United Nations, Sep 30 (AP/UNB) — Calling for more trust, North Korea's foreign minister urged the United States on Saturday to keep moving past what he called seven decades of entrenched hostility if Washington wants to restart stalled negotiations meant to rid Pyongyang of its nuclear bombs.
Boiling the rivals' diplomatic standoff down to the North's deepening feeling of mistrust, Ri Yong Ho sought to lay out a vision of peace on the troubled Korean Peninsula — provided the North gets what it wants from the United States.
Ri, standing at a podium at the United Nations General Assembly in New York, said North Korea is ready to implement the points that his leader, Kim Jong Un, and U.S. President Donald Trump agreed to in June during a summit in Singapore.
But his comments were infused with what came across as impatience at the slow pace of progress in a process the world hopes will cause Pyongyang to abandon an arsenal of nuclear-tipped missiles that aims to accurately target the entire U.S. mainland.
In recent weeks, Kim Jong Un has said he would permanently dismantle North Korea's main nuclear complex, but only if the United States takes unspecified corresponding measures. Kim has also promised to accept international inspectors to monitor the closing of a key missile test site and launch pad.
The North, however, doesn't "see any corresponding response" from Washington. On the contrary, Ri said, the United States is increasing pressure and sanctions.
"The perception that sanctions can bring us on our knees is a pipe dream of the people who are ignorant of us," Ri said, adding that the continued sanctions are "deepening our mistrust" and deadlocking the current diplomacy.
"Without any trust in the U.S., there will be no confidence in our national security," he said, "and under such circumstances there is no way we will unilaterally disarm ourselves first."
There was no immediate response from Washington. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said last week he would return to Pyongyang to set up a sequel to the Singapore meeting between Kim and Trump.
Despite the muscular tone, Ri's high-profile speech was downright mild and balanced compared to the florid vows of nuclear strikes and claims of U.S. perfidiousness that have been typical fare from the country's propaganda services.
This was decidedly so during an exchange of threats between Washington and Pyongyang that accompanied a run of increasingly powerful weapons tests last year that put the North on the brink of its claim to be a full-fledged nuclear power, and had some fearing war.
The tenor of Ri's comments was clearly meant to push a wary United States to agree to a declaration formally ending the Korean War, which ended with a ceasefire, not a peace treaty.
Washington is wary of endorsing such a declaration, which could lead to a formal peace treaty. Pyongyang demands the removal of the 28,500 U.S. troops stationed in the South to deter North Korean military adventurism. The United States wants the North first to provide a full account of the components of its nuclear program.
Although not legally binding, the North might also see an end-of-war declaration as a way to create political momentum that would steer discussions toward diplomatic recognition, economic benefits and security concessions.
Once the Singapore agreements are implemented, the "current trend toward detente will turn into durable peace and the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula will also be achieved," Ri said. "The Korean Peninsula, the hottest spot in the globe, will become the cradle of peace and prosperity."
After their summit in Singapore, Trump and Kim issued a vague statement about a nuclear-free peninsula without describing when and how it would occur. Post-summit nuclear negotiations between Washington and Pyongyang were rocky and quickly settled into a stalemate. There is widespread skepticism that Pyongyang is serious about renouncing an arsenal that it likely sees as the only way to guarantee its safety.
Part of that skepticism is based on a bitter history of nuclear negotiations breaking down in mutual recrimination. But there's also stronger evidence for this wariness: Recent satellite photos have indicated Kim's weapons factories were still operating to produce fissile materials to make nuclear weapons.
The doubt is always present on a peninsula so used to threat and bloodshed. What's different now is that it seems to be suffused with a tentative but unmistakable hope.
"Over the past year something miraculous has taken place on the Korean Peninsula," South Korean President Moon Jae-in, seen as the force behind the recent summitry, said earlier at the U.N. "We have crossed the barriers of division and are tearing down the walls in our heart."
Palu, Sep 30 (AP/UNB) -Looters are stealing items from a shopping mall badly damaged by a massive earthquake and tsunami in the hard-hit Indonesian city of Palu in central Sulawesi as search and rescue efforts continue for trapped victims.
An Associated Press photographer saw items being carried off from inside the collapsed mall Sunday. Residents were also seen making their way back to badly damaged homes to try to pick through whatever belongings they could salvage to take away.
A magnitude 7.5 earthquake spawned a deadly tsunami on Friday evening, killing more than 400.
Rescuers are scrambling to try to find trapped victims in collapsed buildings where voices could be heard screaming for help after a massive earthquake that spawned a deadly tsunami in Indonesia two days ago.
The head of Indonesia's search and rescue agency Muhammad Syaugi told local online media Detik.com that he could hear people calling out from the collapsed eight-story Roa-Roa Hotel in Palu.
He said there could be 50 people trapped inside.
The death stood at 405 on Sunday, but that was expected to rise as rescuers made it to hard-to-reach areas on the island of Sulawesi.
Hundreds of people were injured in Friday's disaster and hospitals, damaged by the magnitude 7.5 quake, were overwhelmed.
Palu, Sep 30 (AP/UNB) — Rescuers in Indonesia were scrambling Sunday to reach trapped victims screaming for help from collapsed buildings, while looters risked entering an unstable shopping mall to grab whatever they could find after a massive earthquake spawned a tsunami that left more than 400 dead.
People could still be heard calling out from the eight-story Roa-Roa Hotel which toppled as Friday's twin disasters swept through the hard-hit city of Palu on the island of Sulawesi, said Muhammad Syaugi, the head of Indonesia's search and rescue agency.
"I can still hear the voices of the survivors screaming for help while inspecting the compound," he told local online news portal Detik.com, adding there could be 50 people trapped inside.
The Ministry of Information reported the official death toll from the earthquake and tsunami at 405, with all the fatalities coming in Palu. Disaster agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said the number was expected to rise once rescuers reached surrounding coastal areas.
Aid and supplies were being sent in via military and commercial aircraft, including helicopters, to reach badly affected areas.
The nearby cities of Donggala, the site closest to the earthquake's epicenter, and Mamuju were also ravaged, but little information was available due to damaged roads and disrupted telecommunications. Footage from MetroTV on Sunday showed images of destroyed houses in Donggala and areas that were once land now inundated with water. Aerial video also showed the battered coastline surrounding Palu.
Looters were stealing Sunday from a badly damaged mall in Palu that was not being guarded. They did not appear to be concerned about their safety, despite ongoing aftershocks and the structure's questionable stability. Residents were also seen returning to their destroyed homes, picking through waterlogged belongings, trying to salvage anything they could find.
Nugroho said "tens to hundreds" of people were taking part in a beach festival in Palu when the tsunami struck at dusk on Friday. Their fate was unknown.
Hundreds of people were injured and hospitals, damaged by the magnitude 7.5 quake, were overwhelmed.
Indonesian President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo was set to visit the area later Sunday.
Some of the injured, including Dwi Haris, who suffered a broken back and shoulder, rested outside Palu's Army Hospital, where patients were being treated outdoors due to continuing strong aftershocks. Tears filled his eyes as he recounted feeling the violent earthquake shake the fifth-floor hotel room he shared with his wife and daughter.
"There was no time to save ourselves. I was squeezed into the ruins of the wall, I think," said Haris, adding that his family was in town for a wedding. "I heard my wife cry for help, but then silence. I don't know what happened to her and my child. I hope they are safe."
It's the latest natural disaster to hit Indonesia, which is frequently struck by earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and tsunamis because of its location on the "Ring of Fire," an arc of volcanoes and fault lines in the Pacific Basin. In December 2004, a massive magnitude 9.1 earthquake off Sumatra island in western Indonesia triggered a tsunami that killed 230,000 people in a dozen countries. Last month, a powerful quake on the island of Lombok killed 505 people.
Palu, which has more than 380,000 people, was strewn with debris from the earthquake and tsunami. A mosque heavily damaged by the quake was half submerged and a shopping mall was reduced to a crumpled hulk. A large bridge with yellow arches had collapsed. Bodies lay partially covered by tarpaulins and a man carried a dead child through the wreckage.
The city is built around a narrow bay that apparently magnified the force of the tsunami waters as they raced into the tight inlet.
Indonesian TV showed dramatic smartphone video of a powerful wave hitting Palu, with people screaming and running in fear. The water smashed into buildings and the mosque.
Nina, a 23-year-old woman who goes by one name, was working at a laundry service shop not far from the beach when the quake hit. She said the quake destroyed her workplace, but she managed to escape and quickly went home to get her mother and younger brother.
"We tried to find shelter, but then I heard people shouting, 'Water! Water!'" she recalled, crying. "The three of us ran, but got separated. Now I don't know where my mother and brother are. I don't know how to get information. I don't know what to do."
The earthquake left mangled buildings with collapsed awnings and rebar sticking out of concrete like antennae. Roads were buckled and cracked. The tsunami created even more destruction.
"We got a report over the phone saying that there was a guy who climbed a tree up to 6 meters high," said Nugroho, the disaster agency spokesman.
Communications with the area were difficult because power and telecommunications were cut, hampering search and rescue efforts. Most people slept outdoors, fearing strong aftershocks.
"We hope there will be international satellites crossing over Indonesia that can capture images and provide them to us so we can use the images to prepare humanitarian aid," Nugroho said.
Indonesia is a vast archipelago of more than 17,000 islands that's home to 260 million people. Roads and infrastructure are poor in many areas, making access difficult in the best of conditions.
The disaster agency has said that essential aircraft can land at Palu's airport, though AirNav, which oversees aircraft navigation, said the runway was cracked and the control tower damaged.
AirNav said one of its air traffic controllers, aged 21, died in the quake after staying in the tower to ensure a flight he'd just cleared for departure got airborne safely. It did.
More than half of the 560 inmates in a Palu prison fled after its walls collapsed during the quake, said its warden, Adhi Yan Ricoh.
"It was very hard for the security guards to stop the inmates from running away as they were so panicked and had to save themselves too," he told state news agency Antara.
Ricoh said there was no immediate plan to search for the inmates because the prison staff and police were consumed with the search and rescue effort.
"Don't even think to find the inmates. We don't even have time yet to report this incident to our superiors," he said.
United Nations spokesman Stephane Dujarric said U.N. officials were in contact with Indonesian authorities and "stand ready to provide support as required."
Sulawesi has a history of religious tensions between Muslims and Christians, with violent riots erupting in the town of Poso, not far from Palu, two decades ago. Indonesia is the world's most populous Muslim country.
Dhaka, Sept 29 (UNB) – Cultural Affairs Minister Asaduzzaman Noor on Saturday appreciated China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) saying it has provided an opportunity to realise sustainable development and common prosperity of the two countries.
“We consider China as a time-tested friend. Bangladesh deeply values its relations with China, and China remains our development partner to realise our development vision,” he said.
Minister Noor made the remark while addressing a reception marking the 69th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China at the Chinese Embassy here. Chinese Ambassador in Dhaka Zhang Zuo also spoke on the occasion.
The Cultural Affairs Minister said Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman dreamt of building ‘Sonar Bangla’ and a prosperous country free from hunger, poverty and deprivation.
“Under the dynamic leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, we’re working to fulfill Bangabandhu’s dream,” he said.
The minister said the relations between Bangladesh and China have been elevated to strategic partnership of cooperation following historic visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2016.
Terming Bangladesh-China relations multifaceted ones, he highlighted the bilateral relations in the areas of trade, commerce, investment, tourism, human resources, connectivity, health, education and cultural exchange.
Chinese Ambassador Zhang Zuo said they would like to maintain friendship with the people of Bangladesh for generations to come.
He said they are ready to give Bangladesh a higher priority in China’s diplomacy in order to become great partners of win-win cooperation, great friends with openness and inclusiveness, close brothers for opening up and innovations, and good neighbours who learn from each other.
The diplomat said all the countries are welcome to join the ‘Belt and Road’ initiative with China to expand the scope for practical and friendly collaborations.
He said Bangladesh and China have always remained good friends during the 43 years of the diplomatic relations.
“Especially, after the successful state visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping in October 2016, the China-Bangladesh relationship got elevated to a Strategic Partnership of Cooperation, and thus started a new chapter in our bilateral relations,” Zuo said.
Under the wise leadership of the government of Bangladesh, he said, the diligent Bangladeshi people have made great achievements in national construction and social development.
“Bangladesh and China share close people-to-people bond, similar national realities, and complementary development goals,” said the Chinese Ambassador.
Industries Minister Amir Hossain Amu, leaders of different political parties, diplomats, editors and senior journalists were present.
United Nations, Sept 29 (AP/UNB) — North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho says his nation will never disarm its nuclear weapons first if it can't trust Washington.
Ri was speaking Saturday at the United Nations General Assembly. He called on the United States to follow through on promises made during a summit in Singapore between the rivals' leaders.
His comments come as US. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo seems to be on the verge of restarting deadlocked nuclear diplomacy more than three months after Singapore with North Korea's Kim Jong Un.
Ri says it's a "pipe dream" that continued sanctions and U.S. objection to a declaration ending the Korean War will ever bring the North to its knees.
Washington is wary of agreeing to the declaration without Pyongyang first making significant disarmament moves.
Both Kim and U.S. President Donald Trump want a second summit. But there is widespread skepticism that Pyongyang is serious about renouncing an arsenal that the country likely sees as the only way to guarantee its safety.
Pompeo is planning to visit Pyongyang next month to prepare for a second Kim-Trump summit.
Syria's foreign minister is demanding the immediate withdrawal of all foreign troops from Syria who are there in the country "illegally."
He cites U.S., French and Turkish troops who are in Syria without invitation from the Syrian government.
He says the Syrian government considers them "occupation forces and will be dealt with accordingly."
The United States has around 2,000 troops in northern Syria, working with local forces against Islamic State militants in the country.
Syrian foreign minister Walid Muallem says a committee tasked with drafting a new constitution will not accept outside dictates.
He says anything seen as intervention in Syria's internal affairs is rejected.
He spoke on Saturday, a few days after the United States and six other nations called for the United Nations to convene a committee to begin drafting a new constitution for Syria and promote a political transition in the war-ravaged country.
"Any conditions or pre-conclusions on the work of the committee will not be accepted," Muallem says.
The U.N.-led effort to bring Syria's warring factions together to draft a new constitution under which elections would be held has been stalled for years.
Syria's foreign minister is telling world leaders that his country's "battle against terrorism is almost over."
Walid al-Moallem also vowed Saturday at the U.N. General Assembly that the Syrian government will free the country from all "illegitimate" foreign troops. And he called on all refugees to return home, saying that is a priority for Damascus.
Syrian government forces, backed by Russia and Iran, have retaken most of the territory rebels seized during the war that has killed over 400,000 people and driven millions from their homes.
The deadly Indonesian tsunami is on the minds of some world leaders as they address the U.N. General Assembly less than a day later.
Indian foreign minister Sushma Swaraj expressed condolences to Indonesia during her speech Saturday. She promised that "India will cooperate in helping during this tragic time."
The tsunami swept away buildings and killed at least several hundred people on the central Indonesian island of Sulawesi. Disaster agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said 384 people were killed in the hard-hit city of Palu alone.
The nearby city of Donggala and the town of Mamuju were also ravaged by the magnitude 7.5 earthquake and tsunami. But aid had not reached those communities, due to damaged roads and disrupted telecommunications.
Two of the planet's most troubled hot spots are sending envoys to have their say before the world.
North Korea and Syria are places of international concern that spill trouble beyond national borders, and are to appear before the U.N. General Assembly on Saturday, at a time when both countries could be on the cusp of significant developments.
U.S. President Donald Trump and his secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, are trying to regain momentum more than three months after the Singapore summit with North Korea's Kim Jong Un. They are pushing for a second meeting in their quest to get Pyongyang to renounce its nuclear ambitions.
Syria could be on the verge of emerging from seven years of bloody conflict that included the use of chemical weapons.
Syria's foreign minister will take the podium with his government firmly in control of most of the territory the opposition held for many of the seven years of the conflict.