Bill Clinton’s whistle stop trip to North Korea is on the front page of many papers around the world this morning. Dong-a Ilbo, a big South Korean daily, carries the visit on its front page. The International Herald Tribune also features a front page photo of Clinton seated alongside Kim Jong-Il. The paper points out that the last time Mr. Kim met with an American official was in 2000 when Madeleine Albright, Clinton’s Secretary of State, travelled to Pyongyang. The big question is what exactly the two men discussed. The IHT says Clinton’s brief was strictly limited to the liberation of the two American journalists held since March. The same photo of Clinton and Kim is on the front page of the Wall Street Journal. On the paper’s website, there’s an article “Paying Kim’s Price”. It asks if Mr. Clinton’s visit was the down payment for a larger set of American concessions. Pyongyang’s nuclear negotiator Kim Kye-gwan greeted Clinton at the airport. The paper wonders whether there was discussion of dissolving the six-party negotiations on North Korea’s nuclear program in favour of direct talks with the US. Kim has long sought this. South Korea and Japan would not be happy however, especially seeing as they also have hostages being held in North Korea. What kind of a message would this send to the North Koreans, the paper goes on to ask? The worse its behaviour, the more it stands to gain? All of this remains speculative of course.
The swearing in of Mahmoud Ahmedinejad took place this morning. The French left-leaning daily Libération is covering it extensively saying that Ahmedinejad won because of massive fraud. “The regime knows it’s illegitimate,” notes the editorial. It is still supported by the military and the police force so we can’t expect an end the mullah’s regime just yet but “it has never been so fragile.” The Guardian focuses on the number of people who boycotted the swearing in ceremony, including western ambassadors, ex-Presidents Khatami and Rafsandjani and many members of the clergy. This shows the amount of division that there is within Iran’s elite over Ahmedinejad’s continuing rule. Organisers had to fill up the room with actors, celebrities and Olympic champions. The Iranian Hercules was invited, a huge weight-lifter – perhaps because he’d fill up two seats! Also among the guests was ‘Uncle Pourang’, a presenter of a popular children’s TV phone(in programme. It was recently pulled from the schedules after a young caller revealed live on air that his toy money was named Ahmedinejad.
The New York Times is reporting that Russian submarines have been located patrolling off the US East Coast. A naval historian says he doesn’t think this has happened in 15 years. Echoes of the Cold War…
And finally, the British press is still wondering if the miserable weather is going to improve before the summer is over. Predictions of a “BBQ summer” led to an all too brief two-week heat wave “followed by five weeks of near constant downpours,” says the Daily Mail. But the BBQ weather is set to return, if forecasters are right. An old myth says that if it rains on St. Swithin’s Day on July 15th, it will rain for 40 days more. The old adage looked well on its way to being proved correct but just half way in, the tides may turn and the sun may come out before the weekend! Last week the Met Office retracted its prediction and admitted it had got April’s seasonal forecast of a ‘barbecue summer’ wrong. July was one of the wettest on record in Britain.