Monday: Frustration at BP Growing; South Korea Cuts Off Trade With North
A BP cleanup crew removes oil from a beach at Port Fourchon, Louisiana, on Sunday. Photo by John Moore/Getty Images.
Efforts to contain the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico took a step backward over the weekend. On Sunday, a BP spokesman said the company was able to capture only 1,360 barrels of oil in the 24 hours that ended midnight Saturday, down from 5,000 barrels on Thursday.
“I am angry and frustrated that BP has been unable to stop the leak,” Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said Sunday after visiting BP’s U.S. headquarters in Houston. “We are 33 days into this effort, and deadline after deadline has been missed.”
The company has been siphoning oil to a tanker on the Gulf surface through a mile-long tube connected to busted pipeline below. But with oil now pushing at least 12 miles into Louisiana’s fragile marshlands, Gov. Bobby Jindal, said he will longer to wait for federal approval to begin building protective sand barriers.
Jindal also said he supported a decision by local leaders to commandeer about 30 fishing boats that BP has commissioned but not deployed to lay down additional boom.
“The normally dispassionate Jindal even joked that he would go to jail … if federal authorities tried to stop them,” the Times-Picayune reports.
On Tuesday, BP engineers are expected to pump mud and concrete into the blown-out underwater well. The so-called top kill technique “has never been tried 5,000 feet under water, where the well sits,” USA Today notes.
South Korea Cuts Off Trade With North
South Korea announced Monday it is severing nearly all trade with North Korea after an internal investigation blamed the North for a deadly torpedo attack in March that killed 46 South Korean sailors.
In a nationally televised speech, South Korean President Lee Myung-bak also said his nation has closed its sea lanes to the north and called for the United Nations Security Council to consider additional sanctions against North Korea.
“From now on, the Republic of Korea will not tolerate any provocative act by the North and will maintain a principle of proactive deterrence,” President Lee said. “If our territorial waters, airspace or territory are militarily violated, we will immediately exercise our right of self-defense.”
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who is in Beijing for talks with Chinese officials, voiced full U.S. support for South Korea’s response. Clinton said North Korea has thrust the region into a “highly precarious situation,” and that the United States is “working hard to avoid an escalation of belligerence and provocation.”
Mounting tensions on the Korean peninsula have overshadowed Clinton’s visit to Beijing, a three-day trip aimed at strengthening economic ties with China.
Chinese President Hu Jintao opened the talks by repeating a pledge to reform the nation’s currency, a decision welcomed by the United States. The Obama administration has long pushed for China to revalue its currency, arguing Beijing keeps the yuan artificially low at the expense of U.S. exports.
Despite President Hu’s comments on the yuan, reports the New York Times, the opening session laid bare a recurrent theme between both nations:
“The United States came with a long wish list for China on both economic and security issues, while China mostly wants to be left alone to pursue policies that are turning it into an economic superpower without putting at risk its prized geopolitical stability.”