The United States is considering a significant cut to its troop numbers in South Korea if Seoul does not contribute more to the cost of the deployment, South Korean newspaper ‘Chosun Ilbo’ reported on Thursday.
The US broke off talks on defence costs with South Korea this week after demanding Seoul raise its annual contribution to $5bn, more than five times what it pays now, in a rare public display of discord in the alliance.
Neither side has publicly confirmed the numbers, but US President Donald Trump has said the US military presence in and around South Korea was “$5 billion worth of protection”.
“I understand that the US is preparing to withdraw one brigade in case negotiations with South Korea do not go as well as President Trump wants,” a diplomatic source in Washington with knowledge of the negotiations was cited as saying by ‘Chosun Ilbo’.
A typical US military brigade numbers about 3,000 to 4,000 troops. There are about 28,500 American troops currently stationed in South Korea, which remains technically in a state of war with nuclear-armed neighbour North Korea following a 1950-1953 conflict, reports al-Jazeera.
US Defense Secretary Mark Esper said he was not aware of any plans to withdraw 4,000 troops from South Korea if cost-sharing talks failed.
“We’re not threatening allies over this. This is a negotiation,” he told reporters during a trip to Vietnam.
South Korea’s defence ministry said the Chosun report was “not the official position of the US government”.
Strains among allies
Under US law, the United States’s troop presence in South Korea must not fall below 22,000 unless the secretary of defence justifies a further reduction to Congress.
‘Chosun Ilbo’ said the potential reduction of a brigade had already been discussed with the top brass of US forces in South Korea.
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
US Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun said on Wednesday he believed the US should continue to station troops in South Korea when asked if he would continue to advocate for the presence of US military personnel in the country if he was confirmed as Deputy Secretary of State.
“South Korea is among our most important alliance partners. That doesn’t mean anybody gets a free ride. We have a tough burden-sharing negotiation that we’re in the middle of with the South Koreans,” Biegun said.
South Korean political party leaders visited Washington, DC on Wednesday to press for a fair and reasonable outcome of the cost-sharing talks.
“I stressed that a withdrawal of US troops from South Korea should not be brought up, as the South Korea-US alliance also helps the US national interest,” said Na Kyung-won of the main opposition Liberty Korea Party.
Meanwhile, South Korea’s intelligence-sharing pact with Japan, which Seoul decided to terminate after relations soured over historical issues and has become the subject of increasing US pressure to renew, is set to expire on November 23.
South Korea’s presidential office is holding a National Security Council meeting on Thursday, where the agreement is expected to be discussed, South Korean media said.
Lagos lauds pilgrims’ conduct in Jerusalem
Lagos State Government has lauded pilgrims’ conduct in the December pilgrimage to Israel, describing them as ambassadors of good and exemplary conduct. Chief of Staff to Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, Mr. Tayo Ayinde made the remarks at the hoisting of the Nigerian flag on a boat cruise for the pilgrims on Sea of Jordan, noting that the pilgrimage had been devoid of hiccups just as he urged them to imbibe the virtues inherent in the pilgrimage. He said: “The lesson and virtue of the pilgrimage is tolerance.
This is because despite the fact that participants belong to different denominations, they have bonded and freely interacted with one another peaceably without any acrimony or segregation. “If the virtues of this pilgrimage are imbibed by the participants there would be less suspicion that could cause religious crisis in the country. “To this end, I want to urge the pilgrims to replicate the virtues acquired when they return home and be more tolerant of others with different religious leanings for a better society.”
Adamawa: Appeal Court upholds Fintiri’s election
The Court of Appeal sitting in Yola, the Adamawa State capital, yesterday upheld the ruling of the governorship election petitions’ tribunal in the state, which had earlier declared Governor Ahmadu Fintiri winner of the 2019 election in the state. The appellate court’s pronouncement was sequel to the Independent National Electoral Commission’s pronouncement of Ahmadu Fintiri as the winner of the February 23 governorship election in the state.
The five-man Appeal Court panel, headed by Justice A. B. Gumel, dismissed all the three grounds of appeal filed by the APC and its governorship candidate in the February 23 election and former governor, Mohammed Jibrila, for lack of merit. One of the grounds of appeal was the decision of the former governor and candidate of the party during the election, Mohammed Jibrilla, to be joined in the suit as he was not a party to the case at the election petitions’ tribunal.
The other ground of the appeal by the APC was that it was not satisfied with the ruling of the election petitions’ tribunal and wanted the Appeal Court to reverse the judgement. Delivering judgement on the matter yesterday, Justice A. B. Gumel averred that all the grounds of appeal lacked merit and therefore dismissed them in their entirety. Reacting to the judgement, Governor Fintiri described it as victory for the people of the state, saying that he would continue to have absolute confidence in the judiciary.
Governor Fintiri stated that the victory would propel him more to implement all his campaign promises, which he added had gone under way. However, the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state had indicated that it would appeal against the judgement of the Appeal Court.
Doctors revive woman after six-hour cardiac arrest
Doctors in Barcelona have managed to revive a British woman who had a six-hour cardiac arrest after developing hypothermia while hiking in the Catalan Pyrenees in freezing weather last month.
Audrey Mash said she was surprised at the attention her case had attracted and said it had not put her off hiking. “I feel like a fraud for not being back at work. I’m hoping to go back before the end of next week,” she said on Thursday.
She and her husband, Rohan Schoeman – who live in Barcelona – set out from Coma de Vaca to Núria on the morning of November 3, reports the Guardian.
Around lunchtime, after the temperature dropped and it began to snow, Schoeman noticed that his wife was speaking oddly and becoming incoherent.
Shortly afterwards, she stopped moving and fell unconscious. He rang friends, who helped firefighters and rescuers locate them and launch a helicopter rescue operation. But bad weather delayed the rescue and by the time they reached the pair, it was 3.30pm.
“Our first assessment suggested that Audrey was in a bad way,” said one of the rescuers, Pere Serral. “We couldn’t find any vital signs and we did what we could using pre-hospital techniques.”
By that point, Mash had severe hypothermia and her body temperature had fallen to just 18C; normal body temperature is 37C. She was then taken by helicopter to the Vall d’Hebron hospital in Barcelona, which has an extracorporeal membrane oxygenation machine (Ecmo).
When connected to a patient, the Ecmo takes over the functioning of the heart and lungs, oxygenating the blood outside the body then reintroducing it, allowing both organs to rest.
The Ecmo had never been used in Spain for a resuscitation procedure. But by 9.45pm, Mash’s body temperature had risen to 30C and the doctors tried again to revive her, using a defibrillator.
Dr Eduardo Argudo said doctors at the hospital had decided to use the machine “to win some time so that her brain could receive oxygen while we treated the cause of the cardiac arrest”.
He added: “Although hypothermia was about to kill Audrey, it also saved her because her body – and above all her brain – didn’t get any worse. If she’d been in cardiac arrest for that long with a normal body temperature, we’d have been certifying her death. But we knew that the severe hypothermia meant that we had a shot at saving her thanks to the Ecmo.”
Argudo said that while hers was the longest instance of cardiac arrest survival documented in Spain, similar cases had occurred in the Alps and in Scandinavia.
Mash, who is 34, spent six days in the intensive care unit, where doctors monitored her for signs of neurological damage.
“I’m good but a little surprised by all the attention it’s got today – it must be a slow news week,” she told the Guardian on Thursday evening.
“I recovered much faster than I, or I think the doctors, expected. I was out of intensive care after six days and out of hospital six days after that. The doctors have since told me that they expected me to be in intensive care for closer to a month.”
Mash, an English teacher who has lived in Barcelona for more than two years, said she was getting back to normal and that the ordeal had not put her off hiking.
“I think my husband is a little more dubious about it than me – he has to live with the memories,” she said.
“I woke up when it was all over. I don’t think we’ll be out in any high mountain this winter. But I do hope that next spring or summer we’ll be able to go back and do some long walking and feel confident in it. I don’t want it to take away from my enjoyment of the mountains.”
US: Iran may have killed more than 1,000 in recent protests
A senior State Department official says Iranian forces may have killed more than 1,000 people in response to recent protests that have swept the country.
Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook cited unspecified reports and provided no evidence of the death toll, reports The Associated Press.
Amnesty International recently said more than 200 people were killed in the recent unrest over economic hardship.
Hook told reporters at the State Department on Thursday the U.S. has seen video of one incident in which more than 100 people were shot and killed.
DSS releases Sowore, pays N.1m fine
The Department of State Services (DSS), has released the convener of #Revolution Now Movement, Mr. Omoyele Sowore.
Sowore, the publisher of Sahara Reporters, was arrested alongside an activist, Mr. Olawale Bakare on August 3, for alleged treasonable felony, among other related charges.
However, an Abuja High Court had granted him bail weeks ago without the Service complying with the ruling, prompting the judge to threaten to charge the DSS with contempt.
But confirming Sowore’s release last night, spokesperson for the DSS, Dr. Peter Afunanya, said: “Yes, Sowore was (has been) released”.
Asked if the sum of N100, 000 was paid as fine, he said: “Yes, we paid the N100, 000.”
Obasanjo eulogizes Ajanaku’s loyalty, commitment to women’s development
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo, on Thursday, expressed shock over the death of his erstwhile Special Adviser on Women Affairs, Chief (Mrs) Titilayo Ajanaku.
Obasanjo noted that the loyalty and commitment to women development of the deceased was exemplary and worthy of emulation.
This was contained in a statement signed by Kehinde Akinyemi, Special Assistant (Media) to the former president.
Obasanjo, who wrote a personal condolence letter to the Head of the Ajanaku family, stated that his late aide played a prominent role in his decision to contest for the post of President in 1998.
He recalled how Ajanaku joined other Nigerians to visit in 1998 to persuade him in contesting for the Presidential election.
Obasanjo described the deceased as a woman who would do everything in her capacity to uplift, improve and advance the cause of women, saying this largely informed reasons for her being appointed as his special adviser.
Senate passes N10.59 trn as 2020 budget
*Jerks up initial proposal by N264trn
The Senate on Thursday passed N10.594 trillion as the budget for 2020 fiscal against the N10.33 trillion earlier submitted to the joint session of the National Assembly on October 8 by President Muhammadu Buhari.
The Senate passed the Appropriation Bill following the consideration and adoption of the report of its Committee on Appropriations, laid before the Chamber on Wednesday.
While presenting the report, the Chairman of the Committee, Senator Barau Jibrin, explained that the increase of N264 billion was made for interventions in critical areas such as national security, road infrastructure mines and steel development, and health among others.
According to Jibrin, the statutory transfer stood at N560.5 billion; recurrent expenditure -N4.8 billion, capital expenditure-N2.5 billion, debt servicing-N2.7 billion, fiscal deficit-N2.3 trillion and deficit to GDP of 1.52 per cent.
He also noted that the daily oil production stood at 2.18m barrels per day while the oil benchmark was increased from $55 proposed by the Executive to $57 per barrel, and that the exchange rate remained N305 per dollar.
FG loses illegal bunkering case against 4 Ukrainians
The Federal Government has lost out in the illegal bunkering case instituted against four Ukraine nationals at a Federal High Court in Port Harcourt.
The four men, Vaskov Andriy, Garchev Mykhaylo, Shulga Vladyslav, Orlovkyi Lyvan and a ship, MT. San Pedro PIO, were cleared of the alleged offence by Justice Adamu Turaki Mohammed.
They were discharged and acquitted of six counts of conspiracy to deal in petroleum products, dealing in petroleum products, making false documents and uttering contrary to Sections 3(6) and 1(17)(a), 1 (2)(c) of the Miscellaneous Offences Act, 2007.
Delivering judgement in the matter, Justice Mohammed upheld the arguments of defendants’ lawyer, Babajide Koku (SAN), that government has failed to prove the case.
“By virtue of the sale agreement between AUGUST A Energy and ANOSYKE Group of Companies, the amended purchase order together with evidence of the 6th prosecution witness under cross-examination, who admitted that the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) import permit is valid, I have no doubt that the prosecution has failed to prove that the defendants had no licence or authority to deal in petroleum product.
“Again, Exhibit A1 has shown that naval approval was obtained in respect of Exhibit J, while the Department of Petroleum Resources import permit attached to Exhibit 63 has shown that the necessary permit was equally secured in respect of Exhibit J from the DPR.
“It is clear both from Exhibit A1 and the DPR permit, that the company in whose favour the approvals were granted is ANOSYKE Group of Companies.
“Similarly, as I have held above that the prosecution has failed to prove count two of the charge against the defendants, I am equally unable to infer, from the entire evidence adduced by the prosecution, how the 1st to 5th defendants conspired with each other to, without lawful authority or appropriate licence import; distribute or deal in/with petroleum product as contained in Count 1, particularly having regard to Exhibit A1 and the DPR permit attached to Exhibit G3.
“Accordingly, therefore, 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th defendants are found not guilty as charged and are hereby discharged and acquitted,” the judge held.
Pipeline explosion in Lagos
A pipeline explosion has occurred in Isheri Olofin, Egbe-Idimu Local Council Development Area of Lagos State on Thursday morning, forcing residents to flee for safety.
More details later…
US sailor kills workers at Hawaii navy base
A US sailor shot dead two workers before taking his own life at the Pearl Harbor military base near Honolulu in Hawaii on Wednesday.
Officials say the gunman also injured a third worker before he killed himself
The incident prompted a lockdown at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, which is on the Hawaiian island of Oahu, reports the BBC.
The shooting was reported at about 14:30 (00:30 GMT) local time. The identities of those involved in the shooting have not yet been confirmed.
All three victims were civilian defence department employees and the survivor is in stable condition, officials said.
Rear Admiral Robb Chadwick, speaking at a press conference, said it was unclear if the victims were targeted or shot at random.
He said the gunman has tentatively been identified as an active duty serviceman assigned to the USS Columbia.
The submarine is currently undergoing maintenance at the base, US media reports.
“Obviously our thoughts are with the families of the victims and everyone involved,” Rear Adm Chadwick added.
The shooting prompted a lockdown at the military base, which is home to US navy and air force personnel.
Both base security and the Naval Criminal Investigative Service are investigating the shooting, a spokesman said.
Hawaii’s governor, David Ige, responded to the shooting in a tweet and confirmed the White House had offered federal assistance.
The shooting comes just three days before the 78th anniversary of a Japanese attack on Pearl Habor naval station, which left more than 2,300 Americans dead.
The surprise attack, on December 7, 1941, prompted the US to declare war on Japan and enter World War Two.
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