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Koreas Resume High-Level Talks as Moon Presses for Sanction Relief

North and South Korea held high-level talks within the heavily fortified demilitarized zone Monday. 

The meeting discussed the implementation agreements made during the recent Pyongyang summit as South Korean President Moon Jae-in called upon the international community to reward North Korean leader Kim Jong Un for his efforts to denuclearize. Despite Moon’s assertions, experts remain cautious that any real denuclearization progress has been made.

Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon led the five-member South Korean delegation to Panmunjom. The South Korean team was greeted by Ri Son Gwon, chairman of the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the country, who headed the North’s contingent.

North and South Korean leaders agreed in September during the third inter-Korean summit to intensify cross-border cooperation and to promote various programs to bring about an era of peace on the peninsula and one without nuclear weapons.

At Monday’s session the two nations agreed to begin a joint project to modernize and connect their rail and roadways before the end of the year. Teams will begin inspecting the transportation links mid-October on the Gyeongeui line and in early November on an eastern route. They also agreed to discuss issues related to a North Korean art troupe performing in the South as soon as possible. Furthermore, they agreed to hold Red Cross talks at the North’s Mount Kumgang Resort in November related to families separated from the Korean War. 

Other projects proposed by the Moon administration could be a problem, said Senior Research Fellow for Northeast Asia at the Heritage Foundation, Bruce Klinger.

It’s his opinion that South Korean President Moon appears “eager” to provide a “long and growing list of economic benefits and economic promises to North Korea.”

“All of which would be violations of [United Nations] sanctions or [United States] law,” said Klinger.

He added there are growing concerns in Washington about Moon’s “eagerness to improve inter Korean relations without a commensurate progress in [North Korea’s] denuclearization.”

However, Bruce Cumings, an American scholar who has extensively studied North Korea and the Korean Peninsula, said North Korea has made some progress.

Cumings said it is “very significant” that nearly a year has passed since North Korea stopped testing missiles and nuclear bombs, “particularly at the point where they haven’t proved that they can marry a warhead to a missile and carry it across the oceans.”

Should North Korea be rewarded?

South Korean President Moon Jae-in is currently traveling on a multi-nation European tour. He renewed calls to engage with Pyongyang and ease sanctions on North Korea as it makes progress toward denuclearization.

Moon said that over the course of his conversations with Kim, the “meetings have convinced me that he has taken the strategic decision to abandon his nuclear weapons.” Moon made the remarks to the Le Figaro newspaper before departing to France for a state visit.

“We need to assure Kim Jong Un that he took the right decision in deciding to denuclearize and we need to accompany him in his wish for a durable and solid peace,” Moon said in the interview.

However, former U.S. Ambassador to South Korea Christopher Hill said that while the atmosphere on the peninsula has changed, that wasn’t necessarily facilitated by Pyongyang.

“I think people who call for a reevaluation of sanctions need to explain how North Korea has somehow changed with respect to denuclearization,” Hill said.

“I’d like to hear the argument that suggests that they’ve done something in denuclearization,” Hill added.

Former U.S. National Security Advisor General H.R. McMaster recently said in Seoul, that “while we all hope that Chairman Kim Jong Un is undergoing a radical change of heart, we must remain alert.”

McMaster said the possibility remains that Kim intends to use his nuclear arsenal as a “‘treasured sword’ designed to pry apart the alliance between the United States and the Republic of Korea, by making America think twice about ever coming to South Korea’s aid in time of war.”

The RAND Corporation’s Bruce Bennett said moving forward, it’s important to know which of “three Kims” the world is dealing with: Is it the “cautious Kim,” who is concerned about internal rebellion as he moves to denuclearize, the “hard bargainer,” who is trying to get the best deal possible, or the “Kim” who doesn’t want to truly denuclearize?

Therefore, “we need to be testing Kim Jong Un” to determine his true intent, said Bennett.

That led Scott Snyder, Senior Fellow for Korea Studies to muse, “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. But [the idiom] doesn’t say anything about what happens if you’re fooled a third time.”

Like Ambassador Hill, Snyder said the critical question is what makes current discussions with North Korea about denuclearization different than past talks. He added it is incumbent on those “pushing forward to try and explain” what those difference are.

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Head of S.Korea’s Ruling Party Says Pope Wishes to Visit N.Korea: Yonhap

The head of South Korea’s ruling Democratic Party of Korea Lee Hae-chan said he had heard that the Pope wishes to visit North Korea next spring, Yonhap news

agency reported on Monday.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in is visiting Europe and is expected to pass on to the Vatican North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s wish to meet Pope Francis. South Korea’s presidential office said that wish was expressed during a meeting last month.

Head of S.Korea’s ruling party says Pope wishes to visit N.Korea – Yonhap

 

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Chinese Envoy Says US Charge of Election Interference ‘Groundless’

China’s ambassador to the U.S. says many accusations the Trump administration has made against Beijing are “groundless”, including election interference.

“One of the fundamental principles in China’s foreign policy is non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries,” Ambassador Cui Tiankai told Fox television Sunday. “We have been consistent in this position. We have a very good track record.”

Without presenting any tangible evidence of Chinese election interference, the White House has accused China of trying to turn voters away from the Republicans in next month’s election.

It also calls the China Daily insert in many U.S. newspapers propaganda.

Cui called the newspaper section a page out of the U.S. media playbook — buying commercial pages in newspapers to make one’s views known.

He also denied the U.S. and China are involved in a trade war, despite the tit-for-tat exchanges of huge tariffs on each other exports.

He said Americans have to look at the “whole picture,” pointing out how much money U.S. companies have made in China over the years.

The ambassador also denied China steals intellectual property from the U.S., days after a senior Chinese intelligence officer was extradited to the U.S. for allegedly trying to steal secrets from American aviation companies.

Cui says such charges are “unfair” to the Chinese people.

“China has 1.4 billion people. It would be hard to imagine that one-fifth of the global population could develop and not prosper, not by relying mainly on their own efforts, but by stealing or forcing some transfer of technology from others. That’s impossible.”

The ambassador also accused the U.S. of stoking military tensions by sending its ships into the South China Sea near Chinese territory, saying there are no Chinese ships hovering around the Gulf of Mexico or off the California coast.

But despite tensions and disagreements, Ambassador Cui said U.S. President Donald Trump and China’s President Xi have a “good mutual understanding and a good working relationship” that he is sure will continue.

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Rohingya Refugees in India Rattled After First-Ever Deportations

In India, the first-ever deportation of Rohingyas to Myanmar has raised the specter of more repatriations among the 40,000 Rohingyas living in the country as the Hindu nationalist government takes a tougher stand on illegal immigrants. Anjana Pasricha visited refugee camps in the northern Haryana state where Rohingyas, who fled persecution and violence in Myanmar, say they fear for their safety if sent back.

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MSF Urges Australia to Evacuate Refugees from Offshore Detention Centers

Nauru’s government says it can meet the mental health needs of residents as well as refugees and asylum seekers detained in an Australian-run immigration facility.  The camp has been used to hold unauthorized migrants caught trying to reach Australia by boat.  

On Friday, the Nauru government told Medecins Sans Frontieres staff that they had to leave the island.

In response, MSF said conditions on the tiny Pacific republic were “beyond desperate.”

The medical charity says it is concerned for the more than 100 asylum seekers and refugee children on Nauru, citing fears about post-traumatic stress, attempted suicide and self-harm.   

“We make no mistake.  MSF is extremely concerned for the on-going mental health of all our patients remaining on the island, including asylum seekers and refugees who remain in a complete state of  hopelessness and despair,” says Paul McPhun, executive director at MSF Australia. “MSF calls for the immediate evacuation of all asylum seekers and refugees. MSF calls for an end to the Australian policy of indefinite offshore detention.”   

 

Nauru is one of two locations in the South Pacific used by Australia to process asylum seekers.  The other, on Manus Island in Papua, New Guinea, closed last October after local judges ruled it unconstitutional because of the poor conditions at the camp.

More than 200 detainees are held in Nauru. Under strict border control measures they will not be allowed to ever resettle in Australia, even if found to be genuine refugees.  Australia says it has no intention of closing the facility, despite repeated condemnation from rights groups.

Canberra argues that offshore processing is a powerful deterrent for migrants risking their lives at sea, often trying to make the journey on rickety fishing boats from Indonesia.  

“I have been very clear before — if I could bring all those people to Australia tomorrow I would do it in a heartbeat.  But if I did that I restart boats and then you would be asking me about the children who are drowning at sea,” says Australia’s Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton. 

The flow of migrant boats arriving in Australia’s territorial waters has stopped.  Navy vessels have been ordered to either tow or turn unauthorized boats away.   

Australia’s acceptance of refugees is relatively small compared to other wealthy countries.  In 2016, Australia resettled 27,626 people from overseas.

 

 

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Cambodia to Again Search for US Vietnam War Dead

Cambodia has agreed to resume a search effort with the United States for the remains of Americans killed in the Vietnam War, the Foreign Ministry said Sunday, after suspending the program a year ago as tension rose between the two countries.

Prime Minister Hun Sen suspended the POW/MIA program when Washington stopped issuing some visas after Cambodia refused to accept citizens deported from the United States following their convictions for crimes there.

Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman Ket Sophann said Hun Sen had offered to resume cooperation in a letter Friday to U.S. Senator Doug Ericksen and Representative Vincent Buys.

“The letter talks to this itself, especially the words: it is the reflection of our deep empathy with the families,” Ket Sophann told Reuters.

Visa dispute

Hun Sen said the search program, which had run for 30 years until being suspended last year, would resume even though the visa curbs had “unjustly sanctioned” Cambodia.

“As we have discussed before, and at your personal request, as well as that made by other U.S. organizations, my government, in the same compassionate spirit, agreed to resume this important POW/MIA field mission, regardless (of) the United States visa restriction in place,” Hun Sen wrote.

The U.S. Embassy in the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh declined to comment.

Hun Sen has said that the remains of half of the 80 American soldiers who went missing in Cambodia during the war in neighboring Vietnam have been found.

War ended in 1975

Even after it ended in 1975, the Vietnam War remains an emotive issue in Cambodia.

Hun Sen’s ruling party won all 125 parliamentary seats in a July election the United Nations and Western countries have described as flawed after the main opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) was dissolved over accusations of plotting to topple the government.

Hun Sen has accused the United States of plotting treason with opposition leader Kem Sokha, an accusation rejected by Washington.

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Vietnam Wants to Go Hollywood 

Call it Vollywood? Vietnam’s movie scene is growing quickly, with an explosion of theaters across the country, more filmmakers entering the market, and more global attention from the 2017 blockbuster “Kong,” which was set and filmed here.

Search for “Vietnam movies” online and most of the results are not films made by Vietnamese people, but Hollywood depictions of the Vietnam War, like Apocalypse Now, Full Metal Jacket, and Born on the Fourth of July. Many of the films are shot in the United States, and all of them are stories about Americans, with Vietnamese characters sprinkled around the backdrop.

This has been a thorn in the side of locals who want Vietnam to have its own place in the world of cinema. That is starting to happen.

​Academy Awards submission

Ngo Thanh Van, who came to international prominence with her role in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, has turned to directing. Her newest film, The Tailor, has been submitted as Vietnam’s official entry for next year’s Academy Awards, in the foreign language category.

“Making movies in the Vietnamese market is a risky business, not just for me,” Van, who also had a role in Star Wars: The Last Jedi, told the news site Zing. “But it is because it is difficult that I want to put all my heart into doing it.”

Increasing demand

Increasing interest comes from both Vietnamese creators and Vietnamese customers. Domestic theater chain CGV reported a 30 percent jump in profits for 2017 compared to the year before. While it is just one company, it controls close to half the cinemas in the Southeast Asian country. Critics call it a monopoly, but that also means its growth is reflective of the industry’s growth at large. Besides CGV, owned by South Korea’s CJ Group, movies are screened by a crowded playing field that includes BHD, Galaxy, Skyline, Cinestar, Cinebox, Lotte and others.

The theaters are feeding consumer demand in an economy that expands nearly 7 percent every year. That has also brought the likes of Netflix and rival streaming service iflix to serve Vietnamese viewers.

“When a country develops, the next developmental need will be entertainment, so it is important to capture this demand,” investment advisory Investar wrote in an analysis of the film industry. “In Vietnam, many big cinemas have started to flourish, and the investment flow in this field is increasing.”

​Diaspora comes home

The growth of Vietnamese cinema coincides with more visibility of the Vietnamese diaspora in films abroad. The Netflix hit To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before stars a Vietnamese-American born in the Mekong Delta town of Can Tho. In Downsizing, Matt Damon plays opposite Hong Chau, who deploys a thick Vietnamese accent but earned a Golden Globe nomination.

And some of that diaspora is coming home. Vietnam has seen American actors, directors, producers and film editors return or resettle here in recent years, most famously the brothers Johnny Tri and Charlie Nguyen. Filmmakers from France, a former colonizer of Vietnam, have also relocated, such as a pair of French-Vietnamese who set up an animation studio in Ho Chi Minh City.

“Watching Vietnamese movies is one of the fun, relaxing and effective ways to express Vietnamese patriotism,” entertainer Nguyen Cao Ky Duyen said on her Facebook page. “If you support Vietnamese movies, the movies will be profitable, and investors will put in more money.”

She added that Vietnam has plenty of scenic locales that would be a cameraman’s dream.

​Dream locale

Kong: Skull Island is a good example. The latest installment of the brobdingnagian gorilla franchise was filmed around Vietnam, including shots of the limestone cliffs and malachite green waters of Halong Bay, a UNESCO World Heritage site.

The film is also a telling symbol of a Vietnamese shift. Although it is set in the Vietnam War, Kong was not received as a war drama, but celebrated for everything else: The gripping ape-fueled action, the performances of Samuel L. Jackson and Brie Larson, and the majestic scenery. Vietnam is happy to provide that, rather than just another battlefield backdrop.

Vietnamese-language films have gone global here and there, from Cyclo to The White Silk Dress. Locals hope those are just the start of a thriving industry.

“We know that Vietnamese movies are not yet equal with neighboring countries, because we are still in a period of opening up,” Ky Duyen said. “But that does not mean that we will not catch up or even surpass them.”

India has Bollywood. Nigeria has Nollywood. It might soon be time for Vollywood.

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Why Taiwan Will Send Tech Guru to APEC in November

Taiwan’s pick of a semiconductor magnate rather than a political figure as its envoy to a meeting of 21 Asian nations, including historical rival China, gives it a chance to showcase its tech prowess instead of its sticky position in geopolitics.

Morris Chang, retired chairman of Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co., will head the Taiwan delegation to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation leaders’ summit next month in Papua New Guinea.

Taiwanese officials normally send political figures to the event that Chinese President Xi Jinping is also expected to attend. China sees self-ruled Taiwan as a breakaway part of its territory rather than as a country, keeping relations chilled for decades.

Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen said she picked Chang because of his status in global industry. He’s ideal to discuss Taiwan’s technology with world leaders, she said Oct. 3 in announcing the appointment. Chang is expected to focus away from geopolitics or China-Taiwan ties.

“He qualifies as the best person to choose, because after all, these so-called (Taiwan) politicians, their level of international influence isn’t high enough,” said Liang Kuo-yuan, president of the think tank Polaris Research Institute in Taipei. “I believe that Morris will help speak for Taiwan at an appropriate time.”

Message of high-tech prowess

Taiwan has been a manufacturing hub since the 1980s for hardware such as PCs and, more recently, smartphones. Taiwanese firms often make those devices on contract for Apple and other major brands. Much of that hardware carries chips made by Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co.

Now Taiwanese leaders hope to shift their technology sector, about one-fifth of GDP, more toward software, such as mobile apps, and software-hardware combinations, in line with world trends. The central government is pushing the industry to rely more on own-brand gear instead of contract work.

Tsai asked Chang’s delegation at APEC to “identify opportunities for cooperation and tell the international community about Taiwan’s strengths, and vision and ideas about embracing our digital future,” the presidential website says.

Chang’s company is well known offshore, Liang said. He founded Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TSMC) in 1987 and built it into the world’s largest contract chipmaker for electronic devices. He created the company after Taiwan officials at the time called him over from Texas Instruments in the United States to help jumpstart the island’s tech sector.

His New York-listed company that reported 2017 profits of $11.1 billion on $31.6 billion in revenue is seen as a bellwether for global tech investments. Chang, 87, retired in June.

Other world leaders “can understand TSMC’s strength,” enabling Chang to talk to them about management, Liang said.

China won’t mind

Chang as a skillful communicator from a nonpolitical background is unlikely to ruffle China at APEC, political scholars say. Taiwan’s delegates sometimes meet briefly with those from China, though they don’t use the event to discuss their own issues.

China forbids Taiwan’s participation outright in other international bodies, such as the United Nations, because it does not recognize the government in Taipei. It also asks that its 170-plus foreign allies avoid Taiwan except for trade and consular matters.

Taiwanese presidents have stayed in APEC to date by sending politicians, often from outside government, whom Beijing likes. Taiwan presidents themselves cannot attend the leader summits.

China and Taiwan have not talked formally since Tsai took office in 2016. Tsai disputes Beijing’s dialogue premise, that each side see itself as part of China.

“In terms of political reality, he’s the one and only (who) could be accepted on the part of mainland China, so that’s why Chang was sent out one more time,” said Liu Yih-jiun, professor of public affairs at Fo Guang University in Taiwan.

China-Taiwan relations off limits

Chang probably has no mandate to discuss China-Taiwan relations, known as cross-Strait ties, said Raymond Wu, managing director of Taipei-based political risk consultancy e-telligence.

“I don’t really expect anything substantive to come out of the APEC,” Wu said. “Whether Chang gets a meeting with Xi Jinping, it doesn’t really matter. That’s one of the no-no’s for Beijing — not to publicize cross-Strait relations internationally.”

Taiwan and China have been separately ruled since the Chinese civil war of the 1940s, when the Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalists lost and fled to the island. Government opinion polls in Taiwan show most people support the island’s autonomy over China’s goal of unifying the two sides.