North Korea: No plans to resume nuclear talks with US

Kim Jong Un and Donald Trump have met three times since embarking on their high-stakes nuclear diplomacy in 2018, but negotiations have faltered since their second summit last year in Vietnam, above. (AFP file photo)
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Updated 04 July 2020

North Korea: No plans to resume nuclear talks with US

  • Kim Jong Un and Donald Trump have met three times since embarking on their high-stakes nuclear diplomacy in 2018

SEOUL, South Korea: North Korea on Saturday reiterated it has no immediate plans to resume nuclear negotiations with the United States unless Washington discards what it describes as “hostile” polices toward Pyongyang.
The statement by North Korean First Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui came after President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser, John Bolton, told reporters in New York Thursday that Trump might seek another summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un as an “October surprise” ahead of the US presidential election.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who had lobbied hard to help set up the now-stalled negotiations between Washington and Pyongyang, also expressed hope that Trump and Kim would meet again before the election in a video conference with European leaders on Tuesday.
Kim and Trump have met three times since embarking on their high-stakes nuclear diplomacy in 2018, but negotiations have faltered since their second summit in February last year in Vietnam, where the Americans rejected North Korean demands for major sanctions relief in exchange for a partial surrender of its nuclear capability.
Kim entered 2020 vowing to bolster his nuclear deterrent in face of “gangster-like” US sanctions and pressure. Choe’s statement followed a series of similar declarations by the North that it would no longer gift Trump with high-profile meetings he could boast of as his foreign policy achievements unless it gets something substantial in return.
“Is it possible to hold dialogue or have any dealings with the US which persists in the hostile policy toward the DPRK in disregard of the agreements already made at the past summit?” Choe said, referring to North Korea by its formal name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
“We do not feel any need to sit face-to-face with the US, as it does not consider the DPRK-US dialogue as nothing more than a tool for grappling its political crisis,” she said.
Some analysts believe North Korea would avoid serious negotiations with the United States at least until the November presidential election as there’s a chance US leadership could change.
Choe said the North has already established a “detailed strategic timetable” for managing what she described as US threats.
“The US is mistaken if it thinks things like negotiations would still work on us,” she said.
The North in recent months have also been ramping up pressure against South Korea, blowing up an inter-Korean liaison office in its territory and threatening to abandon a bilateral military agreement aimed at reducing tensions. It follows months of frustration over Seoul’s unwillingness to defy US-led sanctions and restart joint economic projects that would breathe life into the North’s broken economy.
The North’s state media on Friday said that Kim, while supervising a Politburo meeting of the ruling Workers’ Party on Thursday, discussed “import issues related to the external affairs” but didn’t specify what they were.


COVID-19 spread harder to control without common effort says French PM as daily cases double

Updated 11 August 2020

COVID-19 spread harder to control without common effort says French PM as daily cases double

  • French health authorities reported 1,397 new COVID-19 infections over 24 hours on Tuesday
  • New clusters have mushroomed as people let their hair down on holiday, families hold reunions and workers return to offices

PARIS: The renewed spread of coronavirus in France could become harder to control without a collective effort to stop a rise in the infection rate, its prime minister said on Tuesday.
The public was becoming careless, Jean Castex warned, after official data recorded nearly 5,000 new COVID-19 cases from Saturday to Monday. The epidemic has now killed more than 30,300 people in France.
French health authorities reported 1,397 new COVID-19 infections over 24 hours on Tuesday, almost twice Monday’s tally.
The Health Ministry website said there were 15 new deaths in hospital due the disease, compared to an increase of 16 over a three-day period between Monday and Saturday,
“If we don’t act collectively, we expose ourselves to the heightened risk that the rebound in the epidemic becomes hard to control,” Castex said during a visit to a hospital intensive care ward in southern France.
France’s 7-day moving average of new infections climbed to 1,640 on Monday from 1,056 on July 31. The 7-day measure reached a post lockdown low of 272 on May 27, a little over 2 weeks after the government eased one of Europe’s strictest lockdowns.
But as in most neighboring European countries, new clusters have mushroomed as people let their hair down on holiday, families hold reunions and workers return to offices and France is desperate to avoid another full-scale lockdown.
Britain has said it will not hesitate putting more countries on its quarantine list, including France, where hordes of Britons spend their summer vacations.
Earlier on Tuesday, President Emmanuel Macron held a video conference with top ministers from his Riviera summer retreat.
During the meeting, it was decided France would draw up new restrictions for the 20 largest cities to curb the rising infection rate and that a ban on gatherings of more than 5,000 people would be extended until Oct. 31.
Some cities have already taken action. Paris on Monday joined Toulouse, Lille, Biarritz and others in imposing a mandatory face mask order in crowded outdoor zones. They are already compulsory nationwide in shops and banks.
The prime minister said testing was “more than satisfactory,” with more than 600,000 tests being conducted weekly, but said more could still be done to target those with symptoms, the prime minister said.
Talking of the risk of another lockdown, Castex said: “no one wants to live through that again.”