North Korea test fires missiles; Seoul slams it as inappropriate

This picture taken on March 20, 2020 and released from North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on March 21 shows an artillery fire competition between large combined units of the Korean People's Army (KPA) on the western front. (AFP)
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Updated 21 March 2020

North Korea test fires missiles; Seoul slams it as inappropriate

  • Pyongyang is under multiple sets of sanctions by the United Nations and the United States over its weapons programs

SEOUL, South Korea: North Korea on Saturday fired two presumed short-range ballistic missiles into the sea, South Korea’s military said, as it continues to expand military capabilities amid deadlocked nuclear negotiations with the Trump administration and a crippling global health crisis.
South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said the projectiles were fired around 6:45 and 6:50 a.m. from an area around the county of Sonchon, western North Korea. They flew 410 kilometers (255 miles) cross-country on an apogee of 50 kilometers (31 miles) before landing in waters off the eastern coast.
South Korea and the US were analyzing the launches. Seoul’s military urged the North to immediately stop its “very inappropriate” military demonstrations when the world is struggling to cope with the coronavirus pandemic.
Japan’s Defense Ministry said the projectiles didn’t reach Japanese territory or its exclusive economic zone.
The North conducted two previous rounds of similar short-range launches and other military exercises this month after leader Kim Jong Un entered the new year vowing to bolster his nuclear deterrent in face of “gangster-like” US sanctions and pressure.
While the North is clearly determined to advance its missile capabilities, Japan’s Defense Minister Taro Kono said Pyongyang’s demonstrations could also be aimed at “bracing the regime together” amid the coronavirus crisis.
It wasn’t immediately clear what North Korea tested. Flight data released by the South Korean and Japanese militaries suggest that the North could have tested one of its new mobile, solid-fuel missile systems it first demonstrated last year.
Military analysts say such weapons, which are designed to overwhelm missile defense systems with their maneuverability and low-altitude flights, potentially strengthen the North’s ability to strike targets in South Korea and Japan, including US bases there.
North Korea in recent months has also demonstrated what it described as a “super large” multiple rocket launcher, which experts say was likely tested earlier this month.
North Korea’s state media earlier reported that Kim supervised an artillery firing competition between army units in the country’s west on Friday.
The KCNA said Kim expressed satisfaction over the exercise that was aimed at evaluating combat readiness. The report didn’t mention any direct comments by Kim toward Washington or Seoul.
Pyongyang’s official Korean Central News Agency also said on Saturday that the North has decided to hold a session of its rubber-stamp parliament on April 10. It wasn’t immediately clear what would be discussed.
Nuclear talks have stalemated since the collapse of the second summit between Kim and President Donald Trump in early 2019, when the Americans rejected North Korean demands for major sanctions relief in exchange for a partial surrender of its nuclear capabilities.
Following the breakdown in talks, the North ended a 17-month pause in ballistic activity and conducted at least 13 rounds of weapons launches last year while pressuring Washington and Seoul for concessions. Those weapons also included a developmental mid-range missile that could be launched from submarines.
Some experts say the lull in North Korean launches between November and March could have been caused by the coronavirus pandemic, which started in mainland China in December.
Although Kim has vowed to build up his nuclear arsenal and achieve a “frontal breakthrough” against sanctions while urging his nation to stay resilient in a struggle for economic “self-reliance,” some experts say North Korea’s self-imposed lockdown amid the coronavirus crisis could potentially hamper his ability to mobilize people for labor.
North Korea has not publicly confirmed a single case of the COVID-19 illness, but state media have described anti-virus efforts as a matter of “national existence.” Experts say an epidemic in North Korea could have dire consequences due to the country’s poor health system and shortage of medical supplies.
The country has banned foreign tourists, shut down nearly all cross-border traffic with China, intensified screening at entry points and mobilized health workers to monitor residents and isolate those with symptoms.
 


UK-born Daesh recruit can return from Syria to challenge citizenship removal

Updated 42 min 56 sec ago

UK-born Daesh recruit can return from Syria to challenge citizenship removal

  • Shamima Begum left London in 2015 when she was 15 and went to Syria with two schoolfriends
  • Britain stripped her of citizenship on security grounds

LONDON: A British-born woman who went to Syria as a schoolgirl to join Daesh can return to Britain to challenge the government’s removal of her citizenship, judges ruled on Thursday.
Shamima Begum, who was born to Bangladeshi parents, left London in 2015 when she was 15 and went to Syria via Turkey with two schoolfriends. In Syria, she married a Daesh fighter and lived in the capital of the self-declared caliphate.
She was discovered in 2019 in a detention camp in Syria, where three of her children died. Britain stripped her of citizenship on security grounds as its domestic intelligence agency considered her a security threat.
But three judges from England’s Court of Appeal unanimously agreed Begum could have a fair and effective appeal of that decision only if she were permitted to come back to Britain.
“Fairness and justice must, on the facts of this case, outweigh the national security concerns,” judge Julian Flaux wrote in a ruling. “I consider that Ms Begum’s claim for judicial review of the decision of SIAC (Special Immigration Appeals Commission)... succeeds.”
The judge said that if Begum, who is now 20, was considered a security threat, and if there was sufficient evidence, she could be arrested on her return to Britain.
Begum angered many Britons by appearing unrepentant about seeing severed heads and saying a suicide attack that killed 22 people in the English city of Manchester in 2017 was justified.
She had pleaded to be repatriated to rejoin her family in London and said she was not a threat.
Britain’s interior ministry said the court’s decision was “very disappointing” and that it would apply for permission to appeal against it.
“The government’s top priority remains maintaining our national security and keeping the public safe,” an interior ministry spokeswoman said in a statement.