Monday 22 July 2019

North and South Korea on the verge of war again

'Minute's silence recorded by Austrian artist to protest against the treatment of migrants in Europe and raise funds has topped the country's iTunes chart'

One voice: North Korea’s Kim Jong Un speaks at an emergency meeting of his dictatorship’s Central Military Commissionbus
One voice: North Korea’s Kim Jong Un speaks at an emergency meeting of his dictatorship’s Central Military Commissionbus Newsdesk Newsdesk

North and South Korea appeared headed toward another clash, as Seoul refused an ultimatum that it halt anti-Pyongyang propaganda broadcasts by Saturday afternoon or face military action, and North Korea said its troops were on a war footing.

South Korean Vice Defence Minister Baek Seung-joo said on Friday it was likely the North would fire at some of the 11 sites where the loudspeakers are set up on the South's side of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) separating the countries.

Tension escalated on Thursday when North Korea fired four shells into South Korea, according to Seoul, in apparent protest against the broadcasts. The South fired back 29 artillery shells. Pyongyang accused the South of inventing a pretext to fire into the North.

Both sides said there were no casualties or damage in their territory, an indication that the rounds were just warning shots.

"The fact that both sides' shells didn't damage anything means they did not want to spread an armed clash. There is always a chance for war, but that chance is very, very low," said Yang Moo-jin, professor at the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul.

Since the 1950-53 Korean War ended in a truce, not a peace treaty, Pyongyang and Seoul have often exchanged threats and dozens of soldiers have been killed, yet the two sides have always pulled back from all-out war.

But the renewed hostility is a further blow to South Korean President Park Geun-hye's efforts to improve North-South ties, which have been virtually frozen since the deadly 2010 sinking of a South Korean navy ship, which Seoul blames on Pyongyang.

Park cancelled an event on Friday and made a visit to a military command post, dressed in army camouflage.Both sides traded harsh rhetoric late on Friday.

A minute's silence recorded by an Austrian artist to protest against the treatment of migrants in Europe and raise money for refugees in a centre near Vienna has topped the country's iTunes chart, despite only being released on Friday.

Proceeds from Raoul Haspel's track Schweigeminute ("Minute's Silence"), which beat German DJ Robin Schulz to capture top spot through pre-orders alone earlier this week, will go toward aid for people in the asylum-processing centre in Traiskirchen.

More than 2,000 refugees in Traiskirchen have been sleeping in the open for weeks, braving heat of around 40 degrees Celsius and rainstorms wrapped in blankets on the grass, and Amnesty International last week called their treatment "scandalous".

Children who had fled alone from countries like Afghanistan and Syria have been offered no psychological care, women have had to use mixed showers, and a baby with a concussion was left next to a bus on a parking lot, the human rights group said.

"We have a huge humanitarian problem... babies have been born outside in a city with some of the best healthcare in the world," Haspel told the Reuters.

The track was intended to give people a platform to express their discontent with Austrian and European policies on handling asylum seekers and refugees, Haspel said.

"I chose silence because everybody has such a strong opinion on the situation and the debate just gets louder and louder each time... arguments and protests are not being heard anymore, people are becoming fed up and not paying attention as before."

Countries on Europe's western and southern edges are struggling to cope with the numbers of migrants arriving by land and sea and the EU last month failed to agree on how to spread 40,000 asylum seekers among its members.

Thousands of people have fled through the Balkans to Austria - a country of 8.5 million people - pushing the number of asylum requests to 28,300 in the first six months of this year, more than the total for all of 2014.

Austrian towns that balk at taking in refugees could soon be forced to accept migrants under draft legislation agreed by the two ruling parties and the opposition Greens.

Air crash investigators risk being side-lined in a tussle to unlock the secrets of lost flight MH370, fuelling concerns that their role in making flying safer could be diminished.

By drifting on to Reunion Island, the barnacled remains of a Boeing wing part from the Malaysia Airlines jet have given the upper hand to a French judicial investigation, exposing for the second time this year how civil crash investigations struggle to compete with police-led probes.

For decades, reconstructions of disasters by specialist safety investigators have been seen as crucial to making aviation safer, with accident rates at historically low levels.

But in dozens of countries, notably France, they exist in uneasy co-habitation with separate criminal inquiries.

Simmering tensions over the sharing of evidence between civil and judicial investigators came into the open after the crash of a Germanwings jet into the French Alps in March.

They are under scrutiny again after Indian Ocean currents deposited the "flaperon" from the missing Malaysia Airlines flight into the hands of judges investigating the suspected manslaughter of four French citizens out of 239 people on board.

How France handles both cases could have a wider impact given its influence over aviation safety worldwide and the similarity between its civil-law system and most other jurisdictions.

Its BEA safety investigation board is regularly called in to look at incidents because France is home to Airbus, which makes up 42 percent of the world jetliner fleet.

"Criminal investigation should not compromise the important role that air accident investigation plays in keeping flying safe," said Kevin Hiatt, safety chief at the International Air Transport Association.

Supporters of the French system of parallel investigations say it prevents cover-ups, supports families and benefits from stronger powers of discovery.


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