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Joint action against protectionism beetwen Japan, China and South Korea

Asia @en/BreakingNews @en di

The trade ministers of South Korea, Japan and China held an annual trilateral meeting in Tokyo on Saturday during which they agreed to jointly deal with protectionism amid the global economic downturn, officials said. South Korea’s Trade Minister Joo Hyung-hwan and his Japanese and Chinese counterparts – Hiroshige Seko and Gao Hucheng – also expressed worries about a rise in protectionism.

WPC strengthens the power of Kim Jong-Un

Asia @en/BreakingNews @en di

The General Congress of the Workers’ Party of North Korea, which began last Friday, 36 years after the previous one, continues as planned, further strengthening the power of the president Kim Jong-Un, who succeeded his father Kim Jong-Il in 2011.

Sunday May 8, state television broadcasted a long speech in which supreme leader, in front of 3400 delegates came from every corner of the country, has announced a new five-year plan to restore momentum to the ailing national economy. Despite the emphasis with it was presented, the new plan does not foresee major changes neither politically nor economically.

In fact, the North Korean president was stingy with details, referring vaguely to the need for greater automation of industry and agriculture and an increase in coal production over the next five years. Most of the discussion has focused on the celebration of the efforts and the progress made by the country over the past 36 years, with frequent references to the ideology of Juche, centered on the concepts of autonomy and self-sufficiency. At the same time, the leaders called for an increase in foreign trade, showing little consideration for the tightening of economic sanctions wanted by the UN after nuclear tests conducted last January.

In a country that, despite everything, is growing by about one percentage point of GDP every year, Jong-Un stressed the need to find new energy resources that can generate enough electricity to support the development, in a country still struggling with frequent blackouts, which also affect the capital Pjongyang. To this end, the DPRK intends to focus on nuclear energy and renewable energy sources.

The President also referred to nuclear arsenal, on whose development more of the regime’s efforts are focusing. In a statement by the soothing flavor, Kim has ensured that North Korea does not intend to resort to atomic weapons, “unless its sovereignty is encroached upon by any aggressive hostile forces with nukes.”.

An unusually diplomatic approach has also featured references to South Korea, with which the regime would like to return to dialogue to lower the level of tension. An offer harshly rejected, in close halfway point, by the Minister for the Unification of the South: “It speaks of inter-Korean dialogue while continuing to develop a nuclear arsenal,” he said, branding statements by Kim Jong-Un as mere propaganda.

The next day, as if to confirm the mistrust of South Korean, the Workers’ Party has decided formally, during the Congress, to further strengthen the nuclear arsenal of the country “for the purpose of self-defense”, again defying the UN and the his system of sanctions.

Although there is not yet a official closing date, the Congress should continue for a few days. Foreign media were invited to attend the historic event, but, until now, journalists have not been able to pass through the doors of the great Palace of Culture, whose parterre covers an area equal to two football fields. The reporters took part in guided tours, under the watchful gaze of party officials but, in fact, have not yet been able to perform the job for which they were accredited.

The climate for the press, actually, is not easy. Last Friday the members of a BBC team, sent to cover the Congress, were placed under arrest and later expelled. As reported by the Chinese press agency, the British were expelled for ” attacking the DPRK system and non-objective reporting.”

While the foreign press has to deal with the North Korean idea of ​​objectivity, the supreme leader of the country further strengthens its power. Monday, in fact, delegates awarded Kim Jong-Un of a new title: President of the Workers Party, a position he joins that of first secretary.

 

Luca Marchesini

North Korea tests a new ballistic missile

Asia @en di

North Korea has taken another step towards one of its priority objectives: to create an inter-continental missile that is capable of carrying a nuclear warhead and hit accurately the enemy, even thousands of kilometers away.

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In the last hours in fact, the state media have spread the news that North Korea has successfully tested a new solid-fuel engine that can significantly increase the power of its missile arsenal. The test is part of a larger project, aimed at developing a long-range ballistic missile (ICBM, InterContinental Ballistic Missile), which appears to progress rapidly despite UN sanctions and the numerous warnings issued by South Korea.

After the recent nuclear tests in January, North Korea, therefore, continues to move recklessly on the ridge that divides the bellicose rhetoric against the enemies of the South and the United States and the actual developments in terms of military technology.

The national news agency, KCNA, has proudly hailed the success of the new test, which “has  helped boost the power of ballistic rockets,” adding that North Korean engineers will soon be able to test new weapons “capable of striking mercilessly hostile forces “.

Even President Kim Yong-Un attended the demonstration launch, celebrating immediately its success. “This is a historic and memorable day,” he said in front of the microphones and notebooks of regime’s information.

The test actually strengthens the position of Pyongyang after that last week, according to reports by local media, launch and re-entry into the atmosphere of a ballistic missile, that could sooner or later be equipped to carry a miniaturized nuclear warhead, have been tested successfully.

The military tests, once again, was alternated by the rhetoric of provocation. On Wednesday the North has threatened to strike the presidential office of the South with a battery of large caliber rockets, adding that special army units are ready to go into action. South Korean President Park Geun-hye has decided to answer to the attempt at intimidation, ordering to increase the alert level and asking the army to be ready to respond to the “reckless provocations” by Pyongyang.

The tension on the Korean Peninsula therefore backs to rise dangerously, in a time when the Northern regime feels caught between the new sanctions imposed by the UN after the last nuclear tests, and joint military drills that the South and the US are conducting, as every year, at a short distance.

Drills that obviously alarmed Pyongyang, which considers them as “nuclear war moves” to which it must respond decisively.

Despite progress in terms of solid fuel engines, experts believe that North Korea will not be able, for many years, to threaten the United States with ICBMs. Probably part of the verbal and propagandistic escalation of Pyongyang can be connected to internal reasons. Soon it should be held the first congress of the Workers Party of North Korea after 35 years and the current leadership, represented by President Kim Yong-Un, the last of the Kim’s dynasty, needs to bring to the table some important success on the military field to reassert its legitimacy as supreme leader.

 

Luca Marchesini

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North Korea, and now?

Asia @en di

The day after the triumphant announcement of Pyongyang, which said it had successfully tested the first hydrogen bomb made in the nuclear facilities of North Korea, a demand bounces between the United Nations and the chancelleries of the major global powers: what to do now?

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For now, it must be said, skepticism prevails about the actual extent of the nuclear detonation obtained by the technicians of Pyongyang. The explosion occurred in the north of the country, near the Chinese border, was recorded by seismographs with a power between 4.8 and 5.1 on the Richter scale. According to South Korean experts, such a seismic response could correspond with a power of six kilotons, about a third of that given off by the bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 1945 and substantially incompatible with what would have been produced by a thermonuclear device, whose power is calculated generally in hundreds of kilotons. For comparison, the thermonuclear test conducted by the United States, in 1971, on the island of Amchitka in Alaska, produced an earthquake of magnitude 6.8, exponentially higher than that recorded yesterday.

It was an atomic bomb, therefore, and not an hydrogen one, that would require a technology that the regime of President Kim Yong-A probably still does not have. However, yesterday’s is the fourth test of North Korea, after those of 2006, 2009 and 2013; an explicit provocation against the American enemy, South Korea, Japan, Chinese ally, increasingly frustrated by the actions of the regime and, in general, of the international community. One answer seems inevitable, while studying new strategies to contain the North Korean threat in the medium term.

The Security Council of the United Nations immediately expressed its strong condemnation, saying that ” a clear threat to international peace and security continues to exist “, and announced new measures against Pyongyang for which is expected, in short, a resolution.

Among the most determined, the Japanese ambassador to the UN, Motohide Yoshikawa, who has called for a quick and vigorous resolution. ” The authority and credibility of the Security Council – he said – will be put in question if it does not take these measures.” It is not clear yet what kind of sanctions should be adopted and in what timeframe, while Russia pulls the brake, through his ambassador, not guaranteeing Moscow’s support for the adoption of additional sanctions. Indeed Pyongyang seems determined to go forward on the path of nuclear power, despite international condemnation and sanctions triggered by previous nuclear tests. Why should it be different this time?

A question that is not so relevant for the historical opponents of the regime. US, South Korea and Japan said they are prepared for a unified response against Pyongyang. President Obama has spoken with South Korean Prime Minister Park Geun-Hye and with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and then he has declared that three leaders agreed to ” agreed to work together to forge a united and strong international response to North Korea’s latest reckless behaviour”. He was echoed by President Abe: ” We agreed that the provocative act by North Korea is unacceptable… We will deal with this situation in a firm manner through the cooperation with the United Nations Security Council “, but added that Japan intends, if it will consider it necessary, to take unilateral measures. Seoul has finally released an official statement, asking the international community to ensure that “North Korea pays the corresponding price ” for its nuclear tests. In parallel, it has restricted access to the industrial park in Kaesong, managed jointly by the North and South and announced the restoration of propaganda broadcasts across the North Korean borders, interrupted in 2015 to ease tensions with the neighbor.

After this phase of hot reactions and new sanctions organization, it will be necessary to understand how to deal with a country that has a nuclear arsenal consisting of twenty devices (atomic or hydrogen they may be) and that might be able today, or in the short term, to mount a nuclear warhead on a medium-range missile, capable of threatening the South, Japan, the US troops stationed in the area and, perhaps, even the western coasts of the United States.

UN sanctions never had appreciable effects and the strategy of “strategic patience”, adopted by the US, could be tinged with excessive optimism. The idea that the sanctions could oblige the North Korean regime to yield and accept nuclear disarmament looks less and less convincing. To date, the US has refused to negotiate, if not on their terms, with North Korea, then choosing a different strategy from the one adopted for Iran, which has led to the recent negotiations and the subsequent agreement with Tehran.

As argued recently by Stephen W. Bosworth, the first Obama’s special envoy for North Korea, ” Whatever risks might be associated with new talks, they are less than those that come with doing nothing.” Since no power seems really willing to challenge militarily a dangerous enemy as North Korea, the game will have to be played on the field of diplomacy, before Pyongyang’s arsenal will be strengthened further and its missiles pointing technology taken to an higher level.

The strategy of Kim Yong-A is clear: the nuclear arsenal is a life insurance for the country and its enemies have only to lose, in front of the prospect of a dramatic conflict. Whether they like it or not, they will have to accept to sit at the negotiating table and recognize to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea the status of nuclear power. It is too early to say whether the facts will give him reason but the wind caused by the explosion, for now, seems to blow in his favor.

 

Luca Marchesini

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Lybia: embassies of Morocco and South Korea targeted by jihadists

Two diplomatic buildings attacked in the last hours. They come after other two assaults on Egyptian and Algerian embassies.

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Two attacks in Tripoli in the last hours. The first one happened close to Embassy of South Korea, where an armed group opened fire causing two victims. The second one was in front of Delegation of Morocco, empty in last months, where a device exploded but did not originate any victims. These two attempts come after other two latest attacks on Egyptian and Algerian embassies.

Nobody claimed these actions. But it’s clear that the attack on Morocco Embassy is aspiring to contrast Lybian negotiations so long as Rabat harbored them in the beginning of March. Peace talks between Tobruk and Tripoli has restarted on 13rd March.

Giacomo Pratali

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Giacomo Pratali
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