North Korea sends top diplomat to key ally China

North Korea’s foreign minister, Ri Yong Ho, was due to arrive in China, a key ally, on Thursday. (File/AFP)
Updated 06 December 2018
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North Korea sends top diplomat to key ally China

  • Ri Yong Ho was scheduled to meet Friday with his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi
  • Ri’s visit also comes amid intense speculation over the possibility that Kim will visit South Korea this month

BEIJING: North Korea’s foreign minister was due to arrive in key ally China Thursday for talks that come amid stalled efforts to persuade Pyongyang to dismantle its nuclear weapons programs.
Ri Yong Ho was scheduled to meet Friday with his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi, according to China’s Foreign Ministry.
China is the North’s most important economic and political partner, but has signed on to United Nations economic sanctions aimed at pressuring leader Kim Jong Un to abandon his drive to develop nuclear weapons and the ballistic missiles to deliver them.
Kim sharply raised tensions with nuclear and missile tests last year, but suddenly reached out to South Korea and the United States this year with a vague nuclear disarmament pledge. North Korea is now seeking security guarantees from the US and relief from international sanctions.
Ri is also expected to be briefed on discussions last week between Chinese President Xi Jinping and President Donald Trump, who recently announced that his next meeting with Kim would likely happen in January or February.
Despite the optimism among some circles generated by Kim and Trump’s June summit meeting in Singapore, little has transpired since then.
At the time, some experts said the United States could soon accept a North Korean request for jointly declaring the end of the 1950-53 Korean War as part of security assurances to the North. But diplomacy has since come to a halt amid disputes over a US demand that North Korea first produce a full inventory of its nuclear weapons and take other denuclearization steps before winning significant outside rewards.
For its part, North Korea wants sanctions relief, an end-of-war declaration and other reciprocal measures from the United States, arguing it has taken some steps, like dismantling its nuclear testing facility and releasing American detainees.
China fought on North Korea’s behalf during the Korean War, and while ties have grown frosty at times, Xi hosted Kim for three summits in China this year, both before and after Kim’s meeting with Trump.
However, Xi did not attend celebrations of the 70th anniversary of North Korea’s founding in September in what was seen as an indication that Beijing expected further actions from Kim, including concrete progress toward denuclearization.
Ri’s visit also comes amid intense speculation over the possibility that Kim will visit South Korea this month.
No North Korean leader has traveled to South Korea since the end of the Korean War, which killed millions. There have been five summit talks between the leaders of the Koreas, three of them between Kim and South Korean President Moon Jae-in, but they all happened either in Pyongyang or the inter-Korean border village of Panmunjom.


Macron sparks Turkish anger by meeting Syrian Kurds

Updated 20 April 2019
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Macron sparks Turkish anger by meeting Syrian Kurds

  • Macron assured the Kurdish envoys of French support in their fight against the remaining militants
  • Ankara accused the French leader of “seeking to confer artificial legitimacy on a faction of terrorist groups”

PARIS: French President Emmanuel Macron on Friday hosted representatives of the Kurdish-led force that defeated Daesh extremists in Syria, drawing a sharp rebuke from Turkey’s foreign ministry.
Macron assured the Kurdish envoys of French support in their fight against the remaining militants, but Ankara accused the French leader of “seeking to confer artificial legitimacy on a faction of terrorist groups.”
“We condemn the reception by French President Emmanuel Macron of a delegation of so-called ‘Syrian Democratic Forces’ (SDF),” Turkish foreign ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy said in the statement.
In late March the US-backed SDF flushed out Daesh fighters from their last bastion in Syria but Kurdish-led force still warns that the militants remain a threat in places.
The SDF is an umbrella Kurdish-Arab force dominated by Kurds from the People’s Protection Units (YPG). It is regarded with huge distrust by neighboring Turkey which sees the YPG as a terror group.
Macron assured the visiting SDF representatives, who were not named, of the “active support of France in the fight against Daesh which continues to be a menace for collective security,” the presidency said in a statement, using an Arabic acronym for Daesh.
Particularly important is the support in the “handling of terrorist fighters held as prisoners along with their families.”
European capitals are keeping a careful eye on the Daesh prisoners held by the SDF after the defeat of the militants, given many are dual nationals.
Macron also vowed that financial support would be allocated to “respond to the humanitarian needs and the socio-economic stabilization of civilian populations in Syria.”
The SDF were the West’s key ally in defeating Daesh and waged the bulk of the fighting on the ground.
But they fear being abandoned by their patrons now Daesh has been beaten, after US President Donald Trump announced the withdrawal of American forces from Syria.
France’s past contacts with the SDF’s Syrian Kurds had already angered Turkey which regards the YPG as the Syrian branch of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) which has waged a 35-year insurrection against the Turkish state.
Macron on Friday made clear of the importance to Paris of “the security of Turkey and a de-escalation along the Syrian-Turkish border,” the French presidency said.
But Aksoy said Macron’s move did not sit well with the French-Turkish alliance, and warned that “Turkey will not hesitate to take measures deemed necessary to protect its national security.”