Seoul proposes talks with Pyongyang on joint zone

Updated 05 July 2013
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Seoul proposes talks with Pyongyang on joint zone

SEOUL: South Korea yesterday proposed talks with North Korea about reopening a joint industrial zone which shut down amid high military tensions.
The proposal came a day after the North restored a cross-border hotline and announced it would let the South’s businessmen visit the Kaesong estate just north of the border to check on their closed factories.
The South’s Unification Ministry sent a message to the North suggesting a meeting at the border truce village of Panmunjom tomorrow.
In its counter-proposal, the North agreed in principle on a meeting but insisted it be held at Kaesong, the ministry said.
“Discussion is under way to narrow differences, through telephone lines in the truce village,” a ministry spokesman told AFP.
Plans for high-level talks last month on the future of the estate, which has been shut since April, collapsed due to a protocol dispute.
Unification Minister Ryoo Kihl-Jae called for caution, saying Seoul would not hurry to hold fruitless talks with Pyongyang.
“Our position is to work out a problem through dialogue but we will not accept unreasonable demands from North Korea,” he said.
The Kaesong estate, where 53,000 North Koreans worked in 123 Seoul-owned factories, is the last remaining symbol of cross-border reconciliation and a valuable source of hard currency for the impoverished North.
It was the most high-profile casualty of the months of elevated tensions that followed the North’s nuclear test in February, subsequent tightened UN sanctions and US-South Korean military exercises.
After repeatedly threatening Seoul and Washington with conventional and nuclear attack, Pyongyang in recent weeks appears to want to shift to dialogue.
Professor Kim Yong-Hyun of Seoul’s Dongguk University had said the North was likely to respond positively to Thursday’s talks proposal, as it tries to improve its people’s living standards and attract foreign investment to special economic zones elsewhere.
Pyongyang is also mindful of a US demand that it improve ties with Seoul before any talks with Washington, said Professor Koh Yu-Hwan of the same university.
After last month’s fence-mending meeting with Seoul failed to go ahead, Pyongyang proposed direct, high-level dialogue with Washington.
In an apparent bid to press it to talk, the North this week allowed a pro-Pyongyang paper to release a video and interview with an American sentenced to hard labour for alleged subversion.
Kenneth Bae called on the United States to secure his early release, saying he has been in poor health since he was sent to prison in May to start a 15-year sentence.

“North Korea is seeking to exploit people’s sympathetic feelings for Bae to compel the United States to have talks with it,” Koh told AFP.
“It wants to shift to dialogue from confrontation. However, unless the North takes concrete steps to meet its international obligations, it is hardly likely to nudge the United States toward the dialogue table.”
North Korea has vowed never to give up its nuclear weapons, but says it is open to direct talks with the United States.
But the United States and South Korea say the North must take actions first to prove its commitment to abandoning its nuclear programme.
The North’s first vice foreign minister Kim Kye-Gwan is currently on a visit to Moscow to discuss possible resumption of six-party nuclear talks stalled since December 2008.
Kim late last month discussed restarting the talks in Beijing, where he met China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi.
Operations at Kaesong just north of the heavily fortified border came to a halt after the North banned entry by the South’s factory managers and other officials and pulled all its own workers out in April.
Its concessions on Wednesday came hours after dozens of South Korean firms threatened to withdraw altogether from the zone, complaining they had fallen victim to political bickering between the two rivals.
Representatives of the South Korean companies have repeatedly urged the two sides to open talks to revive the moribund industrial park.
Of them, 46 are manufacturers of electronics and machinery parts whose facilities are especially vulnerable to humidity in the current weather.


Pakistan vows to fight extremism under the banner of Shanghai Cooperation Organization

Updated 33 min 22 sec ago
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Pakistan vows to fight extremism under the banner of Shanghai Cooperation Organization

  • Pakistan hosts meeting of Shanghai Cooperation Organization-Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (SCO-RATS) to discuss enhancing counter-terrorism cooperation among the member states.
  • Pakistan should also enhance bilateral relationship with the SCO members as Euro-Asia is going to be an economic hub.

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan vowed to eliminate terrorism and extremism in the region by working with Shanghai Cooperation Organization as the three-day meeting got under way in Islamabad.
“Pakistan fully supports and welcomes the efforts of SCO-RATS in the fight against three evils of terrorism, extremism and separatism,” Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua said at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization-Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (SCO-RATS) meeting.
Legal experts from the eight member states — China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, India, Russia, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Pakistan — as well as representatives of the SCO-RATS executive committee, were taking part in the meeting.
It is the first SCO meeting to be held in Pakistan since it joined the organization in June 2017. The main purpose of the meeting is to discuss terrorist threats facing the region and how to enhance counter-terrorism cooperation between the member states.
“We support the SCO consensus that as we engage in the fight against terrorism, we must respect the norms and principles of international law, UN Charter and shun double standards,” the Foreign Secretary said.
She also emphasized that terrorism cannot and should not be identified with any religion, individual countries or nationalities.
She said: “We have lost thousands of our citizens and law enforcement personnel, with many more injured. We have also suffered economic losses of more than $120 billion.”
But human and financial losses have not dented Pakistan’s determination to fight this menace, she said, adding that comprehensive efforts over the past several years, supported by a firm domestic political consensus, have helped Pakistan to turn the tide against terrorism.
The Shanghai Cooperation Organization is a permanent intergovernmental international organization, which was founded on June 15, 2001 in Shanghai, China.
Former ambassadors, political and security analysts view the first-ever SCO meeting in Islamabad as an opportunity for the government to present its case against terrorism and extremism effectively to the international community.
Former ambassador Mohammed Ayaz Wazir said it was good for Pakistan to be hosting the hold the meeting at a time when some hostile countries have been trying to isolate it in the international community.
“Pakistan should also enhance bilateral relationship with the SCO members as Euro-Asia is going to be an economic hub and peace center of the world,” he told Arab News.
Wazir pointed out that immediate benefit of the SCO platform is that Pakistan and India have been talking to each other despite being reluctant to revive the bilateral talks on several important issues.
“For peace and development in the region, all member states of the SCO should shun their petty differences and devise cogent mechanisms of cooperation and collaboration,” he said.
Tahir Malik, professor at a public-sector university and political analyst, said it has become a global challenge to overcome the menaces of terrorism and extremism, that no country could deal with effectively acting alone.
“All SCO member states should cooperate in the fields of research and technology to promote knowledge-based economy and peace in the region,” he told Arab News.