Talks held with Pakistan
India and Pakistan have agreed to “carry forward” talks aimed at resuming the full-fledged peace dialogue between the arch rivals that was suspended in the wake of the 2008 Mumbai attacks. Indian Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao and her Pakistan counterpart Salman Bashir held talks late on Sunday in the Bhutanese capital Thimphu — the first high-level meeting between the nuclear-armed neighbors since July. The meeting failed to produce a date for an expected visit to India this year by Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi.
Divorces outpace marriages
Nearly 2 million couples divorced last year — far more than the number who got married in the world’s most populous nation, state media reported. A total of 1.96 million couples applied for divorce last year and only 1.2 million tied the knot, the Legal Evening News quoted the civil affairs ministry as saying. The country’s divorce rate has risen gradually at an average of 7.65 percent a year since 2003 when the law regulating marriage was amended, simplifying both marriage and divorce procedures, the report published late on Sunday said.
N Koreans sail south
Thirty-one North Koreans crossed the tense Yellow Sea border by boat and arrived in the South, but they have not so far expressed any wish to defect, the country’s Ministry of Defense said yesterday. A spokesman, confirming a report in Dong-A Ilbo newspaper, said the country’s navy on Saturday detained the five-tonne boat about 2.5km south of the disputed border. Officials were interrogating the group, the spokesman said. The 11 men and 20 women arrived off the island in thick fog and were towed to the western port city of Incheon, Yonhap news agency quoted a military official as saying. “Given the circumstances so far, they might have been drifting after setting the wrong coordinates or losing power on their boat,” another official was quoted as saying.
Report supports sanctions
The party of the country’s pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi yesterday recommended maintaining Western sanctions on the country, saying the embargoes affected the military regime and not the broader population. The announcement by the National League for Democracy (NLD), the government’s biggest opposition force, will be a blow to both the junta and Western investors keen to tap the isolated country’s vast natural resources. “We came to find that the sanctions affect only the leaders of the ruling regime and their close business associates, not the majority of the people,” NLD vice-chairman Tin Oo said.
Remittances to North grow
North Koreans who have fled to the capitalist country send an estimated US$10 million a year to families left behind in the impoverished communist state, a report said yesterday. The country’s Chosun Ilbo newspaper, citing Seoul officials and refugees, said the money has become a major part of the North’s underground economy in border areas. “With the number of North Korean defectors rapidly rising and diversified methods of money remittance, the total amount sent back is growing,” Chosun quoted a senior official as saying. The remittances are arranged by brokers in China and in the North, who use their own bank accounts and cash reserves to transfer money with a commission of 30 percent, Chosun said.