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South Korea will not develop nuclear weapons: president

By Jung Ha-Won

Seoul (AFP)

Nov 1, 2017

South Korea will not develop atomic weapons of its own despite the threat from the nuclear-armed North, President Moon Jae-In declared Wednesday.

“A push by North Korea to become a nuclear state cannot be accepted or tolerated,” Moon said in an address to parliament. “We also will not develop or own nuclear” arms.

In recent months Pyongyang has carried out its sixth nuclear test — its most powerful by far — and launched missiles apparently capable of reaching much of the US mainland, raising concerns in Seoul about its security alliance with Washington.

South Korean media and opposition politicians have called for US tactical nuclear weapons, which were withdrawn from the peninsula in the 1990s, to be returned.

Some have suggested that if Washington does not agree — Defense Secretary Jim Mattis expressed doubts about the concept in a visit at the weekend — Seoul should develop a nuclear capability of its own, in order to ensure what they dub a “balance of terror” on the peninsula.

But Moon said in his address that Seoul’s approach would be “based on the joint declaration to denuclearize the Korean peninsula declared by both Koreas” in 1992.

Then the two Koreas agreed not to develop nuclear arsenal on the flashpoint peninsula, and two years later the North forged an aid-for-denuclearisation deal with the US.

The 1994 deal fell apart in 2002 when the North walked out and resumed its atomic weapons program after Washington raised suspicions Pyongyang was secretly pursuing nuclear arms.

Pyongyang carried out its first atomic test in 2006, and has made significant progress in its weapons technology under current leader Kim Jong-Un, who has overseen four atomic blasts and numerous missile tests since inheriting power in 2011.

– ‘Tragic history’ –

The North hails its nuclear arsenal as a “treasured sword” to protect itself from potential invasion by its “imperialist enemy” the US, but has threatened to bracket the US Pacific island of Guam with missiles.

Kim and Donald Trump have also traded personal insults in recent months, sparking concerns of a conflict on the peninsula where the 1950-53 Korean War left millions dead.

Tensions escalated further as Trump warned of “fire and fury” against the North and a “calm before the storm”.

But Moon insisted there could be no US military action without Seoul’s agreement, saying Koreans had to “determine the fate of our nation ourselves”.

“There should be no military action on the peninsula without our prior consent,” he said.

“We will not repeat the tragic history like colonialisation and division during which the fate of our nation was determined regardless of our will,” he added.

Japan colonized the peninsula from 1910 to 1945, and after Tokyo’s surrender ended the Second World War it was divided into separate zones of occupation by Russia and the US.

Even some Trump advisers say US military options are limited when any armed conflict on the peninsula is expected to cause massive casualties.

The South’s capital Seoul is home to 10 million people and only about 50 kilometers (30 miles) from the border, within range of Pyongyang’s artillery.

One study by the Nautilus think-tank in California estimated around 65,000 civilians would die in Seoul alone on the first day of a conventional North Korean attack.

Trump is scheduled to visit Japan, South Korea, China, Vietnam and the Philippines during his first Asia trip this month, with all eyes on his message to the North and Kim.

How to curb the North’s threats is expected to top the agenda when Trump visits the South — a key Asian ally of Washington’s, which hosts 28,500 US troops — for a summit with Moon on November 7.

Source: Space War.

Link: http://www.spacewar.com/reports/South_Korea_will_not_develop_nuclear_weapons_president_999.html.

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Nobel Peace Prize awarded to anti-nuclear campaign group

October 06, 2017

OSLO, Norway (AP) — The Nobel Peace Prize was awarded Friday to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, a group of mostly young activists pushing for a global treaty to ban the cataclysmic bombs.

The award of the $1.1-million prize comes amid heightened tensions over both North Korea’s aggressive development of nuclear weapons and President Donald Trump’s persistent criticism of the deal to curb Iran’s nuclear program.

The prize committee wanted “to send a signal to North Korea and the U.S. that they need to go into negotiations,” Oeivind Stenersen, a historian of the peace prize, told The Associated Press. “The prize is also coded support to the Iran nuclear deal. I think this was wise because recognizing the Iran deal itself could have been seen as giving support to the Iranian state.”

The Geneva-based ICAN has campaigned actively for the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons adopted by the United Nations in July, but which needs ratification from 50 countries. Only three countries have ratified it so far. It organized events globally in 2015 to mark the 70th anniversaries of the World War II U.S. atomic bombings of the Japanese cities Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Last month in Berlin, ICAN protesters teamed up with other organizations to demonstrate outside the U.S. and North Korean embassies against the possibility of nuclear war between the two countries. Wearing masks of Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, protesters posed next to a dummy nuclear missile and a large banner reading “Time to Go: Ban Nuclear Weapons.”

The group “has been a driving force in prevailing upon the world’s nations to pledge to cooperate … in efforts to stigmatize, prohibit and eliminate nuclear weapons,” Norwegian Nobel Committee chairwoman Berit Reiss-Andersen said in the announcement.

The prize “sends a message to all nuclear-armed states and all states that continue to rely on nuclear weapons for security that it is unacceptable behavior. We will not support it, we will not make excuses for it, we can’t threaten to indiscriminately slaughter hundreds of thousands of civilians in the name of security. That’s not how you build security,” ICAN executive director Beatrice Fihn told reporters in Geneva.

She said that she “worried that it was a prank” after getting a phone call just minutes before the official Peace Prize announcement was made. Fihn said she didn’t believe it until she heard the name of the group proclaimed on television.

ICAN leaders later popped open some bubbly to celebrate the prize, and held up a banner with the name of the organization in their small Geneva headquarters. “We are trying to send very strong signals to all states with nuclear arms, nuclear-armed states — North Korea, U.S., Russia, China, France, U.K., Israel, all of them, India, Pakistan — it is unacceptable to threaten to kill civilians,” she said.

Reiss-Andersen noted that similar prohibitions have been reached on chemical and biological weapons, land mines and cluster munitions. “Nuclear weapons are even more destructive, but have not yet been made the object of a similar international legal prohibition,” she said.

Reiss-Andersen said “through its inspiring and innovative support for the U.N. negotiations on a treaty banning nuclear weapons, ICAN has played a major part in bringing about what in our day and age is equivalent to an international peace congress.”

Asked by journalists whether the prize was essentially symbolic, given that no international measures against nuclear weapons have been reached, Reiss-Andersen said “What will not have an impact is being passive.”

Jamey Keaten in Geneva, George Jahn in Vienna and Jim Heintz in Stockholm contributed to this story.

Defiant N. Korea leader says he will complete nuke program

September 16, 2017

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said his country is nearing its goal of “equilibrium” in military force with the United States, as the United Nations Security Council strongly condemned the North’s “highly provocative” ballistic missile launch over Japan on Friday.

The North’s official Korean Central News Agency carried Kim’s comments on Saturday — a day after U.S. and South Korean militaries detected the missile launch from the North Korean capital of Pyongyang.

It traveled 3,700 kilometers (2,300 miles) as it passed over the Japanese island of Hokkaido before landing in the northern Pacific Ocean. It was the country’s longest-ever test flight of a ballistic missile.

The North has confirmed the missile as an intermediate range Hwasong-12, the same model launched over Japan on Aug. 29. Under Kim’s watch, North Korea has maintained a torrid pace in weapons tests, including its most powerful nuclear test to date on Sept. 3 and two July flight tests of intercontinental ballistic missiles that could strike deep into the U.S. mainland when perfected.

The increasingly frequent and aggressive tests have added to outside fears that the North is closer than ever to building a military arsenal that could viably target the U.S. and its allies in Asia. The tests, which could potentially make launches over Japan an accepted norm, are also seen as North Korea’s attempt to win greater military freedom in the region and raise doubts in Seoul and Tokyo that Washington would risk the annihilation of a U.S. city to protect them.

The KCNA said Kim expressed great satisfaction over the launch, which he said verified the “combat efficiency and reliability” of the missile and the success of efforts to increase its power. While the English version of the report was less straightforward, the Korean version quoted Kim as declaring the missile as operationally ready. He vowed to complete his nuclear weapons program in the face of strengthening international sanctions, the agency said.

Photos published by North Korea’s state media showed the missile being fired from a truck-mounted launcher and a smiling Kim clapping and raising his fist while celebrating from an observation point. It was the first time North Korea showed the missile being launched directly from a vehicle, which experts said indicated confidence about the mobility and reliability of the system. In previous tests, North Korea used trucks to transport and erect the Hwasong-12s, but moved the missiles on separate firing tables before launching them.

The U.N. Security Council accused North Korea of undermining regional peace and security by launching its latest missile over Japan and said its nuclear and missile tests “have caused grave security concerns around the world” and threaten all 193 U.N. member states.

Kim also said the country, despite “limitless” international sanctions, has nearly completed the building of its nuclear weapons force and called for “all-state efforts” to reach the goal and obtain a “capacity for nuclear counterattack the U.S. cannot cope with.”

“As recognized by the whole world, we have made all these achievements despite the U.N. sanctions that have lasted for decades,” the agency quoted Kim as saying. Kim said the country’s final goal “is to establish the equilibrium of real force with the U.S. and make the U.S. rulers dare not talk about military option for the DPRK,” referring to North Korea’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

He indicated that more missile tests would be forthcoming, saying that all future drills should be “meaningful and practical ones for increasing the combat power of the nuclear force” to establish an order in the deployment of nuclear warheads for “actual war.”

Prior to the launches over Japan, North Korea had threatened to fire a salvo of Hwasong-12s toward Guam, the U.S. Pacific island territory and military hub the North has called an “advanced base of invasion.”

The Security Council stressed in a statement after a closed-door emergency meeting that all countries must “fully, comprehensively and immediately” implement all U.N. sanctions. Japan’s U.N. Ambassador Koro Bessho called the missile launch an “outrageous act” that is not only a threat to Japan’s security but a threat to the whole world.

Bessho and the British, French and Swedish ambassadors demanded that all sanctions be implemented. Calling the latest launch a “terrible, egregious, illegal, provocative reckless act,” Britain’s U.N. Ambassador Matthew Rycroft said North Korea’s largest trading partners and closest links — a clear reference to China — must “demonstrate that they are doing everything in their power to implement the sanctions of the Security Council and to encourage the North Korean regime to change course.”

France’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement that the country is ready to work on tougher U.N. and EU measures to convince Pyongyang that there is no interest in an escalation, and to bring it to the negotiating table.

Friday’s launch followed North Korea’s sixth nuclear test on Sept. 3 in what it described as a detonation of a thermonuclear weapon built for its developmental ICBMs. The Hwasong-12 and the Hwasong-14 were initially fired at highly lofted angles to reduce their range and avoid neighboring countries. The two Hwasong-12 launches over Japan indicate North Korea is moving toward using angles close to operational to evaluate whether its warheads can survive the harsh conditions of atmospheric re-entry and detonate properly.

While some experts believe North Korea would need to conduct more tests to confirm Hwasong-12’s accuracy and reliability, Kim Jong Un’s latest comments indicate the country would soon move toward mass producing the missiles for operational deployment, said Kim Dong-yub, an analyst at Seoul’s Institute for Far Eastern Studies. He also said that the North is likely planning similar test launches of its Hwasong-14 ICBM.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in, a liberal who initially pushed for talks with North Korea, said its tests currently make dialogue “impossible.” “If North Korea provokes us or our allies, we have the strength to smash the attempt at an early stage and inflict a level of damage it would be impossible to recover from,” said Moon, who ordered his military to conduct a live-fire ballistic missile drill in response to the North Korean launch.

Lederer reported from the United Nations.

50 nations ink UN nuclear ban treaty opposed by big powers

September 21, 2017

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Fifty countries on Wednesday signed a treaty to ban nuclear weapons, a pact that the world’s nuclear powers spurned but supporters hailed as a historic agreement nonetheless. “You are the states that are showing moral leadership in a world that desperately needs such moral leadership today,” Beatrice Fihn, executive director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, said as a signing ceremony began.

Before the day was out, 50 states as different as Indonesia and Ireland had put their names to the treaty; others can sign later if they like. Guyana, Thailand and the Vatican also have already ratified the treaty, which needs 50 ratifications to take effect among the nations that back it.

They would be barred from developing, testing, producing, manufacturing, otherwise acquiring, possessing or stockpiling nuclear weapons “under any circumstances.” Seven decades after the United States dropped two atomic bombs on Japan during World War II — the only use of nuclear weapons — there are believed to be about 15,000 of them in the world today. Amid rising tensions over North Korea’s nuclear and missile tests, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Tuesday that the threat of a nuclear attack is at its highest level since the end of the Cold War.

“This treaty is an important step towards the universally held goal of a world free of nuclear weapons,” he said Wednesday. Supporters of the pact say it’s time to push harder toward eliminating atomic weapons than nations have done through the nearly 50-year-old Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Under its terms, non-nuclear nations agreed not to pursue nukes in exchange for a commitment by the five original nuclear powers — the U.S., Russia, Britain, France and China — to move toward nuclear disarmament and to guarantee other states’ access to peaceful nuclear technology for producing energy.

More than 120 countries approved the new nuclear weapons ban treaty in July over opposition from nuclear-armed countries and their allies, who boycotted negotiations. The U.S., Britain and France said the prohibition wouldn’t work and would end up disarming their nations while emboldening “bad actors,” in U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley’s words.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian has called the treaty “wishful thinking” that is “close to irresponsible.” The nuclear powers have suggested instead strengthening the nonproliferation treaty, which they say has made a significant dent in atomic arsenals.

Brazil was the first country to sign onto the ban Wednesday, followed by nations from Algeria to Venezuela. “Those who still hold nuclear arsenals, we call upon them to join this date with history,” Costa Rican President Luis Guillermo Solis said as he prepared to sign.

UN chief to open signing for 1st nuclear ban treaty

September 20, 2017

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres will open the signing ceremony for the first treaty to ban nuclear weapons and the Security Council hold a high-level meeting on its far-flung peacekeeping operations as world leaders tackle a wide range of crises and challenges on the second day of their annual gathering.

More than 120 countries approved the treaty in early July over strong opposition from nuclear-armed countries and their allies, who boycotted negotiations. The U.N. treaty office said 51 countries are expected to sign during Wednesday’s opening day.

Guterres is also expected to brief the Security Council meeting on reforming U.N. peacekeeping — a key item on the Trump administration’s agenda, which will be represented by Vice President Mike Pence.

Ethiopia’s U.N. Mission, which holds the council presidency, said nine presidents, three vice presidents, six prime ministers, three deputy prime ministers and more than 30 foreign ministers are scheduled to attend the day-long session where 71 countries have signed up to speak.

In the General Assembly, leaders from several dozen countries will address the 193-member world body including the presidents of Iran and Ukraine, the prime ministers of Japan and the United Kingdom, and the Palestinian leader.

North Korea’s race to develop nuclear weapons that could hit the United States dominated Tuesday’s opening ministerial session of the assembly. President Donald Trump threatened to “totally destroy” the Asian nation if the U.S. is forced to defend itself or its allies against aggression. Guterres warned that the threat of a nuclear attack is at its highest level since the end of the Cold War and “fiery talk can lead to fatal misunderstandings.”

The treaty bans all countries that eventually ratify it “never under any circumstances to develop, test, produce, manufacture, otherwise acquire, possess or stockpile nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices.”

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told reporters Monday that France refused to take part in negotiations on the treaty because it can only weaken the nuclear nonproliferation treaty, considered the cornerstone of preventing the spread of nuclear weapons. He called the nuclear ban treaty “wishful thinking” that is “close to irresponsible.”

But Beatrice Fihn, executive director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, said countries signing the treaty will be taking a stand against nuclear weapons, “the only weapons of mass destruction not yet prohibited despite their immense destructive power and threat to humanity.” She said that with Trump threatening to use nuclear weapons, the need for the treaty is even greater.

In the Security Council, members are expected to vote on a resolution that would recognize “the primacy of politics” including mediation, monitoring cease-fires and assisting the implementation of peace accords in the U.N.’s approach to resolving conflicts. The draft resolution also underscores the need to enhance the overall effectiveness of peacekeeping operations and “the critical importance of improving accountability, transparency, efficiency and effectiveness.”

Iranian president threatens to restart nuclear program

August 15, 2017

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran’s president issued a direct threat to the West on Tuesday, claiming his country is capable of restarting its nuclear program within hours — and quickly bringing it to even more advanced levels than in 2015, when Iran signed the nuclear deal with world powers.

Hassan Rouhani’s remarks to lawmakers follow the Iranian parliament’s move earlier this week to increase spending on the country’s ballistic missile program and the foreign operations of its paramilitary Revolutionary Guard.

The bill — and Rouhani’s comments — are seen as a direct response to the new U.S. legislation earlier this month that imposed mandatory penalties on people involved in Iran’s ballistic missile program and anyone who does business with them. The U.S. legislation also applies terrorism sanctions to the Revolutionary Guard and enforces an existing arms embargo.

If Washington continues with “threats and sanctions” against Iran, Rouhani said in parliament on Tuesday, Tehran could easily restart the nuclear program. “In an hour and a day, Iran could return to a more advanced (nuclear) level than at the beginning of the negotiations” that preceded the 2015 deal, Rouhani said.

He did not elaborate. The landmark agreement between Iran and world powers two years ago capped Iran’s uranium enrichment levels in return for the lifting of international sanctions. It was not immediately clear what Rouhani was referring to — and whether he meant Iran could restart centrifuges enriching uranium to higher and more dangerous levels.

He also offered no evidence Iran’s capability to rapidly restart higher enrichment, though Iran still has its stock of centrifuges. Those devices now churn out uranium to low levels that can range from use as reactor fuel and for medical and research purposes, but could produce the much higher levels needed for a nuclear weapon.

Iran long has insisted its atomic program is for peaceful purposes despite Western fears of it being used to make weapons. However in December, Rouhani ordered up plans on building nuclear-powered ships, something that appears to be allowed under the nuclear deal.

Rouhani’s remarks were likely an attempt to appease hard-liners at home who have demanded a tougher stand against the United States. But they are also expected to ratchet up tensions further with the Trump administration.

Iran has said the new U.S. sanctions amount to a “hostile” breach of the 2015 nuclear deal. “The U.S. has shown that it is neither a good partner nor a trustable negotiator,” Rouhani added. “Those who are trying to go back to the language of threats and sanctions are prisoners of their past hallucinations. They deprive themselves of the advantages of peace.”

But Rouhani also tempered his own threat, adding that Iran seeks to remain loyal to its commitments under the nuclear deal, which opened a “path of cooperation and confidence-building” with the world.

“The deal was a model of the victory of peace and diplomacy over war and unilateralism,” said Rouhani. “It was Iran’s preference, but it was not and will not remain Iran’s only option.”

Swiss vote to withdraw country from use of nuclear power

May 21, 2017

BERLIN (AP) — Swiss voters are supporting a referendum to withdraw the country from nuclear power in favor of renewable energy. A projection from Sunday’s referendum shows a majority of cantons (states) voted for the plan. Under Switzerland’s direct democracy system, initiatives need a majority of both cantons and votes to pass.

The projection for SRF public television showed 58 percent of voters in favor and 42 percent against the proposal. The Swiss government wants to ban the construction of new nuclear power plants and decommission the country’s five existing ones at the end of their technically safe operating lives.

The plan would also boost renewable energies such as water and wind and make cars and electronic devices more energy efficient. Opponents warned the initiative would significantly increase electricity bills.

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