North Korea considering suspending nuclear talks with US

Trump told a post-summit press conference in Hanoi that the North Korean leader had promised he would maintain his moratorium on missile and nuclear tests. (File/AFP)
Updated 15 March 2019
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North Korea considering suspending nuclear talks with US

  • Kim would soon make an official statement on the actions his country would take
  • The warning came amid concerns over the North’s satellite rocket launch site, where some rebuilding activity has been observed in recent weeks

SEOUL: North Korea is considering suspending denuclearization talks with Washington after the Hanoi summit between leader Kim Jong Un and US President Donald Trump ended without agreement, one of its top diplomats said Friday.
The warning came amid concerns over the North’s satellite rocket launch site, where some rebuilding activity has been observed in recent weeks, triggering international alarm that Pyongyang might be preparing a long-range missile or space launch.
“We have no intention to yield to the US demands in any form, nor are we willing to engage in negotiations of this kind,” the Russian news agency TASS cited vice foreign minister Choe Son Hui as saying.
Kim would soon make an official statement on the actions his country would take, Choe told reporters and foreign diplomats in Pyongyang.
Trump told a post-summit press conference in Hanoi that the North Korean leader had promised he would maintain his moratorium on missile and nuclear tests.
Any launch would send the denuclearization talks into complete disarray, after they were left stuttering when the summit ended without agreement two weeks ago.
Choe — who was present in Vietnam — blamed the US for the failure, saying Secretary of State Michael Pompeo and National Security Adviser John Bolton “created the atmosphere of hostility and mistrust” and “obstructed” Kim and Trump’s “constructive effort.”
“As a result, the summit ended with no significant result,” she added.
It is a change of tone from Pyongyang, after both sides expressed their willingness to carry on the discussion process in Hanoi.
Ankit Panda, of the Federation of American Scientists, said Kim’s unilateral declaration of the ICBM testing moratorium was “now in question.”
It could mean a decision had already been made, he tweeted, but added that it did not mean a launch was imminent.
“One play is for Kim to reaffirm the moratorium. Kim looks big,” he said. “That also keeps China happy for now.
“Another play is to renounce the moratorium, which would be risky,” as it would upset China, be “disappointing” to Trump, and “squanders the inter-Korean process.”
Seoul’s presidential office sought to play down the vice-minister’s comments, saying it was “premature to assess the current situation only with Choe’s remarks.”
South Korea will continue to work for the resumption of talks, it added.
Washington wants what administration officials have called a “big deal,” with the complete elimination of weapons of mass destruction in return for the dropping of sanctions that have hit the isolated North’s economy.
“Nobody in the administration advocates a step-by-step approach,” a senior State Department official told reporters last week.
The North says it only called for the partial lifting of UN sanctions imposed 2016-17 that affect people’s livelihoods.
But Washington sees these measures as the bulk of economic sanctions that brought Kim to the table, and believes without them it would lose leverage in future talks.
Pyongyang favors a more incremental approach, with Kim proposing dismantling facilities at its Yongbyon nuclear complex in exchange for lifting the main sanctions — an offer Trump refused in Hanoi despite the vaunted “chemistry” between the pair.
In his New Year’s speech — a key political event in the North — Kim said he would be “compelled to find a new way for defending the sovereignty” of the state if Washington “persists in imposing sanctions and pressure.”


‘Huge’ challenges ahead as Cyril Ramaphosa takes presidential oath in South Africa

Updated 30 min 12 sec ago
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‘Huge’ challenges ahead as Cyril Ramaphosa takes presidential oath in South Africa

  • Promised a new era in which officials will improve the lives of South Africans
  • South Africa is the world’s most economically unequal country

PRETORIA: South African President Cyril Ramaphosa on Saturday urged the country to pursue “an extraordinary feat of human endeavor” as he was sworn in for a five-year term with a delicate fight against government corruption ahead of him.
“The challenges our country face are huge and real. But they are not insurmountable. They can be solved. And I stand here today saying they are going to be solved,” Ramaphosa told some 30,000 people in the capital, Pretoria, with several African leaders in attendance.
He promised a new era in which officials will improve the lives of South Africans instead of enriching themselves. He called for a state free from graft and “resources squandered,” and urged fellow citizens to end poverty in a generation. Both would be immense achievements: Corruption and mismanagement have consumed billions of rand, and South Africa is the world’s most economically unequal country.
Ramaphosa’s inauguration followed his ruling African National Congress party’s 57.5% victory in this month’s election. It was the party’s weakest showing at the ballot box since the ANC took power at the end of the harsh system of racial apartheid in 1994, as voter turnout and confidence fell.
Ramaphosa first took office last year after former president Jacob Zuma was pressured to resign amid corruption scandals that badly damaged public faith in the ANC. A former protege of South Africa’s first black president, Nelson Mandela, Ramaphosa is seen by many as having the potential to clean up both the government and the ruling party’s reputation. Without him the ANC likely would have received just 40% of the vote, one party leader, Fikile Mbalula, has said.

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ROYAL CONGRATULATIONS

Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman sent Ramaphosa a cable of congratulations on his swearing in. 
The crown prince expressed his sincere congratulations, best wishes for success and further progress for the people of South Africa

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There was no sign at Saturday’s ceremony of Zuma, who has insisted he did nothing wrong and that allegations are politically motivated. His allies within the ANC leadership pose a challenge to Ramaphosa as he pursues reforms.
Ahead of the election Ramaphosa apologized to South Africans for the political turmoil. He also vowed to continue the fight against graft that has hurt the country’s economy, the most developed in sub-Saharan Africa.
The president’s resolve to impose clean governance will be tested with the appointment of his new Cabinet in the coming days. He faces pressure from opposition parties and civil society to reduce the number of ministers — there are now 34 — and appoint ones who are scandal-free.
In a sign his efforts are working, former deputy president David Mabuza was not sworn in as a member of Parliament due to an incriminating report on him by the ANC’s integrity commission. For now, Ramaphosa is without a deputy.
In his speech on Saturday the president also addressed public frustration with joblessness, patchy delivery of basic services and the legacy of inequality. Unemployment is above 25% and much of the country’s wealth and private levers of power are held by the small white minority.
“Many South Africans still go to bed hungry,” Ramaphosa said. “Many live lives of intolerable deprivation. Too many of our people do not work, especially the youth.”
One challenge for the president in the years ahead is engaging potential voters in South Africa’s “Born Free” generation , who never experienced apartheid and unlike their parents see the ANC not as a party of liberation but one expected to deliver for the future.