South Korean officials will meet their North Korean counterparts next week after Seoul extended an invitation to hold talks on restoring the jointly-run Kaesong factory park (Yonhap), a project largely financed by the South to increase cooperation and a key source of revenue for the North. The discussions mark the Koreas' first government-level negotiations since South Korean President Park Geun-hye took office in February, and a thawing of diplomatic relations (BBC) since North Korea pulled out its workers in April after regional relations deteriorated in the wake of its February nuclear test. The agreement comes a day before a U.S.-China meeting in which North Korea is expected to be a key topic.
"China is taking a tougher stance on North Korea, as the U.S. hoped it would. It has supported tighter U.N. sanctions in response to the February nuclear test and stepped up border inspections. Most notably, a leading Chinese state bank shut accounts of North Korea's Foreign Trade Bank, its main foreign exchange institution," writes Matthew Pennington for the AP.
"Xi also plans to meet with South Korean President Park Geun-hye in June. Having North Korea express positive signs about rejoining the Six-Party talks, which it had long rejected, can be considered a major achievement for China," write Atsushi Okudera and Akira Nakano for Asahi Shimbun.
"Pyongyang had previously rejected Seoul's calls for discussions on the zone. Thursday's statement from the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea in Pyongyang also proposed talks on resuming cross-border tours, suspended since 2008, and restarting family reunions," writes Tania Branigan for The Guardian.
Radioactive Water Leak in Fukushima Plant
A worker from Tepco, the operator of the Fukushima nuclear plant that was damaged by an earthquake and tsunami in 2011, discovered a leak (BBC) of radioactive water in one of the plant's storage containers Wednesday. A leak was previously discovered in an underground storage pit by the plant in April.
SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA
Hamid Karzai Invites New Pakistani PM to Afghanistan
Afghan president Hamid Karzai invited newly elected Pakistani prime minister Nawaz Sharif on Thursday to Afghanistan in a bid to mend fractured ties (NewsPakistan). The rapport between the two countries is currently tense over cross-border disputes and attacks.
CFR's Bernard Gwertzman talks to expertBruce Riedel on Pakistan's new administration in this new interview.
AFGHANISTAN: British forces will return Afghan detainees back to their own country's authorities (Independent) after the transfer was suspended in November amid concerns prisoners were being mistreated.
Geneva Conference on Syria Possibly on Hold
The UN's international envoy to Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, said that the Geneva peace conference (al-Jazeera) aimed at ending the Syrian conflict will not happen in June as planned, as both sides in the conflict are unprepared to attend. The United States and Russia are due to spearhead the meeting.
CFR's Matthew C. Waxman highlights three sets of considerations for U.S. intervention in the country's ongoing civil war in this video.
TURKEY: The Turkish foreign minister reproached U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry over statements from Washington criticizing the police crackdown on Turkish protestors (Hurriyet).
CFR's Steven Cook asks how democratic Turkey really is in this op-ed.
China Complains to Ghana After Mining Incident
One hundred and twenty-four Chinese citizens were detained in a crackdown on illegal gold mining in Ghana (Reuters), prompting China's foreign ministry to issue an official complaint. Ghana is Africa's second-biggest gold producer after South Africa.
ANGOLA: A corruption watchdog group called for an investigation into a suspicious arms deal between Angola and Russia in which $750 million is missing (OSISA).
IMF Admits Mistakes on Greece Bailout
The International Monetary Fund admitted to major missteps in its handling of the bailout of Greece (WSJ) over the past three years, saying it bent its own rules to make Greece's debt load seem sustainable, and vastly underestimated the damage its austerity plans would have.
GERMANY: Germany's defense minister, in the face of calls for his resignation (FT), defended Berlin's cancellation of its 660 million euro drone development contract last month.
NSA Recording Millions of Verizon Calls
The National Security Agency is recording the phone calls of millions of U.S. customers of Verizon under a top secret court order issued in April, the Guardian reported. The disclosure will likely reignite a fierce debate over the extent of the government's domestic surveillance powers (Guardian).
VENEZUELA: U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry announced that the United States was launching a dialogue with Venezuela in a bid to restore their respective ambassadors (MercoPress).