Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Obama calls North Korea nuclear test 'highly provocative'

President Obama on Tuesday called North Korea's latest nuclear test a "highly provocative act" that threatens U.S. security and international peace.

"The danger posed by North Korea's threatening activities warrants further swift and credible action by the international community," Obama said in a statement issued early Tuesday. "The United States will also continue to take steps necessary to defend ourselves and our allies."

North Korea said it successfully detonated a miniaturized nuclear device at a northeastern test site Tuesday. South Korean, U.S. and Japanese seismic monitoring agencies said they detected an earthquake in North Korea with a magnitude between 4.9 and 5.2.

North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency said the test was conducted safely but with "great explosive power." It said the test is aimed at coping with "ferocious" U.S. hostility that undermines the North's peaceful, sovereign right to launch satellites. Last month, North Korea's National Defense Commission said the United States was its prime target for a nuclear test and long-range rocket launches.

"These provocations do not make North Korea more secure," Obama said. "Far from achieving its stated goal of becoming a strong and prosperous nation, North Korea has instead increasingly isolated and impoverished its people through its ill-advised pursuit of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery."

The chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, California Republican Ed Royce, released a statement Tuesday calling on the Obama administration to "replace its failed North Korea policy" and issue "stringent sanctions" against North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's regime.

"Otherwise, the grave North Korean threat to the region and the United States will only grow," Royce said.

The U.N. Security Council will hold an emergency meeting Tuesday morning on North Korea's nuclear test. South Korea's U.N. Mission informed reporters early Tuesday that the closed-door meeting will begin at 9 a.m. EST.

Senior White House adviser Valerie Jarrett said she expects the international community "will have a very firm response."

She said in an appearance on NBC's "Today" show that North Korea's move presents a threat to the region and to the United States. "It actually is not in the best interests of North Korea," she said.

On Monday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry discussed North Korea's "continued provocative rhetoric" in a phone call with China's Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi. That followed earlier conversations with Kerry's counterparts from Japan and South Korea, key U.S. allies in the region.

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the three conversations "were remarkably similar" on the importance of implementing the commitments of a January U.N. resolution that toughened sanctions against Pyongyang and warned of "significant action" if it conducted a nuclear test. That resolution was supported by China, North Korea's only major ally.

On Tuesday, China expressed firm opposition to the test but called for a calm response by all sides.

Source  http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2013/02/12/obama-calls-north-korea-nuclear-test-highly-provocative/

Monday, February 4, 2013

Canadian diplomats defend oilsands at Maine municipal meetings

Canadian consular officials have intervened three times to defend Alberta's oilsands at municipal meetings in the U.S. state of Maine in the last eight days.

On Jan. 29, Aaron Annable, consul in charge of foreign policy and diplomatic services at the Canadian Consulate in Boston, addressed a meeting hosted by Windham Town Council. The meeting was called to hear from Environment Maine, a state environmental group, which is concerned that the Montreal-Portland pipeline will be reversed so it can carry oilsands bitumen from Alberta to the deep-sea port on the Maine coast.

"We've been doing a lot of organizing in towns along the pipeline route and just in the last week or so have started to see in our efforts the Canadian government and the oil industry really starting a full-court press," Emily Figdor, director of Environment Maine, told the CBC.

Annable also attended a debate on an anti-oilsands resolution at a special town meeting in Bethel, Maine on Jan. 30, according to Foreign Affairs.

On Jan. 23, New England Consul General Pat Binns appeared before Portland city council to speak to a resolution presented to council. The resolution would direct the city manager to no longer purchase oilsands-derived fuel for city vehicles. While Binns did not come out in opposition to the resolution, he did outline the benefits of oilsands oil and Maine's relationship with Canada.

"I truly hope the committee will look at this matter further. We are each other's best customers. We are your closest friends and strongest ally. And I would hope that we can continue to work together responsibly," said Binns, the former Conservative Premier of Prince Edward Island, at the council meeting. Council later voted to return the matter to committee.
Unusual guest, unusual subject

Portland officials agreed that it was strange to be addressed by a foreign diplomat on a municipal matter.

"You could say it was unusual but the topic was unusual as well," remarked Nicole Clegg, spokesperson for the city of Portland. She added that this was the first time council had ever discussed oilsands oil.

At both meetings, the consular officials appeared in conjunction with oil industry association and pipeline company officials. In particular, Larry Wilson, the president and CEO of Portland Montreal Pipe Line, made a presentation in Windham and Portland.

PMPL maintains good relations with residents and towns along the pipeline route, said Ted O'Meara, a PMPL spokesperson.

"It really isn't anything different than what they've been doing all along in all the years that they've been operating", O'Meara said. PMPL's dual pipeline opened for business in 1941.

The company said it currently has no plans to reverse the pipeline but is exploring all opportunities including, but not limited to, a reversal that might result in the shipping of Alberta bitumen.

As for the Canadian consular presence, O'Meara isn't surprised.

"Obviously, the Canadian government has an interest in this, as well. So, I think it just lends another voice to the discussion that's going on."

A Foreign Affairs spokeswoman said Canada's consul generals across the U.S. participate in events "to highlight the value of state-level trade with Canada."

"An important part of the role of the consul general is to promote and defend the interests of Canada abroad," Barbara Harvey said in an email to CBC News Friday afternoon. "The consul general's participation in these specific events is part of his and our ... wider mandate to promote Canada as a secure energy supplier to the U.S."

Harvey added that similar events are likely to be held in the New England states in the future and Canadian officials will continute to participate "where it is appropriate and feasible to do so."

On Jan. 12, the town of Casco, Maine, passed a non-binding resolution banning oilsands oil from passing through their town.