April 11, 2012
By Ted Thornhill
“UFOs are not a thing of made up fantasy. They are real. More and more sightings have been happening year after year. There is something flying in our skies and we don’t know what they are. Even though this video does seem a bit odd, it does not mean the phenomenon isn’t real. However, they all can’t be hoaxes.” –KTRN
If it’s an April Fool’s joke, it’s a few days too late.
A mysterious round white object was filmed whizzing around a passenger plane above Seoul, the capital of South Korea, on April 7.
The clip, which has been uploaded to YouTube, begins with the ‘craft’ at the bottom of the screen, keeping pace with the passenger plane.
But then it speeds up and rises in altitude before zipping off out of shot, just as the startled person filming it tries to zoom in for a closer look.
The video was uploaded by YouTube user ‘Crazybreakingnews’, who commented: ‘It looks a little bit strange and not really similar to the other videos. If it’s really real and not a fake, it looks like a kind of military drone.’
Several YouTube users are convinced it’s a UFO of some sort, but others remain sceptical.
March 28, 2012
“Change the term ‘flexibility’ to ‘power.’ Sounds pretty scary, doesn’t it?” –KTRN
On Monday while President Obama was taking part in a global nuclear security summit in South Korea, he was caught on tape asking for Russian President Dmitry Medvedev for “space.” “This is my last election. After my election I have more flexibility,” Obama implored. Obama assured the departing Russian President he will have the “flexibility” required to deal with missile defense issues after the 2012 presidential election.
By William Kitner
(KTRN Exclusive) Video game addiction is a serious problem. Don’t laugh, some people spend eight hours a day in front of their computers, pretending to be mighty warriors or wizards in fantasy on-line computer games every day. The problem has gotten so bad in South Korea that the government there has had to step in to create laws keeping underage gamers from playing too long. In July of 2011, a 21-year-old online-gaming addict was found dead in his home in Inchon, South Korea. He would play virtually non-stop, and rarely slept or even left his room. Two months prior to his death, he started complaining of difficulty in breathing but refused to seek help. This isn’t the only case either. In 2005, a 28-year-old man died from organ failure after playing for 50 hours straight. He even lost his job because of his online-gaming habit. But the sickest case has to do with a married couple from Suwon who let their baby starve to death after they were unable to get away from the game. In the US, the problem is getting just as bad. Author Ryan Van Cleave wrote a book called Unplugged: My Journey into the Dark World of Video Game Addiction. In the book, Ryan discusses his serious problem with on-line gaming. He lost his job, family, and his life due to the World of Warcraft. He even contemplated suicide one night as he stood on a bridge. Quitting the game was not easy either ; he had legitimate withdrawal systems like shaking, cold sweats, anxiety, and sleepless nights. When he called Blizzard Entertainment (the company that owns WOW), he pleaded with them to delete his characters forever. But Blizzard refused – even after Cleave told them about his attempted suicide. Apparently, making $15 a month from a man suffering is more important than helping him. Blizzard’s excuse was that deleting the characters permanently was virtually impossible with the massive back-up system they have in place (sounds fishy).
Have you ever played one of these on-line games? It’s easy to get sucked into a virtual world where you get to run around as a powerful paladin – fighting for honor and justice, saving the day while making virtual gold and gaining in strength and power. I personally had a slight problem with Warcraft too. I often found myself playing six hours a day and not even realizing how much time I was spending on it – and for what? At the end of the day, what is the reward? What is the ultimate goal? The kicker is that you don’t (and can’t) win these games. They are always changing, evolving, and growing – there is no way to win them – you just keep playing and playing and playing. Before you know it, you’ve lost your friends, wife, job, family, and kids. You haven’t showered in three days and you never leave the house. At this point, it’s no longer a game. However, World of Warcraft isn’t the only culprit out there. Many other games suck people in all the time – even cheesy ones like Farmville on Facebook. It’s easy to get addicted to these games – don’t fall into the same trap as Ryan Van Cleave. Once my account was hacked, I decided to no longer play the game. It was turning into work. It wasn’t fun. Every time I logged on, I would look at the list of quests I had to complete and felt overwhelmed at all of the stuff I had to do – it was like going to work. So I gave it up. Don’t think for a second though that I haven’t thought of playing again – it’s crossed my mind from time to time but I know it’s just not worth it.
While video game addiction is a real problem, the people in charge love it. It keeps the citizen’s minds away from the real issues. If you play video games for six to eight hours a day, you won’t have time to focus on issues of the world, you won’t stand up to protest the NDAA, and chances are you won’t follow the news or even care about the issues. Your main focus will be earning more fake gold and gaining experience points. These games dumb you down. It keeps you docile, unfocused, and unmotivated. It makes you even a bigger sheep than you already are. In other words, playing video games all the time makes you stupid. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with the occasional video game. But if you’re not careful, it can easily spin out of control. Why not gather a group of friends together to play Clue, or poker, or Monopoly instead? It’s much more fun and you get to interact with human beings face to face. Moderation is key – even when playing video games.
Why not play classic arcade games instead? It’s pretty impossible to get addicted to Ms. Pac man. Plus, the only thing you’ll lose playing Donkey Kong is a quarter.
December 12, 2011
“Way to go South Korea. This is a hilariously awesome idea. Do you know the people in North Korea are only allowed to worship their leader?” –KTRN
‘Tis the season for psychological warfare? While Christmas trees around the world symbolize peace on earth and good will toward men, Seoul’s plan to hang lights near the most militarized border in the world has North Korea vowing to retaliate.
Seoul has decided to allow a church group to hang lights on a Christmas tree-shaped towers some two miles from the tense border.
When illuminated, the 100-foot tall structure, which is located on the military-controlled Aegibong Hill, can easily be seen from the North Korean city of Kaesong.
Additionally, the South Korean government also decided Sunday to allow other Christian groups to light two more front-line Christmas trees, a Defense Ministry official said, the Associated Press reports.
The official, speaking under condition of anonymity, said the move is meant to help guarantee freedom of expression and religion.
The South Korean military has plans to heighten security around the three tree-shaped towers, which are located at different points along the border.
However, North Korea’s official Uriminzokkiri news website said plans by South Korea to spread Christmas cheer amounted to “psychological warfare”, and that Pyongyang would retaliate immediately if Seoul went ahead with its plans, Agence France-Presse (AFP) reports.
“The enemy warmongers… should be aware that they should be held responsible entirely for any unexpected consequences that may be caused by their scheme,” it said.
November 3, 2011
The New York Times
By CHOE SANG-HUN
A South Korean court sentenced an American Army private to 10 years in prison on Tuesday for raping an 18-year-old South Korean woman, the most severe such ruling in almost 20 years.
The soldier, Pfc. Kevin Flippin, 21, who is attached to the Army’s Second Infantry Division, will have a week to appeal the sentence.
Private Flippin was accused of breaking into the woman’s residence in a low-budget motel on Sept. 24, repeatedly raping her and stealing 5,000 won, or $4.50. The American government had apologized to South Korea in connection with the case and swiftly handed over the soldier to South Korean authorities. Prosecutors demanded a sentence of 15 years in prison.
“While the defendant satisfied his sadistic and perverted sexual desire for three hours, the victim was forced to endure fear and shame at her own home, where she was entitled to have her peace,” said a ruling written by Park In-sik, the presiding justice at the district court in Uijeongbu, north of Seoul.
In 1992, an American soldier was sentenced to 15 years for raping and murdering a South Korean bar worker. That assault helped set off a prolonged civic campaign to demand greater South Korean jurisdiction over American service members involved in crimes and led to protests calling for the withdrawal of United States troops.
September 30, 2011
By: Matt Krantz
Q: Have U.S. markets been following Asian markets lately, or the other way around?
A: If you want evidence of the global economy, you can see it on a stock chart. U.S. and Asian markets are increasingly tied at the hip.
Your question is an excellent one. Giving a full and complete answer could be the topic for a doctoral dissertation, and perhaps it already is one. There’s been some work done in the area, if you’d like more details you can check out a study on interlinked global markets.
But for just a quick-and-dirty analysis, investors can put exchange-traded funds that track Asian and U.S. stocks on the same stock-price chart to see how the two interact with each other.
There are many ways to do this comparison, but I’m comparing the iShares S&P Asia 50 Index fund (AIA) with the Standard & Poor’s 500 ETF. The iShares S&P Asia 50 Index fund contains a broad mix of large Asian shares, primarily from South Korea, China, Taiwan and Hong Kong.
You can use USATODAY.com’s free stock charting tools to do the comparison. Type in AIA in the Get a Quote box at money.usatoday.com to get the snapshot of iShares S&P Asia 50 Index fund. Select the Charts tab and below the graph in the Symbol Compare box enter SPY and Update Chart.
The first thing you’ll notice is that the two ETFs have moved very similarly within the past year. This is consistent with academic research indicating that markets of different countries are increasingly moving in lockstep with each other.
However, there are two important other things to note from the chart. First, notice how the Asian stock ETF was first to top out and start to decline in February 2011, and how U.S. stocks followed that decline.
The Asian stock ETF, meanwhile, is more volatile than the U.S. ETF. The ups and downs are more extreme and violent.
So it would appear Asian stocks and U.S. stocks, at least recently and using these two indexes, are somewhat closely related. But the Asian stocks tended to be the first to crack earlier this year and continue to deserve their reputation as being more volatile.
July 14th, 2011
By: Daniel Erickson
We still find it difficult to completely forget one of the uglier and far-reaching atrocities of the Vietnam War – the dissemination of a deadly herbicide, Agent Orange. But where we only have movies like Apocalypse Now and a host of war novels to remind us of the majority of the unpalatable actions that took place in the 60s, the repercussions of Agent Orange are still rising and expanding – through the world and media.
No matter how difficult it is to stop and listen to the stories of US military veterans who served in Vietnam, we cannot discount the myriad of first-person accounts of the damage that was caused and the cover-ups that have taken place since.
One recent story was unveiled earlier this year by KPHO, a news station in Phoenix, which showcased a number of Vietnam veterans’ who suggested the US military had ordered them to bury barrels upon barrels of Agent Orange in Camp Carroll, an army base in South Korea. Veteran Steve House, who continues to suffer from a number of the diseases that have been commonly linked to Agent Orange exposure, describes digging a two-acre ditch and then filling it with barrels fitting the description of those containing Agent Orange.
House suffers from Neuropathy, a fairly uncommon disease for anyone to develop without the help of poison or sustained use of the affected nerve group. Carpal Tunnel is one of the more commonly known, and minor, types of neuropathy. The disease occurs when damage is done to a group of nerve cells, resulting in loss of sensation, tingling or burning sensations in the affected nerve group, weakness, or even paralysis in extreme cases.
A fellow soldier who served with House, Robert Travis, has corroborated the story: “There was approximately 25 drums, all OD green… On the barrels it said “chemicals type Agent Orange.” It had a stripe around the barrel dated 1967 for the Republic of Vietnam.” Travis currently experiences extreme weakness in his hands and feet, as well as arthritis in his neck and back.
A number of US military personnel who traversed territory that had been bombed with Agent Orange reported severe neuropathy in their feet in the weeks following. They had been walking all over the herbicide for a relatively brief period, and to this day, the compound has been raging through their bodies, since, still limiting their ability to function.
The majority of Vietnam veterans suffering from exposure to Agent Orange are given federal aid to contend with the consequences of exposure. To sufferers of ailments commonly associated with the noxious herbicide, the US government is projected to mete out up to $67 billion over the next ten years.
As veterans in the US still combat and fall to the effects of the herbicide, children with genetic defects continue to remind Vietnamese citizens of the potency and far-reaching effects of the chemical of this terrifying poison, which has affected three generations of offspring, so far. The US has spent $43 million on these affected populations, to date, or under one-tenth what they have spent on veterans.
But Agent Orange hotspots in Vietnam must be cleaned up if they are to stop causing more diseases and genetic defects. In 2010, a ten-year plan was proposed to clear the Agent Orange hotspots in Vietnam, the areas that still contain hazardous levels of the compound.
The $300 million plan has yet to be fully funded by the US; however, it has found a number of valuable contributors, which has helped provide some more necessary momentum. Having already spent $37 million on cleaning efforts, the US has shown some amount of responsibility for its actions of the past, but it has yet to deal with the full extent of the damage, at the source.
When Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, visited Vietnam late last year, she connected the project to heal some of the worst damage done to Vietnam to the strengthening of an alliance between Vietnam and the US, referring to the compound still prevalent in the ground as: “… a legacy of the painful past we share, but the project we will undertake here, as our two nations work hand-in-hand to clean up this site, is a sign of the hopeful future we are building together.” Meanwhile, the herbicide continues to produce untreatable deformities in Vietnamese youth.
Yet, despite these obvious and disturbing signs that herbicides can be extremely harmful and difficult to dislodge, the companies that produced Agent Orange still grow and develop, increasing their product lines, their bottom lines, and revenue, not only in the US but across the world. A quick glance on the Monsanto web page on June 20 of 2011 portrays the company has grown by over 8% per year, on average, since 2007. Monsanto, along with Dow Chemicals, were the two companies, which produced the approximately 12 million gallons of Agent Orange that the US military used to destroy about 14% of Vietnam’s natural environment.
The companies have easily batted away all protests and claims against them, passing the buck to the US government as the culprit. Perhaps they are well within their legal rights. After all, they simply filled the orders given them, much like a firearms producer. Can we blame them for how the US military dispersed their product?
Perhaps not. However, there is still plenty of room for suspicion of foul play. If Monsanto and Dow Chemicals knew exactly how dangerous their product was, then it would have been their responsibility to inform the government of the long-term and catastrophic effects of mass dissemination. If they did not know these basic facts about the dangers of their own product, then it is a case of rampant negligence, the kind of which they can only be expected to reproduce, without significant consequences for their irresponsibility.
At least these companies should acknowledge the part they did play in what people are too afraid to label, genocide.
Len Aldis, founder of the UK-Vietnam Friendship Association, who has contributed a large amount of his own funds and time in support of the effort to clean up Agent Orange in Vietnam, does level sincere blame on the heads of Monsanto and Dow Chemicals. In a letter addressed to Monsanto’s Board of Directors, Mr. Aldis writes: “You may not be aware of the part played by your company in this criminal act, but there have been many protests here in the UK and many other countries at the use of Agent Orange on Vietnam… I have seen the results of your product in jars containing unborn babies, a sight not many people could stomach seeing.”
To this date, Mr. Aldis has received no reply, a stance that is upheld on Monsanto and Dow Chemicals’ websites. These URLs make no mention of Agent Orange, by name, by policy change, etc. If they are content to sweep this product under the rug, how can they be trusted today, as they produce genetically-enhanced seeds, herbicides, and other product lines? What impetus is there to thoroughly test these lab-controlled mutations?
When we play with a fire that has already burnt us, can we expect anything less than to be burnt again?
August 16, 2010
By: Candice Zachariahs and Ron Harui
China, whose $2.45 trillion in foreign-exchange reserves are the world’s largest, is turning bullish on Europe and Japan at the expense of the U.S.
The nation has been buying “quite a lot” of European bonds, said Yu Yongding, a former adviser to the People’s Bank of China who was part of a foreign-policy advisory committee that visited France, Spain and Germany from June 20 to July 2. Japan’s Ministry of Finance said Aug. 9 that China bought 1.73 trillion yen ($20.1 billion) more Japanese debt than it sold in the first half of 2010, the fastest pace of purchases in at least five years.
“Diversification should be a basic principle,” Yu said in an interview, adding a “top-level Chinese central banker” told him to convey to European policy makers China’s confidence in the region’s economy and currency. “We didn’t sell any European bonds or assets, instead we bought quite a lot.”
China’s position may make it harder for the greenback to rebound after falling as much as 10 percent from this year’s peak in June as measured by the trade-weighted Dollar Index. The nation cut its holdings of U.S. government debt by $72.2 billion, or 7.7 percent, through May from last year’s record of $939.9 billion in July 2009, according to the Treasury Department, which releases new data today.
Concern the U.S. economy is faltering was underscored by the Federal Reserve on Aug. 10. Chairman Ben S. Bernanke said the central bank will reinvest principal payments on its mortgage holdings into Treasury notes to prevent money from being drained out of the financial system, its first expansion of measures to spur growth in more than a year.
“The pace of economic recovery is likely to be more modest in the near term than had been anticipated,” the Federal Open Market Committee said in a statement after meeting in Washington. “The Committee will keep constant the Federal Reserve’s holdings of securities at their current level.”
Asian central banks holding some 60 percent of the world’s foreign-exchange reserves are turning away from the dollar. Concerned about weakening U.S. growth and the Treasury’s record borrowing, they are switching toward euro assets to safeguard reserves, driving gains in the 16-nation currency. South Korea, Malaysia and India reduced their holdings of Treasuries, U.S. government data show.
The allocations to dollars in official foreign-exchange reserves declined in the first three months of the year, to 61.5 percent from 62.2 percent in the final quarter of 2009, the International Monetary Fund said June 30.
The yen’s share was 3.1 percent, up from 3 percent, The euro’s was 27.2 percent, little changed from 27.3 percent, even after the currency tumbled 5.7 percent versus the dollar during the first quarter on speculation that nations including Greece will struggle to rein in their budget deficits.
“Short of concerns of a default, the investor community in terms of big reserve managers will probably be forced to invest in the euro zone,” said Dwyfor Evans, a strategist in Hong Kong at State Street Global Markets LLC, part of State Street Corp. which has $19 trillion under custody and $1.8 trillion under management. “They can’t be putting all of their eggs in one basket, which is U.S. Treasuries.”
The Dollar Index’s 5.2 percent drop in July, the biggest decline in 14 months, failed to dissuade most foreign-exchange forecasters from predicting the greenback will strengthen against the euro and yen by December.
The dollar traded at $1.2817 per euro as of 7:13 a.m. in New York from $1.2754 last week, when it rose 4.1 percent. The greenback was at 85.60 yen after falling to 84.73 yen on Aug. 11, the weakest since July 1995.
The U.S. currency will climb to $1.23 per euro by Dec. 31 and to 92 yen, based on median estimates of strategists and economists in Bloomberg surveys. Economists forecast U.S. growth will be 3 percent this year, compared with 1.2 percent for the region sharing the euro and 3.4 percent for Japan.
“There’s no sign of panic or urgency from the Fed and that supports our view that this is a temporary soft patch and the U.S. economy will fight its way through,” said Gareth Berry, a Singapore-based currency strategist at UBS AG, the world’s second-largest foreign-exchange trader. UBS forecasts the dollar will rise to $1.15 per euro and 95 yen in three months.
Japan’s economy expanded at the slowest pace in three quarters, missing the estimates of all economists polled, the Cabinet Office said today in Tokyo. Gross domestic product rose an annualized 0.4 percent in the three months ended June 30, compared with the median estimate in a Bloomberg survey for annual growth of 2.3 percent.
Slowing purchases of Treasuries by Asian nations haven’t hindered President Barack Obama’s ability to finance a projected record budget deficit of $1.6 trillion in the year ending Sept. 30. Investor demand for the safest investments compressed yields on benchmark 10-year Treasurynotes to a 16-month low of 2.65 percent today, even after the U.S.’s publicly traded debt swelled to $8.18 trillion in July.
U.S. mutual funds, households and banks in May boosted their share of America’s debt to 50.2 percent, the first time domestic investors owned more Treasuries than foreign holders since the start of the financial crisis in August 2007.
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao urged the U.S. in March to take “concrete steps” to reassure investors about the safety of dollar assets. The nation, which is the largest overseas holder of Treasuries, trimmed its stockpile of U.S. debt to $867.7 billion in May, from $900.2 billion in April and a record $939.9 billion in July 2009.
Increases to its holdings made between June 2008 and June 2009 amid the global financial crisis were mostly in short-term securities, signaling a “lack of confidence” in the U.S. ability to reduce its debt, UBS said in a research note Aug. 9.
“China has confidence in Europe’s economy, in the euro, and the euro area,” Yu said. A member of the state-backed Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Yu was selected by the official China Daily to question Treasury secretary Timothy F. Geithner during his June 2009 visit to Beijing about risks the U.S.’s budget deficit will undermine the value of its debt.
Chinese purchases of Europe’s bonds come in the wake of measures taken by European policy makers to allay concern the sovereign-debt crisis will threaten the single-currency union. In May, they announced a loan package worth as much as 750 billion euros ($956 billion) to backstop euro-area governments.
That month, foreign investors were net buyers of euro-zone debt as the 16-nation currency plummeted by the most since January 2009. Foreigners purchased 37.4 billion euros of bonds and notes after buying 49.7 billion euros in April, the latest data from the European Central Bank show.
China’s concern is mirrored by neighboring central banks that are building up foreign-exchange reserves as they sell local currencies to maintain the competiveness of exporters, according to Faros Trading LLC, which conducts currency transactions on behalf of hedge funds and institutional clients.
Indonesia’s central bank and Thailand’s prime minister said in the past month they are watching the performance of their nation’s currencies amid speculation gains will curb exports. Taiwan’s dollar has depreciated in the final minutes of trading on most days in the past four months as policy makers bought dollars, according to traders familiar with the central bank’s operations who declined to be identified. Exports account for about two-thirds of Taiwan’s gross domestic product.
“Asian central banks, other than China, don’t want to be caught holding all of the dollars when China is rapidly diversifying,” said Brad Bechtel, a Connecticut-based managing director with Faros Trading. “When sentiment shifts and people start getting very bearish on the euro again, beware central banks might be aggressively buying euros on the other side.”
The yen has climbed 8.4 percent against the dollar this year. China bought a net 456.4 billion yen of Japanese debt in June, after purchasing 735.2 billion yen in May, which was the largest in records dating from 2005, according to Japan’s Ministry of Finance data.
“China’s policy of steady and relatively rapid accumulation of foreign-exchange reserves means they have to be invested somewhere,” said Greg Gibbs, a currency strategist at Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc in Sydney. “It is easy to imagine that given the low yields in the U.S. and the debt crisis in Europe, China is now willing to invest more of these reserves in the yen.”
July 26, 2010
By Bomi Lim and Bill Varner
North Korea said it would counter U.S. and South Korean joint naval exercises with “nuclear deterrence” after the Obama administration said the government in Pyongyang shouldn’t take any provocative steps.
North Korea will “legitimately counter with their powerful nuclear deterrence the largest-ever nuclear war exercises to be staged by the U.S. and the South Korean puppet forces,” the National Defense Commission said, according to the Korean Central News Agency.
The maneuvers, which involve 20 vessels and 200 aircraft from the U.S. and South Korea, pose a threat to the country’s sovereignty and security, Ri Tong Il, an official with North Korea’s delegation to the Asean Security Forum, told reporters in Hanoi yesterday.
Ri’s comments came after North Korean Foreign Minister Pak Ui Chun sat in the same room with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Hanoi for a security meeting of Asia’s largest powers. Clinton condemned North Korea for being “on a campaign of provocative, dangerous behavior,” urging Kim Jong Il’s regime to change.
Still, the “door remains open for North Korea,” Clinton later told reporters. “We are willing to meet with them, willing to negotiate, to move toward normal relations” if North Korea commits itself to giving up its nuclear weapons program, she said.
U.S. State Department spokesman Philip J. Crowley said in Washington yesterday that North Korea “would be better served by reflecting on the current situation, not taking any further aggressive actions or provocative steps.”
USS George Washington
The U.S. said this week it will intensify sanctions against North Korea and conduct military exercises with South Korea in waters surrounding the peninsula. The USS George Washington, a nuclear-powered carrier, and three destroyers called into South Korean ports this week in a show of force.
“North Korea may very well go ahead with missile launches or even a third nuclear test to show it won’t bend to U.S. pressure,” said Yang Moo Jin, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul. “North Korea must have sensed that the U.S. and South Korea are after its regime’s collapse.”
Ri said the George Washington’s presence threatened security on the peninsula, which has been divided for more than half a century. Pak maintained the need for a peace treaty to replace a cease-fire, signed in 1953, to guarantee the peninsula’s security, Ri said.
“It’s no longer the 19th century with gunboat diplomacy,” Ri said. “It is a new century and the Asian countries are in need of peace and development.”
An international panel concluded that the March 26 sinking of the corvette Cheonan was caused by a torpedo fired from a North Korean mini-submarine. The United Nations Security Council condemned the attack, which killed 46 sailors, without naming a culprit.
The investigation’s results have been “fabricated,” Ri said, adding that North Korea wouldn’t apologize for the incident as demanded by South Korea.
“If anyone should apologize, it should be South Korea, responsible for driving the situation on the Korean peninsula to the brink of an explosion,” Ri said. “We won’t tolerate any attempt to put the blame on us.”
North Korea’s economy has been battered by UN sanctions limiting cross-border financial transactions, imposed after its nuclear tests in 2006 and last year. North Korea is willing to return to the so-called six-party talks on its nuclear weapons program “on an equal footing,” Ri said, repeating demands that the sanctions be removed.
The disarmament talks, also involving China, Japan, Russia, South Korea and the U.S., haven’t convened since December 2008. All members of that forum attended this week’s security meeting in Vietnam.
Japan will send four naval officers to the drills, the government’s top spokesman said today.
Four officers of Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Force will board a U.S. ship as observers for the joint military exercise from tomorrow to July 28 in the sea between South Korea and Japan, said Yoshito Sengoku, chief cabinet secretary.
“It’s important to promote coordination among Japan, U.S. and South Korea,” Sengoku told reporters in Tokyo.
July 23, 2010
By: Justin McCurry
North Korea today threatened a “physical response” to planned military exercises by the US and South Korea this weekend, as tensions on the Korean peninsula dominated a regional security forum in Hanoi.
The regime did not specify what that response might be, but said it interpreted the launch on Sunday of four days of naval and air drills in the Sea of Japan as another sign of US “hostility”.
“It is a threat to the Korean peninsula and the region of Asia as a whole,” a North Korea spokesman, Ri Tong-il, told reporters at the Asean regional forum.
Ri said the drills harked back to 19th-century gunboat diplomacy and violated North Korea’s sovereignty. “And [our] position is clear: there will be physical response to the threat imposed by the United States militarily,” he said.
Operation Invincible Spirit will involve 8,000 US and South Korean troops, 200 aircraft and 20 ships, including the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier the USS George Washington.
The meeting in Hanoi has quickly become the stage for a war of words between the north and the US, although there has been no direct contact between the countries’ delegates.
The US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, said “isolated and belligerent” North Korea would have to end its “campaign of provocative, dangerous behaviour” if it wanted better relations with the US and the rest of Asia.
North Korea has pulled out of six-party talks on its nuclear programme and is blamed for the March sinking of the Cheonan, a South Korean navy vessel, in which 46 sailors died.
The regime denies carrying out the attack and has unleashed a wave of belligerent rhetoric in response to what it calls US aggression.
On Wednesday, Clinton unveiled new sanctions designed to deny luxury goods to North Korean elites and strangle funding for Pyongyang’s nuclear programme. The north says it will not return to nuclear negotiations unless the sanctions are lifted.
Today, Clinton urged Asian nations to pressure North Korea into abandoning its nuclear ambitions by enforcing strict UN sanctions imposed after the regime’s second nuclear test last year.
“One measure of the strength of a community of nations is how it responds to threats to its members, neighbours and region,” Clinton said.
A South Korean newspaper said the new US sanctions would target 200 North Korean-held foreign bank accounts thought to be connected with illegal activities such as nuclear weapons development, drug trafficking and counterfeiting.
“Even before the Cheonan incident, the US was tracking around 200 North Korean bank accounts in banks in China, Russia and even eastern Europe and Africa that are believed to be involved in the development of weapons of mass destruction and the export of drugs, counterfeit money, fake cigarettes and weapons,” the Chosun Ilbo newspaper quoted a diplomatic source as saying.
The paper said the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-il, is believed to hold a US$4bn slush fund in secret accounts in Switzerland, Luxembourg and Liechtenstein.
North Korea also rejected South Korean demands to apologise for the sinking of the Cheonan.
“We cannot accept such a claim because they try to use it to shift (their) responsibility on to us,” Ri said. He repeated North Korea’s position that the cause of the sinking remains unclear and insisted that it be allowed to conduct a joint investigation with the south.
“South Korean authorities bear the responsibility for causing tension … South Korea is the one who must apologise,” he said.