China and the Philippines will start bilateral consultations on the disputed South China Sea this week, the Philippine ambassador to Beijing said, as Manila looks to ease tensions with Asia’s top economic power. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, who is visiting Beijing to attend a summit on China’s ambitious new Silk Road plan, has opted to court China for its business and investment and avoid the rows over sovereignty that dogged his predecessors. Philippine ambassador to China Jose Santiago Santa Romana told reporters late on Saturday that the consultations between the two countries would take place in China.
North Korea fired a ballistic missile on Sunday in defiance of calls to rein in its weapons program, days after a new leader in its old rival South Korea came to power pledging to engage it in dialogue. The missile flew 700 kilometers and reached an altitude of more than 2,000 kilometers, according to officials in South Korea and Japan, further and higher than an intermediate-range missile North Korea successfully tested in February from the same region of Kusong, northwest of Pyongyang. North Korea is widely believed to be developing an intercontinental missile tipped with a nuclear weapon that is capable of reaching the United States.
South Korea has accepted a last-minute invitation from China to a conference on a new Silk Road, days after a new president took office on Seoul pledging to engage in discussions with Beijing to ease tension over a U.S. anti-missile system. Chinese President Xi Jinping extended the invitation to the Belt and Road conference in Beijing during a telephone call on Thursday with new South Korean President Moon Jae-in, Moon’s spokesman, Yoon Young-chan, told a briefing on Friday. Ties between South Korea and China, who are important trade partners, have been strained by Seoul’s decision to host a U.S. Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) antimissile system in response to a growing missile threat from North Korea.
North Korea accused the United States on Tuesday of pushing the Korean peninsula to the brink of nuclear war after a pair of strategic U.S. bombers flew training drills with the South Korean and Japanese air forces in another show of strength. The two supersonic B-1B Lancer bombers were deployed amid rising tensions over North Korea’s pursuit of its nuclear and missile programmes in defiance of U.N. sanctions and pressure from the United States. The flight of the two bombers on Monday came as U.S. President Donald Trump said he would be “honoured” to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in the right circumstances, and as his CIA director landed in South Korea for talks.
South Korea said the United States had reaffirmed it would shoulder the cost of deploying the THAAD anti-missile system, days after President Donald Trump said Seoul should pay for the $1-billion battery designed to defend against North Korea. In a telephone call on Sunday, Trump’s national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, reassured his South Korean counterpart, Kim Kwan-jin, that the U.S. alliance with South Korea was its top priority in the Asia-Pacific region, the South’s presidential office said. The conversation followed another North Korean missile test-launch on Saturday which Washington and Seoul said was unsuccessful, but which drew widespread international condemnation.
South Korean prosecutors on Monday sought an arrest warrant for former President Park Geun-hye on multiple charges including bribery and abuse of authority in connection with a corruption scandal that led to her impeachment. Whether Park will become the nation’s third former president to be taken into custody now depends on the Seoul Central District Court, which will review the warrant application. “A lot of evidence has been collected so far, but as the suspect denies most of the criminal allegations, there is a possibility of her destroying evidence”, the prosecution said in a statement.
North Korea appears to have completed preparation for another nuclear test and is ready to carry it out, South Korea’s military said Friday, as the United Nations adopted a statement condemning Pyongyang’s latest military provocations. “Our assessment is that North Korea is ready to conduct a nuclear test if they get the go ahead from Kim Jong-un”, said an official from Seoul’s Joint Chiefs of Staff in a meeting with reporters. “We believe they have been preparing for a long period of time”. Fox News and AFP reported Thursday that the North would conduct a sixth nuclear test within the coming days, citing US officials with knowledge of the matter.
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson tried to open the door to improved ties between Japan and South Korea during his visit here, but Seoul lobbed the ball back in Japan’s court calling for a “more flexible approach”, sources said. Tillerson met with South Korea’s acting president, Hwang Kyo-ahn, on March 17 and conveyed his hopes for an early improvement in relations between the Asian powers, the sources said. He was particularly concerned about the estrangement in light of recent provocations by North Korea. Tillerson’s remarks appeared intended to encourage South Korea to find some accommodation with Japan over a statue of a girl symbolizing Korean “comfort women” that was set up in front of the Japanese consulate-general in the southern port city of Busan.
As quoted by Yonhap News Agency, SK Engineering & Construction (SK E&C) has teamed up with Turkey’s energy giant UNIT International SA to build and operate new power plants in Iran. Under the deal, the South Korean firm will join the Turkish firm’s ongoing project to build and operate five new gas-fired power plants in Iran, said to be worth US$4.2 billion in total.
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson declared an end to the Barack Obama administration’s policy of strategic patience in dealing with North Korea, Friday, vowing to explore all options including harsher sanctions and military action. The U.S. top diplomat also stressed the importance of China’s role in forcing Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear and ballistic missile programs, urging Beijing to stop taking retaliatory actions against South Korea over the deployment of a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) battery here.