North Korea test-fires missiles again after joint drills end

President Donald Trump downplayed the latest launch saying that Kim Jong Un had been ‘pretty straight’ with him, adding that short range missiles were never restricted. (File/AFP)
Updated 24 August 2019

North Korea test-fires missiles again after joint drills end

  • Donald Trump appeared to defend Kim, saying ‘he likes testing missiles’
  • Trump says short range missiles were never restricted

SEOUL, South Korea: North Korea fired two suspected short-range ballistic missiles off its east coast on Saturday in the seventh weapons launch in a month, South Korea’s military said, a day after it vowed to remain America’s biggest threat in protest of US-led sanctions on the country.
The North had been expected to halt weapons tests because the 10-day US-South Korean drills, which it views as an invasion rehearsal, ended earlier this week.
President Donald Trump downplayed the latest launch.
“Kim Jong Un has been, you know, pretty straight with me. ... He likes testing missiles but we never restricted short-range missiles. We’ll see what happens,” Trump told reporters outside the White House late Friday night.
Saturday’s launches were made from northeastern South Hamgyong province, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said. They flew about 380 kilometers (236 miles) at the maximum altitude of 97 kilometers (60 miles), the military said.
The Japanese government said the suspected missiles caused no damage and did not land in its territorial waters.
South Korea’s National Security Council expressed strong concern about the launches and urged North Korea to stop acts that raise military tensions. Council members said South Korea will launch diplomatic efforts to make North Korea return to nuclear talks with the United States, according to the president’s office.
North Korea’s foreign minister said Friday his country will try to remain “America’s biggest threat” if the United States continues to confront it with sanctions. Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho also called US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo a “poisonous plant of American diplomacy” and vowed to “shutter the absurd dream” that sanctions will force a change in Pyongyang.
Ri’s blistering rhetoric and the missile launches may dim the prospect for an early resumption of nuclear negotiations between the countries. The top US envoy on North Korea, Stephen Biegun, said Wednesday that Washington was ready to restart the talks.
North Korea’s anger over the US-South Korean military drills had focused on South Korea, not the United States. Starting in late July, North Korea has tested a slew of weapons, mostly short-range missiles and rockets. Some of the weapons revealed developments of a new rocket artillery system and two different short-range mobile ballistic missiles that experts say would expand its ability to strike targets throughout South Korea.
Many analysts said the tests were aimed at applying more pressure on the United States ahead of a possible resumption of nuclear talks.
US-led diplomacy to rid North Korea of nuclear weapons collapsed after Trump rejected North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s demand for widespread sanctions relief in return for partial disarmament steps during their second summit in Vietnam in February. Trump and Kim met again at the Korean border in late June and agreed to resume the talks.
Saturday’s launches came two days after South Korea said it would terminate a military intelligence-sharing deal with Japan amid bitter trade and history disputes between the US allies.
The decision drew criticism that it would end up weakening South Korea’s defense and reconnaissance capability at a time when North Korea’s nuclear threats remain intact. The United States, which wants stronger trilateral security cooperation with Seoul and Tokyo, expressed disappointment at the South Korean decision.
South Korea’s military said it will share information on the latest North Korean launches with Japan at Tokyo’s request as the intelligence deal is valid until November.
“We want to continue the cooperation among Japan, the US and South Korea,” Japanese Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya told reporters. “North Korea’s repeated launches of projectiles and missiles show North Korea is working on developing such technology.”


EU leaders split over $1.2 trillion post-Brexit budget

Updated 18 October 2019

EU leaders split over $1.2 trillion post-Brexit budget

  • Under a proposal prepared by Finland, the next long-term budget should have a financial capacity between 1.03% and 1.08% of the EU GNI, a measure of output
  • After the meeting, some EU leaders and officials described the talks as difficult

BRUSSELS: European Union leaders discussed a new budget plan on Friday that could allow the EU to spend up to 1.1 trillion euros ($1.2 trillion) in the 2021-2027 period, but deep divisions among governments may block a deal for months.
Under a proposal prepared by Finland, which holds the EU’s rotating presidency, the next long-term budget should have a financial capacity between 1.03% and 1.08% of the EU gross national income (GNI), a measure of output.
That would allow the EU to spend 1 trillion to 1.1 trillion euros for seven years in its first budget after the departure of Britain, one of the top contributors to EU coffers.
After the meeting, some EU leaders and officials described the talks as difficult.
The Finnish document, seen by Reuters, is less ambitious than proposals put forward by the European Commission, the EU executive, which is seeking a budget worth 1.1% of GNI. The EU parliament called for an even bigger budget, 1.3% of GNI.
But the Finnish proposal moves beyond a 1% cap set by Germany, the largest EU economy. And it has displeased most of the 27 EU states, EU officials said, suggesting long negotiations before a compromise can be reached.
Talks on budgets are usually among the most divisive in an EU increasingly prone to quarrels. The member states are deeply split over economic policies, financial reforms and how to handle migrants.

DEEP SPLIT
The Finnish proposal, which cuts spending on farmers and poorer regions, has managed to unite the divided EU leaders in their criticism.
“The text has caused nearly unanimous dissatisfaction,” a diplomat involved in the talks said.
New, expensive policies, such as protecting its borders and increasing social security, have been enacted, but states are reluctant to pay more.
Germany and other Nordic supporters of a smaller budget argue that because of Brexit, they would pay more into the EU even with a 1% cap because they would need to compensate for the loss of Britain.
Eastern and southern states, who benefit from EU funds on poorer regions and agriculture, want a bigger budget and are not happy with Finland’s proposed cuts on these sectors.
Under the proposal, subsidies to poor regions would drop to less than 30% of the budget from 34% now. Aid to farmers would fall to slightly more than 30% from over 35% of the total.
To complicate matters, the new budget should also include rules that would suspend funding to member states with rule-of-law shortcomings, such as limits on media freedom or curbs on the independence of judges.
This is irking states like Poland and Hungary, which Brussels has accused of breaches in the rule of law after judiciary and media reforms adopted by their right-wing governments.
Friday’s meeting was not supposed to find a compromise, but divisions are so deep that many officials fear a deal may not be reached by a self-imposed December deadline. A later deal would delay the launch of spending programs.
The Finns remained confident, however, and insist their suggested spending range would eventually be backed by EU states. “The fact that almost everybody is against our text shows we have put forward a fair proposal,” one diplomat said.