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Analysis-N.Korea after 10 years of Kim Jong Un: Better armed but more isolated than ever

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Ten years after Kim Jong Un assumed power North Korea is better armed but deeply isolated and more dependent on China, despite actions by the young leader that raised – and dashed – hopes of economic transformation or international opening.

Kim’s pursuit of nuclear weapons defined his first 10 years in power, but analysts say the path has left him isolated and facing perhaps the greatest challenges yet.

Those weapons may stand in the way of political breakthroughs needed to improve a shattered economy and prevent millions from starving, as ongoing anti-pandemic lockdowns and sanctions that have left him over-reliant on China.

Kim embraced a different style than his idiosyncratic father, seeking to “normalise” North Korea by institutionalising and delegating more leadership; winning international respect through nuclear weapons and summits with foreign leaders; and displays of transparency and empathy toward improving the lives of everyday citizens.

At times that raised expectations of economic reform in the socialist state, or changes in its relationship with longstanding rivals such as the United States and South Korea.

But systemic change has failed to materialise as Kim continued many of his father’s worst practices, from political prison camps and brutal executions to tight control over the economy and society.

“I think the experience of Kim’s rule for ordinary North Koreans was a moment of hope in those early years followed by regression to the mean,” said Christopher Green, a Korea specialist at Leiden University in the Netherlands.

Kim will have to make hard decisions over whether to trade any of his arsenal to win sanctions relief, or find other ways to boost the economy, such as through a distrustful but vital relationship with China or allowing more economic and social opening without losing political grip.

“(Sanctions) put an upper limit on what he can do with his economy but doesn’t mean he can’t get to a point that’s much more comfortable for people than where he is now,” said Robert Carlin, a former CIA officer now with the Washington-based Stimson Center.

After the damage done by the pandemic, calls for controlled openness may again be heard from within the regime elite, but the challenges of turning the international situation in North Korea’s favour are as big as ever, Green said.

“Without a big uptick in foreign capital, the cause of economic reform is almost certainly doomed,” he added.

WEAPONS FOR SANCTIONS

Under Kim, North Korea conducted four of its six nuclear weapons’ tests – including what appears to be its first hydrogen bomb – and developed a series of intercontinental ballistic missiles with the range to strike as far as the United States.

For Kim that arsenal is the “treasured sword” that will protect North Korea – and his rule – from outside threats, while making the country an equal with other nuclear powers.

But it also brought North Korea to the brink of war with the United States in 2017, and prompted even the country’s partners in China and Russia to approve strict U.N. sanctions.

Kim’s attempts to win sanctions relief and a breakthrough in relations with the United States led to historic and unprecedented summits with U.S. President Donald Trump, but talks have since stalled with Washington demanding Pyongyang surrender some of its weapons before any sanctions are eased.

Kim will likely continue to “play tough” in nuclear diplomacy because further nuclear weapons development will increase his political leverage and bargaining power both in negotiations and during stalemates, said Duyeon Kim, with the U.S.-based Center for a New American Security.

“We can expect to see him continue to shape his personal and his country’s image as normal, modern, and advanced across all sectors particularly nuclear and economic, and even foreign affairs when the pandemic subsides,” she added.

After sending the China-North Korea relationship to a historical low by prioritising nuclear weapons and missiles development then harshly criticising Beijing for supporting sanctions, Kim managed to quickly repair ties, said Zhao Tong, a strategic security expert in Beijing.

China now accounts for the vast majority of North Korea’s limited international trade, and the current governments in both countries share the goals of promoting socialist ideology and countering Western influence, Zhao said.

“Despite Kim’s preference of diversifying North Korea’s international partnerships, he is likely to continue relying heavily on support from China and a small number of other like-minded countries,” he said.

TIGHTENING CONTROL

In his early years, Kim Jong Un experimented with economic reform in order to generate the surpluses he needed to run the patronage networks that sustain autocratic rule, said Green.

“But it appears the risks of and opposition to this became too great in time, and he dialled it back,” he said.

A United Nations rights investigator has warned that vulnerable populations in North Korea risk starvation if the economic and food situation is not reversed.

The pandemic has seen the government further strengthen its grip on the economy, casting doubt on the future of the black markets and as well as official businesses that many North Koreans had come to rely on.

Kim’s rule has seen the proliferation of new technologies such as cellphones in North Korea, but activists say he has simultaneously adopted a more high-tech approach to surveillance and oppressive political control as he seeks to outlaw and stamp out foreign influence and any hint of domestic protest.

Still, it’s not too late for Kim to make good on promises to improve lives in North Korea if he embraces diplomacy, said Ramon Pacheco Pardo, a Korea expert at King’s College London.

“Ultimately, Kim’s time in power could be defined by his ability to raise the living standards of ordinary North Koreans once the pandemic is over,” he said.

 

(Reporting by Josh Smith; Editing by Michael Perry)

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Change your Perspective (Plastic use)

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Ditch the Disposables (Plastic use).
Since 1950, the world has produced 9.2 tonnes of plastic, of which only 10% has been recycled. Did you know? that a single-use bag is used for only 12 minutes? Here are some small actions we can do that could add up to huge results.
There are many ways to reduce the use of disposable items:
Bring your own reusable mugs( many coffee shops offer discounts when you bring in your own mug).
Bring your own bags shopping.
Refuse single-use plastics like straws and utensils.
Use reusable alternatives like beeswax wraps and containers for food storage.

Swap, Share, and Repair

In today’s society products are short-lived and disposable. Sharing and repairing are some of the best ways to reduce household waste and money.
There are many actions we can take to extend a product’s lifespan.
Shop at thrift stores.
Borrow or rent instead of buying new, especially for a tool or appliance that you can only use occasionally.
Use the library system to borrow or download your next read.
Sell or give away items you no longer use.
Learn how to make basic repairs. Local repair groups are a great resource.
Get to know your local repair shops. Always go local.

Food-Just Eat In.

Did you know that 1/4 of the food the average household buys is thrown out, and half of that food is edible? The average Canadian household spends $1,766.00 on food that is wasted over a year and that costs the Canadian economy$49 billion annually.
What to do?
Make a meal plan.
Make a grocery list and stick to it.
Practice first in, first out positioning new products behind older ones.
Get creative with leftovers.
Understand best before dates and store food properly.
Participate in The Circular Economy.
A circular economy means moving towards a system of production and consumption that involves reusing, sharing, leasing, repairing, refurbishing, and recycling materials and products as long as possible.
Above all else, put pressure upon corporations that make your favorite products and products that you consume daily. You must demand better, longer-lasting, and longer-lasting products. Better ways to package items, and always buy locally, as it guarantees freshness and accountability. If you are not satisfied with a product, it is easier to communicate with a local firm other than one a world away.
Buying Locally is a democratic process we can all enjoy.
Saving our world, increasing local employment, and saving money all lie within our personal preview.
I know the holidays are upon us, but there is a point when we will need to stand firm against the wasteful economic system we live within. Waste not – Want not. Buy what you need, and not what corporate Canada tells you to buy.
We are the sum total of the choices we have made. it was true in Eleanor’s time and also in ours. We get the society we have made. Do you want your children to have a bright future? Make changes today.
Steven Kaszab
Bradford, Ontario
skaszab@yahoo.ca
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Coronavirus: Canada Post employees punished for N95 masks – CTV News

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Canada Post workers risk being sent home from work if they wear masks other than ones issued by the corporation, even if their masks are an upgrade in safety.

Employees who buy their own N95 masks and bring them to work are being told to switch to company issued cloth masks or risk being sent home.

“The mask requirements, like our vaccine mandate, are mandatory and necessary under direction from the (Employment and Social Development Canada [ESDC]),” a spokesperson for Canada Post said in an emailed statement. “Therefore anyone at work must comply.”

“If they don’t have the masks we’ve provided, we have additional masks and disposable medical masks on hand. If an employee still does not wish to comply, they are asked to leave the workplace.”

Canada Post said Public Health Agency of Canada supports the use of cloth masks and that the company following directives from the ESDC that require employees to wear company supplied masks to ensure their quality.

“The company fully supports these guidelines and therefore requires all employees to wear a Canada Post-supplied face covering, which is either a reusable cloth face covering or a disposable medical mask,” Canada Post said.

“Canada Post continues to monitor best practices and recommendations with respect to face coverings, and will update our requirements accordingly.”

In an emailed statement to CTVNews.ca, Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) National President Jan Simpson said the union is “concerned” that Canada Post is refusing to allow its members to wear N95 masks.

“Research on the new Omicron variant has established it is more transmissible through shared air than earlier variants,” he said in the statement.

“The union has asked Canada Post to provide N95 masks or suitable alternatives to all postal workers, and at the very least, allow those who’ve purchased their own N95 or KN95 masks to wear them. As COVID-19 continues to spread rapidly, Canada Post Corporation should be doing everything in its power to protect postal workers, who continue to help people stay home and stay safe.”

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From howitzers to heli-bombs: Canadian province fights rising avalanche risk

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British Columbia is rolling out the big guns – literally – to control avalanches that are forcing closures on some major roads for the first time in decades as the Western Canadian province grapples with a snowier-than-usual winter.

B.C. was rocked in 2021 by extreme weather events, including a record-breaking heatwave, wildfires and unprecedented rains that washed out highways and cut off Vancouver, its main city and home to Canada’s busiest port, from the rest of the country.

The province, Canada’s third-largest by population, uses bombs thrown from helicopters, remote-triggered explosives, and a howitzer gun manned by Canada’s military to keep roads safe. But frequent closures for avalanche control are disrupting critical routes to Vancouver.

At the start of this month, B.C.’s alpine snowpack was 15% higher than average, according to the Weather Network channel.

Extreme winter weather, including November’s torrential precipitation, a deep freeze in late December and an early January thaw, has created weak layers in the snowpack, making steep mountain slopes more prone to avalanches that can release without warning onto valleys below.

“It’s been such a volatile fall and winter season so far, we have had rare ‘extreme’ avalanche warnings go out for parts of (B.C.’s) south coast in December and the risk is still considerable in the interior,” said Tyler Hamilton, a Weather Network meteorologist.

Avalanche control missions involve closing sections of highways while teams use explosives to pre-emptively trigger smaller slides, preventing the snowpack from becoming too deep and unstable.

This winter a section of Highway 1 through the Fraser Canyon, 150 km (93 miles) northeast of Vancouver, needed avalanche control for the first time in 25 years, B.C.’s Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure said.

Along Highway 99 north of Vancouver, avalanche control and risk-reduction activities are three times the seasonal average, with some slide paths producing avalanches big enough to hit the highway for the first time in more than a decade.

Avalanche control in Allison Pass further south on Highway 3, another key route connecting Vancouver to the rest of Canada, has also been above average, the ministry said.

‘BALANCING ACT’

All three highways were damaged by the November floods, and a busy avalanche control season is putting further strain on provincial resources. The Coquihalla Highway near Hope only reopened to regular traffic on Wednesday, and provincial authorities said record snow and avalanche risk had delayed repairs to Highway 1 through the Fraser Canyon.

Further east in the province, avalanche teams in Rogers Pass, a rugged 40-km section of Highway 1 running beneath 135 slide paths in Glacier National Park, are dealing with nearly 30% more snowfall than usual and control missions are also above average.

Highway 1 is Canada’s main east-west artery and approximately 3,000 vehicles traverse Rogers Pass every day in winter. A major Canadian Pacific rail line runs parallel to the highway.

Avalanche control missions involve soldiers from the 1st Regiment of the Royal Canadian Horse Artillery, which is stationed in Rogers Pass in winter. They use a howitzer to fire shells packed with 4 kg (8.8 lbs) of explosives in the direction of loaded avalanche paths at 17 different locations along the highway.

“Our goal is to bring down as much snow as we can and bring the hazard down to a point where it’s safe to open the highway,” said Jim Phillips, acting avalanche operations coordinator for Parks Canada, which runs avalanche control in the national parks.

The Rogers Pass program has been running since the highway opened in 1961. Before that, CP trains crossing the Selkirk Mountains in winter ran a higher risk of deadly snow slides, including one that killed 62 railway workers in 1910.

So far this winter the team has fired 333 howitzer rounds, produced 197 controlled avalanches and closed the highway for 43 hours over seven separate days.

Phillips said his team also uses heli-bombing and remote-trigger systems to set off detonations, and spends C$600,000 ($480,346) a year on explosives alone.

“It’s a balancing act. You want to keep traffic moving and minimize closures, but also minimize risk to people using the transportation corridor,” he added.

And winter weather in Canada is far from over.

Avalanche control is typically needed until late April or early May, depending on the snowpack, and the Weather Network forecasts above average winter storm systems returning to B.C. in February and March.

“We’re still in a La Niña situation,” said the Weather Network’s Hamilton, referring to a weather pattern that tends to result in above-average precipitation and cold temperatures in B.C.

($1 = 1.2491 Canadian dollars)

 

(Reporting by Nia Williams; Editing by Paul Simao)

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