North Korea says it test-fired new multiple rocket launcher

Kim expressed satisfaction over what North Korea described as a successful test of its new rocket artillery system, but it wasn’t clear whether the leader observed the launches on site. (AFP)
Updated 01 November 2019

North Korea says it test-fired new multiple rocket launcher

  • South Korean and Japanese militaries said the projectiles traveled at a speed over 321km
  • North Korea expressed displeasure over the slow process of nuclear negotiations with US

SEOUL, South Korea: North Korea confirmed Friday it conducted its third test-firing of a new “super-large” multiple rocket launcher that it says expands its ability to destroy enemy targets in surprise attacks.
The latest launches extended a months-long streak of weapons displays by the North, which continues to use a standstill in nuclear negotiations to advance its military capabilities while pressuring Washington for concessions.
Pyongyang’s official Korean Central News Agency described the tests a day after the South Korean and Japanese militaries said they detected two projectiles launched from an area near the North Korean capital traveling more than 321 kilometers cross-country before landing in waters off the North’s eastern coast.
Experts say the North could continue to ramp up weapons demonstrations ahead of an end-of-year deadline set by leader Kim Jong Un for the US to offer mutually acceptable terms to salvage a fragile diplomacy strained by disagreements over exchanging sanctions relief and disarmament steps.
Thursday’s launches followed statements of displeasure by top North Korean officials over the slow pace of nuclear negotiations with the United States and demands that the administration of President Donald Trump ease crippling sanctions and pressure on their country.
KCNA said Kim expressed satisfaction over what North Korea described as a successful test of its new rocket artillery system, but it wasn’t clear whether the leader observed the launches on site. The North previously tested the system in August and September. The latest test verified the “perfection” of the system’s continuous firing ability that allows it to “totally destroy” enemy targets with “super power,” the agency said.
Kim Eun-han, spokesman of Seoul’s Unification Ministry, said South Korea has “strong concern” over the North’s weapons activity, but avoided a straightforward answer when asked about the possible impact on inter-Korean dialogue.
Chung Eui-yong, the presidential national security director, downplayed the threat posed by North Korea’s new weapons during a parliamentary hearing while also mentioning South Korea’s missile defense systems.
Earlier this month, the North test-fired an underwater-launched ballistic missile for the first time in three years. The North has also tested new short-range ballistic missile and rocket artillery systems in recent months in what experts saw as an effort to advance its military capabilities and increase its bargaining power.
Negotiations have faltered after the collapse of a February summit between Kim Jong Un and Trump in Hanoi, Vietnam, where the US rejected North Korean demands for broad sanctions relief in exchange for piecemeal progress toward partially surrendering its nuclear capabilities.
Washington and Pyongyang resumed working-level discussion in Sweden earlier this month, but the meeting broke down amid acrimony with the North Koreans calling the talks “sickening” and accusing the Americans of maintaining an “old stance and attitude.”


Fears of Islamophobia in the UK even as record number of Muslim MPs elected 

Updated 15 December 2019

Fears of Islamophobia in the UK even as record number of Muslim MPs elected 

  • MCB warning comes after Johnson’s landslide election result
  • UK saw a record number of 220 women elected to the House of Commons   

LONDON: There is a “palpable sense of fear amongst Muslim communities” in the UK, the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) has warned, after Prime Minister Boris Johnson secured a crushing victory in the 2019 general election.
“We entered the election campaign period with longstanding concerns about bigotry in our politics and our governing party. Now we worry that Islamophobia is ‘oven-ready’ for government. Mr Johnson has been entrusted with huge power, and we pray it is exercised responsibly for all Britons,” the MCB’s Secretary-General Harun Khan said. 
The warning came as accusations of Islamophobia within the Conservative Party continue to plague it.
Despite concern that Islamophobia is “oven-ready” for government, a record number of Muslim MPs were elected on Thursday, with 19 winning seats in the general election; an increase of four from the last election in 2017.
Of these, 15 belong to the Labour Party and the other four, including Chancellor of the Exchequer Sajid Javid, are Conservatives. 
As the UK saw a record number of 220 women elected to the House of Commons, this trend was also seen in the number of Muslim women, with 10 winning seats. 
Despite this, Muslims are still not proportionally represented in parliament.
Only 3 percent of the UK’s 650 MPs are Muslim, whilst the country’s Muslim population stands at around 5 percent.
The MCB’s concerns about bigotry and Islamophobia were echoed on Thursday by ex-party chairwoman Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, the first female Muslim cabinet member.
Warsi said the Conservative Party “must start healing its relationship with British Muslims,” and the fact that her colleagues in the party had retweeted comments from Islamophobes Tommy Robinson and Katie Hopkins was “deeply disturbing.” 
She added: “An independent inquiry into Islamophobia is a must — the battle to root out racism must now intensify.”
The Tory peer has repeatedly called for an inquiry into Islamophobia in the Conservative Party, and told BBC Radio 4’s Today program in November that the party had a “deep problem” with Islamophobia. 
“Remember, we’re now four years into these matters first being brought to the attention of the party … the fact that we’re still prevaricating about even having an inquiry, and the kind of inquiry we’re going to have, shows just how dismissive the party have been on the issue of Islamophobia.”

Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn and Labour MP for Bolton South East Yasmin Qureshi (L) attend a general election campaign event in Bolton, Britain December 10, 2019. (Reuters)


Later in November, Johnson apologized for the “hurt and offence” that had been caused by Islamophobia in the Conservative Party, and said that an inquiry into “every manner of prejudice and discrimination” would begin by Christmas. 
Despite apologizing, he remained silent about his own comments on Muslim women wearing the niqab in his Daily Telegraph column in August 2018, when he wrote that Muslim women wearing it “look like letter boxes” or “bank robbers.”
Fourteen party members were suspended in March after posting Islamophobic or racist comments on social media, and a member who had previously been suspended in 2015 for comments on social media was due to stand in local elections this year. 
Peter Lamb was readmitted to the party after he had served a suspension and apologized for his comments.
Lamb, who has since quit the party, tweeted in 2015: “Islam (is) like alcoholism. The first step to recovery is admit you have a problem.”
Yasmin Qureshi, a female Muslim Labour MP, has held her Bolton South East seat since 2010 and was re-elected on Thursday for the fourth time.
Speaking to Arab News, Qureshi said many Muslims were “very fearful and very disappointed” at Johnson’s victory.
“Generally, you can say whatever you want about Muslims in this country now and nobody is really bothered, nobody challenges it, and if it is challenged, it is very mildly dealt with.
“Islamophobia is a big issue and although everybody rightly spoke about anti-semitism, there was not as much emphasis and talk about Islamophobia.
“Islamophobia is not just in the Conservative party, it is actually in the establishment. It is especially present in the media in this country; most of the newspapers of our country are very right-wing and anti-Muslim.
She added: “It doesn’t matter whether you malign Muslims, it’s essentially okay, you can get away with it. That is sadly a reflection of the current state of affairs in the UK.”