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Daily Archives: November 28, 2010

China calls for North Korea talks

The USS George Washington is taking part in joint US-South Korean military exercises over the next few day in the Yellow Sea. Photograph: Charles Oki/EPA

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Time not right for six-way meeting in Beijing, says Seoul, amid military muscle flexing by North and South Korea.

November 28, 2010 (KATAKAMI / GUARDIAN.CO.UK) — China has called for emergency international talks over North Korea as Pyongyang reportedly prepared missile batteries and the US and South Korea launched joint military exercises.Tensions on the Korean peninsula are as severe as they have been at any time since the end of the Korean war in 1953, and a senior official in Beijing today suggested emergency talks between the six countries that had taken part in talks on Pyongyang’s disarmament.

Wu Dawei, the Chinese envoy to the peninsula, said representatives from Pyongyang and Seoul, China, the US, Russia and Japan, who have been meeting over the last seven years to discuss North Korea’s nuclear ambitions, should convene in Beijing early next month “to exchange views on major issues of concern”.

The talks themselves, moribund for two years after North Korea walked out, look unlikely to be resumed, with Seoul’s presidential office saying it was not the right time for such a move. But such an urgent intervention from China, North Korea’s only significant ally and the sole outside country with any sway over its actions, is significant, not least in underlining the gravity of the situation.

The Seoul-based Yonhap news agency reported that Pyongyang had placed surface-to-surface missiles on launch pads along its Yellow Sea coastline. The North’s military is also aiming surface-to-air missiles at South Korean fighter jets flying near the western sea border, the agency added.

Two South Korean marines and two civilians died on Tuesday when the North unleashed, without warning, an artillery barrage on Yeonpyeong island, which hosts both a military garrison and a small fishing community. The attack, seen as the most serious single military incident since the end of the war, destroyed dozens of homes , injured another 18 people, and set the South on a war footing.

North Korea described the civilian deaths as “regrettable” but blamed the South for placing residents on the island, which Pyongyang insists is North Korean territory, as human shields. The North also condemned a major US-South Korea military drill in the Yellow Sea, which began today.

The four-day exercise, involving the USS George Washington aircraft carrier, is believed to be taking place about 100 miles south of Yeonpyeong. While Seoul insists the exercise is both routine and pre-planned, the North’s National Peace Committee of Korea described it as “pretext for aggression and ignite a war at any cost”.

Pyongyang issued a series of warnings, and threatened to “give a shower of dreadful fire and blow up the bulwark of the enemies if they dare to encroach again upon [North Korea’s] dignity and sovereignty, even in the least.”

Seoul is being almost equally bellicose. At a funeral yesterday for the marines killed on Yeonpyeong, the South Korean military commander, Major-General You Nak-jun, laid flowers at an altar and vowed that his country would retaliate if there was a further attack from the North.

“Our marine corps … will carry out a hundred – or thousand-fold” in retaliation, he said at the ceremony. “We will put our feelings of rage and animosity in our bones and take our revenge on North Korea.”

Dozens of journalists have ignored South Korean military warnings about staying on Yeonpyeong, which is seven miles from North Korean territory. They and locals sought cover today after hearing new bursts of artillery fire. No rounds landed on the island.

Dai Bingguo, a senior Chinese foreign policy adviser, visited South Korea’s president, Lee Myung-bak. In unusually strong comments Lee made plain his concerns that Beijing was not exerting sufficient pressure on North Korea, calling on China to contribute to peace in a “more objective, responsible” manner.

The chairman of North Korea’s supreme people’s assembly, Choe Thae Bok, is due to visit Beijing from Tuesday, China’s official Xinhua news agency said.

Since the Korean war ended, with a truce rather than a formal treaty, tensions between the two sides have risen and receded many times. However, the past year has seen particularly intense pressures, notably after a South Korean warship was sunk in March, killing 46 sailors. An international team of investigators concluded that a North Korean torpedo sank the vessel, although Pyongyang denies any involvement.

The latest crisis has already cost the South Korean defence minister, Kim Tae-young, his job amid accusations that the response to North Korea’s initial attack had been too weak. Now South Korea’s president has sent 4,000 troops as reinforcements to Yeonpyeong and other nearby islands with extra weapons and new rules of engagement that give them greater scope to respond if attacked.

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Photostream : Cargo Plane Crashes in Pakistan

Pakistani officials examine the wreckage at the site of a plane crash in Karachi, Pakistan on Sunday, Nov. 28, 2010. A cargo plane crashed in flames into a residential area in Pakistan's largest city soon after takeoff Sunday, killing all eight Russian crew and at least one person on the ground, officials said. (Getty Images / AP Photo/Fareed Khan)

Pakistani officials examine the wreckage at the site of a plane crash in Karachi, Pakistan on Sunday, Nov. 28, 2010. A cargo plane crashed in flames into a residential area in Pakistan's largest city soon after takeoff Sunday, killing all eight Russian crew and at least one person on the ground, officials said. (Getty Images / AP Photo/Fareed Khan)

An overview of the wreckage of an airplane crash is seen early morning in Karachi November 28, 2010. A plane carrying eight people crashed early on Sunday in a residential area of Karachi, Pakistan's biggest city, setting buildings on fire. Police chief Fayyaz Leghari said five people were killed. (Getty Images / REUTERS/Athar Hussain )

Rescue workers stand at the site of a plane crash in Karachi November 28, 2010. A plane carrying eight people crashed early on Sunday in a residential area of Karachi, Pakistan's biggest city, setting buildings on fire. (Getty Images / REUTERS/Athar Hussain )

Pakistani firefighters extinguish fire caused by a Russian-made cargo plane that crashed in a fireball seconds after taking off from the Karachi's airport early November 28, 2010. The crash caused a massive blaze in the Dalmai neighbourhood, where the Pakistan Air Force and Navy have residential apartments and sensitive installations close to Jinnah International airport. The Ilyushin IL-76 aircraft had been bound for the Sudanese capital Khartoum, Civil Aviation Authority spokesman said. Police said there were injuries, but there was no immediate confirmation on casualty numbers or whether people had been hurt on the ground. (Photo by ASIF HASSAN/AFP/Getty Images)

Rescue workers stand over bodies, retrieved from the wreckage of an airplane crash, after they were brought to a hospital morgue in Karachi November 28, 2010. A plane carrying eight people crashed early on Sunday in a residential area of Karachi, Pakistan's biggest city, setting buildings on fire. Police chief Fayyaz Leghari said five people were killed. (Getty Images / REUTERS/Athar Hussain )

 

 
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Death toll in Pakistan plane crash rises to 20 people – TV

Pakistan plane crash

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November 28, 2010 (KATAKAMI / RIA NOVOSTI) — The death toll in Sunday’s plane crash in Pakistan has risen to 20 people, Pakistani TV channels reported.

Earlier reports said that a Russian-made Il-76 cargo plane had crashed early on Sunday in Karachi in Pakistan, killing all eight crewmembers. The plane burst in flames shortly after a takeoff from the Karachi International Airport heading for Khartoum, Sudan, and went down in an upscale housing complex for naval officers.

According to Pakistani TV channels, at least 12 people were killed on the ground, apart from the eight crewmembers. This information has not yet been officially confirmed.

Rescue workers said they had recovered the bodies of two construction workers who had been inside the building, on which the plane had crashed.

A spokesman for Russia’s consulate general in Karachi said on Sunday that one of the crewmembers killed in the air crash was a Russian national while the other crewmembers were presumably Ukrainians.

The plane belonged to the air company Sunway. (*)

NEW DELHI, November 28

 
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Photostream : Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri visits Iran

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri (R) and Iran's first vice president, Mohammad Reza Rahimi (L) review the honour guard during the welcoming ceremony at Tehran's Saadabad Palace on November 27, 2010. (Photo by BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP/Getty Images)

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri (R) smiles while reviewing the honour guard during a welcoming ceremony at Tehran's Saadabad Palace on November 27, 2010. (Photo by BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP/Getty Images)

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, walks during his official welcoming ceremony in Tehran, Iran, Saturday, Nov. 27, 2010. (Getty Images / AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, left, listens to Iranian Vice-President Mohammad Reza Rahim, during their meeting in Tehran, Iran, Saturday, Nov. 27, 2010. An unidentified interpreter sits at center. (Getty Images / AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri (L) shakes hands with Iran's first vice president, Mohammad Reza Rahimi (R) during the welcoming ceremony at Tehran's Saadabad Palace on November 27, 2010. (Photo by BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP/Getty Images)

 
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Russia lends Venezuela $4 bln to buy weaponry — Chavez

 

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November 28, 2010. (KATAKAMI / RIA NOVOSTI) — Moscow has recently loaned Venezuela $4 billion to buy Russian military hardware, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said.

Speaking at a ceremony to celebrate 90 years of Venezuela’s Air Force on Saturday, Chavez said the sides reached the loan agreement during his visit to Russia in October although no official statement was made at the time of the visit.

“We were in Russia not long ago and the Russian government gave us a $4-billion credit to help us with [building up] our defense capability,” the president said.

Moscow has already provided Caracas with several loans to buy Russian-made weaponry, including a recent $2.2-mln loan on the purchase of 92 T-72M1M tanks, the Smerch multiple-launch rocket systems and other military equipment.

Russia has also exported 24 Su-30MK2 Flanker aircraft, over 40 Mi-17 Hip transport helicopters and 10 Mi-35 Hind-E gunships as well as three Mi-26T Halo heavy transport helicopters to Venezuela.

Chavez did not specify the types of weaponry Venezuela was going to buy from Russia in the future.

He justified big spending on arms by his country’s need to defend the nation from potential external threats.

“We are simply doing the task of defending the fatherland from the threat of [U.S.] empire and its allies,” Chavez said.  (*)

MEXICO, November 28

 
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Saudi King healthy and walking, says top prince

A handout picture released the Saudi Press Agency shows Saudi King Abdullah (C) sitting in a wheelchair as he arrives at his palace in Riyadh on November 19. King Abdullah is in good shape and was walking shortly after undergoing an operation last week, Interior Minister Prince Nayef bin Abdul Aziz said in newspaper reports on Sunday.

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November 28, 2010. (KATAKAMI/ FRANCE 24 / AFP) — Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah is in good shape and was walking shortly after undergoing an operation last week, Interior Minister Prince Nayef bin Abdul Aziz said in newspaper reports on Sunday.

Nayef, the king’s half-brother considered second in line to the throne, said the 86-year-old king was walking “outside” his New York city hospital on his own feet after his operation Wednesday for a herniated disc, the reports said.

The prince gave no indication of whether the king had been discharged from New York Presbyterian Hospital, nor when he would be returning to the Middle East oil powerhouse he has ruled for five years.

Abdullah left Riyadh on Monday for the operation.

Despite the unusual level of transparency about his ailment, the news sparked worries among the population over the reformist monarch’s long-term health and the make-up of the royal family dominated government overall.

The leading princes of the government, including Crown Prince Sultan bin Abdul Aziz, are mostly in their 70s and 80s and have held their jobs for decades.

Many are believed suffering chronic ailments that have not been reported publicly. (*)

 
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