North Korea starts New Year with apparent ballistic missile launch

This file photo distributed July 4, 2017, by the North Korean government shows what was said to be the launch of a Hwasong-14 intercontinental ballistic missile, ICBM, in North Korea's northwest. (AP)
This file photo distributed July 4, 2017, by the North Korean government shows what was said to be the launch of a Hwasong-14 intercontinental ballistic missile, ICBM, in North Korea's northwest. (AP)
Short Url
Updated 05 January 2022

North Korea starts New Year with apparent ballistic missile launch

This file photo distributed July 4, 2017, by the North Korean government shows what was said to be the launch of a Hwasong-14 intercontinental ballistic missile, ICBM, in North Korea's northwest. (AP)
  • The launch came after North Korean leader Kim Jong Un vowed to further boost his military capability at a ruling party conference last week

SEOUL/TOKYO: North Korea fired a suspected ballistic missile off its east coast on Wednesday, underscoring leader Kim Jong Un’s New Year vow https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/nkoreas-kim-talks-food-not-nu... to bolster the military to counter an unstable international situation.
Japan’s coast guard, which first reported the launch, said it could be a ballistic missile but did not provide further details.
“Since last year, North Korea has repeatedly launched missiles, which is very regrettable,” Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida told reporters.
South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff also reported that nuclear-armed North Korea fired a presumed ballistic missile from an inland location toward the sea.
“Our military is maintaining readiness posture in preparation for a possible additional launch while closely monitoring the situation in close cooperation with the United States,” the JCS said in a statement. Recent North Korean missile tests have often featured double or multiple launches.
United Nations Security Council resolutions ban all ballistic missile and nuclear tests by North Korea, and have imposed sanctions over the programs.
In state media summaries of a speech Kim gave ahead of the New Year, the North Korean leader did not specifically mention missiles or nuclear weapons, but said that national defense must be bolstered.
For several weeks North Korean troops have been conducting winter exercises, South Korean military officials have said.
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, North Korea has become even more isolated, imposing border lockdowns that have slowed trade to a trickle and choking off any in-person diplomatic engagements.
It has also stuck to a self-imposed moratorium on testing its largest intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) or nuclear weapons. The last tests of ICBMs or a nuclear bomb were in 2017, before Kim launched a diplomatic overture to the United States and South Korea that has since stalled.
But Pyongyang has continued test firing new, short-range ballistic missiles, including one launched from a submarine https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/nkorea-says-it-conducted-succ... in October, arguing it should not be penalized for developing weapons that other countries also wield.
“While the readout from North Korea’s recent plenary meetings may have prioritized rural development https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/nkoreas-kim-talks-food-not-nu... for the coming year, it doesn’t mean the country will halt its ballistic missile tests,” said Michelle Kae, deputy director of 38 North, a North Korea monitoring program at Washington’s Stimson Center.

MISSILE DEVELOPMENT
Just hours after the North Korean launch, Japan announced its foreign and defense ministers will hold talks with their US counterparts in a “two-plus-two” format on Friday to discuss security issues.
The White House, Pentagon and US State Department did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Wednesday’s launch. At a regular news briefing on Monday, State Department spokesperson Ned Price reiterated the US desire for dialogue with North Korea. He repeated that Washington had no hostile intent toward North Korea and was prepared to meet without preconditions.
Price declined to comment on Kim’s slimmer appearance in a photo published recently in North Korean state media and on speculation about his health, saying “we don’t want to add to that speculation.”
For the first time in his 10 years of rule, Kim did not publicly appear at any missile tests or military drills last year, according to an analysis https://www.nknews.org/2021/12/kim-jong-un-skips-full-year-of-military-d... by NK News, a Seoul-based website that monitors North Korea. Health issues or efforts to minimize attention may have played a role in his official absences, the site said.
Kim’s latest speech made no mention of efforts by South Korea to restart stalled negotiations or offers by the United States to talk, casting doubts on South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s push https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/skoreas-moon-promises-final-p... to achieve a breakthrough before his term ends in May.
North Korea continues to advance its nuclear weapons and missile programs despite United Nations Security Council sanctions and high-level diplomatic efforts, the US government’s Congressional Research Service concluded in a report last month.
“Recent ballistic missile tests and military parades suggest that North Korea is continuing to build a nuclear warfighting capability designed to evade regional ballistic missile defenses,” the report said.


Putin's aide warns US against pressing for war crimes court

Updated 11 sec ago

Putin's aide warns US against pressing for war crimes court

Putin's aide warns US against pressing for war crimes court
MOSCOW: A top Kremlin official warned the U.S. Wednesday that it could face the “wrath of God” if it pursues efforts to help establish an international tribunal to investigate Russia's action in Ukraine.
The Russian lower house speaker urged Washington to remember that Alaska used to belong to Russia.
Dmitry Medvedev, the deputy secretary of Russia’s Security Council chaired by President Vladimir Putin, denounced the U.S. for what he described as its efforts to “spread chaos and destruction across the world for the sake of 'true democracy.'"
“The entire U.S. history since the times of subjugation of the native Indian population represents a series of bloody wars,” Medvedev charged in a long diatribe on his Telegram channel, pointing out the U.S. nuclear bombing of Japan during World War II and the war in Vietnam.
“Was anyone held responsible for those crimes? What tribunal condemned the sea of blood spilled by the U.S. there?”
Responding to the U.S.-backed calls for an international tribunal to prosecute the perceived war crimes by Russia in Ukraine, Medvedev rejected it as an attempt by the U.S. “to judge others while staying immune from any trial.”
“It won't work with Russia, they know it well,” Medvedev concluded. “That's why the rotten dogs of war are barking in such a disgusting way."
"The U.S. and its useless stooges should remember the words of the Bible: Do not judge and you will not be judged ... so that the great day of His wrath doesn't come to their home one day,” Medvedev said, referring to the Apocalypse.
He noted that the “idea to punish a country with the largest nuclear potential is absurd and potentially creates the threat to mankind's existence.”
The warning follows a series of tough statements from Putin and his officials that pointed at the Russian nuclear arsenals to warn the West against interfering with Moscow's action in Ukraine.
Medvedev, who served as Russia’s president in 2008-2012 when Putin shifted into the prime minister’s post due to term limits, was widely seen by the West as more liberal compared with his mentor. In recent months, however, he has remarks that have sounded much tougher than those issued by the most hawkish Kremlin officials.
In another blustery warning to the U.S., Vyacheslav Volodin, a longtime Putin aide who serves as the speaker of the lower house of parliament, warned Wednesday that Washington should remember that Alaska was part of Russia when it freezes Russian assets. Russia colonized Alaska and established several settlements there until the U.S. purchased it from Russia in 1867 for $7.2 million.
“When they attempt to appropriate our assets abroad, they should be aware that we also have something to claim back,” Volodin said during a meeting with lawmakers.

Germany eases path to permanent residency for migrants

Germany eases path to permanent residency for migrants
Updated 06 July 2022

Germany eases path to permanent residency for migrants

Germany eases path to permanent residency for migrants
  • The new regulation applies to about 136,000 people who have lived in Germany for at least five years
  • Those who qualify can first apply for a one-year residency status and subsequently apply for permanent residency

BERLIN: Tens of thousands of migrants, who have been living in Germany for years without long-lasting permission to remain in the country, will be eligible for permanent residency after the government approved a new migration bill Wednesday.
The new regulation, endorsed by the Cabinet, applies to about 136,000 people who have lived in Germany for at least five years by Jan. 1, 2022.
Those who qualify can first apply for a one-year residency status and subsequently apply for permanent residency in Germany.
They must earn enough money to make an independent living in the country, speak German and prove that they are “well integrated” into society.
Those under the age of 27 can already apply for a path to permanent residency in Germany after having lived in the country for three years.
“We want people who are well integrated to have good opportunities in our country," Interior Minister Nancy Faeser told reporters. “In this way, we also put an end to bureaucracy and uncertainty for people who have already become part of our society.”
The new migration regulation will also make it easier for asylum-seekers to learn German — so far only those with a realistic chance of receiving asylum in the country were eligible for language classes — with all asylum applicants getting the chance to enroll in classes.
For skilled laborers, such as information technology specialists and others that hold professions that are desperately needed in Germany, the new regulation will allow that they can move to Germany together with their families right away, which wasn’t possible before. Family members don't need to have any language skills before moving to the country.
“We need to attract skilled workers more quickly. We urgently need them in many sectors,” Faeser said. “We want skilled workers to come to Germany very quickly and gain a foothold here.”
The bill will also make it easier to deport criminals, includes extending detention pending deportation for certain offenders from three months to a maximum of six months. The extension is intended to give authorities more time to prepare for deportation, such as clarifying identity, obtaining missing papers and organizing a seat on an airplane, German news agency dpa reported.
“In the future, it will be easier to revoke the right of residence of criminals,” Faeser said. "For offenders, we will make it easier to order detention pending deportation, thus preventing offenders who are obliged to leave the country from going into hiding before being deported.”


In Pyrenees, Spain police hunt French double murder suspect

In Pyrenees, Spain police hunt French double murder suspect
Updated 06 July 2022

In Pyrenees, Spain police hunt French double murder suspect

In Pyrenees, Spain police hunt French double murder suspect
  • The pair were shot dead on Monday afternoon in a village near the town of Tarbes
  • Since then police had been carrying out "a full search" of the area around Jaca

MADRID: Spanish police were hunting the central Pyrenees on Wednesday for a man suspected of killing two teachers in a French village across the border, a spokeswoman said.
The pair were shot dead on Monday afternoon in a village near the town of Tarbes, where they both worked, with the suspected gunman fleeing on a motorcycle, a source close to the French inquiry told AFP.
His motorcycle was found abandoned on the Spanish side of the border in the northeastern Aragon region, prompting Spanish police to pick up the search on Tuesday, a source close to the inquiry told AFP.
Since then police had been carrying out “a full search” of the area around Jaca, a town that lies about 200 kilometers (124 miles) southwest of Tarbes, a police spokeswoman told AFP.
The search continued through the night and “is ongoing,” she said, without giving further details.
Neither French nor Spanish police gave any details about the suspect’s identity.
The teachers were shot dead in Pouyastruc village on Monday, prosecutors said.
The first victim, a 32-year-old woman, was found lying in the street by neighbors, while other, a man of 55, was found dead in his home, just meters away, the prosecutor said.
The suspect, who is in his 30s, was the woman’s former partner, a source close to the inquiry said.
They had two children together and were in the process of separating, suggesting the murders may have been a crime of passion.
The woman, identified as Aurelie Pardon, taught French at the school in Tarbes while the man, Gabriel Fourmigue, was a sports teacher at the same establishment who was known for representing France in bobsleigh at international level in the early 1990s.


British PM Johnson: My job is to ‘keep going’

British PM Johnson: My job is to ‘keep going’
Johnson made the remarks in parliament in response to a question from a lawmaker in his own party. (AFP)
Updated 06 July 2022

British PM Johnson: My job is to ‘keep going’

British PM Johnson: My job is to ‘keep going’
  • Johnson made the remarks in parliament in response to a question from a lawmaker in his own party

LONDON: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson defied growing calls for him to step down on Wednesday, telling lawmakers he would “keep going” following a wave of resignations from his government including those of two key ministers.
Johnson made the remarks in parliament in response to a question from a lawmaker in his own party who asked if the prime minister thought there were any circumstances in which he should resign.
“Clearly, if there were circumstances in which I felt it was impossible for the government to go on and discharge the mandate that we’ve been given, or if I felt, for instance, that we were being frustrated in our desire to support the Ukrainian people ... then I would,” Johnson told parliament.
“But frankly, the job of a prime minister in difficult circumstances when you’ve been handed a colossal mandate is to keep going,” Johnson said. “And that’s what I’m going to do.”


Taliban leader: Afghan soil will not be used to launch attacks

Taliban leader: Afghan soil will not be used to launch attacks
Updated 06 July 2022

Taliban leader: Afghan soil will not be used to launch attacks

Taliban leader: Afghan soil will not be used to launch attacks
  • Since their takeover last year, they have repeatedly said Afghanistan would not be used as a launching pad for attacks against other countries

ISLAMABAD: Taliban supreme leader Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada said Wednesday that Afghan soil will not be used to launch attacks against other countries, and he asked the international community to not interfere in Afghanistan’s internal affairs.
The Taliban say they are adhering to an agreement they signed with the United States in 2020 — before retaking power — in which they promised to fight terrorists. Since their takeover last year, they have repeatedly said Afghanistan would not be used as a launching pad for attacks against other countries.
“We assure our neighbors, the region and the world that we will not allow anyone to use our territory to threaten the security of other countries. We also want other countries not to interfere in our internal affairs,” Akhundzada said in an address ahead of the Eid Al-Adha holiday.
The Taliban were ousted by a US-led coalition in 2001 for harboring Osama bin Laden, mastermind of the 9/11 attacks in the United States. The religious group captured power again in mid-August, during the chaotic last weeks of the US and NATO withdrawal from Afghanistan.
The international community has been wary of any recognition or cooperation with the Taliban, especially after they restricted the rights of women and minorities — measures that harken back to their harsh rule when they were last in power in the late 1990s.
Akhundzada, the spiritual chief of the Taliban, has remained a reclusive figure. He rose to leader of the Islamist movement in a swift transition of power after a 2016 US drone strike killed his predecessor, Mullah Akhtar Mansour.
After taking over, Akhundzada secured the backing of Al-Qaeda chief Ayman Al-Zawahiri, who showered the cleric with praise, calling him “the emir of the faithful.” The endorsement by bin Laden’s heir helped seal his jihadist credentials with the Taliban’s longtime allies.
However, in his Eid message Akhundzada said: “Within the framework of mutual interaction and commitment, we want good, diplomatic, economic and political relations with the world, including the United States, and we consider this in the interest of all sides.”
A three-day assembly of Islamic clerics and tribal elders in the Afghan capital that concluded Saturday included pledges of support for the Taliban and calls on the international community to recognize the country’s Taliban-led government.
In a surprise development, the reclusive Akhundzada came to Kabul from his base in southern Kandahar province and addressed the gathering Friday. It was believed to be his first visit to the Afghan capital since the Taliban seized power.
In an hour-long speech at the assembly carried by state radio, Akhundzada called the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan a “victory for the Muslim world.”
A powerful earthquake in June killed more than 1,000 people in eastern Afghanistan, igniting yet another crisis for the economically struggling country. Overstretched aid groups already keeping millions of Afghans alive rushed supplies to the quake victims, but most countries responded tepidly to Taliban calls for international help.
The international cut-off of Afghanistan’s financing has deepened the country’s economic collapse and fueled its humanitarian crises.