Pyongyang “restarts” operations at shuttered inter-Korean industrial complex

A security officer stands guard on an empty road which leads to the Kaesong Industrial Complex at South Korea’s Customs, Immigration and Quarantine zone, just south of the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas. (Reuters)
Updated 06 October 2017
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Pyongyang “restarts” operations at shuttered inter-Korean industrial complex

SEOUL: North Korea has restarted operations at the Kaesong industrial zone, state-run websites said on Friday, after the joint venture with South Korea was suspended last year amid disagreement over the North’s nuclear and missile programs.
The South ended more than a decade of cooperation at the factory park on the North Korean side of the demilitarized zone (DMZ) after the North launched a rocket that put an object into orbit, closing the last remaining window of interaction between the two sides, still technically at war.
At the time, South Korea said it would no longer allow funds paid for Kaesong to be used in the North’s missile and nuclear programs. Since then, a South Korean official has said there is no evidence that North Korea diverted wages paid to its workers by South Korean companies operating in the park to its weapons programs.
“They do not even see our proud workers laboring vigorously working in the Kaesong industrial complex,” North Korea’s propaganda web site Meari (arirangmeari.com) said in a post dated Friday.
Another propaganda web site, Uriminzokkiri, said “it is nobody’s business what we do in an industrial complex where our nation’s sovereignty is exercised.”
An official at South Korea’s Ministry of Unification said that North Korea must not violate South Korean firms’ property rights within the complex, wire service Yonhap reported.
The Ministry of Unification could not be immediately reached for comment.
Reclusive North Korea and the rich, democratic South are technically still at war because their 1950-53 conflict ended in a truce, not a peace treaty.
In recent weeks, North Korea has launched two missiles over Japan and conducted its sixth nuclear test, and may be fast advancing toward its goal of developing a nuclear-tipped missile capable of hitting the US mainland.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said last weekend that Washington was directly communicating with Pyongyang on its nuclear and missile programs but that Pyongyang had shown no interest in dialogue.
US President Donald Trump later dismissed any prospect of talks with North Korea as a waste of time.


First commercial flight in 20 years leaves Ethiopia for Eritrea

Updated 18 July 2018
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First commercial flight in 20 years leaves Ethiopia for Eritrea

  • Ethiopian Airlines, one of Africa’s fastest-growing carriers, has said it would initially operate a once-a-day return flight between Addis Ababa and Asmara
  • Eritrea was once part of Ethiopia and comprised its entire coastline on the Red Sea until it voted for independence in 1993 after decades of bloody conflict

ADDIS ABABA: The first commercial flight to Eritrea in two decades departed Wednesday from Addis Ababa after the two nations ended their bitter conflict in a whirlwind peace process.
Ethiopian Airlines said that flight ET0312 to Asmara had departed Bole International Airport, the latest concrete sign of a thaw between the neighboring countries which began only six weeks ago.
“This day marks a unique event in the history of Ethiopia and Eritrea,” the airline’s chief executive Tewolde GebreMariam said at a ceremony inaugurating the historic flight.
Overwhelming demand saw the African aviation giant operate two flights within 15 minutes of each other.
“The fact that we are taking two flights at a time shows the eagerness of the people,” said Tewolde.
An AFP journalist onboard the second flight said champagne was served to passengers in all classes, who toasted each other shortly before take-off.
Smiling flight attendants also handed out roses to the passengers.
Ethiopian Airlines, one of Africa’s fastest-growing carriers, has said it would initially operate a once-a-day return flight between Addis Ababa and Asmara.
“With the demand we are witnessing, I think we’re going to increase the frequency to twice a day, thrice a day and even more,” said Tewolde.
He said the opening of the Eritrean airspace to Ethiopian Airlines would also mean more efficient routes to the Middle East.
Among the passengers on the first flight was former prime minister Hailemariam Desalegn, whose shock resignation in February was the first step in a series of shake ups in Ethiopian politics and the Horn of Africa at large.
“I knew one day it would happen,” Hailemariam said of the peace with Eritrea.
Hailemariam was succeeded in April by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, a 42-year-old former army officer and cabinet minister described by analysts as a “man in an extreme hurry.”
After announcing the liberalization of parts of the Ethiopian economy and releasing jailed dissidents, Abiy last month declared his intention to make peace with Eritrea after two decades of frozen relations.
Eritrea was once part of Ethiopia and comprised its entire coastline on the Red Sea until it voted for independence in 1993 after decades of bloody conflict.
A row over the demarcation of the shared border triggered a brutal 1998-2000 conflict which left 80,000 people dead before evolving into a bitter cold war.
Abiy stunned observers with his announcement he would finally accept a 2002 United Nations-backed border demarcation. However he has yet to announce a pull out of troops.
He then paid a historic visit to Eritrea, during which he and President Isaias Afwerki declared an official end to the war. Afwerki reciprocated with a state visit to Ethiopia just days later.
The emotion-filled reunion has been welcomed by Ethiopians, who share strong cultural ties with Eritreans, and many of whom were completely cut off from family during the long years of enmity.
On Monday Afwerki re-opened Eritrea’s embassy in Addis Ababa.
The rapprochement is expected to provide an economic boost to both nations, offering booming Ethiopia — which currently channels its trade through Djiboutian ports — access to Eritrean shores.
Meanwhile Amnesty International has said the newfound peace should be a catalyst for change in Eritrea, one of the world’s most isolated nations.
Since the end of the war, Isaias has used the threat of Ethiopian aggression to justify a rash of repressive policies, including an indefinite national service program the UN has likened to slavery.