North Korea leader visits China after warning of alternate path to US talks

In this June 19, 2018, file photo provided by China's Xinhua News Agency, Chinese President Xi Jinping, right, shakes hands with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, during a welcome ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. (AP)
Updated 08 January 2019

North Korea leader visits China after warning of alternate path to US talks

  • Kim said last week in a New Year address he is ready to meet Trump again anytime to achieve their common goal of denuclearising the Korean Peninsula

SHANGHAI/SEOUL: North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is visiting China at the invitation of Chinese President Xi Jinping, only days after warning he may take an alternative path if the United States does not ease sanctions and pressure on his isolated country.
The visit, confirmed by North Korean and Chinese state media, will likely lead to Kim’s fourth summit with Xi in the last year and comes amid plans for a second summit with Trump aimed at denuclearising the Korean peninsula.
Kim held three summits last year with Xi, his most important ally, before and after summits with Trump and South Korean President Moon Jae-in.
“Kim is eager to remind the Trump administration that he does have diplomatic and economic options besides what Washington and Seoul can offer,” Harry J. Kazianis, Director of Defense Studies at US-based Center for the National Interest said in an emailed statement.
“In fact, during his New Year’s Days speech, Kim’s ‘new way’ that he referred to may well have been a veiled threat to move closer to Beijing. That should make America quite concerned.”
Kim left for China on a private train on Monday afternoon accompanied by his wife, Ri Sol Ju, and senior North Korean officials, including Kim Yong Chol and Ri Yong Ho, North Korea’s state-run KCNA news agency said. China’s official Xinhua news agency also confirmed that Kim is visiting from Monday to Thursday at Xi’s invitation.
The visit coincided with what South Korean officials say is Kim’s 35th birthday on January 8.
“He was warmly seen off by leading officials of the Party, government and armed forces organs at the railway station,” KCNA said in its report.
Kim’s visit to North Korea’s most important economic and diplomatic ally, which was first reported by South Korean media, comes amid reports of advanced negotiations for a second summit between Washington and Pyongyang aimed at resolving the standoff over North Korea’s nuclear program.
Kim said in a New Year speech last week he is ready to meet Trump anytime to achieve their common goal of denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. But he warned that he may seek an alternative path to a summit with Trump if US sanctions and pressure against the country continues.

In an interview with CNBC on Monday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo praised China’s support for resolving the North Korean crisis and said he did not think the US trade dispute with Beijing would affect this.
“The Chinese have been very clear to us that these are separate issues,” Pompeo said.
“Their behavior has demonstrated that as well and we appreciate that. China has actually been a good partner in our efforts to reduce the risk to the world from North Korea’s nuclear capability; I expect they will continue to do so.”
South Korea’s foreign ministry said it was aware of Kim’s planned visit and hopes Kim’s latest visit and summit with Xi would contribute to the shared “strategic goal” of achieving complete denuclearization and lasting peace on the Korean peninsula.
While there were no details released about the possible agenda in China, Kim has been seeking relief from international sanctions, a peace declaration to formally end the 1950-1953 Korean War, and more economic investment.
Ties between China and North Korea, which had frayed as Pyongyang stepped up its provocations through a series of missile and nuclear tests, warmed over the last year as Kim engaged with Beijing as well as Seoul and Washington.
Neither KCNA nor Xinhua provided further information on Kim’s itinerary, though South Korea’s Hankyoreh newspaper said on Monday that he will meet with China’s Xi for a fourth summit.

Indian PM’s ‘one nation one poll’ project stalled

Updated 4 min 14 sec ago

Indian PM’s ‘one nation one poll’ project stalled

  • Top parties boycott meeting held to discuss the initiative
  • Presidents of 40 political parties had been invited to the meeting but only 21 attended

NEW DELHI: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s attempt to forge a consensus on his “one nation one poll” agenda on Wednesday received a setback after key opposition groupings boycotted an all-party gathering to discuss the issue.

At the end of a three-hour meeting, a decision was made to “set up a panel to give suggestions” on the matter.

“Most parties which attended the meeting chaired by PM Modi assured support to the proposal of simultaneous polls,” said Indian Defense Minister Rajnath Singh following the talks.

He revealed that the presidents of 40 political parties had been invited to the meeting but only 21 attended, with three parties submitting their opinions in writing.

India’s main opposition Congress Party and a number of important regional players were among those who failed to show up. One significant absence was the Trinamool Congress Party, the ruling group of the largest eastern Indian state of West Bengal. Representatives from the north Indian states of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh also boycotted the meeting along with major regional groupings from the country’s southern states of Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu.

Although the Congress Party gave no official reason for staying away, media reports quoted it as saying the meeting had only been called to advance “the BJP’s (Bharatiya Janata Party) expansionist agenda and bypassing the real issues of electoral reforms and curtailing escalating electoral expenses.”

While some left-wing parties responded to Modi’s invite, they opposed the idea of “one nation one poll” in principle. “Holding simultaneous polls to Parliament and state assemblies is fundamentally anti-federal and anti-democratic and thus against the constitution,” said Sitaram Yechury, secretary-general of the Communist Party of India (CPI).

Modi and the ruling BJP have long talked about “one nation one poll,” which would allow one single election for India in which the poll for both the center and all the 29 states would be held together. The BJP believes a simultaneous poll would save vital resources, time and manpower.

In its 2019 election manifesto the BJP said the idea would “ensure efficient utilization of government resources and security forces and effective policy planning.”

BJP parliamentarian Rakesh Sinha said: “The idea of a ‘one nation one election’ is in the interest of the country. It is good for the economy of the country and it will be good for governance.”

The former chief election commissioner of India, S.Y. Quraishi, said that the idea sounded good but there were lots of “hurdles” to clear.

Political analyst Urmilesh said there was a larger game plan than just expenses and manpower. “If the BJP is serious about containing electoral expenses then why are expenses increasing at every election? How come the BJP has managed to mop up such huge resources to spend in the just concluded elections?”

“There are many democracies in the world where national elections and state elections are conducted separately. So, the idea of ‘one nation one election’ is against the dynamism of democracy,” Urmilesh told Arab News.

“When the electoral process started in 1952, the elections to all the states and the center were held simultaneously and it continued for a few elections. But it could not work that way. You will always have a situation in a democracy where a state government will fall or get dissolved, then how will you handle the situation when you have a ‘one nation one poll’ concept?”

Urmilesh added: “The constitution makers did not make simultaneous election a constitutional obligation. That shows that they understood that in democracy you cannot work with an absolutist mind. I see some ulterior motive in promoting this kind of agenda. The opposition parties should oppose it with all their might.”