Posts Tagged ‘North Korea’

North Korea leader unlikely to visit Seoul this month

December 13, 2018

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s return visit to Seoul appears unlikely to take place this month, a senior South Korean official said.

Kim and South Korean President Moon Jae-in had agreed on Kim’s visit to Seoul “in the near future” following their September summit in Pyongyang. Moon later said that Kim would come “within this year.”

Kim’s possible trip to Seoul has been the focus of media attention in South Korea in the past two weeks.

FILE – In this April 27, 2018 file photo, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, right, and South Korean President Moon Jae-in stroll together at the border village of Panmunjom in the Demilitarized Zone, South Korea. A senior South Korean official says it’s unlikely that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un will visit Seoul this month. After a September summit in Pyongyang, Kim and South Korean President Moon Jae-in agreed on Kim’s return visit to Seoul “in the near future.” Kim’s possible trip to Seoul has been the focus of media attention in the past days. The presidential Blue House on Thursday, Dec. 13, 2018, quoted senior presidential adviser Yoon Young-chan as saying that Kim’s visit within this year is “difficult.” (Korea Summit Press Pool via AP, File) (Associated Press)

The presidential Blue House on Thursday quoted senior presidential adviser Yoon Young-chan as saying in a text message to local reporters on Wednesday that Kim’s visit this year was “difficult.”

Yoon said Kim’s trip early next year was still possible.

Experts say Kim is reluctant to come because of stalled nuclear negotiations with the United States and worries about security arrangements in the South.

If Kim does visit Seoul, he will become the first North Korean leader to do so since the end of the 1950-53 Korean War. The Koreas are divided by the world’s most heavily fortified border, and about 28,500 U.S. troops are stationed in South Korea to deter potential aggression from North Korea.

Kim and Moon have taken a series of steps to reduce military tensions and boost ties this year. But they find it difficult to launch economic cooperation projects as the United States says it will maintain international sanctions on the North until it completes its nuclear disarmament.

The negotiations between the U.S. and North Korea have produced no major breakthrough since Kim’s summit with President Donald Trump in Singapore in June.

Associated Press



Pakistan rejects ‘politically motivated’ listing as violator of religious freedoms by US

December 12, 2018
Foreign Office Spokesman Muhammad Faisal. ─ File photo
Foreign Office Spokesman Muhammad Faisal. ─ File photo

The Foreign Office (FO) today issued Islamabad’s reaction to the listing, saying: “Pakistan rejects the US State Department’s unilateral and politically motivated pronouncement … Besides the clear biases reflected from these designations, there are serious questions over the credentials and impartiality of the self-proclaimed jury involved in this unwarranted exercise.”

The FO explained measures that the government had taken to safeguard the rights of its citizens, including the use of legal and administrative mechanisms, adding that Islamabad submits compliance reports on its obligations with respect to fundamental freedoms as a party to seven of nine core human rights treaties.

How Pakistan safeguards its minorities, according to FO:

  • Equal treatment of minorities enshrined in Constitution
  • Special seats reserved for minorities in Parliament
  • National Commission on Human Rights addresses concerns over violations of minorities’ rights
  • Successive governments make protection of minorities a priority
  • Judiciary has made several landmark decisions to protect the properties and places of worship of minority communities

“Pakistan does not need counsel by any individual country how to protect the rights of its minorities,” the statement asserted.

The FO suggested that honest introspection on Washington’s part would have been a timely move in order to ascertain the causes behind the exponential rise in Islamophobia and anti-Semitism in the US.

“Sadly, the proponents of human rights worldwide close their eyes to the systematic persecution of minorities subjected to alien domination and foreign occupation such as in the occupied Jammu and Kashmir,” the statement added.

The FO described Pakistan as a “multi-religious and pluralistic society where people of diverse faiths and denominations live together.”

Last year, Pompeo had placed Pakistan on a special watch list — a step short of the designation — which is used to persuade the targeted nation into introducing reforms suggested in annual US reports for religious freedom.

The designation is based on these annual reports and opens the door for further actions, including US economic sanctions. The US has already imposed strict economic sanctions on Pakistan for its alleged refusal to follow the Trump administration’s Afghan strategy.

The designation also includes al-Nusra Front, al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, Al Qaeda, Al Shabab, Boko Haram, the Houthis, Isis, Isis-Khorasan, and the Taliban as entities of particular concern.

Blacklisting Pakistan a ‘brazen political tactic’: Mazari

Minister for Human Rights Dr Shireen Mazari expressed surprise at the US administration’s decision to designate Pakistan among “countries of particular concern”, terming it a “brazen political tactic to pressure Pakistan to mitigate US failures in Afghanistan”.

The PTI minister, in her official statement on the development, acknowledged that “there is no doubt that Pakistan’s record on religions freedom is not ideal” but questioned if “the EU’s record” is any better “given the restrictions on churches, the banning of certain dress codes of Mulsims, refusal of entry of certain preachers — the list continues.”

Mazari reminded the US that “in our own neighbourhood we have India where Muslims are being targeted and where the BJP is supporting violence against Muslims ostensibly over beef.”

“The timing of the US move smacks of pure political blackmailing because it comes in the wake of Pakistan opening the Katarpur corridor to ease access for the Sikhs of India,” the statement reads.

The human rights minister said that she would “like to educate the Trump administration” that a “diverse denominations of Christian churches are present in Pakistan”, including Catholic, Methodist, Anglican, Lutheran, Baptist, Presbyterian and others.

Mazari made it clear that the US attempt to pressurise “Pakistan to do its bidding” will not work, directing their attention to Prime Minister Imran Khan’s recent remarks that he would net allow the country to be anyone’s “hired gun” anymore.

“It is time for the US to take responsibility for its failures in Afghanistan … and if it is serious about religious freedoms then it needs to examine the record of Modi’s India and and some of its EU allies,” she added.

Pompeo waives CPC sanctions for Pakistan

A US Embassy spokesperson today told DawnNewsTV that Pompeo, along with placing Pakistan on the list, had concurrently issued a waiver of ‘country of particular concern’ (CPC) sanctions against Pakistan “as required by ‘the important national interest of the United States’.”

The spokesperson explained that each country given the CPC designation “presents unique challenges, as well as a different potential for change”.

“The measures the United States carries out or waives with respect to a CPC are part of a broader strategy that aims to improve respect for religious freedom in that country,” the spokesperson added.

“In certain instances, the Secretary (Pompeo) has determined that a waiver of the Presidential Action was required in the important national interest of the United States.”

Pakistan rejects US blacklist for religious freedom violations

December 12, 2018

Pakistan on Wednesday rejected Washington’s decision to place it on a blacklist of countries that violate religious freedom, branding the move “politically motivated” and defending its treatment of minorities.

The US move to designate Pakistan “among countries of particular concern” comes at a difficult time for relations between the nations, with the Trump administration accusing Islamabad of failing to act against Islamist militants on its soil.

“Pakistan does not need counsel by any individual country (on) how to protect the rights of its minorities,” a statement from the foreign ministry said, adding that Islamabad “rejects” the designation.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the move to blacklist Pakistan in a congressionally mandated annual report released Tuesday.

In October, a Pakistani court exonerated Asia Bibi, a Christian woman who had spent eight years on death row for blasphemy

In October, a Pakistani court exonerated Asia Bibi, a Christian woman who had spent eight years on death row for blasphemy In October, a Pakistani court exonerated Asia Bibi, a Christian woman who had spent eight years on death row for blasphemy AFP/File

The measure means the US government is obliged to exert pressure, including imposing sanctions if necessary, to end freedom violations.

However, a spokesman with the US embassy in Islamabad clarified on Wednesday that Pompeo had issued a waiver over potential sanctions against Pakistan as required by “the important national interest of the United States”.

Blasphemy is an inflammatory charge in Pakistan, and high-profile vigilante murders and mob lynchings have been carried out in the past.

In October, a Pakistani court exonerated Asia Bibi, a Christian woman who had spent eight years on death row for blasphemy.

She remains in protective custody in an unknown location after violent protests against her acquittal, and a hardline cleric has been charged with terrorism and sedition over the demonstrations.

Bibi is currently seeking asylum abroad. Her family claims her life will be in danger if she remains in Pakistan.

The foreign ministry statement did not mention Bibi, or the issue of blasphemy.

“Pakistan is a multi-religious and pluralistic society where people of diverse faiths and denominations live together,” it said.

It also warned that honesty would have required Washington to examine the “exponential rise in Islamophobia and anti-Semitism in the US”.

– ‘Particular concern’ –

Pakistan says around four percent of its total population comprises citizens belonging to Christian, Hindu, Buddhists and Sikh faiths.

Human rights advocates have long voiced alarm about the treatment of religious minorities in Pakistan including Shiites and the Ahmadis, whom Islamabad forbids from identifying as Muslim.

The State Department had earlier held off on condemning Pakistan, a vital gateway for US forces in Afghanistan.

But it last year placed Pakistan on a special watch list — a step short of the designation — and Washington has separately curbed military assistance.

Relations between Washington and Islamabad have soured in recent years, with US officials repeatedly accusing Islamabad of ignoring or even collaborating with groups like the Afghan Taliban, which attack Afghanistan from alleged safe havens along the border between the two countries.

The troubled relationship hit another snag last month after Trump declared he had cancelled assistance worth hundreds of millions of dollars because Islamabad does not do “a damn thing” for the US.

Nine countries remained for another year on the US list of “countries of particular concern” — China, Eritrea, Iran, Myanmar, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan.

The United States removed one country from the blacklist — Uzbekistan — but kept it on the watch list.



Japan, US silent over ending ballistic missile patrols

December 12, 2018

Both have reason to keep mum as the move would shift the defense burden and alarm Russia and China

 DECEMBER 12, 2018 6:36 PM (UTC+8)

The land-based Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD, interceptor is one of the alternatives being discussed. Photo: AFP/Missile Defense Agency

The land-based Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD, interceptor is one of the alternatives being discussed. Photo: AFP/Missile Defense Agency

U.S. designates Boko Haram, ISIS ‘entities of particular concern’

December 12, 2018

The United States has announced the designation of the Boko Haram terrorist group as an entity “of particular concern”. The U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo in a statement, designated Boko Haram alongside the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), al-Qa’ida and al-Shabab.

Boko Haram

Pompeo also designated Saudi Arabia, Iran, Burma, North Korea, among “countries of particular concern”, while Comoros, Russia, and Uzbekistan were placed on “special watch list”.

Read more at:

Kim Jong Un unlikely to visit South Korea before end of the year, Moon’s office says

December 12, 2018

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is not expected to visit the South before the end of the year, South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s office said Wednesday.

Kim may still travel to Seoul in January for what could mark the first trip by any North Korean leader to the South’s capital, presidential spokesman Yoon Young-chan said in a text message. Yonhap News reported earlier that South Korea ruled out any visit by the North Korean leader to Seoul this month.

Image result for Moon Jae-in, Kim Jong Un, photo, lake,

South Korean President Moon Jae-in (second from right) and his wife, Kim Jung-sook (right), stand with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and his wife, Ri Sol Ju, on Mount Paektu in North Korea on Sept. 20. | POOL / VIA AP

For several weeks, South Korea has been abuzz with rumors and speculation about Kim’s possible trip to the South, with groups for and against him holding rallies on the streets of Seoul.

In September, South Korea’s president met Kim in Pyongyang and agreed to host him in Seoul before year’s end, a move resisted by other North Korean leaders due to security concerns.

The two Koreas have taken a number of steps to improve their ties and resume inter-Korean exchanges, including holding three summits, in a dramatic shift from last year when North Korea’s nuclear and missile tests brought the Korean Peninsula to the brink of conflict.

Nuclear negotiations between the U.S. and North Korea have stalled in recent weeks as North Korea canceled a high-level meeting with American officials at the last minute and doubts have been raised about a second summit between Kim and U.S. President Donald Trump.

Journalists urge EU to resist lobbying by tech giants

December 11, 2018

Top journalists called on the EU Tuesday to resist intense lobbying by Internet giants to gut a law which would force them to pay for the news content they pick up.

European Parliament lawmakers voted in September to compel Google, Facebook and other major tech firms to pay a form of copyright for media stories they use.

The historic decision was hailed by media organizations who claimed they were fleeced for years by search engines and aggregators not paying for their work.

The so-called copyright and neighboring rights law aims to ensure that producers of content — whether news, music or movies — are paid fairly in a digital world.

But a group of 100 leading journalists warned Tuesday that intense lobbying by so-called Big Tech on the law, which also has to be agreed by the Council of Ministers and the European Commission, is “emptying the text of substance.”

Major publishers, including AFP, have pushed for the reform — known as Article 11 — seeing it as an urgent remedy to safeguard quality journalism and the plummeting earnings of traditional media companies.

But opponents have called it a “link tax” that will stifle discourse on the Internet.

“Think of the investigative work that goes into publishing the headline ‘Suicide attack in Baghdad Shiite quarter: 32 dead, say police, hospitals,’” said AFP Middle East correspondent Sammy Ketz, in an open letter to the EU supported by leading reporters worldwide.

“To pen this simple line, the journalist has questioned the police to determine what kind of explosion took place, called the hospitals to establish a casualty toll, visited the scene of the blast for a description and to interview witnesses.

“Occasionally he may risk his life because it is not unusual for a secondary attack to happen… This was the case in Kabul recently when nine journalists and photographers lost their lives, including AFP’s Shah Marai,” he said.

Yet lobbyists were trying to “exclude references to ‘factuals’ and ‘snippets’ to exclude press agencies and specialist media, and to reduce the protection period for neighboring rights,” Ketz said.

But it was precisely these short stories which are “read in huge quantities… that generate millions of online interactions and thus considerable revenue for the platforms,” he argued.

Internet giants, who are widely accused of helping spread fake news, were bent on making it impossible for journalists to do their job verifying facts, Ketz insisted.

“In the end the field will be left to those who peddle fake news,” the news veteran added.

“Excluding short extracts from neighboring rights will lead publishers and news agencies to employ fewer journalists, to shut their bureaus in Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, North Korea” and elsewhere, he said.

“Then what will be the sources of information? State media? The disinformation campaigns run by authoritarian regimes?

“Let’s not allow ‘bots’ and ‘troll farms’ to take over from reporters, or leave online fiction to replace verified fact,” Ketz said.

But resistance to the law has been fierce from tech giants, especially to Article 13: the proposal to make online platforms legally liable for copyrighted material put on the web by users.

They say this will restrict creativity and the usage of memes and remixes by everyday net users.

But the journalists have rejected this as a “lie.”

“Free access to the web will endure because the Internet giants, which now use editorial content for free” can well afford to reimburse the media without asking consumers to pay, they said in a previous open letter to lawmakers.

Japan to Increase Spending On U.S. Military Equipment

December 9, 2018

Japan’s military looks to raise spending over the next five years in response to security challenges and to narrow Japan’s trade surplus with the United States by buying U.S. equipment, the Nikkei business daily reported on Saturday.

The Defense Ministry looks to spend at least ¥27 trillion between April 2019 and March 2024, with the spending rising an average 1.1 percent per year, exceeding the 0.8 percent average during the five years ending next March, the report said without identifying its sources.

Related image

Currently, payments on equipment and personnel expenses account for 80 percent of defense spending, the Nikkei said. Under the plan, funds for new equipment purchases will be separated from these expenses, making it easier to buy equipment from the United States, it added.

Japan aims to have Cabinet approval for the spending in mid-December, it said. The Defense Ministry could not be reached immediately for comment.

Purchases of American-made equipment could help Tokyo ease trade friction with Washington as U.S. President Donald Trump pushes Japan to buy more American goods, including military gear, while threatening to impose tariffs on Japanese auto imports to cut a trade deficit with Tokyo.

The Defense Ministry in August sought record spending of ¥5.3 trillion next year to help pay for major upgrades to defenses designed to shoot down any North Korean ballistic missile, which Tokyo sees as a continued threat despite Pyongyang’s promise to abandon nuclear weapons.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has been reinforcing Japan’s military to respond to any North Korea missile strike and counter China’s growing air and sea power in the waters around Japan.

Japan remains wary of North Korean promises to abandon its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs. The Defense Ministry said in a white paper published in August that Pyongyang remained Japan’s “most serious and pressing threat.”


North Korea Expands Long-Range Missile Base, Analysts Say

December 7, 2018

Pyongyang is also still producing nuclear weapons, according to researchers studying satellite images, casting a new shadow over disarmament talks

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SEOUL—North Korea is expanding military facilities thought to house long-range missiles that can hit the U.S., according to a think-tank report that revives doubts about the regime’s sincerity in disarmament negotiations.

Pyongyang is still producing nuclear weapons and appears to be upgrading a missile base near the Chinese border, according to the analysis by the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, Calif., based on satellite imagery taken in recent months.

“The missile base at Yeongjeo-dong has long been a concern to U.S. and South Korean officials because of its unique location,” the report said, referring to the border site, which it said is likely to receive the North’s latest weapons.

Seven miles away, North Korea has been building new facilities that appear to be either another missile base or an expansion of the Yeongjeo-dong facility, said the Middlebury analysis, first reported by CNN.

The U.S. Embassy in Seoul declined to comment.

U.S. officials have questioned whether North Korea is serious about giving up nuclear weapons as negotiations falter due to disagreements over U.S.-led sanctions and the pace of North Korean disarmament.

North Korea insists it has made significant concessions, including dismantling a missile launch site and a nuclear-weapons test site, and has called for the lifting of sanctions that ban or limit its trade in coal, textiles and raw materials. Washington has refused to ease sanctions until Pyongyang takes more concrete steps toward denuclearization.

Expansion of the Yeongjeo-dong site wouldn’t necessarily violate the agreement that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and President Trump reached in Singapore in June.

The deal obliges both sides to pursue new relations and “to work toward complete denuclearization”—vague phrases that were drafted by Pyongyang officials, according to a former senior North Korean official who defected to the South. The lack of specifics in the agreement has given diplomats room to negotiate, but also failed to bridge fundamental disagreements between the sides.

The U.S., though, has kept open the possibility of another summit between the two leaders, which Mr. Trump has said could take place early in the new year.

Meanwhile, warming inter-Korean relations are complicating the nuclear calculus.

South Korea has been urging Washington to accept some North Korean demands for a partial lifting of sanctions. Such a step would allow for renewed economic engagement between North and South, a goal of South Korean President Moon Jae-in.

But the South Korean leader has been cautious not to get too far out ahead of his U.S. ally. In a meeting with Mr. Trump last weekend, Mr. Moon expressed continued support for sanctions on Pyongyang, according to his spokesman.

Meanwhile, the U.S. and South Korea have worked to ease tensions with Pyongyang by scaling back joint military exercises this week. North Korea likewise toned down its usual criticism of the maneuvers, only briefly calling the exercises a “dangerous” move in a short article on its state media.

Write to Andrew Jeong at

Trump expected to nominate former Fox News anchor Heather Nauert as ambassador to UN

December 7, 2018

Donald Trump will nominate State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, two White House officials said Thursday, tapping someone with no prior policy or political experience tapping for a key diplomatic post.

Heather Nauert

The decision was expected to be announced as early as Friday, the two officials said, requesting anonymity.

Nauert, whose nomination would require Senate confirmation, is a former Fox News Channel correspondent and anchor. She became the State Department’s spokeswoman in April 2017 and was named earlier this year as the acting undersecretary for public diplomacy and public affairs.

If confirmed, Nauert, 48, would succeed Nikki Haley, who said in October she would be leaving the U.N. post at the end of the year.

It was unclear whether the U.N. ambassador post would remain part of the Cabinet, as it has been under Haley, and there have been internal discussions about not having it remain a Cabinet-level position, one White House official said.

The State Department declined to comment and Nauert did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Nauert, who earlier this year had been considered a possible successor to White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders, gained experience on diplomacy by working at the State Department, but she lacks the political and policy credentials of Haley, a former South Carolina governor.

Having the direct support of the president and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo could buttress her image, however, among global diplomats at the United Nations, who have bristled at Trump’s “America First” foreign policy.

She will face a variety of challenges if confirmed for the job, including championing U.S. efforts to contain Iran’s influence in the Middle East and ensuring the global body maintains tough sanctions on North Korea as Washington tries to negotiate an end to Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programs.

Trump has been critical of the United Nations, complaining about its cost to Washington and criticizing it for focusing on bureaucracy and process rather than results.

He pulled the United States out of the U.N. human rights body in September, citing bias toward Israel, and his administration has cut funding for the U.N. refugee agency and last year proposed U.S. funding cuts for aid and diplomacy that could curb the work of the global body.

But Trump has also used the United Nations to try to advance his foreign policy agenda on Iran and North Korea.

The administration has also worked through the United Nations to try to find a political solution to the wars in Syria and Yemen, two issues that will confront Nauert.

Trump’s decision to nominate Nauert was first reported by Bloomberg News.

The president is weighing a number of other end-of-year staff changes, including replacing Chief of Staff John Kelly, two of Trump’s advisers said on Thursday.