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South Korea says slain man tried to defect to North Korea

SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea said Tuesday that a government official slain by North Korean sailors wanted to defect, concluding that the man, who had gambling debts, swam against unfavorable currents with the help of a life jacket and a floatation device and conveyed his intention of resettling in North Korea.

Senior coast guard officer Yoon Seong-hyun said at a televised briefing that there was a “very low possibility” that the man could have fallen from a ship or tried to kill himself because he was putting on a life jacket when he was found in North Korean waters last week.

Yoon said tidal currents at the time would also make it extremely difficult for him to drift into North Korean waters naturally.

The coast guard said its assessment was based on an analysis of tidal currents in the area, a visit to a government boat the official had been aboard before his disappearance, investigation of his financial transactions and a meeting with South Korean Defense Ministry officials.

Yoon said the man conveyed his wish to defect before his death. He cited intelligence showing North Korea knew the man’s name, age, height and hometown as an evidence of his communication with the North.

Yoon didn’t elaborate. But some experts said he likely was referring to South Korea’s interception of communications among North Korean officials about the man.

Coast guard officials have previously said the 47-year-old official was a father of two with some debts. Yoon said Tuesday the debts totaled about 330 million won ($282,240), 80% of which were from gambling.

It’s still unclear whether Tuesday’s announcement would sooth mounting questions about why the man was in North Korean waters. The brother of the late official has said it was more likely that he fell into the sea by accident. The official had been aboard a government inspection ship before he disappeared.

South Korea has accused North Korea of having fatally shot him and burning his body. North Korea acknowledged that its troops killed him because he refused to answer to questions and attempted to flee. But North Korea said its troops only burned the man’s floatation device.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has offered a rare apology over the man’s death, but his government hasn’t confirmed the man was trying to defect.

The man’s shooting has triggered a huge political firestorm in South Korea, with conservatives launching fierce political attacks on liberal President Moon Jae-in, who espouses greater ties with the North.

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North Korea news: Kim Jong-un troops to shoot anyone by Chinese border over Covid-19 | World | News

The draconian move is being introduced in a bid to stop the spread of COVID-19. Until recently North Korea denied having any cases of coronavirus.

However last month dictator Kim Jong-un admitted it “could have entered” the country.

News of the news of the new policy was given to Radio Free Asia by multiple sources within North Korea.

A resident of the country’s Hamgyong province said they’d been told the policy “will be in effect along the entire North Korea-China border until the coronavirus pandemic ends”.

They explained: “Police in the city of Hoeryong issued an emergency notice from the Ministry of Social Security, saying they would kill anyone within a kilometre of the North Korea-China border regardless of their reason for being there.

“After announcing the declaration, the police department told the public, ‘The coronavirus has spread everywhere except our country, so the enemy is trying to infiltrate the border by sending the virus across it’.

“They stressed the need to raise awareness among the border area residents and establish a system to report strangers and activities of the enemy.”

The ban applied to the entire 880-mile North Korean/Chinese border which extends across four provinces.

Whilst North Korea hasn’t officially declared any Covid-19 cases last month the city of Kaesong was put into lockdown for three weeks after a suspected case was detected.

READ MORE: North Korea crisis – Kim Jong-un bracing for huge typhoon in just hours

Earlier this week photos were released were released by the state controlled Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) which appeared to show Kim Jong-un attending a politiburo meeting to discuss the Covid-19 crisis.

The politburo, which controls the state sanctioned Korean Workers Party, is North Korea’s de facto governing body.

Former South Korean diplomat Chang Song-min had earlier suggested Kim could be in a coma with his sister Kim Yo-jong being groomed for leadership.

He said: “I assess him to be in a coma, but his life has not ended.

“A complete succession structure has not been formed, so Kim Yo-jong is being brought to the fore as the vacuum cannot be maintained for a prolonged period.”

However Shinmoongo, a leading South Korean news site, attacked his allegations as “absurd”.

A North Korean military source also confirmed the new policy to RFA.

They said: “At around 5:00 p.m. on the 25th, an urgent telegram from the Supreme Command came in telling the military to kill anyone within a kilometre of the border regardless of the reason.

“The emergency message goes into effect from midnight on the 26th,” the second source said.

“The emergency order stipulates that soldiers on border guard duty will leave behind their blank shots and carry only live ammunition.”

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Chaos between North and South Korea sees Kim Jong Un’s sister emerge stronger than ever

Kim applauded these athletes alongside dignitaries like Moon, US Vice President Mike Pence and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. It was a tremendous photo op. But a trip to the Blue House, South Korea’s presidential residence, was a whole different ball game.

Kim Yo Jong would be the first member of North Korea’s ruling family ever to enter the halls of power of a sworn enemy.

The morning after the opening ceremony, Kim exited a black sedan to enter the Blue House. She ambled down a red carpet with immaculate posture and her head held high, exuding the confidence of a woman who had been meeting important world leaders for years. She dressed all in black and clutched a black briefcase in her left hand, dark tones that all drew attention to the red lapel pin over her heart emblazoned with the faces of her smiling father and grandfather.

As she approached the building’s threshold, she paused and, out of the corner of her eye, looked to her left. Then she slowed her gait to allow the man by her side — a nonagenarian named Kim Yong Nam who was North Korea’s ceremonial head of state at the time — to enter first, adhering to Confucian values of respecting one’s elders despite the fact her family is revered with near religious fervor back home.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in, left, shakes hands with Kim Yo Jong, North Korea leader Kim Jong Un's sister.
Kim Yo Jong was North Korea’s chief propagandist at the time, and her ability to craft an image was on full display in Seoul. She proved to be the perfect emissary for her country: a savvy, urbane operator who could counter the narrative of her homeland as a strange, backward, nuclear-armed relic of the Cold War that allegedly holds more than 100,000 people in forced labor camps.

Park Ji-won, a former South Korean lawmaker and presidential chief-of-staff, said after four meetings with Kim Yo Jong, he came away with the impression of a woman whose intelligence and quiet confidence was beyond her years.

“She takes after her father and brother,” said Park. “She is very smart and quick thinking. She is courteous, yet speaks her position clearly.”

Kim left after three days and would be credited for helping lay the ground work for the first summit between Moon and her older brother, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. She was, after all, the one who extended his invitation.

But the trip also set the stage for something else, a development that’s only become clear in the past several days: that Kim Yo Jong was about to become the boss when it came to North Korea’s relations with South Korea and arguably the second-most powerful figure in her country, answerable only to Kim Jong Un.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in, left, walks with Kim Yo Jong, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's sister, and Kim Yong Nam, center, North Korea's former ceremonial head of state, at the presidential house in Seoul, South Korea, Saturday, February 10, 2018.

‘The future of unified prosperity’

At 1 a.m. on May 31 this year, the “Fighters for a Free North Korea” gathered on the southern side of the border, near the demilitarized zone that divides the Korean peninsula in two.

The group of North Korean defectors had hoped that by meeting in the middle of the night, they would avoid the prying eyes of nearby police, soldiers or passers-by who might take issue with what they were about to do.

They were on a mission to bring information about the outside world to their former countrymen. North Koreans are forbidden from consuming any information that’s not approved by Pyongyang’s strict censorship apparatus.

The defectors, led by a man who himself was once targeted by a North Korean assassin wielding a pen armed with poison, stuffed 20 large balloons with 500,000 leaflets, 500 booklets and 1,000 SD cards filled with content that would surely infuriate Kim Jong Un’s top advisers.

Then they let the balloons float into the sky, anticipating that as the sun rose, the wind would push the contraband toward their former home.

What Kim Yo Jong's rise to the top says -- and doesn't say -- about being a woman in North Korea
Officials in Pyongyang were irate. Information about the outside world is like a virus within North Korea, something that can spread quickly and shatter a society built on a veneer of the Kim family as peerless demigods.

“What scares North Korea the most is the truth about themselves, the truth about their regime, the truth about the outside world,” said Chun Yung-woo, a former South Korean diplomat. Chun led his country’s delegation at the Six Party Talks, a multilateral effort to get North Korea to denuclearize, from 2006 to 2008.

Any insults against the Kims are tantamount to blasphemy, Chun explained, and require a full-throated response.

That responsibility fell to Kim Yo Jong.

Kim said the leaflets were a direct violation of the agreement reached at the Inter-Korean summit in April 2018, the very meeting she laid the groundwork for during her Olympic visit. As part of the deal, both leaders agreed to cease “all hostile acts and eliminating their means, including broadcasting through loudspeakers and distribution of leaflets” along their shared border.

The text did not differentiate between government-led campaigns and those spearheaded by private individuals, and the distinction was thought of as irrelevant inside North Korea. Kim ordered North Korea to cut off all communication with South Korea, including a hotline meant to directly connect the leaders of the two countries.

She demanded the South Korean government punish the defectors, whom she called “betrayers,” “human scum” and “riffraff who dared hurt the absolute prestige of our Supreme Leader representing our country and its great dignity,” according to a statement carried by North Korean state news agency KCNA.

The South Korean government said it has asked police to investigate the defectors, but muzzling them could set a bad precedent in a liberal democracy where citizens enjoy freedom of speech.

However, it became clear this week that North Korea was truly upset.

Thirty months ago, on that brisk February day when Kim Yo Jong walked into the Blue House, she thanked Moon Jae-in for caring if she was too cold at the opening ceremony and writing in the residence guest book that she looked forward to a “future of unified prosperity.”

On Tuesday, she gave the order to blow up an $8 million building paid for by South Korea so Moon’s government would “pay dearly for their crimes.”

Fanning the flames

A lot can happen in 30 months, and while the leaflets surely had North Koreans heated, most experts believe they’re a spark that could lead to an inevitable breakdown in relations.

But it’s the tinder below that’s to blame for any flames. Unmet expectations, lofty but unrealistic goals and poor communication set the stage for a potentially dramatic collapse, and perhaps nowhere was that more clear than during US President Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un’s second summit in Hanoi last year.

That summit took place at the end of February 2019, more than a year after Kim Yo Jong visited South Korea. By that point, her brother had already met Moon Jae-in, Chinese President Xi Jinping and in a historic first, President Trump. But despite the apparent breakthrough, working-level talks between Washington and Pyongyang failed to yield any progress on a deal trading North Korea’s nuclear weapons program for sanctions relief.

Since it came to light that the Kim family was pursuing nuclear weapons about 30 years ago, four different US administrations have tried and failed to get them to abandon the program. While the carrots have differed, the sticks have always involved sanctions.

When the Trump administration came to power, the White House kicked it up a notch. As North Korea tested missiles after missile in 2017, Washington responded by proposing incredibly punitive measures at the United Nations Security Council in an attempt to hamstring North Korea’s economy. By the end of the year, Pyongyang was barred by international law from selling almost anything abroad.

So when Trump and Kim decided to meet in person again, both hoped their second summit could help their respective sides find common ground.

But as they haggled in Hanoi over which nuclear facilities to trade and how much they were worth in terms of sanctions relief, it quickly became clear that there was a wide gap.

Both parties abruptly left when they realized they were not going to be able to agree on the contours of a deal in just several hours.

Lower-level talks have gone nowhere since, and North Korea believes it has been hoodwinked.

Statements published by important North Korean political figures paint the country as the aggrieved party, a nation that the United States and South Korea took advantage of for their own domestic political gains. This narrative ignores the fact that most experts believe the steps North Korea has taken so far are largely symbolic and do not preclude the regime from continuing to develop fissile material and further refine its nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles.

In North Korea’s world, it is the one taking all the diplomatic risks. The Kim regime returned the remains of Americans killed during the Korean War. The Kim regime blew up the tunnels at a nuclear test site. And the Kim regime has so far refrained from testing nuclear weapons and long-range ballistic missiles.

But the US-led sanctions that are strangling North Korea’s economy are still in place. The South Koreans, who were supposed to provide economic assistance and cooperation, are still refusing to do so in order to abide by international law and avoid running afoul of the United States.

“(The) North Koreans are very disappointed that the diplomacy with the United States and South Korea has not yielded what they promised the North Korean people … a better living standard” said Joseph Yun, the former US special representative for North Korea policy.

Yun said the North Koreans “need to explain to their own people” why “their big diplomatic initiative has not yielded anything.”

The job seems to belong to Kim Yo Jong. And while she may be new to the game, she’s playing it like an old North Korean pro.

Manufacturing crisis

Experts have for years accused North Korea of manufacturing crises either to create a sense of urgency in negotiations, to gain the upper hand in talks, or to sow discord between the United States and South Korea.

After the Soviet Union and the United States divided Korea in two, the North became a communist state and the South a capitalist one — each backed by the rival side in the Cold War. When the Soviet Union collapsed, the North Koreans were left without a powerful benefactor, while the South Koreans could still rely on a global superpower and treaty ally for protection thanks to the thousands of American troops and modern weaponry stationed on the Korean peninsula.

Experts say that one of North Korea’s key objectives is to level the playing field. And what better way to do that than create chaos driving a wedge between Washington and Seoul?

The Kim family may be genuinely upset about the leaflets, but it’s clearly taking a page out of Pyongyang’s old geopolitical playbook in an attempt to force the South Koreans to, as former top State Department Asia expert Evans Revere described it, “put something really appetizing on the table, if you will.”

“You see the North Koreans engaged in a very interesting attempt to hold the South Korean government’s feet to the fire by increasing the intensity and the level of their other rhetoric against South Korea,” Revere said.

By many accounts, the Moon government is eager to provide assistance to North Korea to foster harmony and cooperation. As chief-of-staff to former President Roh Moo-hyun, Moon was a key player in what was known as the “Sunshine Policy” in the 2000s, a strategy of engaging and investing in North Korea in order to bring about change.

Today, Moon must play a particularly difficult balancing act, because his options for carrots are extremely limited — almost everything the North Koreans want from South Korea runs afoul of sanctions spearheaded by South Korea’s treaty ally, the United States.

“The North Koreans are pretty smart in how they play this game, and if they can not only get South Korean concessions — and they’re off to a good start — but if they can also drive a wedge between Washington and Seoul, that’s a pretty good day’s work,” Revere said.

The latest major play came Tuesday, when Kim Yo Jong gave the order to destroy the joint liaison office in the city of Kaesong, a city in North Korea where Seoul and Pyongyang have worked together on projects during times of peace.

Kim had hinted in a statement days earlier that the office, which had sat idle for months, would be “completely collapsed.” No one outside of North Korea could be sure if that was a metaphor or meant the building would literally be blown to bits until they heard the actual boom.

The building was paid for by South Korean taxpayers and meant to facilitate dialogue and cooperation, so razing it was a bombastic symbol of North Korea’s displeasure — and a way to communicate that sentiment at a physical cost of only bricks and mortar.

It was a brilliant piece of theatrics, sure to grab the attention of the international media amid a global pandemic, rising racial tensions in the United States and a deadly conflict brewing on the border of the world’s two most populous nations.

And, according to North Korean state media, the credit goes to Kim Yo Jong.

The youngest Kim takes center stage

When Kim Yo Jong was just a child, her father allegedly told a Russian diplomat that she had an aptitude for politics and predicted she might have a future in it.

History has proved Kim Jong Il right, and the headline-grabbing decision to demolish the joint liaison office is unlikely to be the last time the world hears from Kim Yo Jong.

Experts believe her rising profile is part of a carefully choreographed publicity campaign by North Korean state media to signal that she’s being groomed for something. Though there are other members of the Kim family still alive, Kim Yo Jong, Kim Jong Un and their father and grandfather are the only ones lionized in North Korean media as members of what the country calls the “Paektu bloodline,” a reference to the mythical mountain on North Korea’s border with China.
The fact that she’s a Kim trumps the powerful patriarchal forces at play in North Korea, a country where women are mostly expected to be dutiful and subordinate wives and doting mothers before all else.

“You see her every several months or so being given a new title, a new position, new responsibilities and checking all the key boxes to demonstrate her capacities and her responsibilities are growing,” said Revere, the former State Department Asia expert.

“Not a day that goes by that some of the other newspapers don’t have an article about some statement that’s made and photographs of her.”

But while the North Koreans hear more from Kim Yo Jong, they seem to be seeing less of Kim Jong Un.

The North Korean leader has been mysteriously absent for a couple of long stretches this year, fueling rumors about his well-being — he is overweight and reportedly a heavy drinker and smoker — and speculation that Kim Yo Jong’s increasing visibility meant she was being readied as a potential successor should something occur.

The truth is unlikely to come out anytime soon. Kim Jong Un’s health is one of North Korea’s most closely guarded secrets, on par with the nuclear weapons program, because it has the potential to dent the carefully curated image of Kim as the infallible Supreme Leader.

Kim’s sudden absence from the spotlight has precedent — he disappeared for several months in 2014, reportedly after ankle surgery. But Kim is a leader known among his people for keeping a busy schedule and pounding the pavement. He’s constantly photographed interacting with regular North Koreans, smiling alongside them and even hugging others.

For someone like that to just suddenly vanish from public view for weeks on end is unusual.

Similarly, Kim Yo Jong’s own long-term future is far from certain. North Korea is a country driven by paranoia about an impending invasion from its enemies, so everything it does is shrouded in secrecy, including leadership plans.

Some speculate she’s filling the role of bad cop to her brother’s good cop, allowing him the opportunity to swoop in and save the day. Analysts say getting into a fight with the South Koreans is a great way to boost a North Korean’s street credentials as a tough fighter.

Others believe she’s being propped up to become more than just a North Korean consigliere, but fill a role more like a vice president: a big player who enjoys the confidence of her brother and can help ease his workload.

Whatever is next for Kim Yo Jong, power politics are a dynamic and dangerous game in North Korea, and tectonic shifts can happen at the drop of a hat. Analysts say any potential rift with her brother could have dire consequences, as it did for their uncle, Jang Song Thaek — who was executed for treason — and half-brother Kim Jong Nam, who was assassinated by North Korean agents in 2017.

But Kim Yo Jong and Kim Jong Un share an important connection. They lived together in Switzerland and at home, surrounded by adults and handlers. Their childhoods were remarkable but uniquely solitary and lonely. They lost their mother at a young age and their father as young adults.

All they endured, they endured together.

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North Korea halts all communications with South in row over leafleting

North Korean students take part in a rally denouncing "defectors from the North" as they march from the Pyongyang Youth Park Open-Air Theatre to Kim Il Sung Square in Pyongyang on June 8, 2020Image copyright

Image caption

North Korean students held a rally to denounce defectors on Monday

North Korea has said it will cut off all inter-Korean communication lines with the South, including a hotline between the two nation’s leaders.

The North said this was the first in a series of actions, describing South Korea as “the enemy”.

Daily calls, which have been made to a liaison office located in the North Korean border city of Kaesong, will cease from Tuesday.

The two states had set up the office to reduce tensions after talks in 2018.

North and South Korea are technically still at war because no peace agreement was reached when the Korean War ended in 1953.

  • South Korea plans to stop balloons to North Korea
  • What do we know about North Korea?

North Korea “will completely cut off and shut down the liaison line between the authorities of the North and the South, which has been maintained through the North-South joint liaison office… from 12:00 on 9 June 2020,” the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) report said.

Military communication channels will also be cut, North Korea said.

When the liaison office was temporarily closed in January because of Covid-19 restrictions, contact between the two states was maintained by phone.

  • Could North Korea handle a Covid-19 outbreak?

The two Koreas made two phone calls a day through the office, at 09:00 and 17:00. On Monday, the South said that for the first time in 21 months, its morning call had gone unanswered, although contact was made in the afternoon.

“We have reached a conclusion that there is no need to sit face-to-face with the south Korean authorities and there is no issue to discuss with them, as they have only aroused our dismay,” KNCA said.

Kim Yo-jong, the North Korean leader’s sister, threatened last week to close the office unless South Korea stopped defector groups from sending leaflets into the North.

She said the leaflet campaign was a hostile act that violated the peace agreements made during the 2018 Panmunjom summit between the South’s Moon Jae-in and Kim Jong-un.

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Media captionSouth Korean activists launch propaganda balloons over border (2014 video)

North Korean defectors occasionally send balloons carrying leaflets critical of the communist region into the North, sometimes with supplies to entice North Koreans to pick them up.

North Koreans can only get news from state-controlled media, and most do not have access to the internet.

Ties between the North and South appeared to improve in 2018, when the leaders of both countries met three times. Such high-level meetings had not taken place in over a decade.

But Pyongyang largely cut off contact with Seoul following the collapse of a summit between Kim and US president Donald Trump in Hanoi last year that left nuclear talks at a standstill.

The two Koreas remain technically at war because the 1950-1953 Korean war ended with an armistice rather than a peace treaty.

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North West mayors urge caution and hit out at Westminster as regional R number passes 1 | UK | News

Andy Burnham and Steve Rotheram – mayors of Manchester and Liverpool respectively – have urged the government to allow regional councils to decide when it is right to open schools to a wider number of pupils, going forward. The two mayors also called on the Prime Minister to provide confirmation that retail outlets should still be allowed to widely reopen on June 15 as part of the government’s plan to ease lockdown measures.

It comes after researchers from Public Health England and Cambridge University last week warned that the R number in the North West has crept above 1.

The R number is what the government is keeping a close watch on around the country. It represents the number of people that will be infected by each person that is confirmed positive for the virus.

Thus, an R number above 1 means that more and more people will be infected over time.

The North West is currently at 1.01 – higher than anywhere else in England and an increase of 0.73 a few weeks ago, according to the Manchester Evening News (MEN).

The two mayors said in a joint statement: “We ask everyone to make a renewed commitment to follow the official guidance and to stay home as much as possible,” I News reports.

“In fact, we would go further and advise people to err on the side of caution and to use the new freedoms carefully and safely.”

The rise has fuelled concerns among officials that planning for the Covid-19 response in England is too centralised, and that local councils are not getting enough information from Westminster.

This morning, Manchester mayor Andy Burnham held a press conference to address the concerns raised by the R number in the North West.

READ MORE: Americans are drinking BLEACH to prevent COVID-19 in shock new data

I News reports that the number of reported hospital admissions for Covid-19 in Greater Manchester is currently higher than it’s been since late April.

On Sunday, both Mr Burnham and Mr Rotheram wrote to the Prime Minister calling for “extra reassurance” for the North West given the rise in transmission rate.

The two mayors wrote: “Last month, you said that reports of the R going up again in countries where relaxations have been introduced was: ‘a very clear warning to us not to proceed too fast or too recklessly.’

“We agree with that but are disappointed that there has so far been no prior consultation or notice of the relaxations to lockdown that have so far been announced.”

The two mayors also said that they are making a commitment to provide more information locally on a weekly basis – the idea of a local “heat map” has been suggested – and called for Public Health England to support this.

They also called on the government to change its guidance so that “express permission” is granted to councils “to decide when it is right to re-open schools to a wider number of students, particularly with regard to more localised information”.

They added: “We would also ask the Government to seek confirmation for SAGE that it is safe to proceed with the much wider reopening of retail outlets on the 15th of June in the North West.

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Calgary company providing trailers throughout North America during COVID-19 crisis – Calgary

A Calgary company says it has received more than 100 requests over the past two weeks to set up field hospitals, quarantine accommodations, testing centres and other temporary structures needed for the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’ve been getting requests from all jurisdictions in Canada as well as the U.S.,” said Black Diamond Group CEO Trevor Haynes.

One of Black Diamond’s main lines of business is workforce housing in remote locations for natural gas, pipeline, forestry, mining and other industries. It also provides modular trailers that can be used in a variety of ways, such as temporary classrooms or offices.

The offerings have been well-suited for the current crisis and have kept the company busy at a time when other businesses, particularly those in the energy sector, have slowed.

Of the roughly 100 requests it’s received, Black Diamond has been able to move on almost half so far.

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It already has all of the trailers and equipment on hand, which it rents out on a monthly basis.

One typical single-wide trailer unit costs a few hundred dollars a month, not including add-ons like handwashing stations or furniture. Multiple trailers are often attached together to create bigger buildings that can sometimes be two or three storeys high.

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Haynes said it can take just a couple of days to transport and set up basic trailers outside a hospital or health care centre for COVID-19 testing or screening, helping to avoid crowding inside.

“It’s just a matter of relocating them to that site and then getting them connected together and powered up.”

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In the past Black Diamond has put together temporary medical facilities on U.S. military bases while existing hospitals were being refurbished.

READ MORE: SHA to prepare field hospitals in Saskatoon, Regina for coronavirus patients

Now, the company is able to set up such a similar medical building surrounded by temporary living quarters for doctors and nurses as well as quarantine accommodations for patients.

“You can essentially create a field hospital based on the various components that we have in our fleet of assets,” said Haynes.

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A set-up like that would take about seven to 10 days to put together and accommodate 500 to 1,000 people.

Most requests for COVID-19-specific uses are from public health authorities, but Black Diamond has also been talking to U.S. prisons and military installations.

Private companies that provide essential services, such as power, are also asking for temporary buildings to allow for more physical distancing in break rooms, Haynes added.

Black Diamond has experience providing temporary structures to relief workers after natural disasters, including a 1,600-person camp in a northern California community that was ravaged by wildfire in 2018.

“It’s a different reason why the facilities are needed, but the exercise and the use of the asset is very similar,” Haynes said.

“The challenges are continuing to have our crews go out in the field and conduct work. We’ve got to make sure we keep them safe.”

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The company has the means to provide temporary homeless shelters, but Haynes said existing buildings like empty hotels and convention centres would likely work better.

Black Diamond’s core workforce has remained steady during the COVID-19 crisis, and it can always bring on extra contractors as needed.

“It’s exciting to have a way that we can help,” said Haynes. “I think our team is really engaged and working hard to be of assistance wherever they can.”

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Shooting victim in critical condition after murder attempt in Montreal North

A 21-year-old man remained in critical condition Friday morning after being targeted in the borough of Montreal North Thursday night.

The victim, who is known to police, was shot repeatedly while he stood at the corner of Langelier Blvd. and Villeneuve St. at about 9:50 p.m.

Police answering a 911 call reporting shots fired found the victim wounded in the upper and lower body. Despite his wounds, the man was conscious while being transported to a hospital.

A crime scene remained operational at the intersection Friday morning, and investigators are questioning witnesses but receiving little co-operation, a police spokesperson said.

No arrests have been made in connection with the shooting.



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North Korea conducts new test at rocket site, aims to ‘overpower U.S. nuclear threats’

SEOUL — North Korea said it had successfully conducted another test at a satellite launch site, the latest in a string of developments aimed at “restraining and overpowering the nuclear threat of the U.S.,” state news agency KCNA reported on Saturday.

The test was conducted on Friday at the Sohae satellite launch site, KCNA said, citing a spokesman for North Korea’s Academy of Defence Science, without specifying what sort of testing occurred.

In a later statement carried by KCNA, Chief of the General Staff Pak Jong Chon said the tests were designed to bolster North Korea’s defenses by developing new weapons.

“The priceless data, experience and new technologies gained in the recent tests of defense science research will be fully applied to the development of another strategic weapon of the DPRK for definitely and reliably restraining and overpowering the nuclear threat of the U.S.,” he said, using the initials of North Korea’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

It was the second test at the Sohae facility in the space of a week.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un oversees a super-large multiple launch rocket system test in this undated picture released by North Korea’s Central News Agency (KCNA) on November 28, 2019.


KCNA on Sunday said that North Korea had carried out a “very important” test on Dec. 7 at the satellite launch site, a rocket-testing facility that U.S. officials once said North Korea had promised to close.

That KCNA report called the Dec. 7 event a “successful test of great significance.” South Korea’s defense minister Jeong Keong-doo said it was an engine test.

The reported tests come ahead of a year-end deadline North Korea has put forth for the United States to drop its insistence on unilateral denuclearisation by Pyongyang.

U.S. President Donald Trump has invested considerable time trying to persuade North Korea to give up a nuclear weapons program that has grown to threaten the United States, but progress has been scant in spite of his three meetings with Kim Jong Un.


North Korea would be ready to respond to all political and military provocations by hostile forces while being “familiar with both dialog and confrontation,” Pak said.

“Genuine peace can be safeguarded and our development and future be guaranteed only when the balance of power is completely ensured,” he said.

Pak warned that the United States and others should avoid provoking North Korea if they wanted a peaceful end-of-year period.

“Our army is fully ready to thoroughly carry out any decision of the Supreme Leader with action,” he said.

Pyongyang has warned it could take a “new path” amid the stalled talks with the United States.

The top U.S envoy for North Korea, Stephen Biegun, U.S. special envoy for North Korea, is due in Seoul on Sunday for meetings with South Korean officials.

U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper on Friday said the United States would be “tested soon” on bringing North Korea back to the negotiating table.

“They (North Korea) are still doing training, they do short range ballistic missile tests that we are also concerned about.

“We watch closely as do South Korea and Japan … the State Department is trying to get them to the table, because the only way forward is through a diplomatic and political agreement,” Esper said at an event hosted by the Council on Foreign Relations.

The State Department is trying to get them to the table, because the only way forward is through a diplomatic and political agreement


Analysts said such tests could help North Korea build more reliable intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs).

“The point seems to be to remind the United States that North Korea still has space to qualitatively advance its program,” said Ankit Panda, a senior fellow at the U.S.-based Federation of American Scientists.

“We had a good hint that whatever they were doing at Sohae was military in nature when the Academy of Defence Science took charge of the announcement, as opposed to NADA, their space agency,” Panda added.

Tension has been rising in recent weeks as Pyongyang has conducted weapons tests and waged a war of words with U.S. President Donald Trump, stoking fears that tensions between the two countries could return.

“Considering the fact that North Korea said the 7-minute test conducted last night was to bolster the strategic nuclear deterrence, the test would likely be related to ICBMs, which North Korea considers a strategic weapon to defend itself from adversaries including the United States,” Koh Yu-hwan, a professor at Dongguk University in Seoul, told Reuters.

“North Korea is close to issuing an ultimatum towards the United States to come to the negotiating table with new calculations or to return to developing nuclear weapons,” Koh added.

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Boris Johnson takes victory lap of newly won north of England seats – Channel 4 News

Boris Johnson has promised former Labour voters he will ‘repay’ their trust as he visited the northeast of England to congratulate newly elected Tory MPs. He declared he wanted to spread opportunity to everyone.

Meanwhile Jeremy Corbyn has faced more fury from former Labour MPs who lost their seats, claiming he had ‘failed as a communicator’ and warning that if the party didn’t sort itself out, it could spell the end of the Labour movement altogether.

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Trump says Kim Jong Un risks losing ‘everything’ after North Korea claims major test

WASHINGTON/SEOUL, Dec 8 (Reuters) — U.S. President Donald Trump said on Sunday that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un risks losing “everything” if he resumes hostility and his country must denuclearize, after the North said it had carried out a “successful test of great significance.”

“Kim Jong Un is too smart and has far too much to lose, everything actually, if he acts in a hostile way. He signed a strong Denuclearization Agreement with me in Singapore,” Trump said on Twitter, referring to his first summit with Kim in Singapore in 2018.

“He does not want to void his special relationship with the President of the United States or interfere with the U.S. Presidential Election in November,” he said.

North Korea’s state media KCNA reported earlier on Sunday that it had carried out a “very important” test at its Sohae satellite launch site, a rocket-testing ground that U.S. officials once said North Korea had promised to close.

The reported test comes ahead of a year-end deadline North Korea has imposed for the United States to drop its insistence on unilateral denuclearization. Pyongyang has warned it could take a “new path” amid the stalled talks with the United States.

“North Korea, under the leadership of Kim Jong Un, has tremendous economic potential, but it must denuclearize as promised,” Trump said on Twitter.

The KCNA report called it a “successful test of great significance” but did not specify what was tested.

This could be a very credible signal of what might await the world after the New Year.

Missile experts said it appeared likely the North Koreans had conducted a static test of a rocket engine, rather than a missile launch.

“If it is indeed a static engine test for a new solid or liquid fuel missile, it is yet another loud signal that the door for diplomacy is quickly slamming, if it isn’t already,” said Vipin Narang, a nuclear affairs expert at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the United States.

“This could be a very credible signal of what might await the world after the New Year.”

Tensions have risen ahead of a year-end deadline set by North Korea, which has called on the United States to change its policy of insisting on Pyongyang’s unilateral denuclearization and demanded relief from punishing sanctions.

On Saturday North Korea’s ambassador to the United Nations said denuclearization was now off the negotiating table with the United States and lengthy talks with Washington are not needed.

“The results of the recent important test will have an important effect on changing the strategic position of the DPRK once again in the near future,” KCNA reported, using the initials of North Korea’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

Asked in a CBS “Face the Nation” interview if North Korea might be preparing to resume nuclear tests, U.S. National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien said that “would be a mistake on the part of North Korea.”

Pyongyang’s last nuclear test, its sixth and most powerful, took place in September 2017.

In this file photo taken on June 12, 2018 US President Donald Trump (R) meets with North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un (L) at the start of their US-North Korea summit, at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa Island in Singapore. – The United States said September 11, 2019 it was encouraged by North Korea’s stated willingness to resume negotiations but criticized its latest firing of projectiles as counterproductive.


“It doesn’t end well for them if they do.. If North Korea takes a different path than the one it’s promised… we’ve got plenty of tools in the toolkit,” O’Brien said on Sunday.

Recent days have also seen a return to the highly charged rhetoric that raised fears of war two years ago.

In 2017, Trump and Kim famously engaged in a war of words, with Trump calling Kim “Rocket Man” and North Korea calling Trump, now 73, a “dotard.”

On Tuesday, Trump once again called Kim “Rocket Man” and said the United States reserved the right to use military force against North Korea. Pyongyang, in response, said any repeat of such language would represent “the relapse of the dotage of a dotard.”

The test is the latest in a string of statements and actions from North Korea designed to underscore the seriousness of its year-end deadline.

North Korea has announced it would convene a rare gathering of top ruling-party officials later this month, and on Wednesday state media showed photos of Kim taking a second symbolic horse ride on the country’s sacred Mt. Paektu.

Such meetings and propaganda blitzes often come ahead of major announcements from North Korean authorities.

While North Korea has not specified what its “new path” could be, observers have suggested the launch of a space satellite is a possibility, allowing Pyongyang to demonstrate and test its rocket capabilities without resorting to overt military provocation such as an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) launch.

Kim Dong-yub, a former South Korean Navy officer who teaches at Kyungnam University in Seoul, said North Korea may have tested a solid fuel rocket engine, which could allow North Korea to field ICBMs that are easier to hide and faster to deploy.

“North Korea has already entered the ‘new path’ that they talked about,” he said.

Trump told reporters in June 2018 after his first summit with Kim that North Korea had pledged to dismantle one of its missile installations, which U.S. officials later identified as Sohae.

Shortly after that summit, analysts said satellite imagery showed some key facilities at Sohae being dismantled.

However, in the wake of the second summit between Trump and Kim earlier this year, which ended with no agreement, new imagery indicated the North Koreans were rebuilding the site.

“Remember this is at the site that was supposedly dismantled as a ‘denuclearization step,’” Narang said. “So this is a first step at ‘renuclearizing.’ Reversible steps are being…reversed.”

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