China hosts Japan, South Korea with eyes on nuclear North

A trilateral meeting between China, South Korea and Japan in Chengdu was held in southwest China’s Sichuan province. (AP)
Short Url
Updated 24 December 2019

China hosts Japan, South Korea with eyes on nuclear North

  • South Korean President Moon Jae-in said it was important they worked together at a “turbulent” time
  • The gathering in the southwestern city of Chengdu was held with the clock ticking on a threatened “Christmas gift” from North Korea

CHENGDU: China hosted the leaders of squabbling neighbors South Korea and Japan on Tuesday, flexing its diplomatic muscle with America’s two key military allies in Asia and seeking regional unity on how to deal with a belligerent North Korea.
The gathering in the southwestern city of Chengdu was held with the clock ticking on a threatened “Christmas gift” from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un that would reignite global tensions over its nuclear program.
Kim has promised the unidentified “gift,” which analysts and American officials believe could be a provocative missile test, if the United States does not act make concessions in their nuclear talks by the end of the year.
At the opening ceremony with South Korea’s Moon Jae-in and Japans Shinzo Abe on Tuesday morning, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said he hoped cooperation among their nations would “protect the region’s safety and stability.”
South Korean President Moon Jae-in said it was important they worked together at a “turbulent” time.
The gathering in Chengdu will feature the first one-on-one meeting between Moon and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe for 15 months.
Ties between their two nations have hit rock bottom in recent months over trade issues and other disputes related to decades of bitter wrangling over Japan’s 1910-45 occupation of the Korean peninsula.
The United States has frequently urged its two allies to bury the hatchet, worried that their poor relations were complicating diplomacy in Asia — although it has held off on direct mediation.
China is appearing to fill that void with its Chengdu event.
“As the region’s major power, China hopes to show its diplomatic presence to the world by bringing the Japanese and South Korean leaders to the same table,” Haruko Satoh, professor and expert on Chinese politics at Osaka University, told AFP.
At separate lead-up meetings in Beijing on Monday with Chinese President Xi Jinping, Moon and Abe both spoke of China’s hefty diplomatic influence in the region.
Long-running efforts to contain North Korea’s nuclear program have been largely deadlocked since the collapse of a second summit between US President Donald Trump and Kim in Hanoi at the start of this year.
In an effort to pressure the United States, the North has conducted a series of short-range missile tests and threatened to go further with its “Christmas gift.”
If the North fired an intercontinental ballistic missile in defiance of UN sanctions, it would destroy Trump’s argument that he had succeeded in reducing risks from North Korea.
Former US national security adviser John Bolton, who was dismissed in September, on Monday criticized Trump’s strategy and warned the North posed an “imminent” threat.
“The risk to US forces & our allies is imminent & more effective policy is required before NK has the technology to threaten the American homeland,” tweeted Bolton.
If the North does carry through with a threatened provocation, the United States should admit its policy of engaging the North had failed, Bolton said in an interview with news site Axios.
The US should then work with allies to show that “when we say it’s unacceptable, we’re going to demonstrate we will not accept it,” he added.
Before leaving for China, Abe told reporters that links with Seoul remained “severe,” though the Chengdu meeting was important given the regional issues at stake.
“Considering the security environment in East Asia, I recognize that relations between Japan and South Korea as well as relations among Japan, the US and South Korea are important,” he said.
The relationship between Japan and South Korea is overshadowed by the 35 years of brutal colonization by the Japanese — including the use of sex slaves and forced labor — that is still bitterly resented today.
Ties began a downward spiral in recent months after a series of South Korean court rulings ordering Japanese firms to compensate wartime forced labor victims.
These infuriated Tokyo, who insisted the matter had been settled by a 1965 treaty between the two countries.
Seoul then threatened to withdraw from a key military intelligence-sharing pact, although it reversed course in November and agreed to extend it “conditionally.”


Ethiopian PM says troops ordered to move on Tigray capital

Updated 51 min 8 sec ago

Ethiopian PM says troops ordered to move on Tigray capital

NAIROBI, Kenya: Ethiopia’s prime minister says the army has been ordered to move on the embattled Tigray capital after his 72-hour ultimatum for Tigray leaders to surrender ended, and he warns residents to “stay indoors.”
The statement Thursday by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s office means tanks and other weaponry can now close in on the city of some half-million people. His government has warned of “no mercy” if residents don’t move away from the Tigray leaders in time.
The new statement asserts that thousands of Tigray militia and special forces surrendered during the 72-hour period. “We will take utmost care to protect civilians,” it says.
Communications remain severed to Tigray, making it difficult to verify claims.
THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. AP’s earlier story follows below:
The United Nations says shortages have become “very critical” in Ethiopia’s embattled Tigray region as its population of 6 million remains sealed off and its capital is under threat of attack by Ethiopian forces seeking to arrest the regional leaders.
Fuel and cash are running out, more than 1 million people are now estimated to be displaced and food for nearly 100,000 refugees from Eritrea will be gone in a week, according to a new report released overnight. And more than 600,000 people who rely on monthly food rations haven’t received them this month.
Travel blockages are so dire that even within the Tigray capital, Mekele, the UN World Food Program cannot obtain access to transport food from its warehouses there.
Communications and travel links remain severed with the Tigray region since the deadly conflict broke out on Nov. 4, and now Human Rights Watch is warning that “actions that deliberately impede relief supplies” violate international humanitarian law.
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s 72-hour ultimatum for the Tigray People’s Liberation Front leaders to surrender ended Wednesday night. His government has said Mekele is surrounded.
The UN has reported people fleeing the city. Abiy’s government had warned them of “no mercy” if residents didn’t move away from the TPLF leaders who are accused of hiding among the population.
But with communications cut, it’s not clear how many people in Mekele received the warnings. The alarmed international community is calling for immediate de-escalation, dialogue and humanitarian access.
Abiy on Wednesday, however, rejected international “interference.”