Seoul urges China, Russia to prevent North Korean nuclear test

Seoul urges China, Russia to prevent North Korean nuclear test
Unification Minster Kwon Youngse said Pyongyang is exploiting a favorable environment to push ahead with weapons development and overturn the regional status quo. (AP)
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Updated 27 June 2022

Seoul urges China, Russia to prevent North Korean nuclear test

Seoul urges China, Russia to prevent North Korean nuclear test
  • Experts say North Korea could be planning to deploy battlefield nuclear weapons along its tense border with South Korea

SEOUL: A top South Korean official said Monday that North Korea is increasingly targeting the South with its nuclear arms program, and urged China and Russia to persuade the North not to conduct a widely expected nuclear test.
Unification Minster Kwon Youngse’s comments came after North Korean leader Kim Jong Un re-emphasized his nuclear ambitions in a key military meeting last week and approved unspecified new operational duties for front-line army units.
Experts say North Korea could be planning to deploy battlefield nuclear weapons along its tense border with South Korea. During a prolonged stalemate in nuclear diplomacy, North Korea has spent much of the past three years expanding its arsenal of short-range solid-fuel missiles that are potentially capable of evading missile defenses and striking targets throughout South Korea, including US bases there.
US and South Korean officials say that North Korea has all but finished preparations for its first nuclear test since September 2017, when it claimed to have detonated a thermonuclear warhead designed for intercontinental ballistic missiles. North Korea may use its next nuclear test to claim that it has acquired the ability to build small nuclear warheads that can be placed on short-range missiles or other new weapons systems it has demonstrated in recent months, analysts say.
Kwon, who oversees South Korea’s relations with North Korea, said at a news conference that the North is exploiting a favorable environment to push ahead with weapons development and overturn the regional status quo as the US-led West remains distracted over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. He said North Korea’s nuclear ambitions pose a “very serious and fundamental threat” to South Korea and that Seoul is preparing stern countermeasures in response to a possible North Korean nuclear test. He didn’t elaborate.
“North Korea’s transition in weapons development from long-range ballistic missiles to short-range ballistic missiles, from strategic nuclear weapons to tactical nuclear weapons, is obviously targeted toward South Korea,” Kwon said.
“It seems clear that North Korea is simultaneously pursuing an ability to attack the United States and to attack South Korea,” he said.
Kwon said North Korea could go ahead with a nuclear test at “any time.”
While the US government has vowed to pursue additional sanctions against North Korea if it conducts another nuclear test, the possibility of meaningful new punitive measures remains unclear because Russia’s war in Ukraine has deepened divisions among permanent members of the UN Security Council. China and Russia have vetoed US-sponsored proposals that would have increased sanctions on North Korea over some of its recent ballistic missile tests.
Kwon, who served as South Korea’s ambassador to China from 2013 to 2015, expressed hope that Beijing and Moscow will react differently to a North Korean nuclear test since both have maintained public support for a denuclearized Korean Peninsula.
“If North Korea goes ahead with a nuclear test at a time when the global security situation is as instable as it is now, the country will face enormous criticism from international society, and the response will be more than just words,” Kwon said.
North Korea has conducted more ballistic tests in the first half of 2022 than it has in any previous entire year, firing around 30 missiles, including its first tests of ICBMs in nearly five years. Kim has punctuated the tests with repeated comments that North Korea would use nuclear weapons proactively if threatened or provoked, which experts say is an escalation in its nuclear doctrine.
The US government has reaffirmed its commitment to defending allies South Korea and Japan with its full range of military capabilities, including nuclear, but there are concerns in Seoul that North Korea’s ICBMs could make Washington hesitant in the event of another war on the Korean Peninsula.
Experts say North Korea’s unusually heavy testing activity this year underscores Kim’s intent to advance his arsenal as well as pressure the United States into accepting North Korea as a nuclear power, thereby strengthening its position in negotiating economic and security concessions.
Talks have stalled since early 2019 because of disagreements over a relaxation of crippling US-led sanctions against North Korea in exchange for North Korean disarmament steps.


Trial date set for man accused of threatening to kill Queen Elizabeth

Trial date set for man accused of threatening to kill Queen Elizabeth
Updated 11 sec ago

Trial date set for man accused of threatening to kill Queen Elizabeth

Trial date set for man accused of threatening to kill Queen Elizabeth
LONDON: A man accused of making a threat to kill the late Queen Elizabeth after being arrested at her Windsor Castle home on Christmas Day last year will go on trial next year, London’s Old Bailey Court heard on Wednesday.
Jaswant Singh Chail, 20, who has been charged under Britain’s Treason Act, is accused of making a threat to kill the 96-year-old monarch, possessing a loaded crossbow with intent to use it to injure the queen, and possession of an offensive weapon.
Elizabeth, who died last month, was at the castle on the day of the intrusion with her son and now King Charles and other close family members
Chail, who appeared at Wednesday’s hearing via videolink wearing a black hoodie, spoke only to confirm his name and his date of birth.
He was told the trial date was set to March 20 next and would last two to three weeks.
He did not enter a plea, the case was adjourned for further evidence to be obtained and Chail was detained in custody. The next hearing will take place at a date yet to be confirmed in December.

Myanmar junta leader not invited to ASEAN summit: Cambodia

Myanmar junta leader not invited to ASEAN summit: Cambodia
Updated 27 min 6 sec ago

Myanmar junta leader not invited to ASEAN summit: Cambodia

Myanmar junta leader not invited to ASEAN summit: Cambodia
  • ASEAN has led diplomatic efforts to resolve the turmoil that has gripped Myanmar since the military seized power last year

PHNOM PENH: Myanmar’s junta leader has not been invited to a regional summit next month, host Cambodia said Wednesday, in a fresh diplomatic snub for the isolated military regime.
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has led diplomatic efforts to resolve the turmoil that has gripped Myanmar since the military seized power last year.
But there has been little progress on a “five-point consensus” agreed with the junta, and its leader and ministers have been shut out of recent meetings of the 10-member regional bloc.
Linking the invitation to “progress in the implementation of the Five-Point Consensus,” a Cambodian foreign ministry spokesman said the junta had been invited to “nominate a non-political representative for the upcoming ASEAN Summits.”
This means junta chief Min Aung Hlaing would not be allowed to attend, just as his top diplomat was barred from foreign ministers’ gatherings in Phnom Penh in February and August.
The five-point plan, agreed in April last year, calls for an immediate end to violence and dialogue between the military and the anti-coup movement.
There is growing dissatisfaction within ASEAN — sometimes criticized as a toothless talking shop — at the Myanmar generals’ stonewalling.
The junta’s execution of four prisoners in July, in defiance of widespread international calls for clemency, caused further anger.
August’s meeting of ASEAN foreign ministers ended with a rare condemnation from the bloc for the junta’s actions.
The ministers said they were “deeply disappointed by the limited progress in and lack of commitment of the Naypyidaw authorities to the timely and complete implementation of the five-point consensus.”
ASEAN’s own envoy tasked with brokering peace has admitted the scale of the task, saying “even Superman cannot solve” the crisis.
The regional bloc’s snub comes as Washington attempts to exert more pressure on the junta through the United Nations, following outrage over an air strike that killed 11 schoolchildren last month.
US State Department counsellor Derek Chollet held talks with other governments and with representatives of the self-declared National Unity Government — dominated by ousted civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s party — during the UN General Assembly earlier this month.
Myanmar is planning fresh elections in August next year, but Chollet warned there was “no chance” they could be free and fair.
The junta has justified its power grab pointing to alleged fraud in the 2020 elections, which Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party won easily.
A military crackdown on dissent in the wake of the coup has left more than 2,300 civilians dead, according to a local monitoring group.
The junta, meanwhile, says the uprising against its rule has left almost 3,900 of its supporters dead.


IAEA head Rafael Grossi may visit Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant again

IAEA head Rafael Grossi may visit Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant again
Updated 05 October 2022

IAEA head Rafael Grossi may visit Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant again

IAEA head Rafael Grossi may visit Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant again
  • Rafael Grossi would continue discussing the creation of a ‘safety zone’ around the facility

MOSCOW: International Atomic Energy Agency head Rafael Grossi said on Wednesday that he may visit Ukraine’s Russian-controlled Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant again, Russian state-owned news agency TASS reported.
TASS reported Grossi, who headed an IAEA delegation to the plant last month, as saying that he would continue discussing the creation of a “safety zone” around the facility.


Ethiopian government accepts African Union invitation to peace talks

Ethiopian government accepts African Union invitation to peace talks
Updated 05 October 2022

Ethiopian government accepts African Union invitation to peace talks

Ethiopian government accepts African Union invitation to peace talks
  • Senior official: African Union invitation consistent with the ‘need to have talks without preconditions’

NAIROBI: The Ethiopian government on Wednesday accepted an invitation by the African Union to hold peace talks in South Africa this weekend with rival Tigray forces, the national security adviser said.
Redwan Hussein, the national security adviser to Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, said on Twitter that the AU invitation was consistent with the “need to have talks without preconditions.”


Indonesian president Joko Widodo to order stadium audit to find ‘root’ of disaster

Indonesian president Joko Widodo to order stadium audit to find ‘root’ of disaster
Updated 05 October 2022

Indonesian president Joko Widodo to order stadium audit to find ‘root’ of disaster

Indonesian president Joko Widodo to order stadium audit to find ‘root’ of disaster
  • Joko Widodo: ‘I will order the public works minister to audit all stadiums used for the (football) league’

MALANG, Indonesia: Indonesian President Joko Widodo said Wednesday that he would order an audit of all football stadiums, vowing to find the “root” cause of one of the deadliest disasters in the sport’s history.
“I want to know the root of the problem that caused this tragedy so that we can get the best solution. I will order the public works minister to audit all stadiums used for the (football) league,” he said outside a hospital during a visit to the city where a stadium stampede killed at least 131 people Saturday.
Widodo said that football’s world governing body FIFA may help address management of the sport in Indonesia, having discussed the issue with FIFA President Gianni Infantino after the deadly stampede.