The five Richest Cities In The World

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TRAVEL TRIVIA)

 

Although money isn’t the most important thing in the world, we know that when it comes to picking stellar travel destinations, some of the best spots are cities that have the money. They tend to invest in attracting you there and making sure you have a good time.

To figure out which are the richest in the world, we looked at cities with the highest gross domestic product — basically, the strongest economies. Here’s a look at the cities that top the list.

London, England

London, England

Credit: IakovKalinin/iStock

GDP: $731.2 billion

Those bright red telephone booths that provide the perfect photo op on your visit can’t come cheap. Fortunately, London can afford it. If it’s good enough for the Queen of England’s home at Buckingham Palace, it’s good enough for us to visit. But even though the city has a reputation for being an expensive travel destination, there’s still plenty to do on a budget, from incredible food to free museums. We can’t recommend the Victoria and Albert Museum or the Tate Modern enough. Allow those generous donors in the fifth wealthiest city to bankroll your cultural education!

Seoul, South Korea

Seoul, South Korea

Credit: Sean Pavone/iStock

GDP: $779.3 billion

This massive metropolis is where modern meets tradition, and luxury meets low-fi. Thanks to amazing food from street vendors, an emphasis on technology and Buddhist influence, there are countless reasons to love the city — including these 50. Stay in a luxury, futuristic hotel or in a hostel close to universities and nightlife. You want this city on your list of places to travel to in 2019.

Los Angeles, U.S.A.

Los Angeles, U.S.A.

Credit: choness/iStock

GDP: $789.7 billion

It makes sense that the city a bunch of movie stars call home would be one of the richest, right? It’s not all movie stars, of course, but Hollywood has no shortage of movie studios and glitz and glamour. Be sure to swing by luxurious Beverly Hills and shop (or at least window shop) on Rodeo Drive. And Venice Beach, on top of having the draw of the Pacific Ocean, boasts some of the most interesting people watching in the U.S. You definitely wouldn’t be bored in the City of Angels.

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New York, U.S.A.

New York, U.S.A.

Credit: IgorP1976/iStock

GDP: $1,210 billion

Home of Wall Street, New York City is the second wealthiest city in the world and the wealthiest in the U.S. We could tell you about all the things you can do there (from major attractions like Times Square and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, to more subtle scenes like Brooklyn art galleries and hole-in-the-wall Manhattan restaurants), but odds are you already have a mental list of what you want to check out based on every movie and TV show you’ve ever seen. There’s no wrong way to do New York City.

Tokyo, Japan

Tokyo, Japan

Credit: yongyuan/iStock

GDP: $1,520 billion

The richest city in the world is also one of the most crowded, with a population of about 10 million. Japan’s capital combines the ancient and the brand new. You can do or see pretty much anything you could want to in the city. There are ancient temples and beautiful gardens. You can enjoy glittering nightlife and incredible technology. Stop in an exceptional, affordable restaurant or take in the quaint homes. The city is an international mecca. Don’t miss out on a chance to see what it has to offer.

South Korea Hunting For Iran Oil Replacement

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

South Korea Hunting for Iran Oil Replacement

Friday, 26 April, 2019 – 10:30
FILE PHOTO: South Korea’s top refiner SK Energy’s main factory is seen in Ulsan, about 410 km (256 miles) southeast of Seoul, February 25, 2009. REUTERS/Jo Yong-Hak/File Photo
Asharq Al-Awsat
South Korea is looking for a replacement for Tehran’s oil which it will no longer have access to after May, now that the United States intends to tighten sanctions on Iranian exports. The country is the biggest buyer of Iran’s condensate.

SK Incheon Petrochem Co Ltd, Hyundai Oilbank Corp and Hanwha Total Petrochemical are set to once again scan the world for alternative, but more expensive, condensate supplies and snap up heavy naphtha oil products for their processing units, known as splitters, industry sources and analysts said.

In 2018 South Korea bought and tested up to 23 different types of condensate from 15 countries as a potential substitutes for Iranian condensate, at a cost of about $9 billion, government and trade data analysed by Thomson Reuters showed.

This year South Korean refiners did not have to look hard as they made full use of the Iranian oil volumes allowed under the US waivers by importing only Iranian condensate. However, those waivers will expire on the 1st of May.

The country is set to import about 249,000 barrels per day (bpd) of Iranian South Pars condensate by the end of April, 70 percent of the total volume of condensate it imported last year, the data showed, much more than it needs in the first half of 2019.

The country’s condensate demand has also fallen in the first half of this year as refiners cut runs at splitters on poor naphtha margins and as Hanwha Total shut a splitter for maintenance, the sources said, according to Reuters.

SK and Hanwha Total may replace condensates by buying more heavy naphtha, a raw material for petrochemicals. Low naphtha prices could help repeat a spike in imports that happened in late 2018.

Hanwha Total, which operates two condensate splitters, last year raised its monthly average imports of heavy naphtha to 400,000 tonnes from 250,000 tonnes in the absence of Iranian condensate.

North Korea’s Kim Jong Un Wants to ‘Write a New History’ With South Korea

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TIME.COM NEWS)

((Commentary: by TRS) Just how foolish is President Moon of South Korea? Yes, it is obvious that Kim Jong Un wants to “write a new history” of the Korean Peninsula with himself as the supreme ruler of all of the peninsula. The only thing acceptable to Kim Jong Un is for the people of South Korea to totally and completely give up all of their freedom. Even China’s Xi Jinping has made it clear that China will not tolerate a “non-Communist” government on their border. So, it is my belief that President Moon is acting like either a total fool, or, he is a total traitor to the people of South Korea!)

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COMING UP…
I’D LIKE TO BE OPTIMISTIC.’ DONALD TRUMP SEES SIGN OF PROGRESS IN POSSIBLE NORTH KOREA TALKS WITH U.S.
By FOSTER KLUG / AP

March 6, 2018

(SEOUL, South Korea) — North Korean leader Kim Jong Un had an “openhearted talk” in Pyongyang with envoys for South Korean President Moon Jae-in, the North said Tuesday.

It’s the first time South Korean officials have met with the young North Korean leader in person since he took power after his dictator father’s death in late 2011 — and the latest sign that the Korea’s are trying to mend ties after a year of repeated North Korean weapons tests and threats of nuclear war.

North Korea’s state media said Kim expressed his desire to “write a new history of national reunification” during a dinner Monday night that Seoul said lasted about four hours.

Given the robust history of bloodshed, threats and animosity on the Korean Peninsula, there is considerable skepticism over whether the Koreas’ apparent warming relations will lead to lasting peace.

North Korea, some believe, is trying to use improved ties with the South to weaken U.S.-led international sanctions and pressure, and to provide domestic propaganda fodder for Kim Jong Un.

But each new development also raises the possibility that the rivals can use the momentum from the good feelings created during North Korea’s participation in the South’s Pyeongchang Winter Olympics last month to ease a standoff over North Korea’s nuclear ambitions and restart talks between Pyongyang and Washington.

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COMING UP…
NORTH KOREA’S KIM JONG UN WANTS TO ‘WRITE A NEW HISTORY’ WITH SOUTH KOREA AFTER TALKS
I’D LIKE TO BE OPTIMISTIC.’ DONALD TRUMP SEES SIGN OF PROGRESS IN POSSIBLE NORTH KOREA TALKS WITH U.S.

The North Korean report sought to make Kim look statesmanlike as he welcomed the visiting South Koreans, with Kim offering views on “activating the versatile dialogue, contact, cooperation and exchange.”

He was also said to have given “important instruction to the relevant field to rapidly take practical steps for” a summit with Moon, which the North proposed last month.

Moon, a liberal who is keen to engage the North, likely wants to visit Pyongyang. But he must first broker better ties between the North and Washington, which is Seoul’s top ally and its military protector.

The role of a confident leader welcoming visiting, and lower-ranking, officials from the rival South is one Kim clearly relishes. Smiling for cameras, he posed with the South Koreans and presided over what was described as a “co-patriotic and sincere atmosphere.”

Many in Seoul and Washington will want to know if, the rhetoric and smiling images notwithstanding, there’s any possibility Kim will negotiate over the North’s breakneck pursuit of an arsenal of nuclear missiles that can viably target the U.S. mainland.

The North has repeatedly and bluntly declared it will not give up its nuclear bombs. It also hates the annual U.S.-South Korean military exercises that were postponed because of the Olympics but will likely happen later this spring. And achieving its nuclear aims rests on the North resuming tests of missiles and bombs that set the region on edge.

Photos distributed by the North showed a beaming Kim dressed in a dark Mao-style suit and holding hands with Moon’s national security director, Chung Eui-yong, the leader of the 10-member South Korean delegation. Chung’s trip is the first known high-level visit by South Korean officials to the North in about a decade.

The South Korean delegates have another meeting with North Korean officials on Tuesday before returning home, but it’s unclear if Kim Jong Un will be there.

Kim was said to have expressed at the dinner his “firm will to vigorously advance the north-south relations and write a new history of national reunification by the concerted efforts of our nation to be proud of in the world.”

There is speculation that better inter-Korean ties could pave the way for Washington and Pyongyang to talk about the North’s nuclear weapons. The United States, however, has made clear that it doesn’t want empty talks and that all options, including military measures, are on the table.

Previous warming ties between the Korea’s have come to nothing amid North Korea’s repeated weapons tests and the North’s claims that the annual U.S.-South Korean war games are a rehearsal for an invasion.

Before leaving for Pyongyang, Chung said he would relay Moon’s hopes for North Korean nuclear disarmament and a permanent peace on the peninsula.

Chung’s delegation includes intelligence chief Suh Hoon and Vice Unification Minister Chun Hae-sung. The South Korean presidential Blue House said the high-profile delegation is meant to reciprocate the Olympic trip by Kim Jong Un’s sister, Kim Yo Jong, who became the first member of the North’s ruling family to come to South Korea since the end of the 1950-53 Korean War.

Kim Yo Jong, who also attended Monday’s dinner, and other senior North Korean officials met with Moon during the Olympics, conveyed Kim Jong Un’s invitation to visit Pyongyang and expressed their willingness to hold talks with the United States.

After the Pyongyang trip, Chung’s delegation is scheduled to fly to the United States to brief officials about the outcome of the talks with North Korean officials.

President Donald Trump has said talks with North Korea will happen only “under the right conditions.”

If Moon accepts Kim’s invitation to visit Pyongyang it would be the third inter-Korean summit talk. The past two summits, one in 2000 and the other in 2007, were held between Kim’s late father, Kim Jong Il, and two liberal South Korean presidents. They resulted in a series of cooperative projects between the Korea’s that were scuttled during subsequent conservative administrations in the South.

China Blinks on South Korea, Making Nice After a Year of Hostilities

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE KOREAN TIMES AND THE NEW YORK TIMES)

 

China Blinks on South Korea, Making Nice After a Year of Hostilities

November 2, 2017

By JANE PERLEZMARK LANDLER and CHOE SANG-HUN

Xi Jinping at the Communist Party Congress in Beijing last month. The Chinese president smoothed relations with South Korea on Tuesday.  Credit Frayer/Getty Images

BEIJING — For more than a year, China has railed against South Korea, calling for boycotts of its products over Seoul’s decision to let the United States deploy an anti-missile system, which Beijing fears threaten its own security.

On Tuesday, however, China abruptly changed course, essentially saying “never mind,” as the two countries agreed to end their dispute even though South Korea is keeping the system in place.

China’s unexpected move to settle the rancorous dispute could scramble President Trump’s calculations about how to deal with allies and North Korea on the eve of his first trip to Asia.

The decision, by the newly empowered Chinese president, Xi Jinping, appeared to reflect a judgment that China’s continued opposition to the deployment of the American missile defense system was not succeeding in fraying the South Korean government’s alliance with Washington.

But it could also pose a fresh challenge to Mr. Trump, as he attempts to build support in the region to put greater pressure on North Korea to curb its nuclear and missile programs.

South Korea’s liberal president, Moon Jae-in, is more receptive to diplomacy with the North Koreans than either Mr. Trump or Japan’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe. Drawing Mr. Moon closer to Beijing, analysts said, could create a new alignment on how to deal with the North, with China and South Korea facing off against Japan and the United States.

“It’s going to undermine the Trump administration’s effort to build solidarity among the U.S., Japan, and Korea to put pressure not only on North Korea but on China to do more on North Korea,” said Michael J. Green, an Asia expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Much about the rapprochement is not known, Mr. Green cautioned, and the Chinese could be exaggerating the implications of the agreement. But it adds yet another volatile element to Mr. Trump’s 12-day, five-nation tour of Asia, which begins this weekend.

Formally, the Trump administration welcomed news of the thaw. The State Department spokeswoman, Heather Nauert, told reporters on Tuesday, “We see that as providing better stability, greater stability for a region that desperately needs it because of North Korea.”

Ms. Nauert, however, said she did not know whether China’s move indicated it no longer had objections to the deployment of the antimissile system, the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, or Thaad.

The White House has not publicly addressed the rapprochement. A senior administration official, who asked for anonymity to discuss a sensitive diplomatic issue, acknowledged it could complicate matters, but said there should be no inherent conflict in South Korea restoring its relations with China while at the same time pushing to keep maximum pressure on North Korea.

Photo

The Terminal High Altitude Area Defense equipment was installed in September in Seongju, South Korea, over China’s protests. Credit Yohnap, via Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

In restoring better relations with South Korea, Mr. Xi appeared to have decided that he could afford to blink. But he also does not face a vigorous political opposition or press, which could accuse him of flip-flopping on the issue.

Even under Mr. Moon, whose outlook toward China had been more favorable than his predecessor’s and who has called for a more balanced diplomacy between Beijing and Washington, Mr. Xi made no headway in achieving his stated goal of stopping the deployment of the Thaad.

A second phase of the missile defense system, intended to defend South Korea from the escalating nuclear and missile threats from North Korea, was installed despite China’s protests in September, just four months after Mr. Moon took office. China had insisted it would not tolerate Thaad’s powerful radar so close to its own missile systems.

Mr. Xi’s tough stance against South Korea also included the informal, though punishing, economic boycott that helped reinforce the American relationship with Seoul, undermining China’s long-term goal of replacing the United States as the pre-eminent power in Asia.

“This is the reversal of an ineffective and costly policy on the part of China,” said Shi Yinhong, professor of international relations at Renmin University of China.

In agreeing to restore cordial relations, South Korea pledged not to accept additional Thaad launchers and agreed not to join a regional missile defense system with the United States and Japan. The agreement not to accept any more Thaad deployments had been a longstanding policy stance of Mr. Moon anyway, a South Korean government official said on Wednesday.

South Korea also promised not to join a trilateral military alliance with the United States and Japan. Mr. Moon, like his predecessors, had shown no interest in expanding military relations with Japan, its former colonial master.

With the increased threat from North Korea, Mr. Moon had aligned himself more closely with Mr. Trump and Mr. Abe.

The three leaders met on the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit meeting in Germany in July and agreed to enhance their defense capabilities against the North Korean threat.

In warming up to South Korea, Mr. Xi probably recognized that Mr. Moon would be more malleable to favoring dialogue with North Korea than was his conservative predecessor, Park Geun-hye.

At the recent party congress in which he was elevated to a second five-year term as president, Mr. Xi showed himself determined to project China’s power in a “new era.” Resolving the North Korea crisis dovetails with that theme, and any move toward talking with the North would be easier with Mr. Moon by his side.

South Korea and China announced their decision to restore relations just before Mr. Trump’s visit.

The timing was interpreted in Beijing as a way to blunt some of the impacts of the American president’s stop in Seoul, where he is expected to deliver a speech to the National Assembly.

Photo

President Moon Jae-in of South Korea, President Trump and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan in Hamburg, Germany, in July for a Group of 20 summit meeting. Credit Stephen Crowley/The New York Times

Indeed, the rapprochement between China and South Korea carries risks for the United States. How far Mr. Moon would now lean toward China is something that Washington needs to watch closely, said Evans J. R. Revere, a former State Department official who has dealt with the Korean Peninsula.

In agreeing not to join a regional missile defense system, South Korea is addressing China’s concerns about what it views as the United States’ aim to “contain” China.

“Beijing was worried that Thaad would eventually be succeeded by ‘son of Thaad’ — a regional missile defense system involving the United States, South Korea and Japan and others that would be aimed at dealing with China’s offensive missile force, unlike the current Thaad, which it is not,” Mr. Revere said.

For Mr. Moon, the Chinese government’s efforts to discourage the purchase of popular South Korean goods as punishment for the Thaad deployment has taken a toll. China is by far the biggest trading partner of South Korea; two-way trade is bigger than South Korea’s trade with the United States and Japan combined.

The Hyundai Research Institute found that the Thaad dispute was likely to have cost South Korea $7.5 billion so far this year, a 0.5 percent hit to its gross domestic product. China lost $880 million, just a 0.01 percent drop of its G.D.P., the institute said.

South Korean car sales plummeted in China. Lotte, the retailer, recently put 112 of its stores in China on the market after customers abandoned it. South Korean movies and cosmetics also suffered.

The government-encouraged boycott — coupled with what was perceived as Beijing’s interference in South Korea’s internal affairs over Thaad — hardened the view of China as a bully among the South Korean people.

“We have seen anti-Chinese sentiments rising in South Korea,” said Seo Jeong-kyung, a professor at the Sungkyun Institute of China Studies in Seoul. “So did the approval ratings for the Thaad deployment, and calls mounted for strengthening the alliance with the Americans.”

Despite the apparent resolution of the standoff between the two countries, there was no guarantee that the accord would stick.

People’s Daily, the official Communist Party newspaper, issued a somewhat friendly, but mostly stern, editorial. “Only proper resolution of the Thaad issue can bring the Sino-Korean relationship back onto the right track,” it said.

It was possible that both sides agreed to resolve their differences so the two leaders, Mr. Xi and Mr. Moon, could meet in Vietnam next week during an Asian economic summit meeting. After that, there is the talk of Mr. Moon visiting China before the end of the year.

“This is a direct result of South Korea’s efforts to mend fences,” said Cheng Xiaohe, an associate professor of international relations at Renmin University. “China also realizes that Thaad should not hold hostage the whole relations between the two nations. But I think the Thaad issue is just shelved, not resolved.”

Jane Perlez reported from Beijing, and Choe Sang-Hun from Seoul, South Korea. Juecheng Zhao contributed research from Beijing.

A version of this article appears in print on November 2, 2017, on Page A4 of the New York edition with the headline: China Blinks on South Korea, Making Nice After a Year of Hostilities. Order ReprintsToday’s Paper|Subscribe

 

A North Korean Refugee and Cartoonist Draws What Life Is Like for Those Who Escape

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF GLOBAL VOICES AND PUBLIC RADIO INTERNATIONAL)

 

A North Korean Refugee and Cartoonist Draws What Life Is Like for Those Who Escape

On the left, one refugee asks, “Are you sure we can really eat as much as we want?” On the right, the other female defector says, “All the food in this restaurant is rotten.” South Koreans use the English word “buffet,” which sounds like the Korean word for “rotten.” A challenge for many North Korean defectors is to learn all of these borrowed foreign words that have become part of the southern vernacular. Credit: Choi Seong-guk

This story by Jason Strother originally appeared on PRI.org on July 6, 2017. It is republished here as part of a partnership between PRI and Global Voices.

The escape of around 30,000 North Korean defectors to South Korea might not seem like a storyline rife with laughter. But an online comic strip series created by a North Korean refugee, who now lives in Seoul, attempts to bring some humor to what is an often-harrowing journey and difficult resettlement.

https://www.pri.org/node/169491/embedded

After his own defection to South Korea in 2010, Choi Seong-guk, 37, realized that the two Koreas were no longer the same country — many cultural and linguistic differences have arisen during more than 70 years of division.

For Choi, who had once worked for Pyongyang’s premier animation studio, SEK, one of the first differences that stood out was that cartoons in the south weren’t anything like the ones in the north.

“When I first saw South Korean cartoons, I just didn’t get them,” he says. “There were no stories about patriotism or catching spies or war. They just seemed useless to me.”

Choi has had a knack for drawing since he was a kid, when teachers praised him for his sketches of evil American soldiers that he says he made look “as ugly and violent as possible.”

This is a re-creation of a drawing Choi made as a young student. It depicts an American soldier kicking a South Korean soldier as they prepare to cross the border into North Korea. The caption reads, “Invasion from the South.” Credit: Choi Seong-guk

In 2016, Choi returned to drawing and began an online comic strip series called “Rodong Shimmun,” which means “labor interrogation” — it’s a play on the name of North Korea’s “Rodong Shinmun,” the labor newspaper.

The satirical series follows a group of newly arrived refugees as they spend their first months in South Korea at a government–run integration center. Choi pokes fun at their ‘newbie-ness,’ like their shock about all the food at a buffet restaurant.

He also tells the story of one lovelorn defector, which he says is based on his own embarrassing cultural misunderstanding.

The defector meets a South Korean woman, who says, “Interesting. I’ve never met a North Korean person before. Can I have your phone number?” Credit: Choi Seong-guk

“One time I met a South Korean woman who asked for my phone number and said she wanted to become my friend,” he recalls. “I somehow misinterpreted that as she wanted to marry me.”

The woman goes on to use a term of endearment that’s casually spoken in South Korea. In a subsequent text bubble, Choi explains to his readers how this caused mixed signals.

“In North Korea only romantic partners would say that to each other. Amongst friends, we just call each other ‘comrade.’”

Not all of Choi’s drawings are funny, though. Some depict scenes in North Korea of people starving in the streets.

Throughout Choi’s comic series are glimpses of life in North Korea. In this drawing, the person says, “Hey, you could die. We should eat this grass.” Credit: Choi Seong-guk

Others portray how some defectors made their escape under fire from border guards.

Choi says he hopes his comic series will help change the mindset of South Koreans, who are generally apathetic toward North Korean refugees.

The caption above the drawing reads: “Escaping North Korea is all about survival. Even if one of your family members get shot and falls down, you just have to keep running.” Credit: Choi Seong-guk

And it might be working.

“Rodong Shimmun” now receives tens of thousands of views and some readers leave comments saying it’s helped them better understand the cultural differences between North and South Korea. Others write that they feel more empathetic toward defectors.

US Moves THAAD Anti-missile to S.Korean Site as North Shows Power

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

World

US Moves THAAD Anti-missile to S.Korean Site as North Shows Power

Protesters stage a rally to oppose a plan to deploy an advanced US missile defense system called Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD, in front of the Defense Ministry in Seoul, South Korea, Tuesday, March 14, 2017. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

South Korea announced Wednesday the installation of key parts of a contentious US missile defense system meant to counter the North hours after Pyongyang displayed its military power.

South Korea said in a statement Wednesday that unspecified parts of the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense system, or THAAD, were installed.

It said that Seoul and Washington have been pushing to get THAAD quickly working to cope with North Korea’s advancing nuclear and missile threats. According to the Yonhap news agency, the parts include two or three launchers, intercept missiles and a radar.

The South Korean move triggered protests from villagers and criticism from China.

Television footage showed military trailers carrying equipment, including what appeared to be launch canisters, to
the battery site. Protesters shouted and hurled water bottles at the vehicles over lines of police holding them back.

More than 10 protesters were injured, some of them with fractures, in clashes with police, Kim Jong-kyung, a leader of villagers opposing the deployment, told Reuters.

Kim said about 200 protesters rallied overnight and they would keep up their opposition.

North Korea conducted live-fire artillery drills on Tuesday, the 85th anniversary of the founding of its million-person Korean People’s Army.

North Korea’s official media reported Wednesday that leader Kim Jong Un personally observed the exercises, which involved the firing of more than 300 large-caliber artillery pieces and included submarine torpedo-attacks on mock enemy warships.

On the same day, the USS Michigan, a nuclear-powered submarine, arrived at the South Korean port of Busan for what was described as a routine visit to rest crew and load supplies. The US 7th Fleet said two American destroyers were conducting simultaneous maritime exercises with naval ships from South Korea and Japan.

And the USS Carl Vinson aircraft supercarrier is also headed toward the peninsula for a joint exercise with South Korea.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said Wednesday that the system’s deployment would “disrupt the regional strategic balance and further aggravate the tension on the peninsula.”

Geng said “China will firmly be taking necessary measures to defend our own interests” but offered no details. China’s defense ministry has also repeatedly criticized THAAD’s deployment and said the military will take unspecified actions in response.

In Washington, top Trump administration officials are due to brief the entire US Senate on Wednesday. A rapid tempo of North Korean weapons testing in the past year has pushed Kim Jong Un’s authoritarian nation closer to developing a nuclear-armed missile that could reach the US mainland.

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Asharq Al-Awsat English

Asharq Al-Awsat is the world’s premier pan-Arab daily newspaper, printed simultaneously each day on four continents in 14 cities. Launched in London in 1978, Asharq Al-Awsat has established itself as the decisive publication on pan-Arab and international affairs, offering its readers in-depth analysis and exclusive editorials, as well as the most comprehensive coverage of the entire Arab world.

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China says North Korea tension has to be stopped from reaching ‘irreversible’ stage

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF REUTERS)

China says North Korea tension has to be stopped from reaching ‘irreversible’ stage

By Dominique Patton and Sue-Lin Wong | BEIJING/PYONGYANG

China said on Friday tension over North Korea had to be stopped from reaching an “irreversible and unmanageable stage” as a U.S. aircraft carrier group steamed towards the region amid fears the North may conduct a sixth nuclear weapons test.

Concerns have grown since the U.S. Navy fired 59 Tomahawk missiles at a Syrian airfield last week in response to a deadly gas attack, raising questions about U.S. President Donald Trump’s plans for North Korea, which has conducted missile and nuclear tests in defiance of U.N. and unilateral sanctions.

The United States has warned that a policy of “strategic patience” is over. U.S. Vice President Mike Pence travels to South Korea on Sunday on a long-planned 10-day trip to Asia.

China, North Korea’s sole major ally and neighbor which nevertheless opposes its weapons program, has called for talks leading to a peaceful resolution and the decentralization of the Korean peninsula.

“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,” Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told reporters in Beijing.

“Force cannot solve the problem, dialogue can be the only channel to resolve the problem.”

North Korea for its part denounced the United States for bringing “huge nuclear strategic assets” to the region.

A spokesman for the North Korean Foreign Ministry’s Institute for Disarmament and Peace issued a statement condemning the United States for its attack on the Syrian airfield.

“The U.S. introduces into the Korean peninsula, the world’s biggest hotspot, huge nuclear strategic assets, seriously threatening peace and security of the peninsula and pushing the situation there to the brink of a war,” the North’s KCNA news agency said on Friday, citing the statement.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un waves to people cheering during an opening ceremony of a newly constructed residential complex in Ryomyong street in Pyongyang, North Korea April 13, 2017. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj

“This has created a dangerous situation in which a thermo-nuclear war may break out any moment.”

North Korea, still technically at war with the South after their 1950-53 conflict ended in a truce, not a treaty, has on occasion conducted missile or nuclear tests to coincide with big political events and often threatens the United States, South Korea and Japan.

On Saturday, it marks the “Day of the Sun”, the 105th anniversary of the birth of state founder Kim Il Sung.

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While Trump has put North Korea on notice that he will not tolerate any more provocation, U.S. officials have said his administration is focusing its strategy on tougher economic sanctions.

Trump said on Thursday North Korea was a problem that “will be taken care of” and he believed Chinese President Xi Jinping would “work very hard” to help resolve it.

Trump has also said the United States is prepared to tackle the crisis without China, if necessary.

He diverted the nuclear-powered USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier and its strike group towards the Korean peninsula last weekend in a show of force. (tmsnrt.rs/2p1yGTQ)

The dollar fell on Friday against a basket of currencies, on track for a losing week as tension over North Korea underpinned the perceived safe-haven Japanese yen.

Media in Japan said the government confirmed it would take all precautions in the face of possible North Korean provocations.

The Nikkei business daily said government discussions included how to rescue the estimated 57,000 Japanese citizens in South Korea as well as how to cope with a possible flood of North Korean refugees coming to Japan, among whom might be North Korean spies and agents.

In Pyongyang, retired soldier Ho Song Chol told Reuters that North Korea would win should there be any conflict with the United States.

“We don’t think about other things, we just live in our belief that we will win as long as our Supreme Leader is with us,” Ho said, referring to Kim Jong Un.

Kang Gil-won, a 26-year-old graduate living in Seoul, said his biggest concern was not North Korea, but finding work in a tough job market.

“There’s no concern that war is going to break out tomorrow,” he told Reuters at a “study café” where many young job seekers prepare for interviews.

“Getting a job is a war that I feel in my bones.”

Many South Koreans, meanwhile, marked “Black Day” on Friday, but it had nothing to do with worry about North Korea.

Black Day is a day for singles, marked by eating “jajangmyeon”, a noodle dish topped with a thick sauce made of black beans. It’s celebrated by singles as a response to “White Day”, an Asian Valentine’s Day which falls a month earlier, on March 14.

(Additional reporting by Nick Macfie, James Pearson and Ju-min Park in SEOUL, Natalie Thomas in Pyongyang, Linda Sieg in TOKYO and Michael Martina in BEIJING; Writing by Nick Macfie; Editing by Robert Birsel)

South Korea’s President Warns That North Korea Is About To Test 6th Nuclear Weapon

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF REUTERS)

By Ju-min Park | SEOUL

South Korea’s acting president warned on Tuesday of “greater provocations” by North Korea as tension on the Korean peninsula rises over concern the North may conduct a test of its military hardware in coming days.

A U.S. Navy strike group led by a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier is en route to the western Pacific with talk of military action by the United States gaining traction following its strikes last week against Syria.

South Korean acting President Hwang Kyo-ahn ordered the military to intensify monitoring of the North’s activities and to ensure close communication with the ally the United States.

“It is possible the North may wage greater provocations such as a nuclear test timed with various anniversaries including the Supreme People’s Assembly,” said Hwang, acting leader since former President Park Geun-hye was removed over a graft scandal.

The North convenes a Supreme People’s Assembly session on Tuesday, one of its twice-yearly sessions in which major appointments are announced and national policy goals are formally approved.

Saturday is the 105th anniversary of the birth of Kim Il Sung, the country’s founding father and grandfather of current ruler, Kim Jong Un.

A military parade is expected in the North’s capital, Pyongyang, to mark the day. North Korea often also marks important anniversaries with tests of its nuclear or missile capabilities.

The North’s foreign ministry, in a statement carried by its KCNA news agency earlier on Tuesday, said the U.S. navy strike group’s move near the Korean peninsula showed America’s “reckless moves for invading had reached a serious phase”.

“We never beg for peace but we will take the toughest counteraction against the provocateurs in order to defend ourselves by powerful force of arms and keep to the road chosen by ourselves,” an unidentified ministry spokesman said.

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Delegates from around the North have been arriving in Pyongyang ahead of the assembly session. They visited statues of previous leaders Kim Il Sung and his son, Kim Jong Il, state media reported.

North Korea is emerging as one of the most pressing foreign policy problems facing the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump.

North Korea has conducted five nuclear tests, two of them last year, and is working to develop nuclear-tipped missiles that can reach the United States.

The Trump administration is reviewing its policy toward North Korea and has said all options are on the table, including military strikes.

The U.S. Navy strike group Carl Vinson canceled a planned trip to Australia and was moving toward the western Pacific Ocean near the Korean peninsula as a show of force, a U.S. official told Reuters over the weekend.

Trump and his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, met in Florida last week and Trump pressed Xi to do more to curb North Korea’s nuclear program.

China and South Korea agreed on Monday to impose tougher sanctions on North Korea if it carried out nuclear or long-range missile tests, a senior official in Seoul said.

As well as the anniversary of Kim Il Sung’s birth, there are several other North Korean anniversaries in April that could be opportunities for weapon tests, South Korean officials have said.

The North is seen ready to conduct its sixth nuclear test at any time, with movements detected by satellites at its Punggye-ri nuclear test site.

(Editing by Jack Kim, Robert Birsel)

South Korea Removes President Park Geun-hye

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES)

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Supporters of President Park Geun-hye of South Korea at a protest near the Constitutional Court on Friday, before the court issued a ruling to oust her. Her removal from the presidency capped months of turmoil.CreditKim Hong-Ji/Reuters

SEOUL, South Korea — A South Korean court removed the president on Friday, a first in the nation’s history, rattling the delicate balance of relationships across Asia at a particularly tense time.

Her removal capped months of turmoil, as hundreds of thousands of South Koreans took to the streets, week after week, to protest a sprawling corruption scandal that shook the top echelons of business and government.

Park Geun-hye, the nation’s first female president and the daughter of the Cold War military dictator Park Chung-hee, had been an icon of the conservative establishment that joined Washington in pressing for a hard line against North Korea’s nuclear provocations.

Now, her downfall is expected to shift South Korean politics to the opposition, whose leaders want more engagement with North Korea and are wary of a major confrontation in the region. They say they will re-examine the country’s joint strategy on North Korea with the United States and defuse tensions with China, which has sounded alarms about the growing American military footprint in Asia.

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Portraits of North Korea’s previous leaders, Kim Il-sung, left, and Kim Jong-il, on display in Pyongyang, the capital. North Korea’s nuclear weapons program will be a prominent issue in South Korea’s coming presidential campaign. CreditEd Jones/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Ms. Park’s powers were suspended in December after a legislative impeachment vote, though she continued to live in the presidential Blue House, largely alone and hidden from public view, while awaiting the decision by the Constitutional Court. The house had been her childhood home: She first moved in at the age of 9 and left it nearly two decades later after her mother and father were assassinated in separate episodes.

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Ms. Park’s acts “betrayed the trust of the people and were of the kind that cannot be tolerated for the sake of protecting the Constitution,” Justice Lee said.

As the verdict was announced, crowds watching it on large television screens near the courthouse broke out in cheers. In central Seoul, some people danced to celebrate their victorious revolt against an unpopular leader, with loudspeakers blaring, “All the power of the Republic of Korea comes from the people!”

With the immunity conferred by her office now gone, Ms. Park, 65, faces prosecutors seeking to charge her with bribery, extortion and abuse of power in connection with allegations of conspiring with a confidante, her childhood friend Choi Soon-sil, to collect tens of millions of dollars in bribes from big businesses like Samsung.

By law, the country must elect a new president within 60 days. The acting president, Hwang Kyo-ahn, an ally of Ms. Park’s, will remain in office in the interim. The Trump administration is rushing a missile defense system to South Korea so that it can be in place before the election.

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Judges at the impeachment ruling at the Constitutional Court on Friday. The downfall of Ms. Park is expected to shift South Korean politics to leaders who want more engagement with the North.CreditYonhap, via European Pressphoto Agency

The last time a South Korean leader was removed from office under popular pressure was in 1960, when the police fired on crowds calling for President Syngman Rhee to step down. (Mr. Rhee, a dictator, fled into exile in Hawaii and died there.)

In a sign of how far South Korea’s young democracy has evolved, Ms. Park was removed without any violence, after large, peaceful protests in recent months demanding that she step down. In addition to the swell of popular anger, the legislature and the judiciary — two institutions that have been weaker than the presidency historically — were crucial to the outcome.

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A protest last month in Seoul, South Korea, demanding Ms. Park’s resignation. CreditKim Hong-Ji/Reuters

“This is a miracle, a new milestone in the strengthening and institutionalizing of democracy in South Korea,” said Kang Won-taek, a political scientist at Seoul National University.

When crowds took to the streets, they were not just seeking to remove a leader who had one year left in office. They were also rebelling against a political order that had held South Korea together for decades but is now fracturing under pressures both at home and abroad, analysts said.

Ms. Park’s father ruled South Korea from 1961 to 1979. He founded its economic growth model, which transformed the nation into an export powerhouse and allowed the emergence of family-controlled conglomerates known as chaebol that benefited from tax cuts, anti-labor policies and other benefits from the government.

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Ms. Park, top center, with her father, Park Chung-hee, left, and her mother, Yuk Young-soo, right, in an undated family photograph. CreditYonhap, via Reuters

Ms. Park was elected in 2012 with the support of older conservative South Koreans who revered her father for the country’s breakneck economic growth.

But the nexus of industry and political power gave rise to collusive ties, highlighted by the scandal that led to Ms. Park’s impeachment.

The scandal also swept up the de facto head of Samsung, Lee Jae-yong, who was indicted on charges of bribing Ms. Park and her confidante, Ms. Choi.

Samsung, the nation’s largest conglomerate, has been tainted by corruption before. But the company has been considered too important to the economy for any of its top leaders to spend time behind bars — until now. The jailing of Mr. Lee, who is facing trial, is another potent sign that the old order is not holding.

In the wake of the Park scandal, all political parties have vowed to curtail presidential power to pardon chaebol tycoons convicted of white-collar crimes. They also promised to stop chaebol chairmen from helping their children amass fortunes through dubious means, like forcing their companies to do exclusive business with the children’s businesses.

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Celebrating after hearing the decision, in front of the Constitutional Court in Seoul, the capital, on Friday.CreditKim Hong-Ji/Reuters

With the conservatives discredited — and no leading conservative candidate to succeed Ms. Park — the left could take power for the first time in a decade.

The dominant campaign issues will probably be North Korea’s nuclear weapons program and South Korea’s relations with the United States and China.

If the opposition takes power, it may try to revive its old “sunshine policy” of building ties with North Korea through aid and exchanges, an approach favored by China. That would complicate Washington’s efforts to isolate the North at a time other Asian nations like the Philippines are gravitating toward Beijing.

Moon Jae-in, the Democratic Party leader who is leading in opinion surveys, has said that a decade of applying sanctions on North Korea had failed to stop its nuclear weapons programs. He has said that sanctions are necessary, but that “their goal should be to draw North Korea back to the negotiating table.”

He believes that Ms. Park’s decision to allow the deployment of the American missile defense system — known as Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, or Thaad — has dragged the country into the dangerous and growing rivalry between Washington and Beijing; China has called the system a threat to its own security and taken steps to punish South Korea economically for accepting it.

Conservative South Koreans see the deployment of the antimissile system not only as a guard against the North but also as a symbolic reaffirmation of the all-important alliance with the United States. Mr. Moon’s party demands that the deployment, which began this week, be suspended immediately. If it takes power, it says it will review the deployment of the antimissile system to determine if it is in South Korea’s best interest.

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Equipment for an American missile defense system arrived at an air base in South Korea on Monday. If the opposition party takes power, it says it will review the deployment of the system to determine if it is in South Korea’s best interest. CreditU.S. Forces Korea, via Associated Press

As South Korea has learned in painful fashion, it cannot always keep Washington and Beijing happy at the same time, as in the case of the country’s decision to accept the American missile defenses.

Yet Ms. Park’s impeachment was also a pushback against “Cold War conservatives” like her father, who seized on Communist threats from North Korea to hide their corruption and silence political opponents, said Kim Dong-choon, a sociologist at Sungkonghoe University in Seoul.

Ms. Park’s father tortured and even executed dissidents, framing them with spying charges. Now, his daughter faces charges that her government blacklisted thousands of unfriendly artists and writers, branding them pro-North Korean, and denied them access to government support programs.

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“Her removal means that the curtain is finally drawing on the authoritarian political and economic order that has dominated South Korea for decades,” said Ahn Byong-jin, rector of the Global Academy for Future Civilizations at Kyung Hee University in Seoul.

Analysts cautioned that political and economic change will come slowly.

As Mr. Moon put it recently: “We need a national cleanup. We need to liquidate the old system and build a new South Korea. Only then can we complete the revolution started by the people who rallied with candlelight.”

China Reacts Angrily To South Korea Wanting To Be Able To Protect Themselves From North Korean Missiles

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE REUTERS NEWS AGENCY)

China angrily reacts with threats after South Korean missile defense decision

Chinese state media has reacted with anger and threats of boycotts after the board of an affiliate of South Korea’s Lotte Group approved a land swap with the government that will enable authorities to deploy a U.S. missile defense system.

The government decided last year to deploy the U.S. Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system, in response to the North Korean missile threat, on land that is part of a golf course owned by Lotte in the Seongju region, southeast of Seoul.

The board of unlisted Lotte International Co Ltd approved the deal with the government on Monday.

China objects to the deployment in South Korea of the THAAD, which has a powerful radar capable of penetrating Chinese territory, with Beijing saying it is a threat to its security and will do nothing to ease tension with North Korea.

Influential state-run Chinese tabloid the Global Times said in an editorial on Tuesday that Lotte should be shown the door in China.

“We also propose that Chinese society should coordinate voluntarily in expanding restrictions on South Korean cultural goods and entertainment exports to China, and block them when necessary,” it said in its English-language edition.

The paper’s Chinese version said South Korean cars and cellphones should be targeted as well.

“There are loads of substitutes for South Korean cars and cellphones,” it said.

The WeChat account of the overseas edition of the ruling Communist Party’s official People’s Daily said late on Monday that cutting diplomatic ties should also be considered.

“If THAAD is really deployed in South Korea, then China-South Korea relations will face the possibility of getting ready to cut off diplomatic relations,” it said.

The official Xinhua news agency also said in a commentary late on Monday that China “did not welcome this kind of Lotte”.

“Chinese consumers can absolutely say no to this kind of company and their goods based on considerations of ‘national security’,” it said.

South Korea’s defense ministry said on Tuesday it had signed a land swap deal with Lotte on the golf course in exchange for providing military property. A South Korean military official told Reuters the military would begin installing fences and soldiers would patrol the area.

The Lotte Group said on Feb. 8 Chinese authorities had stopped construction at a multi-billion dollar real estate project in China after a fire inspection, adding to concern in South Korea about damage to commercial relations with the world’s second-largest economy.

Asked if South Korea had demanded the Chinese government suspend any economic retaliation, South Korean Defence Ministry spokesman Moon Sang-kyun said: “We have continuously persuaded China so far and will keep continuing efforts to do so.”

South Korean government officials have said THAAD is a defensive measure against North Korean threats and does not target any other country.

South Korea’s central bank said this month the number of Chinese tourists visiting the tourist island of Jeju had fallen 6.7 percent over the Lunar New Year holiday from last year, partly because of China’s “anti-South Korea measures due to the THAAD deployment decision”.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Additional reporting by Ju-min Park in SEOUL; Editing by Paul Tait)