Connect with us

topNews

Diplomatic gold? Joint North Korea-South Korea Olympic bid faces long odds

Published

on

SEOUL/BERLIN (Reuters) – If North and South Korea succeed in their long-shot bid to host the 2032 Summer Olympics, any athletic feats at the Games may be overshadowed by the political achievements needed to make it happen.

FILE PHOTO: Participants form a message during Mass Games in May Day stadium marking the 70th anniversary of North Korea’s foundation in Pyongyang, North Korea, September 9, 2018. Picture taken September 9, 2018. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui/File photo

Buoyed by the role the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics played in easing tensions last year, South Korean and North Korean officials are due to meet on Friday with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in Switzerland to discuss what would be the first ever bid by two countries.

To make Olympic history, experts say the bid would need to overcome international sanctions against North Korea, decades of mistrust between Seoul and Pyongyang, and wide political and economic differences between two countries still officially at war.

The Switzerland meeting comes ahead of a second summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Donald Trump in Vietnam, which will be key to the future of reclusive North Korea’s relations with the world.

Since the Olympic bid was announced after a summit between Kim and South Korean President Moon Jae-in in Pyongyang in September, South Korean officials have been pushing forward with plans despite the obstacles. On Monday Seoul was named as the city that would make the South Korean bid.

In a statement, Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon said officials would soon seek to establish a line of communication with Pyongyang and “make all-out efforts” to co-host with North Korea and make the 2032 Olympics the “last stop to establish the peace”.

On Tuesday, the North’s state news agency, KCNA, said an Olympic committee delegation led by minister of physical culture and sports Kim Il Guk had left for Switzerland, but did not mention the joint bid.

For its part, the IOC said in a statement it “welcomes very much” the two Koreas’ intention to jointly host the 2032 games, as “sport could once more make a contribution to peace on the Korean Peninsula and the world”.

“From a political perspective it would be huge,” said one senior IOC member who spoke to Reuters on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitive process. “Because we can say that the IOC brought peace in that area a year ago during the Games in Pyeongchang and it is a huge achievement for the IOC and President Thomas Bach.”

But privately, IOC members also expressed scepticism.

“We have not really spoken about it yet,” another member said. “Any discussions today are more an exercise in political marketing than real details of such Games.”

CONTENTIOUS HISTORY

Last year’s Games in Pyeongchang may have left warm feelings in Seoul and Pyongyang, but the two Koreas share an older, darker Olympic history.

After Seoul was selected to host the 1988 Summer Olympics, North Korea proposed that it be allowed to co-host the Games.

Those talks went nowhere and just months before the Olympics opened, North Korean agents bombed a South Korean airliner, killing 115 people. The one surviving agent said the attack was aimed at disrupting the Games.

Later, North Korea pursued its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs, earning the ire of South Korea and the international community, which imposed stifling sanctions on Pyongyang.

North Korea also faces international sanctions over human rights abuses, including prison camps and repressive control over much of the population.

“At this very moment it is difficult to imagine it without some huge political changes,” one senior IOC member told Reuters, comparing the idea to East and West Germany trying to co-host the Olympics at the height of the Cold War. “Is it possible or realistic to have Games in two countries with such different political, economic and infrastructure systems?”

Advocates see the Olympics as precisely the vehicle to bridge many of the gaps between the two Koreas.

“The fact that North Korea is pursuing hosting an Olympic games is a statement of their intent to denuclearize, to become part of the international community, and to open their doors,” said chairman of South Korea’s parliamentary sports committee An Min-suk.

LOGISTICAL HURDLES

A joint bid could be welcomed under the IOC’s Agenda 2020 and New Norm reforms of recent years, which aim to reduce the size of the Games and the burden on the host city or country.

Among a long list of potential bidders mentioned for the 2032 Games are Mumbai, Shanghai, Melbourne, Johannesburg and the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia.

South Korea has made a positive impression both times it hosted the Olympics, the second IOC member said.

“The level of organization is fantastic,” the member said. “It means they have the skills for such events.”

The North Koreans, meanwhile, have long made athletics a major part of their international outreach, and have poured significant amounts of their limited resources into building sports infrastructure as part of Kim Jong Un’s drive to become a “sports power”.

For example, they tout Pyongyang’s May Day stadium as one of the largest in the world, and it already sports Olympic rings and a cauldron for an Olympic flame.

This was not lost on international visitors who attended the opening of the “Mass Games” performances there in September.

“This looks like an audition for an Olympics opening ceremony,” Gianni Merlo, the head of the International Sports Press Association told Reuters at the event.

Other countries have pitched multi-city Olympics, including an Italian bid that is one of the finalists of the 2026 Winter Games.

But North Korea will pose more challenges.

Current sanctions against North Korea bar or limit a whole spectrum of activities including financial transactions, oil imports, and joint ventures.

South Korea capital city Seoul’s Mayor Park Won-soon gives a presentation during a general meeting of Korean Sport & Olympic Committee in Jincheon, South Korea, February 11, 2019. Picture taken February 11, 2019. Yonhap/Handout via REUTERS

During the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, North Korean athletes could not be gifted the Galaxy Note 8 smartphones that sponsor Samsung Electronics gave to all athletes, due to sanctions.

“A North-South Korea joint Olympic hosting will fit the Olympic spirit to a T – promoting peace, reducing war and building relationships,” said Kim Yeon-chul, Director of Korea Institute for National Unification.

“But in order for it to happen, everything has to go together – resolution of the North Korean nuclear issue, the U.S.-North Korea relations, and the acceptance of the international community.”

Reporting by Joyce Lee and Karolos Grohmann; Additional reporting by Josh Smith and Joori Roh; Writing by Josh Smith; Editing by Lincoln Feast

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

topNews

Indonesian presidential hopefuls vow energy self-sufficiency via palm

Published

on

By

JAKARTA (Reuters) – Indonesia’s two presidential candidates pledged to achieve energy self-sufficiency by boosting the use of bioenergy, particularly fueled by palm oil, to cut costly oil imports by Southeast Asia’s biggest economy.

Indonesia’s presidential candidate Joko Widodo (L) shakes hands with his opponent Prabowo Subianto after the second debate between presidential candidates ahead of the next general election in Jakarta, Indonesia, February 17, 2019. REUTERS/Willy Kurniawan

Indonesia, the world’s biggest palm oil producer, has been pushing for all diesel fuel used in the country to contain biodiesel to boost palm consumption, slash fuel imports, and narrow a yawning current account gap.

In a televised election debate, President Joko Widodo said if he won a second term the government planned to implement a B100 program, referring to fuel made entirely from palm oil, after last year making it mandatory to use biodiesel containing 20 percent bio-content (B20).

“We hope 30 percent of total palm production will go to biofuel. The plan is clear, so we will not rely on imported oil,” Widodo said, adding that Indonesia’s crude palm oil production had reached 46 million tonnes a year.

Agreeing on the importance of bioenergy for self-sufficiency, his opponent Prabowo Subianto said if elected he would also “boost the use of palm oil, palm sugar, cassava and ethanol from sugar (cane)”.

The challenger did not elaborate on his bioenergy plan, but his campaign team has proposed using millions of hectares of degraded land to cultivate palm sugar to produce energy.

Widodo’s government has previously said it would offer incentives for developers of B100, which the net oil importer hopes can replace fuel imports within three years.

Oil imports have contributed to Indonesia’s widening current account deficit and the volatility of the rupiah currency. The government claimed that its biodiesel program would save billions of dollars in diesel fuel imports.

Although retired general Prabowo agreed with Widodo on several points during the debate, he said Indonesia’s “land and water, and the resources within” must be controlled by the government.

“We are of the view that the government must be present in detail, thoroughly, firmly and actively to correct inequalities in wealth,” he said.

The challenger said the proportion of small farmers’ holdings in the country’s palm plantations should also be larger. Smallholders currently account for roughly 40 percent of Indonesia’s 12 million hectares of palm oil plantations.

Farmers currently do not require larger plots of land, but instead, they need a program to boost yield from their current farm, Mansuetus Darto of Palm Farmers Union said.

He added that farmers wanted more clarity on Widodo’s B100 program and have asked to ensure that small holders play a greater role in the biodiesel supply chain.

“This is an important task for Jokowi on how to prevent big palm companies to be the only main suppliers and not farmers,” Darto said, referring to the president’s nickname.

Meanwhile, environmental group Greenpeace criticized both candidates for failing to ensure that the biofuel programs they promised will not cause further erosion of forests, peatlands and mangrove, due to potentially higher demand for palm oil that is mixed with the fuel.

Slideshow (2 Images)

By 2030, the global demand for biofuels would reach 67 million tonnes from the current 10.7 million tonnes, which could potentially result in 4.5 million hectares of deforestation and 2.9 million hectares of mangrove disappearance, Greenpeace said.

Both candidates expressed support for greater control of Indonesian natural resources.

President Widodo highlighted Pertamina’s takeover of stewardship of major oil and gas blocks from foreign operators, and an agreement for a state company to purchase a 51 percent stake in the giant Grasberg copper mine from Freeport McMoRan.

Reporting by Fransiska Nangoy and Tabita Diela,; Additional reporting Bernadette Christina Munthe,; Editing by Ed Davies, Jan Harvey and Sherry Jacob-Phillips

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Continue Reading

topNews

Indonesian presidential hopefuls vow energy self-sufficiency through palm

Published

on

By

JAKARTA (Reuters) – Indonesia’s two presidential candidates pledged on Sunday to achieve energy self-sufficiency by boosting the use of bioenergy, particularly fueled by palm oil, to cut costly oil imports by Southeast Asia’s biggest economy.

Indonesia’s presidential candidate Joko Widodo (L) shakes hands with his opponent Prabowo Subianto after the second debate between presidential candidates ahead of the next general election in Jakarta, Indonesia, February 17, 2019. REUTERS/Willy Kurniawan

Indonesia, the world’s biggest palm oil producer, has been pushing for all diesel fuel used in the country to contain biodiesel to boost palm consumption, slash fuel imports, and narrow a yawning current account gap.

In a televised election debate, President Joko Widodo said if he won a second term the government planned to implement a B100 program, referring to fuel made entirely from palm oil, after last year making it mandatory to use biodiesel containing 20 percent bio-content (B20).

“We hope 30 percent of total palm production will go to biofuel. The plan is clear, so we will not rely on imported oil,” Widodo said, adding that Indonesia’s crude palm oil production had reached 46 million tonnes a year.

Agreeing on the importance of bioenergy for self-sufficiency, his opponent Prabowo Subianto said if elected he would also “boost the use of palm oil, palm sugar, cassava and ethanol from sugar (cane)”.

The challenger did not elaborate on his bioenergy plan, but his campaign team has proposed using millions of hectares of degraded land to cultivate palm sugar to produce energy.

Widodo’s government has previously said it would offer incentives for developers of B100, which the net oil importer hopes can replace fuel imports within three years.

Indonesia’s state energy company PT Pertamina has signed an agreement with Italian oil company Eni to develop a refinery in Indonesia that would produce fuel completely derived from crude palm oil (CPO).

Oil imports have contributed to Indonesia’s widening current account deficit and the volatility of the rupiah currency. The government claimed that its biodiesel program would save billions of dollars in diesel fuel imports.

Although retired general Prabowo agreed with Widodo on several points during the debate, he said Indonesia’s “land and water, and the resources within” must be controlled by the government.

“We are of the view that the government must be present in detail, thoroughly, firmly and actively to correct inequalities in wealth,” he said.

The challenger said the proportion of small farmers’ holdings in the country’s palm plantations should also be larger. Smallholders currently account for roughly 40 percent of Indonesia’s 12 million hectares of palm oil plantations.

Farmers currently do not require larger plots of land, but instead, they need a program to boost yield from their current farm, Mansuetus Darto of Palm Farmers Union said.

He added that farmers wanted more clarity on Widodo’s B100 program and have asked to ensure that small holders play a greater role in the biodiesel supply chain.

Slideshow (2 Images)

“This is an important task for Jokowi on how to prevent big palm companies to be the only main suppliers and not farmers,” Darto said, referring to the president’s nickname.

Both candidates expressed support for greater control of Indonesian natural resources.

President Widodo highlighted Pertamina’s takeover of stewardship of major oil and gas blocks from foreign operators, and an agreement for a state company to purchase a 51 percent stake in the giant Grasberg copper mine from Freeport McMoRan.

Reporting by Fransiska Nangoy and Tabita Diela,; Additional reporting Bernadette Christina Munthe,; Editing by Ed Davies, Jan Harvey and Sherry Jacob-Phillips

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Continue Reading

topNews

Asia shares bounce on trade talk, stimulus wagers

Published

on

By

SYDNEY (Reuters) – Asian share markets bounced broadly on Monday as investors dared to hope for both progress at Sino-U.S. trade talks in Washington this week and more policy stimulus from major central banks.

A man looks on in front of an electronic board showing stock information at a brokerage house in Nanjing, Jiangsu province, China February 13, 2019. REUTERS/Stringer ATTENTION EDITORS – THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. CHINA OUT.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan rose 0.9 percent, largely recovering from a sharp fall last Friday.

Japan’s Nikkei climbed 1.8 percent to its highest level of the year so far, while Shanghai blue chips rallied 2.1 percent.

E-Mini futures for the S&P 500 were flat as trade was thinned by a holiday in U.S. markets, while spreadbetters pointed to a firmer opening for European bourses.

The Dow and the Nasdaq had boasted their eighth consecutive weekly gains on wagers the United States and China would hammer out an agreement resolving their protracted trade war.[.N]

The two sides will resume negotiations this week, with U.S. President Donald Trump saying he may extend a March 1 deadline for a deal. Both reported progress in five days of talks in Beijing last week.

“That does not rule out a setback or two between now and the start of March,” said analysts at CBA in a note.

“Even so, we still think that both sides have good reasons to want to get to an agreement. And, so motivated, it makes an agreement more likely than not.”

There are also growing expectations of more reflationary policies from some of the world’s more powerful central banks.

The need for stimulus was highlighted on Monday by data showing a sharp slide in Singapore exports and a big drop in foreign orders for Japanese machinery goods.

Beijing is already taking action with China’s banks making the most new loans on record in January in an attempt to jumpstart sluggish investment.

Minutes of the Federal Reserve’s last policy meeting are due on Wednesday and should provide more guidance on the likelihood or not for rate hikes this year. There is also talk the bank will keep a much larger balance sheet than previously planned.

“Given the range of speakers since the January meeting who support “patience,” the Fed minutes should reiterate a dovish message overall,” said analysts at TD Securities in a note.

A roll call of Fed officials are speaking at various events this week including a round table on Friday covering the future of its balance sheet. [FED/DIARY]

EYEING THE ECB

The European Central Bank’s Olli Rehn told a German newspaper on Sunday that recent data point to a weakening euro zone economy and interest rates would remain at the current level until monetary policy goals have been met.

That came amid much speculation the ECB would launch another round of Targeted Long-Term Refinancing Operations (TLTRO) to support bank lending.

The risk of an easy ECB saw the euro touch a three-month low on Friday before then bouncing on dovish comments from Fed officials.

The single currency edged up 0.2 percent on Monday to $1.1312, though that was still well within the $1.1213/1.1570 trading range that has held since mid-October.

The dollar was steady on the yen at 110.53, having backed away from a two-month top of 111.12.

Sterling was a shade firmer at $1.2913 ahead of Brexit talks between British Prime Minister Theresa May and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker this week.

All of which left the dollar down at 96.765 on a basket of currencies and away from last week’s top of 97.368.

In commodity markets, the drift in the dollar helped spot gold firm 0.2 percent to $1,323.56 per ounce.

Oil prices reached their highest for the year so far, buoyed by OPEC-led supply cuts and U.S. sanctions on Iran and Venezuela. [O/R]

U.S. crude was last up 25 cents at $55.84 a barrel, while Brent crude futures rose 5 cents to $66.30.

Editing by Sam Holmes & Kim Coghill

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Continue Reading

Trending