Tuesday, April 24, 2018
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Seoul – North Korean leader Kim Jong Un Sunday attended the first concert in Pyongyang for over a decade by South Korean entertainers, including a K-pop girlband, the latest gesture of reconciliation before a rare inter-Korean summit.

The visit, described by many as a cultural charm offensive by the South, came as a diplomatic thaw quickens on the peninsula after months of tensions.

The 120-member group — 11 musical acts as well as dancers, technicians and martial artists — gave one concert on Sunday with another set for Tuesday.

Kim and his wife, a former singer herself, came to watch Sunday’s show, making him the first leader of the North to attend a concert by South Korean performers.

Kim shook hands and took photos with the stars backstage, saying inter-Korean cultural events should be held more often and suggesting another event in the South Korean capital this autumn, pool reports said.

The young couple were seen clapping their hands during the two-hour event — also attended by Kim’s powerful sister, Kim Yo Jong, and ceremonial head of state Kim Yong Nam.

“Please tell (South Korean) President Moon Jae-in how great an event like this is… I am grateful for a gift like this (concert) to the people of Pyongyang,” Kim told visiting Seoul officials.

Kim also showed “great interest in the songs and lyrics (of South Korean singers) during the concert,” Do Jong-hwan, Seoul’s culture chief and the head of the delegation, told reporters.

The South’s taekwondo athletes also staged a performance before an audience of 2,300 in Pyongyang on Sunday ahead of a joint display of the Korean martial art with the North’s practitioners on Monday.

The ongoing rapprochement was triggered by the South’s Winter Olympics, to which the North’s leader Kim Jong Un sent athletes, cheerleaders and his sister as an envoy.

A North Korean art troupe staged two performances in the South in February to celebrate the Games.

Kim followed up by agreeing to a summit with Moon, and offering a face-to-face meet with US President Donald Trump. Kim also met Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing last week during his first overseas trip.

The inter-Korean summit, the third after meetings in 2000 and 2007, will be held on April 27. No date has been set for the US-North Korean summit although it is expected before the end of May.

In another sign of eased tensions, an annual US-South Korean military exercise which got under way in the South Sunday will last for just one month compared to some two months normally.

This year’s drills feature fewer strategic weapons such as nuclear-powered aircraft carriers, Seoul’s military has said. Such deployments during past drills has frequently drawn an angry response from Pyongyang.

 

– ‘Let’s do our best’ –

 

Sunday’s concert to a packed audience at the elaborately decorated 1,500-seat East Pyongyang Grand Theatre ended with a standing ovation after a finale in which all the stars appeared on stage to sing a song about unification.

One of the most closely watched acts was Red Velvet, part of the South’s hugely popular K-pop phenomenon that has taken audiences in Asia and beyond by storm in recent decades.

Before the concert, even the leader Kim joked: “There was so much interest in whether I’d come to see Red Velvet or not.”

The five-member girlband — known for its signature K-pop mix of upbeat electronic music, stylish fashion and high-voltage choreography — performed two of their hits, “Bad Boy” and “Red Flavour”.

“The North’s audience applauded to our performance much louder than we expected and even sang along to our songs… it was a big relief,” band member Yeri told reporters.

“I told myself, ‘let’s do our best even if there’s no response (from the audience)… but they showed so much reaction,” added a member called Wendy.

Another member, Seulgi, appeared red-eyed as she bid farewell to the audience at the end of the concert, apparently overcome with emotion.

 

– ‘Maze of Love’ –

 

Despite the North’s isolation and strict curbs on unauthorised foreign culture, enforced with prison terms, K-pop and South Korean TV shows have become increasingly popular there thanks to flash drives smuggled across the border with China.

The emcee of Sunday’s concert was a popular member of K-pop band Girls’ Generation, Seohyun, who had performed with the visiting North Korean singers during their Seoul concert in February.

Legendary South Korean singer Cho Yong-pil, who held a solo sell-out concert in Pyongyang in 2005, was another star of the show.

Kim’s late father and longtime ruler, Kim Jong Il, was known to be a fan of the 68-year-old Cho.

Another famous singer, Choi Jin-hee, also performed for the fourth time in the North and sang “Maze of Love” — a hit in both Koreas and another of the late Kim’s favourites.

But not all onlookers were receptive to the K-pop offensive.

During the taekwondo event, a previously-enraptured audience turned stone-faced during a performance combining K-pop dance and Taekwondo routines to a hit song by the ultra-popular boyband BTS.

The stiffened crowd refused to respond to the athletes who asked them to clap their hands to “Fire” — an intense electro-dance score peppered with rapid-fire rap delivered in both Korean and English. //AFP

 

 

Suu Kyi ally set to take presidency in Myanmar

Posted by pakin On March - 22 - 2018 ADD COMMENTS

HOUSE SPEAKER WIN MYINT TIPPED TO REPLACE ILL HTIN KYAW AS NEW TITULAR HEAD OF STATE

Win Myint, a trusted aide of Aung San Suu Kyi, is tipped to become Myanmar’s new head of state after President U Htin Kyaw resigned yesterday due to health reasons.

Analysts, however, expect no other changes in the government.

Shortly after the President’s Office announced the resignation of Htin Kyaw, Lower House speaker Win Myint also put in his papers.

The resignation of the two senior political figures took place only a day after Suu Kyi returned home after the Australia-Asean special summit where the Rohingya crisis was comprehensively discussed and Asean was urged to play a bigger role.

While Asean has followed its traditional policy of non-interference in the internal affairs of a member country, Suu Kyi has been strongly criticised for her role in handling the situation. The United Nations’ human rights body has pointed to a possible genocide since August when violence forced some 700,000 people to flee from Myanmar’s western Rakhine state.

Htin Kyaw took office after the National League for Democracy (NLD) won a landslide victory in the 2015 election. His role in the administration was ceremonial as Suu Kyi, who was barred by the military-sponsored constitution from the position, created for herself the position of State Counsellor, effectively becoming the de facto leader.

Htin Kyaw is an old school friend of Suu Kyi, who was loyal to her and advised her at the peak of her political struggle and house arrest. The 71-year-old president, who has had a heart problem in the past, has been in poor health and was found to have lost a lot of weight recently. He reportedly received medical treatment in Thailand.

Politicians in Myanmar told The Nation that Htin Kyaw’s move to step down was due to health problems.

“We believe President Htin Kyaw resigned from his post because of his health. We need to respect his decision,” said NLD spokesperson Monywa Aung Shin.

“We’ve been hearing about President Htin Kyaw’s medical treatment for a long time. Everybody knows that he needs to take rest. So, we are not surprised by this development,” said Nanda Hla Myint, spokesperson of the rival Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP). The USDP was the ruling party during the previous administration under General Thein Sein.

Win Myint, 66, who is tipped to be the new president, is also a long-time trusted Suu Kyi loyalist. He served on the NLD’s executive committee for many years. He became House speaker after the 2015 election victory because of his background in law.

According to the constitution, Myanmar’s parliament would appoint a new president within a week.

Vice President Myint Swe, a retired general who took the position under the military quota, will be the acting president until the new head of state is appointed.

Analysts said the new president must be someone who is trusted by Suu Kyi. “We strongly believe Daw Aung San Suu Kyi will make an excellent choice again, selecting another capable leader who can lead the government and the country in line with NLD’s mission, vision and regulations,” said Monywa Aung Shin, an NLD executive committee member.

“Anyone who she selects as president will be someone she has complete trust in,” independent analyst Richard Horsey was quoted as saying by AFP. “That trust is the basis of her being the seat of power in Myanmar. She has no power under the constitution. Any power comes from that relationship with the president.”

Nanda Hla Myint agreed, saying, “We believe that the new president will be the second U Htin Kyaw – the one who she can trust, who obeys her, who is capable of making her desires happen, and who is really willing to follow her instructions. So, there will be no significant impacts.

“We do not expect many changes in Myanmar’s political climate due to this announcement. We believe Daw Aung San Suu Kyi will be able to lead the State even though U Htin Kyaw resigned from his post,” he said.

Maung Maung Lay, vice president of the Union of Myanmar Federation of Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said the private sector understands the nature of political change and is willing to cooperate with the new president.

 

EU suspends support for Cambodian election

Posted by pakin On December - 13 - 2017 ADD COMMENTS

PHNOM PENH: The European Union announced on Tuesday that it is suspending funding for Cambodia’s general election next year over the forced dissolution of the country’s main opposition party.

“In view of the decision by the Cambodian Supreme Court on 16 November to order the dissolution of the Cambodian National Rescue Party, the European Commission has decided to suspend its assistance to the National Election Committee,” said a press statement issued by the EU delegation to Cambodia.

“An electoral process from which the main opposition party has been arbitrarily excluded cannot be seen as legitimate,” the statement said.

The decision to dissolve the CNRP, and the subsequent reallocation of its seats in the National Assembly to other parties, denies the choice of those who voted for the party, it added.

In the last general election in 2013, the CNRP won 55 seats in the 123-seat National Assembly, against 68 seats captured by the ruling Cambodian People’s Party. The party was expected to do well in next year’s election.

Critics say the court’s verdict is only part of a wide-ranging crackdown on opposition politicians and independent media by Prime Minister Hun Sen for fear of losing the next election.

The EU’s move follows a similar suspension by the United States, which last month announced the termination of its support for the NEC.

NEC spokesman Sam Sorida told Kyodo News that the EU’s move will not affect the holding of the 2018 general election as the government has sufficient funds.

However, he acknowledged that any assistance would help reduce spending by the Cambodian government.

 

Asean takes calm tack on South China Sea

Posted by pakin On November - 14 - 2017 ADD COMMENTS

Parties agree to work towards new code of conduct governing disputes.

ASEAN PUSHED for early negotiations on the Code of Conduct (CoC) in the South China Sea during the 31st Asean Summit and 20th Asean-China Summit yesterday.

In a continued effort since the CoC framework was adopted during the Asean Foreign Ministers’ Meeting (AMM) in August, both sides agreed to kick off negotiations by early next year, a source said.

The CoC, while not itself an instrument to manage territorial disputes, takes the sides a step closer to realising a legally binding tool regarding territories contested by China and four Asean countries.

Host country Philippines, one of the contestants, had appeared to preserve its original stance on the long-contested sea, before releasing it in a document seen by The Nation.

Two paragraphs mentioning the South China Sea were softer than those in earlier joint communiques released after the AMM.

The Philippines, which chairs Asean this year, has taken a soft stance over territorial disputes with China since the current administration under President Rodrigo Duterte came to power.

Members of Asean, including the Philippines and Vietnam, have been at loggerheads with China over territorial disputes in the contentious sea for decades. The issue always raises temperatures at Asean meetings, but received a relatively calm reception this year as conflicting parties sought to compromise.

Vietnam and China agreed yesterday to back away from conflicts in the South China Sea, in a move aimed at easing tensions over Beijing’s claims to most of the waterway, according to an AFP report from Hanoi.

Hanoi and Beijing agreed to maintain peace in the seas, the countries said in a joint statement during a state visit to Hanoi by Chinese President Xi Jinping.

They agreed to “well manage disputes at sea, make no moves that may complicate or expand disputes, [and] maintain peace and stability on the East Sea”, the Vietnamese version of the statement said, using Hanoi’s term for the sea.

During a meeting at the Asean-China summit in Manila, leaders of both sides said they had agreed to officially commence negotiations with China on the CoC. “[We] trust that we will continue this positive momentum and work towards a substantive and effective CoC,” a statement said.

They also called the situation “calmer”, a rare official note on the conflicting sea, adding that the detente “cannot [be taken] for granted and needs further cooperation”.

Under Duterte, the Philippines has shifted its approach from collectively calling on Asean to cope with China to a more “friendly” approach to negotiations.

That stance was reiterated yesterday by Philippine presidential spokesperson Harry Roque, who also recalled Duterte’s bilateral meeting with President Xi during the Apec Summit last week in Vietnam.

“[Duterte] opted for friendly relations with China and also reinstates warmer [relations] with Vietnam, Indonesia and Malaysia,” Roque said, referring to all countries contesting the “West Philippine Sea”, as the Philippines refers to the body.

“It is not in the interest of either China or the Philippines to resort to military forces. China is also pursuing with bilateral [talks] with every claimant.”

“It is a hope of all Asean countries that the CoC will be concluded as soon as possible,” he added

 

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