North Korea preparing toned-down military parade

Analysts say that so far there is no indication the parade will match the April 2017 “Day of the Sun” parade. (File/AFP)
Updated 01 September 2018
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North Korea preparing toned-down military parade

  • Parades have long been a way for North Korea to show off its military might
  • September’s show comes amid sensitive negotiations over the future of the country’s nuclear and ballistic missile arsenal

SEOUL: Satellite imagery shows North Korea is poised to stage another military parade amid new worries that diplomatic efforts on denuclearization are stalling, though analysts say it is unclear whether it will showcase any of the country’s largest ballistic missiles.
Pyongyang is preparing to host a number of major events on Sept. 9 for the 70th anniversary of the country’s founding, including a military parade, possible visits by foreign delegations, and — for the first time in five years — a massive choreographed performance known as the “Mass Games.”
Parades have long been a way for North Korea to show off its military might, and September’s show comes amid sensitive negotiations over the future of the country’s nuclear and ballistic missile arsenal.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un met US President Donald Trump in June and agreed to “work toward the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,” but negotiations since then appear to have stalled with both sides increasingly criticizing the other for a lack of progress.
Based on commercial satellite imagery gathered by Planet Labs Inc., analysts say September’s military parade is likely to be very similar to one staged on Feb. 8, but so far there is no sign of the controversial intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) that are believed to be capable of targeting the United States.
“At the moment, this parade look pretty similar if not smaller than the one in February,” said Jeffrey Lewis, director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at California’s Middlebury Institute of International Studies.
Among the weapons the team at Middlebury spotted in Aug. 22 images of North Korea’s Mirim Parade Training Ground are tanks, self-propelled artillery, infantry carriers, anti-aircraft missiles, and rocket launchers.
Other possible weapons arrayed on the parade ground include coastal defense cruise missiles, as well as at least six solid-fuel, short-range ballistic missiles possibly of a type first seen in February.
Analysts said that short-range ballistic missile is based on the Russian Iskander missile but also shares many features of South Korea’s Hyunmoo-2 missile.
“The first 99 vehicles are identical,” Lewis said. “After that we only see another 20 or so short-range missiles. There were more on parade in February, including ICBMs.”
Another analysis of the Planet Labs images, conducted by Joseph Bermudez at the Stimson Center’s 38 North website, also found no signs of ICBMs, but noted that an expanded number of heavy equipment storage shelters indicate September’s parade “will likely be considerably larger than the military parade earlier this year.”
If ICBMs or other large missiles are present, “they would likely remain hidden under the shelters in the heavy equipment storage area until the day of the parade,” Bermudez wrote.
Lewis acknowledged that there could be more weapons hidden in the sheds, but said at this point it is “just speculation.”
Analysts say that so far there is no indication the parade will match the April 2017 “Day of the Sun” parade, in which Kim rolled out multiple new missile systems, helping to exacerbate rising tensions with the United States and South Korea.
“It probably wont be anything close to what we saw in 2017,” said Dave Schmerler, a research associate at the Middlebury Institute.


UN: Nearly 71 million now displaced by war, violence at home

Updated 24 min 47 sec ago
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UN: Nearly 71 million now displaced by war, violence at home

  • The figures are bound to add fuel to a debate at the intersection of international law, human rights and domestic politics
  • UNHCR said 70.8 million people were forcibly displaced at the end of last year, up from about 68.5 million in 2017

GENEVA: A record 71 million people have been displaced worldwide from war, persecution and other violence, the UN refugee agency said Wednesday, an increase of more than 2 million from last year and an overall total that would amount to the world’s 20th most populous country.
The annual “Global Trends” report released by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees counts the number of the world’s refugees, asylum-seekers and internally displaced people at the end of 2018, in some cases following decades of living away from home.
The figures, coming on the eve of World Refugee Day on Thursday, are bound to add fuel to a debate at the intersection of international law, human rights and domestic politics, especially the movement in some countries, including the US, against immigrants and refugees.
Launching the report, the high commissioner, Filippo Grandi, had a message for US President Donald Trump and other world leaders, calling it “damaging” to depict migrants and refugees as threats to jobs and security in host countries. Often, they are fleeing insecurity and danger themselves, he said.
The report also puts a statistical skeleton onto often-poignant individual stories of people struggling to survive by crossing rivers, deserts, seas, fences and other barriers, natural and man-made, to escape government oppression, gang killings, sexual abuse, militia murders and other such violence at home.
UNHCR said 70.8 million people were forcibly displaced at the end of last year, up from about 68.5 million in 2017 — and nearly a 65 percent increase from a decade ago. Among them, nearly three in five people — or more than 41 million people — have been displaced within their home countries.
“The global trends, once again unfortunately, go in what I would say is the wrong direction,” Grandi told reporters in Geneva. “There are new conflicts, new situations, producing refugees, adding themselves to the old ones. The old ones never get resolved.”
The phenomenon is both growing in size and duration. Some four-fifths of the “displacement situations” have lasted more than five years. After eight years of war in Syria, for instance, its people continue to make up the largest population of forcibly displaced people, at some 13 million.
Amid runaway inflation and political turmoil at home, Venezuelans for the first time accounted for the largest number of new asylum-seekers in 2018, with more than 340,000 — or more than one in five worldwide last year. Asylum-seekers receive international protection as they await acceptance or rejection of their requests for refugee status.
UNHCR said that its figures are “conservative” and that Venezuela masks a potentially longer-term trend.
Some 4 million people are known to have left the South American country in recent years. Many of those have traveled freely to Peru, Colombia and Brazil, but only about one-eighth have sought formal international protection, and the outflow continues, suggesting the strains on the welcoming countries could worsen.
Grandi predicted a continued “exodus” from Venezuela and appealed for donors to provide more development assistance to the region.
“Otherwise these countries will not bear the pressure anymore and then they have to resort to measures that will damage refugees,” he said. “We are in a very dangerous situation.”
The United States, meanwhile, remains the “largest supporter of refugees” in the world, Grandi said in an interview. The US is the biggest single donor to UNHCR. He also credited local communities and advocacy groups in the United States for helping refugees and asylum-seekers in the country.
But the refugee agency chief noted long-term administrative shortcomings that have given the United States the world’s biggest backlog of asylum claims, at nearly 719,000. More than a quarter-million claims were added last year.
He also decried recent rhetoric that has been hostile to migrants and refugees.
“In America, just like in Europe actually and in other parts of the world, what we are witnessing is an identification of refugees — but not just refugees, migrants as well — with people that come take away jobs that threaten our security, our values,” Grandi said. “And I want to say to the US administration — to the president — but also to the leaders around the world: This is damaging.”
He said many people leaving Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador through Mexico have faced violence by gangs and suffered from “the inability of these governments to protect their own citizens.”
The UNHCR report noted that by far, the most refugees are taken in in the developing world, not wealthy countries.
The figures marked the seventh consecutive year in which the numbers of forcibly displaced rose.
“Yet another year, another dreadful record has been beaten,” said Jon Cerezo of British charity Oxfam. “Behind these figures, people like you and me are making dangerous trips that they never wanted to make, because of threats to their safety and most basic rights.”