Monthly Archives: April 2013

China to enhance relations with Argentina

Thanks;Li Xiaokun/China Daily
Publication Date : 29-04-2013

Li calls on nations to push forward cooperation in trade and investment

China is seeking to deepen its ties with Argentina “with a more comprehensive and strategic vision”, Premier Li Keqiang told a visiting high-ranking Argentine official on Sunday.

Li made the remarks when meeting Julian Dominguez, president of the Chamber of Deputies, the lower house of the Argentine parliament, in Zhongnanhai, the headquarters of the central government in downtown Beijing.

China and Argentina are both important emerging economies and developing countries, and the two should develop bilateral relations “with a more comprehensive and strategic vision”, Li told Dominguez during the meeting.

He called on the two nations to push forward cooperation in trade and investment and seek joint development.

Li also briefed Dominguez on the economic situation in China, saying the Chinese dream of national revival will become a great opportunity for the world.

According to Chinese customs, bilateral trade reached $14.4 billion in 2012. China is Argentina’s second-largest trading partner, while Argentina is China’s sixth-largest trading partner in Latin America.

Jiang Shixue, an expert on Latin American studies with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said China’s business ties with Argentina are in excellent shape, except for Argentina’s frequent anti-dumping investigations against China.

“In that regard, at the moment it is significant for the two sides to realize the importance of each other,” Jiang said.

China is a market with huge potential for Argentina, while Argentina, a G20 member, also plays a big role in China’s business in Latin America, he said.

“And I think Beijing has sent signals that it would like to see the two sides have their eyes more on the comprehensive picture of cooperation and develop it in a strategic way,” he said.

Li also told Dominguez that Beijing is happy to see Latin American nations get stronger through concerted efforts, and would like to strengthen cooperation with Argentina to take China’s relations with these countries to a higher level.

Dominguez told the Chinese premier that China’s development has brought a huge opportunity for his country.

Argentina sees China as an important cooperation partner and is firmly committed to developing ties with the country, he said.

He added that Argentina wants to deepen comprehensive cooperation with China and push forward the strategic partnership to a new stage.

Dominguez also met Zhang Dejiang, chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, on Sunday morning.

“China places great importance on developing relations with Argentina,” Zhang said.

Zhang said the NPC has always placed importance on strengthening friendly cooperation with the Argentine Congress.

He also expressed China’s readiness to further step up exchanges of experience in the areas of legislation and national governance.

He called for the legislatures of the two countries to carry out an in-depth dialogue on issues of common interest.

Such dialogue could play a unique role in enhancing mutual trust, advancing practical cooperation and deepening the friendship between the two peoples, Zhang said.

Japanese breakthrough will make wind power cheaper than nuclear

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Related Topics ; Wind PowerNuclear EnergyWind Turbine

THANKS;Karl Burkart

surprising aerodynamic innovation in wind turbine design called the ‘wind lens’ could triple the output of a typical wind turbine, making it less costly than nuclear power.

NOTE: Some major wind projects like the proposed TWE Carbon Valley project in Wyoming are already pricing in significantly lower than coal power — $80 per MWh for wind versus $90 per MWh for coal — and that is without government subsidies using today’s wind turbine technology. 
The International Clean Energy Analysis (ICEA) gateway estimates that the U.S. possesses 2.2 million km2 of high wind potential (Class 3-7 winds) — about 850,000 square miles of land that could yield high levels of wind energy. This makes the U.S. something of a Saudi Arabia for wind energy, ranked third in the world for total wind energy potential.
Let’s say we developed just 20 percent of those wind resources — 170,000 square miles (440,000 km2) or an area roughly 1/4 the size of Alaska — we could produce a whopping 8.7 billion megawatt hours of electricity each year (based on a theoretical conversion of six 1.5 MW turbines per km2 and an average output of 25 percent. (1.5 MW x 365 days x 24 hrs x 25% = 3,285 MWh’s).
The United States uses about 26.6 billion MWh’s, so at the above rate we could satisfy a full one-third of our total annual energy needs. (Of course, this assumes the concurrent deployment of a nationwide Smart Grid that could store and disburse the variable sources of wind power as needed using a variety of technologies — gas or coal peaking, utility scale storage via batteries or fly-wheels, etc).
Now what if a breakthrough came along that potentially tripled the energy output of those turbines? You see where I’m going. We could in theory supply the TOTAL annual energy needs of the U.S. simply by exploiting 20 percent of our available wind resources.
Well, such a breakthrough has been made, and it’s called the “wind lens.”
Imagine: no more dirty coal power, no more mining deaths, no more nuclear disasters, no more polluted aquifers as a result of fracking. Our entire society powered by the quiet “woosh” of a wind turbine. Kyushu University’s wind lens turbine is one example of the many innovations happening right now that could in the near future make this utopian vision a reality.
Yes, it’s a heck of a lot of wind turbines (about 2,640,000) but the U.S. with its endless miles of prairie and agricultural land is one of the few nations that could actually deploy such a network of wind turbines without disrupting the current productivity of the land (Russia and China also come to mind). It would also be a win-win for states in the highest wind area — the Midwest — which has been hard hit by the recession. And think of the millions upon millions of jobs that would be created building a 21st century energy distribution system free of the shackles of ever-diminishing fossil fuel supplies.
It’s also important to point out that growth in wind power capacity is perfectly symbiotic with projected growth in electric vehicles. EV battery packs can soak up wind power produced during the night, helping to equalize the curve of daytime energy demand. So the controversial investment currently being entertained by President Obama to pipe oil down from the Canadian Tar Sands would — in my utopian vision — be a moot point.
It is indeed a lofty vision, but the technology we need is now in our reach. And think of the benefits of having our power production fed by a resource that is both free and unlimited. One downside often cited by advocates of coal and gas power is that wind turbines require a lot more maintenence than a typical coal or gas power plant. But in a lagging economy this might just be wind power’s biggest upside — it will create lots and lots of permanent jobs, sparking a new cycle of economic growth in America.

The German DAX is becoming a market dog

Thanks ;Barbara Kollmeyer/ @MWBarbaraKollmeyer/@thetellblog

Mighty Germany has been peppering the markets with economic misery as of late, one reason many are expecting the European Central Bank will budge on interest rates finally this week. That comes as the wheels appear to be coming off austerity, whose biggest champion many say is Germany (and did you ever think you’d see the day when Germany’s finance minister announces a bilateral investment plan for Spanish banks?) and Angela Merkel faces a growing election nightmare this year.

Now it seems the shine is coming off the “at-least-we-have-core-German-stocks” theory, too.

In a bearish note on Monday, J.P. Morgan Cazenove seemed to be hammering another big nail in the coffin for German stocks. The analysts closed their overweight last October on the DAX and now don’t expect any outperformance on the DAX this year, and expect country allocations will shift to what had been some of the market dogs.

This factoid tells some of this story: The German DAX 30 index DX:DAX +0.75% is up just 3% year to date, underperforming London, France, Greece, Portugal, and barely keeping the edge over Spain.

Of course, the analysts aren’t calling it a total party for markets in the more troubled economies on the euro-zone periphery, but the positive vibe is there:

“Clearly, peripheral activity is not going to rebound in a hurry. However, we think that it is unlikely to weaken significantly further given its already depressed level. In fact, improving funding conditions and easing in austerity could have a positive impact over time.”
Here are J.P. Morgan’s seven reasons why German stocks aren’t going back to sunnier days anytime soon:

Compression in peripheral yields will continue, which will be a “strong positive for peripheral equities.” This means German stocks will lose their sweet spot as a safe haven, and that premium that comes with it.
Gathering yen weakness could a tough hurdle for the DAX, as it undermines the competitiveness of German exporters.
German profit margins may suffer from increasing wage growth, and the “hurdle rate is high at these levels.” In contrast, margins at euro-zone companies ex-Germany are depressed.
The analysts’ view of a recovery in Chinese economic activity and stocks tied to commodity markets is bearish, and Germany has a big representation of capital goods and autos that could suffer from spillover effects. “After all, as a share of total exports, German sensitivity to China is the greatest out of any European economy.”
Other market factors don’t look supportive for the DAX. “As long as bond yields remain low, EPS revisions negative and PMIs mixed, DAX might struggle. Our key style preference is for free cashflow yield, and here German equities do not score better than Euro-zone average.”
The DAX needs a sustained rebound in cyclical stocks to outperform, something J.P. Morgan analysts don’t expect beyond a few weeks of short covering.
German and global exporters were “the only game in town for four years and we think are still a crowded trade.” Tossing in some numbers, J.P. Morgan says a basket of global cyclicals is currently trading at a 45% price/book premium to a basket of domestic cyclicals, with the EPS gap between those “getting extreme.

It’s Not a Lack of Technology That’s Keeping Trains From Going Driverless

Thanks;Damon Lavrinc
Published 04.26.13

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Photo: Douglas Sprott /Flickr

Airplanes have long been capable of flying on their own, Google’s self-driving car has racked up more than 300,000 miles on public roads and trains… well, trains still rely upon a guy in the cab to keep them going.

What gives?

It turns out we have all the tech needed to make autonomous trains, and we’ve seen robotrains running in limited capacity since the late 1960s. The problem isn’t technology. It’s line of sight, and the massive distances trains need to identify and react to obstacles and bring a few hundred tons of steel and cargo to a stop safely.

“The stopping distance of a train is much longer than a car,” says Dr. David Clarke, director of the University of Tennessee Center for Transportation Research Center. “It could be close to a mile.”

Unlike a car, where friction between the tires and road is much higher, metal wheels on metal track makes stopping a whole lot harder. The radar-based adaptive cruise-control systems fitted to most luxury cars these days could conceivably be adapted to trains, but the massive time and distance needed to slow the train means there’s no effective way such a system could see far enough ahead to react in time. And there are just too many things that can obstruct the track.

“You don’t have rights-of-way that are completely sealed,” Dr. Clarke says. “There are no grade crossings, there’s no pedestrian access. It’s hard to detect a car stuck on the rails or a pedestrian on the tracks. You really need a human operator to deal with those systems.”

Safety aside, the humans keeping those trains running are none to eager to give up their gigs.

“Organized labor doesn’t like the idea of losing the jobs of its members to driverless trains,” says Clark. “There has been push back with the allegation of safety issues. Politically, that makes it hard to implement.”

There have been a few autonomous train systems deployed in recent years, including one in Ohio that carried coal from a mine to a powerplant. But that was in a relatively secluded area with a minimum of hazards.

Autonomous underground people movers or monorails have been around for a little more than four decades. London’s Underground uses a system called Automatic Train Operation, which runs from station to station with a human operator to handle avoiding obstacles, closing doors and dealing with emergencies. Unattended Train Operation systems are common at airports and amusement parks, but they’re limited to closed systems with little risk of people or obstructions on the rails.

“If you raised it off the ground, you could easily have an autonomous system,” Clarks says. “You just have to insulate the railroad.” That’s why most high-speed rail systems – including California’s proposed system — are required to be isolated from road crossings and built in less populated areas.

But the biggest hurdle to autonomous rail is the idea that if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

“There hasn’t been a particular interest in these systems,” says Dr. Clark. “And that means it’s going to be hard to get a driverless system in the cab.”

TFWA Asia Pacific show registrations up +5%

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Written by ; Kevin Rozario
Friday, 26 April 2013 03:17

Delegate registrations for the TFWA Asia Pacific show in Singapore are up by +5% on the same stage in 2012, auguring well for numbers to exceed last year’s 2,164
Organiser, Tax Free World Association, is confident of a strong final count. “TFWA is very optimistic that this year’s event will be record-breaking,” says Erik Juul-Mortensen (below left), President TFWA. “Our pre-registered visitors exceed the total last year by a comfortable margin and waiting to greet them will be a record number of exhibitors representing a large proportion of the most high-profile luxury brands in the world.

“This annual event has grown from strength to strength which reflects – and indeed anticipates – the extraordinary growth of duty free and travel retail in Asia.”

Exhibitors this year total 252 compared with 236 stands last year, and 212 in 2011. By product category, beauty has the lion’s share at 23.7% followed by liquor (17.3%), fashion and accessories (16.9%), jewellery (14.5%), confectionery (13.3%), gifts and electronics (6.8%) and tobacco (6.8%).

Pre-show information is available at http://www.tfwa.com, including the online Exhibition Guide and the TFWA Product Showcase [which also has a separate website: http://www.tfwaproductshowcase.com –Ed], and through a smartphone app available from Apple and Blackberry download stores. The app gives delegates access to stand details, exhibition layout, conference speakers and other facts.

In addition, the exhibition hall’s interactive screens will help visitors to navigate the show, and there will also be free wi-fi. Online registration for the event has now closed and the on-site registration desks will open at 9.30am on Sunday 12 May.

Sponsors at this year’s Conference and Workshops on 13 May are Qatar Duty Free (Diamond sponsor), Singapore Changi Airport (Platinum), the coffee breaks by Ferrero and Perfetti van Melle, portfolio from Oilily, and hostess outfits from Lacoste.

Diageo joins the sponsors of the TFWA AP Bar which include Avalon Group – Protégé-International, Bache-Gabrielsen, Bardinet, Brown Forman, Casa Vinicola Zonin, Constellation Brands Canada – Inniskillin Ice Wine, Dupuy Cognac, Distilleria Bottega – Alexander It, Gérard Bertrand, International Beverage, La Martiniquaise, Lateltin Ag, Macduff International, Miguel Torres and Tequilera Corralejo.

The TFWA Asia Pacific Conference & Exhibition takes place at the Marina Bay Sands Expo & Convention Center, Singapore from Sunday 12 to Thursday 16 May.

Congratulate the new King of the Netherlands

Thanks!!!; Lena Olivier

From Prince to King of the Netherlands: 3 Tips for Making the Most of a Promotion

This month marks perhaps one of the biggest career moves of the year in the Netherlands – or the world, for that matter. On April 30th, 2013, Prince Willem-Alexander will become His Majesty King Willem-Alexander, King of the Netherlands, Prince of Orange-Nassau. And you thought you had a nice job title!

20130425-003555.jpgThis month marks perhaps one of the biggest career moves of the year in the Netherlands – or the world, for that matter. On April 30th, 2013, Prince Willem-Alexander will become His Majesty King Willem-Alexander, King of the Netherlands, Prince of Orange-Nassau. And you thought you had a nice job title!

To celebrate this promotion, LinkedIn is giving our members the opportunity to congratulate the new King of the Netherlands and offer him some tips for new job success, just as you do when a connection in your LinkedIn network makes a career move. Like all jobs, it’s not the title that matters most, it’s what you do with it. Here are some tips for members on how to start a new job on the right foot:

1. Go beyond your job title
A promotion is something we all look forward to at some point in our careers. However, as flattering and satisfying as it is to have a new, and perhaps well-deserved, job title, there is much more to your promotion than the title itself. In a recent televised interview with Prince Willem-Alexander and his wife, the Princess were quite explicit with her thoughts on the promotion: “it is not about the title, it is about what we represent”. This applies to us all – royalty or not. Your job title is just one of the many ingredients representing your responsibilities and expertise to the outside world. Therefore, it is crucial to showcase all the important elements that contribute to your role.

2. Be specific about what you do
Provide thorough, accurate information by updating your LinkedIn profile with precise details. If you’re a King, for instance, be specific about the value you add to the country by highlighting your achievements and the skills you’ve acquired in the years leading up to your promotion. And most of all, clearly express what you’re passionate about. King of the Netherlands is one thing, but being a symbol of continuity and unity says something more.

3. Let others sing your praises
LinkedIn is a social network after all. Tap into its full power by asking your valuable connections to speak for you. Endorsements and recommendations from your trusted colleagues add an extra layer of value and credibility to your career profile that a new job title may not.

Just as His Majesty should be connected to the people and have his actions (not his title) represent him and the country, so should you represent yourself with your skills and accomplishments, taking your title only as the starting point.

All that said, becoming King is a big deal. Please join me in congratulating the new king on this momentous occasion. And Prince Willem-Alexander, heir apparent and soon-to-be His Majesty King Willem-Alexander, King of the Netherlands, Prince of Orange-Nassau, if you ever need career advice, you know where to find me!

World Bank warns of ‘overheating economies’ in Asia

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Thanks; The Travel Retails Business Magazine”

Economies of developing East Asia and Pacific continue to be an engine of global growth, growing at 7.5% in 2012 – higher than any other region in the world. Regional growth is predicted to rise moderately to 7.8% in 2013 and ease to 7.6% in 2014.

However, as the global economy recovers, an emerging issue is the risk of overheating in some of the larger economies. The latest numbers from the World Bank’s report suggest that, if global demand continues to revive, some major economies may reach the limits of their current production capacity, as the output gap has closed in those countries.

[Above right: The World Bank headquarters in Washington DC]

“Most countries in developing East Asia are well prepared to absorb external shocks, but continued demand-boosting measures may now be counterproductive, as it could add to inflationary pressures,” said World Bank East Asia and Pacific Chief Economist Bert Hofman. “A strong rebound in capital inflows to the region induced by protracted rounds of quantitative easing in the U.S., EU and Japan, may amplify credit and asset price risks.”

In East Asia and the Pacific, overall economic management has been effective in dealing with the global economic crisis, which has enabled the region to remain resilient and sustain growth.

‘INVESTOR CONFIDENCE SURGES’

“The challenge for policy makers now is to build on these strengths and address short and long term challenges with smart policies,” says the World Bank.

“The East Asia and Pacific region contributed around 40% of global growth in 2012, and the global economy continues to rely on the region’s growth, with investor confidence surging and financial markets remaining solid” said World Bank East Asia and Pacific Vice President Axel van Trotsenburg.

Fiscal and monetary policies to boost consumption and investment helped sustain growth in 2012 across the region, with middle-income countries performing particularly well. Developing economies excluding China grew 6.2% in 2012, up from 4.5% in 2011.

GROWTH SLOWS IN CHINA

In China, growth slowed to 7.8% in 2012 due to rebalancing efforts, while real disposable income of urban households rose by more than 9%, supporting household consumption, which contributed 4.4 percentage points to GDP growth. China is projected to grow 8.3% in 2013 and 8% in 2014.

Risks emanating from the Eurozone and the US have declined since the middle of last year. The World Bank’s baseline projections for global growth are for a modest expansion of 2.4% in 2013 and a gradual strengthening to 3% in 2014.

“While still fragile, there are signs of a turnaround in real activity in high income economies, thus external demand for the East Asia and Pacific region’s exports will stabilise this year,” adds the World Bank. “The most recent numbers on industrial production and producer’s expectations confirm continued solid growth.”

Erik Juul-Mortensen Tax Free World Association President

THANKS; Charlotte Smith
Friday, 19 April 2013 09:04

20130422-154551.jpgTax Free Tax Free World Association President Erik Juul-Mortensen talks frankly about the pressure of moving this year’s Singapore TFAP event; major changes at TFWA; why the global industry body and TFWA cannot be one; and TFWA’s drive towards commissioning less, but better research for the industry. Doug Newhouse reports.

It would be an understatement to say that the opening months of 2013 have been ‘challenging’ for Tax Free World Association, following the unexpected notification by the Suntec Exhibition and Convention Centre that it would not be ready to open in time for this May’s TFWA Asia Pacific conference and exhibition in Singapore.

TFWA President Erik Juul-Mortensen admits it is a headache, although soothed slightly considering Singapore’s new Marina Bay conference and exhibition centre is able to take it all over at very short notice.

So how much of a problem has it been and what can attendees expect from this new venue, we asked? “Well it’s been a headache. It’s an ongoing task and it’s one that we don’t want the exhibitors or the visitors to feel involves a lot of changes or a lot of work – but it does,” said a frustrated Juul-Mortensen.

‘AN UNFAMILIAR VENUE’

He said a new unfamiliar venue obviously calls for a completely new approach and while TFWA and the new venue’s management are working this all out now, he hopes that by the time exhibitors are in place and the visitors all arrive all they will see is seamless and smooth-running.

Juul-Mortensen said reaching this point is all that matters right now with TFWA doing all it can to ensure the Singapore 2013 show is as successful as it can be and he says there will be plenty of time later on for reflection on what has gone well or not.

“At the moment that’s not really at the forefront of our thinking. But to come back to the second part of your question we hope that when people get there they will see an absolutely smooth running event where all of their expectations are met and that they can do their work in the best possible conditions. So in other words, as few disturbances from the change in venue as possible.”

The fact that the Marina Bay complex is very close to all of the existing facilities that regular TFAP visitors are used to will obviously help here, while TFWA will be organising buses and transport wherever and whenever necessary to transport people, says Juul-Mortensen.

20130422-154752.jpg[Above: Marina Bay Sands hotel]

‘RESPONDING POSITIVELY AND PRACTICALLY’

But he would not be drawn on whether the Board will ever consider working with the Suntec organisation again, merely adding that all options remain open for the time being and that presumably includes compensation for such late notice from the Suntec.

Quite how everyone at TFWA will feel about this when it is all over remains to be seen, but right now the organisation appears to be responding positively and practically – albeit in difficult circumstances, although Juul-Mortensen did not complain.

“There is pressure and the team in Paris is definitely under pressure. Just think of such a thing as the floor plan. In the Suntec Centre we were moving into a new second floor with a floor plan we know and most of the exhibitors know. Here we come to a new complex where everything is on one floor, so just to get that absolutely huge jigsaw in place so that all the exhibitors – new and old – are happy is major, major work.”

He said this obviously involves speaking with every single exhibitor to make sure they are all onboard and understand the various changes from working on a much bigger single floor, to feeding electricity to their stands from the ceiling in the Marina rather than the floor points in the Suntec.

MAJOR CHANGES

Needless to say, TFWA’s technical partners are naturally aware of all of these differences since they are familiar with the layouts and facilities in both the Suntec and the Marina where they have worked on numerous exhibitions in both places.

But while this unexpected change of venue was naturally the focus of much of TFWA’s activity in the early months of 2013, in the grand scale of time the association has undergone some major changes over the last couple of years. So what do these mean for both TFWA and the membership in future, we asked?

“Looking back I think the association has changed and for me it started with the decision for us to carry through a strategic review of the association a couple of years ago,” said Juul-Mortensen.

“For me that embarked on us taking a very, very harsh look at ourselves, what have we done, what have we achieved, what should we have achieved and are we living up to the expectations? Are we getting complacent? Are we doing what our members and the wider industry are expecting of us? “I thought that was a very, very healthy exercise and a lot of things came out of that.

20130422-154935.jpgMAJOR CHANGES

“There are three areas in that exercise: one, really to look at our day-to-day operation and numerous changes came out as a result of that and some we are seeing going forward. We haven’t seen them all yet and that is ongoing work. Now I can’t remember the number, but we had numerous projects come out as a result of that.

“Then of course the second one was the global body which is still in process and which we are very hopeful will see the light of day this year.

[Left: Raffles hotel is hard to beat as a venue for the Opening Cocktail]

“And thirdly we looked at ourselves very carefully – how are we organized? How do we do things? Are we organized in the best possible way to do what we’re supposed to do? And that’s something we’re looking at right now.

“So for me the discussions around that really opened up a lot of good stuff and as a result you will have seen that the association has changed. We now realize that perhaps we have a more open and active role to play in supporting the industry and more so than in the past.

MORE IN THE FUTURE

“So yes, I know we helped form MEDFA, we formed APTRA and we support ETRC etc., but I think there’s a general realization in the management committee that we need to do more, we need to be open and we need to engage ourselves more in a number of areas.

“Now I know that this takes time, it takes money and it takes human resources, but the management committee feels that the association is really well placed to do that and I think that’s what’s coming out now.”

Having said that, Juul-Mortensen acknowledges that this is not only an internal view. Indeed, there have been many individuals and bodies – including The Business – who have been consistently impressed by the integrity at TFWA and subsequently strongly encouraged it to take on a much greater role on the global stage.

Juul-Mortensen knows better than most, since he is mostly the recipient of this encouragement, but while he acknowledges the positive sentiment behind it all, he says there are good reasons why TFWA shouldn’t be seen to be taking over the world.

20130422-155035.jpg[Above: TFAP conferences are often better than those in Cannes]

GLOBAL ROLE

“Again, if I come back to the start of the strategy, what we did there was ask all of our own members first and then we went one step further and asked quite a lot of other stakeholders for their input about us – positive and negative – and there were both I have to say. That’s the only way we thought we could do it and we had some excellent one-on-one discussions with people who are, fortunately, not afraid of saying what they feel, whether bad or positive.”

Juul-Mortensen said that at the time this was exactly what TFWA needed and he recalled that some had plenty to say.

He said many agreed with The Business’ view that TFWA is best placed to take on more of a global role and could be doing so much more, so why isn’t it? “But then again you also have to turn the coin around,” said Juul-Mortensen.

“You know me well enough that I have always been and still am concerned about the role of TFWA in that sense. I think we are well placed to do more than we do now, but we also have to do that in close cooperation with all the parties and stakeholders out there.”

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North Korea on Tuesday repeated its demand that Seoul apologise for “hostile” acts as a precondition to accept its proposal for dialogue.

THANKS;Shin Hyon-hee
The Korea Herald & @asianewsnetwork
Publication Date : 17-04-2013

In what it called an “ultimatum”, the communist state’s top military command denounced a rally by conservative groups in downtown Seoul on Monday, during which they burned portraits of leader Kim Jong-un and his forebears and former dictators.

The event was designed to coincide with the Day of the Sun, the birth of national founder and Kim’s late grandfather, Kim Il-sung, for which North Koreans held a massive celebration.

“If the South Korean puppet group truly wants dialogue and negotiations, it will have to show before all the people their practical will to apologize for and completely stop all hostile anti-North Korea acts that it has committed until now,” the Supreme Command of the Korean People’s Army said in a statement carried by the official Korean Central News Agency.

Should such incidents continue, “our retaliation will begin without warning” against those who directly and indirectly took part in “desecrating our highest dignity” and the people, related government agencies and departments that instigated and connived it, it added.

The pugnacious rhetoric aside, Pyongyang appears to be inching toward deescalating cross-border tension following Seoul’s proposal last week for dialogue to resolve the standoff over the North’s suspension of the Gaeseong industrial park.

US Secretary of State John Kerry said in Seoul last week that he wanted to “get to talks” through either bilateral means or the six-nation denuclearization forum.

The North’s propaganda agency dismissed South Korea’s overture as a “cunning gimmick” on Sunday, demanding an end to its “hostile attitude” demonstrated by its ongoing military drills with the US.

Still, the heavily militarised country did not push ahead with a widely expected missile launch nor stage a military parade to celebrate the North Korean founder’s 101st birthday.

Kim Jong-un instead paid tribute to him and his deceased father, Kim Jong-il, at the Kumsusan Palace where their embalmed bodies are displayed, along with senior aides.

They then watched an athletic competition between two elite military schools in Pyongyang and a music concert commemorating the national holiday, according to the KCNA.

While calling for change in the North’s course, South Korea and the US are also seen sticking to their dialogue offer.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Cho Tai-young said at a briefing that dialogue with Pyongyang was aimed at “realising the denuclearisation and peace on the Korean peninsula in a peaceful way”.

A Unification Ministry official called the KPA statement “incomprehensible, inappropriate behaviour”.

“The government’s position is to urge North Korea’s right choice and sincere attitude toward dialogue,” he told reporters on condition of anonymity.

He denied speculation of behind-the-scenes contact with Pyongyang, saying “we’re currently not at such a stage”.

Kerry, known as an advocate of dialogue for diplomatic standoffs, reportedly signalled his willingness to dispatch an envoy to the young North Korean leader.

“We’re prepared to reach out” to Kim at “the appropriate moment and (under) the appropriate circumstances,” Kerry was quoted by the Washington Post as telling reporters at the end of his 10-day world tour. “It may be that somebody will be asked to sit down”.