Trump surprises North Korea with offer to meet Kim at border

US President Donald Trump's offer to meet Kim Jong Un represents a change from his previous position. (Reuters/File)
Updated 03 July 2019
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Trump surprises North Korea with offer to meet Kim at border

  • South Korea optimistic about prospects of more denuclearization dialogue
  • North Korea suggested it would dismantle the main nuclear complex in Yongbyon in return for the relief of sanctions

SEOUL: US President Donald Trump made a surprise offer on Saturday by inviting North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to a meeting at the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ).

“After some very important meetings, including my meeting with President Xi of China, I will be leaving Japan for South Korea (with President Moon),” said Trump in a tweet at the G20 summit in Osaka, Japan. “While there, if Chairman Kim of North Korea sees this, I would meet him at the Border/DMZ just to shake his hand and say Hello(?)!”

Trump confirmed his visit to the border during his meeting with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, saying he “put out a feeler” to Kim to see if he would like to meet. “We’re going there,” Trump said, “If he’s there, we’ll see each other for two minutes.”

Trump’s offer to meet Kim represents a change from his previous opposition to meeting with the North Korean leader during his visit to South Korea on June 29 to 30. Pyongyang quickly responded to Trump’s request.

“We see it as a very interesting suggestion, but we have not received an official proposal in this regard,” said Choe Son Hui, North Korea’s first vice foreign minister, in a statement issued by North Korea’s Central News Agency two hours after Trump’s tweet.  

“If the US-North Korea meetings take place on the division line, as is intended by President Trump, it would serve as another meaningful occasion in deepening the personal relations between the two leaders and advancing bilateral relations.” Trump and Kim have touted their special relationship since their first summit in Singapore in June 2018, though their second summit at Hanoi in February collapsed.

North Korea suggested it would dismantle the main nuclear complex in Yongbyon in return for the relief of sanctions, but the US demanded an end to all other nuclear activities, such as a uranium enrichment program, before sanctions could be lifted.

Trump and Kim exchanged friendly letters following the stalled denuclearization process. However, North Korea’s testing of short-range guided missiles last month off the eastern coast of the Korean Peninsula has weakened the recovering relationship.

Shin Beom-cheol, an analyst at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies, said there was a chance Trump and Kim would meet.

“I think there’s a chance that Trump and Kim will meet at the DMZ on June 30 through the so-called New York channel,” he said. “There’s also a possibility that South Korean President Moon Jae-in will join the DMZ encounter.”  

President Moon was optimistic about the prospects of more denuclearization dialogue.

During his meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the G20 summit Moon said: “Trump’s visit to South Korea will be an opportunity for the US-North Korea dialogue to be resumed, which will boost the Korea Peace Process.”

Moon also met Russian President Vladimir Putin to discuss peace in the Korean peninsula.

In a statement, the Blue House said: “The leaders of South Korea and Russia shared assessments of security conditions surrounding the peninsula. They agreed that it is an important time for progress in the peaceful approach towards North Korea and substantive progress is needed in the resumption of US-North Korea talks.”

Moon also held a summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping, who conveyed a message of commitment to the denuclearization process. 

After returning to South Korea, Moon greeted Trump, who arrived at an American airbase in Osan for a dinner.

The two leaders are set to hold a summit today.


Firefighters battle wildfire in Portugal, 32 people hurt

Updated 22 July 2019
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Firefighters battle wildfire in Portugal, 32 people hurt

COLOS, Portugal: More than 1,000 firefighters battled a major wildfire Monday amid scorching temperatures in Portugal, where forest blazes wreak destruction every summer.
About 90% of the fire area in the Castelo Branco district, 200 kilometers (about 125 miles) northeast of the capital Lisbon, was brought under control during cooler overnight temperatures, according to local Civil Protection Agency commander Pedro Nunes.
But authorities said they expected heat in and winds to increase again in the afternoon, so all firefighting assets remained in place. Forests in the region are tinder-dry after weeks with little rain.
The Portuguese Civil Protection Agency said 321 vehicles and eight water-dumping aircraft were deployed to tackle the blaze, which has raced through thick woodlands.
Nunes told reporters that the fire, in its third day, has injured 32 people, one seriously.
Police said they were investigating what caused the fire amid suspicions it may have been started deliberately.
Temperatures were forecast to reach almost 40 C (104 F) Monday — prolonging a spell of blistering weather that is due to hit northern Europe late this week.
Recent weeks have also seen major wildfires in Spain, Greece and Germany. European Union authorities have warned that wildfires are “a growing menace” across the continent.
In May, forest fires also plagued Mexico and Russia.
Huge wildfires have long been a summer fixture in Portugal.
Residents of villages and hamlets in central Portugal have grown accustomed to the summer blazes, which destroy fruit trees, olive trees and crops in the fields.
In the hamlet of Colos, 50-year-old beekeeper Antonio Pires said he had lost half of his beehives in the current wildfire. Pires sells to mainly Portuguese and German clients, but also to Brazil and China.
“(I lost) 100 out of 230 (hives), so almost half,” Pires said. “A lot of damage.”
The country’s deadliest fire season came in 2017, when at least 106 people were killed.
The average annual area charred by wildfires in Portugal between 2010 and 2016 was just over 100,000 hectares (247,000 acres). That was more than in Spain, France, Italy or Greece — countries which are significantly bigger than Portugal.
Almost 11,500 firefighters are on standby this year, most of them volunteers. Volunteers are not uncommon in fire brigades in Europe, especially in Germany where more than 90% are volunteers.
Experts and authorities have identified several factors that make Portugal so particularly vulnerable to forest blazes. Addressing some of them is a long-term challenge.
The population of the Portuguese countryside has thinned as people have moved to cities in search of a better life. That means woodland has become neglected, especially as many of those left behind are elderly, and the forest debris is fuel for wildfires.
Large areas of central and northern Portugal are covered in dense, unbroken stretches of forest on hilly terrain. A lot of forest is pine and eucalyptus trees, both of which burn fiercely.
Environmentalists have urged the government to limit the area of eucalyptus, which burns like a torch. But it is a very valuable crop for Portugal’s important paper pulp industry, which last year posted sales worth 2.7 billion euros ($3 billion). The government says it is introducing restrictions gradually.
Experts say Portugal needs to develop a diversified patchwork of different tree species, some of them more fire-resistant and offering damper, shaded.
Climate change has become another challenge, bringing hotter, drier and longer summers. The peak fire season used to run from July 1 to Sept. 30. Now, it starts in June and ends in October.
After the 2017 deaths, the government introduced a raft of measures. They included using goats and bulldozers to clear woodland 10 meters (33 feet) either side of country roads. Property owners also have to clear a 50-meter (164-feet) radius around an isolated house, and 100 meters (328 feet) around a hamlet.
Emergency shelters and evacuation routes have been established at villages and hamlets. Their church bells aim to toll when a wildfire is approaching.
With 98% of blazes caused by human hand, either by accident or on purpose, officials have also been teaching people how to safely burn stubble and forest waste. Police, army and forest service patrols are also increased during the summer.