South Korea: End to Korean War agreed to 'in principle'
North and South Korea, the US, and China have agreed in principle to declare a formal end to the Korean War, says the South's President Moon Jae-In.
But talks have yet to begin because of North Korea's demands, he added.
The Korean War, which lasted from 1950 to 1953, ended with an armistice and not a peace treaty.
North and South Korea have technically been at war ever since - backed by China and the US respectively - and locked in a tense relationship.
In September Kim Yo-jong, the powerful sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, signalled that her country could be open to talks, but only if the US dropped what she called a "hostile policy" against them.
On Monday, Mr Moon said that North Korea had set this demand as a pre-condition to discussions.
"Because of that, we are not able to sit down for a discussion or negotiation on the declaration... we hope the talks will be initiated," he said.
The South Korean leader has made engagement with the North a cornerstone of his presidency, and has previously argued that a formal declaration to end the war would encourage the North to give up its nuclear weapons.
Anne Rice, the gothic novelist who wrote 'Interview with the Vampire,' dies at age 80
Anne Rice, the novelist whose lush, best-selling gothic tales, including "Interview With a Vampire," reinvented the blood-drinking immortals as tragic antiheroes, has died. She was 80.
Rice died late Saturday due to complications from a stroke, her son Christopher Rice announced on her Facebook page and his Twitter page.
"As a writer, she taught me to defy genre boundaries and surrender to my obsessive passions," Christopher Rice, also an author, wrote. "In her final hours, I sat beside her hospital bed in awe of her accomplishments and her courage."
Rice's 1976 novel "Interview With the Vampire" was later adapted, with a script by Rice, into the 1994 movie directed by Neil Jordan and starring Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt. It's also set to be adapted again in an upcoming TV series on AMC and AMC+ set to premiere next year.
The United Nations says Afghanistan's economy is collapsing 'before our eyes’
UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The U.N. humanitarian chief warned that Afghanistan's economic collapse "is happening before our eyes" and urged the international community to take action to stop "the freefall" before it leads to more deaths.
Martin Griffiths said in an interview with The Associated Press on Thursday that donor nations need to agree that in addition to emergency humanitarian aid they need to support basic services for the Afghan people including education, hospitals, electricity and paying civil servants — and they must inject liquidity into the economy which has seen the banking system "pretty well shut down."
"We're seeing the economic collapse being exponential," he said. "It's getting more and more dire by the week."
Griffiths said the liquidity issue must be settled by the end of the year and money must be funneled to front-line service workers during the winter, adding that he had to revise his earlier view that Afghanistan could get through the winter on pure humanitarian assistance because of the worsening economic situation.
US imposes sweeping sanctions on China, Myanmar and North Korea
The United States has imposed extensive human rights-related sanctions on dozens of people and entities tied to China, Myanmar, North Korea and Bangladesh, and added a Chinese artificial intelligence company to an investment blacklist.
Canada and the United Kingdom joined the United States in imposing sanctions related to human rights abuses in Myanmar, while Washington also imposed the first new sanctions on North Korea under President Joe Biden’s administration and targeted Myanmar military entities, among others, in action marking Human Rights Day. “Our actions today, particularly those in partnership with the United Kingdom and Canada, send a message that democracies around the world will act against those who abuse the power of the state to inflict suffering and repression,” Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo said in a statement.
Russia edges closer to war as new arms arrive on Ukraine’s border
A flatbed rail wagon speeding through south-west Russia last week carried an ill omen for negotiations to avert a larger war with Ukraine.
On board was a Buk-M1, the kind of medium-range surface-to-air missile system that became notorious in 2014 after a missile fired from territory controlled by Russian proxies in eastern Ukraine shot down a Malaysian airliner, killing all 298 people aboard.
If Russia goes to war in Ukraine, it still needs to take a number of steps: establishing fuel supply lines, opening field hospitals and deploying air-defence systems such as the Buk that would protect its heavy weaponry and troops near the front. Even as Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin were sitting down to talks meant to end the crisis, Russia was inching closer to being ready to launch a full-scale ground invasion of its neighbour.
Taiwan says confident Chinese invasion would be very hard
TAIPEI, Dec 13 (Reuters) - A full Chinese invasion of Taiwan with troops landed and ports and airports seized would be very difficult to achieve due to problems China would have in landing and supplying troops, Taiwan's Defence Ministry said in its latest threat assessment.
Tensions between Taipei and Beijing, which claims the democratically-ruled island as its own territory, have risen in the past two years as China steps up military activities near Taiwan to pressure it to accept Chinese rule.
In a report to lawmakers, Taiwan's Defence Ministry said China's transport capacity was at present limited, it would not be able to land all its forces in one go, and would have to rely on "non-standard" roll-on, roll-off ships that would need to use port facilities and transport aircraft that would need airports.
"However, the nation's military strongly defends ports and airports, and they will not be easy to occupy in a short time.
Saudi Arabia expects 2022 budget surplus after years of deficit
RIYADH, Dec 12 (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia said on Sunday it expected to post its first budget surplus in nearly a decade next year, as it plans to restrict public spending despite a surge in oil prices that helped to refill state coffers hammered by the pandemic.
After an expected fiscal deficit of 2.7% of gross domestic product this year, Riyadh estimates it will achieve a surplus of 90 billion riyals ($23.99 billion), or 2.5% of GDP, next year - its first surplus since it went into a deficit after oil prices crashed in 2014.
Riyadh plans to reduce military spending next year by around 10% from its 2021 estimates, the budget showed, a sign that the cost of the military conflict in neighbouring Yemen has started to ease.
Afghanistan opium trade booms since Taliban takeover
The cultivation of opium poppy as a medicinal plant has a long history in Afghanistan.
The milky sap extracted from the seed pods is dried to produce raw opium, an effective remedy for severe pain. Today, opium is used primarily as an intoxicant and as a raw material for the production of stronger drugs like prescription painkillers and heroin.
In the last harvest season, which ended in July, an estimated 6,800 tons of opium were produced in Afghanistan. This was an 8% increase over 2020, according to a recent report by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).
According to the report, Afghanistan accounts for 85% of global opium production, and Afghan opiates supply 80% of users worldwide.
The UNODC has calculated that the opium business will have generated between $1.8 billion and $2.7 billion (€1.6 billion and €2.4 billion) in Afghanistan in 2021, about one-tenth of Afghanistan's economic output.
The agency said the Taliban takeover in August 2021, and the resulting protracted economic uncertainty, drove opium prices in August and September to new highs. "This strengthens the incentive for opium cultivation," the report said.
New York Times
Democrats Are Solidly Behind Biden. There’s No Consensus About a Plan B.
NEW ORLEANS — Addressing reporters at a meeting of the Democratic Governors Association, Gov. Roy Cooper of North Carolina gave an emphatic answer when asked whether he expected President Biden to seek a second term — and whether he believed that was in the best interests of his party.
“I do and I do,” Mr. Cooper said on Friday, adding, “I fully expect him to seek re-election and I will support him, and in fact we’re going to win North Carolina for him.”
But just three minutes later, Mr. Cooper — the only Democratic governor to twice win a state that former President Donald J. Trump carried on the same ballot — was sketching out what could be the makings of a Cooper for President message to primary voters. With Mr. Biden facing plunging poll numbers and turning 82 the month he’d be on the ballot, and Vice President Kamala Harris plagued by flagging poll numbers of her own, conversations about possible alternatives are beginning far earlier than is customary for a president still in the first year of his first term.