In brief: N. Korea opens door to talks
Seoul, South Korea – North Korean leader Kim Jong Il told a Chinese diplomat Friday that his government is willing to discuss its nuclear program in “bilateral or multilateral” meetings, China’s official news agency said, potentially unlocking a nuclear stalemate.
North Korea stormed away from stalled six-nation nuclear talks in the spring, during a time when it was launching missiles, detonating a nuclear bomb and threatening war with South Korea. Since August, however, the unpredictable communist state has calmed down and reversed course, releasing several detained foreign nationals, including two U.S. journalists, and opening trade doors to South Korea.
Kim’s statement is potentially the most significant move in the North’s recent charm offensive. It could revive Beijing-based nuclear negotiations between the two Koreas, along with the United States, Russia and Japan.
Suicide bomber’s blast kills 29
Kohat, Pakistan – Scores of bloodied and bandaged victims filled hospital beds after a suicide car bomber destroyed a two-story hotel in northwest Pakistan, killing 29 people and underscoring the relentless security threat to the region.
The blast Friday on the outskirts of Kohat wounded 55 others. It was the second attack in two days in the area, which is close to Pakistan’s rugged border region with Afghanistan where al-Qaida and Taliban militants hold sway.
The attack took place in the Shiite-dominated village of Usterzai, raising speculation that it may have been a sectarian assault by Sunni extremists. It occurred just days before Muslims from both sects celebrate the end of the fasting month of Ramadan.
Guantanamo pair to move to Palau
Koror, Palau – Two more Chinese Muslim detainees held at Guantanamo Bay have agreed to be relocated to the tiny Pacific nation of Palau, their lawyer said today, bringing to six the total who will resettle.
Palau has offered 13 ethnic Uighurs held at the U.S. military prison in Cuba a chance to move there – an arrangement that would ease President Barack Obama’s plans to close the contentious facility.
The men have been held by the U.S. since their capture in Afghanistan and Pakistan in 2001. The Pentagon determined last year they were not “enemy combatants” but they have been in legal limbo ever since. China regards the Uighurs as terrorist suspects and wants them returned.
But Uighur activists claim the detainees face persecution or death if they are returned there, and U.S. officials have struggled to find a country to take them in.