Mongolia invites North Korea’s Kim to visit

A Mongolian knight speaks with a policeman in front of the Genghis Khan equestrian statue in Tsonjin Boldog. (AFP)
Updated 16 October 2018

Mongolia invites North Korea’s Kim to visit

  • The invitation was sent to Kim Jong Un on October 10, though no specific date was proposed
  • The two countries celebrated 70 years of diplomatic ties this year

ULAANBAATAR: Mongolia has invited Kim Jong Un to visit the nation’s capital, which once hoped to host the historic summit between the North Korean leader and US President Donald Trump, an official said Tuesday.
The invitation comes amid expectations that Kim and Trump, who met in Singapore in June, will hold a second summit — a time and location for which have yet to be determined.
According to Mongolian President Khaltmaa Battulga’s office, the invitation was sent to Kim on October 10, though no specific date was proposed.
The North Korean leader can visit “whenever he feels convenient,” an official from the president’s office said, confirming a report published Monday by North Korea’s KCNA state news service.
Mongolia had offered to host Trump and Kim for their landmark summit in June, but they ended up picking Singapore, where they agreed to a vaguely-worded statement on denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.
Trump said last week that three or four unspecified locations have been short-listed for their next meeting, but it would “probably” not be in Singapore again, and he did not give a date.
Kim’s only other known foreign trips since taking power in 2011 was three visits to China this year.
He has also met South Korean President Moon Jae-in at the Demilitarized Zone separating their countries, where he momentarily crossed into Pyongyang’s southern neighbor.
Mongolia, a democratic nation wedged between China and Russia, is one of the few countries that has normal relations with the authoritarian regime in North Korea.
The two countries celebrated 70 years of diplomatic ties this year.
Kim’s grandfather, North Korea’s founder Kim Il Sung, visited Mongolia when it was still a Soviet state in 1988.
In October 2013, Mongolia’s then-president Tsakhia Elbegdorj visited Pyongyang and was the first head of state to meet with Kim since the North Korean leader succeed his late father, Kim Jong Il, two years prior.
Almost 1,200 North Koreans were living and working in Mongolia at the end of last year, before UN sanctions against Pyongyang required them to leave.

US troop pullout focus of next talks: Taliban

Updated 7 min 37 sec ago

US troop pullout focus of next talks: Taliban

  • The next round of talks is expected to take place in Doha in the coming weeks

KABUL: Upcoming talks between the Taliban and the US will focus on the timetable for pulling all foreign forces from Afghanistan, according to a senior Taliban member.

The Taliban’s political spokesman Suhail Shaheen told AFP that previous negotiations with Washington saw the two sides agree to a total withdrawal, with only the details needing to be fleshed out.

“In our last round of talks with the US side, we agreed with them on withdrawal of all foreign forces from Afghanistan,” Shaheen said in Doha.

In return for a withdrawal, he said the Taliban have committed to preventing terror groups using Afghanistan as a safe haven or for launching attacks on other countries.

“But still there are some details to be discussed, and this discussion will take place in our next round of talks and that is about (the) timetable of the withdrawal of forces from the country and other details,” Shaheen said.

The next round of talks is expected to take place in Doha in the coming weeks, but no dates have been formally announced.

US special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, who is leading the talks for Washington, said after the latest round ended that “real strides” had been made, but he insisted no agreement was reached on when the US and other countries might leave Afghanistan.

Afghan-to-Afghan talks were scheduled to start on Friday in Qatar, but were scuttled after a falling out over who should attend.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani over the weekend to express Washington’s disappointment over the indefinite postponement of Afghan talks with the Taliban and to condemn the insurgent’s latest “spring offensive.”

The gathering would have marked the first time that Taliban and Kabul government officials sat together. It was considered a significant first step toward finding a negotiated end to the war in Afghanistan, America’s longest conflict, and the eventual withdrawal of US troops from the country.

The State Department said Pompeo called Ghani on Saturday over the postponement and also condemned the recent Taliban announcement of starting another offensive this spring.

The announcement itself was just a show of strength since the Taliban have kept up relentless near-daily attacks even during the harsh winter months, inflicting staggering losses on the embattled Afghan military and security forces. Many civilians also loss their lives in the cross-fire.

In his phone call with Ghani, Pompeo encouraged both sides to agree on participants, saying the talks are Afghanistan’s best chance at peace.