Seoul, Oct 15 (AP/UNB) — The rival Koreas are holding high-level talks Monday to discuss further engagement amid a global diplomatic push to resolve the nuclear standoff with North Korea.
South Korea said Monday's talks will be aimed at finding ways to carry out peace agreements announced after the summit last month between South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in the North Korean capital of Pyongyang.
The meeting between senior officials comes at a sensitive time as Washington has expressed unease over the fast pace in inter-Korean engagement, which it says should move in tandem with U.S.-led efforts to denuclearize the North.
South Korean Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon said the discussions will include setting up a joint survey of a North Korean railroad section the Koreas plan to connect with the South. The North's chief delegate to the talks is Ri Son Gwon, who chairs the North Korean agency that deals with inter-Korean affairs.
There could also be discussions over the specifics of a joint military committee agreed between their leaders to evaluate tension-reduction steps and maintain communication to prevent crises and accidental clashes.
"The infinite waters of the Pacific and the Atlantic start out as a gathering of smaller repositories of water," Ri told South Korean reporters as he arrived at the border village of Panmunjom for the meeting. "Likewise, the high-level meeting today will contribute to peace, prosperity and unification (between the countries) that are desired by the entire nation," he said, referring to the people of both Koreas.
In their third summit this year, Moon and Kim committed to reviving economic cooperation when possible, voicing optimism that international sanctions could end and allow such activity, and holding a groundbreaking ceremony by the end of the year on an ambitious project to connect their roads and railways.
The North and South also announced measures to reduce conventional military threats, such as creating buffer zones along their land and sea boundaries and a no-fly zone above the border, removing 11 front-line guard posts by December, and demining sections of the Demilitarized Zone. The Koreas also said they will make a push to co-host the 2032 Summer Olympics.
Moon has described inter-Korean engagement as crucial to resolving the nuclear standoff and is eager to restart joint economic projects held back by sanctions if the larger nuclear negotiations between the United States and North Korea begin yielding results.
However, South Korea's enthusiasm for engagement with its rival appears to have created discomfort with ally United States amid growing concerns that the North is lagging behind its supposed promise to denuclearize.
Moon's government last week walked back on a proposal to lift some of its unilateral sanctions against North Korea following President Donald Trump's blunt retort that Seoul could "do nothing" without Washington's approval.
South Korea's Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha also said U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had expressed displeasure about the Koreas' military agreement. Kang was not specific but her comments fueled speculation Washington wasn't fully on board before Seoul signed the agreement.
Trump has encouraged U.S. allies to maintain sanctions on North Korea until it denuclearizes to maintain a campaign of pressure against Kim's government.
Kuala Lumpur, Oct 15 (AP/UNB) — Malaysian Prime Minister-in-waiting Anwar Ibrahim said he felt "vindicated" after taking his oath as a lawmaker Monday, marking his return to active politics three years after he was imprisoned for sodomy in a charge that critics said was politically motivated.
The swearing-in ceremony in parliament followed Anwar's landslide win in a by-election Saturday in the southern coastal town of Port Dickson in which he defeated six other candidates. The seat was vacated after a lawmaker from his party quit, paving the way for Anwar's political comeback.
Anwar, 71, joins his wife, Wan Azizah Wan Ismail — currently Malaysia's deputy prime minister — and his eldest daughter, Nurul Izzah Anwar, in parliament. He has said that his by-election victory is a "vote of confidence" in the new government.
"I have been deprived of my right from time to time and I have to go through a by-election to come back ... I feel vindicated," Anwar told reporters Monday. He reiterated support for Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad's leadership to ensure a stable government and pledged to focus on parliamentary reforms.
"Our parliament has in the past been considered or dubbed as a rubber stamp ... we would like to ensure a new approach where parliament is more effective," he said.
Once a high-flying member of the former ruling coalition, Anwar was convicted of homosexual sodomy and corruption after a power struggle with Mahathir, who was prime minister for 22 years until 2003. He was freed in 2004 but was once again convicted for sodomy in 2015, charges that he said were concocted to destroy his political career.
Angered by a massive corruption scandal at a state investment fund involving then-Prime Minister Najib Razak, Mahathir made a political comeback and formed an alliance with Anwar, with the two setting aside their bitter feud ahead of May's general election.
Following their stunning election victory, Anwar was designated as Mahathir's successor.
Anwar was freed from prison and received a royal pardon days after the polls. Mahathir, the world's oldest leader at 93, has said he expects to step down in two years and will keep his promise to hand over power to Anwar.
"Of course I am happy he is back ... we expected him to come back. We knew he was going to win," Mahathir was quoted as saying by local media on Monday.
Berlin, Oct 15 (AP/UNB) — Three people died after they were hit by a small plane in central Germany on Sunday as it attempted to take off after an aborted landing, police said.
Police in Hesse state said the victims, two women and a child to be around age 9 or 10, were on a path next to an airfield at the Wasserkuppe hill near Fulda, German news agency dpa reported.
They said the Cessna was attempting to take off after an aborted landing maneuver, but failed to gain lift and broke through a barrier, hitting the three.
Five other people — the four on board the plane and an eyewitness — were suffering from shock.
The plane came from the Mannheim area of southwestern Germany and had been on an excursion to the Wasserkuppe.
Berlin, Oct 15 (AP/UNB) — A German bus crashed into a metal post on a highway in southern Switzerland Sunday, leaving one woman dead and another 14 people injured, police said.
The bus was heading south with 25 people on board when the accident happened on the A2 highway at Sigirino, near Lugano — along a major route across the Alps from northern Europe to Italy.
It wasn't immediately clear what caused the bus to plow into the post, wrecking the front of the vehicle.
The bus had set off from the German city of Cologne on Saturday evening and was headed for Assisi in Italy, Johannes Huebner of bus travel group RDA, who was coordinating emergency plans for the company involved, told the German news agency dpa.
A group of young people and two drivers were on board, according to Ticino canton (state) police.
A police statement late Sunday said a 27-year-old German woman died of injuries sustained in the crash.
The statement said two people had serious but not life-threatening injuries, eight more had "medium" injuries and another four were lightly hurt.
Los Angeles, Oct 15 (AP/UNB)— Twenty-five people were taken to hospitals with mostly minor injuries following a series of crashes involving at least two cars and a bus that crashed through a concrete divider on a Los Angeles highway, authorities said.
Five patients were in serious condition following the collisions shortly after 1 p.m. that shut down all lanes on Interstate 405 in the city's San Fernando Valley area, Los Angeles Fire Department spokeswoman Margaret Stewart said. The 20 others were in fair condition with minor injuries. A total of 40 people were evaluated at the scene, she said.
The California Highway Patrol was investigating the cause of the pileup on the key north-south artery. It wasn't immediately known how many people were on the bus or where it was headed.
Television news footage showed a white charter bus marked "Transit Systems" splayed sideways but upright across southbound lanes in the North Hills neighborhood. Its skid marks indicated it had gone sideways on the northbound side and then through the divider, City News Service reported.
The bus's front end was crumpled, and emergency window exits were popped open. An SUV next to it had extensive front-end damage.
At least one crashed vehicle was in northbound lanes, which were reopened by about 2:30 p.m. The southbound side remained closed hours later, backing up traffic for miles. Some motorists stuck in their cars walked off the freeway, apparently in search of toilets or drinks, City News Service reported.
The patients in serious condition were three women, ages 49, 60 and 88, and two men, ages 30 and 69, Stewart said.
Nobody answered at a phone number listed for Los Angeles-based Transit Systems bus company.