North Korea faces ‘historic turning point’, says state media ahead of summit

The Rodong Sinmun commentary called on North Koreans to make greater efforts to boost the country's economy. (File/AFP)
Updated 18 February 2019
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North Korea faces ‘historic turning point’, says state media ahead of summit

  • Attention has been focused on whether the US team will offer to lift some economic sanctions on North Korea, in return for Pyongyang taking concrete steps toward denuclearisation
  • The Rodong Sinmun commentary called on North Koreans to make greater efforts to boost the country's economy

SEOUL: North Korea is facing a “significant, historic turning point”, state media said on Monday, ahead of a highly-anticipated second summit between Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un.
The meeting between the two leaders -- which will be the second time the pair have come together following their Singapore summit in June - is scheduled for Hanoi, Vietnam on February 27-28.
Attention has been focused on whether the US team will offer to lift some economic sanctions on North Korea, in return for Pyongyang taking concrete steps toward denuclearization.
“It is time for us to tighten our shoe strings and run fast, looking for a higher goal as we face this decisive moment,” the Rodong Sinmun newspaper said in an editorial.
“Our country is facing a significant, historic turning point,” it added, without explicitly referencing the summit.
Earlier this month, US President Trump tweeted that North Korea will become a “great Economic Powerhouse” under Kim.
“He may surprise some but he won’t surprise me, because I have gotten to know him & fully understand how capable he is,” said Trump.
The Rodong Sinmun commentary called on North Koreans to make greater efforts to boost the country’s economy.
North Korea is rising as a “strong, socialist nation,” and one’s true act of patriotism begins at one’s workplace, the commentary added.
“Each and every product should be made to make our country shine.”
North Korea, which holds most of the peninsula’s mineral resources, was once wealthier than the South, but decades of mismanagement and the demise of its former paymaster the Soviet Union have left it deeply impoverished.
In 2017 the UN Security Council banned the North’s main exports -- coal and other mineral resources, fisheries and textile products -- to cut off its access to hard currency in response to Pyongyang’s pursuit of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles.


Japan’s ruling coalition secures upper house majority

Updated 21 July 2019
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Japan’s ruling coalition secures upper house majority

  • “I believe the people chose political stability, urging us to pursue our policies and carry out diplomacy to protect Japan’s national interests,” Abe said

TOKYO: Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s ruling coalition secured a majority in Japan’s upper house of parliament in elections Sunday but will not reach the super-majority needed to propose constitutional revisions, according to vote counts by public television and other media.
NHK public television said shortly after midnight that Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party and its junior partner Komeito had won 69 seats in the upper house, with nine seats remaining. If Abe gained support from members of another conservative party and independents, it would make only 76 seats, short of 85 he would have needed, NHK said.
Abe’s ruling bloc already has a two-thirds majority in the lower house, but without such control of the upper chamber, he has a slim chance of achieving his long-cherished goal of constitutional reform.
Nonetheless, Abe welcomed the results, saying winning a majority indicates a public mandate for his government.
“I believe the people chose political stability, urging us to pursue our policies and carry out diplomacy to protect Japan’s national interests,” Abe said in an interview with NHK.
Abe hopes to gain enough seats to boost his chances to revise Japan’s pacifist constitution — his long-cherished goal before his term ends in 2021.
But it’s a challenge because voters are more concerned about their jobs, economy and social security. Abe, who wants to bolster Japan’s defense capability, is now proposing adding the Self-Defense Force, or Japan’s military, to the war-renouncing Article 9 of the constitution. He said he is not considering running for another term.
Abe said resolving the decades-old issue of Japanese citizens abducted by North Korea and signing a peace treaty with Russia would be his diplomatic priorities during the rest of his term.
Opposition parties have focused on concerns over household finances, such as the impact from an upcoming 10% sales tax increase and strains on the public pension system amid Japan’s aging population.
Abe has led his Liberal Democratic Party to five consecutive parliamentary election victories since 2012.
He has prioritized revitalizing Japan’s economy and has steadily bolstered the country’s defenses in the backdrop of North Korea’s missile and nuclear threats and China’s growing military presence. He also has showcased his diplomatic skills by cultivating warm ties with President Donald Trump.
Abe needs approval by a two-thirds majority in both houses to propose a constitutional revision and seek a national referendum. His ruling bloc has a two-thirds majority in the more powerful lower house.
The main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan and three other liberal-leaning parties teamed up in some districts. They stressed support for gender equality and LGBT issues — areas Abe’s ultra-conservative lawmakers are reluctant to back.
At a polling station in Tokyo’s Chuo district on Sunday, voters were divided over Abe’s 6 1/2-year rule.
A voter who identified himself only as a company worker in his 40s said he chose a candidate and a party that have demonstrated an ability to get things done, suggesting he voted for Abe’s ruling party and its candidate, as “there is no point in casting my vote for a party or a politician who has no such abilities.”
Another voter, Katsunori Takeuchi, a 57-year-old fish market worker, said it was time to change the dominance of Abe and his ultra-conservative policies.
“I think the ruling party has been dominating politics for far too long and it is causing damage,” he said.