North Korea said on Wednesday that it would redeploy troops to demilitarised border areas, rejecting South Korea’s offer to send special envoys to ease tensions and effectively ending 2018 reconciliation efforts.
The moves, reported by state news agency KCNA, came a day after Pyongyang destroyed the joint liaison office that had been set up in the border town of Kaesong as part of the peace agreements, and drew a strong rebuke from South Korea’s presidential office.
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South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in had on Monday offered to send his national security adviser Chung Eui-yong and spy chief Suh Hoon to Pyongyang as special envoys, and urged Pyongyang to return to dialogue.
But Kim Yo Jong, the sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and a senior governing party official, “flatly rejected the tactless and sinister proposal,” according to KCNA.
Kim ridiculed Moon’s offer and accused him of using envoys to tide over crises and suggesting “preposterous proposals.” KCNA said.
“The solution to the present crisis between the North and the South caused by the incompetence and irresponsibility of the South Korean authorities is impossible and it can be terminated only when the proper price is paid.”
In response, Moon’s office said the South would no longer accept “unreasonable behaviour” by the North.
Yoon Do-han, a spokesman for the presidential Blue House, said Kim’s criticism of Moon was rude and senseless and “fundamentally damaged the trust built by the two leaders.”
South Korean army soldiers on the back of trucks in Paju, near the border with North Korea on Wednesday amid rising tensions between the two countries [Ahn Young-joon/AP Photo]
The escalation, undoing cross-border peace deals linked to economic development, would be a major setback to Moon’s bid for more lasting reconciliation with North Korea, and would further complicate already stalled US-led efforts to persuade Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear and missile programmes.
Kim Yo Jong also harshly criticised Moon in another KCNA statement, saying he had turned inter-Korean ties into a “US puppet.”
“In the eyes of the Kims, Moon’s administration gave too much false hope that it would defy US pressure to move their relations forward,” Chun Yung-woo, a former South Korean nuclear envoy, told Reuters news agency.
In a separate KCNA report on Wednesday, a spokesman for the General Staff of the (North) Korean People’s Army (KPA) said the country would dispatch troops to Mount Kumgang and Kaesong near the border, where the two Koreas previously carried out joint economic projects.
Police posts that had been withdrawn from the heavily fortified Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) would be reinstalled, while artillery units near the western sea border where defectors frequently send leaflets would be reinforced with the readiness alert heightened to the level of “top-class combat duty”, the spokesman said.
South Korea’s defence ministry warned of the dangers of military action.
“These moves thwart two decades of efforts by South and North Korea to improve inter-Korean relations and to keep peace on the Korean peninsular,” Jeon Dong-jin, director of operations at the Joint Chiefs of Staff was quoted as saying by Yonhap news agency. “If the North actually takes such a a move, it will certainly pay the price for it.”
NEW: North Korean state newspaper Rodong Sinmun leads with the demolition of Kaesong Liaison Office at the top of page two. pic.twitter.com/sVPx7buBNC
— NK NEWS (@nknewsorg) June 16, 2020
The KPA said on Tuesday that it had been studying an “action plan” to re-enter zones that had been demilitarised under a 2018 inter-Korean military pact and “turn the front line into a fortress”.
Seoul’s defence ministry has urged North Korea to abide by the agreement, under which both sides agreed to cease “all hostile acts” and dismantled a number of structures along the DMZ.
Monday marked the 20th anniversary of the first inter-Korean summit. Moon expressed regret that North Korea-US and inter-Korean relations had not progressed as hoped.
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Iran says ‘internal agents’ may be responsible for Natanz blast |NationalTribune.com
Tehran, Iran – The Iranian government said on Tuesday there are strong suspicions that “internal agents” played a role in a massive explosion that occurred at a key nuclear facility earlier this year. On July 2, a fire ripped through a building at Natanz, a major uranium enrichment site. Satellite images showed it caused the…
Tehran, Iran – The Iranian government said on Tuesday there are strong suspicions that “internal agents” played a role in a massive explosion that occurred at a key nuclear facility earlier this year.
On July 2, a fire ripped through a building at Natanz, a major uranium enrichment site. Satellite images showed it caused the roof to collapse and parts of the building were blackened by the blaze.
“One of the strong theories is based on internal agents being involved in the incident,” government spokesman Ali Rabiei told reporters at a news conference, according to the Iranian Labour News Agency (ILNA).
“The issue is being seriously reviewed by the country’s security organisations and we will announce the results after things are clear.”
It is the first time an Iranian official specifically pointed to the possibility of an inside job for the blast.
In late August, Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization confirmed the damage to the facility was the result of “sabotage”.
“But how this explosion took place and with what materials … will be announced by security officials in due course,” spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi said at the time, citing “security reasons” for not disclosing further information.
‘Sabotage is certain’
In early September, Kamalvandi announced Natanz saboteurs “have been identified” but refrained from discussing further details, including whether internal agents were complicit.
On Tuesday, Rabiei also reiterated that “sabotage is certain” but the incident still needs to be investigated due to its complexities.
The desert Natanz site, much of which is underground, is one of several Iranian facilities regularly monitored by inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the UN nuclear watchdog.
Following the explosion, international media reports indicated Israel may have been behind the attack. Israel has been deliberately vague, neither confirming nor denying involvement while stressing the danger of a nuclear-armed Iran.
“Everyone can suspect us in everything and all the time, but I don’t think that’s correct,” Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz said days after the attack.
Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi also said “Iran cannot be allowed to have nuclear capabilities”, adding to that end, “We take actions that are better left unsaid.”
September’s announcement that Iran knows the saboteurs behind the Natanz explosion came one week after IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi visited the country.
The trip was successful, leading to Iran granting access to two suspected former nuclear sites that the UN watchdog wished to inspect.
“In this present context, based on analysis of available information to the IAEA, the IAEA does not have further questions to Iran and further requests for access to locations other than those declared by Iran,” the IAEA and Iranian officials said in a joint statement following the visit.
In a speech during the 64th session of the General Conference of the IAEA on Monday, the president of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization Ali Akbar Salehi referred to the Natanz incident.
“These malicious acts need to be condemned by the agency and member states,” he said via video conference, adding “Iran reserves its rights to protect its facilities and take necessary actions against any threat as appropriate.”
Salehi also urged the UN watchdog not to compromise its “impartiality, independence and professionalism”.
Iran, UN and the United States are locked in a major disagreement centred around the landmark 2015 nuclear deal signed between Iran and world powers, which US President Donald Trump unilaterally abandoned in May 2018.
The US on Sunday declared it reinstated all UN sanctions on Iran, an announcement that was roundly rejected by the United Nations Security Council as lacking legal basis.
The US is trying to indefinitely extend an arms embargo on Iran that is set to expire in October as part of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the formal name of the nuclear deal.
Iran, which has always maintained it never pursued nuclear weapons, accepted the nuclear deal that removed all UN sanctions in exchange for curbs on its nuclear programme.
The US reneged on the deal, unilaterally imposing a harsh campaign of sanctions that have hit almost all the productive sectors of the Iranian economy. US sanctions have also targeted Iranian officials and organisations.
In response, starting exactly one year after US sanctions were imposed and other parties failed to guarantee economic benefits promised Iran under the deal, Iran started gradually scaling back its nuclear commitments.
Palestine quits Arab League role in protest over Israel deals |NationalTribune.com
Palestine was meant to chair Arab League meetings for next six months, but FM Riyad al-Maliki has declined the position.Palestine has quit its current chairmanship of Arab League meetings, the Palestinian foreign minister said on Tuesday, condemning as dishonourable any Arab agreement to establish formal ties with Israel. Palestinians see the deals that the United…
Palestine was meant to chair Arab League meetings for next six months, but FM Riyad al-Maliki has declined the position.Palestine has quit its current chairmanship of Arab League meetings, the Palestinian foreign minister said on Tuesday, condemning as dishonourable any Arab agreement to establish formal ties with Israel.
Palestinians see the deals that the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain signed with Israel in Washington a week ago as a betrayal of their cause and a blow to their quest for an independent state in Israeli-occupied territory.
Earlier this month, the Palestinians failed to persuade the Arab League to condemn nations breaking ranks and normalising relations with Israel.
Palestine was supposed to chair Arab League meetings for the next six months, but Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki told a news conference in the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah that it no longer wanted the position.
“Palestine has decided to concede its right to chair the League’s council [of foreign ministers] at its current session. There is no honour in seeing Arabs rush towards normalisation during its presidency,” Maliki said.
In his remarks, he did not specifically name the UAE and Bahrain, Gulf Arab countries that share with Israel concern over Iran. He said Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit had been informed of the Palestinian decision.
Palestinians rally against Bahrain-Israel normalisation
The Palestinian leadership wants an independent state based on the de facto borders before the 1967 war, in which Israel occupied the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and annexed East Jerusalem.
Arab countries have long called for Israel’s withdrawal from illegally occupied land, a just solution for Palestinian refugees and a settlement that leads to the establishment of a viable, independent Palestinian state, in exchange for establishing ties with it.
In a new move addressing internal Palestinian divisions, officials from West Bank-based President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah faction and the Gaza-based Hamas movement were due to hold reconciliation talks in Turkey on Tuesday.
Hamas seized the Gaza Strip in 2007 from Fatah forces during a brief round of fighting. Differences over power-sharing have delayed implementation of unity deals agreed since then.
Source : Al Jazeera, News Agencies
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