Nepal Today

Monday, March 11, 2013

UPDATE ON PACKAGE AGREEMENT Kathmandu, 11 March: Four leading players have convened an all-party meeting Tuesday to brief leaders on agreement so far to work out a package so for to form an election government headed by Chief Justice KHil Raj Regmi and endorsement of agreement, Maoist Vice-chairman and Deputy Prime Minister Narayan Kazi Shrestha said. The four leading player will meet again Tuesday before the all-party meet to resolve differences on the package agreement. Opposition NC and UML oppose awarding ranks of full colonels and two Lt. COlones for former Maoists who have joined Nepal Army to conclude a peace agreement. Shrestha said Maoists agreed to punish those responsible for serious rights vio9lations during a 10-year insurgency without amnesty through a Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Nnnn UPDATE WITH COMMENTS OF FORMER CHIEF JUSTICE SHARMA Kathmandu, 11 March: Former Chief Justice (CJ) Anup Raj Sharma has said that the sitting Chief Justice reviewing the constitution amendment document prepared by political parties was unfortunate for the judiciary sector, RSS reports. Former CJ Sharma´s statement comes just after the major political parties´ leaders held discussions on the same issue with CJ Khil Raj Regmi at the latter´s residence on Monday afternoon. Speaking at an interaction on ´Present Constitutional Deadlock and Independent Judiciary´ organized by the Constitutional Lawyers Forum in the capital today, Sharma said that the independent judiciary had maintained its existence even in multiparty system and Panchayat period. He said the activities of last two days are likely to leave some dark spots in the country´s constitutional history. The meeting of CJ with the stakeholders of a sub judice case is against the norms and values of independent judiciary, Sharma argued. Also speaking at the programme, senior advocate and former speaker Subas Nembang said the right to remove difficulty was being used to amend the constitution instead of only clearing the odd issues. He also said that the meeting of CJ with the concerned party in the case is a ´conspiracy´ against the constitution. Likewise, President of Nepal Bar Association Hari Krishna Karki said the hope on CJ has been lost due to the CJ´s latest actions Nnnn CHINA APPOINTS HEAD OF PEOPLE’S POLITICAL CONSULTATIVE CONFERENCE Kathmandu, 11 March: China took another step toward completing its leadership handover Monday with the appointment of an official best known for his communist pedigree to head a top government advisory body, AP reports from Beijing.. Yu Zhengsheng was selected by a vote of 2,188 to 4 to head the Chinese People´s Political Consultative Conference, a companion body to the country´s rubber-stamp legislature. There was no other candidate in the CPPCC vote. Yu´s selection is the latest step in China´s once-a-decade political transition and kicks off a week of formal government leadership changes that were foreshadowed by promotions at the Communist Party´s congress in November. In China, the party is the pre-eminent political power and top government posts are held by its leaders. Yu was among seven leaders who ascended to the party´s top inner circle at the November conclave which also anointed Xi Jinping as general secretary. Yu is ranked fourth in the party. The governor of the People´s Bank of China, Zhou Xiaochuan, was named one of the vice chairmen of the advisory body, suggesting that he might be preparing to leave the central bank after 11 years at the helm. This week, the largely ceremonial legislature known as the National People´s Congress will finalize the transition and approve appointments to top government posts: Xi is certain to succeed Hu Jintao as president while Li Keqiang, the party´s No. 2, is to be named premier, in charge of the Cabinet. When fully installed into government posts, Xi´s administration will confront domestic challenges that include public anger over official corruption that pervades all levels of society, and the degradation of the country´s water, air and soil that has resulted from decades of rapid economic growth. A rising middle class, empowered by social networking technology, is increasingly vocal about its demands for change and willing to organize demonstrations to that effect. Yu, 67, was Communist Party chief in the financial hub of Shanghai until shortly after his latest party promotion. He held the post of construction minister in the 1990s, when China suffered a series of building collapses that prompted the party to launch a campaign to improve construction safety. A missile engineer by training, Yu is best known for his status as a "princeling" — the label assigned to the politically influential sons and daughters of leaders who struggled alongside Mao Zedong in the early years of the communist state. Yu´s father was the ex-husband of a woman who later married Mao. His family history has been problematic, however: His brother, an official in the Ministry of State Security, China´s secret police, defected to the United States in the mid-1980s. Yu´s connections to patriarch Deng Xiaoping´s family are believed to have kept him in the running for promotion to the apex of power. Yu now heads a 2,200-plus advisory body made up of carefully selected entrepreneurs, intellectuals, religious clerics and celebrities. The group has no real power but in recent years has become more important as representatives have used the platform to advocate for hot-button issues of public concern such as food safety, pollution and land seizures. In one of the session´s more interesting vote counts, scandal-tainted politician Ling Jihua, formerly a top aide of President Hu´s, was among a few who received more than just a handful of opposing votes. Ninety ballots were cast against his appointment as one of the vice chairmen, though he got through anyway with more than 2,000 votes in his favor. The votes against Ling could be a sign of damage to his reputation caused by reports of a lurid scandal involving his son, who apparently died after crashing in a speeding Ferrari while playing some kind of high-speed sex game a year ago in Beijing. nnnn SOUTH KOREA, US JOINT EXERCISE AS TENSION MOUNTS IN KOREAN PENINSULA Kathmandu, 11 March: North and South Korea staged dueling war games Monday as threatening rhetoric from the rivals rose to the highest level since North Korea rained artillery shells on a South Korean island in 2010, AP reports from Seoul. Enraged over the South´s joint military drills with the United States and recent U.N. sanctions, Pyongyang has piled threat on top of threat, including vows to launch a nuclear strike on the U.S. and to scrap the nearly 60-year-old armistice that ended the Korean War. Seoul has responded with tough talk of its own and has placed its troops on high alert. North Korea´s main newspaper, Rodong Sinmun, reported that the armistice was nullified Monday as Pyongyang had previously announced. The North followed through on another promise Monday, shutting down a Red Cross hotline that the North and South used for general communication and to discuss aid shipments and separated families´ reunions. The 11-day military drills that started Monday involve 10,000 South Korean and about 3,000 American troops. Those coincide with two months of separate U.S.-South Korean field exercises that began March 1. Also continuing are large-scale North Korean drills that Seoul says involve the army, navy and air force. The South Korean defense ministry said there have been no military activities it considers suspicious. Despite the heightened tension, there were signs of business as usual Monday. The two Koreas continue to have at least two working channels of communication between their militaries and aviation authorities. One of those hotlines was used Monday to give hundreds of South Koreans approval to enter North Korea to go to work. Their jobs are at the only remaining operational symbol of joint inter-Korean cooperation, the Kaesong industrial complex. It is operated in North Korea with South Korean money and knowhow and a mostly North Korean work force. The North Korean rhetoric escalated as the U.N. Security Council last week approved a new round of sanctions over Pyongyang´s latest nuclear weapons test Feb. 12. Analysts said that much of the bellicosity is meant to shore up loyalty among citizens and the military for North Korea´s young leader, Kim Jong Un. "This is part of their brinksmanship," said Daniel Pinkston, a Seoul-based expert on North Korea with the International Crisis Group think tank. "It´s an effort to signal their resolve, to show they are willing to take greater risks, with the expectation that everyone else caves in and gives them what they want." Part of what North Korea wants is a formal peace treaty to end the Korean War, instead of the armistice that leaves the peninsula still technically in a state of war. It also wants security guarantees and other concessions, direct talks with Washington, recognition as a nuclear weapons state and the removal of 28,500 U.S. troops stationed in South Korea. Pinkston said there is little chance of fighting breaking out while war games are being conducted, but he added that he expects North Korea to follow through with a somewhat mysterious promise to respond at a time and place of its own choosing. North Korea was responsible for an artillery attack that killed four South Koreans in 2010. A South Korean-led international investigation found that North Korea torpedoed a South Korean warship that same year, killing 46 sailors. Pyongyang denies sinking the ship. Among other threats in the past week, North Korea has warned Seoul of a nuclear war on the divided peninsula and said it was cancelling nonaggression pacts. Its vow to scrap the 1953 armistice is one it has made previously, and it is believed to be incapable of making good on its threat to unleash a long-range nuclear missile on America. Still, South Korean and U.S. officials have been closely monitoring Pyongyang´s actions and parsing its recent rhetoric, which has been more warlike than usual. One analyst said Kaesong´s continued operations show that North Korea´s cutting of the Red Cross communication channel was symbolic. More than 840 South Koreans were set to cross the border Monday to Kaesong, which provides a badly-needed flow of hard currency to a country where many face food shortages, according to Seoul´s Unification Ministry. "If South Koreans don´t go to work at Kaesong, North Korea will suffer" financially, said analyst Hong Hyun-ik at the private Sejong Institute in South Korea. "If North Korea really intends to start a war with South Korea, it could have taken South Koreans at Kaesong hostage." Under newly inaugurated President Park Geun-hye, South Korea´s Defense Ministry, which often brushes off North Korean threats, has looked to send a message of strength in response to the latest comments from Pyongyang. The ministry has warned that the North´s government would "evaporate from the face of the Earth" if it ever used a nuclear weapon. The White House also said the U.S. is fully capable of defending itself against a North Korean ballistic attack. North Korea has said the U.S. mainland is within the range of its long-range missiles, and an army general told a Pyongyang rally last week that the military is ready to fire a long-range nuclear-armed missile to turn Washington into a "sea of fire." While outside scientists are still trying to determine specifics, the North´s rocket test in December and third atomic bomb test last month may have pushed the country a step closer to acquiring the ability to hit the U.S. with weapons of mass destruction. Analysts, however, say Pyongyang is still years away from acquiring the smaller, lighter nuclear warheads needed for a credible nuclear missile program. But there are still worries about a smaller conflict, and analysts have said that more missile and nuclear tests are possible reactions from North Korea. North Korea has a variety of missiles and other weapons capable of striking South Korea. Both the warship sinking and island shelling in 2010 occurred near a western sea boundary between the Koreas that North Korea fiercely disputes. It has been a recurring flashpoint between the rivals that has seen three other bloody naval skirmishes since 1999. Last week, Kim Jong Un visited two islands just north of the sea boundary and ordered troops there to open fire immediately if a single enemy shell is fired on North Korean waters. Kim was also quoted as saying his military is fully ready to fight an "all-out war" and that he will order a "just, great advance for national unification" if the enemy makes even a slight provocation, according to the North´s official Korean Central News Agency. Nnnn


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