Kim Jong-un says he is ‘committed to Korean denuclearisation’ in Beijing talks



North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un has promised President Xi Jinping that he will follow through the wishes of his father and grandfather in denuclearising the Korean peninsula, but added he wants assurances from the United States and South Korea.

The leader of the reclusive state made the remarks during a trip to China, his first overseas visit since he became North Korea’s leader, according to the state-run Chinese news agency Xinhua.

Kim, the third generation of his family to lead his country, said the situation on the Korean peninsula was improving and that his government has taken steps to ease tensions, Xinhua reported.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un leaves Beijing after surprise visit >>

Kim added that if the US and South Korea were willing to respond to North Korea’s efforts with sincerity the nuclear issue “can be solved”.

“Our unswerving stance is that we will make efforts towards the denuclearisation of the peninsula,” Kim was quoted as saying by Xinhua.

President Xi pledged to work with North Korea to achieve denuclearisation.

“China is willing to continue to make a constructive impact on the Korean peninsula problem,” President Xi said. He called upon all sides to solve the problem through dialogue, Xinhua reported.

Tensions have risen on Korean peninsula after North Korea has increased nuclear weapons tests.

The United Nations has enforced a series of sanctions to try to rein in Pyongyang’s nuclear ambitions.

Hopes of a breakthrough in the crisis have risen since the announcement that North and South Korea’s leaders have agreed to meet.

Beijing is North Korea’s long-standing traditional ally, but ties have been frayed by North Korea’s pursuit of nuclear weapons and China’s support of UN sanctions.

Pang Zhongying, a senior fellow at the Ocean University of China in Qingdao, said Kim was securing China’s support ahead of his meeting with US President Donald Trump, scheduled to be held by May.

“By denuclearisation, Kim actually means the whole Korean peninsula should be denuclearised and that the nuclear weapons deployed by the US in South Korea should be withdrawn,” Pang said. “Can the US really accept that request? The gesture means that the chance of a significant breakthrough between Kim and Trump may be slim.”

Kim’s visit evidence China and North Korea remain allies, analysts say  >>

Paul Haenle, director of the Carnegie-Tsinghua Centre in China, agreed Kim was looking for support from Beijing ahead of his meetings with South Korea’s president and Trump.

”Just as Kim may have felt he had secured some leverage against Xi having independently secured summits with Trump and Moon, he’ll now feel more confident knowing where things stand with Beijing heading into those same meetings,” he said.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the Chinese government had briefed the Trump administration about the visit on Tuesday.

The Trump administration sees the development “as further evidence that our campaign of maximum pressure is creating the appropriate atmosphere for dialogue with North Korea”, she said.

Beijing residents left in the dark during Kim Jong-un’s unexpected visit  >>

Kim arrived by train in Beijing on Monday and left the following day, with his trip to China coming just days before a planned meeting with South Korean President Moon Jae-in and ahead of the possible summit with Trump.

Speculation about a visit by Kim to Beijing came earlier this week after a train similar to the one used by Kim’s father was seen in the Chinese capital.

Ri Sol-ju, Kim’s wife, was also part of the delegation to Beijing, Xinhua reported.

China’s Premier, Li Keqiang, Vice-President Wang Qishan and Politburo Standing Committee member Wang Huning also met the North Korean leader.

The green armoured train carrying the North Korean leader returned to the reclusive state at about 6am on Wednesday across a bridge connecting the two countries in Dandong, Liaoning province.

Chinese police had blocked access to the area around the bridge before the train’s arrival.

Armed police vehicles were also seen in the area.

North Korea agrees to inter-Korean talks to discuss possible April summit  >>

Access to parts of the Yalu River riverbank, which separates North Korea and Dandong, were blocked. Some police officers also stopped people from taking pictures of the bridge before the train’s arrival.

“I can only say that a situation is happening here,” a police officer at one of the blocked roads told the South China Morning Post.

About three minutes after the train passed over the bridge, police officers finally allowed pedestrians to enter the area.
As the Post visited the area in the early hours of Wednesday – before the area was cordoned off – five plainclothes police officers approached and asked staff to leave.

They did not explain why, only saying “it was not safe” to be there so late at night.

Source: South China Morning Post by Phila Siu is reporting from Dandong

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5,000 Malaysians are illegals in South Korea, lured by higher pay, living underground !


A tough life: Malaysians seen working at a vegetable farm near Seoul. 

SEOUL: An estimated 5,000 Malay­sians are working and staying illegally in South Korea, with the less fortunate ones forced to live like refugees and always on the run from the authorities.

Lured by job advertisements that claimed they could make money hand over fist in the land of K-pop and Descendants of the Sun, they paid recruitment agents thousands of ringgit in fees and entered the country on tourist visas.

Unfortunately, many of them have been left in dire straits after finding out that reality did not match up with the promises.

Star Media Group’s Bahasa Malaysia news portal mStar Online sent a team to South Korea to look into their plight and found many of these Malaysians stranded and destitute.
These 5,000, based on figures that volunteer aid workers pieced together from Malaysians and recruitment agents, are part of an estimated 251,000 illegal foreign workers in the country as reported by The Korea Herald.

Their problems, first highlighted by the portal in a series of special reports in association with The Korea Herald in January, ranged from suffering permanent disability after workplace accidents to being left broke and homeless when they were fired by their employers.

Among the locations the team visited were Itaewon in the central region and Daeso and Muguk in Eumseoung district, about 80km from Seoul.

A Malaysian who wanted to be known only as Farhan said he and two of his friends have been homeless for more than two months since they were fired without pay after working at a seaweed processing company for just one week.

“I was fired because I came down with fever a week after starting work. We have to rely on our friends for food,” he said, adding that sometimes they only had biscuits to eat.

The 24-year-old said that on weekends, they would sleep at the Seoul Central Mosque, while on weekdays, they would stay at a friend’s house.

Visiting the mosque, the mStar Online team found several bags in the corridors, believed to belong to the foreign workers who sleep there.

Another Malaysian, who did not want to be named, said she had to live in one house with 18 others.

The woman, who works on an onion and sweet potato farm, said the house is so overcrowded that some of them have to sleep in front of the toilet or on the kitchen floor.

She and her housemates said there had been cases of Malaysians being physically abused if they did not work fast enough.

Their story was echoed by others the team interviewed, as well as those who came forward in the earlier reports in January, and because of their illegal status, they are often exploited, made to work long hours without rest and barred from talking to their colleagues.

The risk of accidents is also great because they are seldom given briefings or safety equipment and protective gear.

After such hardship, their labour sometimes even goes unrewarded because of employers who, taking advantage of their workers’ illegal status, hold back their pay in the belief that they would not dare report it to the authorities.

As a result, many suffer in silence for fear of being detained by the authorities, and are ignorant of their rights as workers.

Winter in South Korea will come to an end later this month. Without money, shelter or a way home, these stranded Malaysians can only wait it out, and hope for new job opportunities that will be available in the spring.

Source: The Star by nadia shaiful bahari

Malaysian workers ‘living underground’ 

Some of them are forced to live on the streets.

SEOUL: The 5,000 Malaysians working and staying illegally in South Korea may be grouped into six categories, based on the findings of the mStar Online team that visited South Korea and spoke to some of those affected.

The lucky ones

These are the “successful” ones who entered the country on tourist visas, have the funds to return home or travel to other countries after these visas expire. They then return to South Korea on new tourist visas and take up jobs here again.

Those in this category are considered fortunate because they have responsible employers who pay them as promised. They have also managed to evade the authorities.

Those who overstay

There are also Malaysians who took the risk of overstaying. They are either working or waiting for other job opportunities. They can get by as long as they are not caught or face workplace issues such as accidents or exploitation by their employers.

Generally, it can be said that those who belong to the first two groups managed to realise their dream, have a place to stay, and are living comfortably in a foreign land.


• The unemployed and homeless

On the other hand, there are those who have been made homeless and forced to sleep in mosques or rely on the kindness of friends.

Their situation is caused by several factors: they may have been cheated by recruitment agents, had their salaries withheld, or had their contracts terminated, leaving them with nowhere to live and no funds to return to Malaysia.

• Waiting for spring

Job opportunities drop considerably during winter. Those without work are forced to endure the cold and wait for spring, which brings more job openings with it.

Those who have the money would not find the winter months a problem, but the unemployed have to depend on others for food and shelter.


• Accident victims

There are also those who overstay because of workplace accidents. They have to remain behind while waiting for their cases to be heard at the Labour Office so that they can claim compensation from their employers.


• Those on medical visas

Some of those hurt in workplace accidents are fortunate enough to be granted medical visas by the authorities, enabling them to stay in South Korea until their treatment is completed.

The specific reasons for not returning home vary from one individual to the next. Some may be victims of circumstance, while others are just determined to achieve their goals and earn as much as they can before coming back.

And with each new job opportunity that comes along, a new set of risks and hazards arises.

Malaysians lured by higher pay

Getting the story: Nadia speaking to an agent about the risks of illegal employment in South Korea.
Getting the story: Nadia speaking to an agent about the risks of illegal employment in South Korea.

PETALING JAYA: The Malaysians who brave the perils of working and staying illegally in South Korea do so because of monthly salaries advertised in the range of RM6,000 to RM12,000.

In fact, recruitment agents say, they choose to go even after being told of the risks involved.

It is estimated that as many as 5,000 Malaysians have gone there since 2016, to work in factories producing kimchi, cosmetics, calendars, furniture, auto spare parts and aluminium, among other items.

When the big pay they expected does not materialise, usually because of workplace accidents or exploitation by unscrupulous employers, they often find themselves homeless and broke.

An mStar Online team probing their plight spoke to one agent who said about 800 Malaysians had used his services last year alone.

The agent, who asked to be known only as Nasir, said he charged each customer RM2,800.

The amount covers securing the job, a return air ticket and a South Korean job agency’s fees.

According to The Korea Herald, there are about 251,000 illegal workers from various countries working in South Korea.

This group is highly exposed to occupational hazards and is at risk of being duped or exploited by employers because of their immigration status.

Local agents as well as aid volunteers in Seoul said Malaysians made up about 5,000 of the overall figure.

Taufik, another agent, said he knew of about 20 others who were in the same line.

“I personally handled trips for almost 100 Malaysians to South Korea since 2016,” he added.

He said not all agents were responsible enough to inform their clients of the risks.

Taufik said he was honest in his dealings and made sure those who used his services were fully aware of the risks they faced as illegals working in South Korea.

However, he was surprised to see that all these potential problems did not deter a single one of his clients from going to South Korea, which reportedly had the highest household income in Asia.

“There are agents who do not give clear information, but I tell my customers about the real situation and ask them to think carefully before going.

“Among the most important things they must have is a strong spirit.

“This is just my side job. I have my own business. I don’t depend on their money,” he told mStar Online.

Taufik claimed he only pocketed RM500 to RM600 of the RM2,500 fee he charged clients.

Based on surveys and from talking to agents and their clients, the team learned that an agent stood to make up to RM15,000 for every batch of recruits – ranging from 10 to 30 per group – sent to South Korea.

Another agent, Azhar, said it was easy to get through immigration checks there as the job seekers posed as tourists.

To prove they were just visiting, Azhar said he would provide them with fake return tickets to show to South Korean immigration officials.

His package, priced at RM2,500, includes one night’s accommodation, a prepaid T-Money payment card, job arrangement charges and transport to the workplace.

Source:Star by nadia shaiful bahari

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Demanding conditions: Workers labouring at a construction site in Seoul. Malaysians, using tourist visas to work as illegal labourers, take up tough jobs in the manufacturing, construction and plantation sectors in South Korea. — AP Malaysians Lured by high pay and benefits – Nation | The Star Online

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The Asian financial crisis – 20 years later




East Asian Economies Remain Diverse

 

It is useful to reflect on whether lessons have been learnt and if the countries are vulnerable to new crises.

IT’S been 20 years since the Asian financial crisis struck in July 1997. Since then, there has been an even bigger global financial crisis, starting in 2008. Will there be another crisis?

The Asian crisis began when speculators brought down the Thai baht. Within months, the currencies of Indonesia, South Korea and Malaysia were also affected. The East Asian Miracle turned into an Asian Financial Nightmare.

Despite the affected countries receiving only praise before the crisis, weaknesses had built up, including current account deficits, low foreign reserves and high external debt.

In particular, the countries had recently liberalised their financial system in line with international advice. This enabled local private companies to freely borrow from abroad, mainly in US dollars. Companies and banks in Korea, Indonesia and Thailand had in each country rapidly accumulated over a hundred billion dollars of external loans. This was the Achilles heel that led their countries to crisis.

These weaknesses made the countries ripe for speculators to bet against their currencies. When the governments used up their reserves in a vain attempt to stem the currency fall, three of the countries ran out of foreign exchange.

They went to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for bailout loans that carried draconian conditions that worsened their economic situation.

Malaysia was fortunate. It did not seek IMF loans. The foreign reserves had become dangerously low but were just about adequate. If the ringgit had fallen a bit further, the danger line would have been breached.

After a year of self-imposed austerity measures, Malaysia dramatically switched course and introduced a set of unorthodox policies.

These included pegging the ringgit to the dollar, selective capital controls to prevent short-term funds from exiting, lowering interest rates, increasing government spending and rescuing failing companies and banks.

This was the opposite of orthodoxy and the IMF policies. The global establishment predicted the sure collapse of the Malaysian economy.

But surprisingly, the economy recovered even faster and with fewer losses than the other countries. Today, the Malaysian measures are often cited as a successful anti-crisis strategy.

The IMF itself has changed a little. It now includes some capital controls as part of legitimate policy measures.

The Asian countries, vowing never to go to the IMF again, built up strong current account surpluses and foreign reserves to protect against bad years and keep off speculators. The economies recovered, but never back to the spectacular 7% to 10% pre-crisis growth rates.

Then in 2008, the global financial crisis erupted with the United States as its epicentre. The tip of the iceberg was the collapse of Lehman Brothers and the massive loans given out to non-credit-worthy house-buyers.

The underlying cause was the deregulation of US finance and the freedom with which financial institutions could devise all kinds of manipulative schemes and “financial products” to draw in unsuspecting customers. They made billions of dollars but the house of cards came tumbling down.

To fight the crisis, the US, under President Barack Obama, embarked first on expanding government spending and then on financial policies of near-zero interest rates and “quantitative easing”, with the Federal Reserve pumping trillions of dollars into the US banks.

It was hoped the cheap credit would get consumers and businesses to spend and lift the economy. But instead, a significant portion of the trillions went via investors into speculative activities, including abroad to emerging economies.

Europe, on the verge of recession, followed the US with near zero interest rates and large quantitative easing, with limited results.

The US-Europe financial crisis affected Asian countries in a limited way through declines in export growth and commodity prices. The large foreign reserves built up after the Asian crisis, plus the current account surplus situation, acted as buffers against external debt problems and kept speculators at bay.

Just as important, hundreds of billions of funds from the US and Europe poured into Asia yearly in search of higher yields. These massive capital inflows helped to boost Asian countries’ growth, but could cause their own problems.

First, they led to asset bubbles or rapid price increases of houses and the stock markets, and the bubbles may burst when they are over-ripe.

Second, many of the portfolio investors are short-term funds looking for quick profit, and they can be expected to leave when conditions change.

Third, the countries receiving capital inflows become vulnerable to financial volatility and economic instability.

If and when investors pull some or a lot of their money out, there may be price declines, inadequate replenishment of bonds, and a fall in the levels of currency and foreign reserves.

A few countries may face a new financial crisis.

A new vulnerability in many emerging economies is the rapid build-up of external debt in the form of bonds denominated in the local currency.

The Asian crisis two decades ago taught that over-borrowing in foreign currency can create difficulties in debt repayment should the local currency level fall.

To avoid this, many countries sold bonds denominated in the local currency to foreign investors.

However, if the bonds held by foreigners are large in value, the country will still be vulnerable to the effects of a withdrawal.

As an example, almost half of Malaysian government securities, denominated in ringgit, are held by foreigners.

Though the country does not face the risk of having to pay more in ringgit if there is a fall in the local currency, it may have other difficulties if foreigners withdraw their bonds.

What is the state of the world economy, what are the chances of a new financial crisis, and how would the Asian countries like Malaysia fare?

These are big and relevant questions to ponder 20 years after the start of the Asian crisis and nine years after the global crisis.

But we will have to consider them in another article.

By Martin Khor Global Trend

Martin Khor (director@southcentre.org) is executive director of the South Centre. The views expressed here are entirely his own.
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Korean web of intrigue: Malaysia hunting for Kim Jong-nam murder


Two women suspects in Kim Jong-nam assassination remanded for seven days

KUALA LUMPUR: Two women arrested in connected with the assassination of Kim Jong-nam, the half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, have been remanded for seven days.

Selangor police chief Comm Datuk Seri Abdul Samah Mat said the two women have been remanded until Feb 21 to assist in the investigations.

One of the women has a Vietnam passport bearing the name Doan Thi Huong while the other has an Indonesian passport bearing the name Siti Aishah.

“They have been remanded. So far, there is no press conference as a press statement have been issued. We will update if there is anymore development,” Abdul Samah told The Star Online.

At 11.05am, Magistrate Sharifah Muhaymin Abd Khalib was at the Sepang police headquarters to grant the police’s application to remand the woman with the Vietnam passport.

Jong-nam, 45, was killed by two women who splashed his face with a chemical at the KLIA2 departure hall at about 9am on Monday. He was about to leave for Macau.

The women later got into a taxi and fled.

One of the women, who has the Vietnam passport, was arrested at the airport on Wednesday when she tried to board a flight out.

The woman with the Indonesian passport was arrested at 2am on Thursday.

Police are looking for four men who were in the company of the two women at the airport when Jong-nam was killed.

By Farik Zolkepli and Joash Ee De Silva The Star/|ANN

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South Korea can’t tackle new Trump Order alone, be prepared new Trump order !


Trump-tanic by Stephff | China Daily

South Korea, in particular, could take a leaf from Japan’s playbook on preparing for a face-off and making the right structural reforms.

It’s official. A new world order, aka, the Trump Order, has been set in motion.

Most of us should have been ready for it, since the man had been more than clear about backtracking on America’s global trade policies. And now, in one flamboyant gesture, he has overturned his predecessor Barack Obama’s decision to join the TPP.

As one of the key members, Japan is up in arms. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has vowed he would continue to try and persuade President Donald Trump.

At the same time, Tokyo appears to be quite ready to face the new threat.

Japan is a country that downplays the number of naval destroyers it has in order to keep its frenemies in check, and to assure them it still has a long way to go in terms of military defense. In reality, Tokyo is armed with seemingly worn-down subs that can actually be made battle-ready at a moment’s notice.

The Abe Shinzo administration has been ready to face off with Trump for a while now, and internal government sources say the foundations have already been laid. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has already put in motion the necessary structural reforms to wean Japan off of the US or make Japanese firms more competitive in the face of high tariffs. Abe is also preparing to enlist the support of high-profile companies such as Softbank, which has been pledging more investment in America.

Further, Japan is looking to cut loose from China, which has made it clear it won’t play into US hands.

In contrast to Japan and China, South Korea has a smaller say. But that does not mean it has less on the line.

The country stands as the world’s 11th-largest economy in terms of GDP, but it also depends on exports for more than two-thirds of it. So any policy decisions by its chief trade partners are bound to have a profound impact — even more so now that its internal economic affairs are in a mess due to the ongoing impeachment. South Korea truly cannot afford to have its global partnerships jeopardized.

During his presidential campaign, Trump has already called the US-Korea FTA a failed partnership that has robbed the US of 100,000 jobs. 

The Seoul government should have long been brainstorming a strategy to keep the deal on track, and must readily communicate its plans with the public before the concerns mushroom into something bigger.

The alliance with the US goes far beyond military issues, and the significance should not be downplayed or tainted in any way if Korea is to continue pursuing its national interests.

The strategy should be laid out in such a way to prevent Koreans from harboring unnecessary ill sentiment toward the US, and vice versa. For this, both governments will have to cooperate seamlessly. Trump must realize the contribution that Koreans and the Korean economy are making in the US.

That while it may not be comparable in size to other nations such as Japan and China, there is no going around the fact that in the end, cliche has it may sound, it is indeed a global economy.

Korean firms should take a cue from Softbank and find ways they can offer more support for the Korean economy as it faces the aftershocks of Trump’s latest policy move.

As for the US, it must remember that Korean companies like Hyundai, Samsung and LG have been seeking cheaper entry into the US for years via countries like Mexico and Vietnam.

The change of a regime must not pull the plug on these efforts for the sake of global partnership. And needless to say, the products and services brought into the US also help create livelihoods there, and give Americans what they need.

All of this should not be forgotten or put on a back burner. As already witnessed in the Lehman Brothers meltdown, the intricate web of global trade and finance ensures that the demise of a single company can affect so many more.

But, in a weird and twisted way, I do envy the American people. Sure, there could have been someone better than Trump, who psychologists have branded as narcissistic and delusional.

But for many Americans, Trump is doing what they have only dreamed of doing and saying. To say out loud, that they think America is the best, that they are scared of anyone appearing to infringe upon its beliefs and interests, even at the expense of other nations and peoples. To say that the US won’t play the peace-brokering leader who is constantly mindful of others, including rivals. To say, the US will start acting only for its benefit-regardless of how short-sighted this may be.

To have a president, as strange as he may be, who for now, appears so committed in his campaign, does draw an odd contrast with our embattled President Park Geun-hye who now seems anxious only to cover her own tail.

In some ways, they are similar in that they seem to prioritize themselves. But at least for now, Trump is giving many Americans the promise they need, as twisted or unorthodox his methods may be.

In a similar fashion, but based on a strategic and acceptable approach, Korea should be ready to protect its interests and its people amid the fast-changing global order. And all other players in the economy must be ready to lend a helping hand.

By Kim Ji-hyun

Kim Ji-hyun is The Korea Herald’s Tokyo  Correspondent. The views expressed here are entirely the writer’s own.
 

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US-S.Korea must take blame for North’s nuclear move; provocation heightens insecurity, sabotages stability


North Korea’s Atomic Energy Institute on Wednesday claimed that it has reprocessed spent nuclear fuel rods removed from a graphite-moderated reactor in a written interview with Japan’s Kyodo News. It also disclosed that its Yongbyon nuclear facilities have produced uranium needed for nuclear armaments. At a time when Beijing and Seoul are in a tug of war on the deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-missile system, Pyongyang has thrown a bombshell.

North Korea mothballed the Yongbyon reactor in 2007 under the Six-Party Talks accord, but began renovating it amid the confrontation with the US and South Korea in 2013. Kyodo’s report suggested that North Korea has resumed its reprocessing facilities and its nuclear reactor is in full swing.

This is a dilemma facing China, the US and South Korea. The choice of the latter two is simple. The more nuclear activities North Korea will carry out, the greater pressure they will impose on it. But their tactics are of no help in solving the problem.

Given the increasing risks of a military strike by the US and South Korea and subversion of the regime, Pyongyang seemingly has no other choice but to intensify its efforts in developing nuclear power. China seems to have the most options, but that has put the country in a predicament. Beijing has cooled down its relations with Pyongyang and imposed the toughest ever sanctions against it over the past several years.

Complaints from South Korea that China hasn’t pressured Pyongyang enough have often been heard. Seoul hopes Beijing and Pyongyang will openly turn against each other. It is even better for Seoul to see the North targets its nuclear weapons at China. Meanwhile, Pyongyang blames Beijing for taking the wrong side.

China should stay unwavering to pursue denuclearization in the Korean Peninsula. Meanwhile, it should hold firm to opposing any strategic military deployment by the US that will cause threats to China’s security under the excuse of dealing with the Peninsula situation. North Korea’s resumption of uranium production further complicates the Korean Peninsula situation. But currently, China should pay more attention to THAAD.

Pyongyang has paid the price for developing nuclear weapons, so should the US and South Korea for deploying THAAD. Any resolution by the UN Security Council to denounce North Korea and adopt new sanctions should be associated with the THAAD issue. The US and South Korea should take the blame if THAAD impairs the effectiveness of sanctions against the North. Nonetheless, Pyongyang shouldn’t feel relieved. It would rather be totally isolated from the international community before it gives up its nuclear ambition.

China objects to North Korea’s nuclear tests and war on the Peninsula. But once large-scale military conflicts break out, the North and South Korea will take the brunt. China doesn’t need to feel more anxious than them. Global Times

S. Korea-US provocation heightens DPRK’s insecurity, sabotages regional stability

https://www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/vBCGw8iNpJc

Under the pressure of South Korea-US military drill and the widely disputed THAAD deployment, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) reportedly fired a ballistic missile early Wednesday, sending a strong signal that Washington and its allies are risking turning the region into a powder keg.

If confirmed, the missile launch would be a new violation of UN resolutions. However, the fact that it came two days after the South Korea-US drill simulating an all-out attack by the DPRK merits a closer look at its motivation.

Denounced as aggression and provocation by the DPRK, the two-week Ulchi Freedom Guardian exercises will surely not make Seoul safer. Rather, it might compel Pyongyang to take even more reckless actions for the sake of its own security.

In fact, the United States and South Korea have been warned in advance by the north. Calling the South Korea-US exercises the “most undisguised physical measure and provocative action,” the DPRK has vowed to “foil all hostile acts and threat of aggression and provocation with the Korean-style nuclear deterrence.”

Within that context, the launch could be regarded as a tit-for-tat move of Pyongyang.

Washington and Seoul are playing a dangerous game. They are holding a wolf by the ears in the hope that their sabre-rattling would deter the DPRK. However, their plan dooms to be a wishful thinking, as muscle-flexing leads to nowhere but a more anxious, more agitating and thus more unpredictable Pyongyang.

Meanwhile, the launch, already the fourth missile fired by the DPRK after the announcement of THAAD’s deployment on July 8, could be interpreted as a protest against the planned installation of the system.

It also serves a reminder to policymakers in Seoul that by allowing the THAAD deployment, South Korea is putting the cart before the horse in their pursuit of national security, as the key to security lies in good neighborly and friendly relations with its neighbors, rather than a bunch of US-made missiles.

The increasingly complicated and stinging situation in East Asia needs to be cooled down before it is too late, and at this moment, what the region needs is cool heads instead of miscalculations. The ongoing trilateral meeting among Chinese, Japanese and South Korean foreign ministers offers a golden opportunity. – Xinhua

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its east coast into the sea at a time of heightened tensions on the Korean Peninsula following the start of annual South Korea-U.S. war games, Seoul’s military said.

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Beware of meddling via soft power !

 Aug 12, 2016 MEDDLING by foreign powers is an established phenomenon for as long as one
can remember. They are not limited only to the Muslim …

Beware of meddling via soft power !


MEDDLING by foreign powers is an established phenomenon for as long as one can remember. They are not limited only to the Muslim countries and communities. For example, last year at the Seventh Summit of the Americas in Panama City, President Barack Obama indirectly admitted this when he publicly stated that the days of US interference in the affairs of Latin America were coming to an end. Reportedly, he said, “the days in which our agenda in this hemisphere presumed that the United States could meddle with impunity, those days are past”. Some traced this to as far back as the conquest of the Americas by the Europeans in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries especially after its so-called “discovery” by Columbus. Perhaps, the major difference is that there are many more Latin American leaders and populace who are more “resolute” than their Muslim counterparts in resisting any attempt to meddle.

More generally “colonialism” is one form of meddling that many parts of the world have experienced, and are still suffering from it. Malaysia is no exception, no denying that there are some benefits to be learnt from the process. But where it hits the “mind” is where it is more toxic to the extent that it can debilitate. Even long after achieving independence the “colonised” mindsets are still clearly felt whether at the level of the leadership or the population at large. The post-Merdeka generations are more vulnerable when they are shut out from the larger discourse affecting the future of the nation, ironically due to yet another form of “meddling” that left them disenfranchised. In the days of social media, the impact of this can be phenomenal, what with other contending parties that are more than eager to attract their attention, as we have seen recently.

Social media is an excellent platform for yet another form of meddling – soft power. Coined a few years ago, soft power describes “the ability to attract and co-opt using persuasion (mind-twisting) rather than by coercion, notably by bullying and arm-twisting (hard power). To the disenfranchised, soft power is said to be very appealing especially when “credibility is the scarcest resource”, as explained by Joseph Nye, who introduces the concept. In fact more recently, the term has expanded to include “changing and influencing social and public opinion through relatively less transparent channels and lobbying through powerful political and non-political organisations.”

Of the six factors that are often associated with enhancing soft power, education and culture seem to be pivotal. In other words, meddling can be carried out discreetly using these two dimensions. Indeed, Nye did suggest how higher education leaders might enhance American soft power by increasing international student and cultural exchange programmes. Viewed this way, soft power is a very subtle extension of the colonial process without even realising it. A case in point is when in 2007 the Rand Corporation in the US developed a “road map” for the construction of moderate Muslim networks and institutions “that the US government and its allies need, but thus far have failed, to develop clear criteria for partnerships with authentic moderates”. It therefore proposes “the building of moderate Muslim networks an explicit goal of US government programmes”.

More explicitly, it listed who the “moderates” are to be targeted according to priority, namely: liberal and secular Muslim academics and intellectuals, young moderate religious scholars, community activists, women’s groups engaged in gender equality campaigns, and finally moderate journalists and writers. It argued that “the US should ensure visibility and platforms for these individuals.” For example, to ensure that individuals from these groups are “included in congressional visits, making them better known to policymakers and helping to maintain US support and resources for the public diplomacy effort.” If these sound like “meddling”, it is because it is one – effectively disguised as “soft power”. It is without doubt, yet another attempt among many to continuously interfere and manipulate the situation from the perspective of the authors and the sponsoring institution. Despite this it is very sad if Muslims are oblivious to the sleight of hand, and succumb to the form of endless meddling. Only to realise that it causes more confusion and divisiveness among the community.

In the days ahead before Aug 31, it is incumbent upon us to deeply ponder what Merdeka means beyond the routine parade and march-past, flag-raising ceremony and singing the national anthem.

By Dzulkifli Abdul Razak, theSundaily

With some four decades of experience in education, the writer believes that “another world is possible”. Comments: letters@thesundaily.com

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