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NUKEWARS
Tears in rain: North Korea marks 'Victory Day'
By Sebastien BERGER
Pyongyang (AFP) July 27, 2017


Japan sanctions Chinese firms as part of pressure on NKorea
Tokyo (AFP) July 28, 2017 - Japan on Friday slapped sanctions on two Chinese firms, including a bank accused of laundering North Korean cash, amid concerns Pyongyang is prepping for another missile test, the government said.

Japan has stepped up calls for further sanctions against North Korea since Pyongyang tested an intercontinental ballistic missile earlier this month in defiance of repeated UN resolutions.

The test has raised tensions in the region, pitting Washington, Tokyo and Seoul against China, Pyongyang's last remaining major ally.

Japan's move could add fuel to its own often fraught relations with China.

Despite being major trading and investment partners they are frequently at odds over a maritime territorial dispute and lingering tensions over Japan's history of aggression in the first half of the 20th century.

Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida said five entities, including two Chinese organisations, and nine individuals will be put on Japan's blacklists in connection with ties to North Korea.

They will be "newly subject to asset freezing" and other unilateral punishment, Kishida said without elaborating or naming any of them.

"It is important to strengthen pressure so that North Korea should act toward denuclearisation," Kishida told reporters.

"We will urge North Korea to take concrete action toward the resolution of issues," he said.

The Nikkei daily said among the nine organisations are China's Bank of Dandong, a Chinese shipping firm and a North Korean trading house dealing with coal and other commodities.

The Bank of Dandong is accused of money laundering for North Korea's nuclear and missile programmes.

The United States imposed similar sanctions on the bank as President Donald Trump said Beijing's efforts to put the brakes on Pyongyang's nuclear drive had failed.

China, which borders North Korea and is considered its only major ally, argues that negotiations are the best way to persuade Pyongyang to halt its nuclear and missile activities.

The Pentagon has picked up signs that North Korea is preparing for another missile test, a US defence official said earlier this week.

The official said the test would be of an intermediate-range missile or North Korea's ICBM -- known as a KN-20 or a Hwasong-14.

It would be the second time Pyongyang has tested an ICBM, after the July 4 rocket launch, which prompted global alarm.

In heavy rain, North Koreans put down their umbrellas to bow before the mausoleum of founder Kim Il Sung and his son on Thursday as the country marked the end of the Korean War, which it calls Victory Day.

There had been widespread speculation in US and South Korean intelligence circles that the North might choose to mark the anniversary with a fresh missile launch, following its first successful test earlier this month of an intercontinental ballistic missile that experts judged capable of reaching Alaska or Hawaii.

As of late Thursday, no such launch had materialised and, in Pyongyang, the day was given over to memorialising the ruling Kim dynasty as the defenders of the nation.

"Our country is ever-victorious because we have the greatest leaders in the world," said Hong Yong-Dok, who was at the Kumsusan Palace with his granddaughters.

The Korean people had suffered at the hands of "US imperialists for ages, and even my parents were killed by them in the Korean war. So we must teach our descendants to take revenge on the US imperialists," he told AFP.

July 27, 1953 marks the signing of the armistice between China, North Korea, and US-backed United Nations forces that had fought each other to a stalemate over three years.

Nonetheless the North - whose invasion of the South started the war, despite its insistence that it was invaded by the United States - regards itself as having won what it calls the Fatherland Liberation War.

The conflict left the peninsula devastated, with the South's capital Seoul changing hands four times.

Korea has been divided ever since, with the now democratic South emerging from the wreckage to enjoy an economic boom that has propelled it to become Asia's fourth-largest economy.

In the absence of a peace treaty the two sides are technically still at war, and under the Kim family dynasty, now in its third generation in leader Kim Jong-Un, the North has embraced an "army first" policy.

It has developed nuclear weapons, detonating five devices so far, and celebrated the recent ICBM test as a giant leap forward in its development of a credible delivery system to threaten the US mainland.

The North occasionally times its missile firings to coincide with significant anniversaries, leading to habitual speculation of an imminent test before each one.

- 'Moved to tears' -

Inside the Kumsusan Palace, a sprawling complex of colonnaded marble chambers and chandeliers, Kim and his son and successor Kim Jong-Il lie in state.

Their embalmed bodies rest in glass coffins on biers in separate halls suffused with dim red light, soldiers standing guard in each corner as a steady stream of visitors bows before them three times.

"I was moved to tears when I met the great leaders," retired financial official Ri Sun-Gyong, 71, said afterwards, her voice trembling with emotion. "I always miss them."

Ordinary North Koreans normally only express officially-approved sentiments when talking to international media.

Geopolitical tensions have mounted in recent months over the North's weapons ambitions, which have seen it subjected to multiple rounds of United Nations sanctions, and Washington was expected later Thursday to formally declare a ban on US citizens visiting the country.

North Korean newspapers carried a commentary saying America's "final ruin" was "already sealed" and it had "only one way out" -- "to withdraw the anachronistic hostile policy toward the DPRK and kneel and apologise before its army and people".

Despite his death in 1994, Kim Il-Sung remains Eternal President of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, as the North is officially known, while Kim Jong-Il - who died in 2011 - is Eternal General-Secretary of the ruling Workers' Party.

Pyongyang resident Kim Un-Sil, 40, took her seven-year-old son to Mansu Hill in the centre of the city, where giant statues of the two men look out over the capital, to pay their respects.

"I just wanted to tell my son, the new generation, that our Korean history is the history of victory," she said.

NUKEWARS
US sees progress in push for 'pretty serious' N. Korea sanctions
United Nations, United States (AFP) July 25, 2017
US Ambassador Nikki Haley on Tuesday said there was progress in talks with China on imposing what she termed as "pretty serious" new UN sanctions on North Korea in response to its first ICBM launch. The United States has been locked in negotiations with China for nearly three weeks on a new raft of measures, and Haley said China was negotiating with Russia to win its backing for possible tou ... read more

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