Posts Tagged ‘North’

Russia confirms North Korea’s Kim Jong-un to visit Moscow in May

January 28th, 2015

If Kim does make Moscow his first foreign trip since taking power after the death of his father Kim Jong-Il, it would reflect a desire to reduce his country’s dependence on China, which remains Pyongyang’s main ally, diplomatic protector and economic buttress.

Xi Jinping, the Chinese president, is also expected to attend the Moscow ceremonies.

Xi and Kim have kept their distance since each assumed power and the Chinese president’s first visit as head of state to the Korean peninsula was to the capitalist South last year, rather than the North.

Park Geun-Hye, the South Korean president, has also been invited to the Moscow event, but has yet to announce whether she will attend.

Both Russia and China have opposed the UN call for Pyongyang to be referred to the International Criminal Court in The Hague over its human rights record.


Vladimir Putin shakes hands with North Korean leader Kim Jong Il ( Kim Jong-un’s father) in 2001 (AP)

The late North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il visited Russia in August 2011 in his armoured train for a rare meeting with then Russian president Dmitry Medvedev.

Russia is seeking to expand economic ties with North Korea and is eyeing a project worth about $ 25 billion (£16.4 billion) to overhaul the country’s railway network in return for access to mineral resources.


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German U-boat wreck discovered off North Carolina coast

October 23rd, 2014

“As we learn more about the underwater battlefield, Bluefields and U-576 will provide additional insight into a relatively little-known chapter in American history.”

Bluefields, a Nicaraguan-flagged freighter, was part of a KS-520, a 19-strong convoy of merchant ships which set sail from Norfolk, Virginia to Key West, Florida with vital cargo for the war effort.

By July 1942 the Americans had set up a convoy system, backed with air support, to protect the vessels which had repeatedly fallen prey to U-Boat attacks.

U-576, skippered by Kapitanleutnant Hans-Dieter Heinkicke, had already been hit and the submarine was sailing back to Europe when it came across the convoy.

It was a chance to claim a final scalp before crossing the Atlantic and sailing home.

Despite being hit by eight depth charges U-576 fired off its torpedoes, sinking the freighter and damaging two other ships.

The submarine came under further fire and was sunk with all 45 crew on board perishing. None of those aboard the Bluefields died.

Other U-boats got far closer, in many cases within sight of land. One was said to have been near enough to Manhattan to see the lights from the skyscrapers.

And it is believed that the Germans succeeded in landing some agents on American soil, including spies who managed to set foot on Maine. According to local folklore they had learned their English from Hollywood gangster movies.

“We think there are around 52 wrecks within 40 miles of the North Carolina coast,” said Joe Hoyt, a maritime archeologist with the marine sanctuary.

The task of finding them has entailed trawling through the “after action” reports compiled by the escort vessels used to protect the convoys.

Based on this information, Mr Hoyt and his fellow researchers have spent the last five years scouring the area using sonar to track sunken vessels.

“This is not just the discovery of a single shipwreck, we have discovered an important battle site that is part of the Battle of the Atlantic,” said Mr Hoyt.

He added: “These two ships rest only a few hundred yards apart and together help us interpret and share their forgotten stories.”

John Bright, another researcher with the project, said that Americans were still unaware of the extent to which the German navy penetrated the country’s naval defences, wreaking havoc on merchant shipping.

“It some cases the U-boats could even see the lights of cars on the road,” said Mr Bright.

“The lights from the cities helped them because it would mean the U-boats could see the silhouette of the cargo ships and plot their ambush.”

July 1942 saw particularly fierce battles as the US navy bolstered the protection it offered to the convoys, with the German U-boat fleet suffering badly.

“They did what we would not call a cost-benefit analysis,” Mr Bright added.

“They moved away from the American coast and shifted to the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico where the merchant shipping was less well protected.”


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President Obama visits Asia with North Korea high on the agenda

April 22nd, 2014

“It’s not a geopolitical fad, it’s not a political expediency; it’s about protecting American economic interests, security interests, and continuing to build our people-to-people ties that we’ve had for many decades in the Asia Pacific.”

For Japan, the most critical issue is reconfirming the security alliance at a time when China is making vigorous claims to sovereignty over the uninhabited Senkaku Islands, which Beijing knows as the Diaoyu archipelago.

Shinzo Abe, the Japanese prime minister, told a delegation of visiting US politicians on Monday that he hoped his meeting with Mr Obama on Thursday would lead to an even stronger alliance with the US.

The Japanese leader will have been encouraged by comments by Ben Rhodes, the deputy US national security adviser, who reiterated Washington’s commitment to Tokyo by stating, “There should be no question that the United States will always honour its obligations to the defence of Japan.”

The behaviour of North Korea will be the focus of the president’s discussions when he arrives in Seoul, with analysts suggesting that Pyongyang is making preparations to carry out what would be its fourth underground nuclear test.

April 27 marks the 61st anniversary of the signing of the armistice that halted the combat in the Korean War, but left an uneasy peace on the peninsula that remains to this day. North Korea has threatened to carry out a “new kind” of nuclear test – analysts believe it may be the regime’s first plutonium-basaed device – and could very well be keen to time it to coincide with President Obama’s visit.

White House officials have condemned the North’s threats and say they merely demonstrate a lack of willingness to participate in negotiations to reduce tensions in the region.


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