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The News That Matters about the Nuclear Industry

Northy Korea has a a nuclear-tipped bargaining chip

Is North Korea putting a nuclear-tipped bargaining chip on the table? Reuters, By James Pearson and Ju-min Park | SEOUL, 6 Apr 17, 

As the leaders of China and the United States sit down for a summit on Thursday, North Korea has made sure it also has something on the negotiating table: A nuclear-tipped bargaining chip.

North Korea launched a projectile on Wednesday, which U.S. officials said appeared to be a liquid-fueled, extended-range Scud missile that only traveled a fraction of its range before spinning out of control and crashing into the sea.

The launch was North Korea’s latest in a long series of missile and nuclear tests that have accelerated in their variation and intensity over the last two years.

And now, experts agree, North Korea is closing in on the ability to hit the United States with a missile, a goal that for decades has been the subject of Pyongyang’s vivid propaganda posters.

“They’ve been able to put a nuke on a missile for a while now,” said Jeffrey Lewis of the California-based Middlebury Institute of International Studies.

“The stated purpose of the last test was to validate the nuclear weapon design that would arm all of North Korea’s missiles,” Lewis said of North Korea’s September 2016 nuclear test – its fifth and largest to date.

Since then, North Korea has further ramped up its tests and rhetoric, emphasizing a consistent message: To create a nuclear device small enough to mount on an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), and fire it at the United States.

“If we push the button, the bombs will be fired and reduce the U.S. to ashes,” an editorial in the ruling Workers’ Party newspaper the Rodong Sinmun said on Wednesday.

North Korea now has the strength to “wipe out” the United States “in a moment” with an H-bomb, the editorial said.

“This is again our warning”.

BARGAINING CHIP  From last year, North Korea took the rare step of publicizing images of its missile equipment tests, convincing analysts that Pyongyang’s banned program was further along toward successfully testing an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) than first thought.

“The first few tests might fail, but that’s not good news because they’ll learn,” said Lewis. “How long it takes to make it work is anyone’s guess. Maybe a couple of years, maybe the first time”………

It was not clear if Wednesday’s launch was deliberately timed to coincide with Thursday’s summit between China’s President Xi Jinping and U.S. President Donald Trump in Florida, where North Korea is expected to be a prime topic of discussions.

Some experts think North Korea has tried to make sure the two world leaders are aware Pyongyang has a bargaining chip in any forthcoming moves to clam down on its weapons programs…….http://www.reuters.com/article/us-northkorea-missiles-bargaining-idUSKBN17811R

April 7, 2017 Posted by | North Korea, politics international | Leave a comment

South Africa; Treasury denies that a nuclear deal with Russia has been signed

Treasury shoots down nuclear deal allegations http://www.news24.com/SouthAfrica/News/treasury-shoots-down-nuclear-deal-allegations-20170402   Jenna Etheridge, News24 Cape Town – National Treasury on Sunday set the record straight on news that was circulating on social media of a nuclear deal allegedly signed by incoming Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba.

April 3, 2017 Posted by | politics, politics international, South Africa | Leave a comment

Did Russia’s nuclear lobby make Africa’s President get rid of Finance Minister Gordhan?

Gordhan said to have spooked Russian connection on nuclear deal http://www.iol.co.za/news/politics/gordhan-said-to-have-spooked-russian-connection-on-nuclear-deal-8459357

2 April 2017 Staff Reporter Johannesburg – Former finance minister Pravin Gordhan said the masses should be worried when top ANC officials admitted that they didn’t know where a decision was made.

Professor Njabulo Ndebele said the country was in a “deep political and moral crisis” characterised by power and greed.

Zuma’s spokesperson Dr Bongani Ngqulunga said the president was not involved “in the planning of the memorial service and in the cancellation thereof. Any impression created that the president cancelled or ordered the cancellation is erroneous and unfortunate.”

Meanwhile, while Gordhan was doing the presentations in London there was a gentleman called Chenkov who kept on asking many questions about South Africa. He wanted to know if the South African government was looking at developing nuclear energy. Gordhan quickly quashed the idea of nuclear and repeatedly confirmed that the South African government would never develop this energy.

Chenkov had no further questions. After the presentation Chenkov called someone and spoke in Russian but whoever he was speaking to was not impressed and angrily dropped the phone.

It is believed that this person immediately called President Jacob Zuma and threatened him that if he did not immediately trigger the process of changing the finance minister and sign the nuclear deal, as commission had already been paid, he would be taught a lesson.

A shaken Zuma immediately called the minister back home. “You obviously know what happened!”

April 3, 2017 Posted by | politics, politics international, Russia, secrets,lies and civil liberties, South Africa | Leave a comment

Nuclear weapons ban negotiations at UN

Survivors Speak Out As UN Negotiates Nuke Ban, Huffington Post, By Ariel Conn,31 Mar 17
“[My nephew was] transformed into a charred, blackened and swollen child who kept asking in a faint voice for water until he died in agony.”

To imagine innocence is to picture children playing. As such, most people and governments are horrified by the idea of children and other helpless civilians suffering and dying, even during war. Finding a way to prevent the unnecessary slaughter of innocents has brought over 115 countries to the United Nations in New York this week to begin negotiations of a historic treaty that would, once and for all, ban nuclear weapons.

The countries are united by concerns that tens or even hundreds of thousands of innocent men, women and children – mothers, sons, fathers, daughters, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends and neighbors – could be killed, quite literally, in a flash.

In a statement to the opening of negotiations, Peter Maurer, president of the International Committee of the Red Cross, or ICRC, said, “The prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons is a humanitarian imperative.”

Responding to a Humanitarian Imperative

A ban on nuclear weapons is certainly historic, but it’s not without precedence. Prohibiting and eliminating other weapons because of their horrific humanitarian consequences has happened before. In fact, most of the world’s deadliest weapons are currently banned.

At a press conference, Beatrice Fihn, executive director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, ICAN, said, “The treaty will finally ban weapons designed to indiscriminately kill civilians, completing the prohibitions on weapons of mass destruction.”

For example, when adults around the world learned of the tens of thousands of children killed by landmines while simply pursuing childhood activities, such as playing in open fields, a global cry arose to bring an end to the indiscriminate weapons. In 1997, 133 countries signed the Mine Ban Treaty, and as of today 162 have signed. According to the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, “only 35 states remain outside the treaty, but most of them do not actually use or produce antipersonnel mines.”

A similar rallying cry heralded the Convention on Cluster Munitions. Cluster munitions often landed without exploding and remained unstable. Their toy-like appearance attracted thousands of children, who were killed and maimed by the weapons. The treaty was adopted in 2008 and is described by clusterconvention.org as an “international treaty of more than 100 States that addresses the humanitarian consequences and unacceptable harm caused to civilians by cluster munitions.”

Today, most countries abide by these treaties, and even countries like the United States, which has not signed either treaty, is either mostly in compliance or is showing signs of improvement………

Relegating Nukes to History A common concern about these negotiations is the notable absence of the nuclear states. However, history, as seen with the landmine and cluster munitions treaties, gives those supporting the negotiations reason to hope.

In his statement for the ICRC, Maurer added, “Of course, adopting a treaty to prohibit nuclear weapons will not make them immediately disappear. But it will reinforce the stigma against their use, support commitments to nuclear risk reduction, and be a disincentive for proliferation. … As with chemical and biological weapons, a clear and unambiguous prohibition is the cornerstone of their elimination.”

Susi Snyder, the nuclear disarmament program manager for PAX in the Netherlands, explained, “This is the start of a negotiation. The impact of the negotiation cannot be guessed or measured until the treaty is done. Even then, as with all treaties and growing norms, the impact will grow over time.”

Fihn added that a treaty would “make it clear that the world has moved beyond these morally unacceptable weapons of the past.” http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/survivors-speak-out-as-un-negotiates-nuke-ban_us_58dd5552e4b0fa4c0959872b?

April 3, 2017 Posted by | 2 WORLD, politics international, weapons and war | Leave a comment

The path to war? US legislation in Congress to unravel the Iran nuclear agreement

If Congress sends Trump this legislation, our new president will be granted the tools and the greenlight from Congress to unravel the Iran deal and put us back on the path to a war with Iran. Unless Democratic senators stand up against this bill soon, opponents of the Iran nuclear deal may wipe away Obama’s diplomatic legacy with Iran faster than even they thought was possible.
 
Why Give Trump The Keys To War With Iran? https://www.niacouncil.org/give-trump-
keys-war-iran/ 
When Trump won the elections, many worried that it could lead to war between the United States and Iran, due to his desire to kill the Iran nuclear deal. Now, thanks to the U.S. Senate, we may be one step closer to this nightmare scenario: The Senate is poised to pass legislation that will place President Trump’s trigger-happy finger on the ignition switch of a deadly conflict with Iran.

Introduced to coincide with the annual American Israel Public Affairs Council (AIPAC) conference that concludes today, the Countering Iran’s Destabilizing Activities Act of 2017 (S. 722) would give Trump new tools to violate the Iran nuclear deal. Perhaps most shockingly, a small group of Senate Democrats have joined Republicans to grant Trump some of the most dangerous authorities that would put the U.S. and Iran back on the path to war. The list of sponsors includes many of the usual suspects ― the consummate Iran hawks who worked to block Obama’s diplomacy with Iran and many of whom have sworn to “rip up” the nuclear deal: Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Bob Corker (R-TN), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Tom Cotton (R-AR), and Ted Cruz (R-TX). But the list of sponsors also includes Ben Cardin (D-MD) ― who opposed the nuclear deal but has said the U.S. should still abide by it ― as well as Bob Casey (D-PA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Chris Coons (D-DE), and Joe Donnelly (D-IN) who supported the deal.

Yet now these senators are signed onto legislation that requires non-nuclear certifications that would block the president from removing sanctions that are set to expire in later stages of the nuclear agreement. Why would Democratic senators who support the nuclear deal sign on to a measure that would violate the agreement? Because, they have argued, the bill gives the president a case-by-case waiver for the deal-killing provisions. That means that these senators are trusting Donald Trump with new deal-killing authorities and abdicating to him whether the U.S. honors the nuclear deal or “rips it to shreds.”

The bill also enables Trump to re-impose sanctions on Iranian entities that were de-listed pursuant to the accord. And it mandates sanctions that would broadly target any person or entity that ― knowingly or unknowingly ― contributes to Iran’s ballistic missile program, including universities that conduct research and banks that process payments for the government. This would amount to a trickle-down reimplementation of sanctions on much of Iran ― and a violation of the nuclear accord. Finally, the bill would designate the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), an elite branch of the Iranian military, as a terrorist group ― a major escalation. The IRGC is a highly problematic organization that has benefitted from years of a sanctions economy at the expense of Iran’s people. It is not unusual for individuals within the IRGC to be sanctioned if they are believed to have connections to Iran’s ballistic missile program. However, designating a foreign military branch as a terrorist organization is an extremely dangerous provocation that Pentagon leaders in multiple administrations have advised against. AIPAC has urged for the IRGC designation for the past decade, yet Barack Obama and even George W. Bush resisted. But now, with Donald Trump in the White House, AIPAC is pressing ahead with its proposal.

If this legislation is passed the U.S. can expect a negative response from Tehran that will undermine moderates in Iran’s upcoming May elections and empower anti-U.S. hardliners. The ranking member of Iran’s Parliament, Alaeddin Boroujerdi, has already signaled that Iranian lawmakers will consider designating the U.S. Army as a terrorist organization in retaliation. It is naïve to assume this exchange will be limited to words. U.S. special forces and IRGC units are currently fighting ISIS on the same front in Mosul. Despite some evidence that IRGC units targeted U.S. troops with IEDs during the height of the Iraq War, there have been no such incidents since U.S. soldiers reentered Iraq in the summer of 2014. In effect, the IRGC and the U.S.-backed coalition have agreed to stay out of each other’s way as they fight a mutual enemy in ISIS. This bill could change that reality by removing any incentive for Iran not to attack U.S. troops in Iraq, forbidding any cooperation with IRGC-backed militias against ISIS, and placing our Iraqi allies in a diplomatic catch-22.  It is for this very reason that back in 2007, President Bush’s Pentagon opposed an SDGT designation for the IRGC.

With thousands of AIPAC supporters on Capitol Hill to lobby senators on behalf of the bill, there is a strong chance that this bill could obtain filibuster-proof levels of support. If every Republican supports the bill, and just one more Democrat signs on, AIPAC’s bill will hit 60 votes. If that happens, and Congress sends Trump this legislation, our new president will be granted the tools and the greenlight from Congress to unravel the Iran deal and put us back on the path to a war with Iran. Unless Democratic senators stand up against this bill soon, opponents of the Iran nuclear deal may wipe away Obama’s diplomatic legacy with Iran faster than even they thought was possible.  This piece originally appeared in The Huffington Post.

April 1, 2017 Posted by | Iran, politics, politics international, USA | Leave a comment

On foreign affairs, Trump’s ignorance is cause for concern

Trump has antagonized the leaders of allied countries like Mexico, Australia and Germany, and he has repeatedly demonstrated an extraordinary lack of knowledge about foreign affairs.

This is the president who faces what Warren Christopher, President Clinton’s first secretary of state, called problems from hell. A partial list, compiled by Project Syndicate, includes: intensifying conflicts and dissent within the European Union; the rise of illiberal forces, including welfare chauvinism and exclusionary nationalismthe danger to the continued independence of the buffer states surrounding Russia; a frayed consensus in support of western liberal democratic principlesaggression from a nuclear-armed North Korea and counter threats from the Trump administration of a pre-emptive strike; a foreign policy that The Economist reports has left America’s allies “aghast” — a policy that “seems determined to destroy many of the institutions and alliances created in the past half century.”

 

When the President Is Ignorant of His Own Ignorance, NYT  MARCH 30, 2017 How prepared is our president for the next great foreign, economic or terrorist crisis?

April 1, 2017 Posted by | politics international, USA | Leave a comment

Disgrace of Canada’s submission to USA, in boycotting UN nuclear ban talks

Canada’s absence betrays its history on nuclear talks, RAMESH THAKUR AND CESAR JARAMILLO, The Globe and Mail, Mar. 27, 2017 Ramesh Thakur is a professor at the Australian National University and co-convenor of the Asia-Pacific Leadership Network for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament. Cesar Jaramillo is executive director of Project Ploughshares in Waterloo, Ont.

March 31, 2017 Posted by | Canada, politics international, weapons and war | Leave a comment

America and her allies oppose UN talks for a treaty that would ban nuclear weapons

United States and Allies Protest U.N. Talks to Ban Nuclear Weapons, NYT, MARCH 27, 2017, UNITED NATIONS — Saying the time was not right to outlaw nuclear arms, the United States led a group of dozens of

March 29, 2017 Posted by | politics international, USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Vague outlook for India-U.S. civil nuclear pact, unlikely to meet June deadline

India-U.S. civil nuclear pact likely to miss June deadline, THE HINDU, Suhasini Haidar 27 Mar 17 Bankruptcy of reactor maker Westinghouse clouds operationalisation of the deal.

More than two years after India and the U.S. announced that the civil nuclear deal was “done,” its actual operationalisation is in doubt over a number of developments that stretch from a “school scandal” in the Japanese parliament to the Cranberry, Pennsylvania headquarters of Westinghouse Electric, which is expected to file for bankruptcy this week.

 Six reactors for A.P. According to the agreement over liability issues and the negotiations that followed former U.S. President Barack Obama’s visit to India in January 2015 and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Washington in June 2016, the two sides had agreed to “work toward finalising the contractual arrangements by June 2017” for six reactors to be built in Andhra Pradesh by Toshiba-owned Westinghouse and the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL).

When completed, this was to be the first operationalisation of the India-U.S. civil nuclear deal, which was announced in 2008, and proof that both sides had effectively sorted out all their issues, including over the liability that suppliers must accept in the event of an accident.

The reason for the concern is that the nuclear arrangement hinged on two major factors — the completion of the India-Japan Nuclear Cooperation Agreement (NCA), as Toshiba and other suppliers for reactor parts are bound by Japanese laws and by the actual contract to be negotiated by the U.S.-based Westinghouse…….

When contacted, the U.S. Embassy declined to comment on how the bankruptcy issues would affect the deal. Nuclear officials said it was “likely” the June 2017 commercial contract with Westinghouse would be “delayed”, given that other financial companies, insurance companies would require clarity on the company’s future before agreeing to sign on the contract.

“The truth is the picture is very hazy at the moment,” a senior official of NPCIL said, adding that in the absence of land acquisition procedures for the other India-U.S. nuclear venture with GE-Hitachi for six 1594 MW reactors, the future of the India-U.S. nuclear deal is, for the moment, pinned to the future of Westinghouse itself. http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/indo-us-civil-nuclear-pact-likely-to-miss-june-deadline/article17668572.ece

March 29, 2017 Posted by | India, politics international, USA | Leave a comment

Need for America and China to work together on North Korean situation

North Korea: Why America and China need to deal with Kim Jong-un together http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-03-26/why-america-and-china-need-to-deal-with-kim-jong-un-together/8385362   By North Asia correspondent Matthew Carney, Nearly every week, Kim Jong-un seems to announce a successful test in his nuclear and missile program, edging him ever closer to his aim of striking America with a nuclear warhead.

Taking the North Korean leader out with military action is now being discussed, but that could lead to much bigger problems and plunge the region into years of chaos and instability. Worse still, it could force a confrontation between China and the US.

On the face of it, the North Korean military looks impressive. It has about 1.2 million troops. But the reality is that the weaponry is outdated and obsolete, much of it from the Soviet era. It’s no match for any modern army, so Mr Kim could be removed effectively.

Christopher Hill, probably the most experienced US diplomat in North Korean affairs, says with Mr Kim in power, there is no chance of dialogue. “Frankly, we don’t have a real insight into his thinking — we do know he seems to be totally uninterested in negotiation,” he said.

The real danger, said Mr Hill, is that the Trump administration has little understanding about how to deal with the North Korea threat, and the US State Department is in disarray. “We have a kind of Home Alone situation at the State Department, so we don’t have a lot of people focusing on this issue at this point,” he said.

Military action could prove costly Despite this, while visiting North Asia last week, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson ruled out negotiation and put military action on the table. It’s action that could prove costly: a humanitarian disaster, with biological and nuclear weapons at play; a contested occupation as China and America battle for control.

Dr Euan Graham from the Lowy Institute says it could prove more destructive and costly than the Iraq war.

“Kicking in the door is the easy part; once you go in and occupy ground, then if that’s contested you can very quickly find even superpowers’ resources can become thinly spread,” he said.

Mr Hill says people like to compare the situation on the Korean Peninsula with the reunification of Germany, but this would actually be much worse. Frankly speaking, the difference between North Korea and East Germany cannot be described,” he said.

“They are just worlds apart in terms of what Germany had to do and what the South Koreans would have to do.”

These immense challenges make policymakers and experts around the world question the value of removing Mr Kim and his nuclear program.

Dr Graham says the US then has a choice: “Is it better to live with this threat and manage it through deterrence and existing sanctions like it did with China and the Soviet Union for decades? Or does it become so unacceptable that it has to accept the high cost of potential economic recession in north-east Asia and military conflict that could take several thousands if not higher numbers of lives?”

China and America are at oddsThe complicating factor is that the powers at play cannot agree on what North Korea should become. They all have competing strategic needs.

China wants a new regime that will serve its interests, and it fears US troops on its border.

Professor Cheng Xiaohe from Beijing Renmin University says China will have to deal with a flood of refugees.

“Millions of North Koreans will seek safe havens in China or across the 38th parallel into the minefields to seek protection in South Korea,” he said.

“Even hundreds of thousands will take to boats to sail boat to other countries to seek refuge.”

It’s doubtful whether America wants to lead another foreign intervention. The Iraq campaign almost bankrupted the country with little to show in return, and it left hundreds of thousands dead.

South Korea too is losing its desire for reunification. It would cost several trillion dollars at least and threaten South Korea’s thriving high tech economy which is 18 times bigger than North Korea’s.

Dr Jiyoung Song from the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs says the younger generation in the South have very little in common with their brethren in the North.

Most South Koreans are definitely worried about the economic side — the unification costs, but also the unemployment and competition for jobs and universities.

The only way forward…Mr Hill, who led the push for a negotiated solution with the six-party talks that ended in 2009 after North Korea withdrew and resumed its nuclear program, says the only way forward is to engage with China and plan how to deal with the regime and the aftermath.

“We have to have an in-depth dive deep with the Chinese to really figure out how together we can deal with that and I think we need to do it and do it a lot more,” he said.

But Mr Hill says both sides have to get over their mutual distrust.

“Many Chinese see the demise of North Korea as a Chinese defeat and a US victory,” he said.”They worry that the US might take advantage of this and put US troops right up on the Chinese border.”

Dr Cheng agrees that China is afraid of being played by the US.

“All countries need to work together to settle their differences and adopt a joint line to build that country for peace and stability and carry out post-reunification works,” he said.

But while experts may agree in a call for global engagement, the Trump administration seems to be turning inwards towards more isolationist policies.

March 27, 2017 Posted by | China, North Korea, politics international, USA | Leave a comment

Britain will struggle with nuclear regulatory system, after leaving European Union

Top nuclear boss advising May on protecting atomic industry from Brexit blow Energy Voice , 26 Mar 17 The German head of one of the UK’s top nuclear companies is counseling Prime Minister Theresa May’s government on what needs to be done to protect a global hub for the industry from Brexit.

With European Union leaders congregating to celebrate the Treaty of Rome’s 60th anniversary, Urenco Ltd.’s Chief Executive Officer Thomas Haeberle said he’s cautiously optimistic that new rules can be negotiated to guarantee the flow of nuclear materials in and out of the U.K. after the nation leaves the bloc.

“We are making the U.K. government, which is also our shareholder, aware of the requirements our business needs to fulfill in the context of Brexit and of leaving Euratom,” said Haeberle, referring to the European Atomic Community, a part of the EU’s bedrock agreement signed on March 25, 1957 – 26/03/20

Just as bankers have made London a global financial hub, nuclear workers have turned Britain into a central cog servicing the world’s flow of atomic materials. Urenco, the world’s second-biggest maker of reactor fuel, runs a factory in Capenhurst and oversees its global distribution network from Stoke Poges outside of London.

Owned by the U.K. and Dutch governments as well as German utilities EON SE and RWE AG, Urenco has set up a working group that “deals with all the risks and the possible mitigations,” Haeberle said. He spoke with Bloomberg a week before the EU celebrates Euratom’s 60th anniversary, his first interview since becoming CEO in January 2016.

Euratom’s main function is to safeguard nuclear fuel, making sure it isn’t diverted to make weapons. The U.K. will lose that service once it departs the EU. Nuclear fuel suppliers and power plants need certification from Euratom or whatever system succeeds it to buy material on the open market.

For Urenco’s business to continue uninterrupted after the U.K. leaves the EU, negotiators will have to seal new agreements with governments around the world setting out the new regulatory system Britain will follow after it leaves Euratom……..

Companies like Urenco face a potentially “high impact” from Brexit, Moody’s Investors Service wrote in a May 22 note saying that the overall credit impact from leaving the EU will be modest. Urenco, which has 2.1 billion pounds ($2.6 billion) of outstanding debt is rated Baa1, two grades above junk by Moody’s…… https://www.energyvoice.com/otherenergy/134874/top-nuclear-boss-advising-may-protecting-atomic-industry-brexit-blow/

 

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March 27, 2017 Posted by | politics international, safety, UK | Leave a comment

North Korea nuclear program is ‘imminent’ threat says Rex Tillerson

Tillerson says North Korea nuclear program is ‘imminent’ threat, as China urges talks
Tillerson also said that US-China relations appear to be at a historic inflection point that must be carefully managed.
Politico, By 3/18/17, 

North Korea’s nuclear program poses an “imminent” threat that nonetheless requires the United States, China, and other countries to respond with a “staged approach” that includes sanctions, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in a rare encounter with the media.

Tillerson, speaking to the conservative Independent Journal Review in an interview published Saturday, also said that U.S.-China relations appear to be at a historic inflection point that must be carefully managed.

China’s foreign minister, meanwhile, urged the United States to remain “cool-headed” on the issue of North Korea and to consider going ahead with talks with Pyongyang.

The U.S. secretary of state is in the final stages of a trip to Asia, having made stops in Japan and South Korea and, this weekend, in China. A good chunk of his discussions have focused on how to handle the challenge posed by the government in Pyongyang, whose recent ballistic missile tests have alarmed the international community.

Tillerson repeatedly framed the North Korean threat as “imminent,” and during his trip he has ruled out negotiations with the country while leaving open the possibility of a pre-emptive military strike to eliminate its nuclear program.

But in his interview with IJR, Tillerson did not promise any imminent public response by the U.S. and others, aside from the ongoing diplomatic flurries. Instead, he said there had to be a “staged approach” to North Korea, one that involves enforcing, and possibly enhancing, international sanctions, while persuading Pyongyang that giving up its nuclear weapons would help it on other levels………

Tillerson also downplayed, but did not entirely rule out, suggestions that Japan and South Korea should develop their own nuclear weapons in a bid to stave off the North Korean threat…….

China’s sway over North Korea is perhaps the most urgent issue the two countries must tackle, Tillerson said. The secretary of state indicated that the Trump administration believes China must do more to enforce sanctions on North Korea, which relies on Beijing as an economic lifeline.

It’s the same stance taken by the Obama administration, which toward the end of its tenure also was increasingly alarmed by the threat posed by North Korea. President Barack Obama is reported to have told Trump that North Korea is the top national security priority facing his new administration. http://www.politico.eu/article/tillerson-says-north-korea-nuclear-program-is-imminent-threat-as-china-urges-talks/

March 20, 2017 Posted by | North Korea, politics international, USA | Leave a comment

Request by UN to Britain: Pause Hinkley Nuclear Plant Work for Environmental Assessment

UN Asks U.K. to Pause Hinkley Nuclear Plant Work for Assessment https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-03-18/un-asks-u-k-to-pause-hinkley-nuclear-plant-work-for-assessment by Grant Smith and Alex Morales March 19, 2017 

  • UN committee calls for halt to allow environmental studies
  • EDF won approval to build 18 billion-pound plant in September

A United Nations committee asked the U.K. to suspend work on the Hinkley Point nuclear power plant pending assessment of the environmental impact.

The UN Economic Commission for Europe requested the pause, it said in a document on its website. Electricite de France SA, the French state-controlled utility, won approval to build an 18 billion-pound ($22.3 billion) nuclear plant on England’s western coast in September. To help shoulder the construction costs, EDF convinced China General Nuclear Power Corp. to take 33.5 percent of the project.

The UN committee recommended the halt until it established whether “a notification under the Espoo Convention” was useful, according to the statement. The Espoo Convention sets out the obligations of countries to “assess the environmental impact of certain activities,” according to the commission’s website.

Bouygues SA and Areva SA have received contracts for work at the plant.

March 20, 2017 Posted by | politics international, UK | Leave a comment

Disaster looms over North Korea: how could this be stopped?

How to stop a North Korean nuclear trainwreck, The Hill, The assassination of Kim Jong Nam, the older half-brother of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, is yet another bizarre episode in a string of reality TV events that is now commonplace in our public discourse.

It’s easy to get sucked into the intrigue, but it distracts from the big picture: The United States is in the middle of a slow-motion trainwreck with North Korea over its nuclear weapons and missile program. North Korea’s missile tests on Monday are just the latest alarm in what could spiral into a full-blown crisis.

We better start listening.

Unless we do something about it now, a “metal on metal” collision could be in the offing, marked by more North Korean tests and calls within Washington for military strikes to stop them.

Kim Jong Nam’s murder and the subsequent media circus obscure more crucial events: China’s decision last month to ban all coal imports from North Korea; the Feb. 11 test launch of a mobile, land-based, solid-fueled missile; and, critically, the annual U.S.-South Korean military exercises happening this month, that almost  certainly sparked last weekend’s tests………

 we have no choice but to swallow a bitter pill. Using what little leverage and pressure we have, we must talk with the North Koreans at sufficiently high levels, something we haven’t done for some time.

But we must make these hard choices now — or they will be made for us.

Philip W. Yun is executive director of Ploughshares Fund, a San Francisco-based peace and security foundation. He previously served as senior adviser to the assistant secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs and as a senior adviser to two U.S. coordinators for North Korea Policy: former Secretary of Defense William J. Perry and former Under Secretary of State Wendy Sherman. Yun was a member of a government working group that managed U.S. policy and negotiations with North Korea under President Clinton and was part of the U.S. delegation that traveled to North Korea with then-Secretary of State Madeleine Albright in 2000. http://thehill.com/blogs/pundits-blog/defense/324461-how-to-stop-a-north-korean-nuclear-trainwreck

March 18, 2017 Posted by | North Korea, politics international, USA | Leave a comment

Tillerson rejects negotiation with North Korea, and keeps journalists out

In Asia, on his first major trip overseas as secretary of state, Mr. Tillerson has been heavily scripted in his few public comments, and he has gone out of his way to make sure he is not subject to questions beyond highly controlled news conferences, at which his staff chooses the questioners. In a breach of past practice, he traveled without the usual State Department press corps, which has flown on the secretary’s plane for roughly half a century.

Rex Tillerson Rejects Talks With North Korea on Nuclear Program, NYT,  MARCH 17, 2017 SEOUL, South Korea — Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson ruled out on Friday opening any negotiation with North Korea to freeze its nuclear and missile programs and said for the first time that the Trump administration might be forced to take pre-emptive action “if they elevate the threat of their weapons program” to an unacceptable level.

March 18, 2017 Posted by | media, politics international, USA | Leave a comment