Morrison insists Budget on path to surplus, education cuts expected

Federal Treasurer Scott Morrison has highlighted his own grandparents’ struggle of buying a home to show the pressure on the Sydney housing market has been around for generations.

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“All they ever knew on my father’s side was renting a house in Sydney, could never buy a house,” Mr Morrison said.

“They grew up [and] were around in the 40s, 50s and 30s in Australia. So it has been a long-term issue in Sydney.”

It’s expected housing affordability will be a focus of Mr Morrison’s second Budget, however, he insists the government will be addressing the whole spectrum of housing affordability, including the rental market, as well as social housing.

Morrison: We must make the right choices

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“If you don’t have a roof over your head this you can rely on, every single other problem you have in life gets harder,” he said.

The Treasurer said the Budget will be about “making the right choices” to support the Australian economy.

“By ensuring we grow our economy, we are able to guarantee the services that Australians are relying on,” he said.

Mr Morrison reiterated his concerns about slow wages growth, but insisted higher pay rates can only be delivered if the economy grows and all businesses get a tax cut.

The government plans to introduce the second half of its business tax package when Parliament resumes next week.

“You can’t get a pay rise in a business that’s going backwards and it isn’t making a profit,” Treasurer Morrison said.

Morrison’s ‘good, bad’ debt claim under fire 

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The university sector is expected to have to tighten their belts as funding outpaces the cost of educating students.

Education Minister Simon Birmingham is expected to outline a Budget package that includes funding cuts and hikes in student fees later on Monday.

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Mr Morrison was vague on the Budget outlook after a prominent economist predicted the budget will be in a worse position than forecast in December, raising concerns the government won’t be able to achieve a promised 2021 surplus.

“Those numbers will be updated on Tuesday week,” he said.

SBS chart showing Treasury’s deficit projections compared with Deloitte’s.SBS / James Elton-Pym

A leading Australian economist has warned a $100 billion boost to national income this year will not be enough to stop a worsening in the Budget figures next week.

The income surge is a product of a stronger Chinese economy and two Reserve Bank interest rate cuts last year, according to Deloitte economist Chris Richardson.

Mr Richardson said the boost would likely improve next year’s forecast, but said he still predicted a worsening in the projected deficit over the following two years due to Treasury overestimating tax collection. 

“Treasury is still of the view, and it may be right, that the tax system will get a bunch healthier in the next few years,” he said.

“In the last seven years, total revenue went up by an average of $17 billion a year. In the next three years, Treasury says it’ll jump to $30 billion a year – not because of a decision to tax more but because of underlying repair in the tax system.”

The Treasurer hinted to reporters the government may dump so-called “zombie” savings measures from the budget papers.

“It is important the Budget is a credible document, a practical document… that can be put forward with confidence to the Australian Parliament for support,” he said.

As of March 31 there were $12.7 billion in unlegislated Budget savings slated for the next four years, some of which have been blocked by Parliament since the Coalition’s May 2014 Budget.

Mr Richardson warned Australia’s pursuit of “bad” spending will catch up with it.

“We have a bunch of bad spending now well and truly cemented in place,” he said.

“If we are really not going to do something about spending we are going to have a look at taxing.”

AUSPOL

Sex Discrimination Commissioner hits back over ‘draconian’ gender measures report

The report suggested that government contractors would be obliged to see that at least 40 per cent of the workforce was female, however Ms Jenkins said the quota was one way in which the government could lead by example on redressing gender imbalances in workplaces around the country.

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“We did not recommend that quotas be put in place, rather we recommended that the Commonwealth Government should become a model industry in improving the participation of women in the workforce,” she said in a statement on Monday.

“This is not a mandatory quota. Organisations would not need to meet this gender balance target to secure government contracts.”

Earlier on Monday, former prime minister Tony Abbott labelled the move “politically correct rubbish” and told Ms Jenkins “pull your head in” on 2GB.

Mr Abbott said the Australian Human Rights Commission’s 40:40:20 target was “anti-men”.

“We absolutely have to give women a fair go but some of this stuff sounds like it’s just anti-men,” he told Ray Hadley.

Earlier this year, the AHRC made a submission to a Senate Inquiry to consider the issue of gender imbalance in the workforce, proposing that government organisations make a more concerted effort to hire women, with the ultimate goal of reaching a 40:40:20 balance, with the remaining 20 per cent to allow for flexibility.

Ms Jenkins said taking steps such as seeing recruitment short lists during the hiring process could help improve hiring practices in typically male-dominated industries, such as construction and IT.

“The recommendation simply asks for ‘demonstrated efforts’ to improve gender balance,” she said.

“Increasing diversity in organisations has proven benefits. By improving women’s participation in male-dominated industries we can broaden the talent pool within these industries, address skills shortages and improve the performance of organisations. Similar benefits would flow to female-dominated work forces.”

Women’s issues advocate and author Catherine Fox said that quotas did not compromise employers’ ability to scope the best talent.

My statement setting the record straight on today’s media reports on gender balance in the workforce: 长沙桑拿,长沙SPA,/Cl7LukzCts

— Kate Jenkins (@Kate_Jenkins_) May 1, 2017

“I hate the word ‘merit’ in some ways because I think it’s overused and it’s misued, but I think, actually, when it comes down to it, having targets, having those kinds of goals that we put in place is really about finding the best people to do the jobs that we have, and not narrowing our options, which I think is the problem that we have at the moment,” she said.

Mr Abbott said if the government wanted to do the right thing by women the best thing it could do was to get good conservative women into the parliament.

“That’s one of the challenges which faces my party right now,” he said.

Mr Abbott, who also served as the Minister for Women during his tenure as prime minister until 2015, was widely condemned for appointing just a single woman – Julie Bishop – to federal cabinet in 2013.

“We as a society, we felt very uncomfortable with that, that didn’t reflect what we thought should be a cabinet for a federal government,” Ms Fox said.

“He then, subsequently, sometime on after he lost the leadership, he regretted that, he admitted that that was probably a mistake.

“I think this is not a person that we turn to for the best judgement on some of these issues,” she said.

CEO of the International Women’s Development Agency Jo Hayter said that implementing gender quotas was about democracy, not political correctness.

“Quotas continue to be the only accountability tool that lead to more diverse participation. It is this diverse participation that we need to ensure better public policy outcomes for all,” Ms Hayter said.

“Australia signed on to the Global Goals for Sustainable Development Goals in September 2015 – Tony Abbott was Prime Minister of Australia throughout the entire negotiation process.

“Does today’s statement mean he never had any intention of respecting the Global Goals? Or has he simply forgotten what he signed our nation up for?”

-With AAP

AUSPOL: Morrison says government must make the right choices on budget

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Easy retirement floating further away for many

Five years into his retirement, things were looking pretty sunny for a man named Les as he enjoyed a game of golf with a friend in Sydney.

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“Fantastic. I don’t know how I had time to go to work basically. I always have plenty of things to do, and, yeah … (I) love it.”

But that is a reality out of reach for many other Australians.

A policy paper commissioned by the super fund REST shows the cost of supporting family members is forcing many working Australians to either delay retirement or retire in debt.

REST chief executive Damian Hill says those feeling the biggest burden are the so-called “sandwich generation.”

“And these are people aged 50 to 65, and not only are they continuing to support their adult children they will never get off their hands, they’re also having to start supporting their parents, their retired parents, who have not saved enough in retirement.”

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull suggested last year wealthy parents could, as he put it, “shell out” to help their kids enter the property market.

But the survey shows the expectation on parents to help out their adult children may be part of the problem.

The study shows, among Australians over age 50 still in work, as many as one in five plans to retire with a mortgage.

It shows more than half have debts, including credit cards, still owing.

On their lunchbreaks in Sydney, these office workers offered a mix of approaches to planning retirement.

(First:) “Yeah, it’s something I do think about, but not planning to save yet for that. Still working on saving for a house.”

(Second:) “Yeah, I do contribute extra into my superannuation. So, yeah, I do think about the future.”

(Third:) “It’s something that concerns me, but I’ve done nothing about it. I tend to leave everything to the last minute. You know that saying, ‘If it wasn’t for the last moment, nothing would get done.’ So we’ll see about it in maybe 20 years’ time.”

But financial adviser Colin Lewis of Perpetual Private says it is never too early to start planning for retirement.”

“Just that little bit each year, it will help. The power of compound interest says it all, basically. The sooner you start, the more you’ll have at the end of the day.”

What’s in the new university funding plan

KEY MEASURES IN THE UNVERSITY FUNDING PACKAGE

* 2.

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5 per cent efficiency dividend in 2018 and 2019 – on payments for teaching only.

* No cuts to research or other taxpayer contributions.

* Efficiency dividend will cut about $2.8 billion – less than four per cent of university revenues from taxpayers and student fees.

* Phased increases in course fees, starting with 1.8 per cent in 2018 up to 7.5 per cent in 2021.

* Student proportion of fees increases from 42 per cent to 46 per cent on average.

* Increase over four years will range between $2000 and $3600.

* Maximum a student will pay over four-year degree is $50,000.

* Most expensive course – six-year medical degree – will cost at most $75,000 (taxpayers will contribute $137,300).

* Increase to funding for dentistry and veterinary courses in recognition of high costs of clinical training (brought into line with medicine courses).

* Drop repayment threshold for HECS-HELP loans to $42,000 from July 2018 (now about $55,000).

* Index minimum repayment threshold for loans to inflation rather than average weekly earnings.

* 7.5 per cent of university funding will be linked to performance measures – initially transparency of enrolment process from 2018, then student retention and success from 2019.

* If funding is withheld from a university that doesn’t meet these measures, it will go to other institutions not back into the budget.

* $3 million extra funding to quality watchdog TEQSA

* $15 million for eight regional study hubs to offer students technology and support to study in their home town. Starting with Geraldton, Cooma and the Pilbara.

* Switch funding for disadvantaged students into a loading instead of a separate program.

* $37 million a year from January 2019 for postgraduate scholarships that students can use at institutions of their choice.

Grandmother ‘devastated’ by IS video

The grandmother of a young boy shown in an Islamic State propaganda video says she is devastated to see him being used as a “media tool” and insists he won’t be lost forever.

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Karen Nettleton has also revealed she recently spoke with the six-year-old, who was shown in footage being grilled by her son-in-law, Khaled Sharrouf, about how to kill a non-Muslim and an Australian.

“He still has got his cute little voice and little lisp,” Mrs Nettleton told the ABC’s 7.30 program on Monday.

“(He said), ‘I love you, Nanna. I miss you, Nanna’.”

Sharrouf left Australia for the Middle East in 2013 and became an Islamic State fighter.

He had only been out of jail for a year after serving four years for plotting a high-level terrorist attack on Australian soil.

Later in 2013 his wife Tara Nettleton, who has since died, took the couple’s five children to live with their father in an IS stronghold in Syria.

Another of Sharrouf’s sons – then aged seven – has also been shown in a photograph holding the severed head of a slain soldier.

Mrs Nettleton said it pained her to see her youngest grandson in the video.

“I know what he’s like,” she said.

“He’s just been used, I think, as some sort of media tool.”

She said she had no idea where the group was and could not understand how the boy’s father could allow him to be exploited.

Recalling rocking the child to sleep, singing him songs and taking him swimming, she also wondered whether he and his siblings will want to come home after being brainwashed.

But she still holds hope they won’t be gone forever.

“They’re not lost, they’re not gone,” she said.

“They’re just kids. With the right help, they’ll be OK.”

The video is proof Sharrouf is alive and is being investigated by the NSW Joint Counter Terrorist Team.

Mrs Nettleton made a failed attempt to get her grandchildren out of the region last year and has previously appealed to the government to help them.

Federal Justice Minister Michael Keenan believes the children of terrorists taken to war zones and exposed to unspeakable horrors deserve help.

“A young child who has been taken to a conflict zone is as much a victim of that parent’s bad behaviour,” he told News Corp Australia.

“But we need to make sure where they have been exposed to these sorts of horrible things, in the midst of the civil war, that they get some support from the Australian government.”

White House defends Trump invitation to Duterte despite human rights criticism

Trump issued the invitation on Saturday night in what the White House said was a “very friendly” phone conversation with Duterte, who is accused by international human rights groups of supporting a campaign of extrajudicial killings of drug suspects in the Philippines.

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“There is nothing right now facing this country and facing the region that is a bigger threat than what’s happening in North Korea,” White House chief of staff Reince Priebus told ABC’s “This Week” during a weekend in which Trump sought to firm up support in Southeast Asia to help rein in North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs.

Priebus insisted the outreach to Duterte “doesn’t mean that human rights don’t matter, but what it does mean is that the issues facing us developing out of North Korea are so serious that we need cooperation at some level with as many partners in the area as we can get to make sure we have our ducks in a row.”

WATCH: Trump calls North Korean leader a “smart cookie” 

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The invitation for Duterte to the visit White House at an unspecified date appeared to be the latest example of the affinity Trump has shown for some foreign leaders with shaky human rights or autocratic reputations.

For instance, he expressed admiration for Russian President Vladimir Putin during the 2016 presidential campaign, hosted Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi at the White House and has had warm words for Chinese President Xi Jinping, who Trump is pressing to do more to rein in its ally and neighbor North Korea.

WATCH: Duterte to Trump: ‘Everybody is worried’ about North Korea 

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On Sunday, Trump also extended a White House invitation to Thailand Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, a former general who heads a military government that took power in a 2014 coup. Prayuth’s administration had strained relations with Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama.

“Celebrating a man who boasts of killing his own citizens and inviting him to the White House, while remaining silent on his disgusting human rights record, sends a terrifying message,” said John Sifton, the Asia director of Human Rights Watch.

“By effectively endorsing Duterte’s murderous ‘war on drugs’, Trump has made himself morally complicit in future killings,” he said.

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A Trump administration official insisted, however, that the invitation was not a reward to Duterte or an endorsement of his policies but a decision that engagement with the Philippines, an important longtime U.S. ally, was better than withdrawal which could “intensify bad behavior” by Duterte.

“It’s not a ‘thank you’,” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. “It’s a meeting.”

The official denied a New York Times report citing administration officials saying the State Department and the National Security Council were caught off-guard by the invitation to Duterte and were expected to object internally. “We were not surprised. The guys who prepared for the call were unified on this,” the official said.

‘On the same page’ on North Korea

Priebus made clear that North Korea was the top priority.

“If we don’t have all of our folks together — whether they’re good folks, bad folks, people we wish would do better in their country, doesn’t matter, we’ve got to be on the same page” on North Korea, Priebus said.

But taking a swipe at Trump for his invitation to Duterte, Democratic U.S. Senator Chris Murphy tweeted: “We are watching in real time as the American human rights bully pulpit disintegrates into ash.”

Thousands of Filipinos have been killed since Duterte unleashed his fierce anti-drugs campaign nearly 10 months ago. Police say they have killed only in self-defense, and the deaths of other drug dealers and users was down to vigilantes or narcotics gangs silencing potential witnesses.

Human rights groups say official accounts are implausible and accuse Duterte of backing campaign of systematic extrajudicial killings by police. The government denies that.

Duterte was infuriated by the Obama administration’s expressions of concern about extrajudicial killings after he took office last year and threatened to sever the long-standing U.S. defense alliance.

Duterte spoke positively about Trump, a fellow populist, after the U.S. presidential election in November, and the new administration has sought ways to mend the alliance.

In a summary of Saturday’s phone call between the two leaders, the White House said the two discussed “the fact that the Philippine government is fighting very hard to rid its country of drugs, a scourge that affects many countries throughout the world.” The White House statement included no criticism of Duterte’s methods.

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Macron a tactical choice for jaded France?

A poll published last week showed that 41 percent of the voters who backed him in the April 23 first round did so out of tactical considerations rather than real conviction, believing he has the best chance of defeating 48-year-old Le Pen in Sunday’s run-off.

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But the boyish-looking ex-banker also attracts true followers, who see his youth, pragmatism and optimism as the best remedy for a country mired in economic decline and crippling self-doubt.

“A strong turnaround, that’s what I’m hoping for from Macron,” said Isabelle Babin, a 55-year-old executive who joined dozens of campaigners from the candidate’s “En Marche” (On The Move) movement for a symbolic march on Saturday in the city of Lyon.

The former banker aiming to become France’s youngest ever president may be “smooth, preppy and a little bit of a teacher’s pet”, she admits.

But for Babin, his private sector experience is a breath of fresh air in a jaded political system, whose two main parties crashed out of the election in the first round.

“They cannot understand society because they are outside of it,” she said of his rivals.

‘Only one choice’

Macron’s meteoric rise from presidential advisor in 2012 to economy minister in Francois Hollande’s Socialist government from 2014 to 2016 to presidential frontrunner has been attributed to a mix of talent, opportunism and sheer good luck.

His top spot in the first round triggered rejoicing among members of his year-old “En Marche” movement, which he has positioned as “neither of the left nor the right.”

And yet while he still enjoys a double-digit lead over Le Pen in second-round polls, the gap is narrowing, forcing his troops to re-mobilise.

On Saturday, around 300 En Marche campaigners fanned out along the banks of the River Saone in Lyon to try to woo voters tempted to abstain in the run-off.

“There is only one choice, that of the republic and Emmanuel Macron,” France’s deputy sports minister Thierry Braillard said as he led the supporters.

In the first round, Macron polled 30.31 percent in the bourgeois southeastern city — six points above his national average.

Related reading’Trust younger generation’

Campaigners there are confident of victory over the anti-immigration, anti-EU Le Pen, who has cast her rival as a puppet of the “oligarchy”.

But they admit that their champion’s mix of pro-business reforms and measures to boost take-home pay and integrate minorities has failed to garner much enthusiasm.

“He’s too capitalist for people on the left and too tainted by Hollande’s presidency for people on the right,” said Emmanuelle Vignaud, a 43-year-old employee of a multi-national company.

Vignaud admitted that Macron had “messed up” the start of his second-round campaign, appearing “quite arrogant at a time when, given he is facing Le Pen, he needs to show gravitas.”

“But he will be a very good president,” she said, praising the intellect of the high-flying former philosophy student who attended France’s top school for public servants.

Jean Visconte, a 64-year-old salesman, said he was seduced by Macron’s youth.

“If we don’t trust the younger generation, we’re old fools who are beyond redemption!” he declared.

Related readingGoing fishing

Others praised his attempt to transcend France’s entrenched left-right divide, which has seen some accuse him of trying to be all things to all voters.

“Macron chose the only possible alternative in taking the best of both sides,” said Alain Jacquard, a 75-year-old doctor, accusing the Socialists and right-wing Republicans whose candidates were eliminated in the first round of “spending their time demolishing what the other side did.”

“Macron is a politician who believes in redistributing wealth on condition that we can generate the wealth,” he said, summarising the candidate’s programme.

That pragmatism has proven a hard sell among the 19.6 percent of voters who backed hard left radical Jean-Luc Melenchon in the first round, many of whom have announced plans to “go fishing” – French slang for abstentionism – on Sunday.

But on the centre-left, it has found fertile ground.

For Pierre, a 26-year-old civil servant and Socialist Party member who was among the campaigners in Lyon, Macron is the choice of the “realistic left”.

“He can unite society,” said the farmer’s son.

WATCH: Macron warns politicians to unite against Le Pen

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Suns to wear red against Port in China

Gold Coast have come out on top in the bitter jumper spat with Port Adelaide after the AFL ruled the Suns can wear their home guernsey in China.

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The clubs were at loggerheads over Gold Coast’s intention to wear their home jumper – that matches the red and yellow of the Chinese flag – when they meet in Shanghai in round eight.

The Power paid $500,000 for the rights to the Suns’ home game so they could host the historic clash for premiership points.

But in an oversight, that agreement doesn’t cover who wears what jumper, with the Power concerned the locals will throw their support behind the team that wears their national colours.

Port are hoping the game will be the start of a lucrative push into the Chinese market and outspoken president David Koch accused the Suns on Adelaide radio fiveAA of playing silly buggers over the issue.

Koch previously threatened to exclude Gold Coast from future matches in China and called on the AFL to make a ruling.

AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan held out hope the clubs would sort it out between themselves when he addressed the issue in March, but ultimately the league sided with the Suns.

The Power put a brave face on the setback on Monday.

“It’s not ideal but this is only a one-year agreement with the Gold Coast,” Port chief executive Keith Thomas said.

“We thought within the spirit of the commercial arrangement we had a strong case for the Gold Coast to wear their white clash guernsey but we accept the AFL’s decision and move on.

“The guernsey issue is a just a small component of a far bigger picture for Port Adelaide. This historic game is sold out, Jiangwan Stadium is going to be packed with our supporters wearing black, white and teal and we are at the forefront of the AFL in taking our game to China.

“This is going to be a truly great day in the history of the Port Adelaide Football Club and this decision on the Gold Coast guernsey will not change that.”

Port Adelaide will wear their predominantly black home jumper with white number panel.

Federal budget to push generic drugs

A push for Australians to use generic pharmaceuticals is among budget measures that will reportedly save the federal government $1.

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8 billion over five years.

Under the plan, prescribing software will be altered so scripts name the active ingredient of the drugs rather than the brand name, the ABC’s 7.30 program reported on Monday evening.

The aim is to lift Australia’s generic drug use to American and British levels.

Health Minister Greg Hunt said he was committed to allowing doctors to retain “100 per cent” control over their prescriptions.

“Our commitment is give patients the best access and the lowest cost,” he told the program.

“Generics are one way of doing that, but it has to be – as it always has been – under the control of the doctors.”

Mr Hunt said savings through the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) would be reinvested.

“This means more drugs at lower costs – better healthcare for all Australians.”

The Australian Medical Association voiced concern over the changes, saying it holds independent clinical decision-making close to its heart.

“It certainly interferes with our autotomy and independence when it comes to choosing what’s best for the patients,” vice president Tony Barton told the ABC.

“It is about understanding our patients and making a decision that’s in the patient’s best interests, as well as one that’s guided by years of clinical expertise and experience.”

Savings will reportedly be achieved through a deal with Medicines Australia to progressively cut the price of PBS medicines still on patent every five years, before a further 25 per cent reduction when they go off patent.

Japan sends warship to escort US supply vessel in Pacific

The helicopter carrier Izumo will leave the mother port of Yokosuka, south of Tokyo, on Monday and join the US supply ship to escort it further into the western Pacific, the leading Asahi Shimbun daily and Jiji Press reported citing unnamed government sources.

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It will be the first deployment — outside of troop exercises –to protect the US fleet after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe expanded the country’s military capabilities in 2015, though they remain restricted under Japan’s pacifist constitution.

The US supply ship is expected to support America’s naval fleet in the Pacific, possibly including the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson, which remains on high alert over North Korea’s ballistic missile firings, the reports said.

Japanese naval officials declined to comment on the reports.

Earlier this week, the US carrier had joint drills with Japan’s naval forces.

North Korea disrespected the wishes of China & its highly respected President when it launched, though unsuccessfully, a missile today. Bad!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 28, 2017

The Carl Vinson arrived in the Sea of Japan and kicked off a joint drill with the South Korean navy on Saturday, hours after North Korea launched a ballistic missile in apparent defiance of the US.

North Korea’s state media has said the North’s military is capable of sinking the US aircraft carrier with a single strike.

The latest missile launch, which South Korea said was a failure, ratchets up tensions on the Korean peninsula, with Washington and Pyongyang locked in an ever-tighter spiral of threat, counter-threat and escalating military preparedness.

US President Donald Trump, who has warned of a “major conflict” with North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un’s regime, said the latest test was a pointed snub to China — the North’s main ally and economic lifeline.

“North Korea disrespected the wishes of China & its highly respected President when it launched, though unsuccessfully, a missile today. Bad!” Trump tweeted.

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