North Korea planning military event on eve of Pyeongchang Games

In this April 15, 2017, file photo, a submarine missile is paraded across Kim Il Sung Square during a military parade in Pyongyang, North Korea. North Korea is preparing to stage a major event to mark the 70th anniversary of the founding of its military on Feb. 8, 2018 — just one day before the opening ceremony of the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in South Korea. (AP/Wong Maye-E, File)
Updated 25 January 2018

North Korea planning military event on eve of Pyeongchang Games

PYONGYANG, North Korea: North Korea is preparing to stage a major event to mark the 70th anniversary of the founding of its military on Feb. 8 — just one day before the opening ceremony of the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in South Korea.
Officials refuse to confirm what exactly is planned for the event.
A major show of military power could create anger in South Korea, which is hoping the games will be a symbol of peace and stability. Seoul has agreed to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s last-minute proposal to send a delegation to the games and will have its athletes march together with the North Korean team under a blue-and-white “unification flag.”
Pyongyang residents have been assembling every day in temperatures hovering around minus 15 degrees Celsius (5 degrees Fahrenheit) to practice for what is expected to be a mass rally by civilians in Kim Il Sung Square, while open-source satellite imagery obtained by outside analysts suggests military units are training at an airfield on the outskirts of the city for a possible military parade.
Over the past few days, the area around the square itself has been sporadically closed to traffic.
The activity in Pyongyang is common before major parades or rallies, which take months to organize and can involve thousands of troops and tens of thousands of civilians assembled in the square with flags, plastic bouquets or colored cards that they raise in unison to create giant slogans visible from the square’s raised viewing area.
For security reasons, North Korean officials don’t normally release details in advance about such events. Major military parades are generally attended by Kim Jong Un and other top officials.
North Korea’s state-run media hinted earlier this week that an event was in the works, saying the February anniversary, which had for decades been overshadowed by another military anniversary observed on April 25, would be marked with more significance and pomp this year.
Though the report did not explain why the change was being made, the news raised eyebrows because the February anniversary comes just a day ahead of the opening ceremony for the Pyeongchang Games.
It also comes as the North has been stepping up its verbal attacks on the United States for what it claims is an effort to ruin an easing of tensions between Pyongyang and Seoul ahead of the Olympics.
The US has agreed to postpone joint military exercises with the South until after the Olympics and Paralympics are over, but North Korea is now demanding they be scrapped indefinitely. The North’s media has also accused Washington of trying to provoke tensions by sending aircraft carriers, bombers and stealth fighter aircraft into the region.
North Korea’s military parades are closely scrutinized for the unveiling of new missiles or other key weaponry. But with no official confirmation, it isn’t clear if the North would soften the event out of consideration for the Olympics or — conversely — build it up into an even bigger spectacle for domestic propaganda purposes and as a slap at Washington.
An analysis published Wednesday by 38 North, a website affiliated with Johns Hopkins University, showed satellite images confirming a gradual buildup of troops and equipment at a mock-up of Kim Il Sung Square at the Mirim Parade Training Facility, which is on the city’s eastern outskirts, over the past few months.
The analysis, conducted by leading expert Joseph Bermudez, suggests that by Jan. 10 “considerable progress had been made assembling troops and equipment for the upcoming parade.”
It said shelters for heavy equipment had been erected. Missiles and their transporters, along with other big vehicles and equipment, often arrive closer to the date of the actual parade and more effort is made to hide them.
None have been seen yet, the report said.


Police crack down on riots over citizenship bill for non-Muslims

Updated 12 December 2019

Police crack down on riots over citizenship bill for non-Muslims

  • Groups of protesters defied the curfew in Gauhati, the state capital, on Thursday morning and burned tires before police dispersed them
  • Police used batons and tear gas to disperse protesters in 10 out of the state’s 33 districts

GAUHATI, India: Police arrested dozens of people and enforced curfew Thursday in several districts in India’s northeastern Assam state where thousands protested legislation granting citizenship to non-Muslims who migrated from neighboring countries.

Groups of protesters defied the curfew in Gauhati, the state capital, on Thursday morning and burned tires before police dispersed them.

Soldiers drove and marched though the streets to reinforce police in violence-hit districts, which included Gauhati and Dibrugarh, said state police chief Bhaskar Mahanta.

The protesters in Assam oppose the legislation out of concern that migrants will move to the border region and dilute the culture and political sway of indigenous tribal people. The legislation was passed by Parliament on Wednesda and now needs to be signed by the country’s ceremonial president, a formality, before becoming law.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi appealed for peace and in a tweet said: “I want to assure them — no one can take away your rights, unique identity and beautiful culture. It will continue to flourish and grow.”

The Press Trust of India news agency said the protesters uprooted telephone poles, burned several buses and other vehicles and also attacked homes of officials from the governing Hindu nationalist party and the regional group Assam Gana Parishad.

Police used batons and tear gas to disperse protesters in 10 out of the state’s 33 districts.

While those protesting in Assam are opposed to the bill because of worries it will allow immigrants, no matter their faith, to live in their region, others are opposed to the bill because they see it as discriminatory for not applying to Muslims.

The Citizenship Amendment Bill, seeks to grant Indian nationality to Buddhists, Christians, Hindus, Jains, Parsis and Sikhs who fled Pakistan, Afghanistan and
Bangladesh because of religious persecution before 2015. It does not, however, extend to Rohingya Muslim refugees who fled persecution in Myanmar.

Home Minister Amit Shah said it was not anti-Muslim because it did not affect the existing path to citizenship available to all communities.
Amnesty India said the legislation legitimized discrimination on the basis of religion and stood in clear violation of the India’s constitution and international human rights law.

“Welcoming asylum seekers is a positive step, but in a secular country like India, slamming the door on persecuted Muslims and other communities merely for their faith reeks of fear-mongering and bigotry,” the rights group said in a statement.

Several opposition lawmakers who debated the bill in Parliament said it would be challenged in court.

“Today marks a dark day in the constitutional history of India,” said Sonia Gandhi of the main opposition Congress party. “The passage of the Citizenship Amendment
Bill marks the victory of narrow-minded and bigoted forces over India’s pluralism.”

Its passage follows a contentious citizenship registry exercise in Assam intended to identify legal residents and weed out those in the country illegally. Shah has pledged to roll it out nationwide, promising to rid India of “infiltrators.”

Nearly 2 million people in Assam were excluded from the list — about half Hindus and the other half Muslims — and have been asked to prove their citizenship or else be rendered stateless.

India is constructing a detention center for some of the tens of thousands the courts are expected to ultimately determine came to the country illegally.
The Citizenship Amendment Bill could provide protection and a fast track to naturalization for many of the Hindus left off Assam’s citizenship list.