North Korea, US clash at disarmament forum over nuclear arms

Foreign Ministers from twenty countries from North and South America, Asia, and Europe pose for a family photo at the Vancouver Foreign Ministers Meeting on Security and Stability on the Korean Peninsula, in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada on January 16, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 24 January 2018
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North Korea, US clash at disarmament forum over nuclear arms

GENEVA: North Korea said on Tuesday it had a “powerful and reliable” nuclear deterrent to thwart any attack and accused the United States of deploying military assets nearby under the pretext of ensuring security at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics.
Han Tae Song, North Korea’s Ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, called on the United States to permanently halt its joint military drills with South Korea, suspended ahead of the Games that open on Feb. 9 amid an easing of tensions.
Han said contrary to the trend toward “detente,” US forces were engaging in a “precarious military maneuver” by bringing their strategic assets near the divided Korean peninsula ahead of the competition.
“This is a dangerous act of throwing a wet blanket over the current positive atmosphere of inter-Korean relations, which could drive the situation again into an extreme phase of confrontation,” Han told the UN-sponsored Conference on Disarmament.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in said on Monday a thaw in relations between the two Koreas ahead of the Winter Olympics presented a “precious chance” for the United States and North Korea to discuss the North’s weapons programs.
North Korea is developing missile and nuclear technology amid regular threats to destroy the United States and Japan and in defiance of UN Security Council resolutions.
’GRAVE AND IMMINENT THREAT’
Japan’s envoy Nobushige Takamizawa said North Korea’s nuclear and missile deployment constituted “a grave and imminent threat to the international community” and pressure must be increased on Pyongyang.
Han said nuclear tests last year had allowed his country to “perfect a national nuclear force” in a safe and transparent manner.
“Thus the DPRK (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) at last came to possess a powerful and reliable war deterrent, which no force and nothing can reverse,” he told the Geneva forum.
“I am proudly saying that DPRK’s nuclear force is capable of frustrating and countering any nuclear threats from the US and it constitutes a powerful deterrent that prevents the US from starting an adventurous war.”
Han said as a “responsible nuclear power” North Korea could not resort to using the weapons unless hostile forces violate its sovereignty or interests.
US disarmament ambassador Robert Wood said: “The United States will not recognize North Korea as a nuclear weapon state.
“If the North wishes to return and be in the good graces of the international community, it knows what it has to do, it has to take steps toward denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.”
“The international pressure on North Korea is profound, it is intense and it will continue,” he added.
Wood, asked whether the inter-Korean dialogue was due to pressure on Pyongyang, later told reporters: “Absolutely, I think it very clear that the pressure the international community has put upon North Korea has got it to take a much softer tone with regard to the Republic of Korea and its desire now to participate in the upcoming Olympics.”


Ireland referendum could lift strict ban on abortion

A woman carries a placard as Ireland holds a referendum on liberalising abortion laws, in Dublin, Ireland, on Friday. (REUTERS)
Updated 26 May 2018
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Ireland referendum could lift strict ban on abortion

  • Exit polls says 68 percent of voters back change
  • The country's leaders support a "yes," an outcome that would repeal a 1983 constitutional amendment

DUBLIN: Ireland’s referendum Friday represented more than a vote on whether to end the country’s strict abortion ban. It was a battle for the very soul of a traditionally conservative Roman Catholic nation that has seen a wave of liberalization in recent years.
An Irish Times exit poll released Friday night projected a landslide victory for those who want to loosen abortion laws, but official results are not expected until Saturday afternoon.
The country’s leaders support a “yes,” an outcome that would repeal a 1983 constitutional amendment requiring authorities to treat a fetus and its mother as equals under the law. They called it a once-in-a-generation opportunity to liberalize some of Europe’s strictest abortion rules.
Voters went to the polls after a campaign that aroused deep emotions on both sides. For advocates of repeal, a “yes” vote would be a landmark in Irish women’s fight for equality and the right to control their own bodies. For opponents, it would be a betrayal of Ireland’s commitment to protect the unborn.
The vote also is a key indicator of Ireland’s trajectory, three years after the country voted to allow same-sex marriages and a year after its first openly gay prime minister took office.
The newspaper exit poll indicated overwhelming support for change. The survey by pollster Ipsos-MRBI says 68 percent of voters backed repeal of the ban and 32 percent opposed it. The pollster says it interviewed some 4,000 people and the survey had a margin of error of plus or minus 1.5 percentage points. The poll is only a prediction.
Theresa Sweeney, a repeal supporter, was one of the first to arrive at a church polling station in Dublin.
“I feel like I’ve waited all of my adult life to have a say on this,” she said.
Emma Leahy said her “yes” vote comes from her firm belief that everyone should be able to make their own choice when it comes to abortion.
“For Ireland, it’s hope for the future,” she said of the referendum. “Whether you agree or disagree, it shouldn’t be the government or anyone else making that decision.”
Vera Rooney voted against repeal.
“It is a hard decision but I just feel I don’t have the right to take life,” she said. “I think life is sacred and for that reason I had to vote no.”
The referendum will decide whether the eighth amendment of the constitution is repealed or stays in place.
The amendment requires authorities to equally protect the right to life of a mother and that of a fetus, from the moment of conception. That effectively bans all abortions in Ireland, except in cases when the woman’s life is at risk. Having an illegal abortion is punishable by up to 14 years in prison, and several thousand Irish women travel each year to get abortions in neighboring Britain.
If citizens vote in favor of repeal, new abortion laws will then be discussed in parliament. The government proposes that terminations be allowed during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. Later abortions would be allowed in special cases.
Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, a doctor, voted in favor of repeal.
“Not taking anything for granted of course, but quietly confident,” he said, adding that the upside of a sunny day in Ireland is that people come out to vote.
Thousands of Irish people abroad traveled home to take part in the historic referendum, and supporters of repeal gathered at Dublin Airport to give arrivals an ecstatic welcome.
Some activists held a placard reading “Thank you for making the journey so other women don’t have to” — a reference to the way Irish women seeking abortions have had to leave the country to obtain them.
Tara Flynn, who 11 years ago flew to the Netherlands for an abortion, said she planned to vote “yes” to make sure future generations of women don’t endure what she did, with feelings of isolation and shame.
She said her vote would be one for solidarity and compassion, “a vote to say, I don’t send you away anymore.”
Campaigning was not allowed Friday, but Dublin was still filled with signs and banners urging citizens to vote “yes” or “no.” Many of the anti-abortion signs showed photographs of fetuses.
Voting has already taken place on Ireland’s remote islands so that paper ballots can be taken to the mainland and counted in time.
Letters to the editor published Friday in the Irish Independent newspaper contained several emotional arguments urging voters to reject the repeal movement.
“If we vote ‘yes’ every unborn, wanted and unwanted, will have zero rights,” wrote Frances Kelleher, from Killarney. “I do not believe the smart people of Ireland want this unrestricted, abortion-on-demand bill.”