South Korean Prime Minister leaves for trip to South America

South Korea's Prime Minister Kim Hwang-sik Photo : REUTERS/Jo Yong-Hak

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SEOUL, Dec. 30 (KATAKAMI / Yonhap) — South Korean Prime Minister Kim Hwang-sik left for Brazil’s capital city of Brasilia on Thursday to attend the inauguration of the South American nation’s new president.

Kim will represent South Korea at Dilma Rousseff’s inauguration on New Year’s Day. He will also meet with Brazilian officials to promote efforts by South Korean companies to win a bid for the construction of a high-speed railway in the country.  (*)

South Korea Again Describes North Korea as 'Enemy'

South Korean protesters burn a placard showing the defaced portraits of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il (L) and his youngest son and successor-in-waiting Kim Jong-un (R) during an anti-North Korea rally in Seoul, 28 Dec 2010

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December 29, 2010 (KATAKAMI / VOA) —North Korea is again the “enemy” of South Korea, a designation that has not been used for six years.

The designation is given to the North in South Korea’s latest defense white paper. But the document does not revive the designation of the communist state as the “main enemy.” The paper also delves into details about North Korea’s military capabilities.

The deputy defense minister for policy, Chang Kwang-il, explains why the label is again being applied.

Chang says this is to inform the South Korean public of the reality of North Korea and it sends a strong warning to Pyongyang.

The government, however, refrained from calling Pyongyang its “main enemy”, a designation used in the 1990s.

The defense ministry review, released on Thursday, details North Korea’s military capabilities. It says the North has deployed large artillery guns and new, more powerful tanks near the border with the South. It also has added new elite forces trained to infiltrate the South and disrupt critical facilities.

The document says North Korea’s plans to rely on its nuclear weapons, its long-range artillery, submarines, cyber-warfare and special forces to counter the South’s high-technology military.

The deputy defense minister says since the last assessment, in 2008, North Korea has added 20,000 special forces troops.

Chang estimates North Korea now has 200,000 special forces soldiers, installed in light infantry units and placed on the front lines.

The report says North Korea’s total force remains unchanged at 1,190,000 troops.

By comparison, South Korea has an active-duty force of 650,000. About 28,000 American troops are also stationed in the country.

The updated assessment of North Korea’s military comes at the end of a year that saw tensions on the peninsula rise to their highest level in decades.

North Korea is blamed for the sinking of a South Korean navy ship in the Yellow Sea, in March. Pyongyang denies responsibility for the incident, in which 46 sailors died.

In November, North Korea shelled a South Korean island in the same waters, killing four people.

The two Koreas fought a devastating three-year war to a stalemate in the early 1950’s. A truce, but no peace treaty, has been in place since then.  (*)

Abbas Heads to Brazil to Launch New Palestinian Embassy

Palestinian President Mamoud Abbas (L) attends Christmas midnight mass at the Church of the Nativity in the West Bank town of Bethlehem December 25, 2010. REUTERS/Fadi Arouri/Pool

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December 29, 2010 (KATAKAMI / VOA) — Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is traveling to Brazil, where he will preside over a cornerstone-laying ceremony for a new Palestinian embassy in the capital, Brasilia.

The ceremony will take place Friday, and comes after Brazil announced earlier this month that it had recognized Palestine as an independent state within its pre-1967 borders.

On Saturday, Mr. Abbas is due to attend the inauguration of Brazil’s president-elect, Dilma Rousseff.  He is also expected to hold meetings with other Latin American leaders.

Argentina, Bolivia and Ecuador issued similar recognition of Palestinian statehood this month.  Uruguay says it may do the same next year.  Israel and the United States have criticized those declarations, saying the borders of a future Palestinian state must be determined in direct negotiations between Israeli and Palestinian leaders.

The diplomatic drive is part of Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad’s two-year plan to establish all institutions and attributes of statehood by mid-2011.  Analysts say the aim is to create momentum for a diplomatic domino effect leading to a possible bid for recognition at the United Nations General Assembly next September.

The late Palestinian president, Yasser Arafat, unilaterally declared statehood in 1988, winning recognition from about 100 mainly Arab, communist and non-aligned states.  But it had no direct impact on efforts to resolve the Middle East conflict.

Direct peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians were revived by the U.S. in September after a year’s suspension.  The negotiations collapsed within weeks when Israel refused to extend a partial freeze on West Bank settlement construction.

Palestinian leaders say they will not negotiate while Israel builds homes for Jews in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, areas the Palestinians claim for a future state.  (*)

Palestinian PM Salam Fayyad : Palestinians seek more than a 'Facebook state'

Palestinian Prime Minister said Palestinians expect wider recognition of their statehood in 2011. -- PHOTO: AP

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RAMALLAH, December 30, 2010 (KATAKAMI / THE STRAITS TIMES) — PALESTINIANS expect wider recognition of their statehood in the coming year and it will mean more than the mere ‘Facebook state’ predicted by an Israeli official, Prime Minister Salam Fayyad said on Wednesday.

Mr Fayyad said recognition by many countries would ‘enshrine’ the Palestinians’ right to a state in all of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, which Israel captured along with East Jerusalem in a 1967 war.

Seventeen years of peace efforts had failed to deliver this promise, he told reporters. The current Israeli coalition’s stated commitment to a two-state solution could not be relied on ‘given the erosion that has taken place’, he said.

Jewish settlement of the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem has doubled since the interim Oslo accords of 1993.

Direct peace talks revived by Washington in September after a year’s suspension collapsed within weeks. A US drive to keep the process alive via third-party talks is in limbo.

The Palestinians reject further negotiation with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu until Jewish settlement of West Bank land is frozen and Mr Netanyahu states clearly what size and shape of state he envisages agreeing to eventually. ‘It is very important for that to be defined,’ Mr Fayyad said.   (*)

Source : THE STRAITS TIMES & REUTERS

Russian PM Putin cancels officials' holiday after travel chaos

Russia Prime Minister Vladimir Putin banned Moscow aviation officials from going on holiday in the wake of travel chaos at Moscow's 2 major airports -- PHOTO: AP

 

MOSCOW, December 30, 2010  (KATAKAMI / THE STRAIT TIMES) – PRIME Minister Vladimir Putin banned Moscow aviation officials on Wednesday from going on their New Year holiday – a Russian national institution – after two of the city’s major airports descended into chaos.

Angry holidaymakers beat up staff of the national carrier Aeroflot at Sheremetyevo airport on Tuesday as thousands were stranded with little food or information, after icy rain and blackouts disrupted traffic for a third day.

‘We had to bring some of our colleagues back from holiday. No holidays from now on. Everyone should stay at work,’ Mr Putin told a government meeting attended by airport and airline executives.

Most Russians take a 10-day holiday from Jan 1 and the country is virtually coming to a standstill during this period.

A blackout also hit Moscow’s biggest airport, Domodedovo, underlining for a second time this year authorities’ inability to handle the consequences of extreme weather.

The slow response from airports administrations and authorities resembled their reaction to a heatwave and deadly forest fires that struck Russia in the summer, denting the popularity of the country’s leadership. —

 

 

Source : THE STRAITS TIMES & REUTERS

Putin hails Medvedev over New START treaty

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, right, and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin shake hands before a Security Council meeting in the Gorki residence outside Moscow, Tuesday, Dec. 28, 2010. (AP Photo/RIA Novosti, Dmitry Astakhov, Presidential Press Service)

 

Dec 29, 2010 (KATAKAMI / RIA NOVOSTI) — Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin called on Wednesday a new strategic arms reduction treaty with the United States a foreign policy victory for President Dmitry Medvedev.

“The New START is the indisputable success of President Medvedev as head of state in the foreign policy sphere,” Putin told journalists.

The United States Senate ratified the new arms deal with Russia on December 22, with a vote of 71 for and 26 against. The agreement will come into force after ratification by both houses of the Russian parliament, which is likely to be completed by the end of January after deputies have studied the U.S. Senate’s resolution on the pact.

Russia’s lower house, the State Duma, approved the agreement in its first reading on December 24.

FILE : Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and U.S. President Barack Obama

The new treaty replacing the START 1 agreement that expired in December 2009 was signed in Prague in April by Medvedev and U.S. President Barack Obama.

The document slashes the Russian and U.S. nuclear arsenals to a maximum of 1,550 nuclear warheads, down from the current ceiling of 2,200.

Putin also said Russia’s confidence in American partners is “constantly strengthening, but has not conclusively strengthened yet,” even after Obama’s painstaking efforts to convince the Senate to eventually ratify the treaty before the end of the year.

Republican senators made several attempts to drag out the process of reviewing the new pact, and even attempted to have the enormous amount of text, including the appendices, read out loud on the Senate floor.

Had the U.S. leader failed to persuade the senators to approve the deal, the final vote would have been put off until the beginning of 2011 when the number of Republicans in the Senate would significantly increase, giving them more muscle. The reset in Russia-U.S. ties would have been jeopardized in this event. (*)

MOSCOW, December 29

Indonesian President Highly Appreciates "Garuda" Squad's Struggle

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YOUTUBE : Malaysia using laser to cheat Indonesian football player on final AFF cup (Dec 26, 2010)


December 30, 2010 (KATAKAMI / KOMPAS/ ANTARA ) — Despite Indonesia’s failure to grab the AFF Suzuki Cup’s championship title, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono highly appreciated the Garuda (eagle) squad’s spectacular struggle in the second leg of the cup’s final match here Wednesday evening.

The “Red and White” soccer players won the second legs by scoring 2-1 but the Malaysian team still managed to grab the championship trophy due to its aggregate 4-2 victory.

In the first leg, the Malayan tiger squad defeated Indonesia with 3-0. President Yudhoyono,  who directly watched the final match along with First Lady Ani Yudhoyono and over a hundred thousand Indonesian fans at Gelora Bung Karno stadium, was quoted by his spokesperson, Julian Aldrin Pasha, as saying that the Garuda squad had done its best.

Indonesian national team ( TIMNAS GARUDA ) : Kami mencintai dan sangat bangga pada kalian !

“The head of state does appreciate the spectacular struggle of our national team. He thanks all players and coaches,” Julian quoted the president as saying.   Despite the Garuda squad’s failure to grab the 2010 AFF Suzuki Cup’s championship title, the players’ spectacular struggle won public appreciation, including Vice President Boediono.

Boediono highly appreciated the spectacular struggle of Indonesian soccer team against Malaysia in the final match on TV but good luck did not belong to the Garuda squad. After watching the final match, Boediono said the good luck did not belong to Indonesia in this Wednesday night’s match.

“The good luck has yet to be with us tonight despite a number of good chances that our players have made and their so high fighting spirit,” he said.   Vice President Boediono watched the final match on TV at his official residence here with his staff members, security guards, and a number of journalists.

He said the “Red and White” players had done their best in the 90-minute match. “I pray for our national team’s success in the future,” he said.

Malaysia Cheat Laser in Final Suzuki AFF Cup 2010. Indonesia Vs Malaysia in Bukit Jalil (December 26, 2010).


In the first leg of the AFF Suzuki Cup’s final in Kuala Lumpur on December 26, the Malaysian tiger crushed Garuda (eagle) 3-0. Actually Indonesia had beaten Malaysia in the cup’s preliminary competition  5-1 in Jakarta.

But the performance of the Malayan tiger squad successfully improved and beat Vietnam in the cup’s semifinal. Indonesia itself could get the final ticket after beating the Philippines in the first and second legs of the cup’s semifinal at Gelora Bung Karno stadium.

Indonesia’s victory against the Philippines team in the 2010 AFF Suzuki Cup’s semifinal last Sunday evening had revived  the nation’s pride but the “Red and White” squad was not successful in grabbing the AFF Suzuki Cup’s trophy.  (*)

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