A meeting between a North Korean government delegation and US political experts reportedly took place in Norway on Monday (8 May) with another round of talks scheduled for Tuesday.
The meeting comes days after US President Donald Trump announced his willingness to meet North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un to put an end to the rising tensions in the Korean peninsula.
South Korea's Yonhap news agency quoted sources as saying that Choe Son-hui, director-general of the North America bureau chief of the North Korean foreign ministry, was leading the delegation from Pyongyang, while Suzanne DiMaggio, director and senior fellow at Washington DC-based think tank New America, was heading the American delegation.
"It's my understanding that dialogue between North Korean government officials and US civilian experts opened today [Monday] in a suburb of Oslo and will continue through tomorrow," a source told the news agency.
The meeting is the second Track II meeting between the two parties in a year, after the first session took place in Geneva, Switzerland, about six months ago.
Political observers believe that the timing of the meeting is vital, given the war-like situation forming in the peninsula. They are hopeful that the meeting could pave the way for more formal dialogues between the two adversaries.
Meanwhile, North Korea continued its tirade over alleged US provocations even as the meeting was underway in Oslo on Monday. It yet again accused the US of "igniting" a war against North Korea.
"Recently the USS Michigan, a nuclear-powered submarine, arrived at waters off South Korea under the pretext of annual visit where a nuclear-powered carrier strike group has been deployed. This is the intent to openly threaten the DPRK [Democratic People's Republic of Korea]," state-run Rodong Sinmun stated in a commentary, carried by Korean Central News Agency.
The commentary claimed that the North was compelled to build and bolster its nuclear
attack capability for self-defence.
"The only way of protecting peace and stability on the Korean peninsula and in the region to cope with the US nuclear threat and blackmail is to increase the nuclear force, both in quality and quantity, in order to mercilessly wipe out the aggressors and provokers.
Satellite images captured on Monday show Chinese military installments being placed on a crucial islet in the contested waterway.
The People’s Liberation Army of China has a naval base on Hainan Island, and since March, several missile launchers have been placed at the base, according to a Defense News report.
“The direction in which the launchers are facing leads us to believe these are shore-to-ship missiles,” imagery analyst Amit Gur told the news outlet, adding that the missile systems are now “clearly visible.” What is less clear is whether the missile systems were just brought out from storage at the Yulin Naval Base or delivered as brand new systems. “We just don’t know if they are new systems,” or “the ones that were stored during the renovation,” Gur noted.
The missile systems can serve as an avenue for Beijing and the PLA to project power far away, the analyst said.
On Monday, US Pacific Fleet Commander Scott Swift claimed that the US still intends to challenge Beijing in the South China Sea, even though the Pentagon has denied multiple requests made by the US Navy to conduct freedom-of-navigation operations there.
The Venezuelan opposition on Monday planned to march in Caracas against President Nicolas Maduro's call to rewrite the Constitution days after women held protests.
The protest by women wearing white on Saturday denounced the violence against demonstrators carried out by Venezuelan security forces accused of repressing dissent to support Maduro's regime. On Sunday, hundreds of musicians and artists also took to the streets of Caracas to reject the violence -- many playing instruments and singing as they marched.
On Monday, anti-government protesters in Caracas expected to descend onto the headquarters of the Ministry of Education from numerous starting points. Opposition leaders said the protest is meant to show its rejection of the ministry's invitation to the Democratic Unity Roundtable opposition coalition to take part in the process to rewrite the Constitution.
The opposition argues Maduro's move is another attempt to undermine Venezuela's democracy.
The opposition has likened Maduro's call for a chance to the Constitution to a coup d'etat in which he seeks to stay in power against the wishes of the majority of Venezuelans. The opposition also said Maduro's call for a new Constitution is an attempt to sidestep elections scheduled for 2018.
"No more! Venezuelans can not accept that they intend to make a Constitution for the interests of the corrupt narco-dictator and not the country!" Henrique Capriles Radonski, governor of Venezuela's Miranda state and a key opposition leader, said in a statement on Monday.
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