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PHL embassies in Guam, Japan and South Korea prepare contingency plans following NoKor missile threat

by UNTV News   |   Posted on Friday, August 11th, 2017

MANILA, Philippines — “Experts say North Korea’s missile threat is not credible. But of course we shouldn’t take the current tension for granted,” Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Spokesperson Robespierre Bolivar said.

This was in line with the growing threat of missile strike from North Korea, in consideration of the safety of Filipinos in neighboring countries Japan, Guam and South Korea.

Embassies of the Philippines in the said countries are now coordinating with officials in their country of assignment as regard the consolidation of contingency plans in case the tension escalates.

“Given this new development, embassies are now updating their contingency plans to suit the current situation,” said Bolivar.

North Korea’s supreme leader Kim Jong-Un recently threatened to launch a missile strike to Guam, one of the territories of the United States in the Pacific where its military facilities are located.

This could obviously affect overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) residing in Guam and also in Japan and South Korea.

But DFA assured that the situation in the said countries remains normal and there is nothing to worry about as regards the safety of the Filipinos.

“Like what our embassies are saying, tourist arrival in Guam is still normal,” said Bolivar. — Macky Libradilla | UNTV News & Rescue

 

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North and South Korean male basketball players hold friendly match in Pyongyang

by UNTV News   |   Posted on Thursday, July 5th, 2018

Peace team formed with a mixture of North and South Korean men players arrive at gym in Pyongyang, Nortk Korea, July 4, 2018. Korea Pool/Yonhap via REUTERS

North and South Korea joined forces for their first basketball friendly in 15 years on Wednesday (July 4) amid a warming of relations since the Winter Olympics in the South and easing tensions over the North’s nuclear and missile programs.

Following female players’ match, male players took to the court in two joint North-South teams, “Peace” and “Prosperity”, in an indoor stadium in the North Korean capital of Pyongyang. The game ended in a 102-102 draw, according to Press Pool in Pyongyang.

North Korean leader and basketball fan Kim Jong Un was not spotted in the crowd on Wednesday but the chairman of the North’s National Sports Guidance Committee, Choe Hwi, who also visited South Korea for the Winter Olympics, was sitting next to the South’s Unification Minister, Cho Myong-gyon, cheering on the teams and clapping their hands.

Kim had suggested the friendlies to South Korean President Moon Jae-in in April when the two held their first summit at the border village of Panmunjom straddling the two Koreas. The South Korean team will return on Friday (July 6) after two more games on Thursday (July 5), this time with teams divided by country   but no flags being shown. — Reuters

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U.S. has plan to dismantle North Korea nuclear program within a year: Bolton

by UNTV News   |   Posted on Monday, July 2nd, 2018

FILE PHOTO: White House National Security Advisor John Bolton steps from Air Force One upon U.S. President Donald Trump’s arrival in West Palm Beach, Florida, U.S., April 16, 2018. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque/File Photo

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – White House national security adviser John Bolton said on Sunday he believed the bulk of North Korea’s weapons programs could be dismantled within a year, although some experts say the complete process could take far longer.

Bolton told CBS’s “Face the Nation” that Washington has devised a program to dismantle North Korea’s weapons of mass destruction – chemical, biological and nuclear – and ballistic missile programs in a year, if there is full cooperation and disclosure from Pyongyang.

“If they have the strategic decision already made to do that and they’re cooperative, we can move very quickly,” he said. “Physically we would be able to dismantle the overwhelming bulk of their programs within a year.”

He said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will likely discuss that proposal with the North Koreans soon. The Financial Times reported that Pompeo was due to visit North Korea this week but the State Department has not confirmed any travel plans.

Some experts disputed Bolton’s optimistic time frame.

“It would be physically possible to dismantle the bulk of North Korea’s programs within a year,” said Thomas Countryman, the State Department’s top arms control officer under President Barack Obama.

“I do not believe it would be possible to verify full dismantlement within a year, nor have I yet seen evidence of a firm DPRK decision to undertake full dismantlement.”

Siegfried Hecker, a nuclear scientist and Stanford University professor, has predicted it would take around 10 years to dismantle and clean up a substantial part of North Korea’s Yongbyon nuclear site.

South Korea media reported on Sunday that U.S. envoy Sung Kim, the American ambassador to the Philippines, met with North Korean officials at the border on Sunday to coordinate an agenda for Pompeo’s next visit to North Korea.

U.S. intelligence is not certain how many nuclear warheads North Korea has. The Defense Intelligence Agency is at the high end with an estimate of about 50, but all the agencies believe Pyongyang is concealing an unknown number, especially smaller tactical ones, in caves and other underground facilities around the country.

TRUST BUT VERIFY

North Korea agreed at the summit to “work toward denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,” but the joint statement signed by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Donald Trump on June 12 gave no details on how or when Pyongyang might surrender its nuclear weapons.

U.S. intelligence agencies believe North Korea has increased production of fuel for nuclear weapons at multiple secret sites in recent months and may try to hide these while seeking concessions in nuclear talks with the United States, NBC News quoted U.S. officials as saying on Friday.

The Washington Post reported on Saturday that U.S. intelligence officials have concluded that North Korea does not intend to fully give up its nuclear arsenal and is considering ways to hide the number of weapons it has. It also reported Pyongyang has secret production facilities, according to the latest evidence they have.

Bolton refused to comment on intelligence matters but the United States was going into nuclear negotiations aware of Pyongyang’s failure to live up to its promises in the past.

“We know exactly what the risks are – them using negotiations to drag out the length of time they have to continue their nuclear, chemical, biological weapons programs and ballistic missiles,” he said.

“There’s not any starry-eyed feeling among the group doing this,” he said. “We’re well aware of what the North Koreans have done in the past.”

Asia expert Patrick Cronin called the NBC and Washington Post reports “extremely worrisome.”

Cronin, senior director of the Asia-Pacific Security Program at the Center for a New American Security, said he had heard from U.S. and South Korea officials that Pompeo was expected to return to Pyongyang at the end of this week and that Sung Kim was working to prepare the way for that trip.

The U.S. side was “working to see whether they can prepare for high-level talks between Secretary Pompeo and Kim Jong Un and others in Pyongyang that would be a specific denuclearization road map, or at least significant dismantlement steps that could fill in a roadmap,” he said.

Republican Senator Susan Collins said she was troubled by the news reports. “North Korea has a long history of cheating on agreements that it’s made with previous administrations,” she said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” Collins stressed the need for “verifiable, unimpeded, reliable inspections” of the North’s weapons programs.

Another of Trump’s fellow Republicans in the U.S. Senate, Lindsey Graham, echoed the need for skepticism.

“If it is true that they are saying one thing and doing another, nobody should be surprised,” he said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

Reporting by Doina Chiacu; Additional reporting by David Brunnstrom, Lindsay Dunsmuir, Howard Schneider, John Walcott; Editing by Lisa Shumaker and Nick Zieminski

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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North Korea launches health survey system with UNICEF

by UNTV News   |   Posted on Friday, June 22nd, 2018

Presentation on North Korea’s Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS) launch event (Image grabbed from Reuters video)

North Korea launched a health survey system with UNICEF on Wednesday (June 20) in Pyongyang, state media reported.

Video provided by North Korea’s official news agency KCNA, which Reuters cannot independently verify, showed Deputy Executive Director of UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund), Shanelle Hall, and other foreign delegations attending a launch event at Taedonggang Diplomatic Club and looking at photographs of health screening for children and relief supplies on display.

The data collected by Pyongyang’s Central Bureau of Statistics in 2017 through UNICEF’s Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS) is based on an international methodology and laid bare some of the hardships in the lives of the population.

The United Nations is restricted in the aid it can give to North Korea because of international sanctions, but it can help with nutrition, health, water, and sanitation — as long as it has the basic data on the needs of the people, according to UNICEF. — Reuters

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