US to unveil ‘toughest sanctions ever’ on North Korea

US Vice President Mike Pence, sixth from left, inspects a PAC-3 surface-to-air missile system during a visit to the Defense Ministry in Tokyo on February 7. Pence pledged that Washington would continue to deploy some of its “most advanced military assets to Japan and the wider region” to protect against the threat posed by North Korea. (AFP)
Updated 07 February 2018
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US to unveil ‘toughest sanctions ever’ on North Korea

TOKYO: Washington will soon unveil its “toughest and most aggressive sanctions” ever against North Korea, US Vice President Mike Pence said Wednesday after talks with Japan’s prime minister in Tokyo.
He also warned that North Korea, which will participate in this month’s Winter Olympics as part of a joint delegation with South Korea, would not be allowed to “hijack” the event with its “propaganda.”
“I’m announcing today that the United States will soon unveil the toughest and most aggressive round of economic sanctions on North Korea,” Pence said, standing alongside Shinzo Abe after talks on the threat posed by Pyongyang.
“Let the world know this: We will continue to intensify our maximum pressure campaign until North Korea takes concrete steps toward complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization,” he added.
President Donald Trump has criticized the policy of previous US administrations toward North Korea and has already convinced the global community to significantly tighten sanctions against Pyongyang.
But so far, China has failed to agree to a game-changing oil embargo, and there remains fierce debate inside the White House on whether pre-emptive military action will be needed to stop North Korea’s drive for nuclear power status.
Pence stressed Wednesday that “all options are on the table” and pledged that Washington would continue to deploy some of its “most advanced military assets to Japan and the wider region” to protect against the threat posed by North Korea.
Abe, who like Pence will travel to South Korea’s Pyeongchang for the Winter Games, said he had told the US vice president: “We can never accept a nuclear-armed North Korea.”
“We shouldn’t be captivated by the charm offensive of North Korea,” he added.
North and South Korea have, at least temporarily, put aside their enmity to allow Pyongyang to send athletes to the Games, an opening that some see as an opportunity to push for a negotiated settlement.
But Pence warned that North Korea would not be allowed to instrumentalize the Games.
“We will not allow North Korean propaganda to hijack the message and imagery of the Olympic Games,” he said.
“We will not allow North Korea to hide behind the Olympic banner the reality that they enslave their people and threaten the wider region.”


Nigeria death toll rises in Boko Haram triple suicide bombing

Updated 20 min 24 sec ago
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Nigeria death toll rises in Boko Haram triple suicide bombing

  • Three bombers detonated their explosives outside a hall in Konduga

Thirty people were killed late Sunday in a triple suicide bombing in northeast Nigeria, emergency services reported, in an attack bearing the hallmarks of the Boko Haram militant group.

Three bombers detonated their explosives outside a hall in Konduga, 38 kilometers from the Borno state capital Maiduguri, where football fans were watching a match on TV.

“The death toll from the attack has so far increased to 30. We have over 40 people injured,” Usman Kachalla, head of operations at the State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA), said on Monday.

An earlier toll from the blasts, the bloodiest in months, gave 17 dead and 17 wounded.

The attack happened around 9:00 P.M., Ali Hassan, the leader of a self-defense group in the town, said.

The owner of hall prevented one of the bombers from entering the packed venue.

“There was a heated argument between the operator and the bomber who blew himself up,” Hassan said by phone.

Two other bombers who had mingled among the crowd at a tea stall nearby also detonated their suicide vests.

Hassan said most of the victims were from outside the soccer viewing center.

“Nine people died on the spot, including the operator, and 48 were injured,” Hassan said.

Kachala said the high number of fatalities was because emergency responders had been unable to reach the site of the blast quickly.

Nor were they equipped to deal with large numbers of wounded.

“Lack of an appropriate health facility to handle such huge emergency situation and the delay in obtaining security clearance to enable us deploy from Maiduguri in good time led to the high death toll,” he said.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but the attack bore the imprint of Boko Haram, which has led a decade-long campaign to establish a hardline Islamic state in northeast Nigeria.

The last suicide attack was in April this year when two female suicide bombers blew themselves up outside the garrison town of Monguno, killing a soldier and a vigilante and injuring another soldier.

Konduga has been repeatedly targeted by suicide bombers from a Boko Haram faction loyal to longtime leader Abubakar Shekau.

The faction typically carries out suicide attacks against soft civilian targets such as mosques, markets and bus stations, often using young women and girls as bombers.

The militants are believed to sneak into the town from the group’s haven in nearby Sambisa forest.

Eight worshippers were killed when a suicide bomber attacked a mosque in the town last July.

Boko Haram insurgency has claimed 27,000 lives and forced some two million to flee their homes.

The violence has spilled into neighboring Niger, Chad and Cameroon, prompting the formation of a regional military coalition to battle the insurgents.