≡ US Redesignates N. Korea As Religious Freedom Violator
The United States has again designated North Korea as a violator of religious freedom, further subjecting the regime to sanctions from Washington.
North Korea has been on the annual blacklist since 2001.
According to U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Tuesday, North Korea is among ten countries of particular concern for engaging in or tolerating "systematic, ongoing and egregious violations of religious freedom."
Other countries include China, Iran and Pakistan.
The move adds to pressure on Pyongyang, with the U.S. imposing sanctions on three top North Korean officials a day earlier over their alleged human rights abuses and censorship.■
≡ Two Koreas To Verify Disarmament, Demolition Of Guard Posts At DMZ
South and North Korea will verify the disarmament and demolition of 11 guard posts on each side of the Demilitarized Zone today.
Last month, the two Koreas destroyed ten frontline guard posts while leaving one each for non-military purposes as a follow-up to a military agreement reached in Pyongyang in September.
According to Seoul's defense ministry, the South Korean side will verify the North Korean posts this morning while the North will do the same for the South this afternoon.
Officials from the two sides will check whether the guard posts have been completely destroyed.
The ministry said it will brief reporters once verification work is completed.■
≡ Ruling Party, Govt, Cheong Wa Dae To Discuss Budget Follow-Up Measures
The Democratic Party, the government and Cheong Wa Dae will open a meeting this morning to discuss follow-up measures to next year's budget plan, which was approved by the Cabinet yesterday.
Ruling party chief Lee Hae-chan, chief policymaker Kim Tae-nyeon as well as Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon and new Finance Minister Hong Nam-ki will attend the meeting set to open at 7:30.
The National Assembly has set the 2019 budget at 469.6 trillion won, about 900 billion won less than the government's proposal.
Attendees will also discuss recent accidents, including Saturday's KTX train derailment near Gangneung, the fire at a KT building in northwestern Seoul and the bursting of a hot water pipe near Baekseok Station in Gyeonggi's Goyang.■
≡ Shooting In France's Strasbourg Leaves At Least 2 Dead
A shooting near a Christmas market in the eastern French city of Strasbourg Tuesday has left at least two people dead and 11 others critically wounded.
Authorities said the shooter remains at large.
The motive for the shooting is unclear and it wasn't immediately clear if the market was the target of the attack.
The French prosecutor's office said a terror investigation has been opened.
The European Parliament, which is based in Strasbourg, was on lockdown.
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said that his thoughts were with the victims.
France has been hit by several extremist attacks in recent years, including the 2015 Paris shootings, which killed 130 people and wounded hundreds, and a truck attack in Nice that killed dozens in 2016.■
≡ US Stocks End Mixed Amid Trade Talks, Threat Of Govt Shutdown
Stocks on Wall Street ended near flat overnight following a positive sentiment on U.S.-China trade conflicts but marred by President Donald Trump's threat of a government shutdown as his plans to build a wall between Mexico and the U.S. was refused by Democrats.
At closing bell on Tuesday, the Dow Jones slipped 0.2 percent, the S&P 500 dropped less than 0.1 percent, while the tech-rich Nasdaq advanced 0.2 percent.
Over in Europe, London's FTSE added 1.3 percent, Frankfurt's DAX climbed 1.5 percent, while shares in Paris were up 1.4 percent.■