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South Korea Seeks Rare Talks with North Korea to Ease Military Tensions

Written by the Agence France-Presse in Seoul.
See the original article on the Guardian.


South Korea has offered to hold rare military talks with the North to ease tensions after Pyongyang’s first intercontinental ballistic missile test earlier this month.

Monday’s offer, the first since South Korea elected the moderate Moon Jae-In as president, came as the Red Cross in Seoul proposed a separate meeting to discuss the reunion of families separated by the 1950-53 Korean war.

The South’s defence ministry proposed a meeting on Friday at the border truce village of Panmunjom, while the Red Cross offered to hold talks on 1 August at the same venue.

If the government meeting goes ahead, it will be the first official inter-Korea talks since December 2015. Moon’s conservative predecessor, Park Geun-hye, had refused to engage in substantive dialogue with Pyongyang unless the isolated regime made a tangible commitment to denuclearisation.

The Red Cross said it hoped for a positive response from its counterpart in the North; mooted family reunions in early October would be the first in two years.

Millions of families were separated by the conflict that sealed the division of the peninsula. Many died without getting a chance to see or hear from their families on the other side of the heavily-fortified border, across which all civilian communication is banned.

Only about 60,000 members of divided families are still left in the South.

“North Korea should respond to our sincere proposals if it really seeks peace on the Korean Peninsula,” said Cho Myoung-gyon, Seoul’s unification minister in charge of North Korea affairs.

Cho stressed that Seoul “would not seek collapse of the North or unification through absorbing the North” and urged Pyongyang to restore inter-Korea communication channels, including a shuttered military hotline.

Moon, who took power in May, has advocated dialogue with the nuclear-armed North as a means of bringing it to the negotiating table and vowed to play a more active role in global efforts to tame the South’s unpredictable neighbour.

But Pyongyang has staged a series of missile launches in violation of UN resolutions, most recently on 4 July when it test-fired its first ICBM, a move which triggered global alarm and a push by the US president, Donald Trump, to impose harsher UN sanctions on the country.

Washington has also called on China, the North’s sole ally, to put more pressure on Pyongyang to rein in its nuclear ambitions, which have advanced rapidly under the North’s leader, Kim Jong-un.

“We make the proposal for a meeting … aimed at stopping all hostile activities that escalate military tension along the land border,” the defence ministry said in a statement.

[NEW]The European Union offered European support for South Korean efforts to negotiate with North Korea, but said it was also considering tougher sanctions on Pyongyang following its first intercontinental ballistic missile test.

In a statement Monday, the EU’s executive arm condemned the test earlier this month as a “serious threat to international peace and security” and urged an end to such actions.

The latest missile test – which Kim described as a “gift” to the Americans – was seen as a milestone in Pyongyang’s quest to build a missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead that can hit the US mainland.

The proposed meetings, if realised, would be a “rare opportunity to ease tension that has built up for 10 years”, said Cheong Seong-chang, analyst at the Sejong Institute, a thinktank.

“It would at least help let off some steam out of the current crisis, although the North would still maintain that it would not give up its weapons programmes,” he said.

The agenda for the meeting could include moves to suspend propaganda campaigns operated on both sides of the border for years, Cheong added.

The South’s military has deployed dozens of giant loudspeakers along the tense border to blare out a mix of world news, K-pop songs and other propaganda targeting young North Korean soldiers.

It has also occasionally launched giant balloons containing anti-Pyongyang leaflets across the border despite warnings of military retaliation by the North.

The North has responded with its own propaganda broadcasts and sent anti-Seoul leaflets via giant balloons across the border.

Justices Side With Immigrant Who Got Bad Legal Advice

Written by Adam Liptak.
Read the original article on the New York Times.
Image Credit: the New York Times.


WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Friday ruled in favor of an immigrant whose lawyer falsely told him that pleading guilty to a drug charge would not lead to his deportation. When the immigrant, Jae Lee, learned the truth, he sought to go to trial after all.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., writing for the majority in the 6-to-2 decision, said Mr. Lee should be able to reopen the proceedings against him and take his chances at trial even though the evidence against him was quite strong.

“But for his attorney’s incompetence, Lee would have known that accepting the plea agreement would certainly lead to deportation,” Chief Justice Roberts wrote. “Going to trial? Almost certainly.”

Chief Justice Roberts noted that “if deportation were the determinative issue for an individual in plea discussions, as it was for Lee; if that individual had strong connections to this country and no other, as did Lee; and if the consequences of taking a chance at trial were not markedly harsher than pleading, as in this case, that ‘almost’ could make all the difference.”

Mr. Lee moved to the United States from South Korea with his family in 1982, when he was 13. After graduating from high school in New York, he moved to Memphis, where he became a successful restaurateur. He was a lawful resident but not a citizen and had never returned to South Korea.

Mr. Lee was prosecuted for possessing the drug ecstasy with the intent to distribute it, and his lawyer urged him to plead guilty in exchange for a lighter sentence. The lawyer falsely told Mr. Lee that he would not be subject to deportation after he served his sentence, which turned out to be a year and a day.

On learning the truth, Mr. Lee filed a motion to vacate his conviction, arguing that he had received ineffective assistance of counsel.

Mr. Lee, Chief Justice Roberts wrote, “would have rejected any plea leading to deportation — even if it shaved off prison time — in favor of throwing a ‘Hail Mary’ at trial.”

“Not everyone in Lee’s position would make the choice to reject the plea,” Chief Justice Roberts wrote. “But we cannot say it would be irrational to do so.”

Justices Anthony M. Kennedy, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen G. Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan joined the majority opinion in the case, Lee v. United States, No. 16-327. Justice Neil M. Gorsuch did not participate in the case, which was argued before he joined the court.

In dissent, Justice Clarence Thomas, joined by Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., wrote that Mr. Lee could not overcome the ordinary standard for proving ineffective assistance of counsel, which requires not only proof of flawed advice but also that the advice harmed the defendant.

The evidence against Mr. Lee was exceptionally strong, Justice Thomas wrote. The police had found large quantities of drugs at his home, and prosecutors were prepared to present a witness ready to testify about buying drugs from Mr. Lee.

“In the face of overwhelming evidence of guilt and in the absence of a bona fide defense, a reasonable court or jury applying the law to the facts of this case would find the defendant guilty,” Justice Thomas wrote. “There is no reasonable probability of any other verdict.”

“A defendant in petitioner’s shoes, therefore, would have suffered the same deportation consequences regardless of whether he accepted a plea or went to trial,” he wrote. “He is thus plainly better off for having accepted his plea: Had he gone to trial, he not only would have faced the same deportation consequences, he also likely would have received a higher prison sentence.”

The Supreme Court’s decision reversed one from the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, in Cincinnati, which had ruled that Mr. Lee had suffered no prejudice, as the correct legal advice would not have helped him. Had he gone to trial, the court said, he would have lost and still have been deported.

But Judge Alice M. Batchelder, writing for the appeals court, seemed uneasy about what the law required.

“It is unclear to us why it is in our national interests — much less the interests of justice — to exile a productive member of our society to a country he hasn’t lived in since childhood for committing a relatively small-time drug offense,” she wrote. “But our duty is neither to prosecute nor to pardon; it is simply to say ‘what the law is,’” she added, quoting Marbury v. Madison.

ASEAN is no NATO

 

Lee II Woo

Lee II Woo


Amid the global attention on the uncertainties of the global economy, if not the global order as we know it due to Brexit, commentaries and forecasts are left in a frenzy, leaving some to wonder whether the United States has now reaffirmed—if not been given the incentive—to act on its deepest desires to focus more on Asia as opposed to the West. Looking to adjust to a new reality while at the same time wishing to give assurances to old friends, public statements made—and not made—by elites have set a tone in which it has become common to question the validity of the “European project” if not the Western appeal at large.

Whatever one’s opinion may be regarding this milestone, perhaps it would serve us better had we muted the predictions about Asia now before they even reach such outlandish levels. With emotions and guesstimates running high, from China’s actions on the high seas to “terrorist refugees” and now Europe’s uncertain future, it has yet to be seen what in fact has actually changed or likely will change regarding the “Old World”, in addition to the one that apparently matters more for this century’s success—Asia.

The Same Old Song

To start, the overriding structures that have shaped the Far East have remained unaffected despite all the white noise from the West. As Donald Emmerson jokingly put it, when it comes to this place, the dynamics boil down to the Americans making the peace, soon followed by Asians making the money. Such crude generalizations remain intact especially when looking at the security nexus of this vast region. Looking beyond minor successes, such as American advancements between the Philippines and the Vietnamese, to partially-buried hatchets between the Japanese and South Koreans, U.S. presence and specifically its military presence, has continued to be the one constant for which nearly all parties—except the Chinese—can more or less agree upon.

Of course, it would be too naïve to think that this “pivot”, or “presence” or whatever else you want to call it was not without its faults. Obama’s economic centerpiece for the shift, the Transpacific Partnership, intended to bolster more inclusion in Asia, has only now entered the ratification process in an all but dysfunctional Congress. Not surprisingly, skeptical estimates have already begun; Barack Obama, like David Cameron, has just started his lame-duck session in office.

The West By Default?

Still, peering deeper into the security machinery America provides and for which Asia benefits, one would easily notice that ASEAN is nowhere near to becoming a NATO, and historical, if not territorial baggage remain across the board. Such hurdles would only distract from the commitments needed to increase complicated missions no doubt. Even with voluntary actions taken by those who talk a bigger game, such as Japan’s “upgrade” of its military to Indonesia’s uptick in peacekeeping missions, all may still find themselves out of sheer domestic constraints if not a profound risk aversion that has yet to be tested.

Would full-fledged American allies such as the Japanese and South Koreans be willing to put their troops in genuine harm’s way and for the long haul when operating in hot spots? Would they along with ASEAN members be willing to move beyond the supportive, hence politically safer roles they normally opt for? Apart from trying to dampen Chinese belligerence, what other meaningful commitments have Southeast Asian partners truly made for security assurances elsewhere? Common sense dictates that Asia, though important, is not the only vital area for which the world needs extra protection.

Though detractors would be right to point out that even the West has demonstrated its own failure to step up, such nitpicking of lower defense budgets and the West’s own version of risk avoidance would only miss out the bigger issue. If anything, when it comes to managing the global “public good”, potential partners in Asia appear to contribute when the circumstances align with their interests and not much more. Even if selfishness defines Western action, if not all action, what separates the Transatlantic connection as opposed to others is a storyline that underpins it all and for which the participants pay considerable respect. Call it “humanitarian-capitalism”.

This creed, foolish or not, is undoubtedly an essential ingredient in which the United States, Britain, France and other European partners have conditioned themselves for how they should function and should the opportunity arise. There’s just one problem. The Asia-Pacific has welcomed the latter with no guarantees on the former.

Of course, to give credit where credit is due, there have certainly been far-flung global assistance here and there. And yes, joint exercises and relief missionsthat should be applauded. But it is still open to discussion whether Asia as a whole, or even a specific nation within it is ready to take on that “special relationship” with America; to share that vision of not just what the world is, but what it ought to be while putting risky chips on the table for a cause beyond their own. This lack of impulse, to not just donate but to literally shape the world, regrettable to its disciples and delusional to its critics, is what differentiates the West and America in particular.

The Devil You Know

In the end, alarm bells will go off for some time as they always do when there is a perceived shakeup in world events. Whether the Brexit merits such a platform has yet to be fully known. What is known however is that the U.S.–British and European alliance, though imperfect, has been and will likely remain the more “reliable” partners in seeing through what Michael Ignatieff calls America’s burden: a global hegemony whose grace notes are free markets, human rights and democracy.

Putting into context such grandiose and perhaps fanciful ideas, Asian associates would no doubt welcome America’s partnership—meaning protection—along with the prosperity it provides. It’s just that in this neighborhood, its own contribution to such an agreement should assist its own residents as opposed to a zeal to seek out progress for others—and that of course would be un-American.

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