Pompeo says US doesn’t ask Southeast Asians to take sides
Robie de Guzman • August 2, 2019 • 621
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told Southeast Asian counterparts at a meeting in Bangkok on Thursday (August 1) that the United States never asked Indo-Pacific nations to take sides.
Regional rivalry between the United States and an increasingly powerful China hangs over this week’s security meetings between foreign ministers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and world powers.
“Look, we don’t ever ask any Indo-Pacific nations to choose between countries,” Pompeo said at the start of the meeting. “Our engagement in this region has not been and will not be a zero-sum exercise. Our interests simply naturally converge with yours to our mutual benefit,” he added.
The ASEAN 10-nation regional bloc consists of Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, Philippines, Brunei, and Singapore. (REUTERS)
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Washington DC – The United States government on Thursday held Iran responsible for the death of more than 1,000 people in the recent protests that shook the country.
“It appears the regime could have murdered over 1,000 Iranian citizens since the protests began,” said State Department Special Representative for Iran, Brian Hook.
Hook, however, said he was not certain of that figure because “the regime blocks information.”
According to the US official, in one single protest in the southwestern city of Mahshahr, more than a hundred people died and when it was over, the bodies were loaded in trucks.
“We do not yet know where these bodies were taken, but we are learning more and more about how the Iranian regime treats its own people,” he added.
According to Washington, the number of deaths that occurred during the protests may have been five times the number estimated by Amnesty International, which in its latest report said 208 people lost their lives adding that the number was likely to be more.
Iran, on its part, said that the number reported by AI was not correct and claimed that the actual death toll was lower.
“The numbers and figures that are being given by hostile groups are utter lies and the statistics have serious differences with what they announced,” Iran’s judicial spokesperson Gholamhossein Esmaili said.
Protests broke out in Iran on Nov. 15 over rising oil prices and its rationing and led to criticism of the country’s theocratic system.
US President Donald Trump also mentioned the protests in Iran on Thursday.
The Iranian regime “has killed hundreds and hundreds of people in a very short period of time. They’re killing protesters. They turned down their internet system. People aren’t hearing what’s going,” said the president.
Days earlier, Trump accused Iran of killing “thousands and thousands” of people. EFE-EPA
Seoul – North Korea on Tuesday said it was up to the United States to chose what “Christmas gift” it wanted as the deadline to resume the stalled denuclearisation talks was drawing closer amid Washington’s continued “dialogue rhetoric”.
“What is left to be done now is the US’ option and it is entirely up to the US what Christmas gift it will select to get,” the North Korean foreign ministry said in a statement published by state news agency KCNA.
The statement quoted Vice Foreign Minister Ri Kil Song saying that Pyongyang had “done its utmost with maximum perseverance not to backtrack from the important steps.”
This refers to North Korea’s self-imposed moratorium on tests of nuclear weapons and medium and intercontinental ballistic missiles.
“Drawing nearer is the year-end time limit the DPRK (North Korea’s official name) set for the US. However, the US is keen on earning the time needed for it, talking about the ‘sustained and substantial dialogue,’ far from acting in response to the measures taken by the DPRK first,” Ri said.
The statement said North Korea had “heard more than enough dialogue rhetoric raised by the US whenever it is driven into a tight corner. So, no one will lend an ear to the US any longer.”
It said the talks touted by Washington was, “in essence, nothing but a foolish trick hatched to keep the DPRK bound to dialogue and use it in favor of the political situation and election in the US”.
Experts believe that if there is no progress in talks in the next few weeks, the North Korean regime could carry out new weapons tests from January, especially of intermediate-range missiles.
Bilateral negotiations have not advanced since a failed summit in February in Hanoi, where Washington refused to lift economic sanctions in return for what Pyongyang dismantling its nuclear assets.
Both parties held a working meeting in early October in Stockholm, Sweden, which ended with North Korea accusing Washington of failing to offer anything new and actively maintaining its “hostile policy”.
North Korean media on Tuesday also showed leader Kim Jong-un inaugurating a real estate project near Mount Paektu, a sacred site for the regime.
Given that important decisions have often followed visits to this area, some experts believe that Pyongyang wants to ramp up the pressure with this gesture.
Last week, North Korea fired two missiles into the Sea of Japan (also known as East Sea in the two Koreas) from a super large multiple-launch rocket system, prompting Pentagon to deploy reconnaissance aircraft over the Korean peninsula.
On Tuesday, the US aircraft flew over the region for the fifth time in less than a week in a gesture that some believe may be a deliberate warning message against threats from the North Korean regime. EFE-EPA
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