State-Owned Bank of China Cuts All Ties with North Korea
DPRK TradeIn the latest evidence of deteriorating relations between China and North Korea, the state-owned Bank of China has stopped dealing with North Korea's Foreign Exchange Bank. This is in accordance with US financial sanctions imposed last March. The US will not deal with any financial institution that does business with North Korea. On this past week's episode of LinkAsia, we aired a piece from Japan's public broadcaster, NHK, who covered the story on May 7.


Reuters News Agency says the state-owned Chinese bank notified North Korea's foreign trade bank that it was stopping all transactions. US officials hit the North Korean bank with sanctions in March banning any exchanges with US firms or individuals. They accused the bank of helping to finance Pyongyang's nuclear weapons program. Officials at Bank of China gave no reason why they were closing the North Korean account, and state run media have not reported on the story.

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North Korea Remains Defiant After New Sanctions Imposed
(LinkAsia: January 25, 2012)
Thuy Vu:
North Korea has reacted bitterly to a UN resolution that condemned the North's rocket launch last month and imposes new sanctions. Pyongyang said the launch was to send up a communications satellite. The US and most other countries said it was designed to test a long-range missile and was part of North Korea's goal of acquiring weapons of mass destruction. Here's Japan's public broadcaster NHK.


Airdate: January 23, 2013

Security Council members passed their resolution unanimously. It expands existing sanctions, adding four individuals and six organizations, including the space agency. Assets will be frozen, and individuals will also face a travel ban.

Officials in Pyongyang are showing defiance. Foreign Ministry representatives issued a statement, condemning the resolution as an attempt to deprive North Korea of its right to launch a satellite for peaceful purposes. The document says it is now clear the US has a policy of hostility toward North Korea. As a result, it says that the North will no longer recognize the joint statement from the Six Party Talks in 2005. That includes plans for the country to abandon all nuclear weapons and programs.

The statement goes on to say North Korean authorities will take practical steps to strengthen their defensive military power to counter pressure from US sanctions. It says that includes nuclear deterrence. The wording suggests North Korean officials could conduct a third nuclear test. They carried out one in 2006, and one in 2009.

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Syrian Opposition Unites, Rohingya Groups Speak Out, and More Top News This Week

REUTERS/Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham/Handout

US-approved Syrian opposition group forms governing body

After US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called for a "more trustworthy" Syrian opposition last week, New TV reported that a leader in the Free Syrian Army announced that the Free Army is reorganizing its ranks to gain the trust of the international community, adding that his leadership has started to settle inside Syria. The Syrian opposition also announced during its ongoing meetings in Doha that it accepted a proposal to establish a transitional government headed by opposition member Riyad Saif. The initiative, headed by Saif, stipulates creating a unified leadership dubbed the Syrian National Initiative, from which a government in exile will be formed.

World groups organize global day of action in support of Myanmar's Rohingyas; Suu Kyi under fire for ignoring violence

Myanmar's Rohingyas are fleeing Rakhine State after a new wave of attacks from the Buddhist majority. Press TV reported that Rohingya groups around the world held a global day of action for the Rohingyas on November 8. International rights groups, such as Human Rights Watch, have also criticized Burmese activist Aung San Suu Kyi for her silence on the issue. The president of Arakan Rohingya National Organization, Noor al-Islam, added in an interview during a rally in London that if the persecuted had been Rakhine's Buddhists, Suu Kyi would have spoken out. Additionally, the aid group Doctors Without Borders says its workers have been threatened and stopped from reaching violence-hit areas in Myanmar. The group says thousands are left without medical care in the western Rakhine State as a result, adding that many of the victims are extremely vulnerable.

Tens of Thousands Demand Nobel Peace Prize for Malala Yousafzai


BBC Arabic reported that over 60 thousand people signed a petition calling for Pakistani rights activist Malala Yousafzai to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. The 15-year-old girl is recovering in The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, Britain, after suffering an armed attack by the Taliban movement in Pakistan. Malala and her campaign for education gained notoriety around the world after she wrote her memoirs in the Urdu section of the BBC about life under the teachings of the extremist Taliban movement that rejects girls' right to an education.

Oil Giant Shell Undercuts Iran Sanctions with $1.4B Grain Barter


Dubai TV reported that the Royal Dutch Shell Company aims to circumvent international sanctions imposed on Iran by concluding a swap through which it would pay its USD 1.4 billion debt to the Iranian national oil company with a grain barter deal through the American agribusiness Cargill. Through the deal, Shell would deliver grain to Iran worth USD 1.4 billion, or what amounts to nearly 80 percent of Iran's yearly grain imports. Sources also revealed that the Royal Dutch Shell company, Tehran's second largest customer, imports 100,000 barrels of Iranian oil per day, and continued to purchase oil until the sanctions went into effect on July 1st.


Image: Pakistani schoolgirl Malala Yousufzai talks to her father, Ziauddin Yousufzai, as she recuperates at the The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, in this undated handout photograph released to Reuters on November 8, 2012. REUTERS/Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham/Handout


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At a Fork in the Road: The Iran Nuclear Talks post-Istanbul


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Developments in Libya and the Middle East

REUTERS/Ismail ZitounyLibyan court revokes law banning Gaddafi glorification

Al Jazeera - Libya's Supreme Court ruled that a law, passed by the National Transitional Council, was unconstitutional. The law criminalizes the glorification of Gaddafi and his ideas, and punishes with a prison sentence anyone who harms the February 17 Revolution. The court's ruling ended the debate between the law's opponents and proponents. Some viewed the law as a restoration of the former regime's tools of governance, while others considered it a rupture with the Gaddafi era.

Egypt's high court dissolves parliament two days before presidential elections

New TV - Egypt's Supreme Constitutional Court dissolved parliament, and confirmed the presidential run-off elections will be held on time. the struggle between Egypt's judges and the dissolved parliament seems ongoing, after parliament insulted and defamed the Egyptian judiciary and Judge Ahmed Rifaat, who presided over Mubarak’s case. This led the chairman of the union of judges to respond in kind, as the battle continues between the legislative and judicial powers. The ruling also found the disenfranchisement law invalid, keeping Ahmed Shafiq in the presidential race.

A look at Gaza after five years of Hamas rule and Israeli siege

BBC Arabic - Tuesday marked the 5th anniversary of Hamas’ control of the Gaza Strip following an internal battle with its opponent Fatah, that lasted many months and shaped the beginning of the Palestinian political division. Attempts to remedy this division continue today. It also paved the way for an economic blockade by Israel on Gaza's crossings, the price of which is being paid by Gaza’s residents.

As rhetoric intensifies, the Syrian conflict nears global proxy

Al-Alam - In light of the on-the-ground developments of the Syrian crisis, and as clashes continue between armed groups and government forces while a political solution is still lacking, the positions of European and world capitals have differed on the situation in Syria. In contrast to the UN position expressing concern over the eruption of a civil war in Syria, France's position explicitly urged an escalation of the situation in order to topple the regime. It also threatened to impose harsh sanctions on Syria.


Tunisia arrests dozens of Salafi Islamists rioting over art show

BBC Arabic - Clashes in some areas of the densely populated capital continued until the early morning hours. According to the Interior Ministry, the clashes erupted overnight between security forces and groups affiliated with Salafi forces, and vandals in several neighborhoods of the capital Tunis. Vandalism, burning and looting affected security and judicial institutions, and syndicates. Protesters say the reason is the display of portraits they considered offensive to Islam.


Image: Judge Kamal Bashir Daham, head of Libya's Supreme Court, and members of the court panel meet to approve the constitutional invalidation of a law that will criminalise the glorification of ousted leader Muammar Gaddafi or any of his supporters in Tripoli June 14, 2012. REUTERS/Ismail Zitouny


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From Baghdad to Moscow: Assessing the Iran Nuclear Talks


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US Pressures India to Cease Iran Oil Imports
(LinkAsia: May 11, 2012)
Sydnie Kohara:
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is continuing her Asian tour with a stop in India, but she's not getting much cooperation there. The United States is asking India not to buy oil from Iran. The oil embargo is to force Iran to halt its nuclear program, but Iran is the biggest supplier of oil to India. And as NHK reports, they're not likely to stop doing business together any time soon.


Airdate: May 8, 2012

Hillary Clinton's visit to India comes less than two months before additional sanctions against Iran go into force. The United States has outlined new sanctions against Iran in response to Iran's nuclear program. But so far, India, which imports about 10 percent of its oil from Iran, has shown no intention of following Washington's lead. One factor at play is the importance of energy security seen by the government of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh as a crucial element of India's economic growth. Clinton emphasized that the US is ready to provide expert advice on how India can diversify its sources of oil. In line with its sanctions against Iran, Washington is hoping that India will agree to reduce imports from Iran.

Hillary Clinton, US Secretary of State:
We commend India for the steps its refineries are taking to reduce imports from Iran. There is no doubt that India and the United States are after the same goal.

While India is not prepared to join western sanctions, curbing oil imports from Iran would motivate the country to diversify its sources of oil leading to greater energy security.

S.M. Krishna, Indian Foreign Minister:
Given our growing demand, it is natural for us to try and diversify our sources of imports of oil and gas to meet the objective of energy security.

India is keen to avoid further economic slowdown caused by the European debt crisis. On the other hand, the United States wants to make sanctions against Iran as effective as possible. Clinton and Krishna are said to meet again in Washington in June. The search for a compromise over Iranian oil imports is likely to continue until just before the sanctions begin.

Sydnie Kohara:
Hillary Clinton held up Japan as the example for India to follow. Japan has successfully reduced its oil imports from Iran by about 20 percent.

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Link TV Presents Comprehensive Coverage of Iran-US Relations


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Link TV Continues to Build a "Bridge to Iran"

Bridge to Iran with Host Parisa SoultaniIf you read and watch entertainment news, you know that an Iranian filmmaker, Asghar Farhadiis, is racking up the Hollywood awards for A Separation even in a climate of US-imposed sanctions. And if you're paying attention to most media coverage, you're well aware of the nuclear issue. But other than that, do we have a lens into the lives and stories of Iranians? Does this kind of cultural lens matter as we settle into our perspectives about Iran? Yes. Without showing the lives, struggles and culture of everyday people living and working in Iran, we in the West have a potentially skewed image of Iranians.


In 2006, Link TV developed a documentary TV series, Bridge to Iran, to provide a window into the lives and struggles of everyday Iranians -- to respond to the cultural and political tensions that have developed between Iran and the US since the Iranian Revolution.  Over the years, Bridge to Iran has covered a wide range of social and political issues in modern Iran, including the experiences of young girls facing womanhood and uncertain futures, religious pilgrims who risk their lives to visit a holy site in war-torn Iraq, rural life and political awareness, an exploration of Tehran as an urban metropolis, and Iranian women's participation in the election process.

Bridge to Iran Host Parisa Soultani interviewing Siah Bazi director Maryam Khakhipour


The new season premieres on February 14. In each of the four episodes of Bridge to Iran, in-depth discussions between host Parisa Soultani and top Iranian filmmakers provide a unique lens into some of the challenges and realities facing Iranians during a time of increased instability -- including censorship, sanctions and safety concerns.


Here are the details about the films and when to catch the episodes, on Link TV or online:


  • Iran: A Cinematographic Revolution, directed by Nader Takmil Homayoun, explores the history and politics of Iran through its rich filmmaking tradition; premieres on February 14 at 7:30 pm ET / 4:30 pm PT and February 16 at 10:00pm PT. Watch online starting February 14.


  • The Queen and I, directed by Nahid Sarvestani, documents the filmmaker's complex relationship with the exiled former queen of Iran; premieres on February 21 at 7:30pm ET / 4:30pm PT and February 23 at 10:00pm PT. Watch online now!


  • We Are Half of Iran's Population, directed by Rakhshan Bani Etemad, looks at women's participation in the controversial 2009 elections; premieres on February 28 at 7:30pm ET / 4:30pm PT and March 1 at 10:00pm PT. Watch online now!


  • Siah Bazi (The Joy Makers), directed by Maryam Khakipour, traces the demise of a popular form of irreverent street theater; premieres on March 6 at 7:30pm ET / 4:30pm PT and March 8 at 10:00pm PT. Watch online starting March 6.


Bridge to Iran offers a diverse perspective on a country on the receiving end of a torrent of media attention -- but with a lens that's inclusive of the people and the art found within Iranian borders. We hope you'll tune in and tell others.


* * *


Caty Borum Chattoo is a producer and communication strategist with Link TV, assistant professor in the School of Communication at American University in Washington, DC, and media fellow with the AU Center for Social Media.


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Asia's Response to Iranian Oil Embargo


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