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N.Korea fires two ballistic missiles from Pyongyang airport, S.Korea says

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North Korea fired two suspected short-range ballistic missiles (SRBM) on Monday from an airport in its capital city of Pyongyang, South Korea’s military reported, the fourth test https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/north-korea-used-railway-born-missile-fridays-test-kcna-2022-01-14 this month to demonstrate its expanding missile arsenal.

Japan also reported the launch, with chief cabinet secretary Hirokazu Matsuno condemning it as a threat to peace and security.

In less than two weeks, nuclear-armed North Korea has conducted three other missile tests, an unusually rapid series of launches. It said two of them involved single “hypersonic missiles” capable of high speed and manoeuvring after launch, while a test on Friday involved a pair of short-range ballistic missiles fired from train cars.

Monday’s launch appeared to involve two SRBMs fired east from Sunan Airfield in Pyongyang, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said in a statement.

North Korea used the airport to test fire the Hwasong-12 intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM) in 2017, with leader Kim Jong Un in attendance.

The missiles fired on Monday travelled about 380 km (236 miles) to a maximum altitude of 42 km (26 miles), the JCS said in a statement.

Japanese Defence Minister Nobuo Kishi said the missiles appeared to have landed in the ocean near North Korea’s east coast.

“It is self-evident that the aim of North Korea’s frequent missile launches is to improve their missile technology,” he told reporters.

“The repeated launching of North Korea’s ballistic missiles is a grave problem for the international community, including Japan,” Kishi added, noting that the launches were a violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions that ban North Korea from all ballistic missile development.

The U.S. military’s Indo-Pacific Command said it assessed that the launch did not pose an immediate threat to the United States or its allies, but “these missile launches highlight the destabilising impact of (North Korea’s ) illicit weapons programme”.

The pace of testing and the different launch sites suggests that North Korea has enough missiles to feel comfortable expending them on tests, training, and demonstrations, and helps reinforce its deterrent credibility by emphasizing the volume of its missile force, said Mason Richey, a professor at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies in Seoul.

North Korea has not tested its longest-range intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) or nuclear weapons since 2017, but after denuclearisation talks stalled in 2019, it began unveiling and testing a range of new SRBM designs.

Many of the latest SRBMs, including the hypersonic missiles, appear designed to evade missile defences. North Korea has also vowed to pursue tactical nuclear weapons, which could allow it to deploy nuclear warheads on SRBMs.

“Every tactical missile launch flaunts how little sanctions have constrained the Kim regime, and how the U.S. … has failed to make North Korea pay a sufficient cost for short-range missile programme development,” Richey said.

‘ISOLATING AND STIFLING’

The latest launches have drawn both condemnation and an appeal for dialogue from a U.S. administration that has imposed new sanctions over North Korean missile launches and is pushing for more.

U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration imposed its first new sanctions on Pyongyang on Wednesday, and called on the U.N. Security Council to blacklist several North Korean individuals and entities. It also repeated calls for North Korea to return to talks aimed at reducing tension and persuading it to surrender its arsenal of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles.

North Korea has defended the missile tests as its sovereign right to self-defence and accused the United States of intentionally intensifying confrontation with new sanctions.

In a statement before Friday’s missile tests, the North Korean foreign ministry said that although the United States might talk of diplomacy and dialogue, its actions showed it was still engrossed in its policy of “isolating and stifling” North Korea.

South Korea’s national security council held an emergency meeting after Monday’s test, with members stressing that “above all else, it is essential to start dialogue as soon as possible in order for the situation on the Korean Peninsula to not become more strained and to restore stability”, the presidential Blue House said in a statement.

The launches came as North Korea, more isolated than ever under self-imposed border closures aimed at preventing a COVID-19 pandemic, appeared to be preparing to open at least some trade across its land border with China.

Chinese brokers said they expect the resumption of regular trade with North Korea soon after a North Korean train pulled into a Chinese border town on Sunday in the first such crossing since anti-coronavirus lockdowns began in 2020.

Zhao Tong, a Beijing-based nuclear policy expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said North Korea had few reasons to hold back its missile development.

Leader Kim appeared to have little hope of a breakthrough with the United States, and China’s sympathy for North Korea and antipathy towards the United States could encourage North Korea to think that China was unlikely to support any effort by the international community to censure it for the tests, he added.

“North Korea may think this is a safe time to advance its missile development,” Zhao said.

Last week, China criticised the new U.S. sanctions but also called on all sides to act prudently and engage in dialogue to reduce tensions.

China says it enforces existing international sanctions on North Korea, but has joined with Russia to urge https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/china-russia-revive-push-lift-un-sanctions-north-korea-2021-11-01 the U.N. Security Council to ease the measures, saying they hurt the civilian population.

(Reporting by Josh Smith; Additional reporting by Elaine Lies and Sakura Murakami in Tokyo; and Yew Lun Tian in Beijing; Editing by Christopher Cushing, Neil Fullick and Gerry Doyle)

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Federal government would join challenge of Quebec’s Bill 21 at Supreme Court

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The federal government will join a legal challenge to Quebec’s religious symbols law if it reaches the country’s highest court, Justice Minister David Lametti said Wednesday.

“When it arrives at the Supreme Court of Canada, it is by definition a national issue, and we will be there,” Lametti told reporters in Montreal.

Both the Quebec government and groups opposing the law have appealed an April 2021 Quebec Superior Court decision that upheld most of the law, while striking down provisions that related to English-language school boards and a ban on members of the provincial legislature wearing face coverings.

The case is currently before the Quebec Court of Appeal.

The law, commonly known as Bill 21, bans public sector workers who are deemed to be in positions of authority — including teachers, judges and police officers — from wearing religious symbols on the job.

Quebec Premier François Legault said the comments from the Trudeau government’s justice minister make no sense, given that the Court of Appeal has not ruled on the case.

“It’s a flagrant lack of respect for Quebecers by Justin Trudeau, because we know that the majority of Quebecers agree with Bill 21,” Legault told reporters in Quebec City.

Trudeau responded to Legault’s criticism by saying he is “a proud Quebecer” himself. He said the federal government will be “part of that discussion” in what he called an “almost inevitable” Supreme Court case examining Bill 21. “We will be there to defend the fundamental rights of all Canadians that have been suspended by this law,” the prime minister told reporters in Saskatoon.

Lametti said it’s too early to say what arguments the federal government would make before the Supreme Court, but he referred to concerns about Quebec’s use of the notwithstanding clause to shield the law from legal challenges.

Superior Court Justice Marc-Andre Blanchard found last year that the law has cruel and dehumanizing consequences for those who wear religious symbols, but he ruled that most of the bill must be allowed to stand due to the invocation of the notwithstanding clause.

Lametti made the comments as he addressed another Quebec law — the province’s reform of its French language charter — which also invokes the notwithstanding clause. Lametti said that while he personally opposes that law, Ottawa will decide whether to participate in an eventual court challenge based on how it is implemented.

“The notwithstanding clause was meant to be the last word in what is, in effect, a dialogue between the courts and legislatures,” he said. “It wasn’t meant to be the first word.” Use of the clause cuts off political and legal debate, an “unintended negative consequences in our political system,” he added.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 25, 2022.

 

Jacob Serebrin, The Canadian Press

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Indigenous leaders say Quebec language law damages reconciliation efforts

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MONTREAL — Indigenous communities in Quebec say the language law passed Tuesday will harm the education prospects of their youth and undermine reconciliation in the province.

In Kahnawake, south of Montreal, members of the community are meeting daily to discuss ways of contesting the law, said Mike Delisle, a member of the Mohawk Council of Chiefs. Delisle said the Coalition Avenir Québec government did not adequately consult with Indigenous communities about the reform.

“The word ‘reconciliation’ is out of the window at this point,” he said in an interview Wednesday. “Those are just words on paper, it doesn’t mean anything to us, because their words are not true.”

Delisle said that for historic reasons, many people in his community learn English rather than French. He said young people are worried about a requirement that students at English-language junior colleges take three additional French-language classes. On Saturday, a group of Kahnawake students led a protest march, stopping traffic on a major bridge into Montreal.

The impact in colleges is also a concern for Sarah Aloupa, the president of Kativik Ilisarniliriniq, the school board in Quebec’s northern Nunavik region.

“Many of our students go to school in English. There is no French immersion in our schools, so you study either fully in English or in French after Grade 3,” she said in an interview Tuesday.

She said the additional French classes will be another burden for students who already have to travel long distances to pursue post-secondary education outside the region. She said the law may push young people to study outside the province.

The law shows a lack of understanding of the unique language and culture in the North, she said.

“As Inuit people, we’re not even 20,000 people, and we are considered to be endangering the French language,” she said. “I think we will have no choice but to go to court to be heard.”

Delisle said people in Kahnawake are also worried about the effects of the bill on community-run health and social services agencies, as well as the impact it will have on the community’s police service and access to justice.

The language law reform, known as Bill 96, forbids provincial government agencies, municipalities and municipal bodies from making systematic use of languages other than French.

It also requires court decisions to be immediately translated into French, forbids companies from pleading in court in other languages and gives the province’s justice and language ministers the ability to decide which judicial postings require English, a decision that was previously made by the chief justice.

The Assembly of First Nations Quebec-Labrador described the bill as a “major step backwards” that puts reconciliation “on hold.”

“To deny the rights of others to assert one’s own, to brutally assert one’s supremacy over other nations that share the same territory is unworthy of a government that respects itself,” Grand Chief Ghislain Picard said in a news release after the bill passed.

Federal Justice Minister David Lametti said Wednesday he’s concerned about the law’s impact on the rights of Indigenous people but said it is too soon to talk about federal involvement in a possible court challenge.

“We will keep all options on the table,” Lametti told reporters in Montreal. “There are ways to implement the bill that would safeguard Quebecers’ constitutional rights.”

Any federal participation in a court challenge would be related to matters of federal jurisdiction, Lametti added, and would only come if a challenge starts in Quebec.

The law invokes the notwithstanding clause of the Canadian Constitution to shield it from charter challenges. It also grants language inspectors the power to conduct searches and seizures of businesseswithout a warrant. Lametti said he has concerns that the use of the notwithstanding clause has cut short debate on the law.

“As a citizen of Quebec, I’m concerned about access to health care,” he said. “I am concerned about … the ability to conduct search and seizures and whether that violates charter rights. I’m concerned about the potential impact on immigration.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 25, 2022.

— With files from Virginie Ann

 

Jacob Serebrin, The Canadian Press

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Malema: France should leave Africa alone

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Pretoria, South Africa- As the continent marks Africa Day today, the leader of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), the third-largest political party in South Africa, Julius Malema, has urged France to leave Africa alone.

Malema was speaking ahead of a planned memorandum regarding the party’s assertions about the role of France in Africa to be given to the French Embassy.

“The French government and regime have played a direct role in the coup d’etat and illegal and unlawful overthrow of many governments in the African continents. We commend and appreciate the work of revolutionary anti-colonial forces that are beginning to undermine French colonialism and call on all neo-colonized people under the so-called Francophone to reject France’s colonial rulership and control,” said Malema.

At the same time, Sinawo Thambo, EFF’s national spokesperson, said the party is committed to fighting the micromanagement of African affairs by France.

“We will not accept continued micromanagement of African affairs. We are not a junior in global affairs. We are Africa and we must stand up in terms of our own affairs, in terms of all sectors, economically, culturally, politically and otherwise.

So we are confronting France because France continues to be a festering parasite within the body politics of Africa. They have continued to micromanage West Africa, they continue to determine the currencies of Francophone nations in terms of where they keep their monetary reserves. There can be no economic emancipation without the freedom and emancipation of Africa in its entirety,” said EFF’s national spokesperson.

In addition, Thambo criticized African Union (AU) citing it’s a pale shadow of what it was founded upon.

“It accommodates colonialists and land thieves like Israel. The Southern African Development Community just exists for the sake of it, wars and imperialism are allowed to fester. Africa Day is a day that we celebrate under a cloud of conquest,” added Thambo.

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