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Archive for November 27th, 2010

US briefs allies about next WikiLeaks release

Posted by Admin on November 27, 2010

Julian Assange, WikiLeaks, at New Media Days 09

Julian Assange Founder - WikiLeaks

By JILL LAWLESS, Associated Press – 2 hrs 46 mins ago

LONDON – U.S. allies around the world have been briefed by American diplomats about an expected release of classified U.S. files by the WikiLeaks website that is likely to cause international embarrassment and could damage some nations’ relations with the United States.

The release of hundreds of thousands of State Department cables is expected this weekend, although WikiLeaks has not been specific about the timing. The cables are thought to include private, candid assessments of foreign leaders and governments and could erode trust in the U.S. as a diplomatic partner.

In Britain, Prime Minister David Cameron‘s spokesman, Steve Field, said Friday that the government had been told of “the likely content of these leaks” by U.S. Ambassador Louis Susman. Field declined to say what Britain had been warned to expect.

“I don’t want to speculate about precisely what is going to be leaked before it is leaked,” Field said.

In Washington, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said U.S. diplomats were continuing the process of warning governments around the world about what might be in the documents. Many fear the cables will embarrass the United States and its allies, and reveal sensitive details of how the U.S. conducts relations with other countries.

“We are all bracing for what may be coming and condemn WikiLeaks for the release of classified material,” he said. “It will place lives and interests at risk. It is irresponsible.”

The Obama administration on Friday warned that the WikiLeaksrelease would endanger “lives and interests.”

Italy’s foreign minister, Franco Frattini, said he spoke Friday with the U.S. State Department, which told him that there would be documents regarding Italy in the leak, “but the content can’t be anticipated.”

“We’re talking about thousands and thousands of classified documents that the U.S. will not comment on, as is their custom,” Frattini said.

The governments of Canada and Norway also said they had been briefed by U.S. officials. Israel’s Foreign Ministry declined to comment on a report that it, too, had been informed.

In Iraq, U.S. Ambassador James F. Jeffrey told reporters that the leaks represent a serious obstacle to international diplomacy.

“We are worried about additional documents coming out,” he said. “WikiLeaks are an absolutely awful impediment to my business, which is to be able to have discussions in confidence with people. I do not understand the motivation for releasing these documents. They will not help, they will simply hurt our ability to do our work here.”

In Norway, U.S. officials released a statement from the ambassador to the newspaper Dagbladet with the understanding that it would not be published until after the WikiLeaks material came out, but the newspaper published the material ahead of time.

It quoted U.S. Ambassador to Norway Barry White saying that, while he could not vouch for the authenticity of the documents, he expected them to contain U.S. officials’ candid assessments of political leaders and political movements in other countries. He said diplomats had to be able to have private, honest discussions to do their jobs.

The Obama administration said earlier this week that it had alerted Congress and begun notifying foreign governments that the whistle-blowing website is preparing to release a huge cache of diplomatic cables whose publication could give a behind-the-scenes look at American diplomacy around the world.

“These revelations are harmful to the United States and our interests,” U.S. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said. “They are going to create tension in relationships between our diplomats and our friends around the world.”

Diplomatic cables are internal documents that would include a range of secret communications between U.S. diplomatic outposts and State Department headquarters in Washington.

WikiLeaks has said the release will be seven times the size of its October leak of 400,000 Iraq war documents, already the biggest leak in U.S. intelligence history.

The U.S. says it has known for some time that WikiLeaks held the diplomatic cables. No one has been charged with passing them to the website, but suspicion focuses on U.S. Army Pfc. Bradley Manning, an intelligence analyst arrested in Iraq in June and charged over an earlier leak.

Frattini, the Italian foreign minister, said Friday that he had been “told that the person responsible for this leak has been arrested.” The Italian Foreign Ministry later said Frattini was talking about Manning.

WikiLeaks, which also has released secret U.S. documents about the war in Afghanistan, was founded byJulian Assange.

The Australian former computer hacker is currently wanted by Sweden for questioning in a drawn-out rape probe. Assange, 39, is suspected of rape, sexual molestation and unlawful coercion. He has denied the allegations, which stem from his encounters with two women during a visit to Sweden.

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AP writers Rebecca Santana in Baghdad, Matthew Lee in Washington, and Bjoern H. Amland in Oslo contributed to this report.

 

 

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Defiant North Korea fires artillery warning shots

Posted by Admin on November 27, 2010

YEONPYEONG ISLAND, South Korea – A defiant flash of North Korean artillery within sight of the island that it attacked this week sent a warning signal to Seoul and Washington: The North is not backing down.

The apparent military drill Friday came as the top U.S. commander in South Korea toured Yeonpyeong island to survey the wreckage from the rain of artillery three days earlier. As a U.S. nuclear-powered aircraft carrier headed toward the Yellow Sea for exercises next week with South Korea, the North warned that the joint maneuvers will push the Korean peninsula to the “brink of war.”

South Korea’s government, meanwhile, struggled to recoup from the surprise attacks that killed four people, including two civilians, and forced its beleaguered defense minister to resign Thursday. President Lee Myung-bak on Friday named a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to the post.

Tensions have soared between the Koreas since the North’s strike Tuesday destroyed large parts of Yeonpyeong in a major escalation of their sporadic skirmishes along the disputed sea border.

The attack — eight months after a torpedo sank a South Korean warship, killing 46 sailors — has laid bare Seoul’s weaknesses in defense 60 years after the Korean War. Lee has ordered reinforcements for the 4,000 troops on Yeonpyeong and four other Yellow Sea islands, as well as top-level weaponry and upgraded rules of engagement.

The heightened animosity between the Koreas comes as the North undergoes a delicate transition of power from leader Kim Jong Il to his young, inexperienced son Kim Jong Un, who is in his late 20s and is expected to eventually succeed his ailing father.

Washington and Seoul have pressed China to use its influence on Pyongyang to ease tensions amid worries of all-out war. A dispatch Friday from Chinese state media saying Beijing’s foreign minister had met the North Korean ambassador appeared to be an effort to trumpet China’s role as a responsible actor and placate the U.S. and the South.

The North sees the U.S.-South Korean drills scheduled to start Sunday as a major military provocation. Pyongyang unleashed its anger over the planned exercises in a dispatch earlier Friday.

“The situation on the Korean peninsula is inching closer to the brink of war,” the report in the North’s official Korean Central News Agency said.

A North Korean official boasted that Pyongyang’s military “precisely aimed and hit the enemy artillery base” as punishment for South Korean military drills — a reference to Tuesday’s attack — and warned of another “shower of dreadful fire,” KCNA reported.

China expressed worry over any war games in waters within its exclusive economic zone, though the statement on the Foreign Ministry website didn’t mention the drills starting Sunday. That zone extends 230 miles (370 kilometers) from China’s coast and includes areas south of Yeonpyeong cited for possible maneuvers, although the exact location of the drills is not known.

North Korea does not recognize the maritime border drawn by the U.N. in 1953, and considers the waters around Yeonpyeong Island its territory.

Yeonpyeong Island, home to South Korean military bases as well as a civilian population of about 1,300 people, lies only seven miles (11 kilometers) from North Korean shores.

The U.S. commander in South Korea, Gen. Walter Sharp, said during a visit to the island that Tuesday’s attack was a clear violation of the armistice signed at the end of the three-year Korean War.

“We at United Nations Command will investigate this completely and call on North Korea to stop any future attacks,” he said.

Washington keeps more than 28,000 troops in South Korea to protect its ally — a sore point for North Korea, which cites the U.S. presence as the main reason behind its drive to build nuclear weapons.

Dressed in a heavy camouflage jacket, army fatigues and a black beret, Sharp carefully stepped down a devastated street strewn with debris and broken glass. Around him were charred bicycles and shattered bottles of soju, Korean rice liquor.

On Friday, Associated Press photographers at an observation point on the northwest side of Yeonpyeong heard explosions and saw at least one flash of light on the North Korean mainland.

There were no immediate reports of damage. Only a few dozen residents remain on Yeonpyeong, with most of its population fleeing in the hours and days after the attack as authorities urged them to evacuate.

Many houses were burned out, half-collapsed or flattened, and the streets were littered with shattered windows, bent metal and other charred wreckage. Several stray dogs barked as they sat near destroyed houses. South Korean marines carrying M-16 rifles patrolled along a seawall at dawn.

About 200 South Koreans held a rally Friday in Seoul to denounce the government’s response to the attack as too weak. Similar recriminations have come from opposition lawmakers and even members of Lee’s own party, leading to the resignation of Defense Minister Kim Tae-young on Thursday.

There also has been intense criticism that Yeonpyeong was unprepared for the attack and that the return fire came too slowly. Lee named former Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Kim Kwan-jin to the post, the president’s office said Friday.

While there is some shock at the extent of the damage the North Koreans were able to inflict, most South Koreans want the threat to be contained, not aggravated, and the government response has been muted and cautious, following an initial angry threat from Lee.

The president, dressed in a black suit, visited a military hospital in Seongnam near Seoul on Friday to pay his respects to the two marines killed in the North Korean attack.

Lee laid a white chrysanthemum, a traditional symbol of grief, on an altar, burned incense and bowed before framed photos of the two young men. Consoling sobbing family members, he vowed to build a stronger defense.

“I will make sure that this precious sacrifice will lay the foundation for the strong security of the Republic of Korea,” he wrote in a condolence book, according to his office.

South Korea assured a meeting of the European Olympic Committees on Friday that it would be able to ensure security at the 2018 Winter Games if it’s picked. The Pyeongchang 2018 bid committee presented its case Friday in Belgrade.

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Foster Klug reported from Seoul. AP writers Christopher Bodeen in Beijing and Kwang-tae Kim, Kelly Olsen and Jean H. Lee in Seoul also contributed to this report.

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