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United States envoy plays down expectations for North Korea meet, but ready to talk

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United States envoy plays down expectations for North Korea meet, but ready to talk


United States Deputy Secretary of State, Stephen Biegun, on Wednesday rejected reports that he was seeking to meet North Korean officials during a visit to South Korea this week but reiterated that Washington is open to resuming talks.

The United States point man for North Korea, Biegun was in Seoul for meetings with South Korean officials, overshadowed by North Korea’s insistence that it has no intention of returning to denuclearisation negotiations as long as the United States clings to “hostile policies”.

Biegun met South Korean Foreign Minister, Kang Kyung-wha, briefly before holding longer meetings with Vice Foreign Minister, Cho Sei-young, and Chief Nuclear Negotiator, Lee Do-hoon.

Talks covered a range of issues, including responses to the novel coronavirus and negotiations over the sharing of the costs of the United States military deployment in South Korea, but North Korea dominated the agenda, South Korean officials said.

Biegun’s visit had sparked speculation about a last-ditch effort to revive the North Korea talks ahead of the United States presidential election in November, but he played down expectations for new meetings.

“Let me absolutely be clear, we did not request a visit,’’ Biegun said after meeting Lee.

“This visit, this week, is to meet with our close friends and allies, the South Koreans.’’

But Biegun said he was ready to resume talks at any time the North Koreans designate.

“We look forward to continuing our work for a peaceful outcome of the Korean peninsula, I believe this is very much possible,’’ he said.

He added that United States President Donald Trump had given his full support.

Biegun reiterated that the United States was willing to be flexible and reach a “balanced agreement” with North Korea, should it decide to return to talks, Lee said.

Biegun is also likely to meet Suh Hoon, Moon’s new national security adviser who, as spy chief, was instrumental in facilitating summits between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, a South Korean official said.

Talks with North Korea have since stalled, and its officials say they have no intention of sitting down with the United States

Biegun said he does not focus on such statements, but instead was guided by the “vision” outlined by Trump and Kim at their meetings.

The two met for the first time in 2018 in Singapore, raising hopes for a negotiated end to North Korea’s nuclear programme.

But their second summit, in 2019 in Vietnam, and subsequent working-level negotiations fell apart.

Trump said on Tuesday he was open to another meeting with Kim and thought it might be helpful, Voice of America reported, citing a transcript of an interview Trump gave to Gray Television, due to be aired on Sunday.

Kim has been maintaining a low profile in recent months, making far fewer public appearances than usual, according to analysts who monitor his movements.

On Wednesday, North Korean state media reported Kim had marked the anniversary of the death of his grandfather, North Korea’s founding leader Kim Il Sung, by visiting his mausoleum at Pyongyang’s Kumsusan Palace of the Sun.

Biegun has previously played down the likelihood of another summit between Trump and Kim, saying the coronavirus made that unlikely before the election.

North Korea’s strident rejection of new talk means Biegun’s visit is more likely to focus on coordination between the two allies, rather than seizing some opening for diplomacy, said John Delury, a North Korea expert at Yonsei University in Seoul.

“I don’t see signals from North Korea that they are looking for engagement,’’ he said.

United States-South Korean coordination was critical now, said Duyeon Kim, a senior adviser at the International Crisis Group think-tank.

“The allies should get on the same page about upcoming defence drills, how their working group can support inter-Korean projects while enforcing existing sanctions, and how to jointly respond if Pyongyang escalates or tests more weapons,’’ she said.

AIB

Edited By: Abdulfatah Babatunde (NAN)

Babatunde Abdulfatah: is a graduate and a professionally trained journalist, with experience in national news reporting/editing and verification at the News Agency of Nigeria. NNN is a Nigerian online news portal that publishes breaking news in Nigeria, and across the world. Our journalists are honest, fair, accurate, thorough and courageous in gathering, reporting and interpreting news in the best interest of the public, because truth is the cornerstone of journalism and they strive diligently to ascertain the truth in every news report. Contact: editor[at]nnn.com.ng

Education

Bayelsa Govt. promises safety of students as schools reopen Aug.5

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Bayelsa Government says it is taking steps to ensure that schools are safe to allow final year students to resume and participate in external examinations as directed by the Federal Government.


Messrs Freston Akpor and Walter Liverpool, Permanent Secretaries of Ministries of Information and Education, respectively assured that the government was doing its best to protect students and teachers.

They said that government was already fumigating schools across the state as well as providing hand washing facilities and urged parents and communities to complement the efforts of the government.

Akpor, who is a member of the Bayelsa COVID-19 Task Force, said that Gov. Douye Diri of the state who chairs the Task Force had approved the deployment of health professionals to schools while temporary isolation facilities would be put in place in schools.

“The government of Bayelsa has been working to get our schools ready and safe for our children and that is why we have scheduled a train the trainers programme to acquaint schools with COVID-19 safety protocols.

“The essence is to build capacity of our people and update them with the guidelines from the Federal Government on the reopening of schools that is why we are taking our time and shifted the resumption for final year students to Aug. 5.

“Government is providing face masks, infrared thermometers and access to water for schools without water supply, alternative arrangements are in place and we are poised to check the spread of the coronavirus.

“In view of the questionable and low quality of hand sanitisers, we are emphasising frequent hand washing with soap and water and we appeal to members of the public as well as parents and guardians to complement the efforts government is making.

“Parents should for example provide additional face masks for their wards so that for instance when they wash the ones provided in schools, they can have a spare one,” Akpor said.

The News Agency of Nigeria reports that the state government has scheduled a COVID-19 prevention training programme for private and public schools to ensure safety protocols are complied with when schools resume on Aug 5.

Edited By: Edwin Nwachukwu/Obike Ukoh (NAN)

 

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Foreign

China’s manufacturing sector shows strong recovery – Survey

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China’s manufacturing activity expanded in July at the fastest pace in almost a decade, according to a private survey released on Monday, though employment continued to drop in the wake of the coronavirus crisis.


The Caixin/Markit Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) came in at 52.8 for July, compared to 51.2 in June.

A reading above 50 indicates expansion, while one below shows contraction.

The survey indicates the quickest monthly expansion of manufacturing output and new orders since January 2011.

Meanwhile, new business from overseas fell at the slowest rate in six months.

The index beat analysts’ expectations and comes as China has largely contained the coronavirus crisis and most companies have resumed operations.

Nevertheless, employment dropped for the seventh consecutive month.

While some companies hired more workers to meet production needs, others laid off employees to cut costs, the survey showed.

“To increase employment, manufacturers will need more time and confidence,” said Wang Zhe, senior economist at Caixin Insight Group.

Official manufacturing data released last week also indicated a recovery.

The official manufacturing PMI came in at 51.1 in July compared to 50.9 in June.

China’s economy grew by 3.2 per cent in the second quarter of the year, according to official data, after contracting 6.8 per cent in the first quarter due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Edited By: Emmanuel Yashim (NAN)

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Foreign

German state premier to support town affected by United States troop withdrawal

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The premier of the German state of Rhineland-Palatinate has pledged support to one of the regions affected by the withdrawal of United States troops from Germany.


“Whatever happens (at the military base) in Spangdahlem in the end – and we hope it will be very little – the state will of course support the local council and municipalities with the necessary measures,” Malu Dreyer said on Monday during talks with local officials.

The main aim was to maintain the United States military base in Spangdahlem and for the United States announcement to be reversed, the minister said.

“We are fighting for the site,” Dreyer added.

In the past week, the United States announced it would transfer F-16 fighter jets stationed in the town in the west of Germany to Italy, affecting around half of the 4,000 soldiers living at the air base.

The United States airforce said the base in Spangdahlem would continue to operate despite the troop withdrawal, though plans are not final yet.

Around 11,000 people live at the air base, including relatives.

United States President Donald Trump has announced the United States would withdraw about 12,000 troops stationed in Germany.

Edited By: Emmanuel Yashim (NAN)

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Coronavirus

Study finds people can transmit coronavirus to cats, dogs

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A study by Italian scientists has found that people can transmit the coronavirus SARSCOV-2 to cats and dogs.


The study tested 540 dogs and 277 cats living in households in northern Italy, particularly in Lombardy, where someone was infected with the virus or in areas where there were many cases.

The study, which has not been peer-reviewed yet, found coronavirus antibodies in 3.4 per cent of dogs and 3.9 per cent of cats, indicating they were infected with the virus.

Swab tests for active virus infections were negative in all animals, as the virus shedding period ended after two weeks.

The tests were conducted between March and May of this year.

Thomas Mettenleiter, leader of the German Federal Research Institute for Animal Health (FLI), said the results showed that the virus could be transmitted between humans and animals.

“This confirms what we already know,” Mettenleiter said, adding that the large scale of the study was unprecedented as it was difficult to get samples.

According to Mettenleiter, most animals in the study came from households affected by the coronavirus, indicating that infection is generally transmitted from humans to animals.

He added that this confirmed the FLI’s assumption that cats and dogs don’t play a significant role in the spread of COVID-19, and that healthy people needed not limit their contact with their pets.

People, who are infected with the virus, however, should limit their contact with their pets, although there are no indications so far that animals can die of the coronavirus, according to Mettenleiter.

Edited By: Emmanuel Yashim (NAN)

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Contact US: editor @nnn.com.ng, nnnnews247 @gmail.com

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