Briefing :- 3/9/17

Here is CurrentHow’s Briefing™ for the 3rd of September :-

1. North Korea declares H-bomb test a success :-

North Korea said Sunday it tested a hydrogen bomb which it can mount on a missile, declaring its biggest-ever nuclear detonation a “perfect success” and sparking a strong rebuke from President Donald Trump who slammed its actions as “dangerous” to the US.

Pyongyang residents threw their arms aloft in triumph as a jubilant television newsreader hailed the “unprecedentedly large” blast.

It “marked a very significant occasion in attaining the final goal of completing the state nuclear force”, she added.

But world reaction to the country’s sixth nuclear test was swift and angry. China rebuked its ally and began emergency monitoring for radiation at its border with the North.

Trump said on Twitter Pyongyang’s “words and actions continue to be very hostile and dangerous to the United States”.

He branded the North “a rogue nation which has become a great threat and embarrassment to China, which is trying to help but with little success”.

Hours before the test the North released images of leader Kim Jong-Un at the Nuclear Weapons Institute, inspecting what it said was a miniaturised H-bomb that could be fitted onto an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).

China lost no time in issuing “strong condemnation” of the test, which overshadowed the opening of the BRICS summit in Xiamen by leader Xi Jinping.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe described it as “absolutely unacceptable” while Russia’s foreign ministry expressed “strongest condemnation” but urged calm.

In Seoul, President Moon Jae-In called for new United Nations sanctions to “completely isolate North Korea” and said the South would discuss deploying “the strongest strategic assets of the US military”.

That could be taken as a reference to tactical nuclear weapons, which were withdrawn from South Korea by Washington in 1991.

The US and South Korean military chiefs spoke by telephone and agreed the test was “a provocation that cannot be overlooked”, Seoul’s defence ministry said in a statement.

The chairmen of the joint chiefs of staff, General Jeong Kyeong-Doo and General Joseph Dunford, “agreed to prepare a South Korea-US military counteraction and to put it into action at the earliest date.”

US monitors measured a 6.3-magnitude tremor near the North’s main testing site, which South Korean experts said was five to six times stronger than that from the 10-kiloton test carried out a year ago.

The tremor was felt in northeastern China, with people in the border city of Yanji saying they fled their homes in their underwear, and in the Russian Pacific city of Vladivostok.

Whatever the final figure for test’s yield turned out to be, said Jeffrey Lewis of the armscontrolwonk website, it was “a staged thermonuclear weapon” which represents a significant advance.

Chinese monitors said they had detected a second tremor shortly afterwards of 4.6 magnitude that could be due to a “collapse (cave in)”, suggesting the rock over the underground blast had given way.

– ‘Super explosive power’ –
Pyongyang triggered a new ramping up of tensions in July, when it carried out two successful tests of an ICBM which apparently brought much of the US mainland within range.

It has since threatened to send a salvo of rockets towards the US territory of Guam, and last week fired a missile over Japan.

Trump has warned Pyongyang that it faces “fire and fury” and that Washington’s weapons are “locked and loaded”.

Analysts believe Pyongyang has been developing weapons capability to give it a stronger hand in any negotiations with the US.

“North Korea will continue with their nuclear weapons programme unless the US proposes talks,” Koo Kab-Woo of Seoul’s University of North Korean Studies told AFP.

Pictures of Kim at the Nuclear Weapons Institute showed the young leader, dressed in a black suit, examining a metal casing with a shape akin to a peanut shell.

The device was a “thermonuclear weapon with super explosive power made by our own efforts and technology”, the Korean Central News Agency cited Kim as saying, and “all components of the H-bomb were 100 percent domestically made”.

Despite its power there were no radioactive leaks from the test, KCNA said in a later report.

Analysts cautioned that the images had not been verified.

“We don’t know if this thing is full of styrofoam, but yes, it is shaped like it has two devices,” Melissa Hanham of the Middlebury Institute for International Studies in California said on Twitter.

– Failure of sanctions –
Pyongyang, which says it needs nuclear weapons to defend itself, carried out its first atomic test in 2006.

Its fifth detonation, in September last year, caused a 5.3 magnitude quake and according to Seoul had a 10-kiloton yield — still less than the 15-kiloton US device which destroyed Hiroshima in 1945.

The North has been subjected to seven rounds of United Nations Security Council sanctions over its nuclear and ballistic missile programmes, but always insists it will continue to pursue them.


2. As bodies wash up, UN says 27,000 Rohingya have fled Myanmar :-

More than 27,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled violence in Myanmar in recent days, the United Nations has said, as corpses of people drowned in desperate attempts to cross the border river washed up on Bangladeshi soil Friday.

A further 20,000 Rohingya have massed along the Bangladeshi frontier, the UN added in a statement late Thursday, but are barred from entry as they run from burning villages and Myanmar army operations.

Rumours of massacres and the systematic torching of villages by security forces, as well as by militants, have further amplified tensions, raising fears that communal violence is spinning out of control.

Desperate to reach Bangladesh, thousands of Rohingya have taken to makeshift boats, some constructed from flotsam, in an effort to cross the Naf River which separates the two countries.

Sixteen bodies washed ashore on the Bangladeshi side of a river on Friday, a border official said, lifting the grim toll over the last two days from apparent boat capsizes to 39.

“They had been floating in the river for a while,” according to Mainuddin Khan, police chief of the border town of Teknaf, adding the dead included a young girl.

The latest round of a bitter and bloody five-year crisis began last Friday when Rohingya militants swarmed remote police posts, killing 11 state officials and burning villages.

Myanmar security forces have launched “clearance” operations to sweep out insurgents whose ranks appear to be swelling as male Rohingya villagers pick up sticks and knives and join their cause.

Thousands of ethnic Rakhine Buddhists, Hindus and other local ethnic groups have also been displaced, the apparent targets of militants who are fighting under the banner of the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA).

An AFP reporter on a government-led trip to Maungdaw, this week saw columns of smoke rising from several burning villages, while terrified civilians huddled in schools in the main town.

International pressure is mounting on Myanmar and its de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who is a Nobel Peace Prize winner.

The United States on Thursday urged Myanmar’s military to protect civilians, while Yanghee Lee, the UN’s special rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar, expressed fears that “grave violations” could take place.

“The worsening cycle of violence is of grave concern and must be broken urgently,” she added.

Rakhine State has been the crucible of religious violence since 2012 when riots erupted killing scores of Rohingya and forcing tens of thousands into of people, the majority from the Muslim minority, into displacement camps.

The ARSA emerged as a force in October last year when attacks killed Myanmar border police, prompting a crackdown by security forces that killed scores and forced 87,000 people to flee to Bangladesh.

The Rohingya are reviled in Myanmar, where the roughly one million-strong community are accused of being illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.

Most are denied citizenship, while their freedom to move and work is severely controlled.

Those who make it to Bangladesh are met by extreme poverty. The country already hosts 400,000 Rohingya and does not want more.

3. Chinese President Xi Jiping opens BRICS summit, asks members to shelve differences :-

Chinese President Xi Jinping today asked BRICS members to shelve their differences and accommodate each other’s concerns by enhancing mutual trust and strategic communication, as he opened the 9th annual summit of the five member emerging economies here.

The opening ceremony of the three-day BRICS summit started with BRICS Business Council in this southeastern Chinese city in Fujian province amid a downpour triggered by typhoon Mawar which had caused widespread disruption to the summit preparations and the city’s traffic. The typhoon also caused considerable disruption to the flights.

BRICS – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – is a grouping of the five emerging economies. The BRICS summit brings together the leaders of these countries.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Brazilian President Michel Temer, South African President Jacob Zuma and Russian President Vladimir Putin will attend the summit.

In his speech broadly focusing on enhancing cooperation between the BRICS members, Xi said, “Construction of a tall building starts with foundation. We have laid the foundation and put in place the framework for BRICS cooperation.”

Outlining BRICS cooperation in the last 10 years, he said treating each other as equals and seeking common ground while shelving differences is important part of cooperation.

“In terms of BRICS cooperation, decisions are made through consultation (and) not by one country. We respect each other?s model of development, accommodate each other?s concern and work to enhance strategic communication and mutual trust,” he told about 1000 delegates from different countries.

“Given difference in national conditions, history and cultures, it is only natural we may have some differences in pursuing our cooperation,” he said.

“However with strong faith in cooperation and enhancing collaboration the BRICS countries can achieve steady progress in our cooperation,” he added.

The summit comes days after India and China last week ended a 73-day standoff in Dokalam by withdrawing troops from the area. The two sides were locked in a face-off after Indian troops stopped the Chinese People’s Liberation Army from building a road in the area.

In a candid speech without directly referring to differences, Xi referred to his multi-billion dollar Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in which the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is a crucial component.

India had protested to CPEC as it passes through Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir. India also boycotted the Belt and Road Forum (BRF) hosted by China in May.

Xi said BRI is not a tool to advance any geopolitical agenda, but a platform for practical cooperation.

It is not a foreign aid scheme, but an initiative for interconnected development which calls for extensive consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits, he said.

“I am convinced that the BRI will serve as a new platform for all countries to achieve win-win cooperation and that it will create new opportunities for implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development,” he said.

He also said BRICS should promote the “BRICS Plus” approach to build an open and diversified network of development partners.

China has invited Egypt, Kenya, Tajikistan, Mexico and Thailand as guest countries for the Xiamen BRICS summit as special guests like India invited BIMSTEC (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic) leaders for last year’s BRICS summit at Goa.

“We should get more emerging market and developing countries involved in our concerted endeavours for cooperation and mutual benefits,” he said.

Xi said as a cooperation platform with global influence, BRICS cooperation is more than about five countries.

“BRICS places high premium on cooperation with other emerging market and developing countries and have established effective dialogue mechanisms with them,” Xi said.

Xi also said that BRICS cooperation has reached a crucial stage of development.

In assessing the performance of BRICS cooperation, it is important to bear two things in mind — the historical course of global development and evolving international landscape; the historical process of development of BRICS countries, both individually and collectively, he said.

He said the development of the BRICS countries has delivered tangible benefits to more than three billion people.

Xi said that in the past decade, combined GDP of the bloc has grown 179 percent, trade increased 94 percent while urban population expanded 28 percent, contributing significantly to stabilising the global economy and returning it to growth.

He also said the BRICS countries have been committed to multilateralism, fairness and justice in the past decade.

BRICS countries have endeavoured to fulfil their international responsibility, and have staked out their positions on major regional and international issues and made proposals for addressing them during the past decade, Xi said.

The countries have promoted reform of economic governance to increase the representation and say of emerging market and developing countries, according to the president.

The bloc has also taken the lead in implementing the Millennium Development Goals and Sustainable Development Goals, and engaged in close dialogue and cooperation with other developing countries to pursue development through unity, the Chinese president said.

He said the BRICS countries should work to usher in second golden decade. Going forward BRICS countries have major tasks to accomplish, which are to grow economies and to strengthen cooperation, he said.

“It is time to set sail when the tide rises,” Xi said, adding that countries should work to let their economic cooperation have more substance.

“Economic cooperation is the foundation of the BRICS mechanism,” Xi said, referring to the progress in the operation of the New Development Bank and Contingent Reserve Arrangement and in e-commerce, trade and investment facilitation, trade in services, local currency bond issuance, scientific and technological innovation, industrial cooperation and public-private partnership.

He also said BRICS countries should implement agreements and consensus already reached while actively exploring new ways and areas of practical cooperation.

“Leveraging our respective strengths and converging interests, we have put in place a leaders-driven cooperation framework that covers wide-ranging areas and multiple levels,” Xi said.

The NDB floated by the BRICS countries and the Contingent Reserve Arrangement have provided financing support for BRICS infrastructure building and sustainable development, contributing to enhanced global economic governance and the building of an international financial safety net, he said.

BRICS countries should improve macroeconomic policy coordination, synergize development strategies, leverage strengths in industrial structure and resources endowment, and create value chains and a big market for shared interests to achieve interconnected development, he said.

“We should blaze a new path which may also help other emerging market and developing countries to seize opportunities and meet challenges,” Xi said.

He said economic globalization is facing more uncertainties, noting that emerging markets and developing nations find themselves in a more complex external environment.

“The long road to global peace and development will not be a smooth one,” said the president.

More than 700 million people are still living in hunger, tens of millions of people have been displaced and become refugees, while many people, including innocent children, have been killed in conflicts, Xi said.

He also said global economy has resumed growth, with emerging markets and developing countries delivering a strong performance.

A new round of technological and industrial revolution is in the making, and reform and innovation are gaining momentum, he said.

“We have enough reason to believe that our world will be a better place,” Xi said.

4. No evidence Obama wiretapped Trump Tower: US Justice Department :-

The US Justice Department has confirmed there is no evidence to back up President Donald Trump’s claim that his predecessor Barack Obama wiretapped Trump Tower during the 2016 election campaign.

“Both FBI and NSD (National Security Division) confirm that they have no records related to wiretaps as described by the March 4, 2017 tweets,” the department said in a court filing dated Friday that came about in response to a freedom of information request by American Oversight, a government watchdog. The NSD is a division of the Department of Justice.

The FBI had previously shot down the claims, that were made as controversy over alleged links between Trump’s campaign team and Russia intensified earlier this year.

“Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my “wires tapped” in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!” Trump tweeted on March 4.

“How low has President Obama gone to tapp my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!” he added.

He also repeated the claim during a White House press conference with Angela Merkel later that month.

Trump’s former spokesman Sean Spicer also defended the claim and cited a Fox News report which alleged that Britain’s GCHQ spy agency did the wiretapping for Obama.

National Security Agency Director Admiral Mike Rogers strongly rebutted the suggestion, telling a congressional hearing in March: “That would be expressly against the construct of the Five Eyes agreement that’s been in place for decades.” He was referring to the intelligence alliance grouping Australia, Britain, Canada, New Zealand and the United States.

Reacting to the findings, Austin Evers, executive director of American Oversight, said: “The FBI and Department of Justice have now sided with former Director Comey and confirmed in writing that President Trump lied when he tweeted that former President Obama ‘wiretapped’ him at Trump Tower.

“This filing confirms that even Trump’s own Department of Justice does not believe he has credibility on a key element of the Russia investigation.”

Trump is facing multiple investigations into alleged collusion with Russia, including one led by special prosecutor Robert Mueller who was appointed following Trump’s sacking of former FBI director James Comey.

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman on Wednesday confirmed that the Kremlin last year received an email from a lawyer working for Donald Trump about building a Trump Tower skyscraper in Moscow, despite assertions by the then candidate that he had no current business ties to the country.

During his successful presidential campaign, Trump praised Putin as a strong leader and called for a reset in relations with Moscow, but ties have since deteriorated sharply, with the US imposing fresh sanctions on Russia and both countries ordering each other to scale back their number of diplomats.

5. Pervez Musharraf declared fugitive in Benazir Bhutto murder trial :-

A Pakistan anti-terrorism court Wednesday declared former military ruler Pervez Musharraf a fugitive in the murder trial of  former prime minister Benazir Bhutto.

A court official said he had “absconded”, adding that the court has ordered his property to be confiscated.

Musharraf, who was charged with Bhutto’s 2007 assassination in 2013, has been in self-imposed exile in Dubai ever since a travel ban was lifted three years later.

The court also acquitted five men accused of being Taliban militants and involved in the conspiracy to murder Bhutto, the court official said.

However it found two police officers guilty of “mishandling the crime scene”,  and sentenced each of them to 17 years imprisonment and a fine of 500,000 rupees ($4,700).

Benazir Bhutto, the Muslim world’s first female prime minister, was killed in a gun and suicide bomb attack during an election rally in Rawalpindi.

The verdicts are the first to be issued in the case, and come nearly 10 years after her death.

Musharraf`s government blamed the assassination on Pakistani Taliban chief Baitullah Mehsud, who denied any involvement. He was killed in a US drone attack in 2009.

In 2010, a UN report accused Musharraf`s government of failing to give Bhutto adequate protection and said her death could have been prevented.


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