SEOUL: US and North Korean officials held “productive” talks to discuss the return of US service members’ remains missing since the Korean War, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said.
Pompeo, who was not part of the talks, said in a statement that working level meetings between US and North Korean officials would begin on Monday “to coordinate the next steps, including the transfer of remains already collected” in North Korea.
It was not immediately clear who took part in Sunday’s talks, held at the tense inter-Korean border. Pompeo said they were “the first General Officer-level talks” with North Korea since 2009.
He said the meeting “was aimed at fulfilling one of the commitments” made by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at last month’s summit with President Donald Trump in Singapore.
“Today’s talks were productive and cooperative and resulted in firm commitments,” Pompeo said.
“Additionally, both sides agreed to re-commence field operations in the DPRK to search for the estimated 5,300 Americans who never returned home,” he said. North Korea is officially known as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
North Korean officials skipped a planned meeting with US officials over the war remains last week, citing lack of preparations. South Korea’s Foreign Ministry said the North then requested higher level talks with the US-led United Nations Command.
There’s speculation that Pyongyang is trying to fast-track discussions on more critical issues, such as reaching a declaration to formally end the war, which stopped on an armistice and not a peace treaty.
Sunday’s meeting came a week after Pompeo travelled to Pyongyang to begin follow-up talks to last month’s Singapore summit in which Trump and Kim issued vague aspirations for a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula without describing when and how it would occur.
Peace talks with Taliban will happen soon: US
KABUL: The US special envoy for peace in Afghanistan said talks with the Taliban will “happen very soon” but if the insurgents continue to fight, then American forces would support Afghan forces in the war.
Talks between the Taliban and American officials have hit a roadblock after the hardline militants cancelled the fourth round of peace talks last week and rejected the involvement of the Afghan government in the dialogue.
The Taliban threatened to pull out of the peace process with the United States if they diverted from the issue of foreign force withdrawal from Afghanistan, a key demand of the insurgents to end the 17-year war.
The Taliban’s warning came hours after Zalmay Khalilzad landed in Afghanistan after meeting officials from India, China and the United Arab Emirates to discuss the peace process. “If the Taliban want to talk, we can talk. If they want to fight, we can fight,” Khalilzad told journalists in Kabul.
The White House has said President Donald Trump had not issued orders to the Pentagon to withdraw troops from Afghanistan, but the White House has not denied reports that the United States plans to pull out some of the 14,000-strong force currently deployed.
Khalilzad said: “We hope that they [Taliban] want to make peace. But if they do not choose to come to the table, if they choose to continue fighting, the United States will stand with the Afghan people and the Afghan government and support them.”
Speaking about the next date for a meeting with the Taliban, he said: “We are hopeful it will happen very soon. That’s what we’re working towards.” “What we want is to see this conflict end through negotiation, to continue our partnership with Afghanistan and to ensure no terrorist threatens either of us,” Khalilzad told reporters.
UN approves mission to shore up Yemen truce
UNITED NATIONS: The United Nations Security Council unanimously approved the deployment to Yemen of up to 75 monitors in a new mission to shore up a fragile ceasefire and oversee a pullback of forces from the flashpoint port of Hodeida.
The observer mission was agreed during talks last month in Sweden between the Saudi-backed government and Houthi rebels and an advance team is already on the ground in the rebel-held city.
The unarmed monitors will be sent to Hodeida city and port as well as to the ports of Saleef and Ras Issa for an initial period of six months.
The resolution calls on UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to “expeditiously” deploy the United Nations Mission to support the Hodeida Agreement (UNMHA), led by retired Dutch General Patrick Cammaert.
Guterres has described the mission as a “nimble presence” that will report on violations in Hodeida, which for months was the front line in the war after pro-government forces launched an offensive to capture it in June.
Human Rights Watch warned of a tough road ahead and urged the council to keep the pressure on the warring sides.
“The countdown for exchanging prisoners is fast approaching, but the parties have missed deadlines, putting the prisoner swap in jeopardy,” said Louis Charbonneau, HRW’s UN director.
Lift travel ban on opposition leaders: Pak SC asks Imran Khan govt
Islamabad: Pakistan’s Supreme Court Thursday ordered the government led by Prime Minister Imran Khan to lift the travel ban imposed on opposition leader Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari and the Sindh Chief Minister, and asked the country’s anti-corruption body to probe their involvement in Rs 35 billion ‘fake accounts case’.
As many as 172 suspects were placed on the Exit Control List (ECL) on the recommendations of a Joint Investigation Team (JIT) formed by the apex court.
A person cannot fly abroad if his name is placed on the ECL.
The Supreme Court, in a detailed judgement, ordered the government to remove the names of opposition Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) chairman Bilawal and Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah from the ECL.
It, however, referred the report and material collected by the JIT in the Rs 35 billion ‘fake accounts case’ to the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), Dawn news reported.
The JIT probe focused on “32 fake accounts” which were allegedly used to give massive financial benefits to former president Asif Ali Zardari, his sister Faryal Talpur and several others.
“Removing of the names will not prevent (the) NAB to probe and in case sufficient material is found connecting these individuals with cognisable offences, it will not be precluded from making an appropriate request to the federal government to place their names on (the) ECL again or take any appropriate action provided by law,” according to the judgement authored by Justice Ijaz-ul-Ahsan.
The apex court in its earlier instructions asked the government to delete names of Bilawal and Shah from the ECL but the Cabinet waited for the detailed judgment.
After the judgement, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said the government will decide whether it should implement the court orders or file a review petition.
Justice Ahsan was part of the three-judge bench that last year took a suo-motu cognisance after it emerged that several big names were involved in money laundering through fake accounts.
Currently, a Karachi court is hearing the case against Zardari and Talpur for alleged money laundering.