N. Korea ‘technically ready’ for third nuclear test

Updated 25 January 2013
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N. Korea ‘technically ready’ for third nuclear test

SEOUL: North Korea said yesterday it would carry out further rocket launches and a nuclear test that would target the United States, dramatically stepping up its threats against a country it called its “sworn enemy”.
The announcement by the country’s top military body came a day after the UN Security Council agreed to a US-backed resolution to censure and sanction for a rocket launch in December that breached UN rules.
Pyongyang is not believed to have the technology to deliver a nuclear warhead capable of hitting the continental United States, although its December launch showed it had the capacity to deliver a rocket that could travel 10,000 km (6,200 miles), potentially putting San Francisco in range, according to an intelligence assessment by South Korea.
“We are not disguising the fact that the various satellites and long-range rockets that we will fire and the high-level nuclear test we will carry out are targeted at the United States,” N. Korea’s National Defence Commission said.
Pyongyang is believed by S. Korea and other observers to be “technically ready” for a third nuclear test, and the decision to go ahead rests with leader Kim Jong-un, who pressed ahead with the December rocket launch in defiance of the UN sanctions.
China, the one major diplomatic ally of the isolated and impoverished North, agreed to the US-backed resolution and it also supported resolutions in 2006 and 2009 after Pyongyang’s two earlier nuclear tests.
Thursday’s statement by Pyongyang represents a huge challenge to Beijing as it undergoes a leadership transition, with Xi Jinping due to take office in March.
China’s Foreign Ministry called for calm and restraint and a return to six-party talks, but effectively singled out N. Korea, urging the “relevant party” not to take any steps that would raise tensions.
“We hope the relevant party can remain calm and act and speak in a cautious and prudent way and not take any steps which may further worsen the situation,” ministry spokesman Hong Lei told reporters at a regular press briefing.
N. Korea has rejected proposals to restart the talks aimed at reining in its nuclear capacity. The United States, China, Russia, Japan and the two Koreas are the six parties involved.
Analysts said the North could test as early as February as South Korea prepares to install a new, untested president or that it could choose to stage a nuclear explosion to coincide with former ruler Kim Jong-il’s Feb 16 birthday.
“N. Korea will have felt betrayed by China for agreeing to the latest UN resolution and they might be targeting (China) as well (with this statement),” said Lee Seung-yeol, senior research fellow at Ewha Institute of Unification Studies in Seoul.
Washington urged Pyongyang not to proceed with a third test just as the North’s statement was published yesterday.
“Whether N. Korea tests or not, is up to Pyongyang,” Glyn Davies, the top US envoy for N. Korean diplomacy, said in Seoul.
“We hope they don’t do it. We call on them not to do it,” Davies said after a meeting with S. Korean officials. “This is not a moment to increase tensions on the Korean peninsula.”
The North was banned from developing missile and nuclear technology under sanctions dating from its 2006 and 2009 nuclear tests.


UN says Nicaragua protest killings may be 'unlawful'

Updated 24 April 2018
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UN says Nicaragua protest killings may be 'unlawful'

  • Some groups called for "dictator" Ortega and his wife to step down, yelling "Out! Out!"
  • Mass street protests are rare in Nicaragua, where the army maintains a very tight grip on public order.
MANAGUA: The United Nations said Tuesday that many deaths in nearly a week of anti-government protests violently repressed by police in Nicaragua may have been "unlawful" and called for an investigation.
The scrutiny from the Swiss-based UN human rights office adds to international alarm at Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega's ordered crackdown against a wave of anti-government demonstrations and clashes.
The European Union, United States and the Vatican have all urged talks to restore calm, while the US embassy in Managua ordered family members of staff out of the country after Ortega deployed the army to the streets and looting broke out.
A toll compiled from the Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights and Ortega's wife and vice president, Rosario Murillo, puts the number of deaths since last Wednesday at 27. Most were protesters, among which university students and youths figure prominently.
"We are particularly concerned that a number of these deaths may amount to unlawful killings," Liz Throssell of the UN Office for the High Commissioner on Human Rights told reporters in Geneva.
"It is essential that all allegations of excessive use of force by police and other security forces are effectively investigated to ensure those responsible are held to account," Throssell said.
The UN office said at least 25 people, including a police officer, had been killed.
The protests were sparked Wednesday by pension reforms aimed at keeping Nicaragua's burdened Social Security Institute afloat by cutting benefits and increasing contributions.
But they rapidly spread and intensified as other grievances over Ortega's rule surged to the fore.
On Monday, tens of thousands of people -- employees, students, pensioners and ordinary citizens -- marched peacefully in the capital Managua and other cities demanding an end to the forceful security crackdown on protests.
Some groups called for "dictator" Ortega and his wife to step down, yelling "Out! Out!"
Ortega, a 72-year-old former Sandinista guerrilla leader who has ruled Nicaragua for 22 of the past 39 years, has been taken aback by the demonstrations against him, the biggest in his last 11-year stretch in power.
He has canceled the pension reforms and called for dialogue, and Murillo has suggested arrested protesters could be released.
But his security forces have not been pulled back, and -- though Managua appeared relatively calm early Tuesday -- widespread anti-government sentiment persisted.
Even Nicaragua's business sector, whose support had shored up Ortega over the past decade, has abandoned him over the violence.
A pro-government rally was being organized for Thursday to show that the president still enjoyed backing from part of the population.
Mass street protests are rare in Nicaragua, where the army maintains a very tight grip on public order.
But dissatisfaction has been bubbling over in recent months.
Frustrations have been voiced over corruption, the distant and autocratic style of Ortega and Murillo, limited options to change the country's politics in elections, and the president's control over the Congress, the courts and the electoral authority.
In rural areas, anger also stemmed from a stalled plan by Ortega to have a Chinese company carve a $50 billion canal across Nicaragua to rival Panama's lucrative Pacific-to-Atlantic shipping canal.
If the project went ahead, it would displace thousands of rural dwellers and indigenous communities, while dealing a negative impact on the environment.
"People are demanding democracy, freedom, free elections, a transparent government, the separation of powers, rule of law. The people want freedom," former Nicaraguan foreign minister Norman Caldera told AFP.
"If the government doesn't yield, it's going to be very difficult to stop this (the protests)," he said, asserting that the "big majority" of the population was showing its frustration with Ortega.
"The repressive apparatus is not able to halt protests on this scale," Caldera said.
Though Ortega has held out the promise of talks with opponents, the lack of any identifiable leader in the protest movement could make dialogue there difficult.
Under his watch, Nicaragua has avoided the rampant crime seen in northern Central American countries where gangs are rife.
It has also put in solid economic growth, yet it remains one of the poorest nations in Latin America.
The sudden upsurge in the streets puts Ortega at a crossroads: to tough it out, or to bow to the demands for democracy that have become too loud to ignore.