North Korea test-fires missiles again after joint drills end

President Donald Trump downplayed the latest launch saying that Kim Jong Un had been ‘pretty straight’ with him, adding that short range missiles were never restricted. (File/AFP)
Updated 24 August 2019
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North Korea test-fires missiles again after joint drills end

  • Donald Trump appeared to defend Kim, saying ‘he likes testing missiles’
  • Trump says short range missiles were never restricted

SEOUL, South Korea: North Korea fired two suspected short-range ballistic missiles off its east coast on Saturday in the seventh weapons launch in a month, South Korea’s military said, a day after it vowed to remain America’s biggest threat in protest of US-led sanctions on the country.
The North had been expected to halt weapons tests because the 10-day US-South Korean drills, which it views as an invasion rehearsal, ended earlier this week.
President Donald Trump downplayed the latest launch.
“Kim Jong Un has been, you know, pretty straight with me. ... He likes testing missiles but we never restricted short-range missiles. We’ll see what happens,” Trump told reporters outside the White House late Friday night.
Saturday’s launches were made from northeastern South Hamgyong province, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said. They flew about 380 kilometers (236 miles) at the maximum altitude of 97 kilometers (60 miles), the military said.
The Japanese government said the suspected missiles caused no damage and did not land in its territorial waters.
South Korea’s National Security Council expressed strong concern about the launches and urged North Korea to stop acts that raise military tensions. Council members said South Korea will launch diplomatic efforts to make North Korea return to nuclear talks with the United States, according to the president’s office.
North Korea’s foreign minister said Friday his country will try to remain “America’s biggest threat” if the United States continues to confront it with sanctions. Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho also called US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo a “poisonous plant of American diplomacy” and vowed to “shutter the absurd dream” that sanctions will force a change in Pyongyang.
Ri’s blistering rhetoric and the missile launches may dim the prospect for an early resumption of nuclear negotiations between the countries. The top US envoy on North Korea, Stephen Biegun, said Wednesday that Washington was ready to restart the talks.
North Korea’s anger over the US-South Korean military drills had focused on South Korea, not the United States. Starting in late July, North Korea has tested a slew of weapons, mostly short-range missiles and rockets. Some of the weapons revealed developments of a new rocket artillery system and two different short-range mobile ballistic missiles that experts say would expand its ability to strike targets throughout South Korea.
Many analysts said the tests were aimed at applying more pressure on the United States ahead of a possible resumption of nuclear talks.
US-led diplomacy to rid North Korea of nuclear weapons collapsed after Trump rejected North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s demand for widespread sanctions relief in return for partial disarmament steps during their second summit in Vietnam in February. Trump and Kim met again at the Korean border in late June and agreed to resume the talks.
Saturday’s launches came two days after South Korea said it would terminate a military intelligence-sharing deal with Japan amid bitter trade and history disputes between the US allies.
The decision drew criticism that it would end up weakening South Korea’s defense and reconnaissance capability at a time when North Korea’s nuclear threats remain intact. The United States, which wants stronger trilateral security cooperation with Seoul and Tokyo, expressed disappointment at the South Korean decision.
South Korea’s military said it will share information on the latest North Korean launches with Japan at Tokyo’s request as the intelligence deal is valid until November.
“We want to continue the cooperation among Japan, the US and South Korea,” Japanese Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya told reporters. “North Korea’s repeated launches of projectiles and missiles show North Korea is working on developing such technology.”


Johnson the Brexit ‘Hulk’ finally meets EU’s Juncker

Updated 16 September 2019
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Johnson the Brexit ‘Hulk’ finally meets EU’s Juncker

  • Downing Street has confidently billed the Luxembourg visit as part of efforts to negotiate an orderly divorce from the union

LUXEMBOURG: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson met EU chief Jean-Claude Juncker for talks Monday insisting a Brexit deal is possible, despite deep skepticism from European capitals with just six weeks to go before departure day.
After a weekend in which he compared himself to comic book super-smasher Hulk, the British leader will enjoy a genteel working lunch of snails and salmon in Luxembourg with the EU Commission president.
Downing Street has confidently billed the Luxembourg visit as part of efforts to negotiate an orderly divorce from the union before an October 17 EU summit.
A UK spokesman said Johnson would tell Juncker that “progress has been made, given that before the summer recess many said reopening talks would not be possible.
“The UK needs to enact the referendum result and avoid another delay; the UK wants to deliver Brexit and move on to other priorities, and EU member states’ leaders want to renegotiate an orderly Brexit.”
But Brussels has played down talk of a breakthrough, insisting Johnson has yet to suggest any “legally operable” proposal to revise a previous withdrawal accord.
As he shook hands with Johnson, Juncker declared himself “cautiously optimistic” and insisted that “Europe never loses patience” despite the tortuous Brexit saga dragging on over three years.
Finland’s European affairs minister, Tytti Tuppurainen, who was chairing an EU ministerial meeting in Brussels, gave a more downbeat assessment, repeating the bloc’s long-standing complaint that London has simply not come up with detailed ideas for replacing the so-called “Irish backstop” section of the divorce deal.
“The European Union is always ready to negotiate when a proper proposal from the UK side is presented,” Tuppurainen said.
“So far I haven’t seen any proposal that would compensate the backstop.”
The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier, who joined the leaders for their talks in Juncker’s native Grand Duchy, said last week he has “no reason to be optimistic.”
The European Parliament will this week vote on a resolution rejecting Johnson’s demand that the backstop clause be stripped from the deal.
Johnson insists this measure, which temporarily keeps the UK in the EU customs union, has to go if he is to bring the agreement back to the House of Commons.
But the accord will also have to win the support of the other 27 EU leaders and the European Parliament if Britain is not to crash out with no deal on October 31 — a scenario that businesses warn would bring economic chaos.
Johnson, in turn, boasts that he would rather be “dead in a ditch” than ask his European counterparts to postpone Brexit for a third time.
“Be in no doubt that if we cannot get a deal — the right deal for both sides — then the UK will come out anyway,” Johnson said, writing in the Daily Telegraph on Monday.
A UK spokesman said that Britain would refuse an extension even if one were offered.
It is difficult, then, to see what might come from the lunch. There is no plan for a joint statement, but Barnier will meet Britain’s Brexit minister Stephen Barclay for separate discussions.
Speaking to the BBC on Sunday, Barclay indicated that any post-Brexit transition period could be extended past 2020 in order to resolve issues with the border.
Johnson, meanwhile, compared himself to Marvel comics hero Hulk, the rampaging mutant alter-ego of a mild-mannered nuclear scientist.
“The madder Hulk gets, the stronger Hulk gets and he always escaped, no matter how tightly bound in he seemed to be,” Johnson told the Mail on Sunday.
Johnson’s strategy faces resistance at home, where rebel and opposition MPs have passed a law aimed at forcing him to seek a Brexit delay.
Britain’s Supreme Court will rule this week on a bid to overturn Johnson’s decision to suspend parliament and limit time to debate the crisis.
Barnier will address the European Parliament session in Strasbourg on Wednesday as MEPs vote to reaffirm and reinforce the EU Brexit stance — and insist that the backstop must stay.
After his lunch with Juncker, Johnson is due to meet Luxembourg’s Prime Minister Xavier Bettel. The pair will hold a joint news conference.