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Kim Yo Jong Blasts South Korea’s ‘Gangster-Like Logic’ for Criticizing North’s Missile Launches

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While the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) has imposed a unilateral moratorium on long-range ballistic missile testing that aroused international condemnation, it has availed itself of the ability to test short-range tactical weapons since talks to trade its nuclear program for the removal of economic sanctions collapsed.

In a Tuesday statement directed at South Korean President Moon Jae In, Kim Yo Jong, vice-director of the Information and Publicity Department of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) Central Committee questioned his motivation for worrying about “self-defense” missile tests by the North.

On March 26, Moon referred to the then-recent confirmation by Pyongyang that it had tested two new guided missiles as “actions providing difficulty for the mood for dialogue” and called them “undesirable.”

“I’m aware the people are greatly concerned by the North’s missile test-firings. Now is the time for South and North Korea and the United States to work to continue our dialogue,” he added, according to the Seoul-based Yonhap News Agency.

Kim, whose brother is Central Military Commission chair and WPK chair Kim Jong Un, criticized Moon’s comments on Tuesday as the “height of effrontery.”

“He meant that the step taken by us to bolster the capabilities for national defense, exercise of the legitimate sovereign right pertaining to the DPRK, has aroused apprehension among the south Koreans and caused trouble and obstacle to the efforts to create the atmosphere favorable for dialogue,” she said in comments carried by Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).

“Such illogical and brazen-faced behavior of south Korea is exactly the same as the gangster-like logic of the US faulting the right of the DPRK to self-defense as a violation of the UN ‘resolutions’ and ‘threats’ to the international community,” Kim said, adding that Moon “can not feel sorry for being ‘praised’ as a parrot raised by America. This could be what is described as self-contradictory and being caught in one’s own trap.”


©
REUTERS / KCNA

A newly developed new-type tactical guided projectile, which KCNA reports is launched on March 25, 2021, is pictured in this photo released March 26, 2021 by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang, North Korea.

Her use of the term “gangster-like logic” follows WPK secretary Ri Pyong Chol’s use of the same words to describe US President Joe Biden’s response to the March 25 weapons test.

“It is a gangster-like logic that the United States can ship the nuclear assets any time to the Korean peninsula and launch inter-continental ballistic missile, but the DPRK, one of the warring sides, is not allowed to test [a] tactical weapon,” Ri said, according to Voice of Korea.

While Biden admitted the test wasn’t a provocation and was “business as usual,” he also said “there will be responses” if US allies in the region  – South Korea and Japan – “choose to escalate. We will respond accordingly.”

The DPRK has technically been at war with South Korea since 1949 and the US since 1950, when an international force intervened in a war between the two recently-formed Korean states just as the North was closing in on the southern stronghold of Busan. After the American-led force pushed them back and conquered most of the North, an all-volunteer force of Chinese soldiers joined the fight under North Korean command and pushed the allied forces back almost to where the war had started. A ceasefire in 1953 created the demilitarized zone that separates North and South Korea, but did not formally end the war with a permanent peace treaty.

In 2019, an unprecedented rapprochement between Kim and Moon saw them sign an end-of-war declaration and begin to establish closer social and economic ties, although Seoul backed off amid US objections and an eventual collapse of the US-DPRK dialogue running parallel to their negotiations. Biden has sharply criticized former US President Donald Trump’s willingness to negotiate with Kim, and the White House reiterated on Monday that Biden “would not be sitting with President Kim Jong Un.” 



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Russia to lose Swift access, pipeline if it invades Ukraine

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“Work is already underway for … disconnection of Russia from the Swift banking system, sanctions on the Russian gas pipeline Nord Stream 2 [to Germany],” if it invades Ukraine, Latvian foreign minister Edgars Rinkēvičs said in The Guardian Tuesday. “If [Russian president] Vladimir Putin wants to see gas flow through that pipeline, he may not want to take the risk of invading Ukraine,” US national-security adviser Jake Sullivan told Reuters.

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Can artistic freedom survive in Sudan? The writing’s on the wall… | Global development

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In the new dawn of a heady post-revolutionary era, Suzannah Mirghani returned in 2019 to the country of her birth for the first time in years. Her mission was to shoot a short film on Sudanese soil. It proved unexpectedly straightforward.

“When the revolution happened, there was this exuberance,” she says, from her Qatari home. “When we came to make our film, we were given the green light. We were told: ‘Anything you want’.

“Nobody harassed us. Nobody told us what to do. Nobody asked us for the script. I call this time in the history of Sudan ‘the honeymoon’,” says Mirghani.

Sudanese director Suzannah Mirghani at this year’s Tribeca film festival in New York.
The Sudanese director Suzannah Mirghani at this year’s Tribeca film festival in New York. Photograph: Michael Loccisano/Getty

More than two and a half years after the toppling of the longtime dictator Omar al-Bashir, Mirghani fears the honeymoon is over, at least for her. The turmoil into which Sudan has again been plunged means she feels unable to return safely.

On 31 October, as her film, Al-Sit, won the latest of many awards, Mirghani had to give an acceptance speech that was anything but celebratory.

Six days before, the military had seized power in a coup, detaining the civilian prime minister and bringing the country’s fragile transition to democracy to an abrupt halt.

In a video address from Qatar to the Africa in Motion film festival in Scotland, Mirghani said “the only reason” she and her crew had been able to make Al-Sit was the active encouragement given by the civilian-military partnership government. “Now,” she added, “we’re in very serious danger of going back to the bad old days of military rule and stifling creative expression.”

Since the coup, a lot has happened: huge pro-democracy protests thronged through Khartoum and other cities, with at least 40 demonstrators killed.

After almost a month, the prime minister, Abdalla Hamdok, was released as part of a deal struck with the coup leader, Gen Abdel Fattah al-Burhan.

A still from a film, with a young girl talking to her grandmother as they sit next to a lamp at night
A still from Mirghani’s film, Al-Sit, about a young girl’s arranged marriage in Sudan. Photograph: Courtesy FilmFreeway

But the protesters, who want the military out of politics for good, are not convinced, and even less so as security forces fire teargas into the crowds that continue to gather despite Hamdok’s return. With the creative gains made after the revolution now hanging in the balance, Sudanese artists feel they have to speak out.

“We artists will be the first to be targeted if the military government continues in power,” writes Aamira*, a painter, in an email from Khartoum. “We are demonstrating in the streets, facing guns, unarmed. There is nothing to fear any more.”

In an interview with the Financial Times last week, Hamdok defended his decision to strike a deal with the military, saying it was essential to stop the bloodshed and “preserve the achievements of the last few years”.

It may not have been uppermost in his mind, but one of those achievements was the flowering of an artistic community that had long been harassed, censored and forced into the shadows. Assil Diab, a street artist, says: “I painted Omar al-Bashir as the [face of] coronavirus in a stadium in Bahri during the daytime, which would have been just impossible; my whole family could have been killed two years ago.”

Street artist Assil Diab’s depiction of former dictator Omar al-Bashir as the face of coronavirus on a stadium wall in Bahri, Khartoum.
The street artist Assil Diab’s depiction of the former dictator Omar al-Bashir as the face of coronavirus on a stadium wall in Bahri, Khartoum. Photograph: Assil Diab

Feeling compelled to return amid the revolutionary fervour, Diab returned to Sudan in 2019 and made her name painting the faces of the revolution’s “martyrs” on the outside of their families’ homes, with a getaway car close by in case the notorious paramilitary Rapid Support Forces saw her.

For Mirghani, the “absolute elation” of the revolution yielded creative results. Al-Sit is the beautifully observed story of a Sudanese village girl whose parents want her to marry the sharp-suited son of a wealthy cotton trader in Qatar. “To finally be able to express yourself, to say what you had wanted to say to these people for 30 years: it’s amazing.

“My film is about women’s rights. It’s social commentary on arranged marriage. I don’t think we could have said that a few years ago,” says Mirghani.

The “honeymoon” was not without its challenges. The dictator was gone, but social and religious conservatism – and a reluctance to champion the arts – remained. Artistic freedom was patchy: in 2020, the renowned film-maker Hajooj Kuka and several others were detained during a theatre workshop.

Asim*, a documentary film-maker in Khartoum, says that, although in the capital the “direct censorship” of the Bashir era has eased, the rest of Sudan is not as relaxed. “It’s partially freedom and partially censorship,” he says. “It is a battle about 10% won.”

Khalid Albaih, a political cartoonist based in Qatar, returned after the revolution to launch the Sudan Artist Fund (SAF), to provide budding creatives with money and mentors, and with an ambitious plan to create a public art and design library. He says: “I thought: this is it. All doors were open and this is what we were going to do.

a cartoon of a protester draped in Sudan's flag painting a red line through a street sign showing a U-turn
The political cartoonist Khalid Albaih makes his point about the recent coup attempt. Photograph: Khalid Albaih

“I took all my papers, and for the first time in 10 years I’m in Sudan walking around, not scared of any police, or secret police, or anything. I went to every business owner in Sudan and everyone that can donate money to these causes. And I got nothing but rejection – for a library and for an artists’ fund.”

Finally, Albaih secured $7,000 (£5,300) from CultuRunners, a cultural exchange organisation, and the SAF awarded its first grant of $500 in October – just before the coup. “It was incredible because the internet cut out [after the coup leaders imposed a nationwide online blackout] so the artist didn’t even know he had won. We had to call him. It took two or three weeks to send the money to him,” says Albaih.

The cartoonist knows there will not be any more funding for a while. “Now everything is rocky. No one knows how things will go. It’s going to be really hard for artists and these kinds of initiatives to move forward.

Women walk past a hoarding with graffiti of silhouetted protesters
Women walk past graffiti reading in Arabic: ‘Freedom, peace, justice and civilian’ in the Burri district of Khartoum in 2019. Photograph: Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah/Reuters

The coup, says Diab, left the creative community feeling “disappointed and just broken down … because we finally thought we were free and then this happened.” She intends to apply for political asylum in the US, where she is studying, feeling she “can be of better use to Sudan” from overseas.

Those in the thick of it cannot afford to give up hope. Asim was at a protest in Khartoum against the post-coup deal last week and was “teargassed the entire afternoon” amid chants of “no partnership, no negotiation, no legitimacy”. He is realistic about future challenges but knows that people have made up their minds.

“I feel like there is a grip on power and it will not end today; it will not end tomorrow. Whether those power-hungry authoritarians will roll with democratic transition and allow people to express their freedoms, allow journalists and film-makers to operate or not, that is something that is still [up in] the air, because you never know with the ever-changing dynamic of power in this country,” he says.

The momentum towards democracy is undeniable, he says. “I believe that is possible and I believe there is hope. The people will not stop asking for what they really want. [Will] that future come tomorrow? The day after? In two years? In five? We never know. But it seems like the consensus is that people agree it has to happen.”

*Names have been changed to protect their identity

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EU agrees to sanction Russian mercenaries

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EU diplomats have provisionally agreed to blacklist three Russian nationals and one entity, the ‘Wagner Group’ mercenary outfit, on grounds of human rights abuses in Africa and the Middle East, diplomatic sources said. The decision will be formalised by foreign ministers next Monday. The move comes amid Wagner’s increasing presence in Mali, threatening French interests in the region. Europe earlier sanctioned a Russian oligarch, Yevgeny Prigozhin, said to fund Wagner.

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