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."
 


Child marriage survivors say UK law legitimizes ‘terrible’ abuse

Campaigners say it is time that Britain — which has been vocal about ending child marriage in developing countries — got its own laws in order. (Shutterstock)
Updated 23 October 2018
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Child marriage survivors say UK law legitimizes ‘terrible’ abuse

  • Nearly 30 percent of cases where the age was known concerned minors, and over half of these involved children under 16

LONDON: When Zee was 13, she returned from school one day to find an engagement party under way at her home in northern England, but her excitement at the celebrations quickly turned to shock.
“I asked my mum who’s getting married. She said, ‘It’s you’,” Zee told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Her betrothed was represented by a photo – an older cousin she had never met who lived in Afghanistan, her parents’ country of birth.
“One day I’m not even allowed to talk to boys and the next I’m told I’m getting married,” Zee said.
“I was dressed up to look like a Christmas tree — very sparkly, very bling. Everyone was happy. The only person who was miserable was me.”
Child marriage — defined internationally as marriage under 18 — remains legal in Britain. In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, teenagers can wed at 16 with parental consent. In Scotland, they do not need consent.
Zee, who did not want to give her full name, escaped by running away from home, but she says many girls are still being pushed into marriage.
Campaigners say it is time that Britain — which has been vocal about ending child marriage in developing countries — got its own laws in order.
They were particularly dismayed when Bangladesh changed its law recently to allow marriage at 16 — and cited British law as a justification.
“The UK should practice what it preaches,” said Mabel van Oranje, chairwoman of global advocacy group Girls Not Brides.
“Britain’s delay in reforming its own marriage laws is increasingly counterproductive.”
British parliamentarian Pauline Latham agrees. She has introduced a bill to raise the marriage age to 18 which is set to receive its second reading later this year.
She said it was “crazy” that Britain still allowed child marriage when it was spending about 39 million pounds ($51 million) over five years to support efforts to end it in developing countries.
Changing the law was also crucial for protecting girls at home, she said.

FORCED MARRIAGE
Nearly 2,000 young people in Britain, the vast majority of them girls, were wed before the age of 18 between 2010 and 2015, according to official data.
Although the numbers are low, campaigners believe most are pressured into marriage by their families. If the minimum age was raised, girls would be more empowered to say no.
Girls Not Brides says the impact of getting married young is similar wherever girls live. They are more likely to drop out of school and at greater risk of marital rape, domestic abuse and health problems relating to teenage pregnancy.
The minimum age of 16 was set in 1929 when living together or falling pregnant out of wedlock was socially unacceptable. But campaigners said the “parental consent” clause for under 18s had now become an “open door” to forced marriage.
Latham said there was general support in parliament for raising the marriage age, but her bill may not be heard due to lack of time.
If so, she will push ministers to insert an amendment into another bill. Campaigners suggest it could be included in the Domestic Violence Bill.

SACRIFICED LIFE
Girls from South Asian and Middle Eastern backgrounds are seen as most at risk of early marriage in Britain because having relationships outside marriage is often considered shameful.
Amina, a mother of four in her thirties from London, had never talked to her husband before her wedding just after her 17th birthday.
The marriage, done to please her parents, put an end to her studies and plunged her into depression as she dealt with her husband’s temper and controlling mother-in-law.
“The marriage was all about fear. I was a total stranger in my own house,” said Amina. “I was really naive. I felt like a child myself when I had my first children.”
Amina, whose parents were born in Bangladesh, says girls are still coerced into early marriages in Britain.
“It was a big sacrifice of my life. I had no chance to explore things. I went through terrible times,” said Amina, who is still married to her husband and asked not to use her real name.
Campaigners say official marriage statistics do not reflect the true scale of the problem as many girls are married early in traditional ceremonies, but the weddings are not officially registered.
Others are taken abroad for marriage and brought back to Britain when they are older.
Last year, the government’s Forced Marriage Unit received reports of about 1,200 possible cases of people, mostly girls and women, being coerced to wed — a figure widely said to represent the tip of the iceberg.
Nearly 30 percent of cases where the age was known concerned minors, and over half of these involved children under 16.
Britain banned forced marriage in 2014. It has taken action to rescue girls from abroad, prosecuted parents and issued forced marriage protection orders.
Campaigners say it makes no sense to invest in tackling forced marriage, while retaining a law that facilitates it.
“It’s an anomaly. We need to address it — and the time is now,” Latham said. ($1 = 0.7603 pounds)