India tests China Killer long-range ballistic nuke missile

The launch makes India part of an elite club with intercontinental nuclear defence capabilites [AFP]

India has test launched its first long-range intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), capable of reaching deep into Chinaand as far as Europe, with a scientist at the launch describing the mission as successful.”It has met all the mission objectives,” S P Dash, director of the test range, told the Reuters news agencyon Thursday. “It hit the target with very good accuracy.”It took the missile about 20 minutes to hit its target somewhere near Indonesia in the Indian Ocean.

The launch of the Agni V, which can carry nuclear warheads and has a range of 5,000km, thrusts the country into an elite club of nations with intercontinental nuclear capabilities.Only the UN Security Council permanent members – China, France, Russia, the USand Britain – along with Israel, have such long-range weapons.

“The successful launch of Agni V missile is a tribute to the sophistications and commitment to national causes on the part of India’s scientific technological community,” Manmohan Singh, India’s prime minister, said.

Singh said he hoped Indian scientists and technologists would in the future contribute a “lot more to promoting self reliance in defence and other walks of national life”.

‘Confidence boost’

Al Jazeera‘s Prerna Suri, reporting from New Delhi, said the launch was “significant because Indian scientists have been working for years to get the programme off the ground”.

“It is the most strategic and ambitious programme this country has undertaken in recent years,” she said.

“What’s important is that this missile has been completely indigenously produced and designed. It’s cost the Indian government over $500m to do that.”

Harsh Pant, a defence expert at King’s College, London, described the launch as a “confidence boost”, adding that the mission “signalled India’s arrival on the global stage [and] that it deserves to be sitting at the high table”.

But Richard Bitzinger, a military specialist at Nanyang Technological University in Hong Kong, told Al Jazeera that India would need to carry out “several more tests” before it could declare Agni V missile operational.

“It’s not gonna happen overnight,” he said.

The launch came as India nears completion of a nuclear submarine that will increase its ability to launch a counter strike if it were attacked. Delhi insists its nuclear weapons programme is for deterrence only.

One of the fast emerging economies known as the BRICS – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – India is keen to play a larger role on the global stage and has been clamouring for a permanent seat on the Security Council.

It has in recent years emerged as the world’s top arms importer as it rushes to upgrade equipment for a large but outdated military.

China’s reaction

There was no immediate criticism from world powers over the launch, which was flagged well in advance, but China noted the launch with disapproval.

“The West chooses to overlook India’s disregard of nuclear and missile control treaties,” China’s Global Times newspaper said in an editorial published before the launch, which was delayed by a day because of bad weather.

“India should not overestimate its strength,” said the paper, which is owned by the Chinese Communist Party‘s main mouthpiece the People’s Daily.

State-owned China Central Television said the missile “does not pose a threat in reality”, enumerating some of its shortcomings, from a problem with guidance systems to its 50-ton-plus weight.

CCTV said the missile would have to be fired from fixed, not mobile positions, making it more vulnerable to attack.

Delhi has not signed the non-proliferation treaty for nuclear nations, but enjoys a de facto legitimacy for its arsenal, boosted by a landmark 2008 deal with the US.

On Wednesday, NATO said it did not consider India a threat while the US state department urged restraint and said India’s non-proliferation record was “solid”.

India lost a brief Himalayan border war with its larger neighbour, China, in 1962 and has since strived to improve its defences. In recent years, the government has fretted over China’s enhanced military presence near the border.

Experts said the launch could trigger a renewed push from within India’s defence establishment to build a fully fledged  ICBM programme capable of reaching the Americas.

“Policy-wise it becomes more complicated from now on, until Agni V, India really has been able to make a case about its strategic objectives, but as it moves into the ICBM frontier there’ll be more questions asked,” said Pant.

Source:Al Jazeera and agencies
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Thailand-China upgrades ties while Philippines spat with China worsens

China, Thailand upgrade bilateral ties, vow closer trade links

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao (R) shakes hands with Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra in Beijing, capital of China, April 17, 2012. (Xinhua/Zhang Duo)

BEIJING, April 17 (Xinhua) — Premier Wen Jiabao and his Thai counterpart Yingluck Shinawatra agreed on Tuesday to upgrade bilateral relations to a “comprehensive strategic cooperative partnership.”

“Establishing the China-Thailand strategic cooperative partnership is of great significance for both countries and the peaceful development of East Asia,” Wen told Yingluck during their meeting at the Great Hall of the People.

“China hopes to enhance strategic communication with Thailand, jointly face challenges and boost cooperation in diversified areas,” Wen added.

Yingluck, who is visiting China for the first time as Thailand’s prime minister, said the creation of the partnership meets the common interests of both countries.

She vowed to facilitate stronger cooperation with China in all areas, adding that her country will play a positive role in boosting ASEAN-China cooperation and maintaining peace and stability on the South China Sea.

The Chinese premier proposed expanding bilateral trade to 100 billion US dollars annually before 2015 and enhancing cooperation in ocean, telecommunication, technology, energy and agriculture.

Wen pledged continuous support for Thailand in its post-disaster reconstruction and water conservancy following last year’s devastating flood, the worst flood to hit Thailand in nearly 50 years.

The two premiers also agreed to boost joint patrols of China, Laos, Myanmar and Thailand along the Mekong River and jointly safeguard peace and stability on the South China Sea.

Yingluck said Thailand will conclude judicial proceedings regarding the murder of Chinese crewmen on the Mekong river as soon as possible and punish the criminals involved in accordance with the law.

Two Chinese cargo ships were attacked on Oct. 5 last year, with the attackers killing 13 sailors.

After their talk, the two premiers witnessed the sealing of seven bilateral cooperation agreements on issues ranging from trade, agriculture and railways to flood and drought prevention and ocean research.

Yingluck arrived in Beijing earlier Tuesday for a three-day official visit. The first female prime minister of Thailand was accompanied by executives from about 100 Thai companies.

According to Chinese Customs statistics, China is both the largest export market and second-largest import source for Thailand. The two countries’ trade volume hit 64.7 billion U.S. dollars in 2011.

  Philippines spat with China worsens in violating maritime law

 Associated Press

BEIJING –  China said Wednesday that the Philippines is violating maritime law by claiming a shoal in the South China Sea and dismissed Manila’s request to take the dispute to an international court.

“We believe it runs counter to historical facts and violates the law,” said Liu Weimin, a spokesman for the Foreign Ministry.

Philippine navy and Chinese maritime patrol vessels engaged in a standoff last week over a fishing incident near the Scarborough shoal in the South China Sea, an area both sides claim as sovereign territory.

Liu said China had “lodged solemn representations” with the Philippines and that Fu Ying, a vice foreign minister, had called in the Philippine envoy on Wednesday over the issue.

The Philippines plans to seek resolution in an international court, arguing that the shoal is well within the country’s 370-kilometer (230-mile) exclusive economic zone that is recognized under the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea.

Liu said the Philippines is violating international law by using the U.N. convention to call into question sovereignty over the territory, known as Huangyan island in Chinese.

“China has sufficient legal evidence for its jurisdiction over the Huangyan island. China was the earliest to discover (12th century) and name the island, and has included it on maps and exercised its sovereignty over it ever since,” Liu said.

Liu said that the Philippines never objected to China’s territorial control of the shoal before 1997 and that its claim now is “completely baseless.”

A Philippine government statement on Wednesday contradicted Liu’s remarks, saying it has effectively occupied and exercised jurisdiction over the shoal — which it calls Bajo de Masinloc, or Panatag shoal — for decades.

A map published in 1734 showed the shoal was part of the northwestern Philippine province of Zambales, the government said, adding that a Philippine flag and lighthouse were erected on Scarborough islets in 1965.

U.S. and Philippine warships engaged in defense exercises at the shoal when American forces maintained a naval base in Zambales, the government said. The shoal “is an integral part of the Philippine territory” and Chinese vessels in the area are committing “serious violation of the Philippines’ sovereignty and maritime jurisdiction,” it said.

The shoal is among numerous islands, reefs and coral outcrops in the South China Sea claimed by China, the Philippines and other nations for their potential oil and gas deposits, rich fishing grounds and proximity to busy commercial sea lanes.

The controversy flared on April 10 when two Chinese ships prevented a Philippine warship from arresting several Chinese fishermen who were accused of illegal entry and poaching. The fishermen slipped away from the shoal over the weekend, angering Philippine officials.

Manila lodged a protest with China on Monday, accusing one of the Chinese ships and an aircraft of harassing a Philippine-registered yacht that was conducting archaeological research in the shoal.

Liu said tensions started to ease after bilateral talks.

“We hope that the Philippines can stay with their commitment and pull back their ships as soon as possible, and resume peace and stability in waters near the Huangyan island,” Liu said.

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