World leaders for Silk Road talks

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SHANGHAI DAILY NEWS)

World leaders for Silk Road talks

The Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation will be held from May 14 to 15 in Beijing and President Xi Jinping will attend the opening ceremony and host the round table summit of the leaders, Foreign Minister Wang Yi said yesterday.

Xi has championed the “One Belt, One Road” initiative to build a new Silk Road linking Asia, Africa and Europe, a landmark program to invest billions of dollars in infrastructure projects.

China has dedicated US$40 billion to a Silk Road Fund and the idea was the driving force behind the establishment of the US$50 billion Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.

Among those attending will be Russian President Vladimir Putin, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi, Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak and Indonesian President Joko Widodo will also be attending the forum.

British finance minister Philip Hammond will come as Prime Minister Theresa May’s representative, while Germany and France will send high-level representatives.

Wang confirmed Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte as one of the leaders coming, along with the Spanish, Greek, Hungarian, Serb and Polish prime ministers and Swiss and Czech presidents.

“This is an economic cooperation forum, an international cooperation platform that everyone is paying attention to, supports and hopes to participate in,” Wang said.

“One Belt, One Road is to date the most important public good China has given to the world, first proposed by China but for all countries to enjoy,” said.

“The culture and historical genes of One Belt, One Road come from the old Silk Road, so it takes Eurasia as its main region,” he said, adding that representatives of 110 countries would attend the forum.

A section of the New Silk Road is in Pakistan, where some projects run through the disputed Kashmir region.

Wang dismissed concerns, saying the Pakistan project had no direct connection to the dispute and India was welcome to participate in the New Silk Road.

“Indian friends have said to us that One Belt, One Road is a very good suggestion,” he said.

During the forum, China is expected to sign cooperative documents with nearly 20 countries and more than 20 international organizations, Wang told reporters.

China will work with countries along the route on action plans concerning infrastructure, energy and resources, production capacity, trade and investment, which will help to turn the grand blueprint into a clear roadmap, he said.

Another task of the forum will be to push forward delivery of cooperative projects, Wang said.

During the forum, parties will identify major cooperative projects, set up working groups and establish an investment cooperation center.

China will also work with all parties on a set of measures that will include improved financial cooperation, a cooperation platform for science, technology and environmental protection, and enhanced exchanges and training of talent.

Participants will sign financing agreements to support their cooperative projects, Wang said.

China will use the forum to build a more open and efficient international cooperation platform; a closer, stronger partnership network; and to push for a more just, reasonable and balanced international governance system, Wang said.

Jakarta Indonesia’s Muslim’s Make Tomorrows Election About Religion And Race, Not Issues

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

(CNN) Indonesia’s capital is on edge one day before a vote that has become a test of tolerance in the world’s most populous majority-Muslim nation.

The incumbent governor of Jakarta, Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama, an ethnic Chinese Christian, is facing a challenge by a Muslim former government minister backed by hard-line religious groups.
“There’s been quite a lot at stake, mostly because of how the election has been framed, (not) issues about how Jakarta will be run itself but rather questions of identity politics,” Ian Wilson, research fellow at Australia’s Murdoch University Asia Research Center, told CNN.
Tensions have risen since the first round of voting on February 15, when Ahok came in first with almost 43% of the vote, just ahead of former Education and Culture Minister Anies Baswedan.
Religious groups determined to see Baswedan take the governorship have been accused of stoking religious discord in the city ahead of the second round, analysts say, a startling turn in a country with a secular constitution and a long tradition of pluralism.
“I think a lot of Chinese Jakartans are feeling anxious about what will happen regardless of the outcome,” Wilson said.

Anies Baswedan (2L) and his running mate pray during an event in Jakarta on March 4.

Mass protests against Ahok

Tensions began to build in November 2016 after Ahok made comments during a campaign speech, which were interpreted by some as an insult to the Quran and Islam.
Now Ahok is on trial for blasphemy and Islamic conservative groups are pushing hard against him. In March, during the campaign, large crowds of thousands of protestors massed in Jakarta’s streets to call for his imprisonment.
“(The vote) is being framed in these semi-apocalyptic terms — that if Baswedan loses it means this infidel, conspiratorial Chinese group will be in power and it will be a disaster,” Wilson said.
While Baswedan himself has taken a step back from the aggressive rhetoric of the first half of the campaign, analysts say, conservative Islamic groups have picked up the slack.

Jakarta's Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, also known as Ahok, inside the courtroom during his blasphemy trial on April 11.

“There was this grandma who died and she voted for Ahok and she was (reportedly) denied Muslim funeral rights,” Tobias Basuki, a researcher at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, an Indonesian think tank, told CNN.
“(Islamist groups) are using a lot of very blatant religious messages. Very blatant. There are various messages showing people … making oaths in communities saying you cannot vote for a non-Muslim and so on.”
With polls showing a tight race between the two candidates and religious tensions running high, both camps have reasons to be anxious.
Wilson said there is a possibility things may descend into violence.

Thousands of Indonesian Muslims protest against Ahok on March 31 in Jakarta.

Anies for president?

It isn’t just religious tolerance that’s at stake though.
The eyes of Indonesia’s national leaders are fixed on the vote as well, and who will be in the powerful position of Jakarta governor during the next national election in 2019.
Ahok is an ally of Indonesian President Joko Widodo, also known as Jokowi — in fact, he was his running mate during Widodo’s own successful run for the governorship in 2012.
After Widodo’s 2012 win quickly led to a successful run for the presidency in 2014, Indonesian political insiders now see the Jakarta governorship as a step to the highest office in the land.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo (R) with Anies Baswedan (L) at the presidential palace in Jakarta on October 24, 2014.

A Baswedan win will be seen as a major blow to Jokowi.
“It would be a major political win for (former 2014 presidential candidate) Prabowo Subianto, who has been very transparent in his support for Anies,” Wilson said.
Whether Baswedan runs for the presidency in 2019, or supports a second run by Prabowo, Basuki said a win by the former minister in Jakarta would embolden Islamic groups.
“If Anies (is elected), the peddling of influence by these Islamic groups will be greater, and use of religion will be much more in vogue in local elections heading towards the 2019 vote,” he said.

Jakarta’s poor turn on Ahok

But despite the high religious and racial tensions in the Jakarta governor race, they aren’t the only reason Ahok is in trouble.
Greg Fealy, an associate professor in Australian National University’s Coral Bell School of Asia Pacific Affairs, told CNN in February Ahok’s blunt, combative style of governing put a lot of Jakartans off.
“He’s a very combative, outspoken, reckless kind of character who has achieved a lot for Jakarta, but he’s a character who has created a lot of antipathy toward him,” he said.

Ahok flanked by his wife Veronica (R) and son Nicholas (L) show off their first-round ballot papers in Jakarta on February 15.

Not only that, but a lot of the poor Jakartans who voted for the joint Widodo/Ahok ticket in 2012 in hopes of a new style of government have been the target of large-scale evictions under the governor’s administration.
“They have very specific material grievances against the governor, they feel there was a betrayal of a political contract … I think that magnified feelings of injustice against those neighborhoods,” Wilson said.

Tougher laws and enforcement needed to stamp out free-for-all on Shanghai roads

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SHANGHAI DAILY NEWS)

Tougher laws and enforcement needed to stamp out free-for-all on Shanghai roads

BEFORE the term “lao si ji,” literally old driver, became a popular pun for a hardened philanderer, it used to be an honorary title bestowed on skilled drivers.

Like me.

Although I only started to sit behind the steering wheel about two years ago, I believe that these two years of intensive practicing, training and adaptation on Shanghai’s highly risky roads have turned me into a “lao si ji.” Well, quite.

In order to earn that badge of honor, one simply has to be vastly resourceful and extremely responsive to every possible risk on the road. For example, since many Chinese drivers have the annoying habit of never bothering to signal when making a lane change, it is strongly advised to place one’s foot constantly on the brake, to be on alert for a potential rear-end collision.

During my days as a novice driver, I encountered several situations in which I had to hit the brake violently to avoid crashing into the cars that suddenly cut in ahead of mine. Fuming, I could not help letting loose a torrent of abuse.

Once during the evening rush hours, I was inching forward on an off-ramp from the Yan’an Elevated Highway. Without signaling or approaching the median line, a man driving a Toyota sedan on my right suddenly swerved left. I gasped, slammed on the brake and narrowly escaped hitting the sedan.

Road rage

In an outburst of road rage, I pulled up beside the Toyota, glared at the driver and honked once to protest. He didn’t even stare back. He couldn’t care less. Obviously he is an expert at this willful escapade.

Before long, I realized that there are plenty more of such douche bags on Shanghai’s roads, and since they cannot be made to see how rude they are, the choice left is either to tolerate their derring-do, or as the old adage goes, if you cannot beat them then join them.

On several occasions I did find myself joining this sorry bunch after reconciling myself with the fact that those who don’t signal actually have a good reason for not doing so. Only a handful of motorists, at least in my own experience, showed their civility by yielding to cars signaling for a lane change.

Over time, this led to bewilderment, followed by disillusionment. Despite having spent time to regurgitate the traffic rules to pass the written test for the driver’s license, many seem to give little thought to these rules in reality.

Instead, to be able to survive China’s roads, one of the cardinal principles appears to be to unlearn what is learnt at the driving school and make impromptu changes where necessary. For example, even the forbidden practice of overtaking a slow car from the right side is sometimes an option. Forget about road civility, this is a mere afterthought.

It is with mixed feelings that I salute the recently updated traffic regulation, said to be the strictest ever to be adopted in Shanghai.

On the one hand, I do believe that the laws must be made to have teeth to deal with public hazards like the Toyota driver; to crack down hard on illegal driving behavior that makes Shanghai’s roads a free-for-all where the only rule that applies is “who dares wins.”

On the other, I am less optimistic than some about the odds of the new regulation succeeding in drilling some much-needed sense of civility and road manners into the minds of daredevils.

And this paradoxical mentality became even more agonizing following my recent trip to Germany and Austria. During the eight-day trip, I drove some 2,000 kilometers. Despite the fatigue resulting from long hours of driving — I once drove non-stop for about 450 kilometers from Munich to Vienna — I remained mentally at ease throughout the journey.

Since sections of the German Autobahn, or expressways, are exempt from speed limits, it’s common to see cars hurtling at over 200 kilometers per hour. And I remember being told by a German friend, beaming, that the recklessness often seen in Chinese motorists is nowhere to be found on German roads.

Paradox

To put his assertion to the test, I once hit the gas pedal to take my diesel-powered Volkswagen Golf Variant to over 180kph, only to slow down when my ashen-faced wife begged me to in a trembling voice. Although my palms were sweaty from an adrenaline rush and from gripping the wheel a bit too tightly to avoid lane departure, my mind was fairly relaxed. I even had time to take in the pastoral beauty of the Bavarian countryside and breathe in the crisp March air adulterated with a thick smell of cow manure.

It’s no exaggeration to say that it’s safer to drive 200kph on German motorways than 60kph on Shanghai’s elevated highways. This appears to be born out by statistics. According to a 2015 WHO report, Germany has one of the world’s lowest road fatalities per 100,000 inhabitants: 4.3 compared to China’s 18.8.

The key to understanding the paradox between general road safety and the (partial) absence of speed limits lies perhaps in the German conformity to order and rules.

Given my observation, almost every vehicle would spontaneously leave the fast lane on an Autobahn after overtaking a car in front; you can literally careen down the road at the sight of inverted yellow triangular signs that suggest you have the indisputable right of way; and whenever I slowed down on urban roads, trying to follow the GPS directions, no German driver ever honked at me or intimidated me with high beam headlights. They just followed patiently behind. When their patience did wear thin, they overtook me at a safe distance. By the way, they were more willing to yield to cars that signaled.

In my opinion, one of the most admirable aspects of German traffic is that the rigidity of the rules enforced is softened by a dose of flexibility for personal touch — civility shown to pedestrians is reciprocated with a nod, a smile or a thumbs-up. Respect begets respect.

Culture shock

I experienced a culture shock (or should it be reverse culture shock?) in the first days upon my return to Shanghai. During the morning madness I tried to play the German card in a lane change.

To my dismay, I signaled for 10 seconds, but no cars slowed down to let me pass. In a sign of cussedness, some even revved up the engine and zoomed past me.

Seeing that the German ways didn’t work, I switched back to the Chinese mode: I swerved to force my way into a column of vehicles.

It is reported that Shanghai’s updated traffic regulations include clauses that oblige motorists to yield to pedestrians when making a left/right turn.

For this clause to work, however, stricter law enforcement is critically needed in addition to a public awareness campaign. Until we have a police officer deployed at every intersection to ensure compliance, allow me to be mildly skeptical about the effects of the rule.

In a similar vein, until many drivers learn to treat other “lesser beings” on the road with a little more respect and dignity, they are unworthy of the “lao si ji” title, however skilled they might be.

Turkey’s opposition calls for vote to be canceled after ‘irregularities’

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SHANGHAI DAILY NEWS)

Turkey’s opposition calls for vote to be canceled after ‘irregularities’

TURKEY’S main opposition party yesterday called on the country’s electoral board to cancel the results of a landmark referendum that granted sweeping new powers to the nation’s president, citing what it called substantial voting irregularities.

An international observer mission who monitored the voting also cited irregularities, saying the conduct of Sunday’s referendum “fell short” of the international standards Turkey has signed up to. It specifically criticized a decision by Turkey’s electoral board to accept ballots that did not have official stamps, saying that hurt the fight against fraud.

Turkey’s electoral board confirmed the “yes” victory in the referendum and said the final results would be declared in 11-12 days.

The state-run Anadolu agency said the “yes” side stood at 51.4 percent of the vote, while the “no” vote had 48.6 percent support.

The margin could cement President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s hold on power in Turkey for a decade and is expected to have a huge effect on the country’s long-term political future and its international relations.

“I suspect the result was narrower than Erdogan expected,” said Howard Eissenstat, associate professor of Middle East History at St Lawrence University in Canton, New York.

“Erdogan has ruled with a narrow victory before. He does not see a narrow victory as anything less than a mandate.”

Erdogan, 63, initially sounded conciliatory in his remarks, saying the result was a victory not just for those who voted “yes,” but for “the whole 80 million, the whole of Turkey.”

But his more abrasive style quickly returned.

“There are those who are belittling the result. They shouldn’t try, it will be in vain,” he told cheering supporters in Istanbul. “It’s too late now.”

Opposition parties still cried foul. Bulent Tezcan, deputy chairman of the Republican People’s Party, or CHP, cited numerous problems in the conduct of the vote.

An unprecedented electoral board decision to accept as valid ballots that didn’t bear the official stamp led to outrage.

Normally for a ballot to be considered valid, it must bear the official stamp on the back, be put into an envelope that also bears an official stamp and be handed to the voter by an electoral official at a polling station. The system is designed to ensure that only one vote is cast per person and to avoid the possibility of ballot box-stuffing.

The board announced on Sunday, however, that it would accept unstamped envelopes as valid after many voters complained about being handed blank envelopes.

“There is only one way to end the discussions about the vote’s legitimacy and to put the people at ease, and that is for the Supreme Electoral Board to cancel the vote,” Tezcan said.

Tana de Zuleta of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which monitored the vote, said the ballot decision undermined important safeguards against fraud and contradicted Turkey’s own laws.

The monitoring group described a series of irregularities, including a skewed pre-vote campaign in favor of the “yes” vote, the intimidation of the “no” campaign and the fact that the referendum question was not listed on the ballot.

De Zuleta said that overall, the procedures “fell short of full adherence” to the standards Turkey has signed up for.

Electoral board head Sadi Guven rejected claims of foul play, saying none of the ballot papers declared valid was “fake” or fraudulently cast.

Guven said the decision was made so voters who were by mistake given unstamped ballot papers would not be “victimized.”

“The ballot papers are not fake, there is no (reason) for doubt,” Guven said.

Tezcan said any decision that changes Turkey’s political system to such a vast extent should have been passed with an overwhelming endorsement.

“This is not a text of social consensus but one of social division,” Tezcan said.

The referendum approves 18 amendments that will replace the parliamentary system with a presidential one.

The changes allow the president to appoint ministers, senior government officials and half the members of Turkey’s highest judicial body, as well as to issue decrees and declare states of emergency. They set a limit of two five-year terms for presidents.

The new presidential system takes effect at the next election, currently due in 2019. Other changes will take effect sooner, including an amendment that scraps a clause requiring the president to be impartial, allowing Erdogan to regain membership of the ruling party he founded‚ or even to lead it.

United Nations: North Korea Threatens U.S. With Nuclear War

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

United Nations (CNN) Only at a North Korean press conference at the United Nations, can you hear a diplomat say he hoped journalists had a good holiday weekend and then warn of possible thermonuclear war.

North Korea has consistently issued threats of war toward the United States in recent decades, but the Trump administration’s announced end of a “strategic patience” policy with Pyongyang has upped the ante in terms of warnings and bellicose rhetoric. North Korea’s UN deputy representative, Kim In Ryong, on Monday unleashed at a hastily called UN press conference a torrent of threats, war scenarios and rhetoric aimed at the United States.
The press event was held hours after US Vice President Mike Pence visited the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea. Pence warned North Korea not to test the resolve of the United States “or the strength of our military forces.”
In New York, North Korea returned verbal fire. North Korea’s UN ambassador condemned the US naval buildup in the waters off the Korean Peninsula, plus the US missile attacks on Syria.
Kim said, “It has created a dangerous situation in which thermonuclear war may break out at any moment on the peninsula and poses a serious threat to world peace and security.”
While reporters at the United Nations have heard similar rhetoric from North Koreans before, Monday’s forceful wording was on a higher level
The deputy ambassador, reading from a statement, told reporters, “The US is disturbing the global peace and stability and insisting on the gangster-like logic that its invasion of a sovereign state is ‘decisive, and just, and proportionate’ and contributes to ‘defending’ the international order in its bid to apply it to the Korean Peninsula as well.”
Kim said his country is ready to react to any “mode of war” from the United States. Any missile or nuclear strike by the United States would be responded to “in kind,” said the North Korea representative.
The USS Carl Vinson carrier-led Navy strike group was sent to the Korean Peninsula. North Korea’s UN representative said the maneuvers show the “US reckless moves for invading the DPRK (North Korea) have reached a serious phase.”
The United Nations is clearly worried. Spokesman Stephane Dujarric told journalists, “We’re obviously deeply concerned about the rising tensions that we’ve seen in the Korean Peninsula. We call on all to redouble their diplomatic efforts. “
The North Korean deputy ambassador was asked to respond to President Donald Trump’s comment that North Korea should “behave better.” He declined, instead wrapping up numerous questions about US policy and Pence’s visit to the DMZ into a long series of criticisms of the United States.
He denounced the United States for introducing into the Korean Peninsula — what he called “the world’s biggest hotspot” — its “huge nuclear strategic assets, seriously threatening peace and security of the Peninsula and pushing the situation there to a brink of war.”
North Korea staged a failed missile launch over the weekend. Dujarric said, “I think the latest launch that we saw over the weekend from the DPRK was troubling. We call on the DPRK to take all the steps necessary to deescalate the situation and return to a dialogue on denuclearization.”
North Korea is upset that the UN Security Council will hold a meeting on the situation later this month, with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson presiding.
Pyongyang again said it has sent letters demanding its own hearing at the Security Council for alleged US abuses, but they have been ignored by a council which has seen numerous council resolutions violated by North Korean missile and nuclear tests.
To add to the list of warnings, the North Korean diplomat said his country would hold the United States accountable “for the catastrophic consequences to be entailed by its outrageous actions.”
Journalists were asked to give their names on a sheet passed around by the North Koreans, but the sign-up sheet was left behind apparently when the news conference concluded.

China: Stolen stone tower back from Taiwan

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SHANGHAI DAILY NEWS)

Stolen stone tower back from Taiwan

A CEREMONY was held at Shanxi Provincial Museum yesterday to welcome the return of a stone tower that was stolen 19 years ago from a village in north China and ended up in Taiwan.

The Dengyu stone tower, which was originally in Dengyu village of Yushe county, Shanxi, features Buddha images carved into its four sides. The piece was made in the Tang Dynasty (618-907).

The tower was 320 centimeters high and composed of a base, a 177-centimeter body, and spire. It is an excellent example of Tang Dynasty stone carving and was given provincial-level protection in 1965.

In 1996, the spire was stolen and is still missing.

The tower body was stolen in 1998, taken out of the Chinese mainland, and donated by a private collector to Taiwan’s Chung Tai Chan Monastery in 2015. The monastery decided to return the tower to Shanxi last year after it confirmed its origins.

The tower arrived at Shanxi Provincial Museum on January 24.

“We really appreciate the temple’s decision,” said Wang Taiming, head of Yushe county’s cultural relic bureau.

“The donation is an excellent example of cultural exchange between Taiwan and the Chinese mainland,” said Master Jian Deng, abbot of the Chung Tai Chan Monastery.

The museum said it will speed up safety improvements to preserve the pagoda and organize an exhibition.

After death sentence, what are Kulbhushan Jadhav’s options under Pakistan laws?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES)

After death sentence, what are Kulbhushan Jadhav’s options under Pakistan laws?

INDIA Updated: Apr 15, 2017 08:36 IST

Rezaul H Laskar
Rezaul H Laskar
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Kulbhushan Jadhav

People shout slogans during a protest against the conviction of Kulbhushan Jadhav, in Mumbai.(AP Photo)

Pakistan on Friday listed the options available to Indian national Kulbhushan Jadhav to appeal against the death sentence given to him by a military court on charges of espionage.Sartaj Aziz, the foreign affairs adviser to the prime minister, told a news briefing that the former Indian Navy officer was allegedly “responsible for espionage, sabotage and terrorism” and had been tried according to the law of the land.

Aziz, who read from a statement and did not take questions from the media, then listed the options available to Jadhav under Pakistani law.

“He has the right to appeal within 40 days to an appellate court. He may lodge a mercy petition to the (army chief) within 60 days of the decision by the appellate court,” Aziz said.

“He may lodge a mercy petition to the President of Pakistan within 90 days after the decision of (the army chief) on the mercy petition.”

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India has strongly criticised Pakistan for not sharing Jadhav’s whereabouts and details of his condition. It also criticised Pakistan for not adhering to the international norm of providing consular access to a prisoner despite the two countries having an agreement on the issue.

New Delhi has also said that if Islamabad goes ahead with the execution of Jadhav, it would be tantamount to premeditated murder.

Jadhav was reportedly captured in Balochistan in March last year. He was tried by a field general court martial or an army court under provisions of the Pakistan Army Act and the Official Secrets Act.

Aziz said Jhadav was provided with “legal counsel in accordance with provisions of our law” and that he reportedly confessed before a magistrate and the army court that he was tasked by Indian intelligence to “plan, coordinate and organise espionage and sabotage activities”.

Aziz said all political parties of Pakistan were unanimous that the death sentence given to Jadhav was “the correct decision” and the “whole nation is solidly united against any threat to Pakistan’s security”.

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North Korea Launches Missile: Blows Up Almost Immediately: Sources: S. Korea, U.S.

 

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

Seoul, South Korea (CNN) An attempted missile launch by North Korea on Sunday failed, US and South Korean defense officials told CNN.

The attempted launch occurred a day after the regime of Kim Jong Un showed off a bevy of new missiles and launchers at a large-scale military parade on its most important holiday.
A South Korean defense official said the action took place in Sinpo, a port city in eastern North Korea. That was the site of a ballistic missile test earlier this month in which the projectile fell into the Sea of Japan, also known as the East Sea.
The North Koreans use Sinpo shipyard for their submarine activity, and US satellites have observed increased activity there in April, a US official said at the time of the previous test.
South Korean and US intelligence officials are trying to determine what type of missile was used Sunday.
Here are the latest developments:
• US Vice President Mike Pence, en route to South Korea for a previously scheduled trip, was briefed on the launch, administration officials said. Pence and President Donald Trump have been in contact, aides to the vice president said.
• “The President and his military team are aware of North Korea’s most recent unsuccessful missile launch. The President has no further comment,” US Defense Secretary James Mattis said.
• South Korean officials called a meeting of the country’s National Security Council.
• US Pacific Command said it tracked a missile launch at 5:21 p.m. ET and said the missile blew up almost immediately.
• At this point, US military officials don’t believe the missile had intercontinental capabilities, a US defense official told CNN. The official said the missile blew up so quickly there is limited data.
• CNN’s Will Ripley in Pyongyang, North Korea, reported there was no immediate confirmation from North Korean state media about the launch.

Rising tensions

North Korea’s actions come as tensions on the Korean Peninsula have spiked to alarming levels.
The US Navy dispatched the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson strike group to the region last weekend, and Trump has been tweeting this week that if China can’t rein in North Korea’s nuclear program, the United States will.
Pence is headed to Asia this weekend, with planned stops in Seoul; Jakarta, Indonesia; Tokyo and Sydney.
Analysts had expected North Korea to conduct a nuclear missile test around the time of his visit, possibly on Saturday as the nation celebrated the 105th birthday of its founder — Kim II Sung, the late grandfather of North Korea’s current leader.
The status of the North Korean underground nuclear test program is unchanged, a senior US defense official told CNN’s Barbara Starr, and a test could come at any time.
The reported failed test comes at a time of year when North Korea has previously tried to launch missiles. Last year, Pyongyang attempted to launch a Musudan missile on April 15, an auspicious date on which millions celebrate Kim II Sung’s birthday.
That test also failed, as there was “no evidence the missile reached flight,” a US official told CNN.

North Korea surprises with display of new missiles

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

North Korea surprises with display of new missiles

Story highlights

  • Intercontinental ballistic missile-sized canisters among bevy of new missiles
  • Display comes as tensions on the Korean Peninsula have spiked to alarming levels

(CNN) North Korea put its adversaries on notice Saturday, when it showed off a bevy of new missiles and launchers at its annual military parade.

Pyongyang showed off two new intercontinental ballistic missile-sized canisters as well as displaying its submarine-launched ballistic missile and a land-based version of the same for the first time, according to analysts.
If North Korea has ICBMs, it could give it the ability to strike targets in the mainland US and Europe. The shorter range ballistic missiles displayed Saturday, meanwhile, are a threat to countries in the Asian region.
North Korea’s display comes as tensions on the Korean Peninsula have spiked to alarming levels.

 

The US Navy dispatched the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson strike group to the region last weekend, and US President Donald Trump has been tweeting this week that if China can’t rein in North Korea’s nuclear program the US will.
“The Vinson was sent out to make a statement. North Korea responded by showing off the most new missile hardware we’ve ever seen in a parade before,” said Melissa Hanham, senior research associate at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies in California.
One of the biggest surprises of Saturday’s military parade in Pyongyang was two mobile canisters that could contain ICBMs larger than anything North Korea has ever produced.
“They both probably design concepts. We’ve never seen them in the wild,” Hanham said.
“We don’t know what — if anything — was inside the canisters since North Korea hasn’t publicly shown off or tested any missile of that size before,” analyst Ankit Panda wrote on The Diplomat.
“We can infer given the size of the canister and the fact that it was paraded on Saturday that Pyongyang wants the world to know that it is actively working toward at least two types of solid-fuel, canisterized ICBMs,” Panda wrote.
The fact that any new ICBM would be in a canister is important because it means those missiles would likely be solid-fueled, analysts said.
Solid-fueled missiles can be deployed faster and hidden better from satellite detection than their liquid-fueled counterparts.
And the large size also means the missiles could have a longer range.

‘A message to the United States’

“It certainly appears to be a message to the United States that they’re capable of threatening the US homeland. That’s certainly their objective,” Adam Mount, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, told CNN.
Hanham said other land and submarine-launched ballistic missiles were shown in public for the first time Saturday. The land-based version is known as the KN-15, while Pyongyang’s submarine-launched weapon is known as the KN-11 missile.
She took special note of the launcher the KN-15 was on.
“It uses caterpillar treads which means it can go off road more easily, which mean they can hide them more easily,” Hanham said.
North Korea has under 500 miles of paved roads, Panda wrote, and previous wheeled-launchers could risk damage to the missile operating off those.
Hanham said the tracked launch vehicles were made in North Korea, which means Pyongyang did not have to break sanctions imposed by China to obtain them.
Despite all the displays on Saturday, analysts cautioned against overreaction, noting that North Korea’s missile tests have had a checkered record of success, and adding that a missile in a parade does not necessarily mean it’s operational.

North Korea parades military might and warns US as nuclear test fears persist

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE GUARDIAN NEWS)

North Korea parades military might and warns US as nuclear test fears persist

As thousands of soldiers mass at Kim Il-sung square, Pyongyang tells US to end its dangerous ‘military hysteria’

Tanks prepare to parade in Pyongyang on Saturday as part of celebrations marking the birth of founder Kim Il-sung on Saturday.
Tanks prepare to parade in Pyongyang on Saturday as part of celebrations marking the birth of founder Kim Il-sung on Saturday. Photograph: AP

North Korea has begun a vast military parade to celebrate the birth of its founding father, Kim Il-sung, and warned that it was prepared to take the “toughest” action unless the US ended its “military hysteria”, as speculation grows that the regime is preparing to conduct a nuclear test.

On a sunny morning in the capital, Pyongyang, military vehicles and tens of thousands of soldiers filled Kim Il-sung square as a band played rousing military music, the instruments falling silent for oaths of loyalty to the country’s leader, Kim Jong-un.

Dressed in his trademark black suit and flanked by senior military and Workers’ party officials, Kim applauded and occasionally smiled as he watched the tributes to his grandfather, who was born 105 years ago today.

But the “Day of the Sun” was clouded in uncertainty as the world waited to see if Kim Jong-un, the country’s third-generation ruler, would provoke a potential regional crisis with what would be North Korea’s sixth nuclear test in just over a decade, or a test launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile.

As the USS aircraft carrier Carl Vinson and its strike group sailed towards the peninsula in a show of force, North Korea’s official KCNA news agency, citing a spokesman for the General Staff of the Korean People’s Army, warned of “merciless” retaliation against any US provocation.

Donald Trump’s decision to send an “armada” of warships to waters off the tense peninsula, coupled with recent US strikes in Syria and Afghanistan, were proof that Washington had chosen the path of “open threat and blackmail”, KCNA said.

“Our toughest counteraction against the US and its vassal forces will be taken in such a merciless manner as not to allow the aggressors to survive,” it added.

It said the Trump administration’s “serious military hysteria” has reached a “dangerous phase that can no longer be overlooked”.

It added: “Under the prevailing grave situation, the United States has to come to its senses and make a proper option for the solution of the problem.”

Choe Ryong-hae, a high-ranking party official, earlier told crowds North Korea was ready for war. “We will respond [to a US attack] with an all-out war … and nuclear attacks with nuclear strikes,” Choe said in a speech, according to Yonhap.

As the parade unfolded in Pyongyang, China’s state-run media warned that the US president was mistaken if he believed that piling military pressure on North Korea would resolve the regime’s nuclear and ballistic missile programmes.

The Global Times said Trump’s decision to drop the “mother of all bombs” on Afghanistan was clearly “a new gimmick in US military deterrence” designed to intimidate Kim Jong-un.

“North Korea must have felt the shock wave travelling all the way from Afghanistan,” the Communist party-controlled newspaper said in an editorial.

However, the Global Times, which sometimes reflects government views, said the use of such a “vicious weapon” was in fact likely to make Pyongyang even more determined to upgrade its own arsenal. “[Trump] has demonstrated a certain level of obsession and pride toward US military prowess,” it said, adding, that the US president “may go down in history as the ‘war president’”.

As North Korea’s only ally and biggest trading partner, China has come under unprecedented pressure in recent days to use its influence to persuade Kim not to risk conflict with a nuclear test or ballistic missile launch.

On Friday, China again called for talks to defuse the crisis. “We call on all parties to refrain from provoking and threatening each other, whether in words or actions, and not let the situation get to an irreversible and unmanageable stage,” the Chinese foreign minister, Wang Yi, told reporters in Beijing.

Speaking to Russia’s foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, on Friday night, Wang said steps were needed to prevent “war and chaos” on the Korean peninsula.

US officials have said the policy of “strategic patience” pursued by the Obama administration has ended, after years of diplomatic pressure and international sanctions failed to slow North Korea’s progress towards developing nuclear missiles capable of striking the US mainland – a milestone some experts believe is only years away.

In echoes of the bellicose rhetoric that reverberated around the Korean peninsula during its last major crisis in the spring of 2013, KCNA said North Korea would respond in kind to any perceived US military provocation.

Referring to the country by its official title, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, it warned: “The army and people of the DPRK will as ever courageously counter those who encroach upon the dignity and sovereignty of the DPRK and will always mercilessly ravage all provocative options of the US with Korean-style toughest counteraction.”