Google chairman urges N. Korea Internet freedom

Updated 11 January 2013
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Google chairman urges N. Korea Internet freedom

BEIJING: Google chairman Eric Schmidt said yesterday he had told North Korea it would not develop unless it embraces Internet freedom, as he returned from a controversial visit to the communist state.
Bill Richardson, the former US ambassador to the United Nations who led the trip, said he called on Pyongyang to adopt a moratorium on ballistic missile and nuclear tests following its widely criticized rocket launch last month.
Talks were also held about an American citizen who is being detained in the country, he told reporters at Beijing airport, after speculation that he could return with the man, Kenneth Bae.
Efforts to “strongly urge” North Korea, a highly secretive and tightly controlled country, to increase the use of the Internet were “the main success of the visit”, the former New Mexico governor said.
Schmidt said he told North Korean officials they should open up the country’s Internet “or they will remain behind”.
“As the world becomes increasingly connected, their decision to be virtually isolated is very much going to affect their physical world, their economic growth and so forth, and it will make it harder for them to catch up economically,” Schmidt said.
“Once the Internet starts, citizens in a country can certainly build on top of it. The government has to do something. It has to make it possible for people to use the Internet which the government in North Korea has not yet done.”
The North has a domestic Intranet service with a very limited number of users. Analysts say access to the Internet is for the super-elite only, meaning a few hundred people or maybe 1,000 at most.
Last week in a surprise New Year address North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un said improving the economy through science and technology was a key goal.
But experts said Internet freedom in the tightly controlled country was a distant possibility.


Afghan leaders ‘optimistic’ over Taliban peace talks

Updated 24 June 2018
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Afghan leaders ‘optimistic’ over Taliban peace talks

  • The Taliban last week rejected Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s offer to extend the truce, but a government spokesman said on Saturday that the government was optimistic the militants were willing to engage in peace talks.
  • After ending the truce, the Taliban said its attacks against foreign troops and Afghans supporting them would continue.

KABUL: The Afghan government is confident of holding peace talks with Taliban militants despite a recent surge of attacks by insurgents, a palace spokesman said.

Shah Hussain Murtazawi said the announcement last week of a brief truce by the Taliban over Eid, the increasing movement of extremists and some field commanders to government-held areas, and a call for peace by the Imam of Makkah and the Saudi monarch were the basis of the government’s optimism.

The Taliban last week rejected Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s offer to extend the truce, but Murtazawi said on Saturday that the government was optimistic the militants were willing to engage in peace talks.

“A new chapter has been opened and the broad support for a cease-fire and an end to the war are the causes for our optimism,” he told Arab News.

“The fact that Taliban announced a truce and their commanders came into towns and celebrated Eid with government officials are positive signs that the extremists will be ready for talks with the government.”

However, no contact has been established with leaders of the group since the militants called off their truce, Murtazawi said.

After ending the truce, the Taliban said its attacks against foreign troops and Afghans supporting them would continue. Scores of Afghan troops have been killed in a spate of attacks, including assaults on military bases where the insurgents joined government forces to celebrate Eid.

Some tribal chiefs and local officials are calling for “safe zones” where extremists can hold initial talks with the government, according to a local official who refused to be named.