Moscow demands answers after FBI arrests Russian

Whelan, a security official at a US auto parts company and former US Marine, was arrested on December 28 “while carrying out an act of espionage,” the FSB security service announced. (AFP)
Updated 05 January 2019
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Moscow demands answers after FBI arrests Russian

  • FBI agents arrested Dmitry Makarenko on December 29 on Saipan, a US island in the western Pacific and he had since been taken to Florida
  • A top Russian diplomat on Saturday said the case of Paul Whelan, the US national detained in Moscow, was very serious

MOSCOW: Russia said Saturday it wanted an explanation from Washington over the arrest of one of its nationals, as Moscow continued to hold a US citizen for alleged espionage.
FBI agents arrested Dmitry Makarenko on December 29 on Saipan, a US island in the western Pacific and he had since been taken to Florida, a Russian foreign ministry statement said.
It did not detail the accusations against him but said the US authorities had failed to inform them of his arrest and they had only found out from his family.
Meanwhile, a top Russian diplomat on Saturday said the case of Paul Whelan, the US national detained in Moscow, was very serious.
Whelan, a security official at a US auto parts company and former US Marine, was arrested on December 28 “while carrying out an act of espionage,” the FSB security service announced.
“The situation around Mr.Whelan is very serious,” Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told RIA Novosti news agency.
“He came to Russia, as we understand, to take measures to carry out intelligence activities in violation of Russian law,” he said, indicating that Whelan had not yet been formally charged.
But Whelan’s lawyer Vladimir Zherebenkov told RIA Novosti on Thursday that his client had been charged — with espionage.
Whelan’s family said he was visiting Moscow for a friend’s wedding and US security experts have raised doubts that he was a spy, given a reportedly chequered history in the US military.
Some observers believe his arrest was in retaliation for last year’s arrest in the US of a Russian woman called Maria Butina.
Butina was indicted and pleaded guilty to acting as an unregistered agent of the Russian government — a legal charge sometimes used against foreign intelligence agents.
Analysts have speculated that Moscow might be hoping to swap Whelan for Butina or another Russian held by the United States.
Ryabkov said that given the fact that Whelan has not yet been charged, it was too early to talk about his possible release in a spy swap.
Although Whelan entered Russia on his US passport, he also holds British, Irish and Canadian citizenship.
Ryabkov said the question of which country’s diplomats would have access to Whelan would be decided on a case-by-case basis, based on conventions on consular relations.


North Korea’s Kim meets China’s Xi, says awaiting US actions

Updated 20 June 2019
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North Korea’s Kim meets China’s Xi, says awaiting US actions

  • The summit comes as both Xi and Kim are locked in separate disputes with the United States — Xi over trade and Kim over his nuclear weapons
  • Chinese and North Korea media have said Xi would stay in Pyongyang for two days

BEIJING: North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, meeting in Pyongyang with Chinese President Xi Jinping, said Thursday that his country is waiting for a desired response in stalled nuclear talks with the United States.

“North Korea would like to remain patient, but it hopes the relevant party will meet halfway with North Korea to explore resolution plans that accommodate each other’s reasonable concerns,” he said, according to Chinese state broadcaster CCTV.

Xi’s trip to North Korea, the first by a Chinese president in 14 years, raises the possibility that China could help break a months-long impasse in talks between the US and North Korea over the North’s nuclear weapons.

Describing the issue as “highly complex and sensitive,” Xi said his government is willing to play a constructive role in the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

“The international community expects the US and North Korea to continue to talk and achieve results,” he said, according to CCTV.

The summit comes as both countries are locked in separate disputes with the United States — China over trade and North Korea over its nuclear weapons.

With Xi due to meet President Donald Trump next week in Japan, analysts say Kim may ask the Chinese leader to pass on a message that could revive the talks with the US

Xi’s two-day state visit to North Korea, announced just three days ago, began with the synchronized pomp of all major events in the country.

About 10,000 cheering people and a 21-gun salute greeted Xi and senior Chinese officials at an arrival ceremony at Pyongyang’s airport.

The CCTV evening news showed Xi and his wife Peng Liyuan waving to the crowd after emerging from their Air China plane, then being greeted by Kim and his wife, Ri Sol Ju before receiving flowers and watching goose-stepping troops march by.

The crowd stood in tight formations, waving flowers and chanting slogans to welcome Xi. Other people lined the roads and cheered from overpasses as Xi’s motorcade traveled to central Pyongyang, where he joined Kim in an open-top vehicle.

Standing in the car, they waved to crowds as they rode to the square where the embalmed bodies of Kim’s grandfather and father, the first two leaders of North Korea, lie in state.

As of Thursday evening, North Korean media had yet to report on Xi’s arrival.

Nuclear talks between the US and North Korea broke down after a second summit between Kim and Trump in February in Vietnam ended in failure.

A series of North Korean ballistic missile and nuclear tests in 2016 and 2017 alarmed the US, its Asian allies, Japan and South Korea, and even China. Last year, Kim turned to diplomacy, including his first meeting with Trump in Singapore.

The talks with the US have reached an impasse over a fundamental difference in approach.

The US is demanding that North Korea abandon its nuclear weapons entirely before international sanctions are lifted. North Korea is seeking a step-by-step approach in which moves toward denuclearization are matched by concessions from the US, notably a relaxation of the sanctions.

“Over more than a year, the North Korean side has taken many positive measures to avoid escalation of the situation and manage and control the peninsular situation, but it hasn’t received an active response from the relevant party,” Kim told Xi on Thursday, according to CCTV.

Xi is expected to endorse North Korea’s calls for an incremental disarmament process.

A commentary in China’s official Xinhua news agency said China could play a unique role in breaking the cycle of mistrust between North Korea and the U.S, but that both sides “need to have reasonable expectations and refrain from imposing unilateral and unrealistic demands.”

A former North Korean diplomat who defected in 2016 said he thinks Kim wants to give Xi a message to deliver to Trump when the two meet at the upcoming G-20 summit in Japan.

Thae Yong Ho said Kim may offer to abandon some of his nuclear facilities in a bid to set up a third summit with the US president. But he cautioned that such a move would be only to buy time and not to denuclearize fully, as the US is demanding.

“The main purpose for the Kim Jong Un regime in negotiating is to keep North Korea as a new nuclear state in this region, there is no doubt about that,” he said at a news conference in Tokyo, where he is promoting the Japanese translation of his book, “Password From the Third Floor,” an inside look at North Korean diplomacy and the Kim regime.

China is North Korea’s most important foreign partner, though their relations grew somewhat rocky as Kim’s efforts to build his country’s nuclear weapons capabilities threatened regional stability.

Kim met Xi four times in China as the talks with both the US and South Korea got underway. A banner at the airport welcome ceremony read, “Long Live with Unbreakable Friendship and Unity Formed by Blood.”

The nations fought together in the 1950-53 Korean War against the United States, South Korea and their allies. China welcomed Kim’s announcement last year that he was shifting the country’s focus from nuclear weapons to economic development.