Articles by "Asia"

Malaysia and North Korea have lifted mutual bans on nationals from each country leaving the other as part of an agreement that ends a bitter row following the assassination of the North Korean leader’s exiled half-brother in Kuala Lumpur.
The nine Malaysians who had been barred from leaving North Korea in the wake of the dispute returned home after Pyongyang and Kuala Lumpur reached an agreement over transferring the body of the North Korean leader’s half-brother, Kim Jong-nam. Malaysia, too, started allowing North Korean nationals to leave.
In a statement on Thursday, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said that after “very sensitive” negotiations, Malaysia agreed to release Kim’s body, which Kuala Lumpur was refusing to hand over to North Korean officials because they had not been cooperative in the Malaysian investigation of Kim’s killing.
No next-of-kin had stepped forward to claim the body either.
“Following the completion of the autopsy on the deceased and receipt of a letter from his family requesting the remains be returned to North Korea, the coroner has approved the release of the body,” Najib said.
North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency also confirmed the agreement, saying the two sides had pledged to “guarantee the safety and security” of each other’s citizens.
Following the development, Malaysia put Kim’s body on a plane to be delivered to Pyongyang. Earlier, a van was seen leaving the morgue where his body was being held.
Later on Friday, China confirmed that the body had been returned to North Korea. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang also said that “relevant” North Korean citizens had traveled back to their home country.
A van believed to be carrying the body of Kim Jong-nam leaves the Kuala Lumpur Hospital, in the Malaysian capital, March 30, 2017. (Photo by Reuters)
The Malaysians stuck in North Korea — three embassy workers and six family members including four children — were flown home in a government plane and greeted by Foreign Minister Anifah Aman at the airport.
The exchange effectively ended a seven-week diplomatic row between the two countries that erupted with Kim’s murder at Kuala Lumpur’s International Airport. He was killed with a banned nerve agent amid crowds of travelers at a public terminal of the airport on February 13.
Malaysia, outraged by the brazen act of murder, sought several North Korean nationals, including a diplomat, for questioning. It also said it would conduct an autopsy on the body to determine the cause of the death.
North Korean officials quickly opposed any autopsy, refused to allow access to the North Koreans sought by Malaysia, and demanded that the body be promptly handed over to them.
The dispute lingered as the two sides refused to meet each other’s demands, and a ban was subsequently put in place on nationals from leaving.
Malaysian police arrested the two women who carried out the assassination by rubbing the nerve agent on Kim’s face, which led to his death only after 20 minutes.
Indonesian Siti Aisyah, 25, and Vietnamese Doan Thi Huong, 28, claimed they were fooled into believing they were taking part in a television prank show. They face the death penalty if convicted of the murder at court.
It was not clear what would happen to the two under the deal between Malaysia and North Korea.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (L) and his murdered half-brother, Kim Jong-nam (File photos)
North Korea has denied any role in the killing. But South Korean intelligence sources have been putting the blame on Pyongyang.
Kim was planning to travel to the autonomous Chinese region of Macau when he was killed.
His death is considered as the most high-profile death during the reign of his younger brother, Kim Jong-un, since the execution of Jang Song-thaek, the brothers’ once powerful uncle, in December 2013.

South Korea’s embattled former president Park Geun-hye has been incarcerated at a detention center following a court decision to approve a warrant for her arrest.
Prosecutors had requested Park’s arrest earlier this week over bribery and abuse of power charges during her tenure.
On Friday, a judge at the Seoul Central District Court said in a statement that, “The cause and the need for the warrant are recognized as the main charges against her have been verified and as evidence could be destroyed,” in a reference to the prosecutors’ concern that Park could destroy evidence if she remained free.
Prosecutors had submitted 120,000 pages of documents to the judge.
About two hours after the ruling, Park was taken to the Seoul Detention Center located just outside the capital city. She could remain locked up for up to 20 days while she is being investigated over the scandal.
Park is accused of colluding with a friend, Choi Soon-sil, to pressure big businesses, including Samsung, to contribute huge sums to non-profit foundations that were set up to back up her initiatives.
The supporters of South Korea’s ousted president Park Geun-hye clash with police outside Park’s home as she leaves for a hearing to decide whether she should be arrested over the corruption and abuse of power scandal, in Seoul, March 30, 2017. The court subsequently ruled that she be arrested. (Photo by AFP)
Park, 65, became the country’s first democratically-elected leader to be ousted from office when the Constitutional Court upheld a parliamentary impeachment vote against her on March 10.
She lost her impunity from prosecution when the March ruling was issued.
Park has denied wrongdoing but publicly apologized several times for carelessness in her ties with Choi, who has also denied the accusations against herself.
Choi is in detention while on going through a trial of her own.

This file photo shows a Pashtu-speaking Afghan man crossing Afghan-Pakistani border into Pakistan. (Photo by Reuters)
Pakistan says it has started building a fence along its volatile border with Afghanistan in an attempt to restrict the movement of militants that cross over the frontier and launch attacks.
The fence construction began in the northern tribal regions of Mohmand and Bajaur over the weekend as Pakistan's army chief, General Qamar Bajwa, visited the "high threat zones." He said the new border measure would be in the interest of both countries.
A Pakistani army statement said “additional technical surveillance” would also be deployed, but did not provide any further information.
Najib Danish, the deputy spokesman for the Afghan Interior Ministry, said Kabul was unaware of any construction work, noting that his government would move to prevent any such project.
"We have not seen any signs of building fences along the border. But it is not going to solve the terrorism problem. It is only going to divide the people and we will not allow it," he said.
Experts say deep cultural ties between Pashtu-speaking people who live on both sides of the border will render the controversial move ineffective.
Every day, thousands of Afghan and Pakistani Pashtuns cross the Durand Line -- the 2,430-kilometer boundary established by the British in 1896 during their colonial rule.
Neither the Afghan government nor Pashtuns recognize the Durand Line as an official border between the two nations, who are bound by cultural and family ties.
This file photo shows a view of the Wesh–Chaman border crossing between Afghanistan and Pakistan.
The movement across the Durand Line generates revenue for both Afghanistan and Pakistan. The two countries exchange goods and services worth 3 billion dollars annually across the border.
Last year, Pakistan completed a 1,100-kilometer trench along the southern half of the border.
Pakistan says its recent move to fence the crossings is aimed at curtailing the movement of militants and stopping them from entering the country.
Experts, however, say Islamabad is increasingly worried about India's influence in Afghanistan.
Former Afghan diplomat Ahmad Saidi argues that Pakistan is trying to put pressure on Afghanistan to achieve its long-term goals such as persuading Kabul to distance itself from New Delhi.
“Governments pursue long-term policies and consider the current losses that people suffer … collateral damage,” he said.

The combo image released in Afghan media shows (from L) Interior Minister Taj Mohammad Jahid, Defense Minister Abdullah Habibi and Masson Stanekzai, head of the National Directorate for Security.
Two Afghan ministers, along with the head of the country’s security service, have survived a vote of no-confidence in parliament amid growing concerns that militants seem poised to seize control of more areas.
The Afghan legislature summoned Defense Minister Abdullah Habibi, Interior Minister Taj Mohammad Jahid and Masson Stanekzai, head of the National Directorate for Security, on Monday over their failure to tackle mounting insecurity and the Taliban insurgency in the country in recent months.
The impeachment came less than a month after a massive attack on Kabul's 400-bed Sardar Mohammad Daud Khan hospital, Afghanistan’s largest military health facility. Around 50 people were killed in the attack, which took place just across the road from the heavily-fortified US embassy. The Daesh Takfiri terrorist group claimed the attack.
Two Afghan men weep for their relatives in front of the main gate of a military hospital in Kabul on March 8, 2017, after a deadly attack that killed about 50 people. (Photo by AFP)
Afghan Parliament Speaker Abdul Rauf Ibrahimi said the chamber had called the impeachment vote over "weakness in management and the worsening security around the country,” especially in relation to the hospital attack.
The vote also came after reports said that Taliban militants had overrun the district of Sangin and government facilities in the southern province of Helmand following months of fierce fighting. However, spokesmen for the Kabul government denied the claims that the district had fallen to the militants.
According to estimates, the government in Kabul controls less than 60 percent of the country while militants, mainly from the Taliban, either control or contest the rest.
The UN says nearly 3,500 civilians, including 923 children, were killed and about 8,000 were wounded as a result of insurgency in Afghanistan last year.

This handout picture taken and released by the Myanmar Armed Forces on March 27, 2017 shows Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, the commander in chief of the Myanmar Armed Forces, speaking during a ceremony marking the country's 72nd Armed Forces Day in Naypyidaw. (Photo by AFP)
Myanmar's army chief has defended an ongoing crackdown against the persecuted Rohingya Muslims minority in Rakhine State after the UN pledged to probe a campaign of killing and torture by security forces there.
Army chief Min Aung Hlaing defended the military campaign while speaking to crowds assembled in the capital Naypyidaw for armed forces day on Monday.
The military chief branded Rohingya Muslims as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh or "Bengalis" despite many living there for generations.
"The Bengalis in Rakhine State are not the Myanmar nationalities but the immigrants," Hlaing said.
Elsewhere in his remarks, the commander-in-chief of the Myanmar armed forces blamed Muslims for a series of attacks across the troubled region on security forces that occurred October last year.
"The terrorist attacks which took place in October 2016 resulted in the political interferences."
The remarks come after the top United Nations human rights body on Friday agreed to send an international fact-finding mission to investigate widespread allegations of killings, rape and torture by security forces against Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar’s Rakhine state.
Sources say the mission will seek to ensure "full accountability for perpetrators and justice for victims."
However, the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC)  stopped short of calling for the establishment of a Commission of Inquiry - the world body’s highest level investigation - into the situation of the Rohingya despite a call by Yanghee Lee, the UN’s special rapporteur on rights in Myanmar.
UN investigators believe security forces may have committed crimes against humanity.
Myanmar’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi has, meanwhile, rebuffed the UN probe, saying any international fact-finding mission "would do more to inflame, rather than resolve, the issues at this time."
Rights groups have cast doubt on the impartiality of several investigative commissions set up by Suu Kyi to look into the crimes against the Rohingya.
Myanmar has long faced criticism for its treatment of the more than one million Rohingya who live in Rakhine State.
Since October 2016, Myanmar’s forces have been carrying out a military crackdown in Rakhine State, where the Rohingya community is mainly based, following a raid on a police post that was blamed on Rohingya-linked militants.
This screen grab taken on January 4, 2017, from a YouTube video originally taken by Myanmar Constable Zaw Myo Htike (not pictured) shows policemen standing guard around Rohingya minority villagers seated on the ground in the village of Kotankauk during a police area clearance operation on November 5, 2016. (Photo by AFP)
In a report last month, Reuters cited two UN officials dealing with refugees fleeing violence as saying that some 1,000 Rohingya Muslims may have been killed in Myanmar’s army crackdown on the minority group.
At least 75,000 Rohingya have since fled from Myanmar to Bangladesh, according to the UN.
UN investigators, who interviewed Rohingya escapees in neighboring Bangladesh, have blamed Myanmar’s government forces for responding with a campaign of murder, gang rape and arson that they say may amount to genocide.
Myanmar classifies Rohingya Muslims as stateless or non-citizens, a status which strips them of the right to education, work or social services.

An arrested Indian fisherman looks out at a lockup at a police station in Karachi, Pakistan, January 27, 2017. (Photo by AP)
Pakistan has arrested at least 100 Indian fishermen for illegally fishing in its waters, officials said on Sunday.
The Maritime Security Agency (MSA) made the arrests Saturday night, and also impounded 19 wooden boats, a security official told AFP on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to the media.
"The 100 men would be taken to the court on Monday," senior police official Adeel Chandio said after the fishermen were handed over to the police by MSA officials.
Every year dozens of Indian and Pakistani fishermen are picked up in the Arabian Sea after straying across maritime borders.
They often languish in prison even after serving their sentences, as poor diplomatic relations between the bitter nuclear foes hamper the bureaucracy.
Pakistan released 219 Indian fishermen as a "goodwill" gesture in January.
But overall relations have plummeted since a deadly attack on an Indian army base in the disputed region of Kashmir in September, which New Delhi blamed on Pakistan-based Islamist group Jaish-e-Mohammed.
There have since been repeated outbreaks of cross-border firing, with both sides reporting deaths and injuries.
Kashmir has been divided between India and Pakistan since the end of British colonial rule in 1947. Both claim the Himalayan territory in full and have fought two wars over the mountainous region.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un appears on a screen during a confetti-filled concert at the Pyongyang Arena in May 2016.

North Korea has condemned a joint military drill between South Korea and the United States and threatened a preemptive strike.
South Korean and US troops began large-scale war games on March 1 conducted annually with the participation of American warships and reconnaissance aircraft.
Earlier this month, USS Carl Vinson joined the drill. South Korean officials say US special troops are also set to take part in the joint exercises.
"As long as the US and South Korea's troops and means … remain in and around South Korea, they should keep in mind that our military will carry out annihilating attack at anytime without any prior warning," a statement read on North Korean broadcaster KCTV said on Sunday.
The war games called Foal Eagle will be continued until the end of April. Last year, it involved about 17,000 American troops and more than 300,000 South Koreans.
North Korea said in a letter to the UN Security Council earlier this month that the US was using nuclear-propelled aircraft carriers, nuclear submarines, nuclear strategic bombers and stealth fighters in the exercises.

US and South Korean soldiers fire artillery during a live-fire exercise near Rodriguez Range in South Korea as part of the Foal Eagle drill in March 2012.
North Korea has protested against the drills, calling them a rehearsal for war, and responded with a series of missile tests which the West and the UN have used as a ground to impose fresh sanctions on the country.
The United Nations said earlier this week that sanctions against North Korea were taking a serious toll on humanitarian aid activities in the country, where millions of women and children are reliant on donations.
Tapan Mishra, the UN’s senior resident official in Pyongyang, said North Korea was in the midst of “a protracted, entrenched humanitarian situation largely forgotten or overlooked by the rest of the world.”
North Korea has been the target of a broad array of tough sanctions by the US and the UN Security Council over its nuclear and missile tests.
Pyongyang says its missile and nuclear program is part of its self-defense measures aimed at protecting the North’s sovereignty and safety in the face of threats by the US and South Korea.
On Friday, the US said it had imposed sanctions on 30 foreign companies or individuals for allegedly violating export controls on Iran, North Korea and Syria.

Hong Kong Chief Executive candidates, from left, John Tsang, Carrie Lam and Woo Kwok-hing attend a TV debate.
Former senior government official Carrie Lam has been elected Hong Kong’s next leader by a 1,200-person committee amid competing rallies held outside the election venue over China’s rule.
The 55-year-old former chief secretary won 777 votes from the Election Committee on Sunday, becoming the city's first female leader.
Lam ran for the top post in the Chinese-ruled financial hub of 7.3 million people against another former official, John Tsang, and retired judge, Woo Kwok-hing.
Security was tight around the venue with metal barricades and large numbers of police deployed, keeping pro-Beijing groups and their rivals apart.  
Protesters denounced what they called Beijing's interference, accusing China of lobbying the voters to back Lam.
Lam is an efficient and pragmatic administrator but his detractors in Hong Kong see her as a proxy for Beijing and out of touch with ordinary people.
She will take over from current leader Leung Chun-ying who is not seeking a second term, citing family reasons.
Members of the Election Committee included tycoons like Li Ka-shing, Hong Kong's richest person. Other members represented industry and trade groups such as finance, accounting, real estate and textiles.
Election Committee members cast their votes at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Center in Wan Chai, Hong Kong, March 26, 2017.
Hong Kong lawmakers, local councilors and delegates to China's parliament also have votes and some 326 seats are held by pro-independence supporters.
Since Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule in 1997, Beijing has been walking a fine line for the administration of the city under the formula of "one country, two systems."
Pro-autonomy groups, meanwhile, have tried to avoid the 2014 protests that pitted young activists against the city's Beijing-backed government, leaving tensions over the city's political reform.
Hong Kong’s proximity to China has been a boon for the city, bringing in Chinese investment and spending.
Businesses, however, have faced growing competition from mainland Chinese firms in core sectors like services and property.
Housing prices, now among the world's highest, are widely seen to have been pushed up by an unrelenting wave of buying from rich Chinese, intensifying anti-Beijing sentiment.

This photo taken on October 6, 2016 in Soamahamanina shows employees standing by as a mining machine filters the dirt containing gold inside the Chinese company Jiuxing's mine. (Photo by AFP)
Accidents at two neighboring gold mines in central China's Henan province killed 11 people on Friday, the official Xinhua news agency reported, citing local authorities.
Thick smoke engulfed a pit at the Qinling gold mine of China National Gold Group in Lingbao City on Friday morning, trapping 12 workers and six management staff, Xinhua reported on Saturday.
Rescue workers retrieved seven bodies on Friday night. Of the 10 people taken to hospital, one failed to respond to treatment and the other nine were recovering.
One more body was retrieved on Saturday afternoon.
A similar accident was reported in a neighboring gold mine on Friday afternoon, Xinhua said, citing the provincial work safety administration.
Of the six workers trapped, four had been rescued while the other two were found dead later that evening.
Industrial accidents are common in China. Anger over lax standards is rising after 30 years of breakneck economic growth marred by incidents from mining disasters to factory fires.
Earlier on Saturday, an operation platform collapsed at a power plant in southern China, killing nine people.

In this May 20, 2013 photo, North Korean nurses and representatives from foreign humanitarian agencies are seen during a UN and North Korean government program to give vitamin supplements to children at a school in Pyongyang. (Photo by AP)
The United Nations has warned that sanctions against North Korea are taking a serious toll on humanitarian aid activities in the country, where millions of women and children are reliant on donations.
A report by Tapan Mishra, the UN’s senior resident official in Pyongyang, says the bans slapped on the North over its nuclear and missile activities are causing a “radical decline” in donations among the needy in the Asian state.
Such donations, the report said, are badly needed by “18 million people, or 70 percent of the population, including 1.3 million children under five.”
North Korea has been the target of a broad array of tough sanctions by the US and the UN Security Council over its nuclear and missile tests.
Pyongyang says its missile and nuclear program is part of its self-defense measures aimed at protecting the North’s sovereignty and safety in the face of threats by the US and South Korea.
Mishra, who coordinates UN development program and other activities in the country, said North Korea is in the midst of “a protracted, entrenched humanitarian situation largely forgotten or overlooked by the rest of the world.”
The report said “chronic food insecurity, early childhood malnutrition and nutrition insecurity” continue to be widespread in North Korea.
The sanctions, it said, also have a psychological impact on the donors, making them reluctant to provide funds for projects in the country.
Residents receive emergency goods, including kitchen sets and blankets, distributed by North Korean Red Cross officials in Pyongyang Province. (Photo by AP)
“This is reflected in the radical decline in donor funding since 2012,” it said. “As a result, agencies have been forced to significantly reduce the assistance they provide ,” it added.
Forty-one percent of the population in North Korea or two in five people are undernourished, while 70 percent depend on the Public Distribution System (PDS) for rations, according to the report.
With international sanctions in effect, health service delivery remains inadequate with many areas not equipped with sufficient facilities, equipment or medicines to meet people’s basic health needs, it added.
On Monday, Reuters quoted a US official as saying that Washington was considering more sweeping sanctions as part of a broad review of measures against North Korea.
Reacting to the report, a senior North Korean diplomat at the UN, said his country has no fear of tighter US bans and is determined to pursue the “acceleration” of its nuclear and missile programs.
North Korea is irked by joint wargames held annually by the US and South Korea on the volatile Korean Peninsula, saying the drills are practices for a war on the country.
Washington has recently angered Pyongyang by starting the installation of an advanced missile system at an air base in South Korea.

Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force's latest Izumo-class helicopter carrier, DDH-184 Kaga, leaves a port after a handover ceremony for the JMSDF by Japan Marine United Corporation in Yokohama, Japan March 22, 2017. (Photo by Reuters)
China said on Thursday that it hoped the entry into service of Japan's second biggest helicopter carrier, the Kaga, did not mean a return to the country's past militaristic history.
The ship, along with its sister, the Izumo, gives Japan's military greater ability to deploy beyond its shores.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Hua Chunying, said that in recent years Japan had exaggerated the "China threat" as an excuse to expand its military.
"I also want to say that the Kaga was sunk by the US military in World War Two. Japan should learn the lessons of history," Hua told a daily news briefing, adding, "We hope the return of the Kaga is not trying to be the start of the ashes of Japanese militarism burning once more."
Japan’s second big helicopter carrier, the Kaga, entered service on Wednesday, giving the nation’s military greater ability to deploy beyond its shores as it pushes back against China’s growing influence in Asia.
Accompanied by a military band, Maritime Self Defense Force commanders took possession of the 248 meter (813.65 ft.) long vessel at the Japan Marine United shipyard in Yokohama near Tokyo, where it was docked next to its sister ship the Izumo.
Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force's (JMSDF) latest Izumo-class helicopter carrier, DDH-184 Kaga (R), is seen next to JMSDF's helicopter carrier, Izumo, in Yokohama, Japan, March 22, 2017, in this photo taken by Kyodo. (Via Reuters)
“China is attempting to make changes in the South China Sea with bases and through acts that exert pressure is altering the status quo, raising security concerns among the international community,” Vice Minister of Defense Takayuki Kobayashi said at the ceremony attend by about 500 people
Japan’s two biggest warships since World War Two are potent symbols of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push to give the military a bigger international role. They are designated as helicopter destroyers to keep within the bounds of a war-renouncing constitution that forbids possession of offensive weapons.
In its biggest show of naval power in foreign waters in more than 70 years, Japan plans to dispatch the Izumo in May on a three-month tour through the South China Sea, sources with knowledge of the plan told Reuters earlier.
China claims almost all the disputed waters through which around $5 trillion of global sea-borne trade passes each year. Beijing’s growing military presence there has fueled concern in Tokyo and Washington.
Taiwan, Malaysia, Vietnam, the Philippines and Brunei also claim parts of the sea which has rich fishing grounds, oil and gas deposits. Japan has no claims there, but is locked in another territorial dispute with China over a group of islets in the neighboring East China Sea.
The addition of the Kaga means Japan will be able to mount overseas operations more often in the future. It will be based in Kure western Japan, which was home to Japan’s most famous World War Two battleship, the Yamato. The Izumo operates from Yokosuka near Tokyo, which is also where of the US Seventh Fleet’s carrier, the Ronald Reagan, is based.
The Japanese ships can operate up to nine helicopters each from their decks. They resemble the amphibious assault carriers used by US Marines, but lack their well deck for launching landing craft and other vessels.

Official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) released this photo on February 13, 2017, showing the launch of a surface-to-surface medium long-range ballistic missile. (Via AFP)
South Korea says the North has attempted to launch another missile, but the test appears to have ended in a failure.
Seoul’s Defense Ministry said in a statement that Pyongyang fired a missile from the eastern coastal town of Wonsan on Wednesday.
“South Korea and the United States are aware of the North Korean missile launch and suspect it was a failure," said a spokesman for Seoul’s military.
The report did not give the number of the missiles put to test or their type.
A spokesman for US Pacific Command, Commander Dave Benham, also said that they detected “a failed North Korean missile launch attempt... in the vicinity of Kalma.”
“A missile appears to have exploded within seconds of launch,” Benham added.
Kyodo News also quoted a source in the Tokyo government as saying that the North may have test-fired several missiles from an area on its east coast, but Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga later said the government has not confirmed Pyongyang’s missile launch towards the country.
Angered by the annual joint war games currently being carried out by the US and South Korea on the restive peninsula, North Korea has in recent weeks stepped up its missile tests.
Pyongyang rejects claims by Washington and Seoul that the military drills are defensive in nature, saying the maneuvers are a rehearsal for a war against the North.
North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) released this undated photo on March 19, 2017, showing leader Kim Jong Un as watching the ground jet test of a Korean-style high-thrust engine. (Via AFP)
The North’s state media on Sunday reported that Pyongyang had conducted a test of a new high-thrust engine at its rocket launch station, with leader Kim Jong-un hailing the successful test as “a new birth” of the country’s rocket industry.
Kim said that “the whole world will soon witness what eventful significance the great victory won today carries.”
Washington has further infuriated Pyongyang by starting the installation of an advanced missile system at an air base in South Korea earlier this month.
The missile system, known as Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD), is equipped with a powerful detection system known as an X band radar, which experts say would destabilize regional security and upset the region’s current military balance.
The US also occasionally deploys nuclear-powered warships and aircraft capable of carrying atomic weapons in the region.
North ‘not afraid of more US bans’
Pyongyang has been subjected to international pressure, including US sanctions and Security Council resolutions, to abandon its arms development and nuclear programs. Yet, it says the programs are meant to protect the country from US hostility.
On Monday, Reuters quoted a US official as saying on Monday that Washington is considering sweeping sanctions as part of a broad review of measures to counter what is called North Korea’s nuclear and missile “threat.”
Reacting to the report, a senior North Korean diplomat at the UN said his country has no fear of tighter US bans and is determined to pursue the “acceleration” of its nuclear and missile programs.
“Even prohibition of the international transactions system, the global financial system, this kind of thing is part of their system that will not frighten us or make any difference,” said Choe Myong Nam, deputy ambassador at the North Korean mission to the United Nations in Geneva.
The official censured the existing restrictive measures against North Korea as “heinous and inhumane.”
“We strengthen our national defense capability as well as pre-emptive strike capabilities with nuclear forces as a centerpiece,” Choe said.
He added that the North has been under sanctions for “half a century” but the state survives by putting emphasis on “self-sufficiency.

South Korean ex-president, Park Geun-hye, arrives at the prosecutors' office in Seoul on March 21, 2017. (Photo by AFP)
South Korea’s dismissed president has been questioned by prosecutors in connection with a high-profile corruption scandal that culminated in her impeachment and removal from power.
Upon her arrival at the prosecutors’ office in Seoul on Tuesday, Park Geun-hye told reporters that she was “sorry to the people” and promised to cooperate with the investigations.
After about five hours of continued grilling, an official said that Park had been forthcoming. If Park agrees, the questioning could continue beyond midnight. Authorities have hinted at the possibility of her detention, adding however that she would go home at the end of the first questioning session.
While Park has apologized several times, she has denied receiving any money in the graft case.
It is not yet clear what charges Park is facing, but if convicted of receiving bribes from major business leaders, she could be sentenced to as many as 10 years.
The disgraced former president’s supporters turned out in their hundreds, initially converging on her residence in an affluent area in Seoul and later outside the prosecution office.
In December 2016, the parliament impeached Park over an influence-peddling scandal that involved her close friend Choi Soon-sil.
Earlier this month, the Constitutional Court upheld her impeachment and permanently removed her from office. That revoked her immunity from prosecution.
Supporters of South Korea's ex-president Park Geun-hye wave national flags outside the prosecutors' office in Seoul on March 21, 2017. (Photo by AFP)
The scandal involved pressuring major businesses to donate to two foundations which belonged to the president’s confidante, Choi, who is currently in prison and being investigated.
She is accused of receiving tens of millions of dollars from Samsung in exchange for support of a merger deal. The heir to the business conglomerate, Lee Jae-yong, is being investigated in the case as well.
Park is also accused of giving Choi access to state information without proper clearance.
When the news of the corruption scandal surfaced, millions of people spilled out into the streets to demand her ouster. Her supporters also staged rallies in Seoul and other cities. Following her ouster on March 10, the rallies turned violent and two of Park’s supporters were killed in clashes with police.

This undated picture released by North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on March 19, 2017 shows leader Kim Jong-un (C) inspecting the ground jet test of a newly developed high-thrust engine at the Sohae Satellite Launching Ground in North Korea. (Photo by AFP)
North Korea has downplayed US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's warning of a possible military strike against the country, stressing its full readiness to respond to any war. 
The state-run television KRT on Tuesday cited the Foreign Ministry’s spokesman as saying that North Korea has the will and capability to fully respond to any war which the US wants.
"The nuclear force of (North Korea) is the treasured sword of justice and the most reliable war deterrence to defend the socialist motherland and the life of its people," the official Korean Central News Agency quoted the spokesman as saying.
KCNA quoted the unidentified spokesman as saying the US should accept that North Korea is a nuclear-capable nation that "has the will and capability to fully respond to any war the US would like to ignite."
"If the businessmen-turned US authorities thought that they would frighten (North Korea), they would soon know that their method would not work," the official was quoted as saying.
Last week, Tillerson issued the Trump administration's starkest warning yet to North Korea, saying a military response would be "on the table" if it took action to threaten South Korean and US forces.
Tillerson wrapped up his first Asian trip as the US Secretary of State in Japan, South Korea and China on Sunday with a main focus on finding a "new approach" on North Korea after what he described as two decades of failed efforts to denuclearize the nation.
China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi (R) and US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson arrive for a joint press conference at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing on March 18, 2017. (Photo by AFP)
State media on Sunday reported that North Korea had conducted a test of a new high-thrust engine at its rocket launch station and leader Kim Jong-un said the successful test marked "a new birth" of the country’s rocket industry.
North Korea has so far conducted five nuclear tests and numerous missile launches.
Meanwhile, the UN's atomic watchdog chief has warned that North Korea's uranium enrichment facility has doubled in size over the last few years.
Yukiya Amano, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) told the Wall Street Journal that Pyongyang’s nuclear capacities are being ramped up.
The United Nations and the European Union have already imposed an array of crippling sanctions on the North over its missile and nuclear programs. Pyongyang says the programs are meant to guarantee security against potential US military aggression.
Despite the sanctions and other forms of international pressure, Pyongyang declared itself a nuclear power in 2005, and has pledged to strengthen its military capability.
The North Korean leader accuses the US of plotting with regional allies to topple his government.

(L-R) Russia's Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Japan's Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida and Japan's Defense Minister Tomomi Inada pose at the start of the "two-plus-two" foreign and defense ministers meeting between Japan and Russia in Tokyo on March 20, 2017. (Photo by AFP)
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has taken a swipe at the deployment of a US missile system in South Korea, warning that it poses "serious risks" to the Asia-Pacific region.
“We drew attention to the serious risks posed by the deployment of elements of the American global anti-missile system in the Asia-Pacific region," Lavrov said in a joint press conference with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, Japan's Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida and Japanese Defense Minister Tomomi Inada in Tokyo on Monday.
He added that the issue was raised in the talks with the Japanese foreign minister.
"If this [missile deployment] is meant to counter threats coming from North Korea, then the deployment of this system and accumulating armaments in the region is a disproportionate reply," Lavrov said in an apparent reference to the deployment of Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD), a missile system Washington claims is meant to deter missile threats from North Korea.
The United States said earlier in March that it had begun installing its THAAD missile system in the southeastern region of South Korea in response to the North's intensifying ballistic missile development to attack US military bases in Japan.
In this handout picture provided by the United States Forces Korea (USFK) and released by South Korea's Yonhap news agency on March 7, 2017, a THAAD missile system arrives at Osan Air Base in Pyeongtaek, South Korea. (Photo by Reuters)
Washington is taking steps “to defend against North Korea's ballistic missiles, such as through the deployment of a THAAD battery to South Korea," White House spokesman, Sean Spicer, said.
The Japanese foreign minister, for his part, warned against any escalation of tensions on the Korean peninsula and urged Pyongyang to exercise restraint.
"We shared the view that we will strongly urge North Korea to exercise self-restraint over further provocative actions and follow UN Security Council resolutions," Kishida said.
He added that Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe would visit Russia in late April to continue the discussions on efforts to finally conclude a peace treaty ending the war between the two Koreas.
South Korea and the United States say the sole purpose of the THAAD system is to guard against missile launches from North Korea. China has also been infuriated by its deployment, saying that its powerful radar could penetrate into Chinese territory.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry slammed the move on March 7 and vowed to defend its security interests.
“China will resolutely take necessary measures to defend our own security interests. All consequences entailed from this will be borne by the US and the ROK (Republic of Korea),” China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman, Geng Shuang, said.
Beijing has slapped a series of economic sanctions on South Korea in a move it says is aimed to punish Seoul, noting that the deployment of the projectiles in the South threatens its national security. Seoul has, in return, filed a complaint over China’s move at the World Trade Organization.
Lavrov's comments came after US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson paid a visit to the region and warned that Washington’s military action against the North was an option "on the table."
Tillerson said in Seoul that the United States and South Korea would "proceed with the installation" of THAAD missile system.
Pyongyang test-fired a salvo of missiles earlier this month and officials vowed that similar measures would be adopted to counter the joint military drills between Washington and Seoul. The United Nations has imposed several rounds of crippling sanctions on North Korea over the country’s nuclear tests in recent years.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying
China has warned the United States against arms sales to Taiwan amid reports that Washington has begun considering a large shipment of advanced weaponry for the self-ruled island.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said on Monday that Beijing’s resolute opposition to US arms sales to Taiwan was clear and consistent.
"We hope the US side fully recognizes the high sensitivity and serious harmfulness of its sales to Taiwan," she said. 
The official called on Washington to abide by the 'One China' policy and "cease Taiwan arm sales" in order to preserve Sino-US relations as well as peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait.
The comments, which came one day after US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson ended a visit to Beijing, followed reports in US media that Trump's government was preparing a large-scale arms package for Taiwan.
There is contact between Taiwan and the Trump administration on the arms sale issue, but a specific request list has not been drawn up for this year, though there are pending requests from last year, according to Defense Ministry official Wu Pao-kun.
The United States is Taiwan's only major political ally and sole arms supplier, and weapons sales to Taiwan have repeatedly upset Beijing, which sees Taiwan as part of its territory.
President Donald Trump and China's President Xi Jinping subsequently smoothed over the dispute in a phone call in which the US leader reiterated Washington's adherence to the 'One China' policy, which nominally acknowledges Beijing's claim without recognizing it.
Tillerson told President Xi on Sunday in Beijing that Trump anticipated a meeting "soon."

Chinese Trade Minister Joo Hyung-hwan (File photo by Xinhua)
South Korea says it has complained to the World Trade Organization (WTO) about what it calls China's retaliation against South Korean companies over the deployment of a US missile system in the South.
"We have notified the WTO that China may be in violation of some trade agreements," Trade Minister Joo Hyung-hwan told parliament on Monday, in response to questions about China's reaction to the deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system in South Korea.
Joo said the issue was raised with the WTO's Council for Trade in Services on Friday after China imposed restrictions on South Korean companies in the tourism and distribution sectors.
A trade ministry official, who asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the matter, said the complaint could not be categorized as legal action but was rather a request for the WTO to look into whether China was upholding trade agreements fairly.
South Korea and the United States say the sole purpose of the THAAD system is to guard against missile launches from North Korea but China has been infuriated by its deployment, saying that its powerful radar could penetrate into its territory.
The first elements of the US-built Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) arriving at Osan US Air Base in Pyeongtaek, south of Seoul on March 6, 2017. (Photo by AFP)
Beijing also says THAAD will do nothing to ease tensions on the Korean peninsula.
China is South Korea's largest trading partner and the dispute over THAAD has resulted in a sharp decline in Chinese tourists in the South's shopping districts.
Chinese authorities have also closed nearly two dozen retail stores of South Korea's Lotte Group amid the diplomatic standoff.
Beijing denies the restrictions are linked to the THAAD deployment, but the South Korean government has offered cheap loans and extended deadlines on existing debt to help businesses that have been affected and has pushed to diversify trade markets.
Efforts to hold direct discussions between the finance ministers of China and South Korea at a Group of 20 meeting in Germany at the weekend fell through after Beijing declined Seoul's request to meet, citing scheduling reasons.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu (L) and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (2nd L) shake hands with Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida (2nd R) and Defense Minister Tomomi Inada in Tokyo on March 20, 2017. (Photo by Reuters)
Russian and Japanese foreign and defense ministers have held "two-plus-two" talks in Tokyo to strengthen regional security and end a decades-long territorial dispute.
Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida was meeting with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov on Sunday after Japanese Defense Minister Tomomi Inada sat down for talks with Russian counterpart Sergei Shoigu. 
Japan and Russia last held "two-plus-two" talks in November 2013. Meetings were shelved after that due to the crisis in Ukraine, as Japan joined sanctions against Moscow.
The one-day meeting is largely focusing on regional security, especially how best to deal with North Korea's launches of missiles and its nuclear program.
Russia's Foreign Ministry said before the talks that its envoys would raise the issue of a plan by the US and South Korea to deploy a missile system known as THAAD, which has antagonized China and Russia.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (4th R) and Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida (4th R) attend a meeting in Tokyo on March 20, 2017. (Photo by AFP)
Joint efforts in fighting terrorism and drug trafficking were also on the agenda.
The Tokyo talks are not expected to lead to a breakthrough on conflicting claims to islands that came under Russian control after Japan's defeat in World War II.
The islands in the Western Pacific, called the Northern Territories in Japan and the Southern Kuriles in Russia, were seized by Soviet forces at the end of the war and 17,000 Japanese residents were forced to flee.
A picture taken on December 9, 2016 shows boats on dry dock at the harbor outside the town of Kurilsk on the island of Iturup.
Despite the differences, the countries see more room for agreement on joint development of fisheries, tourism and other areas that might help bridge the gap.
Kishida said he intended to work in a "speedy manner" to move closer toward reaching a peace treaty, especially making progress on joint economic development.
Lavrov agreed, saying he believed "this joint development will become an important step to create an appropriate environment for resolving a peace treaty."
Japanese officials also said the talks would include work on planning a visit by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to Moscow later this year. Logistics of visits by Japan's former residents of the disputed islands will also be addressed, they said.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (L), Uttar Pradesh governor Ram Naik (C) and India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Yogi Adityanath (R) greet a gathering before Adityanath takes an oath of office in Lucknow, India, March 19, 2017.
A hardline Hindu leader, with a history of agitation against Muslims, has been officially sworn in as the chief minister of India's most populous state.
Yogi Adityanath took the oath of office in the Uttar Pradesh state capital of Lucknow at an open-air ceremony attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other leaders of India's ruling party.
Adityanath is a five-time member of parliament who has offended many in the country with his polarizing statements attacking the Muslim community.
His rhetoric has raised concerns among Uttar Pradesh's Muslims, who form nearly a fifth of the state's population. With a population of 220 million, Uttar Pradesh would be the world's fifth-most populous if it were a country. 
Adityanath tried to reassure Uttar Pradesh citizens that his top priorities were good governance and development of the state, among the poorest in India.
Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) fielded no candidates from the Muslim minority that makes up 19 percent of the population in the state.
A spokesman for the BJP, however, claimed the government did not make any distinction between citizens on the basis of religion.
One of India's most prominent Muslim politicians, former Jammu and Kashmir state chief minister Omar Abdullah, said in a tweet that Muslims in Uttar Pradesh "must be terrified of what the future has in store for them."
India's 1.3 billion people are about 80 percent Hindu and 14 percent Muslim, with the rest made up of Christians, Sikhs and other minorities.
It is officially a secular nation, but the BJP has for years fought elections on a Hindu nationalist agenda, with party members in the past being accused of making anti-Muslim statements to polarize Hindu voters.

An officer checks his notes inside a medical centre on the Wat Dhammakaya temple compound in Pathum Thani province, Thailand. Photo / AP
Thai police say they uncovered a plot to assassinate the country's prime minister after seizing a weapons cache belonging to a fugitive anti-junta activist.
It is the latest discovery of a weapons stockpile belonging to a member of the red shirt movement, a political group loyal to exiled Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.
Police found dozens of rifles and grenades, and thousands of rounds of ammunition, at a house belonging to red shirt leader Wuthipong Kochathamakun, who has been on the run since the military coup.
Police also arrested nine men in connection with the arms seizure, saying they had clear evidence the suspects and their extended network were aiming to cause unrest.
"We found a rifle with a scope. We guarantee that this is not to shoot at birds but was going to be used to assassinate the leader of the country," National Police Chief Jakthip Chaijinda told reporters, referring to Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha.

The junta said the stockpiles showed there were groups trying to create instability and justified their seizure of power.Prayuth, then the army chief, overthrew the Government of Thaksin's sister Yingluck in a 2014 coup. His junta discovered dozens of weapon caches belonging to groups they said were loyal to the Shinawatra clan.
Police chief Jakthip presented no other evidence of an assassination plot, but said Wuthipong and his network had always opposed the junta and the group had predicted on social media that the prime minister would be killed.
Police said the group was planning an ambush if officials had continued their operations against a influential nearby Buddhist temple, which is seen as having close ties to Thaksin.
Thai police ended their search of the Dhammakaya temple earlier this month after laying siege to it for more than three weeks without finding the former abbot, who is wanted for suspected money-laundering.


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