North Korea has named as its new foreign minister a former senior army officer with little experience in dealings with the United States, in a possible indication it will take a harder line with Washington in stalled nuclear negotiations.
The new post for Ri Son Gwon was disclosed Friday in a Korean Central News Agency dispatch that said he attended a reception for foreign diplomats in Pyongyang on Thursday.
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South Korean and other outside media previously reported North Korea had recently informed foreign diplomats in Pyongyang of Ri’s job.
In his speech at the banquet, “Comrade Ri Son Gwon said the Korean people have turned out in the general offensive to break through head-on the barriers to the advance of socialist construction by dint of self-reliance … and made public the foreign policy stand of the (North Korean) government,” KCNA said.
Ri, an outspoken retired army colonel who recently headed a government body responsible for relations with South Korea, has taken part in numerous inter-Korean talks over the past 15 years. But he lacks experience in negotiations with the US.
In South Korea, he is most known for what was seen as rude remarks to South Korean businessmen visiting Pyongyang in September 2018.
While they were eating “naengmyeon”, Korean traditional cold noodles, Ri asked them: “Are naengmyeon going down your throats?” in apparent dissatisfaction with a lack of progress in efforts to promote inter-Korean economic projects. Many conservatives in South Korea strongly criticised him.
Former foreign minister’s whereabouts unknown
Ri replaced Ri Yong Ho, a career diplomat with broad experiences in dealings with the US and South Korea who had taken part in nuclear negotiations with Washington since early 2018.
It was not immediately known what happened to Ri Yong Ho, whose name was last mentioned in KCNA last August.
Analyst Cheong Seong-Chang at South Korea’s private Sejong Institute said Ri Son Gwon’s appointment signalled North Korea would further harden its stance on the US and bolster its push to cement its position as a nuclear state.
It was not immediately known what happened to former Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho, whose name was last mentioned in KCNA last August [File: Jon Chol Jin/AP]
“From now on, it’s difficult to expect meaningful progress in North Korea-U.S. diplomacy,” Cheong said.
Nuclear talks between the US and North Korea have progressed little since the breakdown of the second summit between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Vietnam in February 2019.
Kim recently said North Korea would bolster its nuclear arsenal and unveil a new “strategic weapon” after the US failed to meet a year-end deadline set by him to make concessions.
A senior State Department official told reporters on Wednesday that Washington was aware of Ri Son Gwon’s reported appointment and hopes North Korea will understand the importance of resuming diplomacy.
“There’s nothing to be gained by not talking. It’s only to their benefit, so we encourage them to talk,” the official said on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorised to speak publicly to the matter.
“It is slow, patient, steady diplomacy. We’re going to stick with that plan.”
South Korea faces resurgence of coronavirus outbreak: Live news |NationalTribune.com
Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) warned the country is on brink of nationwide outbreak following the highest daily number of coronavirus cases recorded since March. India has had the highest number of daily new cases in the world for the last 18 days, with over 50,000 new cases every day. More than 23.1 million people…
Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) warned the country is on brink of nationwide outbreak following the highest daily number of coronavirus cases recorded since March.
India has had the highest number of daily new cases in the world for the last 18 days, with over 50,000 new cases every day.
More than 23.1 million people have been diagnosed with COVID-19 around the world, and more than 14.91 million have recovered. At least 804,400 people have died, according to Johns Hopkins University.
Coronavirus is circulating four times more among people under 40 in France than among those over 65, health minister Olivier Veran said as France reported an additional 3,602 new COVID-19 cases.
Here are the latest updates:
Sunday, August 23
12:00 GMT – Sicilian president wants to expel migrants due to COVID-19 risks
The president of Sicily has issued a decree ordering the mass expulsion of asylum seekers from the island because of novel coronavirus contagion risks.
It is unclear how the drastic measure could be implemented, and whether the Sicilian has the authority to issue it. There was no immediate response to the move from the Interior Ministry in Rome.
“Sicily cannot be invaded, while Europe is turning a blind eye and the government is not enacting any pushbacks,” President Nello Musumeci wrote on Sunday on Facebook, publishing his decree which is valid until September 10.
11:35 GMT – Local virus outbreak in Myanmar sparks fears for Rohingya camps
Rohingya in Myanmar’s conflict-wracked Rakhine state expressed fears of a coronavirus outbreak reaching their overcrowded camps, after a spate of infections sent the state capital into lockdown.
Nearly 130,000 Rohingya Muslims live in what Amnesty International describes as “apartheid” conditions in camps around Sittwe.
The city has recorded 48 cases in the past week, making up more than 10 percent of the about 400 cases so far registered in Myanmar.
“We are extremely worried about the virus because we are living in limbo and it won’t be easy to control,” said Rohingya Kyaw Kyaw.
10:32 GMT – Russia plans COVID-19 vaccine output at 6 million doses a month
Russia expects to produce between 1.5 million and 2 million doses per month of its potential COVID-19 vaccine by the year end, gradually ramping up production to 6 million doses a month, the RIA news agency cited industry minister Denis Manturov as saying.
Large-scale testing of the vaccine, developed by Moscow’s Gamaleya institute, is due to start in Russia next week.
10:15 GMT – Philippines’ coronavirus cases rise close to 190,000
The Philippines recorded 2,378 new coronavirus infections, its smallest daily spike in nearly four weeks, but the nationwide tally rose to 189,601, still the highest in Southeast Asia.
In a bulletin, the department of health also reported 32 more fatalities, bringing the country’s death toll to 2,998
09:00 GMT – Italy rules out new lockdown as coronavirus cases rise
The Italian government is not considering new lockdowns to curb coronavirus infections despite a steady rise in new cases over the past month, health minister Roberto Speranza said.
Speranza told daily newspaper La Stampa the current situation cannot be compared with February and March when the disease was out of control and it was difficult to track and isolate infected people.
“I am optimistic, although prudent. Our national health service has become much stronger.”
08:35 GMT – Indonesia reports 2,037 new coronavirus cases
Indonesia has reported 2,037 new coronavirus cases, bringing its tally to 153,535, data from the country’s COVID-19 task force showed.
The Southeast Asian country also added 86 COVID deaths on Sunday, taking the total number of deaths to 6,680 – the highest in Southeast Asia.
07:58 GMT – Bangladesh: Religious secretary infected by coronavirus
Bangladesh’s religious affairs secretary and his wife tested positive for the novel coronavirus, an official said on Sunday.
“Religion Secretary Md Nurul Islam and his wife tested positive for the coronavirus. Both of them are under treatment at the Rajarbagh Police Hospital,” Mohammad Anwar Hossain, a senior information officer at the Ministry of Religious Affairs, said.
According to the directorate-general of health services, the death toll in the country rose to 1,907 and the total number of confirmed cases is 292,625.
06:38 GMT – UK PM Johnson says schools must reopen
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has told allies that “failure to reopen schools is not an option”, the Sunday Telegraph newspaper reported.
Earlier this month, Johnson said reopening schools in September was a social, economic and moral imperative, insisting schools would be able to operate safely despite the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Sunday Times reported this month that Johnson had ordered a public relations campaign to ensure schools open on time.
05:40 GMT – India surpasses 3 million COVID-19 cases
India’s coronavirus tally crossed the 3 million case mark, the country’s health ministry said, just 16 days after the number of cases surpassed 2 million.
An update released by the health ministry showed the death toll stands at 56,706. In the last 24 hours, the country recorded close to 70,000 new cases.
Ministry figures show the western state of Maharashtra reported the highest number of cases in the country.
Read more here.
Hello, this is Linah Alsaafin taking over from my colleague Ted Regencia.
04:45 GMT – Germany reports 782 new cases
Germany’s Robert Koch Institute has reported at least 782 new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday, bringing the country’s total to at least 232,864.
The country also reported two more deaths, bringing the total fatalities to 9,269.
At least 207,600 patients have recovered, which is equivalent to an 89-percent recovery rate.
04:30 GMT- Australia’s Victoria reports another 208 infections
Australia’s state of Victoria reported another 208 new cases and 17 new deaths on Sunday.
Australia now has a total tally of more than 24,800 infections and 502 deaths.
But Victoria’s top health official, Peter Sutton, made an assurance that overall the situation remains positive, and that if the trend continues, he expects the daily numbers to drop below 150 next week.
04:05 GMT – Italy links surge in new cases to vacationers from Sardinia
Confirmed cases increased from 947 on Friday to 1,071 on Saturday, with many infections confirmed in travellers who were tested as they disembarked from planes or ferries [Claudio Furlan/LaPresse via AP]
Vacationers returning to the Italian mainland from Sardinia helped push Italy’s daily caseload from 947 on Friday to 1,071 on Saturday, with many infections confirmed in travellers who were tested as they disembarked from aeroplanes or ferries.
Authorities in Lazio, the south-central region including Rome, say 45 percent of its 215 new cases Saturday were from people returning from Sardinia, where several clusters have been linked to discos or private parties on the posh Emerald Coast resort area.
While the average age of infection early in the outbreak hovered near 70, it is now 30.
Italy has more than 258,000 confirmed cases. With three more deaths, the known total has reached 35,400.
03:40 GMT – China reports 12 new cases
China’s National Health Commission reported on Sunday at least 12 new confirmed coronavirus cases, bringing to over 89,600 the total number of infections.
The agency also said the death toll since the outbreak started in the city of Wuhan stands at 4,634 with no new deaths.
According to the government, 422 patients remain in the hospital, 16 in critical condition.
02:15 GMT – South Korea reports highest daily cases since March
Health authorities said many of the new cases were traced to a church in northern Seoul and a massive weekend rally also in the capital [Ahn Young-joon/AP]
South Korea’s daily new virus cases spiked to 397 on Sunday – the highest since March 7- as infections were reported in all major cities and provinces, according to Yonhap news agency quoting the health ministry. The country’s total caseload has risen to 17,399 while the number of deaths remained at 309.
Of the new cases, 387 were local infections, 297 of them in Seoul and the surrounding areas, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC).
Health authorities said many of the new cases were traced to a church in northern Seoul and a massive weekend rally also in the capital.
01:58 GMT – Mexico’s coronavirus deaths pass 60,000, cases top 550,000
Mexico’s coronavirus death toll has surpassed 60,000 after the country’s health ministry reported 644 additional fatalities.
The government also said there were 6,482 new confirmed infections as of the end of Saturday, bringing the total to 556,216 cases.
00:20 GMT – Coronavirus spreading four times more among 40-year-olds in France
The coronavirus is circulating four times more among people under 40 in France than among those over 65, Reuters quoted France’s health minister as saying.
Olivier Veran said in an interview with France’s Journal Du Dimanche (JDD) that the higher number of cases being detected was not solely down to more testing. Like President Emmanuel Macron, he ruled out the need for another total lockdown but said localised measures could be taken as cases grow.
France reported a 3,602 new infections over the past 24 hours on Saturday, a smaller rise than the previous day. Earlier in the week, however, the number of daily cases had reached a post-lockdown high.
00:01 GMT – Brazil registers 50,032 new cases of coronavirus, 892 deaths in 24 hours
Brazil has reported 50,032 new cases of the novel coronavirus and 892 deaths in the past 24 hours, according to Reuters, citing the health ministry.
Brazil has registered 3,582,362 cases of the virus since the pandemic began, while the official death toll from COVID-19 has risen to 114,250, according to ministry data from the world’s worst coronavirus outbreak outside the US.
Hello and welcome to Al Jazeera’s continuing coverage of the coronavirus pandemic. I’m Ted Regencia in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
For all the key developments from Saturday, August 22, go here.
South Korea floods, landslides kill dozens and displace thousands |NationalTribune.com
At least 30 people have died and 12 remain missing after 46 days of heavy rains in South Korea, with the country’s longest monsoon in seven years causing more flooding, landslides and evacuations on Sunday. Close to 6,000 people had also been evacuated as of Sunday, according to the country’s Yonhap news agency, as rains…
At least 30 people have died and 12 remain missing after 46 days of heavy rains in South Korea, with the country’s longest monsoon in seven years causing more flooding, landslides and evacuations on Sunday.
Close to 6,000 people had also been evacuated as of Sunday, according to the country’s Yonhap news agency, as rains battered the southern part of the Korean peninsula.
Yonhap also quoted the Central Disaster and Safety Countermeasure Headquarters as saying that at least eight people have been injured in the disaster.
The death toll did not include the casualties from three capsized vessels at Uiam Dam in Chuncheon, 85 kilometers east of Seoul, which left three dead and three missing on Sunday. It was categorized as a marine accident.
More than 5,900 people from 11 provinces and cities left their homes, and some 4,600 of them remain at temporary shelters following warnings of disasters, according to Yonhap.
An estimated 9,300 hectares (22,980 acres) of farmland were swamped or buried, while 9,500 cases of damage to public and private facilities were reported.
Flash floods, mudslides kill 13 people in South Korea
According to Reuters news agency, about 100 metres (109.36 yards) of levee also collapsed at the Seomjin River in the southern edge of the peninsula on Saturday and flooded the area, with about 1,900 people evacuated in the province including about 500 from around the river.
The country’s forestry agency has raised landslide warnings to its highest level in every region except the holiday island of Jeju.
Five homes were buried in a landslide on Friday from a mountain behind a village in Gokseong, South Jeolla province, killing five people. Three people have been rescued.
Twelve local flights were cancelled at the regional Gwangju airport near the southwestern tip of the peninsula after the runway was flooded, according to Yonhap news agency.
The city of Seoul warned people to stay away from basements, valleys and rivers as further torrential rains were expected on Saturday night.
South Korea’s longest monsoon on record was 49 days in 2013. Current weather forecasts predict that this year’s monsoon may last longer.
Typhoon Jangmi, the season’s fifth typhoon, is expected to hit the southern region of the Korean Peninsula from Monday, bringing about more rain in the flood-hit areas.
Formed early Sunday southwest of Okinawa, the typhoon is moving northeast and expected to pass waters off Jeju Island mid-morning on Monday, according to the Korean Meteorological Administration (KMA).
In neighbouring North Korea, state media Korean Central Broadcasting also warned of additional heavy rains in areas already hit by floods, according to Yonhap.
Following leader Kim Jong Un’s flood relief inspection reported on Friday, KCNA said on Saturday that Pak Pong Ju, vice-chairman of the state’s highest decision-making commission, inspected damage to submerged fields and crops in southwest regions of the country.
North Korea ‘Christmas gift’ may become ‘October surprise,’ experts fear
North Korea last year threatened to shock the world with an unpleasant “Christmas gift” after nuclear talks broke down with the Trump administration over the North’s covert nuclear programs. Although the Christmas season came and went without a long-range missile test or fresh nuclear detonation by Pyongyang, national security sources worry that the Christmas gift…
North Korea last year threatened to shock the world with an unpleasant “Christmas gift” after nuclear talks broke down with the Trump administration over the North’s covert nuclear programs.
Although the Christmas season came and went without a long-range missile test or fresh nuclear detonation by Pyongyang, national security sources worry that the Christmas gift may become an “October surprise” engineered by North Koreans to capitalize on the rare moment presented by the impending U.S. presidential election.
But analysts are divided on whether North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s regime will seek to project power violently or surprise everyone by engaging in sudden diplomatic overtures — or perhaps do both with the ultimate goal of tempting Mr. Trump into a third face-to-face summit.
The potential for escalation by the North this year is real, said former CIA Korea official and Heritage Foundation expert Bruce Klingner. He said the Kim regime may be poised to “raise tensions” with an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) or nuclear test that would cross a “red line” Mr. Trump set two years ago.
Because the Trump administration has largely ignored Pyongyang’s short-range missile tests over the past 18 months, Mr. Klingner said, the Kim regime “could think, ‘Well, anything less than an ICBM or nuke Trump may just dismiss and therefore we don’t get any leverage from it, so perhaps we have to cross the red line to get that leverage.’”
“If that happens, who knows what the U.S. response would be?” Mr. Klingner told The Washington Times. “Would we be back to ‘fire and fury?’” he asked, referring to Mr. Trump’s threat in 2017, at the height of pre-nuclear talk tensions, to respond with overwhelming force if Pyongyang did not call off aggressive provocations.
“We just don’t know,” said Mr. Klingner, adding that there could be “two October surprises coming.”
“It could be that North Korea raises tensions and that leads to the impetus for diplomatic discussion, and then that could suddenly lead to another summit with Trump,” he said. “So an October surprise is not an either-or paradigm. It could sequential.”
Some are speculating that Mr. Trump may be seek a pre-election surprise to capitalize on his precedent-shattering meetings with Mr. Kim and burnish his foreign policy credentials with U.S. voters.
Former National Security Adviser John R. Bolton, in his tell-all memoir about his time in the White House, said Mr. Trump has flirted with the idea of trying to bolster his image as a historic dealmaker by embracing a last-minute summit with Mr. Kim ahead of the November election.
The question, said Scott Snyder, who heads the program on U.S.-Korea policy at the Council on Foreign Relations, centers on whether the North Koreans will seek to exploit Mr. Trump’s eagerness to extract concessions in exchange for an agreement to another summit, which would come with risks to both sides.
Although Kim Jong-un’s increasingly outspoken sister, Kim Yo-jong, and key nuclear negotiator Choe Son-hui have sharply dismissed the notion of another Trump-Kim summit, Mr. Snyder said in an interview that Pyongyang is keeping “the door open a crack in case Trump wants to leave a gift on the front porch.”
“Kim Yo-jong, specifically, has indicated that a North Korea-U.S. meeting doesn’t look like a good idea to her because Trump could get something out of it politically while North Korea would be left empty-handed,” Mr. Snyder said. “It’s the regime’s way of saying to Trump that if he wants a deal, he’s got to pay. He’s got to bring something with him.”
Analysts generally agree that the North Koreans are seeking the removal of key U.S. sanctions on their economy while preserving at least part of their nuclear deterrent, long seen as critical to the isolated regime’s survival.
The North has been refining its goals and strategies since the public breakdown of the February 2019 Hanoi summit. Mr. Trump said he walked away from that meeting early because Mr. Kim demanded sweeping sanctions relief in exchange for only a limited commitment to destroy part of his nuclear arsenal.
More dovish North Korea analysts have advocated for some form of U.S. concession to create an opening for what might later grow into a wider deal with Pyongyang that ultimately removes the nuclear and ballistic missile capabilities that the Kim regime has clandestinely built up over decades in violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions.
But many in the U.S. national security establishment, especially hawkish advisers to the Trump administration, insist that North Korea must begin delivering on complete, verifiable, irreversible denuclearization before Washington eases sanctions.
The period since Hanoi has been marked by on-again, off-again provocations from Pyongyang, including months of short-range missile launch tests that the Trump administration has largely ignored. Mr. Trump has repeatedly pointed out that, despite the tests, the Kim regime has held to a promise he said Mr. Kim made an the first summit between the two men in June 2018 in Singapore not to carry out any new ICBM or nuclear tests.
In addition to the two high-profile Singapore and Hanoi summits, Mr. Trump and Mr. Kim had a brief photo opportunity at the Korean Demilitarization Zone in June 2018, although it did not result in any meaningful restarting of nuclear talks. Negotiations have been stalled at the “working level,” between teams of lower-level officials, for more than a year.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in, long a supporter of detente on the divided and heavily armed Korean Peninsula, has pushed to reopen the dialogue, but North Korea’s response has been cold. Mr. Trump’s top nuclear negotiator visited Seoul in early July to discuss ways to break the stalemate with Pyongyang, even as North Korean state media ridiculed the idea of restarting talks.
As Deputy Secretary of State Stephen E. Biegun was arriving in the South Korean capital, the Kim regime slammed the Moon administration’s calls for renewed dialogue as “nonsensical” and asserted that Seoul had become irrelevant in the peace process.
Mr. Biegun was undeterred. He met with South Korean officials and later with Japanese officials to discuss ways to maintain a united front in the push for a “final, fully verified denuclearization” of North Korea. Still, analysts say, the Kim regime is focused on staying a step ahead of such efforts.
Mr. Snyder told The Times that talk of an “October surprise” may end up being just talk and that Pyongyang, like much of the rest of the world, is awaiting the outcome of the American vote this fall.
“I personally think the North Koreans have been primarily preparing for a re-engagement in spring 2021, by which time they would present themselves as an entrenched nuclear state and the goal of their engagement would be to have a new U.S. administration accept North Korea’s status as an entrenched nuclear state,” he said.
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