Tensions between President Donald Trump and North Korea have been mounting for several months over North Korea’s nuclear ambitions.
President Trump is also threatening to withdraw from an agreement which monitors and limits Iran’s nuclear development.
In a statement posted on Facebook, ICAN said the prize “shines a needed light on the path the ban treaty provides towards a world free of nuclear weapons”.
“This is a time of great global tension, when fiery rhetoric could all too easily lead us, inexorably, to unspeakable horror,” the statement read.
“If ever there were a moment for nations to declare their unequivocal opposition to nuclear weapons, that moment is now.”
The number of nuclear weapons worldwide has been steadily decreasing since the 1980s, but none of the world’s nuclear powers have fully disarmed – an ambition set out in the 1970 Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT).
Nuclear armed nations boycotted the latest talks because they favor working within the NPT’s original framework to reduce stockpiles.
Unlike the NPT, the 2017 treaty explicitly bans nuclear weapons. It calls for signatories not to develop, test or threaten to use the weapons. It also forbids nations from having weapons tactically stationed in their countries from allied partners.
However, so far it has only been acceded to by 53 of the world’s countries including Cuba, Ireland and New Zealand.
The UK military is currently ranked fifth in the world for firepower. They are beaten only by the US, Russia, China and India. Recent information suggests that over 200 nuclear weapons are at the disposal of the British military, and so they are a force to be reckoned with. Most people know very little about the ins and outs of the armed forces, so we’ve got some facts that stats that should help to clear things up. At the end of the day, your government spends 2.5% of GDP on defense. Wouldn’t you like to know where your money is going? At the last count, the UK military employed 100,290 personnel in various roles. Thanks to government cutbacks, that number is set to drop considerably over the next twelve months. Even so, it’s pretty impressive.
The UK currently ranks sixth in the world for military spending too. In 2013, official reports claim over 57.9 billion pounds were spent on defence at home and overseas. At the current time, the UK military owns 4154 armoured personnel carriers, tanks and reconnaissance vehicles. That means our men and women have the best backing possible when negotiating dangerous territories. While it might come as a surprise to some of you, women now account for 9% of enlisted personnel in the UK military. The real figure for nuclear weapons is 225. You might wonder why we need so many, but that becomes obvious when you look at the stats for Russia and China. Source www.grayandcosolicitors.co.uk
Ukraine’s ex-PM Yulia Tymoshenko has been caught in a leaked taped phone call with parliamentarian Nestor Shufrych, talking about it is “time to go grab guns and kill those damned Russians with their leader,” so that “not even scorched earth will be left where Russia stands”.
Translations also capture Yulia Tymoshenko as saying she would “like to grab a machine gun and shoot that motherf***er in the head”.
According to the Moscow Times, the recording, apparently made March 8, details a conversation between Yulia Tymoshenko and Nestor Shufrych from Ukraine’s National Security Council, and has Tymoshenko suggesting that Ukrainians should kill Russians, and, in particular, Russian President Vladimir Putin. The recording, which may have been altered, also apparently features Yulia Tymoshenko suggesting that the 8 million Russians living in Ukraine should be killed with “nuclear weapons”.
Yulia Tymoshenko has been caught in a leaked taped phone call with parliamentarian Nestor Shufrych (photo RT)
The video containing the recording was initially uploaded to a YouTube account under the name Sergiy Vechirko, and has since been widely shared on pro-Kremlin media outlets.
While the Moscow Times reports that Nestor Shufrych has denied the recording is real, a tweet from Yulia Tymoshenko appears to suggest she believes at least part of it is real.
In her tweet, Yulia Tymoshenko says that the recording has been edited, and that she in fact said that the Russians in Ukraine “were Ukrainian”.
She also added: “Hello FSB :)” in reference to Russia’s security agency.
Yulia Tymoshenko, widely considered a potential candidate for the Ukrainian presidential election in May, does not have a reputation for being anti-Russia, which has struck some as strange, and had enjoyed a working relationship with Vladimir Putin in the past.
According to a US institute, steam has been seen rising from North Korea’s Yongbyon nuclear facility, suggesting that the reactor has been restarted.
The color and volume of the steam indicated that the reactor was in or nearing operation, the institute said.
Pyongyang vowed to restart facilities at its main Yongbyon nuclear complex in April, amid high regional tensions.
The reactor can produce plutonium, which North Korea could use to make nuclear weapons.
Analysts believe North Korea already possesses between 4 and 10 nuclear weapons, based on plutonium produced at the Yongbyon reactor prior to mid-2007, when the facility was closed down.
The report, which was published on the 38 North website on Wednesday, was written by the US-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University. The institute uses satellite imagery to monitor developments in North Korea.
Pyongyang vowed to restart facilities at its main Yongbyon nuclear complex in April, amid high regional tensions
The reactor uses steam turbines to generate electricity, and the steam seen in satellite imagery from August 31 indicated that the electrical system was about to come online, the report said.
“The reactor looks like it either is or will within a matter of days be fully operational, and as soon as that happens, it will start producing plutonium,” said report author Jeffrey Lewis.
“They really are putting themselves in a position to increase the amount of material they have for nuclear weapons, which I think gives them a little bit of leverage in negotiations, and adds a sense of urgency on our part,” he added.
The five megawatt reactor can produce spent fuel rods that can be made into plutonium, which experts believe North Korea used for its nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009. North Korea conducted its third, most-recent test in February, but it is not clear whether plutonium or uranium was used.
In a November 2010 reportfollowing a visit to Yongbyon, US scientist Siegfried Hecker said that based on what he saw he believed North Korea could “resume all plutonium operations within approximately six months” at Yongbyon, then shut down, if so inclined.
Analysts at the Institution for Science and International Security, a think tank, said it would take a considerable amount of time before North Korea could use any new plutonium in nuclear weapons.
“Given that North Korea will likely need two-three years before it discharges irradiated fuel containing plutonium and another six to 12 months to separate the plutonium, there remains time to negotiate a shutdown of the reactor before North Korea can use any of this new plutonium in nuclear weapons,” it said in a report.
Analysts say the reactor can produce six kg (13 lbs) of plutonium a year – enough to make one to two nuclear bombs.
Both the US State Department and South Korea’s National Intelligence Service have declined to comment directly on the report, saying they do not comment on intelligence matters, AP news agency reported.
North Korea closed the Yongbyon reactor in July 2007 as part of a disarmament-for-aid deal.
The cooling tower at the facility was later destroyed, but then the disarmament deal stalled, partly because the US did not believe Pyongyang was fully disclosing all of its nuclear facilities.
In 2010, North Korea unveiled a uranium enrichment facility at Yongbyon to Siegfried Hecker.
Siegfried Hecker said that while the facilities appeared to be for electricity generation purposes, it could be readily converted to produce highly-enriched uranium for bombs.
The US has urged China to use all its leverage to help rein in North Korea’s “destabilizing” actions.
US Secretary of State John Kerry is in South Korea, where he is expected to call on China to evoke “a sense of urgency” in its talks with North Korea.
Pyongyang has ratcheted up tensions in the region, threatening nuclear strikes against South Korea and the US.
A leaked US intelligence report has said North Korea may now be capable of mounting nuclear warheads on a missile.
On Thursday, a US Congressman read out what he said was an unclassified section of a Defense Intelligence Agency study. He said it assessed “with moderate confidence” that North Korea could fire a nuclear-armed missile, though with “low reliability”.
North Korea has tested both nuclear weapons and missiles, but it had been thought it had not yet developed a device small enough to be a viable and deliverable weapon.
But the Pentagon later denied the report, with spokesman George Little saying it would be “inaccurate to suggest that the North Korean regime has fully tested, developed or demonstrated the kinds of nuclear capabilities referenced in the passage”.
North Korea has increased its warlike rhetoric following fresh UN sanctions imposed after its third nuclear test in February
South Korea is currently on a high state of alert amid indications that North Korea is preparing for a missile test.
Pyongyang has moved two Musudan ballistic missiles to its east coast. Estimates of their range vary, but some suggest the missiles could travel 2,500 miles.
That would put US bases on Guam within range, although it is not believed that the Musudan has been tested before.
John Kerry is making his first trip to Asia since becoming secretary of state. He will spend time in Seoul and Tokyo as well as in Beijing, North Korea’s last remaining ally and its major trading partner.
A senior administration official told reporters on board John Kerry’s plane: “It is no secret that China has most leverage, most influence, with North Korea and I think fundamentally we would want them to use some of that leverage because otherwise it is very destabilizing and it threatens the whole region.”
The official added that, although Washington was not privy to conversations between China and North Korea, “we would want China to bring a sense of urgency, the need to stop this escalation, into that debate”.
“China has a huge stake in stability and the continued North Korean pursuit of a nuclear armed missile capability is the enemy of stability. That gives us and the Chinese a very powerful objective in common, namely denuclearization,” the official said.
President Barack Obama has urged Pyongyang to end its “belligerent approach… and to try to lower temperatures”.
But he warned that while he preferred to see tensions resolved through diplomatic means, “the United States will take all necessary steps to protect its people”.
China, meanwhile, has denied reports that it is deploying troops along the North Korean border.
A defense ministry official said Beijing was “paying close attention to the development of the current situation on the Korean Peninsula and has always been committed to safeguarding peace and stability in Northeast Asia,” the state Xinhua news agency reports.
North Korea has increased its warlike rhetoric following fresh UN sanctions imposed after its third nuclear test in February and joint military manoeuvres by the US and South Korea.
Pyongyang says it will restart a mothballed nuclear reactor, has shut an emergency military hotline to the South and has urged countries to withdraw diplomatic staff, saying it cannot now guarantee their safety.
However, in the past few days North Korea’s media appear to be in more of a holiday mood, due to the approach of Monday’s celebrations marking the birth of national founder Kim Il-sung – a potential launch date for a new missile test.
On Thursday, foreign ministers from the G8 group of nations condemned in the “strongest possible terms” North Korea’s nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programmes.
North Korea appears to be preparing for a fourth nuclear test, according to South Korean officials.
South Korean Unification Minister Ryoo Kihl-jae told lawmakers there were signs of increased activity in North Korea’s main nuclear test site.
North Korea has stepped up its habitual fiery rhetoric against the US and South Korea in recent weeks.
Correspondents say it is unclear whether a test is being prepared or it is a ruse to boost the sense of crisis.
Ryoo Kihl-jae did not elaborate on the specific intelligence which led South Korea to suspect the North was set to carry out its fourth nuclear test.
North Korea appears to be preparing for a fourth nuclear test, according to South Korean officials
But when asked about a news report that North Korea had stepped up activity at the underground site it has used in previous tests, he said “there are such signs”.
Kim Min-seok, a spokesman for South Korea’s defense ministry, said it was possible that the North could fire a ballistic missile and conduct a nuclear test at the same time.
But South Korean official Yonhap news agency quoted him as playing down the threat of an imminent test, saying there were several facilities at the nuclear test site so the movement of vehicles and people there was expected.
“Currently, there is no new movement to add on to the previous briefing,” he said.
Newspaper JoongAng Ilbo quoted an unnamed South Korean official as saying that South Korean intelligence had detected “increased activity of labor forces and vehicles” at the Punggye-ri nuclear test site in the country’s north-east.
“We are closely monitoring the ongoing situation, which is very similar to the situation ahead of the third nuclear test,” the official told the newspaper.
“We are trying to figure out whether it is a genuine preparation for a nuclear test or just a ploy to heap more pressure on us and the US.”
The UN imposed tough sanctions on North Korea last month following its third nuclear test. Pyongyang responded by stepping up angry rhetoric, including threats to use nuclear weapons and restarting its nuclear reactor.
In recent weeks, North Korea has shut down an emergency military hotline between Seoul and Pyongyang, stopped South Koreans from working at the Kaesong joint industrial complex and warned it would not be able to guarantee the safety of foreign embassy staff in the event of a war.
On Monday, the North Korea’s state news agency said a senior official had visited the Kaesong complex and told workers there to prepare for all possible developments.
Analysts have suggested that the rhetoric is in large part designed to shore up the standing of a young, inexperienced leader, Kim Jong-un, in the eyes of his own people.
North Korea’s state media have been broadcasting a continuing diet of war and retribution with programmes about biochemical war, nuclear war and military preparations dominating the listing.
Meanwhile, Japan’s defense ministry said the country’s armed forces have been ordered to shoot down any North Korean missile headed towards its territory.
Over the weekend, the US cancelled a scheduled test of its Minuteman III ballistic missile, citing concerns that it could be misinterpreted by Pyongyang.
North Korea has announced it will restart the facilities at its main Yongbyon nuclear complex, including a reactor mothballed in 2007.
In a statement, it has been announced that the move would bolster North Korea’s nuclear forces “in quality and quantity”.
North Korea has announced it will restart the facilities at its main Yongbyon nuclear complex, including a reactor mothballed in 2007
The move is the latest in a series of measures by Pyongyang in the wake of its third nuclear test in February 12.
North Korea has been angered by the resultant UN sanctions and joint US-South Korea annual military drills.
In recent weeks North Korea has issued a series of threats against both South Korean and US targets, to which the US has responded with high-profile movements of advanced aircraft and warships around the Korean peninsula.
The reactor at Yongbyon – which was the source for plutonium for North Korea’s nuclear weapons programme – was closed in July 2007 as part of a disarmament-for-aid deal.
The cooling tower at the facility was later destroyed, but then the disarmament deal stalled.
Part of the reason the agreement fell apart was because the US and North Korea’s other negotiating partners did not believe Pyongyang was fully disclosing all of its nuclear facilities.
The statement, carried by KCNA news agency, was attributed to a spokesman for the General Department of Atomic Energy.
The General Department of Atomic Energy had decided “to adjust and alter the uses of the existing nuclear facilities” including “readjusting and restarting all the nuclear facilities in Nyongbyon [Yongbyon]”.
The work would be put into practice without delay, the statement said.
The North Korean parliament has today endorsed plans to give nuclear weapons greater prominence in the country’s defences.
North Korea’s move came a day after the ruling Workers’ Party called for nuclear forces to be “expanded and beefed up qualitatively and quantitatively”.
North Korea has said it is entering a “state of war” with the South – prompting Seoul to promise a “strong response” to aggression by the North.
North Korea’s parliament has endorsed plans to give nuclear weapons greater prominence in the country’s defences
Meanwhile, North Korea has announced it has appointed a new premier, Pak Pong-ju. He was sacked from the same post in 2007.
North Korea’s Supreme People’s Assembly convened on Monday for a day-long annual session. It normally focuses on making economic decisions.
But state news agency KCNA said the body had “unanimously adopted an ordinance that provides for giving nuclear weapons greater prominence in the defence of the country”.
The law reads that North Korea’s nuclear weapons are a “means of defence” and serve the purpose of “dealing deadly retaliatory blows at the strongholds of aggression until the world is denuclearized”.
On Sunday the Workers’ Party Central Committee held a rare high-level meeting in which it described nuclear weapons as “the nation’s life”.
“The DPRK [North Korea]’s possession of nuclear weapons should be fixed by law and the nuclear armed forces should be expanded and beefed up qualitatively and quantitatively,” a KCNA report on the meeting said.
“The People’s Army should perfect the war method and operation in the direction of raising the pivotal role of the nuclear armed forces in all aspects concerning war deterrence and war strategy.”
In the last few days North Korea has issued multiple warnings of attacks on US and South Korean targets – to which the US has responded with an apparent show of military hardware.
Speaking to defence officials on Monday, South Korean President Park Geun-hye said that she took the series of threats from Pyongyang “very seriously”.
The rial, Iran’s beleaguered currency, has fallen to fresh record lows against the US dollar.
It fell a further 9% on Tuesday after Monday’s 18% decline, reports say.
Iran’s central bank has placed a $5,000 limit on the amount of foreign currency travellers can take in or out.
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has blamed “the enemies of his country” for the sharp falls. The rial has reportedly lost more than 80% of its value since 2011 because of US-led trade sanctions.
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Western sanctions amounted to an economic war, but would not stop Iran’s nuclear programme.
“We are not people to retreat on the nuclear issue,” he told a news conference in Tehran.
“If somebody thinks they can pressure Iran, they are certainly wrong and they must correct their behavior,” he said.
Recent moves by Tehran to ensure key importers can buy dollars at a cheaper rate is said to have worsened matters.
The US-led sanctions are being imposed on Iran because of the country’s disputed nuclear programme. The US accuses Iran of aiming to build nuclear weapons, while Iran counters that it simply wishes to develop nuclear power stations.
The sanctions, which are backed by the European Union, include a ban on the purchase of Iranian oil.
The US has also threatened to take action against foreign firms and institutions dealing with the Iranian central bank.
While Iranians are said to be scrambling to convert their rials into hard currency, thereby adding to the downward pressure on the rial, the government has blamed speculation by money changers.
According to the Iranian Fars news agency, Iran’s Minister of Industry, Mines and Trade, Mehdi Ghazanfari, said: “We have greater expectations that the security services will control the branches and sources of disruption in the exchange market.
“Brokers in the market are also pursuing the increase in price, because for them it will be profitable, and there is nobody to control them.”
On Tuesday, the rial was said to be trading in Iran at about 37,500 to the dollar, down from around 34,200 late on Monday.
The rial is not traded on the global currency markets, so it is not possible to produce accurate figures for its value.
The weakness of the rial has harmed the wider Iranian economy, as it means the country cannot afford to import as many foreign goods and raw materials which are priced in hard currencies.
As a result of the tightened trade sanctions, Iran’s income from oil exports had fallen by 45% this year, causing the shortage in dollars and other hard currencies.
He added that Iranian authorities had for many years used the country’s abundant oil earnings to keep the rial artificially high.
With oil revenues now sharply reduced, our reporter said that both the government and the central bank now seemed unsure how to react.
He added: “Iran’s years of state intervention in the artificial appreciation of the rial, thanks to abundant petro-dollars, has turned the currency into a barrel of gunpowder now detonated by sanctions.
“At a time of crisis, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s government is plagued by inefficiency, mismanagement and a domestic power struggle.”
Barack Obama is addressing the UN General Assembly in New York, where he is to say the US will “do what we must” to stop Iran acquiring nuclear weapons.
Six weeks before the US election, Barack Obama is expected to say that a nuclear-armed Iran “is not a challenge that can be contained”.
Barack Obama condemned the violence that erupted over a “disgusting” anti-Islam video as “an attack on UN ideals”.
Unrest across the Middle East is set to dominate discussion the summit.
Recent protests across the Muslim world in response to the US-made video mocking the Prophet Muhammad, as well as Iran’s nuclear programme and the 18-month conflict in Syria, are likely to be high on the agenda.
Barack Obama is addressing the UN General Assembly in New York
Opening the meeting on Tuesday, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon described the fighting in Syria as “a regional calamity with global ramifications”.
Ban Ki-moon called for action from the divided UN Security Council and said “the international community should not look the other way as violence spirals out of control”.
“Brutal human rights abuses continue to be committed, mainly by the government but also by opposition forces,” he added.
People did not look to the UN to be simply a mirror reflecting back a divided world, said Ban Ki-moon: Rather, they wanted to see it come up with solutions to problems.
Barack Obama was blunter in his assessment of Syria, saying Bashar Assad’s regime must end.
The US president opened his address with a tribute to the US ambassador to Libya murdered in Benghazi, challenging the UN to affirm that “our future will be determined by people like Christopher Stevens, and not by his killers”.
“Today, we must declare that this violence and intolerance has no place among our United Nations,” he said.
Barack Obama was to vow that “the United States will do what we must to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon,” with the backing of “a coalition of countries” holding Tehran accountable.
Although the White House said the president’s address should not be considered a campaign speech, it follows critical remarks about his foreign policy from Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.
Mitt Romney condemned Barack Obama’s description of the murder of Christopher Stevens and three other Americans as “bumps in the road”. He has also castigated him for not taking time out to hold talks on Iran during the summit with Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu.
Barack Obama has rejected the Israeli leader’s calls for Washington to set Tehran “red lines”.
Benjamin Netanyahu has recently appeared on US television to press for a tougher line on Iran, and he will take the same message to the General Assembly on Thursday.
Tehran says its nuclear programme is for civilian purposes.
On the eve of the assembly, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told a UN meeting that Israel was a “fake regime”, prompting Israel’s UN ambassador, Ron Prosor, to walk out.
Syria’s 18-month conflict is not formally on the General Assembly’s agenda but it is likely to be addressed by several speakers on the opening day. including French President Francois Hollande and Qatari emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani.
Francois Hollande, in his first appearance at the assembly, is also expected to call for backing for an international force to be sent to the West African state of Mali to help dislodge Islamist militants who have taken over the north of the country.
The UN Security Council has been unable to reach agreement on the Syria crisis and on Monday UN envoy Lakhdar Brahimi warned that the situation was “extremely bad and getting worse”.
While he did not have a full plan, he said he had “a few ideas”. Lakhdar Brahimi has just visited Damascus as well as refugee camps in neighboring Jordan and Turkey.
Diplomats have played down expectations for Lakhdar Brahimi’s mission, with no sign of fundamental divisions on the council being bridged.
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