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Pompeo to travel to North Korea with new special envoy

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WASHINGTON: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will visit North Korea again next week to try to persuade it to abandon its nuclear weapons, and will take a new US special representative, Stephen Biegun, with him in an attempt to break the deadlock.

Pompeo on Thursday named the Ford Motor Co executive, a veteran Republican foreign policy hand, as the US special envoy to North Korea.

“Steve will direct US policy toward North Korea and lead our efforts to achieve President Trump’s goal of the final, fully verified denuclearisation of North Korea as agreed to by Kim Jong Un,” Pompeo told reporters, referring to the North Korean leader.

“He and I will be traveling to North Korea next week to make further diplomatic progress toward our objective,” Pompeo said.

It will be Pompeo’s fourth trip this year aimed at getting North Korea to scrap a nuclear weapons program that threatens the United States and his second since an unprecedented June summit between US President Donald Trump and Kim that produced much fanfare but little obvious progress.

US State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said Pompeo had no plans to meet with Kim in Pyongyang.

“We don’t have that scheduled; we have no expectations of meeting with Chairman Kim. That is not a part of this trip,” she told a regular news briefing.

Biegun said of North Korea: “The issues are tough and will be tough to resolve.” But he added that Trump had created an opening “that we must take by seizing every possible opportunity to realize the vision for a peaceful future for the people of North Korea.”

Biegun served as vice president of international governmental affairs for Ford for 14 years. Prior to that, he was a senior staffer for former President George W Bush’s national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, and he also advised members of Congress on foreign affairs.

Trump hailed the summit in Singapore as a success and even went as far as to declare that the nuclear threat from North Korea was over, but Pyongyang has given no indication that it is willing abandon its arsenal unilaterally.

Pompeo was charged with heading follow-up negotiations, but these appear to have made little progress, with the two sides apparently far apart on the fundamental issue of denuclearisation and the US demand for this before North Korea sees any relief from tough international sanctions.

‘GANGSTER-LIKE DEMANDS’

On his last visit to Pyongyang, in July, Pompeo left hailing progress, only for North Korea within hours to denounce his “gangster-like demands.” He did not meet with Kim on that trip, although he did on his first two visits, which took place before the summit.

In an interview with Reuters on Monday, Trump defended his efforts to convince Pyongyang to give up its nuclear weapons, saying he believed North Korea had taken specific steps toward denuclearisation. He said he would “most likely” meet again with Kim.

However, several members of the US negotiating team said they had seen no sign that North Korea was prepared to negotiate seriously until the United States promised relief from sanctions in return.

Some US intelligence and defense officials consider Pompeo’s planned trip to be premature and said the prospects for significant progress appeared dim.

Kelly Magsamen, a former US deputy assistant secretary of defense for Asian affairs now at the Center for American Progress, said Biegun’s appointment would “hopefully bring focus and coherence” to US North Korea diplomacy.

Joshua Pollack, a North Korea missile expert at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, noted that Biegun’s background was mostly in Russian issues.

But Pollack said that Pompeo could enhance Biegun’s credibility as a negotiator by personally introducing him in Pyongyang. “That would allow Pompeo to step back somewhat until more groundwork has been laid in working-level talks,” he said.

Biegun’s name was floated earlier this year among a list of contenders to replace Trump’s then national security adviser, HR McMaster, who was ultimately succeeded by John Bolton.

Biegun fills a vacancy that has existed since the late February retirement of Joe Yun, an appointee of former President Barack Obama and a strong advocate for diplomacy with North Korea. Soon after Yun’s departure, Trump embraced a diplomatic approach to Pyongyang that led to the June summit.

North Korea state media last week blamed lack of progress on members of the US negotiating team and said breaking the deadlock would demand “a bold decision on the part of President Trump.”

A commentary in its Rodong Sinmun newspaper said those opposed to dialogue were seeking to derail talks with baseless references to “secret nuclear facilities” in North Korea.

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Travel

From Deosai to Kund Malir, Pakistan’s top tourist spots

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From the mighty peaks of the Himalayas to the sandy, white beaches of the Arabia Sea, Pakistan is rich in natural beauty, culture and history. Over the years, thanks to an improvement in the security situation and increased accessibility, a lot of these spots, previously unknown, have become tourist hotspots.

On the occasion of World Tourism Day, let’s celebrate all the wonderful places our country has to offer.

Deosai

‘Deosai’ which translates to ‘The Land of Giants’ is a high-altitude alpine plain located largely within the Skardu District in Gilgit Baltistan. It remains covered with snow for 8 months. The rest of the year, it hosts a range of beautiful flowers of all hues and colours, attracting tourists from far and wide. The area is also home to the brown bear.

Naltar

Naltar, a valley near Gilgit, Hunza and Nomal, in the Gilgit–Baltistan province of the country, is popular for its three lakes which boast vivid colours of blue and green. Naltar is a forested region known for its dramatic mountain scenery and towering high peaks. The area is also known for its Ski Resort which hosts ski competitions regularly.

Neelum Valley – Arang Kel/Taobat/Sharda

The picturesque Neelam Valley is the northern most region and district of Azad Kashmir in Pakistan. The valley is dotted with quaint villages and towns which make the perfect retreats away from the hustling and bustling of city life. The River Neelum meanders through the valley, the water making soft sounds as well as soothing the eyes.

Lahore

Though Lahore doesn’t appear to be a tourist spot, the provincial capital is rich in history which dates back to the Mughal era, making it the perfect place for all those interested in history. Monuments and buildings dating back to the Mughals including the Lahore Fort, Badshahi Masjid, Wazir Khan Masjid and Shalimar Gardens are popular tourist spots. Moreso, buildings from the British era including Governor House, Quaid-e-Azam Library and Railway Station are also an integral part of the city’s history.

The mouthwatering dishes and food the city has to offer is also close to none. And as the locals say, “Whoever hasn’t seen Lahore, isn’t born.

Taxila

Taxila meaning “City of Cut Stone” is an important archaeological site situated a few kilometres north-west of the capital, Islamabad. The city dates back to c. 1000 BCE  and in its glory days was one of the main cities of the ancient Kingdom of Gandhara. What makes Taxila unique and fascinating is the mainly Buddhist art and architecture of the Gandharan period. The city is dotted with monasteries and stupas which provide a unique insight into Buddhism as well.

Derawar Fort, Cholistan Desert

Built in the 9th Century, the historic Derawar Fort, is a large square fortress located a few hundred kilometres south of Bahawalpur in the heart of the Cholistan Desert. The fort is an architectural marvel featuring massive bastions.

Meanwhile, the Cholistan Desert is rich in culture and tradition. The dry bed of the Hakra River runs through the area, along which many settlements of the Indus Valley Civilization have been found.

Kund Malir Beach/Hingol National Park

Kund Malir is a beach in Balochistan, Pakistan located in Hingol National Park. The drive between Kund Malir and Ormara is considered to be scenic. The area is part of Hingol National Park which is the largest in Pakistan. The Princess of Hope is also located in the area which is rich in flora and fauna and also has mud volcanos.

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The Wonders of Canada

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The Great White North, known for being the second largest country in the world. Canada is a place filled with many beautiful sites and landmarks, it’s also famous for its deliciously sweet Maple Syrup and Ice Hockey. Home to extremely hospitable and polite people, we’re pretty sure by the time you’re done reading this post, you will definitely be wanting to book yourself a ticket.

A magnificent shot of the Niagara Falls at night, the view here is nothing short of ethereal, it speaks for itself.

The well lit up and intricately decorated Dundas Square during Chirstmas season, a place filled with exuberance and joyfulness.

Noor Iftikhar exploring Kingston; a city with vast historical value and gorgeous sites like Lake Ontario.

Toronto’s famous graffiti alley, full of creativity and innovativeness. The artwork here is mesmerizing and full of depth.

The perfect winter destination; Mont Tremblant. With numerous ski resorts and a spectacular landscape to its name, this should be definite stop on your list.

For admirers of European architecture, Montreal is the place for you. Ridden with Cathedrals bearing gorgeous layouts, it’s simply awe-inspiring.

An aesthetically pleasing picture of the Mount Royal suburbs, situated on a hill, they give off a welcoming feel towards all those who visit.

A glimpse into the urban life of Montreal, the streets are busy yet offer solace, one can explore them endlessly without getting tired or fatigued.

A view of Toronto’s alluring downtown skyline. It is a spectacular sight the one can easily get lost in, words aren’t able to describe how unreal it feels to gaze upon the skyline, it is something one should experience for themselves.

One hasn’t fully immersed themselves in Toronto if they haven’t visited its cat cafe. With an abundance of furry friendlies like the one next to Noor Iftikhar, you’ll be in high spirits within no time.

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Beauty

Sights of Malaysia

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Malaysia; one of the world’s most popular destination for coastal tourism. Also called a food heaven, famous it for delicious and mouthwatering cuisine. A country with both urban and rural sights to see, low cost of living, this is one travel destination you should have at the top of your list.

An eerily beautiful view of the Cameron Highlands, one could gaze into it forever and absorb the serenity of the environment.

The famous Helipad Bar of Kuala Lumpur; a perfect place to enjoy cool drinks while staring at Malaysia’s Petronas twin towers.

A glimpse of Daniyal Faud at Langkawi beach, home to crystal clear waters, pleasant weather and an aesthetically pleasing view.

Lake of the pregnant maiden with the Langkawi islands in sight. These gentle waters are known to have a relaxing effect on one’s mind.

Breakfast in Malacca, a state in Malaysia known for its historic attractions and great food. Definitely one stop not to miss out on.

Daniyal at Boh Tea Plantation, a place riddled with green lush scenery that feels as if one has transported off to another realm.

A cruise of the Malacca River, also known as Venice of the East. Offers a look at both ancient and moderns settlements side by side.

The beautiful Putra Mosque of Putrajaya, located at the edge of a lake and containing well crafted architecture. A spiritual place, acknowledged by many for helping one attain inner peace.

One of the more fun destinations on this list; the upside down museum in Penang. People of all ages can enjoy themselves in this interactive environment, with riveting displays of creativeness.

Malaysia is almost synonymous with water, one can not fully explored the country without roaming its lakes, rivers and sea. Definitely something one should check out while visiting.

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