China’s Xi calls for building elite forces during massive military parade

Chinese President Xi Jinping has told the military to transform itself into an elite force, as he oversaw a parade with flybys of advanced jets and a mass rally of troops to mark 90 years since the founding of the People’s Liberation Army.

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China’s armed forces, the world’s largest, are in the midst of an ambitious modernisation program, which includes investment in technology and new equipment such as stealth fighters and aircraft carriers, as well as cuts to troop numbers.

Xi presided over the large-scale military parade on Sunday at the remote Zhurihe training base in China’s northern Inner Mongolia region, where he inspected troops from the back of a jeep, an event carried live on state television.

Travelling down a long strip lined with tanks, missile launchers and other military vehicles, Xi, wearing military fatigues and a field cap, greeted thousands of troops.

Chinese soldiers carry the flags of (L to R) the Communist Party, the state, and the People’s Liberation Army during a military parade (Getty)Getty

Xi, who oversees the PLA in his role as head of the powerful Central Military Commission, repeatedly shouted, “Hello comrades!” and “Comrades, you are working hard!” into four microphones fixed atop his motorcade as martial music blared in the background.

The troops bellowed back: “Serve the people!”, “Follow the Party!”, “Fight to win!” and “Forge exemplary conduct!”.

Tanks, vehicle-mounted nuclear-capable missiles and other equipment rolled by, as military aircraft flew above, including H-6K bombers, which have been patrolling near Taiwan and Japan recently, the J-15 carrier-based fighters and new generation J-20 stealth fighter.

“Today, we are closer to the goal of the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation than any other time in history, and we need to build a strong people’s military more than any other time in history,” Xi told the assembled troops in a short speech that did not yield any new policy announcements.

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Xi said that the military must “unswervingly” back the ruling Communist Party.

“Always listen to and follow the party’s orders, and march to wherever the party points,” he said.

Xi said that the world was not peaceful, but he did not mention any specific hot spots, such as territorial disputes in the South China Sea, Taiwan, or tensions over North Korea’s nuclear weapons and missiles programmes.

Unlike a massive 2015 parade through manicured central Beijing to mark 70 years since the end of World War Two, Sunday’s spectacle had fewer frills.

Thousands of troop marched in combat garb, not dress uniforms, and vehicles kicked up clouds of dust as they rounded sections of the base’s track.

It was the first time China has marked Army Day, which formally falls on August 1, with a military parade since the Communist revolution in 1949, state news agency Xinhua said.

It was also the first time Xi has reviewed troops in the field like this, Xinhua added.

Chinese Defense Ministry spokesman Ren Guoqiang said in a statement that the location for the parade embodied a “dust-covered battlefield atmosphere” for the 12,000 troops who participated.

0:00 Trump won’t allow China to ‘do nothing’ on North Korea Share Trump won’t allow China to ‘do nothing’ on North Korea

NSW welcomes Murray Darling Basin water investigation

NSW has backed a review into water usage in the Murray Darling Basin after the federal government announced it would scrutinise the system following allegations of water theft.

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“NSW welcomes the commonwealth’s announcement of a basin-wide review of compliance arrangements by the Murray Darling Basin Authority,” a spokeswoman for Regional Water Minister Niall Blair said.

The Turnbull government on Sunday ordered an independent basin-wide review of compliance with regulations governing water use, to report by the end of the year.

It will examine whether state laws, water licence conditions and statutory instruments are appropriate and being complied with, the adequacy of water measurement and monitoring arrangements, and whether governance arrangements are strong enough to ensure water isn’t being stolen or misused.

The spokeswoman for Mr Blair’s office said NSW would assist the MDBA’s investigation however it can and reaffirmed the state’s commitment to the Murray Darling Basin Plan.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce, in a joint statement, said strong compliance regimes are just as important for irrigators as they are for the environment and basin communities.

NSW is already investigating allegations of water theft at specific properties in the state’s north and whether a senior official helped irrigators undermine the Murray Darling Basin Plan, and whether a major investigation into water management breaches was stymied.

As well, the Australian auditor-general will examine how the federal agriculture department monitors the performance of NSW under a national Murray Darling agreement.

Hundreds join Stuart Diver to mark 20 years since Thredbo landslide

Hundreds crammed into the Chapel on Sunday for an emotional service to commemorate the victims two decades after a landslide crushed two ski lodges in the popular NSW ski resort.

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Mourners wept as Euan Diver, brother of sole survivor Stuart Diver, and other community members read the names of the victims, followed by a moving rendition of Amazing Grace.

A bell was tolled and a candle lit for each of the victims before mourners lay flowers and wreaths at the nearby Thredbo Memorial Community Centre.

Annie Boward said emotions were still raw for those who lost loved ones in the tragedy.

Stuart Diver as he was pulled from the rubble of a ski lodge in Thredbo in 1997. (AAP)AAP

She recalled how she had planned to call her friend Wendy O’Donohue before discovering she was trapped in one of the collapsed ski lodges.

“I had a letter on my kitchen bench signed by Wendy just to call her and let her know when I was coming down next,” Ms Boward said.

“I had it on the bench that morning ready to call – then I turned on the early news.”

Ms Boward said healing was about bringing people back to Thredbo.

But the loss always remained just under the surface, she said.

“I don’t think it leaves you. It’s always just there.”

Donna Barlow worked in customer service at Thredbo when the landslide occurred.

She returned this weekend to remember the friends and coworkers she lost in the tragedy.

“We’re still a community and we support each other – it changed all of our lives,” she told AAP.

“It’s confronting how quickly 20 years goes by.”

Local businessman Ian Foster insisted the community was stronger than ever but the pain was still present.

“It’s something that’s always there. It’s not hard to feel that emotion come up,” he said.

Memorial services were held throughout the weekend in Thredbo, with a commemorative flare run on Saturday night led by Stuart Diver.

He was joined by 300 skiers and snowboarders who blazed down Thredbo’s Supertrail with red flares in memory of the victims, including his wife Sally.

The procession was followed by a pyrotechnics display featuring 18 separate fireworks – one for each victim.

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Tensions high after Nth Korea missile test

The United States has flown two B-1B bombers over the Korean peninsula in a show of force after recent North Korean missile tests.

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North Korea said it conducted another successful test of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) on Friday that proved its ability to strike America’s mainland, drawing a sharp warning from US President Donald Trump.

The B-1B flight was in direct response to the missile test and the previous July 3 launch of the “Hwansong-14” rocket, the US Air Force said in a statement. The South Korean air force said the flight was conducted early on Sunday.

The bombers took off from a US air base in Guam, and were joined by Japanese and South Korean fighter jets during the exercise, according to the statement.

“North Korea remains the most urgent threat to regional stability,” Pacific Air Forces commander General Terrence J. O’Shaughnessy said in the statement.

“If called upon, we are ready to respond with rapid, lethal, and overwhelming force at a time and place of our choosing”.

The US has in the past used overflights of the supersonic B1-B “Lancer” bomber as a show of force in response to North Korean missile or nuclear tests.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un personally supervised the midnight test launch of the missile on Friday night and said it was a “stern warning” for the United States that it would not be safe from destruction if it tries to attack, the North’s official KCNA news agency said.

North Korea’s state television broadcast pictures of the launch, showing the missile lifting off in a fiery blast in darkness and Kim cheering with military aides.

China, the North’s main ally, said it opposed North Korea’s missile launches, which it said violate United Nations Security Council resolutions designed to curb Pyongyang’s banned nuclear and missile programs.

“At the same time, China hopes all parties act with caution, to prevent tensions from continuing to escalate,” China’s foreign ministry said in a statement on Saturday.

However, Trump said he was “very disappointed in China”.

In a message on Twitter, he said: “Our foolish past leaders have allowed them to make hundreds of billions of dollars a year in trade, yet…”

“…they do NOTHING for us with North Korea, just talk. We will no longer allow this to continue. China could easily solve this problem!” he said in a subsequent tweet.

The Hwasong-14, named after the Korean word for Mars, reached an altitude of 3,724.9 km and flew 998 km for 47 minutes and 12 seconds before landing in the waters off the Korean peninsula’s east coast, KCNA said.

Western experts said calculations based on that flight data and estimates from the US, Japanese and South Korean militaries showed the missile could have been capable of going as far into the United States as Denver and Chicago.

Crows goal after siren to draw with Pies

Adelaide forward Mitch McGovern has kicked a goal after the siren to seal a heart-stopping AFL draw with Collingwood at the MCG.

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In a high-scoring, unpredictable, shootout on Sunday, the ladder-leading Crows trailed by 50 points early in the third quarter before they conjured up an astonishing comeback to secure a 15.13 (103) to 16.7 (103) result.

Collingwood led by 21 points midway through the final term when Daniel Wells booted his third goal for the match.

But the Crows would not be denied and booted the next four majors, with McGovern’s calm and collected set shot from 30m cementing the third draw of the season.

The Pies had earlier looked unstoppable, booting six straight majors either side of halftime to open up an eight-goal lead.

Nine of the next ten goals went Adelaide’s way as the Crows carved the margin to three points early in the final term.

Ben Reid, Jarryd Blair and Daniel Wells answered back but Adelaide again reduced the deficit to single digits.

The Pies tried desperately to hold on but allowed Jake Kelly to mark uncontested before McGovern’s huge contested mark and smooth finish secured the two points.

It was a remarkable finish for the Crows, who booted 13.4 in the second half after managing just 3.4 in the first.

Adelaide coach Don Pyke described the result as “bittersweet”, saying he thought Collingwood had deserved to win the game.

“We sort of stole a couple of points at the end,” he said.

“Some of the things we did in the early part of the game just weren’t to the level. But then at 50 points down, they kept persevering and found a way to give themselves a chance.”

Collingwood coach Nathan Buckley was left frustrated by his side’s failure to execute their game plan after halftime.

“It’s pretty clear – if you give Adelaide turnover opportunities, they’ll take them,” he said.

“They’re the best in the comp at it, and we weren’t able to take that away from them for long enough.”

Crows forwards McGovern (four goals), Jenkins (three) and Otten (two) proved the difference in the second half, while Matt Crouch (36 disposals, nine clearances) was immense in the midfield.

Wells and Taylor Adams were superb for Collingwood, each finishing with 34 disposals and three goals, with Levi Greenwood’s hard tagging restricting Rory Sloane to 16 touches.