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Posts tagged ‘Poilace Vivid’

N. Korea puts reunion of war separated families in doubt

July 20, 2018

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea said Friday that an August reunion of Korean families separated by war may not happen if South Korea doesn’t immediately return some of its citizens who arrived in the South in recent years.

The 2016 arrival of a group of 12 female employees from a North Korean-run restaurant in China has been a source of contention between the rival Koreas. North Korea has accused South Korea of kidnapping them, while South Korea says they decided to resettle on their own will.

North Korea has often used the women as a reason to rebuff South Korea’s repeated request to allow elderly citizens split during the 1950-53 Korean War to reunite with each other briefly. But Friday’s statement is the North’s first attempt to link the fate of the women to the August reunion and comes amid worries that a global diplomacy to push the North to give up its nuclear weapons is making little headway after a detente of the past several months.

The North’s state-run Uriminzokkiri website said that the reunion and overall inter-Korean ties will face “obstacles” if Seoul doesn’t send back the women. Seoul’s Unification Ministry said it has no comment on the Uriminzokkiri dispatch.

There has been mounting speculation that some of the 12 North Korean women might have been truly duped into coming to South Korea. After meeting some of the women earlier this month, Tomas Ojea Quintana, the United Nations’ independent investigator on human rights in North Korea, told reporters in Seoul that they told him they did not know they were heading to South Korea when they departed China.

“Some of them, they were taken to the Republic of Korea without knowing that they were coming here,” Quintana said, referring to South Korea by its formal name. “If they were taken against their will, that may (be) considered a crime. It is the duty and responsibility of the government of the Republic of Korea to investigate.”

South Korean media had earlier carried a similar report, citing interviews with some of the women and their North Korean male manager who came to South Korea with them. The women’s arrival happened when South Korea was governed by a conservative government, which took a tough stance on the North’s nuclear program. South Korea’s current liberal President Moon Jae-in wants to expand ties with North Korea, but repatriating any of the women would be a delicate matter, with many experts saying relatives of those who decide to stay in the South will certainly face reprisals by the North Korean government.

Since the end of the Korean War, both Koreas have banned ordinary citizens from visiting relatives on the other side of the border or contacting them without permission. Nearly 20,000 Koreans had participated in 20 rounds of face-to-face reunions since 2000. The last reunion was held in 2015.

According to Seoul’s Unification Ministry, more than 75,000 of the 132,000 South Koreans who have applied to attend a reunion have died. None of the past participants has had a second reunion. South Korea uses a computerized lottery to pick participants for the reunions, while North Korea is believed to choose them based on loyalty to its authoritarian leadership. While the South wants more reunions, analysts say North Korea allows only infrequent meetings for the fear of wasting what it sees as an important diplomatic bargaining chip. The North’s government may also worry about increasing North Koreans’ awareness of the outside world.

Associated Press writer Kim Tong-hyung contributed to this report.

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Jordan, Israel, Palestinians in rare Japan-hosted meeting

April 30, 2018

AMMAN, Jordan (AP) — The Japanese foreign minister has presided over a rare meeting of Israeli, Palestinian and Jordanian officials to push ahead with an agro-industrial park intended to enhance cross-border trade and cooperation.

Taro Kono, the Japanese minister, acknowledged late Sunday that it “has not been easy for the four parties to get together under current circumstances.” Israel and Jordan only recently patched up relations after a months-long diplomatic crisis. Officials from Israel and the Palestinian self-rule government in the West Bank meet only intermittently because of ongoing deadlock in peace efforts.

Sunday’s meeting focused on the Japan-backed Jericho Agro-Industrial Park in the West Bank, near an Israeli-controlled border with Jordan. Twelve companies operate at the park, launched more than a decade ago. Kono says he hopes more will join, including Japanese firms.

Japan, EU to sign trade deal eliminating nearly all tariffs

July 17, 2018

TOKYO (AP) — The European Union and Japan are signing a widespread trade deal Tuesday that will eliminate nearly all tariffs, seemingly defying the worries about trade tensions set off by President Donald Trump’s policies.

The signing in Tokyo for the deal, largely reached late last year, is ceremonial. It was delayed from earlier this month because Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe canceled going to Brussels over a disaster in southwestern Japan, caused by extremely heavy rainfall. More than 200 people died from flooding and landslides.

European Council President Donald Tusk and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, who arrived Monday, will also attend a gala dinner at the prime minister’s official residence. Both sides are heralding the deal, which covers a third of the global economy and more than 600 million people.

Prices of European wine and pork will fall for Japanese consumers. Japanese machinery parts, tea and fish will get cheaper for Europe. The deal eliminates about 99 percent of the tariffs on Japanese goods to the EU, but remaining at around 94 percent for European imports into Japan for now and rising to 99 percent over the years. The difference is due to exceptions such as rice, a product that’s culturally and politically sensitive and has been protected for decades in Japan.

The major step toward liberalizing trade was discussed in talks since 2013 but is striking in the timing of the signing, as China and the U.S. are embroiled in trade conflicts. The U.S. is proposing 10 percent tariffs on a $200 billion list of Chinese goods. That follows an earlier move by Washington to impose 25 percent tariffs on $34 billion of Chinese goods. Beijing has responded by imposing identical penalties on a similar amount of American imports.

Besides the latest deal with the EU, Japan is working on other trade agreements, including a far-reaching trans-Pacific deal. The partnership includes Australia, Mexico, Vietnam and other nations, although the U.S. has withdrawn.

Japan praised the deal with the EU as coming from Abe’s “Abenomics” policies, designed to wrest the economy out of stagnation despite a shrinking population and cautious spending. Japan’s growth continues to be heavily dependent on exports.

By strengthening ties with the EU, Japan hopes to vitalize mutual direct investment, fight other global trends toward protectionism and enhance the stature of Japanese brands, the foreign ministry said in a statement.

The EU said the trade liberalization will lead to the region’s export growth in chemicals, clothing, cosmetics and beer to Japan, leading to job security for Europe. Japanese will get cheaper cheese, such as Parmesan, gouda and cheddar, as well as chocolate and biscuits.

Japanese consumers have historically coveted European products, and a drop in prices is likely to boost spending.

Death toll climbs to 76 as heavy rains hammer southern Japan

July 08, 2018

HIROSHIMA, Japan (AP) — Searches continued Sunday night for victims of heavy rainfall that hammered southern Japan for the third straight day, as the government put the death toll at 48, with 28 others presumed dead.

Japanese government spokesman Yoshihide Suga said the whereabouts of 92 other people were unknown, mostly in the southern area of Hiroshima prefecture. More than 100 reports of casualties had been received, such as cars being swept away, he said. Some 40 helicopters were out on rescue missions.

“Rescue efforts are a battle with time,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told reporters. “The rescue teams are doing their utmost.” The Japan Meteorological Agency said three hours of rainfall in one area in Kochi prefecture reached an accumulated 26.3 centimeters (10.4 inches), the highest since such records started in 1976.

The assessment of casualties has been difficult because of the widespread area affected by the rainfall, flooding and landslides. Authorities warned that landslides could strike even after rain subsides as the calamity shaped up to be potentially the worst in decades.

In Hiroshima prefecture, water streamed through a residential area, strewn with fallen telephone poles, uprooted trees and mud. Some homes were smashed. A woman who was reported as missing after getting trapped in her car was found but was pronounced dead, Kyodo news service reported. In another area in Hiroshima, 12 people went missing when a residential area got sucked into a landslide, and one body was later found.

Kochi prefecture, on Shikoku, issued landslide warnings almost over the entire island. Public broadcaster NHK TV showed overturned cars on roads covered with mud. A convenience store worker, who had fled to a nearby rooftop, said water had reached as high as his head.

The Japanese government set up an emergency office, designed for crises such as major earthquakes. Military paddle boats were also being used to take people to dry land. Okayama prefecture said in a statement that four people had died, eight others were missing and 11 were injured, at least one of them seriously. Seven homes were destroyed, dozens more were damaged, while more than 570 were flooded.

Kyodo reported several deaths in a landslide in Hiroshima and more bodies were retrieved from collapsed housing in the ancient capital of Kyoto, both areas where the rainfall was heavy in the past few days.

Throughout the hard-hit areas, rivers swelled and parked cars sat in pools of water. Japan has sent troops, firefighters, police and other disaster relief. People have also taken to social media to plead for help.

China sentences veteran rights activist to 13 years’ prison

July 11, 2018

BEIJING (AP) — China on Wednesday sentenced a veteran pro-democracy campaigner to 13 years in prison on vaguely defined subversion charges, one day after releasing the widow of a Nobel Peace Prize laureate after eight years of house arrest.

The People’s Intermediate Court in the central city of Wuhan announced the sentencing of Qin Yongmin, whose activism dates back four decades, on its official website Wednesday. No further details were given and it was not immediately clear who was representing Qin in court.

On Tuesday, authorities allowed Liu Xia, wife of the late Nobel Prize winner Liu Xiaobo, to depart for Germany in response to what the Chinese Foreign Ministry called her own request to receive medical treatment. Liu had been held under house arrest since late 2010.

Coming during a visit by China’s Premier Li Keqiang to Germany, Liu’s release heartened foreign governments and human rights campaigners who point out that she had never been charged with or convicted of any crime.

Qin’s sentencing, however, underscores China’s hard line against anyone challenging the ruling Communist Party, which under leader Xi Jinping has launched the most sweeping crackdown on civil rights in years.

Having already spent more than two decades in detention, Qin was arrested most recently in 2015 but not tried until May this year. The 64-year-old became active in the pro-democracy movement in the late 1970s during a time of political opening, and was arrested for the first time in 1981 in the ensuing Communist Party crackdown on dissent, according to the group Chinese Human Rights Defenders.

Reached by phone, Qin’s former lawyer, Ma Lianshun, called the ruling “completely illegal” and a violation of the constitution’s guarantee of the right to free speech. He said the charges appeared to relate to writings Qin had posted online and published outside China.

“It is not a criminal activity. He was discussing the road that China can take and the corresponding methodology, which is within the boundary of his right to speech,” Ma said. Ma said his firm ceased representing Qin on July 10, 2017, due to the sensitivity of his case. A 3-year-long campaign against legal activists that landed scores in detention has frightened many lawyers from taking on such causes.

His sentence is “a reminder that Xi Jinping’s brutal crackdown on human rights continues,” said Frances Eve, a researcher with Chinese Human Rights Defenders. Authorities denied Qin a fair trial, Eve said, proceeding with a hearing in May despite the man’s poor health.

“The litany of abuses in his case, ranging from enforced disappearance, prolonged pre-trial detention, collective punishment of his wife, ill-treatment, and denied due process rights reinforces that there is still no rule of law in China,” Eve said.

Qin’s sentence also comes just a day after the EU and China concluded a human rights dialogue. In a statement sent Wednesday, the EU said that during the two-day talks, it emphasized the “deteriorating situation of civil and political rights in China, which has been accompanied by the detention and conviction of a significant number of Chinese human rights defenders.”

Also Wednesday, the independent Unirule Institute of Economics said on Twitter that it was being evicted from its offices in Beijing despite holding a lease on the location until 2020. People associated with the think tank declined to comment or could not be reached, but last month it issued a report saying that state-run enterprises in China were unprofitable despite massive government support.

Unirule has also championed freedom of expression and due process and conducted symposiums on sensitive subjects such as the Chinese civil war that brought the communists to power in 1949. “Never before has Unirule been so alone in its fight for liberty in China, and the rule of law so jeopardized by the authorities that ordered such heinous act,” the tweet said.

Koreas agree to improve North’s railways, but work must wait

June 27, 2018

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — The rival Koreas have agreed to jointly study ways to improve North Korea’s outdated railways and link them with the South, as they continued to take conciliatory steps amid global efforts to resolve the standoff over the North’s nuclear weapons.

North Korea’s state media on Wednesday acknowledged inter-Korean discussions on “issues arising in reconnecting, updating and using the railways on the east and west coasts,” but did not describe that South Korea would be sending officials and experts to examine the country’s aging rail system.

The agreement Tuesday to start joint inspections of North Korea’s railways on July 24 was apparently as far as the rivals could go at the moment. The vows to upgrade the North’s railways and roads will remain purely aspirational until international sanctions against North Korea are lifted and the South is freed to take material steps.

The talks at the border village of Panmunjom were the latest to discuss ways to carry out peace commitments made by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in. During their April 27 summit, when they issued a vague commitment to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula, Kim and Moon expressed a desire to modernize North Korea’s railways and roads and reconnect them with the South. The Koreas are to hold another meeting on Thursday to discuss roads.

South Korean officials say better transport would greatly improve North Korea’s economy by facilitating trade and tourism. It may also provide the South with cheaper ways to move goods in and out of China and Russia. However, some experts say updating North Korean trains, which creak slowly along rails that were first laid in the early 20th century, would require a massive effort that could take decades and tens of billions of dollars. It might be impossible to embark on such projects unless North Korea denuclearizes, which isn’t a sure thing.

Here’s a look at the railways the Koreas hope to connect:

THE WEST SIDE

In their summit, Kim and Moon called for “practical steps” toward the “connection and modernization” of railways and roads between South Korea’s capital, Seoul, and North Korea’s Sinuiju, a port town on its border with China, and also along the peninsula’s “eastern transportation corridor.”

During the meeting on April 27, Kim went against the grain of North Korean propaganda by describing the country’s transport conditions as poor and praising South Korea’s bullet train system, clearly communicating an eagerness to improve his country’s rail networks, according to comments provided by South Korea’s presidential office.

In Tuesday’s meeting, the Koreas agreed to start inspections of the North Korean portion of a railway that once connected Seoul and Sinuiju before moving on to railways in the eastern region.

Japan completed a 499-kilometer (310-mile) railway line connecting Seoul and Sinuiju in 1906, mainly to move soldiers and military supplies, before it annexed the peninsula in 1910. The Gyeongui line was separated in 1945 at the end of World War II, when the peninsula was liberated from Japanese colonial rule but also divided between a U.S.-controlled southern side and a Soviet-controlled north. The peninsula remains in a technical state of war after the 1950-53 Korean War ended in an armistice, not a peace treaty.

The Gyeongui line was temporarily reconnected during a previous era of rapprochement between the rivals in the 2000s. The Koreas in December 2007 began freight services between South Korea’s Munsan Station in Paju and North Korea’s Pongdong Station, which is near the border town of Kaesong. The South used the trains to move construction materials northbound, while clothing and shoes manufactured from a factory park jointly operated by the Koreas in Kaesong were sent southbound.

The line was cut again in November 2008 due to political tensions over North Korea’s nuclear program and the hard-line policies of a new conservative government in Seoul.

THE EAST SIDE

Japan during its colonial rule completed a 193-kilometer (120-mile) rail line between North Korea’s Anbyon county and South Korea’s Yangyang along the peninsula’s eastern coast in 1937. The Koreas temporarily reconnected the cross-border part of the line between 2007 and 2008 to move South Korean tourists in and out of the North’s scenic Diamond Mountain resort. However, the project never advanced beyond a trial run before South Korea pulled out in June 2008 amid worsening ties.

South Korea has ambitions to significantly extend the eastern “Donghae” line so that it connects its southernmost port of Busan with North Korea’s northernmost industrial cities of Chongjin and Rajin. Seoul hopes the line will eventually link South Korea with Russia and the trans-Siberian railway. South Korea also hopes to eventually reopen a railway between Seoul and North Korea’s eastern coastal town of Wonsan which ran through the middle of the peninsula.

Koreas discuss removing North’s artillery from tense border

June 25, 2018

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — The rival Koreas are discussing the possible relocation of North Korea’s long-range artillery systems away from the tense Korean border, the South’s prime minister said Monday, as the countries forge ahead with steps to lower tensions and extend a recent detente.

North Korea has deployed an estimated 1,000 artillery pieces along the border, posing a significant threat to Seoul and the metropolitan area. In a speech marking the 68th anniversary of the outbreak of the 1950-53 Korean War, Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon said that “moving (North Korea’s) long-range artillery to the rear is under discussion,” as he explained what types of good-will steps between the sides have been taken in recent months.

Lee’s comments appear to be Seoul’s first official confirmation of media reports that South Korea demanded that the North reposition its forward-deployed artillery pieces during inter-Korean military talks this month. Seoul’s Defense Ministry, which has denied those reports, said it had no immediate comment on Lee’s speech.

A 2016 South Korean defense white paper described the North’s long-range artillery as one of the country’s biggest threats, along with its nuclear and missile programs. Seoul, a capital city with 10 million people, is about 40-50 kilometers (25-30 miles) from the border.

South Korean media speculated that during the June 14 military talks, the North likely demanded that South Korea and the United States withdraw their own artillery systems from the border as a reciprocal measure. About 28,500 U.S. soldiers are deployed in South Korea.

Also Monday, military officers from the two Koreas met to discuss how to fully restore their military hotline communication channels, according to the South’s Defense Ministry. The results of the talks were expected later Monday.

The talks came a day after Seoul said it would “indefinitely suspend” two small-scale annual military drills with the United States. The drills involving marines from the allies were supposed to occur from July to September, according to a statement from South Korea’s Defense Ministry. It said South Korea is willing to take unspecified additional measures if North Korea is continuously engaged in “productive” negotiations.

Last week, South Korea and the United States announced the suspension of their larger, annual military exercises called the Ulchi Freedom Guardian, part of their efforts to increase the chances of successful nuclear diplomacy with North Korea. Some experts say the drills’ suspension could weaken the allies’ combined defense posture against North Korea.

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