North Korea slams UN chief over call for nuclear disarming

North Korea's ambassador to the UN Ja Song-nam speaks during the UN Security Council Ministerial Briefing on Non-Proliferation and the DPRK, at the United Nations, in this December 15, 2017 file photo, in New York. (AFP)
Updated 11 August 2018
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North Korea slams UN chief over call for nuclear disarming

  • Trump’s administration has argued that sanctions must remain fully in place until North Korea has scrapped its nuclear and missile programs and that the dismantling is verified
  • The United States, backed by Japan, is urging UN member-states to maintain pressure on North Korea to give up its military programs

UNITED NATIONS, United States: North Korea on Friday accused UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres of making “reckless remarks” and toeing the US line when he called for verifiable and irreversible denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.
Guterres made the statement following talks with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Tokyo on Wednesday to discuss the US-led effort to rid North Korea of its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.
The UN chief “should do what is beneficial to the current situation on Korean peninsula for peace and stability, not just by singing (the) chorus for sanctions to please (a) certain country,” said a statement from the North Korean mission to the United Nations.
The mission described as “reckless” a remark from Guterres who said that North Korea “can be a normal member of the international community in this region through total denuclearization that is verifiable, irreversible.”
The statement said North Korea was “astonished” to hear Guterres’ remarks “at a time when the world supports and welcomes the historic DPRK-US summit and the joint statement in Singapore.”
At the first-ever meeting between sitting leaders of the US and North Korea in June, President Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un pledged in a joint statement to work toward the “complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”
The statement however was short on details and a UN panel of experts reported last week that North Korea is pressing ahead with its nuclear and missile programs.
The United States, backed by Japan, is urging UN member-states to maintain pressure on North Korea to give up its military programs by fully adhering to a raft of sanctions.
Trump’s administration has argued that sanctions must remain fully in place until North Korea has scrapped its nuclear and missile programs and that the dismantling is verified.
The Security Council last year adopted three rounds of tough economic sanctions on North Korea, banning most of its exports of raw commodities and severely restricting oil supplies.


Vladimir Putin gets lavish welcome on visit to ally Serbia

Updated 43 min 43 sec ago
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Vladimir Putin gets lavish welcome on visit to ally Serbia

  • Church bells tolled, guns saluted and people waved Russian and Serbian flags on Putin’s route through the Serbian capital, Belgrade
  • Serbia has maintained close links with traditional Slavic ally Russia despite formally seeking European Union membership

BELGRADE, Serbia: Vladimir Putin received a hero’s welcome in ally Serbia on Thursday as the Russian president attempted to maintain political and economic influence in the Balkans, which is increasingly looking Westward.
Putin’s presidential plane was escorted over Serbian airspace by MiG-29 fighter jets he recently donated to Serbia as he arrived for the one-day visit. Church bells tolled, guns saluted and people waved Russian and Serbian flags on Putin’s route through the Serbian capital, Belgrade.
Serbia has maintained close links with traditional Slavic ally Russia despite formally seeking European Union membership. It has refused to join Western sanctions against Russia over Ukraine and has pledged to stay out of NATO.
Putin has recently stepped up efforts to restore Moscow’s influence in the former communist countries of Eastern Europe.
Putin and his host, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, praised the relationship between the two countries. Putin handed a top Russian honor to Vucic, who gave a puppy of a Serb dog breed to the Russian president.
Vucic thanked Russia for its support for Serbia’s claim over Kosovo, a former province that declared independence in 2008, and added that “however small,” Serbia has been a “reliable partner” to Russia.
Several bilateral agreements were signed, including on the supply of Russian gas and weapons to Serbia.
On the gas, Putin said Russian companies are ready to invest about $1.4 billion into a stretch of a pipeline that would go from Turkey via EU-member Bulgaria to Serbia and then on to Hungary, “but in the end, everything will depend on other countries, including the European Union.”
Putin’s visit come as thousands have been holding weekly demonstrations against Vucic because of what they see as his autocratic rule.
Tens of thousands of Vucic’s right-wing party supporters were bused into the capital on Thursday to gather in front of the St. Sava Orthodox church, which the two presidents visited. They were chanting slogans including “Serbia-Russia, we don’t need the European Union!“
Vucic’s critics say the gathering was staged to suggest that the Serbian leader has many more supporters than opponents, who have been marching the same route since December to demand free elections and media.
Several liberal Serbian rights groups issued a statement on Thursday protesting “glorification of Vladimir Putin’s authoritarian regime.”
It said that Putin’s visit “indicates that the Serbian rulers are ready to sacrifice human rights and better living standards of citizens because of their servile attitude toward Putin’s regime.”
Russia’s interest in Serbia relates to its strategic position between East and West. Of Serbia’s eight neighbors, five are NATO members and two more are seeking membership; and four are in the EU and two more are working toward accession. Serbia remains Moscow’s only ally in the region.
Unlike NATO, Putin formally does not oppose Serbia’s EU path and analysts believe that this is because he wants a staunch ally — or perhaps a Trojan horse — within the 28-nation bloc.
Putin’s popularity in Serbia is mostly because the Kremlin is supporting Serbia in its rejection of Kosovo’s independence. In contrast, most Western countries have recognized Kosovo’s statehood.