Recent improvements in inter-Korean ties have led to optimism in Seoul about prospects for resuming long-paralyzed regional negotiations over North Korean denuclearization, the Yonhap News Agency reported on Tuesday, citing an anonymous government official.
The two Koreas last week finally struck a deal on resuming joint economic activities at the Kaesong business complex, which had been shuttered since the spring.
“Recent progress in inter-Korean relations could have a positive impact on the environment for resuming the six-party talks on North Korea’s nuclear programs,” said the official, who closely follows the issue.
The six-nation negotiations include China, Japan, North and South Korea, Russia and the United States. The talks focus on rewarding North Korea’s gradual abandonment of its nuclear-weapons programs with phased concessions on foreign-economic assistance and international-security pledges. The last round of talks took place in late 2008.
International isolation and heightened sanctions imposed as punishment for the North’s ballistic-missile launches and atomic tests may be taking a toll on Pyongyang, according to the official.
Meanwhile, Chinese and South Korean academics and onetime government officials on Tuesday took part in a conference that focused on improving bilateral collaboration around efforts to persuade the North to cease its nuclear weapons development and return to negotiations, Yonhap separately reported.
China is North Korea’s principal economic benefactor and thus is viewed as having the most sway over Pyongyang. In the past, Beijing has been seen as overly cautious in exercising its influence. However, North Korea’s recent nuclear and missile trials are understood to have prodded China into taking a sterner position with its longtime ally.
Separately, South Korean President Park Geun-hye on Monday told a meeting of her National Security Council that it was crucial that the South maintain military readiness to respond to North Korea, the Korea Herald reported.
“It is utterly important to maintain a firm security posture in all circumstances,” she said. “As the saying goes, even if the whole country appears to be calm, if one forgets war, crisis is bound to visit.”
Park directed that a government assessment be carried out to ensure that South Korean cities remain prepared to respond to a potential chemical or biological attack.
South Korea and the United States are holding another in a series of routine joint armed-forces maneuvers. Though North Korea has typically condemned such exercises and threatened strong retaliation, this time Pyongyang has not reacted in such a bombastic way, according to the Herald.
What We're Following See More »
The House Intelligence Committee voted to release the November 14 testimony of Glenn Simpson, the man at Fusion GPS who oversaw the creation of the now infamous Trump-Russia dossier. Simpson's testimony includes a number of startling claims, including that Russia infiltrated conservative political groups prior to the election, and that Trump had "long time associations" with the Italian Mafia," and that he "gradually during the nineties became associated with Russian mafia figures." Simpson also testified that Trump called off a post-election meeting with Alexander Torshin, the deputy governor of Russia’s central bank and a longtime member of the NRA, currently under investigation by the FBI for money laundering. Simpson said that the discoveries were so alarming that he felt compelled to go to the authorities. The full text of the transcript can be read here.
House Speaker Paul Ryan says he has the votes to pass a short-term spending bill tonight, but "Senate Democrats said they're confident they have the votes to block the stop-gap spending bill that the House is taking up, according to two Democratic senators and a senior party aide. And top Senate Republicans are openly worried about the situation as they struggle to keep their own members in the fold."
The bipartisan legislation, known as the Congressional Accountability Act of 1995 Reform Act, means taxpayers will "no longer foot the bill" for sexual harassment settlements involving members of Congress." The legislation "would require members to pay such settlements themselves." It also reforms the "cumbersome and degrading" complaint process by giving victims "more rights and resources," and by simplifying and clarifying the complaint process. The legislation is the first major transformation of the sexual harassment complaint system since it was created in 1995.
"The FBI is investigating whether a top Russian banker with ties to the Kremlin illegally funneled money to the National Rifle Association to help Donald Trump win the presidency." Investigators have focused on Alexander Torshin, the deputy governor of Russia’s central bank "who is known for his close relationships with both Russian President Vladimir Putin and the NRA." The solicitation or use of foreign funds is illegal in U.S. elections under the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA) by either lobbying groups or political campaigns. The NRA reported spending a record $55 million on the 2016 elections.