North Korea yesterday took further steps to mend ties with the South, suggesting talks within weeks and reopening an office to encourage cooperation on the fractured peninsula.
The latest offer from Pyongyang followed an apparent easing in tensions, which have soared since the North shelled the South’s frontline Yeonpyeong Island on Nov. 23, killing four people.
Pyongyang’s Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland “formally” proposed an “unconditional and early opening” of talks between the two governments.
“The level of the talks and their venue and the date of their opening may be decided under a bilateral agreement,” it said.
The committee, the official agency in charge of exchanges between the two, said in its statement that there is “neither conditionality in the North’s proposal for dialogue nor need to cast any doubt about its real intention.”
“The South Korean authorities should discard any unnecessary misgiving, open their hearts and positively respond to the North’s proposal,” it said.
South Korea said the offer, which comes after Beijing said it would “support and welcome” any dialogue between the North and South, was more concrete than a call by Pyongyang earlier in the week for “unconditional” talks.
“The government is now analyzing the background and intention of this overture,” South Korean Unification Ministry spokeswoman Lee Jong-joo said.
North Korea also proposed an early resumption of talks between the two nations’ Red Cross organizations on humanitarian issues and other negotiations aimed at reviving economic exchanges and cross-border tours.
South Korea in May last year suspended almost all cross-border economic exchanges, putting the blame on the North for the sinking of a South Korean warship in March, an allegation angrily denied by Pyongyang.
North Korea responded by closing the office in its Kaesong City near the border that was used to facilitate inter-Korean economic cooperation, but said yesterday it would now re-open the office as a “measure of good faith.” Talks on a range of issues, including the resumption of tours of the North’s scenic Mount Kumgang and a joint industrial asset at Kaesong should be restarted at an early date, it said.
“We also propose that Kaesong be their venues and they take place at the end of January or in the first half of February,” the North said.
Dongguk University professor Kim Yong-hyun said yesterday’s overture came in response to the demand from China and the US that inter-Korean relations should be improved before six-party disarmament talks can be resumed.
LEMONS INTO LEMONADE: Qatar’s ostracism by other Persian Gulf nations has sparked a self-sufficiency drive to set up farms in a country entirely dependent on imports A Qatari arms factory that makes rifles and grenade launchers has added a product that saves rather than takes lives: ventilators, now needed at home and abroad amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The venture is the latest salvo in Doha’s charm offensive to cement old partnerships and secure new friends, as a bitter spat with Saudi Arabia and its allies drags into its fourth year on Friday. The embargo has allowed the small Persian Gulf state to draw on capabilities developed the hard way in the wake of its regional isolation. In the nerve center of Qatar’s nascent arms industry — the state-run Barzan
‘WORRYING’ TREND: Inappropriate use of antibiotics during the COVID-19 pandemic could lead to higher bacterial resistance rates to antimicrobial medicines Increased antibiotics use to combat the COVID-19 pandemic would strengthen bacterial resistance and ultimately lead to more deaths during the crisis and beyond, the WHO said on Monday. WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said a “worrying number” of bacterial infections were becoming increasingly resistant to the medicines traditionally used to treat them. The UN health agency said it was concerned that the inappropriate use of antibiotics during the coronavirus crisis would further fuel the trend. “The COVID-19 pandemic has led to an increased use of antibiotics, which ultimately will lead to higher bacterial resistance rates that will impact the burden of disease and
For 143 Palauan citizens trapped overseas by COVID-19 travel restrictions, the journey home, always long, will be especially tortuous. To reach their Pacific island home they face six long weeks of quarantine: two in Guam, two in a hotel in Palau, and then another two weeks of self-isolation at home. They will also face at least five COVID-19 tests. However, some Palauans fear that even these measures will not be enough. Palau, in the north Pacific, is one of a handful of countries globally with zero cases of coronavirus. Having closed its borders on March 22, the country has grappled with how
Two years ago, Zhou Xiaoxuan, known in China by the nickname Xianzi (弦子), publicly accused one of China’s most recognizable people of groping and forcibly kissing her, setting off a firestorm in a country that did not specify sexual harassment as a legal offense. Last week, Zhou and dozens of other women who started China’s #MeToo movement won a small victory when the nation’s parliament enacted legislation that for the first time defines actions that can constitute sexual harassment. The reference in the new civil code, approved on Thursday last week by a session of the Chinese National People’s Congress, is largely