In Chinese border city locals hope North Korea opens up

DANDONG, China — When a green-and-yellow train carrying North Korean leader Kim Jong Un rolled slowly over a bridge into the Chinese city of Dandong late Saturday, few locals took notice.“I didn’t really know much about it,” a 79-year-old retired farmer who gave only his surname, Shi, said Sunday, pausing during a walk along the river Kim crossed on his way to Vietnam to meet President Donald Trump for their second summit.Over the past few decades, North Korea has receded into irrelevance as the contrast with China has grown starker and starker. Many Chinese now regard North Korea as a curious relic of the past, and Dandong does a roaring trade in tourism centred on China’s neighbour across the water.Street vendors hawk binoculars, boat tours and booklets of North Korean currency during the day, while digital billboards light towering apartments at night. Sinuiju, less than a kilometre (half a mile) away across the Yalu River, lays silent, with few signs of activity among its motionless cranes, marooned ships and squat, unlit apartments.But some in this border city of over 2 million expect that if North Korea opens up, they will be among the first to benefit.“Dandong is the biggest border city in China,” said Liu Yujun, a former trader from Dandong who says real estate prices have been going up in anticipation of detente on the Korean Peninsula. “Their economy could pull Dandong up along with it. If they open up, then we can invest a lot into their economy.”China’s economy is facing its worst slowdown since the global financial crisis amid a bruising trade war with the U.S. Strict U.N. sanctions on North Korea have hit Dandong’s traders and shippers hard in the past few years, with some cutting employees or pivoting toward other businesses, a former freight company executive told The Associated Press.But the sudden thaw in tensions on the Korean Peninsula over the past year has raised anticipation that tough sanctions against North Korea may soon be eased. Investors rushed in to snap up apartments, prompting Dandong’s government to enact new regulations on real estate last May. On the North Korean side of the river, a tall, round concrete building is under construction — a rare sign of development.Shi believes if North Korea follows China’s lead by reforming its economy and opening up to trade, it could boom. He thinks the reason why North Korea struggled while China surged ahead was because of Pyongyang’s overemphasis on military spending.“They put so much effort into missiles and nuclear weapons research,” Shi said. “If they didn’t focus on this research so much, they might not be so backward.”In his upcoming meeting with Trump in Hanoi on Wednesday and Thursday, experts say Kim will seek a U.S. commitment for improved bilateral relations and partial sanctions relief while trying to minimize any concessions on his nuclear facilities and weapons.While Kim wants to leverage his nuclear and missile program for economic and security benefits, there continue to be doubts on whether he’s ready to fully deal away an arsenal that he may see as his strongest guarantee of survival.But Xiao Yue, a food seller in Dandong, doesn’t care too much about the politicking that will take place in Vietnam. She simply wishes that one day, she’ll be able to mingle freely with North Koreans.“It’d help us communicate, culturally and on other levels,” Xiao said. “I just hope they can come over here and have some fun.”Dake Kang, The Associated Press read more

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UN chief hopeful for Libya after Quartet meeting in Tunis

“If is there is a word that defines what I think and feel about Libya today that word is hope. This is a moment of hope for Libya,” said the UN Secretary-General in a press conference after the meeting.  “I have hope because I believe that it is possible to have now a Libyan-led political process aiming at the solution of the Libyan problems.”[email protected]ya is pleased that polling is peacefully underway in 9 municipalities, a strong signal that #Libya-ns are committed to democratically electing their local councils. We applaud @CCMCELy work in preparing the elections & look forward to working w/ newly elected councils. pic.twitter.com/TLVznOsgGY— UNSMIL (@UNSMILibya) March 30, 2019 The meeting in Tunis included Federica Mogherini, European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Ahmad Abulgheit, Secretary-General of the Arab League, Moussa Faki, Chairperson of the African Union Commission; and Ghassan Salamé, UN Special Representative in Libya.Announcing that the meeting had led to “intensified forms of cooperation among our four organizations to work more and more together in support of a Libyan-led political process,” the UN chief said he hoped “the Libyan leaders will understand the enormous responsibility that they have, that they will be able to come together in solutions for the future of Libya, to the benefit of the Libyan people and to the benefit of the whole region as we all know the impact of Libya in the Sahel and many other parts of Africa, even in Europe”.He mentioned three key steps for a successful outcome: the Libyan National Conference to take place in two weeks; the upcoming conference of peace and reconciliation to take place in Addis Ababa, headquarters of the African Union; elections “at the right moment for the country to re-establish a normal political life.”The UN Secretary-General acknowledged that there are difficulties, but stressed that a window of opportunity has been created by the recent historic meeting in Abu Dhabi between Libya’s Prime Minister, Faiez Serraj, and a key rival military leader, the Commander of the Libyan National Army, Khalifa Haftar.Citing the recent peace deals between Ethiopia and Eritrea, in South Sudan, in the Central African Republic and elsewhere, Mr. Guterres said there is a “wind of hope,” not only in Libya.”People are starting to show their leaders that they want peace.” he stated. “It’s not for us to define, because we’re not Libyans, so the Libyans themselves define the precise definition of the solution, but we see signs that the [divide in Libya], for the first time has the possibility to be overcome.”In a tweet, UN Special Representative Salamé called on the Libyan people “not to waste the opportunity” of the recommendations adopted during this high-level meeting and “not to close this window to build a unified, civil, sovereign, capable, fair state.”When he briefed the UN Security Council last week from Tripoli, he said that the UN mission there, UNSMIL, was working to both “prevent recent developments and tensions on the ground from escalating”, and “pivot to stability and a political compact” which would end the country’s crisis.For most of the period since the 2011 overthrow of former dictator Muammar Gaddafi, the Mediterranean nation has been contested by various armed factions, leading to a breakdown of the economy, infrastructure and security across the country.The Quartet meeting and press conference coincided with the kick-off in Libya of municipal elections in nine municipalities across the country. read more

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