Monday, May 28, 2018
News Roundup

Two Koreas agree to two days of senior-level talks this week

SEOUL, South Korea — The rival Koreas agreed today to hold senior-level talks this week in Seoul, a breakthrough of sorts after North Korea's recent threats of nuclear war and the South's vows of counterstrikes.

The two-day meeting starting Wednesday will focus on stalled cooperation projects, including the resumption of operations at a jointly run factory park near the border in North Korea. It was the last remaining symbol of inter-Korean rapprochement until Pyongyang shut the border and pulled out its workers this spring during a period of heightened tensions that followed the North's nuclear test in February.

The details were ironed out in a nearly 17-hour negotiating session by lower-level officials. It was the first such meeting of its kind on the Korean peninsula in more than two years and took place at the village of Panmunjom on their heavily armed border, where the armistice ending the three-year Korean War was signed 60 years ago next month. That truce has never been replaced with a peace treaty, leaving the peninsula technically at war.

Dialogue at any level marks an improvement in the countries' abysmal relations. The last several years have seen North Korean nuclear tests, long-range rocket launches and attacks blamed on the North that killed 50 South Koreans in 2010.

The agreement to hold the talks was announced in a statement today by South Korea's Unification Ministry. North Korea's official news agency, KCNA, also reported the agreement.

The meeting Wednesday will also include discussions on resuming South Korean tours to a North Korean mountain resort, the reunion of separated families and other humanitarian issues, officials said. The issue most crucial to Washington, however — a push to persuade North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons — isn't set to be discussed.

While there was broad agreement, sticking points arose over the delegation heads and the agenda, Seoul's Unification Ministry said in a statement. Seoul will send its top official for inter-Korean affairs while Pyongyang said it would send a senior-level government official, without elaborating.

North Korea said the two sides would additionally discuss how to jointly commemorate past inter-Korean statements, including one settled during a landmark 2000 summit between the countries' leaders; civilian exchanges and other joint collaboration matters, according to the South Korean ministry's statement .

While it wasn't immediately clear who'll lead the North Korea side, a minister-level summit between the Koreas has not happened since 2007.

Analysts express wariness about North Korea's intentions, with some seeing the interest in dialogue as part of a pattern where Pyongyang follows aggressive rhetoric and provocations with diplomatic efforts to trade an easing of tension for outside concessions.

Pyongyang is trying to improve ties with Seoul because it wants dialogue with the United States, which could give the North aid, ease international sanctions and improve its economy in return for concessions, said Kim Yong Hyun, a professor of North Korea studies at Dongguk University in Seoul.

Nuclear matters won't be on the table, Kim said, because Pyongyang wants issues related to its pursuit of atomic weapons resolved through talks with Washington or in broader, now-stalled international disarmament negotiations.

After U.N. sanctions were strengthened following North Korea's third nuclear test in February, Pyongyang threatened nuclear war and missile strikes against Seoul and Washington, pulled its workers from the jointly run factory park at the North Korean border town of Kaesong, and vowed to ramp up production of nuclear bomb fuel. Seoul withdrew its last personnel from Kaesong in May.

The summit marks a political and diplomatic victory for South Korean President Park Geun Hye, who took office in February and has maintained through the heightened tensions a policy that combines vows of strong counter-action to any North Korea provocation with efforts to build trust and re-establish dialogue.

Representatives of the Koreas met on the peninsula in February 2011 and their nuclear envoys met in Beijing later that year, but government officials from both sides have not met since.

Sunday's meeting follows a summit by President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping in California in which the White House said "quite a bit of alignment" was found on North Korea, including an agreement that Pyongyang has to abandon its nuclear weapons aspirations.

China provides a lifeline for a North Korea struggling with energy and other economic needs, and views stability in Pyongyang as crucial for its own economy and border security. But after Pyongyang's nuclear test in February, China tightened its cross-border trade inspections and banned its state banks from dealing with North Korea's Foreign Trade Bank.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un last month sent to China his special envoy, who reportedly told Xi that Pyongyang was willing to return to dialogue.

Comments
PolitiFact Florida: Did Adam Putnam oppose putting troops on the border using the National Guard?

PolitiFact Florida: Did Adam Putnam oppose putting troops on the border using the National Guard?

In Florida’s Republican primary for governor, U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis challenged Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam’s credibility on illegal immigration.DeSantis cast Putnam as not being conservative enough on immigration in a chat May 2 with radio ...
Updated: 19 minutes ago
Hillsborough’s film incentive has attracted $1.17 million in local spending, audits show

Hillsborough’s film incentive has attracted $1.17 million in local spending, audits show

TAMPA — When Steve Matzkin agreed to serve as executive producer on a movie project titled Not Alone, he set a condition: It had to be made in Tampa.For starters, the community is a fitting backdrop for the independent horror film about a family who ...
Updated: 19 minutes ago
Unflinching sentinel stood and walked to honor the fallen at Arlington’s tomb

Unflinching sentinel stood and walked to honor the fallen at Arlington’s tomb

Monday morning, thousands of people will make their way to Arlington National Cemetery for the Memorial Day wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Many more will watch on TV.The cube-shaped marble monument high on a grassy hill is...
Updated: 21 minutes ago
The Daystarter: Alberto takes aim on Panhandle; how local Starbucks handle trespassing; Arlington National Cemetery’s Sentinels; Shania Twain here this week

The Daystarter: Alberto takes aim on Panhandle; how local Starbucks handle trespassing; Arlington National Cemetery’s Sentinels; Shania Twain here this week

Catching you up on overnight happenings, and what to know today.• As Subtropical Storm Alberto continues on its north-northwest track to the Panhandle, today’s forecast for Tampa Bay calls for scattered to numerous showers and thunderstorms, accordi...
Updated: 22 minutes ago

Hooper: Putnam should do Publix a favor and give money back

Adam Putnam should give back the $670,000 Publix and its executives donated to his campaign. People far wiser than me about politics say I’m wrong (that’s not a first). They insist such a move would make Putnam appear weak, capitulating to the so-cal...
Published: 05/28/18
Meteorologists are calling Alberto a 'subtropical storm.' What the heck is that?

Meteorologists are calling Alberto a 'subtropical storm.' What the heck is that?

The governor declared a state of emergency. Local marquee events for Sunday were canceled. The threat of bad weather brought by a subtropical storm named Alberto loomed over Tampa Bay for much of the weekend. But, in the end, the area dealt with on...
Updated: 0 minutes ago
Rays journal: Reliever Austin Pruitt pitches nearly six scoreless innings for second career save

Rays journal: Reliever Austin Pruitt pitches nearly six scoreless innings for second career save

ST. PETERSBURG — Rays RHP Austin Pruitt has started and worked out of the bullpen, in both short and long relief.But he did not expect to pick up his second career save Sunday by having to log 5⅔ innings, allowing only three hits whi...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Floodwaters surge in Maryland town

Floodwaters surge in Maryland town

Crews were engaged in multiple water rescues and buildings collapsed in historic Ellicott City on Sunday evening as floodwaters raged through its streets following torrential thunderstorms, Howard County, Maryland, officials said.Maryland Gov. Larry ...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Rick Stroud’s takeaways from Sunday’s Rays-Orioles game

Rick Stroud’s takeaways from Sunday’s Rays-Orioles game

So the team that just got back from a 10-day, 11-game road trip in three time zones is headed back out west for Memorial Day? The Rays travel to Oakland, Calif., Seattle and Washington, D.C. It's the first time they visited the West Coast on back-to-...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Rays bats come alive with six-run rally to beat Orioles 8-3

Rays bats come alive with six-run rally to beat Orioles 8-3

ST. PETERSBURG — If you think the Rays are holding their pitching staff together with baling wire, duct tape and an overbooked shuttle to Triple-A Durham, a bigger story might be how their bats keep producing runs no matter who is swinging them...
Updated: 10 hours ago