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.


Many Indians rally behind Modi after Kashmir attack

Updated 16 min 42 sec ago
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Many Indians rally behind Modi after Kashmir attack

  • Tensions between the nuclear-armed rivals have ratcheted up
  • Modi has been blamed for weak rural incomes and an inability to provide employment to the millions of young Indians entering the job market each year

NEW DELHI: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has suffered a series of political reverses in recent months but widespread anger after 40 troopers were killed in an Islamist militant attack last week could lead to a surge in support for his Hindu nationalist party.
As emotions run high following the deadliest attack on security forces in decades, Modi, who faces a general election by May, said he had given a free hand to security forces to avenge the killings in Kashmir, the region disputed with arch-foe Pakistan.
Tensions between the nuclear-armed rivals have ratcheted up and shouts of “down with Pakistan” and “blood for blood” have reverberated at funerals of the victims. Many Indians have held candle-lit marches across the country demanding the government “not forget, not forgive.”
The attack has been claimed by the Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammad militant group but the Pakistan government has denied any responsibility.
Rakesh Kumar, a 32-year-old part-time teacher in Kasba Bonli town in the western state of Rajasthan, said he was now inclined to vote for Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the national election after backing the main opposition Congress in a state vote late last year.
“If he teaches Pakistan a lesson, support for him will rise,” Kumar said in a telephone interview. “It’s a matter of the country’s security, and we need to see what he can do for us.”
The BJP was ousted from power in three major states, including Rajasthan, in December, and Modi has been blamed for weak rural incomes and an inability to provide employment to the millions of young Indians entering the job market each year.
Although still tipped to win, pollsters had said before the attack that the ruling party could fall short of a majority in the general election.
No polls have been published since the attack, but political analysts say the anti-Pakistan wave has become a rallying point for the BJP.
Yogendra Yadav, a former pollster and now a political activist, said the Kashmir attack would be a distraction from economic challenges facing the government.
“Ever since those issues have emerged, there have been systematic attempts to divert attention, some by design, some by accident,” he said.
“The consequence (of the attack) would be to bring the spotlight on issues of national security, which is exactly what the ruling party may have wanted.”
No compromise
The BJP has not lost time in underlining its nationalist credentials. Addressing a political rally on Sunday, party president Amit Shah ended a brief period of bipartisan politics by saying that Modi was better at responding to militant attacks than the previous government headed by Congress.
“This time it’s not a Congress government that is in power. The BJP government of Narendra Modi does not do any compromise in matters of national security,” Shah said to loud cheers.
“The BJP government will completely uproot terrorism. Narendra Modi’s political will to finish terrorism is the highest among global leaders.”
Mamata Banerjee, chief minister of West Bengal state and an outspoken critic of Modi, has lashed out at the BJP comments.
“We didn’t raise any questions (about the attack) because we thought we will be united in the fight (against terror),” she told reporters. “But now we see that we are silent and they are giving such speeches that it seems only they are patriots and the rest are outsiders.”
Modi has often spoken about adopting a more muscular approach to Pakistan, after a surprise visit to the neighbor in 2015 failed to improve ties.
BJP spokesman Nalin Kohli declined to say if the response to the attack would be an election issue for the party. But he defended party chief Shah’s comments as a reflection of the “national mood of grief and anger.”
In 2016, Indian forces carried out what they called a “surgical strike” on militant targets across the border in Pakistan in retaliation to an attack on an army camp in Kashmir.
Earlier this month, before last week’s attack, Modi said the strike had “shown to the world what will be the new policy and culture in India.”
On Monday, he said any hesitation to take action against militancy and those who support it was akin to encouraging the menace.
“Terrorism is a very serious threat to global peace and stability,” Modi said. “The brutal terrorist attack shows that the time for talks is over.”