Kim Jong Un and Moon Jae-in meet again
SEOUL, May 26: North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in met for the second time in a month on Saturday to discuss carrying out the peace commitments they reached in their first summit and Kim’s potential meeting with President Donald Trump, Moon’s office said.
South Korean presidential spokesman Yoon Young-chan said Moon will reveal the outcome of his surprise meeting with Kim on Sunday. The presidential Blue House did not immediately provide more details.
The meeting at a border truce village came hours after South Korea expressed relief over revived talks for a summit between Trump and Kim following a whirlwind 24 hours that saw Trump cancel the highly anticipated meeting before saying it’s potentially back on. Trump later tweeted that the summit, if it does happen, will likely take place on June 12 in Singapore as originally planned.
In their first summit in April, Kim and Moon announced vague aspirations for a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula and permanent peace, which Seoul has tried to sell as a meaningful breakthrough to set up the summit with Trump.
But relations between the rival Koreas chilled in recent weeks, with North Korea canceling a high-level meeting with Seoul over South Korea’s participation in regular military exercises with the United States and insisting that it will not return to talks unless its grievances are resolved.
South Korea, which brokered the talks between Washington and Pyongyang, was caught off guard by Trump’s abrupt cancellation of the summit in which he cited hostility in recent North Korean comments. Moon said Trump’s decision left him “perplexed” and was “very regrettable.” He urged Washington and Pyongyang to resolve their differences through “more direct and closer dialogue between their leaders.”
Trump’s back-and-forth over his summit plans with Kim has exposed the fragility of Seoul as an intermediary. It fanned fears in South Korea that the country may lose its voice between a rival intent on driving a wedge between Washington and Seoul and an American president who thinks less of the traditional alliance with Seoul than his predecessors.
Trump’s decision to pull out of the summit with Kim came just days after he hosted Moon in a White House meeting where he openly cast doubts on the Singapore meeting but offered no support for continued inter-Korean progress, essentially ignoring the North’s recent attempts to coerce the South.
In his letter to Kim, Trump objected specifically to a statement from senior North Korean diplomat Choe Son Hui. She referred to Vice President Mike Pence as a “political dummy” for his earlier comments on North Korea and said it was up to the Americans whether they would “meet us at a meeting room or encounter us at nuclear-to-nuclear showdown.”
North Korea issued an unusually restrained and diplomatic response to Trump, saying it’s still willing to sit for talks with the United States “at any time, (in) any format.”
“The first meeting would not solve all, but solving even one at a time in a phased way would make the relations get better rather than making them get worse,” North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye Gwan said in a statement carried by Pyongyang’s official Korean Central News Agency, which mainly targets external audience.
Notably, the statement did not appear in Saturday’s edition of Rodong Sinmun, the official mouthpiece of the North’s ruling party that’s widely read by North Koreans.
The newspaper instead focused on Kim Jong Un’s visit to the coastal town of Wonsan to inspect the construction of a beachfront tourist complex. Kim ordered the complex to be finished by April 15 next year to mark the birthday of his late grandfather and North Korea founder Kim Il Sung. Kim Jong Un’s comments published by the newspaper did not include any mention of his potential meeting with Trump.
Analysts say Kim’s diplomatic outreach in recent months after a flurry of nuclear and missile tests in 2017 indicates he is eager for sanctions relief to build his economy and the international legitimacy the summit with Trump would provide. But there’s also skepticism whether Kim will ever agree to fully relinquish his nuclear arsenal, which he likely sees as his only guarantee of survival.
Comments in North Korea’s state media indicate Kim sees any meeting with Trump as an arms control negotiation between nuclear states, rather than a process to surrender his nukes. The North has said it will refuse to participate in talks where it would be unilaterally pressured to give up its nukes.
15 hurt in Indian restaurant bomb blast in suburban Toronto
TORONTO, May 24: Two unidentified men walked into a restaurant on Thursday in the Canadian city of Mississauga and set off a bomb, wounding more than a dozen people, local police said.
The blast went off in the Bombay Bhel restaurant at about 10:30 p.m local time. Fifteen people were taken to hospital, three of them with critical injuries, the Peel Regional Paramedic Service said in a tweet.
The two male suspects fled after detonating their improvised explosive device, Peel Regional Police said in a tweet. No one has claimed responsibility, and the motive for the attack was not known.
The men entered the restaurant and set down what appeared to be a paint can or pail, which exploded after they fled, Sergeant Matt Bertram told the New York Times. The bomb was filled with “projectable objects,” he said.
Police posted a photograph on Twitter showing two people with dark zip-up hoodies walking into an establishment. One appeared to be carrying an object.
Peel Police said one suspect was in his mid-20s, stocky, and wore dark blue jeans and a dark zip-up hoody pulled over his head, with black cloth covering his face. The second was thin, and wore faded blue jeans, a grey t-shirt and a dark zip-up hoody over his head, also with his face covered.
Roads in the area were closed and a large police presence was at the scene, with heavily armed tactical officers arriving as part of the large emergency response, local media reported.
The attack in Mississauga comes a month after a driver plowed his white Ryder rental van into a lunch-hour crowd in Toronto, killing 10 people and injuring 15.
Mississauga is Canada’s sixth-largest city, with a population of 700,000 people, situated on Lake Ontario about 20 miles (32 km) west of Toronto. Bombay Bhel is an Indian restaurant chain in the metro area of Mississauga.
Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj said in a tweet that the she was in constant touch with the Consul General in Toronto and the Indian High Commissioner in Canada and that the missions would work round the clock.
Modi meets Putin as India walks US-Russia tightrope
SOCHI, May 22: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi held talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday in the Black Sea resort city of Sochi as part of an informal summit between the two countries.
"Russia is India's old-time friend. We share long-standing historical ties, and Mr. President is my personal friend and a friend of India," Modi said at the meeting, aimed at underscoring close ties.
"For the past four years, you and I stood side by side in the bilateral format and on the international stage... I am very glad that it was so," Modi told Putin.
The Russian president reciprocated with similar sentiments, stressing the important role the two countries play in maintaining global stability.
"Last year, our trade saw a significant increase, adding another 17 percent since the beginning of this year," Putin said.
Major international issues were the focus of the talks between the two leaders.
Pakistani terrorists carried out 26/11 Mumbai attacks: Nawaz Sharif
ISLAMABDA, May 12: Pakistan’s former prime minister Nawaz Sharif has questioned the policy of using Pakistan-based militant groups for cross-border attacks on India as he mounted a scathing attack on the powerful military establishment’s perceived meddling in politics.
Sharif, ousted from his post by the Supreme Court last July for dishonesty in the Panama Papers case and subsequently barred from contesting elections for life, indicated during an interview with Dawn newspaper that Pakistan had been isolated by the world community for failing to counter terrorism.
On the campaign trail in Multan ahead of general elections expected in a few months, the three-time premier said: “Militant organisations are active. Call them non-state actors, should we allow them to cross the border and kill 150 people in Mumbai? Explain it to me.
“Why can’t we complete the trial?” he added, an apparent reference to the trial of seven Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) members, including operations commander Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, for their alleged role in the 2008 Mumbai attacks that killed 166 people.
“It’s absolutely unacceptable. This is exactly what we are struggling for. President (Vladimir) Putin has said it. President Xi (Jinping) has said it…We could have already been at 7% growth (in GDP), but we are not,” he added.
The Mumbai attacks trial, which began in early 2009, has stalled in an anti-terrorism court in Islamabad. The judge has been changed more than eight times and the chief prosecutor was recently removed.
Lakhvi is currently free on bail.
Sharif, 68, evaded a question on the reason for his ouster from public office and steered the conversation towards foreign policy and national security. He indicated that Pakistan’s policy on terrorism had failed to satisfy the world community.
“We have isolated ourselves. Despite giving sacrifices, our narrative is not being accepted. Afghanistan’s narrative is being accepted, but ours is not. We must look into it,” he said.
In an apparent reference to the military’s meddling in politics and its role in anti-corruption investigations against members of the Sharif family and leaders of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz), the 68-year-old Sharif said: “You can’t run a country if you have two or three parallel governments. This has to stop. There can only be one government: the constitutional one.”
Sharif, whose second term was ended by a coup led by former army chief Pervez Musharraf in 1999, has for long run into trouble with the military for his efforts to normalise relations with India.
In 2016, the PML-N government’s relations with the military establishment soured after Dawn reported that the civilian leadership had told the army of Pakistan’s growing international isolation for failing to act against terror groups such as the LeT, Jaish-e-Mohammed and Haqqani Network.
Observers believe the row resulted in the army’s efforts to whittle down Sharif’s powers and sideline the PML-N ahead of the polls in 2018.
Sharif denied that his third ouster from office represented a failed approach on his part and suggested he had no regrets or would do anything differently if he returned to public office.
“The Constitution has to be supreme. There is no other way. Look, we put a dictator on trial; it had never been done before,” he said, referring to Musharraf.
Sharif rejected speculation that he would consider a deal if it was offered to him, including another stint in exile for avoiding a jail sentence in ongoing anti-corruption cases.
“Why would I do it now after 66 appearances (in an anti-corruption court)? We don’t even get an exemption (from court hearings),” he said, referring to how he was unable to visit his ailing wife Kulsum Nawaz, who is being treated for cancer in London.
“It’s not easy to stay away…Look, we have no other choice,” he added. “These games have gone on too long. Something has to change.”
Sharif also deflected questions on who would lead the PML-N in the general elections and whether his brother, Punjab chief minister Shehbaz Sharif, would be the prime ministerial candidate. He said: “There is a lot of appreciation for Shehbaz Sharif.”
N Korea taking measures to dismantle nuclear site
SEOUL, May 12: North Korea is “taking technical measures” to dismantle its nuclear test site, state media said on Saturday in the latest dramatic step ahead of a historic summit between leader Kim Jong-un and United States President Donald Trump next month.
“A ceremony for dismantling the nuclear test ground is now scheduled between May 23 and 25, depending on the weather condition,” the official KCNA news agency said, citing a foreign ministry press release. The test tunnels would be blown up, blocking their entries, the statement said.
All observation facilities and research institutes would be removed along with guards and researchers, it said, detailing the process of closing the site. Reporters from China, Russia, the United States, Britain and South Korea would be allowed to “conduct on-the-spot coverage in order to show in a transparent manner the dismantlement of the northern nuclear test ground,” the foreign ministry statement said.
The limit on foreign journalists was due to the “small space of the test ground” which it said was “located in the uninhabited deep mountain area”. In a dramatic turnaround after Kim and Trump had traded threats of war and personal insults, the young North Korean leader vowed to pursue denuclearisation at a summit with South Korean President Moon Jae-in last month.
He is now set for the first ever face-to-face meeting between a sitting American president and a North Korean leader, scheduled for June 12 in Singapore. US secretary of state Mike Pompeo on Friday promised the US would work to rebuild North Korea’s sanctions-crippled economy if it agreed to surrender its nuclear arsenal.
“The DPRK will, also in the future, promote close contacts and dialogue with the neighbouring countries and the international society so as to safeguard peace and stability on the Korean peninsula and over the globe,” the North Korean foreign ministry statement carried by KCNA said on Saturday.
Nepal comes first in India’s Neighbourhood First policy: Modi
KATHMANDU, May 11: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday announced a Rs 100-crore package to develop the holy city of Janakpur in Nepal, and said the country is at the top of India’s “Neighbourhood First” policy.
Modi held extensive discussions with his Nepalese counterpart KP Sharma Oli and senior officials as part of efforts to reset bilateral ties, and the two sides reached a broad understanding on key issues ranging from cross-border connectivity to joint control of flooding along the frontier, officials said.
Meeting Oli twice within the space of one-and-a-half months, Modi assured that all genuine grievances of Nepal will be addressed in a time-bound manned.
“India supports a united, prosperous and strong Nepal,” Modi said during a joint media interaction after Oli said Kathmandu wants a strong relationship underpinned by mutual trust that is not affected by “occasional or intermittent differences”.
However, the Indian side was silent on Nepal’s call to allow the exchange of demonetised Indian currency notes worth almost Rs 33.6 million held by the country’s banks and the public at the earliest, as well as a request to add four air routes via India.
Modi, on his third visit to Nepal since assuming office in 2014, and Oli flagged off a bus service between Janakpur and Ayodhya, two holy sites for Hindus. The service is part of the Ramayana Circuit to promote religious tourism.
Announcing the Rs 100-crore package, Modi said authorities in Nepal will select and implement development projects. Oli and Modi also jointly laid the foundation stone for the 900-MW Arun III hydropower project remotely from Kathmandu.
“Whenever there has been a problem, India and Nepal have stood together. We have been there for each other in the most difficult of times,” Modi said at a civic reception hosted by the Janakpur sub-metropolitan city.
Later, Modi and Oli held one-on-one and delegation-level talks, during which the two sides agreed to resolve outstanding issues before September 19, which marks Nepal’s Constitution Day, officials said.
India said it is ready to partner with Nepal for cross-border connectivity and agreed to conduct a survey to link Kathmandu with the Indian rail network. A team of India experts will also conduct a feasibility survey for inland water navigation from Nepal to India.
“We are connected with Nepal through rail, water, (power) transmission line, petroleum pipeline,” Modi said during the joint media interaction.
Modi also announced the gift of radiotherapy equipment for a Bhaktapur-based cancer hospital. Both sides also agreed to form a joint technical team to resolve the recurrent problem of flooding along the border.
Both prime ministers agreed to expand cooperation in agriculture. The agriculture ministers of both sides will meet soon and frame a roadmap on agricultural research and development, education and organic farming.
Modi and Oli agreed to convene an early meeting to take forward the construction of the 5,000-MW Pancheshwar multipurpose project.
While noting that Nepal’s recent elections and their outcome will be written in golden words in the country’s history, Modi said the bilateral ties are special and that he was visiting at “a special time”. He said, “India stands shoulder to shoulder with the people of Nepal. India-Nepal ties are above inter-governmental relations. It is more like a family.”
Modi added, “We have evaluated the partnership between Nepal and India. Some projects have made progress and some are in the process of achieving good progress. We have agreed to comprehensively review the trade and transit treaty.”
On his arrival, Modi was presented a guard of honor at a ceremonial function at the Nepal Army Pavilion. The army also offered him a 21-gun salute.
Malaysia king agrees to pardon Anwar immediately: Mahathir
KAULA LUMPUR, May 11: Malaysia’s king has agreed to pardon jailed opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim immediately, newly installed Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said on Friday.
“The (king) has indicated he is willing to pardon Datuk Sri Anwar immediately,” Mahathir told a press conference, using a Malay honorific.
It came a day after the 92-year-old was sworn in after a shock win that toppled the country’s long-ruling coalition.
India to Canada: Stop misuse of freedom of expression
GENEVA, May 11: India on Friday said it wanted the Justin Trudeau government in Canada to ensure that freedom of expression is not misused in that country to incite violence and to glorify as martyrs individuals who are considered terrorists by New Delhi.
This statement was delivered at a session of the universal periodic review of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva by India’s deputy permanent representative Virander Paul during the “Canada – Interactive Dialogue”.
The message in the form of a “recommendation”was significant in the context of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s controversial visit to India in February and continuing concerns over anti-India elements in Canada campaigning for Khalistan and holding events to reportedly hail individuals considered terrorists by New Delhi.
Paul said India’s six recommendations to Canada included one to “strengthen framework to prevent misuse of freedom of expression to incite violence and glorify terrorists as martyrs”.
He also asked the Trudeau government to “stop racial profiling and other discriminatory practices by the police and security agencies”.
During his visit that was dogged by controversy, Trudeau insisted thatCanada stood for a “united India”. He also deniedallegationsthat Sikh ministers in his government were supporters of Khalistan.
India also asked Canada to implement effective measures to reduce the high levels of poverty and food insecurity among indigenous peoples and to ensure better access for them to healthcare, education, adequate housing and other basic necessities.
Other recommendations included implementing “existing measures effectively for improving gender equality with a view to enhancing women’s participation in decision making, full time employment and equal pay for equal work”.
“Remove inequality and discrimination faced by persons with disabilities in realisation of right to education, work, employment, healthcare, affordable housing and other basic needs,” the recommendations said.
North Korean leader Kim visits China, meets President Xi
BEIJING/SEOUL, May 8: North Korean leader Kim Jong Un visited China and met President Xi Jinping, state media of both countries said on Tuesday, their second encounter in two months in a flurry of diplomatic engagement that has eased tensions on the Korean peninsula.
They met on Monday and Tuesday in the coastal city of Dalian ahead of what would be a historic meeting between Kim and U.S. President Donald Trump that the White House has said could take place as soon as this month.
China has been keen to show it has an indispensable role in seeking a lasting solution to tension over North Korea's pursuit of nuclear weapons, concerned that its interests may be ignored, especially as North Korea and the United States establish contacts.
During the visit, announced only after it was over, Kim told Xi he hoped relevant parties would take "phased" and "synchronised" measures to realise denuclearisation and lasting peace on the Korean peninsula.
"So long as relevant parties eliminate hostile policies and security threats toward North Korea, North Korea has no need for nuclear (capacity), and denuclearisation can be realised," China's official Xinhua news agency cited Kim as saying.
Kim told Xi the denuclearisation of the peninsula was North Korea's "constant and clear position", and that dialogue between North Korea and the United States could build mutual trust.
Trump and Xi discussed developments on the Korean peninsula and Kim's visit to China during a phone call on Tuesday morning, the White House said.
Trump and Xi agreed on the importance of maintaining sanctions on Pyongyang until it permanently dismantles its nuclear and missile programs, the White House said. Chinese state media said Xi reiterated China's support for a U.S.-North Korea summit.
Chinese state television said Xi said he “hopes the United States and North Korea can build mutual trust, synchronise actions, resolve each sides’ concerns through meeting and consultations, consider North Korea’s reasonable security concerns, and jointly promote the political resolution process to the Korean peninsula issue.”
In the past North Korea has used the term "hostile policies" in reference to the U.S. troop presence in South Korea, the U.S. nuclear umbrella covering South Korea and Japan and regular joint military exercises in South Korea.
China is North Korea's most important economic and diplomatic backer, but Beijing has been angered by Pyongyang's repeated nuclear and missile tests and supported tough U.N. sanctions against its Cold War-era ally.
The two sides have stepped up engagement since Trump surprised the world in March by saying he would be willing to meet Kim in a bid to resolve the crisis over Pyongyang's development of nuclear missiles capable of hitting the United States.
Kim was accompanied to China by his sister, Kim Yo Jong, who has played a leading role in diplomatic overtures by the long-isolated country.
Chinese state media showed pictures of Kim smiling in an outdoors meeting with Xi, and the two leaders strolling along a waterfront.
Xi hosted a banquet and told Kim of his backing of North Korea's "strategic shift towards economic development", Xinhua added.
"China supports North Korea's upholding of denuclearisation on the peninsula, and supports North Korea and the United States resolving the peninsula issue through dialogue and consultation," Xi said.
North Korean state media said Kim was "very pleased" that the relationship with China was reaching a high point, and North Korea would cooperate with China more actively as the situation on the Korean peninsula changed.
The two leaders "opened their hearts and had warm conversations,” North Korea’s state news agency KCNA reported.
The meeting was the latest in a series by North Korean leaders and follows Kim's historic summit with South Korean President Moon Jae-in last month.
In March, Kim travelled by train to Beijing, his first known trip abroad since assuming power in 2011.
Kim used his official aircraft to make the short flight to Dalian, in what was his first known international flight since assuming power.
Kim's father, Kim Jong Il, feared flying, fuelling speculation that the younger Kim may not be willing to travel far to meet Trump. The venue for their summit has not been announced.
The demilitarized zone, or DMZ, between North and South Korea, and Singapore are believed to be the most likely contenders for the venue.
South Korea's presidential office said the Chinese government notified Seoul about the Xi-Kim meeting in advance.
Intense secrecy typically surrounds high-level North Korean visits to China, and this week's trip was no different.
Throughout the day on Tuesday there was speculation on Chinese websites that a North Korean leader was in China, though China's foreign ministry said earlier it had no information and Chinese state media did not carry any reports.
Japanese public broadcaster NHK had shown images of two North Korean aircraft taxiing at Dalian's airport, one an Air Koryo plane and another carrying a North Korean emblem.
Posts about unusual traffic jams and security in Dalian popped up on Chinese social media.
Vladimir Putin begins fourth term, to be longest serving Prez since Stalin
MOSCOW, May 7: Vladimir Putin was sworn in as Russia's president for a fourth term on Monday, extending his almost two-decade rule by another six years at a time of high tension with his Western rivals.
The 65-year-old, in power since 1999, is on course to become the longest-serving Russian leader since Joseph Stalin after his victory in March's elections.
Putin won nearly 77 percent of the vote in polls which his most vocal opponent was banned from running in.
He has promised to use his fourth term to revitalise the country's economy. But he also faces a host of delicate international disputes.
"I consider it my duty and my life's aim to do everything possible for Russia, for its present and for its future," Putin said at Monday's swearing-in ceremony, with his hand on the Russian constitution.
Elite guests lining the red carpet filmed Putin on their smartphones as he arrived for the swearing-in ceremony in the ornate Andreyev Hall, part of the Kremlin palace complex.
The car that brought him to the inauguration was a black Russian-made limousine -- a change from previous ceremonies when he used a Mercedes.
"I feel strongly conscious of my colossal responsibility," he said, thanking Russians for their "sincere support" and "cohesiveness." "We have revived pride in our fatherland," Putin said.
"As head of state I will do all I can to multiply the strength, prosperity and fame of Russia."
Opposition leader Alexei Navalny called on Russians to protest across the country on Saturday under the slogan "Not our Tsar".
On Saturday nearly 1,600 protesters including Navalny were detained during nationwide rallies against Putin.
The European Union condemned what it called "police brutality and mass arrests" during the protests.
Police in Moscow were helped by pro-Putin activists dressed as Cossacks, a paramilitary class who served as tsarist cavalrymen in imperial Russia.
The unrest revived memories of 2012, when authorities cracked down on rallies against Putin's return to the Kremlin from the post of prime minister.
Navalny was barred from challenging Putin in the March election over a fraud conviction that his supporters say is politically motivated.
Russia's ties with the West have been strained by Putin's moves to annex Crimea from Ukraine and to launch a military campaign in Syria in support of its President Bashar al-Assad.
In recent months relations have soured further over accusations of the poisoning of an ex-spy in Britain and of election meddling in the US.
"For Putin any concession is a sign of weakness, so there shouldn't be any expectation of a change in foreign policy," said Konstantin Kalachev, the head of the Political Expert Group think tank in Moscow.
But independent political analyst Dmitry Oreshkin said the president may find himself obliged to shift his approach to the international community over the next term.
"Russia hasn't been so isolated since the Soviet war in Afghanistan" from 1979 to 1989, he said.
"Now his task isn't to bring any new lands to Russia, but to force the world to consider Russia's interests and accept its previous conquests." Reports that Alexei Kudrin -- a liberal former finance minister who is respected abroad -- could return to the Kremlin in a reshuffle, suggest the president could be seeking a less confrontational approach.
The constitution bars Putin from running again when his fourth term ends in 2024. But he has remained silent on the issue of his succession.
Oreshkin said Putin would stay on for the full term but Kalachev suggested he could leave the Kremlin before he serves out the six years.
"He will stay in power, but not necessarily in the presidency," he said. "For Putin to write his place in history, he needs to pick the right moment to go.
Serving another six years is a road to nowhere. He will leave in a way that takes everyone by surprise."
Putin has promised to use his fourth term to improve Russian living standards.
"People will live better," he said.
"We need breakthroughs in all spheres of life. I am deeply convinced that such a breakthrough can only be achieved by a free society that accepts everything new and progressive, and rejects injustice." Russian businesses are expecting wide-ranging reforms.
Putin has struggled to revive an economy that crashed after Moscow was hit with Western sanctions over Crimea and by a fall in global oil prices.