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
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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.


Pakistan police seek to unravel networks trafficking women

Updated 10 min 32 sec ago
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Pakistan police seek to unravel networks trafficking women

  • At least two dozen Chinese nationals and dozens of their Pakistani partners have been arrested in recent weeks in raids by Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Agency
  • Pakistan became a focus of Chinese marriage brokers last year, and activists say that since then as many as 1,000 women and girls have been married off to Chinese men

FAISALABAD, Pakistan: With waves of arrests, Pakistani investigators are trying to unravel trafficking networks that convince impoverished Pakistanis to marry off their daughters to Chinese men for cash, and they say evidence is growing that many of the women and girls are sold into prostitution once in China.
At least two dozen Chinese nationals and dozens of their Pakistani partners have been arrested in recent weeks in raids by Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Agency. Pakistani government officials, however, have ordered police to remain quiet about the extent of the networks, fearing it could hurt increasingly close economic ties with Beijing, two law enforcement officials told The Associated Press.
“We are interested only in stopping the trafficking. Make no mistake, this is trafficking,” said one of the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the government order. “We think the majority are sold as prostitutes,” he said of the women married in the trafficking schemes.
The AP spoke to seven girls who had been forced to marry Chinese men, four of them still in China. Each described how their new husbands handed them over to paying clients to be raped.
“I was living in hell-like conditions, silently weeping, silently praying for help,” said 20-year-old Natasha Masih. She told of how her husband locked her in a hotel in the remote northwest Chinese city of Urumqi and forced her into prostitution. The AP does not name rape victims, but Masih agreed to her name being used and now after her escape works to help other victims speak out.
Pakistan became a focus of Chinese marriage brokers last year, and activists say that since then as many as 1,000 women and girls have been married off to Chinese men. Most of the women are from Pakistan’s small Christian community, who are among the country’s most desperately poor. Brokers offer families cash to give their daughters as brides, promising them well-off Chinese husbands who would give them a good life. The business is fueled by demand in China, where men outnumber women.
In Pakistan, some Christian pastors are paid to help brokers lure members of their flock into marriages, and the girls — married against their will — become isolated in China, vulnerable to abusive husbands, previous AP reporting found .
China’s ambassador to Pakistan, speaking on local television, denied girls are trafficked to China and sold into prostitution. Trafficking was not discussed during a visit to Pakistan this month by China’s vice president, Wang Qishan. In comments carried in the Pakistani press, Wang denied trafficking was taking place.
“China is denying it is happening, but we are showing the proof,” said Saleem Iqbal, a Christian activist who has helped bring girls back from China.
The two law enforcement officials said one of the trafficking networks raided by police, based in the city of Lahore, had been operating for at least a year. It was protected by corrupt policemen, and the son of a former senior police official served as the lynchpin between the Chinese and Pakistani operatives, the officials said.
One woman, Sumaira, told the AP how her brothers were paid by brokers and forced her into such a marriage in July last year. The 30-year-old said her husband took her first to a house in the Pakistani capital Islamabad, and there she was raped each night by Chinese men for a week.
Before they were to leave for China, she convinced her husband to allow her to go home to say farewell to her sisters. There, she refused to return to the husband and screamed at her brothers, “Why did you sell me? How much money did you get for me?’” she said. The brothers beat her, but she managed to escape to the home of an uncle.
Before her marriage, Sumaira had run a beauty salon in a poor, mostly Christian neighborhood of the Punjab town of Gujranwala. “I was a very different person than what you see now,” she said. “Then I had hope. I believed in my future. Now I don’t know.”
Masih told the AP she was married off in November and soon after left her home in Faisalabad, flying to China with her husband. He took her to the northwest of the country, to a small house in a forested area. Three male and two female friends of her husband shared the house.
Her husband forced her to have sex with the men. Then he took her to the Urumqi hotel, where he confined her to a room and sold her into prostitution.
“I bought you in Pakistan,” she said her husband told her. “You belong to me. You are my property.”
Natasha made furtive calls to her parents on her mobile phone, and her mother turned to her church for help. One parishioner, Farooq Masih, formed a group of men from the congregation to try to recue Natasha. One of the men had a younger brother who was a student in China, said Masih, who is not related to Natasha. The brother agreed to pose as a client and pay him to sleep with Natasha.
Instead, when the student went to the hotel in a taxi, he called Natasha and told her to slip out to meet him.
“I saw him and quickly I took my clothes and got into his taxi,” she said. “I didn’t ask his name. I didn’t ask anything, I just said, ‘Brother, thank you.’” Soon she was on a plane to Pakistan.
Farooq Masih and the men from the church have since dedicated hours to unearthing trafficking networks. They recently conducted their own sting operation in Faisalabad, orchestrating a fake marriage that led the Federal Investigation Agency to the brokers and the pastor who solemnized the unions for a fee.
“I am lucky,” Natasha said. “Many girls who were taken there by their husbands are still living a terrible life. ... Now I know what is freedom and what is slavery. In China, I was treated as a slave by my husband.”