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North Korea says it won’t denuclearize unless US removes nuclear threat

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…As Top Chinese official may get death for leaking state secrets to foreign spies***

North Korea said Thursday that it will never unilaterally give up its nuclear weapons unless the United States first removes what Pyongyang called a nuclear threat.

The surprisingly blunt statement jars with Seoul’s more rosy presentation of the North Korean position and could rattle the already fragile diplomacy between Washington,Seoul and Pyongyang to defuse a nuclear crisis that last year had many fearingwar.

The latest from North Korea comes as the United States andNorth Korea struggle over the sequencing of the denuclearization thatWashington wants and the removal of international sanctions desired byPyongyang. The statement carried by the North’s official Korean Central NewsAgency also raises credibility problems for the liberal South Koreangovernment, which has continuously claimed that North Korean leader Kim Jong Unis genuinely interested in negotiating away his nuclear weapons as Seoul triesto keep alive a positive atmosphere for dialogue.

The North’s comments may also be taken up as proof of what many outside skeptics have long said: that Kim will never voluntarily relinquish an arsenal he sees as a stronger guarantee of survival than whatever security assurances the United States might provide. The statement suggests that North Korea will demand that the United States withdraw or significantly reduce the 28,500 American troops stationed in South Korea, which would be a major sticking point to a potential disarmament deal.

Kim and President Donald Trump met June 12 in Singapore where they issued a vague goal for the “complete denuclearization” of the Korean Peninsula without describing when and how it would occur. The leaders are trying to arrange another meeting for early next year.

But North Korea for decades has been pushing a concept of denuclearization that bears no resemblance to the American definition, with Pyongyang vowing to pursue nuclear development until the United States removes its troops and the nuclear umbrella defending South Korea and Japan. In Thursday’s statement, the North made clear it’s sticking to its traditional stance on denuclearization. It accused Washington of twisting what had been agreed on in Singapore and driving post-summit talks into an impasse.

“The United States must now recognize the accurate meaning of the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, and especially, must study geography,” the statement said.

“When we talk about the Korean Peninsula, it includes the territory of our republic and also the entire region of (South Korea) where the United States has placed its invasive force, including nuclear weapons. When we talk about the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, it means the removal of all sources of nuclear threat, not only from the South and North but also from areas neighboring the Korean Peninsula,” the statement said.

The United States removed its tactical nuclear weapons from South Korea in the 1990s. Washington and Seoul did not immediately respond to the North Korean statement.

North Korea’s reiteration of its long-standing position on denuclearization could prove to be a major setback for diplomacy, which was revived early this year following a series of provocative nuclear and missile tests that left Kim and Trump spending most of 2017 exchanging personal insults and war threats. The statement could jeopardize Trump’s plan to hold a second summit with Kim early next year as it could be difficult for the United States to push negotiations further if the North ties the future of its nukes to the U.S. military presence in the South, analysts said.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who met Kim three times this year and lobbied hard for the Trump-Kim meeting, has said that Kim wasn’t demanding the withdrawal of U.S. troops from the Korean Peninsula as a precondition for abandoning his nuclear weapons. But Kim has never made such comments in public.

“The blunt statement could be an indicator that the North has no intentions to return to the negotiation table anytime soon,” said Shin Beomchul, a senior analyst at Seoul’s Asan Institute for Policy Studies. “It’s clear that the North intends to keep its nukes and turn the diplomatic process into a bilateral arms reduction negotiation with the United States, rather than a process where it unilaterally surrenders its program.”

The nuclear negotiations between Washington and Pyongyang have stalled since the Trump-Kim meeting. The United States wants North Korea to provide a detailed account of nuclear and missile facilities that would be inspected and dismantled under a potential deal, while the North is insisting that sanctions be lifted first.

The North Korean statement came a day after Stephen Biegun, the Trump administration’s special envoy on North Korea, told reporters in South Korea that Washington was reviewing easing travel restrictions on North Korea to facilitate humanitarian shipments to help resolve the impasse in nuclear negotiations.

In the meantime, a top official of China’s state-run shipbuilding firm may face death sentence for allegedly passing secrets to foreign intelligence agents about the country’s first homegrown aircraft carrier, a media report said on Tuesday.

Sun Bo, former general manager of the China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation (CSIC), who is under detention for corruption, is also being investigated for passing on confidential information about Liaoning, China’s first aircraft carrier, Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post reported.

It is unclear what level of confidential information about the Liaoning, Sun, 57, may have given to foreign intelligence agents, but the sources said he “could even face the death penalty” or “at least a suspended death sentence”, the report said.

The report, however, has not identified the foreign country to whom Sun alleged to have passed on the secrets.

“It depends on the importance of the information Sun passed to the foreign agents. If it was highly confidential, then a death penalty is waiting for him,” the report quoted an unnamed official as saying.

Another source close to the Chinese navy said that the Beijing leadership may want to use Sun’s case as a “warning” to other senior officials amid President Xi Jinping’s ongoing anti-corruption campaign, which has snared more than 1.3 million party officials at various levels of government.

“Sun was not only the deputy Communist party head of the state-owned CSIC, but also the general manager with comprehensive shipbuilding expertise. He was in charge of the shipbuilding company’s aircraft carrier projects for more than a decade.

“Sun is very likely to face the death penalty because he was the core manager taking care of the Liaoning refitting project,” the report quoted the official as saying.

Liaoning, a refit of the former Soviet vessel bought from Ukraine, was commissioned in 2012.

A recent official media report said China plans to operate five aircraft carriers in the near future including two nuclear powered ones.

A late entrant into the aircraft carrier-led naval battleship formations, China is keen to acquire aircraft carriers in a hurry as it rapidly expanded the navy, coupled with the acquisition of naval bases aboard to back up its growing influence especially in the Indian Ocean and the resource-rich South China Sea.

It has already operationalised its base at Djibouti in the Indian Ocean and acquired Sri Lanka’s Hambantota port for 99 years on a debt swap. China is developing Pakistan’s deep water Gwadar port in the Arabian Sea.

Last month, China clinched a deal to build multi-billion dollar port at the strategic Kyaukpyu in Myanmar which is located in the Bay of Bengal. 

ABC with additional report from Zee

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U.S. strikes 2 targets in Syria in response to ‘continued attacks’

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The U.S. military struck two facilities in eastern Syria used by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and Iran-affiliated groups in response to “continued attacks” against U.S. personnel in Iraq and Syria, the Pentagon said on Sunday.

The strikes were conducted against a training facility in Abu Kamal and a safe house in Mayadin in the eastern governorate of Deir Ezzor, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in a brief statement.

The U.S. struck similar targets in eastern Syria in October and earlier in November.

Pro-Iranian militias have intensified their attacks on U.S. military bases in Syria and Iraq in recent weeks as a response to the Israeli military campaign in Gaza.

The security situation in the entire region has been particularly tense since Oct. 7, when Hamas militants staged deadly attacks in southern Israel.

Israel is responding with an overwhelming air and ground offensive in Gaza.

As a deterrent, the U.S. has moved more weapons systems, warships and air squadrons to the Eastern Mediterranean, and is deploying several hundred troops to the Middle East to support US units there.

U.S. President Joe Biden had ordered Sunday’s action to make it clear that the U.S. was defending itself, its personnel, and its interests, Austin stressed.

The U.S. is prepared to take further necessary measures to protect its own people and interests.

  • dpa
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Russia writes off $23bn debt for Africa – Putin

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Russia sends almost 12m tons of grain to Africa says Putin

…Pledges additional $90 million***

Vladimir Putin, the Russian President, says the Russian Government has written off $23 billion debt burden of African countries.

Putin spoke at the plenary session of the ongoing second Russia–Africa Summit 2023 held from July 27 to July 28.

He said Moscow would allocate an additional $90 million for these purposes.

Putin said Russia was advocating the expansion of representation of African countries in the UN Security Council and other UN structures.

“Russia and Africa strive to develop cooperation in all areas and strengthen ‘honest, open, constructive’ partnership.

“Russia will also assist in opening new African embassies and consulates in Russia,” he said.

According to him, the reopening of embassies in Burkina Faso and Equatorial Guinea is going as planned.

He said sovereignty was “not a one-time achieved state,” and it must be constantly protected.

Putin also offered assistance to Africa in countering threats such as terrorism, piracy, and transnational crimes adding that it would continue to train personnel from African countries.

He assured that Russian businesses have a lot to offer partners from Africa.

Putin said transition to national currencies and the establishment of transport and logistics chains would contribute to the increase in mutual trade turnover.

“Russia is ready to provide trade preferences to Africa, support the creation of modern production sectors, agricultural sector, and provide assistance through relevant international structures and agencies.

“Russia will always be a responsible international supplier of agricultural products,” he said.

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U.S. Coastguard Finds ‘debris field’ Near Missing Vessel

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A “debris field” has been discovered within the search area for the missing Titan submersible, the U.S. Coastguard (USCG) said on Thursday.

The agency said a remotely-operated vehicle made the discovery near the wreckage of the Titanic on Thursday.

The hunt for the missing deep-sea vessel is still an “active search and rescue” mission after it lost communication on Sunday.

The vessel was about 700 kilometres south of St John’s, Newfoundland, during a voyage to the Titanic shipwreck off the coast of Canada.

Coastguard officials said they were “evaluating the information” following Thursday’s debris discovery.

A press conference will be held at the Coastguard base in Boston to “discuss the findings” at 8pm (1900 GMT).

Rear Admiral John Mauger, the first Coastguard district commander, and Captain Jamie Frederick, first Coastguard district response coordinator, will lead the press conference.

Founding member of the Board of Trustees of The Explorers Club, Hamish Harding, was on board the undersea craft, alongside UK-based businessman Shahzada Dawood, his son Suleman Dawood, and OceanGate’s chief executive and founder Stockton Rush, as well as French submersible pilot Paul-Henri Nargeolet.

The USCG said the ROV that made the discovery was from the Canadian Horizon Arctic ship – with the debris being found on the sea floor near the Titanic wreckage.

Assistance from the Royal Air Force (RAF) is due to arrive in St John’s on Thursday after it confirmed a request was received overnight for help with the movement of additional commercial equipment.

Two RAF planes, a C-17 Globemaster and A400 Atlas, departed RAF Lossiemouth in north-east Scotland on Thursday.

A British submariner and equipment from a UK firm have been sent to help the search at the request of the U.S. Coastguard, Downing Street said.

Royal Navy submariner Lieutenant Commander Richard Kantharia, who was on exchange with the U.S. Navy, has been seconded to the search and rescue team.

OceanGate Expeditions estimated the oxygen supply on the 6.7 metre-long vessel would last 96 hours, giving rescuers a deadline of around midday on Thursday.

Experts said the chances of finding the sub and rescuing those inside were diminishing.

Former Royal Navy submarine captain Ryan Ramsey told the PA news agency: “The outlook is bleak, that’s the only word for it as this tragic event unfolds and almost the closing stages of where this changes from rescue to a salvage mission.”

The Titan is believed to be about 900 miles east and 400 miles south of Newfoundland.

It is not known how deep the vessel is, with the seabed being around 3,800 metres from the surface. 

– dpa

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