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North Korea hints at Pacific H-bomb test

by UNTV   |   Posted on Friday, September 22nd, 2017

North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un makes a statement regarding U.S. President Donald Trump’s speech at the U.N. general assembly, in this undated photo released by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang September 22, 2017. KCNA via REUTERS

 

North Korea struck back at U.S. President Donald Trump’s threats to destroy it, with Kim Jong Un warning of the “highest level of hard-line countermeasure in history” and his foreign minister suggesting that could include testing a hydrogen bomb in the Pacific ocean.

“[Personally I think] it should be a hydrogen bomb test on the ground of an unprecedented scale,” said North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho.

Kim said in the statement carried by the North’s official  Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) that U.S. threat to “totally destroy” the north in his U.N. speech on Tuesday confirmed Pyongyang’s nuclear programme has been “the correct path.”

Trump had warned the North Korean leader on Tuesday that the United States if threatened, would “totally destroy” the country and mocked Kim as a “rocket man” on a suicide mission.

North Korea’s foreign minister reacted and called Trump’s U.N. address ‘sound of a dog barking’.

“If [Trump] was thinking about surprising us with the sound of a dog barking then he is clearly dreaming,” said the foreign minister.

It can be recalled that North Korea’s ambassador to the United Nations Ja Song Nam exited the hall just as Trump walked on stage on Tuesday to deliver his speech.

“His remarks have convinced me, rather than frightening or stopping me, that the path I chose is correct and that it is the one I have to follow to the last,” said North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

“As a man representing the DPRK and on behalf of the dignity and honor of my state and people and on my own, I will make the man holding the prerogative of the supreme command in the U.S. pay dearly for his speech,” said the North Korean leader.— Reuters

 

 

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Tillerson, in new overture to North Korea, says ready to talk without pre-conditions

by UNTV News   |   Posted on Wednesday, December 13th, 2017

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson delivers remarks on the U.S.-Korea relationship during a forum at the Atlantic Council in Washington, U.S. December 12, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson offered on Tuesday to begin direct talks with North Korea without pre-conditions, backing away from U.S. demands that Pyongyang must first accept that any negotiations would have to be about giving up its nuclear arsenal.

“Let’s just meet,” Tillerson said in a speech to Washington’s Atlantic Council think tank, presenting a new diplomatic overture amid heightened tensions over North Korea’s nuclear and missile advances and harsh rhetoric between the two sides.

Tensions have flared anew since North Korea said it had successfully tested a new intercontinental ballistic missile last month in what it called a “breakthrough” that put the U.S. mainland within range.

While reiterating Washington’s long-standing position that it cannot tolerate a nuclear-armed North Korea, Tillerson said the United States was “ready to talk any time they’re ready to talk”, but that there would first have to be a “period of quiet” without nuclear and missile tests.

Tillerson also disclosed that the United States had been talking to China about how to secure North Korea’s nuclear weapons in the event of a collapse of the government in Pyongyang, and that Beijing had been given assurances that if U.S. forces had to cross into North Korea they would pull back across the border into the South.

But he made clear that the United States wants to resolve the North Korea standoff through peaceful diplomacy and, in terms far more tempered than President Donald Trump’s recent threats against Pyongyang, offered to hold exploratory talks.

“We can talk about the weather if you want. We can talk about whether it’s going to be a square table or a round table,” he said.

“Then we can begin to lay out a map, a road map, of what we might be willing to work toward,” Tillerson said, suggesting that any initial contacts would be about setting the ground rules for formal negotiations.

DOES TILLERSON HAVE TRUMP‘S BACKING?

It was not immediately clear whether Tillerson, whose influence has appeared to wane within the administration, had Trump’s full support to seek such a diplomatic opening.

Tillerson has previously expressed a desire to use diplomatic channels with Pyongyang, but Trump tweeted in October that such engagement would be a waste of time.

North Korea, for its part, has made clear that it has little interest in negotiations with the United States until it has developed the ability to hit the U.S. mainland with a nuclear-tipped missile, something most experts say it has still not achieved.

“We’re ready to have the first meeting without pre-conditions,” Tillerson said.

“It’s not realistic to say we’re only going to talk if you come to the table ready to give up your program,” he said. “They have too much invested in it. The president is very realistic about that as well.”

Tillerson’s comments appeared to mark a shift from previous statements by senior U.S. officials that North Korea would have to show it is serious about discussing nuclear disarmament before formal talks could begin.

Tillerson also said that the United States was working to tighten enforcement of international sanctions against North Korea, especially further measures that China can apply, and that Washington had a full menu of military options if such a response is needed.

“It is important that the diplomatic effort be backed up with a very credible military alternative,” he said, adding that Trump “intends to make sure that they do not have a deliverable nuclear weapon to the shores of the United States.”

He called on North Korea to show restraint.

“It’s going to be tough to talk if in the middle of our talks you decided to test another device,” Tillerson said. “So we continue to indicate to them that we need a period of quiet. You need to tell us you want to talk.”

The United Nations political affairs chief told senior North Korean officials during a visit to Pyongyang this week that there was an “urgent need to prevent miscalculations and open channels to reduce the risks of conflict,” the world body said.

Jeffrey Feltman, the highest-level U.N. official to visit North Korea since 2011, met with Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho and Vice Minister Pak Myong Guk, the United Nations said in a statement on Saturday after Feltman arrived back in Beijing.

Reporting by Matt Spetalnick and David Brunnstrom in Washington; Editing by Clive McKeef and James Dalgleish

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US declaration of Jerusalem sparks protests in the Arab world

by UNTV   |   Posted on Friday, December 8th, 2017

Palestinian authorities had called a general strike in protest at U.S. President Donald Trump’s Jerusalem announcement on Wednesday, which reversed decades of peacemaking policy regarding a city that Palestinians also see as their capital.

“This decision will not pass, not in your dreams. It will not pass, over the dead bodies of Arabs and bodies of Palestinians. We are here in the diaspora, in every location, we will fight this decision. We will fight this decision with iron and fire. We call upon Palestinian leadership to resist,” said Mohammed Salahat, a protester.

In Jordan, hundreds of Jordanians gathered near the U.S. Embassy in capital Amman. King Abdullah’s Hashemite dynasty is the custodian of the Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem, making Amman sensitive to any changes in the status of the city. Many people in Jordan are descendants of Palestinian refugees whose families left after the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948.

“We know that standing here and listening to the young people shouting whatever they want to say don’t bring us nearer to our cause, to our solution, but at least you feel you want to express your anger at the whole world,” said Jihad, a protester.

In Egypt, a makeshift Israeli flag was burned during the demonstration as well as a picture of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and protesters insisted on Jerusalem’s Arabian roots.

“I am here like every other Egyptian and Arab against trump’s decision. I see it as insulting, aggressive, and arrogance that we cannot accept, and we believe in our right of Jerusalem being Arab and Palestine as well,” said Hamdeen Sabahi, a former Egyptian presidential candidate.

In Turkey, hundreds of protesters gathered outside the U.S. embassy in Ankara on Thursday to denounce the declaration. The protest was largely peaceful, although police took security measures and U.S. soldiers were seen on the roof of the embassy building.

Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim added that the United States “pulled the pin on a bomb” in the Middle East with its decision.

“[The United States] has pulled the pin on a bomb ready to blow in the region. First of all, as Turkey, we consider this decision null and void. Secondly, Jerusalem, and particularly the Al-Aqsa mosque, is considered a holy place by three religions. So a decision that changes or questions this status will stir up a big catastrophe,” said the prime minister.

The status of Jerusalem has been one of the thorniest issues in long-running Mideast peace efforts. The international community does not recognize Israeli sovereignty over the whole of Jerusalem, believing its status should be resolved in negotiations. No other country has its embassy in Jerusalem. — Reuters

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Trump recognizes Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, defying allies, foes

by UNTV News   |   Posted on Thursday, December 7th, 2017

With Vice Pence Mike Pence looking on, U.S. President Donald Trump signs an executive order after he announced the U.S. would Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, in the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House in Washington, U.S., December 6, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

WASHINGTON/JERUSALEM (Reuters) – President Donald Trump on Wednesday reversed decades of U.S. policy and recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, imperiling Middle East peace efforts and upsetting Washington’s friends and foes alike.

Trump announced his administration would begin a process of moving the U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a step expected to take years and one that his predecessors opted not to take to avoid inflaming tensions.

The status of Jerusalem – home to sites holy to the Muslim, Jewish and Christian religions – is one of the biggest obstacles to reaching a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hailed Trump’s announcement as a “historic landmark,” but other close Western allies of Washington such as Britain and France were critical.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said the United States abdicated its role as a mediator in peace efforts, and Palestinian secular and Islamist factions called for a general strike and rallies on Thursday to protest.

The international community does not recognize Israeli sovereignty over the entire city, believing its status should be resolved in negotiations. No other country has its embassy in Jerusalem.

Trump’s decision fulfills a campaign promise and will please Republican conservatives and evangelicals who make up a sizeable portion of his domestic support.

“I have determined that it is time to officially recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel,” Trump said in a speech at the White House. “While previous presidents have made this a major campaign promise, they failed to deliver. Today, I am delivering.”

Trump’s decision risks further inflaming a region already grappling with conflict in Syria, Iraq and Yemen.

Protests broke out in areas of Jordan’s capital, Amman, inhabited by Palestinian refugees, and several hundred protesters gathered outside the U.S. consulate in Istanbul.

Youths chanted anti-American slogans in Amman, while in the Baqaa refugee camp on the city’s outskirts, hundreds of protesters roamed the streets denouncing Trump and calling on Jordan’s government to scrap its 1994 peace treaty with Israel. “Down with America. America is the mother of terror,” they chanted.

Israel considers Jerusalem its eternal and indivisible capital and wants all embassies based there. Palestinians want the capital of an independent state of theirs to be in the city’s eastern sector, which Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East war and annexed in a move never recognized internationally.

Netanyahu said any peace deal with Palestinians must include Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. That would be a non-starter for Palestinians in any negotiations if it meant the entire city would be under Israeli control.

PALESTINIANS UPSET

Abbas on Wednesday called the city “the eternal capital of the state of Palestine.” He said Trump’s decision was tantamount to the United States abdicating its peace mediator role. Jordan said Trump’s decision was “legally null.”

“I think it’s pretty catastrophic, frankly,” said Hussein Ibish at the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington, adding that “Trump did not distinguish in any meaningful sense between West Jerusalem and occupied East Jerusalem.”

Palestinian Islamist group Hamas accused Trump of a “flagrant aggression against the Palestinian people.”

Palestinians switched off Christmas lights at Jesus’ traditional birthplace in Bethlehem on Wednesday night to protest Trump’s move.

Trump has tilted U.S. policy toward Israel since taking office in January.

“He cannot expect to side entirely with Israel on the most sensitive and complex issues in the process, and yet expect the Palestinians to see the United States as an honest broker,” said former U.S. Ambassador to Israel Daniel Kurtzer.

Pope Francis called for Jerusalem’s status quo to be respected. China and Russia expressed concern the move could aggravate Middle East hostilities.

A statement from the Saudi Royal Court said the Saudi government had expressed “condemnation and deep regret” about the move.

A spokesman for British Prime Minister Theresa May called the U.S. decision “unhelpful in terms of prospects for peace in the region.”

The United Nations Security Council is likely to meet on Friday over Trump’s decision, diplomats said on Wednesday.

Trump said his move was not intended to tip the scale in favor of Israel and that any deal involving the future of Jerusalem would have to be negotiated by the parties.

He insisted he was not taking a position on “any final status issues, including the specific boundaries of the Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem, or the resolution of contested borders.”

REFUGEES, SETTLEMENTS AMONG DISPUTES

Other key disputes between the two sides include the fate of Palestinian refugees and Jewish settlements built on occupied land. Trump made no mention of settlements.

He said he remained committed to the two-state solution if the parties want one. The president called on the region to take his message calmly.

“There will of course be disagreement and dissent regarding this announcement but we are confident that ultimately, as we work through these disagreements, we will arrive at a place of greater understanding and cooperation,” Trump said.

U.S. Representative Eliot Engel, a pro-Israel Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee who is often critical of Trump’s foreign policy, expressed support for the move.

“This decision is long overdue and helps correct a decades-long indignity,” said Engel.

Trump acted under a 1995 law that requires the United States to move its embassy to Jerusalem. His predecessors, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama, consistently put off that decision.

Trump ordered a delay to any embassy move from Tel Aviv since the United States does not have an embassy in Jerusalem to move into. A senior administration official said it could take three to four years to build one.

The Jerusalem decision has raised doubts about the Trump administration’s ability to follow through on a peace effort that Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, has led for months aimed at reviving long-stalled negotiations. It has so far shown little in the way of progress.

There was no indication Trump asked Netanyahu for anything in return when he notified the Israeli leader of his Jerusalem decision on Tuesday, a person familiar with the matter said.

But Aaron David Miller, a former Middle East negotiator for Republican and Democratic administrations, said Trump, who has long touted himself as a master negotiator, might be setting the stage for seeking Israeli concessions later.

“This might be the case where Trump applies a little honey now to show the Israelis he’s the most pro-Israel president ever, and then applies a little vinegar later,” he said.

Additional reporting by Matt Spetalnick, Arshad Mohammed, Phil Stewart, Patricia Zengerle, Doina Chiacu, David Alexander, Makini Brice, Maria Caspani and Yara Bayoumy in Washington, Ali Sawafta in Ramallah, Ori Lewis in Jerusalem, Suleiman Al-Khalidi in Amman and Michelle Nichols at the United Nations; Editing by Alistair Bell and Peter Cooney

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