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Kim Jong Un meets high-ranking Chinese diplomat in Pyongyang

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North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has met with a high-ranking Chinese diplomat in Pyongyang, amid a flurry of diplomacy following Kim’s recent surprise visit to Beijing. Kim’s trip, during which he met with Chinese President Xi Jinping, was considered an attempt to repair traditionally warm ties with China that have deteriorated over North Korea’s development of ballistic missile and nuclear weapons technology and China’s enforcement of United Nations economic sanctions. Kim said during his meeting with Song on Saturday that he and Xi “reached important consensus” in Beijing, according to China’s official Xinhua News Agency. Song agreed that the two leaders had reached consensus, and said China is willing to work with North Korea to safeguard peace on the Korean Peninsula, Xinhua reported. Song Tao, who heads the ruling Communist Party’s International Department, led an art troupe to Pyongyang to attend an arts festival, according to China’s Foreign Ministry.

Japan to pitch new trade dialogue to draw Trump back to TPP

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The Japanese government on Friday greeted with cautious optimism the news that U.S. President Donald Trump is willing to explore re-entering the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, while stressing that Washington should accept the original terms. “If this means that President Trump is correctly evaluating the significance and effects of the TPP, it’s something we want to welcome,” Toshimitsu Motegi, Japan’s minister in charge of the TPP, said after a Cabinet meeting. But he added: “The 11 participating countries share the thinking that it would be extremely difficult to take out part of the TPP and renegotiate or change it.

“The U.S. withdrawal from the TPP shortly after Trump’s inauguration last year made Japan the largest of the 11 Pacific Rim economies left in the deal. Those countries signed a new version last month that had been revised to account for the U.S. absence. Finance Minister Taro Aso suggested that Trump’s shift on the pact should be approached with caution. The shift comes amid a developing trade dispute between the United States and China, which did not take part in the TPP.

Japan’s former chief negotiator for talks on North Korea warns that U.S. lacks expertise on Pyongyang

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In a striking reversal, U.S. President Donald Trump has asked trade officials to explore the possibility of the United States rejoining the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, a free trade deal he pulled out of during his first days in office as part of his “America first” agenda. Trump’s request comes as he faces pressure from farm-state Republicans anxious that his protectionist trade policies could spiral into a trade war with China that would hit rural America. It was not immediately clear how committed Trump was to embarking on a new path of potentially thorny negotiations. Trump frequently equivocates on policy when faced with opposition, only to reverse course later. It’s unclear how willing the other 11 countries would be to reopen the agreement and make concessions to lure the United States back.

“If the Trump administration doesn’t pose too many demands, it is likely that the other TPP members will see the value of the bringing the U.S. back into the fold,” said Eswar Prasad, Cornell University professor of trade policy. “Undoubtedly, a TPP that includes the U.S. would be stronger and more formidable than one that does not.” Lawmakers on Capitol Hill have been renewing their pitches for TPP — rather than Trump’s threats of steep tariffs on steel and other products — as a way to counter China on trade. Sen. Ron Johnson was among a handful of senators who recently visited China to meet with government and business leaders there. He said it’s time to work with a coalition of trading partners to increase pressure on China.

Trump: North Korea meeting on nuclear weapons to be in ‘May or early June’

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U.S. President Donald Trump said he planned to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong Un next month or in early June and hoped the discussions would ultimately lead to an end of the North’s nuclear weapons program. “Hopefully, it’ll be a relationship that’s much different than it’s been for many, many years” he said.

According to a U.S. official North Korea also has told the United States it is prepared to discuss the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula when Kim meets Trump. The official said U.S. and North Korean officials have held secret contacts recently in which Pyongyang directly confirmed its willingness to hold the unprecedented summit. The communications have involved State Department officials talking to North Korea, apparently through its United Nations mission, and intelligence officers from both sides using a separate back channel, the official said.

Tokyo 2020: after rocky start, preparations to be back on track

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With the Pyeongchang Winter Games in South Korea over, Tokyo is stepping up preparations for the next event on the Olympic calendar, with busy building sites dotted around the Japanese capital. Unlike in previous Olympic host countries, where there was a scramble to finish venues on time, Japan appears to be living up to its reputation for efficiency. On a recent media tour of sites, foreman after foreman said “We are on schedule.” The Aquatics Centre in Tokyo Bay is a hive of activity, with workers scurrying around the huge site and pushing to finish a venue that will eventually welcome 24,000 cheering supporters. “Roughly 25 percent of the work is already done,” said Daishuu Tone, director of venues for the Tokyo Metropolitan Government. “We are confident we will be on time,” he added, with the first test events scheduled for mid-2019.

Organizers are looking at coating pavements with a substance to reduce the surface temperature, and making sure there are plenty of trees to provide shade for competitors and spectators alike, Koike said. There are also worries over contamination in Odaiba Bay, where the triathlon and open-water swimming events will be held. Samples taken between July and September last year showed levels of E. coli bacteria more than 20 times higher than permitted — apparently brought about by unseasonably heavy rain. Muto said organizers would solve this problem using special “underwater filters” that have proven effective at cleaning water in tests.

North Korea’s Yongbyon Nuclear Research Center: Major Activity at the Five Megawatt Reactor

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According to 38 North, commercial satellite imagery from March 30 indicates that North Korea may have shut down the 5 MWe (plutonium production) reactor, since it was last observed in late February, given the lack of clearly visible steam plumes at the Generator Hall. At the Experimental Light Water Reactor (ELWR), work continues on an adjacent building that may be a laboratory or for engineering support, but there are no obvious signs that the reactor is approaching operational status, in fact there was no evidence of plutonium reprocessing taking place at the Radiochemical Laboratory. 

Presently, imagery indicates only routine vehicle movements and no activities associated with preparations for, or an ongoing, reprocessing campaign at the Radiochemical Laboratory. 

Japanese Foreign Minister protests USA over project on Shikotan

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Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono says Japan has lodged a protest with both Russia and the United States over a joint project on one of 4 Russian-controlled islands claimed by Japan. Last month, Oleg Kozhemyako, the governor of the Sakhalin region in Russia’s Far East, announced a plan to build a diesel power plant on Shikotan Island by September. He said a large US machinery firm was involved in the project. So Kono said economic activities by a company from a third country on the islands claimed by Japan are incompatible with the government’s stance. He called the activities extremely regrettable.

He added that he will try to resolve the territorial dispute and conclude a peace treaty between Japan and Russia. The Japanese government claims the 4 islands controlled by Russia. The government maintains they are an inherent part of Japan’s territory and were illegally occupied after World War Two.

China hopes US, North Korea meeting advances smoothly, Foreign Minister Wang Yi says

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Chinese State Councillor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi met North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho in Beijing today and told him that China appreciates the North’s “important efforts” toward the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. Wang also said Beijing hopes that a planned meeting between the leaders of North Korea and the United States advances smoothly and that the reasonable security concerns of all sides regarding the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula should be taken into account. 

North Korea’s Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho is set to visit Russia, where Ri is expected to talk to senior Russian government officials about the situation on the Korean peninsula, Azerbaijan, where he is likely to attend a ministerial-level meeting of the Conference of the Non-Aligned Movement in Baku, and other former Soviet republics in the coming days. North Korea in fact has intensified diplomatic efforts ahead of its planned summit with South Korea on April 27 and first-ever high-level talks with the United States possibly by the end of next month. 

China welcomes North Korea’s commitment to denuclearization

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Chinese State Councillor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi met North Korean Foreign Minster Ri Yong Ho in Beijing today and told him that China appreciates the North’s “important efforts” toward the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. Wang also said Beijing hopes that a planned meeting between the leaders of North Korea and the United States advances smoothly and that the reasonable security concerns of all sides regarding the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula should be taken into account.

North Korea’s Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho is set to visit Russia, where Ri is expected to talk to senior Russian government officials about the situation on the Korean peninsula, Azerbaijan, where he is likely to attend a ministerial-level meeting of the Conference of the Non-Aligned Movement in Baku, and other former Soviet republics in the coming days. North Korea in fact has intensified diplomatic efforts ahead of its planned summit with South Korea on April 27 and first-ever high-level talks with the United States possibly by the end of next month.

Chinese Space Station Tiangong-1 burns up over the Pacific Ocean

in FAR EAST/TECHNOLOGY by

China’s Tiangong-1 space station re-entered the earth’s atmosphere and burnt up over the middle of the South Pacific. During last week, and yesterday too, many countries, like Italy and Brazil, was worried about eventually large pieces can reaches the ground. Today this danger had already ceased and the station is fully anchored in the ocean.

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