Opinion: US ratcheting up the pressure on N Korea - and China - with good reason

The mechanical, electrical or computer systems fault which caused a North Korean ballistic missile to explode soon after take-off last Sunday is a king-sized embarrassment for the emperor-sized ego of Kim Jong-un, North Korea's loathsome despot.

The failure of the missile test has altered the dynamics of the high-stakes contest in nuclear brinkmanship. It has deflated the hollow boasting of Kim's regime and its ridiculous claim that its armed forces have the capacity to "destroy" the military might of the United States.

It buys more time to explore the, so far, slim chances of finding some way of initiating much-needed negotiations between the protagonists.

Source: 1 NEWS

The missile launch was provocatively timed to coincide with the visit to  South Korea of American vice-president Mike Pence.

It was intended to display the rapid progress that North Korea claims it is making in developing a reliable long-range ballistic missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead.

The missile's failure to make it much further than its launch pad suggested otherwise.

That perception was heightened by suspicion that supposedly new missiles unveiled with great pageantry in a Pyongyang street parade the day before were simply mock-ups, produced for the cameras of the large contingent of foreign media flown in to observe the show of force.

It is highly conceivable, however, that the explosion was the result of a successful cyber-attack conducted by the Pentagon.

A recent investigation conducted by the New York Times found that back in 2014, then president Barack Obama ordered defence officials to step up their cyber and electronic strikes against Kim's missile programme and sabotage test launches in their opening seconds.

His successor has given no hint that cyber warfare is still being mounted on North Korea. If the sabotage was continuing when he took office, it would be most surprising if Donald Trump has halted it.

The new incumbent in the White House has not been so reticent when it comes to verbal assaults on Kim's regime.

Trump's language may seem reckless. The risk of war would seem to have ratcheted upwards accordingly.

It would seem to be a time for cool heads and calm statements.

Instead Trump and senior figures in his administration have been engaged in a game of "anything you can say, I can say tougher" with Kim.

The stances taken by Trump and Obama are not that different, however. That is because a fundamental bottom-line applies regardless of who holds the keys to the Oval Office.

That bottom-line decrees that no foreign regime as rogue as Kim's can be allowed to possess a nuclear weapon capable of reaching the continental United States.

Kim may still be some way from fulfilling that objective. But any American president who allows him to do so will be dead meat as far as voters will be concerned.

It has fallen on Trump's watch to deal with the problem - and for keeps.

In Pence's unambiguous summation,  "the era of strategic patience is over".

Trump, Pence and other senior administration figures are taking a punt on Kim not mounting an attack on South Korea.

It is a pretty safe punt. The assumption is that Kim is consumed by survival - and the fastest means of jeopardising that is to get into shoot-out where the bullets are real, not verbal.

That still leaves the question at the very heart of the showdown unanswered: how do you get Kim to drop his nuclear ambitions?

If there is no other option and it comes down to a military strike on Kim's nuclear facilities, then that option has to remain on the table.

But the priority is to open negotiations.

Pence's statement that the patience of the United States and its regional allies had run out was directed as much in China's direction as Kim's.

As evident during Trump's recent summit with President Xi Jinping, Washington has to be very careful not to be seen to be pressuring China to start exerting the undoubted leverage it enjoys in its dealings with North Korea.

The delivery of the message may thus be necessarily subtle, but its content is blunt: if Beijing refuses to do anything to curt Kim's nuclear ambitions, then Washington will.

If China abdicates its regional responsibilities, its inaction would risk the very things it wishes to avoid coming to fruition.

Namely, war on its doorstep, the collapse of North Korea's already miserably-performing economy and the likelihood of a major disruption of trade, plus the downstream recessionary consequences flowing from that. And that's just for starters.

Winston Churchill famously proclaimed that "to jaw-jaw is always better than to war-war".

Trump's handling of the crisis on the Korean peninsular is a variant on that theme. That talking war-war is sometimes the only means of getting those scrapping with each other to jaw-jaw.

There are fears a misstep by the North or US President Donald Trump could causes disaster. Source: 1 NEWS

The person is fighting for their life after a major smash on SH6 near Inangahua.
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Auckland woman admits pimping out 14-year-old girl for sex

A 19-year-old woman has admitted pimping out a 14-year-old, accepting money from the client, and driving the girl to and from hotels around downtown Auckland.

Monoka Kelly appeared at the High Court in Auckland this morning where she pleaded guilty to a representative charge of sexually exploiting a 14-year-old girl.

Kelly's charge covers four occasions in March and April last year.

According to the summary of facts, she set up a profile for the 14-year-old on a smartphone app used by prostitutes.

The 19-year-old solo mother took the girl to the hotels and then received payment from the client by way of internet bank transfers.

Some of the money went to the 14-year-old.

Kelly was due to go on trial next week but this morning's guilty plea means the trial is not necessary.

Justice Downs remanded her on bail but said there was every prospect she would face a lengthy prison term when she appeared for sentence in November.


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Hamilton high school principal slammed for speech saying truants were highly likely to become rape victims

A Hamilton high school principal has been condemned for a speech in which she said truants were highly likely to end up in prison, be illiterate, a rape victim or commit suicide.

A student secretly recorded the school assembly speech by Fraser High School principal Virginia Crawford and uploaded it to YouTube.

In the speech, Crawford called any truant a “statistic of the worst kind".

"Highly likely to go to prison, either commit domestic violence or be a victim of domestic violence, be illiterate, be a rape victim, be a suicide victim, be unemployed for the majority of their life, have a major health problem, die at an early age, have an addiction, gambling, drugs or smoking,” she said.

"When I drive out of school during class time for meetings, and I see groups of students sitting outside the dairy, fish and chip shop, bus stop, some of the things I am thinking is that is another group of students without a future.

"That is another student who will end up as a statistic, that's another loser, that's another wannabe. Another student desperate for friendship, another we've lost."

She urged students to work hard in school to make better lives for themselves.

One parent commented on the YouTube video, saying they would pull their daughter out of the school.

“This is actually quite disturbing, I'm seriously concerned as my daughter attends this school. Yes she's had days off school, and there's been a time I've forgotten to call...... But wen u say such things like this?” the parent wrote.

“You have failed my daughter as an educator, you have failed the system, my daughter hasn't failed as a student and I haven't failed as a parent. This revolting tormenting speech has only proven that YOU madam principal are the FAILURE in this matter. Disgusting inappropriate accusations. I'm pulling my daughter out until you are replaced.”

Another commenter said his stepson would no longer attend Fraser High School after hearing the speech.

“I'm glad too (sic) say that my wife's son…will no longer be attending 'fraser high school'. After seeing this speech I was literally shaking, this kind of offensive culture should not be permitted in New Zealand,” he wrote.

Board of Trustees parent representative Milton Ngaruhe told Stuff that he had been sent messages about the speech, but hadn't had parents complain to him about it. 

"Personally I haven't had a chance to listen to more than a minute of the video and there is a process that we go through."1

1 NEWS has tried to contact the school. 

A child at school.

1080 case goes to Māori Land Court as two Northland men challenge DOC's right to drop on Russell State Forest

Two Northland men challenging DOC's right to drop 1080 on Russell State Forest say it needs to show it has consent from Māori and the community.

Riki Ngakoti and Hayward Brown have applied to the Māori Land Court for an injunction to stop the pesticide drop that's set to happen in the next fortnight.

Auckland opponents of 1080 trying to stop a drop in the Hunua Ranges, have taken their case to the Environment Court.

But Mr Ngakoti said he had sought advice from the Tikanga Māori Law Society and believed the Māori Land Court had jurisdiction.

"There will be arguments by the settlers of New Zealand - our fellow Kiwis - and government officials, that the Department of Conservation manages Crown land. We had that argument from the court when we applied, but we...interpret that land to be Māori customary land."

Mr Ngakoti said he and Mr Brown were not so much anti-1080 as anti-risk and DOC had not provided a forum in which that risk could be publicly evaluated and debated.

"We have tried to do a bit of research but some of the risks we haven't been able to satisfy ourselves about are the effect of 1080 on the environment below the ground... the micro-organisms, the works, the bugs - there hasn't been thorough research."

The Māori Land Court will hold the injunction hearing on Monday in Whangarei.

Meanwhile the lawyer acting for the Auckland 1080 opponents, Sue Grey, said further court challenges to the use of 1080 were inevitable.

"There has been no forum for public conversation and it got much worse last year when the former Minister for the Environment Nick Smith passed...regulations exempting 1080 from all the usual resource consent processes.

"You need resource consent if you want to extend your fence - but DOC doesn't have to get a consent or have any public consultation for dropping poison into public areas."

That had led to a build-up of pressure because people had genuine concerns and nowhere to air them, she said.

DOC has linked the anti-1080 spam campaign on Facebook to threats against its staff, based on misinformation about the toxin

But Ms Grey said she stood by her advice to 1080 opponents to use social media to promote their cause.

"I would never advocate any threats or violence. My view is that the court processes are there and we need to use them and that's what I encourage my clients to do."

Ms Grey said there had been a lot of allegations made about threats but she had her doubts.

"I've just seen an OIA response from the police and it seems that very few of those alleged incidents did happen," she said.

"There seems to be a pattern of exaggeration of these threats."

However DOC and Forest and Bird sources told RNZ there had been very serious threats made and staff were worried.

By Lois Williams


Source: rnz.co.nz