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North Korea fires ballistic missiles as Blinken visits Seoul

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North Korea fires ballistic missiles as Blinken visits Seoul

Launches come days after South Korea and the US wrapped up military drills Pyongyang sees as an invasion rehearsal.

North Korea fired short-range ballistic missiles towards its eastern waters as United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken prepared to open a democracy summit in neighbouring South Korea, officials have said.

“North Korea fired an unspecified ballistic missile toward the East Sea,” the US Joint Chiefs of Staff said on Monday, referring to the body of water also known as the Sea of Japan.

Japan’s Coast Guard, which confirmed the launches, said the objects appeared to have already fallen.

The launches come days after the US and South Korea wrapped up 11 days of so-called Freedom Shield joint military drills.

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North Korea has long condemned joint US-South Korea military drills, calling them rehearsals for an invasion.

Pyongyang earlier this month warned that Seoul and Washington would pay a “dear price” for this year’s Freedom Shield drills, which involved twice as many troops as last year.

About 27,000 US soldiers are stationed in South Korea, where the drills took place.

South Korea recently wrapped up joint military drills with the United States [Kim Hong-Ji/Reuters]

North Korea’s test on Monday was the latest in a series of weapons demonstrations this year, including a missile tipped with a manoeuvrable hypersonic warhead on January 14.

Democracy Summit

Shortly after the missile launches, Blinken and South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol took to the stage at the opening of the Summit for Democracy, which is this year being hosted by South Korea.

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a man in a suit speaks in a dark room with a screen showing him on the wall
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has warned of the risks technology poses to democracy [Evelyn Hockstein/Pool/Reuters]

Both Blinken and Yoon spoke about how technology could be used to encourage democracy, but also to undermine it.

Blinken’s comments came after the US House of Representatives last week passed a bill that could see the popular social media app TikTok, which is owned by Chinese developer ByteDance, banned.

The democracy summit, an initiative of US President Joe Biden, has attracted criticism in past years due to its selective invitation list, with countries including Thailand and Turkey reportedly excluded.

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TVLine Items: ID’s Nick and Aaron Carter Docuseries, Outlander Prequel Cast Additions and More

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TVLine Items: ID’s Nick and Aaron Carter Docuseries, Outlander Prequel Cast Additions and More


Nick and Aaron Carter Docuseries ‘Fallen Idols’ Release Date



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Russia sinks space nuke ban at UN amid rumors of Putin's orbital weapon

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Russia sinks space nuke ban at UN amid rumors of Putin's orbital weapon

A U.S.-led resolution that would prevent using nuclear weapons in outer space received dozens of co-sponsors, but Russia vetoed the measure amid reports it has deployed a weapon that can destroy satellites. 

“The detonation of a nuclear weapon in space would destroy satellites that are vital to communications, agriculture, national security, and more worldwide, with grave implications for sustainable development, and other aspects of international peace and security,” the U.S. Mission to the United Nations wrote in a press release prior to the vote. 

“The diverse group of cosponsors of this resolution reflects the strong shared interest in avoiding such an outcome,” the statement read. “We join these Member States in calling on the Security Council to meet this moment today and adopt the resolution unanimously, consistent with its mandate to maintain international peace and security.”

The U.S. and Japan presented the resolution to the U.N. Security Council for a vote on Wednesday, but Russia shot the measure down. Prior to the vote, Russia’s Deputy U.N. Ambassador Dmitry Polyansky reported that his country’s initial impression was that the resolution served as “yet another propaganda stunt by Washington” and called it a “very politicized” effort “divorced from reality,” The Associated Press reported. 

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The draft resolution, which received backing from 60 member states, states that “the prevention of an arms race in outer space would avert a grave danger for international peace and security.” It affirms that countries that ratified the 1967 Outer Space Treaty must comply with their obligations.

A Security Council meeting at United Nations headquarters, March 22, 2024. (Getty Images)

The tug-of-war over hypothetical space-based weapons follows claims from the White House in February that Russia had deployed a “troubling” anti-satellite weapon – though no one has yet confirmed the weapon is operational or even in a testing phase. 

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The weapon would allegedly be capable of destroying satellites by creating a massive energy wave when detonated, Foreign Policy reported. The weapon could therefore potentially cripple countless other satellites that serve both commercial and government purposes, including cellphone use and internet access.

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Russia United Nations

Vassily Nebenzia, Russia’s permanent representative to the U.N., attends a Security Council meeting at U.N. headquarters in New York City on April 14, 2024. (Fatih Aktas/Anadolu via Getty Images)

Russia at the time argued that it would uphold the international 1967 treaty, which bans the deployment of “nuclear weapons or any other kinds of weapons of mass destruction” into orbit or the stationing of “weapons in outer space in any other manner.” 

“Our position is quite clear and transparent: we have always been and remain categorically opposed to the deployment of nuclear weapons in space,” Russian President Vladimir Putin said in February. “Just the opposite, we are urging everyone to adhere to all the agreements that exist in this sphere.”

US Ambassador Green

Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., attends the Security Council meeting to demand an immediate cease-fire in Gaza on March 25, 2024, in New York. (Fatih Aktas/Anadolu via Getty Images)

However, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu cryptically added at another time that Russia has only developed space capabilities that “other nations, including the U.S., have.” 

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U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres later warned that “geopolitical tensions and mistrust have escalated the risk of nuclear warfare to its highest point in decades.”

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Russian rocket lifts off

Russia’s Soyuz-2.1a, carrying the Soyuz MS-25 spacecraft, was successfully launched from Kazakhstan’s Baikonur spaceport on March 23, 2024, according to TASS News Agency. (Roscosmos/Ivan Timoshenko/Handout/Anadolu via Getty Images)

Putin, throughout the conflict with Ukraine, has dangled threats of nuclear weapons. He said that “from a military-technical point of view, we are, of course, ready,” when asked in March about a potential nuclear war. 

Putin has used the threat of nuclear weapons in Ukraine as a means of preventing more direct intervention from the U.S. and other NATO allies, repeatedly stressing that any deployment of troops or similar more direct moves against Russia would be viewed as intervening in the war. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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What do newly approved anti-money laundering rules cover?

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What do newly approved anti-money laundering rules cover?

EU lawmakers voted in a landslide in favour of new curbs on crypto, football clubs and cash transactions.

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EU lawmakers today voted 482 to 47 to set up a long-promised EU anti-money laundering agency, as part of a package that would also see large cash payments banned across Europe.

The move – taken by MEPs at their last voting session before June elections – means new rules apply for football deals and crypto transactions, as the bloc seeks to repair its reputation after a series of financial-sector scandals.

“Dirty money finances terrible crimes,” EU financial services commissioner Mairead McGuinness said, adding that there was an “absolute imperative to improve significantly on the current situation”.

Those views seemed largely shared across the political divide – including by Damien Carême (France/Greens), one of the MEPs who led negotiations.

Terrorists and fraudsters “exploit the loopholes in European legislation”, Carême told lawmakers. “We have to act decisively to ensure a robust system.”

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What do new EU money-laundering rules do?

New rules include a limit on professional traders accepting or paying cash for any transaction over €10,000 – given that big wads of untraceable banknotes can send alarm bells over financial crime.

Some lawmakers claim that’s an attack on financial freedom.

“Keep your hands off our cash and our digital currencies,” Patrick Breyer of the German Pirate Party told lawmakers. “We Pirates say no to this creeping financial disenfranchisement.”

Yet one of the most touchy subjects of the complex package has been geographical: the question of where to house a new EU anti-money laundering agency.

After a first-of-a-kind 12-hour public hearing, German financial centre Frankfurt won out, from a slate of candidates that also comprised Paris, Rome, Madrid, Vienna, Riga, Vilnius, Brussels and Dublin.

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Its 400-odd staff will directly supervise dirty-money controls at 40 of the bloc’s biggest financial institutions.

Expanded scope of new anti-money laundering laws

EU money laundering laws already apply to big institutions like banks, who are required to verify who their customers are, and report suspicious transactions to the authorities.

Those rules will also apply to high-risk sectors like traders in artwork, jewellery and luxury yachts. They’ll be extended to cover innovative services like cryptocurrency providers—as lawmakers are concerned bitcoin and other, even more anonymous assets can be used for illicit payments.

At MEPs’ insistence, the measures apply to major football clubs and agents – given the large amounts of sometimes dubious money that circulates between them.

More consistent rules

For the first time ever, the EU’s rules are set out in a regulation that will apply more or less consistently across the bloc.

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That means less discretion for each country to tweak rules for the national context – creating discrepancies that make it harder for legitimate businesses to operate across borders, and easier for criminals and terrorists to exploit the system.

A separate money laundering directive, also agreed today, resolves issues over how journalists and activists can trace the financial structures used to hide wealth.

Arrangements were thrown into disarray by a shock 2022 EU court judgment that restricted access to company ownership registers on privacy grounds.

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Why does the EU need new anti-money laundering rules?

Officials hope the new rulebook will help improve the EU’s reputation for dirty money, closing the chapter on a series of scandals.

Two EU members – Croatia and Bulgaria – currently sit on a “grey list” of suspect money laundering jurisdictions compiled by international standard-setter the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), and Malta was only recently taken off it.

The region also faced a series of financial-sector scandals involving institutions such as Danske Bank, Latvia’s ABLV, and Malta’s Pilatus bank.

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Danske was fined billions of euros by US and Danish regulators in 2022, after admitting that around €200bn was laundered through its Estonian arm between 2007 and 2015.

EU talks were given extra salience by the need to enforce sanctions imposed on Russia for its war in Ukraine – given fears that ultra-wealthy oligarchs can use shady financial structures to evade curbs.

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When will new EU money laundering rules take effect?

New anti-money laundering controls have been a long time coming, and it’s still not over.

Valdis Dombrovskis berated uneven enforcement and promised to examine a new EU agency in his hearing to become EU financial services commissioner as far back as October 2019.

After several last-minute wrangles, lawmakers and governments announced a tentative deal on the bulk of the law in January 2024.

Once nodded through by national ministers, much of the new regulation kicks in after three years, but there is some flexibility.

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Rules for the football sector will take five years to apply, and the new EU agency could start work later this year – though the law setting it up takes effect formally in July 2025.

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