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North Korea looms large as Trump's challenges Iran
By Andrew BEATTY
Washington (AFP) Oct 12, 2017

N. Korea says Trump has 'lit fuse of war': TASS
Moscow (AFP) Oct 12, 2017 - US President Donald Trump "lit the fuse of war" against North Korea with his provocative comments to the United Nations last month, North Korea's foreign minister has told the Russian TASS news agency.

Trump has engaged in an escalating war of words with North Korean strongman Kim Jong-un, trading insults amid rising tensions between the two nuclear-armed rivals.

"With his belligerent and mad address to the UN, it can be said that Trump has lit the fuse of war against us," Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho told Russia's state news agency during an interview in Pyongyang on Wednesday.

"Our dear supreme leader Kim Jong-un had already sternly warned: the US must act in a reasonable manner and cease attacking us if it does not want to be humiliated in front of the whole world under the weight of our blows," Ri added.

The minister also lashed out at a tough new package of UN sanctions brought in last month.

"The government of our republic has many times stated that any attempt to strangle us, to choke us in the guise of sanctions is equivalent to an act of war," he said.

He added that North Korea would not rule out "the use of the most extreme measures in response."

Trump used his maiden speech to the UN in September to threaten to "destroy" the nuclear-armed nation if Kim did not back down, referring to him as "Rocket Man".

He said in October that "only one thing will work" in relation to North Korea.

Tensions over North Korea's weapons programme have soared in recent months, with Pyongyang launching a flurry of missiles and conducting its sixth and most powerful nuclear test last month.

UAE stops issuing visas to North Koreans
Abu Dhabi (AFP) Oct 12, 2017 - The United Arab Emirates on Thursday announced it had stopped issuing visas to North Korean nationals and downgraded diplomatic relations with Pyongyang, following similar moves by Kuwait and Qatar.

The UAE government ended the mission of its non-resident ambassador to North Korea as well as that of Pyongyang's non-resident ambassador to the UAE, the government-run WAM news agency said.

Abu Dhabi will also no longer grant North Korean companies authorisation to work in any of the seven emirates, WAM said.

Tensions over North Korea's weapons programme have soared in recent months, with Pyongyang launching a flurry of missiles and conducting its sixth and most powerful nuclear test last month.

UN sanctions against North Korea were last month expanded to include North Korean guest workers, along with textiles and a cap on oil exports.

South Korea and Japan have pressured Gulf states to stop employing North Korean workers, whose income goes towards remittances that benefit the regime in Pyongyang, according to Asian diplomatic sources.

In September, Kuwait gave the North Korean ambassador one month to leave the country and stopped issuing visas to all North Koreans.

Qatar has also said it would not renew visas for North Korean labourers, with the last work permits set to expire at the end of 2018.

Between 2,000 and 2,500 North Koreans currently work in Kuwait, and another estimated 1,000 in Qatar.

The UAE is home to some 1,300 North Korean workers, according to a South Korean diplomat.

As President Donald Trump prepares to decide on certifying the Iran nuclear deal, the White House has come to see a rapidly escalating standoff with North Korea as both a complicating factor and a cautionary tale.

By the close of business Friday, Trump is expected to declare that a landmark agreement curbing Iran's nuclear program is no longer in the US interest.

That would not kill the deal outright, but it would pass that decision on to Congress -- a gambit full of risk for the greater Middle East.

During months of debate about regional repercussions from Aden to Kabul, indeed, since the hours after Trump was elected, a gathering storm with North Korea has weighed heavily.

- The weight of office -

When Trump met president Barack Obama for the first time on November 10, 2016, the outgoing leader had an ominous warning for the president elect.

Sitting feet from each other in the storied Oval Office, Obama told Trump he would face a fateful decision on North Korea in the first months of his presidency.

Trump would have to decide whether to allow Kim Jong-Un to develop the capability to nuke almost any city in the continental United States.

Presidents from Obama back to George Bush Sr. had tried inducements and coercion to prevent North Korea from breaking through a series of ominous proliferation thresholds.

But year after year, as the Kim dynasty passed through three generations, North Korea marched ever closer to mastering what Winston Churchill once called the "lights of perverted science."

Pyongyang covertly separated plutonium, withdrew from the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, and developed a medium-range ballistic missile that could hit Alaska or Hawaii. It perfected an atomic bomb.

By November 2016, US intelligence believed that Pyongyang would -- in a matter of months rather than years -- be able to marry intercontinental ballistic missile technology with the ability to produce a miniaturized thermonuclear device, putting the United States within reach.

The United States had three basic choices: military action, diplomacy or acceptance.

According to aides familiar with the Oval Office conversation last November, Obama felt he had conveyed the gravity of the situation to the neophyte president.

Trump came away feeling like such a serious a situation should have been dealt with long ago.

"Look, this should have been taken care of by four or five previous administrations," Trump told Forbes recently. "I feel strongly you cannot allow him to have nuclear weapons."

Under Trump's tough-guy doctrine, an unbending message to Iran would make North Korea take notice.

But several White House officials described the choice in more historical terms.

They have come to believe that tackling Iran today offers an opportunity akin to that which was squandered with North Korea a decade or more ago.

Getting tough on Tehran, they argue, affords Trump a chance to prevent a foe from developing nuclear weapons and jamming the next president with a litany of bad choices.

- Walking away from talking? -

Proponents of the deal argue there is no evidence Tehran is breaching the deal, so it remains the best way to prevent an Iranian bomb.

For them too, North Korea looms large.

"There would be no more crippling a blow to the prospects for a peaceful outcome with North Korea than walking away from the Iran deal," Ned Price, a spokesman for Obama's National Security Council who spent a decade at the CIA, recently wrote.

They argue that Washington's willingness to risk an agreement it signed barely two years ago -- which Iran seems to be adhering to -- and which is still strongly supported by longstanding European allies, sends a terrible message to Pyongyang.

One of the deal's diplomat-architects, Wendy Sherman, argued North Korea would conclude it is futile to talk to Washington.

"We are likely to lose any possibility of dialogue with North Korea because Pyongyang will assume the United States will not honor its commitments, even on multilateral agreements," she wrote.

Whether supporters of the Iran deal or its detractors are correct, Trump's decision looks set to reverberate beyond the Middle East and all the way to the Korean Peninsula.

N. Korea's Kim promotes sister, reaffirms nuclear drive
Seoul (AFP) Oct 8, 2017
North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un has promoted his sister to a senior ruling party post, state media said Sunday, and praised the country's nuclear weapons programme which has sparked international alarm. Kim Yo-Jong becomes an alternate member of the party's powerful politburo, the decision-making body presided over by her brother, the official KCNA news agency said. The promotion was ann ... read more

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