Category Archives: World

'North Korea may ramp up nuke threat against US'

SEOUL: North Korea may conduct additional missile tests this year to polish up its long-range missile technology and ramp up the threat against the United States, South Korea‘s spy agency said on Monday, adding that it was monitoring developments closely.

North Korea is pursuing nuclear weapons and missile programmes in defiance of UN Security Council sanctions and has made no secret of its plans to develop a missile capable of hitting the US mainland. It has fired two missiles over Japan.

The reclusive state appears to have carried out a recent missile engine test while brisk movements of vehicles were spotted near known missile facilities, Yi Wan-young, a member of South Korea’s parliamentary intelligence committee which was briefed by Seoul’s National Intelligence Service, said.

No sign of an imminent nuclear test had been detected, Yi noted. The third tunnel at the Punggye-ri complex remained ready for another detonation “at any time”, while construction had recently resumed at a fourth tunnel, making it out of use for the time being.

“The agency is closely following the developments because there is a possibility that North Korea could fire an array of ballistic missiles this year under the name of a satellite launch and peaceful development of space, but in fact to ratchet up its threats against the United States,” the lawmakers told reporters after a closed-door briefing by the spy agency.

North Korea defends its weapons programmes as a necessary defence against US plans to invade. The United States, which has 28,500 troops in South Korea, a legacy of the 1950-53 Korean war, denies any such intention.

Pyongyang is also carrying out a sweeping ideological scrutiny of the political unit of the military for the first time in 20 years, according to Kim Byung-kee, another lawmaker in the committee.

The probe was led by the ruling Workers’ Party’s Organisation and Guidance Department and orchestrated by Choe Ryong Hae, who once headed the General Political Bureau of the Korean People’s Army himself until he was replaced by Hwang Pyong So in May 2014.

As a result, Hwang and Kim Won Hong, who Seoul’s unification ministry said was removed from office in mid-January as minister of the Stasi-like secret police called “bowibu”, had been punished, the lawmaker said. He did not elaborate.

Choe, who was subjected to political “reeducation” himself in the past, appears to be gaining more influence since he was promoted in October to the party’s powerful Central Military Commission.

The National Intelligence Service indicated that Choe now heads the Organisation and Guidance Department, a secretive body that oversees appointments within North Korea’s leadership.

“Under Choe’s command, the Organisation and Guidance Department is undertaking an inspection of the military politburo for the first time in 20 years, taking issue with their impure attitude toward the party leadership,” the lawmaker, Kim, said.

Separately on Monday, South Korea approved a request by a South Korean to attend an event in the North marking the anniversary of the death of his mother who formerly led the Chondoist Chongu Party, a minor North Korean political party.

The son, identified only by his surname Choi, will be the first South Korean to visit the North since liberal President Moon Jae-in took office in May.

He is scheduled to arrive in Pyongyang via China on Wednesday and return on Saturday, according to Seoul’s unification ministry.

Rescuers battle waves, wind in hunt for missing Argentine sub

MAR DEL PLATA (Argentina): A multinational armada of aircraft and vessels battled high winds and raging seas Sunday as they intensified their search for a missing Argentine submarine, after apparent attempted distress calls raised hopes the 44 crew members may still be alive.

There has been no contact with the ARA San Juan, a German-built diesel-electric sub, since early Wednesday.

An air and sea search is under way with help from countries including Brazil, Britain, Chile, the United States and Uruguay.

Hopes of finding survivors were revived when the navy said Saturday that its bases had received seven satellite calls attributed to the submersible.

The signals were received at 10:52 am (1352 GMT) and 3:42 pm (1842 GMT), but they did not lock in, thus preventing a full connection.

However, the navy was unable to confirm that those calls originated from the submarine.

“The communications are so short and the signal so low,” Argentine navy spokesman Enrique Balbi said, later adding the military has yet to have contact with or detect radar from the sub.

The calls revived hopes that the submarine has surfaced, but a powerful storm that has whipped up waves reaching seven meters (23 feet) in height has made geolocation difficult, officials said.

Balbi said weather conditions were not expected to improve before Tuesday.

Despite the bad weather, “10 aircraft, both domestic and foreign, are in a search rotation 24 hours a day, each in a different area,” he said.

There is a feeling of “cautious enthusiasm,” naval expert Fernando Morales told C5N television.

He said the attempt to use a satellite phone indicates that “the submarine had to emerge to a depth that allowed the call.”

The last regular communication with the San Juan was early Wednesday, when the submarine was 430 kilometers (270 miles) off Argentina’s coast in the Gulf of San Jorge.

Rescuers are focusing on an ocean patch about 300 kilometers in diameter, radiating from the last point of contact.

US Southern Command has deployed a Navy P-8A Poseidon patrol and reconnaissance plane with a crew of 21, along with a NASA P-3 research aircraft, and other equipment and personnel.

The US Navy has deployed two unmanned underwater vehicles that use a sonar system to create an image of large sections of the sea floor.

Britain’s Royal Navy said it had sent the HMS Protector, an Antarctic patrol ship.

Balbi said it was following the northward course the submarine would have taken toward Mar del Plata.

Relatives of crew members unfurled a flag at the naval base that read: “Be strong Argentina, We trust in God, We wait for you.”

“We will do what is necessary to find the submarine as soon as possible,” Argentine President Mauricio Macri wrote on Twitter.

All land communications bases along the coast were ordered to scan for any follow-up signals, as family members of the missing waited nervously in the coastal city of Mar del Plata.

Claudio Rodriguez, whose brother Hernan is aboard the submarine, was hopeful, saying the satellite signals suggested the vessel was still afloat and would be found.

“They’ve got to be afloat. Thank God,” he said.

Among those on board is Argentina’s first female submarine officer, 35-year-old weapons officer Eliana Krawczyk.

The navy has not ruled out any hypothesis. A spokesman said the most likely scenario given is that an electrical problem may have unexpectedly cut off the vessel’s communications.

The TR-1700 class submarine had been returning from a routine mission to Ushuaia, near the southernmost tip of South America, to its base at Mar del Plata, about 400 kilometers south of Buenos Aires.

It is one of three submarines in the Argentine fleet.

Sixty-five meters long and seven meters wide, it was built by Germany‘s Thyssen Nordseewerke and launched in 1983.

It underwent a refit between 2007 and 2014 to extend its use by about 30 years.

At the Vatican, Argentine-born Pope Francis said he offered “his fervent prayer” for the safety of the submarine sailors.

Charles Manson, whose cult slayings horrified world, dies

LOS ANGELES: Cult leader Charles Manson, whose followers killed actress Sharon Tate and six others in 1969, has died. He was 83.

A spokeswoman for the California Department of Corrections says Manson died of natural causes Sunday night.

The gory slayings horrified the world and revealed a violent underbelly of a counterculture that preached peace and love.

The killings occurred on successive August nights and terrorized the city of Los Angeles.

Tate, who was nearly nine months pregnant, was found stabbed repeatedly in her Hollywood mansion, along with several of her friends. Other victims included coffee heiress Abigail Folger and celebrity hair stylist Jay Sebring.

The next night a wealthy couple was killed in a similar fashion.

Investigators learned Manson sent a group of disaffected young followers to commit murder as part of a twisted, quasi-religious belief that it would launch a race war.

Truck and minibus collide head-on in Pakistan, killing 17

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani police say that a head-on collision between a mini-bus and a truck has killed at least 17 people and injured six in the country’s south.

Police officer Rab Nawaz says the loaded truck crashed into the van near the town of Khairpur on Monday morning.

He says those injured are in critical condition and that the death toll could increase further. The police also say the passengers included women and children.

The cause of the crash was not immediately known. An investigation is underway.

Road accidents are common in Pakistan because of poor road conditions and disregard for safety standards and traffic rules by drivers.

Elizabeth II, Prince Philip mark 70th wedding anniversary

LONDON: Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip celebrate 70 years of marriage on Monday, becoming Britain’s first reigning couple to mark a platinum wedding anniversary.

The decades-spanning marriage of the Queen — the nation’s longest serving sovereign — has outlasted those of all prior British monarchs.

The royal couple will not hold any public events but have invited family and friends to Windsor Castle for a private dinner on Monday evening, according to media reports.

Earlier in the day the bells of Westminster Abbey, where Elizabeth married the Duke of Edinburgh on November 20, 1947, will ring out in full celebratory peal.

The abbey’s company of ringers — a team of 10 — will deliver the tribute uninterrupted for around three hours and 20 minutes, from 1300 GMT.

Also in honour of the occasion, Buckingham Palace on Saturday issued new photographic portraits of the Queen and the Prince, taken earlier this month in the White Drawing Room at Windsor Castle.

They are framed by Thomas Gainsborough’s 1781 portraits of George III and Queen Charlotte, whose 57-year union — bridging the 18th and 19th centuries — is the next longest British royal marriage.

In one of the photographs released, the Queen poses in the same cream dress she wore at her diamond wedding anniversary thanksgiving service 10 years ago, along with a yellow gold, ruby and diamond brooch Philip gave her in 1966.

Meanwhile the Royal Mail, Britain’s postal service, has issued a new set of six stamps to commemorate the historic landmark.

It includes images of the pair’s engagement announcement at Buckingham Palace, their wedding amid the splendour of Westminster Abbey, and the first part of their honeymoon at a country estate in the county of Hampshire.

The fairy-tale royal wedding in 1947 was a morale boost during the tough years immediately after World War II.

Their marriage endured, as Philip accepted living in his wife’s shadow, and the Queen seemingly forgiving his periodic gaffes.

They had four children — Charles, Anne, Andrew and Edward — though their marriages have been less successful, with all except Edward having divorced.

The couple also boast eight grandchildren and five great-grandchildren, with a sixth great-grandchild expected in April, when Prince William and wife Kate Middleton’s third child is due.

The 96-year-old Duke of Edinburgh retired from the public eye this summer, enjoying his newfound free time reading and painting.

For her part the Queen, at 91, is slowly passing over some of her official duties to her son Prince Charles, now aged 69.

The royal couple first met as teenagers, and eventually married when Elizabeth was a 25-year-old princess.

Philip, the son of a Greek prince banished from that country, renounced his titles and Greek Orthodox faith and became a British citizen in order to marry, adopting his mother’s anglicised name, Mountbatten.

Prior to the wedding he told the Queen Mother he had “fallen in love completely and unreservedly” with her daughter.

Since described by Elizabeth as her “rock,” Philip once remarked: “My job first, second and last, is never to let the Queen down.”

Small tsunamis detected in New Caledonia and Vanuatu after magnitude 7 undersea quake

SYDNEY: A powerful magnitude 7 undersea earthquake struck east of New Caledonia’s Loyalty Islands in the South Pacific on Monday, sending small tsunamis towards New Caledonia and neighbouring Vanuatu, where authorities ordered evacuations.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center (PTWC) in Hawaii issued a tsunami warning for coastlines within 300 kms (186 mile) of the epicentre, but later said the danger had largely passed.

Monday’s quake, initially reported as magnitude 7.3, struck at a shallow depth of 10 km (six miles) about 82 kms (51 miles) east of New Caledonia. It was the second major tremor in the same area in just over 12 hours and the third in the past month.

“We are a little bit scared, we have had an earthquake last night and today it was quite a big one,” said Wayan Rigault, communications manager at Hotel Nengone Village on the island of Mare, which is the closest landmass to the epicentre.

Rigault said there was no immediate damage, but guests were on alert for a formal evacuation warning.

Small tsunamis were detected and waves may have reached up to one metre (three feet) above the high tide level in parts of New Caledonia and smaller in Vanuatu, the PTWC said.

“Minor sea level fluctuations…may continue over the next few hours,” a statement from the agency said.

Vanuatu’s National Disaster Management Office advised people in southern provinces to evacuate coastal areas for higher ground..

New Caledonia’s civil security agency made no plans to evacuate coastal places immediately.

Authorities in Australia, New Zealand and Hawaii said there were no tsunami threats to the coastlines of those countries.

Will refuse ‘illegal’ N-launch order from prez: US gen

WASHINGTON: The top US nuclear commander said on Saturday that he would resist President Donald Trump if he ordered an “illegal” launch of nuclear weapons.

Air Force General John Hyten, commander of the US Strategic Command (STRATCOM), told an audience at the Halifax International Security Forum in Nova Scotia, Canada, that he had given a lot of thought to what he would say if he received such an order.

“I think some people think we’re stupid,” Hyten said in response to a question about such a scenario. “We’re not stupid people. We think about these things a lot. When you have this responsibility, how do you not think about it?”

Hyten, who is responsible for overseeing the US nuclear arsenal, explained the process that would follow such a command. As head of STRATCOM, “I provide advice to the president, he will tell me what to do,” he said in his remarks, retransmitted in a video posted on the forum’s Facebook page.

“And if it’s illegal, guess what’s going to happen? I’m going to say, ‘Mr. President, that’s illegal.” And guess what he’s going to do? He’s going to say, ‘What would be legal?’ And we’ll come up with options, of a mix of capabilities to respond to whatever the situation is, and that’s the way it works. It’s not that complicated.”

Hyten said running through scenarios of how to react in the event of an illegal order was standard practice, and added: “If you execute an unlawful order, you will go to jail. You could go to jail for the rest of your life.”

The Pentagon did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Hyten’s remarks. Hyten’s remarks came after questions by US senators, including Democrats and Trump’s fellow Republicans, about Trump’s authority to wage war, use nuclear weapons and enter into or end international agreements, amid concern that tensions over North Korea’s nuclear and missile programmes could lead to hostilities.

Trump has traded insults and threats with North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un and threatened in his maiden United Nations address to “totally destroy” the country of 26 million people if it threatened the United States.

Some senators want legislation to alter the nuclear authority of the US president and a Senate committee on Tuesday held the first congressional hearing in more than four decades on the president’s authority to launch a nuclear strike.

French cop kills 3 before committing suicide

SARCELLES: A 31-year-old French police officer shot three people dead before turning his gun on himself, in a killing spree sparked by a row with his girlfriend, police the local prosecutor said on Sunday.

The news comes with France already grappling with the surge in police suicides this year

The Paris officer, Arnaud Martin, finished his shift yesterday and went to meet his girlfriend in Sarcelles, a suburb north of the capital city, to discuss ending their relationship.

But after an argument broke out, Martin shot the young woman in the face and killed two men who were nearby, aged 30 and 44, one of whom had tried to intervene, said Eric Corbaux, prosecutor for the Pontoise department, said.

He then went to his girlfriend’s home just a few yards away, where he killed the girl’s father and seriously injured her mother in the throat.

He also shot the woman’s sister in the leg and killed the family dog.

The attacker was later found “dead from a gunshot wound to the head, his gun in his hand, in the back of the garden,” Corbaux said.

His former girlfriend was in serious condition in hospital today.

“According to his superiors, he was a good civil servant, a very serious former gendarme,” Corbaux said.

Yesterday’s tragedy comes as French officials confront a sharp increase in police suicides, with more than 45 officers and 16 gendarmes killing themselves so far this year.

But Interior Minister Gerard Collomb said today that he would not backtrack on allowing officers carry their weapons when off-duty, a practice France introduced after the November 2015 terror attacks in Paris.

“It’s something that requires a lot of attention by police supervisors,” Collomb said on France Inter radio, though he acknowledged that most police suicides are prompted by events in their private lives.

No court decision can weaken my bond with people: Sharif

ISLAMABAD: A defiant Nawaz Sharif on Sunday said that no decision of a court could weaken his relationship with the masses as Pakistan’s ousted prime minister kicked off the ruling PML-N party’s campaign to seek public support in the wake of Panama Papers scandal, a media report said.

He said that “four or five people cannot decide the fate of millions of people,” referring to the bench that ruled against him in the Panama Papers case, the Express Tribune reported.

Sharif, 67, and some of his family members are facing charges relating to their ownership of properties in London in connection with the Panama Papers scandal.

He resigned as the prime minister in July after the Supreme Court disqualified him over undeclared income.

“The support of the (large) number of people gathered here is a proof that no decision of the court could separate me and them,” he said while addressing a rally in Abbottabad.

The people expressed the same support for him in the 2013 general elections, he said.

“If someone thinks I will be defeated, then they are wrong. I am not the one who is going to be defeated here. Sit- ins were staged as soon as I assumed responsibilities as the premier. However, we continually worked on development projects,” Sharif said.

Then, he said, the Panama (Papers) “drama” was staged.

“If I were a dictator, I would have disintegrated from you and left. I promise to never leave you and I hope that the people supporting me would continue to do so,” he said.

Sharif and four of his family members can soon be barred from leaving Pakistan in connection with the Panama Papers case as the anti-graft watchdog has initiated a process to place their names on the Exit Control List.

Three cases were registered by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) on September 8 against Sharif, his children and son-in-law in the Accountability Court Islamabad, following the July verdict by the Supreme Court.

The NAB Lahore office on Friday initiated the process to place the names of Sharif, his sons Hussain and Hassan, daughter Maryam and son-in-law Mohammad Safdar on Exit Control List (ECL).

An accountability court had earlier declared Hussain and Hassan proclaimed offenders for skipping court proceedings in connection with the case.

Sharif’s family has been shuttling between Islamabad and London in recent days due to his wife Kulsoom, who is battling throat cancer.

The three cases against the Sharifs are related to the Flagship Investment Ltd, the Avenfield (London) properties and Jeddah-based Al-Azizia Company and Hill Metal Establishment.

The political future of Sharif, who leads the country’s most powerful political family and the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party, has been hanging in balance since his disqualification. If convicted, Sharif could be jailed.

Sharif’s family alleges that the cases are politically motivated.

Mugabe fired as ruling party leader

HARARE: President Robert Mugabe was dismissed as the leader of Zimababwe’s ruling ZANU-PF party on Sunday in a move to force him to end to his 37 years in power peacefully following a de facto military coup.

He was replaced by Emmerson Mnangagwa, the deputy he sacked this month, sources at a special ZANU-PF meeting to decide Mugabe‘s fate told Reuters.

“He has been expelled,” one of the delegates said. “Mnangagwa is our new leader.”

Mugabe’s wife Grace, who had harboured ambitions of succeeding Mugabe, was also expelled from the party.

Speaking before the meeting, war veterans’ leader Chris Mutsvangwa said the 93-year-old Mugabe was running out of time to negotiate his departure and should leave the country while he could.

“He’s trying to bargain for a dignified exit,” he said.

Mutsvangwa followed up with a threat to call for street protests if Mugabe refused to go, telling reporters: “We will bring back the crowds and they will do their business.”

Mnangagwa, a former state security chief known as “The Crocodile,” is now in line to head an interim post-Mugabe unity government that will focus on rebuilding ties with the outside world and stabilising an economy in freefall.

On Saturday, hundreds of thousands of people flooded the streets of Harare, singing, dancing and hugging soldiers in an outpouring of elation at Mugabe’s expected overthrow.

His stunning downfall in just four days is likely to send shockwaves across Africa, where a number of entrenched strongmen, from Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni to Democratic Republic of Congo’s Joseph Kabila, are facing mounting pressure to quit.

Men, women and children ran alongside the armoured cars and troops who stepped in this week to oust the man who has ruled since independence from Britain in 1980.

Under house arrest in his lavish ‘Blue Roof’ compound, Mugabe has refused to stand down even as he has watched his support from the party, security services and people evaporate in less than three days.

His nephew, Patrick Zhuwao, told Reuters Mugabe and his wife were “ready to die for what is correct” rather than step down in order to legitimise what he described as a coup.

But on Harare’s streets, few seemed to care about the legal niceties as they heralded a “second liberation” for the former British colony and spoke of their dreams for political and economic change after two decades of deepening repression and hardship.

“These are tears of joy,” said Frank Mutsindikwa, 34, holding aloft the Zimbabwean flag. “I’ve been waiting all my life for this day. Free at last. We are free at last.”

The huge crowds in Harare have given a quasi-democratic veneer to the army’s intervention, backing its assertion that it is merely effecting a constitutional transfer of power, rather than a plain coup, which would entail a diplomatic backlash.

Despite the euphoria, some Mugabe opponents are uneasy about the prominent role played by the military and fear Zimbabwe might be swapping one army-backed autocrat with another, rather than allowing the people to choose their next leader.

“The real danger of the current situation is that having got their new preferred candidate into State House, the military will want to keep him or her there, no matter what the electorate wills,” former education minister David Coltart said.

The United States, a long-time Mugabe critic, said it was looking forward to a new era in Zimbabwe, while President Ian Khama of neighbouring Botswana said Mugabe had no diplomatic support in the region and should resign at once.


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