North Korea leader visits China after warning of alternate path to US talks

In this June 19, 2018, file photo provided by China's Xinhua News Agency, Chinese President Xi Jinping, right, shakes hands with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, during a welcome ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. (AP)
Updated 08 January 2019

North Korea leader visits China after warning of alternate path to US talks

  • Kim said last week in a New Year address he is ready to meet Trump again anytime to achieve their common goal of denuclearising the Korean Peninsula

SHANGHAI/SEOUL: North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is visiting China at the invitation of Chinese President Xi Jinping, only days after warning he may take an alternative path if the United States does not ease sanctions and pressure on his isolated country.
The visit, confirmed by North Korean and Chinese state media, will likely lead to Kim’s fourth summit with Xi in the last year and comes amid plans for a second summit with Trump aimed at denuclearising the Korean peninsula.
Kim held three summits last year with Xi, his most important ally, before and after summits with Trump and South Korean President Moon Jae-in.
“Kim is eager to remind the Trump administration that he does have diplomatic and economic options besides what Washington and Seoul can offer,” Harry J. Kazianis, Director of Defense Studies at US-based Center for the National Interest said in an emailed statement.
“In fact, during his New Year’s Days speech, Kim’s ‘new way’ that he referred to may well have been a veiled threat to move closer to Beijing. That should make America quite concerned.”
Kim left for China on a private train on Monday afternoon accompanied by his wife, Ri Sol Ju, and senior North Korean officials, including Kim Yong Chol and Ri Yong Ho, North Korea’s state-run KCNA news agency said. China’s official Xinhua news agency also confirmed that Kim is visiting from Monday to Thursday at Xi’s invitation.
The visit coincided with what South Korean officials say is Kim’s 35th birthday on January 8.
“He was warmly seen off by leading officials of the Party, government and armed forces organs at the railway station,” KCNA said in its report.
Kim’s visit to North Korea’s most important economic and diplomatic ally, which was first reported by South Korean media, comes amid reports of advanced negotiations for a second summit between Washington and Pyongyang aimed at resolving the standoff over North Korea’s nuclear program.
Kim said in a New Year speech last week he is ready to meet Trump anytime to achieve their common goal of denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. But he warned that he may seek an alternative path to a summit with Trump if US sanctions and pressure against the country continues.

“GOOD PARTNER“
In an interview with CNBC on Monday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo praised China’s support for resolving the North Korean crisis and said he did not think the US trade dispute with Beijing would affect this.
“The Chinese have been very clear to us that these are separate issues,” Pompeo said.
“Their behavior has demonstrated that as well and we appreciate that. China has actually been a good partner in our efforts to reduce the risk to the world from North Korea’s nuclear capability; I expect they will continue to do so.”
South Korea’s foreign ministry said it was aware of Kim’s planned visit and hopes Kim’s latest visit and summit with Xi would contribute to the shared “strategic goal” of achieving complete denuclearization and lasting peace on the Korean peninsula.
While there were no details released about the possible agenda in China, Kim has been seeking relief from international sanctions, a peace declaration to formally end the 1950-1953 Korean War, and more economic investment.
Ties between China and North Korea, which had frayed as Pyongyang stepped up its provocations through a series of missile and nuclear tests, warmed over the last year as Kim engaged with Beijing as well as Seoul and Washington.
Neither KCNA nor Xinhua provided further information on Kim’s itinerary, though South Korea’s Hankyoreh newspaper said on Monday that he will meet with China’s Xi for a fourth summit.


‘Terminator’ Rajapaksa storms to victory in Sri Lanka

Updated 18 min 26 sec ago

‘Terminator’ Rajapaksa storms to victory in Sri Lanka

  • Gotabaya Rajapaksa conducted a nationalist campaign with a promise of security and a vow to crush religious extremism
  • His triumph will, however, alarm Sri Lanka’s Tamil and Muslim minorities as well as activists, journalists

COLOMBO: Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who spearheaded the brutal crushing of the Tamil Tigers 10 years ago, stormed to victory Sunday in Sri Lanka’s presidential elections, seven months after Islamist extremist attacks killed 269 people.
Rajapaksa conducted a nationalist campaign with a promise of security and a vow to crush religious extremism in the Buddhist-majority country following the April 21 suicide bomb attacks blamed on a homegrown militant group.
His triumph will, however, alarm Sri Lanka’s Tamil and Muslim minorities as well as activists, journalists and possibly some in the international community following the 2005-15 presidency of his older brother Mahinda Rajapaksa.
Mahinda, with Gotabaya effectively running the security forces, ended a 37-year civil war with Tamil separatists. His decade in power was also marked by alleged rights abuses, murky extra-judicial killings and closer ties with China.
Gotabaya, a retired lieutenant-colonel, 70, nicknamed the “Terminator” by his own family, romped to victory with 51.9 percent of the vote, results from the two-thirds of votes counted so far showed.
“I didn’t sleep all night,” said student Devni, 22, one of around 30 people who gathered outside Rajapaksa’s Colombo residence. “I am so excited, he is the president we need.”
Rajapaksa’s main rival, the moderate Sajith Premadasa of the ruling party, trailed on 42.3 percent. The 52-year-old conceded the race and congratulated Rajapaksa.
On Sunday three cabinet members resigned — including Finance Minister Mangalar Samaraweera.
The final result was expected later on Sunday with Rajapaksa due to be sworn in on Monday. Turnout was over 80 percent.
Premadasa had strong support in minority Tamil areas but a poor showing in Sri Lanka’s Sinhalese heartland, a core support base where Rajapaksa won some two-thirds of the vote.
Saturday’s poll was the first popularity test of the United National Party (UNP) government of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.
Wickremesinghe’s administration failed to prevent the April attacks despite prior and detailed intelligence warnings from India, according a parliamentary investigation.
Premadasa also offered better security and a pledge to make a former war general, Sarath Fonseka, his national security chief, projecting himself as a victim seeking to crush terrorism.
He is the son of assassinated ex-president Ranasinghe Premadasa who fell victim to a Tamil rebel suicide bomber in May 1993.
But Gotabaya is adored by the Sinhalese majority and the powerful Buddhist clergy for how he and Mahinda ended the war in 2009, when 40,000 Tamil civilians allegedly perished at the hands of the army.
Under his brother, Gotabaya was defense secretary and effectively ran the security forces, allegedly overseeing “death squads” that bumped off rivals, journalists and others. He denies the allegations.
This makes the brothers detested and feared among many Tamils, who make up 15 percent of the population. Some in the Muslim community, who make up 10 percent, are also fearful of Gotabaya, having faced days of mob violence in the wake of the April attacks.
Under Mahinda, Sri Lanka also borrowed heavily from China for infrastructure projects and even allowed two Chinese submarines to dock in Colombo in 2014, alarming Western countries as well as India.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted on Sunday that India looked forward to “deepening the close and fraternal ties... and for peace, prosperity as well as security in our region.”
The projects ballooned Sri Lanka’s debts and many turned into white elephants — such as an airport in the south devoid of airlines — mired in corruption allegations.
Unlike in 2015 when there were bomb attacks and shootings, this election was relatively peaceful by the standards of Sri Lanka’s fiery politics.
The only major incident was on Saturday when gunmen fired at two vehicles in a convoy of at least 100 buses taking Muslim voters to cast ballots. Two people were injured.
According to the Election Commission the contest was, however, the worst ever for hate speech and misinformation.