KIM TARGETS TRUMP: North Korea vows ‘ruthless’ retaliation toward America as tensions mount

Washington, D.C. — North Korea released a propaganda video on Tuesday showing President Donald Trump looking out over a graveyard full of crosses (http://www.express.co.uk/news/world/844271/World-War-3-North-Korea-v-USA-Guam-warning-video-propaganda-Kim-Jong-Un).

The video, which was paired with an ominous warning from North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, criticized the president for “spouting rubbish” and parodied his frequent use of Twitter and other social media platforms.

The video also showed a figure resembling Vice President Pence consumed by flames and mocked South Korea’s “puppy-like” Defense Minister Song Young-moo for “pinning hope on that mad guy.”

“Trump spouted rubbish that if a war breaks out, it would be on the Korean Peninsula, and if thousands of people die, they would be only Koreans and Americans may sleep a sound sleep,” a statement from KCNA, North Korea’s official news agency, read on Tuesday.

In a separate statement issued by South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency (http://english.yonhapnews.co.kr/news/2017/08/22/0200000000AEN20170822002752315.html), the KCNA vowed to wage “ruthless” retaliation against South Korea and the U.S. in response to their participation in a series of ongoing joint military exercises.

“The U.S. will be wholly held accountable for the catastrophic consequences to be entailed by such reckless aggressive war maneuvers, as it chose a military confrontation [with North Korea],” a North Korean military spokesman told the KCNA.

In related news, the US Treasury Department announced on Tuesday new sanctions which target Chinese and Russian entities that help fund and facilitate North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

“As a result of today’s action, any property or interests in property of the designated persons in the possession or control of US persons or within the United States must be blocked, and US persons are generally prohibited from dealing with them,” the Treasury Department said in a released statement (https://www.treasury.gov/press-center/press-releases/Pages/sm0148.aspx).

“Treasury will continue to increase pressure on North Korea by targeting those who support the advancement of nuclear and ballistic missile programs and isolating them from the American financial system,” Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said. “It is unacceptable for individuals and companies in China, Russia and elsewhere to enable North Korea to generate income used to develop weapons of mass destruction and destabilize the region. We are taking actions consistent with UN sanctions to show that there are consequences for defying sanctions and providing support to North Korea and to deter this activity in the future.”

North Korea’s latest round of threats come on the heals of Monday’s Reuters report which revealed that two North Korean shipments bound for a Syrian chemical arms facility were recently “intercepted.”

“The panel is investigating reported prohibited chemical, ballistic missile and conventional arms cooperation between Syria and the [North Korea],” the report read (http://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-northkorea-syria-un-idUKKCN1B12G8?utm_campaign=trueAnthem:+Trending+Content&utm_content=599b6e2604d301797510cb1b&utm_medium=trueAnthem&utm_source=twitter).

North Korea has been under U.N. sanctions since 2006 over its ballistic missile and nuclear weapons programs. The Security Council has stepped up efforts in recent weeks to shut those programs down since North Korea’s recent tests of nuclear weapons and four long-range missile launches.

President Trump has heavily called on China to put more pressure on North Korea but thus far China has done little to curb the threats of it’s neighbor and ally.

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‘WE WON’T HESITATE’: TENSIONS RISE WITH RUSSIA AFTER SHOOT DOWN OF SYRIAN JET

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Tensions between the United States and Russia have again reached a fever pitch after a U.S. jet shot down a Syrian aircraft on Sunday, the first time in history a U.S. jet shot down a Syrian plane.

Responding to Russian threats to treat U.S.-led coalition planes flying in Syria, west of the Euphrates River, as targets, a Pentagon spokesperson said Monday that U.S. forces will not hesitate to respond to Russian acts of military aggression.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, in a statement to Russian news agencies, declared his outrage over the incident and compared the shoot down to “helping the terrorists that the U.S. is fighting against.”

“The shooting down of a Syrian Air Force jet in Syria’s airspace is a cynical violation of Syria’s sovereignty,” said Ryabkov. “The US’ repeated combat operations under the guise of ‘combating terrorism’ against the legitimate armed forces of a UN member-country are a flagrant violation of international law and an actual military aggression against the Syrian Arab Republic.”

“What is this, if not an act of aggression,” he asked.

Ryabkov declared that in the wake of the incident, any safety nets between the U.S. and Russia are now off. A hotline, had been set up between Russia and the US to prevent mid-air collisions, has been suspended by Russian officials.

“All kinds of airborne vehicles, including aircraft and UAVs of the international coalition detected to the west of the Euphrates River will be tracked by the Russian SAM systems as air targets,” said Ryabkov, who stopped just short of saying that any U.S. planes entering the airspace would be shot down.

“We do not seek conflict with any party in Syria other than ISIS, but we will not hesitate to defend ourselves or our partners if threatened,” Capt. Jeff Davis said in response to Ryabkov’s comments Monday morning.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford echoed Davis’ comments while speaking on Monday at the National Press Club.

“I’m confident that we are still communicating between our operations center and the Russia federation operations center — and I’m also confident that our forces have the capability to take care of themselves,” said Dunford.

In a separate statement, Department of Defense spokesperson Maj. Adrian J.T. Rankine-Galloway said U.S. forces will continue conducting “operations throughout Syria, targeting ISIS forces and providing air support for Coalition partner forces on the ground.”

“As a result of recent encounters involving pro-Syrian Regime and Russian forces, we have taken prudent measures to re-position aircraft over Syria so as to continue targeting ISIS forces while ensuring the safety of our aircrew given known threats in the battlespace,” Rankine-Galloway said.

Sunday’s conflict marked the first time in nearly two decades that U.S. forces have shot down an warplane in air-to-air combat.

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U.S. STRIKES ASSAD: TRUMP ORDERS HIT ON SYRIA AT IRAQI BORDER

WASHINGTON, D.C. — President Donald Trump on Thursday ordered a fresh round of airstrikes against pro-Assad troops in Syria after rogue forces repeatedly ignored warnings from both coalition and Russian forces, says a defense spokesperson.

The forces came within a 34-mile defensive zone around the al-Tanf base in southern Syria, according to the latest reports.

The U.S.-led coalition first tried to use a Russian hotline to warn the Syrian government to remove the forces from near the coalition base, but the forces refused to withdraw, the spokesperson said.

U.S. commanders say they quickly became concerned when they saw military tanks, bulldozers and other heavy equipment advance without authorization entering into a “de-confliction” zone near the base where American forces were located and acted accordingly.

“The coalition commander assessed the threat and after shows of force didn’t stop the regime forces and those forces refused to move out of the deconfliction zone, the commander on the ground called for the air strike as a matter of force protection,” a senior U.S. defense official told Fox News (http://www.foxnews.com/world/2017/05/18/us-air-strikes-pound-pro-assad-forces-in-syria.html). “We conducted a show of force. We conducted warning shots. All to no avail,” the official said.

The strike is the second time within as many months that president Trump authorized the targeting of Syrian forces. The military action follows an April 6 attack on a Syrian government airfield, which the president ordered in response to a chemical attack that killed dozens of civilians, including children.

Syrian activists say the strike left an unknown number of casualties.

There was no immediate word from the Syrian government on the attack. Russian officials, who were initially angered by last April’s military strike against their Syrian ally, have yet to comment on the attack.

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PUTIN STEPS IN: U.S. AND RUSSIA PLEDGE TO ‘WORK TOGETHER’ TO STOP NORTH KOREA

WASHINGTON, D.C. — After weeks of escalating tensions between the United States and Russia, president Donald Trump and Russian president Vladimir Putin have agreed to put their differences aside to work on a much bigger issue; North Korea.

In a statement on Tuesday, the White House confirmed that the two leaders had spoken by phone and agreed they must work together to help quash the “very dangerous” situation in North Korea.

The Kremlin also confirmed the call, and announced that Putin and Trump have agreed to schedule a face-to-face meeting in Germany in July – possibly coinciding with the upcoming G20 summit in Hamburg.

Although they did not elaborate on the exact details, the Kremlin also confirmed that the pair discussed the ongoing crisis in Syria, which has been a sore spot in U.S., Russia relations since a chemical attack took the lives of dozens of Syrian civilians last month. The White House said that the two leaders are in agreement that “all parties must do all they can to end the violence” in the war torn country, which is in it’s sixth year of a civil war.

“The conversation was a very good one, and included the discussion of safe, or de-escalation, zones to achieve lasting peace for humanitarian and many other reasons” said a White House spokesperson.

The phone conference was the first known discussion between the two leaders since Trump ordered US missile strikes against a Syrian government, who counts Russia as one of it’s staunchest allies.

Meanwhile, China, who has pledged to help play mediator between president Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jung Un, on Tuesday urged the United States and North Korea to make contact “as soon as possible” in an effort to cool nuclear tensions.

The plea came from Geng Shuang, spokesperson for China’s Foreign Ministry in response to Trump’s comments this week that he would be willing to meet with Jong Un to discuss their differences “if appropriate.”

“Both sides should reach a political resolution as soon as possible,” Mr Geng said. “The most effective way of attaining an improvement is to seek ways to re- establish dialogue and contact.”

Tensions between the U.S. and North Korea again reached a fever pitch this week after North Korean military officials threatened to sink a US nuclear submarine deployed in South Korean waters.

“The moment the USS Michigan tries to budge even a little, it will be doomed to face the miserable fate of becoming an underwater ghost without being able to come to the surface,” read a statement from the North’s propaganda website Urminzokkiri.
“The urgent fielding of the nuclear submarine in the waters off the Korean Peninsula, timed to coincide with the deployment of the super aircraft carrier strike group, is intended to further intensify military threats toward our republic. Whether it’s a nuclear aircraft carrier or a nuclear submarine, they will be turned into a mass of scrap metal in front of our invincible military power centred on the self-defence nuclear deterrence.”

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PUTIN CAVES: RUSSIAN LEADER MEETS WITH TILLERSON IN ‘TENSE’ EXCHANGE DESPITE EARLIER REFUSAL

MOSCOW, RUSSIA — Russian president Vladimir Putin met with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson today in an apparent about face.

Putin, who had earlier in the week refused to meet with Tillerson amid tensions over the American strike on Syria, spoke with Tillerson in Moscow for nearly two hours, a U.S. Embassy spokesperson has confirmed.

The meeting comes after harsh words by president Trump toward Russia, who he claims assisted Syria in a deadly chemical strike on Syrian civilians that killed dozens of people.

“If Russia didn’t go in and back this animal (Syrian president Bashar al-Assad), you wouldn’t have a problem right now,” said Trump.

Sources with close knowledge of the meeting said that Tillerson pushed Putin to cooperate with the United States in helping to bring Syria under control. Despite a long standing friendship between Tillerson and Putin, the meeting was described as “tense”.

During the 24 hour period leading up to Tillerson’s landing in Moscow, the White House accused the Russian government of hiding evidence that proved al-Assad was responsible the gassing of his own people, launched from a base where Russian troops are operating.

In a statement, an angry Putin shot back that the charge was fabricated and accused President Trump, who American media claimed had collaborated with Putin to manipulate the outcome of the 2016 election, of fabricating the evidence to create a fake confrontation.

“This reminds me very much of the events of 2003, when U.S. representatives in the Security Council showed alleged chemical weapons discovered in Iraq,” said Putin, referring to intelligence that Mr. Trump has also cited in recent months. “The exact same thing is happening now,” he argued.

Sean Spicer, when asked about to expect in regard to the meeting between Tillerson and Putin on Wednesday, said Tillerson was expected to focus on the mutual interests of the United States and Russia but that Tillerson would also put Putin on notice that the U.S. will not tolerate further acts of aggression by Russia or their Syrian ally.

“I think there is a shared interest in defeating ISIS in the region that we have a national security concern that should align with their national security concern,” he said. “Russia right now is an island. It’s Russia, North Korea and Iran … Russia is among that group the only non-failed state.”

Russia is only “isolating” itself by standing by Assad, he added.

The Kremlin had said earlier in the week that Putin would not meet with Mr. Tillerson upon his arrival, but on Wednesday the Russian leader’s spokesman, Dmitri S. Peskov, said Putin would “consider” meeting with Tillerson at some point “depending on how Tillerson’s other talks” went.

As a matter of protocol, Russian leaders have greeted virtually all new secretaries of state since the end of World War II, and the initial refusal was considered to be a major snub to U.S. Russian relations and was cited by many political experts as a an effort by Mr. Putin to show Tillerson that just who was in control.

Before heading back behind closed doors, Putin and Tillerson shared a stiff handshake and made no eye contact.

Russia has said that despite U.S. concerns, they will continue to back their Syrian ally and will do “whatever it takes” to ensure that al-Assad has the military backing necessary to thwart off another U.S. attack.

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MAD DOG TO SYRIA: DON’T RATTLE OUR CHAIN; MATTIS WARNS SYRIA ON ‘CONSEQUENCES’ OF FUTURE ACTS

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Defense Secretary Jim “Mad Dog” Mattis warned the Syrian government on Tuesday that it will pay a “very, very stiff price” for future chemical attacks.

Speaking during a joint press conference with Army Gen. Joseph Votel at the Pentagon, Mattis said there is “no doubt” that the Syrian president Bashar al-Assad was behind last week’s gas attack that killed dozens of Syrian civilians.

“Last Tuesday, on the 4th of April, the Syrian regime attacked its own people using chemical weapons,” Mattis said. “I have personally reviewed the intelligence and there is no doubt the Syrian regime is responsible for the decision to attack and for the attack itself.

“In response to the attack, our government began a deliberate process led by the National Security Council to recommend diplomatic and military options to the president,” Mattis said. “We met over several days and I spoke with some of our allies. The National Security Council considered the near century-old international prohibition against the use of chemical weapons.”

Referencing the air attack upon a Syrian airbase last week at the order of president Trump, Mattis said the United States is prepared to take whatever action is necessary to ensure that such atrocities do not occur again.

“The Syrian regime’s repeated violation of that international law and inexplicably ruthless murders the regime had committed, we determined that a measured military response could best deter the regime from doing this again,” he said.

“This military action demonstrates that the United States will not passively stand by while Assad blithely ignores international law and employs chemical weapons he had declared destroyed,” said Mattis. “The Syrian regime should think long and hard before it again acts so recklessly in violation of international law against the use of chemical weapons.”

When asked about Russian president Vladimir Putin’s angry response over the airstrike, said the United States was deliberate in their maneuver and “took appropriate actions to ensure no Russians were injured in the attack.” When pressed by a reporter who asked more specifically what, if any, involvement Russia may have had in helping it’s ally in planning the chemical assault, Mattis was evasive.

“We have gone back through and looked at all the evidence we can and it’s very clear who planned this attack, who authorized this attack and who conducted this attack itself.” he said. “The Assad regime planned it, orchestrated it and executed it. And beyond that, we can’t say right now. We know what I just told you. We don’t know anything beyond that.”

Mattis said that, despite Russia’s insistence that there is no proof that Assad ordered the chemical strike upon his own people, the strike ordered by Trump was necessary to “stop the cycle of violence into an area”.

“Even in World War II chemical weapons were not used on battlefields. Even in the Korean War, they were not used on battlefields,” he said.

How much advanced knowledge Russia had of the chemical attack in Syria remains a subject of debate. On Monday, the Associated Press quoted a senior U.S. official who asserted that Russia knew of the chemical attack before it occurred (http://bigstory.ap.org/article/19772be1238e49fbb62c509a5b659b3d/official-us-military-takes-extra-precautions-syria). However, during a daily press briefing from the White House, press secretary Sean Spicer said there is no evidence to back up the official’s claim.

Defense Secretary James Mattis and Army Gen. Joseph Votel, brief the media at the Pentagon

TILLERSON SNUBBED: ANGRY VLADIMIR PUTIN REFUSES TO MEET WITH SECRETARY OF STATE FOLLOWING TRUMP ORDERED STRIKE ON SYRIA

MOSCOW, RUSSIA — Russian president Vladimir Putin has refused to meet with U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson as tensions over last week’s U.S. missile attack on a Syrian air base reach a fever pitch.

The snub is further evidence of growing hostilities between the United States in Russia as Putin has granted several audiences to Tillerson in the past, once even going so far as personally awarding Tillerson a top Russian state award — the Order of Friendship — in 2013.

“We have not announced any such meetings and right now there is no meeting with Tillerson in the president’s diary,” Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, told reporters.

Putin has condemned U.S. President Donald Trump’s ordered missile strike on a Syrian military base last week in retaliation for what intelligence officials say was a poisonous gas attack in which dozens of civilians, including 27 children, were killed.

In a statement issued shortly after American bombers struck the Syrian base, Putin said there is no proof that the Syria was responsible for the chemical attack, and called the U.S. missile strike an act of aggression and violation of international law.

Russia, a staunch ally of Syria, has said it will do “whatever it takes” to ensure that Syria has the military power necessary to protect itself from further U.S. attacks.

In light of Putin’s refusal to meet with Tillerson, the Secretary of State will instead meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

According to sources, Tillerson is expected to present an “it’s either them or us” scenario to the Russian dipolmat.

“Russia has really aligned itself with the Assad regime, the Iranians and Hezbollah,” Tillerson said Tuesday. “Is that a long-term alliance that serves the Russians’ interest? Or would Russia prefer to realign with the United States, with other Western countries, and Middle East countries who are seeking to resolve the Syrian crisis?”

Russia has warned the United States that any further attacks on Syria will result in serious” consequences. Despite the warning, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said on Friday the Trump administration was “ready and willing” to take further steps if needed.

ON THE BRINK: TENSIONS WITH RUSSIA MOUNT AS U.S. DISCOVERS PUTIN HAD ADVANCE KNOWLEDGE OF CHEMICAL ATTACK

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Tensions between the United States and Russia reached a peak on Monday after U.S. officials discovered that Russia may have had advance knowledge of a deadly gas attack upon Syrian civilians which killed more than 80 people, 27 of which were children.

According to a senior U.S. official who spoke to the Associated Press on the condition of anonymity (http://bigstory.ap.org/article/19772be1238e49fbb62c509a5b659b3d/official-us-military-takes-extra-precautions-syria), Russia not only knew of Syria’s chemical weapons attack in advance, but bombed a Syrian hospital as the injured were obtaining treatment in an effort to cover up their ally’s use of chemical weapons.

The official said a drone operated by Russians was captured on surveillance footage flying over the hospital as doctors fought to save the victims’ lives. Hours after the drone left, he said, a Russian jet began dropping bombs on the facility.

The official says it remains unclear as to whether a Russian pilot or Syrian pilot was flying the bomber, but that the bombing came from a Russian jet proves that the Russian government was complicit in the attack. Until Monday U.S. officials said it remained unclear what, if any, knowledge Russia had of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad’s apparent plan to gas his own people.

The allegation strikes another devastating blow to the already crumbling relations between the United States and Russia, who publicly slammed president Donald Trump’s decision to launch a military strike against Syria in response to the gassing.

Last week, after Trump ordered military jets to bomb a Syrian airbase, Russian president Vladimir Putin angrily withdrew from a joint agreement with the U.S. that was designed to ensure military peace.

So far, there has been no Syrian retaliation for the airstrike, which destroyed more than 20 Syria air force planes, but Russia said in a statement over the weekend that it will do whatever is takes to ensure that their ally has the military capacity necessary to protect itself from future American strikes.

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WORLD WAR THREE FEARS DEEPEN AS TRUMP SENDS WARSHIPS TO KOREAN PENINSULA

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Concerns of a global war have intensified in recent days after president Donald Trump ordered U.S. warships dispatched to waters around the Korean peninsula over the weekend.

The move follows Trump’s order to strike a Syrian airbase in response to a chemical attack launched upon Syrian civilians, reportedly by Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, and growing threats of nuclear attack upon the United States by North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

According to a statement from the U.S. Navy, the Carl Vinson strike group, comprising an aircraft carrier, cruisers, and destroyers armed with guided missiles, were dispatched to the region to maintain “readiness”.

“The number-one threat in the region continues to be North Korea, due to its reckless, irresponsible, and destabilizing program of missile tests and pursuit of a nuclear weapons capability,” according to U.S. Pacific Command spokesman Dave Benham.

President Trump ordered the strike against Syria during his Mar-a-Lago summit with Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping. During the same meeting Trump declared that the U.S. would “solve” the North Korea issue on its own if China did not take designated action to do so. North Korea is considered on China’s staunchest allies.

Seemingly struck by Trump’s firm stance and swift action on the Syrian issue, Jinping agreed that something must be done in regard to North Korea, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Sunday on CBS’s “Face the Nation”(http://www.cbsnews.com/news/full-transcript-rex-tillerson-on-face-the-nation-april-9/). China, said Tillerson, has “no disagreement as to how dangerous the situation has become.”

Russia, however, denies the Syrian leader’s involvement in the attack upon his own people and condemned the strike to the Syrian airbase by Trump as a blow to U.S. /Russia relations.

In response, Russia said it would suspend its channel for communicating military action in Syria with Washington, which was an agreement developed between the two superpowers to ensure peace.

“Russia suspends the Memorandum on the Prevention of Incidents and Ensuring the Safety of Aviation Operations during Operations in Syria with the US,” a spokesperson for Russian leader Vladimir Putin said as he called for an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council on the matter.

The spokesperson said the U.S had staged a show of force, “not bothering to sort out anything”, and “moved military against a country which is fighting international terrorism”.

Russia, a longtime ally of Syria, says it will do whatever is necessary to ensure that Syria has the military force it needs to defend itself from future U.S. attacks.

Tillerson was expected to visit Moscow this week for a pre-arranged meeting with Russian military leaders where was is expected to push for a make or break deal on the Syrian matter. That meeting has now been cancelled as officials ponder their next steps.

“I think the Russians have played now for some time the role of providing cover for Bashar al-Assad’s behavior,” Tillerson told CBS. “The alternative explanation that the Russians put forth (that the Syrians were not the parties behind the gas attack upon the Syrian people) is simply not plausible.”

The U.S., weakened by a reduced nuclear program under former president Barack Obama, may be vulnerable to a nuclear attack if struck by North Korea first, according to a report by The Los Angeles Times (http://www.latimes.com/world/asia/la-na-qa-missile-strike-20170405-htmlstory.html).

According to the report, The Pentagon has spent more than $40 billion on the Ground-based Midcourse Defense system to thwart a nuclear strike by North Korea or Iran, but there are grave doubts about whether it’s up to the task.

When asked if a preemptive nuclear strike against North Korea was being considered, a military spokesperson replied: “Everything is on the table at this point”.

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BREAKING: U.S. MOVES FIGHTER AIRCRAFT INTO KOREAN PENINSULA AS GLOBAL TENSIONS MOUNT

The U.S. is moving a Navy strike group, including a fighter aircraft carrier, to the Korean peninsula as tensions mount between the United States, Syria, Russia and North Korea, a military official has confirmed.

The move comes just two days after president Donald Trump ordered a missile strike on a Syrian air base and less than one week after North Korea launched another test missile amid vows to strike the United States.

“We feel the increased presence is necessary,” the official said, citing North Korea’s recent hostile behavior.

In a statement made just moments ago, the U.S. Navy’s Third Fleet said the strike group had been ordered to sail north, but did not specify an exact destination.

On Friday, President Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping met in Florida, where Trump urged the Chinese leader to calm his North Korean ally.

Trump spoke with South Korea’s acting President Hwang Kyo-ahn on Friday, although it is not yet known whether the intelligence obtained during that conversation led to the decision to launch the strike group.

…STORY DEVELOPING

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