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North Korea’s Kim knows denuclearization must be ‘quick’: Pompeo

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North Korea’s Kim Jong Un understands that denuclearization must happen “quickly”, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said today, warning there will be no sanctions relief for Pyongyang until the process is complete.

Pompeo said Washington remained committed to the “complete, verifiable and irreversible” denuclearization of North Korea, after the joint statement from the US-North Korea summit in Singapore drew criticism for lack of detail on the key issue.

“We believe that Kim Jong Un understands the urgency… that we must do this quickly,” he said of the effort to have North Korea abandon its nuclear weapons.

Washington’s top diplomat is in Seoul to brief his South Korean and Japanese counterparts on Tuesday’s historic talks — the first between sitting leaders of the two countries — after which a triumphant President Donald Trump said the world can “sleep well”.

Following the summit, Trump said the US would halt its “provocative” joint military drills with South Korea as long as negotiations are ongoing with the North, an announcement that caught Seoul by surprise.

But the US-South Korea alliance remains “as robust as ever”, Seoul’s foreign minister Kang Kyung-wha said at a press conference with Pompeo and Japanese foreign minister Taro Kono.

Pompeo is scheduled to fly to Beijing to meet his Chinese counterpart after the meetings in Seoul.

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Taliban say no peace with ‘occupation,’ want US talks

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Kabul  |  The leader of the Taliban said today there will be no peace in Afghanistan as long as the foreign “occupation” continues, reiterating the group’s position that the 17-year war can only be brought to an end through direct talks with the United States.

In a message released in honour of the Eid al-Adha holiday, Maulvi Haibatullah Akhunzadah said the group remains committed to “Islamic goals,” the sovereignty of Afghanistan and ending the war.

The Taliban have had a major resurgence in recent years, seizing districts across the country and regularly carrying out large-scale attacks.

Earlier this month, the Taliban launched a major assault on the city of Ghazni, just 120 kilometres from the capital, Kabul. Afghan security forces battled the militants inside the city for five days, as the US carried out airstrikes and send advisers to help ground forces.

The battle for Ghazni killed at least 100 members of the Afghan security forces and 35 civilians, according to Afghan officials.

A year ago, President Donald Trump announced that he would send additional U.S. forces to confront the Taliban. But since then the insurgents’ profile has risen, both on the battlefield and in the diplomatic sphere.

The Taliban sent a delegation to Uzbekistan to meet with senior officials earlier this month, and say they recently met with a senior US diplomat in Qatar for what they called “preliminary talks.” The US neither confirmed nor denied the meeting.

Earlier this week, the Taliban’s top political official, Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai, led a delegation to Indonesia, where he met Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi as well as Jusuf Kalla, Indonesia’s deputy president, according to a statement the Taliban sent to The Associated Press.

The three-day trip ended on Wednesday. The statement said Stanikzai discussed the presence of US and NATO troops in Afghanistan and the need for them to leave if peace is to return to the country, said Suhail Shaheen, a spokesman based in the group’s Qatar office.

While in Indonesia, Stanikzai also “exchanged views on bilateral relations,” Shaheen said in the statement, without elaborating.

From 1996 until 2001, the Taliban ruled in accordance with a harsh interpretation of Islamic law. Women were barred from education and forced to wear the all-encompassing burka whenever they left their homes, and the country hosted Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida.

The Taliban have refused to enter into talks with the Afghan government, which they view as a U.S. puppet, saying they will only negotiate the end of the war directly with Washington. The group has said it is committed to regional security and would not pose a danger to other countries.

However, it has also demanded the complete withdrawal of all US and NATO forces. Although NATO officially ended its combat mission at the end of 2014, it has repeatedly come to the aid of Afghan forces, and it’s unclear whether the government in Kabul would be able to remain in power without foreign military aid.

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Stocks wobble on Turkey, US-China concerns

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London  |  US and European stocks wobbled yesterday on investor concerns over Turkey and the ongoing trade war between China and the United States.

A rebound in the Turkish lira was cut short by new threats by Ankara and Washington to impose more sanctions as the dispute over a jailed American pastor shows no sign of being resolved.

After spending most of the session lower, London’s blue-chip FTSE-100 rallied in the final minutes of trading to close a couple points higher. Paris closed marginally lower, while Frankfurt dipped 0.2 percent.

On Wall Street, stocks were also mixed in late morning trading, with the Dow up a tenth of a percentage point.

Asian stocks however, rallied after a positive lead from Wall Street overnight, with dealers cautiously optimistic about upcoming US-China trade talks — although worries festered over the future for emerging markets as a whole.

“The heightened tensions between the US and Turkey caused the Turkish lira to take a leg lower, and this reignited fears that the European banking system could be shaken by either defaults or non-performing loans from Turkey,” said market analyst David Madden at CMC Markets UK.

Turkey on Friday vowed to respond if the United States followed through on its threat to levy further sanctions if it does not release the American pastor being held on terror charges.

After having clawed back most of its losses on Friday and Monday, when it shed 20 percent of its value against the dollar, the lira began falling again on the new sanctions threats, dropping by five percent at one point.

“The currency is not out of the woods yet and sellers are pushing to see at which level it will hold,” said City Index analyst Fiona Cincotta.

The prospect of the United States and China returning to the table instead of trading tariff increases brought some relief to investors.

“Global trade worries have not disappeared,” said OANDA analyst Dean Popplewell.

“For now, the possibility of a Sino-US trade deal has brought some calm to the market — but trade and currency wars remain,” he added.

Negotiators from Washington and Beijing will meet later this month for the first publicly announced dialogue in weeks on their bitter trade dispute, which has seen both sides impose reciprocal tariffs on goods worth 34 billion.

The news helped global markets regain composure after several days of volatility sparked by fears that Turkey’s financial crisis could infect other economies.

“Markets are optimistic but remain wary,” said FXPro analyst Alexander Kuptsikevich.

“It is worth noting that the status of officials involved in the (US-China) negotiations is not very high, which eliminates the possibility of breakthrough decisions in the near future.” Tit-for-tat tariffs by the US and China on another 16 billion of each other’s goods are due to kick in next week, and President Donald Trump has threatened to go after even more Chinese imports in the future.

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‘Hacky hack hack’: Australia teen breaches Apple’s secure network

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Sydney  |   A schoolboy who “dreamed” of working for Apple hacked the firm’s computer systems, Australian media has reported, although the tech giant said today no customer data was compromised.

The Children’s Court of Victoria was told the teenager broke into Apple’s mainframe — a large, powerful data processing system — from his home in the suburbs of Melbourne and downloaded 90GB of secure files, The Age reported late yesterday.

The boy, then aged 16, accessed the system multiple times over a year as he was a fan of Apple and had “dreamed of” working for the US firm, the newspaper said, citing his lawyer.

Apple said in a statement today that its teams “discovered the unauthorised access, contained it, and reported the incident to law enforcement”.

The firm, which earlier this month became the first private-sector company to surpass USD 1 trillion in market value, said it wanted “to assure our customers that at no point during this incident was their personal data compromised”.

An international investigation was launched after the discovery involving the FBI and the Australian Federal Police, The Age reported.

The federal police said it could not comment on the case as it is still before the court.

The Age said police raided the boy’s home last year and found hacking files and instructions saved in a folder called “hacky hack hack”.

“Two Apple laptops were seized and the serial numbers matched the serial numbers of the devices which accessed the internal systems,” a prosecutor was reported as saying.

A mobile phone and hard drive were also seized whose IP address matched those detected in the breaches, he added.

The teen has pleaded guilty and the case is due to return to court for his sentencing next month.

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