No US military action against North Korea without South’s approval: Moon

“All South Koreans have worked so hard together to rebuild the country from the ruins of the Korean War,” Moon told a press conference marking his first 100 days in office.

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“I will prevent war at all cost,” he added. “So I want all South Koreans to believe with confidence that there will be no war.”

Tensions have soared in recent months over Pyongyang’s weapons ambitions, which have seen it subjected to a seventh round of United Nations Security Council sanctions.

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Last week the North threatened to send a salvo of missiles towards the US territory of Guam — although it appears to have backed off for now. US President Donald Trump has promised “fire and fury” and said that Washington’s weapons were “locked and loaded”. 

The intense rhetoric on both sides has raised fears of a miscalculation leading to catastrophic consequences — Pyongyang has vast artillery forces deployed within range of Seoul, where millions of people live.

But Moon said Seoul effectively had a veto on military action by the US, its security ally and protector.  

“No one can make a decision on military action on the Korean peninsula without our agreement,” he said. 

“The US and President Trump also said, no matter what option they take about North Korea, all decisions will be made after consulting with and getting agreement with the Republic of Korea.”

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Moon, who visited Washington at the end of June, declined to criticise Trump’s rhetoric towards the North that has raised alarm among observers.

“US President Trump is trying to pressure North Korea by showing a firm resolution,” he said. “I don’t think that he is trying to show a certain willingness to launch military action.”

In the past Moon, a left-leaning former human rights lawyer, has urged engagement with the North to bring it to the negotiating table, in addition to sanctions — an approach that raised concerns it could create divisions with Washington.

But since coming to power his gestures have been rebuffed by Pyongyang, and Moon played down the urgency of dialogue.

“I don’t think we must rush into it,” he said.

For talks to take place, he said, “there must be a guarantee that it will lead to a fruitful outcome. 

“North Korea must at least end additional provocations to create the mood for dialogue.”

Only then could Seoul consider sending an envoy to the North, he added.

“The red line would be North Korea completing its ICBM and mounting it with a nuclear warhead and weaponising it,” he added.

“If North Korea launches another provocation, it will face even stronger sanctions and it will not be able to survive them. I would like to warn North Korea to end its dangerous gamble.”

0:00 North Korea, the US and Guam explained Share North Korea, the US and Guam explained

John Howard gets a library card

Former Australian prime minister John Howard wants to be clear the older Parliament House is his favourite of the two.

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Mr Howard visited his old haunt in Canberra on Thursday to inspect the site of a new library bearing his name.

“The atmosphere of this house is better, it’s more intimate, it’s more personal. I think people fraternised a lot more,” he told students in the old House of Representatives chamber.

The Howard Library will be housed in the rooms in Old Parliament House where the then-treasurer used to take part in morning leadership meetings.

From a pair of his infamous tracksuits to a gift of golden shears, it will hold a collection of official documents, personal papers and memorabilia from the Howard years.

The library itself is being billed as apolitical and non-partisan but following a string of libraries named after former Labor prime ministers, its establishment is significant, Mr Howard said.

“I would argue, ever so gently, if you look at years in office and significant achievements, the Liberal Party has been Australia’s most successful political party,” he said.

With the collection still in its embryonic stages, Mr Howard said the purpose of the library was to provide a “warts and all” record of his government.

“I’m very humbled by it,” he said.

The library is being established and funded by the University of New South Wales Canberra.

Library director Tom Frame said this could be considered the first prime ministerial library since none of the others contained official prime ministerial papers.

He hopes it will encourage more people to engage with politics in an informed way.

“It is important that a rising generation of Australians understand a period of government which in many ways was unparalleled in the stability it brought both to government and public life,” Professor Frame said.

The library is expected to open to the public early next year.

Retired US judge delivers verdict on Australia’s ‘postal plebiscite’

In the audience at London’s National Theatre sits a woman who, 14 years earlier in the United States, triggered a legal and social earthquake.

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In 2003, Chief Justice Margaret Marshall, of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, ruled that denying same-sex couples the right to marry was a violation of their constitutional rights.

Her landmark 50-page decision paved the way for hundreds of thousands of same-sex couples to marry.

Those marriages began to take place across America and around the globe.

On this night, the cast of the self-described ‘gay fantasia’, Angels in America, gave Chief Justice Marshall a standing ovation.

She was immediately – and gently – mobbed by tearful members of the audience.

“Thank you” were the only words most could muster.

It was a deeply emotional and unexpected experience.

Same-sex marriage has been legal in England, Wales and Scotland since 2013.

SBS reporter Brett Mason asked the former Chief Justice for her verdict on the upcoming same-sex marriage plebiscite in Australia.

“I wouldn’t judge another nation, but I am surprised that people anywhere in the world don’t understand yet what it means for people to love one another. It doesn’t matter what their gender, what their origins, where they come from. And I just hope that we won’t have to wait for too much longer before everyone in the world can be in love with and marry who they choose to.”

Backstage, actor James McArdle, recites the most famous passage of her judgement.

” ‘Civil marriage is an esteemed institution and the decision whether and whom to marry is among life’s momentous acts of self-definition.’ ”

He’s less diplomatic about the tone of Australia’s same-sex marriage debate.

“The fact that this has been given to the public as ‘an opinion’ I think is an insult. I really think it’s insulting. The fact we’re even having this discussion I think will be an embarrassment in years to come.”

A decade before her landmark ruling, Margaret Marshall sat in the very same theatre when Angels in America – a form of artistic activism, transporting audiences to 1980s America and the height of the AIDS crisis – premiered.

It had a profound, personal impact.

So she returned, 25 years later, to witness its 21st century revival.

The former Chief Justice says many of its themes – sexuality, race, gender, inequality, nationalism, fear and prejudice – remain just as fraught today.

“I think there is a hint of sadness that everything still feels as if we have so far to go.”

Angels in America is a work of fiction, but for many, 25 years on, the struggles it depicts are as real – and raw – as ever.

 

Trump tweets praise for North Korea’s decision to ‘watch and wait’

Delivering the message on his favourite platform, US President Donald Trump tweeted that Kim Jong Un made “a very wise and well reasoned decision.

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The alternative, he said “would have been both catastrophic and unacceptable!”

President Trump stunned the world last week by warning North Korea it faced “fire and fury” if it continued to threaten the US or its allies with its ballistic missile program.

The comments, while on what he calls “a working holiday” in New Jersey, were widely interpreted as raising the prospect of a nuclear confrontation between the US and North Korea.

Speaking during a trip to South America, US Vice President Mike Pence maintains all options are still on the table.

“The era of strategic patience is over. Literally for decades the world community has practised a patience with North Korea in the hopes that they would some day abandon their nuclear and ballistic missile ambitions, and all along the way North Korea has simply used delay and used feigned negotiations to continue in their headlong rush to obtain usable nuclear weapons and a ballistic missile program and the President has made it clear that those days are over.”

But he did hint at some optimism.

“We believe that the ongoing economic and diplomatic pressure being brought to bear by our allies in the region, by allies here in Latin America and renewed pressure by China itself is resulting in, what we believe, represent glimmers of hope that we can achieve by peaceful means which nations around the world have sought on the Korean peninsula now for decades.”

Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, also on a visit to South America, says options for economic sanctions against North Korea have been exhausted.

“Regarding the means of influence on Pyongyang in order to make them fulfil the UN Security Council resolutions – we are absolutely certain that possibilities for economic pressure have been exhausted. We can’t support some of our partners’ ideas which are directed at economic suffocation of North Korea with all the tragic negative economic consequences for its citizens.”

The United Nations Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, says it’s time now to focus on diplomacy rather than rhetoric.

“It is so important to dial down rhetoric and to dial up diplomacy. For my part I want to repeat that my good offices are always available, and I conveyed this message yesterday to the representatives of the six-party talks. The solution to this crisis must be political. The potential consequences of military action are too horrific to even contemplate.”

 

Bush presidents add their voices to mounting anti-racism chorus

It came as a memorial was held in the Virginian city of Charlottesville for Heather Heyer, the 32 year-old woman killed when a man suspected of being a white nationalist drove his car into a crowd of counter-protesters last weekend.

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At the memorial, Heather Heyer’s mother, Susan Bro, urged forgiveness, saying her daughter’s death would serve to fight injustice.

“I think the reason that what happened to Heather has struck a chord is because we know that what she did is achievable. We don’t all have to die. We don’t all have to sacrifice our lives. They tried to kill my child to shut her up, well guess what? You just magnified her.”

The Democrat Governor of Virginia, Terry McAuliffe, called for unity.

“Our nation is a nation of immigrants. It is that great mosaic tile that has made us the great United States of America and as we go forward from this memorial service, let Heather Heyer be an inspiration to all of us to do good, to put your hand out, to help one another.”

President Donald Trump has been criticised by Democrats and Republicans: firstly, for his slowness to denounce the white nationalists at the centre of the protests and violence in Charlottesville, then for saying the anti-racism protestors were equally to blame.

While some Republicans have voiced their condemnation of the movements towards white nationalism, now for the first time two former presidents have added their voices to the mounting criticism.

George HW Bush and his son, George W Bush, issued a veiled rebuke of the current occupant of the White House.

In a joint statement they said, “America must always reject racial bigotry, anti-Semitism, and hatred in all forms”.

Meanwhile, Confederate monuments have been removed overnight in Baltimore, Maryland, and other US cities as a campaign to erase symbols of the pro-slavery Civil War South gathers momentum across the United States.

Catherine Pugh, the Mayor of Baltimore, explained her decision to quickly and quietly remove them.

“The city charter says if the Mayor wants to protect, or feels she needs to protect, the public and keep her community safe, she has the right to keep her community safe. And I felt that the best way to remove the monuments was to remove them overnight.”

Amidst the fallout from the mounting anger at the Trump presidency over the issue, Donald Trump has ended two of his advisory panels after prominent members quit.

He’s tweeted that he’s winding up both the Manufacturing Council and the Strategy and Policy Forum, so as not to put pressure on the businesspeople who made up those panels.

Earlier, the CEOs of Campbell Soup and 3M resigned from the manufacturing council, and other business leaders faced pressure to take more dramatic action.

Vice President Mike Pence is standing by Mr Trump, and is calling for unity.

“What happened in Charlottesville was a tragedy and the President has been clear on this tragedy and so have I. In America we will not allow the few to divide the many. The strength of the United States of America is always strongest, as the President has always said so eloquently, when we are united around our shared values and so it will always be.”

Abroad, British Prime Minister Theresa May has said there is no equivalence between fascists and white nationalists and those who protest to oppose them.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres says racism has to be stood up to, every time.

But perhaps one of the strongest public comments came from Tim Kaine, the Democrat Senator from Virginia.

He spoke after the memorial service in Charlottesville for Heather Heyer.

“There is an absence of moral leadership in the Oval Office right now. This is the kind of moment where the nation needs a leader, somebody who can call upon on our better angels to bring us together, that is absent from the White House now.”