Posts Tagged ‘North Korea’

Stocks steady with markets hopeful on US tax plan — But if U.S. Congress fails to act, Banks warn of trouble ahead

August 23, 2017

AFP

    23 August 2017 – 13H00
© AFP | Markets steadied after a rebound based on renewed optimism over chances President Donald Trump may succeed in reforming the US tax system.

LONDON (AFP) – European and Asian stock markets steadied Wednesday after a global equities rally driven by optimism over a US tax reform plan, but President Donald Trump’s comments about terminating a key trade agreement capped gains.The euro gained against the dollar following well-received eurozone data, analysts said.

“Manufacturing and services PMIs from the eurozone, Germany and France were all very strong and well above the level that separates growth from contraction, suggesting that the recovery is continuing to gain traction,” said Craig Erlam, senior market analyst at Oanda trading group.

In London, British advertising giant WPP saw its share price slump almost 12 percent to 1,405 pence after the company cut its full-year revenue forecast.

“WPP is very much seen as the bellwether of the advertising industry and as such is widely regarded as a global economic barometer and so it is unsurprising the shares have reacted,” Graham Spooner, investment research analyst at The Share Centre, said in a client note.

Provident Financial won 1.1 percent to 596 pence, a day after the ailing UK lender’s share price had crashed 66 percent.

Overall, stock markets had chalked up a comeback Tuesday after struggling in recent weeks owing to a standoff between the US and North Korea, which had been compounded by last week’s terror attack in Barcelona.

The US president’s woes have fuelled speculation he will struggle to push through his market-friendly economy-boosting policies that fanned a global market rally in the months after his November election.

Despite ongoing chaos at the White House, markets have been heartened by reports suggesting that the Trump administration was making headway on a tax reform plan.

“Some of the US political uncertainty may have been removed by a report on the Trump administration making progress on tax reform, but a wait-and-see mood is strong ahead of Jackson Hole and tensions in North Korea still in place,” said Tsutomu Nakamura, strategist at Ueda Harlow Corp., referring to a central bankers meeting on Friday.

The yen rose as investors pushed into safer investments after Trump said in a US speech that he may end the North American Free Trade Agreement, and vowed to pressure Congress to fund a border wall with Mexico that was at the centre of his election campaign.

The stronger yen pared some gains in Tokyo where the benchmark Nikkei 225 index ended 0.3-percent higher Wednesday, while Seoul and Taipei edged up 0.1 percent and Singapore was flat.

But Shanghai ended 0.1-percent lower and Sydney slipped 0.2 percent.

Hong Kong’s stock market was closed as powerful Typhoon Hato brought the southern Chinese city to a standstill.

All eyes are on the Jackson Hole symposium in Wyoming at the end of the week, which brings together the world’s top central bank chiefs.

Much of the attention will be on Federal Reserve boss Janet Yellen, with hopes for some clues about the bank’s plans to wind in its huge bond holdings.

European Central Bank chief Mario Draghi’s speech will also be closely watched as Frankfurt-based policymakers consider cutting back their bond purchases.

– Key figures around 1015 GMT –

London – FTSE 100: FLAT at 7,379.18 points

Frankfurt – DAX 30: DOWN 0.1 percent at 12,223.04

Paris – CAC 40: FLAT at 5,132.31

EURO STOXX 50: FLAT at 3,454.63

Tokyo – Nikkei 225: UP 0.3 percent at 19,434.64 (close)

Hong Kong – Hang Seng: closed

Shanghai – Composite: DOWN 0.1 percent at 3,287.71

Euro/dollar: UP at $1.1781 from $1.1764 2100 GMT

Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.2796 from $1.2821

Dollar/yen: DOWN at 109.33 yen from 109.56 yen

Oil – Brent North Sea: DOWN 30 cents at $51.57 per barrel

Oil – West Texas Intermediate: DOWN 18 cents at $47.65

burs-bcp/rl

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China says new US sanctions ‘won’t help’ cooperation on N.Korea as U.S. adds punitive measures on a series of Chinese and Russian individuals and companies

August 23, 2017

BEIJING (AFP) – 

China said Wednesday that new US sanctions targeting Chinese firms linked to North Korea “will not help” cooperation with Beijing in the nuclear crisis.

The US Treasury Department Tuesday slapped punitive measures on a series of Chinese and Russian individuals and companies, accusing them of supporting North Korea’s nuclear programme and trying to evade US sanctions.

President Donald Trump has pressed China to do more to persuade its ally North Korea to abandon its nuclear and ballistic missile programmes.

Image may contain: sky and outdoor

 A cargo ship is loaded with coal at the North Korean port of Rajin July 18, 2014.

“The US action will not help the solution of the problem as well as the mutual trust and cooperation with China,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a regular news briefing.

“We urge the US side to stop this wrongdoing and correct it,” she said.

At the same time, Hua said the “extremely tense” situation on the Korean Peninsula “has shown some signs of abating” thanks to the concerted efforts of various parties, though it “remains highly complex and sensitive”.

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Hua Chunying, China’s foreign ministry.

She made the remark hours after US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson signalled that talks with the North might be possible “in the near future”.

Trump later said in a speech that North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un was “starting to respect” the United States.

Hua renewed Beijing’s call for peace talks and for North Korea and the US to “exercise restraint”.

“We also noted that many country leaders also said the Korean peninsula issue should be peacefully resolved and the call for dialogue, peace and deescalation, rather than confrontation, war and mutual provocation, represents the common voice of the international community.”

Tensions have eased since Kim pulled back from a plan to send a salvo of missiles towards the US Pacific territory of Guam.

But Pyongyang Wednesday disclosed significant technological advances in its missile programmes and ambitious plans to further improve its capabilities.

– Coal companies –

The new sanctions are part of a broader US effort to disrupt the flow of cash funding North Korean weapons programmes. They target companies that have dealt in natural resources such as coal and minerals or engaged in financial transactions for North Korean interests.

It is the second time since June that Washington has targeted Chinese entities linked to North Korea.

“It is unacceptable for individuals and companies in China, Russia and elsewhere to enable North Korea to generate income used to develop weapons of mass destruction and destabilise the region,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement.

China backed new United Nations sanctions against North Korea earlier this month and announced last week that it was upholding them by banning imports of iron, iron ore and seafood from its neighbour.

Beijing had already suspended imports of North Korean coal in February.

The new US sanctions took aim at a half-dozen Chinese companies, including three — Dandong Zhicheng Metallic Materials Co Ltd, JinHou International Holding Co Ltd and Dandong Tianfu Trade Co Ltd — that Washington said had collectively imported nearly a half billion dollars’ worth of North Korean coal between 2013 and 2016.

The Treasury Department also sanctioned Dandong Zhicheng’s director Chi Yupeng, a Chinese national accused of moving cash for North Korean interests.

People who answered the phone at Dandong Zhicheng and Dandong Tianfu Trade told AFP they were “unaware” of the situation and declined to comment. Calls placed to the other firms went unanswered.

The US sanctions also target Dandong Rich Earth Trading Co Ltd, which the United States says has acted on behalf of North Korea’s General Bureau of Atomic Energy — responsible for its nuclear programme — and has eased banned North Korean exports of vanadium ore.

Another company, Mingzheng International Trading Limited, which maintains offices in Hong Kong and mainland China, was in fact a front for the Foreign Trade Bank, North Korea’s main foreign exchange bank, the Treasury Department said.

In late June the Treasury Department imposed sanctions against the Bank of Dandong, severing it from the US financial system as it accused the bank of laundering North Korean cash.

The department also sanctioned two Chinese individuals said to have established front companies to ease financial transactions for North Korea, and a Chinese shipping company accused of helping smuggle banned luxury goods into the country.

North Korea Shipments to Syria Chemical Arms Agency Intercepted, U.N. Says

August 22, 2017

Image result for chemical weapons, face mask, photos

UNITED NATIONS — Two North Korean shipments to a Syrian government agency responsible for the country’s chemical weapons programme were intercepted in the past six months, according to a confidential United Nations report on North Korea sanctions violations.

The report by a panel of independent U.N. experts, which was submitted to the U.N. Security Council earlier this month and seen by Reuters on Monday, gave no details on when or where the interdictions occurred or what the shipments contained.

“The panel is investigating reported prohibited chemical, ballistic missile and conventional arms cooperation between Syria and the DPRK (North Korea),” the experts wrote in the 37-page report.

“Two member states interdicted shipments destined for Syria. Another Member state informed the panel that it had reasons to believe that the goods were part of a KOMID contract with Syria,” according to the report.

Image result for chemical weapons, face mask, photos

KOMID is the Korea Mining Development Trading Corporation. It was blacklisted by the Security Council in 2009 and described as Pyongyang’s key arms dealer and exporter of equipment related to ballistic missiles and conventional weapons. In March 2016 the council also blacklisted two KOMID representatives in Syria.

“The consignees were Syrian entities designated by the European Union and the United States as front companies for Syria’s Scientific Studies and Research Centre (SSRC), a Syrian entity identified by the Panel as cooperating with KOMID in previous prohibited item transfers,” the U.N. experts wrote.

SSRC has overseen the country’s chemical weapons programme since the 1970s.

The U.N. experts said activities between Syria and North Korea they were investigating included cooperation on Syrian Scud missile programs and maintenance and repair of Syrian surface-to-air missiles air defense systems.

The North Korean and Syrian missions to the United Nations did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Image result for chemical weapons, syria, photos

Syrians bury the bodies of victims of a suspected toxic gas attack in Khan Sheikhun, a nearby rebel-held town in Syrias northwestern Idlib province, on April 5, 2017. (Getty)

The experts said they were also investigating the use of the VX nerve agent in Malaysia to kill the estranged half-brother of North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un in February.

North Korea has been under U.N. sanctions since 2006 over its ballistic missile and nuclear programs and the Security Council has ratcheted up the measures in response to five nuclear weapons tests and four long-range missile launches.

Syria agreed to destroy its chemical weapons in 2013 under a deal brokered by Russia and the United States. However, diplomats and weapons inspectors suspect Syria may have secretly maintained or developed a new chemical weapons capability.

During the country’s more than six-year long civil war the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons has said the banned nerve agent sarin has been used at least twice, while the use of chlorine as a weapon has been widespread. The Syrian government has repeatedly denied using chemical weapons.

(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Tom Brown)

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Japan’s New Foreign Minister Says It Is Time to Exert Pressure on North Korea

August 22, 2017

TOKYO — Japan’s new foreign minister, Taro Kono, said on Tuesday international pressure against North Korea must be maintained until Pyongyang clearly demonstrates that it will give up its nuclear program.

“It’s not the time to discuss (the resumption of) six-party talks,” Kono said, referring to international negotiations involving both Koreas, the United States, Russia, China and Japan for the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula.

“It’s time to exert pressure,” he said in an interview with a group of reporters.

(Reporting by Kiyoshi Takenaka)

North Korea ‘ramps up manufacture of illegal drugs’ amid sanctions — Likely also again into counterfeiting

August 21, 2017

Sanctions are taking their toll on the North Korean regime, which has allegedly resumed the production of narcotics to earn the hard currency required to advance its nuclear and missile programs. Julian Ryall reports.

Droge Methamphetamin Crystal Meth (imago/blickwinkel)

With the latest round of international sanctions making it increasingly difficult for the North Korean regime to obtain the hard currency that it requires to fund its nuclear and missile development programs, reports have emerged from the isolated state that it is once again stepping up the production of illegal narcotics, both for export and for its domestic market.

Quoting its network of covert contributors within North Korea, who communicate via mobile phone, the Seoul-based DailyNK news site has reported that state-run trading companies have begun to produce and sell illicit drugs.

Sources within North Korea say that companies have been “ordered to earn foreign currency” and, as legal means of doing so have been curtailed by the United Nations’ export bans, “are turning to drug manufacturing on an industrial scale.”

Read: China suspends North Korean iron, seafood imports over missile tests

Nordkorea Kim Jong Un Armee Offiziere (Reuters/KCNA)North Korea needs the hard currency to fund its nuclear and missile development programs

Long track record

“The North has a long track record of manufacturing and selling drugs overseas and it is a convenient fallback for the regime to ratchet up production when sanctions are stepped up and it is harder for them to export legitimate goods,” said Stephen Nagy, a senior associate professor of international relations at Tokyo’s International Christian University.

“It is clear that they need hard cash for their new military gadgets and they know there is a big cash market for illegal drugs,” he told DW.

North Korea has embassies in a number of states in Southeast Asia with high demand for narcotics and it is relatively easy to move shipments around once they are in the region because of the lax border controls.

As well as smuggling drugs into the country through ports, it has long been believed that the North’s diplomatic bag – which is immune from search or seizure – is being used to transport drugs.

“It is much more difficult for the North to export drugs to the US or Australia because of the security relationships that are in place, so they are targeting areas where they are more likely to get the deliveries through,” Nagy said.

North Korea has a long history of state-sponsored production and smuggling of narcotics, including heroin from poppies grown on farms and synthetic drugs prepared in university laboratories.

According to media reports, starting in the late 1990s methamphetamine was used as a medication in the North, which helped to fuel its spread. The regime began exporting to China, with the Chinese government confirming in 2004 that it had a problem with drugs smuggled over the border from North Korea.

– Philippines: Rodrigo Duterte hails the bloodiest day in his ‘war on drugs’

– Amnesty: Indonesia waging its own ‘war on drugs’

 

Exports subsequently expanded to the Philippines, Hong Kong, Thailand, the United States and western Africa.

In April 2003, Australian troops boarded the freighter Pong Su – owned by North Korea but flying a Tuvalu flag of convenience – and recovered nearly 125 kilograms of heroin that had been previously landed by inflatable boat on a beach in the state of Victoria.

Four North Korean nationals, including the ship’s political officer, were subsequently tried and deported. The North Korean government denied any knowledge of the illegal cargo.

North Korean diplomats and officials of state-run enterprises have been linked to the smuggling of ivory from Africa, counterfeit cigarettes and medicines, pirated DVDs, used cars and gold in order to earn money, but the most recent clampdown ordered by the United Nations under Security Council Resolution 2371 has made it more difficult to raise funds.

The DailyNK report identifies a number of educational institutions and companies that are allegedly involved in the manufacturing of crystal meth, including the Pyongsong College of Science and the Sunchon Pharmaceutical Factory. And given its relative proximity and a thriving underworld that already has links to North Korea, there are concerns that Japan would be one of the first targets of any export campaign.

‘Criminal enterprise’

“North Korea is essentially a criminal enterprise run by one family and they excel at criminal behavior, and that includes the delivery of illegal drugs,” said Jake Adelstein, author of “Tokyo Vice: An American Reporter on the Police Beat in Japan” and an expert on Japan’s underworld groups.

“I have heard from my police sources that already there has been an increase in the supply of drugs that appeal to a younger generation of consumer, such as ecstasy. And Japanese authorities are doing their best to stem these imports, but there are just too many ways that they can be brought into the country,” he said.

Another factor that may trigger a boom in sales of narcotics in Japan is the internal rivalries in the Yamaguchi-gumi gang three years ago that led to the formation of two splinter groups.

While the Yamaguchi-gumi refused to countenance drug dealing, the two splinter groups have no such qualms, Adelstein said, and are looking to generate more business by cultivating repeat visitors. That business model is also likely to appeal to North Korea.

http://www.dw.com/en/north-korea-ramps-up-manufacture-of-illegal-drugs-amid-sanctions/a-40169753

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Pyongyang appears to be back in the fake currency business, with Chinese police arresting a North Korean agent after he attempted to pass a new batch of high-quality counterfeit $100 bills.

The North Korean agent was arrested in the border city of Dandong after exchanging $5 million for Chinese currency at two banks and then depositing the funds, South Korea’s JoongAng Daily reported.

Counting machines at the banks determined that a number of the notes were fake and the man – who has not been named – was arrested and the accounts frozen.

The agent has confessed to being a former member of the North Korean government division tasked with carrying out espionage against South Korea, sources in China told the South Korean newspaper.

The money was to be used to purchase household goods and home appliances, the paper reported. The appliances – a luxury in North Korea – were to be shipped over the border and presented by Kim Jong-un, the North Korean leader, to his loyal supporters.

US authorities estimate that North Korea started manufacturing fake $100 notes in the 1970s, but began crafting notes that were almost indistinguishable from genuine bills in the late 1980s. Dubbed “supernotes”, the US estimated that Pyongyang managed to slip at least $45 million worth of the notes into circulation, primarily through its embassies overseas.

In 1998, Sean Garland, the alleged chief of staff of the Official Irish Republican Party, visited the North Korean embassy in Moscow. He was later arrested in Belfast and questioned in connection with the exchange of millions in counterfeit US currency in Dublin and Birmingham. Mr Garland subsequently fled to the Republic of Ireland, which refused a US application for his extradition.

The fake notes began to disappear around a decade ago, after the US introduced new security features, including a three-dimensional security ribbon and microprinting.

Given North Korea’s dire financial straits, in large part the result of sanctions imposed by the United Nations after Pyongyang carried out its fifth underground nuclear test in January, followed by a rocket launch the following month, it is believed that the regime is looking for new ways to generate the hard currency it requires to fund its nuclear and missile programmes.

There have also been reports of fake US notes being passed to foreign visitors to North Korea, who only learn they are counterfeit after they leave the country.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/06/28/north-korea-may-have-resumed-counterfeiting-operation/

US-South Korea hold military drills amid tension

August 21, 2017

BBC News

South Korean protestors hold placards that read "stop war exercise" during a rally denouncing the annual Ulchi Freedom Guardian (UFG) joint South Korea-US military exercise, near the US embassy in Seoul on 21 August 2017

The US and South Korea are conducting annual military drills which consistently infuriate Pyongyang, despite appeals to halt the exercise.

Last week North Korea appeared to back down from a threat to send missiles towards the US Pacific island of Guam, but said it would watch US actions.

It has already condemned these drills as pouring “gasoline on fire”.

Washington describes the drills as defensive in nature, but the North sees them as preparation for invasion.

China and Russia had in July proposed a halt on military exercises in exchange for a freeze on missile tests.

But Joseph Dunford, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, said last week that the military exercises were “not currently on the table as part of the negotiation at any level” and the Ulchi-Freedom Guardian (UFG) exercises were going ahead as planned.

About 17,500 US troops and 50,000 South Korean troops are involved in the exercises, which will last for about 10 days.

After North Korea’s threats against Guam and an almost unprecedented war of words over Pyongyang’s repeated missile tests, analysts have warned that the joint drills may be seen as a provocation at a particularly sensitive time.

On Sunday an editorial in North Korea’s official government newspaper, the Rodong Sinmun, said the exercises would worsen the state of the peninsula and warned of an “uncontrollable phase of a nuclear war”.

South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in responded on Monday that Pyongyang should not use the exercises “as a pretext for aggravating the situation”, reported Yonhap news agency.

The drills have also been met with some opposition in South Korea, where protests were held on Monday.

Observers have been watching the north and south watch each other for more than 60 years.

The US and South Korea hold two sets of war games every year, involving a massive number of troops and military hardware.

Foal Eagle/Key Resolve is usually held in spring, while Ulchi-Freedom Guardian (UFG) is in autumn.

Both involve land, sea and air military drills and computer simulations. Held in South Korea, they have also involved practice drills for terror and chemical attacks in recent years.

South Korean marines participate in landing operation referred to as Foal Eagle joint military exercise with US troops Pohang seashore on 2 April 2017 in Pohang, South Korea.
Foal Eagle, held earlier this year, saw US and South Korean troops practice a beach landing. GETTY IMAGES

They can also sometimes involve troops from other allies – last year’s UFG saw the participation of nine other countries.

What has the North said?

Both events routinely anger North Korea, which insists that the exercises are rehearsals for an invasion.

The country’s media rhetoric over the drills has steadily intensified over the past three years and these exercises are being portrayed as a particularly strong provocation, BBC Monitoring reports.

In 2014 North Korean media warned of an arms race but used comparatively restrained language, saying Pyongyang’s “self-defensive measures” – its nuclear and missile testing – would become “annual and regular” as long as the exercises continued.

The next year, state-run Rodong Sinmun newspaper warned that the drills represented “deliberate defiance against our active efforts to ease tension”.

And in 2016, state-run paper Minju Joson warned that North Korea would “constantly strengthen our self-defensive nuclear deterrent” in response. Within weeks, Pyongyang tested a nuclear warhead.

Emergency services personnel wearing protective clothing participate in an anti-terror and anti-chemical terror exercise as part of the 2016 Ulchi Freedom Guardian (UFG) at Yeoui subway station on August 23, 2016 in Seoul, South Korea.
Last year’s UFG saw an anti-terror drill in Seoul simulating a subway chemical attack. Getty

This year, Sunday’s Rodong Sinmun said the situation on the Korean peninsula was a “touch-and-go crisis that has never been experienced before”.

Earlier this year during Foal Eagle/Key Resolve, it warned it would “mercilessly foil the nuclear war racket of the aggressors with its treasured nuclear sword of justice”.

But while it has frequently threatened serious retaliation, North Korea usually ends up conducting shows of force, such as firing missiles or moving troops.

Last week, in what was seen as a de-escalation, leader Kim Jong-un said he would watch “a little more” before launching missiles in the direction of Guam.

US soldiers give first aid to a mock victim in a tent during a joint medical evacuation exercise as part of the annual massive military exercises, known as Key Resolve and Foal Eagle, at a South Korean Army hospital in Goyang, northwest of Seoul, on 15 March 2017.
Medical evacuations are also practiced during the exercises. Getty

Have the drills caused conflict before?

Depending on the political climate, the drills have at times exacerbated tensions between the two sides.

The UFG drill in 2015 took place amid high tensions, which resulted in North and South Korea exchanging artillery fire across the border.

Military officials took the unusual step of halting the UFG while emergency talks were held between the North and South. The drill resumed several days later.

The US and South Korea say that the exercises are purely for defence purposes, and based out of a mutual defence agreement they signed in 1953.

They also say the exercises are necessary to strengthen their readiness in case of an external attack.

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-40957725

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Playing Chicken With China

August 21, 2017

Trump’s North Korea brinkmanship might seem scary, but it’s not that unusual.

Aug. 20, 2017 3:52 p.m. ET

President Trump appears desperate, erratic and even irrational as he struggles to stop North Korea from developing nuclear weapons capable of reaching the U.S. mainland. If the president is to be believed, he stands ready to run any risk, pay any price and do whatever necessary to keep the U.S. safe. This includes launching a pre-emptive attack that risks dragging America and China into a second Korean War. To understand the method in what looks like madness, recall the Cold War strategy known as “nuclear chicken.”

A game…

U.S., South Korea begin computer-simulated drills amid North Korea tensions

August 21, 2017

Image may contain: sky and outdoor

U.S. Air Force U-2 Dragon Lady takes part in a drill at Osan Air Base in Pyeongtaek, South Korea, August 21, 2017.

Reuters

SEOUL (Reuters) – South Korean and U.S. forces began computer-simulated military exercises on Monday amid tensions over North Korea’s missile and nuclear programs, amid reports that Pyongyang has generated at least $270 million since February despite U.N. sanctions.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in said the joint drills, called Ulchi Freedom Guardian, were purely defensive and did not aim to raise tensions on the peninsula.

“There is no intent at all to heighten military tension on the Korean peninsula as these drills are held annually and are of a defensive nature,” Moon told Cabinet ministers.

“North Korea should not exaggerate our efforts to keep peace nor should they engage in provocations that would worsen the situation, using (the exercise) as an excuse,” he said.

The joint U.S.-South Korean drills will continue to Aug. 31 and involve computer simulations designed to prepare for war with a nuclear-capable North Korea.

The United States also describes them as “defensive in nature”, a term North Korean state media has dismissed as a “deceptive mask”.

“It’s to prepare if something big were to occur and we needed to protect ROK,” said Michelle Thomas, a U.S. military spokeswoman, referring to South Korea by its official name, the Republic of Korea.

North Korea views such exercises as preparations for invasion and has fired missiles and taken other actions to coincide with the military drills in the past.

North and South Korea are technically still at war after the 1950-53 Korean War ended with a truce, not a peace treaty.

North Korea’s rapid progress in developing nuclear weapons and missiles capable of reaching the U.S. mainland has fueled a surge in regional tension and U.N.-led sanctions appear to have failed to bite deeply enough to change Pyongyang’s mind.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in presides over a cabinet meeting at the Presidential Blue House in Seoul, South Korea, August 21, 2017. Kim Ju-hyoung/Yonhap via REUTERS

SANCTIONS UNDERMINED

Japan’s Kyodo news agency reported on Monday that a confidential United Nations report found North Korea had continued to evade U.N. sanctions by “deliberately using indirect channels” and had generated $270 million in banned exports since February.

The “lax enforcement” of existing sanctions and Pyongyang’s “evolving evasion techniques” were undermining the United Nation’s goal of getting North Korea to abandon its nuclear and ballistic missile programs, Kyodo quoted the report as saying.

The U.N. Security Council unanimously imposed new sanctions on North Korea on Aug. 5 that could slash the North’s $3 billion annual export revenue by a third. The latest sanctions were imposed after North Korea tested two intercontinental ballistic missiles in July.

U.S. President Donald Trump has warned that North Korea will face “fire and fury” if it threatens the United States.

The North responded by threatening to fire missiles toward the U.S. Pacific island territory of Guam, but later said it was holding off on a decision while it waited to see what the United States would do next.

There will be no field training during the current exercise, according to U.S. Forces Korea.

The United States has about 28,000 troops in South Korea. About 17,500 U.S. service members are participating in the exercise this month, down from 25,000 last year, according to the Pentagon.

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said on Sunday the reduction in the number of U.S. troops taking part reflected a need for fewer personnel and was not because of tensions with Pyongyang.

Other South Korean allies are also joining this year, with troops from Australia, Britain, Canada, Colombia, Denmark, the Netherlands, and New Zealand taking part.

China, North Korea’s main ally and trading partner, has urged the United States and South Korea to scrap the drills. Russia has also asked for the drills to stop but the United States has not backed down.

North Korea Media Blitz Against U.S., South Korea — “Like pouring gasoline on fire” — North Korea warns of ‘merciless strike’ ahead of US-South Korea drills (Same as August 22, 2016)

August 20, 2017
NORTH Korea has issued a fresh warning to the US as its foe gears up to conduct military exercises on its doorstep with ally South Korea.

PUBLISHED: 12:00, Sun, Aug 20, 2017 | UPDATED: 12:52, Sun, Aug 20, 2017

US demonstrates how close F-16 jets can get from North Korea

An annual war game is due to take place in South Korea could be the spark which tips the region into conflict, with a war of words over the past few months threatening to escalate into conflict.North Korea and the US have been trading barbs, backed up by missile launches on both sides as a sign of strength and defiance.The joint military exercise, named the “Ulchi Freedom Guardian” (UFG), kicks off Monday and will see thousands of troops from both sides taking part.

The 10-day exercise was described by Pyongyang as “reckless behavior driving the situation into the uncontrollable phase of a nuclear war.”

Numbers from the South’s defence ministry claim 17,500 US soldiers will participate in this year’s drills, a drop from last year.

North Korea’s warning over US drillGETTY

The region is a tinderbox which could ignite at any moment

Pyongyang views the exercise as a highly provocative rehearsal for war, which despot leader Kim Jong-un feels threatened by.The regime’s mouthpiece, the official Rodong Sinmun newspaper, fired off a warning ahead of the exercise.It said: “The joint exercise is the most explicit expression of hostility against us, and no one can guarantee that the exercise won’t evolve into actual fighting.

“The Ulchi Freedom Guardian joint military exercises will be like pouring gasoline on fire and worsen the state of the peninsula.”And they threatened the dawn of an “uncontrollable phase of a nuclear war” on the Korean peninsula, blaming the US.It continued: “If the United States is lost in a fantasy that war on the peninsula is at somebody else’s doorstep far away from them across the Pacific, it is far more mistaken than ever.

“The Trump group’s declaration of the reckless nuclear war exercises against the DPRK … is a reckless behavior driving the situation into the uncontrollable phase of a nuclear war.”

North Korea’s warning over US drillGETTY

Pyongyang views the exercise as a highly provocative rehearsal for war

“The Korean People’s Army is keeping a high alert, fully ready to contain the enemies.”It will take resolute steps the moment even a slight sign of the preventive war is spotted.”The region is a tinderbox which could ignite at any moment, with tensions on a knife edge.

US president Donald Trump previously warned the hermit kingdom would be met with “fire and fury” if they crossed from empty threats into action.

Dictator Kim Jong-un declared he would fire missiles at the US territory of Guam, releasing photos of him presiding over a map with a large arrow pointing towards the island.

North Korea’s warning over US drillGETTY

North Korea and the US have been trading barbs, backed up by missile launches

The Ulchi Freedom Guardian joint military exercises will be like pouring gasoline on fire

Rodong Sinmun

He later scrapped the idea, but indicated he could still strike depending on how the US acts.General Jeong Kyeong-Doo, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff for South Korea, outlined the dire situation which he branded “more serious than at any other time”.

 

Mr Kyeong-Doo said: “If the enemy provokes, (our military) will retaliate resolutely and strongly to make it regret bitterly.”Amid the fragile situation South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reported the two countries were considering scrapping bringing in two aircraft carriers to take part.

North Korea’s warning over US drillGETTY

They threatened the dawn of an “uncontrollable phase of a nuclear war”

Despite the rumours it may be scaled back in the wake of North Korea’s aggression, neither side confirmed this.The drills, involving the computer-simulated UFG exercise, dates back to 1976.
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http://www.express.co.uk/news/world/843555/North-Korea-US-warning-military-drill-gasoline-fire-Donald-Trump-Kim-Jong-un
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North Korea warns of ‘merciless strike’ ahead of US-South Korea drills

Story highlights

  • The threat appeared on the official government newspaper
  • Tensions between the two nations have grown in recent week

(CNN) — North Korea warned Sunday that the upcoming US-South Korea military exercises are “reckless behavior driving the situation into the uncontrollable phase of a nuclear war.”

Pyongyang also declared that its army can target the United States anytime, and neither Guam, Hawaii nor the US mainland can “dodge the merciless strike.”
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The messages in Rodong Sinmun, the official government newspaper, come a day before the US starts the Ulchi Freedom Guardian military exercises with South Korea.
Tensions between the US and North Korea have grown in recent weeks.
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Just last week, Pyongyang said it had finalized a plan to fire four missiles toward the US territory of Guam. State media reported that leader Kim Jong Un would assess the US’ next move before giving launch orders.
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Kim would “watch a little more the foolish and stupid conduct of the Yankees,” a North Korean statement said last week.
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kim jong un

But US military and Trump administration officials said the 10-day military exercises set to begin Monday, would go ahead as scheduled.
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The annual drills antagonize Pyongyang, which sees them as practice for an invasion. However, the US and South Korea maintain they are purely defensive.
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“The Trump group’s declaration of the reckless nuclear war exercises against the DPRK … is a reckless behavior driving the situation into the uncontrollable phase of a nuclear war,” Rodong Sinmun said, using the acronym for Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the nation’s official name.
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It described North Korea as the “strongest possessor” of intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of striking the US mainland from anywhere.
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“The Korean People’s Army is keeping a high alert, fully ready to contain the enemies. It will take resolute steps the moment even a slight sign of the preventive war is spotted,” it said.
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It did not provide any details on what it meant by “preventive war.”
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The Pacific Island of Guam
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Both US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Secretary of Defense James Mattis said last week that the US was keeping military options on the table in dealing with North Korea.
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Tillerson said peaceful diplomatic pressure was the preferred way to get Pyongyang to stop its testing of nuclear-capable ballistic missiles. But he added that the diplomatic approach “has to be backed with military threat” if North Korea chooses to move forward with destabilizing actions.
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Mattis also made clear the US’ willingness to use force if North Korea steps out of line.
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“In close collaboration with our allies, there are strong military consequences if the DPRK initiates hostilities,” he said.
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Promise from South Korea’s President

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As tensions escalate, South Korean President Moon Jae-in promised his citizens last week there “will be no war on the Korean Peninsula ever again.”
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Moon, who took office in May, announced on his 100th day in office that US and South Korean policies are aligned on North Korea.
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US President Donald Trump assured South Korea he would consult with them before making any military decisions on North Korea, according to Moon.
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Moon Chung-in: We do not want war

Moon said North Korea’s development of nuclear weapons technology was “nearing” a red line, which he described as “completing an ICBM and weaponizing it with a nuclear head.”
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North Korea claims it has successfully miniaturized a nuclear weapon. While some experts believe it may have the technology, others caution that even if it doesn’t, North Korea should be taken at its word.
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“If North Korea provokes again, it will face with much harsher sanction and won’t stand it in the end. I want to warn North Korea to do no more dangerous gambling,” Moon said.
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His comments about averting war echoed similar statements he made Tuesday that only South Korea could give consent to initiate any conflict with the North.
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“The government, putting everything on the line, will block war by all means,” Moon said.
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China weighs in

Related image

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China has urged both Washington and Pyongyang to tone down the rhetoric and stop actions that inflame tensions, missile testing on North Korea’s side and military exercises on the US and South Korean side.
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China’s Global Times newspaper, a state-run tabloid, was scathing of South Korea’s decision to proceed with the drills.
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“The drill will definitely provoke Pyongyang more, and Pyongyang is expected to make a more radical response,” it said in an editorial.
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“If South Korea really wants no war on the Korean Peninsula, it should try to stop this military exercise.”
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Includes videos:

http://www.cnn.com/2017/08/20/asia/north-korea-south-korea-us-military-drills/index.html

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From last August:

Iran’s top priority to protect nuclear deal from US

August 20, 2017

AFP

© AFP | Iranian President Hassan Rouhani addresses a parliamentary session in Tehran on August 15, 2017
TEHRAN (AFP) – Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani said Sunday the top foreign policy priority for his new government was to protect the nuclear deal from being torn up by the United States.”The most important job of our foreign minister is first to stand behind the JCPOA, and not to allow the US and other enemies to succeed,” Rouhani told parliament, using the technical name for the 2015 deal that eased sanctions in exchange for curbs to Iran’s nuclear programme.

“Standing up for the JCPOA means standing up to Iran’s enemies,” he said on the last day of debates over his cabinet selections.

Rouhani indicated a week ago that Iran was ready to walk out on the nuclear deal if the United States continued to apply fresh sanctions.

It has come under mounting pressure after Tehran carried out missile tests and Washington imposed new sanctions — with each accusing the other of violating the spirit of the agreement.

But Rouhani has insisted the deal remains the preferred way forward, not least to help rebuild Iran’s struggling economy and create jobs.

“The second responsibility of the foreign ministry… is to get involved in economic activities. It should help attract foreign investment and technology,” Rouhani said.

He was addressing lawmakers ahead of votes of confidence on his ministerial choices.

Rouhani, a political moderate, began his second term earlier this month after winning a resounding victory over a hardline challenger in May.

He has vowed to continue his outreach to the world, and to improve civil liberties at home, but has been criticised by reformists for again failing to select a single female minister.

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