Moscow: Western Ambassadors Are Meddling in Russia's Affairs

A person throws flowers towards the grave of Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny while standing in front of a closed entrance to the Borisovskoye cemetery, in Moscow, Russia, March 3, 2024. REUTERS/Stringer
A person throws flowers towards the grave of Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny while standing in front of a closed entrance to the Borisovskoye cemetery, in Moscow, Russia, March 3, 2024. REUTERS/Stringer
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Moscow: Western Ambassadors Are Meddling in Russia's Affairs

A person throws flowers towards the grave of Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny while standing in front of a closed entrance to the Borisovskoye cemetery, in Moscow, Russia, March 3, 2024. REUTERS/Stringer
A person throws flowers towards the grave of Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny while standing in front of a closed entrance to the Borisovskoye cemetery, in Moscow, Russia, March 3, 2024. REUTERS/Stringer

Russia's foreign ministry on Tuesday accused Western ambassadors in Moscow of meddling in Russia's internal affairs and said their behavior raised questions about the point of such envoys.
The war in Ukraine has triggered the deepest crisis in Russia's relations with the West since the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis and President Vladimir Putin has warned the West that it risks provoking a nuclear war if Western troops are sent to fight in Ukraine.
Russia was dismayed by what Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on March 4 was a refusal by European Union ambassadors to meet him for a conversation ahead of Russia's March 15-17 presidential election.
There was no immediate reaction to Lavrov's statement from the Western ambassadors.
Asked by Russian state television anchor Vladimir Solovyov if the EU ambassadors understood their function, Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said their refusal to meet Lavrov raised questions about their role.
"The question indeed arises among everyone: what are they doing, and why, how do they interpret their conduct on the territory of our country if they do not perform their most important function?" Reuters quoted Zakharova as saying.
Solovyov noted that EU ambassadors attended the March 1 funeral of opposition politician Alexei Navalny, whom he cast as their agent. Navalny, whose death at an Arctic prison colony was announced on Feb. 16, always denied he was a Western agent.
Zakharova said such behavior showed Western ambassadors in Moscow were meddling in Russia's affairs and putting on "performances" rather than doing their diplomatic work.
The banner headline on Solovyov's television show read: "Should the EU ambassadors be sent out?"

The West is grappling with what support it will give to Kyiv after Russian forces regained the initiative on the battlefield after a failed Ukrainian counteroffensive last year.
Russian media last week published an audio recording
of a meeting of senior German military officials held by Webex discussing weapons for Ukraine and a potential strike by Kyiv on a bridge in Crimea.
Russia summoned Germany's ambassador to the foreign ministry on Monday, demanding clarification of the conversations and the assistance given to Ukraine to strike Russian targets.
The ambassador, Alexander Graf Lambsdorff, was also scolded over what Moscow said were attempts by Berlin to restrict the activities of Russian journalists in Germany, according to the Russian foreign ministry.
"If they touch Russian correspondents and bring their plans to conclusion, German journalists will leave Russia," Zakharova said.



Canada Pledges Visas for 5,000 Gaza Residents Related to Canadians

Palestinians look at the destruction after an Israeli strike where displaced people were staying in Rafah, Gaza Strip, Monday, May 27, 2024. (AP)
Palestinians look at the destruction after an Israeli strike where displaced people were staying in Rafah, Gaza Strip, Monday, May 27, 2024. (AP)
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Canada Pledges Visas for 5,000 Gaza Residents Related to Canadians

Palestinians look at the destruction after an Israeli strike where displaced people were staying in Rafah, Gaza Strip, Monday, May 27, 2024. (AP)
Palestinians look at the destruction after an Israeli strike where displaced people were staying in Rafah, Gaza Strip, Monday, May 27, 2024. (AP)

Canada said on Monday it would grant temporary visas to 5,000 Gaza residents under a special program for Canadians' relatives living in the war-torn enclave, a preparatory move in case they are able to leave in the future.

That figure is an increase from the 1,000 temporary resident visas allotted under a special program for Gaza announced in December, the immigration ministry said in a statement, adding that many people had expressed interest.

"While movement out of Gaza is not currently possible, the situation may change at any time. With this cap increase, we will be ready to help more people as the situation evolves," Immigration Minister Marc Miller said.

The minister has previously said leaving Gaza is extremely difficult and dependent on approval from Israel.

In one of its latest attacks, an Israeli airstrike triggered a massive blaze killing 45 people in a tent camp in the Gaza city of Rafah, officials said on Monday, prompting an outcry from global leaders.

Canada has been sharing the names of Gaza residents who have passed preliminary screening to local authorities to secure their exit, Miller said. Israel and Egypt are important to the program's efforts toward reuniting families in Canada, the minister said.

A spokesperson for Miller said some Gaza residents had arrived in Canada under the program, but a precise tally was not immediately available.

Nearly 36,000 Palestinians have been killed in Israel's offensive in Gaza, according to the local health ministry, and an estimated 1.7 million people, more than 75% of Gaza's population, have been displaced, according to the UN Palestinian refugee agency UNRWA.

Israel launched its military campaign after Hamas-led militants attacked southern Israeli communities on Oct. 7, killing around 1,200 people and seizing more than 250 hostages, according to Israeli tallies.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the Rafah strike.


Iran Further Increases Its Stockpile of Uranium Enriched to Near Weapons-Grade Levels

The logo of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is seen at its headquarters before an emergency meeting at the request of both Ukraine and Russia, to discuss attacks on the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, after both countries accused each other of drone attacks, in Vienna, Austria April 11, 2024. R(Reuters)
The logo of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is seen at its headquarters before an emergency meeting at the request of both Ukraine and Russia, to discuss attacks on the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, after both countries accused each other of drone attacks, in Vienna, Austria April 11, 2024. R(Reuters)
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Iran Further Increases Its Stockpile of Uranium Enriched to Near Weapons-Grade Levels

The logo of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is seen at its headquarters before an emergency meeting at the request of both Ukraine and Russia, to discuss attacks on the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, after both countries accused each other of drone attacks, in Vienna, Austria April 11, 2024. R(Reuters)
The logo of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is seen at its headquarters before an emergency meeting at the request of both Ukraine and Russia, to discuss attacks on the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, after both countries accused each other of drone attacks, in Vienna, Austria April 11, 2024. R(Reuters)

Iran has further increased its stockpile of uranium enriched to near weapons-grade levels, a confidential report by the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog said Monday.

The report, seen by The Associated Press, said Iran now has 142.1 kilograms (313.2 pounds) of uranium enriched up to 60% — an increase of 20.6 kilograms (45.4 pounds) since the last report in February. Uranium enriched at 60% purity is just a short, technical step away from weapons-grade levels of 90%.

According to the report, Iran’s overall stockpile of enriched uranium stands at 6201.3 kilograms (13671.5 pounds), which represents an increase of 675.8 kilograms (1489.8 pounds) since the last report by the International Atomic Energy Agency.

In its current report, the IAEA also said Tehran has not reconsidered the agency's September 2023 decision of barring the most experienced nuclear inspectors from monitoring its nuclear program but added that it expected Iran “to do so in the context of the ongoing consultations between the Agency and Iran.”

The IAEA also said that the deaths of Iran’s President and Foreign Minister in a helicopter crash have caused a pause in the UN nuclear watchdog’s talks with Tehran over improving cooperation.

In its current report, the IAEA said that Iran suggested in a letter dated May 21 that discussions related to the cooperation between the IAEA and Iran “be continued in Tehran ‘on an appropriate date that will be mutually agreed upon’.”

Iran has maintained its nuclear program is peaceful, but the IAEA chief, Rafael Mariano Grossi, has already warned that Tehran has enough uranium enriched to near-weapons-grade levels to make “several” nuclear bombs if it chose to do so.

He has acknowledged the agency cannot guarantee that none of Iran’s centrifuges may have been peeled away for clandestine enrichment.

Iran and the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog are still negotiating over how to implement a deal struck last year to expand inspections of Tehran’s rapidly advancing atomic program.

The IAEA's acknowledgment shows the challenges his inspectors face, years after the collapse of Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers and the wider tensions gripping the Mideast over the ongoing Israel-Hamas war.


US Storms Kill at Least 21 across 4 States on Memorial Day Weekend

Larry Landeros, 9, who rode out a deadly tornado with his parents when it rolled through the previous night, surveys his destroyed home, Sunday, May 26, 2024, in Valley View, Texas. (AP)
Larry Landeros, 9, who rode out a deadly tornado with his parents when it rolled through the previous night, surveys his destroyed home, Sunday, May 26, 2024, in Valley View, Texas. (AP)
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US Storms Kill at Least 21 across 4 States on Memorial Day Weekend

Larry Landeros, 9, who rode out a deadly tornado with his parents when it rolled through the previous night, surveys his destroyed home, Sunday, May 26, 2024, in Valley View, Texas. (AP)
Larry Landeros, 9, who rode out a deadly tornado with his parents when it rolled through the previous night, surveys his destroyed home, Sunday, May 26, 2024, in Valley View, Texas. (AP)

Tornado-spawning thunderstorms that swept the US Southern Plains and Ozarks have killed at least 21 people as of Monday morning across four states and wrecked hundreds of buildings, with forecasters warning of more severe weather.

The death toll over the Memorial Day weekend includes at least eight fatalities in Arkansas, seven in Texas, four in Kentucky and two in Oklahoma, according to tallies by state emergency authorities.

Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear declared a state of emergency early on Monday while the National Weather Service said a severe thunderstorm watch was issued for parts of Georgia and South Carolina until at least Monday afternoon.

"It was a tough night for our people," the Kentucky governor said on social media platform X on Monday. He later said in a press briefing that "devastating storms" had hit almost the entire state. Officials said 100 state highways and roads were damaged by the storms.

At least seven people perished - including two children aged 2 and 5 from a single family - and nearly 100 were injured on Saturday night when a powerful tornado struck communities in north Texas near the Oklahoma border, Governor Greg Abbott said at a Sunday news conference.

Late on Sunday, Arkansas Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the state had at least eight deaths after the storms. A resident in Arkansas suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease died due to lack of oxygen when the power went out.

Hundreds of thousands of Americans faced power outages on Monday due to the weather, according to the PowerOutage.US tracking website, with Kentucky alone having over 180,000 outages.

In some areas, restoring power could take days, Beshear, the Kentucky governor said in a news briefing on Monday.

The National Weather Service warned of additional storms moving through the Ohio and Tennessee valleys, bringing damaging winds, large hail and more tornadoes, as well as heavy downpours capable of triggering flash floods.

The latest extreme weather came just days after a powerful tornado ripped through an Iowa town, killing four people, and more twisters touched down in Texas last week.

Meanwhile, the US was preparing for what government forecasters have called a potentially "extraordinary" 2024 Atlantic hurricane season beginning June 1.


Jalili Announces Intention to Run in Iran’s Presidential Elections

Ahmadinejad speaks to Jalili on the sidelines of the opening ceremony of the Leadership Council of Experts in Tehran on Monday. (ILNA)
Ahmadinejad speaks to Jalili on the sidelines of the opening ceremony of the Leadership Council of Experts in Tehran on Monday. (ILNA)
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Jalili Announces Intention to Run in Iran’s Presidential Elections

Ahmadinejad speaks to Jalili on the sidelines of the opening ceremony of the Leadership Council of Experts in Tehran on Monday. (ILNA)
Ahmadinejad speaks to Jalili on the sidelines of the opening ceremony of the Leadership Council of Experts in Tehran on Monday. (ILNA)

Saeed Jalili, the representative of the Iranian leader in the Supreme National Security Council, confirmed his intention to run in the presidential elections scheduled for June 28, to choose a successor to late President Ebrahim Raisi.

The Fars new agency reported that Jalili told four deputies from the city of Mashhad that he seriously intends to join the electoral race. The politician was a candidate in the previous elections, but withdrew in favor of Raisi.

The Iranian hardliner will be the first candidate in the early elections, following the death of Raisi in a helicopter crash, on his way back from a trip to the Azerbaijan border.

Jalili was responsible for the nuclear negotiations when he was Secretary-General of the Supreme National Security Council under the rule of former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

The powers of the negotiations were then held by the Council before they were transferred to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs soon after former President Hassan Rouhani came to office in 2013.

Confirmations of Jalili running in the elections came the day after statements made by his ally, Ahmadinejad, whose candidacy was rejected by the Guardian Council in 2021, and before that in 2017.

Ahmadinejad told a group of supporters on Saturday that he was mulling whether to run for president or not.

The Nournews agency, the platform of the Supreme National Security Council, expected that Ahmadinejad would submit a request to run for the presidency, “even though he is sure that the Guardian Council will reject his eligibility to run again.”

The conservatives are also discussing the possibility of nominating two generals in the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), Mohsen Rezaei and Saeed Mohammad, in addition to the Speaker of Parliament, Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, as well as the Mayor of Tehran, Ali Reza Zakani.

The Tasnim news agency pointed to the potential candidacy of Parviz Fattah, who heads the Imam’s Implementation Committee, which reports to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s office, as well as the Minister of Roads and Urban Development, hardliner Mehrdad Badrbash, who has close ties to the IRGC.

Other media reports stated that the supporters of former reformist president, Mohammad Khatami, are pushing towards the nomination of one of the following political figures: former diplomat Mohammad Sadr; Majeed Ansari, Rouhani’s Vice President; Reza Ardakanian, Minister of Energy in Rouhani’s government; and Ali Akbar Salehi, former head of the Iranian Atomic Organization and former Foreign Minister.


Bus Crashes into Vehicles in Türkiye, Leaving 10 Dead

A man casts his line into the Bosphorus during a spring rain in Istanbul, Türkiye, Thursday, May 23, 2024. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)
A man casts his line into the Bosphorus during a spring rain in Istanbul, Türkiye, Thursday, May 23, 2024. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)
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Bus Crashes into Vehicles in Türkiye, Leaving 10 Dead

A man casts his line into the Bosphorus during a spring rain in Istanbul, Türkiye, Thursday, May 23, 2024. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)
A man casts his line into the Bosphorus during a spring rain in Istanbul, Türkiye, Thursday, May 23, 2024. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)

A passenger bus crashed into vehicles on a highway in southern Türkiye, killing at least 10 people and leaving 39 others injured, officials said Monday.

The accident occurred in the province of Mersin late on Sunday, when the bus veered into the opposite lane in heavy rain and crashed into two cars.

A truck later slammed into all three vehicles, Gov. Ali Hamza Pehlivan told reporters.

The injured were rushed to nearby hospitals and at least eight of them were in serious condition, the state-run Anadolu Agency reported.

There were 28 passengers on board the intercity bus, which was traveling from the southeastern city of Diyarbakir to Adana, in the south of the country, Anadolu reported.


Protests Shut Streets in Armenia’s Capital, Roads in Other Parts to Demand PM’s Resignation 

Armenian law enforcement officers stand guard outside Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan's residence as demonstrators gather near it to demand his resignation over land transfer to neighboring Azerbaijan, in Yerevan on May 26, 2024. (AFP)
Armenian law enforcement officers stand guard outside Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan's residence as demonstrators gather near it to demand his resignation over land transfer to neighboring Azerbaijan, in Yerevan on May 26, 2024. (AFP)
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Protests Shut Streets in Armenia’s Capital, Roads in Other Parts to Demand PM’s Resignation 

Armenian law enforcement officers stand guard outside Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan's residence as demonstrators gather near it to demand his resignation over land transfer to neighboring Azerbaijan, in Yerevan on May 26, 2024. (AFP)
Armenian law enforcement officers stand guard outside Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan's residence as demonstrators gather near it to demand his resignation over land transfer to neighboring Azerbaijan, in Yerevan on May 26, 2024. (AFP)

Protesters demanding the resignation of Armenia's prime minister on Monday blocked main streets in the capital city and other parts of the country, sporadically clashing with police.

Police said 196 people have been detained in Yerevan. Protests have roiled the country for weeks, sparked by the government's return of four border villages to Azerbaijan.

The demonstrations are spearheaded by Bagrat Galstanyan, a high-ranking cleric in the Armenian Apostolic Church and archbishop of the Tavush diocese in Armenia’s northeast, where the returned villages are located.

Although the villages were the protests' rallying point, they have expanded to express a wide array of complaints against Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and his government.

Top figures in Gastanyan's Tavush for the Homeland movement told a huge rally in Yerevan on Sunday that they support Galstanyan becoming the next prime minister.

The decision to turn over the villages in Tavush followed a lightning military campaign in September, in which Azerbaijan’s military forced ethnic Armenian separatists in the Karabakh region to capitulate.

After Azerbaijan took full control of Karabakh, about 120,000 people fled the region, almost all from its ethnic Armenian population.

Ethnic Armenian fighters backed by the Armenian military had taken control of Karabakh in 1994 after a six-year war. Azerbaijan regained some of the territory after fighting in 2020 ended an armistice brought on by a Russian peacekeeping force, which began withdrawing this year.

Pashinyan has said Armenia needs to quickly define the border with Azerbaijan to avoid a new round of hostilities.


Italy Says Violence Against Civilians in Gaza ‘No Longer Justifiable’ 

Palestinians look at the destruction after an Israeli strike where displaced people were staying in Rafah, Gaza Strip, Monday, May 27, 2024. (AP)
Palestinians look at the destruction after an Israeli strike where displaced people were staying in Rafah, Gaza Strip, Monday, May 27, 2024. (AP)
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Italy Says Violence Against Civilians in Gaza ‘No Longer Justifiable’ 

Palestinians look at the destruction after an Israeli strike where displaced people were staying in Rafah, Gaza Strip, Monday, May 27, 2024. (AP)
Palestinians look at the destruction after an Israeli strike where displaced people were staying in Rafah, Gaza Strip, Monday, May 27, 2024. (AP)

Italy said on Monday Israeli attacks on Palestinian civilians in Gaza were no longer justifiable in one of the strongest criticisms Rome has made so far against Israel's campaign.

"There is an increasingly difficult situation, in which the Palestinian people are being squeezed without regard for the rights of innocent men, women and children who have nothing to do with Hamas and this can no longer be justified," Defense Minister Guido Crosetto told SkyTG24 TV.

"We are watching the situation with despair."

Latest Israeli air strikes in the southern Gaza Strip city of Rafah killed at least 35 Palestinians and wounded dozens.

Israel said the attack was aimed at a Hamas compound, though its top military prosecutor called it "very grave" and said the army regretted any harm to non-combatants.

Crosetto said Italy agreed in principle with the Israeli response to the Oct. 7 assault by Hamas gunmen on southern Israeli communities, but he added that a difference had to be made between the group and the Palestinian people.

On Saturday, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni and Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani met Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Mustafa in Rome, reiterating their support for a ceasefire and urging Hamas to release Israeli hostages.

Italy has repeatedly said that Israel had a right to defend itself from Hamas. Last week, Rome said an International Criminal Court prosecutor's decision to seek an arrest warrant for Israeli leaders was "unacceptable".


Iran's Acting President Addresses New Parliament

Iran's interim president Mohammad Mokhber speaks during the opening ceremony of Iran's 12th parliament in Tehran, Iran, May 27, 2024. Majid Asgaripour/WANA (West Asia News Agency) via REUTERS
Iran's interim president Mohammad Mokhber speaks during the opening ceremony of Iran's 12th parliament in Tehran, Iran, May 27, 2024. Majid Asgaripour/WANA (West Asia News Agency) via REUTERS
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Iran's Acting President Addresses New Parliament

Iran's interim president Mohammad Mokhber speaks during the opening ceremony of Iran's 12th parliament in Tehran, Iran, May 27, 2024. Majid Asgaripour/WANA (West Asia News Agency) via REUTERS
Iran's interim president Mohammad Mokhber speaks during the opening ceremony of Iran's 12th parliament in Tehran, Iran, May 27, 2024. Majid Asgaripour/WANA (West Asia News Agency) via REUTERS

Iran's acting President Mohammad Mokhber addressed the country's new parliament Monday in his first public speech since last week's helicopter crash that killed his predecessor and seven others.
His speech comes as Iran prepares for a presidential election to replace the late Ebrahim Raisi in just a month, a vote that could see the previously behind-the-scenes bureaucrat potentially run alongside others. Meanwhile, Iran's new hard-line parliament is expected to select its new speaker Tuesday.
In his remarks, Mokhber praised Raisi's time in office, noting that Iran's crude oil production— a key source of hard currency for the country — climbed to more than 3.6 million barrels a day. That comes after Oil Minister Javad Owji said Sunday that Iran was now exporting around 2 million barrels a day, despite Western sanctions.
Mokhber also asserted that the country’s economy remained stable under Raisi when Iran took military actions in Iraq, Israel and Pakistan in recent months.
“Three countries were hit. We hit Israel, people find that figures and indexes are the same in the morning when they wake up, price of hard currency is the same, inflation is the same, liquidity is the same and the market is full of people’s needs,” Mokhber claimed. “This strength, this settlement and this power is not a usual thing, they all were because of guidance by the supreme leader and the sincere efforts of Ayatollah Raisi.”
The Iranian rial has tumbled from a rate of 32,000 rials to $1 at the time of Tehran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers. Today, it stands around 580,000 to $1 in the wake of the US' unilateral withdrawal from the accord and a series of attacks on shipping in the Mideast, first attributed to Iran and later involving Yemen's Houthis as Israel's war against Hamas on the Gaza Strip began over seven months ago.
On May 20, rescuers recovered the bodies of Raisi, Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian and others in a mountainous region in northwestern Iran following a fatal helicopter crash.
Iran will hold presidential elections on June 28 to replace Raisi. On Thursday, a five-day registration period for candidates will open.


South Korea, China, Japan Vow to Ramp Up Cooperation

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol and Chinese Premier Li Qiang attend the business summit at the Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry on May 27, 2024 in Seoul, South Korea.  Chung Sung-Jun/Pool via REUTERS
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol and Chinese Premier Li Qiang attend the business summit at the Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry on May 27, 2024 in Seoul, South Korea. Chung Sung-Jun/Pool via REUTERS
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South Korea, China, Japan Vow to Ramp Up Cooperation

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol and Chinese Premier Li Qiang attend the business summit at the Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry on May 27, 2024 in Seoul, South Korea.  Chung Sung-Jun/Pool via REUTERS
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol and Chinese Premier Li Qiang attend the business summit at the Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry on May 27, 2024 in Seoul, South Korea. Chung Sung-Jun/Pool via REUTERS

Leaders from South Korea, China and Japan reaffirmed their goal of a denuclearized Korean peninsula Monday, during a rare summit at which they also agreed to deepen trade ties.

The summit brought together South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol, Chinese Premier Li Qiang and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida in Seoul for the countries' first trilateral talks in nearly five years, partly due to the pandemic, but also once-sour ties.

While North Korea was not officially on the agenda, hours before the leaders met Pyongyang announced that it would soon put another spy satellite into orbit -- a move that violates rafts of UN sanctions barring it from tests using ballistic technology.

At a joint press conference, Yoon and Kishida urged Pyongyang to call off the launch, with the South Korean leader saying it would "undermine regional and global peace and stability.”

Yoon also called for a "decisive" international response if Kim went ahead with his fourth such launch -- aided by what Seoul claims is Russian technical assistance in exchange for Kim sending Moscow arms for use in Ukraine.

But China, North Korea's most important ally and economic benefactor, remained notably silent on the issue, with Premier Li not mentioning it during the briefing.

In a joint statement issued after the talks, the countries used language that has been deployed many times before to reaffirm their commitment to the "denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula", adding that peace "serves our common interest and is our common responsibility".

- Differences -

As a permanent member of the UN Security Council, China has previously condemned North Korea's nuclear tests and supported sanctions aimed at curbing its weapons development.

In recent years, as China's relations with the United States have deteriorated, it has increasingly obstructed Washington-led efforts to impose stricter sanctions on the North.

China has consistently supported calls for the denuclearization of the entire Korean peninsula.

South Korea does not have nuclear weapons, but is protected under the US nuclear umbrella, and Washington has deployed nuclear-armed submarines to the South in a show of force against the North.

In recent years, Beijing has pointed the finger at US-South Korea joint military drills, saying that they escalate regional tensions.

The press briefing in Seoul and the joint statement "clearly showed the difference of opinions" between the three countries, said Asan Institute research fellow Lee Dong-gyu.

Reaching a quick consensus on how to handle Kim Jong Un's regime was always going to be difficult "because there have been differences in diplomatic and security positions in each country", Lee told AFP, while also noting rising geopolitical tension between the United States and China.

Even so, the fact that Seoul, Tokyo and Beijing are seeking to ramp up trilateral cooperation and boost economic ties is good sign for future agreements on more difficult topics like Kim's nukes.

"If the three countries do well in (economic cooperation), they can cooperate on security issues based on that foundation," he added.

- Trade ties -

The three countries announced Monday that they would arrange "discussions for speeding up negotiations for a Trilateral FTA", and boost three-way cooperation, including holding summits on a regular basis.

China's Li also said they had agreed on not turning "economic and trade issues into political games or security matters, and rejecting protectionism as well as decoupling or the severing of supply chains", Xinhua reported.

Li serves as premier under China's top leader, President Xi Jinping.

After their talks, Yoon, Li and Kishida joined a business summit aimed at boosting trade between the countries, which was also attended by top industry leaders.

Nuclear-armed North Korea successfully launched its first reconnaissance satellite last November in a move that drew international condemnation, with the United States calling it a "brazen violation" of UN sanctions.

Seoul said on Friday that South Korean and US intelligence authorities were "closely monitoring and tracking" presumed preparations for the launch of another military reconnaissance satellite -- which could come as early as Monday, according to the launch window Pyongyang gave to Tokyo.

A group of Russian engineers has entered North Korea to help with the launch preparations, Yonhap reported Sunday, citing a government official.

"North Korea might feel compelled to launch this satellite this week rather than next week, followed by missile launches into the sea off the east coast to garner outside attention," said Choi Gi-il, professor of military studies at Sangji University.

"One key factor will be the weather conditions for the launch."


Japan: NKorea Plans to Launch Satellite Between May 27 and June 4

FILE PHOTO: A North Korean flag flutters on top of the 160-meter tall tower at North Korea's propaganda village of Gijungdong, in Paju, South Korea, September 30, 2019. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji/File Photo
FILE PHOTO: A North Korean flag flutters on top of the 160-meter tall tower at North Korea's propaganda village of Gijungdong, in Paju, South Korea, September 30, 2019. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji/File Photo
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Japan: NKorea Plans to Launch Satellite Between May 27 and June 4

FILE PHOTO: A North Korean flag flutters on top of the 160-meter tall tower at North Korea's propaganda village of Gijungdong, in Paju, South Korea, September 30, 2019. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji/File Photo
FILE PHOTO: A North Korean flag flutters on top of the 160-meter tall tower at North Korea's propaganda village of Gijungdong, in Paju, South Korea, September 30, 2019. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji/File Photo

North Korea has notified Japan it plans to launch a rocket carrying a satellite between May 27 and June 4, the Japan Coast Guard said on Monday, drawing a swift warning from Seoul and Tokyo not to go ahead with what they called an illegal move.
The South Korean government said later the North had issued a notice of a military reconnaissance satellite launch. If successful, it would be Pyongyang's second spy satellite in orbit, Reuters reported.
The notice came ahead of a trilateral summit between Japan, South Korea and China in Seoul, where the South Korean and Japanese leaders demanded that the launch plan be scrapped, saying it violates UN Security Council resolutions.
Officials from the United States, Japan, and South Korea held phone talks in response to the notice and agreed that a North Korean satellite launch using ballistic missile technology would violate UN resolutions, Japan's Foreign Ministry said.
The officials agreed to demand that North Korea cancel the planned launch, the ministry said in an email.
South Korea said separately that the "so-called military reconnaissance satellite launch" would be a provocative act and a serious threat to regional security.
"Our military will be taking measures that show our strong capabilities and will," South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff spokesman Lee Sung-jun said at a news briefing, without elaborating.
Later, the Joint Chiefs said about 20 aircraft, including F-35 stealth fighter jets, conducted attack drills in airspace south of the no-fly zone along the inter-Korean border.
The North Korean notice included navigational warnings for areas in the Yellow Sea and east of Luzon Island in the Philippines, the Japanese coast guard said, where stages of the rocket are planned to drop.
North Korea launched its first military spy satellite in November, putting it in orbit after two earlier failed attempts in 2023.
The country claimed the satellite had taken surveillance photographs of the US White House, the Pentagon and South Korean military installations, but it has not published any pictures.
North Korea has vowed to launch three more spy satellites this year. It rejects the UN Security Council resolutions banning its satellite launch as infringing on its sovereign right to self defense and space exploration.
The successful launch in November came after the leaders of North Korea and Russia met at a space launch facility in the Russian Far East, where President Vladimir Putin said Moscow would help Pyongyang build satellites.