South Korea: US troop withdrawal not linked to possible peace treaty

US soldiers participate in a South Korea-US combined arms collective training exercise in Pocheon, about 70 kilometers northeast of Seoul, near the heavily-fortified border with North Korea on September 19, 2017. (AFP)
Updated 02 May 2018
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South Korea: US troop withdrawal not linked to possible peace treaty

SEOUL: South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Wednesday dismissed claims that US troops stationed in the country would have to leave if a peace treaty was signed with the North.
Seoul and Pyongyang have remained technically at war since the 1950s but Moon and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un agreed at a landmark summit last week to work toward a permanent treaty to replace a 65-year-old armistice agreement.
“US Forces Korea (USFK) is a matter of the South Korea-US alliance. It has nothing to do with signing a peace treaty,” Moon said, referring to the agreement that sees 28,500 US forces based in the South.
Moon’s comments came after a presidential adviser publicly suggested the presence of US soldiers, sailors and airmen would be called into question if a peace treaty were to be agreed with Pyongyang.
Moon Cung-in had written in Foreign Affairs magazine that it would be “difficult to justify (US forces) continuing presence in South Korea” after the adoption of a peace treaty.
The Blue House — President Moon’s office — has warned the adviser “not to cause any more confusion,” with such comments, spokesman Kim Eui-kyeom said.
The rebuttal came as Seoul’s defense ministry confirmed that several US fighter jets had arrived in the country to take part in a regular joint exercises.
The F-22 “Raptor” stealth fighters last came to the South in December when Seoul and Washington staged their largest-ever joint air exercise, days after North Korea test-fired a missile believed to be capable of hitting the US mainland.
Local media reported eight F-22 jets had arrived Sunday at an air base in the southern city of Gwangju.
The North customarily reacts with anger to the deployment of American stealth fighters, which it fears could be used for surgical strikes against its leadership and strategic facilities.
However, Kim Jong Un has recently shown a more conciliatory attitude, telling Seoul envoy Chung Eui-yong in March that he understood the need for the US-South Korea joint exercises.
The “Max Thunder” drill will kick off on May 11 for two weeks, with the reported participation of 100 aircraft from both countries.
The defense ministry urged news media to refrain from producing “speculative reports” about the move.
That request came after the conservative Chosun Ilbo daily claimed the aircraft deployment could be intended to heap pressure on Pyongyang ahead of a planned summit between Kim Jong Un and US President Donald Trump.
“Max Thunder is a regular exercise that has been on the docket long before a planned US-North Korea summit,” the defense ministry said in a statement.
The Panmunjom truce village in the demilitarized zone between North and South, where last week’s inter-Korean summit was convened, has emerged as a possible venue for the Kim-Trump meeting.
The Chosun Ilbo daily suggested the arrival of F-22 jets could also be aimed at bolstering security in case the North Korea-US summit takes place at Panmunjom.


Millions malnourished in Pakistan despite abundance of food

Updated 24 min 48 sec ago
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Millions malnourished in Pakistan despite abundance of food

KARACHI: A frantic mother cradling her seven-month-old baby rushes toward the special paediatric ward in a desolate Pakistan town, his eyes are blank and he is smaller than most newborns.
He is starving in a country that has no shortage of food, but which has one of the highest infant mortality rates in the world and where malnutrition is rife.
The infant weighs just 2.5 kilograms — the average for a healthy child of that age is almost three times that.
His case is not unique for the doctors at the Mithi Civil Hospital in hunger-stricken Sindh province where millions survive on less than $1 a day.
Of the 150-250 patients who come in each day, roughly one fifth are suffering from malnutrition, Dr. Dilip Kumar, head of the paediatric department, tells AFP.
Inside the ward, nine other malnourished infants are crying inside glass incubators. A young mother, Nazeeran, clutches the hand of her toddler.
“Her weight is dropping, even though we consulted many doctors,” the 25-year-old says.
The International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), a poverty and hunger watchdog, estimates around one in five of Pakistan’s more than 200 million people are malnourished.
And yet, the nation is not short of food — in fact, according to the US Department of Agriculture, it is projected to export 500,000 tons of wheat from May 2018 until April 2019, and 7.4 million tons of rice in the same period.
Dawn, the English-language daily newspaper, even reported a potato glut earlier this month.


The issues, experts say, are socio-economic — that is, just because food is available, does not mean people can access it.
“There are four key pillars of food security in Pakistan: The first is availability, then accessibility, utilization and stability,” says Dr. Ambreen Fatima, senior research economist at the Applied Economic Research Center of the Karachi University.
In Tharparkar, where Mithi Civil Hospital is, all four are lacking, she explains, adding that in other parts of the country they are present only to varying degrees.
“Pakistan is quite well off in wheat production,” comments Dr. Kaiser Bengali, a veteran economist, who has done field research on poverty and hunger in the country, but adds that much of it is sold for export.
This means ordinary people in the country may not have access to it, and if they do they may not have the resources to pay for it.
“Affordability is the biggest challenge here in Pakistan,” he says.
Karachi is Pakistan’s financial capital, but Bengali says he has seen alarming examples of poverty and deprivation there.
“In our surveys we came across the kids who had never eaten an apple, and when we offered him an apple he was reluctant to take the bite wondering whether it was an edible thing or not,” Bengali reveals.
“In another case a family had never had eggs in their whole lives,” he adds.
A survey of the state-run Planning Division in 2017 found that 40 percent of Pakistan’s population lives in multi-dimensional poverty.
That means they are not just short of money, but are also facing a shortage of basic needs, including health, clean water, and electricity, among other factors — all of which can impact their access to food.


“Poor physical infrastructure, particularly in the remote rural areas throughout Pakistan is also a limitation on access to food and influences market prices,” according to a recent statement from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
“This is also linked to inadequate water and sanitation, education and health service delivery, which together with the lack of awareness of appropriate dietary intake contributes to greater food insecurity and malnutrition.”
Tharparkar district is frequently highlighted in Pakistan’s media because of its high rate of child deaths, with politicians blaming the situation on drought — but economists and physicians say that is not the sole explanation.
“Causes of malnutrition are multiple pregnancies, young-aged marriage, iron deficiency in mothers, (lack) of breastfeeding, weak immunization, and early weaning,” Dr. Kumar insists.
Bearing large numbers of children from a young age takes its toll on women’s health, but also impacts the well-being of the fetus and ability to breastfeed a newborn.
In Pakistan, only 38 percent of babies are fed breast milk exclusively during their first six months in line with UN recommendations.
This low figure is blamed on local traditions, the heavy workloads of mothers and powerful marketing by the milk industry.
Many mothers are told to feed their newborns tea, herbs, which can stunt growth. Some are unnecessarily persuaded to use formula instead of breastmilk by doctors.
This can introduce health problems if the water use to make it is unclean, or if poor families scrimp on the amount of powder to create the drink.
Sindh’s high number of child deaths are the result of a vicious poverty cycle that begins with malnourished mothers, agrees Bengali.
He adds: “An infant is not fed with wheat or solid food.”
ak/st/lto/rox