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US strike on Syria sends investors rushing for safety

BBC/Maximilian Kasseh,Jr.
US President ,Donald Trump
US President ,Donald Trump

WASHINGTON/TOKYO -- The U.S. military on Thursday night fired more than 50 cruise missiles into a Syrian air force base thought to have been the origin of a recent chemical weapons attack. The Donald Trump administration's first military action against the Bashar Assad regime prompted investors to scurry into traditional safe havens, including the Japanese yen.

The Tomahawk missiles, which have a range of around 2,400km, were launched from two warships in the Mediterranean Sea. The U.S. Navy aircraft carrier George Washington is also currently in the Middle East.

The strike came as President Donald Trump was hosting Chinese President Xi Jinping at his Florida resort. The leaders are expected to discuss the North Korean threat during the two-day visit, and the strike on Syria is likely to influence those talks.

"Tonight I ordered a targeted military strike on the airfield in Syria from where the chemical attack was launched," Trump told reporters at Mar-a-Lago. U.S. officials say Syrian government aircraft killed dozens of civilians earlier this week using chlorine mixed with a nerve agent, possibly sarin.

Trump said there was "no dispute" that Syria used chemical weapons on its own people. "Assad choked out the lives of helpless men, women and children. No child of God should ever suffer such horror."

The move marks a shift for Trump, who opposed intervention in Syria during the presidential campaign. The strike may complicate the administration's relationship with Russia, which has been protective of the Assad regime.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Assad should no longer have a role in governing the Syrian people after the chemical attack, and that the U.S. is evaluating an appropriate response.

Tillerson also issued a warning to Russia that it should "consider carefully" its support of Assad's government.
Market jitters

The dollar fell on Friday morning, Tokyo time, as investors fled to the yen. In one 15-minute period, the greenback weakened more than 0.6% to the lower 110 yen level.

 


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