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

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.


UK’s Johnson to visit European capitals seeking Brexit breakthrough

Updated 18 August 2019

UK’s Johnson to visit European capitals seeking Brexit breakthrough

  • Johnson will travel for talks with German Chancellor Merkel and French President Macron
  • Johnson is expected to push for the EU to reopen negotiations over the terms of Brexit

LONDON: UK's Boris Johnson will visit European capitals this week on his first overseas trip as prime minister, as his government said Sunday it had ordered the scrapping of the decades-old law enforcing its EU membership.

Johnson will travel to Berlin on Wednesday for talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and on to Paris Thursday for discussions with French President Emmanuel Macron, Downing Street confirmed on Sunday, amid growing fears of a no-deal Brexit in two and a half months.

The meetings, ahead of a two-day G7 summit starting Saturday in the southern French resort of Biarritz, are his first diplomatic forays abroad since replacing predecessor Theresa May last month.

Johnson is expected to push for the EU to reopen negotiations over the terms of Brexit or warn that it faces the prospect of Britain's disorderly departure on October 31 -- the date it is due to leave.

European leaders have repeatedly rejected reopening an accord agreed by May last year but then rejected by British lawmakers on three occasions, despite Johnson's threats that the country will leave then without an agreement.

In an apparent show of intent, London announced Sunday that it had ordered the repeal of the European Communities Act, which took Britain into the forerunner to the EU 46 years ago and gives Brussels law supremacy.

The order, signed by Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay on Friday, is set to take effect on October 31.

"This is a landmark moment in taking back control of our laws from Brussels," Barclay said in a statement.

"This is a clear signal to the people of this country that there is no turning back -- we are leaving the EU as promised on October 31, whatever the circumstances -- delivering on the instructions given to us in 2016."

The moves come as Johnson faces increasing pressure to immediately recall MPs from their summer holidays so that parliament can debate Brexit.

More than 100 lawmakers, who are not due to return until September 3, have demanded in a letter that he reconvene the 650-seat House of Commons and let them sit permanently until October 31.

"Our country is on the brink of an economic crisis, as we career towards a no-deal Brexit," said the letter, signed by MPs and opposition party leaders who want to halt a no-deal departure.

"We face a national emergency, and parliament must be recalled now."

Parliament is set to break up again shortly after it returns, with the main parties holding their annual conferences during the September break.

Main opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn wants to call a vote of no confidence in Johnson's government after parliament returns.

He hopes to take over as a temporary prime minister, seek an extension to Britain's EU departure date to stop a no-deal Brexit, and then call a general election.

"What we need is a government that is prepared to negotiate with the European Union so we don't have a crash-out on the 31st," Corbyn said Saturday.

"This government clearly doesn't want to do that."

Britain could face food, fuel and medicine shortages and chaos at its ports in a no-deal Brexit, The Sunday Times newspaper reported, citing a leaked government planning document.

There would likely be some form of hard border imposed on the island of Ireland, the document implied.

Rather than worst-case scenarios, the leaked document, compiled this month by the Cabinet Office ministry, spells out the likely ramifications of a no-deal Brexit, the broadsheet claimed.

The document said logjams could affect fuel distribution, while up to 85 percent of trucks using the main ports to continental Europe might not be ready for French customs.

The availability of fresh food would be diminished and prices would go up, the newspaper said.