South Korean defense minister resigns over North's artillery attack

South Korean Defense Minister Kim Tae-young



November 25, 2010 (KATAKAMI / RIA NOVOSTI) — South Korean Defense Minister Kim Tae-young resigned after the handling of the deadly North Korean artillery attack, Yonhap news agency said on Thursday.

North Korea opened artillery fire on the South’s Yeonpyeong Island in the Yellow Sea Tuesday, killing at least two South Korean marines and two civilians. Sixteen others were injured, along with three civilians. The South retaliated and warned of further strikes. The North later accused South Korea of attacking first.

The agency said South Korean President Lee Myung-bak accepted Kim’s resignation.

The Korean Herald said Kim stepped down because of the recent series of incidents and for the Armed Force’s disputed response to the North ‘s attack.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov expressed hope on Thursday the United Nations Security Council in the near future will make a statement on the armed conflict.

South Korean Defense Minister Kim Tae-young, left, consoles the families of the victims of North Korea's artillery attack at a military hospital in Seongnam, South Korea, Thursday, Nov. 25, 2010. Kim resigned Thursday, two days after an artillery attack by North Korea killed four people on a small island near their disputed frontier.(Getty Images / AP Photo/Korea Pool)

South Korean media said heir-apparent Kim Jong-un and his father, Kim Jong-il, visited the military base from where the South Korean island was shelled shortly before the attack.

A top U.S. military official, Admiral Mike Mullen, called for international pressure on North Korea, including on the part of China.

“The one country that has influence in Pyongyang is China and so their leadership is absolutely critical,” he said.

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.  (*)

MOSCOW, November 25

Opinion : Why not leave Afghanistan tomorrow?

US President Barack Obama gestures as he speaks during a press conference on November 20, 2010 in Lisbon, as part of a NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) Summit of Heads of States and Government held on 19-20 November 2010. (Photo by PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU/AFP/Getty Images)
By : Ed Koch ( Jpost)

November 24, 2010 (KATAKAMI / Jpost) — President Barack Obama met with his NATO counterparts in Lisbon last week.  According to the November 21 New York Times, they agreed “to the goal of a phased transfer of security responsibility to the Afghan government by the end of 2014, but NATO officials acknowledged that allied forces would remain in Afghanistan at least in a support role well beyond that date.”

Further, if the Afghan army isn’t ready by the end of 2014 to “manage its own security, 2014 was not a hard and fast deadline for the end of combat operations.”  Why would anyone think that Afghan forces will ever be combat ready and able to defend their own country against the Taliban? Surely it is by now an unsolvable mystery why the Afghan military forces, trained for 9 years by US and NATO troops, is currently unable to defend their country while the Taliban is capable of major successful strikes in Kabul, the capital, and apparently governs large parts of the country either by night when US army patrols return to their bases, or 24 hours a day when US forces don’t dare enter the neighborhood.

We know that the Taliban is supplied with substantial funding from the local drug trade.  We know that drug trade is dominated by the Karzai family, and that President Karzai’s own brother, Ahmed Wali Karzai, is acknowledged to be a drug kingpin.  We know that Afghanistan is one of the most corrupt countries in the world.  We know that Iran regularly sends millions of dollars to President Karzai for his personal use.  We know all of these things because The New York Times reporters day after day, week after week, year after year, have reported how the Karzai government has cooperated with the Taliban forces seeking to bring them into the Afghan government.  Bizarrely, the US government has cooperated with those efforts, while our soldiers die in the killing fields of Afghanistan.

In June of this year, the Wall Street Journal reported:

“More than $3 billion in cash has been openly flown out of Kabul International Airport in the past three years, a sum so large that US investigators believe top Afghan officials and their associates are sending billions of diverted US aid and logistics dollars and drug money to financial safe havens abroad.  The cash — packed into suitcases, piled onto pallets and loaded into airplanes — is declared and legal to move.

But US and Afghan officials say they are targeting the flows in major anticorruption and drug trafficking investigations because of their size relative to Afghanistan’s small economy and the murkiness of their origins.  Officials believe some of the cash, if not most, is siphoned from Western aid projects and US, European and NATO contracts to provide security, supplies and reconstruction work for coalition forces in Afghanistan.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization spent about $14 billion here last year alone.  Profits reaped from the opium trade are also a part of the money flow, as is cash earned by the Taliban from drugs and extortion, officials say.  The amount declared as it leaves the airport is vast in a nation where the gross domestic product last year totaled $13.5 billion.  More declared cash flies out of Kabul each year than the Afghan government collects in tax and customs revenue nationwide.  ‘It’s not like they grow money on trees here,’ said a US official investigating corruption and Taliban financing.  ‘A lot of this looks like our tax dollars being stolen. And opium, of course.’”

We also know that President Karzai endangers American and other NATO troops (we have about 100,000 troops in Afghanistan while the rest of NATO has 40,000) by demanding according to The Times, “that the NATO led coalition stop carrying out night raids and limit airstrikes, which military commanders consider among their most effective tools but which have caused civilian casualties.”

President Obama in response to Karzai’s demands that the US limit its military responses said, “If we’re ponying up billions of dollars to ensure that President Karzai can continue to build and develop his country, then he’s got to also pay attention to our concerns as well…He’s got to understand that I’ve got a bunch of young men and women who are in a foreign country being shot at” and “need to protect themselves.”

Nevertheless, despite his protestations, our young men and women continue to die to protect a corrupt government and country where many people hate us.

The Times reported on November 21 that “At a closed door meeting here, General David H. Petraeus, the top American and NATO commander in Afghanistan, set out his strategy for the transition, confirming that the kind of operations Mr. Karzai has criticized, including drone missile strikes and nighttime raids would continue aggressively.”

If the Afghan government persists in denouncing and objecting to our tactics, I have no doubt that they, not we, will prevail.  Our being in Afghanistan and the way we conduct ourselves is subject to his approval.  We have said many times that we will leave Afghanistan whenever and if ever the Afghan government demands we do.  Why should they ever demand we leave?  We are their piñata.  The US obviously doesn’t want to leave.  To date, we have spend over $300 billion on the Afghan war and we have suffered 1,273 US troop deaths.  NATO has suffered 822 troop deaths.  We have suffered over 7,000 combat injuries.  Those injuries are the worst kind, coming primarily from Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) roadside bombs, causing many amputations and brain injuries.

What do we have to show at this point for the bloodbath we have suffered and the billions we have expended?  We are hindered in defending ourselves by a corrupt Afghan government with a particularly corrupt Afghan President playing a double game with our sworn enemy, Iran.  The latter sees Afghanistan as a satellite tribal area to be bought not only with Iranian bribes, but also with religious and ethnic ties.

Afghans know that Iran will be there forever, while the US will ultimately leave if not tomorrow, and not in 2014, sometime in the future when ultimately a now apparently lethargic American public finally wakes up and demands we leave.  We would have left long ago were we still defended by a draft army instead of a volunteer army.

Surely, the combination of spilled blood with the expenditure of billions of dollars on the war in Afghanistan, when we are now contemplating reductions in Social Security benefits and educational funds for teaching our children, will cause the American public to rise up in wrath and say “No,” with a mighty roar.  The question of remaining in Afghanistan, while not even an issue in the 2010 election, will become one in the presidential election of 2012.

Why this ongoing stupid war which cannot be won on the ground because there is nothing worth winning has not received the attention that it deserves from the American public is a conundrum.  Nevertheless, the American public, even if at times it acts too slowly, will ultimately act.  Getting out of Afghanistan now, not in 2014 or thereafter, is the right thing to do.  (*)

Abbas to reshuffle Palestinian government: official

File : Palestinian authority President Mahmoud Abbas looks on during a presser following his meeting with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, not pictured, at the Presidential palace in Cairo, Egypt, Sunday, Nov. 21, 2010. Talks come within the framework of efforts aimed at reviving the Middle East peace process. (Getty Images / AP Photo/Amr Nabil)


RAMALLAH, Nov. 25 (KATAKAMI / Xinhua) — Palestinian National Authority President Mahmoud Abbas will reshuffle the government soon, a Fatah official said Thursday.

Abbas told a meeting of the Fatah Revolutionary Council in Ramallah Wednesday that discussions to carry out the reshuffle have started, said Amin Maqboul, a member of the council.

Meanwhile, another Fatah official said on condition of anonymity that Abbas has agreed with his movement that Salam Fayyad, the current prime minister who is not a Fatah member, would lead the new government.

Fatah has always been demanding a reshuffle to take more senior portfolios into the government. Abbas asked Fayyad to form a government in June 2007, after Islamic Hamas movement routed pro- Abbas forces, ousted Fatah and seized control of the Gaza Strip.

“The ministerial change is a national demand that Fatah strongly supports,” Maqboul said, but he denied that Fatah aimed to take more ministries through the change.

Hamas routed pro-Abbas forces and seized control of Gaza in 2007, one year after it won the parliamentary elections. The Hamas government, led by Ismail Haneya, which was deposed by Abbas, has refused to recognize the Fayyad government in the West Bank. (*)

Indonesia : Former Deputy Attorney General named new Attorney General

Basrie Arief



November 25, 2010 (KATAKAMI / THE JAKARTA POST) — President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono finally names former deputy attorney general Basrief Arief as the new attorney general, bringing the latter out of his retirement from 2007.

The President said Thursday that Basrief would be inaugurated as the new attorney general, replacing Hendarman Supandji, on Friday.

“After a number of considerations and listening to views of many parties, including the Vice President, I’ve decided to name Basrief Arief as the new attorney general,” he told a press conference at the Presidential Office.

Yudhoyono said Basrief had been head of the Jakarta prosecutors’ office, junior attorney general for intelligence and deputy attorney general before retiring in 2007.

He said he would soon appoint head and members of the Prosecutors Commission to oversee and ensure reforms in the prosecutors’ offices. (*)

SKorea to boost troops as NKorea issues warning


A South Korean woman who is on the way out of the island, brings her bicycle and her belongings near the destroyed houses on Yeonpyeong Island, South Korea, Thursday, Nov. 25, 2010. South Korea's president vowed Thursday to boost troops on the island targeted by a North Korean artillery barrage, while the North stridently warned of additional attacks if the South carries out any 'reckless military provocations.' (AP Photo / Lee Jin-man)


November 25, 2010 YEONPYEONG ISLAND, South Korea (KATAKAMI / AP)  – South Korea’s president vowed Thursday to boost troops on an island targeted by a North Korean artillery barrage, while the North stridently warned of additional attacks if the South carries out any “reckless military provocations.”

Seoul and Washington ratcheted up the pressure on China to use its influence on ally North Korea to ease soaring tensions after an exchange of fire Tuesday that left four South Koreans dead — including two civilians. China urged both sides to show restraint.

The North’s bombardment of this tiny South Korean island along a disputed maritime frontier — the first such attack on a civilian area — alarmed world leaders, including President Barack Obama, who reaffirmed plans for joint maneuvers with Seoul involving a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier in the Yellow Sea starting Sunday.

“We should not let our guard down in preparation for another possible North Korean provocation,” South Korean President Lee Myung-bak said during an emergency meeting in Seoul on repercussions of the attack, presidential spokesman Hong Sang-pyo said. “I think a similar North Korean provocation could come at any time.”

Yeonpyeong Island, home to military bases as well a fishing community of 1,300 residents, looked like a war zone Thursday, with homes and shops completely flattened and the streets strewn with blackened rubble, mangled window frames and shattered glass.

Hundreds of residents have already fled the devastation for the mainland, but a few were still rooting around the rubble looking for personal belonging and spending cold nights in underground shelters.

Hong said that South Korea will boost ground troops on Yeonpyeong and four other islands in western waters in response to this week’s attack, reversing a 2006 decision calling for an eventual decrease. He declined to discuss specifics for the increase, but said troops there currently amount to about 4,000.

His comments came as South Korea’s defense chief visited the island, located about 50 miles (80 kilometers) from the port of Incheon west of Seoul but just 7 miles (11 kilometers) from North Korean shores.

The military was analyzing debris from North Korea’s artillery and has not ruled out North Korea’s use of thermobaric bombs, which burn more violently and increase casualties and property destruction, a Joint Chiefs of Staff official said. He asked not to be identified, saying he was not authorized to speak to reporters.

The two Koreas are required to abide by an armistice signed at the close of the three-year war, but the North does not recognize the maritime line drawn by U.N. forces in 1953 and considers South Korean maneuvers near Yeonpyeong island a violation of its territory.

The attack added to animosity from the March sinking of a South Korean warship in nearby waters that killed 46 sailors in the worst military attack on the nation since the Korean War.

Skirmishes occur from time to time around the sea border, but Tuesday’s attack was the first to target civilians and raised concerns about escalating hostilities leading to another war.

The shelling also comes as North Korea is undergoing a delicate transition of power from leader Kim Jong Il to his young son Kim Jong Un. The son, who is in late 20s, was made a four-star general and nominated to high-ranking Workers’ Party posts in the first steps toward eventually succeeding his father.

The previously scheduled U.S.-South Korean drills set to begin Sunday and involving the carrier USS George Washington are sure to infuriate North Korea.

The North made no specific mention of those exercises in its statement but warned that its military would “launch second and third strong physical retaliations without hesitation if South Korean warmongers carry out reckless military provocations.”

The North also said Washington was to blame for the South Korean artillery drills on Yeonpyeong that prompted the North to respond with its artillery barrage Tuesday.

Washington “should thoroughly control South Korea,” it said. The warning was issued by North Korea’s military mission at the truce village of Panmunjom and was carried by the official Korean Central News Agency.

South Korea says its artillery exercises Tuesday were aimed away from North Korea, and a top military official on the island Thursday showed reporters a trajectory heading to the southwest.

“North Korea argues that we fired at them first, but this is the direction that we fired,” Lt. Gen. Joo Jong-hwa said.

Meanwhile, the Obama administration urged China to rein in ally North Korea, with the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, saying: “We really think it’s important for the international community to lead, but in particular China.”

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao called on all sides to show “maximum restraint.” He repeated calls for renewed six-nation talks aimed at persuading North Korea to dismantle its nuclear programs. Wen said those talks, involving the two Koreas, China, Russia, Japan and the United States, are the best way to ensure stability on the peninsula and its denuclearization.

Wen’s remarks were made in Russia on Wednesday on a state visit and posted on the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s website.

South Korea said it will increase diplomatic efforts to get China, which supplied North Korea with troops during the Korean War and remains its main ally and biggest benefactor, to put pressure on Pyongyang.

On Thursday, the coast guard transported two white coffins carrying the bodies of civilians pulled from the rubble Wednesday.

In Seongnam, just outside Seoul, military officers and family members mourned the two marines killed in the attack, laying flowers and burning incense at an altar. Funerals are to take place Saturday.

Yeonpyeong residents arrived in Incheon with harrowing tales of fiery destruction and narrow escapes.

Survivor Ahn Ae-ja said the artillery barrage caught her by surprise.

“Over my head, a pine tree was broken and burning,” Ahn told AP Television News on Wednesday. “So I thought ‘Oh, this is not another exercise. It is a war.’ I decided to run. And I did.”

About 10 homes suffered direct hits and 30 were destroyed in the barrage, according to a local official who spoke by telephone. She asked that her name not be used.

“I heard the sound of artillery, and I felt that something was flying over my head,” said Lim Jung-eun, 36, who fled the island with three children, including a 9-month-old strapped to her back. “Then the mountain caught on fire.”

The shower of artillery from North Korea was the first to strike a civilian population. In addition to the two marines and two civilians killed in the exchange, at least 18 people — most of them troops — were wounded.

Officials in Seoul said there could be considerable North Korean casualties but there was no mention in North Korean state media of casualties.  (*)

Medvedev says will use ideas received on Twitter


November 25, 2010 (KATAKAMI / RIA NOVOSTI) — Russian President Dmitry Medvedev thanked Twitter users who send him proposals on various problems and said he will use some of them.

“I think I will use a number of those ideas in the address to the Federal Assembly,” Medvedev replied on Twitter to a user of the microblogging site who asked him whether the Russian leader reads the tweets he receives.

The technologically savvy Russian leader registered on Twitter in June during his visit to the United States. More than 127,000 people are currently following him on the micro-blogging site. The English version has more than 54,000 followers.

Last week Medvedev renamed his popular account on Twitter to make it more informal. The account’s new name is MedvedevRussia (MedvedevRussiaE) is the English version). (*)


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