North Korea’s Kim oversees test of new weapon with ‘powerful warhead’

People watch a TV news program reporting about North Korea's test-fire of a "new-type tactical guided weapon," with a file footage of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, at the Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea, on April 18, 2019. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)
Updated 18 April 2019

North Korea’s Kim oversees test of new weapon with ‘powerful warhead’

  • Satellite imagery suggests heightened activity at a nuclear test site
  • But South Korea says it had not detected anything on radar

SEOUL, South Korea: North Korea’s Kim Jong Un has supervised the test-firing of a new tactical weapon with a “powerful warhead,” state media reported Thursday, in the first test of its kind since nuclear negotiations with Washington stalled.
The test marks a ratcheting up of tensions weeks after a summit between Kim and US President Donald Trump collapsed without agreement.
It also comes after satellite imagery suggested heightened activity at a nuclear test site.
Wednesday’s test was “conducted in various modes of firing at different targets” the Korean Central News Agency reported, adding that Kim “guided the test-fire.”
The report said Kim described its development as one “of very weighty significance in increasing the combat power of the People’s Army.”
The “advantages” of the weapon were “the peculiar mode of guiding flight and the load of a powerful warhead,” KCNA said.
Its report gave no details of the weapon.
South Korea had not detected anything on radar so it was unlikely to have been a missile, a military official told AFP.
“When North Korea launches a missile, our radar catches it. But no missile was detected,” said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Seoul’ presidential office said it had no comment.
“The description makes whatever was tested sound like a missile, but that could be everything from a small anti-tank guided missile to a surface-to-air missile to a rocket artillery system,” said North Korea analyst Ankit Panda.
Earlier in the week, the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a US monitor, said activity had been detected at Yongbyon, the North’s main nuclear testing facility.
The think tank said evidence suggested Pyongyang may be reprocessing radioactive material into bomb fuel.
Kim’s Hanoi summit with Trump, the second between the two men, ended abruptly, with North Korea later protesting that the US was being unreasonable in its demands.
Since then, North Korea has said it is mulling options for its diplomacy with the US, and Kim said last week he was open to talks with Trump only if Washington came with the “proper attitude.”
“Kim is trying to make a statement to the Trump administration that his military potential is growing by the day,” said Harry Kazianis, an analyst at the Washington-based Center for the National Interest.
“His regime is becoming frustrated with Washington’s lack of flexibility in recent negotiations.”
Koh Yu-hwan, professor of North Korean studies at Dongguk University, agreed the test was a message to the US showing its displeasure over the stalled nuclear talks.
But the fact that it was not a long-range missile or nuclear test “underscores Pyongyang wants to keep alive dialogue with Washington,” he added.
“Pyongyang cannot conduct a nuclear or long-range missile launch at this point unless it wants to totally shatter what remains of the US-North talks,” he continued.
Pentagon officials said they were aware of the test report but declined to comment further.
Last November, KCNA reported that Kim oversaw the testing of a “newly developed ultramodern tactical weapon” months after his first meeting with Trump.
It was the first official report of a weapons test by North Korea since Kim and Trump’s historic summit in Singapore over Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile program.
The North’s latest weapon test report comes after South Korean President Moon Jae-in said Monday he wanted a fresh meeting with Kim “regardless of venue and form.”
Pyongyang has yet to respond to Moon’s overture.
Moon, who has long backed engagement with the nuclear-armed North, has been pushing for the resumption of inter-Korean economic projects, but doing so would fall foul of international sanctions imposed on Pyongyang.


Over 1m Filipino overseas workers set to lose jobs

Updated 03 June 2020

Over 1m Filipino overseas workers set to lose jobs

  • OFWs in Middle East, US, Europe, and Asia to be worst hit by global economic downturn

MANILA: More than 1 million overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) could be out of work by next year as the world economy continues to slump due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, analysts and officials warned on Tuesday.

“With a huge number of OFWs out of the market, this would also result in licensed recruitment and manning agencies closing shop in the coming months,” Emmanuel Geslani, a recruitment and migration expert, told Arab News.

During a virtual press briefing, Filipino Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said that 343,551 OFWs had already been affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. “Either they were displaced because of COVID-19, or the virus infected them.”

He added: “Of the total number, 341,161 were displaced, which means they were either terminated (from their jobs) and no longer employed, or they could not go to work because of the lockdown, hence no work, no pay.”

Bello noted that only around 95,000 OFWs were “stranded” because almost 200,000 of the affected workers “don’t want to come home” and “would rather stay” where they are, especially those in the US and Europe.

Since the COVID-19 outbreak, the Philippine government has brought home an estimated 36,625 OFWs. The latest group to return to the country consisted of 175 Filipinos repatriated from Kuwait as part of an amnesty granted by the Kuwaiti government. They arrived at Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) in Manila on Monday afternoon.

Geslani, however, said the near 100,000 OFWs waiting to be repatriated was only a fraction of the total number of migrant workers who may be displaced by December 2021, citing figures from the labor department.

On Friday, Alice Visperas, director of the Department of Labor and Employment – International Labor Affairs Bureau (DOLE-ILAB), told a virtual hearing of the house committee on overseas workers’ affairs that estimates suggested that just over 1 million Filipino workers abroad would have been displaced by December 2021.

The DOLE predicted that the number of displaced OFWs would rise from the current figure of more than 300,000 to about 600,000 by December 2020, around 800,000 by June 2021, and tipping over the 1 million mark by the end of next year.

The majority of OFWs expected to lose their jobs are employed in the Middle East, followed by Europe, the US, and Asia.

“This grim prediction by the DOLE will have a devastating effect on over 1,200 land and sea-based licensed recruitment and manning agencies with over 50 percent of the existing agencies not expected to survive the next few months,” Geslani said, pointing out that so far the deployment of OFWs had gone down by 99 percent.

“Lower-for-longer oil prices and the economic recession, even in the more successful Gulf countries, means less foreign workers in the future,” he added.

“The oil price depression will be lower for longer. The pandemic has triggered a mass lockdown of many countries in the world, especially in the Middle East where the majority of our OFWs work.”

Geslani held out little hope for workers in the foreseeable future, except for those in the health sector.

“New markets in Europe are still in lockdown and even Japan, which is our newest market, has closed its borders to 111 countries including the Philippines,” he said, adding that “the severe lack of business” would mean the closure of small- and medium-sized recruitment agencies with deployments of less than 200 a year.

Cathy Gatbunton, a Filipino house-help worker in Hong Kong, said her employment contract was due to end in July. Her employer, who was soon to relocate to Canada, had initially planned to take her with them but because of COVID-19 restrictions “that might no longer be possible.”

But Gatbunton had no plans to return to the Philippines, preferring to try and find a new employer in Hong Kong. She noted that many Filipino workers who had flown back to the Philippines, even for a vacation, were now out of work because they had been unable to return to Hong Kong due to the lockdown.

Evhan Manalac, who has worked at a US military base in Kandahar since 2011, is among about 2,000 Filipinos who will lose their jobs when US forces withdraw from Afghanistan.

“Our plan is really to go home for good next year. But it seems it will happen earlier than we have planned. Nevertheless, we are ready. We’re thinking of opening a small business in the Philippines,” Manalac said.

Marcin De Leon, an office worker employed on an engineering project in Saudi Arabia, said his job had been on hold for the past 45 days but he had now been asked to return to work.

“In some cases, some documented OFWs employed by companies that have closed down may still find employment in the Kingdom provided it is in the same field,” he added.