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Koreas to hold high-level talks on Wednesday

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Seoul, May 15: North and South Korea have agreed to hold high-level talks on May 16 to discuss ways to enforce the Panmunjom Declaration, Seoul’s Unification Ministry said on Tuesday.

The officials from both sides would meet in the Panmunjom border village in the Peace House inside the demilitarized zone (DMZ) dividing the two Koreas, Xinhua quoted a statement as saying.

The Panmunjom Declaration was announced on April 27, after the third and historical inter-Korean summit between South Korean President Moon Jae-in and top North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

In the declaration, they agreed to complete denuclearisation and the alteration of the current armistice agreement to a peace treaty by the end of 2018.

The two leaders had agreed to hold senior-level talks to discuss follow-up measures to enforce the declaration. The Korean Peninsula had remained technically at war as the 1950-53 Korean War ended in armistice.

Seoul had proposed for the dialogue on Monday, but Pyongyang wanted it on Wednesday, which has now been agreed upon.

The five-member North delegation, led by Ri Son-gwon, chairman of the Peaceful Reunification Committee will include railway, sports and inter-Korean economic cooperation officials.

The South Korean delegation will be headed by Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon.

Under the Panmunjom Declaration, the two Koreas agreed to connect and modernise railways and roads in the east transport corridor and between Seoul and Sinuiju in North Korea.

They also agreed to encourage exchanges, cooperation, visits and contacts at all levels to raise the sense of national reconciliation and unity.

To resolve humanitarian issues, the two sides would hold a reunion of families separated across the border around the August 15 Liberation Day, when the Korean Peninsula was liberated from Japanese colonial from 1910-45.

IANS

World

2 Americans, 1 Afghan injured in Kandahar shooting

The US added 3,000 soldiers in 2017 to the already existing 8,000 strong contingent under NATO’s Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan.

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Kabul, Oct 18 : At least two Americans and an Afghan were injured in a shooting at the Governor’s complex in the country’s Kandahar province on Thursday, but the commander of Nato’s Resolute Support Mission, Austin ‘Scott’ Miller, escaped unhurt.

NATO mission spokesperson Knut Peters said that there was an incident at the Kandahar palace and initial reports indicated an Afghan on Afghan situation, Efe news reported.

Peters said two Americans were wounded in the crossfire while Miller, who was coming out of a meeting with the authorities in the building, escaped uninjured.

An official said that the provincial governor’s spokesperson Aziz Ahmad Azizi was wounded in the incident.

The US added 3,000 soldiers in 2017 to the already existing 8,000 strong contingent under NATO’s Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan.

Since the end of NATO’s combat mission in January 2015, the government in Kabul has been losing territory to the insurgents and the Special Inspector-General for Afghanistan Reconstruction of the US Congress said that the Afghan government now controls only 56 per cent of its territory.

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There’s no God: Stephen Hawking in his last book

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New Delhi, Oct 18: In “Brief Answers To The Big Questions”, the last book published in renowned physicist Stephen Hawkings name, he has reached the conclusion that there is no God.

“There is no God. No one directs the universe,” he writes in “Brief Answers to the Big Questions, a copy of which is with IANS.

“For centuries, it was believed that disabled people like me were living under a curse that was inflicted by God,” he adds. “I prefer to think that everything can be explained another way, by the laws of nature,” Hawking writes.

The book was released in the West on Tuesday and arrived at Indian bookstores on Wednesday.

It has been completed by Hawking’s family after his death, and features answers to several pertinent questions that were put to the physicist during his illustrious life.

Among Hawking’s other important assertions and findings, sequences concerning extraterrestrial life and artificial intelligence will interest readers.

Hawking has concluded that there is alien life in existence and has anticipated that artificial intelligence, for all that it is worth, may outsmart humans.

“There are forms of intelligent life out there,” he writes. “We need to be wary of answering back until we have developed a bit further.”

He has also asserted that time travel cannot be ruled out.

“Travel back in time can’t be ruled out according to our present understanding,” he says, predicting that “within the next hundred years we will be able to travel to anywhere in the Solar System.”

For most of his adult life, Hawking suffered from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), which is a neurodegenerative disorder, often referred to as Lou Gehrig’s Disease.

The scientist died while still working on the book, which his family and colleagues finished with the help of his vast personal archives.

His many publications included “The Large Scale Structure of Spacetime” with G F R Ellis, “General Relativity: An Einstein Centenary Survey”, with W Israel, and “300 Years of Gravitation”, with W Israel.

Among the popular books Stephen Hawking published are his best seller “A Brief History of Time”, “Black Holes and Baby Universes and Other Essays”, “The Universe in a Nutshell”, “The Grand Design” and “My Brief History”.

IANS

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Sri Lankan President calls Modi, rejects assassination reports

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New Delhi, Oct 17 Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena on Wednesday rejected media reports alleging an Indian hand in a plot to assassinate him and a former Defence Secretary of Sri Lanka during a telephone call with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

“The President of Sri Lanka Maithripala Sirisena called Prime Minister Modi today,” the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) said in a statement.

“The President of Sri Lanka stated that he categorically rejected the reports in sections of media about him alluding to the involvement of India in any manner whatsoever in an alleged plot to assassinate the President and a former Defence Secretary of Sri Lanka,” the statement said.

“He mentioned that the mischievous and malafide reports were utterly baseless and false, and seemed intended to create misunderstanding between the two leaders as well as damage the cordial relations between the two friendly neighbours,” it stated.

According to the statement, Sirisena apprised Modi of the “urgent steps taken by him personally and the Sri Lankan government to publicly reject these reports.

“The President also stated that he regards the Prime Minister as a true friend of Sri Lanka, as also a close personal friend,” the statement said.

“He stressed that he greatly valued the mutually beneficial ties between India and Sri Lanka, and remained steadfast to work with the Prime Minister for further strengthening them.”

According to the PMO statement, Modi appreciated the prompt steps taken by Sirisena and the Sri Lankan government to firmly refute the malicious reports by publicly clarifying the matters.

“He (Modi) also reiterated India’s emphasis on ‘Neighbourhood First’ policy and the priority the government of India and he personally attach to developing even stronger all-round cooperation between the two countries,” it stated.

This development comes ahead of Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s visit to India starting on Thursday.

Modi and Wickremesinghe are scheduled to hold a bilateral meeting here on Saturday.

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