Xi, Modi to hold second informal summit

Commuters drive past a welcoming board for China’s President Xi Jinping in Chennai on Wednesday. (AFP)
Updated 09 October 2019

Xi, Modi to hold second informal summit

  • The meeting will take place in Mamallapuram, a temple town located along the Bay of Bengal near Chennai

NEW DELHI: New Delhi and Beijing announced on Wednesday that Chinese President Xi Jinping would pay a two-day visit to India on Friday to hold a second informal summit with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, over a year after they first met in Wuhan.

The meeting will take place in Mamallapuram, a temple town located along the Bay of Bengal near Chennai, the capital of the south Indian state of Tamil Nadu.

According to the plan, the Chinese leader will land in Chennai on Friday afternoon and meet Modi in the evening over dinner. On Saturday morning, there might be some more discussions before Jinping flies to Nepal.

“At the invitation of Prime Minister Modi of the Republic of India and President Bhandari of Nepal, President Xi Jinping will attend the second informal meeting between Chinese and Indian leaders in India and pay a state visit to Nepal from Oct. 12 to 13,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said.

India’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement that “the forthcoming Chennai Informal Summit will provide an opportunity for the two leaders to continue their discussions on overarching issues of bilateral, regional and global importance and to exchange views on deepening the India-China Closer Development Partnership.”

There was a lot of uncertainty surrounding the summit, with both countries not confirming the date until the last minute. 

Political analysts said that it is unusual for such a high-level summit to be announced just two days before it is scheduled to take place. In April 2018, when the first informal summit took place in Wuhan, the itinerary of the meet was announced five days in advance.

The summit comes just a couple of days after Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan’s visit to Beijing with a high-level delegation.

The upcoming meeting will allow the leadership of the world’s most populated countries to discuss a range of issues and bilateral relations, which seem to have cooled after India’s unilateral decision to revoke the special autonomous status of Jammu and Kashmir on Aug. 5.

Beijing took an aggressive stance on Kashmir at the UN, with Foreign Minister Wang Yi saying in his address that no unilateral action should be taken to change the region’s status.

Jinping said on Wednesday he was watching the situation in Kashmir and would support Pakistan on issues related to its core interests, the Xinhua News Agency reported.

However, political analysts argue that there are several other pressing issues to be discussed between New Delhi and Beijing

“I do not think Kashmir is an issue. The main issue is to give a political narrative to India-China relations in future context,” said Jagannath Panda of New Delhi-based think tank the Institute of Defence Studies and Analyses.

“I don’t think New Delhi would like to see China as a mediator on Kashmir. Both the countries realize that it’s better not to interfere in the bilaterally sensitive issue. Kashmir might be discussed and there is no doubt that Imran Khan’s visit to China holds importance but we should not take it out of the context,” Panda said.

He added that “the informal summit offers a broad political guidance to the relationship in the context of the influx at the geopolitical level, trade and tariff tension between Beijing and Washington, changes in the regional security situation including the tension in the South China sea and constant configuration in the South China quadrilateral relationship.”

Manoj Kewalramani of Bangalore-based think tank The Takshashila Institution said: “My expectation from the summit is very low. The fact that the summit has been announced just two days before it is taking place shows there have been difficulties. Over the last eight months, the relationship has been stressful.

“China wants to play the role of balancer between India and Pakistan but it’s a very difficult game to play largely because New Delhi will find it tough accepting Beijing’s position.”

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.