South Korea fears further missile technology advances by Pyongyang this year

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un inspects the intercontinental ballistic missile Hwasong-14 in this undated photo released by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency in Pyongyang on July 5, 2017. (KCNA via Reuters)
Updated 20 November 2017
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South Korea fears further missile technology advances by Pyongyang this year

SEOUL: North Korea may conduct additional missile tests this year to polish up its long-range missile technology and ramp up the threat against the United States, South Korea’s spy agency said on Monday, adding that it was monitoring developments closely.
North Korea is pursuing nuclear weapons and missile programs in defiance of UN Security Council sanctions and has made no secret of its plans to develop a missile capable of hitting the US mainland. It has fired two missiles over Japan.
The reclusive state appears to have carried out a recent missile engine test while brisk movements of vehicles were spotted near known missile facilities, Yi Wan-young, a member of South Korea’s parliamentary intelligence committee which was briefed by Seoul’s National Intelligence Service, said.
No sign of an imminent nuclear test had been detected, Yi noted. The third tunnel at the Punggye-ri complex remained ready for another detonation “at any time,” while construction had recently resumed at a fourth tunnel, making it out of use for the time being.
“The agency is closely following the developments because there is a possibility that North Korea could fire an array of ballistic missiles this year under the name of a satellite launch and peaceful development of space, but in fact to ratchet up its threats against the United States,” the lawmakers told reporters after a closed-door briefing by the spy agency.
North Korea defends its weapons programs as a necessary defense against US plans to invade. The US, which has 28,500 troops in South Korea, a legacy of the 1950-53 Korean war, denies any such intention.
Pyongyang is also carrying out a sweeping ideological scrutiny of the political unit of the military for the first time in 20 years, according to Kim Byung-kee, another lawmaker in the committee.
The probe was led by the ruling Workers’ Party’s Organization and Guidance Department and orchestrated by Choe Ryong Hae, who once headed the General Political Bureau of the Korean People’s Army himself until he was replaced by Hwang Pyong So in May 2014.
As a result, Hwang and Kim Won Hong, who Seoul’s unification ministry said was removed from office in mid-January as minister of the Stasi-like secret police called “bowibu,” had been punished, the lawmaker said. He did not elaborate.
Choe, who was subjected to political “reeducation” himself in the past, appears to be gaining more influence since he was promoted in October to the party’s powerful Central Military Commission.
The National Intelligence Service indicated that Choe now heads the Organization and Guidance Department, a secretive body that oversees appointments within North Korea’s leadership.
“Under Choe’s command, the Organization and Guidance Department is undertaking an inspection of the military politburo for the first time in 20 years, taking issue with their impure attitude toward the party leadership,” the lawmaker, Kim, said.
Separately on Monday, South Korea approved a request by a South Korean to attend an event in the North marking the anniversary of the death of his mother who formerly led the Chondoist Chongu Party, a minor North Korean political party.
The son, identified only by his surname Choi, will be the first South Korean to visit the North since liberal President Moon Jae-in took office in May.
He is scheduled to arrive in Pyongyang via China on Wednesday and return on Saturday, according to Seoul’s unification ministry.
A senior Chinese official wrapped up a four-day visit to North Korea on Monday, apparently without meeting the country’s leader, Kim Jong Un.
Song Tao, head of the international department of the Chinese Communist Party, met senior officials from the Workers Party of Korea and “exchanged views on the Korean peninsula issue,” China’s official Xinhua news agency said.
“The ruling parties of China and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea on Monday pledged to strengthen inter-party exchanges and coordination, and push forward relations,” it added, using North Korea’s official name.
Song had been in Pyongyang to discuss the outcome of the recently concluded Chinese Communist Party Congress in Beijing.


Supreme Court nominee accuser agrees to testify before US Senate

According to President Trump, the fact that Ford remained silent until now shows the incident probably never happened. (AP)
Updated 26 min 3 sec ago
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Supreme Court nominee accuser agrees to testify before US Senate

  • Christine Blasey Ford’s decision followed days of negotiations and came after Trump turned against her and said her accusation could not be true
  • Ford alleges that Kavanaugh drunkenly assaulted her at a party when he was 17, she was 15 and they were attending private schools outside Washington in the 1980s

WASHINGTON: The woman whose sexual assault allegation threatens to bring down President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee has agreed to testify in the Senate, her lawyers said Saturday, setting up a dramatic showdown next week.
Christine Blasey Ford’s decision followed days of negotiations and came after Trump turned against her and said her accusation could not be true.
Ford “accepts the committee’s request to provide her first-hand knowledge of Brett Kavanaugh’s sexual misconduct next week,” said a message from her lawyers to the Senate Judiciary Committee, US media reported.
Hours later, multiple outlets including Politico and The Daily Beast reported the hearing would take place on Thursday, citing sources familiar with a phone call between the committee and Ford’s lawyers.
The tentative deal capped a day of frenetic developments, with time running out for Trump to get his hand-picked conservative judge confirmed — thereby tilting the Supreme Court firmly to the right for years to come — before November elections when Republicans risk losing control of Congress.
Earlier, the panel had given the California professor until 2:30 p.m. (1830 GMT) to decide whether to appear, after she rejected a Friday evening deadline imposed by the committee’s Republican leader, Chuck Grassley.
“Although many aspects of the proposal you provided via email, on (Friday) are fundamentally inconsistent with the committee’s promise of a fair, impartial investigation into her allegations, and we are disappointed with the leaks and the bullying that have tainted the process, we are hopeful that we can reach agreement on details,” read the lawyers’ letter cited by The Washington Post.
The White House criticized Ford for allegedly dithering. “But one thing has remained consistent: Brett Kavanaugh remains ready, willing and eager to testify as soon as possible,” it added.

Ford alleges that Kavanaugh drunkenly assaulted her at a party when he was 17, she was 15 and they were attending private schools outside Washington in the 1980s.
Kavanaugh denies knowledge of any such assault and wants to give his side of the story to the committee.
Grassley had wanted the hearing to take place on Wednesday, but Ford asked that it be held on Thursday at the earliest and to be able to call as a witness a man she says was present during the assault.
The committee’s Republican leadership turned down those demands.
After several days of maintaining a relatively neutral posture, Trump on Friday declared that Ford was lying.
“TAKE THE VOTE!” Trump tweeted, blaming “radical left wing politicians” for the controversy.

According to Trump, the fact that Ford remained silent until now shows the incident probably never happened — even if this runs counter to what experts say is the typical reaction of sexual assault victims afraid or too embarrassed to report.
“I have no doubt that, if the attack on Dr. Ford was as bad as she says,” Trump tweeted, “charges would have been immediately filed with local Law Enforcement Authorities by either her or her loving parents.”
The senior senator for Trump’s Democratic foes, Chuck Schumer, called the president’s logic a “highly offensive misunderstanding of surviving trauma,” while Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein said: “We must treat sexual assault survivors with respect, not bully or try to silence them.”
Even one of Trump’s own Republican senators, Susan Collins — who sits on the Judiciary Committee — said she was “appalled by the president’s tweet.”
“We know that allegations of sexual assault are some of the most under-reported crimes that exist,” Collins said.
Trump’s outburst saw a new #MeToo era hashtag storm the Internet, with people — mostly women — sharing why they did not report being assaulted under the Twitter hashtag #WhyIDidntReport.
Ford told the Post she went public with her claims because she felt her “civic responsibility” was “outweighing my anguish and terror about retaliation” after the basic outlines of the story emerged in the media.
Ford’s husband, Russell Ford, was quoted by the Post as saying the thought that Kavanaugh could be considered for the Supreme Court after Trump took office troubled his wife so much that she considered moving as far away as New Zealand.
“She was like, ‘I can’t deal with this,’” Russell Ford said. “’I cannot live in this country if he’s in the Supreme Court.’“
Republicans are frustrated over what they say was the deliberate timing of the last-minute revelation of Ford’s allegation, accusing Democrats of seeking to prevent the process from finishing before the midterm elections in a few weeks.
For their part, Democrats say Republicans are mounting an unseemly rush to get Kavanaugh into the nine-member Supreme Court while they still control the legislature.
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