N. Korea should take ‘bold’ steps toward denuclearization: S. Korea’s Moon

In this May 26, 2018, file photo provided by South Korea Presidential Blue House, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, center left, and South Korean President Moon Jae-in, right, walk after their meeting at the northern side of Panmunjom in North Korea. (AP)
Updated 10 January 2019
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N. Korea should take ‘bold’ steps toward denuclearization: S. Korea’s Moon

  • Moon acknowledged that the agreement North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and US President Donald Trump signed at their first summit in Singapore was “somewhat vague”

SEOUL: North Korea needs to take “more bold, practical measures for denuclearization” to ensure sanctions are lifted, the South’s President Moon Jae-in said Thursday with negotiations stalling between Pyongyang and Washington.
“Corresponding measures must be devised in order to facilitate North Korea’s continued denuclearization efforts,” he added, such as the US agreeing a “peace regime” and formally declaring an end to the 1950-53 Korean War.
The North has repeatedly pledged to work toward “denuclearization of the Korean peninsula,” a vague term that could be taken to also include US forces in the South and in the wider region.
Moon acknowledged that the agreement North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and US President Donald Trump signed at their first summit in Singapore was “somewhat vague.”
He also said there was “skepticism” that Kim’s “concept of denuclearization” will be different from that demanded by the US.
“But Kim has assured many foreign leaders, including myself, Trump, Xi Jinping and Putin, that his concept is no different in any way from what the international community demands,” Moon told reporters at the Blue House in Seoul.
“Kim also stated that denuclearization and the issue of ending the war has nothing to do with the status of US troops in South Korea,” he added. “Kim Jong Un understands that the issue is entirely up to the decision of South Korea and the United States.”
US strategic assets in the region involved not only North Korea, “but also overall stability and peace in Northeast Asia,” Moon said. “I don’t think it will be discussed in North-US nuclear talks.”
The North Korean leader’s trip to China this week was a sign a second Trump-Kim summit was “imminent,” he added.
“I think Chairman Kim Jong Un’s visit to China will have a very positive effect on the success of the second US-North Korea summit,” he told the press conference.
A second summit should produce an agreement that was “more clear on actions by each side,” he added.
Moon has actively pursued engagement with the North to bring it to the negotiating table, a stance that has at times seen Seoul and Washington take increasingly divergent approaches.
Conditions for resuming two key economic projects between North and South Korea — the Kaesong Industrial Complex, where Southern companies used to employ North Korean workers, and Southern tourism to Mount Kumgang in the North “have essentially been met already,” he said.
But many analysts say that restarting the schemes would at present violate sanctions imposed on the North over its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.
Seoul would cooperate with the US and international community to seek to “resolve” the issue of sanctions “as soon as possible,” Moon said.


US envoy ‘disappointed’ by collapse of inter-Afghan peace meeting

Updated 49 min 35 sec ago
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US envoy ‘disappointed’ by collapse of inter-Afghan peace meeting

  • A 250-strong delegation of Afghan politicians and civil society figures had been due to meet Taliban officials in Doha at the weekend
  • The event was abruptly canceled on Thursday amid arguments over the size and status of the group

KABUL: The US envoy for peace in Afghanistan expressed disappointment on Friday after the collapse of a planned meeting between the Taliban and a group of Afghan politicians in Qatar that exposed some of the deep divisions hampering efforts to end the war.
A 250-strong delegation of Afghan politicians and civil society figures had been due to meet Taliban officials in Doha at the weekend. The event was abruptly canceled on Thursday amid arguments over the size and status of the group, which included some government officials attending in a personal capacity.
“I’m disappointed Qatar’s intra-Afghan initiative has been delayed,” Zalmay Khalilzad, the US special representative for Afghan reconciliation, said on Twitter. “I urge all sides to seize the moment and put things back on track by agreeing to a participant list that speaks for all Afghans.”
The collapse of the meeting before it had even started, described as a “fiasco” by one senior Western official, laid bare the tensions that have hampered moves toward opening formal peace negotiations.
Khalilzad, a veteran Afghan-born diplomat, has held a series of meetings with Taliban representatives but the insurgents have so far refused to talk to the Western-backed government in Kabul, which they dismiss as a “puppet” regime.
The Doha meeting was intended to prepare the ground for possible future talks by building familiarity among Taliban officials and representatives of the Afghan state created after the US-led campaign that toppled the Taliban government in 2001. A similar encounter was held in Moscow in February.
President Ashraf Ghani’s office blamed Qatari authorities for the cancelation, saying they had authorized a list of participants that differed from the one proposed by Kabul, “which meant disrespect for the national will of the Afghans.”
“This act is not acceptable for the people of Afghanistan,” it said in a statement on Friday.
Sultan Barakat, director of the Center for Conflict and Humanitarian Studies in Qatar, which had been facilitating the meeting, said there was no disagreement about the agenda.
“Rather, there is insufficient agreement around participation and representation to enable the conference to be a success,” he tweeted.
Preparations had already been undermined by disagreements on the government side about who should attend, as well as by suspicions among rival politicians ahead of presidential elections scheduled for September.
The Taliban derided the agreed list of 250 participants as a “wedding party.” Some senior opposition figures who had been included refused to attend.
The Taliban also objected to Ghani’s comments to a meeting of delegates that they would be representing the Afghan nation and the Afghan government, a statement that went against the insurgents’ refusal to deal with the Kabul administration.