European Parliament in ‘secret’ talks with North Korea

Members of the European Parliament take part in a voting session at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, March 14, 2018. (REUTERS)
Updated 14 March 2018
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European Parliament in ‘secret’ talks with North Korea

STRASBOURG: A European Parliament delegation said Wednesday it has been conducting secret talks with North Korea over the last three years to try to persuade Pyongyang to negotiate an end to its nuclear program.
The group led by British MEP Nirj Deva has met senior North Korean officials, including ministers, 14 times and plans another meeting in Brussels in the near future.
News of the below-the-radar diplomacy effort comes after the surprise announcement that US President Donald Trump plans a summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, part of fast-paced developments following an Olympic detente.
Deva said he and his colleagues on the European Parliament Delegation for Relations with the Korean Peninsula had been “relentlessly advocating the case for dialogue without preconditions” to end the increasingly tense nuclear standoff with the North.
“I did much of the advocacy in secrecy with my colleagues. It is only now that I am revealing our efforts to a wider audience in the light of the proposed talks,” Deva said.
The group also met senior officials in the US, China, Japan and South Korea, Deva said, for dialogue aimed at achieving a “verifiable denuclearised Korean peninsula.”
“We met in secret with senior North Koreans on 14 occasions. We understood their concerns and they understand ours,” he told a press conference at the European Parliament in Strasbourg.
The MEPs held regular clandestine meetings with the North Koreans in Brussels, Deva said, listening to their concerns and trying to convince them of the risks of nuclear war.
“We told them in no uncertain terms that if they carry on with the missile program and the nuclear bomb program they will only lead to an inevitable conclusion which is unthinkable,” Deva said.
EU diplomacy is normally carried out by the bloc’s dedicated foreign affairs department, which has diplomatic missions all around the world.
Deva said his delegation had a role to play in developing “confidence building measures” to support the planned US-North Korea dialogue.
And Deva said that from his meetings he believed the tough sanctions the EU has in place against North Korea had been an important factor in driving Pyongyang to agree to talks.
“Part of the reason that this happened was the sanctions started to bite poor people — not the elite,” he said.
The sudden announcement of the summit between Kim and Trump and Pyongyang’s reported willingness to discuss ending its nuclear program have raised hopes of detente after months of tension.
As well as the Kim-Trump meeting, North and South Korea are also planning a summit next month.
Paul Ruebig, an Austrian MEP who is deputy chair of the committee and took part in the secret meetings, called for the UN to take part in the summits to give them a global scope.


Indian sailor rescued from yacht stranded off Australian coast

Updated 6 min 59 sec ago
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Indian sailor rescued from yacht stranded off Australian coast

  • The sailor, Abhilash Tomy, called for emergency assistance on Saturday after the yacht was badly damaged in a storm
  • He became the first Indian to circumnavigate the globe in 2013
SYDNEY: An Indian sailor injured in a solo round-the-world race has been rescued, the Indian Navy said on Monday, after Australian authorities said a French ship was nearing his storm-damaged yacht off Australia’s west coast.
The sailor, Abhilash Tomy, called for emergency assistance on Saturday after the yacht was badly damaged in a storm about 3,500 kilometers west of Australia, leaving him with severe back injuries.
“Tomy rescued safely,” the Indian Navy said on Twitter, without giving further details.
Earlier, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority, which is coordinating the rescue, had said it expected a French fisheries patrol vessel to reach Tomy’s yacht as soon as 0700 GMT.
“All indications are the vessel is upright and floating high in the water but at any moment, a wave could push one of the damaged masts into the vessel and compromise its integrity,” Phil Gaden, a search and rescue official, told reporters in Canberra, the Australian capital.
The mast hanging precariously over the yacht stoked fears it could become dislodged and damage the watertight body of the boat, Gaden added.
Despite the nearness of the French ship, Gaden had cautioned that rescuers might not be able to evacuate Tomy because of the damage to his yacht, in which case an Australian naval boat, positioned further away, might have had to undertake the rescue.
Tomy, whose website says he became the first Indian to circumnavigate the globe in 2013, was a contestant in the grueling 48,000-kilometer Golden Globe Race.
The Indian-built yacht, ‘Thuriya’, left the seaside town of Les Sables-d’Olonne in western France on July 1 in the roundtrip race.
Participant crafts, similar to those used 50 years ago in the first such race, which features a solo circumnavigation of the globe, are barred from using modern technology, except for their communications gear.