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In South Sudan, a new approach in ending child soldiers’ use

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In South Sudan a new approach in ending child soldiers use

JUBA, South Sudan (AP) — After coming face to face with “unpredictable” gun-waving children almost 25 years ago, the former commander of the failed U.N. peacekeeping mission during the Rwandan genocide dedicated his life to eliminating the use of children as weapons of war.

In an interview with The Associated Press in civil war-torn South Sudan, Romeo Dallaire, who is widely known for warning the U.N. about Rwanda’s massacre in 1994, said the current approach to combatting child soldier recruitment is not “sufficient.” Local security forces must be part of the solution, he said.

“My personal experiences of having to negotiate with, having to face children with weapons … may not have been the right way of doing it,” Dallaire said.

His visit marked the launch of a three-year-program by the Canada-based Romeo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative. The $2.2 million project funded by Global Affairs Canada aims to work with at least 1,200 South Sudanese soldiers, police and prison personnel. The first round of training will include 50 senior army officers.

With 19,000 children associated with armed groups, South Sudan has one of the world’s highest rates of child soldiers, according to the U.N.

Almost 6,000 child soldiers were recruited by government and opposition forces in the past four years of fighting, according to a U.N. report released in September.

“The figures are unacceptably high,” Virginia Gamba, the new U.N. chief for children and armed conflict, said during a recent visit.

South Sudan leads the world with the highest number of child soldiers released, but rapid rates of recruitment are stifling progress. In the last two years UNICEF facilitated the release of over 900 child soldiers yet more than 1,650 children were recruited by armed groups over approximately the same period, according to the U.N.

“These kids’ families were poor when they left and they’re still poor when they go back, so kids return to the army once released,” William Deng Deng, chairman for South Sudan’s national disarmament, demobilization and reintegration commission, told AP. While it’s not government policy to recruit children, Deng said it happens because youth socialize with armed groups in their communities.

In an attempt to break this cycle, the Dallaire initiative keeps in mind the realities that both soldiers and children face in conflict. By providing guidance to soldiers on how to interact with children in specific scenarios, the training focuses on behavior change, said Shelly Whitman, the executive director.

“We don’t come in to do the finger-pointing. We come in to say, ‘How can we help change that?’” Whitman said.

One expert said that while persuading armed groups not to recruit children is an important step, the issue can only be addressed as part of a broader protection strategy.

“That’s the mistake that international donor governments continue to make, to believe that complex development challenges like the phenomena of child soldiers can be addressed with one-off interventions and innovations over a short funding cycle. It can’t,” said Samantha Nutt, founder of War Child USA, an organization that supports children and families in war zones.

The Dallaire initiative comes during South Sudan’s latest fragile attempt at peace, with opposition leader Riek Machar once again to serve as President Salva Kiir’s deputy in their third attempt at working together since the country gained independence in 2011.

Dallaire said he hopes his initiative, which already operates in several countries and plans to launch in Nigeria, Sudan and Congo, will advance the peace efforts. He said any force in South Sudan that even considers working with child soldiers should instead see children as a “liability to their engagement in the peace process.”

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Foreign Affairs

Hong Kong is ‘going to be a bloodbath’ as Beijing issues final warning

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Hong Kong is going to be a bloodbath as Beijing issues final warning

State-run Chinese media sent its harshest warning yet to millions of protesters in Hong Kong today, saying they are “asking for self-destruction.” The implication is clear: Disperse and stand down or the death that follows from the Chinese military will be on the victims, at least from Beijing’s perspective. Calling it “self destruction” means the Chinese government has wiped its hands clean of any responsibility for the carnage that’s about to take place.

As long as reports are coming in from Hong Kong, there is still hope to avert a massive military suppression of protesters who have been engaged in anti-government activities for weeks. Their latest “victory” was to shut down Hong Kong’s airport. Now, videos of military vehicles are being spread openly across Hong Kong along with the warning from Beijing.

“It’s going to be a bloodbath,” said a U.S. government official who declined to be named. But her concerns are were clear after seeing intelligence reports of China amassing military vehicles near Hong Kong.

In a Tuesday social media post from the Global Times‘ Chinese edition, the outlet said “if Hong Kong rioters cannot read the signal of having armed police gathering in Shenzhen, then they are asking for self-destruction,” according to a CNBC translation.

Keep a close eye on Hong Kong. If this turns south, as it appears to be in the process of doing, the international outcry will rightly be harsh. But China has been more patient than some had expected. It seems their patience is at an end.

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South Korea to pay U.S. more in joint defense efforts against North Korea

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South Korea to pay US more in joint defense efforts against North Korea

Early Wednesday morning, President Trump Tweeted news that nobody had been talking about before he broke it. South Korea, one of our strongest allies in Asia and the neighbor to our enemies in North Korea, will be paying more to the United States to defend its borders, according to the President’s Tweets.

The news comes following further provocations by North Korea, who has launched missiles on three separate occasions over the last week and half in what they’re calling a warning to the United States and South Korea. This may have spooked the South Koreans to request more defense assets from the United States, which President Trump parlayed into more money paid in exchange.

Meanwhile, China has been keeping relatively quiet regarding their North Korean ally. The United Nations has been calling on China to help rein in Kim Jong un, North Korea’s bombastic and unpredictable young leader. But there have been no indications Beijing has done anything to keep Kim in check. If anything, he has been more aggressive in recent weeks than usual.

It’s another foreign policy win for the President, who has suffered some setbacks with North Korea pretending to play ball only to take the ball away at the last minute on two separate occasions. This change in direction by President Trump is warranted.

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Seoul: North Korea launches 2 short-range ballistic missiles

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Seoul North Korea launches 2 short-range ballistic missiles

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — South Korea’s military said North Korea conducted its second weapons test in less than a week Wednesday, firing two short-range ballistic missiles off its east coast in a move observers said could be aimed at boosting pressure on the United States as the rivals struggle to set up fresh nuclear talks.

South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement that the missiles were launched from Wonsan, a city the North pushes as a vacation destination but that it also uses as a regular launch site.

It said both missiles were believed to have flown about 250 kilometers (155 miles) at a maximum altitude of 30 kilometers (19 miles), and that the South Korean and U.S. militaries were trying to gather more details.

The test, which would be yet another North Korean violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions, comes as the country’s negotiations with the U.S. over its nuclear weapons program are at a stalemate and as Pyongyang has expressed anger over planned U.S.-South Korean military drills.

“The North’s repeated missile launches are not helpful to efforts to ease tensions on the Korean Peninsula, and we urge (North Korea) to stop this kind of behavior,” the South Korean statement said.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told reporters that the launches were “no threat to Japanese national security.”

Last Thursday, North Korea fired two short-range ballistic missiles that Seoul officials said flew 600 kilometers (370 miles) and as high as 50 kilometers (30 miles) before landing in the sea.

North Korea’s state media said those tests were supervised by leader Kim Jong Un and were designed to deliver a “solemn warning” to South Korea over its purchase of high-tech U.S.-made fighter jets and the planned military drills, which Pyongyang calls an invasion rehearsal.

Even though North Korea is banned by the U.N. from using ballistic technology in any weapons launches, it’s unlikely that the nation, already under 11 rounds of U.N. sanctions, will be hit with more punitive measures. Past sanctions were imposed only when the North conducted long-range ballistic launches.

Japanese Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya told reporters Wednesday that the most recently launched weapons did not reach Japan’s exclusive economic zone and that officials were still analyzing details, including the flight distance and trajectory.

“It is extremely regrettable that North Korea continues firing the missiles that violate the U.N. resolutions,” Iwaya said.

Hua Chunying, a spokeswoman from the Chinese foreign ministry, said that China noted the launches and the responses of all sides, and that the “political settlement on the (Korean) Peninsula is currently in a critical stage.” China is North Korea’s most important economic and diplomatic ally.

“We hope that all parties concerned will cherish the hard-won alleviations and jointly make positive efforts to promote denuclearization and realize lasting peace on the peninsula and in the region,” Hua told reporters at a daily news briefing.

Observers say a low altitude flight by the missiles indicate North Korea may have been testing their ability to avoid being intercepted.

Earlier last week, Kim visited a newly built submarine and expressed his satisfaction with its weapons system. North Korea said its deployment was “near at hand.”

In a private briefing to lawmakers Wednesday, South Korean military intelligence officers said they’ve determined that the submarine likely has three launch tubes for missiles, according to Lee Hye-hoon, head of parliament’s intelligence committee. If confirmed, it would be North Korea’s first operational submarine with missile launch tubes, some experts said.

North Korea acquiring the ability to launch missiles from submarines would be an alarming development because such missiles are harder to detect in advance. Experts say the submarine North Korea used to test-fire missiles in recent years should be regarded as a test platform with a single launch tube. They say other North Korean submarines only have torpedo launch tubes.

Wednesday’s launches came hours after a senior U.S. official said President Donald Trump sent Kim mementos from his brief visit to an inter-Korean border town late last month.

The official said a top staffer from the National Security Council hand-delivered photographs from the leaders’ June meeting at the Korean Demilitarized Zone to a North Korean official last week. The Trump administration official spoke on the condition of anonymity because the official wasn’t authorized to speak publicly.

The DMZ meeting was the third summit between Trump and Kim. At their second meeting, in Vietnam in February, Trump rejected Kim’s demand for widespread sanctions relief in return for dismantling the North’s main nuclear complex, a partial disarmament step.

During the DMZ meeting, Trump and Kim agreed to resume nuclear diplomacy in coming weeks, but there hasn’t been any known meeting between the countries.

Speaking to reporters accompanying him to an Asian security forum in Thailand, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he’s “very hopeful” for a quick resumption in the nuclear talks.

Despite a recent lack of progress in nuclear diplomacy, both Trump and Kim have said they have maintained good relations with each other. After last Thursday’s missile launches, Trump tried to downplay the significance of the tests, saying that “short-range” was the most important detail. He said North Korea fired “standard” missiles that many countries possess.

South Korea’s military said the flight data of the weapon launched last week showed similarities to the Russian-made Iskander, a short-range, nuclear-capable missile. A North Korean version could likely reach all of South Korea — and the 28,500 U.S. forces stationed there — and would be extremely hard to intercept.

Before last week’s launches, North Korea last fired missiles into the sea in early May, and experts said those were also Iskander-like missiles. During Wednesday’s briefing, the South Korean military intelligence officers said that an analysis of North Korea-dispatched photos showed that the North fired four missiles on two days, according to Lee, the lawmaker. South Korea earlier said the North fired a total of three missiles at the time.

After entering talks with Washington, North Korea has suspended nuclear and long-range missile tests, and Trump has said that is proof that his North Korea policy is working well and has eased the danger of a war with the North.

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Associated Press journalists Zeke Miller in Washington, Matthew Lee in Bangkok and Mari Yamaguchi in Tokyo contributed to this report.

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