Rabu, 23 April 2014

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The Star Online: World Updates

U.N. Security Council members mulling South Sudan sanctions

Posted: 23 Apr 2014 08:40 PM PDT

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - U.N. Security Council members are considering sanctions on South Sudan's warring parties, envoys said on Wednesday, after U.N. peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous demanded "serious consequences" be imposed to force an end to the violence.

Ladsous and U.N. Assistant Secretary-General for human rights Ivan Simonovic briefed the 15-member council on a recent escalation in attacks on civilians, including an ethnic massacre in the oil town of Bentiu and the killing of dozens of people who had sought refuge inside a U.N. peacekeeping base in Bor.

"Unless there are serious consequences for the parties to cease the violence and engage in meaningful talks ... the toll on innocent civilians will continue to rise," Ladsous told reporters after the closed-door council meeting.

"The United Nations is doing everything it can to protect the civilians that are fleeing the violence, the war, but let us never forget that the primary responsibility for protection of civilians is with the government," he said.

Nigerian U.N. Ambassador Joy Ogwu, president of the council for April, said there was a lot of support among council members for pursuing sanctions on South Sudan.

"I think we are ready to go down the road of sanctions," French U.N. Ambassador Gerard Araud told reporters.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, posted on Twitter after the briefing: "For the sake of the people of South Sudan, international community must sanction political spoilers and those who target civilians."

The United States and the European Union have already threatened South Sudan with sanctions. President Barack Obama earlier this month authorized possible targeted sanctions against those committing human rights abuses in South Sudan or undermining democracy and obstructing the peace process.


More than 1 million people have fled their homes since fighting erupted in the world's youngest country in December between troops backing President Salva Kiir and soldiers loyal to his sacked deputy, Riek Machar.

The fighting has exacerbated ethnic tensions between Kiir's Dinka people and Machar's Nuer. Negotiations between the Kiir government and rebels loyal to Machar have failed to advance since the January 23 signing of a ceasefire which never took hold.

The United Nations accused the rebels of hunting down men, women and children last week in a hospital, church and mosque in the capital of the oil-producing Unity state and then killing them based on ethnicity and nationality.

After the rebels seized Bentiu, Dinka residents of Bor town in Jonglei state attacked a U.N. base on Thursday where about 5,000 people, mostly Nuer, were sheltering.

They pretended to be peaceful protesters delivering a petition to the United Nations before opening fire on the base, killing some 58 people and wounding 98, including two Indian peacekeepers, the United Nations said.

Thousands of people have been killed and tens of thousands have sought refuge at U.N. bases around South Sudan after the violence spread across the country.

The Security Council is due to renew the mandate of the U.N. peacekeeping mission in South Sudan, known as UNMISS, in July. In December, the council approved a plan to almost double the number of peacekeepers to 12,500 troops as the violence worsened but so far only half those 5,500 reinforcements have arrived.

"We are refining the mandate of UNMISS so we have also to face the fact that maybe we can't cooperate with this government anymore because atrocities are committed by both sides," Araud said. "I do think that we have to have some soul searching about what should the U.N. do in South Sudan."

(Editing by Sandra Maler and Paul Tait)

Body of Korean boy who raised ferry alarm believed found

Posted: 23 Apr 2014 08:40 PM PDT

SEOUL (Reuters) - A South Korean boy whose shaking voice first raised the alarm that an overloaded ferry with hundreds of children on board was sinking has been found drowned in the underwater wreckage of the ship, his parents believe, the coastguard said on Thursday.

The parents had seen his body and clothes and concluded he was their son, but he has not been formally identified with a DNA test.

More than 300 people, most of them students and teachers from the Danwon High School, are dead or missing presumed dead in the April 16 disaster.

The Sewol, weighing almost 7,000 tons, sank on a routine trip from the port of Incheon, near Seoul, to the southern holiday island of Jeju. Investigations are focused on human error and mechanical failure.

Of the 476 passengers and crew on board, 339 were children and teachers from the school in Ansan, a gritty suburb on the outskirts of Seoul, who were on an outing to Jeju.

As the ferry began sinking, the crew told the children to stay in their cabins.

Most of those who obeyed died. Many of those who flouted or did not hear the instructions and went out on deck were rescued.

But only 174 people were saved and the remainder are presumed to have drowned.

Classes at the school resumed on Thursday with banks of floral tributes surrounding photos of each of the victims, dressed in their school uniforms. Almost 250 teenagers and teachers at the school have died or are presumed dead.

Fellow students filed past, offering white chrysanthemums in sombre tributes.

In the classrooms of the missing, friends posted messages on desks, blackboards and windows, in the days after disaster struck, asking for the safe return of their friends.

"If I see you again, I'll tell you I love you, because I haven't said it to you enough," read one.

The school provided therapy sessions for the children as they returned.

The first distress call from the sinking vessel was made by a boy with a shaking voice, three minutes after the vessel made its fateful last turn, a fire service officer told Reuters.


The boy called the emergency 119 number which put him through to the fire service, which in turn forwarded him to the coastguard two minutes later. That was followed by about 20 other calls from children on board the ship to the emergency number.

"Save us! We're on a ship and I think it's sinking," Yonhap news agency quoted the boy as saying.

The fire service official asked him to switch the phone to the captain, media said, and the boy replied: "Do you mean teacher?"

The pronunciation of the words for "captain" and "teacher" is similar in Korean.

The ship, 146 metres (479 feet) long and 22 metres wide, was over three times overloaded, according to official recommendations, with cargo poorly stowed and inadequate ballast.

Moon Ki-han, an executive at Uryeon (Union Transport Co.), the firm that supervised cargo loading, told Reuters there were 105 containers onboard, some of which toppled into the sea as the ship listed.

Forty-five were loaded on to the front deck and 60 into the lower decks. In total, the ship was carrying 3,600 metric tons of cargo including containers, vehicles and other goods.

A member of parliament this week said the Korean Register of Shipping recommended a load of 987 tons for the Sewol.

Captain Lee Joon-seok, 69, and other crew members who abandoned ship have been arrested on negligence charges. Lee was also charged with undertaking an "excessive change of course without slowing down".

The confirmed death toll from the ship on Thursday was 159, with many of those found at the back of the ship on the fourth deck.

Recovery work on Thursday was concentrated on the third and fourth decks at the front of the ship with about 700 divers, working in shifts, and an extra 36 fishing boats involved, an official told a briefing.

Helping divers were drones and a crab-like robot, called a "crabster", which can feel for bodies along the seabed.

The volunteer element of the operation has been limited, the official said, adding an apology.

"When the volunteers came, we stopped the on-going operation and gave them the chance to dive," the official said. "The majority were in the water for less than 10 minutes due to limited visibility. There was also someone who didn't even dive and only took pictures."

Divers have been swimming through the dark, cold waters in the ferry, feeling for bodies with their hands.

"We are trained for hostile environments, but it's hard to be brave when we meet bodies in dark water," said diver Hwang Dae-sik.

(Additional reporting by Meeyoung Cho, Miyoung Kim, Sohee Kim an Ju-min Park; Writing by Nick Macfie; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)

Obama uses Japan visit to reassure wary Asian allies

Posted: 23 Apr 2014 08:30 PM PDT

TOKYO (Reuters) - U.S. President Barack Obama used a state visit to Japan on Thursday to try to reassure Asian allies of his commitment to ramping up U.S. engagement in the region, despite Chinese complaints that his real aim is to contain Beijing's rise.

Obama is being treated to a display of pomp and ceremony meant to show that the U.S.-Japan alliance, the main pillar of America's security strategy in Asia, remains solid at a time of rising tensions over growing Chinese assertiveness and North Korean nuclear threats.

"As you said, my visit here, I think, once again represents my deep belief that a strong U.S.-Japan relationship is not only good for our countries, but good for the world," Obama told Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the start of their summit.

"Our shared democratic values mean that we have to work together in multilateral settings to deal with regional hot spots Around the globe, but also to try make sure we are creating a strong set of rules that govern the international order."

Behind the scenes, U.S. and Japanese trade negotiators for the two countries were working around the clock in Tokyo on a two-way trade pact seen as crucial to a broader trans-Pacific agreement.

"We're continuing to work," a U.S. official said on Thursday, before the leaders met on the first state visit to Japan by a U.S. president in 18 years.

"Autos and agriculture continue to be the focus, and our goal remains to achieve meaningful market access for American businesses, farmers and ranchers," the official said. "We've made some progress and worked around the clock.

Even if Obama and Abe cannot complete a bilateral trade deal before the U.S. president leaves Tokyo on Friday, they are likely to try to project a sense of progress on key issues.


The diplomatic challenge for Obama during his week-long, four-nation regional tour will be to convince Asian partners that Washington is serious about its promised strategic "pivot" towards the region, while at the same time not harming U.S. ties with China, the world's second-biggest economy.

The difficulty of Obama's balancing act was underscored hours before he arrived on Wednesday night when Chinese state media criticized U.S. policy in the region as "a carefully calculated scheme to cage the rapidly developing Asian giant".

The official Xinhua news agency followed that on Thursday with a commentary that said: "...the pomp and circumstance Obama receives ... cannot conceal the fact that Tokyo has become a growing liability to Washington's pursuit of long-term interests."

Obama told Japan's Yomiuri newspaper that while Washington welcomed China's peaceful rise, "our engagement with China does not and will not come at the expense of Japan or any other ally".

An Obama-Abe joint statement is likely to specify that tiny Japanese-administered islands in the East China Sea, claimed by Beijing, fall under the U.S.-Japan treaty that obliges Washington to defend Tokyo, Japanese media said on Thursday.

This is standard U.S. policy, but putting Obama's name to such a statement would reassure Japan on an issue that is a source of tension between Asia's biggest powers.

Obama's trip will also include stops in South Korea, Malaysia and the Philippines. Leaders who will meet Obama are also keeping a wary eye on the crisis in Ukraine through the prism of their own territorial disputes with Beijing.

Some of China's neighbours worry that Obama's apparent inability to rein in Russia, which annexed Crimea last month, could send a message of weakness to China.


The Japanese government lobbied hard to get the White House to agree to an official state visit, the first by a sitting U.S. president since Bill Clinton in 1996.

Topping Obama's schedule on Thursday was an audience with Emperor Akihito at the Imperial Palace and a summit with Abe followed by a joint news conference. He will also visit the Meiji Shrine, which honours the Japanese emperor who oversaw the country's rapid modernisation in the late 1800s.

At an official welcoming ceremony by Emperor Akihito, Obama walked smiling past Japanese schoolchildren waving small U.S. and Japanese flags, solemnly inspected a rifle-bearing military honour guard, and shook hands with Japanese dignitaries in front of the sprawling palace before heading inside with his hosts.

Abe will be trying to soothe U.S. concerns that his conservative push to recast Japan's war record with a less apologetic tone is overshadowing his pragmatic policies on the economy and security.

"Japan has been walking on the path of peace for seven decades after the war," Abe told Obama at the start of their talks. "An alliance between Japan and the United States, which share such values as freedom, democracy and human rights, as well as strategic interest, is indispensable as a cornerstone for peace and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific region."

Obama and Abe are expected to send a message of solidarity after strains following Abe's December visit to Tokyo's Yasukuni Shrine, seen by critics as a symbol of Japan's past militarism.

In his remarks to the Yomiuri, Obama has already assured Japan that the bilateral defence treaty covers the disputed islets, called the Senkaku by Japan and the Diaoyu by China.

The Obama-Abe joint statement will say the two allies will not tolerate any attempt to change the status quo there by force, a phrase that implicitly targets China.

(Additional reporting by Mark Felsenthal, Kiyoshi Takenaka, Antoni Slodkowski and Chris Meyers; Editing by Mike Collett-White, William Mallard and Alex Richardson)

(This story has been refiled to add the missing word "a" in the first paragraph)

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

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