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U.S., South Korea hold talks to soothe North Korea tensions

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After North Korea threatened to pull out of the high-level talks between Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Donald Trump, which are scheduled to be held on June 12 in Singapore – U.S. and South Korea huddled up to discuss the future course of action. Today, the South Korean President Moon Jae In and Trump reportedly held discussions to ensure that the North Korea-U.S. summit remains on track. South Korea’s presidential office said in a statement that Jae In and Trump spoke over the phone for about 20 minutes, reportedly exchanging their views on North Korea’s recent reactions. The presidential official said, “The two leaders will work closely and unwaveringly for the successful hosting of the North Korea-U.S. summit set on June 12, including the upcoming South Korea-U.S. summit.” On Tuesday, Jae In and Trump are set to meet in Washington – in a meeting that was planned to be a prelude to the historic summit that is scheduled to be held between North Korea and the U.S.North Korea has showed a dramatic change in tone. Putting weeks of Korean diplomacy in jeopardy, North Korea thrashed Seoul, calling it “ignorant and incompetent.”

Two Koreas to hold talks as North prepares to shut test site

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The South and North will hold a high-level inter-Korea meeting on May 16 in the Peace House in Panmunjom, to discuss the implementation of ‘Panmunjom Declaration for Peace, Prosperity, and Unification of the Korean Peninsula,” several media reports quoted the Unification Ministry, as saying, in a statement. The two sides are likely to discuss measures related to the implementation of agreements reached at the intra-Korean summit in April. The meet is scheduled at the border village of Panmunjom in the Demilitarised Zone (DMZ), the world’s most heavily guarded border, separating the two countries. According to several media reports, Wednesday’s inter-Korea talks will see North Korea send a 29-member delegation led by Ri Son-gwon, chairman of the ‘Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the country’. From South Korea, Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon will lead a team of five.

This comes ahead of North Korea’s scheduled dismantlement of its nuclear test site later this month in a bid to uphold its previous pledge to discontinue nuclear tests. A ceremony for the dismantling of the facility reportedly has been scheduled between May 23-25. It is pertinent to mention that the announcement of the dismantlement of the nuclear test site came after US President Donald Trump announced that he will hold a meet with Kim Jong-un in Singapore on June 12.

South Korea considers financing of possible inter-Korea projects: finance minister

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South Korea’s finance minister said on Wednesday (May 2) the government was discussing how to finance possible economic projects with North Korea, although any projects with Pyongyang must first be approved by the international community. “We’re internally carrying out preparations, in terms of what to prepare, and how to co-operate with the international community, and how to finance (possible inter-Korea projects),” Kim Dong Yeon told reporters in Sejong. But we need support from the international community and need to watch the (upcoming) summit between the United States and North Korea,” Kim said, without elaborating on specifics of any government financing.

Kim’s comments come after South Korean President Moon Jae In and his North Korean counterpart Kim Jong Un agreed last Friday on a common goal of a “nuclear-free” peninsula, and to “adopt practical steps towards the connection and modernization of the railways and roads”. Many speculate that the two Koreas will start joint infrastructure projects as soon as international sanctions on North Korea are lifted. South Korea’s newspaper JoongAng Ilbo reported that President Moon gave the North Korean leader a USB drive during last week’s summit. According to a senior Blue House official who briefed local reporters on Monday, the USB contained an e-book and a short presentation illustrating Moon’s so-called “New Economic Map” initiative, which was initially made public last July in a speech in Berlin.South Korea’s Unification Ministry, which handles relations with the North, says the initiative aims at a “single market” for the two Koreas in order to “lay the foundation for unification” job creation and higher economic growth for both countries, reported JoongAng Ilbo.

North Korea offers to give up nukes if US vows not to attack

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After making a very public promise to end his nuclear weapons program during his recent successful inter-Korean summit with the South Korean President Moon Jae In – now, the North Korean leader, Kim Jong Un is revealed to have said that his proclamation comes with certain conditions. A South Korean government spokesman has revealed that the North Korean leader told Moon Jae In when they met that he would abandon his nuclear weapons if the United States would agree to formally end the Korean War and promise that it would not invade his country. Further, officials in Seoul also revealed that Kim Jong Un had also vowed to invite experts and journalists from South Korea and the United States to watch the shutdown of his the only known underground nuclear test site in North Korea, next month.

The announcement came as a faith-building gesture by the North Korean leader, ahead of a summit meeting with Trump. Further, the South Korean leader also spoke with the Japanese prime minister, Shinzo Abe, to relay Kim’s willingness to also open dialogue with Tokyo, which has also felt threatened by the North’s nuclear weapons and missile development. Young-chan added that North Korea’s promise to invite outsiders to Punggye-ri reflected “Mr. Kim’s determination to actively and pre-emptively deal with the process of verifying denuclearization.”

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

in FAR EAST/POLITICS by

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 agrees to inter-Korean talks to discuss possible April summit

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RANN – The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA) has announced the resumption of humanitarian operations in Rann town, in Borno. The UN had on March 2 suspended aid operations and withdrew its workers from Rann after a March 1 attack by suspected Boko Haram terrorists, who killed eight persons, including three aid workers, and abducted a nurse.

The UN relief wing said the resumption of aid operations in the community followed several security assessments by the UN and non-governmental organisations.

“The UN and partners are providing life-saving emergency assistance in Rann including food, shelter and medicine to over 80,000 women, children and men, among them 55,000 internally displaced people.” UN OCHA affirmed.

Korea’s denuclearization, South Korea’s preparing for a summit next month

in FAR EAST by

South Korea is preparing for an inter-Korean summit next month on hopes for “progress” in developing its ties with North Korea and resolving the nuclear issue. Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon also suggested that the two Koreas may be able to hold more summits during the five-year term of President Moon Jae-in. “The government is preparing for the summit, hoping for better results in resolving the North Korea nuclear issue, along with an improvement in inter-Korean ties,” Cho told a forum with South Korean servicemen at the Gyeryongdae military complex in the country’s central South Chungcheong Province.

For North Korea’s denuclearization, Cho raised the need for a “comprehensive” strategy that includes the provision of a security guarantee for the North’s regime and the promotion of economic cooperation.

U.S.-South Korea military exercises to resume next month

in ASIA/DEFENCE by

Seoul and Washington said the United States and South Korea next month will resume joint military exercises, that will go ahead despite U.S. President Donald Trump’s planned meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

The Foal Eagle field exercise is scheduled to begin on April 1 and go on for a month, while the computer-simulated Key Resolve will be held for two weeks starting in mid-April. The South Korean and U.S. militaries usually stage the two drills in March for about two months but the period of this year’s field exercise was cut by half, mainly due to the Olympics.

The exercises will be of a “scale similar to that of the previous years” and are meant “to improve our readiness against various North Korean threats”, a South Korean military official told reporters.

The Pentagon said the North Korean military had been notified about the schedule for the drills by the United Nations Command. “Our combined exercises are defence-oriented and there is no reason for North Korea to view them as a provocation,” Pentagon spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Christopher Logan said.

 

Donald Trump and North Korea’s Kim Jong-un to hold historic face-to-face meeting

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South Korea’s national security adviser Chung Eui-yong saud US President Donald Trump has accepted an invitation from Kim Jong-un for a historic face-to-face meeting. Chung Eui-yong made the announcement of Kim’s offer in Washington on Thursday, after talks with Mr Trump at the White House. Chung said Kim was “committed to denuclearisation” and would refrain from any further nuclear and missile tests and he wanted to meet Trump as “soon as possible” and that Trump said “he would meet Kim Jong-un by May to achieve permanent denuclearisation” of the Korean peninsula. White House press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, later confirmed Chung’s comments.

“If President Trump and Chairman Kim meet following an inter-Korean summit, complete denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula will be put on the right track in earnest” South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in said.

China also has welcomed the development, saying the Korean peninsula issue was “heading in the right direction” and calling for “political courage”. No American president has ever met with a North Korean leader.

North, South Korea won’t march together at Paralympics amid flag row

in ASIA/FAR EAST by

South and North Korea will not march together at the opening ceremony of the Winter Paralympics, as they did at the Olympics last month, because they cannot agree on a united flag that erases islands disputed with Japan.

Japan complained to South Korea about fans waving the Korean peninsula flag at a friendly women’s ice hockey match in the Olympics between the combined North and South Korean team and Sweden. The flag depicts a map of the undivided Korean peninsula, including the disputed islands, known as Dokdo in Korean and Takeshima in Japanese, in the Sea of Japan.

North Korea’s delegation to the Paralympics said on Thursday it “does not accept the fact that Dokdo cannot be marked due to political issues held in Korea”, but in response to the North’s claim, the International Paralympics Committee said the two Koreas will march individually as the flag cannot be changed.

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