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South Korea urges more US-North Korea talks, despite Pompeo’s canceled trip

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…As Pakistan’s new foreign minister backs talks to resolve issues with India***

South Korea on Saturday expressed disappointment over the U.S. decision to call off Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s planned trip to North Korea, but insisted that continued diplomacy was vital to resolving tensions with Pyongyang.

“While we consider the delay of the visit to North Korea as unfortunate, we believe it’s most important for the North Korea-U.S. dialogue — including Secretary Pompeo’s visits to North Korea — to contribute to substantial progress in complete denuclearization and the establishment of a permanent peace regime in the Korean Peninsula,” South Korea’s Foreign Ministry said.

On Friday, President Trump said he directed Pompeo to delay the trip because of a lack of progress in nuclear disarmament talks with North Korea, which he blamed on a lack of support from China.

Trump’s abrupt cancellation was interpreted by some as a concession that his prior claims of world-altering progress on the Korean Peninsula had been premature. Ending a period of animosity over North Korea’s nuclear and missile development, Trump made history by meeting North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore in June. But the meeting produced no binding agreement on how a nuclear-free peninsula would occur.

Post-summit nuclear talks got off to a rocky start, with North Korea accusing the U.S. of making “gangster-like” demands regarding denuclearization. The North for its part has been demanding the U.S. ease or lift sanctions that are crippling its economy as well as fast-track discussions to formally declare an end the 1950-53 Korean War, which technically never ended.

Pompeo and other administration officials have been skeptical about an end-of-war declaration in the absence of any progress on the nuclear matter.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who had lobbied hard for a Trump-Kim meeting, continues to push for talks with Pyongyang, which have led to a number of conciliatory steps. Moon is scheduled to visit Pyongyang in September for his third summit with Kim this year.

In the meantime, Pakistan wants to improve ties with India and resolve all outstanding issues including Kashmir through talks, and is not shy of engaging with New Delhi despite the current impasse in relations, Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi has said.

“But it takes two to tango. You cannot clap with just one hand. We have a positive stance and will remain hopeful,” said Qureshi, who was sworn-in as Pakistan’s Foreign Minister on Monday.

He also said the “current position of the ties between Pakistan and India was not a secret as peace talks are suspended, but we have to see how we can move forward”.

Ties between India and Pakistan nose-dived in recent years with no bilateral talks taking place, following a spate of terror attacks on Indian military bases by Pakistan-based terror groups since January 2016. India has made it clear that it will not hold dialogue with Islamabad as terrorism and talks cannot go hand-in-hand.

“Pakistan wants to improve ties with India and resolve all outstanding issues, including Kashmir through talks. The government is not shy of engaging with India despite the current impasse in the talks,” Qureshi told reporters on Friday after Pakistan’s new Prime Minister Imran Khan visited the Foreign Ministry and was briefed on the country’s foreign policy.

He also mentioned Khan’s July 26 victory speech, in which the former cricketer-turned-politician had said that his government would like leaders of the India and Pakistan to resolve all disputes, including the “core issue” of Kashmir, through talks. Khan had said that if they (India) takes one step towards us, Pakistan will take two steps.

Qureshi also denied having said that Pakistan would win the Kulbhushan Jadhav’s case in the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

Jadhav, 47, was sentenced to death by a Pakistani military court on spying charges in April 2017. India moved the ICJ in May the same year against the verdict. The world court has put an stay on Jadhav’s execution on India’s appeal pending the final verdict by it.

Both India and Pakistan have already submitted their detailed pleas and responses in the world court.

Qureshi, while addressing media in his home city of Multan, had said that Pakistan has “solid evidence” against Jadhav and was hopeful of winning the case against him at the ICJ.

“How I can say that we will win when the matter is sub-judice. I only said that we will put forward Pakistan’s point of view effectively,” he said.

Talking about his previous press conference, Qureshi said he had asked a question to his Indian counterpart “whether Pakistan and India have any other option other than holding talks to resolve the issues”.

He said that in his “opinion there is no other option, (but resuming talks)”.

“I am not talking about a revolution in our relation but just suggesting that we should hold talks and don’t think if we would make progress or not,” he said, adding that an “enabling environment” should be created.

To a question about Kashmir issue, he said that there was national consensus and the government and the Opposition are on the same page.

Fox with additional report from Zee

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U.S. strikes 2 targets in Syria in response to ‘continued attacks’

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The U.S. military struck two facilities in eastern Syria used by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and Iran-affiliated groups in response to “continued attacks” against U.S. personnel in Iraq and Syria, the Pentagon said on Sunday.

The strikes were conducted against a training facility in Abu Kamal and a safe house in Mayadin in the eastern governorate of Deir Ezzor, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in a brief statement.

The U.S. struck similar targets in eastern Syria in October and earlier in November.

Pro-Iranian militias have intensified their attacks on U.S. military bases in Syria and Iraq in recent weeks as a response to the Israeli military campaign in Gaza.

The security situation in the entire region has been particularly tense since Oct. 7, when Hamas militants staged deadly attacks in southern Israel.

Israel is responding with an overwhelming air and ground offensive in Gaza.

As a deterrent, the U.S. has moved more weapons systems, warships and air squadrons to the Eastern Mediterranean, and is deploying several hundred troops to the Middle East to support US units there.

U.S. President Joe Biden had ordered Sunday’s action to make it clear that the U.S. was defending itself, its personnel, and its interests, Austin stressed.

The U.S. is prepared to take further necessary measures to protect its own people and interests.

  • dpa
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Russia writes off $23bn debt for Africa – Putin

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Russia sends almost 12m tons of grain to Africa says Putin

…Pledges additional $90 million***

Vladimir Putin, the Russian President, says the Russian Government has written off $23 billion debt burden of African countries.

Putin spoke at the plenary session of the ongoing second Russia–Africa Summit 2023 held from July 27 to July 28.

He said Moscow would allocate an additional $90 million for these purposes.

Putin said Russia was advocating the expansion of representation of African countries in the UN Security Council and other UN structures.

“Russia and Africa strive to develop cooperation in all areas and strengthen ‘honest, open, constructive’ partnership.

“Russia will also assist in opening new African embassies and consulates in Russia,” he said.

According to him, the reopening of embassies in Burkina Faso and Equatorial Guinea is going as planned.

He said sovereignty was “not a one-time achieved state,” and it must be constantly protected.

Putin also offered assistance to Africa in countering threats such as terrorism, piracy, and transnational crimes adding that it would continue to train personnel from African countries.

He assured that Russian businesses have a lot to offer partners from Africa.

Putin said transition to national currencies and the establishment of transport and logistics chains would contribute to the increase in mutual trade turnover.

“Russia is ready to provide trade preferences to Africa, support the creation of modern production sectors, agricultural sector, and provide assistance through relevant international structures and agencies.

“Russia will always be a responsible international supplier of agricultural products,” he said.

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U.S. Coastguard Finds ‘debris field’ Near Missing Vessel

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A “debris field” has been discovered within the search area for the missing Titan submersible, the U.S. Coastguard (USCG) said on Thursday.

The agency said a remotely-operated vehicle made the discovery near the wreckage of the Titanic on Thursday.

The hunt for the missing deep-sea vessel is still an “active search and rescue” mission after it lost communication on Sunday.

The vessel was about 700 kilometres south of St John’s, Newfoundland, during a voyage to the Titanic shipwreck off the coast of Canada.

Coastguard officials said they were “evaluating the information” following Thursday’s debris discovery.

A press conference will be held at the Coastguard base in Boston to “discuss the findings” at 8pm (1900 GMT).

Rear Admiral John Mauger, the first Coastguard district commander, and Captain Jamie Frederick, first Coastguard district response coordinator, will lead the press conference.

Founding member of the Board of Trustees of The Explorers Club, Hamish Harding, was on board the undersea craft, alongside UK-based businessman Shahzada Dawood, his son Suleman Dawood, and OceanGate’s chief executive and founder Stockton Rush, as well as French submersible pilot Paul-Henri Nargeolet.

The USCG said the ROV that made the discovery was from the Canadian Horizon Arctic ship – with the debris being found on the sea floor near the Titanic wreckage.

Assistance from the Royal Air Force (RAF) is due to arrive in St John’s on Thursday after it confirmed a request was received overnight for help with the movement of additional commercial equipment.

Two RAF planes, a C-17 Globemaster and A400 Atlas, departed RAF Lossiemouth in north-east Scotland on Thursday.

A British submariner and equipment from a UK firm have been sent to help the search at the request of the U.S. Coastguard, Downing Street said.

Royal Navy submariner Lieutenant Commander Richard Kantharia, who was on exchange with the U.S. Navy, has been seconded to the search and rescue team.

OceanGate Expeditions estimated the oxygen supply on the 6.7 metre-long vessel would last 96 hours, giving rescuers a deadline of around midday on Thursday.

Experts said the chances of finding the sub and rescuing those inside were diminishing.

Former Royal Navy submarine captain Ryan Ramsey told the PA news agency: “The outlook is bleak, that’s the only word for it as this tragic event unfolds and almost the closing stages of where this changes from rescue to a salvage mission.”

The Titan is believed to be about 900 miles east and 400 miles south of Newfoundland.

It is not known how deep the vessel is, with the seabed being around 3,800 metres from the surface. 

– dpa

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