Russia-North Korea summit scheduled for next week

Kim Jong Un will hold his first summit with Vladimir Putin next week in Vladivostok, Russian media reported on Wednesday. (AP)
Updated 17 April 2019

Russia-North Korea summit scheduled for next week

  • Russia hosts thousands of North Korean laborers
  • Moscow continues ship-to-ship transfers of oil and other fuels, which are prohibited by sanctions

SEOUL: North Korean leader Kim Jong Un will hold his first summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin next week in Vladivostok, Russian media reported on Wednesday.

His visit comes after he failed to persuade US President Donald Trump to ease sanctions on his regime in Hanoi at the end of February.

“The first meeting in eight years between the heads of the two countries is expected to be held in Vladivostok before the departure of Russian President Vladimir Putin to Beijing for the One Belt and One Road Summit on April 26-27,” the daily newspaper Izvestiya reported, citing “an informed source at the Russian Foreign Ministry.”

“The main thing to be discussed by the heads of the two countries is the whole complex of bilateral relations and the development of economic relations in the context of sanctions,” it said, adding that Putin was expected to advocate the need for partial sanctions against North Korea.

Media outlets in South Korea anticipated that the Kim-Putin summit would take place on either April 23 or 24.

Analysts say Kim’s pivot to Russia is a way to withstand ongoing sanctions.

“For Kim, a summit with Putin is a good chance to breathe fresh life into the North’s economic hardship without the relief of US-led sanctions,” Kim Dong-yeop, a professor at Seoul’s Institute for Far Eastern Studies of Kyungnam University, told Arab News. “Kim is expected to focus more on the matters of mutual economic cooperation with Russia in the fields of energy and trade than on the issue of US sanctions. If it succeeds, Kim could buy time before a sanctions’ lifting by the US.”

Earlier this month in a speech to the North’s rubber-stamp Parliament, Kim made it clear he would not fixate on a Trump summit “with a thirst for easing sanctions,” although he said he was open to a possible third meeting with the US leader.

The Vladivostok meeting signals the North’s efforts to diversify its diplomacy away from dependency on its traditional ally China, said Shin Jong-woo, a senior analyst at the Korea Defense and Security Forum think tank in Seoul.

“Pyongyang-Beijing relations are changing, with China’s influence on North Korea apparently dwindling in the aftermath of its unsuccessful trade war with Washington,” Shin told Arab News. “Russia is in a different position, however, as it confronts the US diplomatically and militarily. North Korea wants to use the confrontational relationship as a lever to resist US pressure and evade sanctions.”

Russia hosts thousands of North Korean laborers, an important source of income for the cash-strapped regime. A report from the UN Panel of Experts, which supervises sanctions implementation, alleged that Russia was continuing ship-to-ship transfers of oil and other fuels, which are prohibited by sanctions.

The US dispatched its envoy to North Korea, Stephen Biegun, to Moscow on Wednesday.

The US State Department says Biegun will stay in the capital until Thursday for talks with his Russian counterparts over the final and fully verified denuclearization of North Korea.  

“The US government would have intelligence about the Russia-North Korea summit,” Shin said. “Biegun is expected to play as a stopper to block Russia’s diplomatic maneuvers with North Korea ahead of the summit.”

News of the Putin-Kim summit comes as fresh analysis of US satellite imagery suggests there may be renewed activity at the North’s main nuclear complex in Yongbyon.

According to the Center for Strategic and International Studies, new photographs taken on April 12 show five specialized rail cars at a part of the complex near a uranium enrichment facility and radiochemistry laboratory.

Experts believe they indicate reprocessing activity is about to or has taken place, a step in the production of fissile material for nuclear bombs.


Kashmir protesters defy restrictions, clash with security forces

Updated 23 August 2019

Kashmir protesters defy restrictions, clash with security forces

  • Paramilitary police tried to enter Soura, which has emerged as a center of the protests, as hundreds demonstrated against Narendra Modi’s decision to withdraw autonomy
  • Posters appeared overnight in Srinagar, the Muslim-majority region’s main city, calling for a march to the office of the UN Military Observer Group for India and Pakistan

SRINAGAR, India: Security forces used tear gas against stone-throwing local residents in Indian Kashmir’s main city of Srinagar on Friday, after a third straight week of protests in the restive Soura district despite the imposition of tight restrictions.
Paramilitary police tried to enter Soura, which has emerged as a center of the protests, as hundreds of locals staged a protest march against Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s decision to withdraw autonomy for Jammu and Kashmir on Aug. 5.
Posters appeared overnight this week in Srinagar, the Muslim-majority region’s main city, calling for a march to the office of the UN Military Observer Group for India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP), to protest against India’s decision.
This was the first such call by separatists seeking Kashmir’s secession from India. India’s move was accompanied by travel and communication restrictions in Kashmir that are still largely in place, although some landlines were restored last week.
The UNMOGIP was set up in 1949 after the first war between India and Pakistan over Kashmir, a Himalayan region both countries claim in full but rule in part. The group monitors cease-fire violations along the border between the countries.
In a narrow lane of Soura, blocked like many others with rocks and sheets of metal, residents hurled stones at the paramilitary police to stop them moving into an area around the local mosque, Jinab Sahib, which had earlier been packed for Friday prayers.
The police responded with several rounds of tear gas and chili grenades but were beaten back by dozens of stone-pelting men. Some men suffered pellet injuries.
The locals said the security forces had been repeatedly trying to move into Soura, often using tear gas and pellets.
“We are neither safe at home, nor outside,” said Rouf, who declined to give his full name. He had rubbed salt into his face to counteract the effects of tear gas.
The afternoon had begun peacefully, with men and women streaming into Jinab Sahib for afternoon prayers. A cleric then raised a call for “Azadi” – Urdu for freedom – several times, and declared Kashmir’s allegiance to neighboring Pakistan.
“Long live Pakistan,” the cleric said, as worshippers roared back in approval.
US President Donald Trump plans to discuss Kashmir when he meets Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the sidelines of a G7 meeting in France this weekend, a senior US administration official said on Thursday.
Trump, who has offered to mediate between India and Pakistan, will press Modi on how he plans to calm regional tensions after the withdrawal of Kashmir’s autonomy, and stress the need for dialogue, the official said.
Some Indian media reports on Friday said “terrorists” were trying to enter India from Afghanistan, citing unnamed government officials.
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan responded on Twitter on Friday that such claims were being made to “divert attention” away from what he called human rights violations in Kashmir.
“The Indian leadership will in all probability attempt a false flag operation to divert attention,” Khan said.
Khan’s comments came a day after United Nations experts called on the Indian government to “end the crackdown on freedom of expression, access to information and peaceful protests” in Kashmir, saying it would increase regional tensions.
“The blackout is a form of collective punishment of the people of Jammu and Kashmir, without even a pretext of a precipitating offense,” they said in a statement.
At least 152 people have been hurt by teargas and pellets since security forces launched their crackdown, data from the Himalayan region’s two main hospitals shows.
Large swathes of Srinagar remain deserted with shops shut except for some provision stores with shutters half-down. Police vans patrolled some areas announcing a curfew and asking people to stay indoors.
On the Dal Lake, long rows of houseboats, normally packed with tourists at this time of year, floated closed and empty, as police patrolled its mirror-calm waters in boats.