North Korea has warned it is watching U.S. attempts to deter the regime’s nuclear program and said it will only strengthen its capabilities, as its state media attacked Niki Haley, the U.S. Envoy to the U.N., threatening Washington would pay for her “hysterical fit.”

Choe Hui Chol, North Korea’s deputy minister of Foreign Affairs, told international ambassadors that Pyongyang’s sixth nuclear test last week—its most powerful so far—had a “weighty significance” for North Korea’s project to assemble a “state nuclear force,” South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reported Saturday. Speaking to representatives from Mongolia, Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, he said North Korea was closely watching U.S. attempts to increase U.N. sanctions on the rogue state, vowing Pyongyang’s nuclear capabilities will only improve.

Choe accused the U.S. of “making irresponsible remarks” that North Korea wants war in “disregard of the international community’s will,” when the U.S. was the one seeking punitive action through more sanctions. Choe once again accused the U.S. of being a nuclear threat, and vowed not to slow down Pyongyang’s growing capabilities that seek to one day send a nuclear warhead to the U.S. mainland.

“We will not take even a step back from the road of our option but keep bolstering the nuclear deterrence for self-defense to defend our government and people from the U.S. nuclear war threat,” Choe said. “The U.S. should never forget the position of the DPRK as a full-fledged nuclear power possessed of ICBM together with A-bomb and H-bomb, and the DPRK will keep watching every move of the U.S,” he added, using the acronym of North Korea’s official name—the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

Choe’s comments came as North Korea’s state news agency published commentary on Haley’s accusation that the regime was “begging for war,” accusing her of having a “hysterical fit.”

“The U.S. administration will have to pay a dear price for her tongue-lashing,” KCNA said of Haley’s remarks, according to Bloomberg.

Over the summer, North Korea has traded threats with the U.S. administration, stoking fears that U.S. Pacific territory Guam may get caught in any potential crossfire or escalation between the two nations. North Koreans were  celebrating the country’s latest nuclear test on Pyongyang’s streets earlier this week in the run-up to the country’s 69th birthday.


PM opposes Syria ceasefire, says it will strengthen Iran

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday said he opposes the deal brokered by the United States and Russia that led to an open-ended ceasefire in southern Syria, saying it does not sufficiently address Iranian military ambitions in the area.

Placing himself at odds with US President Donald Trump on the issue, Netanyahu told journalists in Paris that the agreement perpetuates Iranian plans to set up a disruptive long-term presence on Israel’s northern border, something he has repeatedly vowed that the Jewish state won’t tolerate.

The ceasefire, announced after a meeting between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Hamburg earlier this month, was the first initiative by the Trump administration in collaboration with Russia to bring some stability to war-torn Syria.

“Israel is aware of Iran’s expansionist goals in Syria,” a statement from Netanyahu’s office said.

Netanyahu said that he had brought up the issue with French President Emmanuel Macron during his meeting with the French leader earlier in the day.

The prime minister said that while the plan aims to keep Iran 20 kilometers (12 miles) away from the Israeli border, it did not address Iran’s plans to cement its presence in Syria, which, he said, included the establishment of a naval and air force bases.

The premier’s comments Sunday were his first remarks explicitly condemning the ceasefire, after having gingerly endorsed the deal as it came into effect earlier this month.

Also on Sunday, a senior Israeli official strongly condemned the deal, calling it “very bad” and saying it did not take into account Israeli security concerns, the Haaretz daily reported.

Opposition fighters drive a tank in a rebel-held area of the southern Syrian city of Daraa, during renewed clashes with regime loyalists on May 10, 2016. (AFP Photo/Mohamad Abazeed)

Apprehensions over Iranian designs in the region were stoked by recent movements of Shiite Muslim militias — loyal to Iran and fighting alongside Syrian government forces — toward Jordan’s border with Syria, and to another strategic area in the southeast, close to where the two countries meet Iraq.

The advances are part of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s push to regain territory from rebel groups, some backed by the West, in the southern Daraa province, and from Islamic State extremists in the southeast, near the triangle with Iraq.

But Syria’s neighbors suspect that Iran is pursuing a broader agenda, including carving out a land route through Syria that would create a territorial continuum from Iran and Iraq to Lebanon.

The ceasefire for southern Syria is meant to keep all forces pinned to their current positions, said Jordan’s government which participated in the talks.

This would prevent further advances by forces under Iran’s command, including Lebanon’s Hezbollah militia.

Hezbollah parading its military equipment in Qusayr, Syria, November 2016. (Twitter)

Ceasefires have repeatedly collapsed in Syria’s six-year-old civil war, and it’s not clear if this one will last. The southern Syria truce is separate from so far unsuccessful efforts by Russia, Turkey and Iran to set up “de-escalation zones” in Syria, including in the south.

Israel is expected to watch for truce violations.

Israel has repeatedly said it will not allow Iran to set up a permanent presence in Syria. Israel has carried out a number of airstrikes in Syria against suspected shipments of “game-changing” weapons bound for Hezbollah.

A Jordanian official said the international community, regional powers and Jordan would not tolerate the creation of a “land line all the way from Tehran to Beirut.”

Such a “Shiite crescent” would disrupt the regional balance and be considered a “super red line,” he said, referring to rival Sunni and Shiite Muslim political camps led by Saudi Arabia and Iran, respectively.

Conflicts between the camps have escalated in recent years, including in proxy wars in Syria and Yemen. Predominantly Sunni Jordan is a US ally and maintains discrete security ties with Israel.

Israel is also worried about the recent movements of Iranian-backed forces.

Israeli soldiers patrol near the border with Syria after projectiles fired from the war-torn country hit the Israeli Golan Heights on June 24, 2017. (AFP Photo/Jalaa Marey)

Israel controls the Golan Heights, a strategic plateau in southwestern Syria that it captured in the 1967 Six Day War. Israel has fought cross-border wars with Hezbollah from Lebanon.

The truce deal, the first such agreement between the Trump administration and Russia, could help the US retain more of a say over who fills the power vacuum left behind as Islamic State is routed from additional territory in Syria.

Washington has been resistant to letting Iranian forces and their proxies gain strength in Syria’s south. In recent weeks, US forces have shot down a Syrian aircraft that got too close to American forces as well as Iranian-made drones.

Trump calls to ‘greatly strengthen’ US nuclear capability

PALM BEACH, Florida (AP) — President-elect Donald Trump on Thursday abruptly called for the United States to “greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability” until the rest of the world “comes to its senses” regarding nuclear weapons.

Trump made the statement on Twitter and did not expand on the actions he wants the US to take or on the issues he sees around the world. His comments came one day after meeting with incoming White House national security adviser Michael Flynn.

Trump’s transition website says he “recognizes the uniquely catastrophic threats posed by nuclear weapons and cyberattacks,” adding that he will modernize the nuclear arsenal “to ensure it continues to be an effective deterrent.” Beyond that, he has offered few specifics, either as a candidate or during the transition.

Trump’s vanquished campaign rival Hillary Clinton repeatedly cast the Republican as too erratic and unpredictable to have control of the nation’s nuclear arsenal. Ten former nuclear missile launch operators also wrote that Trump lacks the temperament, judgment and diplomatic skill to avoid nuclear war.

The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes

Trump was spending Thursday at his private estate in South Florida, where he has been meeting with advisers and interviewing potential Cabinet nominees. He is also building out his White House staff, announcing that campaign manager Kellyanne Conway will join him in the West Wing as a counselor.

Conway, a longtime Republican pollster, is widely credited with helping guide him to victory. She also is a frequent guest on television news programs.

Trump called Conway “a tireless and tenacious advocate of my agenda.”

The president-elect has spent part of the week discussing national security issues, including the deadly attack on a Christmas market in Germany. He called the violence an “attack on humanity” and appeared to suggest a willingness to move ahead with his campaign pledge to temporarily ban Muslim immigrants from coming to the United States.

Trump proposed the Muslim ban during the Republican primary campaign, drawing sharp criticism from both parties. During the general election, he shifted his rhetoric to focus on temporarily halting immigration from an unspecified list of countries with ties to terrorism, though he did not disavow the Muslim ban, which is still prominently displayed on his campaign website.

The president-elect, when asked Wednesday if the attack in Berlin would cause him to evaluate the proposed ban or a possible registry of Muslims in the United States, said, “You know my plans. All along, I’ve been proven to be right, 100 percent correct.”

“What’s happening is disgraceful,” said Trump, who deemed the violence “an attack on humanity,” and added, “it’s got to be stopped.”

A transition spokesman said later Wednesday that Trump’s plans “might upset those with their heads stuck in the politically correct sand.”

“President-elect Trump has been clear that we will suspend admission of those from countries with high terrorism rates and apply a strict vetting procedure for those seeking entry in order to protect American lives,” spokesman Jason Miller said. But transition officials did not comment on whether Trump could also push for the overarching ban on Muslims.

Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway talks to reporters at Trump Tower, November 17, 2016 in New York City. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images/AFP)

The Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for Monday’s attack in Berlin that left 12 people dead and 48 injured. On Wednesday, German officials launched a Europe-wide manhunt for a “violent and armed” Tunisian man suspected in the killings.

Conway said on ABC’s “Good Morning America” Thursday that Trump is “the guy out there saying we need extreme vetting policies, that we need to have a better system vis a vis countries that train, harbor and export terrorists.”

“He said during the campaign long after he originally proposed that that this would be more strictly tied to countries where we know they have a history of terrorism and that this is not a complete ban,” she added.

Trump, who addressed journalists Wednesday for less than two minutes outside his palatial South Florida estate, said he has not spoken to President Barack Obama since the attack.

Kenya president (Nigger Freemason) vows to help Israel strengthen Africa ties

NAIROBI, Kenya – Fourteen years after Israel was booted out, Kenya is backing Israel’s bid to regain observer status at the African Union, the country’s president announced Tuesday.

“We believe that there is need for us as a continent once again to reengage Israel on a more positive basis, with an understanding that our partnership can help make this world that much more secure,” President Uhuru Kenyatta said at a joint press conference with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at Nairobi State House.

“This is something that Kenya will continue to push, to see how Israel can regain her observer position at the African Union. I believe that this is not just good for Kenya. It is good for Africa. It is good for global peace. It is good for partnership,” said the president.

Strengthened Israel-African cooperation is important for both sides, Kenyatta went on, adding that while some countries on the continent have had tense relations with the Jewish state, current global challenges obligate African countries to reassess their position.

“We think that the world has changed,” the Kenyan president said. “Global problems that we now share are different than what they were some 30 years ago. And we need to partner with each other. We need to deal with the security threats we have together.”

Israel was kicked out of the African Union in 2002 at the behest of Libya. Recent efforts to have Israel rejoin the group failed, due to objections from South Africa and others. The AU, based in Addis Ababa and currently comprising 54 African countries, is an organization dedicated to promoting cooperation among its members.

The single biggest challenge facing not just Kenya and Africa but the entire world, said Kenyatta, is terrorism committed by “deranged people who believe in no religion.”

“It would be foolhardy for one to sit back and say that, faced with those challenges, Kenya and Africa cannot engage in Israel in this particular issue. That’s like an ostrich burying its head in the sand,” he declared.

Kenyatta went on: “The importance is not for Israel to be recognized by the African Union. (Rather), it is critical for us to be able to partner with all those who see this as a challenge and with whom we share a common position… That’s why I strongly believe it is critical for us to reevaluate our relations with the State of Israel, given the challenges we on the African continent especially are faced with today.”

Netanyahu, who is the first sitting Israeli prime minister to visit Kenya, thanked Kenyatta for advocating Israel’s return to the union, saying the president’s words were “very important.”

Regaining observer status at the African Union “has very great significance for us,” Netanyahu said. “Africa is a continent with 54 countries. The possibility of changing their position and their attitude toward Israel is a strategic change in Israel’s international standing.”

The nascent African-Israel rapprochement is already resonating on the continent, the prime minister added, “but it will have a very big resonance in the future of Israel’s international relations in our effort to make a very large number of countries support Israel.”

In their remarks, both Kenyatta and Netanyahu mentioned Kenya’s role in Israel’s Operation Entebbe 40 years ago.

“As a country, we stood with Israel both in practice and in principle,” the Kenyan leader said, recalling that “many of our people were subsequently killed in Uganda by Idi Amin as a result of the support that we gave.”

After terrorists hijacked an Air France plane to Entebbe, Uganda, in June 1976, Israeli special forces launched a spectacular rescue operation. On their way back from Entebbe, the Israeli plane landed in Kenya to refuel.

“We remember Kenya’s assistance in the rescue mission in Entebbe,” Netanyahu said, a day after he marked the rescue — at which his brother Yonatan, head of the Sayeret Matkal commando team that carried out the operation, was the only Israeli military fatality — at a ceremony at Entebbe airport. “Our pilots landed here afterwards, and in retrospect we know that was not merely an act to save innocent Israeli hostages, but it was an act that dealt a devastating blow to international terror at the time.”

Read: How Kenya played a vital, silent role in Entebbe, ‘the most audacious hostage rescue in history’

Today, though, said Netanyahu, “we are engaged in the resurfacing of a new form of terrorism that threatens all our countries. And we must join forces.”

Earlier Tuesday, Netanyahu laid a wreath at the grave of Kenya’s founder, Yoma Kenyatta, the current president’s father. After their press conference, Netanyahu and Kenyatta were scheduled to attend a forum of African and Israeli businessmen.

Nairobi is the second stop on Netanyahu’s historic four-country visit to East Africa, which started Monday in Entebbe. On Wednesday he will visit Rwanda before wrapping up his trip in Ethiopia.

Democratic senators call on Obama to strengthen security memo with Israel

(JTA) — Democratic senators in a letter called on President Barack Obama to write a new and strengthened “Memorandum of Understanding” on security assistance to Israel.

The 16 senators, led by Michael Bennet, D-Colo., Richard Blumenthal, D–Conn., and Ben Cardin, D-Md., — the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, sent the letter to the president on Monday, the day Obama met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The letter called on Obama to conclude the new memorandum as well as to “provide the necessary and appropriate measures to deter Iran,” such as ordinance and delivery systems, as well as to enhance Israel’s qualitative military edge over countries in the region.

“These measures are necessary to deter conventional and asymmetric threats to Israel.  We also support providing missile defense funding, as necessary and appropriate, to accelerate the co-development of missile defense systems, and increased bilateral cooperation on cyber, intelligence, and research and development for tunnel detection and mapping technologies,” the letter said.

The senators commended Obama’s “commitment to an unprecedented level of military, intelligence and security cooperation with Israel to address new and complex security threats.”

The current “Memorandum of Understanding” (MOU) provides $30 billion in U.S. assistance to Israel through 2018.

“As threats in the region continue to evolve, we urge you to engage at the highest levels to continue a process to develop a shared understanding of the threatening environment confronting Israel, and to take bold steps to strengthen the MOU that serves as the foundation of our bilateral security efforts,” the senators wrote. They told Obama that a new MOU with Israel would serve as a “lasting legacy of your presidency.”

The letter also was signed by Sens. Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, both D-N.Y.; Tim Kaine and Mark Warner, both D-Va.; Cory Booker, D-N.J.; Robert Casey Jr., D-Pa.; Chris Coons, D-Del.; Edward Markey, D-Mass.; Barbara Mikulski, D-Md.; Jon Tester, D-Mont.; Ron Wyden, D-Ore.; Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and Bill Nelson, D-Fla.

Nigeria, Israel strengthen non-oil ties

The Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA),  has joined forces with Israeli businessmen to improve Nigeria’s non-oil sector and diversify its mono product economy to improve trade relations between the two countries.

In this partnership, Israel, which is reputed for hi-tech production in medicine, security wares and agriculture, is expected to transfer such technology and know-how to their Nigerian counterparts including entrepreneurs, farmers, manufacture  other players in the to ensure that Africa’s largest economy experiences real economic diversification.

Speaking at the opening ceremony of a business meeting organised by NACCIMA in Lagos over the weekend, the National President of the Association, Chief Bassey Edem said the relationship between both countries has come of age and need to be improved upon.

The NACCIMA boss who was represented by his vice, Dele Oye, explained that the peculiar challenges of Nigerian business and investment environment like any other developing economies in the world have tremendously improved with numerous opportunities in agriculture, manufacturing, solid mineral, power and telecommunication.

“In this period that the Nigerian Government is working earnestly to diversify the economy, we wish to state that the State of Israel should take advantage of the several incentives that the federal government is providing for all prospective investors that have decided to make our country their next destination. There are vast opportunities in the agricultural sector which Israel can use its comparative advantage to invest into,” Edem said.

Israeli Ambassador to Nigeria, Uriel Palti, said Israel and Nigeria could collaborate in agriculture, security, water technology and other areas of the real sector.