Two Koreas hold military talks as US detects activity at North Korea missile factory

In this Aug. 29, 2017 file photo distributed by the North Korean government shows what was said to be the test launch of a Hwasong-12 intermediate range missile in Pyongyang, North Korea. (AP)
Updated 31 July 2018
0

Two Koreas hold military talks as US detects activity at North Korea missile factory

  • The evidence obtained this month is the latest to suggest ongoing activity in North Korea’s nuclear and missile facilities despite talks with the US
  • Kim committed in a broad summit statement to work toward denuclearization, but Pyongyang has offered no details

SEOUL: North and South Korea held military talks on Tuesday amid rising tensions after the United States detected renewed activity at a North Korean missile factory.
The meeting, their second since June, held in the border village of Panmunjom in the demilitarised zone (DMZ), was designed to follow on from an inter-Korean summit in April at which leaders of the two Koreas agreed to defuse tensions and halt “all hostile acts.”
Kim Do-gyun, the South’s chief negotiator who is in charge of North Korea policy at the defense ministry, told reporters before leaving for the DMZ that he would make efforts to craft “substantive” measures to ease tensions and build trust.
South Korea’s defense ministry said last week it plans to reduce guard posts and equipment along the heavily fortified border as an initial step to implement the agreement.
On Monday, a senior US official told Reuters that US spy satellites had detected renewed activity at the North Korean factory that produced the country’s first intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of reaching the United States.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said last week that North Korea was continuing to produce fuel for nuclear bombs despite the country’s leader Kim Jong Un vowing to work toward denuclearization during a summit with US President Donald Trump in Singapore last month.
Trump declared soon afterward that North Korea no longer posed a nuclear threat, but Pyongyang has offered no details as to how it might go about denuclearization and subsequent talks have not gone smoothly.
The North’s state media has in recent days chastised the South for failing to swiftly move to improve inter-Korean relations while only caring about the view of the United States calling for a thorough enforcement of sanctions.
The Rodong Sinmun, North Korea’s official party newspaper, on Tuesday accused Seoul of “wasting time” waiting for sanctions to be lifted only after denuclearization is completed, without “taking a single action” on its own.
It called for steps to facilitate a restart of the previously jointly-run but now closed programs, such as the Kaesong Industrial Complex and tours to the North’s Mount Kumgang resort.
North Korea’s propaganda website Uriminjokkiri also criticized South Korea for its stance of keeping sanctions on Tuesday, saying “sanctions and conversation cannot exist side by side.” 


Taste of kindness: Buddhist monks serve iftar at a Dhaka monastery

Updated 21 May 2019
0

Taste of kindness: Buddhist monks serve iftar at a Dhaka monastery

  • The monastery’s generosity has not gone unnoticed by the fasting Muslims

DHAKA: As the clock strikes 6 p.m., Shudhhanondo Mohathero hurries to the kitchen to alert his army of 15 monks that they have less than 40 minutes until iftar. 

Soon, people will begin queuing outside the Dharmarajika Bouddha Bihar, a Buddhist monastery in Dhaka, where Mohathero hands out free food packs to fasting Muslims who are too poor to buy a meal to end their fast.

It is a tradition that 89-year-old Mohathero started 10 years ago when he assumed responsibility for the temple’s upkeep.

“Since the early days of the monastery, we have received tremendous support in celebrating different Buddhist festivals from our Muslim friends. So I thought it’s time to do something in return,” Mohathero told Arab News.

Built in 1951, the monastery, which is located in Basabo in the eastern part of Dhaka, has been involved in various social welfare activities. Since the start of Ramadan this year, almost 200 food packs have been doled out every day, with plans to double the number by the end of the month. The 15 monks who live in the monastery prepare the food boxes for iftar.

At a cost of around 80 cents, which is funded by the temple, each box contains traditional Bangladeshi iftar items such as puffed rice, boiled and seasoned chickpeas, jilapi (a deep-fried sweet pastry), beguni (deep-fried eggplant) and dal bora (a fried item with smashed lentils and dates).

“In previous years, our junior monks used to prepare iftar at the monastery. This year, however, we are starting to outsource the items due to the sheer volume,” Mohathero said. 

“Since the early days of the monastery, we have received tremendous support in celebrating different Buddhist festivals from our Muslim friends. So I thought it’s time to do something in return.”

Shudhhanondo Mohathero, Chief monk of Dhaka’s Buddhist Monastery

The monastery’s generosity has not gone unnoticed by the fasting Muslims.

“I have been receiving iftar from the monastery for three years. Since my husband works as a daily-wage laborer, this iftar has made our lives very comfortable,” Asma Khatun, a local resident, said.

Another devotee, Sharif Hossain, said that iftar from the monastery “is like a divine blessing.”

“After losing all my properties in a river erosion, I moved to Dhaka just a few months ago and started living in a slum. I can finally feed my family with the iftar provided by the monks,” he said. 

Talking about his experience being part of a project that builds communal harmony, Prantar Borua, an apprentice monk at the temple, said: “We feel proud and happy to be doing such an extraordinary thing. It’s a small contribution to the community, but it’s the best we can do at this moment.”

The monastery’s generosity has won praise from the Bangladesh authorities, too.

“It’s a nice initiative from the Buddhist community, especially at a time when the world is experiencing many hate crimes and interreligious conflicts. It upholds the spirit of religious harmony,” Abdul Hamid Jomaddar, joint secretary of the Religious Affairs Ministry, said.

“Our government believes in the coexistence of different religions, which is the beauty of this secular land,” he added.