TIME North Korea

North Korea Threatens ‘New Form’ of Nuclear Test

N. Korea launches mid-range ballistic missiles
Rodong medium-range ballistic missiles in a military parade at Kim Il Sung Square in Pyongyang in July 2013 Kyodo/AP

The communist nation warned on Sunday it would test an unspecified new kind of nuclear weapon despite global censure. Its new threat follows test-firings of two Rodong midrange ballistic missiles, which landed in the sea between North Korea and Japan on Wednesday

North Korea promised on Sunday to carry out a “new form” of nuclear test after a recent round of ballistic testing, heightening tensions on the divided Korean Peninsula.

The North’s Foreign Ministry didn’t specify what it meant by a “new form” of nuclear testing. However, Western allies have long believed the isolated state is trying to make small nuclear weapons that can be carried by intercontinental ballistic missiles, the New York Times reports.

Pyongyang’s new threat follows test-firings of two Rodong midrange ballistic missiles, which landed in the sea between North Korea and Japan on Wednesday.

North Korea prompted tightened sanctions and global condemnation when it carried out its third nuclear test a year ago.

“North Korea should bear in mind that if it ignores the stern demand from the neighboring countries and the international community and carries out a nuclear test, it will have to pay a price for it,” South Korea Foreign Ministry spokesman Cho Tae-young said.

North Korea has struck a defiant tone despite overtures from South Korea that include generous foreign investment if the North ends its nuclear program. Pyongyang’s warnings also come as North Korean and Japanese officials are meeting for their first high-level talks in more than a year.

[NYT]

TIME Aviation

Black-Box Detector Joining Malaysia Jet Search

Mark Matthews Peter Leavy Ray Griggs
From right, U.S. Navy Captain Mark Matthews, Royal Australian Navy Commodore Peter Leavy and chief of the navy Vice Admiral Ray Griggs speak at a press conference at naval base HMAS Stirling about the search for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 in Perth, Australia, on March 30, 2014 Rob Griffith—AP

Australia's Maritime Safety Authority announced it was dispatching a black-box detector after a fruitless weekend of false leads

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) announced on Sunday it’s dispatching a warship with an airplane-black-box detector to aid in the search for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. That ship sets sail after objects fished out of the Indian Ocean on Saturday were determined to be unrelated to the missing aircraft.

Australian black-box-detector ship Ocean Shield will take up to four days to reach the Flight 370 search zone. That zone is now 1,150 miles (1,850 km) to the west of Australia, reports the Associated Press.

The Boeing 777’s black box, if located, could provide investigators with valuable insight into what caused the aircraft to veer far off course before vanishing en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 people on board three weeks ago.

Meanwhile, objects retrieved from the Indian Ocean and initially suspected to be from the missing flight were determined to be “fishing equipment and other flotsam” unrelated to the flight, AMSA said.

Nine aircraft and eight ships combed the search area on Sunday looking for debris or other clues. They were joined by a merchant ship keeping an eye out as it sailed through the area, marking the greatest number of vessels involved in the MH 370 search to date.

TIME

E.U. to Send Troops to Central African Republic

CENTRAFRICA-UNREST
The commander of the French Sangaris operation in Central Africa Francisco Soriano (C) speaks with two soldier in the PK4 district of Bangui on February 27, 2014. The EU has announced that its proposed contingent of troops will soon join African Union and French troops currently deployed in the country. Sia Kambou—AFP/Getty Images

The proposed deployment was authorized months ago but delayed as the bloc struggled to secure the troops and equipment it had pledged for the mission to the conflict-ravaged country. Up to 1,000 troops are expected to take part

The European Union announced on Saturday that its proposed contingent of troops for the conflict-torn Central African Republic is preparing to deploy after a delay in securing troops and equipment.

Up to 1,000 troops are expected to join the 6,000 African Union peacekeepers and 2,000 French troops who are struggling to stabilize the country. Those forces were dispatched after tit-for-tat attacks around the capital, Bangui, in December left an estimated 1,000 people dead.

Untold thousands have been killed and more than one-fifth of the country’s 4.6 million people has been uprooted since then. Largely Christian militias have brazenly retaliated against the disbanded Séléka coalition of mainly Muslim rebels, who toppled the state a year ago, for a vicious campaign of looting and murder against the Christian population. The militia groups, called anti-balaka, have forced an estimated 300,000 Muslims into neighboring countries and pushed aid groups and experts to warn of “ethnic cleansing.”

An E.U. release provided to TIME confirmed the decision came after a meeting in Brussels on Friday, when yet-to-be-named countries offered new support in the form of strategic airlifts and help in deploying the troops. A spokeswoman for Catherine Ashton, the E.U.’s foreign policy chief, told Reuters that Major-General Philippe Ponties of France recommended the long-awaited launch “on the basis of significant progress.”

The use of force was authorized by the U.N. Security Council in January on the assumption that E.U. troops would “take all necessary measures” to aid troops already on the ground for an initial period of up to six months. The goal will be to make Bangui more secure before handing over control to the African Union.

Aid groups and regional experts have warned for months that there aren’t enough troops to restore order and that additional support is necessary, especially in the northwest region. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has asked the Security Council to authorize thousands more peacekeepers in a bid to bring stability, but that force would not deploy before the end of the summer. The E.U.’s move comes days after Amnesty International said it must “immediately” act on its plans amid a recent surge in deadly attacks in the capital.

TIME Ukraine

Kerry and Lavrov to Discuss Ukraine in Paris Meeting

U.S. Secretary of State Kerry shakes hands with Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov at the Russian Ambassador's residence in Paris
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, left, shakes hands with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov before their meeting at the Russian Ambassador's residence in Paris, March 30, 2014. Jacquelyn Martin/Pool—Reuters

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will meet Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov face-to-face in a bid to deescalate tensions in Ukraine. Lavrov claims Russia has no plans to invade eastern Ukraine after its annexation of Crimea

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Paris Saturday ahead of a Sunday meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. The top diplomats’ gathering was scheduled after Kerry unexpectedly canceled his return trip to the U.S. following a call between U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The meeting will take place as Russia seeks to calm fears it plans further invasions in Eastern Ukraine. “We have absolutely no intention of – or interest in – crossing Ukraine’s borders,” Lavrov said on Russian television, Reuters reports, despite reports of Russian troops amassing on the Ukrainian border.

Lavrov’s comments came a day after Russian Putin called Obama in an attempt to open dialogue between the Kremlin and the West. Kerry and Lavrov spoke on the phone Saturday to follow-up on their bosses’ call and schedule Sunday’s planned meeting.

Lavrov said in his televised statement that Russia is ready to protect the rights of Russian speakers in eastern Ukraine. U.S. officials say as many as 40,000 Russian troops may be in position on the Ukrainian border.

“We view it as a concrete threat to Ukraine and see the potential for further interventions,” NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said. “I fear that it is not yet enough for [Putin].”

[Reuters]

TIME NSA

NSA Targeted German Companies: Der Spiegel

John Kerry Meets With Angela Merkel
German Chancellor Angela Merkel speaks to the media with German at Federal Chancellery on January 31, 2014 in Berlin. Thomas Trutschel—Photothek/Getty Images

The National Security Agency and British government spied on private German telecommunications companies, one of which was contracted by the country's military, according to German magazine Der Spiegel

The National Security Agency and the British Government Communications Headquarters spied on private German companies, according to a report based on documents revealed by NSA leaker Edward Snowden.

British spies surveilled employees of top German companies in order to develop “in-depth knowledge of key satellite [Internet Protocol] service providers in Germany,” German magazine Der Spiegel reported Saturday.

Three companies listed in the report include Stellar, a satellite ground station operator which provided telecommunications for major clients including governments, as well as Stellar competitors Cetel and IABG. The latter was contracted by the German defense forces.

Der Spiegel’s report follows earlier allegations that the NSA spied on German Chancellor Angela Merkel by tapping her personal phone. That report sparked outrage in Germany, chilling typically cordial relations between Washington and Berlin.

[Der Spiegel]

TIME Ukraine

Ukrainian Opposition Leader Klitschko Drops Presidential Bid

Police Crack Down On Protests In Kiev
Vitali Klitschko , an opposition leader, visits the barricade on Hrushevskoho street in the morning to adress protesters on January 23, 2014 in Kiev, Ukraine. Etienne De Malglaive—Getty Images

Opposition leader and former world boxing champion Vitali Klitschko is dropping his bid for Ukraine's presidency to support a billionaire businessman who declared his candidacy. He says it's important to present a united front for the upcoming election

Prominent Ukrainian opposition leader and former world boxing champion Vitali Klitschko announced Saturday he’s dropping his candidacy for president. Klitschko will instead throw his weight behind billionaire businessman Petro Poroshenko, who declared his candidacy Friday.

“The only way to win is by nominating a single candidate from the democratic ranks,” Klitschko said at a meeting of the United Democratic Alliance for Reform, the Associated Press reports. “This should be a candidate with the greatest support from the people.”

The former boxer isn’t dropping out of politics altogether — he said he’ll run for mayor of Kiev in a bid to turn the city into a “truly European capital,” the New York Times reports.

Before Ukraine’s recent turmoil, Klitschko was most widely recognized for his boxing stardom. He soon gained even more international notoriety after taking a major role in last year’s opposition protests in Kiev. His endorsement of Poroshenko could launch the billionaire to a leading place in the May 25 election.

Poroshenko is set to campaign against Yulia Tymoshenko, a charismatic and controversial veteran politician who spent more than two years in prison under deposed President Viktor Yanukovych. Tymoshenko declared her candidacy for president on Thursday.

Ukraine’s preparations for the May 25 elections take place amidst the greatest political crisis in Ukraine’s post-Soviet history, following the Russian invasion and annexation of Crimea. U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke on the phone Friday evening to discuss a possible diplomatic solution to the crisis in Ukraine even as Russian troops amass on the Ukraine’s border.

[New York Times]

TIME United Kingdom

First Couples Wed as Gay Marriage Becomes Legal in UK

First Same-Sex Marriages Take Place From Midnight
Gay couple Peter McGraith and David Cabreza stand on the steps of Islington Town Hall after being married shortly after midnight in one of the UK's first same-sex weddings on March 29, 2014 in London. Rob Stothard—Getty Images

Great Britain held its first same-sex marriages Saturday, and rainbow-colored flags were flown over government buildings. Prime Minister David Cameron called it a "historic day" in a congratulatory tweet

The first same-sex marriages in Britain were held early Saturday morning after gay marriage became legal at midnight.

The move to legalize same-sex marriage in England and Wales was lauded by politicians from both parties, the BBC reports. Rainbow-colored flags were flown over government buildings Saturday.

“Congratulations to the gay couples who have already been married – and my best wishes to those about to be on this historic day,” United Kingdom Prime Minister David Cameron tweeted Saturday morning.

The Church of England will drop its opposition to same-sex marriage after years of opposition, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby said on Friday night. Polls show about two-thirds of people in the country support gay unions, the Associated Press reports.

Gay couples in England have been allowed to enter “civil partnerships,” conferring the same legal rights as marriage, since 2005. Britain banned schools and authorities from “promoting” homosexuality until 2003.

Scotland passed a similar law in February that will allow same-sex marriages beginning in October.

[BBC]

TIME

Objects Recovered in Hunt for Missing Jet

Malaysia Plane
An object floats in the southern Indian Ocean in this picture taken from a Royal New Zealand Air Force P-3K2 Orion aircraft searching for missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370, March 29, 2014. Jason Reed/Pool—AP

Search ships retrieved objects from the Indian Ocean and Chinese aircraft spotted debris, but they have not been connected to missing MH370

Two ships involved in the search for the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 retrieved objects from the Indian Ocean Saturday, but officials haven’t yet connected the finds to the lost airliner.

A Chinese plane, meanwhile, spotted other debris matching the colors of the missing Boeing 777, but that find also has yet to be linked to the jet, the Associated Press reports. The debris spotted Saturday was white, red and orange in color, according to Chinese media reports. The missing Boeing 777 is red and white.

Three weeks have passed since MH370 disappeared after leaving Kuala Lumpur for Beijing. Investigators have identified a large zone where the jet may have gone down, most recently combing an area about 2.5 hours from Perth, Australia. However, the reason the jet flew far off its intended path and its current location remain a mystery.

Here’s the latest update from the Australian Maritime Safety Authority, which is coordinating the search for MH370:

AMSA Update 3/29

[AP]

TIME Saudi Arabia

Obama Meets Saudi King in Bid to Mend Fences

Barack Obama, King Abdullah
President Barack Obama meets with Saudi King Abdullah at Rawdat Khuraim, Saudi Arabia, March 28, 2014. Pablo Martinez Monsivais—AP

President Obama added a stop in Riyadh to his tour of Europe to reassure the Saudis that their desert kingdom still matters, even as recent moves he made in the Middle East has irked the House of Saud, especially talking to its archenemy Iran

By the time photographers were ushered into the room where U.S. President Barack Obama was meeting Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah on Friday, both men were seated in armchairs, tucked safely behind a table laden with bouquets and sweets. The leaders had greeted one another in private, avoiding any possibility of repeating the awkwardness that ensued the last time they met in 2009, when the new American President’s deep dip from the waist was interpreted as an obsequious act of deference to a Muslim monarchy Washington has assiduously cultivated for 80 years.

This time, the problem was exactly the opposite. Obama added a stop in Riyadh to his tour of Europe expressly to reassure the Saudis that their desert kingdom still matters. “It’s an opportunity to reaffirm the importance of the relationship,” Ben Rhodes, Obama’s Deputy National Security Advisor, told reporters on the flight from Rome.

For the House of Saud, affirmation is needed on several fronts. In Syria, Obama has declined to back the Sunni Muslim rebels that Saudi Arabia supports with arms and cash, and infuriated Riyadh by failing to order threatened air strikes after hundreds were killed by an alleged Syrian government chemical weapons attack.

In Egypt, the American President both backed away from President Hosni Mubarak faster than Riyadh found comfortable, and offered support to the government elected to replace him, even though it was dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood, a movement the Saudis loathe.

But what most concerns the Saudis is Obama’s courtship of its archrival, Iran. “At the heart of the problem is the White House’s new fondness of Iran,” Fasial J. Abbas, a senior official at the Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya satellite news network, wrote in Gulf News this week. The Saudis regard Obama’s diplomatic efforts to address Iran’s nuclear program through diplomacy as naïve, as well as Obama’s desire to perhaps even coax Tehran back into the “community of nations.”

As the center of Islam’s dominant Sunni branch, Riyadh fought proxy wars against Shiite Iran for decades before the deterioration of state authority in Iraq and Syria brought sectarian identities brutally to the foreground. The Saudis are in deep in Syria, and continue to lobby Obama to supply more formidable weapons to the rebel side, including the shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles also known as man-pads. But the administration fears that, given the number of extremists, including al-Qaeda, operating on the rebel side, such weapons could end up bringing down civilian airliners.

“We have made clear that there are certain types of weapons, including manpads, that could pose a proliferation risk if introduced into Syria,” Rhodes reiterated in advance of the leaders’ meeting. “We continue to have those concerns.”

The king and the President spoke for two hours in a palatial hall in Rawdat Kharaim, the monarch’s desert “camp” outside Riyadh. Neither leader made a public statement afterward, but senior Obama administration officials said Iran and Syria dominated the meeting, which one described as “excellent.” Obama emphasized that, whatever their recent differences on tactical approaches, the strategic interests of the two countries remain aligned. There was (unspecified) progress on how best to support the “moderate opposition” in Syria, the officials said, and straight talk on Iran.

“It was important to have the chance to look him in the eyes and explain how determined the president is to stop Iran from getting a nuclear weapon,” one senior U.S. official said after the meeting, ” and how determined the president is to continue to counter Iran’s other destabilizing activities, and that the president and the United States are going into this eyes wide open, there’s no naivete.” .

Abdullah, who is 89, appeared to breathing with the assistance of oxygen, photographs capturing a translucent hose under his nose. The visible infirmity recalled the circumstances of another fence-mending visit by an American President, in the early, still- fragile days of the alliance. In the waning months of World War II, Franklin D. Roosevelt traveled to northern Africa to receive King Abdulaziz ibn Saud, who founded the modern kingdom, on the USS Quincy, in a section of the Suez Canal called the Great Bitter Lake. The monarch was too ill to manage a gangplank and had to be hoisted aboard in a lifeboat.

FDR was failing as well, and the leaders sparred over American support for the Zionist effort that would become Israel. Yet historians judged the meeting a success, noting that the alliance only grew stronger. The verdict on Friday’s session is still out.

TIME

Putin Phones Obama To Discuss Ukraine, White House Says

RUSSIA-UKRAINE-POLITICS-CRISIS-PUTIN-ARMY
Russia's President Vladimir Putin speaks at a Security Council meeting at the Kremlin in Moscow, on March 28, 2014. Alexei Nikolsky—AFP/Getty Images

President Obama told Russian leader Vladimir Putin Friday that a diplomatic solution to Ukraine's crisis could be reached if Russia "does not take any steps to further violate Ukraine’s territorial integrity"

Russian president Vladimir Putin called President Barack Obama Friday to discuss a U.S.-proposed diplomatic solution to the ongoing crisis in Ukraine, the White House said in a statement.

Obama asked that Russia provide a written response and the presidents agreed that their respective foreign ministers would discuss what comes next, the White House said.

The call between the two leaders comes amid high tensions following Russia’s annexation of the southern region of Crimea last week. Russia has amassed some 50,000 troops along Ukraine’s eastern border that it says are involved in military exercises, but U.S. officials have expressed concern that they could be used for another Russian landgrab.

Earlier Friday, Obama told CBS News that Russia should stop “intimidating” Ukraine and pull its troops back to “de-escalate the situation.”

Secretary of State John Kerry met with his counterpart Sergei Lavrov earlier this week on the sidelines of a nuclear summit at The Hague and presented him the proposal for de-escalation of the showdown that has seen reciprocal economic sanctions and a flurry of Cold War-style rhetoric from both sides.

During the conversation, Obama told Putin a diplomatic solution “remains possible only if Russia pulls back its troops and does not take any steps to further violate Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty,” according to the White House. “President Obama reiterated that the United States has strongly opposed the actions that Russia has already taken to violate Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

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