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Showing posts from April, 2013

Infographic: Road to war on Korean Peninsula?

Timeline of recent events in Northeast Asia shows major increase in threats between Pyongyang and its adversaries.

N Korea ignores overture on industrial zone

Planned trip by officials from South Korean firms with factories at Kaesong complex hangs in balance.

North Korea has ignored a plea by South Korean businessmen to visit a joint industrial zone on Tuesday for talks on its future, an official in Seoul said, amid fears of a permanent closure.

About 10 leaders of the group of South Korean firms with factories at the Kaesong complex sought to visit the site, the last remaining point of contact between the two Koreas.

But the North has not responded to the request, making the trip impossible for Tuesday, an official at Seoul's unification ministry handling cross-border affairs told the AFP news agency.

The complex, built 10km north of the tense border in 2004 as a rare symbol of inter-Korean cooperation, has fallen victim to a recent surge in military tensions.

Pyongyang banned entry by southerners and pulled out all its 53,000 workers from the complex in early April.

'Mean-spirited trick'

Seoul last week ordered all remaining South …

Japan marks first sovereignty recovery day

The Japanese government on Sunday for first time commemorated the day that the country ended the U.S. occupation and recovered its sovereignty in 1952 after its defeat in the World War II. The government held a ceremony, in which the Japanese Imperial Couple, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as well as about 390 lawmakers, prefectural governors and government officials participated. On April 28, 1952, Japan recovered its sovereignty, except Okinawa Prefecture, as the San Francisco Peace Treaty took effect, putting an end to a seven-year occupation by the U.S.-led forces. Okinawa, Japan's southernmost island prefecture that was returned by the United States in 1972, consider April 28 as "day of insult" and oppose the central government's sovereignty recovery ceremony. The prefecture's governor Hirokazu Nakaima skipped the ceremony and local assembly members also staged protests in the city of Ginowan in the prefecture, according to reports.

15 killed, 64 wounded in attacks in Iraq

At least 15 people were killed and 64 others injured in attacks across Iraq on Monday, mostly in the southern Shiite provinces, an Interior Ministry source said. Two people were killed and 12 others wounded when a car bomb exploded in Karbala, some 110 km south of the capital Baghdad, the source told Xinhua on condition of anonymity. Earlier on Monday, two cars bombs exploded in a market in Amarah, some 300 km southeast of Baghdad, killing nine people and wounding 30 others, the source said. Another car bomb struck Diwaniyah, some 160 km southeast of Baghdad, killing two people and wounding 20 others. In the northern town of Yathrib, some 40 km north of the capital, two soldiers were killed and two others wounded when unidentified gunmen attacked a check point of the Iraqi army. Violence is still common in Iraq despite the dramatic decrease since its peak in 2006 and 2007 when the country was engulfed in sectarian killings.

The Secret of the Seven Sisters

A four-part series that reveals how a secret pact formed a cartel that controls the world's oil.

On August 28, 1928, in the Scottish highlands, began the secret story of oil.

Three men had an appointment at Achnacarry Castle - a Dutchman, an American and an Englishman.

The Dutchman was Henry Deterding, a man nicknamed the Napoleon of Oil, having exploited a find in Sumatra. He joined forces with a rich ship owner and painted Shell salesman and together the two men founded Royal Dutch Shell.

The American was Walter C. Teagle and he represents the Standard Oil Company, founded by John D. Rockefeller at the age of 31 - the future Exxon. Oil wells, transport, refining and distribution of oil - everything is controlled by Standard oil.

The Englishman, Sir John Cadman, was the director of the Anglo-Persian oil Company, soon to become BP. On the initiative of a young Winston Churchill, the British government had taken a stake in BP and the Royal Navy switched its fuel from coal to oil. Wit…

Libya fighters surround foreign ministry

At least 20 vehicles loaded with anti-aircraft guns block road as 200 armed men demand removal of Gaddafi-era staff.

Armed men have surrounded Libya's foreign ministry in the capital, Tripoli, to push demands that officials who had worked for deposed leader Muammar Gaddafi's government be banned from senior positions in the new administration.

At least 20 pickup vehicles loaded with anti-aircraft guns blocked the roads on Sunday, while men armed with AK-47s and sniper rifles directed the traffic away from the building, witnesses said.

Esaam al-Naas, a Libyan military official, said there were at least 200 armed men surrounding the ministry building.

He said negotiations with the protesters were under way and that no one had entered the building.

Ali Zeidan, Libyan prime minister, said armed groups also tried to storm the ministry of interior and a state news agency on Sunday.

Zeidan urged people to help the government in resisting such armed groups. "There are people who want …

Millions in CIA 'ghost money' paid to Afghan president's office: New York Times

(Reuters) - Tens of millions of U.S. dollars in cash were delivered by the CIA in suitcases, backpacks and plastic shopping bags to the office of Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai for more than a decade, according to the New York Times, citing current and former advisers to the Afghan leader.

The so-called "ghost money" was meant to buy influence for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) but instead fuelled corruption and empowered warlords, undermining Washington's exit strategy from Afghanistan, the newspaper quoted U.S. officials as saying.

"The biggest source of corruption in Afghanistan", one American official said, "was the United States."

The CIA declined to comment on the report and the U.S. State Department did not immediately comment. The New York Times did not publish any comment from Karzai or his office.

"We called it ‘ghost money'," Khalil Roman, who served as Karzai's chief of staff from 2002 until 2005, told the New Yo…

Bangladesh mourns as death toll climbs

Country holds day of mourning after collapse of clothing factory in Dhaka that has killed at least 160 people.

Rescuers in Bangladesh have continued to hunt for survivors in a collapsed building as the death toll rose to 161 and criticism mounted of foreign firms that source cheap clothes from the country.

More than 1,000 people were injured when the site housing five garment factories on the outskirts of Dhaka imploded on Wednesday, allegedly after managers ignored workers' warnings that the building had become unstable.

Flags flew at half-mast on Thursday as the shell-shocked country declared a day of mourning for the victims of the nation's worst factory disaster, which highlighted anew safety concerns in Bangladesh's vital garment industry.

Army Brigadier General Mohammed Siddiqul Alam Shikder said many people are still trapped in the building, which housed a number of garment factories employing hundreds of people.

Workers had warned a day earlier that large cracks had de…

China Leads World in Cyber Espionage, says Report

China leads the world in computer espionage, according to an annual report that monitors the state of global cyber threats.

Ninety-six percent of cyber espionage cases targeting intellectual property and business trade secrets were attributed to “threat actors in China,” while the remaining four percent were unknown, according to the “2013 Data Breach Investigations Report," which is issued by Verizon, a large U.S. telecom firm.

“This may mean that other threat groups perform their activities with greater stealth and subterfuge,” read the report. “But it could also mean that China is, in fact, the most active source of national and industrial espionage in the world today.”

While the numbers certainly seem clear, some security experts caution not to draw too many conclusions from the report.

“Verizon doesn't explain how they determine that an event is state-sponsored, nor how they distinguish between legitimate attacks originating from China and those which use compromised server…

China 'terrorists' trapped police: state media

BEIJING (AFP) - Chinese authorities accused 'terrorists' in China's far west of setting a trap to kill policemen, state media said Thursday, after a US-based rights group dismissed terrorism claims.

Twenty-one people were killed in violence in west China's Xinjiang region on Tuesday, local government officials said, adding that six members of the ethnic Uighur minority shot dead in the clashes were suspected of terrorist plotting.

"The terrorists may have set a trap," the state-run Global Times daily quoted local officials as saying, adding that knife-wielding men ambushed police after luring them to a house in Barchuk county, in the region's west.

Fifteen police and 'social workers' were killed in the incident, including 10 from the Uighur minority, China's Foreign Ministry said. Uighurs are mostly Muslim and see Xinjiang as their homeland.

Xinjiang, a region about twice the size of Turkey, is home to around nine million ethnic Uighurs, many of w…

Gunmen seize Iraq town as violence kills 128

BAGHDAD (AFP) - Gunmen took control of the Iraqi town of Sulaiman Bek on Wednesday after fighting with security forces, part of a bloody two days of violence that killed 128 people and wounded 269, officials said.

Most of the casualties -- 102 dead and 195 wounded -- came from clashes and attacks involving security forces, protesters and their supporters, which have sent tensions in Iraq soaring.

The violence, which began with clashes on Tuesday at a protest site in northern Iraq after security forces moved in, is the deadliest so far linked to demonstrations that erupted in Sunni Muslim areas of the Shiite-majority country more than four months ago.

The Sunni protesters have called for the resignation of Shiite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and railed against the alleged targeting of their community by the authorities.

On Wednesday, five soldiers and seven gunmen were killed and 63 people, including 20 soldiers, wounded in fighting in the Sulaiman Bek area in Salaheddin province, north o…

Tense Standoff Continues for 60th Year in Korean DMZ

PANMUNJOM — The tense situation on the Korean peninsula may be the world’s most urgent security challenge. However, unlike threats from Iran or Syria’s civil war, the Korean situation has been unresolved for more than 60 years. The conflict's most recognized flashpoint is Panmunjom in the Korean DMZ (demilitarized zone).

The division of North and South Korea has spanned seven decades. Neither side recognizes the other diplomatically and both claim the entire peninsula.

The peninsula is divided along the 38th parallel. And, it is in the United Nations Military Armistice Commission's conference room T-2, where attempts have been made over the years to resolve the lingering differences.

Herman: "So when we are crossing this table here, we are actually crossing into North Korea?"

U.S. soldier: “Yes, you'll be crossing into North Korea....The microphones on this table ...are recording and monitored 24 hours a day. The microphones also represent the military demarcation li…

Infographic: Island row around China

Japan summons China envoy over disputed isles

Japanese prime minister threatens force if China attempts to land on island chain in East China Sea. Japan has summoned the Chinese ambassador in protest over a flotilla of Chinese government ships that entered territorial waters near a disputed island chain.
Japan's foreign ministry said on Tuesday it had called in the envoy after eight Chinese vessels entered waters near the Senkaku islands, which China calls Diaoyu, the most in a single day since Tokyo nationalised part of the archipelago in September.
The Chinese boats drove out a flotilla of 10 boats carrying about 80 Japanese activists from the nationalist Ganbare Nippon ("Stand Firm, Japan") group, which sailed into waters around the islets early on Tuesday.
They then began to withdraw from the area on the orders of Japanese Coast Guard patrol ships, when Chinese government surveillance ships came nearby.
"Our latest intelligence indicates that a large number of Chinese vessels have entered Japanese territor…


Too big to fail
On Saturday, Italy's 87-year-old Giorgio Napolitano relented under the pressure of the main political parties and agreed to stand for re-election as president. By late afternoon, he had received an unprecedented second mandate, with more than two-thirds of the Italian electoral college voting their support. The rest of the world's leaders breathed a sigh of relief. Italy is too big to fail. This outcome was unexpected. Napolitano had made it clear for over a year that he did not want to continue in office. The physical and psychological demands of presiding over a divided Italy in turbulent times have exacted their toll. Napolitano is tired; he has earned the right to reflect on his long experience in public life. However, the main parties would not let that happen. They failed to agree on a consensus candidate to stand for office. Democratic Party (PD) leader Pier Luigi Bersani and centre-right People of Liberty (PdL) leader Silvio Berlusconi put forward a joint…

North Korea 'moves missile launchers'

South Korean report says Pyongyang has moved two launchers to its east coast in preparation for expected missile test.

North Korea has reportedly moved two more missile launchers to its east coast, where preparations have apparently begun for a missile test as tensions continue to simmer on the peninsula.

The North had said before fresh reports of the missile move emerged on Sunday that it was willing to discuss disarmament but rejected a US nuclear condition for talks.

Expectations had been high that Pyongyang would carry out a test to coincide with celebrations marking the birth of North Korea's late founding leader Kim Il-Sung on April 15 but it did not materialise.

The North's military moved two launchers believed to be for scud missiles to the northeast province of South Hamgyong last week, according to South Korea's Yonhap news agency, which cited a senior Seoul official.

"We have discovered the North has moved two additional TELs (transporter erector launchers) t…

Taliban detain Turks in eastern Afghanistan

Nine people captured after helicopter makes emergency landing in Logar province, according to local officials.

Taliban fighters have seized nine people from a civilian helicopter which made an emergency landing in eastern Afghanistan, officials said Monday.

The Turkish helicopter made an emergency landing on Sunday evening, said Rais Khan Sadeq, the deputy police chief of Logar province, south of Kabul.

"Security forces found the helicopter but the nine people were not in it. They are taken by the Taliban," Sadeq told the AFP news agency.

"They are Turkish nationals and are nine people including the crew."

Hamidullah Hamid, governor of Azr district where the helicopter came down, also confirmed nine Turks on board had been seized by the Taliban. Local tribal elders are reportedly working to secure their release.

Hamid said the aircraft, which had came from the eastern city of Khost and was heading for Kabul, belonged to a Turkish company which has a big project in Khos…

Nearly 200 killed in Nigeria violence

At least 185 people killed during fighting between Boko Haram group and troops centred on fishing community in north.

Fighting between Nigeria's military and the armed group Boko Haram has left at least 185 people dead in a fishing community in the nation's far northeast, officials said on Sunday.

The fighting in Baga began on Friday and lasted for hours, sending people fleeing into the arid scrublands surrounding the community on Lake Chad, according to the AP news agency.

By Sunday, when government officials finally felt safe enough to see the destruction, homes, businesses and vehicles were burned throughout the area.

The assault marks a significant escalation in a long-running insurgency in the predominantly Muslim north, where Boko Haram has mounted a coordinated assault on soldiers using military-grade weaponry.

Boko Haram, which means "Western education is forbidden" in the Hausa language of Nigeria's north, has said it wants its imprisoned members freed and N…

Hagel: US-Israel Weapons Deal a 'Clear Signal' to Iran

U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel says a major U.S. arms deal with Israel sends a "very clear signal" to Iran that military action could be used to stop Tehran from obtaining nuclear weapons.

Hagel made the comment to reporters on Sunday, as he flew to Israel to finalize the sale of advanced U.S. weapons including missiles designed to destroy enemy air defenses, aerial refueling tankers and troop transport planes.

Israel could use those weapons to attack the Iranian nuclear program, which the Jewish state says is aimed at making weapons that threaten its existence. Iran insists that its nuclear program is peaceful.

When a reporter asked Hagel if the U.S.-Israeli arms deal indicates that either of the two allies could use a military option against the Iranian program, he said "I don't think there is any question that is another very clear signal to Iran."

Hagel said there is no "daylight" (disagreement) between the United States and Israel about their goa…