North Korea launches 2 short-range ballistic missiles: Seoul

A woman walks past a television news screen showing file footage of a North Korean missile launch, at a railway station in Seoul on July 31, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 31 July 2019

North Korea launches 2 short-range ballistic missiles: Seoul

  • Despite a recent lack of progress in nuclear diplomacy, both Trump and Kim have said they have maintained good relations with each other

SEOUL, South Korea: North Korea fired two short-range ballistic missiles off its east coast Wednesday, South Korea’s military said, its second weapons test in less than a week. North Korea is angry over planned US-South Korean military drills and may be trying to boost pressure on the United States to win concessions as the rivals struggle to set up talks over the North’s nuclear weapons.
South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said Wednesday’s missiles were launched from Wonsan, a city the North pushes as a vacation destination but that it also uses as a regular launch site. The joint chiefs’ statement said both missiles were believed to have flown about 250 kilometers (155 miles) at a maximum altitude of 30 kilometers (19 miles) and that the South Korean and US militaries were trying to gather more details.
“The North’s repeated missile launches are not helpful to efforts to ease tensions on the Korean Peninsula, and we urge (North Korea) to stop this kind of behavior,” the statement said. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe briefly told reporters the launches were “no threat to Japanese national security.”
Six days earlier, North Korea fired two short-range ballistic missiles that Seoul officials said flew 600 kilometers (370 miles) before landing in the sea.
UN Security Council resolutions ban North Korea from using ballistic technology in any weapons launches. But it’s unlikely that the nation, already under 11 rounds of UN sanctions, will be hit with fresh punitive measures. Past sanctions were imposed only when the North conducted long-range ballistic launches.
Japan’s Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya told reporters Wednesday that the most recently launched weapons did not reach Japan’s exclusive economic zone and that officials are still analyzing details, including the flight distance and trajectory. Referring to the previous launches, Iwaya said, “It is extremely regrettable that North Korea continues firing the missiles that violate the UN resolutions.”
North Korea’s state media said last week’s tests were supervised by leader Kim Jong Un and were designed to deliver a “solemn warning” to South Korea over its purchase of high-tech US-made fighter jets and planned military drills that Pyongyang calls an invasion rehearsal.
Wednesday’s launches came hours after a senior US official said President Donald Trump sent Kim mementos from his brief visit to an inter-Korean border town late last month.
The official said a top staffer from the National Security Council hand-delivered photographs from the June Trump-Kim meeting at the Korean Demilitarized Zone to a North Korean official last week. The Trump administration official spoke on the condition of anonymity because the official wasn’t authorized to speak publicly.
The DMZ meeting was the third summit between Trump and Kim. At their second meeting, in Vietnam, Trump rejected Kim’s demand for widespread sanctions relief in return for dismantling the North’s main nuclear complex, a partial disarmament step.
During the DMZ meeting, Trump and Kim agreed to resume nuclear diplomacy in coming weeks, but there hasn’t been any known meeting between the countries. Some experts say North Korea wants a US promise to ease sanctions, accept a slow, step-by-step disarmament process by the North or for the US to make other concessions once the diplomacy restarts.
Despite a recent lack of progress in nuclear diplomacy, both Trump and Kim have said they have maintained good relations with each other. After Thursday’s missile launches, Trump tried to downplay the significance of the tests, saying that “short-range” was the most important detail. He said North Korea fired “standard” missiles that many countries possess.
South Korea’s military said the flight data of the weapon launched last week showed similarities to the Russian-made Iskander, a short-range, nuclear-capable missile. A North Korean version could likely reach all of South Korea — and the 28,500 US forces stationed there — and would be extremely hard to intercept.
After entering talks with Washington, North Korea has suspended nuclear and long-range missile tests, and Trump says that is proof that his North Korea policy is working well and has eased the danger of a war with the North. In 2017, Trump and Kim exchanged crude insults and threats of destruction as Kim oversaw a series of high-profile nuclear and missile tests meant to build nuclear missiles capable of reaching the continental United States.


Afghan capital’s air pollution may be even deadlier than war

Updated 49 min 34 sec ago

Afghan capital’s air pollution may be even deadlier than war

  • People are dying, not from the war, but the toxic air they breathe in
  • Research group State of Global Air says more than 26,000 deaths could be attributed due to the pollution

KABUL, Afghanistan: Yousuf fled with his family from his home in eastern Afghanistan eight years ago to escape the war, but he couldn’t escape tragedy. In the capital, Kabul, five of his children died, not from violence or bombings, but from air pollution, worsened by bitter cold and poverty.
At the camp for displaced people they live in, they and other families keep warm and cook by burning the garbage that surrounds them. One by one over the years, each of the children got chest infections and other maladies from the pollution and never made it to age seven, he told The Associated Press. The 60-year-old has nine surviving children.

Yusouf, who escaped war in eastern Afghanistan to safeguard his family, speaks during an interview in Kabul, Afghanistan. In the capital, Kabul, five of his children died, not from violence or bombings, but from air pollution, worsened by bitter cold and poverty. (AP/Rahmat Gul)

“We didn’t have enough money for the doctor and medicine ... I can barely feed my children,” said Yousuf, who works as a porter in a vegetable market earning barely a dollar a day. Like many Afghans he uses only one name.
Afghanistan’s pollution may be even deadlier than its war, now 18 years long.
There are no official statistics on how many Afghans die of pollution-related illnesses, but the research group State of Global Air said more than 26,000 deaths could be attributed to it in 2017. In contrast, 3,483 civilians were killed that year in the Afghan war, according to the United Nations.
Kabul, a city of some 6 million, has become one of the most polluted cities in the world — ranking in the top of the list among other polluted capitals such as India’s New Delhi or China’s Beijing. Decades of war have wrecked the city’s infrastructure and caused waves of displaced people.
On most days, a pall of smog and smoke lies over the city. Old vehicles pump toxins into the air, as do electrical generators using poor quality fuel. Coal, garbage, plastic and rubber are burned by poor people at home, as well as at the many brick kilns, public baths and bakeries. Many apartment buildings have no proper sanitation system, and garbage is piled on roadsides and sidewalks.
The large majority of victims are poisoned by the air in their own homes, as families burn whatever they can to keep warm in Kabul’s winters, with frequent sub-zero temperatures and snow. Children and elderly are particularly vulnerable. At least 19,400 of the 2017 deaths were attributable to household pollution, which also contributed to a loss of two years and two months of life expectancy at birth, according to the State of Global Air survey.

Old vehicles are pumping poisonous fumes into the air. (AFP)

Yousuf’s camp, home to more than a hundred families, has no proper water or sanitation system and is surrounded by garbage dumps. His and other families’ children search through the garbage for paper, cloth, sticks or plastic, anything that can be burned for fuel.
“We are so poor, and we have lots of problems, we don’t have enough money for medicine, wood or coal for heating, so this is our life, my children collect garbage from dump yards and we use it for cooking and heating to keep the kids warm,” he added.
Decades of war have worsened the damage to Afghanistan’s environment and have made it a huge challenge to address them. Environmental issues are far down the list of priorities for a government struggling with basic security issues, rampant corruption and a plunging economy.
Three or four decades ago, “it was a wish for people to come to Kabul and breath this air,” said Ezatullah Sediqi, deputy director for the National Environmental Protection Agency. But in the wars since, “we lost all our urban infrastructure for water, electricity, public transportation, green areas, all these things,” he said.
Kabul’s environmental department has launched a new program to control old vehicles, one significant source of pollution.
“Fighting pollution is an important as fighting terrorism,” said Mohammad Kazim Humayoun, the department’s director.
Authorities warn that this winter is expected to be colder than usual and fear that will only increase the use of pollution-creating fuels to keep warm. The Kabul municipality has also called on residents to stop burning garbage for heat and instead use fuel.

The wife of Yousuf who fled from their home in eastern Afghanistan, burns plastic to make tea at a camp for displaced people, in Kabul, Afghanistan. (AP /Rahmat Gul)

“If everyone follows the instructions laid out by Kabul Municipality, the pollution could be controlled,” the municipality’s spokeswoman, Nargis Mohmand, said. But if not, “then we might live with this untreatable wound for years to come.”
But fuel is either too expensive or not available for many in Kabul. Electrical heaters are too pricey for most, and power outages are frequent.
Doctors at Kabul’s Indira Gandhi Children’s Hospital say they’ve seen the numbers of patients with pollution-related illnesses increase, though they could not give exact figures. In the winter, hundreds of children a day sometimes come in, suffering from respiratory illnesses, according to hospital officials.
Dr. Saifullah Abassin, a specialist trainer at the hospital, said his ward has a capacity of 10 patients but often has three times that number.
The government has launched an environmental awareness campaign. Ads on TV, programs at schools and universities and sermons at mosques talk about pollution’s harm to society and tell listeners about steps to reduce it.
But there are steps the state needs to take, like encouraging the planting of trees and creating green spaces, as well as implementing a city master plan to stop unplanned development around the capital, often a source of pollution because of their lack of services.
Sediqi, of the NEPA, said that ever since the first post-Taliban government was created in 2001, there was no planning on urban infrastructure, which left individuals to build on their own.
“Unfortunately, that led to unplanned development,” he said. “So now we have numerous urban problems and challenges and organizational challenges, which is causing the environmental pollution.”