North Korea’s Kim meets China’s Xi, says awaiting US actions

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A grab from a video footage run by China’s CCTV shows Chinese President Xi Jinping, left, and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un shaking hands before their meeting in Pyongyang. (CCTV via AP)
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North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, left, and Chinese President Xi Jinping attend a welcome ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. (File/Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service/AP)
Updated 21 June 2019

North Korea’s Kim meets China’s Xi, says awaiting US actions

  • The summit comes as both Xi and Kim are locked in separate disputes with the United States — Xi over trade and Kim over his nuclear weapons
  • Chinese and North Korea media have said Xi would stay in Pyongyang for two days

BEIJING: North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, meeting in Pyongyang with Chinese President Xi Jinping, said Thursday that his country is waiting for a desired response in stalled nuclear talks with the United States.

“North Korea would like to remain patient, but it hopes the relevant party will meet halfway with North Korea to explore resolution plans that accommodate each other’s reasonable concerns,” he said, according to Chinese state broadcaster CCTV.

Xi’s trip to North Korea, the first by a Chinese president in 14 years, raises the possibility that China could help break a months-long impasse in talks between the US and North Korea over the North’s nuclear weapons.

Describing the issue as “highly complex and sensitive,” Xi said his government is willing to play a constructive role in the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

“The international community expects the US and North Korea to continue to talk and achieve results,” he said, according to CCTV.

The summit comes as both countries are locked in separate disputes with the United States — China over trade and North Korea over its nuclear weapons.

With Xi due to meet President Donald Trump next week in Japan, analysts say Kim may ask the Chinese leader to pass on a message that could revive the talks with the US

Xi’s two-day state visit to North Korea, announced just three days ago, began with the synchronized pomp of all major events in the country.

About 10,000 cheering people and a 21-gun salute greeted Xi and senior Chinese officials at an arrival ceremony at Pyongyang’s airport.

The CCTV evening news showed Xi and his wife Peng Liyuan waving to the crowd after emerging from their Air China plane, then being greeted by Kim and his wife, Ri Sol Ju before receiving flowers and watching goose-stepping troops march by.

The crowd stood in tight formations, waving flowers and chanting slogans to welcome Xi. Other people lined the roads and cheered from overpasses as Xi’s motorcade traveled to central Pyongyang, where he joined Kim in an open-top vehicle.

Standing in the car, they waved to crowds as they rode to the square where the embalmed bodies of Kim’s grandfather and father, the first two leaders of North Korea, lie in state.

As of Thursday evening, North Korean media had yet to report on Xi’s arrival.

Nuclear talks between the US and North Korea broke down after a second summit between Kim and Trump in February in Vietnam ended in failure.

A series of North Korean ballistic missile and nuclear tests in 2016 and 2017 alarmed the US, its Asian allies, Japan and South Korea, and even China. Last year, Kim turned to diplomacy, including his first meeting with Trump in Singapore.

The talks with the US have reached an impasse over a fundamental difference in approach.

The US is demanding that North Korea abandon its nuclear weapons entirely before international sanctions are lifted. North Korea is seeking a step-by-step approach in which moves toward denuclearization are matched by concessions from the US, notably a relaxation of the sanctions.

“Over more than a year, the North Korean side has taken many positive measures to avoid escalation of the situation and manage and control the peninsular situation, but it hasn’t received an active response from the relevant party,” Kim told Xi on Thursday, according to CCTV.

Xi is expected to endorse North Korea’s calls for an incremental disarmament process.

A commentary in China’s official Xinhua news agency said China could play a unique role in breaking the cycle of mistrust between North Korea and the U.S, but that both sides “need to have reasonable expectations and refrain from imposing unilateral and unrealistic demands.”

A former North Korean diplomat who defected in 2016 said he thinks Kim wants to give Xi a message to deliver to Trump when the two meet at the upcoming G-20 summit in Japan.

Thae Yong Ho said Kim may offer to abandon some of his nuclear facilities in a bid to set up a third summit with the US president. But he cautioned that such a move would be only to buy time and not to denuclearize fully, as the US is demanding.

“The main purpose for the Kim Jong Un regime in negotiating is to keep North Korea as a new nuclear state in this region, there is no doubt about that,” he said at a news conference in Tokyo, where he is promoting the Japanese translation of his book, “Password From the Third Floor,” an inside look at North Korean diplomacy and the Kim regime.

China is North Korea’s most important foreign partner, though their relations grew somewhat rocky as Kim’s efforts to build his country’s nuclear weapons capabilities threatened regional stability.

Kim met Xi four times in China as the talks with both the US and South Korea got underway. A banner at the airport welcome ceremony read, “Long Live with Unbreakable Friendship and Unity Formed by Blood.”

The nations fought together in the 1950-53 Korean War against the United States, South Korea and their allies. China welcomed Kim’s announcement last year that he was shifting the country’s focus from nuclear weapons to economic development.


Pakistan takes steps to turn locust infestation into farming benefit

Updated 04 August 2020

Pakistan takes steps to turn locust infestation into farming benefit

  • Pakistan’s worst locust infestation in about 30 years started in June 2019

ISLAMABAD: First the idea was to feed them to chickens, now the plan is to grind them into fertilizer — as more locust swarms threaten Pakistan’s crops, a project aims to test ways of killing and using the voracious pests for the benefit of local communities.
Pakistan’s worst locust infestation in about 30 years started in June 2019, when the insects came over from Iran in a surge climate experts link to changing conditions conducive to the spread of the insects.
This summer, the locusts are breeding locally, says the Pakistani government, which is trying to head off another attack by spraying pesticides on newborn locusts — called hoppers because they cannot fly — in desert areas on the Indian border.
But worries that the pesticides could be harmful to plants, animals and people have motivated researchers to seek chemical-free methods of cutting the locust population.
“We wanted to come up with a locust control project that would be environmentally friendly and sustainable,” said biotechnologist Johar Ali.
For Ali and his colleague Muhammad Khurshid, who was working for the food ministry at the time, the answer was chicken feed.
In February, the state-run Pakistan Agricultural Research Council (PARC) sent Ali and Khurshid, now with the privatization ministry, to implement a three-day trial in Punjab province in eastern Pakistan.
During an infestation this spring, villagers in Okara district plucked locusts — which are largely immobile at night — off trees in a nearby forest, gathering about 20 tons of the flying insects.
The project team bought the bugs for 20 Pakistani rupees a kilo, then sold them to a nearby processing plant, which dried them and mixed them into chicken feed, Ali said.
The aim was to help control the locust surge in forested and heavily populated areas, where widespread pesticide spraying is not possible, while also generating income for communities hit by the swarms.
“It’s an out-of-box solution,” Ali said. “It could easily be scaled up in our populated rural areas. Yes, in our desert areas where locusts breed, chemical sprays make sense — but not in areas where we have farms with crops, livestock and people.”
In June, the government shifted the focus from chicken feed to compost, after PARC decided fertilizer was a safer and more feasible use for the insects.
Last month, communities living in the desert areas of Cholistan, Tharparkar, Nara and Thal were trained on how to catch locusts as they head there to breed for the season.
The next step is to look at how to turn the pests into organic fertilizer, explained PARC chairman Muhammad Azeem Khan.
By providing a “slow and continuous” release of nutrients, the compost could help farmers increase their yields by 30 percent and cut their use of chemical fertilizer in half, he said.
Pakistan’s current locust problem started with what Muhammad Tariq Khan, technical director of the food security ministry’s plant protection department, called a “climate change-induced international locust crisis” in Yemen and East Africa.
“Two big cyclones in 2018 dumped enough water in a desert area called the Empty Quarter in the Arabian Peninsula for three generations of locusts to grow undetected,” he said.
Torn by civil war, Yemen was unable to focus on exterminating the pests, which lay their eggs beneath the soil, and so “they came up like a bomb,” Khan said.
July’s monsoon rains arrived 10 days earlier than usual in Pakistan, creating moist soil conditions favorable for the locusts to breed in the border desert area, Khan said.
Swarms are also expected to arrive soon in Pakistan from Somalia, he said.
The UN Food and Agriculture Organization estimates losses to agriculture from locusts this year could be as high as 353 billion rupees ($2.2 billion) for winter crops like wheat and potatoes and about 464 billion rupees for summer crops.
“You can’t eradicate locusts, but you can control them. In this situation we have to rely on chemicals,” Khan said.
So far, insecticide-spraying operations have been carried out in 32 affected districts — both desert and cropping areas — spread over about 1 million hectares.
Pakistan’s pesticide-spraying operations had made it impossible to ensure the locusts eaten by poultry would be chemical-free, said PARC’s Azeem Khan.
“Sprayed locusts, if used as feed, are a threat to human health,” he said.
The new project, which has been approved by the National Locust Control Center, will entail buying living and dead locusts from local communities at 25 rupees per kilo.
The bugs will then be mixed with bio-waste such as manure and vegetation to turn them into compost, Azeem Khan said.
PARC is now analyzing samples of dead and decomposing locusts that have been sprayed with insecticide to assess the levels of chemical residue on them, he noted.
The PARC chairman said the government had earmarked $15 million for the project, with just over half going to the communities and the rest toward compost-processing.