Chinese envoy wraps up North Korea trip after meetings with senior officials

Song Tao, center, the head of China’s ruling Communist Party’s International Liaison Department, arrives at Beijing Capital International Airport in Beijing, Friday on his way to Pyongyang to meet North Korean officials. (AP)
Updated 20 November 2017
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Chinese envoy wraps up North Korea trip after meetings with senior officials

BEIJING: A high-level Chinese envoy wrapped up a four-day trip to North Korea on Monday after meeting with top officials and discussing the tense state of affairs on the Korean Peninsula and other issues.
Song Tao, the most senior Chinese official to visit Pyongyang, North Korea’s capital, in two years, was officially tasked with briefing the government on China’s recent party congress. China’s official Xinhua News Agency said the ruling parties of both countries agreed to strengthen exchanges and “push forward relations.”
Song and North Korean officials discussed “the Korean Peninsula issue and other issues of common concern,” Xinhua said.
Neither side had commented on the tone of the visit as Song wrapped up his official itinerary on Monday. China’s foreign ministry, asked to comment on the visit, repeated a standard line about Song’s official itinerary and added nothing further.
Song’s trip was watched closely because it came on the heels of US President Donald Trump’s Asian tour, in which he urged greater efforts by China and others to push North Korea to abandon its development of nuclear weapons.
Song, head of the Chinese Communist Party’s International Department, met with North Korean ruling party Vice Chairman Choe Ryong Hae and former Foreign Minister Ri Su Yong. He also paid his respects to North Korean “eternal president” Kim Il Sung and “eternal general-secretary” Kim Jong Il, leader Kim Jong Un’s dead grandfather and father.
The visit was seen by some North Korea watchers as an effort by Xi to explore a new approach in relations and a reflection of his desire to head off further pressure from Washington.
China’s relations with North Korea have deteriorated under Kim Jong Un, who has ignored Beijing’s calls to end North Korea’s nuclear weapons and ballistic missile tests and return to disarmament talks.
China has also been busy repairing ties with South Korea that have been strained by the deployment of a US missile defense system. South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha is to visit China from Tuesday through Thursday.
Trump has repeatedly suggested that China could easily solve the North Korea nuclear problem by tightening the screws on trade. While China is North Korea’s largest trading partner, Beijing says its influence with Kim’s government is often exaggerated by the US and others.
Beijing is also opposed to measures that could bring down Kim’s regime and lead to a refugee crisis along its border with North Korea.


France, Saudi Arabia to hold Yemen humanitarian conference end June

Updated 24 May 2018
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France, Saudi Arabia to hold Yemen humanitarian conference end June

  • France and Saudi Arabia will co-host an international conference on Yemen in Paris
  • More than 10,000 people have been killed in a war that has displaced 3 million internally

PARIS: France and Saudi Arabia will co-host an international conference on Yemen in Paris in June to assess humanitarian needs for the country and possibly contribute to reviving U.N.-backed peace talks.
A Saudi-led coalition backed by the West has carried out air strikes against the armed Houthi movement in a war since 2015 to restore the internationally recognised government.
More than 10,000 people have been killed in a war that has displaced 3 million internally and unleashed the world's worst humanitarian crisis, the UN says.
"We are currently working on how to organise this conference with our various partners, Yemen and the United Nations," France's foreign ministry spokeswoman Agnes von der Muhll told reporters in a daily briefing on Wednesday.
"This conference should take stock of humanitarian needs, evaluate the assistance provided and the response mechanisms which need to be improved and define humanitarian actions to improve the situation of civilian populations."
The French president's office said the conference would take place at the end of June. A source aware of the plans said it was scheduled for June 27.
Von der Muhll declined to say whether Paris intended to invite representatives of the Iran-aligned Houthis.
"This work, which we want to be collective, can help to recreate the conditions for a resumption of political discussions under the auspices of the United nations," Von der Muhll said in a statement on Tuesday.
It is unclear how this would fit into the UN Yemen mediator Martin Griffiths' efforts. He said in April he wanted to present a plan for negotiations within two months to end the conflict, but warned that any new military offensives could "take peace off the table."
Three rounds of UN-backed peace talks between the Houthis and the Yemeni government, with the last held in Kuwait in August 2016, ended without success. Griffiths began his term in March in a bid by the U.N. to revive the stalled peace process.