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US resumes military drills with South Korea ahead of talks with North in New York

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Washington : The United States and South Korea have resumed joint military exercises that were indefinitely suspended by President Donald Trump ahead of high-profile talks between top American and North Korean diplomats in New York later this week.

The two-week-long drills — dubbed the Korean Marine Exchange Program (KMEP) — kicked off on Monday around the southeastern port city of Pohang, according to a spokesman for South Korea’s Ministry of Defense.

Some 500 South Korean and American marines participate in the drills.

 

“The KMEP will start from November in accordance with the South Korea-US annual plan,” South Korea’s Yonhap news agency quoted an unnamed official as saying. “It is an annual tactical combined forces training aimed at maintaining our joint defense posture.”

The KMEP, which was carried out 14 times in fiscal 2016 and 17 times in fiscal 2017, was suspended in June after Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un held a historic summit in Singapore in June, during which they agreed to work toward the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

Trump also promised to indefinitely suspend joint US-South Korea military exercises that were seen by Pyongyang as preparations to invade the North.

The US president said later that he saw no reason for “spending large amounts of money on joint US-South Korea war games.”

Pyongyang has so far taken several steps towards denuclearization, including shuttering its main nuclear test site with plans to dismantle several more. It has said it “expects reciprocal steps and not endless demands for full disarmament” from Washington, which has so far taken no moves in return.

The North says the least step Washington can take is to lift sanctions against the country, but the US insists that the restrictions would remain in place until North Korea is nuclear free.

The military maneuvers come as North Korea is scheduled to send Foreign Minister Kim Yong-chol to New York this week, where he is expected to hold talks with Secretary of State Pompeo over denuclearization and plans for a second summit between Trump and Kim.

It remains unclear if the drills will affect the planned talks.

Pompeo told CBS News on Sunday that he expected “some real progress including an effort to make sure that the summit between our two leaders can take place where we can make substantial steps towards denuclearization.”

But when asked if Pyongyang could expect sanctions relief, he said, “It is not only complete denuclearization, but our capacity to verify that that has taken place, is also a prerequisite to lifting economic sanctions.”

The North warned on Friday that it could restart development of its nuclear program if Washington does not drop its campaign of “maximum pressure” and sanctions.


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Pakistan will be a very important country in coming future, says Saudi crown prince

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Islamabad :Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman expressed optimism about the economic future of Pakistan, saying his country had been waiting for a leadership like that of Prime Minister Imran Khan to partner with Islamabad in various areas.

Addressing a reception dinner at Prime Minister House hours after arriving in Pakistan, the crown prince — known as MBS for short — said Pakistan is a “dear country” to all Saudis and that the two countries “have walked together in tough and good times”.

He said Pakistan today had a great future in store “with a great leadership”, and noted that the country’s GDP grew by 5 per cent in 2018.

 

“We believe that Pakistan is going to be a very, very important country in the coming future and we want to be sure we are part of that,” the crown prince said.

Turning towards Prime Minister Khan, he said his country had been “waiting for that kind of a leadership” to partner with and “build a lot of things together”.

He noted that Saudi Arabia and Pakistan today signed Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs) for investment cooperation.

“We believe the amount of that kind of investment is US $20 billion,” MBS said. “It’s big, for phase one.”

He expressed the hope that the investment will grow to bigger numbers in the coming years and be beneficial for both the countries.

The Saudi royal said his country would collaborate with Pakistan economically, politically and in terms of security. “We believe in our region, that is why we are investing in it,” he added.

“This is my first trip [to the] east since I became the crown prince and the first country [that I have visited] is Pakistan,” the Saudi royal concluded.

Prime Minister Imran Khan in his speech welcomed the Saudi crown prince and his delegation to the country, saying the Kingdom has always been a “friend in need” to Pakistan.

“For Pakistanis, this is a great day,” the premier said, adding that Saudi Arabia had always been there when Pakistan needed friends.

“I want to thank you for the way you helped us when we were in [a] bad situation,” Khan told MBS, adding that Pakistan and Saudi Arabia were now taking their relationship to a new level, where investment agreements would be mutually beneficial for the countries.

The investment would revolve around minerals, tourism, petrochemicals, agriculture, food processing and other areas, he said.

Prime Minister Khan also invited Riyadh to avail opportunities that can arise from the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and Pakistan’s close links with Beijing. “It is an exciting future where we have Saudi Arabia participating in what is going to be, in the next 10 years, probably the country with the biggest GDP,” he added.
Khan told MBS that if it hadn’t been for security concerns, “you would have seen thousands and thousands of people on the streets welcoming you.”

The prime minister’s speech preceded the address of the Saudi crown prince, but once MBS finished, Khan rose again to speak about two issues.

One, he requested MBS to allow Pakistani Haj pilgrims to undergo immigration at the three major Pakistani airports before leaving for Saudi Arabia for their convenience.

Secondly, Prime Minister Khan requested the Saudi authorities to look into the hardships of the Pakistani labourers working in the Kingdom.

“There are some 3,000 [Pakistani] prisoners there and we just would like you to bear in mind that they are poor people who have left their families behind,” Khan said.
Terming it a “special request”, the premier asked MBS to “look upon them [Pakistani labourers] as your own people”.

In response, MBS told Prime Minister Khan he could consider him the ambassador of Pakistan in Saudi Arabia.

“We cannot say no to Pakistan … whatever we can do, we will deliver that.”

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Saudi crown prince orders release of over 2,000 Pakistani prisoners

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Islamabad:The morning after Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman promised to deliver “whatever we can do” for Pakistanis living in the kingdom, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry announced that MBS had ordered the immediate release of over 2,000 Pakistani prisoners in Saudi jails.

Prime Minister Imran Khan at a ceremony held to welcome the crown prince at PM House had made a “special request” to MBS to look into the hardships of Pakistani labourers working in the kingdom, and to “look upon them as your own people”.

“There are some 3,000 [Pakistani] prisoners there and we just would like you to bear in mind that they are poor people who have left their families behind,” Khan had said.

 

MBS had responded by assuring the premier to consider him Pakistan’s ambassador to Saudi Arabia. Prince Mohammad had continued: “We cannot say no to Pakistan … whatever we can do, we will deliver that.”

Prime Minister Khan in a tweet today said that the crown prince had “won the hearts of the people of Pakistan when he said, ‘Consider me Pakistan’s ambassador to Saudi Arabia’ in response to my asking him to treat the 2.5 million Pakistanis working in KSA as his own.”

Read more: ‘Pakistan will be a very important country in coming future,’ says Saudi crown prince Fawad Chaudhry in a tweet today said: “As a sequel to Prime Minister of Pakistan’s request, His Royal Highness the Crown Prince of KSA Mohammad Bin Salman has ordered the immediate release of 2,107 Pakistani prisoners from Saudi Jails.”

This was Prince Mohammad’s first state visit since becoming crown prince. Saudi Arabia has signed agreements worth $21 billion with Pakistan in various fields, including cooperation in power production, establishment of an oil refinery and petrochemical plant, promotion of sports and technical assistance in the standardisation sector.

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Taliban say unable to attend Pakistan talks; blame travel blacklist

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Washington:The Taliban have postponed an unscheduled round of peace talks with the United States set for in Pakistan saying “most” members of their negotiating team are unable to travel because they’re on the US and United Nations’ blacklists.

The statement offered no other details. It did not explain how several members previously were able to travel to meetings in the United Arab Emirates and Moscow.

The Taliban maintain a political office in Qatar, where members of the negotiating team reside.

 

The Islamabad talks were seen as significant, coinciding with the visit of the Saudi crown prince to Pakistan.

The Taliban 14-member team includes five former inmates of the US prison at Guantanamo Bay, and Anas Haqqani, the jailed younger brother of the leader of the militant Haqqani network.

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