Isnin, 16 Disember 2013

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The Star Online: World Updates

North Korean elite pledges loyalty to young leader Kim after purge

Posted: 16 Dec 2013 09:30 PM PST

SEOUL (Reuters) - North Korea's political and military elite publicly pledged their loyalty to leader Kim Jong Un on Tuesday, less than a week after he ordered the execution of a powerful family ally in a rare public purge.

The young leader was the centre of attention at a large memorial in Pyongyang staged to mark the second anniversary of the death of his father, Kim Jong Il.

The public display of fealty came only days after the execution last week of Kim Jong Un's uncle, Jang Song Thaek, considered the second most powerful man in North Korea.

The ousting of Jang overlaps with a propaganda drive that has tied the younger Kim to his father's legacy in the weeks leading up to the anniversary.

Official television footage showed Kim Jong Un sitting centre stage beneath a huge red mural of a flag emblazoned with a picture of his smiling father.

A noticeable absentee on the stage was his paternal aunt Kim Kyung Hui, Kim Jong Il's sister and Jang's wife. Together, she and Jang had been the "Pyongyang power couple" considered to be the real force behind the North Korean leadership.

"By eliminating the only other faction, the power in North Korea is now fully concentrated on Kim Jong Un," said Cheong Seong-jang at the Sejong institute, a Seoul-based think tank.


Kim, believed to be about 30, took over when his father died suddenly in December 2011.

In a relatively short period of time he has followed his father's programme by ordering the North's third nuclear test and successfully launching a long-range rocket in the face of increasingly tight U.N. sanctions.

He has now also removed his uncle Jang, the only leadership figure who may have posed any real threat to him.

His first two years in power have also been marked by construction, with a flagship project being the Masik Pass ski resort near Wonsan, on North Korea's east coast.

Propagandists have used the construction of the resort to coin the slogan "Masik Speed" which, similar to Kim Jong Un's rapid ascent to power, emphasises the hurried completion of a goal or project.

While North Korea has purged many officials in its 65-year history, it is rare that anyone as powerful as Jang had been removed so publicly - suggesting a recognition of internal divisions and competing factions around Kim Jong Un.

Kim Jong Un has removed most of Pyongyang's old guard during his comparatively short rule, replacing ageing generals and cadres with figures closer to his age.

He has changed his Korean People's Army (KPA) chief of staff four times. The job changed hands three times during his father's 17 years in power.

Choe Ryong Hae, a party apparatchik who has been around the Kim family for decades but had kept out of the limelight until three years ago, now appears to be the most influential adviser to Kim Jong Un.

On Monday, Choe addressed a gathering of KPA soldiers assembled outside the Kumsusan Memorial Palace, where Kim Jong Il's embalmed body lies in a glass coffin.

"The KPA is the eternal army of Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il and Kim Jong Un and it will always remain the army of Kim Jong Un defending him unto death and upholding his leadership only," an official KCNA news agency dispatch quoted Choe as saying.

(Additional reporting by Jumin Park and Sohee Kim; Editing by Paul Tait)

Mexico's president says he will enact energy reform soon

Posted: 16 Dec 2013 09:10 PM PST

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - President Enrique Pena Nieto said on Monday he would soon enact a sweeping overhaul of Mexico's ailing energy sector which is aimed at boosting growth in Latin America's No. 2 economy.

The reform, which changes the constitution to allow private companies to operate independently or partner with state oil giant Pemex via new types of contracts, won approval from a majority of Mexican states on Sunday, after a tense debate in Congress.

"It will be necessary to wait for a declaration from Congress's permanent committee, which will surely happen in the coming days, and once that happens, I will immediately enact the reform," Pena Nieto said while on a state visit to Turkey.

The energy overhaul is part of a raft of reforms pushed through Congress this year by Pena Nieto, including bids to boost competition in the telecoms sector and jumpstart lending.

While key reforms have been approved, some, including a political reform demanded by opposition parties to level the playing field in local elections, still lack implementing laws that hash out the fine print of the reform.

David Penchyna, a Senator for the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party and head of the powerful energy committee, said on Monday Congress could push through implementing laws as soon as March.

"Being optimistic, I would say that from February to March Congress will finish pending matters such as in telecommunications and definitely finish the political and energy work in which we have advanced significantly," Penchyna told a local radio station.

(Reporting by Alexandra Alper; Editing by Mohammad Zargham)

China says six arrested after deadly riot in Xinjiang

Posted: 16 Dec 2013 07:15 PM PST

BEIJING (Reuters) - Chinese police have arrested six people they suspect of taking part in a riot near the old Silk Road city of Kashgar, in the restive far western Muslim region of Xinjiang, in which 16 people were killed, the regional government said.

The arrests, reported by the Xinjiang government in a statement on an official news site late on Monday, came a day after Chinese police shot and killed 14 people during the riot. Two policemen were also killed.

The government statement called the incident "an organised, pre-meditated, violent terror attack".

"The gang repeatedly gathered to watch violent, terrorist videos, promoted extremist religious ideology, manufactured explosive devices and guns, conducted test explosions several times and planned to carry out violent terrorist activities," the Xinjiang government said.

China has previously called some of the violence in Xinjiang the work of Islamist militants plotting holy war.

On Monday, China's Foreign Ministry stopped short of directly blaming Islamist militants but said a "violent terror gang" attacked police with explosives.

The Xinjiang government said the "terror gang" made up of 20 members was formed in August and was led by a person they named as Hesen Ismail.

Reuters was not able to independently verify the charges. Foreign journalists are often harassed and sometimes denied access to sensitive areas in Xinjiang.

A police officer reached by Reuters on Monday in the county where the incident occurred said it was "not convenient" to provide any additional information.

The government says police were attacked by a mob throwing explosives and wielding knives when they went to arrest "criminal suspects" in a village near Kashgar.

"The officers entered a house and found a large number of people were holding an illegal gathering," influential tabloid the Global Times, published by the Communist Party's People's Daily, quoted an unidentified Xinjiang official as saying.

"As the police carried out inquiries, some of the people remonstrated and staged a confrontation. They suddenly stabbed the police with knives. Two officers, who were caught off guard, died at the scene," the official said.

Rights groups and exiles say police often use heavy-handed tactics against the Muslim Uighur community, which calls Xinjiang home.

Many of Xinjiang's Turkic-speaking Muslim people chafe at restrictions on their culture, language and religion, although the government insists it grants them broad freedoms.

China has stepped up security in Xinjiang after a vehicle ploughed into tourists on the edge of Beijing's Tiananmen Square in October, killing the three people in the car and two bystanders.

China said that attack was carried out by Islamist militants, and has reacted angrily to suggestions that it was because of frustration and anger over government repression of Muslims in Xinjiang.

There have been numerous incidents of unrest in Xinjiang in recent years, which the government often blames on the separatist East Turkestan Islamic Movement, even though many experts and rights groups cast doubt on its existence as a cohesive group.

(Reporting by Sui-Lee Wee; Additional reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Paul Tait)


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