China’s Xi and India’s Modi to hold summit this week amid strains

Visitors stand beside the granite boulder 'Krishna's Butterball' at Mahabalipuram. (AFP/File)
Updated 07 October 2019

China’s Xi and India’s Modi to hold summit this week amid strains

  • Indian media reports said Xi and Modi will visit Mamallapuram’s attractions
  • Beijing singled out India’s decision to create a separate administrative territory in Ladakh

NEW DELHI: India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi and China’s President Xi Jinping will hold an informal summit in southern India on Friday, officials said, amid strains in their relationship.
The meeting follows months of niggling between the world’s two most populous nations over trade, border disputes, and their respective diplomatic moves.
India’s foreign ministry has not formally announced the meeting in the Tamil Nadu town of Mamallapuram, known for its historic temples and architecture.
But it has opened media registration for a “second India-China informal summit,” and Chinese officials have been scouting out the seaside town for several weeks.
Indian media reports said Xi and Modi will visit Mamallapuram’s attractions on the follow up to their first informal summit in Wuhan, China, in April last year.
That meeting followed an intense high-altitude stand-off at a disputed border post in the Himalayas.
Xi is expected to leave Saturday, as Nepalese media have said he will visit Katmandu this weekend on his way back from the India talks.
The historic rivalry between India and China has been strained in recent months after Beijing criticized New Delhi’s decision to revoke autonomy in Kashmir, the Himalayan region also claimed by Pakistan.
Beijing singled out India’s decision to create a separate administrative territory in Ladakh, a Buddhist-dominated part of Kashmir, as part of the change.
China also claims parts of the Ladakh region, perched on a steep Himalayan border with China’s restive Xinjiang to its north and Tibet to the east.
“India has continued to undermine China’s territorial sovereignty by unilaterally changing its domestic law,” China’s foreign ministry said in August.
India too claims part of Ladakh region under Chinese control.
India has also objected to Beijing’s Belt and Road initiative, a global infrastructure program that includes a major project through Pakistan-administered Kashmir, a territory claimed by New Delhi.
The two went to war in 1962 over Arunachal Pradesh state in northeast India, where China claims about 90,000 square kilometers (35,000 square miles) of the territory, next to Tibet.
Trade is another sore point in the relationship.
India recently raised the issue of its rising trade deficit of about $55 billion, according to some reports, and pressed China for better market access for Indian companies.
Xi, in turn, can be expected to press Modi to open Indian markets to Huawei’s 5G telecom systems amidst global debate on security concerns.
The United States is blocking Huawei and encouraging its allies to do the same because of the company’s links to the Beijing government.

North Korea’s Kim sparks fresh tension with south

Updated 24 October 2019

North Korea’s Kim sparks fresh tension with south

SEOUL: North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has ordered the removal of South Korean-built facilities at the Mt. Kumgang resort — a rare example of inter-Korean cooperation — calling the buildings “shabby,” the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), North Korea’s official news source, said on Wednesday.

Kim’s remarks will likely further test the strained relations between North and South Korea, in tandem with the stalemate over denuclearization talks between Pyongyang and Washington.

“The mountain was left uncared for more than 10 years to leave a flaw, and the land is worthy of better,” Kim said. He made the comments during his inspection of the tourist spot on the east coast of North Korea.

The young dictator has ordered modern service facilities to be built in place of the “unpleasant-looking” ones constructed by the South, the agency said.

Kim even criticized his late father’s policy of depending on the South for the mountain resort, calling it a “mistaken idea.”

“Mt. Kumgang is our land won at the cost of blood and even a cliff and a tree on it are associated with our sovereignty and dignity,” he said. 

He also ordered plans to be drawn up for the development of surrounding regions as part of a master development plan for the scenic tourism resort.

He left the door open to South Koreans’ visit to the site, but stressed the North should take the lead on any tour program.

Mt. Kumgang resort opened in 1998 and was a symbol of inter-Korean reconciliation following the first cross-border summit in Pyongyang between then-South Korean President Kim Dae-jung and his North Korean counterpart Kim Jong-il. The two leaders agreed to operate a joint economic zone in Kaeseong, just north of the demilitarized zone.

The inter-Korean projects saw millions of dollars channeled every year to the North Korean regime, which was desperate for cash in order to develop a nuclear arsenal.

However, the tourist resort has been closed since 2008, when a South Korean female tourist was shot dead by a North Korean guard.

A series of North Korean provocations, including a 2010 attack on South Korea’s Yeonpyeong Island and the regime’s nuclear tests, have hampered the resumption of the cross-border projects.

Since Moon Jae-in became president of South Korea in 2017, his administration have placed a high priority on relations with the North. At a summit in September 2018, Moon and Kim pledged that inter-Korean business projects would restart.

The Seoul government asked the US to lift sanctions partially so that such projects — including the Mt. Kumgang resort — could be resumed, but Washington opposed the move, worrying that it would undermine the US-led international economic sanctions focused on tightening the North’s purse strings.

“This isn’t the right time, but at the right time I’d have great support,” US President Donald Trump said in April when asked about restarting tours to Mt. Kumgamg.

Observers believe Kim’s order to raze the South Korean facilities at the resort is a warning to the US that it should relax sanctions against his regime.

“This is a strong message to the US that the tourism project should be excluded from sanctions,” veteran lawmaker Rep. Park Jie-won, a four-term lawmaker who had served as chief secretary to late President Kim Dae-jung, said in a radio interview.

Park said Kim’s remarks could be related to some under-the-table trade deals with the US, citing President Trump’s recent comments on North Korea.

On Monday, Trump mentioned some potential trade deals with North Korea.

“Whether it’s North Korea, South Korea… probably, something is going to be happening with North Korea too,” he said. “There’s some very interesting information on North Korea. A lot of things are going on. And that’s going to be a major rebuild at a certain point.”

Seoul’s Unification Ministry, in charge of the South’s relationship with the North, responded cautiously to the North Korean leader’s remarks.

“We’re examining the intentions and authenticity of the remarks,” ministry spokesman Lee Sang-min told reporters. “If there’s any request from the North, we’re always willing to discuss the matter based on our citizens’ property rights, the spirit of inter-Korean agreements, and efforts to facilitate the resumption of the Mt. Kumgang tourism.”

Hyundai Asan, the main operator of the Mt. Kumgang tourist site, was baffled by the North’s intention to remove its facilities, in which hundreds of millions of dollars were invested, and which include hotels, a culture center, a family reunion hall, a golf resort and more.

“We will calmly address the latest issue and seek contact with the North via the inter-Korean liaison office if necessary,” the company said in a statement.