• Analysts dubious over North Korea's H-bomb claims

    07/Jan/2016 // 332 Viewers

     

    North Korea’s said Wednesday that it had carried out a “successful” hydrogen bomb test, a claim that, if true, would represent a significant and dangerous step forward in its nuclear weapons programme, experts say.

    Pyongyang has carried out nuclear tests before – in 2006, 2009 and 2013. But what would make Wednesday’s test significantly more worrying to the international community is the claim that it was a vastly more powerful hydrogen bomb that was detonated, rather than the fission bombs seen in previous tests.

    “A fission bomb is where you split atoms into smaller atoms, and that’s very much like what the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki [during WWII] were like – so still big nuclear explosions,” nuclear policy and arms control expert Crispin Rovere told FRANCE 24.

    “But an H-bomb is so much greater than that. You combine small elements, fuse them together, and that releases vast amounts of energy.”

    North Korea also claimed that the weapon it tested was “miniaturised”, meaning small enough to attach to a missile. If true, this could that mean Pyongyang is close to meeting the ultimate goal of its nuclear weapons programme: to develop a long-range nuclear capability, able to strike targets thousands of miles away including the United States.

    “In order to do that it’s not enough just to have a nuclear explosion. You need to have something that is small enough to fit on your missiles so you can effectively deliver that weapon,” said Rovere.

    Doubts over claims

    The possibility that the country has reached this important milestone in the development of its nuclear programme could have frightening ramifications, said David Galbreath, professor of international security at Bath University and an expert on arms control.

    “The fear is that North Korea could have submarines armed with nuclear weapons operating off the coast of Washington state, for example, capable of striking the continental United States,” he told FRANCE 24.

    North Korea has been known to exaggerate its military prowess, however, and significant doubt remains over whether the device tested on Wednesday was indeed a hydrogen bomb.

    While the US Geological Survey detected a 5.1-magnitude seismic event in the vicinity of North Korea’s Punggye-ri nuclear test site, which suggests that a nuclear explosion did take place, the modest size of the explosion has raised doubts over Pyongyang’s claims.

    “Initial indications are that the predicted yield of the explosion is very close to that of previous fission bomb tests conducted by North Korea,” Dr Matthew Cottee, research associate for non-proliferation and nuclear policy at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, told FRANCE 24.

    “But without a lot more information it’s very difficult to say.”

    Rovere agreed with that assessment, saying that the seismic activity on Wednesday suggests that “there was a nuclear explosion, but on a much smaller scale than we would expect from a typical successful hydrogen bomb test”. 

    North Korean H-bomb ‘only a matter of time’

    But while Pyongyang may well be overstating the extent of its nuclear capabilities, an H-bomb-armed North Korea is far from an outlandish proposition, say some experts.

    Policy analysts “seem pretty convinced that we are entering the age of the North Korean H-bomb”, said Galbreath. “Even if this was not a successful hydrogen bomb test it is something that is going to happen sooner or later, unless there is some kind of Iran-style nuclear agreement, which seems extremely unlikely.”

    That North Korea may have carried out a successful H-bomb test “does not come as a surprise”, Cottee agreed.

    “This is something we have been talking about for a while in relation to North Korea – an H-bomb test was only a question of when, not if.”

    With Wednesday’s test came another blow to already moribund efforts to rein in North Korea’s nuclear programme, eliciting condemnation from the international community – including China, whose traditionally strong relations with North Korea seem to be rapidly deteriorating.

    Several rounds of six-nation talks involving South Korea, the US, China, Japan and Russia on reaching an agreement with North Korea over its nuclear programme have largely failed, and while there have been many bilateral attempts to engage Pyongyang, "North Korea has now clearly rebuffed any attempt at diplomatic negotiations with this test,” said Cottee.

    Pongyang, he said, is sending a message that it is “able to develop its nuclear weapon and missile programme pretty much unchecked by the international community”.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    France24


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  • U.S., Japan, South Korea warn North Korea over 'provocations'

    01/Apr/2016 // 234 Viewers

     

    WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Barack Obama joined with South Korean President Park Geun-hye and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Thursday, vowing to ramp up pressure on North Korea in response to its recent nuclear and missile tests.

    Meeting on the sidelines of a global nuclear security summit in Washington, the three leaders recommitted their countries to each others' defense and warned they could take further steps to counter threats from Pyongyang.

    Obama held separate talks with President Xi Jinping of China, the closest North Korea has to an ally, and said they both wanted to see "full implementation" of the latest United Nations sanctions against Pyongyang. But Xi offered no sign that Beijing was prepared to go beyond its consent to the Security Council measures imposed in early March.

    "We are united in our efforts to deter and defend against North Korean provocations," Obama told reporters after the U.S.-Japan-South Korea meeting. "We have to work together to meet this challenge."

    Relations between Park and Abe have been frosty in the past, but the two have been brought together in recent months by shared concerns about North Korea, which conducted a fourth nuclear bomb test on Jan. 6 and launched a long-range rocket into space in February.

    The United States has sought to encourage improved ties between Seoul and Japan, its two biggest allies in Asia, given worries not only about North Korea but also an increasingly assertive China.

    The expanded U.N. sanctions aimed at starving North Korea of funds for its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs were approved in a unanimous Security Council vote on a resolution drafted by the United States and China.

    But even though Beijing has signed on, doubts persist in the West on how far it will go in tightening the screws on impoverished North Korea, given China's concerns about fueling instability on its borders.

    Appearing later with Obama, Xi said that while Washington and Beijing disagreed in some areas, they have had "effective communication and coordination" on the North Korean issue.

    However, China, considered the most capable of influencing North Korea's reclusive leadership, has said repeatedly that sanctions are not the solution and only a resumption of international talks can resolve the dispute with Pyongyang.

    Six-party talks among the two Koreas, China, the United States, Japan and Russia aimed at curbing the North's nuclear ambitions collapsed after the last round in 2008.

    Xi called for dialogue to denuclearize the Korean peninsula, but also said all parties should avoid doing anything to further raise tensions, China's foreign ministry said.

    He alluded to a missile defense system the U.S. wants to base in South Korea that China strongly opposes, saying no party should do anything to affect the security interests of other countries or that upsets the regional strategic balance.

    Thursday's meetings took place as leaders from more than 50 countries gathered in Washington for a two-day summit hosted by Obama and focused on securing vulnerable atomic materials to prevent nuclear terrorism. North Korea's nuclear defiance was also high on the agenda.

    Notably absent is Russian President Vladimir Putin, adding to doubts that a meeting without one of the world's top nuclear powers can yield major results.

    Despite that, a joint U.S.-China statement showed the two countries, while rivals on trade and at odds over the South China Sea, agreeing to work together to investigate and curb nuclear smuggling and to hold annual two-way talks on the issue.

    'MISGUIDED CALCULUS'

    Obama said he, Park and Abe had directed their teams to come up with additional steps they can take collectively against North Korea.

    Park said the leaders had discussed ways to force North Korea to "alter its misguided calculus" on its weapons programs, and Abe expressed a commitment to strengthening three-way security cooperation.

    The meeting came just days after Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump caused an uproar by suggesting that Japan and South Korea should be allowed to build their own nuclear arsenals, putting him at odds with decades of U.S. policy.

    Ben Rhodes, Obama's deputy national security adviser, said Trump's comments did not come up in the three leaders' discussions. But he said: "It would be catastrophic were the United States to shift its position and indicate that we support somehow the proliferation of nuclear weapons to additional countries."

    Obama has less than 10 months left in office to follow through on one of his signature foreign policy initiatives – locking down as much of the world's dangerous nuclear materials as possible - and this week's meeting is his fourth and final Nuclear Security Summit.

    While progress has been made, some arms-control advocates say the diplomatic process seems to have lost momentum and could slow even further once Obama leaves office in January.

    A boycott by Russia, apparently unwilling to join in a U.S.-dominated gathering at a time of increased tension between Washington and Moscow, especially over the Ukraine conflict, could detract from any decisions made at the summit.

    The deadly militant bomb attacks in Brussels this month have fueled concern that Islamic State could eventually target nuclear plants, steal material and develop radioactive "dirty bombs," a topic that may well be uppermost in leaders’ minds.

     


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  • Afghanistan attack: Kabul suicide bomber kills 20

    01/Feb/2016 // 138 Viewers

    A suicide bomber has killed 20 people at a police headquarters in the Afghan capital Kabul, officials say.
    At least 29 others were wounded in the blast in the west of the city, the interior ministry said.
    Some reports suggest most of those killed and injured were police officers. Earlier reports said most of the dead were civilians.
    The Taliban said they carried out the bombing - one of a string of attacks in Kabul and elsewhere in recent months.
    Monday's attack happened at the entrance of the headquarters of the National Civil Order Police, a unit that has a counterinsurgency role against the Taliban.
    Officials initially blamed a suicide car bomber, but later said the attacker had joined people queuing to get into the police station before he detonated his explosives.
    "I saw three dead bodies on the ground and a number of other people wounded, then ambulances arrived and took all the victims away from the attack site," one man told Reuters news agency.
    A spokesman for Nato-led forces in Afghanistan, Brig Gen Wilson Shoffner, said: "This attack on the Afghan police shows the contempt the Taliban have for the rule of law in Afghanistan and for those who commit themselves daily to defending the Afghan people.
    "The Taliban have no plan for the development of Afghanistan. Targeting those who defend their fellow Afghans does not advance the cause of peace."
     
    Fire service personnel were seen cleaning the streets in the aftermath of the attack
    The bombing follows a spate of attacks in January, one of which killed seven staff from the Tolo media group in Kabul. Several other attacks were near foreign diplomatic missions.
    There has been speculation that the attacks may be aimed at destabilising attempts to revive peace talks with the Taliban.
    Others have suggested that the Taliban's winter offensive may be an attempt by their new leader to strengthen his hand in any talks.
    Last month, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani warned that if negotiations did not start by April the conflict would intensify, with consequences across the region.
    "Time is not a friend," he told the BBC. "We all understand that February and March are crucial." - BBC
     
     


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  • Publisher of secular books hacked to death in Bangladesh

    01/Nov/2015 // 261 Viewers

    A publisher of a slain online critic of religious militancy was hacked to death on Saturday in the Bangladesh capital, police said, hours after similar attacks on two secular writers and another publisher in the majority-Muslim country.

    Faysal Arefin published books by Avijit Roy, a U.S. citizen of Bangladeshi origin who was killed by Islamists militants in the same way in February.

    Arefin was hacked to death with sharp weapons in his office on the second floor of a crowded market in the capital, police said.

    Militants have targeted secularist writers in Bangladesh in recent years, as the government has cracked down on Islamist groups seeking to turn the South Asian nation of 160 million people into a sharia-based state.

    Four secular bloggers have been hacked to death this year for writing critically about Islamist militancy.

    At least 15 members of an al Qaeda inspired group Ansarullah Bangla Team, including a British citizen, have been arrested since August, after blogger Niloy Chatterjee was killed by a group of attackers armed with machetes.

    The country has also been rocked by attacks in which two foreigners were shot dead and a Shi’ite shrine in Dhaka was bombed.

    In the earlier attacks on Saturday, two secular writers and another publisher of Roy were stabbed and shot in Dhaka.

    Three unknown assailants entered the office of a publishing house and attacked them, police official Jamal Uddin said.

    The attackers locked their victims inside the office before fleeing the scene, he added. They were rushed to a hospital and two of them were in a critical condition.

    The publisher had filed a complaint with police after being threatened with death in a posting on Facebook following the attack on Roy, his friends said.

    British high commissioner to Bangladesh Robert Gibson condemned Saturday’s attacks.

    "Violence is never the answer or acceptable in any circumstances", he tweeted.

    (REUTERS)


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  • Iran nearly doubles its death toll from hajj stampede to 464

    01/Oct/2015 // 225 Viewers

    STR, AFP | Bodies lie on the ground at the site where hundreds of people were killed in a stampede near the holy city of Mecca at the annual hajj in Saudi Arabia on September 24, 2015

    Iran on Thursday nearly doubled its death toll from last week's hajj stampede to 464, saying there was no more hope of finding missing pilgrims.

    "Seven days after this tragic accident... the status of all (pilgrims) injured has been completely cleared and reported," Iran's hajj organisation said in a statement carried by state television.

    Around 240 Iranians were previously declared dead after last Thursday's crush near Mecca, with more than 200 classified as missing.

    An Iranian red crescent official said on Thursday that those missing were all likely to have died.

    "We are completely disappointed from finding unknown and missing Iranians," said Ali Marashi, the head of hajj red crescent medical centre, state media reported.

    Saudi and Iranian health ministers agreed after days of fierce debate to repatriate Iranian pilgrims killed in the stampede.

    Iran's IRNA news agency quoted Iranian Health Minister Hassan Hashemi as saying that he and his Saudi counterpart Khaled al-Falih had struck a deal aimed at "speeding up the process, as the victims' families are waiting" back at home.

    "Iran would be the first country to receive bodies and repatriate them," Hashemi said.

    Those unidentified bodies who are clearly Iranian would be repatriated first and identified at home, he added

    (DailyGlobWatch with AFP)


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  • Iran warns of 'fierce' reaction if Saudi does not return hajj dead

    01/Oct/2015 // 181 Viewers

    Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei threatened a "fierce" reaction Wednesday if Saudi Arabia does not quickly repatriate victims of last week's hajj stampede.

    "Saudi officials are failing to do their duties," Khamenei said in a speech to graduating navy officers, following delays in the return of at least 239 Iranian bodies, accusing some of them of "slyness".

    "They should know that the slightest disrespect towards tens of thousands of Iranian pilgrims in Mecca and Medina and not fulfilling their obligation to transfer holy bodies, will have Iran's tough and fierce reaction."

    Six days after the tragedy, in which more than 700 pilgrims were killed, many of the victims have yet to be identified. Iran fears 241 of its nationals who are unaccounted for may be among them.

    Rising tension

    Khamenei's comments underscored Iran's increasing frustration at Saudi Arabia's refusal to allow a cargo plane into the kingdom to retrieve the dead and take them home to Tehran. His statement came hours after Iran summoned the Saudi envoy in Tehran for the fourth time since the stampede to demand the swift identification and repatriation of the victims of the catastrophe.

    "The Islamic Republic of Iran has so far showed self-restraint and abided by Islamic politeness and brotherhood," Khamenei added, urging the formation of a fact-finding committee among Islamic countries to investigate the causes of the stampede.

    The stampede, one of the deadliest tragedies to strike the annual hajj pilgrimage to Mecca in years, has added further tensions to the already fraught relationship between Iran and Saudi Arabia. The two are already fiercely opposed on a number of foreign policy issues – particularly over Yemen where a Saudi-led coalition has targeted Houthi Shiite rebels backed by Tehran.

    Questions over safety measures

    Iran has already placed the blame for the tragedy firmly at Saudi Arabia’s door, with Khamenei accusing Riyadh of "improper” safety measures and "mismanagement” of what is thought to be one of the world’s largest annual gathering of people with attendances often reaching 3,000,000.

    "The government of Saudi Arabia must accept the huge responsibility for this catastrophe," state news agency IRNA quoted Khamenei as saying on Thursday, demanding that the causes of the accident "should not be overlooked".

    Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, who chairs the kingdom's hajj committee, has ordered an investigation into the cause of the tragedy.

    (DailyGlobeWatch with AFP)


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  • JUST IN: Minister of Education executed! [Photo & Video]

    01/Sep/2016 // 7135 Viewers

     

     

    PARIS, SEPTEMBER 1, 2016: (DGW) Reports coming in say that the Minister of Education has been executed for no crime committed while two other high-ranking ministers are to undergo severe punishments, making it the latest of such unwarranted executions in a series of crackdowns.

    The unprovoked execution reportedly took in the hermit kingdom of North Korea on the order of its brutal leader, Kim Jong-Un  because of his ‘bad sitting posture’ in parliament, according to reports.

    Jeong Joon-hee, Seoul’s unification ministry spokesman, said the North Korean government executed Kim Yong-jin, the 63-year-old education minister, last month by firing squad after labeling him an “anti-party and anti-revolutionary” element. South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency reports the minister was brought under investigation in June for his sitting posture at a parliamentary meeting. Severe punishment, including death, for such perceived crimes are not uncommon in North Korea.

    Kim Yong-jin, the vice premier on education affairs, and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un

    The two North Korean officials undergoing punishment for crimes related to abuse of power and mishandling of work are 71-year-old Kin Yong-chol, the head of the United Front Department, and 62-year-old Choe Hwi, a vice department director of the ruling party’s central committee. Seoul’s Unification Ministry said both men were sent to undergo re-education in rural areas of the country.

    Watch video: 

    Although reports of North Korean executions are relatively frequent, they are difficult to independently verify. As the BBC notes, South Korea’s record of accurately reporting such incidents can be variable and North Korea rarely confirms the deaths of key officials themselves:

    The strongest confirmation is usually that an executed official simply disappears from media reports.

    If this report turns out to be untrue, Kim Yong-jin may well appear in public or be listed as in attendance at a major public event in Pyongyang.

    Another clue to his fate might emerge if North Korea announces a replacement vice premier. Again, this does not necessarily mean he has been executed.

    If the execution is confirmed, it would mark the latest crackdown in Pyongyang since Kim Jong-un assumed power in 2011, succeeding his father and grandfather as the country’s leader. Since then, Kim is believed to have executed more than 100 government and military officials, including the high-profile execution of his uncle, Jang Song Thaek, in 2013.

    The announcement comes shortly after the high-profile defection of a senior North Korean diplomat to South Korea this month. Defections by North Koreans have become more common since the UN Security Council voted unanimously in March to impose sanctions on the country for conducting nuclear and missile tests.


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  • Japan's Abe says South China Sea 'cause for international concern' inShare

    02/Nov/2015 // 244 Viewers

    Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told South Korean President Park Geun-hye on Monday he wanted cooperation between the two countries and the United States in maintaining an open and peaceful South China Sea, a Japanese government spokesman said.

    Abe also told Park during a bilateral summit in Seoul that the situation in the strategic waterway was “a common cause of concern for international society”, Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Koichi Hagiuda told reporters.

    Last week a US Navy guided-missile destroyer sailed close to China’s man-made islands in the disputed South China Sea, drawing an angry rebuke from Beijing, which said its warships tracked and warned the American vessel.

    China’s Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Yesui summoned US Ambassador Max Baucus over the incident, calling the US patrol “extremely irresponsible". The ministry earlier said the USS Lassen “illegally” entered waters near islands and reefs in the Spratlys without the Chinese government’s permission.

    China claims most of the South China Sea, through which more than $5 trillion of world trade passes every year. Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, the Philippines and Taiwan have rival claims.

    (FRANCE 24 with REUTERS)


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  • India pledges to cut emissions by up to a third in 15 years

    02/Oct/2015 // 157 Viewers

     Money Sharma, AFP | Smoke rises from the Badarpur Thermal Power Station in New Delhi, India on March 20, 2015

    India has promised to shave a third off the rate at which it emits greenhouse gases over the next 15 years, in a long-awaited contribution towards reaching a deal to slow global warming at a U.N. climate summit in December.

    The world’s third-largest emitter and last major economy to submit plans ahead of the Paris summit did not, however, commit to any absolute cuts in carbon emissions.

    Of the top two polluters, China has promised its emissions will peak by around 2030, and the United States is already cutting, but India says its economy is too small and its people too poor to agree to absolute cuts in greenhouse gases now.

    Instead, India said it aimed to cut carbon intensity by between 33 and 35 percent by 2030 from 2005 levels and to grow to 40 percent the share of power generated from non-fossil fuels.

    India’s plan balances the need for a low-carbon future with the need to lift millions out of poverty and industrialise quickly, Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar said.

    “Although the developed world has polluted the world and we are suffering, India will be part of the solution,” he told journalists on Friday after submitting the pledges to the United Nations. “We want to walk on a cleaner energy path.”

    India said it needs $2.5 trillion by 2030 to achieve its plan, but Javadekar did not say if its pledges were contingent on greater funding from the richer world.

    Coal to dominate

    India, often acting as the voice of the developing world, plays an important role in global climate talks and some environmental groups welcomed its plan.

    “India now has positioned itself as a global leader in clean energy, and is poised to play an active and influential role in the international climate negotiations this December,” said Rhea Suh at the New York-based Natural Resources Defense Council.

    Close to 200 nations will meet at a U.N. summit to agree a deal to slow man-made warming by keeping temperature rises below a ceiling of 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

    More than 140 countries have submitted plans, but experts say the pledges are not enough to keep the planet from warming beyond the threshold and avoiding the worst impacts of climate change.

    New Delhi stressed in its submission that coal would continue to dominate future power generation. Environmentalists fear India’s emissions will jump as the use of cars, air travel and air conditioning grows among its 1.2 billion people.

    “The scale of expansion of another 170 to 200 gigawatts of power from coal is baffling. This will set back India’s development prospects,” said Pujarini Sen of Greenpeace India.

    Greater resources

    India’s target for carbon intensity falls well short of China, which pledged at the end of June to reduce its carbon intensity by 60 percent to 65 percent by 2030.

    At a previous U.N. summit in 2009, India had already committed to reduce its emissions intensity by 2020 by 20 percent to 25 percent from 2005 levels.

    Preliminary estimates indicate India would need to spend around $206 billion between 2015 and 2030 to adapt to the effects of climate change, the submission said.

    “India’s climate actions have so far been largely financed from domestic resources. A substantial scaling up of the climate action plans would require greater resources,” it added.

    (DAILYGLOBEWATCH with REUTERS)


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  • 12 killed as bomb blast rocks court, injured others

    02/Sep/2016 // 3399 Viewers

     

    The bodies of lawyers, policemen and civilians were recovered from the blast site, said Haris Habib, chief rescue officer in a bomb attack that created a scene of sorrow, tears , and blood  carried out by a terrorist group - Jamaatu-ur-Ahrar.

    The attack reportedly took place  in the city of Mardan in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, Pakistan. In another attack in Pakistan, two bombs killed at least 12 people and wounded dozens outside a court complex in Mardan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, a rescue official said, hours after militants from a Pakistani Taliban faction attacked a Christian neighbourhood in the same region.

    Pakistani Taliban faction Jamaat-ur-Ahrar claimed responsibility for the twin bomb attacks.

    The bodies of lawyers, policemen and civilians were recovered from the blast site, said Haris Habib, chief rescue officer in the city of Mardan in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. “First there was a small blast followed by a big blast,” Habib told Reuters.

    More than 20 people were killed in an attack in December on a government office in Mardan, which was later claimed by Jamaat-ur-Ahrar, a breakaway faction of the Pakistani Taliban. No militant group has yet claimed responsibility for Friday’s court attack, but Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said the bombing would “not shatter our unflinching resolve in our war against terrorism”. “These receding elements are showing frustration by attacking our soft targets. They shall not get space to hide in Pakistan,” Sharif said in a statement.

     


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