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.
 


German court rejects call for Catalan leader Puigdemont to be rearrested

Updated 52 min 4 sec ago
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German court rejects call for Catalan leader Puigdemont to be rearrested

BERLIN: A German court on Tuesday rejected a request from prosecutors to take former Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont back into custody pending a decision on whether he can be extradited to Spain.
Puigdemont was detained by German police March 25 after crossing the border from Denmark. Spain had issued a European arrest warrant and sought his extradition on charges of rebellion and misuse of public funds — charges that stem from an unauthorized referendum last year on Catalonia’s independence from Spain.
He was released April 6 after a German court said it appeared he can’t be extradited for rebellion, the more serious of the two charges. But prosecutors in the northern town of Schleswig argued that new information provided by Spanish authorities suggests that would be possible.
They cited videos showing violence against Spanish police and said in a statement that “the disturbances were on such a scale that prosecutors believe that he should also be extradited over the accusation of rebellion.” The prosecutors argued that the charge is comparable to two offenses under German law — treason and breaching the peace.
They said that Puigdemont would pose a flight risk and called for him to be taken back into custody. The state court in Schleswig disagreed and rejected the request.
Puigdemont remains free with certain conditions, including reporting to police once a week.
The separatist politician has been living in Berlin, frequently receiving political allies from Catalonia including his newly elected successor as regional president, Quim Torra.
The Schleswig court said it is “still open” when a final decision will be made on whether Puigdemont can be extradited. It said that the prosecutors have yet to submit a formal application to examine whether an extradition is possible.