US condemns North Korean attack on South Korea

South Korean President Lee Myung-bak receives a briefing at the control centre of the South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff at the Defence Ministry in Seoul November 23, 2010. North Korea on Tuesday fired dozens of artillery shells at a South Korean island, setting buildings on fire and prompting a return of fire by the South, Seoul's military and media reports said. (Getty Images / REUTERS/Jo Bo-Hee/Yonhap )

November 23, 2010 WASHINGTON (KATAKAMI / AP) – The White House on Tuesday condemned North Korea’s artillery attack against the South Korean island of Yeonpyeong, the latest in a series of provocations that have reawakened concerns about the threat posed by the communist country and its reclusive leadership.

In a statement released before dawn, Press Secretary Robert Gibbs called on North Korea to “to halt its belligerent action and to fully abide by the terms of the armistice agreement,” the 1953 pact that ended the Korean War.

North Korea fired barrages of artillery onto a South Korean island near their disputed western border Tuesday, setting buildings ablaze and killing at least two marines after warning the South to halt military drills in the area, South Korean officials said.

Gibbs said the White House “is in close and continuing contact” with the South Korean government.

“The United States is firmly committed to the defense of our ally, the Republic of Korea, and to the maintenance of regional peace and stability,” he said.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell concurred with Obama in condemning the attack.

“As the people of the Republic of Korea question what new belligerent action may come from the North, they should not have any question that the people and forces of the United States stand ready as a devoted ally committed to the defense of their nation,” McConnell, R-Ky., said in a statement. “I join the president in his strong condemnation of what is sadly just the latest in a long string of hostile actions. North Korea’s neighbors should unite in condemning this attack.”

A senior administration official said the president was woken up shortly before 4 a.m. by National Security Adviser Tom Donilon, who updated the president on the situation. Obama will get further updates during his daily intelligence briefing before heading to Indiana, where he’s scheduled to make remarks on the economy.

None of the more than 28,000 U.S. troops stationed in South Korea were involved in the military drills, said Lt. Col. Mark Ballesteros, a Pentagon spokesman in Washington.

U.S. troops have participated in the annual exercise in the past, said Marine Col. Dave Lapan, another Defense Department spokesman at the Pentagon. An earlier plan to have U.S. Marines participate in a landing maneuver with the South Koreans this year didn’t work out because of American scheduling issues, Lapan said Tuesday.

The attack came amid high tension over North Korea’s claim that it has a new uranium enrichment facility and just six weeks after North Korean leader Kim Jong Il unveiled his youngest son Kim Jong Un as his heir apparent.

On Monday, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley told reporters the administration is studying the evidence a group of visiting American scientists used to conclude the North was building the enrichment facility, which presumably could be used to produce fuel for nuclear weapons.

“We will not be drawn into rewarding North Korea for bad behavior,” he said. “They frequently anticipate doing something outrageous or provocative and forcing us to jump through hoops as a result. We’re not going to buy into this cycle.”

The North’s artillery on Tuesday struck the small South Korean-held island of Yeonpyeong, which houses military installations and a small civilian population and which has been the focus of two previous deadly battles between the Koreas.

South Korea returned fire and dispatched fighter jets in response, and said there could be considerable North Korean casualties as troops unleashed retaliatory fire. The supreme military command in Pyongyang threatened more strikes if the South crossed its maritime border by “even 0.001 millimeter,” according to the North’s official Korean Central News Agency.

Earlier this month, during a speech to U.S. troops stationed in South Korea, President Barack Obama said: “Pyongyang should not be mistaken: The United States will never waver in our commitment to the security of the Republic of Korea. We will not waver.” (*)

U.N. Security Council plans North Korea meeting: source

South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, center, arrives with Defense Minister Kim Tae-young, second right, at the Joint Chiefs of Staff as the military was put on top alert after North Korea's artillery attack on South Korean island of Yeonpyeong, in Seoul, South Korea, Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2010. (Getty Images / AP Photo/Yonhap)


November 23, 2010 (KATAKAMI / Reuters) – The United Nations Security Council could hold an emergency meeting in the next day or two over an attack by North Korea on a South Korean island, a French diplomatic source told reporters on Tuesday.

Asked whether the Security council would meet, the source said: “It’s in the works for either today or tomorrow. We are for it and (planning) is ongoing.”

French Foreign Minister Michele Alliot-Marie condemned the North Korean shelling, which killed two soldiers and set dozens of houses ablaze.

“I condemn firmly the artillery strikes from North Korea on the Yeonpyeong island and that resulted in two deaths among South Korean military forces and several injured among the civilian population,” Alliot-Marie said in a statement.

“France calls on North Korea to halt the provocation and refrain from any further acts that could worsen tensions in the region.”

The attack by reclusive North Korea against its southern neighbor was one of the heaviest yet and followed revelations at the weekend that Pyongyang is fast developing another source of material to make atomic bombs.

It also comes after moves by North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il to make his youngest son heir apparent to the family dynasty. (*)

North Korea launches attack on South Korean island

Smoke rises from South Korea's Yeonpyeong island near the border against North Korea on November 23, 2010 in Seoul, South Korea. Dozens of artillery shells fired by North Korea hit the South Korean Island of Yeonpyeong reportedly causing injuries and prompting return fire from South Korean forces. The incident comes amid tensions over North Korea's nuclear program and the announcement of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il's youngest son as his successor. (Photo by Getty Images)


November 23, 2010 (KATAKAMI / RIA NOVOSTI ) — North Korea opened artillery fire at a South Korean island on Tuesday, killing one soldier and provoking a retaliatory attack from the South, Seoul’s YTN television reported.

An eyewitness told the TV station that some 60 to 70 houses were ablaze on the Yeonpyeong island in the Yellow Sea. The island, which is off the countries’ west coast, is populated by some 1,200 people.

A spokesman for South Korea’s joint chief of staff said “scores of rounds” were fired by the North. South Korean military retaliated by firing some 80 rounds, Yonhap said.

At least one South Korean marine is reported to have died, with three seriously injured. It is not immediately known if there were any civilian casualties.

The South Korean military is on its highest non-war alert and the Air Force has deployed fighter jets to the island.

Yonhap said Seoul was considering the evacuation of its nationals currently in North Korea.

“We will decide whether we should evacuate them or not after looking into the safety of those at the Mount Kumgang resort and the Kaesong industrial park,” the South Korean agency quoted a Unification Ministry official as saying.

South Korean President Lee Myung-bak ordered an emergency meeting of security ministers in connection with the attack.

Tuesday’s exchange of fire came amid large-scale military exercises in South Korea. The drills, involving some 70,000 troops, were launched Monday and are to last through November 30.

“Our army was carrying out military training, and there was a telegram from North Korea with a protest and questioning whether this was an attack,” the spokesperson was quoted as saying by South Korea’s Yonhap news agency.

He did not rule out that subsequent artillery fire from the North was a response to the drills.

The attack is the second incident in the tense Yellow Sea border area this year. In March, a North Korean submarine was alleged to have torpedoed a South Korean naval ship, the Cheonan, causing the loss of 46 lives. An international investigation said the North was to blame, but the reclusive regime denied involvement.

North and South Korea remain technically at war, since no peace treaty was signed following the Korean War in 1953. The Demilitarized Zone between the countries is the most heavily armed border in the world.

The latest attack comes after the revelation that the North has created a new uranium enrichment facility.

Despite the development, South Korea will not seek the return of U.S. tactical nuclear missiles over fears that the move could scupper international efforts to persuade North Korea to halt its nuclear program, the South Korean deputy defense minister said.

“Redeploying U.S. tactical nuclear weapons in South Korea would cross the line of the denuclearization policy on the Korean Peninsula,” deputy defense minister Chang Kwang-il told Yonhap.

He added that “South Korea has had no talks with the United States over the issue.”  (*)

MOSCOW, November 23

Israeli President Shimon Peres begins official visit to Ukraine

Israeli President Shimon Peres



November 23, 2010 (KATAKAMI / RIA NOVOSTI) — Israeli President Shimon Peres begins on Tuesday his four-day official visit to Ukraine to enhance cooperation between the countries in the spheres of diplomacy, economy and technologies, the Israeli presidential press service said.

Peres, who will be accompanied during the visit by Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, is scheduled to hold talks with Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych and Volodymyr Lytvyn, the speaker of the country’s parliament.

“During the talks Peres intends to touch upon a broad range of important bilateral diplomatic issues. The president will also voice Israel’s position concerning the counteraction to the Iranian nuclear program and concerning relations with the Palestinians,” the press service said.

The Israeli president will also take part in the signing of an agreement on protection of mutual investments, deliver a lecture to students majoring in politics and diplomacy and meet with representatives of the Jewish Diaspora in Ukraine.

Peres is taking a regular commercial flight to Ukraine for his visit, the press service added. (*)

TEL-AVIV, November 23

Saudi King arrives in U.S. for treatment

Saudi King Abdullah bin Abd al-Aziz, left, speaking with Prince Salman bin Abdel Aziz, the Saudi King's brother and Riyadh Governor, right, before his departures to United States in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Monday, Nov. 22, 2010. King Abdullah flew on Monday to the United States for medical treatment, seeking treatment after a blood clot complicated a slipped spinal disc, the state news agency SPA said. (Photo : Getty Images / AP Photo/HO)


November 23, 2010. (KATAKAMI / Reuters) – Saudi Arabia‘s aging King Abdullah arrived in the United States for medical treatment on Monday, while a frail Crown Prince Sultan hurriedly returned from abroad to govern the world’s largest oil exporter.

The kingdom is keen to show its allies in Washington and elsewhere there will be no power vacuum as health problems beset its octogenarian rulers, but the question of whether a reformist or a conservative will take over remains a matter of concern.

Abdullah, thought to be around 86 or 87, asked Crown Prince Sultan to fly home from Morocco to run the kingdom during his absence.

The king will be seeking treatment after a blood clot complicated a slipped spinal disc, the state news agency SPA said. It did not say when Abdullah would be back.

“Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdul-Aziz is currently visiting the U.S. for medical treatment, and we hope for his speedy recovery,” the U.S. State Department said on Twitter on Monday afternoon.

With both Abdullah and Sultan in their 80s, speculation arose that conservative Interior Minister Prince Nayef, at a relatively youthful 76, could take over running the affairs of state some time in the near future.

Diplomats say Sultan, who is also defense minister and has major health problems of his own, has been much less active during his convalescence in Morocco.

Abdullah appointed his half-brother Nayef second deputy prime minister in 2009 in a move that analysts say will secure the leadership in the event of serious health problems afflicting the king and crown prince and improve Nayef’s chances of one day being king.

Diplomats in Riyadh say Western governments concerned about the fate of social and economic reforms promoted by Abdullah have reservations about the ascent of Nayef, seen as a religious and social traditionalist.

Nayef long denied that the September 11, 2001, attacks were carried out by Saudis or al Qaeda, suggesting they were carried out by supporters of Israel. He is seen as close to the powerful and hardline Saudi clerical establishment blamed by Washington for encouraging an ideology that promotes bigotry and fanaticism.


King Abdullah, who came to power in 2005, is the sixth leader of Saudi Arabia, whose political stability is of regional and global concern. It controls more than a fifth of the world’s crude oil reserves, is a vital U.S. ally in the region, a major holder of dollar assets and home to the biggest Arab bourse.

As home to Islam’s holiest sites, as well as birthplace of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, Saudi Arabia is key to global efforts to fight Islamic militancy.

Washington wants Riyadh to continue social and economic reforms promoted by Abdullah that were seen as crucial after a group composed of mainly Saudis carried out the September 11 attacks of 2001.

But confusion still swirls over the real state of health of both Abdullah and Sultan and what will happen to Abdullah’s policies.

Diplomats say there has been uncertainty about Abdullah’s health since he canceled a visit to France in July.

A series of official announcements over the past week on the king’s health reflect a desire to reassure Washington that the ruling family’s grasp of affairs remains firm in tense times.

The hasty return of Sultan from a three-month break in Morocco was more low-key than his return last year from treatment for unspecified health problems. Then the half-brother to Abdullah, only a few years his junior, was met with a Bedouin sword dance.

Saudi state television showed Sultan at Riyadh airport, where he was greeted by senior princes of the Saudi royal family, which may soon face the test of managing an orderly transfer of power. Abdullah was not present at the event.

The princes at the top of the hierarchy in the absolute monarchy are all in their 70s and 80s and the Al Saud family, in power since the kingdom was founded in 1932, will remain a gerontocracy unless it soon promotes younger princes.

While official media seek to present family unity, tensions remain between the senior princes over who will run the country and over securing positions for their sons in the future political architecture of the absolute monarchy.

Rulers have so far all been sons of founder Abdul-Aziz Ibn Saud and many of the country’s 18 million people want to see power pass to a new generation. (*)

Suu Kyi reunited with son

Myanmar democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi leaves the National League for Democracy (NLD) headquarters in Yangon on November 22, 2010. Military-ruled Myanmar has granted a visa to democracy champion Aung San Suu Kyi's youngest son so that he can visit his mother following her release from house arrest, her lawyer said on November 22. "He has got his visa already and he is trying to come today," Suu Kyi's lawyer Nyan Win told AFP, adding that the 65-year-old opposition leader planned to welcome her son at Yangon airport. (Photo by Soe Than WIN/AFP/Getty Images)


November 23, 2010 (KATAKAMI / ABC.NET.AU)  — Burma’s pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, freed from house arrest 10 days ago, has been reunited with her younger son after about 10 years apart.

Kim Aris, 33, who lives in Britain, arrived on a flight from Bangkok to Rangoon airport, where his 65-year-old mother was waiting to meet him.

She was freed on November 13 after more than seven consecutive years in detention.

“I’m very glad and I’m very happy,” Ms Suu Kyi told AFP after the reunion. (*)


%d bloggers like this: