New Zealand considers visa for climate ‘refugees’ from Pacific islands

Delegates walk past a poster showing a man holding a turtle and other photos from the Pacific Islands during the COP23 UN Climate Change Conference 2017, hosted by Fiji but held in Bonn, Germany, in this November 10, 2017 photo. (REUTERS)
Updated 20 November 2017
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New Zealand considers visa for climate ‘refugees’ from Pacific islands

LONDON: New Zealand is proposing a special refugee visa for Pacific Islanders who are forced to migrate because of rising sea levels, the nation’s new climate change minister said, as world leaders wrap up United Nations climate talks in Germany.
In the low-lying and vulnerable Pacific islands, the number of people moving within their own nations to flee worsening storms, sea level rise and other climate-related crises is still relatively small.
But countries like New Zealand are making plans now before climate migration grows into a regional emergency.
“We want to get ahead of this before it turns into a real problem ... we want to start a dialogue with the Pacific Island countries about this notion of migrating with dignity, if things get to that point,” said climate minister James Shaw, leader of New Zealand’s Green Party.
“One of the options is a special humanitarian visa to allow people who are forced to migrate because of climate change,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in a phone interview from the UN climate talks in Bonn, which were hosted by Fiji.
In 2014, a New Zealand judge granted residency to a family from Tuvalu, in part on humanitarian grounds related to climate change.
“The reason why we were throwing around an idea of a visa is because people who have been displaced by environmental conditions like rising seas and climate change aren’t counted under the UN Convention on Refugees,” said Shaw.
The 1951 UN Refugee Convention grants refugee status to those fleeing persecution, wars, and conflicts, but does not include climate change as a reason to seek asylum.
Neighbouring Australia said it would invest 300 million Australian dollars ($226 million) over four years to help Pacific Islands cope with climate change, but was not planning to implement a similar climate migration scheme.
“The best response, where feasible, is effective adaptation and internal relocation, rather than cross-border resettlement as a first response,” a government spokesman told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in an email.
Shaw agreed that the main priority was to keep Pacific Islanders in their own communities, which means slashing carbon emissions to prevent rising sea levels.
The Paris climate agreement set a goal of ending the fossil fuel era this century and to limit warming to “well below” two degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial times, ideally 1.5C.
New Zealand’s new Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has made tackling climate change one of her top priorities and committed last month to erase the nation’s carbon footprint by 2050.
Shaw said he hopes to have formal talks with Pacific islands early next year to discuss the idea of issuing humanitarian visas for climate migration. ($1 = 1.3256 Australian dollars)


North Korea slams Pence remark, renews threat to quit summit

A man watches a television news screen showing North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at a railway station in Seoul on May 16, 2018. (AFP / Jung Yeon-je)
Updated 59 min 11 sec ago
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North Korea slams Pence remark, renews threat to quit summit

  • Pyongyang’s latest salvo follows recent comments by US Vice President Mike Pence suggesting the North may end up like Libya if it doesn’t move forward with denuclearization.
  • US President Donald Trump met with South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Tuesday at the White House for consultations and suggested the summit could be delayed. But the US says it is still working on making it happen.

TOKYO: North Korea has renewed its threat to pull out of a summit next month with President Donald Trump, saying it is just as ready to meet in a nuclear confrontation as at the negotiating table.
Pyongyang’s latest salvo follows recent comments by US Vice President Mike Pence suggesting the North may end up like Libya if it doesn’t move forward with denuclearization.
Choe Son Hui, the vice minister of foreign affairs, was quoted Thursday by the North’s state-run news agency slamming as “ignorant” comments Pence made in an interview with Fox News that compared North Korea to Libya, saying they showed he does not understand North Korea’s situation.
She also questioned whether the summit, scheduled for June 12 in Singapore, would be worthwhile if the remarks reflect Washington’s position.
“We will neither beg the US for dialogue nor take the trouble to persuade them if they do not want to sit together with us,” KCNA quoted her as saying. “Whether the US will meet us at a meeting room or encounter us at nuclear-to-nuclear showdown is entirely dependent upon the decision and behavior of the United States.”
The summit plan has hit a number of speed bumps recently as both sides have begun taking tougher positions and trading barbs. Trump met with South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Tuesday at the White House for consultations and suggested the summit could be delayed. But the US says it is still working on making it happen.
Choe, a veteran diplomat and former head of the North America desk at the Foreign Ministry, was responding to comments Pence made to Fox News this week that it would be a “mistake” for the North Koreans to think they can “play” Trump. Pence said both the Clinton and Bush administrations had been “played” by the North Korean government.
“We offered concessions to the North Korean regime in exchange for promises to end their nuclear weapons program, only to see them break those promises and abandon them,” he said, adding that if Pyongyang does not go along with talks to give up its nuclear weapons, Washington could return to the “Libya model.”
That suggestion, which was made earlier this month by National Security Adviser John Bolton and also sparked an outraged response from the North, is especially inflammatory to Pyongyang.
The Libya model refers to negotiations in 2004 that led to the shipping of nuclear components to the US from Libya under Muammar Qaddafi. But in Pyongyang’s mind the most important part of the story is what came after that. Qaddafi was deposed after a 42-year reign and killed in 2011 — the year Kim assumed power in North Korea — while his country spiraled into chaos.
“In view of the remarks of the US high-ranking politicians who have not yet woken up to this stark reality and compare the DPRK to Libya that met a tragic fate, I come to think that they know too little about us,” she said, using the acronym for North Korea’s official name.
She added: “To borrow their words, we can also make the US taste an appalling tragedy it has neither experienced nor even imagined up to now.”
How seriously the North would really consider calling off the summit isn’t entirely clear, however.
Meeting with Trump as an equal on the world stage would be an important moment for Kim and Choe couched her statement carefully, noting that she would only recommend the North Korean leader withdraw from the meeting if Washington “clings to unlawful and outrageous acts.”
North Korea was also expected to go through with a major gesture of goodwill ahead of the summit by dismantling its nuclear test site. The North, which has vowed to stop all underground nuclear testing and intercontinental ballistic missile launches, has invited foreign media to the remote site to observe a ceremony to mark the closing.
The ceremony was expected to be held Thursday or Friday, depending on the weather.