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Trump praises Chinese efforts on North Korea ‘menace,’ Pyongyang warns of strike

by UNTV News   |   Posted on Friday, April 21st, 2017


A missile is fired from a naval vessel during the test-firing of a new type of anti-ship cruise missile to be equipped at Korean People’s Army naval units. REUTERS/KCNA

U.S. President Donald Trump praised Chinese efforts to rein in “the menace of North Korea” on Thursday, after North Korean state media warned the United States of a “super-mighty preemptive strike.”

Trump told a news conference “some very unusual moves have been made over the last two or three hours,” and that he was confident Chinese President Xi Jinping would “try very hard” to pressure Beijing’s ally and neighbor North Korea over its nuclear and missile programs.

While Trump gave no indication of what the moves might be, U.S. officials told Reuters that the United States was aware of a higher-than-usual level of activity by Chinese bombers, signaling a possible heightened state of readiness. The officials played down concerns and left open a range of possible reasons.

Those possibilities included defensive exercises or Chinese concerns over North Korea. None of the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, suggested alarm or signaled that they knew the precise reason for such Chinese activity.

U.S. officials have been saying for weeks that North Korea could soon stage another nuclear bomb test, something both the United States and China have both warned against.

Trump has taken a hard line with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, who has proceeded with nuclear and missile programs in defiance of U.N. Security Council sanctions.

The United States and South Korea are technically still at war with North Korea because their 1950-53 conflict ended in a truce, not a peace treaty.

Tensions have risen sharply in recent months after North Korea conducted two nuclear weapons tests last year and carried out a steady stream of ballistic missile tests. Trump, who took office in January, has vowed to prevent North Korea from being able to hit the United States with a nuclear missile.

Trump has focused his efforts on North Korea on trying to persuade China to put more pressure on its ally and could view any unusual Chinese military movements as supportive of this.

He told a news conference with the visiting prime minister of Italy on Thursday that the United States was “in very good shape” on North Korea and that China’s Xi, whom he met this month for a summit in Florida, was working hard to help.

“We don’t know whether or not they’re able to do that, but I have absolute confidence that he will be trying very very hard.”

Trump repeated a past comment that he had told Xi in Florida that China would make much better deal on trade with the United States “if you get rid of this menace or do something about this menace of North Korea.”

‘SUPER-MIGHTY PREEMPTIVE STRIKE’

The Rodong Sinmun, the official newspaper of North Korea’s ruling Workers’ Party, struck an aggressive tone earlier on Thursday.

“In the case of our super-mighty preemptive strike being launched, it will completely and immediately wipe out not only U.S. imperialists’ invasion forces in South Korea and its surrounding areas but the U.S. mainland and reduce them to ashes,” it said.

Reclusive North Korea regularly threatens to destroy Japan, South Korea and the United States and has shown no let-up in its belligerence after a failed missile test on Sunday, which followed a huge display of missiles at a parade in Pyongyang.

South Korean news agency Yonhap quoted an unnamed South Korean government source as saying that the U.S. Air Force had dispatched a nuclear sniffer aircraft on Thursday to the east of the Korean Peninsula in anticipation of a possible nuclear test.

he U.S. Defense Department does not comment on deployments of the WC-135 Constant Phoenix aircraft used to collect samples from the atmosphere to detect and analyze nuclear explosions.

The U.N. Security Council on Thursday condemned North Korea’s latest failed missile test and demanded it not conduct any more nuclear tests.

South Korea’s acting president, Hwang Kyo-ahn, at a meeting with top officials on Thursday, repeatedly called for the military and security ministries to maintain vigilance.

The South Korean defense ministry said U.S. and South Korean air forces were conducting an annual training exercise, codenamed Max Thunder, until April 28. North Korea routinely labels such exercises preparations for invasion.

“We are conducting a practical and more intensive exercise than ever,” South Korean pilot Colonel Lee Bum-chul told reporters. “Through this exercise, I am sure we can deter war and remove our enemy’s intention to provoke us.”

William Perry, who served as U.S. defense secretary from 1994 to 1997 and negotiated with North Korea, said he did not believe Pyongyang was planning a surprise attack, despite the fiery rhetoric.

But he warned: “They are doing a lot of bluster and a lot of threats, and they might misplay that hand and blunder into a war.” — By Steve Holland and Phil Stewart | WASHINGTON

(Additional reporting by Lesley Wroughton, David Brunnstrom and Matt Spetalnick in Washington, William James in London, Michelle Nichols at the United Nations, Idrees Ali in Riyadh, Ben Blanchard in Beijing and Kim Do-gyun in Gunsan, South Korea; Writing by Nick Macfie; Editing by Robert Birsel and Alistair Bell)

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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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Japan wants missiles with enough range to strike North Korea: sources

by UNTV News   |   Posted on Wednesday, December 6th, 2017

FILE PHOTO – Japan’s Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera attends a news conference at Defense Ministry in Tokyo, Japan August 8, 2017. REUTERS/Issei Kato

TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan is preparing to acquire precision air-launched missiles that for the first time would give it the capability to strike North Korean missile sites, two sources with direct knowledge of the matter said.

Japan plans to put money aside in its next defense budget starting April to study whether its F-15 fighters could launch longer-range missiles including Lockheed Martin Corp’s extended-range Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile (JASSM-ER), which can hit targets 1,000 km (620 miles) away, said one the sources with knowledge of the plan.

“There is a global trend for using longer range missiles and it is only natural that Japan would want to consider them,” he said. The sources asked to remain anonymous as they were not authorized to talk to media.

Japan is also interested in buying the 500 km-range Joint Strike Missile designed by Norway’s Kongsberg Defence & Aerospace to be carried by the F-35 stealth fighter, Fuji Television reported earlier.

Neither of those two items are included in a 5.26 trillion yen ($46.76 billion) budget request already submitted by Japan’s Ministry of Defence, however additional funds would be made available to evaluate the purchase of these missiles, the sources said.

The change suggests that the growing threat posed by North Korean ballistic missiles has given proponents of a strike capability the upper hand in military planning.

Restrictions on strike weapons imposed by its war-renouncing constitution means Japan’s missile force is composed of anti-aircraft and anti-ship munitions with ranges of less than 300 kms (186 miles).

Any decision to buy longer range weapons capable of striking North Korea or even the Chinese mainland would therefore be controversial, but proponents argue that the strike weapons can play a defensive role.

“We are not currently looking at funding for this,” Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera said on Tuesday at a regular press briefing.

“We rely on the United States to strike enemy bases and are not looking at making any changes to how we share our roles,” he added.

Before he took up his post in August, Onodera led a group of ruling Liberal Democratic Party lawmakers that recommended Japan acquire strike weapons to deter Pyongyang from launching any attack on Japan.

North Korea has since fired ballistic missiles over Japan and last week tested a new type of intercontinental ballistic missile that climbed to an altitude of more than 4,000 km before splashing into the Sea of Japan within Japan’s exclusive economic zone.

Reporting by Nobuhiro Kubo; writing by Tim Kelly; editing by Richard Pullin

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