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Kim Jong Un invites South Korean president for summit

Thompson Reuters

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SEOUL — North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has invited South Korean President Moon Jae-in for talks in Pyongyang, South Korean officials said on Saturday, setting the stage for the first meeting of Korean leaders in more than 10 years.

Any meeting would represent a diplomatic coup for Moon, who swept to power last year on a policy of engaging more with the reclusive North and has pushed for a diplomatic solution to the standoff over North Korea’s nuclear and missile program.

The recent detente, anchored by South Korea’s hosting of the Winter Olympic Games that began on Friday, came despite an acceleration in the North’s weapons programs last year and pressure from Seoul’s allies in Washington.

The personal invitation from Kim was delivered verbally by his younger sister, Kim Yo Jong, during talks and a lunch Moon hosted at the presidential Blue House in Seoul.

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Kim Jong Un wanted to meet Moon “in the near future” and would like for him to visit North Korea “at his earliest convenience”, his sister told Moon, who had said “let’s create the environment for that to be able to happen,” Blue House spokesman Kim Eui-kyeom told a news briefing.

A Blue House official said Moon “practically accepted” the invitation.

“We would like to see you at an early date in Pyongyang”, Kim Yo Jong told Moon during the lunch, and also delivered her brother’s personal letter that expressed his “desire to improve inter-Korean relations,” the Blue House said.

The prospect of two-way talks between the Koreas, however, may not be welcomed by the United States.

Washington has pursued a strategy of exerting maximum pressure on Pyongyang through tough sanctions and harsh rhetoric, demanding it give up its pursuit of nuclear weapons first for any dialogue to occur.

“This is the strongest action yet by North Korea to drive a wedge between the South and the United States,” said Kim Sung-han, a former South Korean vice foreign minister and now a professor at Korea University in Seoul.

Moon asked the North Korean delegation during Saturday’s meeting to more actively seek dialogue with the United States, saying that “early resumption of dialogue (between the two) is absolutely necessary for developments in the inter-Korean relations as well,” the South said.

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It said the two sides held “a comprehensive discussion … on the inter-Korean relations and various issues on the Korean peninsula in an amicable atmosphere,” but did not say whether the North’s weapons program was mentioned.

A visit by Moon to the North would enable the first summit between leaders from the two Koreas since 2007, and would mark only the third inter-Korean summit to take place.

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5 dead as gunman attacks churchgoers in Russia

Gorkha Post

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At least five people were killed and another five were injured when a gunman attacked a crowd of people leaving a church on Sunday in Russia’s southern province of Dagestan, Russian news agencies reported.

The attack occurred in the village of Kizlyar in the Muslim-majority republic of Dagestan.

Russian news agencies said the attack occurred as churchgoers celebrated Maslenitsa, a Christian holiday marking the last day before Lent according to the eastern Orthodox calendar.

CCTV footage from the site of the deadly shooting shows a man armed with a rifle gunning down two women in broad daylight.

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A bearded man clad in a black vest and camouflage pants was seen crossing the street before opening fire on two female churchgoers as they left a service in Kizlyar in the Republic of Dagestan on Sunday afternoon. A woman walking several meters from the attacker was seen rushing away as the bloodshed unfolded.

The attacker was identified as a 22-year-old man local to the region, the TASS news agency said, citing the investigative committee.

He was shot and killed by security services who were on duty nearby, TASS said, adding that a hunting rifle, bullets and a knife were discovered on his person.

Initial reports suggested all five victims were women, TASS said, citing the local branch of the interior ministry.

Agencies

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