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.
 


Top Kazakh family wins court ruling on London mansions

Updated 43 sec ago

Top Kazakh family wins court ruling on London mansions

  • Evidence that Dariga Nazarbayeva and Nurali Aliyev had founded the companies that owned the properties and provided the funds to purchase them
  • Properties located across London, including one on a wealthy street known as Billionaires’ Row and another which campaign group Transparency International says is worth £31m

LONDON: The daughter and grandson of a former Kazakhstan president won a British court ruling Wednesday over plans to seize three multimillion-pound London properties from the family.
The UK’s National Crime Agency had obtained unexplained wealth orders (UWOs) against the luxury properties, said to be worth a total of around £80 million ($96 million), last May.
UWOs, brought into force in January 2018 under so-called “McMafia laws” — named after a BBC organized crime drama — allows the NCA to seize assets if they believe the owner is a “politically exposed person” and unable to explain the source of their wealth.
The NCA said the properties’ purchases were funded by Rakhat Aliyev, a former senior member of the Kazakh government who died in an Austrian prison in 2015 while awaiting trial on two charges of murder.
However, in a High Court judgment, given remotely, judge Beverley Lang overturned all three UWOs, ruling that “the NCA’s assumption” that Aliyev was the source of the funds to purchase the three properties was “unreliable.”
The ultimate beneficial owners of the three properties — Aliyev’s ex-wife, Dariga Nazarbayeva, the current chairwoman of the senate in Kazakhstan and daughter of former Kazakh president Nursultan Nazarbayev, and her son, Nurali Aliyev — had applied to the High Court to discharge the UWOs.
The judge added that there was “cogent evidence” that Nazarbayeva and Nurali Aliyev had founded the companies that owned the properties and provided the funds to purchase them.
Following the ruling, Nurali Aliyev said the NCA had carried out a “flawed investigation.”
“The NCA deliberately ignored the relevant information I voluntarily provided and pursued a groundless and vicious legal action, including making shocking slurs against me, my family and my country,” he said in a statement.
“Today we have been vindicated.”
The properties were located across London, including one on a wealthy street known as “Billionaires’ Row” and another which campaign group Transparency International says is worth £31 million.
A Nazarbayeva representative said the court decision left her “entirely vindicated” and showed she had “not been involved in any wrongdoing.”
“Dr. Nazarbayeva is also deeply disappointed that the NCA thought it appropriate to use the cloak of these court proceedings to make damaging attacks on her reputation and her country, unfairly insulting Dr. Nazarbayeva and her 18 million compatriots.”