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New N. Korea sanctions sets stage for nuclear showdown

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The UN Security Council on Wednesday put three top North Korean state firms on a sanctions black list over the country’s failedrocket launch.

But the assets freeze against three enterprises said to have financed and organized the North’s missile and nuclear programs could soon be followed by a new UN sanctions battle if the North carries out a feared nuclear bomb test.

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The United States, European Union, South Korea and Japan had proposed adding 40 companies, organizations and individuals to the UN sanctions list. But China, the North’s closest ally, rejected the bulk of the names, diplomats said.

US ambassador Susan Rice said the sanctions targeted “three very significant North Korean entities, very much involved in their illicit missile and nuclear programs.”

The three sanctioned firms are Amroggang Development Banking Corporation, which already faces US and European Union sanctions, Green Pine Associated Corporation, and Korea Heungjin Trading Company.

Amroggang is related to another bank, Tanchon, which plays a “key role” in North Korea’s sales of ballistic missiles, including to Iran, said a sanctions committee statement.

Green Pine was said to be North Korea’s “prime” arms dealer, responsible for about half of the country’s arms exports. The statement added that Korea Heungjin was also suspected of trading in weapons with Iran and importing goods for missile designs.

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“We view this as a strong and credible set of sanctions,” Rice told reporters. China’s UN ambassador Li Baodong also said he was “happy” that an agreement had been reached on the sanctions list.

North Korea fired the rocket on April 13, but it disintegrated soon after launch and fell into the Yellow Sea.

Global condemnation followed, however, and the Security Council ordered the expansion of sanctions imposed after the isolated state’s nuclear bomb tests in 2006 and 2009.

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The Security Council is now braced for more difficult talks if North Korea stages a third bomb test. China would again be expected to protect its neighbor against international pressure for major sanctions, diplomats said.

North Korea has apparently finished preparations for a third test at its underground site at Punggye-ri, in the northeast of the country, and is awaiting a political decision to go ahead, according to South Korean nuclear experts.

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Rice said the new sanctions will “increase North Korea’s isolation” and showed the Security Council “is determined that there be consequences for this provocation and any future North Korean violation.”

“We should not judge anything now,” the Chinese ambassador told reporters when asked how the Security Council should react to an atomic test.

But US and European diplomats have indicated that they will seek sanctions if a new atomic blast is carried out.

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Western nations have already started discussing potential action, but not yet with China and Russia, diplomats said. “China will never discuss action before the event. We will have to see how they react to any test. Sanctions would be the normal reaction, but it will be hard,” one western envoy said.

Following the rocket launch, the 15-nation council gave its North Korean sanctions committee two weeks to propose new names and entities to add to the list of eight firms and five individuals already facing an assets freeze and travel ban.

The council also ordered an updated list of technology and substances that are banned for North Korea. The lists are prepared by the Missile Technology Control Regime and by the Nuclear Suppliers Group, the main nuclear equipment exporting countries.


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Trump declares himself the ‘greatest of all presidents’ in manic tweetstorm attacking Pelosi and Democrats

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Donald Trump broke out of his Twitter hibernation on Saturday afternoon just before flying off to Florida for a pair of fundraisers, and used the opportunity to declare himself the "greatest of all presidents."

Attacking House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) for not passing his signature trade bill, Trump then went after Democrats for trying to impeach him -- saying they were making a big mistake.

On Twitter, the president wrote: ""Hard to believe, but if Nancy Pelosi had put our great Trade Deal with Mexico and Canada, USMCA, up for a vote long ago, our economy would be even better. If she doesn’t move quickly, it will collapse!"

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Donald Trump sounds like a complete lunatic because he’s isolated himself in a far-right media bubble

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Welcome to another edition of What Fresh Hell?, Raw Story’s roundup of news items that might have become controversies under another regime, but got buried – or were at least under-appreciated – due to the daily firehose of political pratfalls, unhinged tweet storms and other sundry embarrassments coming out of the current White House.

If you have an older relative who spends way too much time stewing in the conservative media, you may have experienced a moment when you not only disagreed with him, but you realized that you had no earthly clue what he was going on about. Perhaps it was when he started talking about the UN plot to eliminate golf courses and replace paved roads with bicycle paths. Maybe he stopped you in your tracks with a discourse on why flies were attracted to Barack Obama, or complained about the government insisting on referring to Christians as "Easter-worshippers" or expressed outrage over 9/11 hijackers being given leniency by Muslim jurists.

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Trump’s claim impeachment ‘nullifies’ 2016 election blown up in new House Judiciary Committee report

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On Saturday, the House Judiciary Committee released their report outlining the offenses committed by President Donald Trump, and the legal framework for impeachment — which clears the way for Congress to write and approve articles of impeachment against him.

One of the key issues examined by the report is the claim, repeatedly made by the president and his supporters, that impeachment would "nullify" the 2016 presidential election and the popular will — which is already a weak claim given that Trump never won the popular vote, and that impeaching Trump would still install Mike Pence as president. But the report more broadly rejects the entire claim that an election result immunizes a president from punishment for official misconduct.

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