TOKYO: The swine flu epidemic continued to spread rampantly in central and western Japan, with local authorities struggling to contain the highly-contagious virus, while the government remained reluctant to use vaccines to eradicate the problem.
Swine flu, also known as hog cholera, was first detected on farms in Gifu Prefecture in September, but has been newly detected in pigs at farms in neighboring Aichi Prefecture, as well as at farms in Osaka, Shiga, and Nagano prefectures, authorities said.
They said the number of pigs to be culled and buried at affected farms is expected to reach around 15,000. “We are facing an extremely serious situation,” farm minister Takamori Yoshikawa said at his ministry in Tokyo. He instructed officials to take necessary countermeasures and underscore efforts in Gifu Prefecture to contain the virus.
A vaccine that could counter the hog cholera epidemic here and bring it under control has been snubbed by the government, however, with Yasuhiro Ozato, senior vice farm minister, expressing concern about using the vaccine.
“We will seek to resolve this by sticking to hygiene control standards,” said Ozato, who was concerned that using the vaccine would hinder Japan from regaining its World Organization for Animal Health status and being able to expand its pork exports.
Ozato was intimating that if the vaccine were to be used, then Japan would fail to regain its status as a Classic Swine Fever (CSF) free country, which would severely hamper the nation’s pork industry. Up until recently, Japan has had no infections of pig cholera recorded since the first outbreak in 1992, with the virus being declared eradicated in 2007.
$8.1b arms sales to ‘deter Iranian aggression’
WASHINGTON: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Friday that the US administration was bypassing Congress to sell $8.1 billion in weapons to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Jordan to “deter Iranian aggression.”
“These sales will support our allies, enhance Middle East stability and help these nations to deter and defend themselves from the Islamic Republic of Iran,” Pompeo said in a statement, hours after a senator announced the sale and sharply criticized it.
Iran ‘Threat’: US orders new troops to ME!
WASHINGTON: The United States announced Friday it was deploying 1,500 additional troops to the Middle East in response to what the Pentagon called a “campaign” of recent attacks approved by Iran’s top leadership.
The escalation of the US military presence follows a decision in early May to send an aircraft carrier strike force and B-52 bombers in a show of force against what Washington’s leaders believed was an imminent Iranian plan to attack US assets.
And it comes as the Trump administration is planning to bypass congressional restrictions to sell arms to Saudi Arabia, a close US ally and Iran’s arch-enemy in the region.
“This is a prudent response to credible threats from Iran,” said acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan.
President Donald Trump, who approved the deployment, called it “protective.”
“We want to have protection in the Middle East,” Trump told reporters as he prepared to set off on a trip to Japan.
“We’re going to be sending a relatively small number of troops, mostly protective,” Trump added. “It’ll be about 1,500 people.”
The new deployment includes reconnaissance aircraft, fighter jets, and engineers. Six hundred of the personnel belong to a Patriot missile defense battalion that had its deployment in the region extended.
Pentagon officials said the move was necessary after multiple threatening actions and several small-in-scope attacks in May by Iranian forces, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, and “proxy” forces.
Those include a rocket launched into the Green Zone in Baghdad, explosive devices that damaged four tankers in Fujairah near the entrance to the Gulf, and a Houthi drone attack against a Saudi oil installation.
The initial threat came at the beginning of May, according to Rear Admiral Michael Gilday, director of the Pentagon’s Joint Staff.
The US caught the IRGC attempting to covertly deploy “modified dhows capable of launching cruise missiles,” he said, referring to small traditional boats.
“We view this as a campaign,” Gilday told reporters.
The moves “are all part of a dangerous and escalatory strategy by Iran to threaten global trade and to destabilize the region.”
“We believe with a high degree of confidence that this stems back to the leadership of Iran at the highest levels, and that all of the attacks… have been attributed to Iran through their proxies or their forces,” Gilday said, citing still-secret US intelligence.
US officials said the aim was both to extend greater protection to the 70,000 US forces deployed in the Middle East and Afghanistan, and to deliver a message to Iran to refrain from attacks.
“We think that through a combination of a very measured deployment of assets as well as public messaging, we are again trying to underscore that we are not seeking hostilities with Iran,” he said.
Gilday said the US moves have had some impact. When Washington first learned of Tehran’s alleged intent to launch attacks, it delivered a stern warning to Tehran “within hours” through an unnamed third party.
Since then, the threat of the missile-bearing dhows appears to have subsided.
However, the Trump administration continues to draw criticism that it has not clearly shown the need for an escalation.
Members of Congress were also angered that Trump was overriding their block on delivery of lethal weapons to the Saudis.
“More tactics with absolutely no strategy,” tweeted Democratic Senator Chris Murphy.
“All that is happening now is escalatory move after escalatory move. Trump has ZERO plan for how this ends, and that should scare the hell out of everyone.”
But Pentagon officials stressed that the US does not seek war with Iran.
“We do not see these additional capabilities as encouraging hostilities. We see them as defensive in nature,” said acting Assistant Secretary of Defense Katie Wheelbarger.
“Our policy remains an economic and diplomatic effort to bring Iran back to the negotiating table to encourage a comprehensive deal that addresses the range of their destabilizing behavior in the region.”
At UN, Pakistan chastises India for rights abuse in Kashmir
UNITED NATIONS: Pakistan on Thursday brought into sharp focus of the world community the atrocities being committed by Indian occupation forces in Jammu and Kashmir, and urged the UN Security Council to resolve long-standing conflicts on its agenda.
“Inaction by the Security Council in cases of foreign aggression and occupation comes at a high human cost,”Ambassador Maleeha Lodhi said in an open Council debate on ‘Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict’, referring to the continuing violations of International Humanitarian Law by warring parties with impunity.
“In Indian occupied Jammu and Kashmir,” the Pakistani envoy said, “the occupying forces continue to show utter disregard for human life by systematically violating the fundamental norms of international humanitarian law and by using civilians as human shields.
“Worse, perpetrators who commit such crimes are not only protected under black laws, but are honoured by the military command.”
The rules of conduct in armed conflict are clearly codified in the 1949 Geneva Conventions and additional protocols and constitute the bedrock of international humanitarian law, she said. Yet this law continues to be flouted whenever and wherever hostilities break, with women bearing the brunt of the atrocities.
“Whether it is plausible deniability or abuse, the grim reality is, when the beast of conflict roars, legal regimes fall silent,” Ambassador Lodhi told the Security Council.
Today, she said, targeted attacks, sexual violence, forced conscription, torture, indiscriminate killings and gross human rights violations were used cynically as tools of war in conflicts.