US, North Korea to hold talks this week after nuclear standoff

Trump also said this month he had received a “great” letter from Kim and would probably meet him again in the not-too-distant future. (File/AFP)
Updated 15 January 2019

US, North Korea to hold talks this week after nuclear standoff

  • The meeting, led by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and senior North Korean official Kim Yong Chol, would happen on Thursday or Friday
  • Ahead of the possible meetings, a letter Trump sent to Kim Jong Un was flown to Pyongyang and hand delivered over the weekend

SEOUL: The United States and North Korea plan to hold high-level talks in Washington as soon as this week to discuss a second summit of their leaders, following a prolonged stalemate in nuclear talks, South Korean media said on Tuesday.
The meeting, led by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and senior North Korean official Kim Yong Chol, would happen on Thursday or Friday, the Chosun Ilbo said, citing an unnamed diplomatic source familiar with the talks.
Both sides are expected to finalize the date and location of a second summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, and the North’s envoy is likely to meet Trump, the paper said.
South Korean news agency Yonhap also quoted an unnamed diplomatic source as saying Pompeo and Kim Yong Chol could meet this week.
The North Korean delegation could visit the United States “as soon as this week” but plans have not been finalized, a CNN reporter, citing an unnamed source, said on Twitter.
Ahead of the possible meetings, a letter Trump sent to Kim Jong Un was flown to Pyongyang and hand delivered over the weekend, the CNN reporter added, citing the source.
The US embassy in Seoul did not immediately comment on the reports. While the White House had offered no immediate comment on the earlier South Korean newspaper report, a State Department official responded, “We don’t have any meetings to announce.”
If confirmed, this week’s meeting could mean the two sides are nearing a compromise after a months-long standoff over how to move forward in ending North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs.
Pompeo, who made several trips to Pyongyang last year, sought to meet his counterpart last November, but the talks were called off at the last minute.
Contact was resumed after Kim’s New Year’s speech, in which he said he was willing to meet Trump “at any time,” South Korea’s ambassador to the United States, Cho Yoon-je, told reporters last week.
Interim measures
Washington and Seoul have been discussing potential US measures to reciprocate North Korea’s possible steps toward denuclearization, such as dismantling the Yongbyon main nuclear complex or intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) aimed at the United States, South Korean officials told Reuters.
The United States is considering partially easing sanctions in exchange for the North’s discarding and sending abroad its ICBMs, in addition to a freeze in its nuclear program, the Chosun Ilbo said, citing the source.
Potential US corresponding action also includes exemptions from sanctions for inter-Korean business and tour ventures and opening a liaison office as a prelude to a formal launch of diplomatic relations, Seoul officials said.
“Those ideas are being discussed as interim measures, not as an end state, in order to expedite the denuclearization process because the North wouldn’t respond to any demand for a declaration of facilities and weapons,” a senior South Korean official said, requesting anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter.
“The end goal remains unchanged, whether it be complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization, or final, fully verified denuclearization.”
The official said a second summit between Trump and Kim might happen in late February or early March, though “No one knows what Trump is thinking.”
Kim reiterated his resolve to meet Trump again during a meeting last week with Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Trump also said this month he had received a “great” letter from Kim and would probably meet him again in the not-too-distant future.
“At the second summit, they’ll probably focus on reaching a possible interim deal, rather than a comprehensive roadmap for denuclearization,” said Cheong Seong-chang, a senior fellow at South Korea’s Sejong Institute.
“Whether Pyongyang is willing to abolish ICBMs, in addition to disabling the Yongbyon complex, would be key, and if so, the North will likely demand sanctions relief in return.”


Macron backs month of Brexit talks as Johnson visits

Updated 22 August 2019

Macron backs month of Brexit talks as Johnson visits

  • Macron has rejected Johnson’s calls to scrap a key arrangement regarding Ireland
  • The EU argues the backstop is necessary to avoid the re-emergence of checkpoints in Ireland

PARIS: French leader Emmanuel Macron backed the idea of a month of further talks to find a solution to Brexit while ruling out major compromises as he met British Prime Minister Boris Johnson for talks on Thursday.
Like German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday, Macron supported allowing another 30 days to find a solution to the vexed issue of the Irish border which has bedevilled negotiations since 2017.
“We need to try to have a useful month,” Macron said alongside Johnson who insisted that solutions were “readily available” to prevent checkpoints returning in divided Ireland.
But Macron, who admitted he had a reputation as the “hardest in the gang” on Brexit, has rejected Johnson’s calls to scrap a key arrangement for Ireland negotiated between the EU and former British premier Theresa May.
At stake is the so-called “backstop,” which is a provision guaranteeing that border checks will not return between EU member Ireland and Northern Ireland which is part of Britain.
Johnson considers the backstop to be “anti-democratic” and an affront to British sovereignty because it will require London to keep its regulations aligned with the EU during a transition exit period.
“The technical solutions are readily available (to avoid checkpoints) and they have been discussed at great length,” Johnson said. “You can have trusted trader schemes, you can have electronic pre-clearing.”
The EU argues the backstop is necessary to avoid the re-emergence of checkpoints which could lead to a return of fighting on the divided island where anti-British violence has claimed thousands of lives.
“I want to be very clear. In the coming month, we will not find a new withdrawal agreement that is far from the fundamentals,” Macron said at the Elysee palace in central Paris.
Since Johnson’s ascent to power last month, the chances of a “no deal” Brexit on October 31 have risen, which economists see as likely to wreak economic damage on Britain and the EU.
“The EU and member states need to take the possibility of a ‘no deal’ outcome much more seriously than before,” a senior EU official told reporters in Brussels on Thursday on condition of anonymity.
A French official said on Wednesday that this was becoming the “most likely” scenario.
The Paris visit was the second leg of Johnson’s first foreign trip as prime minister.
On Wednesday, he was in Berlin for talks with Merkel who appeared to offer a glimmer of hope by saying Britain should try to find a breakthrough to the issue over the next month.
“I want a deal,” Johnson told Macron. “I think we can get a deal and a good deal.”
He added that he had been “powerfully encouraged” by his talks with Merkel. “I admire that ‘can do’ spirit that she seemed to have.”
But many Brexit watchers see Merkel’s remarks as fitting a pattern in which she has often been more conciliatory in public about Brexit than Macron, whose abrasive remarks have caused anger in London in the past.
“There is not the width of cigarette paper between Paris and Berlin on these issues,” a senior aide to Macron said on Wednesday on condition of anonymity.
The EU official in Brussels added that the EU was “a little concerned based on what we heard yesterday (in Berlin).”
“We are waiting for new facts, workable ideas,” the official added.
Johnson, who has deployed his French language skills to charm diplomats in Paris before, has staked his leadership on withdrawing Britain from the EU by the current deadline of October 31 — “do or die.”
Some analysts see a risk of relations between Macron and Johnson becoming stormy in public, which could lead to a blame game about a “no deal” Brexit.
Johnson reportedly once called the French “turds” over their stance on Brexit during his time as foreign secretary — remarks he later said he could not recall.
But Macron pre-empted any attempt to deflect blame onto the European side during a press conference on Wednesday before Johnson’s arrival.
“It will be the responsibility of the British government, always, because firstly it was the British people that decided Brexit, and the British government has the possibility up to the last second to revoke Article 50,” he said.
Article 50 is the legal mechanism used by EU members states to withdraw from the bloc which was triggered by Britain in March 2017.
At the weekend, Macron, Merkel and Johnson will meet US President Donald Trump, a vocal supporter of both Brexit and Johnson, at a G7 summit in the French seaside resort of Biarritz.