Foreign media arrive for North Korea nuclear site closing

Foreign journalists prepare to leave for North Korea at Beijing Capital International Airport on Tuesday, May 22. Pyongyang is allowing the small media group access to the country’s nuclear test site to publicize its promise to halt underground tests and launches of intercontinental ballistic missiles. (Kyodo News via AP)
Updated 22 May 2018
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Foreign media arrive for North Korea nuclear site closing

  • Eight South Korean journalists were excluded because Pyongyang has cut off high-level contact with Seoul to protest an exercise with the US military
  • The exclusion, a sharp departure from the conciliatory mood between the Koreas since the South hosted the Olympics in February, deepens a standoff that began last week

WONSAN, North Korea: A small group of foreign journalists arrived in North Korea on Tuesday to cover the dismantling of the country’s nuclear test site later this week, but without South Korean media initially also scheduled to participate.
Pyongyang is allowing the limited access to the site to publicize its promise to halt underground tests and launches of intercontinental ballistic missiles. It unilaterally announced that moratorium ahead of a summit between leader Kim Jong Un and President Donald Trump scheduled for June 12 in Singapore.
The eight South Korean journalists were excluded because Pyongyang has cut off high-level contact with Seoul to protest an exercise with the US military. Amid growing concern over the success of the summit, South Korean President Moon Jae-in was to meet with Trump in Washington later Tuesday.
The group that arrived by charter flight from Beijing is made up of media from the UK, Russia, China and the United States. The journalists, including an Associated Press Television crew, will stay at a hotel in this port city on North Korea’s east coast before traveling by train to the site, which is in the northeastern part of the country.
The dismantling ceremony is expected to be held in the coming days, depending on the weather.
The North’s decision to close the Punggye-ri nuclear test site has generally been seen as a welcome gesture by Kim Jong Un to set a positive tone ahead of his summit with Trump.
But it is mainly just a gesture.
The North has already conducted six underground tests at the site — including its most powerful ever, last September — and Kim told ruling party leaders last month that further testing is unnecessary.
North Korea could build a new site if it decides it needs more testing or could dismantle the tunnels into Punggye-ri’s Mount Mantap in a reversible manner. Details of what will actually happen at the site are sparse, but Pyongyang’s apparent plan to show the closure of the site to journalists, not international nuclear inspectors, has been raised as a matter of concern.
The North’s decision to exclude the South Korean media, however, was a more troubling sign of discord.
The South Koreans were expected to participate in the trip, but were left behind in Beijing after the North refused to grant them visas. The South’s Yonhap news agency reported the North refused to accept a list of the reporters on Monday, making it “technically hard’ for the South Korean media to join the event.
The exclusion, a sharp departure from the conciliatory mood between the Koreas since the South hosted the Olympics in February, deepens a standoff that began last week when Pyongyang signaled it would cut off all high-level talks with Seoul in response to the joint military exercises.
The North claimed the exercises involved US strategic nuclear assets — including nuclear-capable B-52 bombers — and violated the spirit of detente on the peninsula. Washington denies the bombers were part of the drills. That same day, Pyongyang also warned Kim might “reconsider” the US summit over hardline comments from Trump’s new national security adviser, John Bolton.
Bolton suggested the North must denuclearize before it can receive any reciprocal benefits from Washington. Pyongyang insists the precondition for denuclearization is for the US to end its “hostile policy.”


Hong Kong bans pro-independence party

In this file photo taken on August 5, 2016, Andy Chan (R), leader of the pro-independence Hong Kong National Party (HKNP), gives a press conference at the start of a rally near the government's headquarters in Hong Kong. (AFP)
Updated 24 September 2018
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Hong Kong bans pro-independence party

  • The ban is likely to raise further questions about Beijing’s growing influence in the former British colony, which was promised semi-autonomy as part of the 1997 handover

HONG KONG: Authorities in Hong Kong on Monday took an unprecedented step against separatist voices by banning a political party that advocates independence for the southern Chinese territory on national security grounds.
John Lee, the territory’s secretary for security, announced that the Hong Kong National Party will be prohibited from operation from Monday.
Lee’s announcement did not provide further details. But Hong Kong’s security bureau had previously said in a letter to the National Party’s leader, 27-year-old Andy Chan, that the party should be dissolved “in the interests of national security or public safety, public order or the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.” Chan had no immediate comment.
That letter had cited a national security law that has not been invoked since 1997. The ban is likely to raise further questions about Beijing’s growing influence in the former British colony, which was promised semi-autonomy as part of the 1997 handover. Chinese President Xi Jinping and other officials have warned separatist activity would not be tolerated.
Chan, the National Party leader, had previously told The Associated Press that police approached him with documents detailing his speeches and activities since the party’s formation in 2016.
The party was founded in response to frustration about Beijing’s treatment of Hong Kong. Despite a promise of autonomy, activists complain mainland influence over its democratic elections is increasing.
Chan and other pro-independence candidates were disqualified from 2016 elections to the Hong Kong legislature after they refused to sign a pledge saying Hong Kong is an inalienable part of China. The Hong Kong National Party has never held any seats on the council.