US envoy, South Korean official discuss second Trump-Kim summit

US special envoy for North Korea Stephen Biegun, left, with South Korean national security adviser Chung Eui-yong during a meeting at the Presidential Blue House in Seoul on Monday, Feb. 4, 2019. (South Korea Presidential Blue House via AP)
Updated 04 February 2019
0

US envoy, South Korean official discuss second Trump-Kim summit

  • Trump and Kim met last June in Singapore, where they issued vague aspirational goals for a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula
  • In his New Year’s speech last month, Kim urged more cooperation between the Koreas

SEOUL: The US special envoy for North Korea met with South Korea’s national security adviser on Monday to discuss a planned second summit between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, Seoul’s presidential office said.
Stephen Biegun explained to Chung Eui-yong Washington’s stance toward North Korea ahead of talks on setting up the summit, the presidential Blue House said in a statement.
There is speculation that Biegun will meet his North Korean counterpart at the Korean border village of Panmunjom or in North Korea’s capital, Pyongyang, this week.
The Blue House did not specifically say what was discussed during Monday’s meeting, but said Chung told Biegun that South Korea hopes the planning talks between the US and North Korea will pave the way for a successful summit. Biegun arrived in Seoul on Sunday and also held talks with South Korean Foreign Ministry official Lee Do-hoon.
Trump and Kim met last June in Singapore, where they issued vague aspirational goals for a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula without describing when or how it would occur. Post-summit nuclear negotiations between the United States and North Korea have been rocky, with the countries disagreeing on which should come first — North Korea’s nuclear disarmament or the removal of US-led international sanctions against the North.
In an interview with CBS’ “Face the Nation,” Trump said the second summit “is set” with Kim, but provided no further details. He said there was “a very good chance that we will make a deal.”
South Korea didn’t say whether Biegun and South Korean officials discussed the possibility of partially easing the sanctions on North Korea to allow more inter-Korean cooperation and create more space for nuclear diplomacy.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who held three summits with Kim last year and helped set up the first Trump-Kim meeting, has described inter-Korean reconciliation as crucial for resolving the nuclear standoff. But the tough sanctions have limited the range of joint activities the two Koreas can undertake.
The Koreas have discussed ambitious plans, such as reconnecting railways and roads across their border, resuming operations at a jointly run factory park in a North Korean border town and restarting South Korean tours to the North’s Diamond Mountain resort. But none is possible unless the sanctions are eased, which Washington says won’t happen unless North Korea takes stronger steps toward irreversibly and verifiably relinquishing its nuclear weapons.
In his New Year’s speech last month, Kim urged more cooperation between the Koreas and said the North is ready to reopen the factory park and resume joint tours to the resort.
Last year, North Korea released American detainees, suspended nuclear and long-range missile tests and dismantled a nuclear test site and parts of a rocket launch facility without the presence of outside experts. It has repeatedly demanded that the United States reciprocate with measures such as sanctions relief, but Washington has called for North Korea to take steps such as providing a detailed account of its nuclear and missile facilities that would be inspected and dismantled under a potential deal.
Satellite video taken since the June summit has indicated North Korea is continuing to produce nuclear materials at its weapons factories. US intelligence chiefs told Congress last Tuesday that they believe there is little likelihood Kim will voluntarily give up his nuclear weapons or missiles capable of carrying them.
Biegun said last week that Kim committed to “the dismantlement and destruction of North Korea’s plutonium and uranium enrichment facilities” during his summit with Moon in September and at a meeting with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in October.
At a second Trump-Kim summit, some experts say North Korea is likely to seek to trade the destruction of its main Yongbyon nuclear complex for a US promise to formally declare the end of the 1950-53 Korean War, open a liaison office in Pyongyang and allow the North to resume some lucrative economic projects with South Korea.


Macron meets Syrian Kurds, vows French support in fight against Daesh

Updated 26 min 16 sec ago
0

Macron meets Syrian Kurds, vows French support in fight against Daesh

  • Macron assured the SDF representatives, who were not named, of the "active support of France in the fight against Daesh which continues to be a menace for collective security"
  • European capitals are all keeping a careful eye on the Daesh prisoners held by the SDF after the defeat of the extremists, given many are dual nationals

PARIS: President Emmanuel Macron on Friday hosted representatives of the Kurdish-led force that defeated Daesh extremists in Syria, assuring them of France's support in the fight against remaining extremists.
The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) had in late March flushed out Daesh from their last bastion in Syria but still warn the terrorists remain a threat in places.
The SDF is an umbrella force of Kurds and Arabs dominated by Kurds from the People's Protection Units (YPG) militia. It is regarded with huge distrust by neighbouring Turkey which sees the YPG as a terror group.
Macron assured the SDF representatives, who were not named, of the "active support of France in the fight against Daesh which continues to be a menace for collective security," the presidency said in a statement.
Particularly important was the support in the "handling of terrorist fighters held as prisoners along with their families."
European capitals are all keeping a careful eye on the Daesh prisoners held by the SDF after the defeat of the extremists, given many are dual nationals.
Macron also vowed that financial support would be allocated to "respond to the humanitarian needs and the socio-economic stabilisation of civilian populations in Syria."
The SDF were the key ally of the West in defeating Daesh and waged the bulk of the fighting on the ground.
But they fear being abandoned by their patrons now Daesh is beaten, after US President Donald Trump announced the withdrawal of American forces from Syria.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian had in April announced one million euros ($1.1 million) in humanitarian aid for camps housing displaced people, notably Al-Hol which holds thousands of women and children who lived in Daesh-held areas.
France's past contacts with the SDF's Syrian Kurds have angered Turkey, which regards the YPG as the Syrian branch of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).
The PKK has waged a 35-year insurrection against the Turkish state.
Macron also made clear of the importance to Paris of "the security of Turkey and a de-escalation along the Syrian-Turkish border," the presidency said.