Boris Johnson To Raise Visa Quota For Africa

 

 

Prime Minister Boris Johnson told African leaders Monday that Britain would be more open to migrants from their continent after Brexit as he hosted a summit intended to boost trading ties.

He also promised an end to direct UK state investment in thermal coal mining or coal power plants overseas, saying London would focus on supporting a switch to low-carbon energy sources.

Johnson was speaking at the start of the first UK-Africa Investment Summit in London, a clear pitch for business less than two weeks before Britain leaves the European Union.

He told leaders including presidents Abdel Fattah al-Sisi of Egypt and Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya that he wanted to make Britain their “investment partner of choice”.

After highlighting all that Britain has to offer, he said Brexit would mean an end to preferential treatment for EU migrants.

“Our (immigration) system is becoming fairer and more equal between all our global friends and partners, treating people the same, wherever they come from,” he said.

“By putting people before passports we will be able to attract the best talent from around the world, wherever they may be.”

Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari, who also attended the summit, said Brexit offered an opportunity for increased free trade across the Commonwealth — and said visas were a key issue.

“While many in the African diaspora enjoy considerable benefits from life in the West, they do not always feel at the heart of the community,” he wrote in an article for The Times on Monday.

“A renewed sense that there are ties that bind us through the Commonwealth, and a concerted effort to grow those links through trade, could act as a spur to encourage togetherness and the certainty of belonging.”

Breathe the same air

Johnson, whose country hosts the next UN climate change summit in Glasgow later this year, also announced a shift in investment strategy to help combat global warming.

Sub-Saharan African faces a number of environmental challenges, particularly the effects of climate change, water and air pollution, desertification, deforestation and over-fishing.

On fossil fuels, Johnson said: “There’s no point in the UK reducing the amount of coal we burn, if we then trundle over to Africa and line our pockets by encouraging African states to use more of it, is there?”

“We all breathe the same air, we live beneath the same sky. We all suffer when carbon emissions rise and the planet warns.”

He added: “Not another penny of UK taxpayers money will be directly invested in digging up coal or burning it for electricity.

“Instead, we’re going to focus on supporting the transition to lower and zero carbon alternatives.”

The British government’s export agency reports providing £2 billion ($2.6 billion) in financing for UK company exports to Africa in the past two years.

The agency says it now wants to “increase its risk appetite” in Egypt and the emerging economies in Nigeria and Rwanda.

The UK government said the London summit will see British and African firms announce commercial deals worth £6.5 billion.

It did not spell out whether these were all firm commitments or included memorandums of understanding that do not always result in actual deals.

Britain will leave the EU on January 31, although ties will remain the same for 11 months while the two sides thrash out a new trading relationship.

The UK has said it will be leaving the bloc’s single market and customs union.

Johnson wants the freedom to strike trade deals with other countries, even at the expense of some of its producers facing trade tariffs and quotas as a result.

India Planning ‘Bloodbath’ In Kashmir, Pakistan’s Khan Tells UN

 

India is planning a “bloodbath” in Kashmir, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan told the United Nations General Assembly on Friday.

The Indian-controlled part of the disputed territory has been under lockdown since New Delhi scrapped its semi-autonomous status in early August, and Khan said armed forces there would turn on the population after the curfew was lifted.

“There are 900,000 troops there, they haven’t come to, as Narendra Modi says — for the prosperity of Kashmir… These 900,000 troops, what are they going to do? When they come out? There will be a bloodbath,” he said.

Long Queue On Everest As Two More Climbers Die Reaching Peak

This handout photo taken on May 22, 2019, and released by climber Nirmal Purja’s Project Possible expedition shows heavy traffic of mountain climbers lining up to stand at the summit of Mount Everest.

 

A long queue of climbers has formed near the summit of Mount Everest as expedition organisers on Thursday reported two more deaths on the world’s highest mountain.

More than 200 climbers were taking advantage of clear weather on Wednesday to attempt to summit from both Nepal and China, but teams had to line up for hours to reach the top — risking frostbite and altitude sickness.

READ ALSO: Eco-Friendly Burial: Washington Becomes First US State To Legalise Human Composting

An American and Indian climber are the latest fatalities, their expedition organisers said, on one of the busiest-ever days on the 8,848-metre (29,029-foot) peak.

Donald Lynn Cash, 55, collapsed at the summit on Wednesday as he was taking photographs, while Anjali Kulkarni, also 55, died while descending after reaching the top.

Kulkarni’s expedition organiser, Arun Treks, said heavy traffic at the summit had delayed her descent and caused her death.

“She had to wait for a long time to reach the summit and descend,” said Thupden Sherpa. “She couldn’t move down on her own and died as Sherpa guides brought her down.”

Pasang Tenje Sherpa, of Pioneer Adventure, told AFP that Cash collapsed on the summit and died close to Hillary Step as guides were bringing him back.

The deaths take the toll on Everest to four this season, after an Indian climber died last week and an Irish mountaineer is presumed dead after he slipped and fell close to the summit.

Mountaineering in Nepal has become a lucrative business since Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay made the first ascent of Everest in 1953.

The Himalayan nation has issued a record 381 permits costing $11,000 each for this year’s spring climbing season, sparking fears of bottlenecks en route to the summit if poor weather cuts down the number of climbing days.

Most Everest hopefuls are escorted by a Nepali guide, meaning more than 750 climbers will tread the same path to the top in the coming weeks.

At least 140 others have been granted permits to scale Everest from the northern flank in Tibet, according to expedition operators. This could take the total past last year’s record of 807 people reaching the summit.

Many Himalayan mountains — including Everest — are at peak climbing season, with the window of good weather between late April and the end of May.

At least six other foreign climbers have died on other 8,000-metre Himalayan peaks this season, while two are missing.

AFP

‘Concrete Measures’ On Sex Abuse Needed, Pope Tells Vatican Summit

Pope Francis (R), flanked by Italian priest Federico Lombardi, prays during the opening of a global child protection summit for reflections on the sex abuse crisis within the Catholic Church, on February 21, 2019 at the Vatican.  Vincenzo PINTO / POOL / AFP

 

Pope Francis opened Thursday a landmark summit at the Vatican on fighting child sex abuse, saying that the world expected “concrete measures” on tackling paedophilia in the Catholic Church.

The pontiff will dedicate the next three and a half days to discussing the Church’s response to child abuse by members of the clergy with bishops from around the world.

“The Holy people of God are watching and waiting not for simple and obvious condemnations but concrete and efficient measures,” he said as the summit opened, the first of its kind.

“Let us listen to the cry of the young ones who ask us for justice,” he said.

The pope is aiming to tackle the continuing scandal, which again hit the Church in 2018 in countries across the globe, including Chile, Germany and the United States.

READ ALSO: IS Bride Shamima Begum ‘Shocked’ After UK Revokes Her Citizenship

The 82-year-old hopes to raise awareness about abuse through prayers, speeches, working groups and testimonies from victims.

“I ask the Holy Spirit to support us in the following days and help us to transform this evil into an opportunity for awareness and purification,” Francis said.

“May the Virgin Mary enlighten us to try to cure the serious wounds caused by the scandal of paedophilia both in children and in believers,” he added.

 ‘A turning point’ 

The summit aims to educate 114 top bishops who will then return home with clear ideas on how to spot and deal with abuse and paedophilia.

The task is made difficult by the fact that some churches, in Asia and Africa in particular, deny the problem exists.

“My hope would be that people see this as a turning point,” said American Cardinal Blase Cupich, one of the pope’s trusted allies in the United States and one of the summit’s four organisers.

The US Catholic Church has been shaken by one of the gravest crises in its history, with the defrocking last week by Pope Francis of a former cardinal — American Theodore McCarrick — over accusations he sexually abused a teenager 50 years ago.

“It’s not the end game, no one can ever say that… (but) we’re going to do everything possible so people are held responsible, accountable and that there is going to be transparency,” Cupich told journalists ahead of the meeting.

Three themes — responsibility, accountability and transparency — form the backbone of the summit and will provide its participants with the keys to ensuring child safety, he said.

 ‘Silence a no-go’ 

There are reforms in the pipeline, such as the “tweaking” of certain canon laws, according to another of the organisers, Maltese Archbishop Charles Scicluna.

But the suggestion that Church laws need only fine-tuning has angered many, including Anne Barrett Doyle, the co-director of BishopAccountability.org, a public database that documents cases of proven or suspected cleric sex crimes.

“Canon law has to be changed: not tweaked, not modified, but fundamentally changed, so that it stops prioritising the priesthood… over the lives of children, and vulnerable adults who are sexually assaulted by them,” she said.

Scicluna insists that summoning Church leaders from all continents to Rome “is in itself a very important message”.

The Maltese spent 10 years as the Vatican’s top prosecutor on paedophilia cases, and was picked by Francis to travel to Chile last year to hear from victims whose voices had previously been silenced by an internal Church cover-up.

Scicluna has called for an end to the code of silence and culture of denial within the beleaguered centuries-old institution.

“Silence is a no-go, whether you call it omerta or simply a state of denial,” he said this week.

“We have to face facts because only the truth of the matter, and confronting the facts, will make us free,” he added.

AFP

Poland Cancels Participation In Israel Summit

File  Photo: Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki  and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo share a smile as they attend the conference on Peace and Security in the Middle east in Warsaw, on February 14, 2019.
Janek SKARZYNSKI / AFP

 

Poland’s prime minister on Monday cancelled Warsaw’s participation in a summit of central European countries in Jerusalem, calling comments about the actions of Poles during the Holocaust by Israel’s foreign minister “racist”.

“The words of the Israeli foreign minister are racist and unacceptable… it is clear that our foreign minister (Jacek) Czaputowicz will not be travelling to the summit,” Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki told Polish media, after comments by Israel’s new foreign minister accusing Poles of anti-Semitism.

Poland Says It May Withdraw From Summit As Israel Row Escalates

 

Poland warned on Monday it may pull out of a summit of central European nations in Jerusalem this week, after comments by Israel’s new foreign minister accusing Poles of anti-Semitism.

The foreign ministry also summoned Israeli ambassador Anna Azari over the remarks by Israel Katz on Sunday, the PAP news agency reported, the second time Warsaw has taken such action in a matter of days.

Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki had backed out of the summit on Sunday following uproar over reported comments by his Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu about Poles and the Holocaust.

Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz was due to replace Morawiecki, but the prime minister said on Monday that Warsaw’s participation was now in question following the Katz comments.

Katz told Israel’s i24 television that “there were many Poles who collaborated with the Nazis, and like Yitzhak Shamir, whose father was murdered, said: Poles suckle anti-Semitism with their mothers’ milk.”

“We’re waiting for a firm reaction to the unpardonable and simply racist words of Israel’s new foreign minister, which is something that can’t be left without reaction,” Morawiecki told Polish media.

“If there is no such reaction on the other side, we’ll wish them the best possible meeting, but minister Jacek Czaputowicz will also not attend,” Morawiecki said.

The matter would be decided “in two-three hours”, he added.

The Visegrad Group, also known as the V4, comprises the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia. It is due to hold its first summit in Jerusalem Monday and Tuesday for talks with Israeli officials.

The initial row broke out last week when Netanyahu — who was quoted in Haaretz newspaper as saying that “the Poles collaborated with the Nazis” — was condemned in Poland for appearing to accuse all Polish people of cooperating with Germany during World War II.

‘Historical truth’

Warsaw has long been at pains to state that Poland, which was occupied by Nazi Germany, could not have and did not collaborate in the Holocaust although individual Poles gave up Jews to the Nazis.

The Israeli prime minister’s office said on Friday that Netanyahu had not implicated all Poles in the Holocaust.

It insisted that Netanyahu was “misquoted” in Haaretz and other publications that reported different versions of the quote.

The clarification came hours after the Polish foreign ministry had summoned Azari over the remarks.

Netanyahu was in Warsaw last week for a two-day summit on the Middle East, co-hosted by Poland and the United States, which focused on isolating Iran while building Arab-Israeli ties.

The fresh controversy in Polish-Israeli ties comes after a row last year over a Polish law that made it illegal to accuse the Polish nation or state of complicity in Nazi German crimes.

After protests from Israel and the United States, Poland amended the law to remove the possibility of fines or a prison sentence.

Poland was occupied by Nazi Germany during World War II and lost six million citizens including three million Jews.

World Bishops Head To Vatican For Summit On Sex Abuse

Pope Francis with some Cardinals at the Vatican in Rome, Italy. Source: AFP

 

Pope Francis gathers bishops from around the world at the Vatican this week for a hotly-awaited summit on tackling the wave of child sex abuse scandals assailing the Catholic Church.

The heads of around 100 bishops’ conferences from every continent will convene from Thursday to Sunday for the meeting on the protection of minors, with victims’ groups demanding that a concrete action plan on fighting paedophilia be drawn up.

The pope, who asked the bishops to speak to victims of abuse in their respective countries before the Rome convention, has tried to dial down “inflated expectations” for a cure-all.

Several victims were also invited to the Vatican.

“I ask you to pray for this meeting,” the pope said Sunday, adding that he wanted the meeting “as an act of strong pastoral responsibility in the face of an urgent challenge of our time.”

The conference aims to be an opportunity to improve awareness of the global phenomenon of sexual abuse of minors within the Church, despite many in Africa, Asia and the Middle East being in denial of what they call “a Western problem”.

READ ALSO: Persevere Just A Bit Longer, Tinubu Begs Nigerians As INEC Postpones Elections

In many parts of the world, discussing violence towards children and even sex is taboo, leading the Vatican to organise this week’s “educational” gathering.

Some abuse victims, particularly from countries where their plight is ignored, have also been invited to attend.

“Someone who has met a victim, heard their cries for help, their tears, their psychological and physical wounds, can’t remain the same,” said German Jesuit priest Hans Zollner, a psychologist who travels the world educating priests and is one of the conference’s organisers.

“The Catholic Church has been faced with this problem for the last 35 years,” he said, hailing rigorous preventative measures taken in Australia, Britain, Canada, Ireland and the United States.

“It works: the number of new accusations of sexual assault in all these countries is now minimal,” he said.

The aim is for the heads of the world’s episcopal conferences to achieve “a feeling of collective responsibility” said Father Federico Lombardi, who will be leading debates during the conference.

“The credibility of the Church is at stake,” he said.

 ‘A decisive moment’ 

The summit comes after Pope Francis defrocked a former cardinal — American Theodore McCarrick — over accusations he sexually abused a teenager 50 years ago.

McCarrick, 88, who resigned from the Vatican’s College of Cardinals in July, is the first cardinal ever to be defrocked for sex abuse.

Chilean Vatican expert Luis Badilla said the meeting would be a “decisive moment for the pontificate”.

“We want this meeting to result in concrete measures,” he said, echoing victims’ hopes for the conference, being held in the wake of paedophile scandals that have shaken the Church particularly in Chile and in the United States.

The summit’s title, concerning “the protection of minors”, avoids using the words “sex” or “paedophilia”, noted Badilla.

That reflects the Church’s centuries-old instinct to protect its image, he said. But added “the only way to emerge from the crisis is to tell the whole truth”.

In France, prosecutors said Friday they were investigating a sexual assault complaint made against the Vatican’s envoy to Paris, 74-year-old Luigi Ventura.

He is accused of molesting an official at the Paris mayor’s office, a judicial source told AFP.

The pope has already warned those hoping the four-day meet will be a panacea that “the problem of abuse will continue”.

“By resolving the problem within the Church, through becoming aware, we will contribute to resolving it within society, within families, where the shame means everything is hidden,” Francis said.

The meeting will come up with “protocols for moving forward”, because “sometimes bishops don’t know what to do,” he said.

Father Zollner is also wary of people hoping for a magic wand of “new norms” that will make the problem simply disappear.

Bishops must “change their attitude”, which can be more difficult than drawing up new rules or guidelines, he said.

The scale of the problem is impossible to measure statistically.

A study in the United States said that between three and four per cent of the clergy were involved in abuse before 2002 when stricter guidelines were published, said Zollner.

While the Catholic Church says it is trying to address the problem, other churches are also affected.

In the United States, the Protestant Southern Baptist Convention has been hit by a wide-ranging sex abuse scandal involving almost 400 pastors, volunteers and teachers over two decades.

AFP

US To Host Global Summit On Iran, Says Pompeo

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks during an event for PEPFAR(President’s Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief) at the US Department of State November 27, 2018 in Washington, DC.
Brendan Smialowski / AFP

 

The United States is organizing an international summit in Poland next month, focusing on Iran’s Middle Eastern influence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told Fox News.

Pompeo made the announcement in an interview with the network during a regional tour aimed at reassuring US allies after President Donald Trump’s shock decision to withdraw all US troops from Syria, which sparked concerns that Iran’s influence could grow.

“We’ll bring together dozens of countries from all around the world,” Pompeo told Fox.

They will “focus on Middle East stability and peace and freedom and security here in this region, and that includes an important element of making sure that Iran is not a destabilizing influence,” the top US diplomat said.

The event will take place on February 13 and 14.

AFP

EU President To Meet May Ahead Of Brexit Summit

President of the European Council Donald Tusk poses at the European Council headquarter on December 12, 2018 in Brussels ahead of a meeting.  Aris Oikonomou / AFP

 

EU President Donald Tusk will meet British Prime Minister Theresa May Thursday for “last-minute talks” to try to help save her beleaguered Brexit deal ahead of a crucial European summit.

“Ahead of #EUCO I will meet PM @theresa_may for last-minute talks,” Tusk tweeted.

May comes to the EU summit in Brussels after postponing an attempt to ratify the Brexit treaty, only to have to face down a bid from fellow Conservative MPs to unseat her.

The other 27 EU countries have drawn up a six-paragraph statement designed to appease concerns about the “Irish backstop” in the Brexit withdrawal and ease the deal’s passage through the British parliament.

According to European diplomats, the leaders will not allow the backstop nor the deal itself — which was only agreed at the end of last month — to be renegotiated at this stage.

But the statement, which could be issued at the summit, would declare that any backstop “would only be in place for a short period and only as long as strictly necessary.”

And it will add: “The union stands ready to examine whether any further assurances can be provided. Such assurances will not change or contradict the withdrawal agreement”.

This would not be the legally binding promise that British eurosceptics are seeking that the measure to keep the Irish border open would not be used to bind the UK into a customs union indefinitely.

“This is incredibly innocent language. Nothing of this is new. There is no end date for the backstop,” one European source told AFP.

“Not even the wording is different. There is the word temporary, but this is already in the withdrawal agreement,” he noted.

But the diplomat said that, in the likely event that the statement will not assuage the concerns of May’s parliamentary opponents, then a legal “interpretation” of the deal could be produced.

This would only be published in January, he said, as if it were released too soon, the Brexiteers might immediately seek more concessions, pushing approval of the plan still further back.

AFP

EU Offers UK Sweetener Before Difficult Brexit Summit

 

The European Union is ready to extend the post-divorce transition period with Britain, diplomats said, amid efforts to revive chances to strike a Brexit deal at a key summit on Wednesday.

British Prime Minister Theresa May is due in Brussels later in the day to speak to the other 27 EU leaders on the stalled negotiations for Britain’s scheduled exit from the union on March 29.

Talks are at an impasse over the issue of a legal backstop to keep the border between British Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic open after the United Kingdom leaves the bloc.

But EU negotiator Michel Barnier has an idea to help break the logjam, two EU diplomats told AFP and Ireland’s top diplomat told the BBC.

Barnier is willing to add a year to the 21-month post Brexit transition period — taking it to the end of 2021, the two diplomats said on condition of anonymity.

“The aim is to gain more time to negotiate the agreement on the future (trade) relationship and thus further reduce the probability of having to resort to the backstop,” one of the diplomats said.

Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said Barnier proposed an extension but did not say for how long.

“What Michel Barnier has indicated very clearly is that the EU side is, certainly, willing to allow more time in the transition period to agree on an alternative solution to a backstop,” Coveney told the BBC.

This offer would not in itself resolve the backstop issue which must be included in the withdrawal treaty and ratified before the end of March to avoid a damaging “no deal” scenario.

But it would avoid the need for separate plans for British-ruled Northern Ireland, which London staunchly opposes on grounds of sovereignty.

The diplomats said Barnier had revealed his offer to EU ministers at a meeting this week in Luxembourg.

It comes as European Council President Donald Tusk, the summit host, said he would ask May to offer new “concrete ideas on how to break the impasse” when she arrives in Brussels

But Tusk said he had “no grounds for optimism” based on a report Tuesday from Barnier and May’s appearance in parliament on Monday where she stood her ground.

 Tricky divorce

The choreography of Wednesday’s summit opening highlights British isolation.

May will meet one-on-one with Tusk at 5:45 pm (1545 GMT) before briefing her 27 European colleagues, but then the rest of the EU leaders will leave to discuss Brexit over dinner without her.

Tusk has made it clear that if May and Barnier do not signal concrete progress towards a draft deal he will not call a November summit to sign it.

Instead, the matter could either be pushed back to December or — more dramatically — the EU could use the November weekend to meet on preparations for a “no-deal” Brexit.

Previously, both sides had agreed that Britain crashing out of the Union on March 29 next year with neither a divorce agreement nor a road-map to future ties would be an economic and diplomatic disaster.

“There are still several weeks of space left, according to what the British are telling us, and they are the ones with calendar problems,” said a senior EU diplomat.

But with the row over the Irish border, fears of a debacle are mounting.

At a three-hour British cabinet meeting on Tuesday morning, which included ministers with reservations about her strategy, May said a deal was possible if they all stood together.

 No deal plans

Addressing MPs in the House of Commons on Monday, May had said a deal was “achievable” while sticking to her principles on the Irish border issue.

But a senior European official said the speech had only underscored for Barnier the uphill struggle he faces to get an agreement.

To solve the Irish question, Britain has proposed staying aligned to the EU’s customs rules until a wider trade deal can be signed that avoids the need for any frontier checks.

But her own eurosceptic Conservative MPs are demanding this “backstop” arrangement be time-limited, something the EU will not accept.

May said the EU was also insisting on its own “backstop” in case the London proposal did not work, which would see Northern Ireland alone stay aligned to the customs union and single market.

She says this would threaten the integrity of the United Kingdom — and it is strongly opposed by her Northern Irish allies from the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP).

Economists fear “no deal” Brexit would greatly disrupt trade, travel and manufacturers’ supply chains in Europe, push Britain into recession and even have global consequences.

Europe’s biggest auto firms on Wednesday warned that a no-deal Brexit would “threaten their very business model” by disrupting component distribution.

AFP

Denuclearisation To Top South-North Korea Summit

File photo of South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on the upcoming inter-Korean summit, for his third summit with the North’s leader Kim Jong Un as a rapid diplomatic progress in denuclearization talks between Pyongyang and Washington. Jung Yeon-je / AFP in downtown Seoul on September 17, 2018.

 

 

 

Denuclearisation will be high on the agenda for this week’s inter-Korean summit in Pyongyang, South Korean President Moon Jae-in said Monday on the eve of his third meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Moon will fly to the North Korean capital on Tuesday for the latest stage in a diplomatic thaw on the peninsula, although progress has stalled in denuclearization talks between Pyongyang and Washington.

“I’ve confirmed the sincere willingness of both Chairman Kim Jong Un and President Trump on several occasions,” Moon said during a Cabinet meeting.

“I plan to hold frank talks with Chairman Kim Jong Un on ways to find a point of compromise between the US demand for denuclearization and the North’s demand for ending hostile relations,” he added.

Moon, who met Kim in April and May this year, was instrumental in brokering the historic Singapore summit between US President Donald Trump and Kim in June when Kim backed denuclearisation of the “Korean peninsula”.

But no details were agreed and Washington and Pyongyang have sparred since over what that means and how it will be achieved.

The US is pressing for the North’s “final, fully verified denuclearisation”, while Pyongyang is seeking a formal declaration that the 1950-53 Korean War is over — hostilities ceased with an armistice rather than a peace treaty. It has condemned demands for it to give up its weapons unilaterally as “gangster-like”.

The dovish South Korean leader — who has gladly taken on the role of a mediator — will try to close the gap between the US and the North, according to Moon’s chief of staff Im Jong-seok.

“Through various meetings and phone calls, President Moon has a better understanding of what the US is thinking than Chairman Kim,” Im told reporters.

Moon is due to fly to New York later this month to attend the UN General Assembly, where he is expected to meet Trump.

Moon will hold at least two formal meetings with Kim, who may make a rare appearance at the airport to welcome his guests, the chief of staff said.

The South’s president is also scheduled to attend a concert and visit key sites in the North’s capital with his delegation, which includes tycoons Lee Jae-yong — the heir to the Samsung group — and the vice chairman of Hyundai Motor.

Moon has been pushing inter-Korean economic co-operation but several South Korean newspapers urged caution Monday, with the Korea Herald calling the businessmen’s presence on the trip “untimely”.

“It is better to postpone economic projects involving the North until after negotiations to remove its nuclear program make substantial progress,” it said in an editorial.

And investment in the North was “fraught with risks and uncertainty”, it added.

Other issues on Moon’s agenda will be improving inter-Korean ties and easing military tensions on the peninsula. Seoul said this could lay the groundwork for a declaration on the Korean War – implying that such an announcement was unlikely during the trip.

AFP

North, South Korea To Hold Third Summit In September

South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in (L) shaking hands with North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un before their second summit at the north side of the truce village of Panmunjom in the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ)./ AFP

 

The two Koreas opened high-level talks Monday to prepare for a possible summit in Pyongyang between the South’s President Moon Jae-in and the North’s leader Kim Jong Un, as the diplomatic thaw on the peninsula builds.

The exact date and location of what would be their third meeting have yet to be decided, but at their historic first summit in Panmunjom in April they agreed Moon would visit Kim in the North Korean capital during the autumn.

Monday’s high-level talks, taking place on the northern side of the truce village in the Demilitarized Zone, were proposed by the North last week as it lashed out at Washington for pushing ahead with sanctions.

“As the Pyongyang meeting of the leaders of the north and south is being discussed, I think talking about the issue will provide answers to the wishes of the people,” the North’s chief delegate Ri Son Gwon said in his opening statement.

Using a proverb describing a very intimate friend to refer to inter-Korean ties, Ri added: “We have opened an era where we are advancing hand in hand rather than standing in each other’s way.”

Despite the rapprochement, international sanctions against the North for its nuclear and missile programmes have kept economic cooperation between the two Koreas from taking off, while little progress has been made on the key issue of Pyongyang’s denuclearisation.

South Korea’s Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon, leading the delegation from Seoul, said it was important that the two Koreas keep “the same mind”.

“Many issues will be raised (at the meeting), but I think any problem can be resolved with that mindset,” Cho added.

Rapid rapprochement 

The two Koreas have informally agreed the summit will take place in Pyongyang late this month or at the beginning of September, Yonhap News Agency reported Monday, without citing a source.

Cho addressed the possibility of Pyongyang raising the issue of sanctions to the South, and said: “We will explain our position to the North.”

The rapid rapprochement between the two neighbours that began this year paved the way for a landmark meeting between Kim and US President Donald Trump in Singapore in June.

Cross-border exchanges between the two Koreas have significantly increased since then, with the neighbours planning to hold reunions for war-separated families next week for the first time in three years.

But although Trump touted his summit with Kim as a historic breakthrough, the nuclear-armed North has since criticised Washington for its “gangster-like” demands of complete, verifiable and irreversible disarmament.

Meanwhile, the US has urged the international community to maintain tough sanctions on the isolated regime — Seoul has caught three South Korean firms importing coal and iron from the North last year in violation of the measures.

Analysts say Moon could try to act as a mediator between the US and North Korea, having salvaged the Singapore meeting when Trump abruptly cancelled it.

If the third Moon-Kim summit takes place, the two are also expected to focus on hammering out a consensus on officially ending the 1950-53 Korean War, which concluded with an armistice instead of a peace treaty.

AFP