UN chief says planned US-NKorea summit shows vision

South Korea says the two leaders will meet before May. (AP)
Updated 10 March 2018
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UN chief says planned US-NKorea summit shows vision

NEWYORK: UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Friday welcomed the announcement of a planned summit between the United States and North Korea, saying the breakthrough showed “leadership and vision.”
Guterres has repeatedly called for talks to address the crisis over North Korea’s nuclear and missile tests, which the UN chief has described as the most pressing global security threat.
President Donald Trump agreed on Thursday to a first face-to-face meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, which could take place by the end of May.
Guterres “is encouraged by the announcement of an agreement” to hold a summit meeting, said UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric.
“He commends the leadership and vision of all concerned,” he added. 
The decision by trump came after months of trading insults and threats of nuclear annihilation. President Donald Trump agreed to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jung Un by the end of May to negotiate an end to Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons program, South Korean and US officials said Thursday. No sitting American president has ever met with a North Korea leader.
The meeting would be unprecedented during seven decades of animosity between the US and North Korea. The countries remain in a state of war because the 1950-53 Korean War ended with an armistice and not a peace treaty.
“Great progress being made,” Trump tweeted after the South Korean national security director, Chung Eui-yong, announced the plans to reporters in a hastily called appearance on a White House driveway.
Trump added that sanctions will remain in place until there’s a deal.
Trump took office vowing to stop North Korea from attaining a nuclear-tipped missile that could reach the US mainland, a goal that Pyongyang is on the cusp of reaching. He’s oscillated between threats and insults directed at Kim that have fueled fears of war, and more conciliatory rhetoric.
The historic announcement comes during a period of unparalleled tumult in the West Wing, with the president’s policy agenda stalled and morale sinking as staff departures proliferate and disrupt efforts to instill more discipline and order.
Trump clearly relished the news of the planned summit. He had made a surprise visit to the White House press briefing room on Thursday afternoon to alert reporters of a “major statement” on North Korea by South Korea. When asked by an ABC reporter if it was about talks with North Korea, he replied: “It’s almost beyond that. Hopefully, you will give me credit.”
Earlier Thursday, Chung had briefed Trump and other top US officials about a rare meeting with Kim in the North Korean capital. During that meeting, the rival Koreas agreed to hold a leadership summit in late April, the first in a decade.
Kim “expressed his eagerness to meet President Trump as soon as possible,” Chung told reporters. “President Trump appreciated the briefing and said he would meet Kim Jong Un by May to achieve permanent denuclearization.”
The White House said Trump’s meeting with Kim would take place “at a place and time to be determined.”
“Kim Jong Un talked about denuclearization with the South Korean Representatives, not just a freeze,” Trump said in a tweet. “Also, no missile testing by North Korea during this period of time.”
It marks a dramatic shift in Trump’s stance toward North Korea. He has threatened the pariah nation with “fire and fury” if its threats against the US and its allies continued. He has derided Kim by referring to him as “Little Rocket Man.” Kim has pilloried Trump as “senile” and a “dotard.”
After Kim repeated threats against the US in a New Year’s address and mentioned the “nuclear button” on his office desk, Trump responded by tweeting that he has a nuclear button, too, “but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!“
North Korea appeared to confirm the summit plans. A senior North Korean diplomat at the United Nations in New York, Pak Song Il, told The Washington Post in an email that the invitation was the result of Kim’s “broad minded and resolute decision” to contribute to the peace and security of the Korean Peninsula.
By the “great courageous decision of our Supreme Leader, we can take the new aspect to secure the peace and stability in the Korean Peninsula and the East Asia region,” Pak wrote.
On Tuesday after leaving Pyongyang, Chung had publicized that North Korea was offering talks with the United States on denuclearization and normalizing ties. But the proposal for a summit still came as a surprise, and will raise questions about whether the two sides are ready for such a high-level meeting.
Just a few hours earlier, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who is traveling in Africa, had said the adversaries were still a long way from holding negotiations.
Chung, who credited Trump’s “maximum pressure” campaign for the diplomatic opening on the nuclear issue, said Kim understands that routine US-South Korea military drills “must continue.”
The drills were suspended during the Winter Olympics recently hosted by South Korea, which provided impetus for the inter-Korea rapprochement. The drills are expected to resume next month and had widely been seen as an obstacle to talks. North Korea has long protested the military maneuvers south of the divided Korean Peninsula as a rehearsal for invading the North.
When the South Korean delegation briefed Trump in the Oval Office, he was joined by a number of top advisers, including Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, chief of staff John Kelly and the director of national intelligence, among others, according to a senior Trump administration official who briefed reporters after the announcement. The official, who was not authorized to discuss the sensitive diplomatic issue by name and spoke on condition of anonymity, said there was no letter from Kim to Trump, just an oral briefing from the South Korean officials.
The planned summit was welcomed by arms control advocates, but got varying responses from Republican lawmakers.
House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Ed Royce said the invitation was a sign that sanction pressure was working but he was skeptical of North Korea’s motives. Sen. Lindsey Graham warned Kim that “the worst possible thing you can do is meet with President Trump in person and try to play him. If you do that, it will be the end of you — and your regime.”
Darryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association, said it was too much to expect a single Trump-Kim summit could immediately resolve the nuclear issue that has bedeviled US administrations since the early 1990s, when the North first began producing fissile material for bombs.
“But if the US works closely and intensively with our South Korean allies in its approach to North Korea, a summit offers the potential for starting a serious process that could move us decisively away from the current crisis,” Kimball said.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Friday welcomed the announcement of a planned summit between the United States and North Korea, saying the breakthrough showed "leadership and vision."
Guterres has repeatedly called for talks to address the crisis over North Korea's nuclear and missile tests, which the UN chief has described as the most pressing global security threat.
UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said that Guterres "is encouraged by the announcement of an agreement" to hold a summit meeting, and added that "he commends the leadership and vision of all concerned."
 


Afghan leaders ‘optimistic’ over Taliban peace talks

Updated 24 June 2018
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Afghan leaders ‘optimistic’ over Taliban peace talks

  • The Taliban last week rejected Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s offer to extend the truce, but a government spokesman said on Saturday that the government was optimistic the militants were willing to engage in peace talks.
  • After ending the truce, the Taliban said its attacks against foreign troops and Afghans supporting them would continue.

KABUL: The Afghan government is confident of holding peace talks with Taliban militants despite a recent surge of attacks by insurgents, a palace spokesman said.

Shah Hussain Murtazawi said the announcement last week of a brief truce by the Taliban over Eid, the increasing movement of extremists and some field commanders to government-held areas, and a call for peace by the Imam of Makkah and the Saudi monarch were the basis of the government’s optimism.

The Taliban last week rejected Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s offer to extend the truce, but Murtazawi said on Saturday that the government was optimistic the militants were willing to engage in peace talks.

“A new chapter has been opened and the broad support for a cease-fire and an end to the war are the causes for our optimism,” he told Arab News.

“The fact that Taliban announced a truce and their commanders came into towns and celebrated Eid with government officials are positive signs that the extremists will be ready for talks with the government.”

However, no contact has been established with leaders of the group since the militants called off their truce, Murtazawi said.

After ending the truce, the Taliban said its attacks against foreign troops and Afghans supporting them would continue. Scores of Afghan troops have been killed in a spate of attacks, including assaults on military bases where the insurgents joined government forces to celebrate Eid.

Some tribal chiefs and local officials are calling for “safe zones” where extremists can hold initial talks with the government, according to a local official who refused to be named.