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            [post_content] => Sydney. Denuclearization of the Korean peninsula can still be achieved peacefully because of Washington's new engagement with China, US Vice President Mike Pence said on Saturday (22/04), despite growing fears North Korea could soon conduct a new nuclear test.

South Korea is on heightened alert ahead of another important anniversary in the reclusive North that could be the trigger for a new nuclear test or launch of ballistic missiles, with a large concentration of military hardware massed on both sides of the border.

Tensions have risen sharply in recent months after Pyongyang conducted two nuclear weapons tests last year and carried out a steady stream of ballistic missile tests in defiance of United Nations resolutions and sanctions.

US President Donald Trump has vowed to prevent North Korea from being able to hit the United States with a nuclear missile but his deputy said in Sydney on Saturday a peaceful outcome was still achievable because of warming ties between Beijing and Washington.

"We truly believe that, as our allies in the region and China bring that pressure to bear, there is a chance that we can achieve a historic objective of a nuclear-free Korea peninsula by peaceful means," Pence said.

"We are encouraged by the steps that China has taken so far," he said at a joint news conference with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

Earlier this week, Trump praised Chinese efforts to rein in "the menace of North Korea" after North Korean state media warned the United States of a "super-mighty preemptive strike".

Trump hosted Chinese President Xi Jinping at his resort in Florida earlier this month and, while taking a hard line with North Korea, has focused his efforts on trying to convince China to put more pressure on its ally and neighbor.

However, Trump has also ordered what he has described as an "armada" to waters off the Korean peninsula as a warning to North Korea. There was some confusion about the whereabouts of the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier strike group earlier this week.

Pilot Ejects

While it was thought the carrier group had been steaming towards the Korean peninsula, it had in fact been completing a training exercise with the Australian navy.

Pence said the carrier group was now expected to be in waters off the Korean peninsula before the end of the month, "within days".

On Friday, the US Navy said a pilot from the USS Carl Vinson had ejected safely while conducting a routine flight south of the Philippines.

It said the incident occurred as the F/A-18E was on a final approach to the carrier. The pilot was recovered by helicopter without injury. The statement did not say when the incident occurred.

In the face of the US moves, North Korea said on Friday the state of affairs on the Korean peninsula was "extremely perilous".

The North will celebrate the 85th anniversary of the foundation of its Korean People's Army on Tuesday and has marked important events in the past by launching missiles or conducting nuclear tests.

Tuesday's anniversary also comes as the North finishes winter military drills and as South Korea and the United States wrap up annual joint military exercises.

South Korea's Unification Ministry spokesman Lee Duk-haeng said on Friday all those military exercises meant there was a lot of military equipment gathered in North Korea, as well as the South.

Satellite imagery analysed by 38 North, a Washington-based North Korea monitoring project, found some activity under way at North Korea's Punggye-ri nuclear test site, but the group said it was unclear whether the site was in a "tactical pause" before another test or was carrying out normal operations.

US officials have also said there was an increased level of activity by Chinese bombers, signalling a possible heightened state of readiness. Russian media has denied reports Moscow was building up its forces near the Korean border.

China's Defense Ministry, however, said its forces were maintaining normal combat preparedness.

North Korea remained defiant.

"Now that we possess mighty nuclear power to protect ourselves from US nuclear threat, we will respond without the slightest hesitation to full-out war with full-out war and to nuclear war with our style of nuclear strike, and we will emerge victor in the final battle with the United States," the North's Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Reuters
            [post_title] => Peaceful Outcome for Korean Peninsula Still Possible: Pence
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            [post_content] => New York/Washington. When Raj, a Sri Lankan fisherman, sought refuge in the United States in 2005, he had precisely the kind of fear of returning home that US asylum laws require.

In 2004, he was kidnapped by the separatist rebel group the Tamil Tigers and had to pay $500 to secure his release, according to Raj, his lawyer and court records reviewed by Reuters. The group then demanded more money, which he could not pay after a tsunami destroyed his house and fishing boat.

Raj, 42, who asked that only his first name be used because of the sensitive nature of his situation, decided to flee. He boarded a plane using a false Canadian passport and requested asylum upon arriving in the United States.

There was a catch, however. US laws ban immigration by anyone who has provided "material support" to terrorists, and the Tamil Tigers are designated as a terrorist group by the United States. A judge ruled that Raj's ransom payment to them constituted material support.

Ultimately, Raj was granted asylum in 2011 because of rules that allow for waivers for people who provided aid to terrorists under duress. He now lives in San Diego, California, works in an Indian restaurant and hopes to become a citizen.

Raj said it was "a big relief" when he finally received his green card around a year after receiving asylum. "I am not a terrorist," he said.

Now the Trump administration is debating whether to rescind the waivers that have allowed Raj, and tens of thousands of others, to immigrate to the United States in the past decade. Some immigration hardliners are concerned the exemptions could allow terrorists to slip into the country.

US President Donald Trump directed the secretaries of State and Homeland Security, in consultation with the attorney general, to consider abolishing the waivers in an executive order in March. That directive was overshadowed by the same order's temporary ban on all refugees and on travelers from six mostly Muslim nations.

The bans on refugees and travel were challenged in lawsuits, and their implementation has been suspended pending full hearings in court. But the waiver review was not included in the court rulings, so that part of the order remains in effect.

Rules governing the waivers have been hammered out over the last decade with both Democratic and Republican support. But in recent years they have drawn fire from some conservative lawmakers, including Attorney General Jeff Sessions when he was a senator.

A State Department official said this week the department is working with DHS to review the waivers and is "looking at actually pulling them back in accordance with the executive order."

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, declined to give details on the timing of the review or its likely outcome. The Department of Justice declined to comment.

Kurds, Karen, Hmong

Following the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, Congress expanded the definition of who could be considered a terrorist and what constituted “material support” to terrorism in rules now known as the Terrorism Related Inadmissibility Grounds.

Those changes ensnared people like Raj who were coerced or inadvertently provided support to terrorists, as well as members of persecuted ethnic groups that supported rebel organizations, and even US-allied groups fighting against authoritarian regimes.

Without an exemption, members of Kurdish groups that battled Saddam Hussein's forces in Iraq, Hmong groups who fought alongside US troops in Vietnam, or some Cubans who fought Fidel Castro’s regime would not be allowed to immigrate to the United States.

Under the exemptions, US authorities have the discretion to grant people residency in the United States after they have passed background checks and are found to pose no threat to national security.

Congress initially passed waivers to the terrorism bars in 2007 with bipartisan support, and in the years that followed both the Bush and Obama administrations added additional groups and circumstances to the exemptions.

'Phantom Problem'

US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has granted nearly 22,000 TRIG exemptions in total over the last decade, according to the latest data available, which goes through September 2016. The State Department also grants TRIG exemptions, but a spokesman could not provide data on how many.

Refugees from Myanmar are the largest single group of beneficiaries to date of TRIG exemptions granted by USCIS, with more than 6,700 waivers.

The wave of Myanmar refugees dates to 2006, when US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice ruled that thousands of members of the Karen ethnic group, then living in a camp in Thailand, could resettle in the United States, even if they had supported the political wing of an armed group that had fought the country's military regime.

One high-profile supporter of scrapping the waivers is House of Representatives Judiciary Committee chairman Bob Goodlatte, a Republican from Virginia whose staffers were instrumental in drafting Trump's travel ban. Goodlatte told Reuters he was "pleased that the Trump Administration is reviewing the dangerous policy."

Groups favoring stricter immigration laws have also applauded the review. Rosemary Jenks, director of government relations at NumbersUSA, called the waivers "a potential security risk."

"I personally don't think that a bureaucrat should be deciding how much support for terrorism is enough to be barred," she said.

A USCIS spokeswoman, when asked if a recipient of an exemption had ever been involved in a terrorism-related case after arriving in the United States, referred Reuters to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which said it was a question for the State Department to answer.

"I don't know of any cases where beneficiaries of exemptions have gotten into trouble after arriving," the State Department official said, noting that the department does not typically track people after they arrive in the United States.

Trump's order to review the waivers "is another example of an attempt to address a non-existent phantom problem," said Eric Schwartz, who served in the State Department during the Obama administration.

Schwartz and immigration advocates say the waivers are granted after lengthy review and are extremely difficult to get.

"These are case-by-case exemptions for people who represent no threat to the United States but rather have been caught in the most unfortunate of circumstances," Schwartz said.

For Raj, the initial ruling that his ransom payment supported a terrorist group led to more than two years in US immigration detention, followed by more years of electronic monitoring. His waiver allowed him to bring his wife to the United States after nine years apart. She now studies nursing.

Reuters
            [post_title] => Trump Administration May Change Rules That Allow Terror Victims to Immigrate to US
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            [post_content] => Washington. President Donald Trump and his fellow Republicans who control Congress face their first major budget test next week, with the threat of a US government shutdown potentially hinging on his proposed Mexican border wall as well as Obamacare funding.

With Republicans controlling the White House and both chambers of Congress, keeping the federal government operating is a basic test of their ability to govern, but their task could become even more complicated if they insist on using the spending legislation to bring about contentious policy changes.

Not only must Republicans overcome intraparty ideological divisions that stopped major healthcare legislation last month, but they will have to win over some opposition Democrats with provisions that could be distasteful to conservatives.

With the Senate reconvening on Monday (24/04) and the House of Representatives on Tuesday after a two-week recess, lawmakers will have only four days to pass a spending package to keep the government open beyond April 28, when funding expires for numerous federal programs.

"I think we want to keep the government open," Trump said on Thursday, adding he thinks Congress can pass the funding legislation and perhaps also a revamped healthcare bill.

Democratic support depends on what provisions Republicans demand in the bill. Democrats have signaled they would not cooperate if it contains money for one of Trump's top priorities, a southwestern border wall intended to combat illegal immigration, or if it ends federal subsidies to help low-income people buy health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare, which Republicans want to repeal.

Democrats also want federal funds maintained for Planned Parenthood, which many Republicans oppose because the women's healthcare provider performs abortions. Another obstacle would be if Trump demands large defense spending increases coupled with deep cuts to domestic programs Democrats want to protect.

Balancing act

Late on Thursday, leading House Democrats were voicing skepticism a deal could be reached by the deadline. In a telephone call for House Democrats, Representative Nita Lowey, the senior Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, said: "I don't see how we can meet that deadline" and avoid having to pass a short-term extension, according to an aide on the call.

The second-ranking House Democrat, Representative Steny Hoyer, told his fellow Democrats that they should only support such a short-term measure if a deal on long-term bill is reached and only finishing touches remained, the aide said.

Republican leaders face a familiar balancing act: satisfying the party's most conservative members while not alienating its moderates.

Rules in the 100-seat Senate mean Trump's party also would need the support of at least eight Democrats even if the Republicans remain unified, giving the opposition party leverage. House Republican leaders would need some Democratic votes if the most conservative lawmakers object to the bill, as they did to the healthcare plan championed by Speaker Paul Ryan.

With congressional elections looming next year, Republicans acknowledge the stakes are high.

"Even our most recalcitrant members understand that if you shut down the government while you're running it and you control the House and the Senate, you can't blame anybody but yourself," said Representative Tom Cole, a senior House Appropriations Committee Republican.

White House budget director Mick Mulvaney said the Trump administration was willing to talk to Democrats about funding for Obamacare subsidies in exchange for their agreement to include some Trump priorities such as the wall, the defense hike and more money for immigration enforcement.

"It is ripe for some type of negotiated agreement that gives the president some of his priorities and Democrats some of their priorities. So we think we've opened the door for that," Mulvaney said.

Democrats reacted negatively.

"Everything had been moving smoothly until the administration moved in with a heavy hand. Not only are Democrats opposed to the wall, there is significant Republican opposition as well," said Matt House, a spokesman for Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer.

Furlough 'Lady Liberty?'

The government was last forced to close in October 2013, when Republican Senator Ted Cruz and some of the most conservative House Republicans engineered a 17-day shutdown in an unsuccessful quest to kill Democratic former President Barack Obama's healthcare law.

"These kind of bills can't pass without a reasonable number of the party of the minority in the Senate, and we are optimistic we will be able to work all that out," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said at the start of the spring recess.

A deal is needed because Congress was unable to approve funding for the entire 2017 fiscal year that ends in September and has relied on stop-gap spending legislation.

Congress has passed no major legislation since Trump took office in January, and he has ambitious hopes for major tax-cut legislation, infrastructure spending and other bills.

With the difficulty passing a bill with so many divisive elements, lawmakers next week might need to buy time by passing a short-term bill lasting possibly one to three weeks, maintaining current spending levels.

"That would be a setback: not catastrophic, but not a good thing, and a sign that you can't govern," Cole said.

A federal closure would shutter National Park Service destinations like the Statue of Liberty, Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon. Government medical research would be suspended. Thousands of federal workers would be furloughed with thousands more working without pay until the shutdown ends, including homeland security personnel. Some veterans benefits could be suspended.

Time would stand still in the US Capitol with nobody on duty to wind the 200-year-old "Ohio Clock" just outside the Senate chamber.

Reuters
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            [post_content] => Hanoi. US President Donald Trump has invited Vietnam's prime minister to visit the United States, the Southeast Asian nation's government said on its website on Friday (21/04).

Vietnam took ties with the United States to a new level under former US President Barack Obama, keen for the United States to maintain its security presence in Asia in the face of territorial claims by giant neighbor China.

The two governments have expressed desire to further promote ties and strengthen their relationship since Trump's election win last November.

US national security adviser H.R. McMaster has delivered a letter of invitation from Trump to Vietnam's Deputy Prime Minister Pham Binh Minh, now on a visit to the United States, the government added.

Last month, Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc also said he was ready to visit the United States to promote ties between the two countries.

Trump will attend the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Vietnam in November.

Vietnam had been one of the top potential beneficiaries of the Trans Pacific Partnership free trade agreement canceled by Trump, but it has also been building links to the United States amid a maritime dispute with China.

China claims most of the South China Sea, while Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam claim parts of the sea, which commands strategic sea lanes and has rich fishing grounds, along with oil and gas deposits.

Washington lifted a US lethal arms embargo on Vietnam last May, allowing closer defense links and some joint military exercises. 

Reuters
            [post_title] => Trump Invites Vietnam's Prime Minister to Visit US
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            [post_content] => Seoul/Beijing. South Korea said on Friday (21/04) it was on heightened alert ahead of another important anniversary in North Korea, with a large concentration of military hardware amassed on both sides of the border amid concerns about a new nuclear test by Pyongyang.

United States officials said there was a higher-than-usual level of activity by Chinese bombers, signaling a possible heightened state of readiness by Beijing, reclusive North Korea's sole major ally, although the officials played down concerns and left open a range of possible reasons.

US and South Korean officials have been saying for weeks that the North could soon stage another nuclear test in violation of United Nations sanctions, something both the United States and China have warned against.

North Korea marks the 85th anniversary of the foundation of its Korean People's Army on Tuesday, a key anniversary that comes at the end of major winter military drills, South Korea's Unification Ministry spokesman Lee Duk-haeng said.

South Korea and the United States have also been conducting annual joint military exercises, which the North routinely criticizes as a prelude to invasion.

"It is a situation where a lot of [military] exercise equipment is amassed in North Korea and also a lot of strategic assets are situated on the Korean peninsula because of the South Korea-US military drills," Lee told a briefing.

"We are closely watching the situation and will not be letting our guards down," Lee said.

US President Donald Trump praised Chinese efforts to rein in "the menace of North Korea" on Thursday, after North Korean state media warned the United States of a "super-mighty pre-emptive strike."

Trump told a news conference "some very unusual moves have been made over the last two or three hours," and that he was confident Chinese President Xi Jinping would "try very hard" to pressure Beijing's neighbor North Korea over its nuclear and missile programs.

Trump gave no indication of what the moves might be. None of the US officials who told Reuters about the heightened level of activity by Chinese bombers suggested alarm or signaled that they knew the precise reason for such activity.

An official Chinese newspaper said on Friday there was optimism about persuading the North to end its pursuit of a nuclear program without the use of force, "now that even the once tough-talking Donald Trump is on board for a peaceful solution."

"Beijing has demonstrated due enthusiasm for Washington's newfound interest in a diplomatic solution and willingness to work more closely with it," the state-run China Daily said in an editorial.

Tensions have risen sharply in recent months after North Korea conducted two nuclear weapons tests last year and carried out a steady stream of ballistic missile tests. Trump has vowed to prevent North Korea from being able to hit the United States with a nuclear missile.

The isolated country's military will mark the 85th anniversary of the founding of the Korean People's Army on Tuesday amid speculation Pyongyang will use the occasion to test-launch a ballistic missile or conduct a nuclear test.

The joint US-South Korea military drills are due to finish at the end of April, and a US aircraft carrier strike group, led by the USS Carl Vinson, is also heading towards the Korean Peninsula, Trump's administration has said.

Reuters
            [post_title] => South Korea on Heightened Alert as Isolated North Readies for Army Celebration
            [post_excerpt] => South Korea said on Friday (21/04) it was on heightened alert ahead of another important anniversary in North Korea, with a large concentration of military hardware amassed on both sides of the border amid concerns about a new nuclear test by Pyongyang.


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            [post_content] => Bangkok. Thailand's baht should move in line with market forces but the central bank is ready to act on any excessive volatility in the currency, the central bank governor said on Wednesday (19/04).

The baht is not as volatile as several other regional currencies, Bank of Thailand governor Veerathai Santiprabhob told a news conference.

The Thai currency is hovering near 21-month highs against the dollar and is Southeast Asia's best-performing currency so far this year. A weaker dollar has caused Southeast Asian currencies to appreciate, the governor said.

The central bank has not conducted any baht policies to gain a competitive advantage in trade although it had acted sometimes to prevent capital movements from affecting Thai financial markets, Veerathai said.

"The central bank has several instruments to handle irregular capital movements," he said.

The BOT cut the size of its weekly short-dated bond supply this month, and Veerathai said that signaled its aim to temper inflows. "We don't like short-term foreign inflows to park at our financial markets."

It will relax rules on capital outflows, which were announced previously, including allowing retail investors to directly invest abroad, he said.

Exchange rates have come into the spotlight due to US President Donald Trump's complaints about unfair trade practices and his order last month for a study into the causes of US trade deficits.

"We have not acted on the baht for trade benefits, reflecting a two-way move in the currency," Veerathai said, adding the baht's strength was at mid-range compared with those of trade partners and competitors, and Thai exports were just recovering.

The baht eased slightly to 34.35 per dollar at 9.00 GMT from 34.29 earlier. It has risen 4.2 percent against the greenback this year.

Thailand ran a large trade surplus of about $18 billion with the United States last year. That puts it 11th globally - well behind China's $347 billion surplus or nearby Vietnam's $32 billion - but the United States is Thailand's major export destination at a time the military government is struggling to rekindle growth.

The central bank has forecast economic growth of 3.4 percent this year, with exports rising 2.2 percent. The economy expanded 3.2 percent last year.

Reuters
            [post_title] => Thai Central Bank Chief Says to Act on Excessive Moves in Baht
            [post_excerpt] => Thailand's baht should move in line with market forces but the central bank is ready to act on any excessive volatility in the currency, the central bank governor said on Wednesday (19/04).

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            [post_content] => Beijing. America's allies in Asia were silent on Wednesday (19/04) over confusion about a US aircraft carrier group that was supposed to be headed toward North Korea in a show of force, but was actually completing training exercises in Australia.

But many Chinese took to social media to joke about it.

"American imperialism is a paper tiger," said one user on Weibo, China's version of Twitter.

"The aircraft carrier was sleep-walking," said another.

The US military's Pacific Command explained on Tuesday that the Carl Vinson strike group first had to complete a shorter-than-initially planned period of training with Australia.

But it was now "proceeding to the Western Pacific as ordered", it said.

US President Donald Trump said last week that he had ordered the strike group to head for Korean waters amid talk that unpredictable North Korea was likely to conduct a nuclear or long-range ballistic missile test.

"We cannot comment on details of US operation of its assets," a military official said in Seoul, the capital of South Korea.

North Korea remains technically at war with the South and the United States because the 1950-53 Korean War ended in an armistice and no peace treaty was signed.

Japan, the other main US ally in the region, did not comment on the mix-up while China's foreign ministry declined to comment at a regular briefing.

Singapore-based security expert Ian Storey said countries in the region would have found the confusion over the strike group's location "unsettling and perplexing".

"This disconnect between the White House and Pacific Command may be an operational issue but it is distinctly odd," said Storey, who is based at the ISEAS Yusof Ishak Institute.

"The fact that the Carl Vinson strike group was not in the vicinity of the Korean peninsula undermines the Trump administration’s tough approach towards Pyongyang."

North Korea did not refer to the mix-up but said the United States and its allies "should not mess with us".

"A nuclear powered aircraft carrier that the United States and its puppet group are loudly advertising is nothing more than a pile of scrap metal in the face of our revolutionary forces' mighty power," said the Rodong Sinmun, the official newspaper of the North's ruling Workers' Party. 

Reuters
            [post_title] => Allies Silent, Jibes in China Over US Carrier Mix-Up
            [post_excerpt] => America's allies in Asia were silent on Wednesday (19/04) over confusion about a US aircraft carrier group that was supposed to be headed toward North Korea in a show of force, but was actually completing training exercises in Australia.
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            [post_content] => Washington. The International Monetary Fund raised its 2017 global growth forecast on Tuesday (18/04) due to manufacturing and trade gains in Europe, Japan and China, but warned that protectionist policies threaten to halt a broad-based recovery.

The IMF, whose spring meetings with the World Bank get underway in Washington this week, forecast that the global economy would grow 3.5 percent in 2017, up from its previous forecast of 3.4 percent in January.

In its latest World Economic Outlook, the Fund said that chronically weak advanced economies are expected to benefit from a cyclical recovery in global manufacturing and trade that started to gain momentum last summer.

"The economic upswing that we have expected for some time seems to be materializing," IMF chief economist Maurice Obstfeld wrote in the report.

The IMF lifted Japan's 2017 growth projection by 0.4 percentage point from January, to 1.2 percent, while the eurozone and China both saw a 0.1 percentage point growth forecast increase to 1.7 percent and 6.6 percent, respectively.

Meanwhile, the IMF held its 2017 US growth forecast steady at 2.3 percent, which still represents a substantial jump from 1.6 percent growth in 2016, partly due to expectations that President Donald Trump will cut taxes and increase government spending.

The IMF also revised Britain's growth forecast to 2.0 percent for 2017, up a half percentage point from January. The Fund said negative effects from the UK vote to leave the European Union are taking longer to materialize.

Although growth looks to be strengthening broadly among advanced and emerging market economies as well oil and commodity exporters that are starting to benefit from a commodity price recovery, including Russia, the IMF said the recovery remains fragile.

The outlook faces headwinds from chronically weak productivity growth and policies that could constrict trade, the IMF said. It did not specifically mention the Trump administration's "America First" trade agenda aimed at reducing US trade deficits and turning away more unfairly traded imports.

"One salient threat is a turn toward protectionism, leading to trade warfare," Obstfeld said, adding this "would result in a self-inflicted wound that would lead to higher prices for consumers, lower productivity and therefore, lower overall real income for households."

The case against trade protectionism is expected to be a major theme of the semi-annual gathering of finance officials from the IMF, the World Bank and the Group of 20 major economies later this week. IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde warned last week that a "sword of protectionism" hung over a brightening global outlook.

US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross pushed back in a Financial Times interview published on Sunday, saying such warnings were aimed at the Trump administration and were "rubbish."

He told the newspaper that the United States was far less protectionist than China and Europe, "and every time we do anything to defend ourselves, even against the puny obligations that they have, they call that protectionism. It’s rubbish."

The IMF also said that risks to the global outlook also could come from a faster-than-expected pace of interest rate hikes in the United States, which could trigger a sharp rise in the dollar and disruptive capital outflows from emerging markets.

The Fund also said China's strong growth was clouded in the medium term by "growing vulnerabilities" associated with its reliance on policy easing and credit-financed investment. This could prompt a sharp tightening of financial conditions that could cause spillovers to many other countries. 

Reuters
            [post_title] => IMF Raises Global Growth Forecast, Warns Against Protectionism
            [post_excerpt] => The International Monetary Fund raised its 2017 global growth forecast on Tuesday (18/04) due to manufacturing and trade gains in Europe, Japan and China, but warned that protectionist policies threaten to halt a broad-based recovery.
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            [post_content] => Riyadh. The failed North Korean missile test over the weekend was an attempt by the reclusive country to "provoke something," US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said on Tuesday (18/04), pledging that the United States will work with China to reduce tensions.

US President Donald Trump has taken a hard line with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, who has rebuffed admonitions from China and proceeded with nuclear and missile programs seen by Washington and others as a direct threat.

On Saturday North Korea carried out a missile launch which the Pentagon said failed, blowing up almost immediately .

Speaking with reporters on his way to the Middle East, Mattis said the most recent test was not an intercontinental ballistic missile but still a reckless move.

"It shows why we are working so closely right now with the Chinese... to try to get this under control and aim for the denuclearized Korean peninsula," Mattis said.

Trump acknowledged on Sunday that the softer line he had taken on China's management of its currency was linked to its help on North Korea.

The United States, its allies and China are working on a range of responses to North Korea's missile test, US officials have said. China itself has spoken out against the North's weapons tests and has supported UN sanctions.

It banned imports of North Korean coal on Feb. 26, cutting off its most important export and Chinese media has raised the possibility of restricting oil shipments to North Korea if it unleashed more provocations.

On Monday US Vice President Mike Pence put North Korea on notice, warning that recent US strikes in Syria and Afghanistan showed that the Trump administration's resolve should not be tested.

The Trump administration is focusing its strategy on tougher economic sanctions, possibly including an oil embargo, a global ban on its airline, intercepting cargo ships and punishing Chinese banks doing business with Pyongyang.

The North has warned of a nuclear strike against the United States if provoked. It has said it has developed and would launch a missile that can strike the mainland United States but officials and experts believe it is some time away from mastering the necessary technology, including miniaturizing a nuclear warhead. 

Reuters
            [post_title] => Mattis Says North Korea Missile Test Meant to Provoke
            [post_excerpt] => The failed North Korean missile test over the weekend was an attempt by the reclusive country to "provoke something," US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said on Tuesday (18/04), pledging that the United States will work with China to reduce tensions.
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                            [caption] => The failed North Korean missile test over the weekend was an attempt by the reclusive country to "provoke something," US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said on Tuesday (18/04), pledging that the United States will work with China to reduce tensions.  (Reuters Photo/Yuri Gripas)
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