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North Korea may break off US talks: Top official

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Pyongyang, March 15: North Korean leader Kim Jong-un may break off denuclearisation talks with the US and resume missile and nuclear testing, a senior official here said on Friday.

Vice Foreign Minister Choe Sun-hui told foreign diplomats here that Washington threw away “a golden opportunity” at the Vietnam summit between US President Donald Trump and Kim, the BBC reported.

Choe accused the US of taking a “gangster-like” stance at the February summit which was held to discuss the regime’s denuclearisation process. Trump and Kim first met in Singapore last year.

North Korea had earlier offered to dismantle its main Yongbyon nuclear complex. But talks collapsed after Trump refused to lift sanctions unless Pyongyang destroyed all its nuclear sites.

“We have no intention to yield to the US demands in any form, nor are we willing to engage in negotiations of this kind,” she told reporters in North Korea, according to Russian state Tass news agency.

Choe said that North Korea’s demand during the summit was for five key economic sanctions to be lifted, not all sanctions, as Trump said after talks broke down.

“What is clear is that the US has thrown away a golden opportunity this time. I’m not sure why the US came out with this different description. We never asked for the removal of sanctions in their entirety.”

Choe said that Kim will make an official announcement on his position regarding future talks with the US soon.

Trump and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo stated after talks in February that North Korean officials had asked for full sanctions relief.

“It was all about the sanctions. They wanted the sanctions lifted in their entirety and we couldn’t do that,” Trump said that time. “Sometimes you have to walk and this was one of those times.”

In Washington this week, the US special representative for North Korea, Stephen Biegun, said that diplomacy was “still very much alive”, though he did not say if there had been any negotiations since the summit or outlined any plans for further talks.

At a news conference after the Hanoi summit, Trump said no plans had been made for a third summit, but he expressed optimism about a “good outcome” in the future.

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US hardens stance against China’s South China Sea resource claims

The relationship between the United States and China has grown increasingly tense over the past six months over Beijing’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, its tightened grip on Hong Kong and its crackdown on China’s Uighur Muslim community.

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WASHINGTON: The United States on Monday hardened its rejection of China’s disputed claims to offshore resources in most of the South China Sea, calling it “unlawful,” a move that will further sour the already-fraught ties between the world’s largest two economies.

China has offered no coherent legal basis for its ambitions in the South China Sea and for years has been using intimidation against other South Asian coastal states, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said.

“We are making clear: Beijing’s claims to offshore resources across most of the South China Sea are completely unlawful, as is its campaign of bullying to control them,” Pompeo, a prominent China hawk within the Trump administration, said in a statement.

The United States has long opposed China’s expansive territorial claims on the South China Sea, even sending U.S. warships regularly through the strategic waterway to demonstrate freedom of navigation there. Monday’s comments reflect a harsher tone.

“The world will not allow Beijing to treat the South China Sea as its maritime empire. America stands with our Southeast Asian allies and partners in protecting their sovereign rights to offshore resources, consistent with their rights and obligations under international law,” Pompeo said.

The relationship between the United States and China has grown increasingly tense over the past six months over Beijing’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, its tightened grip on Hong Kong and its crackdown on China’s Uighur Muslim community.

China claims 90% of the potentially energy-rich South China Sea, but Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also lay claim to parts of it, through which about $3 trillion of trade passes each year. Beijing has built bases atop atolls in the region but says its intentions are peaceful.

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Global coronavirus infections top 13 million

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Worldwide coronavirus infections passed 13 million on Monday, according to a Reuters tally, marking another milestone in the spread of the disease which has killed more than half a million people in seven months.

The first case was reported in China in early January and it took three months to reach one million cases. It has taken just five days to climb to 13 million cases from 12 million recorded on July 8.

The number of cases is around triple that of severe influenza illnesses recorded annually, according to the World Health Organization.

There have been more than 568,500 deaths linked to the coronavirus so far, within the same range as the number of yearly influenza deaths reported worldwide. The first death was reported on Jan. 10 in Wuhan, China, before infections and fatalities surged in Europe and then later in the United States.

Many hard-hit countries are easing lockdowns put in place to slow the spread of COVID-19. Other places, such as the Australian city of Melbourne, are implementing a second round of shutdowns.

The Reuters tally, which is based on government reports, shows the disease is accelerating the fastest in Latin America. The Americas account for more than half the world’s infections and half the deaths.

The United States reported a daily global record of 69,070 new infections on July 10. In Brazil, 1.86 million people have tested positive, including President Jair Bolsonaro, and more than 72,000 people have died.

India, the country with the third-highest number of infections, has been contending with an average of 26,000 new infections each day since the beginning of July.

In countries with limited testing capacity, case numbers reflect only a proportion of total infections. Experts say official data likely under-represents both infections and deaths.

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India created fake Ayodhya, Ram was from Nepal: Nepali PM Oli

Nepal PM KP Sharma Oli, on Monday, said that ‘real Ayodhya’ is in Nepal and ‘Lord Ram is Nepali not Indian’.

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Kathmandu, July 13 : Nepal Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli has claimed that India has created a ‘fake’ Ayodhya, and Lord Ram was originally from Nepal — a shocking statement that has come at a time when India’s diplomatic ties with the Himalayan nation is going through certain upheavals.

“We have been oppressed a bit culturally. Facts have encroached. We still believe that we gave Sita to Indian Prince Ram. But we gave to the prince from Ayodhya, not India. Ayodhya is a village a little west to Birgunj, not the Ayodhya created now (sic),” Oli said at an event at his official residence in Baluwatar.

Oli was addressing a program to mark the birth anniversary of Bhanubhakta Acharya.

The stunning claim comes on the backdrop of an ongoing diplomatic tussle between Kathmandu and New Delhi over the newly published Nepal map which claims Indian territory as its own.

Bilateral ties between India-Nepal were stressed after Defence Minister Rajnath Singh inaugurated an 80-km-long road connecting Lipulekh pass with Dharchula in Uttarakhand on May 8. Kathmandu reacted sharply to the development and claimed that the road was built on Nepalese land.

Nepal also updated its political map which included Indian territories. India condemned the move and handed over a diplomatic note to Nepal over the map issue.

The ties worsened further when Oli blamed India for demands by his party colleagues who sought his resignation over multiple ‘failures’. During a rally, Oli alleged that the leaders of his Nepal Communist Party (NCP) who were making attempts to ‘topple his government’, were doing so at the behest of India.

His remarks have invited severe criticism from senior leadership in that country. Former prime minister ‘Prachanda’, who was among leaders who demanded Oli’s resignation, said that Oli’s anti-India remarks were “neither politically correct nor diplomatically appropriate.”

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