Xi, Kim to meet amid trade, nuclear standoffs with US

North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un (L) shaking hands with China's President Xi Jinping (R) during a welcome ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. (AFP/File)
Updated 18 June 2019

Xi, Kim to meet amid trade, nuclear standoffs with US

  • Chinese president to embark on state visit to Pyongyang on Thursday
  • It will be the first official visit by a Chinese leader to Pyongyang in 14 years

SEOUL: Chinese President Xi Jinping is to start a two-day state visit to Pyongyang on Thursday to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un ahead of next week’s G20 Summit in Japan.

It will be the first official visit by a Chinese leader to Pyongyang in 14 years. Xi’s visit, which comes at Kim’s invitation, takes place as China and North Korea lock horns with the US over trade and nuclear issues, respectively.

“Xi is expected to show off his strong influence over the Kim Jong Un regime, which is in a tug of war with the Trump administration over denuclearization and sanctions,” Moon Sung Mook, a researcher in Seoul, told Arab News.

“But I don’t think the Xi-Kim meeting will provide a clue as to the stalled nuclear disarmament talks between Pyongyang and Washington.” Moon, a retired brigadier general, said Xi will likely support Kim’s stance on phased denuclearization efforts in return for incentives from the US.

“China has long sided with North Korea’s assertions about a step-by-step denuclearization process and the halting of joint military exercises by the American and South Korean armed forces,” said Moon.

“They’ve been quite successful as the joint exercises have been suspended, and I don’t believe Xi will add pressure on the North over sanctions,” he added.

“For Kim, Xi’s visit will help ease his diplomatic crunch after the collapse of his (Kim’s) summit with US President Donald Trump in Hanoi in February.”

That summit broke down due to disagreements over how far North Korea should go in dismantling its nuclear programs in return for sanctions relief.

FASTFACT

Washington has demanded that the North make a verifiable effort to get rid of all its nuclear weapons, including its enriched uranium program, before any sanctions are lifted.

Washington has demanded that the North make a verifiable effort to get rid of all its nuclear weapons, including its enriched uranium program, before any sanctions are lifted.

In defiance of UN resolutions, North Korea has test-fired short-range multiple ballistic missiles over the eastern waters of the Korean Peninsula, further complicating the denuclearization talks.

But Pyongyang stopped short of firing intercontinental ballistic missiles, a red line drawn by the Trump administration.

Prof. Kim Dong Yub of Kyungnam University’s Institute for Far Eastern Studies said the North Korean leader is “using diplomatic leverage to deal with the US … in the face of US-led sanctions.”

He added: “For Xi, the North’s denuclearization won’t be a major issue among his agenda items as his country is locked in a standoff with Trump over trade and technology.”

He said: “Given the escalating trade war between Beijing and Washington, Xi’s trip to Pyongyang is obviously an important geopolitical move.” Beijing has yet to confirm whether Xi will meet with Trump during the G20 Summit.

Meanwhile, South Korea’s presidential spokeswoman Ko Min Jung said: “We expect this (Xi’s) visit to contribute to the early resumption of talks for complete denuclearization and a permanent peace settlement on the Korean Peninsula.”

Trump recently said he had received another “beautiful” letter from the North Korean leader, opening the door for his third summit with him.


Afghan father’s perilous motorbike school run to realize daughter’s medical dream

Updated 10 December 2019

Afghan father’s perilous motorbike school run to realize daughter’s medical dream

  • Devoted dad overcomes strict traditions on female roles in hope of seeing girl become town’s first female doctor

PAKISTAN: Devoted Afghan dad Mia Khan has been hailed for going the extra mile to help his daughter achieve her dream of becoming a doctor.

Every day, the daily wage laborer, from Sharan city in Afghanistan’s eastern Paktika province, travels 12 km on his motorcycle to take Rozai to school.

And when classes end, he is there for the long and hazardous journey home through tough borderland terrain.

“You know, we don’t have any female doctors in our town. It is my ultimate wish to see my daughter as its first female doctor. I want her to serve humanity,” Khan told Arab News.

Paktika shares a 300 km border with Pakistan’s newly merged tribal districts of North and South Waziristan and parts of Balochistan province, where powerful patriarchal norms still dictate most women’s lives.

But Rozai and her father are determined to buck the trend through her tuition at Nooranya School, a community educational institution built by the Swedish Committee for Afghanistan.

Rozai told Arab News: “We have to travel a long distance and I would like for a school to be established closer to our home. We are often tired (from our journey) when we arrive at school and sometimes, we are late.”

Saif-ur-Rehman Shahab, a representative of the Swedish Committee for Afghanistan, told Arab News that Khan, who has for years taken his children to school on a motorcycle, deserved all the plaudits he could get. Khan has two sons and seven daughters.

“Khan gets his children, specifically his daughter Rozai, educated in a very challenging situation. We have deteriorating security and poor awareness about girls’ education here. Khan is facing acute financial challenges working as a daily wage laborer. I deeply appreciate him for facing all these challenges boldly to educate his daughter,” Shahab said.

Hikmat Safi, an adviser to Afghanistan’s chief executive, said Khan’s passion was an inspiration to others. “Amid brewing insecurity coupled with cultural limitations, this is a really positive change when people like Khan come out to educate their children, primarily daughters.”

Nooranya School has 220 female students and is one of hundreds of community-based classes and schools, predominantly attended by girls, set up by the committee in various parts of Paktika province.