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.”


Devotees throng Indian flashpoint temple, but no women

Updated 3 min 8 sec ago
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Devotees throng Indian flashpoint temple, but no women

  • India’s Supreme Court ruled in September that all females, including those of menstruating age, could enter the shrine perched in a tiger reserve in the southern state of Kerala
  • Hindu hard-liners clashed with police, assaulted journalists and prevented the court order from being implemented, when the temple reopned

PATHANAMTHITTA, India: Tens of thousands of pilgrims thronged one of Hinduism’s holiest temples in southern India Saturday as it reopened amid high security, but women aged between 10 and 50 were absent despite a court order allowing them to enter.
Hindu activists meanwhile imposed a strike to protest that the security measures were impeding their ability to worship at the Sabarimala shrine, closing shops and reducing traffic to a trickle.
India’s Supreme Court ruled in September that all females, including those of menstruating age, could enter the shrine perched in a tiger reserve in the southern state of Kerala.
But when the temple reopened for several days last month, Hindu hard-liners clashed with police, assaulted journalists and prevented the court order from being implemented.
With thousands of extra riot police on duty and police barricades set up, the hilltop temple reopened late on Friday a day ahead of the start of a Hindu festival period.
Among the several hundred thousand people who have registered to pray at the temple over the coming weeks are around 700 women, setting the stage for a major showdown.
However, no women have yet tried to approach the site ahead of a hearing next week at the Supreme Court of a motion announced late Friday by the board managing the temple site.
It aims to ask the court, likely on Monday, to allow more time to admit women, citing the lack of infrastructure following major floods in August, a spokesman told AFP.
On January 22 the Supreme Court will also hear challenges to its original September ruling, one of a series of recent liberal decisions including the decriminalization of gay sex and of adultery.

One woman who did want to get to Sabarimala on Friday was activist Trupti Desai.
But a crowd of around 500 people staged a sit-in and prevented her from leaving Kochi airport and late Friday she and several women companions flew back to Mumbai, Indian media reported.
“We tried to hire taxis several times but the agitators are not allowing them to take us. They have threatened violence if they do,” Desai told Indian television.
Separately late Friday police arrested another woman, K.P Sasikala, a local community leader, for seeking to defy a ban on spending the night at the temple site.
Sasikala is over 50 so Hindu organizations are not opposed to her entering the site.
Instead they were incensed that restrictions were being imposed on pilgrims and called the local strike for Saturday.
“Hindu community leaders called for the strike and we support it,” P.S Sreedharan Pillai, the local president of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) told AFP.
“The police are putting restrictions on devotees who want to go there and pray,” Pillai added.
A few protesters pelted stones at public buses on the roads in some parts of the state, a Kerala police official told AFP.
Local media reports said about 2,000 protesters gathered around a police station in Pathanamthitta district, 65 kilometers (40 miles) from the temple, where Sasikala was being held.
“Sasikala was detained as the police had instructed that devotees will be not allowed to stay around the temple at night, which she insisted,” Kerala police spokesman Pramod Kumar told AFP.
Women activists say the ban on women between 10 and 50 at Sabarimala reflects an old view that connects menstruation with impurity.
They argue that women are allowed in most Hindu temples and the practice at Sabarimala is part of their tradition, and not anti-women.