Mattis goes silent ahead of Trump-Kim meeting

US Defence Secretary James Mattis. (AFP)
Updated 12 March 2018
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Mattis goes silent ahead of Trump-Kim meeting

MUSCAT: US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said on Sunday he will not publicly discuss issues related to North Korea, deferring to diplomats and the White House, ahead of a proposed meeting between President Donald Trump and North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un.
Mattis said the situation was simply too sensitive for comment by officials in places such as the Pentagon, which is not directly involved in the diplomatic outreach.
“I do not want to talk about Korea at all. I will leave it to those who are leading the effort,” Mattis told reporters during a flight to Oman.
“Because it’s that delicate, when you get into a position like this. The potential for misunderstanding remains very high or goes higher.”
Meanwhile, President Donald Trump said on Saturday he believes North Korea will abide by its pledge to suspend missile tests while he prepares for a summit by May with Kim.
Trump noted in a tweet that North Korea has refrained from such tests since November and said Kim “has promised not to do so through our meetings.”
“I believe they will honor that commitment,” the president wrote.
The president continued the optimistic tone Saturday night when he led a rally for the Republican candidate in a special House race in western Pennsylvania. When he mentioned Kim’s name, the crowd booed but Trump responded: “No, it’s very positive ... no, after the meeting you may do that, but now we have to be very nice because let’s see what happens, let’s see what happens.”
Trump shocked many inside and outside his administration Thursday when he told South Korean officials who had just returned from talks in North Korea that he would be willing to accept Kim’s meeting invitation.
Earlier Saturday, Trump tweeted that China was pleased that he was pursuing a diplomatic solution rather than “going with the ominous alternative” and that Japan is “very enthusiastic” about the agreed-to talks.
Trump has spoken with both Chinese President Xi Jinping and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe since Thursday’s announcement, and said Xi “appreciates that the US is working to solve the problem diplomatically rather than going with the ominous alternative.”
Trump had previously threatened North Korea with “fire and fury like the world has never seen.”
Trump also said China, North Korea’s most important ally and trading partner, “continues to be helpful!” Trump has repeatedly urged China to do more to pressure North Korea into abandoning its nuclear program.
Trump said in another tweet Saturday that Abe is “is very enthusiastic about talks with North Korea” and that the two discussed how to narrow the US-Japan trade deficit. Trump wrote, “It will all work out!“
Trump misspelled Xi’s first name as “Xinping” in the first version of his tweet about China but later corrected it.


Modi’s party abandons Kashmir alliance

Updated 9 min 48 sec ago
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Modi’s party abandons Kashmir alliance

  • Mufti said that her party would continue to seek dialogue and reconciliation in the state
  • A divide between the partners was visible even last month when New Delhi announced the cease-fire

NEW DELHI: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) quit the ruling coalition in the northern Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir on Tuesday, blaming its regional partner for a rise in militancy and growing security concerns.
Shortly after the BJP withdrew support from the coalition it formed in early 2015, Mehbooba Mufti, head of its alliance partner the People's Democratic Party (PDP), resigned as the state’s chief minister.
The state will now be ruled by the governor until elections take place.
BJP National General Secretary Ram Madhav said on Tuesday that continuing in government had become “untenable.”
“The security scenario has deteriorated causing serious concern about the protection of basic fundamental rights of life and free speech,” he said. “There is grave concern over the deteriorating security situation in the state.”
Kashmir has been at the heart of a dispute between nuclear-armed India and Pakistan over territorial rights. In past months there have been several outbreaks of violence. More than 130 people have been killed in the state this year and at least 120 men have joined extrremist groups.
The BJP move came a day after New Delhi ended a cease-fire against militants for Ramadan.
Last week, extremists shot and killed the editor of a local Kashmiri newspaper and abducted and killed a Kashmiri soldier on his way home to celebrate Eid.
Experts say a political split has been on the cards.
“For the BJP it had become impossible to continue,” said Happymon Jacob, associate professor of disarmament studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi. “Ideologically, the two are completely different parties.”
By aligning with PDP — viewed by many as a soft separatist party because it supports talks with Pakistan — the BJP lost face with its Hindu right-wing base, he said.
“But the biggest loser is the PDP. Mufti has no face left, no political mileage, and she will have no stakes in Jammu and Kashmir whenever fresh elections take place.”
The BJP, on the other hand, has now strengthened its rule in the state since the governor does what New Delhi tells him, Jacob said. That includes appointing advisers suggested by the BJP to act as de-facto ministers until a new government is formed.
“They are the victors here,” said Jacob.
Mufti said that her party would continue to seek dialogue and reconciliation in the state.
“We had always said muscular security policy will not work in Jammu and Kashmir. The state can’t be treated as enemy territory. Reconciliation is the key,” she told The Indian Express.
The BJP-PDP alliance, the report quoted her saying, was not for power but to get confidence-building measures put in place.
A divide between the partners was visible even last month when New Delhi announced the cease-fire. At the time, BJP’s state unit said the truce would “demoralize security forces.”