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Posts tagged ‘UN Security Council’

Russian Forces Push Beyond Crimea Before Referendum.

Ukraine said Russian forces tried to push deeper into its territory and the Kremlin strengthened its rhetoric, threatening to escalate the worst diplomatic standoff between Moscow and the West since the Cold War.

By Saturday afternoon, The New York Times reports, Russian troops moved beyond the Crimean border and overtook a gas plant just beyond the regional border of Crimea.

Meanwhile, Russian troops entered the Kherson region on the Azov Sea from the Crimea peninsula they already occupy, Ukraine’s ambassador to the United Nations, Yuriy Sergeyev, told reporters Saturday at the United Nations in New York. The Foreign Ministry in Kiev issued a statement protesting the seizure by Russian soldiers of the village of Strilkove.

The incursion raises tensions before the Black Sea Crimean region holds a referendum Sunday on joining Russia. While the European Union and the U.S. are threatening to tighten sanctions against Russia if it doesn’t pull back, President Vladimir Putin has said ethnic Russians in the region need protection from “extremists.”

“Russia now takes it as a fact that they’ve picked off Crimea and is sending more soldiers and provocateurs into Ukraine to test the waters and see how much further they can go,” Joerg Forbrig, a senior program officer at the Berlin bureau of the German Marshall Fund of the U.S., said in a phone interview.

As many as 130 Russian soldiers are in Strilkove, digging trenches and doing “other engineering work,” said Oleh Slobodyan, a spokesman for Border Guard Service. They have three armored personnel carriers and are in control of a Ukrainian natural gas pumping station, he said. There have been no military confrontations between Ukraine and Russia so far, he said.

The UN Security Council met Saturday in New York where Russia vetoed a resolution proposed by the U.S. that stressed the need for political dialogue. Thirteen members of the Security Council backed the resolution and China abstained.

U.S. Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power said the vote shows Russia is “isolated, alone, wrong.” Chinese Ambassador to UN Liu Jieyi said the resolution would have resulted “in confrontation and further complicate the situation.” He said respecting “sovereignty and territorial integrity of all states” is a “fundamental” in China’s foreign policy.

U.S. officials who monitor social media say the number of posts on Twitter, Facebook and other public Internet sites about possible Russian incursions into eastern Ukraine and a growing number of unidentified men who appear to be Russians with military or police training is rising sharply Saturday.

The officials were quick to add that the trend doesn’t mean any Russian action is imminent and that the accuracy and origin of such posts are difficult to verify quickly. Nevertheless, one of the officials called the trend worrisome.

Clashes erupted Friday in Ukraine’s second-biggest city, Kharkiv, near Russia’s border, where a shootout left two dead and a policeman injured. Russian troops massed just inside Russia’s border nearby for exercises, stirring concerns of a Kremlin move to annex eastern Ukraine. Russia said it’s examining numerous requests for protection received from people living in Ukraine.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who met Friday with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov without a breakthrough, warned Russia would face consequences if it failed to change course.

Russia moved more forces into Crimea, bringing the total to about 22,000 soldiers as of Friday evening, Ukrainian Defense Minister Ihor Tenyukh said in a website statement. The troops “may be used for an offensive,” he said.

Lavrov expressed outrage over March 13 clashes in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk in which one person was killed and 17 injured, according to the regional government.

“Militants came to Donetsk from other regions and started fighting with demonstrators,” Lavrov said.

Putin is driven by deep geopolitical goals and isn’t likely to fear the consequences of sanctions by Western nations, Eugene Rumer, director of the Russia and Eurasia program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a Washington policy group, said in a telephone interview.

After watching the North Atlantic Treaty Organization expand and the U.S. build ties with former Soviet Union countries, Russians feel they “have every reason to push back and expand their ‘sphere of privileged interests,’” Rumer said.

“The confrontation has reached a new level,” acting Ukrainian President Oleksandr Turchynov said in a website statement late Friday. “Either the new young democracy wins, or a totalitarian curtain falls on Ukraine.”

Putin’s government contends ethnic Russians in Crimea are at risk after the ouster of President Viktor Yanukovych, an assertion that Ukraine’s new leaders deny. The Kremlin supports Crimea’s recently appointed administration, which organized Sunday’s referendum.

Crimean Premier Sergei Aksenov told reporters in the region’s capital, Simferopol, that the peninsula may become part of Russia next week, though full integration may take a year. Turnout is expected to be more than 80 percent, he said.

“Preparations are already under way to incorporate Crimea into Russia,” Sergei Markov, a Kremlin adviser and vice rector of the Plekhanov Russian University of Economics in Moscow, said in a telephone interview from Sevastopol on Saturday.

Russian lawmakers are scheduled to consider legislation March 21 that would allow Russia to incorporate parts of countries where the central authority isn’t functioning and local residents want to secede, he said.

The bill isn’t needed to make Crimea part of Russia because the region already declared independence from Kiev, according to Markov. It would allow for the annexation of parts of eastern Ukraine, though Russia would only want to do that if it’s sure “we are welcomed with flowers,” he said.

Russian stocks posted the biggest weekly drop since May 2012, with the Micex Index sliding 7.6 percent to 1,237.43 Friday, the lowest level since May 2012. Russia’s 10-year bond fell for a sixth day, driving up the yield by 38 basis points to 9.79 percent, the highest level since 2009. The ruble weakened 0.2 percent to 43.0570 against Bank Rossii’s target basket of dollars and euros Friday in Moscow. Gold climbed to the highest in sixth months.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index of U.S. stocks fell 2 percent this week to 1,841.13, erasing its gains for the year. The UX index of Ukrainian stocks was down 7.1 percent for the week. Even so, Ukrainian Eurobonds and the hryvnia rebounded after Lavrov said Russia had no invasion plans.

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden will travel to NATO members Poland and Lithuania on March 17, the day after the Crimea vote, for talks on Ukraine, according to a White House statement. The Pentagon said this week that it would send 12 F-16 aircraft to Poland as a sign of U.S. commitment to defend allies in the region, and the U.S. sent six fighter jets to Lithuania last week.

EU foreign ministers, who meet March 17, the day after the Crimea vote, are poised to impose asset freezes and visa bans on people and “entities” involved in Russia’s seizure of the peninsula, an EU official said. The next stage of sanctions would be weighed at a summit at the end of next week.

Forbrig said that visa bans and other political moves aimed at Russia won’t deter Putin.

“If Putin sees the EU sanctions as not strong enough, he may view them as a green light to go further,” Forbrig said.

“We have to get to the material base of Putin’s regime through economic and trade measures that both target his revenue directly and have a snowball effect of scaring off investors and fueling capital flight out of Russia,” he said.

Bloomberg contributed to this report. 

© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.
By Newsmax Wires

LIGNET: Surprising Snub of UN Security Council Will Hurt the Saudis.

Saudi Arabia’s decision to reject a seat on the UN Security Council is evidence of a clear change in the country’s willingness to cooperate with the West through the United Nations, and a sharp turn away from the close relationship the Saudis have long enjoyed with the United States. While the decision is not likely to affect the operations of the UN Security Council, it is quite likely to hurt the Saudis, who now won’t have a seat at the table.

Click here to read the full analysis from top intelligence experts at

© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.


Fleitz: Syria Chemical Weapons Pact Is Fantasy Over Experience.

Obama officials and their supporters were doing victory laps over the weekend claiming that the new U.S.Russia deal to safeguard and destroy Syria’s chemical weapons is a diplomatic coup for President Barack Obama because he made a credible threat to attack Syria.

This is ridiculous. The Russian and Syrian governments know full well that due to the president’s indecisiveness and lack of political support on this issue in Congress, the chance that he will ever order U.S. forces to attack Syria are close to zero.

This agreement has noble goals, but overall it is unrealistic and naive. It has undermined American credibility on the world stage and strengthened the positions of Presidents Assad and Putin. The agreement has no enforcement mechanism and goes against decades of experience on the difficulties of safeguarding and destroying chemical weapons.

The Obama administration has stopped saying “Assad must go.” There’s no talk of holding Assad accountable for the over 100,000 killed over the last two years by his security forces. There are no provisions in the agreement for peace talks or a cease-fire.

The Syria agreement is a political lifeline thrown to President Obama by President Putin in response to Obama’s desperate political position on Syria and a verbal gaffe by Secretary of State John Kerry. This wasn’t a magnanimous gesture by Putin — it was a shrewd diplomatic move to exploit President Obama’s weak position to advance Russian interests.

Putin’s offer came with strings attached. A Security Council resolution to implement the agreement will have no mention of the use of force if Assad does not comply. Assad will not be referred to the International Criminal Court for a war crimes investigation or be criticized at all for using chemical weapons.

The agreement says if the Syrian government fails to comply, it will be referred to the U.N. Security Council but is vague about how the Council will respond. Kerry insisted that if this happens, the Security Council “must” impose “measures” under Chapter VII of the U.N. charter, but Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov immediately corrected, to point out that the agreement says the Council “should” enact measures.

The Obama administration fell into a Russian trap. Russia vetoed several U.N. Security Council resolutions on Syria over the past two years to impose U.N. sanctions or to potentially allow a military intervention. Russia made clear in the recent talks with the United States that it will continue to veto resolutions with such language. To prevent the talks from collapsing, the United States had to concede to Russia’s demand to not include the threat of the use of force, or any other consequences, if the Assad government fails to comply with a Security Council resolution to remove and destroy its chemical weapons.

As a result, if Assad refuses to cooperate with the disarmament of his chemical weapons, the Security Council will respond by passing more toothless resolutions.

Finding, safeguarding, and destroying Syria’s huge chemical weapons arsenal under this agreement will be virtually impossible and goes against decades of arms control experience. The agreement proposes to squeeze into a few months, chemical weapons disarmament that has taken four to five years in other countries. This is difficult to do even in peace time. There are no prospects for a cease-fire and Obama officials have not explained how this agreement can be carried out without one. Nor have they explained which countries will send chemical weapons inspectors into Syria while the fighting continues.

It also is unclear whether international troops will be needed to guard Syrian chemical weapons. It is hard to see the Assad government agreeing to this. What if Assad consents only to troops from Russia and Iran?

Finally, Syria will also look to the experiences of its allies Iran and North Korea, both of which are subject to much tougher Security Council resolutions requiring them to allow International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors full access to their nuclear facilities. Neither state has fully complied with these resolutions. Since 2005, the IAEA has demanded access to a facility in Iran where nuclear warhead experiments reportedly were conducted. U.N. sanctions resolutions against these two states have been weak, and there’s never been any prospect of the U.N. authorizing the use of military force in response to their noncompliance.

The Security Council’s failure to hold Iran and North Korea accountable for refusing to cooperate with U.N. weapons inspectors shows Assad how he can defy a new UN resolution on his chemical weapons and get away with it. Syria will probably engage in similar defiance and foot-dragging tactics. With Russia insisting that the Syrian rebels and not the Assad regime probably used chemical weapons last month, Moscow is likely to dispute any Western claims that Assad is not complying with U.N. weapons inspectors.

All Americans should want the new U.S.-Russia agreement to succeed so the Assad regime cannot use chemical weapons again and to keep these weapons out of the hands of al-Qaida and other radical Islamist groups. But the chances of this happening are low since this agreement is not grounded in reality. It is a fantasy that a chemical weapons disarmament agreement this complex can be carried out in a war zone without a cease-fire or an enforcement mechanism. Russia and China are not going to allow the UN Security Council to authorize the use of force or sanctions if Assad does not comply.

What we’re left with is an agreement that has boosted Russian influence in the Middle East and cemented power in its close ally, Syrian President Assad, at the expense of the United States. I therefore concur with Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham, who have described the agreement as “morally and strategically indefensible” and that it “requires a willful suspension of disbelief to see this agreement as anything other than the start of a diplomatic blind alley.”

Fred Fleitz served for 25 years in U.S. national security positions with the CIA, the State Department, and the House Intelligence Committee staff. He is currently Chief Analyst with, Newsmax Media’s global intelligence and forecasting service. Click HERE to read the latest LIGNET analysis of the Syria situation.

© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

By Fred Fleitz

Obama’s Upcoming Illegal Syrian War Is Really About Iran And Israel.

The dirty little not-so-secret behind President Obama’s much-lobbied-for, illegal and strategically incompetent war against Syria is that it’s not about Syria at all. It’s about Iran—and Israel. And it has been from the start.

Obama Hates Israel

By “the start,” I mean 2011, when the Obama administration gradually became convinced that it could deal Iran a mortal blow by toppling President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, a secular, Baathist strongman who is, despite all, an ally of Iran’s. Since then, taking Iran down a peg has been the driving force behind Obama’s Syria policy.

Not coincidentally, the White House plans to scare members of Congress into supporting the ill-conceived war plan by waving the Iranian flag in their faces. Even liberal Democrats, some of whom are opposing or questioning war with Syria, blanch at the prospect of opposing Obama and the Israel lobby over Iran.

Item for consideration: a new column by the Syria analyst at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, the chief think tank of the Israel lobby. Andrew Tabler headlines his piece: “Attacking Syria Is the Best Way to Deal with Iran.” In it, he says:

At first glance, the festering Syria crisis seems bad news for diplomatic efforts to keep Iran from developing nuclear capabilities. In actuality, however, achieving U.S. objectives in the Syria crisis is an opportunity to pressure Iran into making hard choices not only in Syria, but regarding its nuclear program as well. More U.S. involvement to achieve its objectives in Syria will inevitably run counter to Tehran’s interests, be it to punish the Assad regime for chemical weapons use or to show support for the Syrian opposition in changing Assad’s calculus and forcing him to “step aside” at the negotiating table or on the battlefield.

Many in U.S. policymaking circles have viewed containing swelling Iranian influence in Syria and preventing Iran from going nuclear as two distinct policy discussions, as the Obama Administration only has so much “bandwidth” to deal with Middle East threats. But the recent deepening of cooperation between Tehran, Hezbollah and the Assad regime, combined with their public acknowledgement of these activities, indicates that they themselves see these activities as furthering the efficacy of the “resistance axis.”

Like every alliance, its members will only make hard policy choices if the costs of its current policies far outweigh the benefits. U.S. strikes on the Assad regime, if properly calibrated as part of an overall plan to degrade the regime, would force Tehran to become more involved in Syria in order to rescue its stalwart ally. This would be costly for Iran financially, militarily and politically. Those costs would make the Iranian regime and its people reassess aspirations to go nuclear.

Needless to say, such a strategy is bound to be counterproductive, since—by slamming Syria, never mind toppling Assad—Washington is likely to undermine doves and bolster hawks in Tehran and undermine the chances for successful negotiations with Iran’s new president, Hassan Rouhani, who’ll be speaking at the UN General Assembly later this month.

In fact, both Russia and Iran have signaled recently, in the wake of Syria’s obvious deployment and use of sarin gas and other deadly weapons that they might be getting ready to join the rest of the world in condemning Syria’s chemical warfare, and that makes it far more likely that the much-postponed US-Russia “Geneva II” peace conference on Syria might work. The hawkish Washington Post today notes Rouhani’s new administration in Tehran is softening its tone on Syria, and it reports that the new Iranian foreign minister, Javad Zarif, has acknowledged the Syria has erred, saying: “We believe that the government in Syria has made grave mistakes that have, unfortunately, paved the way for the situation in the country to be abused.”

Meanwhile, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, while issuing scathing denunciations of the coming U.S. attack on Syria, has dropped broad hints that he might be willing to join with other nations if and when the United Nations weapons team concludes that Assad used nerve gas, suggesting that Russia might not block a UN Security Council resolution against Syria. In hismuch-reported interview with the Associated Press, Putin insisted on waiting for the UN report:

“If there is evidence that chemical weapons have been used, and used specifically by the regular army, this evidence should be submitted to the U.N. Security Council. And it ought to be convincing. It shouldn’t be based on some rumors and information obtained by intelligence agencies through some kind of eavesdropping, some conversations and things like that.”

Then, according to the Washington Post, Putin declared that he might join a UN-sponsored coalition on Syria:

He said he “doesn’t exclude” backing the use of force against Syria at the United Nations if there is objective evidence proving that Assad’s regime used chemical weapons against its people. But he strongly warned Washington against launching military action without U.N. approval, saying it would represent an aggression. Russia can veto resolutions at the U.N. Security Council and has protected Syria from punitive actions there before.

But a change in tone on the part of Russia and Iran—the latter of whom the Obama administration still refuses to invite to Geneva II if and when it occurs—won’t mean a thing if the object of war with Syria is to send a message to Iran. As Jeffrey Goldberg, writing for Bloomberg, says, for Israel it’s all about Iran:

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel would prefer that Obama enforce his red line on chemical weapons use, because he would like to see proof that Obama believes in the red lines he draws. From Netanyahu’s perspective, Israel isn’t unduly threatened by Assad. Syria constitutes a dangerous, but ultimately manageable, threat.

Netanyahu believes, of course, that Iran, Syria’s primary sponsor, poses an existential threat to his country, and so would like the Iranians to understand very clearly that Obama’s red lines are, in fact, very red. As Robert Satloff, the executive director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, told me last night, the formula is simple: “If the Iranians do not fear Obama, then the Israelis will lose confidence in Obama.”

In his round-robin television appearances on Sunday, Secretary of State John Kerry—now the administration’s über-hawk—repeatedly said that bombing Syria would send a message to Iran. As he told Fox News on Sunday:

“The fact is that if we act and if we act in concert, then Iran will know that this nation is capable of speaking with one voice on something like this, and that has serious, profound implications, I think, with respect to the potential of a confrontation over their nuclear program. That is one of the things that is at stake here.” source – The Nation

by NTEB News Desk

North Korea threatens nuclear strike, U.N. expands sanctions.


  • North Korea threatens nuclear attack on U.S.Reuters Videos  1:20North Korea threatens the United States with a preemptive nuclear strike, as the U.S. conducts military …

SEOUL/UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – North Korea threatened the United States on Thursday with a preemptive nuclear strike, raising the level of rhetoric just before the U.N. Security Councilapproved new sanctions against the reclusive country.

The White House said North Korea’s threats would only lead toPyongyang’s further international isolation and declared that the United States was “fully capable” of defending against any North Korean missile attack.

China’s U.N. Ambassador Li Baodong said Beijing wanted to see “full implementation” of the new U.N. Security Council resolution that tightens financial restrictions on Pyongyang and cracks down on its attempts to ship and receive banned cargo.

North Korea has accused the United States of using military drills in South Korea as a launch pad for a nuclear war and has scrapped the armistice with Washington that ended hostilities in the 1950-53 Korean War.

A North Korean general said on Tuesday that Pyongyang was scrapping the armistice. But the two sides remain technically at war as the civil war did not end with a treaty.

North Korea threatens the United States and its “puppet,” South Korea, on an almost daily basis.

“Since the United States is about to ignite a nuclear war, we will be exercising our right to preemptive nuclear attack against the headquarters of the aggressor in order to protect our supreme interest,” the North’s foreign ministry spokesman said in a statement carried by the official KCNA news agency.

North Korea conducted a third nuclear test on February 12, in defiance of U.N. resolutions, and declared it had achieved progress in securing a functioning atomic arsenal. It is widely believed that the North does not have the capacity for a nuclear strike against the mainland of the United States.

With tensions high on the Korean peninsula, the U.N. Security Council voted unanimously to expand its sanctions on North Korea. The new sanctions were agreed after three weeks of negotiations between the United States and China, which has a history of resisting tough measures against its ally and neighbor.

The resolution specifies some luxury items North Korea’s elite is not allowed to import, such as yachts, racing cars, luxury automobiles and certain types of jewelry. This is intended to close a loophole that had allowed countries to decide for themselves what constitutes a luxury good.

“These sanctions will bite and bite hard,” said U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice.

The export of luxury goods to North Korea has been prohibited since 2006, though diplomats and analysts said the enforcement of U.N. sanctions has been uneven.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, a former South Korean foreign minister, welcomed the council’s move, saying in a statement that the resolution “sent an unequivocal message to (North Korea) that the international community will not tolerate its pursuit of nuclear weapons.”

The success of the new measures, council diplomats said, will depend to a large extent on the willingness of China to enforce them more strictly than it has in the past.

Pyongyang was hit with U.N. sanctions in retaliation for its 2006 and 2009 nuclear tests. Those measures were subsequently tightened and expanded after several rocket launches by the North.

In addition to the luxury goods ban, there is an arms embargo on North Korea, and it is forbidden from trading in nuclear and missile technology.

George Lopez, a professor at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana and a former member of the U.N. panel that monitors North Korea sanctions compliance, said the new measures should have a real impact on North Korea’s movement of money and constrain access to equipment for its nuclear and missile programs.

“Now, we may yet see another launch or a bomb test, but over the medium term this resolution will degrade DPRK capabilities to grow its program,” Lopez said, using the acronym for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.


North Korea’s threats were the latest in an escalating war of words by both sides across the armed Korean border this week.

The North’s unnamed foreign ministry spokesman said it would be entitled to take military action as of March 11 when U.S.-South Korea military drills move into a full-scale phase.

“North Korea will achieve nothing by continued threats and provocations. These will only further isolate the country and its people and undermine international efforts to promote peace and stability in northeast Asia,” Rice told reporters.

President Barack Obama’s administration said it had reassured South Korea and Japan “at the highest levels” of its commitment to deterrence, through the U.S. nuclear umbrella and missile defense, in the face of the new threats.

Glyn Davies, the State Department’s point man for North Korea, also said in testimony prepared for a Senate hearing that Washington will not accept North Korea as a nuclear state.

Russia’s U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin called for restraint and an end to the threats. “Let’s keep our minds cool and keep focused on the need for the only possible rational course of action, and that is returning to six-party talks,” he said.

North Korea, which held a mass military rally in Pyongyang on Thursday in support of its recent threats, has protested against the U.N. censures of its rocket launches. It says they are part of a peaceful space program and that the criticism is an exercise of double standards by the United States.

The North’s shrill rhetoric, however, rarely goes beyond just that. Its last armed aggression against the South in 2010 came unannounced, bombing a South Korean island and killing two civilians. It was also accused of sinking a South Korean navy ship earlier in the year, killing 46 sailors.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un and former NBA basketball player Dennis Rodman (front L) hug in Pyongyang in this undated picture released by North Korea’s KCNA news agency on March 1, 2013. KCNA … more 

North Korea was conducting a series of military drills and getting ready for state-wide war practice of an unusual scale, South Korea’s defense ministry said earlier.South Korea and the United States, which are conducting annual military drills until the end of April, are watching the North’s activities for signs that they might turn from an exercise to an actual attack, said South Korea’s defense ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok.

Kim declined to confirm news reports that the North has imposed no-fly zones off its coasts in a possible move to fire missiles, but he said any flight ban limited to near the coast would not be for weapons with meaningful ranges.

South Korea’s military said in a rare warning on Wednesday that it would strike back at the North and target its leadership if Pyongyang launched an attack.

(Additional reporting by Michelle Nichols at the United Nations and Paul Eckert in Washington; Writing by Claudia Parsons; editing by Christopher Wilson)


By Jack Kim and Louis Charbonneau | Reuters

North Korea Says the Korean War Is Back On.

The military command of North Korea says that if South Korea and the United States don’t cancel their joint military exercises by March 11, they can consider that whole 60-year-old armistice agreement totally over. The newest threat comes as China and the U.S. are reportedly drawing upnew sanctions that they have negotiated together and will submit the U.N. Security Council to punish the DPRK for its nuclear weapons test last month.

RELATED: North Korea Pounds Chest as South Prepares For Drills

South Korea and the United States began a series of “war games” on March 1, an annual exercise that serves as reminder to the North about the united front they face from the two allies. It’s also a helpful reminder that that Korea War has never technically ended. The DMZ that divides the peninsula enforces an armistice agreement that was signed in 1953. It was designed to create a cease-fire “until a final peaceful settlement is achieved,” but that never happened and no formal peace treaty was ever agreed to. That’s why the U.S. Eighth Army never left and two nations are in a near constant state of belligerence.

RELATED: North Korea Hit Up South Korea for Money at Service for Kim Jong-Il

The joint training operations between the South and the U.S. are set to last until April 30, but this isnot the first time the North has threatened to destroy one or both of its rivals. It’s hard to imagine that the shooting will start again soon, but there’s no doubt that the rhetoric has never been harsher.


By Dashiell Bennett | The Atlantic Wire

Furious over sanctions, NKorea vows to nuke US.


SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea on Thursday vowed to launch a pre-emptive nuclear strike against the United States, amplifying its threatening rhetoric hours ahead of a vote by U.N. diplomats on whether to level new sanctions against Pyongyang for its recent nuclear test.

An unidentified spokesman for Pyongyang’s Foreign Ministry said the North will exercise its right for “a preemptive nuclear attack to destroy the strongholds of the aggressors” because Washington is pushing to start a nuclear war against the North.

Although North Korea boasts of nuclear bombs and pre-emptive strikes, it is not thought to have mastered the ability to produce a warhead small enough to put on a missile capable of reaching the U.S. It is believed to have enough nuclear fuel, however, for several crude nuclear devices.

Such inflammatory rhetoric is common from North Korea, and especially so in recent days. North Korea is angry over the possible sanctions and over upcoming U.S.-South Korean military drills. At a mass rally in Pyongyang on Thursday, tens of thousands of North Koreans protested the U.S.-South Korean war drills and sanctions.

The U.N. Security Council is set to impose a fourth round of sanctions against Pyongyang in a fresh attempt to rein in its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

Russia’s U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin, the current council president, said the council will vote on the draft sanctions resolution Thursday morning.

The resolution was drafted by the United States and China, North Korea’s closest ally. The council’s agreement to put the resolution to a vote just 48 hours later signaled that it would almost certainly have the support of all 15 council members.

The statement by the North Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman was carried by the North’s official Korean Central News Agency.

It accused the U.S. of leading efforts to slap sanctions on North Korea. The statement said the new sanctions would only advance the timing for North Korea to fulfill previous vows to take “powerful second and third countermeasures” against its enemies. It hasn’t elaborated on those measures.

The statement said North Korea “strongly warns the U.N. Security Council not to make another big blunder like the one in the past when it earned the inveterate grudge of the Korean nation by acting as a war servant for the U.S. in 1950.”

North Korea demanded the U.N. Security Council immediately dismantle the American-led U.N. Command that’s based in Seoul and move to end the state of war that exists on the Korean Peninsula, which continues six decades after fighting stopped because an armistice, not a peace treaty, ended the war.

In anticipation of the resolution’s adoption, North Korea earlier in the week threatened to cancel the 1953 cease-fire that ended the Korean War.

North Korean threats have become more common as tensions have escalated following a rocket launch by Pyongyang in December and its third nuclear test on Feb. 12. Both acts defied three Security Council resolutions that bar North Korea from testing or using nuclear or ballistic missile technology and from importing or exporting material for these programs.

U.S. U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice said the proposed resolution, to be voted on at 10 a.m. EST (1500 GMT), would impose some of the strongest sanctions ever ordered by the United Nations.

The final version of the draft resolution, released Wednesday, identified three individuals, one corporation and one organization that would be added to the U.N. sanctions list if the measure is approved.

The targets include top officials at a company that is the country’s primary arms dealer and main exporter of ballistic missile-related equipment, and a national organization responsible for research and development of missiles and probably nuclear weapons.

The success of a new round of sanctions could depend on enforcement by China, where most of the companies and banks that North Korea is believed to work with are based.

The United States and other nations worry that North Korea’s third nuclear test pushed it closer to its goal of gaining nuclear missiles that can reach the U.S. The international community has condemned the regime’s nuclear and missile efforts as threats to regional security and a drain on the resources that could go to North Korea’s largely destitute people.

The draft resolution condemns the latest nuclear test “in the strongest terms” for violating and flagrantly disregarding council resolutions, bans further ballistic missile launches, nuclear tests “or any other provocation,” and demands that North Korea return to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. It also condemns all of North Korea’s ongoing nuclear activities, including its uranium enrichment.

But the proposed resolution stresses the council’s commitment “to a peaceful, diplomatic and political solution” and urged a resumption of six-party talks with the aim of denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula “in a peaceful manner.”

The proposed resolution would make it significantly harder for North Korea to move around the funds it needs to carry out its illicit programs and strengthen existing sanctions and the inspection of suspect cargo bound to and from the country. It would also ban countries from exporting specific luxury goods to the North, including yachts, luxury automobiles, racing cars, and jewelry with semi-precious and precious stones and precious metals.

According to the draft, all countries would now be required to freeze financial transactions or services that could contribute to North Korea’s nuclear or missile programs.

To get around financial sanctions, North Koreans have been carrying around large suitcases filled with cash to move illicit funds. The draft resolution expresses concern that these bulk cash transfers may be used to evade sanctions. It clarifies that the freeze on financial transactions and services that could violate sanctions applies to all cash transfers as well as the cash couriers.

The proposed resolution also bans all countries from providing public financial support for trade deals, such as granting export credits, guarantees or insurance, if the assistance could contribute to the North’s nuclear or missile programs.

It includes what a senior diplomat called unprecedented new travel sanctions that would require countries to expel agents working for sanctioned North Korean companies.

The draft also requires states to inspect suspect cargo on their territory and prevent any vessel that refuses an inspection from entering their ports. And a new aviation measure calls on states to deny aircraft permission to take off, land or fly over their territory if illicit cargo is suspected to be aboard.


Lederer reported from the United Nations. Foster Klug in Seoul contributed to this report.


By HYUNG-JIN KIM and EDITH M. LEDERER | Associated Press

Russia opposes referring Syrians to ICC now: official.

MOSCOW (Reuters) – A senior Russian official said Moscow would not immediately back calls to refer suspected war criminals in Syria to the International Criminal Court, adding such a move would obstruct efforts to stop the violence.

U.N. investigators said on Monday that Syrian leaders they had identified as suspected war criminalsshould face the ICC in the Hague.

Because Syria is not party to the Rome Statute that established the ICC, the court can investigate the situation only if it receives a referral from the U.N. Security Council, in which Moscow is a permanent and a veto-wielding member.

“From our point of view, the priority task is to stop violence, start a political process … To speak of necessity now to quickly put somebody in front of the ICC is not the path we should follow. At this stage it would be untimely and unconstructive,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilovtold a news conference on Tuesday.

The investigators on Monday urged the U.N. Security Council to “act urgently to ensure accountability” for violations, including murder and torture, committed by both sides.

“We think both sides are responsible for that is happening in Syria in terms of human rights abuses,” Gatilov said. “Attempts to put blame solely on the Syrian government are illegitimate because the opposition has also committed and is committing human rights violations.”

Moscow, a long-time ally of Damascus, has blocked three U.N. Security Council resolutions that would have increased pressure on President Bashar al-Assad to end the violence which has seen nearly 70,000 people killed in almost two years.

Moscow on Tuesday said there had been some progress recently in Syria, where both sides of the conflict have started discussing the possibility of dialogue. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the situation had started “moving from a dead end.”

Lavrov is to discuss the situation in Syria when he meets Arab League chief Nabil Elaraby and foreign ministers of Iraq, Kuwait, Lebanon and Egypt who are due in Moscow for talks on Wednesday.

Russia’s Emergencies Ministry also said a plane carrying 99 people, including Russians fleeing the war-torn Syria, left for Moscow on Tuesday from the city of Latakia on the Mediterranean Sea coast, Itar Tass news agency said.

(Writing by Thomas Grove and Gabriela Baczynska; Editing by Timothy Heritage and Jane Baird)


By Gabriela Baczynska | Reuters

Putin says Russia will not be dictated to on arms sales.

MOSCOW (Reuters) – President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday that only the U.N. Security Council could restrict Russian weapons sales abroad, a remark that appeared aimed at defending the Kremlin against criticism of its arms supplies to the Syrian government.

“Only sanctions imposed by the U.N. Security Council can serve as a basis for limiting weapons supplies,” Putin said, according to state-run Itar-Tass news agency.

“In all other cases, nobody can use any pretext to dictate to Russia on how it should trade and with whom,” he was quoted as telling a meeting of a state commission on the arms trade.

The West has criticized Russia for vetoing, along with China, three U.N. Security Council resolutionsaimed at putting pressure on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to end a conflict that has killed an estimated 30,000 people in 19 months.

Russia sold Syria $1 billion worth of weapons last year and has made clear it would oppose an arms embargo in the Security Council because of what it says are concerns rebels fighting Assad’s government would get weapons illegally anyway.

Putin said in June that Russia was not delivering any weapons to Syria that could be used in a civil conflict.

Turkey said on October 11 that a Syrian passenger plane grounded en route from Moscow to Damascus was carrying weapons. Moscow said the cargo included radar parts that were of dual civilian and military use but were fully legal.

Moscow in 2010 scrapped plans to deliver high-precision air defense missile systems to Iran, citing sanctions imposed by the U.N. Security Council over Tehran’s nuclear program, a move welcomed by the United States and its European allies.

Russia denies trying to prop up Assad, who allows Russia to maintain a naval supply facility in the port of Tartus that is its only military base outside the former Soviet Union.

But Moscow says Syria’s crisis must be resolved without foreign interference, particularly military intervention.

(Reporting by Alissa de Carbonnel; Writing by Steve Gutterman; Editing by Jon Boyle)



Syria Is Calling Turkey’s Bluff.


Turkey ordered a Syrian civilian plane flying from Moscow to land in Ankara yesterday on the suspicion it was carrying some suspicious cargo. Today, Turkey said they found ammunition and military supplies. Syria wants to see the supposed guns they won’t be receiving.

RELATED: Turkey Has Had It Up to Here With Syria

Turkey downed this plane yesterday on the suspicion it was carrying heavy weapons. It was flying from Moscow, and Russia’s been one of Syria’s biggest allies in the U.N. Security Council. If weapons was found, it wouldn’t be a good look for Russia.

RELATED: Documents Show Russia Ordered Syria Shoot Down Turkish Jet

Tensions were rising between Turkey and Syria already. When Turkey threatened more military action and took down the plane, well. The statements floating around are a mess. Turkey’s Prime Minister said there were Russian-made arms on the plane. From one the state’s manufacturer’s, no less.

Russia says it’s all a lie, that the plane cleared customs and security checks before taking off. Syria’s foreign ministry says they want to see the weapons Turkey allegedly found. C’mon, show us. Show us the guns, they say.

Turkey, if the guns do exist, likely won’t have a problem showing them off. In this game of diplomatic posturing, it all weighs on who is bluffing.


By Connor Simpson | The Atlantic Wire

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