Category Archives: current-topic-views

South Korea imposes new sanctions on North Korea

SEOUL (SOUTH KOREA):South Korea added several North Korean groups and individuals to its sanctions list Monday in a largely symbolic move that is part of efforts to cut off funding for the North’s weapons programs.

The government said those added were 20 North Korean groups, including several banks and companies, and 12 individuals.

Seoul is among the first to respond to North Korea’s Nov. 29 missile launch with fresh sanctions. While the move is largely symbolic because all transactions between two Koreas have been banned for years, the government said it hopes its move will prompt the international community to do likewise.

The measure will “remind the international community of the risks of doing transactions with the groups and individuals,” Baek Tae-hyun, South Korea’s Unification Ministry spokesman, said during a media briefing.

The blacklist includes Rason International Commercial Bank and Korea Zinc Industrial Group. Individuals are North Korean officials who work for the country’s banks or companies based in China, Russia, Vietnam and Namibia.

US President Donald Trump’s UN ambassador has been urging the world to cut trade and diplomatic ties with Pyongyang.

Last month, North Korea has test-fired its most powerful missile ever, an ICBM that may be able to target the eastern seaboard of the United States.

Separately on Monday, South Korea, the United States and Japan started two-day missile tracking drills in response to North Korea’s missile and nuclear threats.

Dilip Kumar’s birthday to be kept low-key 

Veteran actor Dilip Kumar turned a year older today. Wife Saira Banu not only updated his fans on his health but also revealed his birthday celebration plans last evening on Twitter

6,000 IS jihadists could return to Africa, AU warns

ALGIERS: Up to 6,000 Africans who fought for the Islamic State (IS) jihadist group in Iraq and Syria could return home, the African Union‘s top security official warned Sunday, calling on countries to prepare for the threat.

Smail Chergui, the AU’s commissioner for peace and security, said African nations would need to work closely with each other and share intelligence to counter returning militants.

“There are reports of 6,000 African fighters among the 30,000 foreign elements who joined this terrorist group in the Middle East,” Chergui told a meeting in Algiers, according to the Algeria Press Service news agency.

“The return of these elements to Africa poses a serious threat to our national security and stability and requires specific treatment and intense cooperation between African countries,” he said.

Tens of thousands of foreign fighters joined the Sunni extremist group after it seized vast swathes of Iraq and Syria and declared a caliphate in 2014.

But the group has suffered a host of losses to both its territory and military capabilities in the last year.

Backed by a US-led coalition, Iraqi forces gradually retook control of all territory lost to the jihadists, declaring on Saturday that the country was now liberated from its control.

In Syria, the group faces western-backed Syrian rebels, jihadist rivals and government forces that are supported by Russia and Iran.

But the losses have sparked fears that IS’s remaining foreign fighters may now relocate, bringing their extremist ideology and violence with them.

US, South Korea, Japan start missile-tracking drill

SEOUL: The US, South Korea and Japan started joint exercises Monday to track missiles from North Korea, Seoul’s military said, following the nuclear-armed Pyongyang’s longest-range test launch to date.

The trilateral drill comes less than two weeks after Pyongyang test-fired a new intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) and declared it had achieved nuclear statehood, escalating global alarm over its weapons push.

The two-day exercise — the sixth since June last year — kicked off in waters near the Korean peninsula and Japan, Seoul’s defence ministry said.

“During the drill, Aegis warships from each country will simulate detecting and tracking down potential ballistic missiles from the North and sharing information,” it said in a statement.

Two US ships are taking part, with one each from the two Asian countries.

Both South Korea and Japan have security alliances with the US, although their own relationship is marred by disputes over history and territory.

Washington and Seoul staged their biggest-ever joint air drill last week in a show of force against Pyongyang, which is subject to multiple sets of UN sanctions over its ballistic missile and nuclear weapons programmes.

Tension flared anew in the flashpoint peninsula after the November 29 launch of the Hwasong-15 ICBM, which the North claimed could deliver a “super-large heavy warhead” anywhere on the US mainland.

Many analysts suggest that the rocket is capable of reaching the US mainland but voiced scepticism that Pyongyang has mastered the advanced technology needed to allow the rocket to survive re-entry to the Earth’s atmosphere.

Last month’s launch was the first test of any kind since September 15, and quashed hopes that the North may have held back in order to open the door to a negotiated solution to the nuclear standoff.

The North’s leader Kim Jong-Un has traded threats of war and personal insults with US President Donald Trump, heightening fears of another war on the peninsula once devastated by the 1950-53 Korean War.

The South condemned the launch and on Monday imposed new unilateral sanctions on its neighbour.

Pyongyang regularly condemns joint exercises by the US and its neighbours as preparations for war.

But Japanese defence minister Itsunori Onodera said Sunday: “It is North Korea that is raising tensions. No one in the world — me, Prime Minister Abe, President Trump or Defence Secretary Mattis — is hoping to have conflicts.”

“If North Korea promises to abandon nuclear and missile programmes, that will lead to dialogue,” he added while visiting an army base in northern Japan to observe a separate Japan-US drill.

Israeli, French leaders tangle over US Jerusalem move

JERUSALEM: The French and Israeli leaders sparred verbally Sunday over the US decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, while new violence rippled across the region following the move by US President Donald Trump.

In Jerusalem, a Palestinian stabbed an Israeli security guard, seriously wounding him in the first attack in the volatile city since Trump’s pronouncement Wednesday. In Beirut, scores of Lebanese and Palestinian demonstrators clashed with security forces outside the heavily guarded US Embassy, and Arab foreign ministers meeting in Cairo demanded that the United States rescind the decision.

The move upended decades of US policy, and a longstanding international consensus, that the fate of Jerusalem be decided in negotiations. Israeli and Palestinian claims to the city’s eastern sector form the emotional core of their conflict, and Trump’s announcement was seen as siding with the Israelis and has drawn wide international criticism.

At a meeting in Paris with Israel’s visiting prime minister, French President Emmanuel Macron condemned recent violence against Israelis. But he also expressed “disapproval” of Trump’s decision, calling it “dangerous for peace.”

“It doesn’t seem to serve, in the short term, the cause of Israel’s security and the Israelis themselves,” Macron said.

He urged Israel to freeze its construction of settlements on occupied lands and called for other confidence-building measures toward the Palestinians.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has called Trump’s decision “historic,” said Israel has maintained its capital in the city for 70 years and the Jewish connection to Jerusalem goes back 3,000 years.

“Paris is the capital of France, Jerusalem is the capital of Israel,” he said. “We respect your history and your choices. And we know that as friends, you respect ours.”

“I think the sooner the Palestinians come to grips with this reality, the sooner we move toward peace,” he added.

The exchange between the two allies set the stage for what could be a tense meeting Monday for Netanyahu with European Union foreign ministers in Brussels. The Jerusalem issue and the moribund peace process are expected to be high on the agenda.

Last week, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini warned that Trump’s decision “has the potential to send us backward to even darker times than the one we are already living in.”

She also warned that Trump’s “move could diminish the potential role that the United States could play in the region and create more confusion around this.”

The meeting could be a precursor for what seems to be an emerging rift between Israel and the US on one side, and Europe and the Palestinians on the other.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has said Trump’s decision has in effect disqualified the US from continuing in its role as the traditional mediator of peace talks. The Palestinians have spent recent days trying to rally Arab and broader international opposition to the decision.

After Abbas political adviser Majdi Khaldi said Saturday that the Palestinian leader won’t meet with Vice President Mike Pence when he visits the region this month, a spokeswoman for Pence said Sunday it was “unfortunate that the Palestinian Authority is walking away again from an opportunity to discuss the future of the region.”

EU leaders, including Macron, have reiterated support for establishing an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel. Trump has said he would support the idea if both sides endorse it _ effectively giving Israel a veto over any peace proposal. Netanyahu’s government is dominated by opponents to Palestinian independence. Trump’s Middle East team, headed by his son-in-law Jared Kushner, has been working for months on a peace plan but has not yet released it.

Israel captured east Jerusalem from Jordan in the 1967 Middle East war and annexed the area to its capital in a move that was not internationally recognized. The Palestinians claim east Jerusalem as the capital of a future state, along with the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

East Jerusalem is home to Judaism’s most sacred site, as well as key holy places for Christians and Muslims. These conflicting claims have erupted into deadly bloodshed in the past.

A senior US official appealed to world leaders, especially in the Middle East, to calm regional tensions.

Acting Assistant Secretary of State David Satterfield told Arab journalists that Trump’s pronouncement was merely a “recognition of simple reality” that Israel’s government already is in Jerusalem.

He said the US was not prejudging final-status negotiations about the city’s final borders and expressed hope that world leaders understand the US is committed to moving forward with a peace plan he expects to be unveiled in the new year.

“This is a question of choice: Do leaders choose to speak to their peoples, to their regions in terms that reflect reality or in terms that incite or inflame?” he said. “We hope it’s the former.”

The Palestinians staged three “days of rage” after Trump’s dramatic announcement, with clashes breaking out in flashpoints across the West Bank, east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip, and Gaza militants firing rockets into Israel. Four people in Gaza were killed. In the West Bank, there were dozens of injuries, but no deaths.

There were indications that Sunday’s stabbing at the Jerusalem bus station was motivated by Trump’s move, although police did not officially confirm it.

They said the attacker was a 24-year-old Palestinian from the West Bank city of Nablus. Israeli media identified him as Yassin Abu al-Qarah, who posted on his Facebook page in recent days about Jerusalem, saying “our blood is devoted” to the holy city. Comments on his profile called him a hero for the alleged attack.

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said the guard sustained a serious wound to his upper body and the attacker was apprehended.

Palestinian youths also clashed in the West Bank city of Bethlehem, hurling stones at Israeli soldiers, who fired back with rubber bullets and tear gas.

In Beirut, Lebanese security forces broke up the protest outside the US Embassy after demonstrators pelted them with stones. After a rowdy start, the protest drew several hundred people and became more peaceful, with demonstrators chanting and singing.

Clashes resumed in the afternoon, with security forces chasing and arresting a handful of protesters and lobbing tear gas. Lebanon is home to 450,000 Palestinian refugees, nearly 10 percent of the population.

In a resolution long on rhetoric but short on concrete actions, Arab foreign ministers demanded the recognition decision be rescinded and urged the UN Security Council to adopt a resolution condemning Trump’s decision. They acknowledged that Washington would most likely veto it.

If the US vetoes such a resolution, the Arabs would seek a similar resolution in the UN General Assembly, Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad Malki told a news conference in Cairo.

With few options for the Palestinians, and the Arab world preoccupied by other crises, Arab willingness to press the issue may be limited. In Paris, Netanyahu talked about his quiet but improving relations with Arab countries that look to Israel as an ally against Iran.

“There is in this a blessing, because this could help pave the way to an ultimate peace between us and our Palestinian neighbors and between us and the rest of the Arab world,” he said.

Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the UN, defended Trump’s move.

“For those who want to say this is a bad idea, I’ll tell you: Ask us five or 10 years from now if you still think it’s a bad idea. Because I really do think this is going to move the ball in the peace process,” she told CNN’s “State of the Union.”

India’s new FTP may have more T20 games

There won’t be much of a change in the number of Tests and ODIs as such but, according to sources, India are likely to play three times more T20Is between 2019 and 2023 as compared to the earlier FTP.

1st ODI: Sri Lanka bulldoze India by seven wickets

India slump in seaming conditions, suffer embarrassing seven-wicket loss.

Dilip Kumar: Rare images of the veteran actor

It was an extreme experience to have an empty bench, says Germany coach

Seven German players missed the crucial bronze medal match against India at the Hockey World League Final on Sunday leaving them with an empty bench for the game. Thus, with no substitutes available, they were forced to play with just 11 players for the entirety of the 60 minutes which they eventually lost 1-2.

Venezuela opposition barred from presidential polls

CARACAS: Venezuela‘s President Nicolas Maduro announced Sunday that leading opposition parties will be barred from taking part in next year’s presidential vote after they boycotted mayoral polls, in a move set to further consolidate his grip on power.

That includes the groups of key figures who have led street protests against his rule such as Henrique Capriles, Leopoldo Lopez and others, Maduro told reporters after casting his vote in the municipal polls.

“That’s what the National Constituent Assembly set out,” he said, referring to a controversial Maduro-allied special powers legislature whose legitimacy has been questioned by many in the international community.

“If they don’t want elections, what are they doing? What’s the alternative? (Civil) war?” the president asked, visibly angry.

While municipal elections were under way across the country, the Maduro clearly had his mind on the 2018 presidential race in which he plans to seek reelection — despite an approval rating of around 30 percent.

Crisis-weary voters meanwhile appeared to be staying away in droves from mayoral elections that the opposition is already boycotting.

A few hours after polling stations were supposed to open, 98 percent of the 14,000 facilities were up and running, according to the National Election Board (CNE).

Yet turnout in many places appeared to be light, and in others extremely so.

In terms of politics, the local election stakes might seem low.

Yet a failure in municipal votes could be seen by many a sign the government had lost the support of the massive lower-income base it relies on to stay in power and in charge of the state-led economy.

Luis Emilio Rondon, a member of the electoral board, said that there were some irregularities involving pro-government candidates who are running some polling stations. He did not immediately say where, or address the extent of the issue.

But voting “cannot be restricted, obligatory, or supervised by people with political interests” therein, Rondon told reporters.

He also said he had had reports that in some polling stations run by the ruling PSUV, officials were making sure that those who have a special social benefits card get out to cast their votes. He said some of these voters’ “Fatherland Card,” an electronic card that helps them get scarce food and medicine, was being scanned.

“There has been some confusion on voters’ part about whether they have to go to the polls with their regular ID card and the Fatherland Card. This is not needed to vote. You only need your regular national ID,” he stressed.

These are the last elections before presidential voting scheduled for late next year, in which Maduro says he will seek another term. Some analysts think they will be moved up to the early months of 2018.

The lack of a serious challenge Sunday to Maduro-aligned candidates has led to skepticism in the main cities of Caracas, Maracaibo and San Cristobal.

“I’m not going to vote because I don’t believe in the transparency of the CNE,” said Nerver Huerta, a 38-year-old graphic designer in Caracas.

Maduro’s ruling socialist party was aided by the refusal of the three main parties in the opposition coalition Democratic Union Roundtable (MUD) to participate, though smaller parties have decided to contest the election.

Supporting the government are a combination of ideological loyalists and pragmatists aware that the electronic Fatherland Card issued by the government could help them get access to scarce medicine or food. Opposition critics call it bald-faced social control.

“The president, despite everything, has helped me. I could not be ungrateful,” said William Lugo, 65.

“I will vote on Sunday, and if we have to re-elect him, I will be there,” he said.

Victor Torres, a chauffeur in Maracaibo, said the election will do nothing to resolve what he considers to be the country’s biggest woe: hyperinflation, estimated at 2,000 percent this year.

“The other day I went to buy a banana. In the morning it cost 1,900 bolivares and in the afternoon, 3,000. You can’t live this way. I am disappointed with politicians,” said Torres.

Yon Goicoechea is contesting the election against the wishes of his party because he says the opposition must “defend” its political space.

Goicoechea, who is running for mayor in a Caracas municipality, said the government “will try to steal the vote, but we will not give it away.”

According to electoral expert Eugenio Martinez, the opposition would do well to hold on to even 50 percent of its 72 mayorships. Maduro loyalists hold 242. Others are held by independents.

The balloting station where the president himself votes, in a poor area of Caracas called Catia, also looked deserted, an AFP reporter there said.

“Not voting is a mistake. Instead of moving forward, we are going backwards the way crabs do,” said Carmen Leon, 78, after casting her ballot in Chacao, which has been home to many opposition leaders.


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