China

FILE PHOTO: Logo of Swiss bank UBS is seen in Zurich
FILE PHOTO: The logo of Swiss bank UBS is seen in Zurich, Switzerland, Oct. 25, 2018. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann

June 17, 2019

BEIJING (Reuters) – China Railway Construction Corp (CRCC) has decided not to cooperate with UBS for a planned dollar-bond sale, a spokesman at the Chinese infrastructure giant told Reuters on Monday.

Earlier, Bloomberg reported that CRCC decided against hiring UBS as a joint global coordinator on the bond sale after remarks about pigs by an economist at the Swiss bank last week sparked a public outcry in China, citing people familiar with the matter.

(Reporting by Yawen Chen and Ryan Woo; Editing by Shri Navaratnam)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: A man looks at an electronic board showing the Nikkei stock index outside a brokerage in Tokyo
FILE PHOTO: A man looks at an electronic board showing the Nikkei stock index outside a brokerage in Tokyo, Japan, January 7, 2019. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

June 17, 2019

By Tomo Uetake

TOKYO (Reuters) – Asian shares wobbled near one-week lows on Monday as investors turned cautious ahead of a closely-watched Federal Reserve meeting, while political tensions in the Middle East and Hong Kong kept risk appetite in check.

European stock were expected to open higher, with futures for Britain’s FTSE climbing 0.4% and Germany’s DAX up about 0.2%.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was little changed by early afternoon, after opening slightly weaker. Japan’s Nikkei average also closed flat.

Asian markets got a quick boost after Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index jumped as much as 1.4%. At the weekend, the territory’s leader Carrie Lam climbed down on a bill that would have allowed extradition to China.

The Hang Seng fell for three sessions in a row through Friday, after the extradition bill triggered mass protests and some of the worst unrest seen in the territory since Britain handed it back to Chinese rule in 1997.

“Last week the issue looked as if it would become another thorny point between the United States and China. As the bill is now being postponed indefinitely, things will likely calm down, which is good for markets,” said Hiroyuki Ueno, senior strategist at Sumitomo Mitsui Trust Asset Management.

Mainland Chinese shares traded within a tight range, with benchmark Shanghai Composite up 0.2% and the blue-chip CSI 300 rising 0.1%.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told Fox News on Sunday that President Donald Trump would raise the issue of Hong Kong’s human rights with China’s President Xi Jinping at a potential meeting of the two leaders at the G20 summit in Japan later this month.

Wall Street stocks ended lower on Friday as investors turned cautious before this week’s Fed meeting, while a warning from Broadcom on slowing demand weighed on chipmakers and added to U.S.-China trade worries.[.N]

Investors were waiting for more clues from the Fed after policymakers raised expectations for a rate cut in recent weeks amid worries about mounting fallout from the U.S.-Sino trade war.

Strong U.S. retail sales data on Friday rolled back expectations of a Fed rate cut at this week’s meeting to 17.5%, from 31% shortly before the release of the data on Friday, according to CME Group’s FedWatch tool. But bets of an easing by the July meeting remain high at 84%.

“The week ahead is likely to provide some clarification for investors on three fronts that have been a source of uncertainty. The FOMC meeting, with updated forecasts, is center stage,” said Marc Chandler, chief market strategist at Bannockburn Global Forex.

A private gauge on eurozone’s manufacturing sector as well as U.S.-China trade frictions will also be watched closely, Chandler said.

Financial markets were sideswiped by a sudden escalation in Sino-U.S. trade tensions in early May, with growing anxiety among investors that a protracted standoff could tip the global economy into recession.

Geopolitical tensions in the Middle East added another layer of uncertainty after the United States blamed Iran for attacks on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman last week.

Hopes that global central banks will keep the money spigots open have helped to temper some of the fears, and all eyes are on the Fed’s two-day meeting starting on Tuesday.

The Bank of Japan also meets this week and is widely expected to reinforce its commitment to retain a massive stimulus program for some time to come.

The retail sales report also sent short-dated U.S. Treasury yields higher, flattening the yield curve.[L2N23L10H]

Benchmark 10-year notes was last at 2.106%, while two-year bond yield edged up, shrinking the spread between two- and 10-year yields to 23.7 basis points compared to more than 30 earlier this month.

A Reuters poll showed a growing number of economists expect the Fed policymakers to cut interest rates this year, although the majority still see it holding steady.

In currency markets, the dollar index against a basket of six major currencies climbed to 97.583 on Friday, its highest level in almost two weeks, after the U.S. retail sales data eased fears that the world’s largest economy is slowing sharply.

The index last stood at 97.510, while the euro fetched $1.1216, near the lower end of its weekly trading range.

Oil prices rose on Monday after U.S. Secretary of State Pompeo said Washington will take all actions necessary to guarantee safe navigation in the Middle East, as tensions mounted following attacks on tankers last week.[O/R]

Brent futures added 0.4% to $62.27 a barrel, while U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures gained 0.3% to $52.67.

Spot gold eased 0.2% to $1,338.17 an ounce after hitting a 14-month peak on Friday.

Bitcoin jumped overnight to $9,391.85, its highest level in 13 months. It was last quoted at $9,193.21.

(Additional reporting by Hideyuki Sano; Editing by Shri Navaratnam & Kim Coghill)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: A security guard walks past in front of the Bank of Japan headquarters in Tokyo
FILE PHOTO: A security guard walks past in front of the Bank of Japan headquarters in Tokyo, Japan January 23, 2019. REUTERS/Issei Kato/File Photo

June 17, 2019

By Leika Kihara

TOKYO (Reuters) – The Bank of Japan is expected to maintain its massive stimulus program on Thursday and signal its readiness to ramp up monetary support if growing risks such as the escalating U.S.-China trade war threaten the economy’s modest expansion.

Many BOJ policymakers are wary of using their dwindling policy ammunition any time soon as years of ultra-low interest rates strain financial institutions’ profits, say sources with knowledge of the central bank’s thinking.

But the darkening outlook is also forcing them to brace for the likelihood of another economic downturn and brainstorm ideas on how to respond, they say.

Adding to the uncertainty are heightening market expectations the U.S. Federal Reserve will start to cut interest rates to fend off the damage from the trade war with China.

While such rate cut expectations have kept a floor on stock prices so far, an actual cut by the Fed could push down the dollar and trigger an unwelcome yen spike that hurts Japan’s export-reliant economy, some analysts say.

“There may be no immediate need for action,” one of the sources said. “But with uncertainty over the outlook so high, the BOJ would need to think about how to respond if a shock hits the economy.”

At the two-day rate review ending on Thursday, the BOJ is widely expected to keep its short-term rate target at -0.1% and a pledge to guide the 10-year government bond yield around zero percent. The Fed meets this Tuesday and Wednesday.

The BOJ board is likely to maintain its view Japan’s economy continues to expand moderately as a trend, but debate whether its projection of a rebound in overseas growth later this year remains valid, the sources say.

At a post-meeting news conference, BOJ Governor Haruhiko Kuroda is likely reinforce his view the central bank is ready to deploy additional stimulus if the economy loses momentum to hit its 2% inflation target.

Japan’s economy expanded an annualized 2.1% in January-March but many analysts predict growth to slow in coming quarters as the U.S.-China trade row hurts global trade. A scheduled domestic sales tax hike in October may also cool consumption, they warn.

Many in the BOJ prefer to wait for more data, such as the central bank’s “tankan” quarterly business sentiment survey due July 1, to see how deeply the trade tensions could hurt domestic demand, the sources say.

“Domestic demand, including capital expenditure, is still firm. The key is to see whether this will remain the case,” a second source said.

Japan’s annual core consumer inflation hit 0.9% in April, remaining distant from the BOJ’s target, despite years of heavy money printing by the central bank.

Many analysts say the BOJ has very little tools left to fight the next recession, with its negative rate policy hurting financial institutions’ margins and long-term yields already hovering below zero.

(Reporting by Leika Kihara; Editing by Kim Coghill)

Source: OANN

A helmet and messages of support for the protest against a proposed extradition bill, are seen displayed early morning in Hong Kong, China
A helmet and messages of support for the protest against a proposed extradition bill, are seen displayed early morning in Hong Kong, China June 17, 2019. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha

June 17, 2019

HONG KONG (Reuters) – Hong Kong’s political crisis enters its second week on Monday as uncertainty mounts over the fate of government leader Carrie Lam and an extradition bill she postponed at the weekend.

Organizers said almost 2 million protesters turned out on Sunday to demand that Lam step down in what is becoming the most significant challenge to China’s relationship with the territory since it was handed back by Britain 22 years ago.

“Her government cannot be an effective government, and will have much, much, much difficulties to carry on,” veteran Democratic Party legislator James To told government-funded broadcaster RTHK.

“I believe the central people’s government will accept her resignation.”

Opposition politicians are echoing marchers’ calls for both Lam and the law to go, even though she apologized for how her government handled the draft bill, which would allow suspects to be sent to mainland China for trial for the first time.

While Lam delayed the bill, it has yet to be completely shelved despite broad local and international concern.

“We cannot accept her apology, it doesn’t remove all our threats,” said social worker Brian Chau, who was among several hundred protesters who stayed overnight in the Admiralty district around the government headquarters and legislature.

Some cleared away rubbish left after the vast but peaceful march, while others sang ‘Hallelujah’, a gospel song that has become of a feature of Hong Kong’s protests against Lam.

A smattering of uniformed police stood by, without riot equipment, in a contrast to the recent violent skirmishes between police and protesters.

The headquarters will remain closed on Monday, the government said.

(Reporting by Marius Zaharia, John Ruwitch, Farah Master and Greg Torode; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: Athletics - Diamond League - Shanghai
FILE PHOTO: Athletics – Diamond League – Shanghai – Shanghai Stadium, Shanghai, China – May 18, 2019 Noah Lyles of the U.S. celebrates winning the Men’s 100m REUTERS/Aly Song/File Photo

June 17, 2019

(Reuters) – Noah Lyles overcame an apparent false start to run the fourth-fastest 150 meters of all time on a wet elevated straightaway in Boston on Sunday.

After television footage showed the world and Olympic 200m favorite leaving the starting blocks early, Lyles was given a second chance and romped to a personal best 14.69 seconds in the Adidas Boost Boston Games.

Retired Jamaican Usain Bolt, the man Lyles would like to succeed in the Olympic 200m, holds the world best of 14.35 seconds in the infrequently run event.

“What did the guy at the start say? Green card. Then it was a green card,” Lyles said after officials told NBC Sports there was no conclusive evidence that the star of the meeting had false started.

But four-time Olympic sprint medalist Ato Boldon, the network’s analyst, disagreed. “In any other meet, Noah is out of this race,” he said.

Once the red-clad Lyles got moving in the restart, there was no stopping him as he left British runnerup Nethaneel Mitchell-Blake 0.41 seconds in his wake.

The United States has not won an Olympic medal in the men’s 200m since 2008 and Lyles is aiming to change that.

“I made it my mission,” said the talented sprinter with Bolt-like showmanship. “We are not out of this. We are coming back.”

His goal is gold in both September’s world championships in Doha and the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Despite the wet conditions, Bahamian Olympic 400m champion Shaunae Miller-Uibo, Britain’s 100m European champion Zharnel Hughes and South African sprinter Akani Simbine had impressive performances.

Miller-Uibo clocked 16.37 seconds, a mere 0.14 off her world best in the women’s 150m.

Hughes claimed the 200m straightaway race in 20.00 seconds and Commonwealth Games winner Simbine clocked 9.92 seconds in the 100m.

The women’s 100m went to world 60m indoor champion Murielle Ahoure of Ivory Coast in 11.09 seconds with world outdoor gold medalist Tori Bowie, who is coming back from injuries, third in 11.22.

(Reporting by Gene Cherry in Raleigh, North Carolina; Editing by Ian Ransom)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: NBA: Finals-Golden State Warriors at Toronto Raptors
FILE PHOTO: Jun 10, 2019; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Raptors head coach Nick Nurse gestures during the fourth quarter against the Golden State Warriors in game five of the 2019 NBA Finals at Scotiabank Arena. John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

June 16, 2019

Toronto Raptors coach Nick Nurse is seeking another title with another team.

Just days after the Raptors won the NBA championship in six games over the Golden State Warriors, Nurse said Sunday a deal was “just about done” to make him the coach of the Canadian national team.

“I’m getting ready to take another situation soon because I think it’s going to be make me a better coach,” said Nurse, who has extensive experience coaching internationally.

First up: the World Cup this summer. Team Canada will open play in the 2019 World Cup in China on Sept. 1 against Australia.

It has scheduled a warmup game against Nigeria on Aug. 9 in Winnipeg, Manitoba, and also will play two pre-tournament games against Australia in Perth on Aug. 16 and 17.

“I expect we’ll have Canada’s most talented team ever, with most of our NBA players proudly representing their country,” Glen Grunwald, president and CEO of Canada Basketball said in May.

Prospective players for Team Canada are Kelly Olynyk (Miami Heat), Dwight Powell (Dallas Mavericks), R.J.Barrett (Duke, projected top-three pick in NBA draft), Tristan Thompson (Cleveland Cavaliers), Jamal Murray (Denver Nuggets) and Andrew Wiggins (Minnesota Timberwolves).

Nurse, 51, was as an assistant coach with Great Britain in the 2012 Olympics.

“I learned a lot as a coach in that run and I’m hoping this experience will do the same,” he said.

He presumably also would coach Canada in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

“It’s a unique time with the World Cup and the Olympics within a short 13-14 month window. And it fits in OK. I’m just giving up some vacation time,” he said.

–Field Level Media

Source: OANN

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LONDON (AP) — Katie Jones sure seemed plugged into Washington’s political scene. The 30-something redhead boasted a job at a top think tank and a who’s-who network of pundits and experts, from the centrist Brookings Institution to the right-wing Heritage Foundation. She was connected to a deputy assistant secretary of state, a senior aide to a senator and the economist Paul Winfree, who is being considered for a seat on the Federal Reserve.

But Katie Jones doesn’t exist, The Associated Press has determined. Instead, the persona was part of a vast army of phantom profiles lurking on the professional networking site LinkedIn. And several experts contacted by the AP said Jones’ profile picture appeared to have been created by a computer program.

“I’m convinced that it’s a fake face,” said Mario Klingemann, a German artist who has been experimenting for years with artificially generated portraits and says he has reviewed tens of thousands of such images. “It has all the hallmarks.”

Experts who reviewed the Jones profile’s LinkedIn activity say it’s typical of espionage efforts on the professional networking site, whose role as a global Rolodex has made it a powerful magnet for spies.

“It smells a lot like some sort of state-run operation,” said Jonas Parello-Plesner, who serves as program director at the Denmark-based think tank Alliance of Democracies Foundation and was the target several years ago of an espionage operation that began over LinkedIn .

William Evanina, director of the U.S. National Counterintelligence and Security Center, said foreign spies routinely use fake social media profiles to home in on American targets — and accused China in particular of waging “mass scale” spying on LinkedIn.

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Photo Credit: AP

Source: The Washington Pundit

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The selective outrage from the left surrounding foreign interference in U.S. elections is beyond hypocritical — it’s absurd.

Take President Trump’s interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos on Wednesday. When asked by the TV anchor if his campaign would accept information from foreign nations, including China or Russia, that could damage his opponent, Trump said, “I think you might want to listen. There’s nothing wrong with listening.” He continued. “If somebody called from a country, Norway — ‘We have information on your opponent’ — oh, I think I’d want to hear it.”

The president downplayed the notion that such a gesture amounts to foreign election interference.

The response, however, from scores of Democratic presidential hopefuls was piercing. They excoriated Trump’s comments, with several candidates amplifying calls for impeachment. Frontrunner Joe Biden tweeted: “President Trump is once again welcoming foreign interference in our elections. This isn’t about politics. It is a threat to our national security. An American President should not seek their aid and abet those who seek to undermine democracy.”

Sen. Bernie Sanders said, “We have a president who thinks he is above the law. The House should immediately begin impeachment inquiries.”

California Sen. Kamala Harris said on MSNBC, “what we hear tonight is that he is yet again open to the idea of working with foreign governments to undermine the integrity of our election system. It’s outrageous.”

Sen. Elizabeth Warren also reiterated calls for impeachment while other 2020 Democratic candidates including Beto O’Rourke tweeted, “When the President of the United States openly welcomes foreign help to win an election, he threatens the very core of our democracy. If we are to secure justice and ensure this never happens again, we must impeach him.”

Many other prominent Democrats, lawmakers and biased media made similar utterances.

Of course, there was no such outrage from the left or the #FakeNewsMedia when the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign paid millions for Russian disinformation against Donald Trump. Former British spy Christopher Steele procured the propaganda from foreign “informants” for what’s known as the “dirty dossier.” That foreign-sourced opposition research wasn’t just obtained and listened to by Team Hillary. It was used by former FBI Director James Comey, Democratic lawmakers and the highest echelons of the justice system to derail the Trump campaign and current administration via counterintelligence investigations and other underhanded tactics.

Two sets of rules? Clearly.

Then there’s former President Barack Obama’s Department of Justice, which used the foreign-sourced dossier — despite it being unverified and salacious, per James Comey — to obtain FISA warrants to spy on the Trump campaign and launch several ongoing investigations into the administration.

Democrats aren’t bothered by any of that, as they only care about foreign meddling in our democracy and elections when it hurts them politically. When it benefits them, however, they look the other way.

Then there’s the high-paid DNC contractor Alexandra Chalupa who, as Politico reported in 2017, sought dirt on Paul Manafort from the Ukrainian government to harm Trump’s 2016 campaign — and help Hillary Clinton. Politico said: “Ukrainian government officials tried to help Hillary Clinton and undermine Trump by publicly questioning his fitness for office. They also disseminated documents implicating a top Trump aide … And they helped Clinton’s allies research damaging information on Trump and his advisors.”

Any outrage from the left? Not even a smidgen. 

Then there’s Trump nemesis Rep. Adam Schiff, a ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee who is laser-focused on investigating the president and removing him from office — at any cost. Democrats’ feathers weren’t ruffled in 2017 when Schiff solicited dirt on Trump from Russians, who offered nude photos of Trump.

But when Trump says he’d listen to information from a foreign government — not necessarily act on it — or inform the FBI, the left goes ballistic, illustrating how morally bankrupt and ethically challenged Democrats have become in their unbridled quest for power.

COPYRIGHT 2019 CREATORS.COM

Source: Real Clear Politics

Basketball - Men's Preliminary Round Group A China v USA
FILE PHOTO: 2016 Rio Olympics – Basketball – Preliminary – Men’s Preliminary Round Group A China v USA – Carioca Arena 1 – Rio de Janeiro, Brazil – 06/08/2016. Jimmy Butler (USA) of the USA in action. REUTERS/Adrees Latif

June 14, 2019

Philadelphia 76ers forward Jimmy Butler intends to test free agency by opting out of a $19.8 million player option, according to a report from Yahoo Sports, citing NBA sources.

The Sixers were prepared for Butler’s decision and “remain adamant” about keeping the 29-year-old with the team, according to Yahoo’s Chris Haynes.

Philadelphia acquired Butler in a trade with the Minnesota Timberwolves early last season. The eight-year pro went on to average 18.2 points, 5.3 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 1.8 steals in 55 games with the Sixers.

Butler will be one of the top free agents on the market, and the Los Angeles Lakers have “genuine interest” in signing Butler, sources told Yahoo.

Philadelphia is trying to retain its veteran production around youngsters Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. In addition to Butler likely hitting the market, another 76ers’ trade addition from last season, Tobias Harris, is a free agent.

Butler has career averages of 16.7 points and 4.9 rebounds.

–Field Level Media

Source: OANN

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — The Latest on Mideast developments amid rising tensions in the Persian Gulf region (all times local):

11:45 p.m.

The head of the Arab League is calling on the Iranians to “be careful and reverse course.”

Secretary General Ahmed Aboul Gheit noted after meeting with U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres at U.N. headquarters in New York on Friday that there are conflicting reports about how Thursday’s tanker incidents occurred.

“We believe that responsibilities need to be clearly defined,” he said. “The facts will be revealed, I am sure, it’s only a matter of time.”

The U.S. says the Iranians are responsible for the attacks near the strategic Strait of Hormuz. The Iranians say they were not involved.

Aboul Gheit said: “My call to my Iranian — and I call them Iranian brothers: Be careful and reverse course because you’re pushing everybody towards a confrontation that no one would be safe if it happens.”

___

11:15 p.m.

The British government says it agrees with a U.S. conclusion that Iran attacked two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman.

The Foreign Office says in a statement that its own assessment concluded “it is almost certain that a branch of the Iranian military,” the Islamic Revolutionary Guard, attacked the tankers. It said it also believed Iran was behind an attack last month on four tankers near the United Arab Emirates port of Fujairah.

The U.S. military on Friday released a video it said showed Iran's Revolutionary Guard removing an unexploded limpet mine from one of the oil tankers targeted near the Strait of Hormuz, suggesting the Islamic Republic sought to remove evidence of its involvement from the scene. (June 14)

Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said the attacks “build on a pattern of destabilizing Iranian behaviour and pose a serious danger to the region.” He said Britain “remains in close coordination with international partners to find diplomatic solutions to de-escalate tensions.

___

10:45 p.m.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is calling for an independent investigation into the suspected attacks on two tankers near the strategic Strait of Hormuz, saying it’s important to know the truth about what happened.

The U.N. chief reiterated to reporters after meeting Arab League Secretary General Ahmed Aboul Gheit at U.N. headquarters in New York on Friday that “we believe it is very important to avoid, at all costs, a major confrontation in the Gulf.”

Guterres said U.N. officials have been “talking to everybody” but “at the present moment, we don’t see a mechanism of dialogue possible to be in place.”

Aboul Gheit said he is very worried at recent developments in the Gulf, and said: “We believe that the truth needs to be clearly established in relation to these attacks.”

___

7:55 p.m.

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has condemned the suspected attack on a Japanese-operated tanker near the Strait of Hormuz this week as a threat to safe maritime navigation.

Abe, speaking to reporters Friday, says: “Japan adamantly condemns the act that threatened a Japanese ship, no matter who attacked.”

The tanker, Kokuka Courageous, was attacked by what its crewmembers described as “flying objects” near the Strait of Hormuz, carrying methanol to Singapore and Thailand. All 21 Filipino sailors were safely evacuated.

Abe urged “all related countries” to avoid an accidental confrontation and refrain from any action that may escalate tensions. He pledged to help de-escalate tensions in the region.

Abe made the remarks after telephone calls with U.S. President Donald Trump, briefing him on his Iran visit this week, without elaborating. He pledged to keep cooperating with Trump.

___

6:35 p.m.

The Russian Foreign Ministry has warned against rushing to assign blame for attacks on tankers in the Gulf of Oman and accused the U.S. of stoking tensions in the region with its accusations against Iran.

The ministry said in Friday’s statement that the U.S.’s “Iranophobic” stance has “artificially” fueled tensions. It urged all parties involved to show restraint.

The Russian statement came after President Donald Trump blamed Iran for the attacks and called it “a nation of terror.”

Russia’s Foreign Ministry said Moscow strongly condemns the attacks in the strategic Strait of Hormuz, but warned against blaming anyone until the completion of a “thorough and unbiased international probe.”

It thanked Iran for helping rescue 11 Russian nationals who were part of one of the tankers’ crew.

___

5:15 p.m.

Japanese Foreign Ministry press secretary Takeshi Osuga has condemned Thursday’s attacks on a Japanese-operated tanker near the Strait of Hormuz, calling it a threat to Japan’s peace and prosperity.

Osuga , in a statement Friday, didn’t identify a suspected attacker and pledged to continue gathering information and secure the safety of maritime navigation. He says: “Japan firmly condemns such attacks which threaten the safety of ships.”

Osuga said safety in the Strait of Hormuz is crucial to Japan’s energy security as well as to the peace and prosperity of the international community, including Japan.

A Japanese-operated tanker was targeted in a suspected attack Thursday near the Strait of Hormuz. The tanker company said some crewmembers saw “flying objects,” possibly bullets, damage the tanker, not mines. All 21 Filipino sailors on the tanker were rescued.

___

4:40 p.m.

The Norwegian owner of an oil tanker that caught fire after a suspected attack in the Gulf of Oman says the blaze has been extinguished.

Frontline says the fire was put out on the Front Altair and did not cause any pollution.

The company added that its 23 crew members are still In Iran at Bandar Abbas, though they’ll be repatriated soon.

Frontline CEO Robert Hvide Macleod separately says the company still doesn’t know the cause of the explosion and the fire “but we can exclude that a fault with the ship that has caused this.”

___

4:30 p.m.

President Donald Trump is calling Iran “a nation of terror,” saying Iran’s responsibility for attacks on tankers in the Gulf of Oman was “exposed” by the United States.

Calling into “Fox & Friends” on Friday, Trump says of the Thursday attacks, “Iran did do it.” He cites video purporting to show an Iranian boat removing what the U.S. says is an unexploded mine from one of the vessels.

Iran has denied any role in the attacks.

Trump cites no new potential U.S. responses, saying the U.S. has been “very tough on sanctions.” He says, “They’ve been told in very strong terms we want to get them back to the table.”

Trump is warning Iran not to close off the strategic Strait of Hormuz, saying if it is closed it won’t be closed for long.

____

4:15 p.m.

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani has called for closer cooperation between Tehran and Moscow amid rising regional tensions.

Speaking Friday during a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of a summit of a regional security grouping in Kyrgyzstan that includes Russia, China and India among others, Rouhani said “the situation in the region requires stronger interaction between our nations.”

The Iranian leader added that “external pressure and foreign sanctions” have made such cooperation “even more acute.”

Putin hailed economic and security ties between Russia and Iran, noting their joint action in Syria.

Regional tensions escalated over suspected attacks Thursday on two oil tankers near the strategic Strait of Hormuz, which the U.S. blamed on Iran. Tehran has rejected the U.S. accusations.

___

4 p.m.

The U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet says the 21 sailors it hosted overnight from one of the oil tankers hit in an apparent attack in the Gulf of Oman have returned to their vessel.

Cmdr. Joshua Frey said on Friday that the sailors were back on the Kokuka Courageous to assist in it being towed.

Frey says the USS Bainbridge remains nearby and is in close contact with the vessel.

___

2:55 p.m.

The Dutch company Boskalis says it has been appointed to salvage the two tankers in the suspected attacks in the Gulf of Oman, near the strategic Strait of Hormuz.

Royal Boskalis Westminster said on Friday that the insurers of the two tankers, the Front Altair and the Kokuka Courageous, have appointed its subsidiary SMIT Salvage to salvage both vessels and their cargoes.

Boskalis says the situation of the Front Altair, which was carrying a petroleum product known as naptha, “is still worrisome.” It does not elaborate, but adds that the crew left the ship following the suspected attack on Thursday and the fire on board has been extinguished.

The company says that the Kokuka Courageous, carrying the chemical compound methanol, is in a stable condition and being towed to a port in the Gulf region.

___

2:45 p.m.

The German government is calling for an investigation into the “extraordinarily worrying” suspected attacks on two tankers near the Strait of Hormuz.

It also says it has no information on who carried them out and isn’t saying who it believes was responsible.

Ulrike Demmer, a spokeswoman for Chancellor Angela Merkel, told reporters in Berlin on Friday that a “spiral of escalation” must be avoided.

She says that “what’s important now is to continue investigating the background of the incidents in depth,” and added that Germany “is in contact with all our partners” on the matter.

The U.S. military has released a video it says shows Iran’s Revolutionary Guard removing an unexploded limpet mine from one of the oil tankers. Iran denies being involved.

___

2:10 p.m.

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani has assailed the Trump administration, accusing it of radicalizing the situation in the Mideast and pursuing an aggressive policy against his country.

Rouhani spoke at a regional summit in the Kyrgyz capital of Bishkek on Friday, a day after the suspected attacks on two oil tankers near the strategic Strait of Hormuz that the U.S. has blamed on Iran.

Rouhani made no mention of the tankers but lashed out at Washington for walking out of Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers and re-imposing sanctions on Tehran.

Rouhani says the U.S. is “using all opportunities for radicalizing the situation, which undermines the stability not only in our region but in the whole world.”

He added that America has been “carrying out an aggressive policy and posing a serious threat to regional stability.”

___

1:40 p.m.

China is urging all parties to exercise restraint after the suspected attacks on two oil tankers near the strategic Strait of Hormuz.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said on Friday that countries should “avoid further escalation of tensions.”

Iran has rejected a U.S. accusation against Tehran over Thursday’s suspected attacks, which hit one Norwegian-owned ship and one Japanese-owned ship off the coast of Iran. Each vessel was loaded with petroleum products, and one was set ablaze.

Geng says that a “war in the Gulf region of the Middle East is something that no one wants to see.”

China is the world’s largest buyer of Iranian oil and has maintained its support for the Iran nuclear deal.

Geng said that “China will continue to protect its energy security” and oppose unilateral sanctions.

___

10 a.m.

Japan’s defense minister says he has no intention of sending Japanese troops to respond to attacks on a Japanese-operated oil tanker in the Middle East.

Takeshi Iwaya told reporters at a Friday news conference that the situation is not considered an imminent threat to Japan.

His remarks came after a Japanese-operated tanker headed to Singapore was attacked on Thursday while traveling near the Strait of Hormuz, just as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was wrapping up his high-stakes visit in Tehran to help de-escalate regional tension.

All 21 Filipino crewmembers pf the vessel were rescued and were now on a U.S. warship.

Iwaya says Japan doesn’t think the so-called “Self-Defense Force has a necessarily role to play at this point and we don’t plan to send them to the Strait of Hormuz region in response to the attacks.”

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9 a.m.

The Japanese ship operator says sailors on board the Kokuka Courageous, one of the vessels attacked near the Strait of Hormuz, saw “flying objects” just before the attack, suggesting the tanker wasn’t damaged by mines.

That account contradicts what the U.S. military has said as it released a video it says shows Iranian forces removing an unexploded limpet mine from one of the two ships in the suspected attack.

The Japanese tanker carrying petroleum products to Singapore and Thailand was attacked twice while traveling near the Strait of Hormuz on Thursday, damaging the tanker and forcing all 21 crewmembers to evacuate.

Company president Yutaka Katada said Friday he believes the flying objects seen by the sailors could be bullets, and denied possibility of mines or torpedoes because the damages were above the ship’s waterline. He called reports of mine attack “false.”

Katada said the crew members also spotted an Iranian naval ship nearby, but did not specify whether that was before or after the attacks. The tanker survived the first attack that hit near the engine room, followed by another causing damage to the star-board side toward the back.

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7:45 a.m.

Iran rejects a U.S. accusation against Tehran over suspected attacks on two oil tankers near the strategic Strait of Hormuz.

Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in an early Friday morning tweet called the accusations part of a plot by hawkish politicians in the U.S. and the region.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Thursday blamed Iran for the attacks and the U.S. military released images it said showed Iranian forces removing an unexploded limpet mine from one of the ships.

Zarif tweeted that the United States “immediately jumped to make allegations against Iran-w/o a shred of factual or circumstantial evidence.”

He said the United States was trying to cover up economic terrorism, referring to sanctions the U.S. re-imposed on Iran.

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7 a.m.

Saudi Arabia says its military intercepted five drones launched by Yemen’s Houthi rebels targeting the kingdom.

Military spokesman Col. Turki al-Maliki said early Friday that the drones targeted Abha regional airport and Khamis Mushait.

Al-Maliki in a statement carried by the state-run Saudi Press Agency said that the drone attack showed the Houthis were targeting civilian infrastructure in the kingdom.

U.N. experts, the West and Gulf Arab nations say Iran arms the Houthis with weapons. Tehran denies that.

The kingdom says a similar attack Wednesday on the Abha airport wounded 26 people.

It is just the latest in a wave of rebel drone and missile attacks targeting the kingdom, which has been mired in a yearslong war in Yemen that has killed an estimated 60,000 people and pushed the Arab world’s poorest nation to the brink of famine.

The development comes as tensions are rising in the Persian Gulf region.

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6 a.m.

The U.S. military’s Central Command has released a video is says shows Iranian forces removing an unexploded limpet mine from one of the two ships suspected to have been attacked near the Strait of Hormuz.

It released the black-and-white footage early Friday morning.

Capt. Bill Urban, a Central Command spokesman, said a Revolutionary Guard patrol ship removed the limpet mine from the Kokuka Courageous.

Iran has denied involvement in Thursday’s suspected attacks amid heightened tensions between Iran and the U.S.

Urban said in a statement the attacks “are a clear threat to international freedom of navigation and freedom of commerce.”

He added: “The United States has no interest in engaging in a new conflict in the Middle East. However, we will defend our interests.”


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