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WASHINGTON, June 23, 2018 (News Wires) - The United States and South Korea have agreed to indefinitely suspend two exchange program training exercises, the Pentagon said late Friday, in the aftermath of the summit earlier this month between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

“To support implementing the outcomes of the Singapore Summit, and in coordination with our Republic of Korea ally, Secretary Mattis has indefinitely suspended select exercises,” Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White said.

“This includes suspending FREEDOM GUARDIAN along with two Korean Marine Exchange Program training exercises scheduled to occur in the next three months,” White said.

Regarding suspension of the exercises, South Korea’s defense ministry said, “South Korea and the US decided to delay two of KMEP (drills) indefinitely, which was going to take place within the next three months.

“This is a part of follow-up measures after the North Korea-US summit and South Korea-North Korea summit. There could be additional measures should North Korea follow suit with productive cooperation.”

BEIJING, June 23, 2018 (News Wires) - China's trade with North Korea in the first five months of 2018 fell 56.8 percent from a year earlier to $887.4 million, customs data showed on Saturday.

Imports from North Korea fell 87 percent to $94.3 million in January-May.

China's May total trade with North Korea was $230.87 million, compared with $173.7 million in the previous month.

China's exports to North Korea were $217.2 mln million in May while imports from North Korea were $13.65 million, the data showed.

SEOUL, South Korea, June 22, 2018 (News Wires) - North and South Korea agreed Friday to hold temporary reunions of families divided by the 1950-53 Korean War as they boost reconciliation efforts amid a diplomatic push to resolve the North Korean nuclear crisis.

The reunions will take place at North Korea's Diamond Mountain resort from Aug. 20 to 26, Seoul's Unification Ministry said after a nine-hour meeting between Red Cross officials from the two sides.

It said the countries will each send 100 participants to the reunions. People with mobility problems will be allowed to bring a relative to help them.

Such temporary reunions are highly emotional as most wishing to take part are elderly people who are eager to see their loved ones before they die. The families were driven apart during the turmoil of the war.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in agreed during a summit in April to hold the family reunions about Aug. 15, the anniversary of the Korean Peninsula's independence from Japanese colonial rule at the end of World War II in 1945.

Friday's talks between Red Cross officials at the Diamond Mountain resort were to arrange details of the reunions.

Kim and Moon met again in May. Their two summits have opened various channels of peace talks between the countries. The rivals recently agreed to restore cross-border military hotline communication channels and field joint teams in some events at the upcoming Asian Games in Indonesia.

"If we sternly separate ourselves from the unfortunate past and acquire a strong mindset for the new times, humanitarian cooperation between the North and South will flourish," North Korea delegate Pak Yong Il said at the start of the meeting. Park Kyung-seo, president of South Korea's Red Cross, expressed hope for talks that could "resolve the grief of our nation."

 

SEOUL, June 21, 2018  (News Wires) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and Chinese President Xi Jinping discussed measures to bolster “strategic and tactical” cooperation between the two countries in a second meeting on Wednesday, the North’s state media said on Thursday.
The meeting between Kim and Xi came on the North Korean leader’s second and last day of his latest visit to Beijing, where he briefed the Chinese president on his summit with U.S. President Donald Trump in Singapore last week.

They exchanged “serious views” on the present and “new” situation, Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said.

On Tuesday, Kim and Xi were reported by North Korean media to have reached an understanding on the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula after discussing the outcome of the U.S.-North Korea summit.

Kim visited an agricultural institute run by the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences before meeting Xi on Wednesday, KCNA said, where he observed vegetables being grown inside.

The North Korean leader also visited a traffic control centre in Beijing before departing for Pyongyang on Wednesday afternoon, KCNA said. The visits to the two locations were also reported by Chinese media.

Kim has pledged to make the economy in North Korea a priority after he announced the achievement of a long-held ambition to develop nuclear weapons. North Korean media has frequently stressed advancements made in its agricultural and industrial sectors in recent months.

The official China Daily newspaper said in an editorial on Thursday ties between the two countries have “radiated new vitality”, and that Kim’s visits to the agricultural and traffic control centres showed the economy was a priority for him.

“Kim’s latest talks with Xi will have reassured him that China stands behind the DPRK as it switches its focus to economic development,” the paper said, using North Korea’s formal name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

In Singapore, Kim lauded the “clean, beautiful and advanced” nation and said he had learned much from the prosperous country.

SEOUL, June 20, 2018 (News Wires) - North Korea’s Kim Jong Un and Chinese President Xi Jinping came to an understanding on issues that were discussed at a summit between the two leaders, including denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula, the North’s state media said on Wednesday.

Kim and Xi assessed the historic meeting Kim had with US President Donald Trump in Singapore last week and exchanged opinions on ways to resolve the issue of denuclearisation, Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said.

The North Korean leader also promised during a meeting with Xi in Beijing to cooperate with Chinese officials to secure “true peace” in the process of “opening a new future” on the Korean peninsula, it said.

Kim’s two-day visit to Beijing will end later on Wednesday, according to state media from China and North Korea. It follows his Singapore summit, where Kim and Trump reaffirmed a commitment to work towards complete denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula.

Trump surprised officials in South Korea and the United States after that meeting by saying he would end “provocative” joint US-South Korean military exercises.

The United States and South Korea said on Tuesday they had agreed to suspend a joint military exercise scheduled for August, although decisions regarding subsequent drills have not yet been made.

On Wednesday, South Korean foreign minister Kang Kyung-hwa said the decision to suspend the exercise could be reconsidered based on future developments with North Korea.

“I think we’ve made it clear this is a goodwill gesture to strengthen dialogue momentum,” Kang said.

“It’s not irreversible. They could come back if the dialogue loses speed, or if North Korea doesn’t live up to its denuclearisation commitment,” she said.

Kim is on his third visit to China this year. Xi offered high praise to the North Korean leader on Tuesday for the “positive outcome” of last week’s summit with Trump.

KCNA also reported that Xi said relations between China and North Korea had entered a new level of development since Kim’s first visit in March and that the agreements made between the two leaders were being carried out “one-by-one”.

BEIJING, June 19, 2018 (News Wires) - North Korean leader Kim Jong Un began a two-day visit to Beijing on Tuesday in what analysts believe is a trip to brief his sole major ally on his unprecedented summit with US President Donald Trump and seek consensus on negotiations with Washington.

The outing comes as China has sought to strengthen its role as a mediator between the US and North Korea, where Beijing claims compelling security and economic interests.

The North's leader, who is believed to have landed in the Chinese capital Tuesday morning, was expected to head to the Great Hall of the People to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping, though no official agenda was released.

Dozens of security vans, police cars and armoured vehicles lined streets around Beijing's Diaoyutai State Guesthouse - where Kim had stayed in his previous visit.

A motorcade accompanying a black limousine was seen leaving the compound late Tuesday afternoon as police cleared the way.

The visit comes as the United States, which relies on China to enforce sanctions against Pyongyang, stands on the brink of a potential trade war with Beijing, adding an extra layer of uncertainty and a possible pressure point to be exploited by North Korea's powerful ally.

Chinese state broadcaster CCTV reported that Kim would be in Beijing through Wednesday.

"We hope this visit will help deepen the China-DPRK relations and strengthen our strategic communication on major issues to promote regional peace and stability," foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told a regular press briefing.

The visit is the North Korean autocrat's third to China since March, when he made his inaugural foreign trip as leader.

Previous trips had been kept secret until Kim returned home. It was not clear why Chinese state media broke with the precedent.

In addition to discussing last week's summit, Kim is expected to ask China for help in easing economic sanctions, in return for his pledge to denuclearise, according to Wang Dong, an international relations expert at Peking University.

"The Chinese and North Korean leaders are carrying out consultations on how to jointly move the Korean nuclear issue forward."

Following the historic US-North Korea summit in Singapore a week ago, China suggested the UN Security Council could consider easing the economic restrictions on its Cold War-era ally.

China may not have been at the table for the historic summit in Singapore but it retains strong influence behind the scenes, Dong said. The visit shows that China is "key" to the talks, Wang said.

"It reflects that China is indispensible to the entire Korean nuclear issue."

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