US presses China in North Korea sanctions drive

Addressing the UN Security Council for the first time, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called for a global campaign of pressure to force Pyongyang to change course and put a halt to its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

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“Failing to act now on the most pressing security issue in the world may bring catastrophic consequences,” he warned.

Tillerson put the onus on China to use its “unique” leverage to influence its communist ally, but Beijing pushed back, arguing that it was unrealistic to expect one country to solve the conflict.

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“China is not a focal point of the problem on the peninsula and the key to solving the nuclear issue on the peninsula does not lie in the hands of the Chinese side,” Foreign Minister Wang Yi told the council.

The Security Council meeting followed weeks of warnings from the US administration that it is running out of patience with Pyongyang. President Donald Trump has warned of the risk of a “major, major conflict”.

“The threat of a North Korean nuclear attack on Seoul or Tokyo is real, and it is likely only a matter of time before North Korea develops the capability to strike the US mainland,” Tillerson said.

“All options for responding to future provocation must remain on the table,” he said.

“Diplomatic and financial levers of power will be backed up by willingness to counteract North Korean aggression with military action, if necessary.”

Watch: Rex Tillerson addresses the UN Security Council

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Russia and China made clear that a military response would be disastrous and appealed for a return to talks and de-escalation.

China’s Wang warned “the use of force does not solve differences and will only lead to bigger disasters”.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov told the council the military option was “completely unacceptable” and warned a miscalculation could have “frightening consequences”. 

A decade of sanctions

The meeting of the top UN body laid bare major differences among key powers over the way to address the North Korea crisis.

North Korea is seeking to develop a long-range missile capable of hitting the US mainland with a nuclear warhead, and has so far staged five atomic tests, two of them last year.

Over the past 11 years, the Security Council has imposed six sets of sanctions on Pyongyang – two adopted last year – to significantly ramp up pressure and deny Kim Jong-Un’s regime the hard currency revenue needed for his military programs.

But UN sanctions experts have repeatedly told the council the measures have had little impact because they have been poorly implemented.

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Tillerson called on all countries to downgrade or sever diplomatic relations with North Korea and impose targeted sanctions on entities and individuals supporting its missile and nuclear program.

The United States is ready to impose sanctions on third countries where companies or individuals are found to have helped North Korea’s military programs, he said.

Washington has repeatedly called for stronger UN sanctions, but wants China, North Korea’s main trading partner and ally, to harden its approach.

In his remarks, Tillerson said China accounts for 90 percent of North Korea’s trade and “has economic leverage over Pyongyang that is unique”, suggesting sanctions from Beijing would have a strong impact.

Beijing has rejected calls for economic pressure on Pyongyang, fearing it could destabilise North Korea, and both China and Russia argued at the UN that sanctions alone were not the answer.

Call for talks

The Chinese foreign minister pushed Beijing’s proposal for reviving talks based on a freeze of North Korea’s military programs.

He said the long-standing proposal, which involves Pyongyang freezing military programs in exchange for a halt to US-South Korean annual military drills, was “reasonable and practical”. 

“Now is the time to seriously consider talks,” said Wang.

The United States has rejected the Chinese plan and insists that North Korea first take concrete steps to show that it is ready to abandon its military programs.

Watch: China urges restraint in North Korea rhetoric

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At the end of the meeting, Tillerson again took the floor and bluntly re-asserted Washington’s stance. 

“We will not negotiate our way back to the negotiating table. We will not reward their bad behavior with talks,” he said.

The United States, Russia and China took part in six-party talks on North Korea’s denuclearization from 2003 to 2009, along with Japan, South Korea and Pyongyang.

The meeting of the top UN body comes just days after South Korea received the first deliveries of equipment for a new missile defense system from the United States that China fiercely opposes.

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Hibberd prepares for emotional AFL day

The emotional AFL matches just keep coming for Melbourne defender Michael Hibberd.

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On Monday night, the former Essendon man returned to action after 18 months out of the game in the Anzac Day eve defeat by Richmond.

And on Sunday, the former banned Bomber will face off against the players he’s shared so much with during his period out of the game at Etihad Stadium.

It has been a big fortnight for the 27-year-old who said he is embracing the different emotions.

“It was a big build-up emotionally to the game (against Richmond) after 18 months out,” he said.

“It was a relief to be able to play and perform quite well.

“You’re not sure how the game changes every year. It gets quicker and harder. So to come back and not feel too out of place was good.”

Hibberd was the only player to sign for another club during the doping ban handed down to Essendon’s class of 2012, and he’s keen for a fresh start under Melbourne senior coach Simon Goodwin – a former Bombers assistant.

He trained alongside his banned teammates during the hiatus year and remains close with many.

“I’ve been through a lot with all those guys. It will be an emotional night,” he said.

Hibberd won’t have the chance to kick to Jesse Hogan, who has been granted leave by the club following the death of his father.

But Jordan Lewis returns after a three-week ban for striking Patrick Cripps.

Between them, the Bombers and Demons have made nine changes for the match.

Melbourne talls Jake Spencer (shoulder) and Tim Smith (ribs) have joined Max Gawn (hamstring) on the sidelines, with Cameron Pedersen and Jake Watts likely to shoulder the ruck load.

Along with Lewis and Pedersen, the Demons recalled Tomas Bugg, Oscar McDonald and Mitch Hannan.

Billy Stretch and James Harmes were dropped.

The Bombers axed veteran Brent Stanton after his quiet performance in Anzac Day win over Collingwood.

Ruckman Tom Bellchambers will play his first senior game this season and the Bombers have also recalled Ben Howlett, Martin Gleeson and Conor McKenna.

James Kelly, Aaron Francis and Matthew Leuenberger were also omitted as Essendon deal with their five-day turnaround.

Tiger defence faces ultimate Crows test

Adelaide coach Don Pyke and his Richmond counterpart Damien Hardwick agree.

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Sunday’s clash between their unbeaten AFL clubs hinges mostly on one thing: Richmond’s defence.

Can the Tigers, boasting the stingiest defence in the league, contain the Crows, the competition’s highest scorers?

“Defensively we have to be on our game,” Hardwick said.

“That is where it will be won or lost. And they’re probably thinking the same thing.”

Pyke is, noting how the Tigers defend differently than other AFL outfits.

“We have got to be ready to adapt … depending on what gets presented,” Pyke said.

“They have got a very strong defensive mechanism in place.”

Many expect the fixture to provide a genuine measure as to Richmond’s improvement: are they the real deal?

“It’s a big game. You only have to look at the way Adelaide are playing,” Hardwick said.

“They are incredibly impressive … it’s going to be a significant task.

“But our boys are up for it, they’re excited about playing a really high quality side. We give ourselves every chance.”

But Hardwick finds it hard to pinpoint any weakness in the Crows.

“You have got to have the ability to win the ball inside, because they’re very good at it,” he said.

“But you also have to spread that to an outside game, which they’re also very good at.

“We have to make sure we get enough numbers around the contest. But then defensively have a good balance around the contest as well.

“If you allow them to play with speed, they’re going to hurt you. So we have to slow them down as much as we can.

“In theory, it seems like a relatively simple concept.”

North Korea test-fires ballistic missile

North Korea test-fired a ballistic missile from an area north of Pyongyang Saturday, a news agency report said, but it failed seconds after it was launched.

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The test comes with tensions high on the Korean peninsula, with this the latest in a series of missile launches by the North and warnings from US President Donald Trump’s administration that it was running out of patience.

“North Korea fired an unidentified missile from a site in the vicinity of Bukchang in Pyeongannam-do [South Pyeongan Province] early this morning,” Yonhap reported, quoting a statement issued by South Korea’s military.

“It is estimated to have failed.”

In Washington, a US defense official confirmed to AFP that North Korea had test fired some kind of missile.

The report added that the missile “apparently exploded seconds after liftoff”.

Seoul was analysing the type and flight distance of the projectile.

President Donald Trump on Friday assailed North Korea’s latest launch as a show of disrespect toward its ally China.

“North Korea disrespected the wishes of China & its highly respected President when it launched, though unsuccessfully, a missile today. Bad!” Trump wrote on Twitter a few hours after the failed launch.

North Korea disrespected the wishes of China & its highly respected President when it launched, though unsuccessfully, a missile today. Bad!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 28, 2017

The North has been ratcheting up tensions for months with a series of missile launches, including a volley of rockets in early March which saw three fall provocatively close to Japan. 

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At the time, Pyongyang said it was a drill for an attack on US bases in Japan.

The surge in tensions has rattled China, especially with Trump’s repeated insistence that the US would take on North Korea alone if Beijing fails to curb Pyongyang’s provocative behaviour.

At UN Security Council on Friday, Washington pushed for tougher sanctions to confront the North Korean threat, piling pressure on China to rein in its ally while warning it was keeping military options “on the table”.

Addressing the UN Security Council for the first time, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called for a global campaign of pressure to force Pyongyang to change course and put a halt to its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

“Failing to act now on the most pressing security issue in the world may bring catastrophic consequences,” he warned.

Tillerson put the onus on China to use its “unique” leverage to influence its communist ally, but Beijing pushed back, arguing that it was unrealistic to expect one country to solve the conflict.

Watch: South Korea criticises North’s ‘vicious cycle’

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China’s patience with Pyongyang has clearly worn extremely thin and – despite their historically close relations – Kim Jong-Un has yet to visit Beijing, more than five years after inheriting power from his father.

But China is reluctant to squeeze the unpredictable North too hard and risk triggering a confrontation or a regime collapse that could send a massive outflow of refugees into its territory – and see US troops on its border in a unified Korea.

Since taking power in 2011, Kim has stepped up a push to upgrade the North’s weapons, and said in a New Year’s address hat Pyongyang was in the “final stages” of developing an intercontinental ballistic missile. 

Analysts are divided over how close Pyongyang is to realising its full nuclear ambitions, but all agree it has made enormous strides under Kim’s leadership.

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Apology for Labor MP Anne Aly over ‘fake’ Anzac Day claims

Australia’s first female Muslim MP, Anne Aly, has received an apology over allegations she refused to lay a wreath at an Anzac Day service in Perth.

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The unsubstantiated claim was circulated by Kim Vuga, from the ‘Love Australia or Leave Party’, alleging the Labor MP would not present the wreath at the Wanneroo service.

Dr Aly’s Facebook page was then inundated with a series of posts demanding she explain the alleged indiscretion.

The Labor MP explained she had in fact attended the Ballajura service, where she laid a wreath and made a speech. She denounced the claims as false.

Dr Aly told SBS News she was insulted by the allegation she refused to lay a wreath given she had a strong relationship with the RSL and a high regard for serving and ex-service men and women.

“I also thought it was absolutely disgusting that people would use Anzac Day to further their political and social agenda,” she said.

Listen: Anne Aly responds to claims she refused to lay a wreath at Anzac Day service

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It was “obvious” why she was attacked, the MP said.

“I have a staff member who’s worked with different members for about 20 years, and she said in 20 years I’ve never heard anyone – anyone – questioned about whether or not they attended an Anzac Day ceremony or whether or not they laid a wreath,” Dr Aly said.

“I think anyone with any kind of insight can see that (religion) was one of the big things.”

Ms Vuga apologised to Dr Aly on Friday afternoon, acknowledging the claims caused the MP a “great deal of stress and negative feedback from the public”.

“I should have confirmed and checked the facts personally with Anne Aly given my post was posted late that day after the Anzac commemorations,” Ms Vuga said in a Facebook post.

“I take full responsibility in posting Gary’s post to my Facebook page and sincerely apologise to Anne for any stress caused and time taken away from her busy schedule.”

Kim Vuga’s Facebook post apologising to MP Anne Aly.Facebook

Earlier, Dr Aly said she would receive any apology graciously.

“I have no reason to doubt that it would be sincere, and I hope that it doesn’t happen again,” Dr Aly said.

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From one radical environment to another (2016)

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