China urges US, North Korea to ‘hit the brakes’ on threats

South Korean national flags and ribbons carrying messages to wish for the reunification of the two Koreas, flutter at the Imjingak Pavilion in Paju, South Korea, Wednesday, Aug. 16, 2017. China has urged the United States and North Korea to "hit the brakes" on threatening words and work toward a peaceful resolution of their tense standoff created by Pyongyang's recent missile tests and threats to fire them toward Guam. The dispute has also raised fears in South Korea, where a conservative political party on Wednesday called for the United States to bring back tactical nuclear weapons to the Korean Peninsula. (AP)
Updated 16 August 2017

China urges US, North Korea to ‘hit the brakes’ on threats

BEIJING: China has urged the United States and North Korea to “hit the brakes” on threatening words and work toward a peaceful resolution of their tense standoff created by Pyongyang’s recent missile tests and threats to fire them toward Guam.
The dispute has also raised fears in South Korea, where a conservative political party on Wednesday called for the United States to bring back tactical nuclear weapons to the Korean Peninsula.
In a sign of growing concern on the part of Pyongyang’s only major ally, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said in a phone conversation with his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, that the two countries should work together to contain tensions and permit no one to “stir up an incident on their doorstep,” according to a statement posted on the Chinese foreign ministry’s website.
“The most important task at hand is for the US and North Korea to ‘hit the brakes’ on their mutual needling of each other with words and actions, to lower the temperature of the tense situation and prevent the emergence of an ‘August crisis,’” Wang was quoted as saying in the Tuesday conversation.
The ministry quoted Lavrov as saying tensions could rise again with the US and South Korea set to launch large-scale military exercises on Aug. 21.
“A resolution of the North Korea nuclear issue by military force is completely unacceptable and the peninsula’s nuclear issue must be peacefully resolved by political and diplomatic methods,” Lavrov was quoted as saying.
China is North Korea’s main economic partner and political backer, although relations between Beijing and Pyongyang have deteriorated amid the North’s continuing defiance of China’s calls for restraint. In recent months, China has joined with Russia in calling for the US to suspend annual military drills with South Korea in exchange for Pyongyang halting its missile and nuclear tests as a first step toward direct talks.
On Wednesday, the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford, continued a visit to China following talks the day before with his Chinese counterpart that touched on North Korea. No details of the talks have been released.
Dunford on Tuesday told Fang Fenghui, chief of the People’s Liberation Army’s joint staff department, that the sides had “many difficult issues” between them but were willing to deal with them through dialogue.
On Monday, Dunford was in Seoul to meet with senior South Korean military and political officials and the local media, seeking to ease anxiety while showing his willingness to back President Donald Trump’s warnings if need be.
The United States wants to peacefully resolve tensions with North Korea, but Washington is also ready to use the “full range” of its military capabilities, Dunford said. His visit to Asia, which also will include a stop in Japan, comes after Trump last week declared the US military “locked and loaded” and said he was ready to unleash “fire and fury” if North Korea continued to threaten the United States.
North Korea’s military on Tuesday presented leader Kim Jong Un with plans to launch missiles into waters near the US territory of Guam and “wring the windpipes of the Yankees,” even as both Koreas and the United States signaled their willingness to avert a deepening crisis, with each suggesting a path toward negotiations.
The tentative interest in diplomacy follows unusually combative threats between Trump and North Korea amid worries Pyongyang is nearing its long-sought goal of being able to send a nuclear missile to the US mainland. Next week’s start of US-South Korean military exercises that enrage the North each year could make diplomacy even more difficult.
North Korea’s threats against Guam and its advancing missile capabilities, highlighted by a pair of intercontinental ballistic missile flight tests in July, have raised concern in South Korea, where some believe a fully functional ICBM in Pyongyang would undermine the alliance between Washington and Seoul.
This has led to growing calls among South Korean conservatives for the United States to redeploy tactical nuclear weapons in South Korea after withdrawing them in the 1990s. The opposition Liberty Korea Party on Wednesday adopted the demand as its official party line, saying that the presence of such weapons would strengthen deterrence against the North.
During an inspection of the North Korean army’s Strategic Forces, which handles the missile program, Kim praised the military for drawing up a “close and careful plan” and said he would watch the “foolish and stupid conduct of the Yankees” a little more before deciding whether to order the missile test, the state-run Korean Central News Agency said. Kim appeared in photos sitting at a table with a large map marked by a straight line between what appeared to be northeastern North Korea and Guam, and passing over Japan — apparently showing the missiles’ flight route.
The missile plans were previously announced. Kim said North Korea would conduct the launches if the “Yankees persist in their extremely dangerous reckless actions on the Korean Peninsula and its vicinity,” warning the United States to “think reasonably and judge properly” to avoid shaming itself, the news agency said.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told reporters in Washington on Tuesday, “We continue to be interested in trying to find a way to get to dialogue, but that’s up to (Kim).”
Lobbing missiles toward Guam, a major US military hub in the Pacific, would be deeply provocative from the US perspective. A miscalculation on either side could lead to military confrontation.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in, meanwhile, a liberal who favors diplomacy, urged North Korea to stop provocations and to commit to talks over its nuclear weapons program.
Moon, in a televised speech Tuesday on the anniversary of World War II’s end and the Korean Peninsula’s liberation from Japanese colonial rule, said Seoul and Washington agree that the nuclear standoff should “absolutely be solved peacefully.” He said no US military action on the Korean Peninsula could be taken without Seoul’s consent.
North Korea’s military said last week that it would finalize the plan to fire four ballistic missiles near Guam, which is about 3,200 kilometers (2,000 miles) from Pyongyang. It would be a test of the Hwasong-12, a new missile the country flight-tested for the first time in May. The liquid-fuel missile is designed to be fired from road mobile launchers and has been described by North Korea as built for attacking Alaska and Hawaii.


UK’s Johnson to visit European capitals seeking Brexit breakthrough

Updated 18 August 2019

UK’s Johnson to visit European capitals seeking Brexit breakthrough

  • Johnson will travel for talks with German Chancellor Merkel and French President Macron
  • Johnson is expected to push for the EU to reopen negotiations over the terms of Brexit

LONDON: UK's Boris Johnson will visit European capitals this week on his first overseas trip as prime minister, as his government said Sunday it had ordered the scrapping of the decades-old law enforcing its EU membership.

Johnson will travel to Berlin on Wednesday for talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and on to Paris Thursday for discussions with French President Emmanuel Macron, Downing Street confirmed on Sunday, amid growing fears of a no-deal Brexit in two and a half months.

The meetings, ahead of a two-day G7 summit starting Saturday in the southern French resort of Biarritz, are his first diplomatic forays abroad since replacing predecessor Theresa May last month.

Johnson is expected to push for the EU to reopen negotiations over the terms of Brexit or warn that it faces the prospect of Britain's disorderly departure on October 31 -- the date it is due to leave.

European leaders have repeatedly rejected reopening an accord agreed by May last year but then rejected by British lawmakers on three occasions, despite Johnson's threats that the country will leave then without an agreement.

In an apparent show of intent, London announced Sunday that it had ordered the repeal of the European Communities Act, which took Britain into the forerunner to the EU 46 years ago and gives Brussels law supremacy.

The order, signed by Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay on Friday, is set to take effect on October 31.

"This is a landmark moment in taking back control of our laws from Brussels," Barclay said in a statement.

"This is a clear signal to the people of this country that there is no turning back -- we are leaving the EU as promised on October 31, whatever the circumstances -- delivering on the instructions given to us in 2016."

The moves come as Johnson faces increasing pressure to immediately recall MPs from their summer holidays so that parliament can debate Brexit.

More than 100 lawmakers, who are not due to return until September 3, have demanded in a letter that he reconvene the 650-seat House of Commons and let them sit permanently until October 31.

"Our country is on the brink of an economic crisis, as we career towards a no-deal Brexit," said the letter, signed by MPs and opposition party leaders who want to halt a no-deal departure.

"We face a national emergency, and parliament must be recalled now."

Parliament is set to break up again shortly after it returns, with the main parties holding their annual conferences during the September break.

Main opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn wants to call a vote of no confidence in Johnson's government after parliament returns.

He hopes to take over as a temporary prime minister, seek an extension to Britain's EU departure date to stop a no-deal Brexit, and then call a general election.

"What we need is a government that is prepared to negotiate with the European Union so we don't have a crash-out on the 31st," Corbyn said Saturday.

"This government clearly doesn't want to do that."

Britain could face food, fuel and medicine shortages and chaos at its ports in a no-deal Brexit, The Sunday Times newspaper reported, citing a leaked government planning document.

There would likely be some form of hard border imposed on the island of Ireland, the document implied.

Rather than worst-case scenarios, the leaked document, compiled this month by the Cabinet Office ministry, spells out the likely ramifications of a no-deal Brexit, the broadsheet claimed.

The document said logjams could affect fuel distribution, while up to 85 percent of trucks using the main ports to continental Europe might not be ready for French customs.

The availability of fresh food would be diminished and prices would go up, the newspaper said.