Emergency Hotlines: LANDLINE (+63) 2 911 – 8688

U.S. might ban laptops on all flights into and out of the country

by UNTV News   |   Posted on Monday, May 29th, 2017

FILE PHOTO – A TSA worker loads suitcases at the checked luggage security screening station at Los Angeles International Airport in Los Angeles, California, U.S. on September 7, 2011. REUTERS/Jonathan Alcorn/File Photo

The United States might ban laptops from aircraft cabins on all flights into and out of the country as part of a ramped-up effort to protect against potential security threats, U.S. Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said on Sunday.

In an interview on “Fox News Sunday,” Kelly said the United States planned to “raise the bar” on airline security, including tightening screening of carry-on items.

“That’s the thing that they are obsessed with, the terrorists, the idea of knocking down an airplane in flight, particularly if it’s a U.S. carrier, particularly if it’s full of U.S. people.”

In March, the government imposed restrictions on large electronic devices in aircraft cabins on flights from 10 airports, including the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Turkey.

Kelly said the move would be part of a broader airline security effort to combat what he called “a real sophisticated threat.” He said no decision had been made as to the timing of any ban.

“We are still following the intelligence,” he said, “and are in the process of defining this, but we’re going to raise the bar generally speaking for aviation much higher than it is now.”

Airlines are concerned that a broad ban on laptops may erode customer demand. But none wants an incident aboard one of its airplanes.

“Whatever comes out, we’ll have to comply with,” Oscar Munoz, chief executive officer of United Airlines (UAL.N), told the company’s annual meeting last week.

Airlines were blindsided in January when President Donald Trump issued an executive order banning entry for 90 days to citizens from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen, sending airlines scrambling to determine who could board and who could not. The order was later blocked in the courts.

In the case of laptops, the administration is keeping the industry in the loop. Delta Air Lines (DAL.N) said in a statement it “continues to be in close contact with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security,” while Munoz applauded the administration for giving the company a “heads up.”

“We’ve had constant updates on the subject,” he said. “We know more than most. And again, if there’s a credible threat out there, we need to make sure we take the appropriate measures.”

MORE SCRUTINY OF CARRY-ONS

Among the enhanced security measures will likely be tighter screening of carry-on items to allow Transport Security Administration agents to discern problematic items in tightly stuffed bags.

Kelly said that in order to avoid paying fees for checking bags, people were stuffing them to the point where it was difficult to see through the clutter.

“The more stuff is in there, the less the TSA professionals that are looking at what’s in those bags through the monitors can tell what’s in them.”

The TSA has begun testing certain new procedures at a limited number of airports, requiring people to remove additional items from carry-on bags for separate screenings.

Asked whether the government would expand such measures nationwide, Kelly said: “We might, and likely will.” — By Toni Clarke | WASHINGTON

(Reporting by Toni Clarke in Washington; Additional reporting by Doina Chiacu in Washington, David French in New York and Alana Wise in Chicago; Editing by David Gregorio and Peter Cooney)

Tags: , , , , ,

Leave a Reply

Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.

U.S. hails Korea talks, despite North’s rejection of denuclearization

by UNTV News   |   Posted on Wednesday, January 10th, 2018

South and North Korean delegations attend their meeting at the truce village of Panmunjom in the demilitarised zone separating the two Koreas, South Korea, January 9, 2018. Yonhap via REUTERS

SEOUL/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – North and South Korea held their first talks in over two years on Tuesday, which Washington welcomed as a first step to solving the North Korean nuclear weapons crisis, even though Pyongyang said those were aimed only at the United States and not up for discussion.

The U.S. State Department said Washington would be interested in joining future talks, but stuck to its insistence that they must be aimed at denuclearization, showing that a diplomatic breakthrough remains far off.

In a joint statement after 11 hours of talks, North and South Korea said they had agreed to hold military to military talks and that North Korea would send a large delegation to next month’s Winter Olympics in South Korea.

However, North Korea made a “strong complaint” after Seoul proposed talks to denuclearize the Korean peninsula.

“Clearly this is a positive development,” a spokesman for the U.S. State Department, Steve Goldstein, said of the joint statement, while adding: “We would like nuclear talks to occur; we want denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. This is a good first step in that process.”

North and South Korea said they agreed to meet again to resolve problems and avert accidental conflict, amid high tension over North Korea’s program to develop nuclear missiles capable of hitting the United States.

“All our weapons, including atomic bombs, hydrogen bombs and ballistic missiles, are only aimed at the United States, not our brethren, nor China and Russia,” Pyongyang’s chief negotiator, Ri Son Gwon, said.

“This is not a matter between North and South Korea, and to bring up this issue would cause negative consequences and risks turning all of today’s good achievement into nothing,” Ri said in closing remarks.

The White House and State Department did not respond to requests for comment on the United States being the only potential target of North Korea’s nuclear weapons.

U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un have exchanged threats and insults in the past year, raising fears of a new war on the peninsula.

The United States, which has 28,500 troops stationed in South Korea as a legacy of the 1950-1953 Korean War, initially responded coolly to the idea of inter-Korean meetings, but Trump later called them “a good thing” and said he would be willing to speak to Kim.

“At the appropriate time, we’ll get involved,” Trump said on Saturday, although U.S.-North Korean talks appear unlikely any time soon, given entrenched positions on both sides.

The United States has warned that all options, including military ones, are on the table in dealing with North Korea.

Washington agreed with Seoul last week to postpone joint military exercises that Pyongyang denounces as rehearsals for invasion until after the Olympics, but the North-South thaw has not altered the U.S. intelligence assessment of North Korea’s weapons programs.

The consensus, according to U.S. officials familiar with the classified analysis, is that Kim remains convinced the United States is determined to overthrow him and that only a nuclear arsenal that threatens America can deter that.

One official said the North-South talks were likely to follow the pattern of past diplomatic efforts, in which the North has benefited from additional food and other aid without making any concessions on the weapons front.

The additional danger now, said a second official, was that Kim would seek to use the talks to take advantage of Trump’s sometimes bellicose rhetoric to try to drive a wedge between Washington and Seoul.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres welcomed the talks, particularly the agreement to hold military-to-military talks, calling this “critical to lowering the risk of miscalculation”.

He also welcomed North Korea’s decision to send a delegation to the Olympics and said he hoped for the resumption of dialogue leading to denuclearization.

In spite of the North Korean negotiator’s remarks, South Korea’s Unification Ministry said it believed Tuesday’s talks could lead to discussion of a “fundamental resolution” of the nuclear issue.

“We will closely coordinate with the United States, China, Japan and other neighbors in this process,” it said, adding that Seoul had asked Pyongyang to halt acts that stoke tension.

Tuesday’s meeting followed a year of ramped-up North Korean missile test launches, some of them over Japanese territory, and its sixth and most powerful nuclear test, which prompted a U.S.-led campaign to toughen U.N. sanctions.

The U.S. State Department said later in the day that it had approved the sale of anti-ballistic missiles to Japan to defend itself.

North Korea-South Korea talks: tmsnrt.rs/2Ar8lUu

North Korea revealed: reut.rs/2z4KDPt

Graphic: tmsnrt.rs/2miGPDI

‘HIGH HOPES’

Earlier on Tuesday, Seoul said it was prepared to lift some unilateral sanctions temporarily so North Koreans could visit for the Olympics. North Korea said its delegation would include athletes, high-ranking officials, a cheering squad, art performers, reporters and spectators.

Talks to work out details would be held soon, the South’s Unification Ministry said.

Tuesday’s talks were the first between the two Koreas since 2015 and were held at the Peace House on the South Korean side of Panmunjom truce village.

Seoul said it proposed reunions of divided families in time for February’s Lunar New Year holiday, but the joint statement made no mention of any agreement on this.

Seoul said North Korea had finished technical work to restore a military hotline, with normal communications set to resume on Wednesday.

North Korea cut communications in February 2016, following South Korea’s decision to shut down a jointly run industrial park.

Seoul also said North Korea responded “positively” to the South’s proposal for athletes from both sides to march together in the Olympic opening ceremony.

Such a joint parade has not happened since the 2007 Asian Winter Games in China.

China’s Foreign Ministry said it was happy to see talks between North and South Korea and welcomed all positive steps. Russia echoed the sentiment. “This is exactly the kind of dialogue that we said was necessary,” a Kremlin spokesman said.

Some U.S.-based analysts have hailed the talks as an opening for diplomacy, but others see an attempt by North Korea to weaken U.S. pressure so that it is eventually accepted as a nuclear-armed state.

Evans Revere, a former senior U.S. diplomat for East Asia, said that by engaging Seoul, North Korea was clearly seeking to weaken the U.S.-South Korean alliance and it was important that Seoul had raised the nuclear issue to show it was not just a U.S.-North Korea matter.

Additional reporting by Josh Smith and Soyoung Kim in SEOUL and David Brunnstrom, Susan Heavey, Jim Oliphant, Steve Holland, John Walcott, Arshad Mohammed, David Alexander adn Chris Sanders in WASHINGTON; Editing by Bill Trott, James Dalgleish and Grant McCool

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

U.S. sanctions North Korean missile experts, Russia offers to mediate

by UNTV News   |   Posted on Thursday, December 28th, 2017

ILE PHOTO: People watch a television broadcast of a news report on North Korea firing what appeared to be an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) that landed close to Japan, in Seoul, South Korea, November 29, 2017. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji

WASHINGTON/MOSCOW (Reuters) – The United States announced sanctions on two of North Korea’s most prominent officials behind its ballistic missile program on Tuesday, while Russia reiterated an offer to mediate to ease tension between Washington and Pyongyang.

The new U.S. steps were the latest in a campaign aimed at forcing North Korea – which has defied years of multilateral and bilateral sanctions – to abandon a weapons program aimed at developing nuclear-tipped missiles capable of hitting the United States.

”Treasury is targeting leaders of North Korea’s ballistic missile programs, as part of our maximum pressure campaign to isolate (North Korea) and achieve a fully denuclearized Korean Peninsula,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement.

The move followed new United Nations sanctions announced last Friday in response to North Korea’s Nov. 29 test of an ICBM that Pyongyang said put all of the U.S. mainland within range of its nuclear weapons. Those sanctions sought to further limit North Korea’s access to refined petroleum products and crude oil and its earnings from workers abroad.

North Korea declared the U.N. steps to be an act of war and tantamount to a complete economic blockade.

The standoff between the United States and North Korea has raised fears of a new conflict on the Korean peninsula, which has remained in a technical state of war since the 1950-53 Korean War ended in an armistice, not a peace treaty.

The United States has said that all options, including military ones, are on the table in dealing with North Korea. It says it prefers a diplomatic solution, but that North Korea has given no indication it is willing to discuss denuclearization.

LEADING EXPERTS

The U.S. Treasury named the targeted officials as Kim Jong Sik and Ri Pyong Chol. It said Kim was reportedly a major figure in North Korea’s efforts to switch its missile program from liquid to solid fuel, while Ri was reported to be a key official in its intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) development.

The largely symbolic steps block any property or interests the two might have within U.S. jurisdiction and prohibit any dealings by U.S. citizens with them.

With their ruling Workers Party, military and scientific credentials, the men are two of three top experts considered indispensable to North Korea’s rapidly developing weapons programs.

Photographs and television footage show that the men are clearly among North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s favorites. Their behavior with him is sharply at variance with the obsequiousness of other senior aides, most of whom bow and hold their hands over their mouths when speaking to the young leader.

Ri is one of the most prominent aides, and likely represents the Workers Party on the missile program, experts say.

Born in 1948, Ri was partly educated in Russia and promoted when Kim Jong Un started to rise through the ranks in the late 2000s.

Ri has visited China once and Russia twice. He met China’s defense minister in 2008 as the air force commander and accompanied Kim Jong Il on a visit to a Russian fighter jet factory in 2011, according to state media.

Kim Jong Sik is a prominent rocket scientist who rose after playing a role in North Korea’s first successful launch of a rocket in 2012.

He started his career as a civilian aeronautics technician, but now wears the uniform of a military general at the Munitions Industry Department, according to experts and the South Korean government.

Many other details, including his age, are not known.

KREMLIN OFFER

On Tuesday, the Kremlin, which has long called for the United States and North Korea to negotiate, said it was ready to act as a mediator if the two sides were willing for it to play such a role.

“Russia’s readiness to clear the way for de-escalation is obvious,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

Asked to comment on the offer, a spokesman for the U.S. State Department, Justin Higgins, said the United States “has the ability to communicate with North Korea through a variety of diplomatic channels”, and added:

“We want the North Korean regime to understand that there is a different path that it can choose, however it is up to North Korea to change course and return to credible negotiations.”

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who made a similar offer on Monday, told U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in a phone call on Tuesday that “Washington’s aggressive rhetoric” and beefing up of its military presence in the region had heightened tension and was unacceptable, his ministry said.

Lavrov underscored the need for “the fastest move to the negotiating process from the language of sanctions”, it said.

Another U.S. State Department spokesman, Michael Cavey, said Washington remained open to talks, but the onus was on North Korea “to take sincere and meaningful actions toward denuclearization and refrain from further provocations.”

South Korea’s Unification Ministry forecast on Tuesday that North Korea would look to open negotiations with the United States next year while continuing to seek recognition as a de facto nuclear power.

The United States has stressed the need for all countries, especially Russia, and China – North Korea’s main trading partner – to fully implement sanctions, including by cutting off oil supplies.

According to Chinese customs data, China exported no oil products to North Korea in November, apparently going above and beyond U.N. sanctions imposed earlier in the year.

China also imported no North Korean iron ore, coal or lead in November, the second full month of those trade sanctions, the data showed.

China has not disclosed its crude exports to North Korea for several years, but industry sources say it still supplies about 520,000 tonnes, or 3.8 million barrels, a year to the country via an aging pipeline.

North Korea also sources some of its oil from Russia.

Trade between North Korea and China has slowed through the year, particularly after China banned coal purchases in February.

Chinese exports of corn to North Korea in November also slumped, down 82 percent from a year earlier to 100 tonnes, the lowest since January. Exports of rice plunged 64 percent to 672 tonnes, the lowest since March.

Reporting by Denis Pinchuk and Vladimir Soldatkin in Moscow; Additional reporting by Susan Heavey in Washington; Writing by Polina Ivanova; Editing by Alistair Bell and James Dalgleish

Tags: , , , ,

James takes another shot at Trump during Washington visit

by UNTV News   |   Posted on Tuesday, December 19th, 2017

Dec 17, 2017; Washington, DC, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) celebrates with forward Kevin Love (0) against the Washington Wizards during the second half at Capital One Arena. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

(Reuters) – LeBron James used a visit to Washington on Sunday to express his continued displeasure at Donald Trump, without once mentioning the United States president by name.

James took the court wearing one white and one black shoe for the Cleveland Cavaliers against the Washington Wizards in an NBA game in the national capital.

Both shoes had the word “EQUALITY” stitched in capital letters on the back, and they got the attention he apparently was seeking.

“Obviously, we know where we are right now and we know who’s at the helm here,” the four-times NBA most valuable player told reporters after the game, played barely a mile from the White House.

“Equality is all about understanding our rights, understanding what we stand for and how powerful we are as men, and as women, black or white or Hispanic.”

James, a frequent and outspoken critic of Trump, backed losing Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election.

He has continued his attacks on Trump in the 13 months since the election, saying that the president does not understand that many children look to their leader for guidance and encouragement.

James spoke on Sunday after compiling his third straight triple-double — 20 points, 12 rebounds and 15 assists — as the Cavaliers beat the Wizards 106-99.

“No matter your race, this is a beautiful country and we’re never going to let one person dictate how beautiful and how powerful we are,” he said.

Reporting by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina; editing by Amlan Chakraborty

Tags: , , , , , ,