Trump’s Asia tour moves to Hanoi

US President Donald Trump speaks during a state dinner with Vietnamese President Tran Dai Quang (R) in Hanoi on November 11, 2017. Trump arrived in the Vietnamese capital after attending the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit leaders meetings earlier in the day in Danang. (AFP)
Updated 11 November 2017
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Trump’s Asia tour moves to Hanoi

HANOI: US President Donald Trump landed in Hanoi on Saturday, as North Korea slammed his “warmonger” Asia tour, saying it will only accelerate Pyongyang’s push for a full-fledged nuclear deterrent.
Trump has repeatedly railed against the North as he urges the region to take a united front against the threat posed by the isolated nation, which has sparked global alarm with nuclear and missile tests in recent months.
On Friday, he warned world leaders gathered in the Vietnamese resort city of Danang that the Asia-Pacific region “must not be held hostage to a dictator’s twisted fantasies.”
Pyongyang issued its retort Saturday branding Trump’s Asia tour a “warmonger’s visit for confrontation to rid the DPRK (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) of its self-defensive nuclear deterrence,” in the first comments on the visit by a North Korean official.
Tensions over the North’s weapons program have surged in recent months, as Pyongyang carried out a sixth nuclear test — by far its largest to date — and test fired dozens of missiles, some capable of reaching the US mainland.
North Korea has dominated Trump’s trip, which has so far swept in Japan, South Korea, China and Vietnam.
In a speech to the South Korean Parliament on Wednesday, Trump warned Pyongyang not to underestimate the US, while offering leader Kim Jong-Un a better future if he gives up his nuclear ambitions.
The North on Saturday said Trump’s warnings “can never frighten us or put a stop to our advance,” according to the state-run KCNA news agency, quoting a Pyongyang Foreign Ministry spokesman.
Instead the threat “pushes us to speed up the efforts to accomplish the great cause of completing the state nuclear force,” the statement said, dismissing Trump’s tour of the region as a “business trip.”


Afghan polling centers plagued by problems as casualties surge

Updated 18 min 11 sec ago
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Afghan polling centers plagued by problems as casualties surge

  • Nearly nine million voters registered for the election, but many are allegedly based on fake identification documents
  • Despite the chaos, the UN said the election was “an important milestone in Afghanistan’s transition to self-reliance”

KABUL: Problems plagued hundreds of Afghan polling centers Sunday in the shambolic legislative election’s second day of voting, fueling criticism of organizers and eroding hopes for credible results after a ballot marred by deadly violence.
As voting restarted in more than 20 provinces, an AFP tally of official casualty figures showed the number of civilians and security forces killed or wounded in poll-related violence on Saturday was nearly 300 — almost twice the figure released by the interior ministry.
The huge discrepancy adds to concerns about the lack of transparency and credibility of the long-delayed election that is seen as a dry run for next year’s presidential vote.
At some of the 253 polling centers opened for voting on Sunday, election workers still struggled to use biometric verification devices and voter rolls were “either incomplete or non-existent,” Electoral Complaints Commission spokesman Ali Reza Rohani told reporters.
“Most of the problems we had yesterday still exist today,” said Rohani, adding some polling sites again opened late and had insufficient ballot papers.
Another 148 polling sites that were supposed to open remained closed for security reasons, the Independent Election Commission told AFP.
The IEC’s chronic mishandling of the parliamentary election, which is the third since the fall of the Taliban in 2001, has all but dashed hopes it can organize the presidential ballot, scheduled for April.
“This does not bode well for next year,” Afghanistan Analysts Network co-director Thomas Ruttig told AFP.
“The IEC has clearly shown its lack of capacity to run acceptable and transparent elections, instead publishing doctored figures.”
A Western official, who had monitored the months-long preparations, told AFP they had no confidence left in the IEC.
“None at all,” they said on the condition of anonymity.
“With the current IEC leadership there are a lot of doubts that they would be able to handle the presidential election properly,” political analyst Haroun Mir said.
Initial IEC figures show around three million people risked their lives to vote on Saturday — many waiting hours for polling centers to open — despite scores of militant attacks.
Nearly nine million voters registered for the parliamentary election, but many suspect a significant number of those were based on fake identification documents that fraudsters planned to use to stuff ballot boxes.
But the fact any Afghans turned out to vote was an achievement in itself, some observers noted.
“The people of Afghanistan showed that they are still hopeful for their future,” Mir said.
Despite the shortcomings in the voting process, that was “undoubtedly a great achievement,” he said.
Turnout was likely affected after the Taliban issued several warnings in the days leading up to the poll demanding the more than 2,500 candidates for the lower house candidates withdraw from the race and for voters to stay home.
The militant group on Saturday claimed it carried out more than 400 attacks on the “fake election.”
Official observers described disorder and chaos at polling centers on Saturday where election workers did not know how to use biometric devices that the IEC had rolled out at the eleventh hour to appease political leaders and said were required for votes to be counted.
Many voters who had registered their names months ago were not on the roll, and the Taliban commandeered some polling centers and refused to let people cast their ballots.
There are concerns that extending voting by a day could “impact transparency of the process” and provide “opportunity for fraud,” Election and Transparency Watch Organization of Afghanistan said.
As vote counting continued and officials began the process of transferring ballot boxes to Kabul, Afghan voters and candidates took to social media to vent their frustration at the debacle.
“Shame on the IEC,” Hosai Mangal wrote on the IEC’s official Facebook page.
“There was no order at all, I could not find my name at the polling center where I registered.”
Another angry voter wrote: “The worst elections ever.”
But embattled IEC chief Abdul Badi Sayyad on Sunday defended the organization’s handling of the election, saying the problems were not due to “weak management.”
Despite the chaos, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), which has spearheaded international efforts to advise the IEC, said the election was “an important milestone in Afghanistan’s transition to self-reliance.”
UNAMA urged observers, political parties, candidates and voters to play a “constructive role in the days ahead to safeguard the integrity of the electoral process as votes are tallied.”
Elections will be held in the southern province of Kandahar on October 27 after the vote was suspended following Thursday’s assassination of a powerful police chief.