China sending envoy to North Korea following Trump visit

Donald Trump, right, chats with Chinese President Xi Jinping during a welcome ceremony for the US president at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing last week. (AP)
Updated 15 November 2017
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China sending envoy to North Korea following Trump visit

BEIJING: Following President Donald Trump’s visit to Beijing, China said Wednesday that it would send a high-level special envoy to North Korea amid an extended chill in relations between the neighbors over Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons and missile programs.
Song Tao, the head of China’s ruling Communist Party’s International Department, will travel to Pyongyang on Friday to report on outcomes of the party’s national congress held last month, the official Xinhua News Agency said.
Xinhua said Song, as president and party leader Xi Jinping’s special envoy, would carry out a “visit” in addition to delivering his report, but gave no details about his itinerary or meetings. It also made no mention of Trump’s trip to Beijing or the North’s weapons programs, although Trump has repeatedly called on Beijing to do more to use its influence to pressure Pyongyang into altering its behavior.
Song would be the first ministerial-level Chinese official to visit North Korea since October 2015, when Politburo Standing Committee member Liu Yunshan met with leader Kim Jong Un. Liu delivered a letter to Kim from Xi expressing hopes for a strong relationship, although the respite in frosty ties proved short-lived. Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin visited Pyongyang in October of last year.
China’s Communist Party and North Korea’s ruling Workers’ Party have long-standing ties that often supersede formal diplomacy, even while Beijing has long been frustrated with Pyongyang’s provocations and unwillingness to reform its economy.
However, Song is not directly connected to China’s efforts to convince Pyongyang to cease its nuclear weapons program and return to talks, downplaying the chances for a breakthrough in that highly contentious area.
China is also North Korea’s largest trading partner and chief source of food and fuel aid, although it says its influence with Kim’s regime is often exaggerated by the US and others. While it is enforcing harsh new UN sanctions targeting the North’s sources of foreign currency, Beijing has called for steps to renew dialogue.
Beijing is also opposed to measures that could bring down Kim’s regime, possibly depriving it of a buffer with South Korea and the almost 30,000 US troops stationed there, and leading to a refugee crisis and chaos along its bother with the North.
In Beijing last week, Trump urged Xi to pressure North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons program.
China can fix the problem “easily and quickly,” Trump said in remarks to journalists alongside Xi. He urged Xi to “hopefully work on it very hard.”
“If he works on it hard, it will happen. There’s no doubt about it,” Trump said.
While calling the visit significant, a top Chinese expert on North Korea relations downplayed any connection with Trump’s statements in Beijing, saying it fit a pattern of traditional exchanges between the two parties following significant events such as national congresses.
“Representatives are dispatched to brief the other side at a chosen time and chosen level. It is a tradition and it is unnecessary to connect it with Trump’s visit to China,” said Guo Rui, researcher at the Institute for North Korean and South Korean Studies at Jilin University in northeastern China.
However, he said the visit “shows China’s willingness to see a continuous development of the friendly relations between the two sides.”
“Although the Korean Peninsula situation has been evolving fast with worrisome indications, the two parties are maintaining normal exchanges, and that is of significance for stabilizing the bilateral relations and the peninsular situation,” Guo said.
The nature of Song’s visit as a party-to-party exchange rather than one between the two governments appears to paint it as a bilateral attempt to strengthen relations, said John Delury, a professor at Seoul’s Yonsei University who specializes in Korea and China.
The fact that Song was identified as Xi’s special envoy also suggests that Xi is personally making a push to open the channel at a higher level and engage more constructively with Kim, Delury said.
“This is a chance to see if he can open things up,” he said. “The relationship has been so frosty, it will be interesting to see if there’s some improvement in the bilateral ties.”
North Korea staged its sixth nuclear test on Sept. 3, detonating what it claimed was a hydrogen bomb, and last launched a ballistic missile on Sept. 15, firing it over the Japanese island of Hokkaido into the Pacific Ocean.
Since then, there has been a lull in such activity, leading to some hopes in Beijing that Pyongyang might be responding to international pressure and becoming more amenable to talks.
Song’s visit to Pyongyang also comes as China and South Korea are repairing their relations, with South Korean President Moon Jae-in scheduled to visit next month for talks with Xi.
Previously warm ties soured last year over Seoul’s decision to deploy a sophisticated US missile defense system aimed at guarding against North Korean threats.
Beijing claimed the THAAD system damaged its own security because its radars could observe military movements within northeastern China and retaliated by banning Chinese tour groups from visiting and interfering in the China operations of South Korean companies.
While South Korea resisted China’s demands to withdraw the system, Beijing appeared satisfied with a pledge from Seoul not to expand it, among other commitments.


Nobel peace prize shines light on rape in conflict

Updated 24 min 48 sec ago
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Nobel peace prize shines light on rape in conflict

  • The Norwegian Nobel Committee in October said the prize was for “for their efforts to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war and armed conflict”
  • The laureates have said they hope the Nobel will raise awareness of sexual violence and make it harder for the world to ignore it

OSLO: Congolese doctor Denis Mukwege and Yazidi activist Nadia Murad, a Daesh sex slave survivor, will be presented with the Nobel Peace Prize Monday, as they challenge the world to combat rape as a weapon of war.
Mukwege, dubbed “Doctor Miracle” for his work helping victims of sexual violence, and Murad, who has turned her experience into powerful advocacy for her Yazidi people, will receive the prize at a ceremony in Oslo.
The Norwegian Nobel Committee in October said the prize was for “for their efforts to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war and armed conflict.”
The laureates, who have dedicated their award to rape victims across the world, have said they hope the Nobel will raise awareness of sexual violence and make it harder for the world to ignore it.
“We cannot say that we didn’t act because we didn’t know. Now everyone knows. And I think now the international community has a responsibility to act,” Mukwege told reporters at a news conference on Sunday.
The surgeon has spent 20 years treating the wounds and emotional trauma inflicted on women in the DR Congo’s war-torn east.
“What we see during armed conflicts is that women’s bodies become battlefields and this cannot be acceptable,” he said.
Fellow laureate Murad has become a tireless campaigner for the rights of Yazidis since surviving the horrors of captivity under the Daesh group in Iraq and Syria where they targeted her Kurdish-speaking community.
Captured in 2014, she suffered forced marriage, beatings and gang-rape before she was able to escape.
She said the Nobel was “a sign” for the thousands of women still held by militants.
“This prize, one prize cannot remove all the violence and all the attacks on pregnant women, on children, on women and give them justice,” Murad said on Sunday.
But she said she hoped it would “open doors so that we can approach more governments,” to bring the perpetrators to court and “so that we can find a solution and actually stop what is happening.”

The co-laureates have come to represent the struggle against a global scourge that goes well beyond any single conflict.
“Each of them in their own way has helped to give greater visibility to war-time sexual violence, so that the perpetrators can be held accountable for their actions,” said Nobel committee chairwoman Berit Reiss-Andersen, when the award was announced in October.
Mukwege has treated tens of thousands of victims — women, children and even babies just a few months old — at Panzi hospital which he founded in 1999 in DR Congo’s South Kivu.
Murad, now UN ambassador for victims of human trafficking, was among thousands of Yazidi women and girls who were abducted, raped and brutalized by militants during their assault in 2014.
Older women and men faced summary execution during the Daesh assault, which the United Nations has described as a possible genocide. Murad’s mother and six of her brothers were killed.
A UN team authorized to investigate the massacre of the Yazidi minority is due to finally start fieldwork in Iraq next year.
Murad said “steps toward justice” had given her hope.
But she stressed that “not a single Daesh terrorist” has appeared in court, adding “this injustice will continue in this world if it is not dealt with now.”
The Nobel Peace Prize — a gold medal, diploma and nine million Swedish Krona (880,000 euros, $1 million) — will be officially presented in a ceremony at Oslo City Hall at 1200 GMT.