South Korea summons Russian ambassador as tensions rise with North Korea

South Korea summons Russian ambassador as tensions rise with North Korea
Russia and North Korea signed a military pact during Russian President Putin’s visit. (REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji)
Short Url
Updated 21 June 2024
Follow

South Korea summons Russian ambassador as tensions rise with North Korea

South Korea summons Russian ambassador as tensions rise with North Korea
  • Earlier Friday, the powerful sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un issued a vague threat of retaliation after South Korean activists flew balloons carrying anti-Pyongyang propaganda leaflets across the border
  • South Korean Vice Foreign Minister Kim Hong Kyun summoned Russian Ambassador Georgy Zinoviev to protest the deal between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong Un

SEOUL, South Korea: South Korea summoned the Russian ambassador to protest the country’s new defense pact with North Korea on Friday, as border tensions continued to rise with vague threats and brief, seemingly accidental incursions by North Korean troops.
Earlier Friday, the powerful sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un issued a vague threat of retaliation after South Korean activists flew balloons carrying anti-Pyongyang propaganda leaflets across the border, and South Korea’s military said it had fired warning shots the previous day to repel North Korean soldiers who briefly crossed the rivals’ land border for the third time this month.
That came two days after Moscow and Pyongyang reached a pact vowing mutual defense assistance if either is attacked, and a day after Seoul responded by saying it would consider providing arms to Ukraine to fight Russia’s invasion.
South Korean Vice Foreign Minister Kim Hong Kyun summoned Russian Ambassador Georgy Zinoviev to protest the deal between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong Un and called for Moscow to immediately halt its alleged military cooperation with Pyongyang.
Kim, the South Korean diplomat, stressed that any cooperation that directly or indirectly helps the North build up its military capabilities would violate UN Security Council resolutions and pose a threat to the South’s security, and warned of consequences for Seoul’s relations with Moscow.
Zinoviev replied that he would convey Seoul’s concerns to his superiors in Moscow, the ministry said.
Leafletting campaigns by South Korean civilian activists in recent weeks have prompted a resumption of Cold War-style psychological warfare along the inter-Korean border.
The South Korean civilian activists, led by North Korean defector Park Sang-hak, said it sent 20 balloons carrying 300,000 propaganda leaflets, 5,000 USB sticks with South Korean pop songs and TV dramas, and 3,000 US dollar bills from the South Korean border town of Paju on Thursday night.
Pyongyang resents such material and fears it could demoralize front-line troops and residents and eventually weaken Kim Jong Un’s grip on power, analysts say.
In a statement carried by North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency, Kim Yo Jong, one of her brother’s top foreign policy officials, called the activists “defector scum” and issued what appeared to be a threat of retaliation.
“When you do something you were clearly warned not to do, it’s only natural that you will find yourself dealing with something you didn’t have to,” she said, without specifying what the North would do.
After previous leafletting by South Korean activists, North Korea launched more than 1,000 balloons that dropped tons of trash in South Korea, smashing roof tiles and windows and causing other property damage. Kim Yo Jong previously hinted that balloons could become the North’s standard response to leafletting, saying that the North would respond by “scattering dozens of times more rubbish than is being scattered on us.”
In response, South Korea resumed anti-North Korea propaganda broadcasts with military loudspeakers installed at the border for the first time in years, to which Kim Yo Jong, in another state media statement, warned that Seoul was “creating a prelude to a very dangerous situation.”
Tensions between the Koreas are at their highest in years as Kim Jong Un accelerates his nuclear weapons and missile development and attempts to strengthen his regional footing by aligning with Russian President Vladimir Putin in a standoff against the US-led West.
South Korea, a growing arms exporter with a well-equipped military backed by the United States, says it is considering upping support for Ukraine in response. Seoul has already provided humanitarian aid and other support while joining US-led economic sanctions against Moscow. But it has not directly provided arms, citing a long-standing policy of not supplying weapons to countries actively engaged in conflict.
Putin told reporters in Hanoi, Vietnam, on Thursday that supplying weapons to Ukraine would be “a very big mistake,” and said South Korea “shouldn’t worry” about the agreement if it isn’t planning aggression against Pyongyang.
South Korea’s Foreign Ministry said Minister Cho Tae-yul on Friday held separate phone calls with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Japanese Foreign Minister Yoko Kamikawa to discuss the new pact. The diplomats agreed that the agreement poses a serious threat to peace and stability in the region and vowed to strengthen trilateral coordination to deal with the challenges posed by the alignment between Moscow and Pyongyang, Cho’s ministry said in a statement.
North Korea is extremely sensitive to criticism of Kim’s authoritarian rule and efforts to reach its people with foreign news and other media.
In 2015, when South Korea restarted loudspeaker broadcasts for the first time in 11 years, North Korea fired artillery rounds across the border, prompting South Korea to return fire, according to South Korean officials. No casualties were reported.
South Korea’s military said there are signs that North Korea was installing its own speakers at the border, although they weren’t yet working.
In the latest border incident, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said several North Korean soldiers engaged in unspecified construction work briefly crossed the military demarcation line that divides the two countries at around 11 a.m. Thursday.
The South Korean military broadcast a warning and fired warning shots, after which the North Korean soldiers retreated. The joint chiefs didn’t immediately release more details, including why it was releasing the information a day late.
South Korea’s military says believes recent border intrusions were not intentional, as the North Korean soldiers have not returned fire and retreated after the warning shots.
The South’s military has observed the North deploying large numbers of soldiers in frontline areas to build suspected anti-tank barriers, reinforce roads and plant mines in an apparent attempt to fortify their side of the border. Seoul believes the efforts are likely aimed at preventing North Korean civilians and soldiers from escaping to the South.


Pakistan arrests ‘close associate’ of Osama Bin Laden

Security personnel stand guard in Karachi on July 16, 2024. (AFP)
Security personnel stand guard in Karachi on July 16, 2024. (AFP)
Updated 20 July 2024
Follow

Pakistan arrests ‘close associate’ of Osama Bin Laden

Security personnel stand guard in Karachi on July 16, 2024. (AFP)
  • US troops backed by NATO toppled the Taliban’s first regime in 2001 for refusing to hand over Al-Qaeda militants behind the 9/11 attacks

LAHORE, Pakistan: Pakistani authorities said Friday they had arrested a “close associate” of Al-Qaeda founder and mastermind of the 9/11 attacks Osama Bin Laden.
Counter-terrorism officials in the most populous province of Punjab swooped in on Amin Ul-Haq in the city of Gujrat, accusing him of planning “sabotage activities” and seeking to “target important installations” in the country.
“The arrest of Amin Ul-Haq is a major victory in the ongoing efforts to combat terrorism in Pakistan and worldwide,” a statement from Punjab’s Counter Terrorism Department said.
He was listed by the United States, the European Union and the United Nations as an associate of Al-Qaeda and Bin Laden, the head of Punjab’s counter-terrorism department, Usman Akram Gonadal, said in a press conference.
“He resurfaced after the withdrawal of western NATO forces (from Afghanistan). He visited Afghanistan in August and he began his efforts to reorganize Al-Qaeda.”
US troops backed by NATO toppled the Taliban’s first regime in 2001 for refusing to hand over Al-Qaeda militants behind the 9/11 attacks.
Bin Laden was later discovered living in Pakistan and shot dead in a nighttime US operation in 2011.
The Taliban took back power in Afghanistan in 2021, kicking out the foreign-backed government after two decades of fighting US and NATO troops.
Militancy has since surged along Pakistan’s border, with Islamabad accusing Kabul’s rulers of failing to root out groups taking shelter on Afghan soil while preparing assaults on Pakistan.
The Taliban government insists it will not allow foreign militant outfits to operate from Afghanistan, but Islamabad-Kabul relations have soured over the issue.
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has announced a sweeping new military campaign to control the violence.
 

 


Blinken points to wider pledges to support Ukraine in case US backs away under Trump

Blinken points to wider pledges to support Ukraine in case US backs away under Trump
Updated 20 July 2024
Follow

Blinken points to wider pledges to support Ukraine in case US backs away under Trump

Blinken points to wider pledges to support Ukraine in case US backs away under Trump
  • Blinken for the first time directly addressed the possibility that Donald Trump would back away from US commitments to Ukraine if he becomes president again
  • Concerns among Ukraine and its supporters that the country could lose vital US support have increased as Trump’s campaign surges and Biden’s falters

ASPEN, Colorado: Ukraine is on its way to being able to “stand on its own feet” militarily, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Friday, noting that more than 20 other countries have pledged to maintain their own military and financial aid to the country even if the US were to withdraw its support under a different president.
Blinken for the first time directly addressed the possibility that former President Donald Trump could win the November election and back away from commitments to Ukraine. The US, under President Joe Biden, has been the most important supporter of Ukraine’s more than two-year battle against invading Russian forces.
Trump’s public comments have varied between criticizing US backing for Ukraine’s defense and supporting it, while his running mate, Sen. JD Vance, has been a leader of Republican efforts to block what have been billions in US military and financial assistance to Ukraine since Russia invaded in 2022.
Concerns among Ukraine and its supporters that the country could lose vital US support have increased as Trump’s campaign surges and Biden’s falters.
Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky spoke on the phone Friday.
“I noted the vital bipartisan and bicameral American support for protecting our nation’s freedom and independence,” Zelensky wrote on X, saying they agreed “to discuss at a personal meeting what steps can make peace fair and truly lasting.”
Trump said on his social media platform that he appreciated Zelensky’s outreach and promised to “end the war that has cost so many lives and devastated countless innocent families.”
Blinken said Friday that any new administration would have to take into account strong bipartisan backing in Congress for Ukraine in the interests of countering Russian President Vladimir Putin’s attempts to expand Moscow’s territory and influence.
“Every administration has an opportunity, of course, to set its own policy. We can’t lock in the future,” Blinken said, speaking to an audience of US policymakers and others at the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado.
But he pointed to the security agreements that the United States and more than 20 other allies — including some NATO partners, Japan and the European Union — signed at a NATO summit in Washington this month.
“Were we to renege on that ... I suppose that’s possible, but happily we’ve got another 20 some-odd countries that are doing the same thing,” Blinken said.
Ukraine itself was on a trajectory to ensure it “stands on its own feet militarily, economically, democratically,” Blinken said.


Trump says he had ‘very good call’ with Ukraine’s Zelensky, pledges to end war

Trump says he had ‘very good call’ with Ukraine’s Zelensky, pledges to end war
Updated 20 July 2024
Follow

Trump says he had ‘very good call’ with Ukraine’s Zelensky, pledges to end war

Trump says he had ‘very good call’ with Ukraine’s Zelensky, pledges to end war
  • “Both sides will be able to come together and negotiate a deal that ends the violence and paves a path forward to prosperity,” Trump said in his Truth Social post
  • In his post on X, Zelensky said he congratulated Trump on becoming the Republican nominee and condemned the assassination attempt on him last week

WASHINGTON: US Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump said in a post on Truth Social that he had a “very good call” on Friday with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and pledged to end the war pitting Kyiv against Moscow through negotiations.
Zelensky also reported his conversation with Trump and expressed thanks for US military assistance. But he made no reference in a post on social media platform X to efforts to end the 28-month-old conflict.
Trump has said he will end the war in Ukraine before he even takes office in January should he win the Nov. 5 election. He has also said that had he been in office when the Kremlin sent troops into Ukraine in February 2022, the war would not have taken place.
In his Truth Social post, Trump said that as president he “will bring peace to the world and end the war that has cost so many lives.”
“Both sides will be able to come together and negotiate a deal that ends the violence and paves a path forward to prosperity,” Trump said.

Though Trump has put forward few tangible policy proposals, he told Reuters in an interview last year that Ukraine might have to cede some territory to reach a peace agreement.
In his post, Zelensky said he congratulated Trump on becoming the Republican nominee and condemned the assassination attempt on him last week.
“I wished him strength and absolute safety in the future,” Zelensky said.
“I noted the vital bipartisan and bicameral American support for protecting our nation’s freedom and independence.”

Ukraine, he said, “will always be grateful to the United States for its help in strengthening our ability to resist Russian terror. Russian attacks on our cities and villages continue every day.”
Zelensky rejects any negotiations with Russia on ending the conflict as long as Russian troops remain in Ukraine.
The Ukrainian president has proposed a peace plan, showcased again at a “world summit” last month to which Russia was not invited, that calls for the withdrawal of Russian troops and the restoration of Ukraine’s 1991 post-Soviet borders.
Russian troops occupy about 20 percent of Ukrainian territory. Moscow’s forces have made incremental gains in the east of the country along the 1,000-km (600-mile) front since capturing the key city of Avdiivka in February.


Biden pushes party unity as he resists calls to step aside, says he’ll return to campaign next week

President Joe Biden speaks at a news conference on the final day of the NATO summit in Washington, July 11, 2024. (AP)
President Joe Biden speaks at a news conference on the final day of the NATO summit in Washington, July 11, 2024. (AP)
Updated 20 July 2024
Follow

Biden pushes party unity as he resists calls to step aside, says he’ll return to campaign next week

President Joe Biden speaks at a news conference on the final day of the NATO summit in Washington, July 11, 2024. (AP)
  • More Democratic members of Congress called for president to drop out Friday

WASHINGTON DC: A growing chorus of Democratic lawmakers called Friday for President Joe Biden to drop his reelection bid, even as the president insisted he’s ready to return to the campaign trail next week to counter what he called a “dark vision” laid out by Republican Donald Trump.
As more Democratic members of Congress called for him to drop out Friday — bringing the total since his disastrous debate against Trump to at least 30 — Biden remained isolated at his beach house in Delaware after being diagnosed with COVID-19. The president, who has insisted he can beat Trump, was huddling with family and relying on a few longtime aides as he resisted efforts to shove him aside.
Biden said Trump’s acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention showcased a “dark vision for the future.” The president, seeking to move the political conversation away from his fate and onto his rival’s agenda, said Friday he was planning to return to the campaign trail next week and insisted he has a path to victory over Trump, despite the worries of some of his party’s most eminent members.
“Together, as a party and as a country, we can and will defeat him at the ballot box,” Biden said. “The stakes are high, and the choice is clear. Together, we will win.”
Earlier in the day, his campaign chair, Jen O’Malley Dillion, acknowledged “slippage” in support for the president but insisted he’s “absolutely” remaining in the race and the campaign sees “multiple paths” to beating Trump.
“We have a lot of work to do to reassure the American people that, yes, he’s old, but he can win,” she told MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” show. She said voters concerned about Biden’s fitness to lead aren’t switching to vote for Trump.
Meanwhile, the Democratic National Committee’s rulemaking arm held a meeting Friday, pressing ahead with plans for a virtual roll call before Aug. 7 to nominate the presidential pick, ahead of the party’s convention later in the month in Chicago.
“President Biden deserves the respect to have important family conversations with members of the caucus and colleagues in the House and Senate and Democratic leadership and not be battling leaks and press statements,” Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware, Biden’s closest friend in Congress and his campaign co-chair, told The Associated Press.
It’s a pivotal few days for the president and his party: Trump has wrapped up an enthusiastic Republican National Convention in Milwaukee on Thursday. And Democrats, racing time, are considering the extraordinary possibility of Biden stepping aside for a new presidential nominee before their own convention.
Among the democrats expressing worries to allies about Biden’s chances were former President Barack Obama and Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi, who has privately told Biden the party could lose the ability to seize control of the House if he doesn’t step aside.
New Mexico Sen. Martin Heinrich called on Biden to exit the race, making him the third Senate Democrat to do so.
“By passing the torch, he would secure his legacy as one of our nation’s greatest leaders and allow us to unite behind a candidate who can best defeat Donald Trump and safeguard the future of our democracy,” said Heinrich, who’s up for reelection.
And Reps. Jared Huffman, Mark Veasey, Chuy Garcia and Mark Pocan, representing a wide swath of the caucus, together called on Biden to step aside.
“We must defeat Donald Trump to save our democracy,” they wrote.
Separately, Rep. Sean Casten of Illinois wrote in an op-ed that with “a heavy heart and much personal reflection” he, too, was calling on Biden to “pass the torch to a new generation.”
Campaign officials said Biden was even more committed to staying in the race. And senior West Wing aides have had no internal discussions or conversations with the president about dropping out.
On Friday, Biden picked up a key endorsement from the political arm of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. CHC BOLD PAC said the Biden administration has shown “unwavering commitment” to Latinos and “the stakes couldn’t be higher” in this election.
But there is also time to reconsider. Biden has been told the campaign is having trouble raising money, and key Democrats see an opportunity as he is away from the campaign for a few days to encourage his exit. Among his Cabinet, some are resigned to the likelihood of him losing in November.
The reporting in this story is based in part on information from almost a dozen people who insisted on anonymity to discuss sensitive private deliberations. The Washington Post first reported on Obama’s involvement.
Biden, 81, tested positive for COVID-19 while traveling in Las Vegas earlier this week and experienced “mild symptoms” including “general malaise” from the infection, the White House said.
White House doctor Kevin O’Connor said Friday that the president still had a dry cough and hoarseness, but that his COVID symptoms had improved.
In Congress, Democratic lawmakers have begun having private conversations about lining up behind Harris as an alternative. One lawmaker said Biden’s own advisers are unable to reach a unanimous recommendation about what he should do. More in Congress are considering joining the others who have called for Biden to drop out. Some prefer an open process for choosing a new presidential nominee.
“It’s clear the issue won’t go away,” said Vermont Sen. Peter Welch, the other Senate Democrat who has publicly said Biden should exit the race. Welch said the current state of party angst — with lawmakers panicking and donors revolting — was “not sustainable.”
However, influential Democrats including Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries are sending signals of concern.
“There is of course work to be done, and that in fact is the case because we are an evenly divided country,” Jeffries said in an interview on WNYC radio Friday.
But he also said, “The ticket that exists right now is the ticket that we can win on. ... It’s his decision to make.”
To be sure, many want Biden to stay in the race. But among Democrats nationwide, nearly two-thirds say Biden should step aside and let his party nominate a different candidate, according to an AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll. That sharply undercuts Biden’s post-debate claim that “average Democrats” are still with him.
Amid the turmoil, a majority of Democrats think Vice President Kamala Harris would make a good president herself.
A poll from the AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found that about 6 in 10 Democrats believe Harris would do a good job in the top slot. About 2 in 10 Democrats don’t believe she would, and another 2 in 10 say they don’t know enough to say.


CrowdStrike: cybersecurity giant behind global outage

CrowdStrike: cybersecurity giant behind global outage
Updated 19 July 2024
Follow

CrowdStrike: cybersecurity giant behind global outage

CrowdStrike: cybersecurity giant behind global outage
  • The company’s share price was down by about 12 percent on Wall Street on Friday

WASHINGTON: CrowdStrike, the cybersecurity company behind a massive global IT outage, is the leader in its sector, known for building software defenses for the cloud computing age and exposing Russian and North Korean threats.
Based in Austin, Texas, the company was founded in 2011 by George Kurtz, Dmitri Alperovitch and Gregg Marston.
Both Kurtz and Alperovitch had extensive backgrounds in cybersecurity, working at companies like McAfee.
Two years after its founding, CrowdStrike launched its signature product, the Falcon platform.
Crucially, the company embraced a “cloud-first” model to reduce big computing needs on customers and provide more effective protection.
In particular, remote computing enables updates to be carried out quickly and regularly, something that failed spectacularly in Friday’s outage when an update proved incompatible with computers running on Microsoft software.
Rather than just focusing on malware and antivirus products, the founders wanted to shift attention to identifying and stopping the attackers themselves and their techniques.
“CrowdStrike is one of the best-known cybersecurity companies around,” said Michael Daniel, who worked as the White House cybersecurity coordinator during the Barack Obama administration.
“It provides typically what we think of as sort of endpoint protection, meaning that it’s actually got software running on a server, or on a particular device, like a laptop or a desktop, and it’s scanning for potential malware connections to bad domain names,” he said.
“It’s looking for behavior that might be unusual — that sort of thing,” said Daniel, who now runs the Cyber Threat Alliance.
A report published this year by CrowdStrike estimates that 70 percent of attacks do not include viruses, but were rather manipulations carried out directly by hackers, who often use stolen or recovered credentials.
The company’s share price was down by about 12 percent on Wall Street on Friday.
CrowdStrike became a publicly traded company in 2019, and in 2023 the group generated sales of $3.05 billion, up 36 percent year-on-year.
Boosted by the wave of so-called generative AI, which requires the development of additional capabilities in the cloud, CrowdStrike raised its annual forecasts in June.
Although its business has been booming, the group is still struggling with profitability.
In 2023, it recorded a net profit of just $89 million, its first annual profit since its creation.
The company’s main competitors are Palo Alto Networks and SentinelOne, both standalone cybersecurity firms.
But cloud computing giants Microsoft, Amazon and Google provide their own cybersecurity software and are also rivals.
CrowdStrike, which is also a cyber intelligence company, made headlines when it helped investigate several high-profile cyberattacks.
Most famously, in 2014, CrowdStrike discovered evidence linking North Korean actors to the hacking of servers at Sony Pictures.
The hackers stole large amounts of data and threatened terrorist acts against movie theaters to prevent the release of “The Interview,” a comedy about North Korea’s leader.
The studio initially canceled the movie’s theatrical release, but reversed its decision after criticism.
Sony estimated the direct costs of the hack to be $35 million for investigating and remediating the breach.
CrowdStrike also helped investigate the 2015-2016 cyberattacks on the Democratic National Committee (DNC) in the United States and their connection to Russian intelligence services.
In December 2016, CrowdStrike released a report stating that a Russian government-affiliated group called Fancy Bear had hacked a Ukrainian artillery app, potentially causing significant losses to Ukrainian artillery units in their fight against Moscow-backed separatists.
However, this assessment was later disputed by some organizations and CrowdStrike rolled back some of the claims.
In recent months, CrowdStrike has criticized Microsoft for its lapses on cybersecurity as the Windows maker admitted to vulnerabilities and hackings by outside actors.
Among other criticisms, CrowdStrike slammed Microsoft for still doing business in China.
“You’re telling the public they can’t use Huawei, and they can’t let kids watch dance videos on TikTok because China is going to collect intelligence,” Shawn Henry, chief security officer at CrowdStrike, said last year.
“Yet, the most ubiquitous software, which is used throughout the government and throughout every single corporation in this country and around the world, has engineers in China working on their software,” Henry told Forbes.