Indonesia turns to police boot camp for sporting glory

Wed, 2017-07-05 06:26

INDONESIA: A police boot camp complete with shooting lessons may not seem like a natural training ground for sportsmanship, but Indonesia’s sepak takraw team is hoping that military-style discipline will help them achieve sporting glory.
The peculiar sport, which combines elements of football and volleyball, is native to Southeast Asia but the region’s biggest country has long lagged behind its smaller neighbors in the battle for dominance.
Now the country’s top players have taken the unusual step of “embedding” with an elite police unit on Sumatra island, where a crack team of officers are helping the 15 male and female athletes get into shape by overseeing exercise sessions.
“This is the perfect place for them to train,” Indonesian sepak takraw chief Asnawi Rahman said about the decision to send the team to Jambi in mid-March, ahead of the Southeast Asian Games in August.
“They can get mentally and physically prepared,” he said.
The players are training with the Mobile Brigade, the police’s special operations unit which is involved in counter-terrorism and riot control.
While the officers can offer little in the way of sepak takraw expertise, the team can pick up skills such as firing weapons, which the experts in the game believe helps to focus the players’ minds.
The centuries-old sport was originally played with a grapefruit-sized ball fashioned from straps of rattan with 12 holes.
It was traditionally played with two teams of three facing each other on a court about the same size as a badminton court, with a raised net. Players kick and head the ball over the net, but aren’t allowed to touch it with their hands or arms.
Nowadays a synthetic fiber ball has replaced the old type — although they still have the trademark multiple holes — and the sport has developed a range of categories with different sizes of teams.
These range from teams of just two players to teams of up to four. There will be several different categories at the forthcoming Southeast Asian Games in Kuala Lumpur, and Indonesia will compete in three.
But the country faces an uphill struggle.
In recent years Thailand — where sepak takraw has a bigger following than in Indonesia — has dominated the sport at regional tournaments, while Myanmar has also been gaining ground after investing money in training and development.
Rahman says the government needs to do more to support sepak takraw by increasing funding for equipment, uniforms, and venues. He believes they should pay more to coaches to help groom future stars.
He warns the country has fallen behind because their players are not as well prepared physically and mentally as their rivals, and hopes the police training will make a difference.
Rahman chose Jambi, his hometown, as the location as it is quiet and has few distractions.
But the arrangement involves significant personal sacrifice for the players, who are forced to live a hermit-like existence for the five months they are at the base.
They are not allowed to leave the compound — which is closed to members of the public — at all on weekdays and are only allowed out at weekends accompanied by officers.
Still, the players think it’s worth it.
“I like it here, more than training at previous places,” said Dini Mitasari, a 23-year-old female player who is also an army officer.
“Mobile Brigade officers are highly disciplined, and they’re also highly motivated — it affects us and our motivation as well.”
After the Southeast Asian Games, the players face an even bigger challenge at the Asian Games in 2018.
They will be playing on home turf, driving up pressure to put on a good performance.
For now though, the officers hoping to get them to the winners podium are simply happy to have played their part, regardless of the eventual outcome.
We are very proud and honored that we can help our national athletes,” said Yuri Karsono, the Jambi unit’s deputy chief.

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Trump looks for friendlier European welcome in Poland

Wed, 2017-07-05 03:00

WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump is headed back to Europe hoping to receive a friendly welcome in Poland despite lingering skepticism across the continent over his commitment to NATO, his past praise of Russian President Vladimir Putin and his decision to pull the US out of a major climate agreement.
Trump arrives in Warsaw, Poland, on Wednesday for a brief visit that will include a speech in Krasinski Square, near the site of the 1944 Warsaw Uprising against the Nazis. He’ll also meet with the leaders of Poland and Croatia and hold a joint news conference with Polish President Andrzej Duda.
Before moving on to an international summit in Germany, the president will also hold meetings with the leaders of a dozen countries located between the Baltic, Adriatic and Black seas at a summit of the Three Seas Initiative, which aims to expand and modernize energy and trade. One of the initiative’s goals is to make the region less dependent on Russian energy.
“Even if he doesn’t mention Putin or Russia outright, just stepping foot in Poland sends a powerful statement,” said Jim Carafano, a foreign policy analyst at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank. “Europe is working for energy independence — looking for free market solutions — and Poland is in the middle of that energy corridor, so it makes so much sense that the president would go there and talk about energy policy.”
At the same time, Trump will have to balance his visit to Europe with escalating tensions with North Korea, after the US concluded Tuesday that North Korea had test-launched its first intercontinental ballistic missile. The US, South Korea and Japan responded to the provocation by requesting an emergency session of the UN Security Council, scheduled Wednesday afternoon.
Trump returns to Europe after a shaky first trip to the continent in May and signs of unhappiness around the globe with the start of his presidency.
A recent Pew Research Center survey of attitudes toward Trump in more than three dozen countries found fewer than 3 in 10 respondents expressing confidence in his ability to do the right thing on international affairs.
Most of those surveyed disapproved of Trump’s major policies, including temporarily halting travel from six mostly Muslim countries. Among the 37 countries Pew surveyed, Trump scored higher marks than his predecessor, President Barack Obama, in only two: Russia and Israel.
Trump’s first trip to Europe as president in May saw a series of awkward encounters, including a tough speech to the leaders of NATO countries urging them to spend more on their armed forces, an uncomfortable handshake with France’s new president, and a caught-on-camera moment when Trump pushed past the prime minister of Montenegro, Europe’s newest country, while squeezing his way to the front of a crowd.
But Poland may offer Trump a chance to shine.
According to Polish media reports, Poland’s government promised the White House a reception of cheering crowds as part of its invitation. To make good on that pledge, ruling party lawmakers and pro-government activists plan to bus in groups from the provinces to hear Trump’s speech.
The White House didn’t respond to a request for comment on those reports.
With Trump’s sights already set on the 2020 election, his visit to Poland could also be seen as a power play for battleground states like Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, which are home to hundreds of thousands of Polish-American voters.
Trump may also seek to use Poland as an exemplar of partnership. A US ally in Iraq and Afghanistan, Poland is one of the five NATO members that spends at least 2 percent of their gross domestic product on the military. That’s something that Trump — and US leaders before him — have demanded of NATO allies. Trump has scolded other NATO members for falling short on their commitments.
Poland is also host to about 1,000 US troops, and is supporting US and NATO forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. It’s also a regular customer for US military equipment.
Before Trump’s arrival, Poland’s government emphasized that Russia’s aggression in Ukraine poses a threat to the whole of Europe, something that will inevitably be raised in discussions with Trump as Europeans seek to gauge the president’s willingness to confront Putin before their first face-to-face meeting later this week.
“Poland is, in some ways, a poster child for some of the issues that the Trump administration has been stressing,” said Jeffrey Rathke, deputy director of the Europe Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “They’re betting that this relationship with the United States on defense will balance their concerns about the possible directions of US-Russia policy.”
Poland also hopes Trump’s visit will reinforce its position with European partners as it faces allegations of backsliding on democracy. The right-wing government is also one of only three European Union countries — along with Hungary and Austria — refusing to accept any relocated refugees, in legal violation of EU quotas.
Trump, too, has been working to curb refugee admissions to the US as part of his travel ban.

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Kim vows North Korea’s nukes are not on negotiation table

Wed, 2017-07-05 03:00

SEOUL: North Korean leader Kim Jong Un vows his nation would “demonstrate its mettle to the US” and never negotiate its weapons programs after watching the test-launch of its first intercontinental ballistic missile.
The hard line suggests that more tests are being prepared as North Korea tries to perfect a nuclear missile capable of striking anywhere in the United States.
Tuesday’s ICBM launch, confirmed later by US and South Korean officials, is a milestone in Pyongyang’s efforts to develop long-range nuclear-armed missiles.
The ensuing uproar only seemed to inspire the North’s rhetoric in official media, which described Kim as smiling as he urged his scientists to “frequently send big and small ‘gift packages’ to the Yankees,” an apparent reference to further tests.

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British PM May finds it lonely at the top, but battles on — for now

Wed, 2017-07-05 09:00

LONDON: It’s lonely at the top for British Prime Minister Theresa May but she’s holding on — for now.
May faced calls to quit from inside and outside her ruling Conservative Party after losing its parliamentary majority in an ill-judged election that she did not need to call, plunging Britain into the worst political instability for decades.
She has struggled since then to unite her government on policy and to assemble a new team of aides — one Conservative lawmaker described it as “career suicide” to agree to serve a leader whose days in office may be numbered.
But party sources say moves to oust May are now on hold after senior figures agreed she should be the one to at least make a start on two years of Brexit talks that are likely to stretch her government and possibly the public’s patience, giving the world’s fifth biggest economy some breathing space.
If she fails to make headway or satisfy some of her more euroskeptic party members, then she can answer for it, the party sources said.
“She’ll stay for as long as we want her to,” one lawmaker told Reuters, on condition of anonymity. “Now is not that time.”
Concerns over the reaction of Britons if asked to vote for the fourth time in just over two years, over losing Conservative seats and of having someone else take over the lead in talks with the European Union have calmed calls to replace May.
Even the most embittered lawmakers say a new leadership vote would simply deepen divisions in the party over Brexit and its austerity agenda, blamed by opposition politicians for a devastating fire in west London that killed at least 80 people and for straining a police service battling militant attacks.
May, 60, has said she will carry on, despite her pride being “shattered” by the election, said one veteran Conservative Party member who spoke on condition of anonymity.
“But I suspect her sense of duty is bigger than (predecessor David) Cameron’s,” the source said. “No one actually wants the job, well they do want the job but not now.”
May, Britain’s longest serving interior minister in over a century with a reputation as a tough and diligent politician, became the country’s second female premier after Margaret Thatcher when Cameron resigned after Britons voted for Brexit.
Her path then was cleared when two other hopefuls — her now foreign minister Boris Johnson and environment minister Michael Gove — all but killed off each others’ bids and she appealed to members with her straight-talking can-do attitude.
But her boast that she could never be found “drinking in parliament’s bars” may come to haunt her — having not been part of one of the Conservative cliques, she is very much alone as others in the party plot their routes to power.
The veteran source said her pledge to clear up “the mess” she created by staging the June 8 election had softened many Conservatives, who have traditionally punished leaders over any sign of weakness.
They are also driven by self-preservation. The election revealed the shortcomings of Conservative Campaign Headquarters and some Conservatives say it is time to take stock and restructure before the next election after Jeremy Corbyn’s opposition Labour Party leapt in opinion polls.
“We need to get campaigning again properly, get the message out,” the lawmaker said.
“We have spent years mopping up the mess left by Labour and now we are opening the door to Corbyn. The country will go bankrupt if he gets in and it’ll take us 20 years to get back.”
May has promised to promote reform in the party, but forced to accept the resignations of her two closest aides and a steady departure of senior members of her Downing Street office team, her control is draining away.
Appointed shortly after Britain voted to leave the European Union, May ran a tight ship for months — giving little away, she tried to limit leaks by keeping some of her more publicity hungry ministers in check and sticking to the party line.
Now, they have been let off the leash.
Differences over Brexit strategy and a pay cap on public sector workers are aired almost daily while the prime minister’s projects to bring in more selective schools and give lawmakers a vote on lifting a ban on fox hunting have been dropped.
May, it seems, has retreated.
“Before she could say you’re not going on TV … But now she can’t crack the whip like a prime minister normally does,” the veteran Conservative said.
She has reverted to type, the source said, of the “quiet girl in class who just got on with her homework,” allowing her ministers such as finance minister Phillip Hammond to take some of the limelight and a more commanding role.
For now, despite differences, her team of senior ministers is at least pulling in the same broad direction, toward a clean break with the European Union that sees Britain out of the bloc’s single market to prioritize controlling immigration.
“It’s a bit like a rowing boat, where everyone is pulling at different speeds, but not hard enough to topple it over,” the veteran Conservative said.
“It’s loud and it’s messy, but it’s actually democracy.

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Trump, world leaders head to G20 summit under North Korea shadow

Wed, 2017-07-05 07:34

BERLIN: US President Donald Trump meets other world leaders at Germany’s G20 summit from Friday, with North Korea’s first successful test of an intercontinental ballistic missile casting a long shadow over the gathering at the heavily-fortified venue.
The rising global threat posed by Pyongyang is likely to see conflicts over climate and trade take a back seat as regional neighbors China, Japan and South Korea gather with Trump and Russian strongman Vladimir Putin in Hamburg.
“Testing an ICBM represents a new escalation of the threat to the United States, our allies and partners, the region, and the world,” US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said, confirming North Korea now possessed a weapon capable of reaching US territory.
Russia and China condemned Tuesday’s test and the European Union may consider additional sanctions.
All eyes will be on Trump, who had vowed North Korea’s goal of possessing an ICBM “won’t happen” and has repeatedly pressed China to rein in its truculent neighbor.
In the most anticipated moment of the G20, Trump will meet Putin, the ex-KGB agent accused of having aided, with hackers and fake news, the surprise rise of the property tycoon into the White House.
The moment they shake hands is sure to see “an Olympian level of macho posturing between these two leaders, who both understand the importance of symbolism and the perception of being tough,” said Derek Chollet of the German Marshall Fund of the United States.
Trump ruffled other leaders at a G7 meeting in Italy in May and has steered the economic and military superpower on an isolationist “America First” course.
His counterparts are bracing for fresh surprises after Trump stunned the world by pulling out of the 2015 Paris climate pact, questioned long-standing NATO allegiances and dismissed free trade principles.
Trouble is also brewing at the conference table at a time when the West and Europe are deeply divided, the post-Cold War order is fraying and China and Russia are asserting themselves on the global stage.
“There is a danger that the summit will lead to polarization between the US and other countries” on climate change and other issues, warned Oxford Analytics economist Adam Slater.
Trade wars loom as Trump has demanded Germany and China reduce their huge surpluses and threatened other countries with punitive measures in battles over steel, natural gas and hormone-treated beef.
The year’s gathering of the Group of 20 big industrialized and emerging economies, the biggest diplomatic event outside the UN, will also provide a stage for other world leaders muscling for power and regional influence.
Chinese President Xi Jinping will meet regional rival Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, at a time when both are worried about North Korea.
Also looming over the summit will be the bloody conflict in Syria and the frozen one in Ukraine — both involving Russia — as well as the struggle for Mideast dominance between Saudi Arabia and Iran.
Then there is Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose crackdown on alleged coup plotters, civil society and Kurds after a 2016 putsch attempt has poisoned relations with Germany.
Trump, before the summit, will meet leaders from ex-communist eastern European nations, including Hungary’s authoritarian Viktor Orban — threatening to deepen a new east-west split in the EU, which is facing Brexit and still recovering from divisions over the debt crisis.
The US president will on Thursday meet the summit host, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the longest-serving leader and, aside from Britain’s Theresa May, the only woman in the club.
Merkel, hailed by some as the “new leader of the free world,” advocates an internationalist approach to global issues — but her G20 motto, “Shaping an Interconnected World,” contrasts sharply with Trump’s go-it-alone approach.
The chancellor — a green energy champion who has allowed more than a million mostly Muslim refugees into Germany since 2015 — said last week that “the differences are obvious and it would be dishonest to try to cover that up. That I won’t do.”
In Hamburg, she must walk a fine line between trying to build a 19-1 front against Trump on key issues and preventing even further damage to transatlantic ties, while seeking common ground for at least a watered-down G20 final communique.
Some 20,000 police will guard the leaders against anti-capitalist protesters who have greeted them with the combative slogan “G20 — Welcome to Hell.”
Up to 100,000 protesters are expected, a diverse group of environmentalists, peace and anti-poverty activists, united in the belief that the global elite is failing to solve the pressing global problems.
“We think that they all deserve our protest and our resistance from the streets,” said one left-wing activist, Georg Ismael, 25.
“We are demonstrating against the G20 because we don’t think that they represent the interests of humanity.

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Rohingya man killed in Myanmar Buddhist mob attack

Wed, 2017-07-05 09:35

MYANMAR: A Rohingya Muslim was stoned to death and six others wounded by a mob of Buddhists in the capital of Myanmar’s Rakhine state, authorities said Wednesday, the latest flare-up in a region seething with religious tension.
The western state is a hotbed of sectarian unrest, with frequent bouts of communal violence between ethnic Rakhine Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims, a persecuted minority.
The worst bloodshed in 2012 left hundreds dead and forced over 100,000 people — largely Rohingya — into squalid displacement camps where they have languished for years, many facing severe restrictions on their movements.
Little has been done to reconcile the two communities, with tensions skyrocketing since October in the wake of violence between Rohingya militants and the army.
On Tuesday a mob of ethnic Rakhine Buddhists hurled bricks at seven Rohingya men in the state capital Sittwe.
“One Muslim was killed and six others injured. Two are still hospitalized,” a local officer told AFP, requesting anonymity.
The Rohingya men were granted permission to leave their displacement camp on the outskirts of the city to give statements at a criminal case in a Sittwe court, state media reported.
After attending court they requested a police escort to a nearby dock where they discussed purchasing a boat from a local businessman.
“At the boat jetty, an argument developed,” the state-run Global New Light of Myanmar reported.
“They were attacked by several people with bricks,” it added, referring to the incident as a “fatal stone throwing.”
Myanmar has long faced international condemnation for its treatment of the Rohingya, who are considered one of the world’s most persecuted people.
The Rohingya trapped in displacement camps struggle to access food, education and health care, conditions many have likened to a form of apartheid.
The group is loathed by many in Myanmar’s Buddhist majority, who view them as illegal immigrants from neighboring Bangladesh despite many tracing their lineage back generations. Hard-line Buddhist nationalists aggressively protest any move to grant them citizenship.
Myanmar’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi, a Nobel peace prize winner, has faced global censure for not taking a stronger stance on the Rohingya’s plight.
She has rejected a UN probe of the alleged atrocities carried out by soldiers against the Rohingya, insisting it will inflame tensions.
But her government has set up a commission led by former UN secretary general Kofi Annan to investigate how the state’s sectarian tensions can be solved.

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N. Korea vows more ‘gift packages’ of missile tests for US

Wed, 2017-07-05 03:00

SEOUL: Grinning broadly, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un delighted in the global furor created by his nation’s first launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile, vowing Wednesday to never abandon nuclear weapons and to keep sending Washington more “gift packages” of missile and atomic tests.
US and South Korean forces, in response to Tuesday’s launch, engineered a show of force for Pyongyang, with soldiers from the allies firing “deep strike” precision missiles into South Korean territorial waters. South Korean President Moon Jae-in ordered the drills arranged with the United States to show “North Korea our firm combined missile response posture,” his office said.
A North Korean test of an ICBM, confirmed later by US and South Korean officials, is a momentous step forward for Pyongyang as it works to build an arsenal of long-range nuclear-armed missiles that can hit anywhere in the United States. The North isn’t there yet — some analysts suggest it will take several more years to perfect such an arsenal, and many more tests — but a successful launch of an ICBM has long been seen as a red line, after which it would only be a matter of time — if the country isn’t stopped.
Worry spread in Washington and at the United Nations, where the United States, Japan and South Korea requested a UN Security Council emergency session, to be held later Wednesday. US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the US response would include “stronger measures to hold the DPRK accountable,” using an acronym for the nation’s formal name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
The uproar only seemed to inspire the North, whose propaganda machine rarely fails to aggrandize its leader and its military or to thumb its nose at rivals Seoul and Washington.
A report in its state media Wednesday described leader Kim as “feasting his eyes” on the ICBM, which was said to be capable of carrying a large nuclear warhead, before its launch. “With a broad smile on his face,” Kim urged his scientists to “frequently send big and small ‘gift packages’ to the Yankees,” an apparent reference to continuing the stream of nuclear and missile tests Kim has ordered since taking power in late 2011.
The North was also pleased that its test came as Americans celebrated Independence Day. Kim, the state media report said, told “scientists and technicians that the US would be displeased to witness the DPRK’s strategic option as it was given a ‘package of gifts’ incurring its disfavor by the DPRK on its ‘Independence Day.’” The North has a history of conducting weapons test on or around July 4.
Kim reportedly “stressed that the protracted showdown with the US imperialists has reached its final phase and it is the time for the DPRK to demonstrate its mettle to the US, which is testing its will in defiance of its warning.”
The test, North Korea’s most successful yet, is a direct rebuke to President Donald Trump’s earlier declaration that such a test “won’t happen!“
A US scientist analyzing the height and distance of the launch said the missile could potentially reach Alaska.
North Korea’s Academy of Defense Science, in a bit of hyperbole, said the test of what it called the Hwasong-14 marked the “final step” in creating a “confident and powerful nuclear state that can strike anywhere on Earth.”
South Korea’s Defense Ministry, in a report to lawmakers, tentatively concluded that North Korea test-fired a “new missile with an ICBM-class range” of more than 5,500 kilometers. But the ministry said it’s not certain if the test was successful because Seoul couldn’t verify if the North has mastered re-entry technology for an ICBM. The ministry said North Korea may now conduct a nuclear test with “boosted explosive power” to show off a warhead to be mounted on a missile.
The launch sends a political warning to Washington and its chief Asian allies, Seoul and Tokyo, while also allowing North Korean scientists a chance to perfect their still-incomplete nuclear missile program. It came days after the first face-to-face meeting between Trump and Moon and ahead of a summit of the world’s richest economies.
Hamish de Bretton-Gordon, a former commanding officer of the British Armed Forces Joint Chemical Biological Radiological Nuclear Regiment, said that “in capability of missile terms and delivery, it is a major step up and they seem to be making progress week-on-week.” He added, however, that “actually marrying the warhead to the missile is probably the biggest challenge, which they appear not to have progressed on.”
North Korea has a reliable arsenal of shorter-range missiles and is thought to have a small number of atomic bombs, but is still trying to perfect its longer-range missiles. Some outside civilian experts believe the North has the technology to mount warheads on shorter-range Rodong and Scud missiles that can strike South Korea and Japan, two key US allies where about 80,000 American troops are stationed. But it’s unclear if it has mastered the technology needed to build an atomic bomb that can fit on a long-range missile.
Soon after the launch, Trump responded on Twitter: “North Korea has just launched another missile. Does this guy have anything better to do with his life? Hard to believe that South Korea and Japan will put up with this much longer. Perhaps China will put a heavy move on North Korea and end this nonsense once and for all!“
“This guy” presumably refers to Kim. China is North Korea’s economic lifeline and only major ally, and the Trump administration is pushing Beijing to do more to push the North toward disarmament.
After North Korea claimed earlier this year it was close to an ICBM test launch, Trump took to Twitter and said, “It won’t happen!“
North Korea says it needs nuclear weapons and powerful missiles to cope with what it calls rising US military threats.
Regional disarmament talks on North Korea’s nuclear program have been deadlocked since 2009, when the North pulled out of the negotiations to protest international condemnation over a long-range rocket launch.
The missile test could invite a new round of international sanctions, but North Korea is already one of the most sanctioned countries on Earth.
Last year, North Korea conducted its fourth and fifth atomic bomb tests and claimed a series of technical breakthroughs in its efforts to develop long-range nuclear missiles. The fifth nuclear test in September was the North’s most powerful atomic detonation to date.
The Korean Peninsula has been divided since the end of World War II. Almost 30,000 US troops are stationed in South Korea.

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China rocket failure likely to set back next space missions

Wed, 2017-07-05 09:00

BEIJING: The failure of China’s Long March 5 rocket deals a rare setback to China’s highly successful space program that could delay plans to bring back moon samples and offer rival India a chance to move ahead in the space rankings.
Experts say the still unexplained mishap shows that for all its triumphs, China’s space program is not immune to the tremendous difficulties and risks involved in working with such cutting-edge technology.
“China’s approach has been slow and prudent, trying to avoid this kind of ‘failure,’ even though they knew it was going to occur sooner or later,” Joan Johnson-Freese, an expert on China’s space program at the US Naval War College, wrote in an e-mail.
Authorities say the Long March 5 Y2 that took off Sunday in the second launch of a Long March 5 rocket, suffered an abnormality during the flight after what appeared to be a successful liftoff from the Wenchang Space Launch Center in the southern island province of Hainan. The incident is under investigation and the authorities have yet to comment on possible causes, or any knock-on effects on the program as a whole.
In a testimony to the high respect China’s program now commands, the failure drew widespread commentary in the space community, including from SpaceX founder and chief executive Elon Musk, who tweeted Sunday: “Sorry to hear about China launch failure today. I know how painful that is to the people who designed & built it.”
Nicknamed “Chubby 5” for its massive, 5-meter (16-foot) girth, the Long March-5 is China’s largest and most brawny launch vehicle, capable of carrying 25 tons of payload into low-earth orbit and 14 tons to the more distant geostationary transfer orbit in which a satellite orbits constantly above a fixed position on the earth’s surface
That’s more than double that of the Long March 7, the backbone of the Chinese launching fleet, making it the linchpin for launch duties requiring such massive heft such as interplanetary travel.
First among those is the mission slated for November by the Chang’e 5 probe to land a rover on the moon before returning to Earth with samples — the first time that has been done since 1976. China’s most technically demanding mission to date, it had been put off before because of funding and then technology, Johnson-Freese said.
While the Long March 5 has suffered other setbacks, the lunar mission is “certainly the most visible one,” she said.
Other upcoming Chinese missions include the launch next year of the 20-ton core module for China’s orbiting Tiangong 2 space station, along with specialized components for the 60-ton station that is due to come on-line in 2022 and other massive payloads in future. The Long March 5 was also due to be the launch vehicle for a Mars rover planned for the mid 2020s.
Problems with the Long March 5 may stem from its use of liquefied gases that are less stable than the sort of propellants used in other rockets, said Morris Jones, an Australian space analyst and regular contributor to Unlike earlier rockets that used highly toxic fuels, the Long March 5 burns a more environmentally friendly and less expensive kerosene-liquid oxygen-liquid hydrogen mix — which is more complex and harder to regulate.
Jones called such setbacks typical of the development phase of a new rocket and said additional launches may be required to work out the kinks. Sunday’s launch failure will delay the Chang’e 5 mission at least until next year, while there may also be a small delay in launching the space station components, Jones said.
Finding a fix “takes a lot of time and effort but there is no other way to produce a reliable rocket,” Jones said.
Test launched for the first time last year in what had been a towering success, the 57-meter (187-foot) two-stage rocket is just slightly less powerful than the most powerful rocket in service, the US’ United Launch Alliance’s Delta IV, although SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy is designed to carry a payload into low-earth orbit of more than 50 tons.
Since the first launch in 1970, China’s Long March series of rockets have been a remarkably solid bet, achieving a success rate of around 95 percent. That’s helped facilitate a program that conducted its first crewed space mission in 2003, making China only the third country after Russia and the US to do so, put a pair of space stations into orbit, and landed its Yutu, or “Jade Rabbit” rover on the moon. Administrators suggest a manned landing on the moon may also be in the program’s future.
Not all has been smooth sailing, however.
A Long March 3B rocket launched June 18 launch placed its communications satellite in a lower-than planned for orbit. Though the satellite is climbing into its proper altitude on its own, the effort will reduce its useful lifespan in space. A least two similar incidents reportedly occurred last year.
With two mishaps coming so close together, Chinese space officials may decide to take a pause to re-evaluate manufacturing quality or other aspects of the program, said Stephen Clark of Spaceflight Now. That may include launching another Long March 5 test flight before attempting the Chang’e 5 mission, Clark said.
Both Clark and Johnson-Freese said they hope the failure doesn’t deter Chinese officials in their pursuit of greater transparency and international participation in the country’s space program.
Yet, rivals, primarily India, may see the setback as an opportunity to steal a march on China, whose geostrategic influence has benefited significantly from its role as a technology leader in space, said Johnson-Freese.
India’s Mars Orbiter Mission, called Mangalyaan, is already orbiting the red planet, years before China is ready to launch such a mission, and it won acclaim and a place in the record books earlier this year by placing 104 nano satellites in orbit from a single rocket.
“The failure of the Long March 5 may provide a window of opportunity for India,” said Johnson-Freese.

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Interpol president calls for unity in facing cyberattacks

Tue, 2017-07-04 03:00

SINGAPORE: Countries and law enforcement agencies must work together to counter rising threats, especially those in cyberspace, the president of Interpol told a security congress on Tuesday.
In a wide-ranging speech, Meng Hongwei cited the recent outbreak of ransomware WannaCry, which has scrambled data at hospitals, factories, banks, government agencies and other businesses in Asia and beyond.
“Criminals will continue to exploit the exponential growth of the Internet and social communication platforms,” said Meng, a top Chinese police official.
“However, no single country or profession can rely solely upon its own capability to address the problem of transnational and organized crimes. We are all part of the world. We are all facing the same threats in (the) international arena,” Meng said.
Meng’s election to lead Interpol set off alarm bells among rights advocates over abuses and a lack of transparency within China’s legal system. His speech Tuesday was one of his first public appearances.
Lyon, France-based Interpol has 190 member nations and has the power to issue “red notices,” the closest instrument to an international arrest warrant in use today.
Interpol’s president is a largely symbolic but still influential figure who heads its executive committee, which is responsible for providing guidance and direction and implementing decisions made by its general assembly. Interpol Secretary-General Jurgen Stock is the organization’s chief full-time official and heads the executive committee.
Meng took over in November from Mireille Ballestrazzi of France for a four-year term. He was nominated by Interpol member countries.

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