UN welcomes reopening of North Korea hotline with the South

People watch a TV screen showing North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's New Year's speech, at Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea. (AP)
Updated 03 January 2018
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UN welcomes reopening of North Korea hotline with the South

UNITED NATIONS: UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has welcomed the reopening of a hotline between North and South Korea, as he voiced hope for more diplomatic initiatives to end the peninsula’s nuclear standoff.
North and South Korea had earlier on Wednesday reopened a communication channel, which had been closed since 2016. It followed an offer from North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un to send a team to next month’s Winter Olympics in South Korea.
“It is always a positive development to have a dialogue between the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and the Republic of Korea,” said UN spokesman Farhan Haq. Guterres “welcomes the reopening of the inter-Korean communication channel,” he added.
UN Security Council resolutions call for the de-nuclearization of the Korean peninsula and “we hope that enhanced diplomatic initiatives will help to achieve that goal,” said Haq.
South Korea has offered to hold talks with the North on January 9 to discuss “matters of mutual interest” including the North’s Olympic participation.
Guterres’ support for inter-Korean dialogue stood in contrast to remarks from US Ambassador Nikki Haley, who on Tuesday dismissed the overtures between Pyongyang and Seoul as a “Band-Aid.”
The United States, backed by Japan, is pushing for sanctions and total isolation of Kim’s regime in response to a series of missile launches and nuclear tests.
Russia, and North Korea’s sole major ally China, have repeatedly called for talks to de-escalate tensions, but the United States has been adamant that Pyongyang must first freeze its military programs.
Haley warned on Tuesday that if Pyongyang carries out another missile test, it would face the likelihood of even more sanctions.
The Security Council adopted a new raft of sanctions on December 22 to restrict oil supplies to North Korea — the third set of measures imposed on Pyongyang in a year.


Families bury victims as Tanzania ferry disaster toll passes 200

Updated 23 September 2018
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Families bury victims as Tanzania ferry disaster toll passes 200

  • Divers were also set to continue their grim search in the waters around the boat
  • With a surface area of 70,000 square kilometers, Lake Victoria is roughly the size of Ireland and is shared by Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya

UKARA, Tanzania: Grieving families were on Sunday preparing to bury victims of Tanzania’s devastating ferry disaster, with more than 200 confirmed dead after the crowded boat capsized in Lake Victoria.
Hopes were fading of finding any more survivors three days after the ferry sank on Thursday, even after rescuers pulled out an engineer who had managed to find refuge in an air pocket in the upturned vessel.
“We are going to start burying bodies not yet identified by relatives,” said John Mongella, governor of Mwanza region, where the MV Nyerere ferry had been coming in to dock on the island of Ukara.
“The (burial) ceremony will be overseen by Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa, in the presence of clergy members of different denominations,” Mongella said Saturday on TBC 1 public television.
Divers were also set to continue their grim search in the waters around the boat, where late Saturday they were watched by anxious crowds gathered just meters (yards) away on Ukara’s shore.
Mongella said 218 people had been confirmed dead, while 41 escaped the tragedy with their lives — a total figure far above the official capacity of the boat, which was in theory only able to carry 101 passengers.
One survivor was an engineer who shut himself into a “special room” with enough air for him to stay alive until he was found, said local lawmaker Joseph Mkundi.
Transport Minister Isack Kamwelwe said on Saturday that 172 of the victim’s bodies had been identified by relatives.
State television cited witnesses reporting that more than 200 people had boarded the ferry at Bugolora, a town on the larger Ukerewe Island. It was market day, which usually sees the vessel packed with people and goods.
Witnesses told AFP the ferry sank when passengers rushed to one side to disembark as it approached the dock. Others blamed the captain, saying he had made a brusque maneuver.
Dozens of wooden coffins lined the shore on Saturday, waiting to be seen by families as police and volunteers sought to keep hundreds of curious locals at bay.
Aisha William came to collect the body of her husband. “He left on Tuesday around noon, but he never came home. I do not know how I am going to raise my two children,” she said.
Ahmed Caleb, a 27-year-old trader, railed at a tragedy “which could have been prevented. I’ve lost my boss, friends, people I went to school with,” he sighed.
The aging vessel, whose hull and propellers were all that remained visible above water, was also carrying cargo, including sacks of maize, bananas and cement, when it capsized.
Tanzanian President John Magufuli on Friday ordered the arrest of the ferry’s management and declared four days of national mourning.
In a speech broadcast on TBC 1, Magufuli said “it appears clear that the ferry was overloaded,” adding that the government would cover the funeral expenses of the victims.
With a surface area of 70,000 square kilometers, oval-shaped Lake Victoria is roughly the size of Ireland and is shared by Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya.
It is not uncommon for ferries to capsize in the lake, and the number of fatalities is often high due to a shortage of life jackets and the fact that many people in the region cannot swim.