Diplomatic Briefing

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Newsline: North Korean Ambassador To Thailand Says His Country Will Strike Back If Attacked

North Korean Ambassador to Thailand Mun Song-mo says his country will “definitely win” any war with the United States if Washington does not drop its “plan to destroy us.” He called US President Donald Trump a “mad man”, the envoy from Pyongyang in an interview last Friday: “We now have the hydrogen bomb. If a war breaks out, we are ready to fight and we will surely win the war against the United States.” In the rare interview, the North Korean envoy, however, stressed: “We don’t want to start a war. We want peace. But if we are attacked, we will certainly fight and we have no doubts that we will win.”



Newsline: US embassy dragged into Canberra dog attack investigation

A dog living on a property owned by the US embassy has been linked to three separate attacks in the past 18 months, but investigations have been hampered by diplomatic considerations. No action has yet been taken over the attacks, which included one on a four-year old girl, two attacks on adult neighbours of the Stirling property, and one on another dog. The ACT’s domestic animal service confirmed it had been called to the latest attack on October 25, but said it was “currently liaising with the Australian Federal Police diplomatic liaison unit”. In that incident, Stirling woman Livia Auer was bitten on her legs and backside when two German shepherds escaped their yard at a home owned by the embassy and occupied by a diplomat. Less than an hour earlier, one of the dogs had attacked a child and her mother playing in the front yard of their home.


Newsline: Australian diplomat falls to his death in New York City

A young Australian diplomat fell to his death from a New York City building, police said, reportedly as he played a trust game on a ledge. Julian Simpson, 30, was on the seventh floor of a Lower East Side building with his wife and others when he fell, landing on a second-floor terrace, New York City police said. He was pronounced dead at a local hospital. There’s no apparent criminality, police said. Simpson and others then went to a seventh-floor apartment terrace, “and Simpson offered to prove he was trustworthy by playing a trust game, going to a ledge and leaning back,” the AP reported. Simpson allegedly reached for another person’s hand, but he slipped and fell, authorities said, according to the AP. Minister for Foreign Affairs Julie Bishop said in a statement today, “I extend my condolences to the family and loved ones of Julian Simpson,” saying his death occurred “in tragic circumstances in New York.”


Newsline: US says Russian security firm duly screened to guard embassy

The U.S. State Department said Wednesday it has duly screened a Russian private security firm contracted to help guard the U.S. Embassy in Moscow amid reports that it was founded by a former KGB spy. The State Department said Wednesday it had “vetted the company and the name of each individual identified or associated with Elite Security with relevant national and local agencies.” A U.S. state procurement website indicated that September’s contract was worth $2.8 million. The State Department’s statement follows a report in the Russian business daily Kommersant, which said Elite Security was founded by ex-KGB spy Viktor Budanov and is currently run by his son.


Newsline: US, British embassies in Zimbabwe instruct citizens to find shelter amid ‘political uncertainty’

The U.S. Embassy in Zimbabwe is instructing Americans to find “shelter in place until further notice,” due to ongoing “political uncertainty” throughout the night. Armed soldier and military vehicles were seen in the streets of Zimbabwe’s capital, Harare, and at least three explosions were heard on Wednesday morning, local time, according to the Associated Press. The embassy also said it will be closed to the public on Wednesday and employees have been told to remain home. “Even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can turn into confrontational and escalate into violence,” the embassy said in a statement. “Avoid areas where demonstrations are taking place and exercise caution when in the vicinity of any large gatherings, protests, or demonstrations.” The British Embassy also instructed citizens early Wednesday morning, local time, to remain inside “until the situation becomes clearer.” Members of Zimbabwe’s military and the president, Robert Mugabe, who has been president since 1980, are reportedly at odds and there are rumors of a coup attempt, including a takeover of a national broadcaster. A military spokesman claimed that they are taking action to “target criminals,” and added that this was not “a military takeover of government,” according to BBC.


Newsline: US responds to criticism of embassy in Cambodia

The United States’ Asean mission rebutted criticism by Prime Minister Hun Sen, who told US President Donald Trump in a speech at the Asean Summit in Manila that the US Embassy in Phnom Penh was violating a purported new American policy of noninterference. In a press release, the US mission to Asean said Deputy Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Asian Affairs Matt Pottinger, and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Southeast Asia W Patrick Murphy had met Cambodian Foreign Minister Prak Sokhonn in Manila on the sidelines of the Asean Summit, and had “expressed strong concerns” about recent political developments in the Kingdom. They highlighted “restrictions on the free press, civil society, and the political opposition” and voiced “deep concerns” about the detention of opposition leader Kem Sokha, arrested in September on widely criticised charges of “treason”. In his speech at the summit on Monday, Hun Sen lauded Trump personally as a kindred spirit and for his purported foreign policy of noninterference, but asked him to warn his officials in Phnom Penh to stop violating this policy.


Newsline: Suspected anthrax powder at US consulate in Hong Kong false alarm

Hong Kong police have confirmed that a small amount of unidentified white powder found at the US consulate general was not hazardous substance. There is no reason to believe the powder was left by someone intentionally, the police said, calling the incident a misunderstanding. The incident took place at about 9 a.m. on Monday when the consulate opened to accept visa applications. An employee found some white powder in the groove of a service counter and reported it to the police, suspecting it might be anthrax, a deadly biotoxin. While waiting for the police to arrive, the consulate evacuated all applicants and suspended all visa-related services as a precaution. Specialists arrived at the complex in Central, along with firefighters and paramedics. The police later said the unidentified white powder was not hazardous. The material was taken away for tests. In a statement Monday, a spokesperson for the consulate said the incident has been resolved and apologized for the inconvenience caused to visa applicants and visitors. The consulate is open as usual Tuesday.