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North Korean State Media Keeps Kim Jong-un Alive For Now

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The curious case of Kim Jong-un –  the supreme leader of North Korea, is getting even more enthralling. Kim Jong-un has reportedly expressed his appreciation to the workers of a major construction project in the town of Samjiyon, according to the official newspaper of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea — Rodong Sinmun.

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“Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un appreciated the workers, who have honestly and with all their heart made a contribution to creating the town of Samjiyon,” the article reads, giving no further details when the message was sent to the builders and on Kim’s whereabouts.

The publication reported on Sunday that Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un “sent thanks” to workers who have been in engaged in the rebuilding of what has been touted as an “ideal socialist village” by the North Korean leader.

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The city of Samjiyon, which is reported to be the birthplace of Kim Jong-un’s late father — Kim Jong-il, is assumed to undergo a comprehensive makeover, being transformed into a model city with new railway stations, power and telecommunications infrastructure and hundreds of state-of-art buildings.

It is located at the foot of Mount Paektu – the ‘sacred mountain’ – which the North Korean leader has visited in recent years. In early December, the Kim inaugurated the renovated city in an extravagant ceremony.

Earlier, as EurAsian Times reported, citing media sources a train belonging to Kim Jong-un was identified in a satellite image. In a report on Saturday, 38 North monitoring group said the train was stationed at the “leadership station” in Wonsan on April 21 and April 23.

A special train possibly belonging to Kim Jong-un is seen in a satellite photo taken over Wonsan, North Korea Photo: Handout via Reuters

The station is exclusively reserved for the use of the royal family, according to the Washington, DC-based group. “The train’s presence does not prove the whereabouts of Kim or symbolise anything about his health but it does signal that Kim could be staying at an elite area on the country’s eastern coast,” it said.

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What triggered the speculation behind Kim’s health was his non-appearance at the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun, a place he visits every year on April 15 to mark the birthday of his grandfather, the founder of the dynastic regime.

These rumours gained traction when Daily NK, a South Korea-based online publication, and CNN, relying on anonymous sources inside the country, reported that the supreme leader’s health was in ‘grave danger’ following a heart surgery on April 12.

There are also speculations that Kim Jong-un may be protecting himself from COVID-19 infection after the uncontained spread of the deadly virus in the isolated and impoverished nation.

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COVID-19: WHO experts in China to probe origins of Coronavirus

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Two World Health Organization (WHO) experts are travelling to China to talk to scientists to investigate the transmission of COVID-19 or coronavirus pandemic from animals to humans, WHO chief said on Friday.

Addressing a webinar, the WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the global health experts will also prepare a scientific plan with their Chinese counterparts to identify the zoonotic source of the COVID-19 virus.

“As we continue to tackle the pandemic, we are also looking into the origins of the virus,” he said.

Adhanom said the scientists want to learn about the progress made in understanding the animal reservoir for COVID-19 and how the disease jumped between animals and humans.

“This will help lay the groundwork for the WHO-led international mission into finding the origins,” he said.

The team comprising an epidemiologist and an animal health specialist are flying to China to try and identify the pandemic’s animal source, WHO spokesperson Margaret Harris said a UN press conference in Geneva.

Harris said the aim is also to examine from which species of animal the virus originated and then transmitted to humans.

On April 20, WHO spokesperson Fadela Chaib had said that so far, all available evidence suggests the virus has an animal origin, and it was not manipulated or manufactured in a lab, or somewhere else. She was responding to allegations that the virus spread from the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

“It most probably has its ecological reservoir in bats, but how the virus came from bats to humans is still to be discovered,” she said.

Missing intermediary host

“There was certainly an intermediary host or another animal that transmitted this virus from bats to this other animal, to humans, “she said.

Adhanom told international diplomats on Thursday that the member states at the 73rd World Health Assembly held in May had adopted a landmark resolution urging the WHO to initiate an independent and comprehensive evaluation of the lessons learned from the international health response to COVID-19.

“This is a time for self-reflection, to look at the world we live in and to find ways to strengthen our collaboration as we work together to save lives and bring this pandemic under control,” said the chief of WHO.

“The magnitude of this pandemic, which has touched virtually everyone in the world, clearly deserves a commensurate evaluation,” he said.

The WHO had waited for seven months to investigate the source of the virus and this has led to criticism of the organization and American officials accused Adhanom of being too lenient to China.

An earlier WHO mission led by a Canadian doctor Bruse Aylward that went to China in February was criticized in the US for praising China’s in its fight against COVID-19.

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Indian Rafale Jets Would Have Been Useless Against Chinese Airforce – Russia Experts

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Rafale jets would have been useless against the Chinese Airforce (PLAAF) – Russian aviation experts have claimed. Rafale fighter jets belong to the 4 ++ generation would not have been of much use had an aerial conflict broken out in Ladakh again the PLAAF.

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As reported by EurAsian Times, India and China had been engaged in a brutal conflict in the Himalayan region of Ladakh. Troops of both countries have exchanged blows and even lost soldiers in the conflict that began more than a month ago.

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Keeping in mind the situation in Ladakh, France said that it would accelerate the delivery of Rafale fighter jets to India. Aviation experts believe that the arrival of Rafale fighter jets will significantly boost the combat capability of the Indian Air Force (IAF). However, according to Russian experts, who did not wish to be named, the French fighter would not help India much incase the conflict turns hot.

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The astronomical cost of Rafale fighter jets is one of the reasons the French 4++ fighter jet would not help India. In the deal struck with Paris, New Delhi agreed to purchase 36 Rafale Jets. The total cost of the deal was an estimated Rs 59,000 crore with each jet costing around Rs 1,646 crore.

The cost of a Rafale is about three times higher than the Chinese J-20 stealth fighter jets. In other words, for 36 French-made Rafale fighters that will appear in the Indian Air Force, China can respond with three times as many of its fifth-generation J-20 fighters – for the same money.

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Even if, in some ways, the characteristics of the Chinese combat aircraft lag behind the French 4 ++ fighter jet, then the Indian air force could get overwhelmed by what is called “capable of crushing by quantity”.

And the cost is not the only reason why Rafale jets would not help India much. Compared to another Chinese jet – J-16 (an analogue of the Russian Su-35) which Beijing is also using in its airforce, the Rafale jets will find it extremely challenging to outgun the Russian Su-35s operated by the Chinese.

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The maximum speed of the Rafale jet is about Mach 1.8 and the J-16 is Mach 2.2. The Rafale’s practical ceiling is also lower than the J-16s. Even in engine thrust, the Chinese J-16s aka Russian Su-35s are far superior to the French combat aircraft.

Even if the IAF was to deploy all 36 of its newly acquired jets, the technical superiority would still be on the side of China, claims the Russian expert.

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The IAF has been on high alert in Ladakh and is closely monitoring all Chinese activity near the Line of Control.  As reported by EurAsian Times, New Delhi has inked a deal with Moscow to buy 33 new fighter aircraft including 12 Su-30MKIs and 21 MiG-29s along with up-gradation of 59 MiG-29s. The addition and up-gradation of jets have been approved to strengthen India’s air power.

Rafale vs F-16: Can The Indian Rafale Jets Overpower The Pakistani F-16s In Aeriel Showdown?

The air defence systems of both the Indian Army and the IAF have been deployed in Ladakh to prevent any misadventure by the Chinese Air Force fighter jets or the People’s Liberation Army choppers there.

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China Fighting India With ‘Sticks & Stones’ Cheaper, But Confronting The US Can Bankrupt China: Experts

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The news of relentless India-China border tensions and all other dispute that China has with its neighbours like Taiwan, Japan, ASEAN nations has got the world standing against Beijing, including the US.

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In the east, across the pacific is the raging US-China confrontation. Tensions are running high close to home in Taiwan as the Chinese are stepping up the military action around the region. Muscle flexing in the South China Sea has been ongoing for a while now and tensions are high in Hong Kong, the semi-autonomous region, over the new national security law, confronting Japan over disputed islands and the frequent border skirmishes with India – all of it while fighting the coronavirus outbreak.

According to experts, China’s superpower dreams might not become a reality especially with its ongoing conflict with a global superpower, the US.

“Fighting India with sticks and stones on the high plateau of Ladakh comes cheap, but preparing to confront the United States in the Western Pacific is a very expensive proposition indeed,” wrote Salvatore Babones, an adjunct scholar at the Centre for Independent Studies in Sydney.

“It is likely to prove a luxury that a slow-growth, post-coronavirus China will not be able to afford. China makes a great show of its wealth and its willingness to spend it. In reality, Beijing’s bank balance doesn’t match its bling,” he added.

China’s economic growth had slowed down even before the coronavirus outbreak. China reported the weakest numbers for 2019, in the last 30 years in the wake of the US-China trade war. China’s growth slowed to 6.1% last year, from 6.6% in 2018, according to the official data.

However, Brooking institution suggests that China overestimated Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth by an average of 1.7 percent per year.

“The United States famously spends more on defence than the next 10 countries combined, yet the notion persists that its military is still underfunded and underequipped for its global superpower role,” stated Babones.

He further explained that if the experts are to be believed, the United States will lose its competitive edge without more investment in university research, advanced technologies, foreign aid, diplomacy, the United Nations, clean energy, and, of course, pandemic preparedness.

“The US—with an economy roughly 50 per cent larger than China’s and a GDP per capita more than six times as great—can’t afford to remain a global superpower, how can China possibly afford to become one?” he asked.

Analyses from the Center for Strategic and International Studies suggest that Chinese defence spending may actually fall in real terms in 2020. Given China’s elevated pace of military operations on several borders, spending constraints must be putting pressure on acquisitions budgets.

“China is believed to have built only 50 or so J-20 fifth-generation stealth fighters. The J-20 program now seems to be experiencing serious development problems, limiting production for the foreseeable future. This compares to America’s stock of 195 F-22 and 134 F-35 fifth-generation fighters, with continuing annual production of more than 100 F-35s, even after coronavirus delays,” explained the author.

The author concluded by saying that China’s leaders can at least save face by abandoning their GDP targets and blaming the virus for the inevitable austerity to follow. He predicted that when the coronavirus crisis is over, the US will still be a global superpower while China’s dreams might still remain far fetched.

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