Diplomatic Briefing

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Archive for August 10, 2017

Newsline: Cuba diplomats ousted after bizarre incident with US embassy workers in Havana

The U.S. has expelled two Cuban diplomats in retaliation for a bizarre incident purportedly involving a covert sonic device that allegedly left a group of American diplomats in Havana with severe hearing loss. State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert spoke only cryptically about the matter, referring to an “incident” without elaboration. Cuba has strongly denied any allegations of wrongdoing. The purported affair began in late 2016 when a series of U.S. diplomats in Havana began suffering unexplained losses of hearing, according to officials with knowledge of the investigation into the case, the Associated Press reported. Several of the diplomats had recently arrived at the embassy, which reopened in 2015 as part of former President Obama’s re-establishment of diplomatic relations with Cuba and relaxation of travel restrictions. Nauert said that as a result of the incident, two Cuban diplomats were ordered to leave their embassy in Washington. “We requested their departure as a reciprocal measure since some U.S. personnel’s assignments in Havana had to be curtailed due to these incidents,” she said. “Under the Vienna Convention, Cuba has an obligation to take measures to protect diplomats.” She did not say how many U.S. diplomats were affected or confirm they suffered hearing loss, saying only that they had “a variety of physical symptoms.” She said none were life-threatening. In a lengthy statement late Wednesday, the Cuban foreign ministry said: “Cuba has never permitted, nor will permit, that Cuban territory be used for any action against accredited diplomatic officials or their families, with no exception.” It said the decision to expel two Cuban diplomats was “unjustified and baseless.”

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2017/08/10/bizarre-u-s-embassy-incident-prompts-ouster-cuban-diplomats-u-s/555073001/

Newsline: Canadian pastor freed from North Korean prison after efforts from Swedish embassy

Relatives of a Canadian pastor released this week after more than two years in a North Korean prison say he is “on his way home” and they are anxious to be reunited with him. The Korean Central News Agency reported that North Korea’s central court had decided to free Hyeong Soo Lim, who was serving a life sentence for anti-state activities. The pastor’s release was described as “sick bail,” but no other details were given. In a statement Thursday, a spokeswoman for his family said “there is a long way to go” in terms of Lim’s healing and stressed the need for privacy as he receives unspecified medical attention. Lisa Pak also said the family is grateful to the Canadian government and the Swedish embassy in North Korea for working behind the scenes to secure the pastor’s freedom. She did not say when he was scheduled to arrive in Canada.

Canadian pastor freed from North Korean prison after efforts from Swedish embassy: family