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Pakistan Girds for ‘Exchanges’ With Pompeo as US Halts Military Funding

Pakistan’s new foreign minister said he will “have exchanges” with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo over Washington’s cancellation of a $300 million disbursement for the Pakistani military when he visits Islamabad on Wednesday.

Adopting a tougher line with an ally that U.S. President Donald Trump considers unreliable, the United States halted the disbursement of Coalition Support Funds due to Islamabad’s perceived failure to take decisive action against Afghan Taliban militants operating from Pakistani soil.

The United States has now withheld $800 million from the CSF so far this year.

The latest move comes just as the less-than-one-month-old government of Prime Minister Imran Khan faces a looming balance of payments crisis that could force it to seek a fresh bailout from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), or other lenders.

“On the 5th, the American (secretary of state) Pompeo will be arriving, and we will have a chance to sit down with him. There will be exchanges,” Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi told reporters late on Sunday night.

“We will take our mutual respect for each other into consideration and move forward,” he added.

Qureshi argued that the U.S. was not justified in cutting the $300 million because it was intended to reimburse Pakistan’s military for money spent fighting the Taliban and other militants threatening U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

“It is not aid. It is not assistance, which was suspended. This the money, which we have spent. This is our money. We have spent it,” Qureshi said. “We did it for our betterment, which they had to reimburse.”

Officially allies in fighting terrorism, Pakistan and the United States have a complicated relationship, bound by Washington’s dependence on Pakistan to guarantee a supply route for U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

U.S. officials have repeatedly accused Pakistan of playing a double game, by covertly providing safe havens for Afghan Taliban insurgents and fighters from the Haqqani group, who are waging a 17-year-old war against Afghanistan’s U.S.-backed government.

Pakistan consistently denies providing safe havens for the militants.

In an editorial on Monday, Pakistan’s English-language Dawn newspaper railed against the Trump administration’s decision to halt the disbursement of funds.

“The U.S. has delivered an object lesson in how not to conduct diplomacy,” Pakistan’s English-language Dawn newspaper said in an editorial on Monday.

It went on to speculate whether Pompeo would “try and bully the Pakistani leadership during his visit or if he will be deployed in a more traditional ‘good cop’ diplomatic role.”

Pompeo will be accompanied by top U.S. military officer, General Joseph Dunford, for talks with the Pakistani leadership.

Relations between the new Pakistani government and Washington got off to a rocky start last month when Qureshi publicly disputed that Pompeo had brought up the thorny issue of terrorist havens in a phone call with Prime Minister Khan.

The Pakistani side later downplayed the issue after Washington shared a transcript of the call, Pakistani media reported.

The Trump administration a year ago resolved to take tougher line with Pakistan than previous U.S. administrations.

In his first tweet of 2018, Trump slammed Pakistan, saying the country has rewarded past U.S. aid with “nothing but lies & deceit.” Washington announced plans in January to suspend up to roughly $2 billion in U.S. security assistance to Pakistan.

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Trump’s Pollution Rules Rollback to Hit Coal Country Hard

It’s coal people like miner Steve Knotts, 62, who make West Virginia Trump Country.

So it was no surprise that President Donald Trump picked the state to announce his plan rolling back Obama-era pollution controls on coal-fired power plants.

Trump left one thing out of his remarks, though: northern West Virginia coal country will be ground zero for increased deaths and illnesses from the rollback on regulation of harmful emission from the nation’s coal power plants.

An analysis done by his own Environmental Protection Agency concludes that the plan would lead to a greater number of people here dying prematurely, and suffering health problems that they otherwise would not have, than elsewhere in the country, when compared to health impacts of the Obama plan.

Knotts, a coal miner for 35 years, isn’t fazed when he hears that warning, a couple of days after Trump’s West Virginia rally. He says the last thing people in coal country want is the government slapping down more controls on coal — and the air here in the remote West Virginia mountains seems fine to him.

People here have had it with other people telling us what we need. We know what we need. We need a job,” Knotts said at lunch hour at a Circle K in a tiny town between two coal mines, and 9 miles down the road from a coal power plant, the Grant Town plant.

The sky around Grant Town is bright blue. The mountains are a dazzling green. Paw Paw Creek gurgles past the town.

Clean-air controls since the 1980s largely turned off the columns of black soot that used to rise from coal smokestacks. The regulations slashed the national death rates from coal-fired power plants substantially.

These days pollutants rise from smoke stacks as gases, before solidifying into fine particles — still invisible — small enough to pass through lungs and into bloodstreams.

An EPA analysis says those pollutants would increase under Trump’s plan, when compared to what would happen under the Obama plan. And that, it says, would lead to thousands more heart attacks, asthma problems and other illnesses that would not have occurred.

Nationally, the EPA says, 350 to 1,500 more people would die each year under Trump’s plan. But it’s northern two-thirds of West Virginia and the neighboring part of Pennsylvania that would be hit hardest, by far, according to Trump’s EPA.

Trump’s rollback would kill an extra 1.4 to 2.4 people a year for every 100,000 people in those hardest-hit areas, compared to under the Obama plan, according to the EPA analysis. For West Virginia’s 1.8 million people, that would be equal to at least a couple dozen additional deaths a year.

Trump’s acting EPA administrator, Andrew Wheeler, a former coal lobbyist whose grandfather worked in the coal camps of West Virginia, headed to coal states this week and last to promote Trump’s rollback. The federal government’s retreat on regulating pollution from coal power plants was “good news,” Wheeler told crowds there.

In Washington, EPA spokesman Michael Abboud said Trump’s plan still would result in “dramatic reductions” in emissions, deaths and illness compared to the status quo, instead of to the Obama plan. Obama’s Clean Power Plan targeted climate-changing carbon dioxide, but since coal is the largest source of carbon dioxide from fossil fuels, the Obama plan would have curbed other harmful emissions from the coal-fired power plants as well.

About 160 miles to the south of Grant Town, near the state capital of Charleston, shop owner Doris Keller figures that if Trump thinks something’s for the best, that’s good enough for her.

“I just know this. I like Donald Trump and I think that he’s doing the right thing,” said Keller, who turned out to support Trump Aug. 21 when he promoted his rollback proposal. She lives five miles from the 2,900-megawatt John Amos coal-fired power plant.

“I think he has the best interests of the regular common people at the forefront,” Keller says.

Trump’s Affordable Clean Energy program would dismantle President Barack Obama’s 2015 Clean Power Plan, which has been caught up in court battles without yet being implemented.

The Obama plan targeted climate-changing emissions from power plants, especially coal. It would have increased federal regulation of emissions from the nation’s electrical grid and broadly promoted natural gas, solar power and other cleaner energy.

Trump’s plan would cede much of the federal oversight of existing coal-fired power plants and drop official promotion of cleaner energy. Individual states largely would decide how much to regulate coal power plants in their borders. The plan is open for public review, ahead of any final White House decision.

“I’m getting rid of some of these ridiculous rules and regulations, which are killing our companies … and our jobs,” Trump said at the rally.

There was no mention of the “small increases” in harmful emissions that would result, compared to the Obama plan, or the health risks.

EPA charts put numbers on just how many more people would die each year because of those increased coal emissions.

Abboud and spokeswoman Ashley Bourke of the National Mining Association, which supports Trump’s proposed regulatory rollback on coal emissions, said other federal programs already regulate harmful emissions from coal power plants. Bourke also argued that the health studies the EPA used in its death projections date as far back as the 1970s, when coal plants burned dirtier.

In response, Conrad Schneider of the environmental nonprofit Clean Air Task Force said the EPA’s mortality estimates had taken into account existing regulation of plant emissions.Additionally, health studies used by the EPA looked at specific levels of exposure to pollutants and their impact on human health, so remain constant over time, said Schneider, whose group analyzes the EPA projections.

With competition from natural gas and other cleaner energy helping to kill off more than a third of coal jobs over the last decade, political leaders in coal states are in no position to be the ones charged with enforcing public-health protections on surviving coal-fired power plants, said Vivian Stockman of the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition.

“Our state is beholden to coal. Our politicians are beholden to coal,” Stockman said outside Trump’s West Virginia rally, where she was protesting. “Meanwhile, our people are being poisoned.”

And when it comes to coal power plants and harm, Schneider said, “when you’re at Grant Town, you’re at Ground Zero.”

Retired coal miner Jim Haley, living 4 miles from the town’s coal-fired power plant, has trouble telling from the smokestack when the plant is even operating.

“They’ve got steam coming out of the chimneys. That’s all they have coming out of it,” Haley said.

Parked near the Grant Town post office, where another resident was rolling down the quiet main street on a tractor, James Perkins listened to word of the EPA’s health warnings. He cast a look into the rear-view mirror into the backseat of his pickup truck, at his 3-year-old grandson, sitting in the back.

“They need to make that safe,” said Perkins, a health-care worker who had opted not to follow his father into the coal mines. “People got little kids.”

 

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$30 Million Poured into Effort to Energize Young US Voters

Democrats know who their voters are. They just have to figure out how to get them to the polls in November — and that’s where the puppies come in.

Students returning to the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus this summer were greeted by therapy dogs for petting. Those lured by the chance to ruffle a dog’s ears were then asked to register to vote — a “Pups to the Polls” gimmick that was just one of several similar events being staged in 11 battleground states by the liberal group NextGen America.

Young people tend to vote for Democrats, but they also tend stay away during midterm elections. It’s a perennial frustration for the party — one they are trying to overcome as they seek to take control of Congress.

NextGen America, formed by billionaire activist Tom Steyer, hopes to be a game changer. Steyer is investing more than $30 million in what’s believed to be the largest voter engagement effort of its kind in U.S. history.

The push to register and get pledges from college students to vote is focusing on states such as Wisconsin, Virginia, California and North Carolina with competitive races for Congress, U.S. Senate and other offices.

NextGen sees young voters such as Kellen Sharp as key to flipping targeted seats from red to blue.

“The outcome of this election definitely affects us,” said Sharp, an 18-year-old freshman from Milwaukee who stopped to register during the dog event the week before classes started. “I’m just excited to have a voice and say something.”

A poll this summer by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research and MTV found that most Americans ages 15 to 34 think voting in the midterm elections gives their generation some say about how the government is run. The poll found young people eager to vote for someone who shared their political views on issues such as health care and immigration policy. They expressed far less excitement about voting for a candidate described as a lifelong politician.

“If we all vote, we can make a change,” said 20-year-old Grace Austin, who stopped to pet the dogs at the Wisconsin event and wound up registering to vote.

Austin and other college students who registered said they feel like their friends are more interested in politics than ever before — boosting hopes of Democrats trying to reverse the trend of declining youth participation in midterm elections.

“We want them to know they need to show up and when they do, we will win,” said NextGen’s Wisconsin director George Olufosoye. “We want them to know they have power.”

They certainly have the numbers.

Since the last midterm election in 2014, 15 million post-millennials — those between the ages of 18 and 21 — have become eligible to vote. But while Generation X, millennials and post-millennials make up the majority of voting-eligible adults nationwide, they are not expected to cast the most votes in November.

In the 2014 midterm, they cast 21 million fewer votes than voters over age 54, according to an analysis by the Pew Research Center. Turnout among 18- to 24-year-olds hit a 40-year low in 2014, bottoming out at 17.1 percent, according to an analysis by the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement, or CIRCLE, at Tufts University.

‘Energy, passion and activism’

NextGen points to higher voter turnout on the University of Wisconsin campus for a spring state Supreme Court election won by a liberal, and spikes in turnout in other targeted races, to argue that their push to register 122,000 young people to vote is bearing fruit.

“We’re trying really hard to have this be much more of an infrastructure, organizational thing than a two-month campaign,” NextGen founder Tom Steyer said in an interview. “We’re trying to get the broadest possible democracy, the biggest representation.”

More media coverage of competitive races, combined with energy from the March for Our Lives movement that seeks stricter gun laws, has empowered young voters and made them “feel like it’s time to have their voice heard about what happens to their generation,” said Kei Kawashima-Ginsberg, director of CIRCLE.

That’s what NextGen hopes. It has nearly 800 organizers on 421 college campuses in Wisconsin, Arizona, California, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Virginia. In Wisconsin alone, NextGen has 27 full-time workers and 40 student fellows registering voters on 26 campuses.

Republicans recognize the power that motivating young voters could have for Democrats, but they’re skeptical that participation will increase much. In Wisconsin, Republicans have been targeting college voters for years.

“Wisconsin Republicans win by connecting with voters directly where they are — and young voters are no different when it comes to that strategy,” said Wisconsin Republican Party spokesman Alec Zimmerman.

Wisconsin has two of the nation’s competitive and closely watched races. Democratic Senator Tammy Baldwin is being challenged by GOP state Senator Leah Vukmir, while Republican Governor Scott Walker faces a challenge from Democratic state schools chief Tony Evers. Polls show the races to be a dead heat — just the kind of competitive elections research shows excite younger voters.

“I’ve never seen anything like this,” said NextGen worker and 2016 University of Wisconsin graduate Joe Waldman. “I’ve never seen the energy, passion and activism there is now.”

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Group: US, Russia Block Consensus at ‘Killer Robots’ Meeting

A key opponent of high-tech, automated weapons known as “killer robots” is blaming countries like the U.S. and Russia for blocking consensus at a U.N.-backed conference, where most countries wanted to ensure that humans stay at the controls of lethal machines.

 

Coordinator Mary Wareham of the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots spoke Monday after experts from dozens of countries agreed before dawn Saturday at the U.N. in Geneva on 10 “possible guiding principles” about such “Lethal Automated Weapons Systems.”

 

Point 2 said: “Human responsibility for decisions on the use of weapons systems must be retained since accountability cannot be transferred to machines.”

 

Wareham said such language wasn’t binding, adding that “it’s time to start laying down some rules now.”

 

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres welcomed the principles and expressed hopes the countries who signed on “can build upon this achievement,” according to a statement from his spokesman.

 

Wareham said delegates had just “kicked the can down the road” until the next meeting on LAWS in November. The “usual suspects” including the United States, Russia, Israel and South Korea — joined unexpectedly by Australia, she said — were behind an effort to keep the text from being more binding.

 

“The fact is that it’s the majority that wants it, but you know, it’s the Convention on Conventional Weapons — and this is where, it’s about consensus and … a small minority of states — or even a single one can hold back the desires of the majority,” Wareham said.

 

Amandeep Gill, an Indian diplomat who chaired last week’s meeting of experts, expressed satisfaction about the outcome, while cautioning that such systems should not be “anthropomorphized,” or attributed with human qualities. He insisted that they were not like “Iron Man and Terminator.”

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Group: US, Russia Block Consensus at ‘Killer Robots’ Meeting

A key opponent of high-tech, automated weapons known as “killer robots” is blaming countries like the U.S. and Russia for blocking consensus at a U.N.-backed conference, where most countries wanted to ensure that humans stay at the controls of lethal machines.

 

Coordinator Mary Wareham of the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots spoke Monday after experts from dozens of countries agreed before dawn Saturday at the U.N. in Geneva on 10 “possible guiding principles” about such “Lethal Automated Weapons Systems.”

 

Point 2 said: “Human responsibility for decisions on the use of weapons systems must be retained since accountability cannot be transferred to machines.”

 

Wareham said such language wasn’t binding, adding that “it’s time to start laying down some rules now.”

 

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres welcomed the principles and expressed hopes the countries who signed on “can build upon this achievement,” according to a statement from his spokesman.

 

Wareham said delegates had just “kicked the can down the road” until the next meeting on LAWS in November. The “usual suspects” including the United States, Russia, Israel and South Korea — joined unexpectedly by Australia, she said — were behind an effort to keep the text from being more binding.

 

“The fact is that it’s the majority that wants it, but you know, it’s the Convention on Conventional Weapons — and this is where, it’s about consensus and … a small minority of states — or even a single one can hold back the desires of the majority,” Wareham said.

 

Amandeep Gill, an Indian diplomat who chaired last week’s meeting of experts, expressed satisfaction about the outcome, while cautioning that such systems should not be “anthropomorphized,” or attributed with human qualities. He insisted that they were not like “Iron Man and Terminator.”

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Cybersecurity Becoming Major Concern for Vietnamese Businesses

At one of An Nguyen’s old jobs in Hanoi, she had a daily ritual: When she wanted to log in to the computer, she had to answer a cybersecurity question such as “What is spear phishing?” or “How does malware work?”

Nguyen did not work in the technology industry, but this was her employer’s way of making sure that all staff had at least a basic understanding of good cyber awareness.

Vietnam could use more people like Nguyen, according to security professionals. They say the country’s small businesses, in particular, do not realize how big a threat they face from hackers or other sources of data breaches.

“Cybersecurity for us, sometimes we are too confident — or maybe we are ignorant,” Nguyen, who has since started her own business, said regarding Vietnamese apathy toward computer security. “So we don’t care much about that.”

But small and medium enterprises (SMEs) should care, cyber professionals say, especially considering the factors that make security risks even more acute in Vietnam. These include the Southeast Asian country’s widespread use of pirated software, the high internet penetration among a tech-loving society without the IT support to match, and the love-hate relationship with China.

There are two kinds of people, said Vu Minh Tri, vice president of cloud services at the gaming company VNG, deploying a favorite global cliche — those who have been hacked, and those who do not know that they have been hacked.

“There is a very true saying that there is no company, or no organization, or no computer not impacted by malware,” Tri said. “There’s only organizations, computers, or people not aware the computer is impacted. So all are impacted. It’s just a matter of whether you’re aware or not.”

A new wrinkle in the story comes from neighboring China, with some cyber-attacks believed to be related to its Belt and Road Initiative, which aims to connect many countries from Asia to Europe through infrastructure projects. Research from the security firm Fireeye suggests Chinese hackers may be used either to defend Beijing’s partners in the Belt and Road, such as Cambodia, or to target those that do not play ball, like Malaysia.

Vietnam has taken a cautious approach to the initiative, with some scholars expressing concern about risks like burdensome loans and over-reliance on China. The Southeast Asian country also has reason to worry about potential cyber fallout. In one famous case, Chinese internet protocol addresses were suspected in the 2016 hack of Vietnamese airports, where screens displayed messages challenging Hanoi’s claims in the South China Sea.

“In this digital era, Asia Pacific region has become the largest digital market in the world, creating tremendous business opportunities for SMEs,” Jason Kao, director of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation’s SME crisis management center, told small businesses at a Ho Chi Minh City workshop his office sponsored last week.

But not enough of these small and medium-sized enterprises are paying attention to online security, Kao warned.

“Since more businesses use computers to connect their customers and store data, cyber-attacks and data leaks can cause serious harm,” he said.

The cost burden is understandable, though, he added.

On the one hand, a small business might be too little to attract the unwanted attention of hackers. On the other hand, they might be too small to bear the expense of insuring or guarding against attacks.

“As we talk about cost and benefit, we know that we have to buy insurance contracts, we know that we have to protect ourselves,” Nguyen said. “But we don’t have enough resources.”

That is the reason ripped software remains popular in Vietnam, earning it a spot among countries to watch in the U.S. Trade Representative’s report on intellectual property. Thanks to this pirated software, overseas hackers can access Vietnamese computers, which they use in denial of service attacks – sending so many requests to target websites that the sites become overloaded and shut down.

At the same time Vietnam lacks the information technology specialists who can alleviate some of these dangers. By one estimate, the country could face a shortage of one million IT staffers by 2020.

In the meantime, security advisers offer some basic reminders to increase safety online. Do not click on links, in emails or otherwise, if they are even slightly questionable. Use strong passwords and do not reuse them across different accounts. And of course, avoid pirated software.

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Cybersecurity Becoming Major Concern for Vietnamese Businesses

At one of An Nguyen’s old jobs in Hanoi, she had a daily ritual: When she wanted to log in to the computer, she had to answer a cybersecurity question such as “What is spear phishing?” or “How does malware work?”

Nguyen did not work in the technology industry, but this was her employer’s way of making sure that all staff had at least a basic understanding of good cyber awareness.

Vietnam could use more people like Nguyen, according to security professionals. They say the country’s small businesses, in particular, do not realize how big a threat they face from hackers or other sources of data breaches.

“Cybersecurity for us, sometimes we are too confident — or maybe we are ignorant,” Nguyen, who has since started her own business, said regarding Vietnamese apathy toward computer security. “So we don’t care much about that.”

But small and medium enterprises (SMEs) should care, cyber professionals say, especially considering the factors that make security risks even more acute in Vietnam. These include the Southeast Asian country’s widespread use of pirated software, the high internet penetration among a tech-loving society without the IT support to match, and the love-hate relationship with China.

There are two kinds of people, said Vu Minh Tri, vice president of cloud services at the gaming company VNG, deploying a favorite global cliche — those who have been hacked, and those who do not know that they have been hacked.

“There is a very true saying that there is no company, or no organization, or no computer not impacted by malware,” Tri said. “There’s only organizations, computers, or people not aware the computer is impacted. So all are impacted. It’s just a matter of whether you’re aware or not.”

A new wrinkle in the story comes from neighboring China, with some cyber-attacks believed to be related to its Belt and Road Initiative, which aims to connect many countries from Asia to Europe through infrastructure projects. Research from the security firm Fireeye suggests Chinese hackers may be used either to defend Beijing’s partners in the Belt and Road, such as Cambodia, or to target those that do not play ball, like Malaysia.

Vietnam has taken a cautious approach to the initiative, with some scholars expressing concern about risks like burdensome loans and over-reliance on China. The Southeast Asian country also has reason to worry about potential cyber fallout. In one famous case, Chinese internet protocol addresses were suspected in the 2016 hack of Vietnamese airports, where screens displayed messages challenging Hanoi’s claims in the South China Sea.

“In this digital era, Asia Pacific region has become the largest digital market in the world, creating tremendous business opportunities for SMEs,” Jason Kao, director of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation’s SME crisis management center, told small businesses at a Ho Chi Minh City workshop his office sponsored last week.

But not enough of these small and medium-sized enterprises are paying attention to online security, Kao warned.

“Since more businesses use computers to connect their customers and store data, cyber-attacks and data leaks can cause serious harm,” he said.

The cost burden is understandable, though, he added.

On the one hand, a small business might be too little to attract the unwanted attention of hackers. On the other hand, they might be too small to bear the expense of insuring or guarding against attacks.

“As we talk about cost and benefit, we know that we have to buy insurance contracts, we know that we have to protect ourselves,” Nguyen said. “But we don’t have enough resources.”

That is the reason ripped software remains popular in Vietnam, earning it a spot among countries to watch in the U.S. Trade Representative’s report on intellectual property. Thanks to this pirated software, overseas hackers can access Vietnamese computers, which they use in denial of service attacks – sending so many requests to target websites that the sites become overloaded and shut down.

At the same time Vietnam lacks the information technology specialists who can alleviate some of these dangers. By one estimate, the country could face a shortage of one million IT staffers by 2020.

In the meantime, security advisers offer some basic reminders to increase safety online. Do not click on links, in emails or otherwise, if they are even slightly questionable. Use strong passwords and do not reuse them across different accounts. And of course, avoid pirated software.

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Hope, Caution as Kim Jong Un Shifts to North Korea’s Economy

Tanned and wearing a swimsuit, So Myong Il walks to the barbecue pit and throws on some clams.

 

He obviously loves the beach he’s on as well as the rugged, emerald Chilbo mountains that rise abruptly behind it. He loves them enough to forget, for a moment at least, that he is a senior official sent to deliver an ideology-soaked pitch singing their praises and instead lets the natural beauty surrounding him speak for itself.

 

Comrade So sees great things for North Korean attractions like this.

Hotels, big and small. Tourists from all over the country, maybe the world. “As long as we have the leadership of our respected Marshal,” he says, referring to leader Kim Jong Un, “our future will be bright indeed.”

 

So wouldn’t think of questioning the leader, but there is a hint of apprehension in his voice. And he isn’t alone.

 

North Korea is pushing ahead with a new strategy of economic development and the intensified diplomacy with China, South Korea and the United States that such a move requires. But hopes for a better future are mixed with concern over potential downsides of political or social volatility, and something that’s harder to articulate: a fear of the unknown – even if it appears far more promising than the arduous path the country has been on for decades.

Even before announcing in January that he had sufficiently perfected his nuclear arsenal and could start to focus on other things, Kim has held economic development to be his primary long-term concern.

 

He has allowed markets and entrepreneurialism to flourish and, since succeeding his father as leader seven years ago, has dramatically transformed the skyline of the capital, Pyongyang, with several high-rise districts. The transformation in the east coast city of Wonsan, where Kim has a summer villa, has been almost as spectacular.

 

As Kim prepares for the 70th anniversary of North Korea’s founding on Sept. 9, his ambitious development plan is being implemented, from the small-time renovation of town halls to the almost biblical-scale mobilization of “soldier-builders,” who are working around the clock to turn the remote northern city of Samjiyon into yet another showcase of Pyongyang-style socialism.

 

Economic development – and how U.S. capital and know-how could speed it along – was President Donald Trump’s big carrot when he met with Kim in Singapore three months ago to try to negotiate a denuclearization deal.

 

But Kim’s diplomatic overtures aren’t intended to open the door to American capitalists, a scenario that would make any good party cadre shudder. They are aimed at breaking down support for sanctions and getting the U.S. to step out of the way. Kim’s game is to play China and the U.S. off each other, grab whatever concessions he can along the way and adjust his position as the situation evolves.

 

In the meantime, lest anyone get the wrong idea, the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea has begun churning out paeans to socialism in its daily newspaper along with anti-capitalism, anti-imperialism screeds that underscore North Korea’s official opposition to essentially anything that might be considered the American way of life. Or, as it’s known in the jargon of North Korea’s propaganda machine, “the imperialists’ bourgeois ideological and cultural poisoning.”


 

The past few months have been tense in Pyongyang.

 

Restrictions on some of the movements of foreign diplomats have been tightened, for example, and even requests by The Associated Press to interview government officials or to speak with regular citizens have mostly been denied.

 

Uncertain of where it might all end up, state-run media have provided only limited coverage of Kim’s meetings with Trump in June and his multiple summits with Chinese President Xi Jinping and South Korean President Moon Jae-in. Reports have portrayed Kim as the consummate statesman, firmly in charge of a carefully considered strategy to make his country safer and more prosperous.

 

Kim is ardently wooing South Korean investment to help him build the very things Trump was offering: infrastructure, particularly roads and railways, and the development of selected tourism zones. After a high-profile chill last year, he is also actively courting Beijing, which continues to be an essential source of fuel, a key market for North Korea’s coal and other natural resources and a fairly reliable check on U.S. power in the region.

 

Pyongyang’s explanation for the shift in its foreign policy has been consistent: Having successfully built a credible nuclear deterrent to U.S. aggression, Kim is reaching out to Seoul to join hands in a “for Koreans, by Koreans” effort to secure a lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula, unhindered by the meddling of foreign powers.

 

Undoubtedly, images of the leader smiling and shaking hands with Trump, whose face had never been on the front pages of their newspapers before, signaled a major and bewildering change to many North Koreans.

 

But officials have made sure they don’t have much time to ruminate on it.

 

Normal routines of work and study have been put on hold for large segments of the populace who have been mobilized for the development projects. Tens of thousands of people in Pyongyang, meanwhile, have spent the past several months feverishly preparing for mass rallies and mass games to mark the anniversary.


 

Mount Chilbo, a collection of rocky peaks and a stretch of largely untouched seashore on the country’s northeastern fringe, is one of North Korea’s most cherished natural wonders.

 

The first hotel for non-Korean visitors opened in the 1980s, followed in 2004 by homestay-style lodgings near the beach, said So, a North Hamgyong Province People’s Committee official. Together they have a capacity of fewer than 100 guests and only operate from April until early November.

 

Many North Koreans bring tents and sleep on the beach.

 

But even in this rustic corner of the country, the pressure to contribute to Kim’s grand development scheme is keenly felt.

 

So said he would soon travel to China to discuss possible areas of cooperation.

 

As an indicator of Kim’s success with Beijing, tourism from China is already on the rise. Pyongyang’s longer-term goal, however, is to tap the South Korean market. The idea is that, if handled properly, South Korean tourism would present a chance to promote the North in a positive light and boost its image within South Korea.

 

That’s a gamble too.

Back in the late 1990s and early 2000s, South Koreans were allowed to visit in a highly regulated and controlled manner, and massive investment from South Korean businesses helped the North fund infrastructure projects in the same Wonsan-Mount Kumgang area that Kim is focusing on now. But it ended badly in 2008 when a South Korean woman who entered a restricted area was shot to death by a North Korean soldier.

 

So said he believes Chilbo, like Kim’s pet projects in Wonsan, could be a big draw for tourists. But he worries about where the money will come from and what might be lost.

 

“Whatever we do, we need to protect the natural beauty of this place,” he said.”I think there will be many changes in the coming years. Plans are being discussed. But nothing is decided.”

 

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Hope, Caution as Kim Jong Un Shifts to North Korea’s Economy

Tanned and wearing a swimsuit, So Myong Il walks to the barbecue pit and throws on some clams.

 

He obviously loves the beach he’s on as well as the rugged, emerald Chilbo mountains that rise abruptly behind it. He loves them enough to forget, for a moment at least, that he is a senior official sent to deliver an ideology-soaked pitch singing their praises and instead lets the natural beauty surrounding him speak for itself.

 

Comrade So sees great things for North Korean attractions like this.

Hotels, big and small. Tourists from all over the country, maybe the world. “As long as we have the leadership of our respected Marshal,” he says, referring to leader Kim Jong Un, “our future will be bright indeed.”

 

So wouldn’t think of questioning the leader, but there is a hint of apprehension in his voice. And he isn’t alone.

 

North Korea is pushing ahead with a new strategy of economic development and the intensified diplomacy with China, South Korea and the United States that such a move requires. But hopes for a better future are mixed with concern over potential downsides of political or social volatility, and something that’s harder to articulate: a fear of the unknown – even if it appears far more promising than the arduous path the country has been on for decades.

Even before announcing in January that he had sufficiently perfected his nuclear arsenal and could start to focus on other things, Kim has held economic development to be his primary long-term concern.

 

He has allowed markets and entrepreneurialism to flourish and, since succeeding his father as leader seven years ago, has dramatically transformed the skyline of the capital, Pyongyang, with several high-rise districts. The transformation in the east coast city of Wonsan, where Kim has a summer villa, has been almost as spectacular.

 

As Kim prepares for the 70th anniversary of North Korea’s founding on Sept. 9, his ambitious development plan is being implemented, from the small-time renovation of town halls to the almost biblical-scale mobilization of “soldier-builders,” who are working around the clock to turn the remote northern city of Samjiyon into yet another showcase of Pyongyang-style socialism.

 

Economic development – and how U.S. capital and know-how could speed it along – was President Donald Trump’s big carrot when he met with Kim in Singapore three months ago to try to negotiate a denuclearization deal.

 

But Kim’s diplomatic overtures aren’t intended to open the door to American capitalists, a scenario that would make any good party cadre shudder. They are aimed at breaking down support for sanctions and getting the U.S. to step out of the way. Kim’s game is to play China and the U.S. off each other, grab whatever concessions he can along the way and adjust his position as the situation evolves.

 

In the meantime, lest anyone get the wrong idea, the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea has begun churning out paeans to socialism in its daily newspaper along with anti-capitalism, anti-imperialism screeds that underscore North Korea’s official opposition to essentially anything that might be considered the American way of life. Or, as it’s known in the jargon of North Korea’s propaganda machine, “the imperialists’ bourgeois ideological and cultural poisoning.”


 

The past few months have been tense in Pyongyang.

 

Restrictions on some of the movements of foreign diplomats have been tightened, for example, and even requests by The Associated Press to interview government officials or to speak with regular citizens have mostly been denied.

 

Uncertain of where it might all end up, state-run media have provided only limited coverage of Kim’s meetings with Trump in June and his multiple summits with Chinese President Xi Jinping and South Korean President Moon Jae-in. Reports have portrayed Kim as the consummate statesman, firmly in charge of a carefully considered strategy to make his country safer and more prosperous.

 

Kim is ardently wooing South Korean investment to help him build the very things Trump was offering: infrastructure, particularly roads and railways, and the development of selected tourism zones. After a high-profile chill last year, he is also actively courting Beijing, which continues to be an essential source of fuel, a key market for North Korea’s coal and other natural resources and a fairly reliable check on U.S. power in the region.

 

Pyongyang’s explanation for the shift in its foreign policy has been consistent: Having successfully built a credible nuclear deterrent to U.S. aggression, Kim is reaching out to Seoul to join hands in a “for Koreans, by Koreans” effort to secure a lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula, unhindered by the meddling of foreign powers.

 

Undoubtedly, images of the leader smiling and shaking hands with Trump, whose face had never been on the front pages of their newspapers before, signaled a major and bewildering change to many North Koreans.

 

But officials have made sure they don’t have much time to ruminate on it.

 

Normal routines of work and study have been put on hold for large segments of the populace who have been mobilized for the development projects. Tens of thousands of people in Pyongyang, meanwhile, have spent the past several months feverishly preparing for mass rallies and mass games to mark the anniversary.


 

Mount Chilbo, a collection of rocky peaks and a stretch of largely untouched seashore on the country’s northeastern fringe, is one of North Korea’s most cherished natural wonders.

 

The first hotel for non-Korean visitors opened in the 1980s, followed in 2004 by homestay-style lodgings near the beach, said So, a North Hamgyong Province People’s Committee official. Together they have a capacity of fewer than 100 guests and only operate from April until early November.

 

Many North Koreans bring tents and sleep on the beach.

 

But even in this rustic corner of the country, the pressure to contribute to Kim’s grand development scheme is keenly felt.

 

So said he would soon travel to China to discuss possible areas of cooperation.

 

As an indicator of Kim’s success with Beijing, tourism from China is already on the rise. Pyongyang’s longer-term goal, however, is to tap the South Korean market. The idea is that, if handled properly, South Korean tourism would present a chance to promote the North in a positive light and boost its image within South Korea.

 

That’s a gamble too.

Back in the late 1990s and early 2000s, South Koreans were allowed to visit in a highly regulated and controlled manner, and massive investment from South Korean businesses helped the North fund infrastructure projects in the same Wonsan-Mount Kumgang area that Kim is focusing on now. But it ended badly in 2008 when a South Korean woman who entered a restricted area was shot to death by a North Korean soldier.

 

So said he believes Chilbo, like Kim’s pet projects in Wonsan, could be a big draw for tourists. But he worries about where the money will come from and what might be lost.

 

“Whatever we do, we need to protect the natural beauty of this place,” he said.”I think there will be many changes in the coming years. Plans are being discussed. But nothing is decided.”

 

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