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North Korea launches ICBM – South Korea FIRES missile back

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North Korea’s Ultimatum to America

 writes: The nuclear confrontation between the US and North Korea entered a critical phase Sunday with North Korea’s conduct of an underground test of a thermonuclear bomb.

If the previous round of this confrontation earlier this summer revolved around Pyongyang’s threat to attack the US territory of Guam, Sunday’s test, together with North Korea’s recent tests of intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of reaching the continental US, was a direct threat to US cities.

In other words, the current confrontation isn’t about US superpower status in Asia, and the credibility of US deterrence or the capabilities of US military forces in the Pacific. The confrontation is now about the US’s ability to protect the lives of its citizens.

The distinction tells us a number of important things. All of them are alarming.

First, because this is about the lives of Americans, rather than allied populations like Japan and South Korea, the US cannot be diffident in its response to North Korea’s provocation. While attenuated during the Obama administration, the US’s position has always been that US military forces alone are responsible for guaranteeing the collective security of the American people.

Pyongyang is now directly threatening that security with hydrogen bombs. So if the Trump administration punts North Korea’s direct threat to attack US population centers with nuclear weapons to the UN Security Council, it will communicate profound weakness to its allies and adversaries alike.

Obviously, this limits the options that the Trump administration has. But it also clarifies the challenge it faces.

The second implication of North Korea’s test of their plutonium-based bomb is that the US’s security guarantees, which form the basis of its global power and its alliance system are on the verge of becoming completely discredited. Read the rest of this entry »


OH HELL YEAH: U.S. Urges All Nationals In North Korea To ‘Depart Immediately’, Bans Tourists From Visiting

YA THINK? The U.S. is to ban its citizens from travelling to North Korea.

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement that the ban would be published next week in the Federal Register, to come into effect 30 days later.

US officials linked the move to the death of jailed American student Otto Warmbier.

Once the ban is in effect, US citizens will need special validation to travel to or within North Korea.

Mr Warmbier travelled to North Korea with Young Pioneer Tours. He was arrested in 2016 for trying to steal a propaganda sign and sentenced to 15 years in prison. He was returned to the US in a coma in June and died a week later.

How did the news come to light?

Koryo Tours and Young Pioneer Tours, who both operate in North Korea, revealed on Friday that they had been told of the upcoming ban by the Swedish embassy, which acts for the US as Washington has no diplomatic relations with Pyongyang.

Rowan Beard, of Young Pioneer Tours, told the BBC the embassy was urging all US nationals to depart immediately.

He said the embassy was trying to check on the number of US tourists left in the country.

What form will the ban take?

Ms Nauert’s statement said: “Due to mounting concerns over the serious risk of arrest and long-term detention under North Korea’s system of law enforcement, the Secretary has authorised a Geographical Travel Restriction on all US nationals’ use of a passport to travelling through, or to North Korea.

“Once in effect, US passports will be invalid for travel to, through, and in North Korea, and individuals will be required to obtain a passport with a special validation in order to travel to or within North Korea.

“We intend to publish a notice in the Federal Register next week.

“The restriction will be implemented 30 days after publication.”

Rowan Beard said that the 30-day grace period would “give leeway for any [Americans] currently in the country as tourists or on humanitarian work”.

How have the travel agencies reacted?

Simon Cockerell of Koryo Tours told the BBC the agency would still conduct tours and take Americans until the ban came into effect.

“If their country allows them to go, we will take them,” he said.

Mr Cockerell added: “It’s unfortunate for the industry but also for North Koreans who want to know what Americans are really like.”

After the death of Mr Warmbier, the China-based Young Pioneer Tours announced it would no longer take visitors from the US to the country. Read the rest of this entry »


North Korea’s Closest Major US City, Seattle, Wants to Plan for Possible Nuclear Attack 

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SEATTLE – Dan Springer’s latest test launch over the weekend has raised concerns among U.S. officials. The Pentagon says the ballistic missile flew 1,000 miles higher than NASA’s International Space Station. It was then able to re-enter earth’s atmosphere and splash down just 60 miles from Russia. One official told Fox News it was a “big step forward” in North Korea’s nuclear missile program.

Emergency planners in Hawaii, the closest state to North Korea, have taken notice and are evaluating existing nuclear attack response plans. Meanwhile, another possible target on the West Coast is barred from taking any steps to plan for a nuclear attack.

Washington State allows evacuation plans for every disaster scenario except a nuclear bomb. Former state Rep. Dick Nelson remembers the prevailing thinking in the legislature at the time concerning response plans in the event of nuclear war.

“You are really sending a message that you’re getting ready to do something maybe yourself,” Nelson said.

The law passed in 1984, seven years before the end of the Cold War. It was the opposite approach taken by President Ronald Reagan, whose peace through strength doctrine helped lead to the collapse of the Soviet Union.

A current Washington state senator says the current law is irresponsible and naïve.

“I think it’s ridiculous and silly,” says state Sen. Mark Miloscia, “And sort of the head-in-the-sand mentality. If it has a probability of happening, prepare for it.”

Seattle could be in the crosshairs if North Korea’s leader, Kim Jung Un, ever did the unthinkable. Naval Base Kitsap reportedly has roughly 1,300 nuclear warheads — almost one-quarter of the U.S. arsenal — making it the largest stockpile of nukes in the world. The Puget Sound is also home to Joint Base Lewis McChord, home to the important Stryker Brigade. With the headquarters of Boeing, Microsoft and Amazon, the region is a high-tech hub. Read the rest of this entry »


[VIDEO] Pence Went To The DMZ Just To Stare Down North Korean Soldiers 

Vice President Mike Pence broke from his schedule Monday morning and took an unannounced trip to the Korean Demilitarized Zone.

Though other top ranking U.S. officials have visited the DMZ in the past, Pence actually ventured outside and stared down North Korean troops.

Mike Pence (CNN)

Mike Pence (CNN)

“Yeah, you better keep walking.”

In addition to his visit to the DMZ, Pence sent North Korea a warning statement Monday morning … (read more)

Source: The Daily Caller


NBC’s Report Of Preemptive Strikes On North Korea Contested, Declared ‘Wildly Wrong’

Ryan Pickrell reports: Senior defense officials and administration officials are refuting NBC’s story that the U.S. will launch a preemptive strike on North Korea if it anticipates a sixth nuclear test.

“The U.S. is prepared to launch a preemptive strike with conventional weapons against North Korea should officials become convinced that North Korea is about to follow through with a nuclear weapons test,” NBC reported Thursday evening. The news outlet, citing multiple intelligence sources, claimed that the U.S. would use destroyers stationed nearby to launch the attack.

Citing multiple high-level sources, several journalists are saying that the report is “wildly wrong,” “crazy,” and “extremely dangerous.” VOA claims that the a “preemptive strike is NOT planned.” … (read more)

Source: The Daily Caller


In Era of Journalism Cutbacks, a Chinese ‘Robot Reporter’ 

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More Chinese newsrooms are starting to use so-called “robot reporters,” but developers say their capabilities remain limited.

Te-Ping Chen reports: China has found itself in the midst of a full-blown robot obsession in recent years, with everything from robot monks to robot waiters grabbing headlines.

Now, the robots are writing the actual headlines, too — in certain newsrooms, anyway.

Last week, the Southern Metropolis Daily published its first-ever report written by what the newspaper describes as a “robot reporter.” The story, clocking in at just over 300 words, summarizes what train tickets are most in demand bn-rt602_robot_cv_20170124041448over the Lunar New Year holiday, during which millions of Chinese workers travel home to see their families. It discusses which routes are selling out fast and advises travelers to buy tickets soon, cautioning that for certain routes, all seats are sold out.

“You’ll have to stand the whole way, the route will be more exhausting,” it advises. The Southern Metropolis Daily story is bylined “Xiao Nan Robot,” or ‘Little South’ robot and accompanied with a picture of a white, rotund robot riding atop a thick black pen.

So far, though, the scope of robot reporters is limited, says Wan Xiaojun, a computer-science professor at Peking University who worked to develop the newspaper’s program.

Mr. Wan explains that Xiao Nan is currently programmed only to analyze train-ticket sales, which accounts for the somewhat monotonous nature of its reporting. “There Are Still High-Speed Rail Tickets From Guangzhou to Numerous Destinations for Lunar New Year’s Eve,” ran one robot-produced headline today. “Hard-Seat Tickets on the 26th From Guangzhou to Zhengzhou Are Still Available,” ran another yesterday.

[Read the full story here, at China Real Time Report – WSJ]

Sports are another fertile area for robot coverage: another robot-reporter program Mr. Wan worked on was used by news publisher Toutiao during the Rio Olympics last year, producing more than 400 news briefs, he said. Those briefs were built off published game statistics or summarized the transcribed narration of sports broadcasters, seeking out keywords such as “goal,” “red card” and more. Read the rest of this entry »


[VIDEO] What North Korean Defectors Think Of North Korea

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[VIDEO] Dr. K: North Korea Would Be the First ‘Insane Regime’ with Long-Range Nukes

“If this occurs, if the North Koreans test an intercontinental ballistic missile, that means they could wipe out Los Angeles tomorrow, if they can mount a warhead on it. That would be the single most important and threatening action that one can imagine for 2017. When Trump says “It’s not going to happen,” I don’t know what he quite means. But if he means a preemptive attack by the United States or something of that sort, we are looking at a crisis of the ultimate proportions.”

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“…he’s aware of the fact that we are looking at what could be a strategic hinge point in history. That would be really serious. This is an insane regime with the ability to push a button and wipe out a U.S. city. That has never happened. We have had the Chinese, the Russians, but they are not insane. That’s quite different. I think he is recognizing we have an issue. I think he ought to be asked in the next press conference, ‘What exactly do you mean by ‘It ain’t gonna happen’?”

(read more)

Source: National Review


China Criticizes Abe’s Pearl Harbor Visit 

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BEIJING/SEOUL (Jiji Press) — China on Wednesday criticized Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s visit to Pearl Harbor in Hawaii for his lack of deep reflection on the country’s past.

Noting that Japan waged a war of aggression against China and other Asian countries, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a press conference, “Reconciliation between the inflicters and victims must and can only be based upon sincere reflection and apology from the inflicters.” This is the only way to realize “a genuine and lasting reconciliation,” she said. For victimized countries in Asia, “one sincere apology” is more important than “dozens of smart shows,” Hua said.

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The People’s Daily newspaper of the Communist Party of China said in its Wednesday edition that the Pearl Harbor visit is criticized both in Japan and the United States because Abe made the trip before apologizing to war victims in Asian countries that Japan invaded during the war.

Meanwhile, a South Korean Foreign Ministry official, touching on Abe’s pledge never to wage war again in the speech, said that Japan, based on a correct understanding of history, should strive further to promote reconciliation and cooperation with neighbors that fell victim to its wartime militarism. Read the rest of this entry »


Michael Auslin: South Korea’s Political Crisis Could Become Regional

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This is a time of extreme uncertainty on the Korean peninsula, and the next months could see dangerous instability.

Michael Auslin writes: After weeks of massive public protests in downtown Seoul of up to one million people, South Korea’s parliament decisively impeached President Park Geun-hye last Friday. The vote now propels South Korea into the next phase of its political crisis, which will culminate when the nation’s Constitutional Court ratifies or rejects the impeachment vote, within six months. Initially indicating during the run-up to the vote that she would resign if impeached, Park apparently has chosen to fight the parliament’s vote.

South Korean Prime Minister and the acting President Hwang Kyo-ahn bows after releasing a statement to the nation at the Goverment Complex in Seoul, South Korea, December 9, 2016.

South Korean Prime Minister and the acting President Hwang Kyo-ahn bows after releasing a statement to the nation at the Goverment Complex in Seoul, South Korea, December 9, 2016. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji.

According to South Korean law, Park is now removed from power, pending the court decision. The Prime 514fnemhevl-_sl250_Minister, Hwang Kyo-ahn, now becomes acting president. Yet Hwang is seen as a loyal Park subordinate, and is himself unpopular with the protesters and Korea’s opposition parties.

[Order Michael Auslin’s book “The End of the Asian Century: War, Stagnation, and the Risks to the World’s Most Dynamic Region” from Amazon.com]

This is a time of extreme uncertainty on the Korean peninsula, and the next months could see dangerous instability. Most importantly, North Korea may try to take advantage of the crisis, possibly by testing the caretaker president. An attack on South Korean territory or military facilities, as happened back in 2010, could result in a full armed conflict, if the caretaker government wants to show its power. Alternately, a lack of response would further embolden the North.

[Read the full story here, at RealClearDefense]

A missile test could also spark a South Korean response, especially if one goes wrong. While they may see the end of their term looming, those in the Obama administration should be prepared for a crisis in their last six weeks in power; just as importantly, the incoming Trump team needs a policy immediately, for they may face an alliance challenge soon after taking power. Read the rest of this entry »


[VIDEO] South Korea Parliament Impeaches President Park Geun-Hye

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Seoul (AFP) – South Korean lawmakers on Friday passed an impeachment motion against President Park  stripping away her sweeping executive powers over a corruption scandal that paralysed her administration and triggered massive street protests.

The National Assembly motion — passed by 234 votes to 56 — transfers Park’s authority to the prime minister, pending a decision by the Constitutional Court on whether to ratify the decision and permanently remove the president from office.

Update: South Korean President Park Geun-hye’s impeachment Friday means she has been stripped of power — but not the perks.

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Even as her prime minister governs in her stead, Park gets to keep living at the presidential Blue House, using her official car and plane, collecting the same monthly salary (about $15,000 reportedly) and receiving round-the-clock security.

She also holds onto the title “President.”

But with nothing officially to do, it’s uncertain how she’ll spend her days during the up-to-six months the country’s Constitutional Court has to decide whether to accept the impeachment and formally end her presidency. Read the rest of this entry »


South Korea: President Park Geun-hye to ‘Calmly Accept Impeachment Outcome’ 

in the Nov. 4, 2016 photo, people watch TV screens showing the live broadcast of South Korean President Park Geun-hye's addressing to the nation at the Yongsan Electronic store in Seoul, South Korea. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

SEOUL (AP) — South Korean President Park Geun-hye will calmly accept impeachment if the opposition-controlled parliament votes for her removal this week, but prefers to resign on her own terms, lawmakers from her party said Tuesday.

Chung Jin Suk, floor leader of the conservative ruling party, said after an hour-long meeting with Park that she was willing to accept a now-withdrawn proposal by the party for her to voluntarily step down in April to set up a presidential election in June.

The party’s chairman, Lee Jung Hyun, who also attended the meeting, said it seemed that Park was hoping lawmakers would accept her resignation rather than push ahead with an attempt to impeach her.

Park has been accused by state prosecutors of helping a close confidante extort money and favors from large companies and manipulate state affairs.

Read the rest of this entry »


Japan and South Korean Governments Expand Unilateral Sanctions Against North Korea

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The government decided Friday to strengthen unilateral sanctions against North Korea using measures such as expanding the range of entities and individuals subject to asset freezes.

The decision follows North Korea’s repeated nuclear tests and ballistic missile launches.

The new measures, which are in line with the unilateral sanctions introduced in February, include expanding a reentry ban to include people who have traveled to North Korea.

The government intends to urge Pyongyang to change its position by stringently blocking the departure and entry of people linked to North Korea’s nuclear and missile developments and flow of funds, according to sources.

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“I intend to take further unilateral measures in cooperation with the United States and South Korea,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said during a meeting of Cabinet ministers concerned with the issue of Japanese citizens who were abducted by North Korea, held at the Prime Minister’s Office the same day.

[Read the full text here, at The Japan News]

Under the new measures, the range of asset freezes will be expanded to 54 entities and 58 individuals, the sources said.

The list includes a trading company in Liaoning Province, China, that was sanctioned by the United States in September for its alleged involvement in the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction by North Korea. Read the rest of this entry »


South Korean President Park Geun-hye Struggles to Avoid Impeachment

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SEOUL (AP) — South Korean President Park Geun-hye said Tuesday that she will resign — if parliament arranges the technical details — in her latest attempt to fend off impeachment efforts and massive street protests amid prosecution claims that a corrupt confidante wielded government power from the shadows.

“If the ruling and opposition parties discuss and come up with a plan to reduce the confusion in state affairs and ensure a safe transfer of governments, I will step down from the presidential position under that schedule and by processes stated in law.”

— South Korean President Park Geun-hye

Opponents immediately called Park’s conditional resignation offer a stalling tactic, and analysts said her steadfast denial that she has done anything wrong could embolden her enemies. The country’s largest opposition party, the Minjoo Party, said it would not let Park’s “ploy to avoid impeachment” interfere with a planned vote on impeachment on Friday.

“There is no possibility that the opposition parties will accept her offer; not when the public is this angry. She apparently wanted to buy more time, but in the end she might have hastened the end of her presidency.”

— Yul Shin, a politics professor at Seoul’s Myongji University

Park, who did not take questions from reporters after her live address to the nation, said she will “leave the matters about my fate, including the shortening of my presidential term, to be decided by the National Assembly,” referring to parliament.

[ALSO SEE – South Korean president’s office explains Viagra purchase]

“If the ruling and opposition parties discuss and come up with a plan to reduce the confusion in state affairs and ensure a safe transfer of governments, I will step down from the presidential position under that schedule and by processes stated in law,” she said.

How exactly this might play out is still unclear. But some saw Park’s speech as a clear effort to avoid leaving office, despite the resignation language. Read the rest of this entry »


A Presidential Scandal Transfixes South Korea 

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Park Geun-hye faces calls for impeachment after a friend was indicted and the president was accused of giving her access to government documents.

Now, one friendship Ms. Park does have has imperiled her presidency.

The friend, the daughter of a cult leader who once claimed to speak with Ms. Park’s murdered mother, sought to enrich herself through ties to the presidential office, South Korean prosecutors have alleged in an extortion indictment. The friend also received access to classified presidential policy documents, they say.

The snowballing political drama is paralyzing the government of South Korea, a close U.S. ally, at a time when the Obama administration considers North Korea and its increasingly aggressive nuclear strategy to be the top national security priority for the next administration.

Prosecution documents reviewed by The Wall Street Journal say that foundations set up by the president’s friend, a 60-year-old woman named Choi Soon-sil, allegedly used her presidential ties to wrest millions of dollars in donations from Korean conglomerates. Prosecutors have raided most of South Korea’s biggest business groupsseeking evidence. Some of the money, prosecutors believe, went to pay for Ms. Choi’s affluent lifestyle and her daughter’s equestrian aspirations.

Ms. Park, second from left, in 1975 with Choi Tae-min, right, a religious leader and mystic who claimed to commune with Ms. Park’s assassinated mother.

Ms. Park, second from left, in 1975 with Choi Tae-min, right, a religious leader and mystic who claimed to commune with Ms. Park’s assassinated mother. Photo: Yonhap

A political scandal linking South Korea’s President Park Geun-hye to a charismatic cult leader and his daughter has prompted hundreds of thousands to demonstrate in the streets. The Wall Street Journal looks at how she got there. Photo: AP

Both Ms. Park and Ms. Choi deny the accusations. The president, in a tearful televised statement this month, disputed colorful reports in the Korean press that include shamanistic rituals supposedly held in the presidential office. Such claims are a “house of fantasy,” Ms. Park’s lawyer said.

[Read the full story here, at WSJ]

The denials haven’t stemmed a clamor for her resignation. Five mass rallies in five weeks have demanded the president’s ouster, with organizers estimating over a million protesters gathered in Seoul on Saturday. In surveys, Ms. Park’s approval rating has sunk to 4%. One poll showed that 80% of South Koreans favor impeaching her.

Choi Soon-sil, left, who is at the heart of a political scandal engulfing Ms. Park, was arrested in Seoul this month.

Choi Soon-sil, left, who is at the heart of a political scandal engulfing Ms. Park, was arrested in Seoul this month. Photo: AFP/Getty Images

Opposition parties say they will push for an impeachment vote by early December if Ms. Park doesn’t step down. She has given no indication she will, though she has offered to share power with a new prime minister suggested by the opposition.

Even if she survives the tumult, Ms. Park’s diminished political authority presents risks for the U.S. and an early foreign-policy challenge for President-elect Donald Trump. The U.S. relies on close ties with Seoul to manage dangers presented by a bellicose North Korea. The U.S. has around 28,500 troops based in South Korea.

South Korean protesters calling for the resignation of Ms. Park held candles during a rally in Seoul on Nov. 19.

South Korean protesters calling for the resignation of Ms. Park held candles during a rally in Seoul on Nov. 19. Photo: AP

Ms. Park wants to deploy a sophisticated U.S. missile system next year to defend against North Korea’s advancing nuclear-weapons program. Opposition leaders, by contrast, put priority on closer ties with China, which strongly disapproves of the missile-shield idea, at a time when other Asian countries such as the Philippines and Malaysia are tilting toward Beijing. Ms. Park’s domestic opponents also seek to break with Washington by rolling back the sanctions pressure on Pyongyang. Read the rest of this entry »


Meanwhile, in South Korea: Hundreds of Thousands Rally to Demand Park’s Ouster 

Protesters march toward presidential house after a rally calling for South Korean President Park Geun-hye to step down in Seoul, South Korea, Saturday, Nov. 12, 2016. Hundreds of thousands of people flooded Seoul's streets on Saturday demanding the resignation of Park amid an explosive political scandal, in what may be South Korea's largest protest since it shook off dictatorship three decades ago. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

Hundreds of thousands of people flooded Seoul’s streets on Saturday demanding the resignation of Park amid an explosive political scandal, in what may be South Korea’s largest protest in three decades. 

SEOUL (AP) — Hundreds of thousands of people flooded Seoul’s streets on Saturday demanding the resignation of President Park Geun-hye amid an explosive political scandal, in what may be South Korea’s largest protest since it shook off dictatorship three decades ago.

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“Park’s presidency has been shaken by suspicion that she let a shadowy longtime confidante manipulate power from behind the scenes. Protest organizers estimated the crowd at 1 million.”

Police said about 260,000 people turned out for the latest mass rally against Park, whose presidency has been shaken by suspicion that she let a shadowy longtime confidante manipulate power from behind the scenes. Protest organizers estimated the crowd at 1 million.

“People said it was a bad idea to bring my kids here, but I want them to remember today…and learn that democracies are built on participation.”

Waving banners and signs, a sea of demonstrators jammed streets stretching about a kilometer from City Hall to a large square in front of an old palace gate for several hours, roaring and applauding to speeches calling for Park’s ouster.

“In addition to allegedly manipulating power, the president’s confidante, Choi Soon Sil, is also suspected of exploiting her presidential ties to bully companies into donating tens of millions of dollars to foundations she controlled.”

Protesters also marched on a road in front of the palace gate and near the Blue House, the mountainside presidential office and residence, carrying candles, blowing horns and banging drums, while shouting “Park Geun-hye, resign!”

[Read the full story here, at The Japan News]

Bae Dong San, a 45-year-old man, said Park’s government has “worsened the living conditions of workers, completely messed up state governance and monopolized state affairs with her secret inner circle.”

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“It feels much better to shout together with many other people.”

— Bae Dong San, a 45-year-old protester

“It feels much better to shout together with many other people,” he said.

Despite rising public anger, opposition parties have yet to seriously push for Park’s resignation or impeachment over fears of triggering a backlash from conservative voters and negatively impacting next year’s presidential election. However, they have threatened to campaign for Park’s resignation if she doesn’t distance herself from state affairs.

“I have never been interested in politics and I don’t even have a TV at home…but unbelievable things have been happening and I came out today because I didn’t want to feel defeated as a South Korean citizen.”

— Cho Jong-gyu, who took a five-hour bus ride to participate in the rally

The protest on Saturday was the largest in the capital since June 10, 2008, when police said 80,000 people took part in a candlelight vigil denouncing the government’s decision to resume U.S. beef imports amid mad cow fears. Organizers estimated that crowd at 700,000. In the summer of 1987, millions rallied in Seoul and other cities for weeks before the then-military government caved in to demands for free presidential elections.

Train and express bus tickets to Seoul were difficult to get from some areas Friday evening and Saturday morning, with the protest reportedly drawing tens of thousands of people from other cities.

“I have never been interested in politics and I don’t even have a TV at home … but unbelievable things have been happening and I came out today because I didn’t want to feel defeated as a South Korean citizen,” said Cho Jong-gyu, who took a five-hour bus ride from the small southern island of Geoje to participate in the rally, where he quietly held a cardboard sign calling for Park to resign. Read the rest of this entry »


Protests in South Korea: Prosecutors to Question President Park

Seoul prosecutors are set to question South Korean President Park Geun-hye early this week for her role in the political corruption scandal involving an informal adviser.

It follows a second weekend of mass protests that saw hundreds of thousands of demonstrators cram city streets demanding her resignation.

Park has admitted sharing classified documents with close friend and informal adviser Choi Soon-sil. Read the rest of this entry »


Naval Drill: US and Korean Navies Simulate Strikes Against North Korean Nuke Facilities 

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U.S. and South Korean naval forces are holding a large-scale military exercise this week.

Franz-Stefan Gady reports: In a show of resolve to underline the United States’ defense commitment to the Republic of Korea (ROK) amidst North Korean saber rattling, the United States Navy (USN) and Republic of Korea Navy (ROKN) are conducting a series of naval exercises off the Korean peninsula from October 10 to 15, according to a USN press release.

“This exercise is yet another example of the strength and resolve of the combined U.S. and the ROK naval force. The U.S. and the Republic of Korea share one of the strongest alliances in the world, and we grow stronger as an alliance because of our routine exercises here in South Korea and the close relationship and ties that we forge from operating at sea together.”

— Rear Admiral Charles Williams

The six-day joint exercise, dubbed Invincible Spirit, “will consist of a routine bilateral training, subject matter expert exchanges, anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare drills, communication drills, air defense exercises, counter-mine planning and distinguished visitor embarkations,” the USN notes.

[Read the full story here, at The Diplomat]

According to South Korean media reports, the exercise also involved long-range strike exercises against North Korea’s nuclear facilities, testing the concept of “Korea Massive Punishment & Retaliation” (KMPR) and improving the strike capabilities of USN and ROKN ship-to-ground missiles. Read the rest of this entry »


China Paper says U.S., South Korea will ‘Pay the Price’ for Planned Missile System

BEIJING (Reuters) – The United States and South Korea are destined to “pay the price” for their decision to deploy an advanced missile defense system which will inevitably prompt a “counter attack”, China’s top newspaper said on Saturday.

“If the United States and South Korea harm the strategic security interests of countries in the region including China, then they are destined to pay the price for this and receive a proper counter attack.”

Tension on the Korean peninsula has been high this year, beginning with North Korea’s fourth nuclear test in January, which was followed by a satellite launch, a string of tests of various missiles, and its fifth and largest nuclear test last month.

In July, South Korea agreed with the United States to deploy the U.S. Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-missile system to protect against any North Korean threats.

South Korea aims to deploy the system on a golf course, a defense ministry official said on Friday.

But the plan has angered China, which worries that THAAD’s powerful radar would compromise its security and do nothing to lower temperatures on the Korean peninsula.

Military parade in Pyongyang

In a commentary, the ruling Communist Party’s official People’s Daily said China’s opposition to THAAD would never change as it was a serious threat to the regional strategic security balance.

“Like any other country, China can neither be vague nor indifferent on security matters that affect its core interests,” the newspaper said in the commentary, published under the pen name “Zhong Sheng”, meaning “Voice of China”, often used to give views on foreign policy. Read the rest of this entry »


Defense Minister Han Min-koo: South Korea Has Plan to Assassinate Kim Jong Un

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A top South Korean defense official admitted this week that Seoul has a plan in place to assassinate North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un.

The Asia Times reported that Defense Minister Han Min-koo made the remarks Wednesday during a parliamentary meeting in the country’s capital. He was asked about rumors circulating about such a plan.

“If it becomes clear the enemy is moving to attack the South with nuclear missiles, in order to suppress its aims, the concept is to destroy key figures and areas that include the North Korean leadership.”

— Defense Minister Han Min-koo

“If it becomes clear the enemy is moving to attack the South with nuclear missiles, in order to suppress its aims, the concept is to destroy key figures and areas that include the North Korean leadership,” Han said. He said Seoul is “considering launching a Special Forces unit to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.”

Meantime, North Korean Minister of Foreign Affairs Ri Yong Ho railed against the United States in his United Nations General Assembly address, warning the U.S. of “tremendous consequences” for its aggression and justifying Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons program and nuclear tests to defend North Korea from American hostility. Read the rest of this entry »


[VIDEO] North Korea TV Show Mocks Obama

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“Are you all right Mr. President?” the North Korean playing a White House aide said to the other actor whose head is wrapped with a bloody bandage, NK News reported.

“I smacked my head on the bathroom floor and broke four tiles on it,” the president answered, “as I was so shocked from the North’s hydrogen bomb detonation!”

“So Mr. President, you were testing the hardness of your skull while the North was testing its hydrogen bomb? ” the aide joked, according to NK News.

“I smacked my head on the bathroom floor and broke four tiles on it, as I was so shocked from the North’s hydrogen bomb detonation!”

The 80-minute comedy show’s title roughly translates as “The stage of optimism that Songun (military-first policy) presented — Volume 11.” The skit was televised Sept. 1, according to a South Korean government database. Read the rest of this entry »


[VIDEO] U.S. Flies Bombers Near North Korean Border

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The U.S. Air Force on Tuesday conducted a low-altitude flight over South Korea in a show of force against North Korea, which last week conducted its fifth and most powerful nuclear test to date.

 


Tighter Monetary Policy Signal Spooks Markets, Global Stock Selloff Continues

Loose Money Party Peaks, Hangover Anticipation Looms.

Rica Gold reports: Global stocks started the week sharply lower amid concerns about tighter monetary policy, resuming declines that have halted two months of calm summer trading.
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“Central banks get most of the credit for the calm and upward-moving market over the summer, but I don’t think we can depend on that going forward.”

— Jeff Layman, chief investment officer at BKD Wealth Advisors

Markets in Europe and Asia retreated Monday amid signs the world’s central banks will be less accommodative than previously expected.APPROVED-non-stop-panic

“Bourses in Asia closed with steep declines, with shares in Hong Kong off around 3.3%, Shanghai down 1.9%, Japan down 1.7% and Australia down 2.2%.”

“Central banks get most of the credit for the calm and upward-moving market over the summer, but I don’t think we can depend on that going forward,” said Jeff Layman, chief investment officer at BKD Wealth Advisors.

The Stoxx Europe 600 shed 1.9% early in the session, while futures pointed to a 0.6% opening loss for the S&P 500 after its biggest daily drop since the U.K.’s EU referendum.

Bourses in Asia closed with steep declines, with shares in Hong Kong off around 3.3%, Shanghai down 1.9%, Japan down 1.7% and Australia down 2.2%.

The Federal Reserve Building in Washington, U.S. There are heightened expectations for an interest rate rise by the Fed later this year.

The Federal Reserve Building in Washington, U.S. There are heightened expectations for an interest rate rise by the Fed later this year. Photo: Reuters

Stocks and long-dated government bonds sold off on Friday after comments from Federal Reserve Bank of Boston President Eric Rosengren heightened expectations for an interest rate rise later this year. Read the rest of this entry »


North Korea Conducts Fifth Nuclear Test as Regime Celebrates National Holiday 

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The governments in both South Korea and Japan convened emergency meetings to discuss the test.

TOKYO — Anna Fifield reports: North Korea conducted its fifth atomic test Friday morning, South Korean officials said, as Kim Jong Un’s regime continues to defy international condemnation of its nuclear and missile programs and waves of sanctions.

The test, which analysts said appeared to be of a large nuclear device, came at exactly 9 a.m. local time on Friday, the 68th anniversary of the formation of the communist regime by Kim Il Sung, the current leader’s grandfather, and a national holiday.

Nork-Rally

“We believe this is a nuclear test,” South Korea’s defense ministry said Friday morning after the United States Geological Survey reported a 5.3-magnitude earthquake near Punggye-ri. “Possible explosion, located near the location where North Korea has detonated nuclear explosions in the past,” the USGS said on its website.

[Read the full text here, at The Washington Post]

Analysts said that the earthquake was artificial. “USGS is calling it an explosion because it has all the hallmarks: The waveform is sudden, unlike an earthquake, the depth is shallow, the location is the North Korean test site, and it happened on the half-hour,” said Jeffrey Lewis, director of the East Asia nonproliferation program at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies in Monterey, Calif.

“This is clearly a nuclear test,” Lewis said, estimating the size at between 10 and 20 kilotons — a size that, if confirmed, would make this the biggest of North Korea’s five tests.

The governments in both South Korea and Japan convened emergency meetings to discuss the test. Read the rest of this entry »


North Korea Fires Three Ballistic Missiles as G20 Leaders Meet in China 

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The missile launches were the latest in a series by the isolated North this year in violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions, supported by China, that ban all ballistic missile-related activities by the North.

Ju-min Park reports: North Korea fired three ballistic missiles into the sea off its east coast on Monday, the South Korean and U.S. militaries said, as the leaders of the Group of 20 major economies held a summit in China, the North’s main diplomatic ally.

“We are still analyzing details but this is a grave threat to our nation’s security, and we express deep concern.”

— Japan Defence Ministry

The missiles were fired from a region south of the capital Pyongyang just after noon (10.00 p.m. ET) and flew about 1,000 km (600 miles), hitting Japan’s air defense identification zone, South Korea’s Office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said.

“We are still analyzing details but this is a grave threat to our nation’s security, and we express deep concern,” the Japan Defence Ministry said in a statement.

The launches drew immediate condemnation from the United States, which described them as “reckless,” and diplomats said the U.N. Security Council will discuss them behind closed doors on Tuesday at Washington’s and Tokyo’s requests.

The missile launches were the latest in a series by the isolated North this year in violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions, supported by China, that ban all ballistic missile-related activities by the North.

Pyongyang rejects the ban as infringing its sovereign right to pursue a space program and self defense.

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Shortly after the missile launches, South Korean President Park Geun-hye and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe met on the sidelines of the G20 summit and agreed to cooperate on monitoring the situation, a Japanese statement said.

The South’s military said the missiles were medium-range Rodong-class, launched as a show of force timed to coincide with the G20 summit. The U.S. Strategic Command said in a statement that two of the three were presumed to be “intermediate range” ballistic missiles and that the third was still being assessed.

In 2014, the North fired two Rodong medium-range missiles just as Park and Abe were meeting U.S. President Barack Obama at the Hague to discuss responding to the North’s arms program. Read the rest of this entry »


China Bans Internet News Reporting as Media Crackdown Widens

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The sweeping ban gives authorities near-absolute control over online news and political discourse, in keeping with a broader crackdown on information increasingly distributed over the web and mobile devices.

China’s top internet regulator ordered major online companies including Sina Corp. and Tencent Holdings Ltd. to stop original news reporting, the latest effort by the government to tighten its grip over the country’s web and information industries.

Xi-wall

“President Xi Jinping has stressed that Chinese media must serve the interests of the ruling Communist Party.”

The Cyberspace Administration of China imposed the ban on several major news portals, including Sohu.com Inc. and NetEase Inc., Chinese media reported in identically worded articles citing an unidentified official from the agency’s Beijing office. The companies have “seriously violated” internet regulations by carrying plenty of news content obtained through original reporting, causing “huge negative effects,” according to a report that appeared in The Paper on Sunday.

The agency instructed the operators of mobile and online news services to dismantle “current-affairs news” operations on Friday, after earlier calling a halt to such activity at Tencent, according to people familiar with the situation. Like its peers, Asia’s largest internet company had developed a news operation and grown its team. Henceforth, they and other services can only carry reports provided by government-controlled print or online media, the people said, asking not to be identified because the issue is politically sensitive.

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The sweeping ban gives authorities near-absolute control over online news and political discourse, in keeping with a broader crackdown on information increasingly distributed over the web and mobile devices. President Xi Jinping has stressed that Chinese media must serve the interests of the ruling Communist Party.

[Read the full story here, at Bloomberg]

The party has long been sensitive to the potential for negative reporting to stir up unrest, the greatest threat to its decades-old hold on power. Regulations forbidding enterprise reporting have been in place for years without consistent enforcement, but the latest ordinance suggests “they really mean business,” said Willy Lam, an adjunct professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong’s Center for China Studies. Read the rest of this entry »


NORK Senior Intelligence Officer Defects

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More than 28,000 people have fled North Korea since the end of the Korean War, but high level defections are rare.

A senior North Korean military officer who oversaw spying operations has defected, say South Korean officials.

The officer has not been named, but the defence ministry in Seoul said he was a senior colonel in the Reconnaissance General Bureau and left last year.

South Korea’s Yonhap news agency quoted a source as saying the colonel was seen as elite by other defectors.

More than 28,000 people have fled North Korea since the end of the Korean War, but high level defections are rare.

North-Korea-exter

Last week, 13 North Koreans who had been working in one of the North’s restaurants abroad defected as a group.

Yonhap said a number of senior political figures had defected while working overseas recently.

It quoted government officials as saying this was a sign the leadership of Kim Jong-un was cracking.

‘Valuable information’

Defence Ministry spokesman Moon Sang-gyun said the South could not release further information on the colonel.

One unnamed official told Yonhap the man was the highest-level military official ever to have defected.

“He is believed to have stated details about the bureau’s operations against South Korea to the authorities here,” said the official.

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The Reconnaissance General Bureau handles intelligence gathering and spying operations, as well as cyber warfare, said Yonhap.

The BBC’s Stephen Evans in Seoul said such a figure would likely have valuable information about the workings of Kim Jong-un’s government.

How do you leave North Korea?

For most North Koreans it is almost impossible. The borders are heavily guarded and few people have the resources to fund an escape. Many previous defectors have escaped across the Yalu River into China. Read the rest of this entry »


China’s Annual Summer Dog Meat Festival Freaks Out Animal Lovers

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Animal rights activists are seeking to shut down an annual summer dog meat festival in southern China blamed for harming the country’s international reputation as well as fueling extreme cruelty to canines liberal-huhand unhygienic food handling practices.

Christopher Bodeen reports: Activists from a coalition of groups said Monday that they will continue press for the festival to be banned as well as legislation outlawing the slaughtering of dogs and cats and the consumption of their meat.

While an estimated 10 million-20 million dogs are killed for their meat each year in China, the June 20 event in the city of Yulin has come to symbolize the cruelty and lack of hygiene associated with the largely unregulated industry.

Yu Hongmei, director of the VShine Animal Protection Association, said China needs to follow the example of the vast majority of developed nations that have banned eating dog and cat.

Restaurant owners say eating dog meat is traditional during the summer, while opponents say the festival that began in 2010 has no cultural value and was merely invented to drum up business. Since 2014, the local government has sought to disassociate itself from the event, forbidding its employees from attending and limiting its size by shutting down some dog markets and slaughter houses.

A man lights a cigarette as dogs roast at a restaurant in Yulin in south China’s Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region. Animal rights activists are seeking to shut down an annual summer dog meat festival in southern China, which they call extreme cruelty to canines. AP

A man lights a cigarette as dogs roast at a restaurant in Yulin in south China’s Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region. Animal rights activists are seeking to shut down an annual summer dog meat festival in southern China, which they call extreme cruelty to canines. AP

“China needs to progress with the times,” Yu said. “Preventing cruelty to animals is the sign of a mature, civilized society.”

[Read the full story here, at the The Kansas City Star]

Still, as many as 10,000 dogs, many of them stolen pets still wearing their collars, are slaughtered for the festival held deep inside the poor, largely rural Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region.

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Some are trucked in hundreds of miles stuffed six or seven to a crate or small metal cage without food or water. Slaughtering takes place in front of the animals, usually with a club to induce the pain and fear that restaurant owners claim makes their adrenaline-rich meat tastier.

dog-meat-fest

“Psychologically and mentally, they have already died many times,” said Peter J. Li, Humane Society International’s China policy specialist. Read the rest of this entry »


[VIDEO] Japanese Professor Collects North Korean Everyday Objects

Professor Toshio Miyatsuka is one of Japan’s leading experts on North Korea. He has filled his office with mundane objects such as toys and packs of cigarettes, all from the Hermit Kingdom. Photo: Miho Inada/The Wall Street Journal

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[VIDEO] North Korean Propaganda Video Depicts Nuclear Strike on Washington 

SEOUL, South Korea — Choe Sang-Hun reports: North Korea released a propaganda video on Saturday that depicts a nuclear strike on Washington, along with a warning to “American imperialists” not to provoke the North.

The four-minute video clip, titled “Last Chance,” uses computer animation to show what looks like an intercontinental ballistic missile flying through the earth’s atmosphere before slamming into Washington, near what appears to be the Lincoln Memorial. A nuclear explosion follows.

This undated picture released from North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on April 26, 2014 shows North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un (C) inspecting a shelling drill of an artillery sub-unit under Korean People's Army (KPA) Unit 681 at undisclosed place in North Korea. AFP

This undated picture released from North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on April 26, 2014 shows North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un (C) inspecting a shelling drill of an artillery sub-unit under Korean People’s Army (KPA) Unit 681 at undisclosed place in North Korea. AFP

“If the American imperialists provoke us a bit, we will not hesitate to slap them with a pre-emptive nuclear strike,” read the Korean subtitles in the video, which was uploaded to the YouTube channel of D.P.R.K. Today, a North Korean website. “The United States must choose! It’s up to you whether the nation called the United States exists on this planet or not.”

Such remarks are in line with recent threats and assertions from North Korea about its nuclear and missile capabilities. Read the rest of this entry »


North Korea Ominously Warns Manhattan Residents of Impending Threat Even More Harmful than Salt and Oversized Soft Drinks

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The website is a strange choice for making such a claim, given that it also carries reports about such topics as rabbit farming and domestically made school backpacks.

SEOUL — North Korea claimed Sunday that it could wipe out Manhattan by sending a hydrogen bomb on a ballistic missile to the heart of New York City, the latest in a string of brazen threats.

“Our hydrogen bomb is much bigger than the one developed by the Soviet Union.”

Although there are many reasons to believe that Kim Jong Un’s regime is exaggerating its technical capabilities, the near-daily drumbeat of boasts and warnings from North Korea underlines its anger at efforts to thwart its ambitions.

“Our hydrogen bomb is much bigger than the one developed by the Soviet Union,” DPRK Today, a state-run outlet, reported Sunday. DPRK stands for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, North Korea’s official name.

“If this H-bomb were to be mounted on an intercontinental ballistic missile and fall on Manhattan in New York City, all the people there would be killed immediately and the city would burn down to ashes,” the report said, citing a nuclear scientist named Cho Hyong Il.

“The H-bomb developed by the Soviet Union in the past was able to smash windows of buildings 1,000 kms away and the heat was strong enough to cause third-degree burns 100 kms away.”

The website is a strange choice for making such a claim, given that it also carries reports about such topics as rabbit farming and domestically made school backpacks.

North Korea’s newly developed hydrogen bomb “surpasses our imagination,” Cho is quoted as saying.

“The H-bomb developed by the Soviet Union in the past was able to smash windows of buildings 1,000 kms away and the heat was strong enough to cause third-degree burns 100 kms away,” the report continued. (A thousand kilometers is about 625 miles; 100 kilometers, about 62.5 miles.)

[Read the full story here, at the The Washington Post]

Kim in January ordered North Korea’s fourth nuclear test and claimed that it was a hydrogen bomb, not a simple atomic one. But most experts are skeptical of the claim, saying the seismic waves caused by the blast were similar to those produced by the North’s three previous tests.

Then in February, Kim oversaw the launch of what North Korea said was a rocket that put a satellite into orbit, a move widely considered part of a long-range-ballistic-missile program. Read the rest of this entry »


Where Did China Get This F-22 Raptor?

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Why is something that looks just like America’s premiere fighter hanging out parked at a Chinese airport?​

In the images, the fifth generation fighter is clearly parked alongside two rows of what appear to be cropdusting airplanes.

[Read the full story here, at popularmechanics.com]

Located at Shaanxi provinece in central China, Pucheng Neifu Airport is not even remotely a military airport. There is no obvious link between it and the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF). It has the layout of a rural civilian airport found in any country, with a single runway, large tarmac, and control tower. An examination of satellite imagery indicates anywhere from seven to nine civilian planes are parked there at any one time.

It has none of the characteristics of a military airbase such as other (real) military aircraft, hardened aircraft shelters, surface to air missile and gun emplacements, or munitions bunkers. Here’s an example of a typical PLAAF base just outside Weifang for comparison. Read the rest of this entry »


[VIDEO] North Korea’s Satellite-Launch Plan Condemned

The U.S., South Korea and Japan condemned North Korea’s plan to launch a long-range rocket that Pyongyang says is carrying an earth-observation satellite. Photo: Airbus Defense & Space and 38 North satellite imagery.


Japanese Journalist Held Hostage in Syria 

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The Japanese government is seeking information after reports a Japanese freelance journalist is being held hostage in Syria and has been threatened with execution, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said on Thursday.

“Given the nature of the matter, I would like to refrain from commenting on details.”

Paris-based Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said this week it had received information that an armed group holding journalist Yasuda Jumpei hostage had started a countdown for an unspecified ransom to be paid and had threatened to execute or sell him to another group if their demands were not met.

“The safety of our citizens is an important responsibility of the government, so we are making every effort and making full use of various information networks.”

— Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga

RSF said in a statement on its website that Yasuda was kidnapped in July by an armed group in an area controlled by the militant Nusra Front, al Qaeda’s Syria wing, shortly after entering Syria earlier that month.

It urged the Japanese government to do what was needed to save Yasuda. Suga said the Japanese government knew of the case but was not aware of any fresh developments.

“Given the nature of the matter, I would like to refrain from commenting on details,” he told a regular news conference. Read the rest of this entry »


Asia’s Largest Film Festival Closes with Record Visitors

The annual Busan International Film Festival drew to a close on Saturday with a record number of visitors and many new Asian movies for the world to enjoy.

The start of the 20th edition seemed doomed by a cut in the South Korean government’s budget for the event and typhoon-triggered strong winds that grounded red carpet guests.

But the festival overcame those obstacles, as companies based in Busan, other corporate sponsors and South Korean film professionals stepped up to help fund the festival. Organizers also arranged bullet trains or drivers to whisk many of the A-list guests stranded at a Seoul airport, including German actress Nastassja Kinski, to Busan in time for the opening ceremony.

The event drew a record number of 227,000 visitors over 10 days, a slight increase from last year. Legendary filmmakers such as Hou Hsiao Hsien and Leos Carax, American actor Harvey Keitel, French actress Sophie Marceau and Korean heartthrob Yoo A-in were among the top stars who met audiences at a movie screening or at an open air talk on the beach. Read the rest of this entry »


[VIDEO] Most Corrupt Nation on Earth: 26 Surprising Facts About North Korea

North Korea is officially the most corrupt country in the World. The Corruption Perceptions Index ranks every country in the world from 0 to 100, based on how corrupt it is, with a score of 0 being very corrupt and 100 meaning very clean. Every year North Korea ties with Somalia for last place. Let’s uncover the most disturbing facts about the World’s favourite hermit kingdom.

 


Japan: Elderly Crimes Exceed Teen Crimes?

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Over 23,000 criminal seniors busted this year

Police in Japan have dealt with more elderly crime than juvenile crime in the past six months, it’s reported.

It’s the first time that people over the age of 65 have surpassed teenagers in crime statistics since 1989, when Japan’s National Police Agency started publishing age-related crime data, the Kyodo News Agency reports. Officers took action against more than 23,000 elderly people in the first half of the year, compared to fewer than 20,000 youngsters aged between 14 and 19, officials figures show.

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Japan has seen a fall in overall crime rates over the past 10 years, but not among its growing elderly population. The new figures show that violent crime committed by the over-65s rose by more than 10% compared to the same period last year. Of the country’s 127 million people, more than a quarter are now of retirement age, but the government has warned that the figure is likely to grow significantly in the coming decades. Read the rest of this entry »


Breaking with the Past, Japan Moves to Allow Military Combat for First Time in 70 Years

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Mr. Abe has presented the package as an unavoidable response to new threats facing Japan, in particular the growing military power of China. He seized on the murder of two Japanese hostages by the Islamic State militant group in January as an example of why Japan needs to loosen restrictions on its military.

TOKYO — Jonathan Soble reports: Defying broad public opposition and large demonstrations, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe won a crucial vote in Parliament on Thursday for legislation that would give Japan’s military limited powers to fight in foreign conflicts for the first time since World War II.

“The vote was the culmination of months of contentious debate in a society that has long embraced pacifism to atone for wartime aggression.”

Mr. Abe’s party and its allies in the lower house of Parliament approved the package of 11 security-related bills after opposition lawmakers walked out in protest and as demonstrators chanted noisily outside, despite a gathering typhoon. The upper chamber, which Mr. Abe’s coalition also controls, is all but certain to endorse the legislation as well.

“These laws are absolutely necessary because the security situation surrounding Japan is growing more severe.”

— Prime Minister Shinzo Abe

The vote was the culmination of months of contentious debate in a society that has long embraced pacifism to atone for wartime aggression. It was a significant victory for Mr. Abe, a conservative politician who has devoted his career to moving Japan beyond guilt over its militarist past and toward his vision of a “normal country” with a larger role in global affairs.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Parliament on Thursday. He has championed legislation that would giving the Japanese military limited powers to fight overseas. Credit Franck Robichon/European Pressphoto Agency

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Parliament on Thursday. He has championed legislation that would giving the Japanese military limited powers to fight overseas. Credit Franck Robichon/European Pressphoto Agency

“Critics, including a majority of Japanese constitutional specialists, say it violates the country’s postwar charter, which renounces war. But the legislation is supported by the United States, Japan’s wartime foe turned ally and protector, which has welcomed a larger role for Tokyo in regional security as a counterweight to a more assertive China.”

Mr. Abe has pressed this agenda, though, against the wishes of much of the Japanese public, and his moves have generated unease across Asia, especially in countries it once occupied and where its troops committed atrocities. Final passage of the bills would represent a break from the strictly defensive stance maintained by the Japanese military in the decades since the war.

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Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying

“We solemnly urge the Japanese side to draw hard lessons from history, stick to the path of peaceful development, respect the major security concerns of its Asian neighbors, and refrain from jeopardizing China’s sovereignty and security interests or crippling regional peace and stability.”

— Hua Chunying, a Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, condemning the package

Critics, including a majority of Japanese constitutional specialists, say it violates the country’s postwar charter, which renounces war. But the legislation is supported by the United States, Japan’s wartime foe turned ally and protector, which has welcomed a larger role for Tokyo in regional security as a counterweight to a more assertive China.

Mr. Abe has spent considerable political capital pushing the bills through. Voters oppose them by a ratio of roughly two to one, according to numerous surveys, and the government’s support ratings, which were once high, fell to around 40 percent in several polls taken this month.

[Read the full text here, at The New York Times]

Mr. Abe has presented the package as an unavoidable response to new threats facing Japan, in particular the growing military power of China. He seized on the murder of two Japanese hostages by the Islamic State militant group in January as an example of why Japan needs to loosen restrictions on its military, suggesting that the military might have rescued them if it had been free to act. Read the rest of this entry »


Industry Disruption Acceleration: Hong Kong Startup to Launch DIY Four-Seat Car

 

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The OSVehicle can be built in little over an hour from parts shipped in flatpacks from Italy and China

The car industry is tormented by how new rivals are coming in and upending the existing ways of doing business — whether that’s TeslaGoogle or Apple.

One Hong Kong-based start-up wants to help accelerate the disruption.

OSVehicle will on Tuesday launch its latest “do-it-yourself car” — an electric four-seater that it says can be built in little over an hour from parts shipped in flatpacks from Italy and China.

“It lowers the barriers to entry for start-ups and entrepreneurs who want to create vehicles in a whole new segment of the industry.”

— Carlo De Micheli, head of innovation at OSVehicle

The kit is aimed at companies that want to sell electric vehicles or run car sharing schemes, with would-be carmakers buying a platform from OSVehicle rather than a complete product.

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“Companies that are entering this market are focusing on specific technologies, such as self-driving or high power electric vehicles. We are eager to see all the open source components that come out of their research…adopted by other companies worldwide.”

— Carlo De Micheli

They order the chassis, electric power-train, suspension, steering system and wheels from OSVehicle. Customers then create the bodywork to their own design.

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“They order the chassis, electric power-train, suspension, steering system and wheels from OSVehicle. Customers then create the bodywork to their own design.”

“It lowers the barriers to entry for start-ups and entrepreneurs who want to create vehicles in a whole new segment of the industry,” said Carlo De Micheli, head of innovation at OSVehicle.

The kit car platform is based on another by OSVehicle that is a two-seater called Tabby.

The company has yet to decide on the price of the four-seater platform. The two-seater iteration of its Tabby platform retailed at $4,000, excluding the lithium-based battery pack.

The “OS” in OSVehicle stands for open source and the company is part of a growing trend of transparent innovation in the industry. Read the rest of this entry »