North Korea’s Kim ordered ‘long-range strike’ drill

North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un supervises a military drill in North Korea. ( KCNA via REUTERS)
Updated 10 May 2019
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North Korea’s Kim ordered ‘long-range strike’ drill

  • The update came amid increasingly strained ties with the US as President Donald Trump said Thursday he thought Kim was not ready to negotiate denuclearization
  • In New York, federal authorities said a North Korean freighter had been seized on grounds of violating UN sanctions imposed over its nuclear program

SEOUL: North Korea said Friday it had tested a long-range weapon, a claim that was likely to raise tensions on the peninsula and contradicted accounts from the South and in the US that Pyongyang had fired short-range missiles.
The state-run Korean Central News Agency said leader Kim Jong Un had overseen Thursday’s weapons test, the second in less than a week amid tensions with the US over their fitful drive to reach an agreement under which North Korea would give up its nuclear weapons in exchange for sanctions relief.
“At the command post, Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un learned about a plan of the strike drill of various long-range strike means and gave an order of start of the drill,” KCNA said, adding that the drill was successful.
KCNA did not say what kind of weapon was fired. It avoided using the words missile, rocket or projectile.
The update came amid increasingly strained ties with the US as President Donald Trump said Thursday he thought Kim was not ready to negotiate denuclearization.
In New York, federal authorities said a North Korean freighter had been seized on grounds of violating UN sanctions imposed over its nuclear program.
The officials said Wise Honest — an 18,000-ton, single hull bulk carrier — had exported high-grade coal and brought back machinery to the impoverished and reclusive country.
During an event at the White House, Trump said US authorities were looking at the latest projectile launches “very seriously.”
“They were smaller missiles, short range missiles. Nobody’s happy about it,” Trump told reporters.
“The relationship continues. But we’ll see what happens. I know they want to negotiate, they’re talking about negotiating. But I don’t think they are ready to negotiate.”
Two Trump-Kim summits, the most recent in Vietnam in February, have produced no tangible progress toward persuading North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons.
Thursday’s missile firing came after North Korea carried out a military drill and fired multiple projectiles on Saturday, with at least one believed to be a short-range missile.
The North had not previously fired a missile since November 2017, shortly before a rapid diplomatic thaw eased high tensions on the peninsula and paved the way for a historic first meeting between Kim and Trump.
But the summit in Vietnam broke up without an agreement rolling back Pyongyang’s nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief or even a joint statement, leaving the North frustrated.
Thursday’s launch came hours after the US Special Representative on North Korea, Stephen Biegun, arrived in Seoul for talks with South Korean officials, in his first visit since the Hanoi summit.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in said Pyongyang’s latest move had “an element of protest and is a pressuring action to steer the nuclear talks in a direction it desires.”
“It appears the North is highly displeased that the Hanoi summit ended without agreement,” he said in an interview marking his first two years in office.
But he added: “Whatever North Korea’s intentions might have been, we warn that it could make negotiations more difficult.”
The North “fired what appeared to be two short-range missiles” from Kusong in North Pyongan province, Seoul’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said in a statement, updating its earlier assessment that the launch was from Sino-ri in the same province.
The JCS added the missiles flew eastwards for 270 and 420 kilometers (170 and 260 miles) and the South Korean and US militaries were jointly analizing them.
Pyongyang, Seoul and Washington had all refrained from explicitly calling Saturday’s launch a missile — the South used the term “projectile” — which could jeopardize the ongoing diplomacy if it violated UN Security Council resolutions against ballistic technology as well as Kim’s announcement of an end to long-range missile tests.
Experts said at least one short-range ballistic missile was involved on Saturday, with a report on the respected 38 North website saying debris left by the launch suggested it was a “direct import” of a Russian-produced Iskander.
If North Korea had imported Iskanders from Russia, the report added, “it has an existing capacity to deliver warheads to targets in South Korea with great precision.”
A summit between Moon and Kim a year ago was instrumental in lowering the temperature, but since the Hanoi summit the North has blamed Seoul for siding with Washington, leaving inter-Korean relations in limbo.


White House threatens to veto aid bill for migrant families

Updated 53 min 50 sec ago
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White House threatens to veto aid bill for migrant families

  • Hispanic and liberal Democrats press House leaders to add provisions to the legislation strengthening protections for migrant children
  • Many House Democrats say the Senate version’s provisions aimed at helping migrant children are not strong enough

WASHINGTON: The White House is threatening to veto a $4.5 billion House bill aimed at improving the treatment of migrant families detained after crossing the US southern border, saying the measure would hamstring the administration’s border security efforts and raising fresh questions about the legislation’s fate.
The warning came as Hispanic and liberal Democrats press House leaders to add provisions to the legislation strengthening protections for migrant children, changes that might make the measure even less palatable to President Donald Trump. Though revisions are possible, House leaders are still hoping for approval as early as Tuesday.
The Senate planned to vote this week on similar legislation that has bipartisan backing, but many House Democrats say the Senate version’s provisions aimed at helping migrant children are not strong enough. House Democrats seeking changes met late Monday with Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.
“Right now, the goal is really to stop — one death is just too much,” said Rep. Adriano Espaillat, D-N.Y., as he left that meeting.
Many children detained entering the US from Mexico have been held under harsh conditions, and Customs and Border Protection Chief Operating Officer John Sanders told The Associated Press last week that children have died after being in the agency’s care. He said Border Patrol stations are holding 15,000 people — more than triple their maximum capacity of 4,000.
Congress plans to leave Washington in a few days for a weeklong July 4 recess. While lawmakers don’t want to depart without acting on the legislation for fear of being accused of not responding to humanitarian problems at the border, it seems unlikely that Congress would have time to send a House-Senate compromise to Trump by week’s end.
In a letter Monday threatening the veto, White House officials told lawmakers they objected that the House package lacked money for beds the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency needs to let it detain more migrants. Officials also complained in the letter that the bill had no money to toughen border security, including funds for building Trump’s proposed border wall.
“Because this bill does not provide adequate funding to meet the current crisis, and because it contains partisan provisions designed to hamstring the Administration’s border enforcement efforts, the Administration opposes its passage,” the letter said.
Several Democrats said some language they were seeking could end up in separate legislation. Several said changes might include provisions aimed at ensuring that detained children are treated humanely.
“We’ve got lives at stake,” said Rep. Tony Cardenas, D-Calif. He said the US has been “the gold standard” for treating refugees fleeing dangerous countries, “and I don’t think we should compromise that at all.”
The meeting may have helped ease Democratic complaints. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., told reporters before the meeting that she would oppose the bill but left the door open afterward, saying, “I oppose the situation we’re in, but my main goal is to keep kids from dying.”
Much of the legislation’s money would help care for migrants at a time when federal officials say their agencies have been overwhelmed by the influx of migrants and are running out of funds.
The back-and-forth on the spending measure came as Congress’ top Democrats criticized Trump for threatening coast-to-coast deportations of migrants.
Over the weekend, Trump tweeted that he would give Congress two weeks to solve “the Asylum and Loopholes problems” along the border with Mexico. “If not, Deportations start!” he tweeted.
The president had earlier warned that there would soon be a nationwide sweep aimed at “millions” of people living illegally in the US, including families. The sweeps were supposed to begin Sunday, but Trump said he postponed them.
Pelosi, D-Calif., said the threatened raids were “appalling” when she was asked about them at an immigration event Monday in Queens, New York.
“It is outside the circle of civilized human behavior, just kicking down doors, splitting up families and the rest of that in addition to the injustices that are happening at the border,” she said.
On the Senate floor, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., described Trump’s “chilling, nasty, obnoxious threats” and said the president “seems far more comfortable terrorizing immigrant families” than addressing immigration problems.
“I mean, my God, to threaten separating children from their parents as a bargaining chip? That’s the very definition of callousness,” Schumer said.
It is not clear exactly what Trump, who has started his 2020 re-election bid, means regarding asylum and loophole changes. He’s long been trying to restrict the numbers of people being allowed to enter the US after claiming asylum and impose other restrictions, a path he’s followed since he began his quest for president years ago. His threatened deportations came as authorities have been overwhelmed by a huge increase of migrants crossing the border into the US in recent months.
For years, Democrats and Republicans have unable to find middle ground on immigration that can pass Congress. It seems unlikely they will suddenly find a solution within two weeks.