N. Korea refuses to hold talks with South until ties improve

A U.S. Air Force U-2 spy plane prepares to land as South Korea and the United States conduct the Max Thunder joint military exercise at the Osan U.S. Air Base in Pyeongtaek, South Korea. (Yonhap, AP)
Updated 17 May 2018
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N. Korea refuses to hold talks with South until ties improve

  • A high-level meeting between the two neighbors had been scheduled for Wednesday, but the North pulled out early that morning over joint military exercises between the US and the South
  • Unless the serious situation which led to the suspension of the north-south high-level talks is settled, it will never be easy to sit face-to-face again with the present regime of South Korea: negotiator Ri Son Gwon

SEOUL:  North Korea said Thursday it will not hold talks with Seoul under the current diplomatic situation, calling South Korean officials “ignorant and incompetent” a day after the hermit state abruptly canceled planned inter-Korean discussions.
A high-level meeting between the two neighbors had been scheduled for Wednesday, but the North pulled out early that morning over joint military exercises between the US and the South.
The two-week “Max Thunder” drills started on May 11 and involve some 100 aircraft from the two allies, including F-22 stealth fighter jets.
“Unless the serious situation which led to the suspension of the north-south high-level talks is settled, it will never be easy to sit face-to-face again with the present regime of South Korea,” the official KCNA news agency cited top negotiator Ri Son Gwon as saying on Thursday.
Pyongyang has also threatened to cancel a historic summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore next month, following weeks of tentative rapprochement.
Ri, head of the North’s Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Country, described the South’s reaction to the meeting’s cancelation as a “confrontation racket,” according to KCNA.
“On this opportunity the present South Korean authorities have been clearly proven to be an ignorant and incompetent group devoid of the elementary sense of the present situation,” he added.
In Wednesday’s angrily worded statement, KCNA denounced the Max Thunder exercises as a “rude and wicked provocation,” and Seoul said it had received a message canceling planned high-level talks “indefinitely.”
The language used in the two outbursts is a sudden and dramatic return to the rhetoric of the past from Pyongyang, which has long argued that it needs nuclear weapons to defend itself against the US.
Hostilities in the 1950-53 Korean War stopped with a cease-fire, leaving the two halves of the peninsula divided by the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) and still technically at war.
At a dramatic summit last month in Panmunjom, the truce village in the DMZ, Kim and the South’s President Moon Jae-in pledged to pursue a peace treaty to formally end the conflict, and reaffirmed their commitment to denuclearising the Korean peninsula.
But the phrase is open to interpretation on both sides and the North has spent decades developing its atomic arsenal, culminating last year in its sixth nuclear test — by far its biggest to date — and the launch of missiles capable of reaching the US.
 


US reviews report of imports from forced labor in China camp

Updated 51 min 27 sec ago
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US reviews report of imports from forced labor in China camp

BEIJING: The US government said Tuesday that it is reviewing reports of forced labor at a Chinese detention camp where ethnic minorities must give up their religion and language and may be subject to political indoctrination.
US Customs and Border Protection said in a statement that reporting by The Associated Press and other media “for the first time appears to link the internment camps identified in Western China to the importation of goods produced by forced labor by a US company.”
The AP tracked shipments from a factory in a detention camp in China’s Xinjiang region to Badger Sportswear in North Carolina. The company ships clothing to universities, colleges and schools around the United States.
Following the reports, Badger said that it had suspended business with the Chinese supplier and was investigating.
The Washington-based Workers Rights Consortium, which has agreements with many educational institutions to make sure the products they sell on campus are ethically manufactured, said that “forced labor of any kind is a severe violation of university codes of conduct.”
It’s against US law to import products of forced labor. Customs and Border Protection said it is part of its mission to enforce “both laws to protect individuals from forced labor and our Nation’s economy from businesses profiting from this form of modern slavery.”