News Briefs 4/11/2013

Great Britain’s ‘Iron Lady’ Dies at 87

Former Prime Minister of Great Britain and champion of the Conservative Party Margaret Thatcher died Monday, April 8 at the age of 87.

Thatcher suffered a stroke while at the Ritz Hotel. In the months preceding her death, Thatcher, who had dementia, is reported to have experienced poor health.

Prime Minister David Cameron’s office announced that Queen Elizabeth II authorized a ceremonial funeral with military honors at St. Paul’s Cathedral in Thatcher’s honor. The date and time of the ceremony has yet to be released. The service will precede a private cremation, in keeping with the Thatcher family’s wishes, (The Washington Post “Funeral arrangements for, tributes to Margaret Thatcher,” 4.8.13.)

Thatcher’s death prompted a quick reaction from the British government: Prime Minister David Cameron returned to the country amidst a European tour after hearing the news. “Today is a truly sad day for our country,” Cameron said in a statement on BBC. “We’ve lost a great prime minister, a great leader, a great Briton” (Washington Post).

Thatcher’s passing also solicited responses from Washington. President Obama released a statement upon hearing of her passing: “With the passing of Baroness Margaret Thatcher, the world has lost one of the great champions of freedom and liberty, and America has lost a true friend.” Speaker of the House John Boehner also offered his condolences. He observed, “[Thatcher was] the greatest peacetime prime minister in British history” (Washington Post, “Obama and others mourn Margaret Thatcher,” 4.8.13).

Reactions from the English public reflect how divisive Thatcher proved during her time in office. Within hours of her death, parts of Britain began impromptu street celebrations with cake and champagne. Protests proved especially vitriolic in the northern United Kingdom. In Glasgow, where the working class saw Thatcher as having damaged industry, about 300 gathered to celebrate her death. Protestors reportedly shouted, “so long, the witch is dead” (Time, “Even in Death, Margaret Thatcher Divides Britain as Hundreds Celebrate, 4.9.13).

Such celebrations have prompted prominent political figures to call for respect in the wake of Thatcher’s death. “I hope that people on the left of politics respect a family in grief today,” tweeted Tom Watson, a British parliament member. Louise Mensch, a British parliament Conservative and self-proclaimed Thatcherite, responded on Twitter with distaste for the celebrations. “Pygmies of the left so predictably embarrassing yourselves, know this: not a one of your leaders will ever be globally mourned like her,” she said.


—Carrie Plover, Reporter


North Korea Issues Warnings Over Embassies’ Safety

On Friday April 5, North Korea warned foreign embassies in Pyongyang that it could not guarantee diplomats’ safety after April 10. The Swedish Embassy, which acts as the US protecting power and provides normal consular service to US citizens in North Korea, also confirmed that North Korean government “will offer assistance for those who want to leave.” (CNN, “Embassies face decisions as tensions rise in North Korea,” 4.5.13)

The Korean peninsula witnessed escalating tensions in recent weeks as the North Korean government declared the 1953 Korean War armistice nullified on March 11. (The New York Times, “North Korea Declares 1953 War Truce Nullified,” 3.11.13) Two missiles were transported to the east coast of the country, one an intercontinental ballistic missile and the other with range up to 1865 miles. They are believed to be able to reach targets in South Korea, Japan and US territory of Guam.

In response to the aggressive military activity, the newly-elected South Korean president Park Guen-hye promised a “strong and immediate retaliation without any other political consideration…”(Educador Times, “South Korea would respond in the event of North Korean provocation,” 4.01.2013) With Guam as a possible target, the US has sent ballistic missiles to its Western Pacific air and naval base. Pentagon officials said that military deployments to US bases in South Korea are taking place and both armies are on standby.

Despite the official warnings over embassies’ safety, the few foreign embassies in Pyongyang have not yet announced any plans of moving out their staffs. Denis Samsonov, a spokesman for the Russian embassy in Pyongyang, said that Russia has no plans to evacuate at this stage, as there were no outward signs of tension in the capital. (The Guardian “North Korea warns embassies over safety following missile threat” 4.5.13) Meanwhile, the United Nations staff will continue humanitarian and developmental work across North Korea.

Security staffs of both the US and Russia believe that launching missiles, thus starting a war, will be suicidal for this seriously underdeveloped country.

—Youli Zhou, Guest Reporter

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