Defiant N. Korea vows more launches

Updated 15 December 2012
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Defiant N. Korea vows more launches

SEOUL: Hundreds of thousands of North Koreans rallied yesterday in the freezing cold to celebrate the country’s rocket launch, staging a choreographed show of defiance under their youthful leader’s “endless” wisdom.
The enormous rally in central Pyongyang, shown on state television, came two days after the launch of the three-stage rocket and just ahead of the anniversary Monday of the death of new leader Kim Jong-Un’s father.
The West fears the launch has taken the nuclear-armed state a step closer to firing intercontinental ballistic missiles across the planet, and it has provoked UN Security Council condemnation along with calls for more sanctions.
Refueling its criticism of Wednesday’s launch, the US State Department said Kim had the chance as new leader “to take his country back into the 21st century” but instead was making the “wrong choices.”
Unbowed, North Korean state media said Kim, who is in his late 20s, had personally signed off on the rocket launch and had declared his regime’s “unshakable stand” that the programme will continue.
Kim stressed the need “to launch satellites in the future... to develop the country’s science, technology and economy,” according to the North’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) as it gave new details of the launch.
The “dear respected Marshal” visited mission control an hour before the rocket took off on Wednesday morning and praised the “ardent loyalty and patriotic devotion” of the technical team, KCNA said in the report early Friday.
The report gave no reaction to the international opprobrium that has been heaped on North Korea since the rocket went up, ostensibly to place a research satellite in orbit, with even close ally China expressing its “regrets.” But Friday’s rally was an emphatic demonstration of organized support for the Kim dynasty, as the massed ranks of civilians and soldiers chanted their obeisance under giant portraits of Kim’s father and grandfather. Many of the civilians were in dark winter coats, and the soldiers in olive-green overcoats and Russian-style trappers’ hats, as they pumped their fists and chanted “long live!,” the state TV’s hour-long broadcast showed.
Addressing the crowd, which stood in organized ranks in Kim Il-Sung Square, senior officials lavished praise on the Kim dynasty and its scion for the rocket launch — which came after an April attempt ended in fiery failure. “This was achieved thanks to the Great Marshal Kim Jong-Un’s endless loyalty, bravery and wisdom,” said Jang Chol, president of the State Academy of Sciences, which helps to steer North Korea’s rocket programme.
The UN Security Council held emergency talks on Wednesday after the North, already under international sanctions for nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009, ignored pleas from friends and foes to stop the launch.
The council warned of possible measures over what the United States called a “highly provocative” act as countries including South Korea and Japan pressed for stronger sanctions against Pyongyang.




Both South Korea and Japan are holding general elections in the coming days, shadowed by the perennial unpredictability of their deeply poor but heavily armed neighbor.
China — North Korea’s leading patron — supported the UN statement but its foreign ministry also pushed back against the pressure for stronger action, arguing that any response by the international community should be “prudent.”
Analysts say the symbolism of the launch was a prime motivating factor for North Korea as Kim shores up his leadership credentials.
“The launch means the fulfilment of Kim Jong-Il’s last wish,” said Yoo Ho-Yeol, a political science professor at Korea University in Seoul.
“As such, it helps cement Jong-Un’s grip on power and strengthens his authority over the North’s military elites, securing their loyalty and a sense of solidarity under his leadership,” Yoo said.
While there is no hint of another nuclear test being imminent in North Korea, the US and South Korean intelligence communities will be looking for any insights into the country’s level of ballistic expertise.
South Korea’s navy has recovered a section of the rocket that splashed into the sea, apparently a fuel tank inscribed with the name of the “Unha-3” rocket, the defense ministry in Seoul said.
“This debris is expected to be an important piece of information in determining North Korea’s rocket capability,” ministry spokesman Kim Min-Seok said.


UN says Nicaragua protest killings may be 'unlawful'

Updated 44 min 38 sec ago
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UN says Nicaragua protest killings may be 'unlawful'

  • Some groups called for "dictator" Ortega and his wife to step down, yelling "Out! Out!"
  • Mass street protests are rare in Nicaragua, where the army maintains a very tight grip on public order.

MANAGUA: The United Nations said Tuesday that many deaths in nearly a week of anti-government protests violently repressed by police in Nicaragua may have been "unlawful" and called for an investigation.
The scrutiny from the Swiss-based UN human rights office adds to international alarm at Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega's ordered crackdown against a wave of anti-government demonstrations and clashes.
The European Union, United States and the Vatican have all urged talks to restore calm, while the US embassy in Managua ordered family members of staff out of the country after Ortega deployed the army to the streets and looting broke out.
A toll compiled from the Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights and Ortega's wife and vice president, Rosario Murillo, puts the number of deaths since last Wednesday at 27. Most were protesters, among which university students and youths figure prominently.
"We are particularly concerned that a number of these deaths may amount to unlawful killings," Liz Throssell of the UN Office for the High Commissioner on Human Rights told reporters in Geneva.
"It is essential that all allegations of excessive use of force by police and other security forces are effectively investigated to ensure those responsible are held to account," Throssell said.
The UN office said at least 25 people, including a police officer, had been killed.
The protests were sparked Wednesday by pension reforms aimed at keeping Nicaragua's burdened Social Security Institute afloat by cutting benefits and increasing contributions.
But they rapidly spread and intensified as other grievances over Ortega's rule surged to the fore.
On Monday, tens of thousands of people -- employees, students, pensioners and ordinary citizens -- marched peacefully in the capital Managua and other cities demanding an end to the forceful security crackdown on protests.
Some groups called for "dictator" Ortega and his wife to step down, yelling "Out! Out!"
Ortega, a 72-year-old former Sandinista guerrilla leader who has ruled Nicaragua for 22 of the past 39 years, has been taken aback by the demonstrations against him, the biggest in his last 11-year stretch in power.
He has canceled the pension reforms and called for dialogue, and Murillo has suggested arrested protesters could be released.
But his security forces have not been pulled back, and -- though Managua appeared relatively calm early Tuesday -- widespread anti-government sentiment persisted.
Even Nicaragua's business sector, whose support had shored up Ortega over the past decade, has abandoned him over the violence.
A pro-government rally was being organized for Thursday to show that the president still enjoyed backing from part of the population.
Mass street protests are rare in Nicaragua, where the army maintains a very tight grip on public order.
But dissatisfaction has been bubbling over in recent months.
Frustrations have been voiced over corruption, the distant and autocratic style of Ortega and Murillo, limited options to change the country's politics in elections, and the president's control over the Congress, the courts and the electoral authority.
In rural areas, anger also stemmed from a stalled plan by Ortega to have a Chinese company carve a $50 billion canal across Nicaragua to rival Panama's lucrative Pacific-to-Atlantic shipping canal.
If the project went ahead, it would displace thousands of rural dwellers and indigenous communities, while dealing a negative impact on the environment.
"People are demanding democracy, freedom, free elections, a transparent government, the separation of powers, rule of law. The people want freedom," former Nicaraguan foreign minister Norman Caldera told AFP.
"If the government doesn't yield, it's going to be very difficult to stop this (the protests)," he said, asserting that the "big majority" of the population was showing its frustration with Ortega.
"The repressive apparatus is not able to halt protests on this scale," Caldera said.
Though Ortega has held out the promise of talks with opponents, the lack of any identifiable leader in the protest movement could make dialogue there difficult.
Under his watch, Nicaragua has avoided the rampant crime seen in northern Central American countries where gangs are rife.
It has also put in solid economic growth, yet it remains one of the poorest nations in Latin America.
The sudden upsurge in the streets puts Ortega at a crossroads: to tough it out, or to bow to the demands for democracy that have become too loud to ignore.