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US warns of military option if North Korea nuclear and missile tests continue

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Nikki Haley

UN ambassador and national security adviser float possibility if new sanctions fail: ‘We have been kicking the can down the road and we’re out of road’

The US has warned it could revert to military options if new sanctions fail to curb North Korean missile and nuclear tests, after Pyongyang fired a missile over Japan for the second time in a fortnight.

The US ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, and the national security advisor, HR McMaster, told reporters that the latest set of UN sanctions – imposed earlier this week after North Korea’s sixth nuclear test – would need time to take effect, but they suggested that after that, the US would consider military action.

“What is different about this approach is we’re out of time, right?” McMaster said on Friday. “We have been kicking the can down the road and we’re out of road. For those who have been commenting about the lack of a military option – there is a military option. Now it’s not what we prefer to do, so what we have to do is call on all nations … to do everything we can do to address this global problem, short of war.”

Haley said the North Korea issue could soon become a matter for the Pentagon and the defence secretary, James Mattis.

“We try to push through as many diplomatic options that we can,” the ambassador said, but she noted that Monday’s UN Security Council sanctions, which capped petrol and oil exports to the regime and banned textile imports, had not deterred Pyongyang from launching a second intermediate range ballistic missile in two weeks over Japanese territory and into the Pacific.

The missile flew further than any missile tested by the regime, triggering emergency sirens and text alerts minutes before it passed over the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido on Friday morning.

Flight data shows the missile travelled higher and further than the one involved in the 29 August flyover of Japan, suggesting the regime is continuing to make advances in its missile and nuclear weapons programmes.

A new UN security council session was called on Friday to address North Korean defiance, but Haley said there was little more UN measures could do to change Pyongyang’s behaviour.

“It will take a little bit of time but it has already started to take effect,” she said. “But what we see is that they continue to be provocative, they continue to be reckless and at that point, there is not a whole lot the security council is going to be able to do from here, when you’ve cut 90% of their trade and 30% of the oil. So having said that, I have no problem kicking this to Gen Mattis, because I think he has plenty of options.”

However, when he was asked about a possible US military response, Mattis said: “I don’t want to talk about that yet.”

He said the North Korean launch was a “reckless act” which had “put millions of Japanese in duck and cover”.

Many strategic analysts argue there is no feasible military option for curtailing North Korean nuclear and missile development, as any pre-emptive attack would be likely to trigger a devastating barrage on Seoul, without any guarantee that all Pyongyang’s missiles and nuclear weapons would be put out of action.

The US secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, put the onus on Beijing and Moscow to implement the agreed sanctions to the limit.

“China supplies North Korea with most of its oil. Russia is the largest employer of North Korean forced labour,” Tillerson said in a statement. “China and Russia must indicate their intolerance for these reckless missile launches by taking direct actions of their own.”

North Korea will be a focus of next week’s international summit at the UN general assembly, but China’s Xi Jinping and Russia’s Vladimir Putin will not be attending.

Japan has warned North Korea it risked having no “bright future” and called for an emergency meeting of the UN security council after Pyongyang launched a ballistic missile over Japanese territory for the second time in just over two weeks.

Shinzo Abe, the Japanese prime minister, called the launch “absolutely unacceptable”. He said the recent UN resolution banning North Korean textile exports and capping the supply of oil to the country “showed the international community’s unified strong will for a peaceful solution. But despite that, North Korea has again carried out this outrageous conduct.

“Now is the time when the international community is required to unite against North Korea’s provocative acts, which threaten world peace,” Abe told reporters shortly after arriving back in Tokyo from a trip to India. “We must make North Korea understand that if it continues down this road, it will not have a bright future.”

The Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said Beijing objected to North Korea’s latest launch but believed diplomacy was the only way to solve the “complicated, sensitive and grim” problem.

“The top priority is now to prevent any provocative acts,” Hua told reporters.
But Hua rejected the theory – advanced, among others, by Trump and Theresa May, the British prime minister – that Beijing held the key to thwarting Kim Jong-un’s nuclear and missile ambitious.

“China is not the focus. China is not the driving force behind the escalating situation. And China is not the key to resolving the issue,” Hua said.

Hua said China had already made “great sacrifices” and “paid a high price” in its bid to help rein in Pyongyang: “China’s willingness and its efforts to fulfill its relevant international responsibilities cannot be questioned.”

In an online editorial, the Communist party-controlled Global Times newspaper said it was the US and South Korea, not China, that needed “to guide North Korea into a new strategic direction” through dialogue.

“An isolated North Korea will be more rational if the international society treats it in a rational way,” argued the newspaper, which sometimes reflects official views. It said attempts to intimidate North Korea with threats or shows of force would fail.

America

United States Employment Rate will fall further: Fed

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Washington, April 16 (IANS) Economic activity “contracted sharply and abruptly” across all regions in the US as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Federal Reserve said on Wednesday.

“The hardest-hit industries – because of social distancing measures and mandated closures – were leisure and hospitality, and retail aside from essential goods,” the Fed said in its latest survey on economic conditions, known as the Beige Book, based on information collected from its 12 regional reserve banks before April 6, Xinhua reported.

“All Districts reported highly uncertain outlooks among business contacts, with most expecting conditions to worsen in the next several months,” the Fed said.

The survey showed that employment declined in all districts as the COVID-19 pandemic affected firms in many sectors.

“Employment cuts were most severe in the retail and leisure and hospitality sectors, where most Districts reported widespread mandatory closures and steep falloffs in demand,” the survey said, adding severe job cuts were also widespread in the manufacturing and energy sectors.

“Contacts in several Districts noted they were cutting employment via temporary layoffs and furloughs that they hoped to reverse once business activity resumes. The near-term outlook was for more job cuts in coming months,” the survey said.

The survey noted that no district reported upward wage pressures, with most citing “general wage softening and salary cuts” except for high-demand sectors such as grocery stores.

“These trends were seen as reflecting weaker demand for many goods and services in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic,” the survey said.

The survey came after the Commerce Department reported earlier on Wednesday that US retail sales plunged in March by the most on record as the COVID-19 pandemic is starting to take a big toll on the US economy.

The US economy is expected to contract by 5.9 per cent this year, according to the World Economic Outlook (WEO) report released by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on Tuesday.

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New York statewide COVID-19 deaths surpass 10,000

Meanwhile, indicators including the rates of ICU admissions and intubations have gone down and the three-day-average rate of hospitalization basically reached a plateau, according to the governor.

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New York Coronavirus Case

New York, April 14 : Governor of the US state of New York Andrew Cuomo said statewide deaths from COVID-19 rose to 10,056, adding “the worst is over if we continue to be smart” in coping with the novel coronavirus.

Cuomo on Monday said at his daily briefing that a total of 671 people passed away on Sunday due to the disease, a number much lower than in the past few days, Xinhua news agency reported.

Meanwhile, indicators including the rates of ICU admissions and intubations have gone down and the three-day-average rate of hospitalization basically reached a plateau, according to the governor.

“We are controlling the spread,” said Cuomo. “I believe the worst is over if we continue to be smart. I believe we can start on the path to normalcy,” he said.

He said he would be joined by several other governors of neighbouring states later on Monday to discuss how to reopening the economy in a coordinated way.

On Twitter, the governor said that any plan to reopen society must be driven by data and experts, not opinion and politics.

He said the objective is to ease isolation and increase economic activity without increasing the infection rate.

“We will learn from the warning signs from other countries. We will take every precaution. We will work together as a region,” he added.

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US now has highest COVID-19 deaths, surpasses Italy: Johns Hopkins

A total of 20,071 people have died of the disease among 519,453 confirmed cases in the country as of 4 p.m. local time (2000 GMT) on Saturday

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Coronavirus Death US

Washington, April 12 : The UnS has surpassed Italy as the country with the highest number of coronavirus deaths in the world as the fatalities as of Sunday reached 20,604, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

As of Sunday morning, Italy has reported 19,648 coronavirus deaths, placing it in the second position after the US, the data published by the university’s enter for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) revealed.

The US also accounts for the highest number of confirmed cases with 529,887. Spain, where the number of confirmed infections stands at 163,027, is a distant second, followed by Italy with 152,271 cases.

New York state, the epicentre of the pandemic in the US, has recorded the most deaths in the country, 8,627, which is followed by New Jersey and Michigan with 2,183 and 1,276, respectively, the CSSE data showed.

A total of 32,001 patients in the country have recovered, it added.

US President Donald Trump’s administration, which earlier estimated that the pandemic would cause anywhere from 100,000 to 240,000 deaths in the US, revised its projection downward this week to 60,000, reports Efe news.

Members of the White House coronavirus task force credit the more optimistic forecast to the success of the stay-at-home orders issued by 42 of the 50 states, as well as Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia, covering around 316 million people.

Trump, who has repeatedly decried the economic cost of closing schools and businesses to contain the virus, said late last month that he hoped to re-open the country by Easter Sunday.

During Friday’s news briefing by the task force, Trump sought to reassure Americans that he would guided by medical experts as well as by recommendations from the “Opening Our Country Council” he plans to install next week.

“I want to get it open as soon as possible. The facts are going to determine what I do,” the president said.

“I’m going to have to make a decision, and I only hope to God that it’s the right decision. But I would say, without question, it’s the biggest decision I’ve ever had to make,” Trump said.

As of Sunday, the number of global coronavirus cases stood at 1,777,517, with 108,862 deaths, while 404,236 people have recovered.

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