North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un has issued a rare personal apology for the killing of a South Korean official, Seoul says.
Mr Kim reportedly told his South Korean counterpart Moon Jae-in that the “disgraceful affair” should not have happened.
South Korea has said the 47-year-old man was found by troops floating in the North’s waters.
He was then shot dead and his body was set alight, according to Seoul.
The killing – the first of a South Korean citizen by North Korean forces for a decade – has caused outrage in the South.
The border between the Koreas is tightly policed, and the North is thought to have a “shoot-to-kill” policy in place to prevent coronavirus from entering the country.
What did Kim say in his apology?
The apology came in the form of a letter sent to President Moon which acknowledged that the incident should not have happened, according to South Korea’s Blue House.
Mr Kim called it a “disgraceful affair” and said he felt “very sorry” for “disappointing” Mr Moon and the South Korean people, the Blue House said. It is the North’s first official comment on the incident.
The North also gave the South the results of its investigation – it said more than 10 shots were fired at the man, who had entered North Korean waters and then failed to reveal his identity and tried to flee, South Korea’s director of national security Suh Hoon said.
However the North insisted that it had not burned the man’s body but rather the “floating material” that was carrying him.
“The troops could not locate the unidentified trespasser during a search after firing the shots, and burned the device under national emergency disease prevention measures,” Mr Suh told a briefing, referring to the letter.
What happened to the man?
The father-of-two, who worked for the fisheries department, was on his patrol boat about 10km (6 miles) from the border with the North, near the island of Yeonpyeong, when he disappeared on Monday, the South Korean defence ministry said.
He had left his shoes behind on the boat. South Korean media said he had recently divorced and had financial problems.
A North Korean patrol boat found the man, who was wearing a life jacket, at sea at around 15:30 local time on Tuesday.
They put gas masks on and questioned him from a distance before “orders from [a] superior authority” came in that the man be killed. He was shot dead in the water.
South Korea says North Korean troops then burned the corpse at sea.
What has the reaction been in the South?
President Moon Jae-in called the killing a “shocking” incident that could not be tolerated. He urged the North to take “responsible” measures over the attack.
The country’s National Security Council said the North could “not justify shooting and burning the corpse of our unarmed citizen who showed no sign of resistance”.
Officials said they had done a “thorough analysis of diverse intelligence”, but it was not clear how exactly they had gathered the information.
The military hotline between North and South was cut in June, and the inter-Korean liaison office, which was built to help both sides communicate, was destroyed by North Korea. But South Korean military is known to intercept the North’s radio communications, AFP news agency reports.
What is the background?
Mr Kim’s apology comes at a time when relations between the North and South are at a low point and there is a stand-off between Pyongyang and Washington over the North’s nuclear programme.
South Korea has in the past demanded apologies from the North but these have rarely been forthcoming. The North has refused to apologise for the sinking of a South Korean warship in 2010, in which 46 sailors died, and denies responsibility. It also refused to apologise for shelling a South Korean island the same year, killing two soldiers and two construction workers.
North Korea may be taking extra-tough measures to prevent the coronavirus from entering the country because it is thought to be preparing for a huge military parade on 10 October to mark the 75th anniversary of the foundation of the ruling Workers’ Party.
Pyongyang closed its border with China in January to try to prevent the spread Covid-19. In July, North Korean state media said the country had raised its state of emergency to the maximum level.
Last month, the commander of the US military’s forces in South Korea, Robert Abrams, said the North had introduced a new “buffer zone” of one to two kilometres on the Chinese border, and that the country had special operation forces in place with orders to “shoot-to-kill” anyone coming across the border.
In the past, North Korea has also returned people who have wandered into their territory. In 2017, state news agency KCNA said officials would repatriate a South Korean fishing boat which “illegally” crossed the border, in what was seen as a rare humanitarian move.
Democrats elect Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney to lead campaign arm
As incoming DCCC chief, Maloney will have one of the trickiest jobs in Washington after the Democrats’ down-ballot trouncing at the polls last month that left Republicans between five and seven seats away from the majority. He will have to convince dozens of new candidates to run in a potentially unfavorable environment and in districts that have yet to be drawn.
Maloney will be immediately inserted into the center of an ideological debate that has gripped House Democrats since Nov 3., with the caucus’s warring factions pointing fingers at each other over exactly why they’re staring down a shrunken majority come January.
Many moderate Democrats — who largely supported Maloney for his ability to win in a Trump-won district — are demanding a new party message that veers starkly away from the GOP’s attacks on socialism and progressive slogans like “defund the police.”
Liberal Democrats, meanwhile, are dissecting the internal gears at DCCC, arguing that the operation needs to rely on more diverse staff and consultants, devote more resources to get-out-the-vote efforts and completely rethink its digital operations.
Many progressives, particularly lawmakers of color, had flocked behind Cárdenas, who proved to be a prolific fundraiser and organizer as he built the Congressional Hispanic Caucus’s campaign arm, BOLD Pac, from the ground up. And he staked his campaign on a vow to Democrats’ increasingly apparent struggles with Latino. The party suffered surprising losses in heavily Latino seats in Florida, Texas and California.
Cárdenas was vocal about reforming some of DCCC’s practices, including ending a contentious policy that banned the organization from hiring any consultant that has helped a primary challenger of a sitting Democrat — a practice that enraged progressives.
Maloney has acknowledged concerns with messaging and said he would reconsider the DCCC blacklist, though he has been mostly restrained — both publicly and privately — in his assessment of DCCC’s miscalculations.
“The smart thing for the DCCC chair to do is to say, I don’t know what happened until I’ve really had a chance to dig into the numbers,” Maloney said in a recent interview.
As chair, Maloney will have an additional task of shepherding members through the decennial redistricting process, which is fraught with politics and internal bickering, particularly in states that are on track to lose a seat. Adding to the uncertainty is the fact that the Census Bureau will almost certainly not be able to release its reapportionment data in December, delaying states ability to draw new maps.
It’s entirely possible that redistricting alone creates enough red-friendly seats to place Republicans in the majority in 2022. The GOP has total control of the process in many key states, including Texas, Florida and North Carolina, which could have a combined total of 82 seats.
Heather Caygle contributed to this report.
Students May Not Be Allowed To Return To University For Five Weeks After Christmas To Prevent Spreading Coronavirus Round Campus
3 min read
Students who go home for Christmas may have to wait five weeks into the spring term before they can return to campus.
That is according to new government coronavirus guidance, which says the measure “is to minimise transmission risks from the mass movement of students”.
The plan says those on practical or medical courses should be allowed to come back on a staggered basis over three weeks from 4 January.
But for those who do not have work, clinical or practical placements or on “courses requiring access to specialist or technical equipment”, they should not begin to go back until 25 January at the earliest, and should be spread out over a fortnight until 7 February.
As most universities plan to end their spring term after 12 weeks on 26 March, some students may be away from campus for almost half of that time.
And with the education department guidance on going home for Christmas stating people should return between tomorrow and 9 December, some students may be off-campus for more than two months.
Professor Glen O’Hara, who teaches modern and contemporary history at Oxford Brookes university criticised the plans, tweeting: “It is a total joke and an insult to hard-working lecturers and students.
“It is badly-written, badly-planned and a complete mess. Disgusting.”
The document to higher education providers, published this afternoon, states: “The government is committed to prioritising education and wants to enable all students, including those who have travelled home for the winter break, to return to university and resume blended learning.
“While we are confident that the face-to-face teaching element of blended learning can be done in COVID-secure environments, the mass movement of students across the country poses a greater risk for the transmission of infection between areas.
“It is important that measures are taken to manage the return to university carefully, to protect students, staff and local communities, while reducing disruption to education.
“This guidance sets out how we will support HE providers to enable students to return as safely as possible following the winter break, by staggering this process and to facilitate testing for all.”
Providers are advised that: “The return of students should be staggered over 5 weeks – this is to minimise transmission risks from the mass movement of students.”
It also states universities must offer “asymptomatic mass testing to all students on their return”, and says if they are using lateral flow tests then they should be tested twice, the second one three days after their arrival.
The guidance on who can return says “from 4 January to week commencing 18 January 2021 HE providers should allow those students on practical courses to return to campus in line with their planned start dates”.
It adds: “The remaining courses should be offered online from the beginning of term so that students can continue their studies from home.
“HE providers should plan for students to return gradually from 25 January, over a 2-week period.”
Students are also told to “use private transport wherever possible and only use public transport if they have no other option”, and universities should encourage people to “avoid car sharing with anyone outside their household or support bubble”.
Universities Minister Michelle Donelan said: “The health and wellbeing of students, staff and local communities is always our primary concern and this plan will enable a safer return for all students. But we must do this in a way which minimises the risk of transmission.
“I know students have had to make sacrifices this year and have faced a number of challenges, but this staggered return will help to protect students, staff and communities.
“It is so important students have the support they need to continue their education, which is why we are providing up to £20m funding for those facing hardship in these exceptional times.”
Joe Biden: Covid vaccination in US will not be mandatory
Mr Biden, and state governors who would be on the front lines of any such mandate, might prefer to target only certain segments of the population more at risk of contracting or spreading Covid-19. For instance, employers could be encouraged to require healthcare and nursing home workers to be immunised, and most children already must have up-to-date shot records before attending public or private schools.
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