SEOUL: North Korea denounced on Monday what it called a move by the United States to introduce a nuclear missile submarine to waters near the Korean peninsula, saying it creates a situation that brings a nuclear conflict closer to reality.
North Korea also claimed US reconnaissance planes recently violated its air space near the east coast, quoting an unnamed spokesperson of its Ministry of National Defense in a statement carried by the official KCNA news agency.
“There is no guarantee that a shocking incident where a US air force strategic reconnaissance plane is shot down over the East Sea will not happen,” the spokesperson said.
The statement cited past incidents of the North shooting down or intercepting US aircraft at the border with South Korea and off the coast. North Korea has often complained about US surveillance flights near the peninsula.
The moves by the United States to introduce strategic nuclear assets to the Korean peninsula is a blatant nuclear blackmail against North Korea and regional countries and presents a grave threat to peace, KCNA said.
“It is up to future US actions whether an extreme situation arises in the Korean peninsula region that nobody wants, and the United States will be held fully responsible if any unexpected situation occurs,” it said.
A US nuclear-powered cruise missile submarine arrived at the port of Busan in South Korea last month.
In April, the leaders of South Korea and the United States agreed a US Navy nuclear-armed ballistic missile submarine will visit South Korea for the first time since the 1980s but no timetable has been given for such a visit.
It was part of a plan to boost the deployment of American strategic assets aimed at a more effective response to North Korea’s threats and weapons tests in defense of its ally South Korea, as agreed by the two leaders.
The move to sail nuclear submarines has created a “very dangerous situation that makes it impossible for us not to realistically accept the worst-case scenario of a nuclear confrontation,” the North Korean statement said.
In June, a US B-52 strategic bomber took part in air military drills with South Korea in a show of force following North Korea’s failed launch of a spy satellite at the end of May.
OSINGAPORE: Governments have no time to lose when it comes to implementing a new global ocean treaty to protect the high seas as threats from human activities intensify, a report by environmental group Greenpeace said on Thursday.
In March, more than 100 countries completed a groundbreaking treaty to protect the high seas after years of negotiations. It was adopted at the United Nations in June and states can signal their intent to ratify it at the UN General Assembly on Sept. 20.
The treaty will create ocean sanctuaries that are off-limits to fishing and other human activities. Environmental groups said the agreement was a crucial part of efforts to meet a goal enshrined in last year’s global biodiversity accord to protect at least 30 percent of the world’s land and seas by 2030 — a target known as “30 by 30.”
The high seas, or international waters, constitute more than 60 percent of the world’s oceans but have not been under any protection. While the treaty addresses a major regulatory gap, it still needs to be ratified at a national level before it goes into effect.
Greenpeace said fishing hours on the high seas increased by 8.5 percent from 2018 to 2022, and were up 22.5 percent in areas that need special protection.
Unsustainable practices have also risen, including longlines that ensnare marine mammals or seabirds. Species like Pacific Bluefin tuna have lost more than 90 percent of their population in 30 years, the report said.
Sea temperatures hit a record 21.1 degrees Celsius (70 degrees Fahrenheit) in April and are driving ocean acidification and deoxygenation. The problems of plastic, oil and noise pollution have still not been brought under control, according to the environmental group.
Greenpeace warned that “new industries wait in the wings,” including the mining of minerals in the seabed as well as ocean carbon removal technology, which are not yet properly regulated.
The UN treaty will only go into effect when it has been ratified by 60 countries. Greenpeace said that needs to happen before 2025 if there is any hope of achieving the “30 by 30” target. Funding the treaty could be the next challenge.
“We believe over 60 countries intend to sign the Treaty (at the UN General Assembly) on Sept. 20, which would send a very strong signal of continued global unity and momentum toward ratification,” said Chris Thorne of Greenpeace’s Protect the Oceans campaign.
“Reaching 30 by 30 means protecting more than 11 million square kilometers (4.3 million square miles) every year from now to 2030, so there is hardly any time to waste.”
WASHINGTON: The UN human rights expert for Myanmar on Wednesday called on the United States to further tighten sanctions on the country’s military rulers to include their main revenue source, the state oil and gas enterprise.
UN Special Rapporteur Tom Andrews, a former member of the US Congress, also said it was vital for Washington to at least maintain levels of humanitarian support for victims of the junta inside and outside Myanmar.
Andrews told a hearing of the US Congress’s Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission he was “alarmed” by reports that some donors, including the US, might reduce support for Rohingya refugees who fled Myanmar and said a Joint Response Plan that includes food rations for Rohingya children in Bangladesh was only 32 percent funded so far this year.
Andrews praised Washington for imposing sanctions on the Myanmar Foreign Trade Bank and Myanma Investment and Commercial Bank in June, but said more needed to be done.
“We need to have more sanctions imposed… I urge the US to join the European Union and immediately impose sanctions on the junta’s single largest source of revenue, the Myanma Oil and Gas Enterprise,” Andrews said.
“If you can stop the money, you can cut their ability to continue these atrocities,” he said referring to civilian deaths at the hands of the military.
Andrews also urged Washington to work with other countries to block the junta’s access to weapons.
Last month, Washington expanded its sanctions against Myanmar to include foreign companies or individuals helping the junta to procure jet fuel it uses to launch air strikes, while estimating that the military had killed more than 3,900 civilians since taking power in a 2021 coup.
In January, the United States targeted the managing director and deputy managing director of the Myanma Oil and Gas Enterprise with sanctions, but has yet to go further against the firm, despite the urgings of rights groups and dissidents.
Myanmar military officials have played down the impact of sanctions and say their air strikes target insurgents.
Andrews said in a May report that Myanmar’s military had imported at least $1 billion in arms and other material since the coup and called out Russia and China for aiding its campaign to crush its opposition.
WASHINGTON: A US appeals court has ruled that some of the contents of Republican Representative Scott Perry’s cellphone should be shielded from the criminal probe into former President Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn his 2020 election loss, but found that some of his other communications may not be protected.
The ruling by a three-judge panel of the US Court of the Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit — dated Sept. 5 and unsealed publicly on Wednesday — handed a partial victory to the Trump ally who helped spread false claims that the election was stolen through widespread voting fraud.
The judges found that Perry’s communications with other members of Congress discussing the certification of the 2020 election results “are quintessential legislative acts” that can be shielded from executive branch agencies. But they found that not all of Perry’s texts and other communications with people outside of Congress were necessarily protected, and ordered a lower court to go back and review each communication.
Perry, a retired US Army National Guard brigadier general who represents a district in Pennsylvania in the US House of Representatives, has sought to prevent the Justice Department from reviewing the contents of his cellphone since it was seized by the FBI last year.
“The D.C. Circuit’s decision is a full-throated vindication of Congress’ protection from intrusive and overreaching inquiry into the legislative deliberations of Members of Congress,” John Rowley, one of Perry’s attorneys, said in a statement.
US Special Counsel Jack Smith has brought four criminal charges against Trump, the front-runner in the race for the Republican nomination to face Democratic President Joe Biden in the 2024 election, related to efforts to overturn the election.
Trump has pleaded not guilty and called the charges politically motivated. He also has pleaded not guilty to criminal charges brought in three other cases, including in Georgia where he faces state charges related efforts to undo his 2020 election loss in that state.
A spokesperson for Smith declined to comment on the Perry ruling.
Perry’s conduct is under scrutiny in Smith’s investigation because of the prominent role he played ahead of the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol by Trump supporters who sought to block Congress from certifying Biden’s election victory.
The legal dispute focuses on whether the contents of Perry’s cellphone are shielded from disclosure under a provision of the US Constitution that gives members of Congress immunity from civil litigation or criminal prosecution for actions that arise in the course of their legislative duties.
Justice Department attorneys in February had urged the D.C. Circuit to uphold a ruling by Judge Beryl Howell, who had found that Perry’s communications were not within a “legitimate legislative sphere” and therefore could be reviewed by the FBI.
The panel included Judges Gregory Katsas and Neomi Rao, both appointed by Trump, and Judge Karen Henderson, appointed by Republican former President Ronald Reagan.
LONDON: British MP Tobias Ellwood has resigned from his position as chair of a Commons committee following a backlash to comments he made after a visit to Afghanistan, in which he praised the Taliban.
In a video he posted on social media in July, the Conservative politician described Afghanistan as a “country transformed” in the aftermath the Taliban takeover in August 2021. He said “security has vastly improved, corruption is down and the opium trade has all but disappeared.”
The former defense minister made little mention of women’s rights, which have greatly diminished under Taliban rule.
Ellwood’s remarks were condemned by Afghan women, military veterans, and several members of the cross-party defense select committee he chaired, including some Conservative colleagues.
He resigned on Wednesday, the day before a vote of no confidence was expected to take place, The Guardian newspaper reported. It was tabled in July, before Parliament broke up for the summer, by four of his fellow committee members: Conservatives Mark Francois, a former armed forces minister, and Richard Drax, and Labour Party MPs Kevan Jones and Derek Twigg. The committee has 11 members in total, so six votes would have forced him out.
As he announced his resignation, Ellwood admitted he was guilty of “poor communications” in relation to his comments. He said that although he believed he still had the backing of a majority of committee members, continuing to serve as its chairperson would be a distraction.
“I believe I have a strong voice when it comes to defense and security,” he said. “I stand up, speak my mind. I don’t always get it right, so it’s right I put my hand up when I don’t.”
Ellwood tried to defuse the row in July by deleting the video and issuing an apology in which he said: “My reflection(s) of my visit could have been much better worded and have been taken out of context.”
Francois told the Commons in July he was “absolutely stunned” by a video “lauding the Taliban’s governance of Afghanistan, not mentioning they’re still trying to identify and kill Afghan civilians who sided with NATO forces, and also not mentioning the fact they don’t like girls to go to school.”
Ellwood’s replacement on the committee will be chosen in a secret ballot of all MPs.
HOUSTON: An Afghan soldier who fled the Taliban and traveled through nearly a dozen countries before being arrested at the Texas-Mexico border and detained for months has been granted asylum, allowing him to remain in the United States, his brother said Wednesday.
Abdul Wasi Safi, 27, is one of tens of thousands of Afghan citizens who fled to the US following the withdrawal of its forces from Afghanistan in August 2021.
The soldier, called Wasi by family and friends, and his older brother, Sami Safi, worried that if Wasi Safi wasn’t granted asylum, he could be sent back to Afghanistan, where he would likely be killed by the Taliban because he had worked with the US military.
But Wasi Safi’s lawyer surprised the brothers Tuesday with news that his asylum request had been granted. The brothers, who live in Houston, had thought a decision wasn’t coming until a Nov. 19 court hearing.
“I have tears of joy in my eyes,” Sami Safi said. “Now he can live here. Now he can be safe here.”
The US Department of Justice’s Executive Office for Immigration Review, which handles immigration cases, didn’t immediately reply to an email seeking comment about Wasi Safi being granted asylum, which was first reported by the Military Times.
An intelligence officer for the Afghan National Security Forces, Wasi Safi made his way to Brazil last year. Last summer, he started a months-long journey on foot and by boat through raging rivers and dense jungle to the US, crossing 10 countries on his treacherous trek.
At the US-Mexico border near Eagle Pass, Texas, Wasi Safi was arrested in September 2022 and spent several months in detention before being freed following intervention by lawyers and lawmakers.
Those working on Wasi Safi’s case say it highlights how America’s chaotic military withdrawal from Afghanistan continues to harm Afghan citizens who helped the US but were left behind.
Nearly 90,000 Afghans who worked with American soldiers as translators or in other capacities since 2001 have arrived in the US on military planes since the chaotic withdrawal, according to the US Department of Homeland Security. The Afghan Adjustment Act, a proposed law to streamline their immigration process, has stalled in Congress.
Other Afghans, like Wasi Safi, made their way to the US on their own.
“This was supposed to happen because if you give so much sacrifice to a country’s government, to a country’s military who promised you ‘we will never leave our allies behind,’ it was the right thing for the government to do,” said Sami Safi, 30, who was a translator for the US military and has lived in Houston since 2015.
Wasi Safi’s unresolved immigration status had meant that he wasn’t authorized to work. By getting asylum, he will be able to apply for a work permit.
His brother said it will also help him focus on getting treatment for injuries he suffered during his journey to the US A brutal beating by police officers in Panama severely damaged his teeth and jaw and left him with permanent hearing loss.
Sami Safi said getting his brother asylum is part of an effort that he hopes one day leads to bringing their parents and other siblings to the US They continue facing threats in Afghanistan over Wasi Safi’s work with the US military, Sami Safi said.
“They were full of joy after hearing about my brother. And we’re just only hoping and praying that we get to see them, we get to bring them here, so that my brothers and my sisters can pursue happiness and live a peaceful life,” he said.