War with N. Korea is avoidable: UN chief

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. (AFP)
Updated 17 January 2018
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War with N. Korea is avoidable: UN chief

UNITED NATIONS: A war with North Korea is avoidable, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Tuesday, urging direct talks between key powers on dismantling Pyongyang’s nuclear program.
Guterres said recent moves by South and North Korea to ease tensions were important, but he added: “let’s not forget that the essential problem is yet to be solved.”
“I believe war is avoidable,” Guterres told reporters, but he added: “I am not yet sure that peace is guaranteed.”
The UN chief said his goal was to ensure that “those who are more relevant in this process are able to seriously talk to each other and seriously find a way to denuclearization.”
The former Portuguese prime minister begins his second year as UN chief this month with North Korea looming large as the most pressing global security threat.
The United States and North Korea have shown little interest in holding direct talks to address the crisis.
Presenting his priorities for 2018 to the General Assembly, Guterres said there were “small signs of hope” after North Korea agreed to take part in the Winter Olympics in the South and the re-opening of a military hotline between Pyongyang and Seoul.
Guterres will attend the opening ceremony of the Pyeongchang Games next month.
North Korea’s race to build an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of hitting the United States with a nuclear warhead has raised fears of a devastating conflict.
At the United Nations in September, President Donald Trump vowed to “totally destroy” North Korea if it launches an attack on the United States.
Trump’s administration has been adamant that North Korea must first freeze its military programs before talks can take place.
The United States has led the drive at the Security Council to ratchet up economic sanctions on North Korea such as restrictions on oil supplies that were adopted in December.


Thailand to ban imports of high-tech trash, plastic waste

Updated 16 August 2018
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Thailand to ban imports of high-tech trash, plastic waste

  • The Thai ban covers 432 types of electronic refuse — from electronic circuit boards to old television and radio parts — and will take effect within six months
  • Thailand’s e-waste ban follows a series of raids that began in May on factories accused of illegally importing and processing electronic waste

BANGKOK: Thailand will ban imports of 432 types of scrap electronics within six months, an environment ministry official said on Thursday, the latest country to respond to China’s crackdown on imports of high-tech trash this year.
Southeast Asia nations fear they are the new dumping ground for the world’s trash after China banned the entry of several types of waste as part of a campaign against “foreign garbage.”
Thailand’s ban comes weeks after regional neighbor Vietnam said it would stop issuing new licenses for waste imports and crack down on illegal shipments of paper, plastic and metal.
The Thai ban covers 432 types of electronic refuse — from electronic circuit boards to old television and radio parts — and will take effect within six months, a senior environment ministry official told Reuters on Thursday.
He said the ban was agreed at a meeting on Wednesday chaired by Surasak Kanchanarat, the environment minister.
“The meeting yesterday passed a resolution to stop importing 432 kinds of electronic waste and to ensure...that this is enforced within six months,” said the official, who declined to be named because he was not authorized to speak to the media.
Mongukol Pruekwatana, director general of the department of industrial works, told Reuters a full list of banned items would be announced soon.
E-waste — commonly defined as any device with an electric cord or battery — can be mined for valuable metals such as gold, silver and copper. However, it can also include hazardous material such as lead, mercury and cadmium.
Surasak told Thai media on Wednesday that imports of some electronic appliances and second-hand devices would be allowed if these items can be repaired and reused.
Scrap metal, including aluminum, copper and steel, can still be imported for industrial use, but must be separated at the country of origin and cleaned, he said.
Thailand’s e-waste ban follows a series of raids that began in May on factories accused of illegally importing and processing electronic waste.
Environmentalists say waste once destined for China is being re-routed to Southeast Asia, and new laws are needed or existing laws better enforced to prevent illegal imports.
Vietnam’s central bank said on Wednesday it has asked banks to tighten lending to projects deemed environmentally unfriendly. It said banks must have strategies for environmental risk management by 2025.
Thailand also planned to ban imports of plastic waste in the next two years, the environment ministry official said, but he gave no details of the program.
The death of a pilot whale in June found with some 80 pieces of plastic rubbish in its stomach focused attention on what environmentalists call Thailand’s “addiction” to plastic bags and packaging.
Thailand’s military government has said improving the country’s waste management infrastructure is a priority and set goals for 2021.
They included cutting the use of plastic bags and bottles in government agencies and businesses, and plastic bans in tourist destinations. A tax on plastic bags has also been mentioned, along with a target to recycle up to 60 percent of plastic by 2021.