Democrat Olaf Scholz, seems to have imposed his discretion on military spending and the conservative von der Leyen has acknowledged that, in that case, Germany will have to put an end to the missions abroad that it has carried out in recent years and focus on defense inside the country.

Spain: The ‘Xunta’ sends an ultimatum to the unions of justice

in EUROPE/POLITICS by

Juan Jose Martin has announced that the Government of Galicia has given to the justice unions a period of three days to decide whether to attribute or refuse the last stipend of the autonomous Administration. Martin said that if the unions did not accept the last offer left on the negotiating table, the Galician executive would have chosen to take a unilateral decision on the conflict with the workers. In a meeting of May 15 with seven representatives of the unions, the Justice Department put on the table the same offer that had been proposed on April 26th and which had been rejected by workers’ assemblies, ie an increase in the monthly salary ranging between 122 and 140 euros, depending on the category of work. The UGT, CSIF and CCOO unions have decided to consult with their affiliates whether to accept the proposal or not.

China: Xi presides over first meeting of Foreign Affairs Commission

in ASIA/POLITICS by

Xi Jinping, general secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC), on Tuesday called for enhancing the centralized and unified leadership of the CPC Central Committee over foreign affairs and opening up new prospects of major-country diplomacy with Chinese characteristics. Xi, also Chinese president, chairman of the Central Military Commission and head of the Foreign Affairs Commission of the CPC Central Committee, made the remarks when presiding over the first meeting of the Foreign Affairs Commission.

The meeting was also attended by Premier Li Keqiang, also member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee and deputy head of the commission, and Vice President Wang Qishan, also member of the commission. Wang Huning, member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee and member of the Secretariat of the CPC Central Committee, and Vice Premier Han Zheng, also member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee, were also present at the meeting.

Prime Minister Zaev visiting Kromberg and Schuber

in ECONOMY/EUROPE by

The Prime Minister of the Republic of Macedonia, Zoran Zaev, Deputy Prime Minister for Economic Affairs and Coordination with the Economic Departments, Kocho Angjushev, accompanied by the Mayor of the Municipality of Bitola, Natasha Petrovska and the MPs Aleksandar Kiracovski and Goran Milevski, were in the a visit to the company Kromberg and Schubert working in the industrial zone Zabeni. Within the framework of the working visit of the company, the Prime Minister, government representatives and MPs were in the tour of the production plants where they had an opportunity to get acquainted with the production processes and the way of operation of the factory. After the tour, Prime Minister Zaev and Deputy Prime Minister Angjushev held a working meeting with Uwe Schilig, technical director and Tanja Miliskovic, commercial director of the company Kromberg and Schubert.

At the meeting, information on the volume and performance of the international company was presented, which has been operating for several years in the Republic of Macedonia and employs over 6,000 workers from the Bitola region. From the presentation it was concluded that this company relates 1/3 of domestic suppliers from its total purchases. Such cooperation with domestic companies was welcomed and the company’s directors were encouraged to apply for the measures from the Economic Growth Plan that refer to support for increased cooperation with domestic companies.

Iraqi pro-govt troops says on high alert ahead of parliamentary elections

in DEFENCE/MIDLE EAST by

The pro-government paramilitary troops have announced repulsing a terrorist scheme by Islamic State to target the upcoming parliamentary elections, the command announced on Wednesday. A statement by the media service of al-Hashd al-Shaabi said, “as the Iraqi parliamentary elections, slated for May 12, near, the troops became on high alert to secure the border strip fearing any violations in Anbar and border areas.” The troops, along with security troops, “managed to carry out operations on the common borders with Syria in 2017 to eliminate IS members in Qaim, Rawa and Akashat regions as well as securing their vicinities,” the statement added. “Local police and army, backed by al-Hashd al-Shaabi, were tasked with securing the regions and towns that are near to the western desert of Anbar ahead of elections,” it said.

Ayatollah Khamenei stresses muslim world’s scientific progress

in MIDLE EAST/TECHNOLOGY by

Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei urged efforts for scientific progress in the Islamic world, voicing Iran’s readiness to share its scientific achievements and expertise with other Muslim nations. The Islamic world’s elites should establish a large-scale intellectual movement and a public demand for scientific growth and reaching the peak of science and knowledge,” Ayatollah Khamenei said in a gathering of participants in the Congress on the Role of Shiite Islam in the Emergence and Promotion of Islamic Sciences, held in Tehran on Saturday. Referring to the West’s use of Muslim knowledge to compensate for centuries of scientific underdevelopment, the Leader said Westerners took advantage of the achievements of Muslims to gain wealth and scientific and military power to colonize Islamic nations.

“Such conditions need to change with the scientific progress of Islamic countries, and the Islamic world can once again be at the top of human civilization,” Ayatollah Khamenei added. The Leader also reiterated the call for Muslim unity and avoiding conflicts among Islamic denominations, stressing that any plan helping Muslims gain a better understanding of each other and allowing for synergy will contribute to Muslim solidarity. Ayatollah Khamenei then pointed to reports by international centers that the rate of Iran’s scientific growth in recent years has been 13 times faster than the world average, stressing, “We will continue on this path until reaching the boundaries of science and knowledge.” “Unlike the Westerners, Iran is ready to transfer its achievements and scientific growth to other Islamic countries,” the Leader said.

Germany supports Albania on the road to EU integration

in EUROPE/POLITICS by

“Albania can continue to support Germany’s support and support,” German State Minister for European Affairs at the German Foreign Ministry Michael Roth said in Tirana today. At a press conference after meeting with Foreign Minister Ditmir Bushati, Roth stressed that “Albania’s path towards the European Union is difficult, but it is a road that is ultimately worthwhile and in the past years Albania has marked a number of achievements important. In the foreground are the achievements that have to do with the strengthening of the rule of law democracy system and its independence, “he underlined.

“The federal government is verifying all these achievements and in co-operation with the Bundestag we will be positioned in the future for the opening of these negotiations. The arguments for opening negotiations are certainly not lacking, the prospect of EU membership for all Western Balkan countries, and especially for Albania, is in the interest not only of Albania and Albanians, but in our own interest and we must explain this our citizens, “said Roth.Speaking of vetting, Roth stressed that “the vetting process is unique in character and serves as a model for Western Balkan countries.

Rouhani calls Trump’s Iran nuclear deal withdrawal “psychological war”

in DEFENCE/MIDLE EAST by

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani said on Tuesday that Tehran has adopted necessary measures to confront new anti-Iran pressures, saying that his US counterpart is launching psychological war and economic pressure on Tehran by announcing withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear deal. “The Iranian nation will be more united and determined than ever. Trump is exerting economic pressure on Iran and launching psychological war, but we won’t let him achieve what he wants,” Rouhani said, addressing nation right after Trump’s announcement of the US decision to pull out of the nuclear deal, also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Stressing that Trumps decision was a historical experience for Iran, Rouhani noted that the US president has a history of undermining international treaties. “Tonight, it was proved that we were right for decades.

Iran is a country that remains committed to its promises, and the US is a country that has never lived up to its commitments.” He further noted that the JCPOA is not a deal between Iran and the US and the JCPOA has been a multilateral agreement approved by the UN. “The US tonight showed it is not committed to the agreements it signs, as it did on the Paris Climate and other trade agreements.” Rouhani also noted that Iran would remain in the nuclear deal without the US, saying, “From now on, the Iran nuclear deal will be a deal between Iran and five countries. The Group 5+1 has lost one of its parties.” The Iranian president then announced that he has ordered the foreign ministry to start talks with other five parties to the nuclear deal within the coming weeks. “After these talks,” Rouhani said, “If we conclude that we can achieve the results we expected from the deal, the JCPOA will remain in place regardless of the US decision.” Rouhani at the same time said that if Iran’s interests are not guaranteed, “I’ll soon address the nation and share with them the Establishment’s decision.”

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