Trump ignores pleas to calm North Korea tensions

US President Donald Trump
Updated 26 September 2017
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Trump ignores pleas to calm North Korea tensions

WASHINGTON: Donald Trump on Tuesday accused North Korea of torturing a captive US student “beyond belief,” spurning pleas from allies and foes in east Asia to tone down his warlike rhetoric.
For the first time, Trump publicly accused Pyongyang of abusing the late 22-year-old Otto Warmbier, an allegation likely to heighten tensions between the two nuclear powers.
Last June the Ohio native was sent home in a coma after more than a year in prison in North Korea. He died a few days later.
Aides say Trump was personally shocked and angered by Warmbier’s death, and that the government suspects mistreatment.
But the US president had stopped short of publicly accusing the regime of torture, a move that would raise expectations of a tough response, raise tensions and could complicate any future releases.
Since June, the US and North Korea have traded military moves and bombastic insults in a stand-off over Kim Jong-Un’s nuclear and ballistic weapons programs.
After seeing Warmbier’s parents on television Tuesday morning, Trump cast previous concerns aside.
“Otto was tortured beyond belief by North Korea,” he said in an early morning tweet.
The missive came just hours after South Korea — whose densely-populated capital Seoul is located just 35 miles from the demilitarized zone dividing the Korean peninsula — asked its US ally to take the heat out of the situation.
Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha visited Washington to warn it was imperative to “prevent further escalation of tensions or any kind of accidental military clashes which can quickly go out of control.”
Similarly, China, the North’s neighbor and only major ally, warned Tuesday that any conflict would have “no winners.”
Foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said rhetorical sparring “will only increase the risk of confrontation and reduce the room for policy maneuver.”
US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, visiting India, stressed that Washington wants a diplomatic solution to the North Korean nuclear crisis.
“We maintain the capability to deter North Korea’s most dangerous threats but also to back up our diplomats in a manner that keeps this as long as possible in the diplomatic realm,” he said in New Delhi after talks with his Indian counterpart.
Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un traded barbs in the wake of the North’s sixth nuclear bomb and multiple missile tests.
Pyongyang says it needs the weapons to defend itself against the threat of a US invasion.
Alarm over Pyongyang’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs dominated the gathering of world leaders at the United Nations, amid fears the heated rhetoric could accidentally trigger a war.
In his UN address last week, Trump delivered the blunt threat to “totally destroy” North Korea if provoked, deriding leader Kim Jong-un as “Rocket Man.”
Kim hit back with a personal attack of his own, branding Trump “mentally deranged” and a “dotard” and warning he would “pay dearly.”
The North’s Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho on Monday called a press conference to hit back at a US bomber mission near the North’s coastline and a slew of bombastic warnings from the American president.
Taking umbrage at Trump’s weekend tweet that North Korea’s leadership “won’t be around much longer” if it keeps up its threats, Ri told reporters the international community hoped that a “war of words” would “not turn into real actions.”
“However, last weekend, Trump claimed our leadership would not be around much longer,” said Ri, who attended this year’s UN General Assembly session. “He declared a war on our country.”
The White House said Ri’s interpretation of Trump’s saber-rattling as “absurd.”
Fears of a clash were sharpened after US bombers flew off the coast of North Korea on Saturday — going further north of the demilitarized zone than any US aircraft has flown this century.
“Since the United States declared war on our country, we will have every right to take counter-measures including the right to shoot down US strategic bombers even when they are not yet inside the airspace border of our country,” Ri said.
“The question of who won’t be around much longer will be answered then.”
A Pentagon spokesman stressed the bombers flew in international airspace and had every right to do so.
South Korea’s National Intelligence Service (NIS) said that while Pyongyang did not appear to have picked up the presence of the US warplanes over the weekend, it had since bolstered its coastal defenses.
“North Korea relocated its warplanes and strengthened defenses along the east coast,” said Lee Cheol-Woo, the chief of the National Assembly’s intelligence committee.


Myanmar army should be removed from politics: UN probe

Updated 18 September 2018
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Myanmar army should be removed from politics: UN probe

  • The report says an estimated 10,000 people were killed in the crackdown and that was likely a conservative figure
  • Investigators said the Tatmadaw should be restructured and the process should begin by replacing the current leadership

YANGON: Myanmar’s powerful army should be removed from politics, UN investigators said Tuesday in the final version of a damning report reiterating calls for top generals to be prosecuted for genocide against the Rohingya Muslim minority.
A brutal military crackdown last year forced more than 700,000 Rohingya to flee over the border to Bangladesh. Demands have mounted for those who waged the campaign to face justice.
The UN’s 444-page probe is the most meticulous breakdown of the violence to date. It says the military’s top leadership should be overhauled and have no further influence over the country’s governance.
Myanmar’s military dominates the Buddhist-majority nation, holding a quarter of seats in parliament and controlling three ministries, making their grip on power firm despite political reforms which began in 2011.
But the report said the country’s civilian leadership “should further pursue the removal of the Tatmadaw from Myanmar’s political life,” referring to the nation’s armed forces.
The UN’s analysis, based on 18 months’ work and more than 850 in-depth interviews, urges the international community to investigate the military top brass for genocide, including commander-in-chief Min Aung Hlaing.
Myanmar’s army has denied nearly all wrongdoing, insisting its campaign was justified to root out Rohingya insurgents who staged deadly raids on border posts in August 2017.
But the UN team said the military’s tactics had been “consistently and grossly disproportionate to actual security threats.”
The report says an estimated 10,000 people were killed in the crackdown and that was likely a conservative figure.
Investigators said the Tatmadaw should be restructured and the process should begin by replacing the current leadership.
Myanmar only recently emerged from almost a half century of military junta rule and Aung San Suu Kyi’s democratically-elected government remains in a delicate power balance with the generals.
Their presence in parliament gives them an effective veto on constitutional changes, making any transition to full civilian control extremely difficult.
Three key ministries -– home affairs, border and defense –- are also in their hands, giving them carte blanche to conduct security operations with little oversight.
“It is impossible to remove the army out of political life without changing the constitution, and the military have a veto over constitutional changes,” Mark Farmaner, from Burma Campaign UK, told AFP.
The UN team said there were reasonable grounds to believe that the atrocities — including systematic murder, rape, torture and arson -– were committed with the intention of destroying the stateless Rohingya, warranting the charges of genocide.
The mission, created by the UN Human Rights Council in March 2017, did not focus its sights entirely on the army.
It directed specific criticism at Suu Kyi, whose global reputation has been shattered by her failure to speak up for the Rohingya against the military.
While acknowledging that the civilian authorities have little influence over military actions, the report said that their “acts and omissions” had “contributed to the commission of atrocity crimes.”
Pointing to “deeply entrenched” impunity in Myanmar, the investigators said the only chance to obtain accountability was through the international justice system.
They also pointed to failings of the UN’s office within Myanmar, alleging that “quiet diplomacy” was prioritized and that those who tried to push the UN’s Human Rights Up Front approach were “ignored, criticized, sidelined or blocked in these efforts.”
The independent UN team will present its findings to member states of the Human Rights Council in Geneva later on Tuesday, after which Myanmar will have a chance to respond to the allegations.
It also repeated suggestions that crimes against the Rohingya be referred to the International Criminal Court, which concluded in August that it had jurisdiction to investigate even though Myanmar is not a member of the treaty underpinning the tribunal.
Myanmar has dismissed the tribunal’s authority and analysts have pointed to the court’s lack of enforcement powers.
The investigators also recommended an arms embargo and “targeted individual sanctions against those who appear to be most responsible.”