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U.N. Security Council agrees on tougher N. Korea sanctions

Posted in Uncategorized by malaysiasms on June 11, 2009

NEW YORK (CNN) — The five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council have agreed on a resolution that would expand and tighten sanctions on North Korea, two senior Western diplomats at the United Nations said Wednesday.

The permanent members — China, France, Russia, Britain and the United States — reached the agreement in consultation with Japan and South Korea.

The council began discussions late Wednesday morning. A vote is possible Thursday or Friday, according to several diplomats, including French Ambassador Jean-Maurice Ripert.

The agreement comes amid rising tension with North Korea, which recently conducted a nuclear test, fired test rockets, and threatened U.S. and South Korean ships near its territorial waters. The nuclear test and the firing of six short-range rockets same in late May.

Pyongyang’s actions violated U.N. resolutions. 

Adding another wrinkle to the situation, two American journalists arrested in North Korea were convicted Monday of illegal entry to the country and sentenced to 12 years in prison.

Late last month, two Defense Department officials said U.S. satellite imagery spotted “vehicle activity” at a North Korean ballistic missile facility. The officials said the images showed vehicles used to transport Taepodong-2 missiles, but no missile parts. The Taepodong-2 is a long-range missile that was tested earlier this year by North Korea.

That test, in April, showed a significant improvement in range from North Korea’s initial long-range missile test in 2006.

President Obama’s special envoy to the secretive communist state, Stephen Bosworth, called “simply groundless” accusations by Pyongyang that its nuclear and missile tests were in response to American aggression.

Washington officials have said the United States’ goal is for North Korea to return to nuclear negotiations with the United States, China, South Korea, Japan and Russia, known as the “six-party talks.”

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Mercy plea for held US reporters

Posted in Uncategorized by malaysiasms on June 9, 2009

BBC.COM

Journalists Euna Lee (L) and Laura Ling

The families of two US journalists held in North Korea have pleaded with the authorities there to set the pair free.

In a statement, relatives of Euna Lee and Laura Ling said reports that the women had been sentenced to 12 years in a labour camp were “devastating”.

They were convicted of entering the North illegally while filming at the Chinese border in March.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the government was “pursuing every possible approach” to free the women.

Their trial was held amid growing tensions over North Korea’s nuclear programme, but Mrs Clinton stressed that the two issues were “entirely separate”.

‘Show compassion’

The families of Ms Ling and Ms Lee said they were worried about the “mental state and wellbeing” of the two women.

In a joint statement, the families said: “We ask the government of North Korea to show compassion and grant Laura and Euna clemency and allow them to return home to their families.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-il visits a factory in Tanchon, in an undated photo released on 6 June

“We remain hopeful that the governments of the United States and North Korea can come to an agreement that will result in the release of the girls.”

The statement said Ms Ling suffered from an ulcer and that Ms Lee had a four-year-old daughter who was “displaying signs of anguish”.

“We believe that the three months they have already spent under arrest with little communication with their families is long enough,” the statement said.

After a short trial, the North’s official news agency KCNA said on Monday that the women had committed a “grave crime” and would be sentenced to 12 years of “reform through labour”.

KCNA gave no further details.

Bargaining chip?

The pair were arrested by North Korean guards on 17 March while working on the China-North Korea border on a story about refugees for California-based internet broadcaster Current TV.

Some reports have suggested that the women did not stray over the border but were seized by North Korean border guards who crossed into Chinese territory.

The pair have been held in detention since their arrest.

Tensions have increased in the region since North Korea conducted a nuclear test in May and then test-fired several missiles.

Another long-range missile test is believed to be planned for later this month.

The UN Security Council is discussing tightening sanctions against Pyongyang, and Mrs Clinton said on Sunday that the US was considering reinstating North Korea in its list of state sponsors of terrorism.

Analysts believe the North may try to use the women as a bargaining chip in negotiations over their nuclear programme.

North Korea ‘planning to launch long range rocket’

Posted in Uncategorized by malaysiasms on June 1, 2009

THE  TIMES ONLINE

Richard Lloyd Parry in Seoul

The United States insisted that it would not tolerate a nuclear-armed North Korea, as reports suggested that the isolated regime was planning to launch another long-range rocket capable of striking the US.

South Korea’s Yonhap news agency quoted unnamed intelligence sources saying that a missile-like object has been spotted on satellite photographs being removed from a missile factory near the North Korean capital, Pyongyang.

Similar reports in February were followed two months later by the launch of a long-range rocket which was fired into the Pacific, drawing condemnation from governments around the world and the censure of the UN Security Council.

An even stronger protest from the UN is expected this week in response to North Korea’s underground test of a nuclear weapon last Monday, followed by a spate of short range missile tests.

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On Saturday, the US defence secretary, Robert Gates, told an audience in Singapore that the US will not accept North Korea as a nuclear state, although he gave no concrete details of how the Obama administration intended to prevent this.

“I think that the combination of their progress in developing nuclear technology, and their progress in developing multistage long-range missiles, is a harbinger of a dark future,” he said.

“What is now central to multilateral efforts … is to try to peacefully stop those programs before they do in fact become a ’clear and present danger’.”

He said that the transfer of North Korean nuclear technology to foreign countries or terrorist groups would be regarded as a “grave threat”, and that there would be no reward for threats.

“We will not accept North Korea as a nuclear weapons state,” he said. “Everyone … is familiar with the tactics that the North Koreans use. They create a crisis and the rest of us pay a price to return to the status quo ante. As the expression goes in the United States, ’I am tired of buying the same horse twice.’”

But if Pyongyang is already rolling out a new long range rocket, it confirms the growing conviction among North Korea-watchers in Seoul that, rather than tactical provocations intended to compel the attention of a new US government, its recent actions are part of an accelerated drive to perfect a strategic nuclear deterrent.

“In the past, these kind of actions have been separated by a few months, and so the US has time to react and respond,” says Choi Jin Wook, of the Korea Institute for National Unification. “But this time they are playing all their cards at once. It suggests that something new is taking place.”

North Korea insisted that the long range rocket which it fired in April was the vehicle for a communications satellite. But the US, South Korea and Japan say that it also has the potential to carry a missile warhead across the Pacific, potentially putting Alaska and Hawaii within range.

The Yonhap source said that the process of preparing and fuelling the rocket could be completed in as little as two weeks, with the projectile ready to go up in mid-June at around the time of a planned summit meeting between President Obama and the South Korean president, Lee Myung Bak.