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N. Korea tests more missiles as Seoul prepares to send food aid

N. Korea tests more missiles as Seoul prepares to send food aid SEOUL: North Korea reportedly launched two short-range missiles on Thursday afternoon —  its second military provocation in five days following the testing of several rockets and missiles last Saturday. The North’s latest test firing coincided with the visit to Seoul of the US’s top…

N. Korea tests more missiles as Seoul prepares to send food aid

N. Korea tests more missiles as Seoul prepares to send food aid

SEOUL: North Korea reportedly launched two short-range missiles on Thursday afternoon —  its second military provocation in five days following the testing of several rockets and missiles last Saturday.

The North’s latest test firing coincided with the visit to Seoul of the US’s top nuclear envoy Stephen Biegun, and comes at a time when South Korean President Moon Jae-in is attempting to persuade politicians that South Korea should provide food aid to the North, which is currently facing a potentially disastrous shortage following its worst harvest in 10 years.

According to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the missiles were fired from the north-eastern city of Kusong toward the eastern waters between 4:29 p.m. and 4:39 p.m. One of the missiles flew 420 km, and the other 270 km.

In 2017, the North launched a long-range ballistic missile, Hwasong-12, and a ground-to-ground missile, nicknamed Pukguksong-2, in the Kusong area.

“We have strengthened surveillance and vigilance in case of an additional missile launch by the North,” the JCS said in a statement. “Both South and US militaries are analyzing the details of the projectile.”

President Moon expressed his concern over the launch of the missiles, which he said could violate UN resolutions that ban the North from firing any kind of ballistic missile.

“If they are ballistic missiles, even if they are short-range, (they) could be in violation of UN resolutions,” Moon said during an interview with a local broadcasting station on the occasion of the second anniversary of his inauguration.

Still, the president — who favors negotiation with the North — was trying to leave room for diplomacy.

“UN resolutions, in fact, target the North’s intercontinental ballistic missiles, and the international community has never taken issue with short-range missiles,” he said. 

 

“Nevertheless, I warn that such actions, if repeated, will make it more difficult to maintain dialogue and negotiations down the road.”

This week’s missile launches were expected to top the agenda when Biegun met with South Korean officials on Friday.

Having arrived late on Wednesday, Biegun was scheduled to make a courtesy call on President Moon on Friday morning and meet with key security-related officials, including Chung Eui-yong, director of the presidential national security office, and Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-hwa, to discuss the missile launches and the potential provision of food aid to the North.

On Tuesday, Moon spoke with US President Donald Trump to discuss his plan to provide food to North Korea, and Trump reportedly expressed his support.

“We’ll push for sending food to North Korean citizens in cooperation with the international community,” said Lee Sang-min, spokesman for the Ministry of Unification on North Korean affairs. “Discussions are underway among related government offices to lay out details of food assistance.”

According to the UN, an estimated 10.1 million people — or 40 percent of the North Korean population — are in urgent need of assistance after this year’s harvest.

The regime cut daily rations to less than 11 ounces per person in January, compared to over 13 ounces per person in January 2018, according to the World Food Program, and the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization.

Food shortages in North Korea have been aggravated by the international sanctions imposed in 2016, which have choked the regime’s cash flow, making it difficult for the state to import food.

While America remains cautious about providing the North with materials, fearing that the regime would use any aid for military purposes, Washington has confirmed that it will not stand in South Korea’s way if Seoul chooses to provide food aid to the North.

“Our position in regards to North Korea is going to continue to be the maximum pressure campaign,” White House press secretary Sarah Sanders told reporters on Wednesday. 

“Our focus is on the denuclearization. (But) if South Korea moves forward on that front, we’re not going to intervene.”

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo stressed that the international community should maintain pressure on North Korea until it gives up its nuclear weapons program completely.

“President Trump has led tough diplomacy toward the final, fully verified denuclearization of North Korea,” Pompeo said in a speech in London on Wednesday. “That mission is important, and the pressure campaign that the world has engaged in must continue.”

Local experts believe food aid may not be an effective way of luring the North to the negotiating table, although the South hopes that such assistance could set the stage for the fourth round of talks between Moon and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

“The latest provocation sends a clear message that they will not come to the negotiating table unless the United States changes its attitude toward denuclearization talks,” said Kim Dong-yub, a professor at Kyungnam University’s Institute for Far Eastern Studies in Seoul. “The North is not likely to be induced just by food aid.”

And in Seoul, politicians are divided over whether to provide food to the North or not.

“For the sake of peace and maintaining the momentum of dialogue with North Korea, humanitarian assistance should be implemented as soon as possible,” Rep. Lee Hae-shik of the governing Democratic Party said on Thursday.

But Rep. Min Kyung-wook, spokesman for the main opposition Liberty Korea Party, rebutted Lee’s claim, saying: “We’re not opposed to any humanitarian assistance to the North Korean people, but this is not the time. If the South provides food aid now, the North will think their provocation bore fruit.”

Analysts believe the North has been developing new short-range missiles modeled after Russia’s Iskander system. Developed in the 1970s, the Iskander is a road-based mobile launch system that can fire multiple ballistic and cruise missiles. It is known to have a range of up to 500 kilometers.

“The missile is potentially capable of conducting strikes on all areas of South Korea, including key American military installations,” said the Kyungnam University professor. “(The most troubling thing) is that the missile could carry a nuclear warhead of up to 500 kilos.”

Retired three-star general Shin Won-shik warned that the Russian-type short-range missile could be capable of evading missile defense systems.

“The South Korean missile shield was developed to cope with existing ballistic missiles, (including) Scud and No Dong. So there are questions about whether the current missile defense plans are (equipped to deal with) the threat of newer missiles,” said Shin.

South Korea is working on a low-tier missile shield — the Korea Air and Missile Defense system or KAMD — a network that includes Patriot Advanced Capability-2 and -3 interceptors, ship-based SM-2 missiles, and locally developed medium-range surface-to-air missiles. The US Army’s Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system was deployed in the southern part of South Korea in 2007 to augment the low-tier, terminal-phase KAMD.

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Britain’s Hunt: Iran one year away from nuclear bomb

BRUSSELS: The remaining parties to the Iran nuclear deal do not see Tehran’s breaches as significant and do not intend for now to trigger the pact’s dispute mechanism, preferring more diplomacy to ease the crisis, the EU foreign policy chief said on Monday.She spoke at the end of an European Union foreign ministers meeting after…

Britain’s Hunt: Iran one year away from nuclear bomb

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But by suggesting that Iran’s non-compliance was not significant, it could anger the United States, which last week warned it would intensify sanctions on Iran over its breaches, and it did prompt an immediate outcry from Israel, Iran’s regional arch-enemy.“For the time being, none of the parties to the agreement has signalled their intention to invoke this article,” EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini told a news conference in Brussels, referring to a mechanism to punish non-compliance.“(It) means that none of them for the moment, for the time being with the current data we have had in particular from the (UN nuclear watchdog) IAEA, (consider Iran’s) non-compliance…to be significant non-compliance.”IAEA inspectors last week confirmed Iran is now enriching uranium to 4.5 percent fissile purity, above the 3.67 percent limit set by its deal, the second breach in as many weeks after Tehran exceeded limits on its stock of low enriched uranium.The level at which Iran is now refining uranium is still well below the 20 percent purity of enrichment Iran reached before the deal, and the 90 percent needed to yield bomb-grade nuclear fuel. Low-enriched uranium provides fuel for civilian power plants.British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said earlier in the day that Iran remained “a good year away from developing a nuclear bomb.” He told reporters in Brussels: “There is still some closing, but small window to keep the deal alive.”Under the terms of the deal, if any party believes another is not upholding their commitments they can refer the issue to a Joint Commission comprising Iran, Russia, China, the three European powers, and the European Union.This activates a dispute mechanism that could eventually end with a restoration of global, UN sanctions against Iran. Mogherini said a joint commission meeting was possible, although when and at what level had yet to be decided.She indicated that for now the EU would focus on diplomatic efforts to save the nuclear deal, which signatories in 2015 touted as essential to ward off the risk of a wider Middle East war jeopardizing global energy supplies.“The deal is not in good health, but it’s still alive. We hope and we invite Iran to reverse these steps and go back to full compliance with the agreement,” Mogherini, adding that they were all reversible.Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned the EU’s response on Monday, saying it recalled failed diplomacy with Nazi Germany in the run-up to World War Two.“(It) reminds me of the European appeasement of the 1930s,” Netanyahu said in a video statement.“Then, too, there were those who stuck their head in the sand and did not see the approaching danger,” said Netanyahu, who has often cast Iran’s nuclear projects as a mortal menace to Israel and the wider world. Iran denies seeking a nuclear bomb.The Brussels gathering had been called to flesh out ways of convincing Iran and the United States to reduce tensions and start a dialogue amid fears the 2015 deal is close to collapse.Fears of direct US-Iranian conflict have risen since May with several attacks on oil tankers in the Gulf, Iran’s downing of a US surveillance drone, and a plan for US air strikes on Iran last month that Trump called off at the last minute.In reaction to the reimposition of tough US sanctions, which have notably targeted Iran’s vital oil revenue stream, Tehran has cut some of its nuclear commitments under the deal.That led the European parties to the pact, France, Britain and Germany, to warn Tehran not to shred the deal’s terms.Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom suggested the Europeans would leave the door open for diplomacy but that Tehran should exercise restraint.“It improves their chances of having a good discussion with the EU and other partners in the JCPOA (Iran deal),” she told reporters. “We encourage them to use all diplomatic means and create new diplomatic channels …to de-escalate the tense situation. We have to use every opportunity to keep the deal.”The Islamic Republic’s nuclear energy agency said Tehran would return to the situation before the nuclear deal unless European countries fulfilled their obligations.“These actions are not taken out of stubbornness but to give diplomacy a chance,” agency spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi said.“And if the Europeans and America don’t want to fulfil their commitments we will create a balance in this deal by reducing commitments and return the situation to four years ago.”Iran says the European countries must do more to guarantee it the trade and investment dividends it was due to receive in return for UN-monitored limits to its nuclear capacity under the deal.

 

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Hong Kong police demand better protection ahead of more protests

BRUSSELS: British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said on Monday that there was still time to save the Iran nuclear deal and that despite the United States being Britain’s closest ally it disagreed on how to handle the Iran crisis.“Iran is still a good year away from developing a nuclear bomb. There is still some closing,…

Hong Kong police demand better protection ahead of more protests

BRUSSELS: British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said on Monday that there was still time to save the Iran nuclear deal and that despite the United States being Britain’s closest ally it disagreed on how to handle the Iran crisis.“Iran is still a good year away from developing a nuclear bomb. There is still some closing, but small window to keep the deal alive,” Hunt told reporters on arrival for a foreign ministers’ meeting in Brussels.The Brussels meeting will seek to flesh out how to convince Iran and the United States to reduce tensions and initiate a dialogue amid fears that the 2015 deal is close to collapse.US-Iranian tensions have worsened since US President Donald Trump decided last year to abandon the nuclear deal under which Iran agreed to curtail its atomic program in return for relief from economic sanctions crippling its economy.In reaction to the re-imposition of tough US sanctions, which have notably targeted Iran’s main oil revenue stream, Tehran has scaled back on some of its nuclear commitments under the deal, leading the European parties to the pact, France, Britain and Germany, to warn it about not fully complying with the terms.The three powers, who are party to the deal alongside Russia and China, have sought to defuse the tensions, which culminated in a plan for US air strikes on Iran last month that Trump called off at the last minute.

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Police fire tear gas to disperse protesters from Champs Elysees after Bastille Day parade

Police fire tear gas to disperse protesters from Champs Elysees after Bastille Day parade PARIS: French police fired tear gas to disperse protesters from the Champs Elysees avenue on Sunday, a few hours after President Emmanuel Macron had presided over the Bastille Day military parade alongside other European leaders.The boulevard in central Paris was reopened…

Police fire tear gas to disperse protesters from Champs Elysees after Bastille Day parade

Police fire tear gas to disperse protesters from Champs Elysees after Bastille Day parade

PARIS: French police fired tear gas to disperse protesters from the Champs Elysees avenue on Sunday, a few hours after President Emmanuel Macron had presided over the Bastille Day military parade alongside other European leaders.The boulevard in central Paris was reopened to traffic as soon as the parade finished but a few hundred protesters from the grassroots ‘yellow vests’ movement tried to occupy it.France’s BFM television showed images of police firing tear gas to disperse the protesters, some hooded, who tried to block the road with metal barricades, dustbins and other debris.Several loud bangs could be heard. Protesters hurled objects at the police, booed and set a bin on fire.Earlier, a French police source and a court source said some 152 ‘yellow vest’ protesters and their leaders had been detained near the Champs Elysees as they tried to stage a protest.

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