Russia, China urge N. Korea to drop rocket launch plan

Updated 04 December 2012
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Russia, China urge N. Korea to drop rocket launch plan

MOSCOW/BEIJING: Russia and China urged North Korea yesterday not to go ahead with a plan for its second rocket launch of 2012, with Moscow saying the launch would violate restrictions imposed by the UN Security Council.
North Korea’s state news agency on Saturday announced the decision to launch another space satellite and reportedly told neighbors it would take a similar path to that planned for a failed rocket launch in April.
“We urgently appeal to the government (of North Korea) to reconsider the decision to launch a rocket,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
Echoing its criticism of the April launch, Russia said North Korea had been warned not to ignore a UN Security Council resolution, which “unambiguously prohibits (it) from launching rockets using ballistic technology.”
“China believes that maintaining peace and stability on the Korean peninsula and in Northeast Asia accords with the interests of all sides and is the joint responsibility of all sides,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei told reporters.
“In the present circumstances, we hope all sides can be calm and restrained and not take any moves to worsen the problem. China will remain in touch and coordinate with all sides.” In Washington, US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland condemned the launch plan on Sunday as a provocative threat to the Asia-Pacific region.
North Korea says its rockets are used to put satellites into orbit for peaceful purposes. Russia said in its statement North Korea would be allowed only to exercise its right to peaceful activity in space if the UN-imposed restrictions were lifted.
The warnings come just weeks before South Korea’s Dec. 19 presidential election in which how to handle North Korea is a major campaign issue. The isolated North has for years tried to influence major events in the South by issuing propaganda or launching armed attacks.
North and South Korea have been technically at war since their 1950-53 conflict ended in a truce, not a peace treaty, and regional powers have for years been trying to rein in the North’s nuclear program.
Countries trying to stop North Korea’s arms program believe it is using rocket launches to perfect technology to build a missile arsenal capable of delivering a nuclear warhead to the United States.
North Korea is under UN sanctions that ban trading in missile or nuclear technology that have driven its already dire economy deeper in trouble by cutting off what was once a lucrative source of hard cash.
Russia has often balanced criticism of Soviet-era client state North Korea’s nuclear activities and missile launches with calls on other powers to refrain from belligerent actions against it, which Russia says can be counterproductive.
Russia is a permanent member of the UN Security Council and is upset by any defiance of council resolutions. Past launches by Pyongyang have caused concern among Russians living near the country’s border with North Korea.


Thai protesters march in Bangkok, police set up barriers

Updated 16 min 54 sec ago
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Thai protesters march in Bangkok, police set up barriers

  • Government House and surrounding streets have been declared a no-go zone by police for the opposition march marking four years since a May 22, 2014 coup
  • The junta, known as the National Council for Peace and Order, is facing a public perception crisis

BANGKOK: Anti-government protesters began marching in Bangkok on Tuesday from a university in the Thai capital to Government House to demand that the military government hold a general election by November.
Government House and surrounding streets have been declared a no-go zone by police for the opposition march marking four years since a May 22, 2014, coup and have warned protesters not to defy a junta ban on public gatherings.
Police set up barriers along some roads near the university and carried out security checks on Tuesday.
More than 100 demonstrators walked in a line behind a truck with loudspeakers as police looked on, according to Reuters reporters at the scene.
One of the protest organizers, Sirawith Seritiwat, also known as Ja New, said protesters planned to march peacefully.
“I hope they will let us walk out. We have no intention to prolong today’s activities. I think they will try to stop us ... we will not use violence,” Sirawith said.
Police said around 200 protesters had gathered.
“Authorities will use the law 100 percent. If they walk out we will use the law immediately. We have put forces all around Government House ... if they come in to these areas there will be a prison sentence of up to 6 months,” deputy national police chief Srivara Ransibrahmanakul told reporters.
“Police have no weapons. They are carrying only batons,” he said.
Activists complained of a military crackdown ahead of the gathering.
On Monday, Sunai Phasuk, Thai researcher at the New York-based Human Rights Watch group, said two activists had been held incommunicado at a secret detention center.
“Their alleged ‘crime’ is providing loud speakers for anti-junta rally,” Sunai wrote on Twitter.
They were later released.
The junta, known as the National Council for Peace and Order, is facing a public perception crisis, according to international and domestic polls that say corruption is as endemic as ever.
The government has also repeatedly delayed the general election, which was first tentatively set for 2015, with the latest date now February 2019.
Some fear the date could be pushed back again.
Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan told reporters gathered at Government House the protesters were welcome to send a representative to the prime minister’s office.
“The prime minister works hard ... the NCPO these four years has worked every day ... All NCPO members have worked hard,” Prawit said.
Suchada Saebae, 55, a market vendor, disagreed.
“I came since 6 a.m. this morning because I think the NCPO has done a rubbish job these past four years,” Suchada said.
Some protesters held Thai flags and others held signs with cartoons of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha as Pinocchio.
Protests against military rule have taken place intermittently in Bangkok since the start of the year.
Some of them have been led by young activists. Others have been attended by former “red shirts,” or supporters of ousted former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was toppled in 2006 and fled abroad.
His sister, Yingluck Shinawatra, was ousted in the 2014 coup and also fled abroad before being convicted in absentia of corruption.
Thailand has been rocked by pro- and anti-government street protests for more than a decade, some of them deadly.
The military says it carried out the 2014 coup to end the cycle of violence.