‘It is up to US to avert catastrophe of 'declared war' on North Korea’

It is unprecedented at the UN that the president of the US threatened to murder 25 million people in the small country of North Korea; now it is up to the US to prevent a catastrophe, says Korea Peace Network member Dr. Simone Chun.

North Korea's Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho claimed Donald Trump “declared war on Pyongyang” after making inflammatory comments on Twitter.

“Since the United States declared war on our country, we will have every right to take countermeasures, including the right to shoot down United States strategic bombers even when they are not inside the airspace border of our country,” he told reporters in New York on Monday.

READ MORE: ‘US declared war first’: N. Korea says it has right to shoot down strategic bombers

RT: Do you think North Korea genuinely believes President Trump has declared war on their country or is it some kind of a deliberate overstatement?

 
Chinese President Xi Jinping and U.S. President Donald Trump. © Carlos Barria

Dr. Simone Chun: This is the first time that a president of the US, the most powerful leader in the free world, declared a war and basically threatened to murder 25 million people in a small country such as North Korea. It is unprecedented, especially at the UN… When any leader or country is threatened, they have two options – to surrender or to resist. The North Korean response is standard and understandable: they said they are going to defend their country. There is nothing unusual. But I think the most important thing that we have to remember is that American public opinion, close to 70 percent, both Republicans and Democrats oppose any preemptive strike against North Korea. This is very strong condemnation and criticism of Donald Trump’s persistent threat to North Korea. We should really emphasize this. North Korea [gave] a standard and legitimate response.

RT: North Korea says their largest ever hydrogen bomb could be tested over the Pacific as a response to the US. Do you think that could actually happen?

SC: I don’t think it will happen if the US agreed or accepted the proposal that is on the table; the “double freeze” supported by China and Russia. I think there is still room for diplomatic solutions. I think North Korea will be willing to accept that…The US has been very… resistant to accept the proposal. Donald Trump, when he was running for president said he was willing to implement a new policy, he criticized Obama’s hard-line policy and even proposed “hamburger diplomacy” with North Korea. Tomorrow, if President Trump agrees and supports the proposal that China, Russia, and many other leaders support, I think we could avoid this catastrophic, disastrous outcome. It is up to the US to prevent and avert catastrophic consequences.

‘People try to move money away from risky assets in case of unfortunate escalation’

RT: How serious, do you think, is this latest statement from North Korea?

 
© Yuriko Nakao 
Craig Erlam: It just shows the tensions are escalating. We go a few days without hearing any comments on the issue. We hope that it is starting to fade away; we hope that tensions are starting to de-escalate. But inevitably we just keep getting fresh comments either from North Korea or from Donald Trump himself. We could see from the market’s reaction today that they are still far from immune to this commentary because of what it could potentially lead to. Thankfully, it hasn’t yet gone any further. So far, we have missile tests and military drills from the US and South Korea, for example. But fortunately, it hasn’t escalated any further. The concern today is the use of the rhetoric “declared war” is worrying people a lot. Hopefully, it will start to get defused. The problem is when you look at both sides, who is going to back down first in this war of words and I don’t see either side showing any willingness to do so.

RT: People seem to think this is just rhetoric at the moment. There is always a risk of miscalculation, isn’t there?

CE: Absolutely. And this is one of the things with the market. The markets are always going to respond carefully, but they are also going to respond early because if you got your money in the market, the longer it takes you to respond to the threat, the more money you stand to potentially lose. People do tend toward caution. That is what we’ve seen [hours after the announcement by North Korea]. We saw money moving away from the risky assets or pulling out of equities. Not on a huge level but on a minor level, moving into typically safe haven assets... Again, people are just moving their money toward safety because if anything does unfortunately and surprisingly escalate, then you would expect to see these safer haven assets, such as gold, benefit in the short term.

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Senate committee to interview Trump Jr. behind closed doors

Sept. 7 (UPI) -- Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee will privately interview Donald Trump, Jr., Thursday -- and are expected to ask about his meeting with a Russian lawyer in New York City during last year's presidential campaign.

Senators had sought to interview the president's son publicly in July but he instead offered to be privately interviewed and provide documents.

"We look forward to a professional and productive meeting and appreciate the opportunity to assist the committee," Trump, Jr.'s attorney, Alan S. Futerfas, said in a statement.

Last week, Judiciary Committee Chair Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and ranking Democrat Dianne Feinstein of California issued a joint statement confirming the interview with the president's eldest son was imminent.

Trump, Jr., has acknowledged he met with a Russian lawyer -- who he said had damaging information about Democrat Hillary Clinton that could help his father's presidential campaign. He released emails this summer that showed it was "part of Russia and its government's support for [President Donald] Trump."

Also attending the meeting were Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner, now a senior adviser to the president, and then-campaign chairman Paul Manafort.

Kushner and Manafort have already been interviewed by the Senate Committee on Intelligence.

The Senate and House intelligence committees are investigating Russian election meddling and any ties to Trump's campaign, but the judiciary panel wants to investigate whether any federal criminal statutes that ban solicitation from foreign nationals were violated.

Feinstein told reporters Wednesday the committee staff will conduct the interview, and a public hearing will be conducted later. Feinstein said she doesn't plan to attend the interview.

Other committee members, including Democrats Dick Durbin of Illinois and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, said they plan to attend.

"There are penalties if he lies, and he presumably is aware that he is testifying with very severe penalties if he fails to tell the truth, so we presume he will," Blumenthal told reporters.

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Moscow has become ‘very convenient scarecrow’ for US – Russia’s UN envoy

Russia has turned into a convenient bogeyman used in the internal battles raging in the US political landscape, the Russian envoy to the UN says.

Although tensions are simmering, too much hinges on the bilateral relations, with the UN Security Council remaining one of the few cooperative platforms.

“We, unfortunately, became a very convenient scarecrow, including in the domestic political battles that are raging [in the US],” Vasily Nebenzya said in an interview with RT’s Sophie Shevardnadze.

 

The entrance to the building of the Consulate General of Russia is shown in San Francisco © Stephen Lam

No thaw happened in the US-Russian relations with President Donald Trump coming into office due to “the domestic dimension and the political situation within the United States,” Nebenzya believes.

Relations have sunk to a new low after a series of diplomatic tit-for-tat measures, which started with the Obama administration expelling 35 Russian diplomats and denying access to the Maryland and New York compounds late last year. In August, Moscow responded by demanding a reduction in the number of US embassy and consulate staff, to which Washington retaliated and ordered three Russian diplomatic properties on its soil shuttered.

However, “too much depends on our bilateral relations, and it's not appropriate that they are so low these days and they should be improved, and that will be for the best – for the better of the world and not just our two countries,” he said.

“I will not make peace and security hostage to our bilateral relations,” Nebenzya added.

“The Security Council maybe is one of the few platforms left for us and the US to cooperate,” he said. “Hopefully, that platform that is the Security Council will help us in many things, including improving Russian-American relations.”

 

Anatoly Antonov © Maxim Blinov

As to how work gets done in the Security Council despite the diplomatic standoff between the US and Russia, Nebenzya assures he has “no problem in communicating personally on good terms with any American colleague, not only Nikki Haley,” calling it “a professional camaraderie.”

With rhetoric occasionally flaring up at Security Council meetings, Nebenzya says he hadn’t engaged in a heated exchange with his colleagues.

“I think that the United Nations, and the Security Council in particular, should not be a place for futile rhetoric and a spotlight to master their rhetorical skills,” he says, adding the UN should serve its main purpose: “to maintain the international peace and security.”

“I never, never imagine that the Russian and the American people have anything like hostility towards each other. It's the political situation that is to blame, but on a personal level we are all humans, first of all, and secondly, we feel sympathy towards Americans and I feel that Americans feel sympathy towards Russians,” Nebenzya says.

You can watch the full interview with the Russian envoy to the UN Friday on RT’s SophieCo.

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China says it will never allow war or chaos on its doorstep as tensions escalate on Korean Peninsula

Beijing has said it will not allow war or chaos on the Korean Peninsula, as two US B-1B bombers conducted a new flight in the area, joined by South Korean and Japanese fighter jets in a show of force amid mounting tensions.

The statement was made by defense ministry spokesman Ren Guoqiang at a monthly news briefing on Thursday, Sina reports.

Six American warplanes - two nuclear-capable B-1B strategic bombers and four Marine Corps F-35Bs - held a joint flight operation with Japanese F-15 fighter jets on Thursday, Japan’s Air Self-Defense Force (ASDF) said in a statement. The squadron flew near the island of Kyushu, south of the Korean Peninsula.

Following that, the US warplanes, accompanied by South Korean F-15K fighter jets, conducted a joint operation over South Korea as well as bombing drills over the Pilseung range in the eastern province of Gangwon, according to Yonhap.

The maneuvers come just two days after North Korea’s launch of a missile over Japan.

Ren Guoqiang also reiterated China’s position that the North Korean crisis should be resolved through dialogue, and insisted on the denuclearization of the peninsula, according to Sina, citing the spokesman.

Russia also insists that there cannot be any military solution to the crisis on the Korean Peninsula. At the latest UNSC meeting, Russia’s permanent representative to the UN, Vasily Nebenzya, reiterated Beijing and Moscow’s ‘double freeze’ initiative, recommending Pyongyang halt all nuclear and missile tests while the US and South Korea cease the military build-up in the region.

On Thursday, the Chinese Foreign Ministry also expressed concern, saying that the Korean issue is serious and not a computer game, Reuters reports, citing the ministry’s spokeswoman, Hua Chunying.

During a previous news briefing, Hua responded to British Prime Minister Theresa May’s call on Beijing to exert more pressure on Pyongyang voiced during her trip to Japan on Wednesday. Hua also questioned whether other relevant parties implement the UN resolutions “without holding back anything.”

“They are the loudest when it comes to sanctions, but nowhere to be found when it comes to making efforts to promote peace talks. They want nothing to do with responsibility,” Hua told reporters on Wednesday. 

READ MORE: Tokyo & Seoul seek ‘maximum pressure’ after UNSC condemns Pyongyang’s ‘outrageous’ missile test

The flyover of the North Korean medium-range missile was unanimously condemned by the UN Security Council, which convened for an emergency meeting following the test. The UN called on Pyongyang to halt their activities, which are “not just a threat to the region, but to all UN member states.”

US President Donald Trump said on Tuesday that “all options are on the table” regarding North Korea, later tweeting that “talking is not the answer.” Trump also said that Washington has been paying Pyongyang “extortion money” while negotiating for over two decades.

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New Investigation Exposes US Support for 2009 Honduras Coup

U.S. officials were more concerned with maintaining military power in Honduras than overturning the coup, the investigation reveals.

A new investigation conducted by the Center for Economic and Policy Research, CEPR, reveals key details involving U.S. officials and their support for the 2009 coup in Honduras that ousted former President Manuel Zelaya.

RELATED: Honduran General Election Campaigning Kicks Off

The investigation, published by The Intercept, was based on military intelligence documents and interviews with Honduran and U.S. officials. It focuses on the Pentagon and the United States Southern Command, SOUTHCOM, and their interests in ensuring the success of the coup against Zelaya by the country's military.

Here’s what CEPR found:

- A top U.S. military official met with Honduran coup plotters a day prior to the coup, demonstrating that they knew about the forthcoming ouster. 
- A Honduran military official’s warning to the U.S. ambassador was met with “indifference.”
- A retired U.S. general provided assistance to Honduran military leaders advocating for the coup, according to interviewed sources, confirming previous allegations.
- U.S. military officials were guided by an “obsessive concern” with former Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’s growing influence in the region as opposed to domestic Honduran issues. 

Overall, what the investigation demonstrates is that the Pentagon's main interest was to maintain close relations with close Honduran military allies, rather than overturning the coup.

“This is a story that reveals much about how foreign policy works in general, not just in Honduras,” CEPR Research Associate Jake Johnston said in a statement.

“The investigation shows the often hidden roles that various actors within the U.S. foreign policy establishment play in determining and carrying out policy. What’s clear is that personal relationships matter just as much as any official policy position announced in Washington.”

RELATED: Honduras Marks 8 Years Since US-Backed Coup Against Zelaya

Prior to his removal, Zelaya sought to hold a non-binding, nationwide poll on whether to include a fourth ballot box in the forthcoming elections to usher in a National Constituent Assembly for the rewriting of the country’s constitution. The effort was intended to democratize the country’s laws, which have traditionally favored the Honduran elite. 

Zelaya had also begun forging ties with progressive Latin American governments — like Venezuela, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Cuba and Bolivia — while joining the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America, ALBA.

On June 28, 2009, high ranking army officials received orders issued by the Supreme Court to detain Zelaya and transferred him, by force, to Costa Rica.

In 2010, Zelaya was allowed to return to Honduras, a country that plunged into rampant violence following the coup. Since then, hundreds of social activists and dozens of journalists have been killed by suspected right-wing death squads.

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Reckless “Present” CIA to Venezuela

Hours ago it was revealed that the top brass of that espionage agency works with the governments of Colombia and Mexico to destroy Venezuela.

Thus was written this Wednesday by an Argentinean journalist to the unconditional service of Washington.          

His name, Andrés Oppenheimer, New Herald columnist and well known in other U.S. media circles and for special services of that country.

Now he got published a significant title: “The Gift the CIA Gave to Nicolás Maduro.”

It begins asserting, Trump’s government “is the most inexpert and inapt regarding foreign policy ever remembered in recent history.”

And he adds, but what the CIA director, Mike Pompeo, did when he talked about Venezuela “is a huge stupidity.”

He affirmed last July 20th that they worked hard for the reestablishment of democracy in Caracas.

And he added, I was in Mexico City and Bogotá two weeks ago, speaking about this issue.

“Trying to help them understand what they could do, so that they can get a better result for their side of the world and our part of the world.”

Soon after, said Oppenheimer, Pompeo’s comments were in YouTube.

“The United States conspires against Venezuela, the head of the CIA confirms”, read a headline in Telesur, the television network that broadcasts in all Latin America.

Hours later, Oppenheimer continued, Maduro was on television, taking advantage of Pompeo’s “screw up” and attacking the governments of Mexico and Colombia.

Then the North American journalist tried to mend both images saying that they have been active in the efforts so that Maduro reestablishes the democratic order in Venezuela.

Unable to answer, Oppenheimer turns to the intrigue (made in U.S.A.) regarding the supposed dominant role of Cuba in that South American nation.

Earlier, Nicolás Maduro had summoned the governments of Mexico and Colombia to clarify the statement of the CIA director.

Faintly, very faintly, they tried and failed miserably.  

According to Oppenheimer Venezuelan and Latin Americans “followers of Telesur”, they believe that agency is still bent on overthrowing governments.

For them, he wrote, Pompeo’s words sounded like alarms going off.

Hence Mr. Andrés Oppenheimer helped to explain why he symbolizes one of the most despicable personalities in the journalistic world of this region.

He is ideal to serve those who trained him and awarded him in the United States and today hire him further south.

But the core matter is, once again they’ve silenced the multiple aggressions Venezuela has suffered and implicitly they justified it, because they are accomplices.

All that thanks to the testimony of the CIA Director they were caught “red handed.”

New Sanctions Show US Insistence on Hostility toward Iran: Senior MP

A senior Iranian lawmaker deplored the US Congress move to pass a bill to impose fresh sanctions on Iran, saying it proves Washington’s persistent animosity toward the Islamic Republic.

“Today, it is no secret to anyone that the Americans are still the Iranian nation’s number one enemy,” Seyed Hossein Naqavi Hosseini, the rapporteur of the Iranian parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Commission, told Tasnim.

The fresh embargoes signify that Washington keeps on the path of hostility toward Iran and applying pressure on the country, he added.

They show that the Americans are not going to pay any attention to international demands and live up to their commitments under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), Naqavi Hosseini said, referring to a 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and six world powers, including the US.

Now that US officials have demonstrated their disregard for the JCPOA, he said, all related bodies in Iran, including the diplomatic apparatus, should proceed with “revolutionary and decisive” measures against Washington’s breaking of laws and breaches of commitments.

Naqavi Hosseini went on to say that the parliament plans to hold a special session on Saturday to discuss a motion to counter the United States’ adventurous and terrorist activities in the region as well as its recent sanctions on the country.

On Thursday, the US Senate voted overwhelmingly to impose new sanctions against Iran, Russia and North Korea.

The Senate backed the bill by a margin of 98-2.

The legislation will now be sent to President Trump to sign into law or veto.

The Republican-controlled House of Representatives already passed the bill on Tuesday in a 419-3 vote to impose new sanctions against Iran, Russia and North Korea.

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani had on Wednesday vowed that the US congressional bill on new sanctions against Tehran will receive the necessary response.

The Islamic Republic of Iran will certainly show a reciprocal reaction to the US Congress’ new measure, President Rouhani said.

“We… withstand the pressures and sanctions, and will take reciprocal action,” he stressed.

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Russia retaliates over new US sanctions

Russia retaliated Friday to new sanctions from Washington by announcing it would seize US properties and demand a reduction in American diplomatic staff, according to reports.

The Kremlin took the tit-for-tat action in the wake of the US Senate vote to slap new financial sanctions against Russia, Iran and North Korea over President Trump’s objections.

The bill now awaits the president’s signature.

Russian officials said the US Embassy in Moscow and consulates in St. Petersburg, Yekaterinburg and Vladivostok must cut the number of their “diplomatic and technical employees” to 455 by Sept. 1, the Washington Post reported.

That staffing level would equal the number of Russian diplomatic staff in the US.

The Russian Foreign Ministry also said it would seize a Moscow warehouse and recreation complex used by the American Embassy.

A US Embassy spokesman could not immediately say how many people work for the Embassy and consulates in Russia.

The new US legislation is aimed at punishing Moscow for meddling in the 2016 presidential election and for its military aggression in Ukraine and Syria, where the Kremlin has backed President Bashar Assad.

It bars Trump from easing or waiving the penalties on Russia unless Congress agrees.

In December, President Obama kicked out 35 Russians described as “intelligence operatives” and seized two Russian diplomatic compounds because of Russia’s interference in the election.

The Russian Foreign Ministry recommend that President Vladimir Putin respond by expelling US diplomats, but he said he would wait, apparently hoping the newly elected president would reverse the decision after his inauguration.

US-Russian relations dropped to a post-Cold War low after Russia’s annexation of Crimea and interference in eastern Ukraine in 2014.

The new package of sweeping sanctions aims to hit Putin and his inner circle by targeting alleged corrupt officials, human-rights abusers and crucial sectors of the Russian economy.

Russia dismissed the new sanctions as “creating unfair competitive advantages for the US economy.”

“This kind of blackmail aimed at restricting the cooperation between Russia and other nations is a threat for many countries and global businesses,” a Foreign Ministry statement said.

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