South Korea’s Yoon says alliance with US ‘nuclear-based’

South Korean president Yoon Suk Yeol characterized his earlier talks with president Joe Biden as an agreement to use US nuclear weapons in the event of a North Korean nuclear attack. (Reuters)
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Updated 06 June 2023
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South Korea’s Yoon says alliance with US ‘nuclear-based’

  • Upgrade in alliance in the face of North Korea’s growing military threat
  • North Korea this year test-fired its biggest intercontinental ballistic missile

SEOUL: South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol said on Tuesday he has upgraded the country’s alliance with the United States to one that is “nuclear-based” in the face of North Korea’s growing military threat.
Yoon was referring to his talks with US President Joe Biden in April on Washington’s willingness to give Seoul more insight into its nuclear planning in the event of potential conflict with nuclear-armed North Korea.
“North Korea is enhancing its nuclear and missile capabilities, and has legislated the use of nuclear weapons,” Yoon said in a speech marking South Korea’s Memorial Day.
At their summit in Washington, the two leaders agreed to strengthen the so-called US extended deterrence, which envisions the use of US nuclear weapons to defend the South.
“The South Korea-US alliance has now been elevated to ‘nuclear-based’ alliance,” Yoon said.
North Korea this year test-fired its biggest intercontinental ballistic missile and last week attempted to launch its first spy satellite, although the rocket and the payload plunged into the sea.
North Korea made a rare and swift admission of the launch’s failure but vowed to try again and put a satellite in orbit to increase its military surveillance capabilities.
The launch was widely condemned as violating UN Security Council resolutions that ban the use of ballistic missile technology by the North.
Pyongyang has rejected the ban as an infringement of its sovereign right to self-defense and space development.
While Yoon characterized his talks with Biden as an agreement to use US nuclear weapons in the event of a North Korean nuclear attack, Biden reiterated a pledge “to make every effort to consult” with allies on the use of a nuclear weapon.
Yoon did not elaborate further on the subject and devoted most of his Memorial Day speech to honoring those who had made sacrifices in defense of the country.
South Korea’s military has been undertaking a salvage operation at sea off the west coast to recover a substantial segment of the rocket launched by the North on May 31.


Blinken calls on India to cooperate on Canada killing probe

Secretary of State Antony Blinken. (REUTERS)
Updated 22 September 2023
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Blinken calls on India to cooperate on Canada killing probe

  • Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Monday that Indian agents played a role in the June murder of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a Canadian citizen, near Vancouver

NEW YORK: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken called on India Friday to cooperate with Canada and ensure “accountability” over the killing of a Sikh separatist, after Ottawa accused New Delhi of involvement.
Blinken said the United States has been in touch both with India, with which it has warming ties, and Canada, a close ally which expelled an Indian diplomat earlier this week.
“We want to see accountability. And it’s important that the investigation run its course and lead to that result,” Blinken told reporters in New York, where he was taking part in the UN General Assembly.
“We would hope that our Indian friends would cooperate with that investigation as well,” Blinken said.
Blinken, without commenting directly on the substance of the allegations, said that the United States took “very, very seriously” incidents of “transnational repression.”
“I think it’s important, more broadly, for the international system that any country that might consider engaging in such acts not do so,” he said.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Monday that Indian agents played a role in the June murder of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a Canadian citizen, near Vancouver.
Trudeau on Thursday called on India to cooperate on the investigation.
Nijjar was wanted by India for alleged terrorism and conspiracy to commit murder. He was part of the Khalistan movement, which advocates a separate Sikh homeland and was crushed by Indian security forces in the 1980s.
India has come back swinging at Canada, reducing its diplomatic staff and stopping visa services.
 

 


Pakistan’s ‘first priority’ is countering terrorism from Afghanistan, PM tells UNGA

Updated 22 September 2023
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Pakistan’s ‘first priority’ is countering terrorism from Afghanistan, PM tells UNGA

  • Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar welcomes Saudi-Iranian normalization, calls for two-state solution for Palestine
  • Premier says global powers should convince India to accept offer of mutual restraint on strategic weapons

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s caretaker Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar on Friday called for action to halt militant attacks from neighboring Afghanistan, endorsed Saudi Arabia and Iran’s diplomatic rapprochement, and advocated a two-state solution as the path to enduring peace in Palestine.
Kakar achieved a historic milestone as the first caretaker prime minister of his country to address the annual United Nations General Assembly session in New York, where he tackled global issues ranging from extremist violence and relations with India to the escalating challenges of climate change and Islamophobia.
“Pakistan’s first priority is to prevent and counter all terrorism from and within Afghanistan,” he told representatives of UN member states. “Pakistan condemns the cross-border attacks by the TTP (Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan), Daesh and other groups operating from Afghanistan.”
The prime minister’s statement follows a dramatic surge in militant violence in Pakistan, mainly in regions bordering Afghanistan, since the Taliban’s return to power in Kabul in August 2021.
Attacks in the first half of this year rose by 80 percent compared with the same period last year, according to statistics compiled by the Pakistan Institute for Conflict and Security Studies.
“We have sought Kabul’s support and cooperation to prevent these attacks,” the prime minister said. “We are also taking necessary measures to end this externally encouraged terrorism.”
Kakar reiterated his country’s position that peace in Afghanistan was a “strategic imperative” for Pakistan, while sharing international concerns with respect to its neighbor, particularly those related to the rights of women and girls.
“We advocate continued humanitarian assistance for the destitute Afghan population in which Afghan girls and women are the most vulnerable, as well as the revival of Afghan economy and implementation of the connectivity projects with Central Asia,” he said.
Discussing Pakistan’s relations with its nuclear-armed neighbor, the prime minister said his country desired “peaceful and productive” relations with all neighbors, including India.
“Global powers should convince New Delhi to accept Pakistan’s offer of mutual restraint on strategic and conventional weapons,” he said, adding that Kashmir provided the key to peace between the neighboring states.
Pakistan and India both rule parts of the disputed Himalayan region while claiming it in full. They have fought two wars over the mountainous territory, and their forces frequently exchange fire across a 740 km (466 mile) line of control, the de facto border separating the two parts of Kashmir.
“We must counter all terrorists without discrimination, including the rising threat posed by far-right extremist and fascist groups, such as Hindutva-inspired extremists threatening genocide against Indian Muslims and Christians,” he said.
“We also need to oppose state terrorism, address the root cause of terrorism, such as poverty, injustice and foreign occupation, and distinguish genuine freedom struggles from terrorism.”
The prime minister proposed the creation of a committee of the general assembly to oversee the balanced implementation of all “four pillars of the global counter terrorism strategy.”
He also applauded the normalization of relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran, while commenting on the overall strategic situation in the Middle East.
“Pakistan welcomes the progress made toward ending the conflicts in Syria and Yemen. In particular, we warmly welcome the normalization of relations between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Islamic Republic of Iran,” he said.
Focusing on the Palestine issue, Kakar mentioned continued “Israeli military raids, air strikes, expansion of settlements and eviction of Palestinians.”
He said: “A durable peace can be established only through a two-state solution, and establishment of a viable and contiguous Palestinian state within the pre-June 1967 borders, with Al-Quds as its capital.”
The prime minister also mentioned the “age-old phenomenon” of Islamophobia, saying the problem had grown dramatically in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks in the US, and could be seen in the negative profiling of Muslims and public burnings of the Qur’an.
“The narratives advocating a clash of civilizations have done considerable harm to humanity’s progress,” he said. “Such ideas have bred extremism, hatred and religious intolerance, including Islamophobia.”
Kakar welcomed legislation initiated by Denmark and contemplated by Sweden to ban desecration of the Islamic scripture.
“Pakistan and the OIC (Organization of Islamic Cooperation) countries will propose further steps to combat Islamophobia, including the appointment of a special envoy, creation of an Islamophobia data center, legal assistance to victims and an accountability process to punish Islamophobic crimes,” he said.
Discussing the climate change issue, Kakar said Pakistan looked forward to fulfilling the climate commitments made at COP28 by developed countries to provide over $100 billion in annual climate finance.
“Pakistan’s triple food finance fuel challenge is a prime illustration of the impact of COVID conflict and climate on developing countries,” he said, adding that Pakistan was one of the countries worst hit by climate change.
Flooding in Pakistan last year submerged one-third of the country, killed 1,700 people, displaced over 8 million others, destroyed vital infrastructure and caused over $30 billion damage to the economy, Kakar said.
“We are gratified by the commitment of over $10.5 billion for the Pakistan’s comprehensive plan for recovery, rehabilitation, reconstruction with resilience,” he said.
“Specific projects are being submitted to ensure timely funding. I hope our development partners will accord priority to the allocation of funds for our recovery plan which costs $13 billion.”


Pope Francis urges Europe to save migrants at sea

Updated 22 September 2023
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Pope Francis urges Europe to save migrants at sea

  • As European nations have sought to shift responsibility for taking care of people arriving by sea, the pope singled out "the disinterest that, with velvet gloves, condemns others to death"
  • "People who are at risk of drowning when abandoned on the waves must be rescued," he said

MARSEILLE, France: Pope Francis on Friday said European governments have a duty to rescue asylum-seekers who take to sea to escape conflict, warning against a "paralysis of fear, on the first day of a visit to the French Mediterranean city of Marseille.
Streets and monuments were decked out in the yellow and white colours of the Vatican for the first visit by a pope to France's second-largest city in 500 years, where 100,000 people are expected to turn out to greet the pontiff in his "popemobile" on Saturday.
The 86-year-old is visiting to take part in a meeting of Mediterranean-area Catholic bishops and young people -- but his trip comes at a politically sensitive time.
As European nations have sought to shift responsibility for taking care of people arriving by sea, the pope singled out "the disinterest that, with velvet gloves, condemns others to death".
"People who are at risk of drowning when abandoned on the waves must be rescued," he said at the hilltop Basilica of Notre-Dame de la Garde, overlooking the glistening Mediterranean waters.
In remarks dedicated to migrants lost at sea, he said "it is a duty of humanity, it is a duty of civilisation" to save people in danger, warning governments against the "fanaticism of indifference" and "paralysis of fear".
The Pope had earlier been greeted by France's Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin, who has vowed the country will not take in any of a recent wave of migrants arriving on the Italian island of Lampedusa, declaring France "wants a position of firmness".
A surge in migrant boats arriving from North Africa on the tiny Italian island last week triggered outrage in Italy and a heated debate across Europe over how to share responsibility for the influx.
The desperate conditions that cause many people to leave their homes for a new life, and the risks they take to do so, have been a key theme during Francis' decade as head of the Catholic Church.
In unprepared remarks added at the end of his speech the pope thanked NGOs rescuing migrants in danger at sea and condemned efforts to prevent their activity as "gestures of hate".
"We hope this will have an impact and people will stop criminalising what we're doing, on the contrary that more resources will be deployed to save more people," Fabienne Lassalle, deputy director of SOS Mediterrannee, told AFP.
The aid group has been running rescue missions in the Mediterranean since 2015, with its ship the Ocean Viking sometimes held in port by authorities or denied permission to dock after pulling people from the water.
Appearing frail but alert and cheerful, Francis mostly got around by wheelchair on the first day of his visit, standing only at select moments such as when greeted by Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne on the airport tarmac.
He was driven him through the Old Port of Marseille in a distinctive Fiat 500L car, where he waved from the open window as crowds lined the streets.
But he used the wheelchair again to get around the Basilica of Notre-Dame de la Garde, a symbolic monument overlooking the city, for a prayer service with local clergy, and the car was brought as close as possible for his departure after his remarks on sea rescues.
Ahead of what is his 44th overseas trip, Francis acknowledged this month that his papal voyages are not as easy as they used to be.
Pope Francis underwent hernia surgery in June, less than two years after having colon surgery, and routinely uses a wheelchair because of a troublesome knee.
Despite the decline in France of Catholicism, the once dominant faith, the pope's visit has sparked huge enthusiasm, with almost 60,000 people expected at a mass on Saturday afternoon.
For Joseph Achji, a 25-year-old Syrian Christian originally from Aleppo, the pope's visit is a "chance of a lifetime".
On Saturday morning, Francis will take part in the closing session of the "Mediterranean Meetings" event.
As well as migration, it will cover issues such as economic inequality and climate change -- also themes close to the pope's heart.
On Saturday afternoon, Francis will lead a mass at the Velodrome stadium, with French President Emmanuel Macron among those due to attend.
Macron's attendance has sparked controversy among left-wing politicians in the officially secular country.
Some right-wing politicians have criticised the pope's stance on migrants -- but Marseille mayor Benoit Payan said the pontiff "has a universal message... of peace".


EU to start paying Tunisia under migration pact

Updated 22 September 2023
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EU to start paying Tunisia under migration pact

  • Tunisia will get 105 million euros to curb irregular migration, 150 million euros in budgetary support and 900 million euros in long-term aid
  • EU lawmakers, the bloc’s ombudsman and migrant assistance charities have questioned whether the deal with Tunisia meets European rights standards

Brussels: The EU is to start releasing money to Tunisia under a pact aimed at stemming irregular migration from the country, the European Commission said Friday.
A first payment of $135 million will be disbursed “in the coming days,” a commission spokeswoman, Ana Pisonero, said.
EU lawmakers, the bloc’s ombudsman and migrant assistance charities have questioned whether the deal with Tunisia meets European rights standards.
Under the agreement, a memorandum of understanding signed by commission chief Ursula von der Leyen in July, Tunisia will get 105 million euros to curb irregular migration, 150 million euros in budgetary support and 900 million euros in long-term aid.
Tunisia is one of the main launching points for boats carrying migrants trying to cross the Mediterranean for Europe, with most heading for Italy, in particular its island of Lampedusa.
The EU deal, strongly supported by Italy’s far-right government, aims to bolster Tunis’s coast guard to prevent boats leaving its shore. Some of the money also goes to UN agencies assisting migrants.
Pisonero said that, of the 127 million euros to be “swiftly” disbursed, 42 million euros came under the migration aspect of the July deal.
The rest was for previously agreed programs, with 60 million euros to help Tunisia with its budget.
The North African country is struggling with high debt and poor liquidity, and has suffered bread and power shortages.
Its hopes of accessing a $1.9-billion bailout from the International Monetary Fund are hobbled by a refusal to undertake IMF-mandated reforms.
Tunisian President Kais Saied has been criticized in Brussels for increasingly authoritarian rule.
The EU ombudsman, Emily O’Reilly, last week demanded the commission explain how the pact with Tunisia will not breach human rights standards.
MEPs have also raised that question, pointing out that hundreds of sub-Saharan migrants in Tunisia had allegedly in recent months been taken to the desert near the Libyan border and left to fend for themselves.
Tunisia has bristled at the criticism, and last week barred entry to a European Parliament fact-finding delegation.


Karabakh rebels say negotiating their troops’ withdrawal

Updated 22 September 2023
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Karabakh rebels say negotiating their troops’ withdrawal

  • Separatists and Azerbaijani officials conducted an initial round of Russian-mediated “reintegration” talks on Thursday
  • The separatists have pledged to lay down their arms as part of a cease-fire deal

YEREVAN: Nagorno-Karabakh separatists said Friday they were negotiating their troops’ withdrawal from the disputed enclave after Azerbaijan reclaimed control in a lightning offensive.
“Negotiations are underway with the Azerbaijani side under the auspices of Russian peacekeepers to organize the withdrawal process of troops and to ensure the return to their homes of the citizens displaced by military aggression,” the separatists said in a statement.
Separatists and Azerbaijani officials conducted an initial round of Russian-mediated “reintegration” talks on Thursday that ended with an agreement to meet again soon.
The separatists have pledged to lay down their arms as part of a cease-fire deal aimed at ending Azerbaijan’s one-day offensive into the ethnically-Armenian region.
Civilians in the area — estimated at up to 120,000 people — report suffering from a shortage of electricity and basic utilities.
International pressure has mounted on Azerbaijan to re-open the region’s only road leading to Armenia so that supplies and people can move in and out.
The separatist statement said the sides were also discussing “the procedure for citizens’ entry to and exit from” Nagorno-Karabakh.