N. Korean leader meets Cuban president in Pyongyang

Communist Cuba is one of North Korea's few remaining allies

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un met with visiting Cuban president in Pyongyang and discussed "crucial issues of common concern" on the current international situation, the North's state media reported Monday.

The visit by Miguel Diaz-Canel comes amid stalled talks between North Korea and the United States and only days after Washington imposed fresh economic restrictions on Cuba.

Washington's ties with Havana were fully restored in 2015 after more than half a century of enmity, but have deteriorated since President Donald Trump took office.

Communist Cuba is one of North Korea's few remaining allies.

"There was an in-depth exchange of views on the crucial issues of common concern ... on the international situation and a consensus of views on all issues was reached," said the official KCNA news agency.

Diaz-Canel was greeted by Kim and his wife Ri Sol Ju at the Pyongyang International Airport on Sunday, KCNA reported, where he was given a 21-gun salute and later attended a banquet and enjoyed a special welcoming concert with them.

Giving a toast at the banquet, Kim said his meeting with the Cuban leader "marked a watershed in demonstrating the will to carry forward forever the friendship between the two countries".

In response, Diaz-Canel said he was willing to "meet all challenges by the hostile forces" while carrying forward their "traditional friendly and cooperative relations", according to KCNA.

Diaz-Canel took office in April in a historic transition of power on the Caribbean island, succeeding Raul Castro, who took over from his elder brother Fidel, father of the 1959 revolution.

Fidel Castro visited North Korea in 1986 to meet founder-leader Kim Il-Sung, and Pyongyang held three days of official mourning when Castro died in November 2016.

North Korea sent a delegation led by Choe Ryong-Hae, a senior aide to its leader Kim Jong Un, to Havana for Castro's funeral.

Cuba in the past has flouted international sanctions imposed on North Korea over its nuclear weapons programme.

In 2013 Panama seized a North Korean ship carrying an undeclared Cuban arms shipment of Soviet-era weapons and fighter jets hidden under sacks of sugar.

North Korea insisted the weapons were being shipped for repair, prior to their return.

  • Hundreds of protesters rally in London, Berlin over U.S. death
    News
    Reuters

    Hundreds of protesters rally in London, Berlin over U.S. death

    The protesters knelt in central London's Trafalgar Square, chanting "No justice, no peace", and then marched past the Houses of Parliament and finished up outside the U.S. Embassy. Several hundred protesters also staged a rally outside the U.S. Embassy in Berlin, holding up posters saying "Justice for George Floyd", "Stop killing us" and "Who's neckst".

  • Trump will not invoke control of National Guard amid protests - adviser
    News
    Reuters

    Trump will not invoke control of National Guard amid protests - adviser

    The Trump administration will not invoke federal authority over the National Guard for now, National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien said on Sunday as protests flared in multiple U.S. cities following the death of an unarmed black man in Minneapolis in police custody last week. Civil unrest has swelled in recent days following Monday's death of George Floyd, who was shown on video gasping for breath as a white Minneapolis policeman knelt on his neck. The National Guard said in a statement on Sunday said 5,000 of its soldiers and airmen had been activated in 15 states and Washington, D.C., but that "state and local law enforcement agencies remain responsible for security."

  • Masks and no ablution: Saudis flock to reopened mosques
    News
    AFP News

    Masks and no ablution: Saudis flock to reopened mosques

    Mask-clad worshippers flocked to Saudi mosques that reopened nationwide Sunday -- except in the holy city of Mecca –- over two months after congregational prayers were halted under a coronavirus-triggered lockdown. Complying with stringent social distancing rules, worshippers kept a minimum of two metres apart. "Worshippers rushed to the home of God to perform their obligatory duty (prayers) after the reopening of mosques," the ministry of Islamic affairs said on Twitter.

  • Russian space agency calls Trump's reaction to SpaceX launch "hysteria"
    Science
    Reuters

    Russian space agency calls Trump's reaction to SpaceX launch "hysteria"

    Russia's space agency criticised U.S. President Donald Trump's "hysteria" about the first spaceflight of NASA astronauts from U.S. soil in nine years, but also said on Sunday it was pleased there was now another way to travel into space. SpaceX, the private rocket company of billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk, on Saturday launched two Americans into orbit from Florida en route to the International Space Station (ISS), a landmark mission that ended Russia's monopoly on flights there. Trump, who observed the launch, said the United States had regained its place as the world's leader in space, that U.S. astronauts would soon land on Mars, and that Washington would soon have "the greatest weapons ever imagined in history."

  • Sri Lanka to reopen some tourism in June with restrictions - report
    News
    Reuters

    Sri Lanka to reopen some tourism in June with restrictions - report

    Sri Lanka plans to reopen its tourism sector in mid-June by allowing only small groups of visitors to begin with, a local newspaper quoted a senior tourism ministry official as saying. A limited number of small groups from around the world would be allowed to visit and stay in approved five-star hotels that have put strict safety measures in place, Tourism Ministry Secretary S. Hettiaarachchi said, according to a report in the Sunday Times. Sri Lanka reported another 20 cases of the virus on Saturday, taking the total number of cases so far to 1,613, including 10 deaths.

  • People more important than the economy, pope says about Covid crisis
    News
    Reuters

    People more important than the economy, pope says about Covid crisis

    Pope Francis said on Sunday that people are more important than the economy, as countries decide how quickly to reopen their countries from coronavirus lockdowns. Francis made his comments, departing from a prepared script, at the first noon address from his window overlooking St. Peter's Square in three months as Italy's lockdown drew to an end. "Healing people, not saving (money) to help the economy (is important), healing people, who are more important than the economy," Francis said.

  • 100-year-old Indonesian woman beats coronavirus
    Health
    AFP News

    100-year-old Indonesian woman beats coronavirus

    A 100-year-old Indonesian woman has recovered from coronavirus, making her the country's oldest survivor of the deadly respiratory illness. Kamtim, who like many Indonesians goes by one name, was discharged from hospital this week after a month of treatment in her hometown Surabaya, Indonesia's second-biggest city, officials said. East Java Governor Khofifah Indar Parawansa said she hoped Kamtim's story would give a boost to at-risk residents -- the illness is especially dangerous for older people and those with chronic conditions.

  • Iran says US talks 'futile', denounces black American's death
    News
    AFP News

    Iran says US talks 'futile', denounces black American's death

    Iran's new parliament speaker said Sunday any negotiations with Washington would be "futile" as he denounced the death of a black American that has led to violent protests across the US. Mohammad-Bagher Ghalibaf, a former commander of the Revolutionary Guards' air force, was elected speaker on Thursday of a chamber dominated by ultra-conservatives following February elections. The newly formed parliament "considers negotiations with and appeasement of America, as the axis of global arrogance, to be futile and harmful," he said in his first major speech to the chamber.

  • Curfews and clashes as US race protests escalate
    News
    AFP News

    Curfews and clashes as US race protests escalate

    Curfews were imposed on major US cities as clashes over police brutality erupted across America with demonstrators ignoring warnings from President Donald Trump that his government would stop the violent protests "cold." Minneapolis, the epicenter of the unrest, was gripped by a fifth consecutive night of violence on Saturday with police in riot gear firing tear gas and stun grenades at protesters venting fury at the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man, during an arrest in the city on Monday. Los Angeles, Chicago and Atlanta were among two dozen cities ordering people to stay indoors overnight as more states called in National Guard soldiers to help control the civil unrest not seen in the United States for years.

  • Britain will not "look away" from Hong Kong responsibilities, says Raab
    News
    Reuters

    Britain will not "look away" from Hong Kong responsibilities, says Raab

    Britain will not look away from its responsibilities to Hong Kong, foreign minister Dominic Raab said on Sunday, repeating London's offer of extended visa rights in response to China's push to impose a new law in the former British colony. "If China follows through with this national security legislation ... we will give those people who hold BNO passports (British National Overseas’ passports) the right to come to the UK," Raab told the BBC, adding that only "a fraction of them would actually come".

  • Defending lockdown easing, UK foreign minister says it's the 'right step'
    News
    Reuters

    Defending lockdown easing, UK foreign minister says it's the 'right step'

    British foreign minister Dominic Raab defended on Sunday the government's "careful" loosening of the coronavirus lockdown, saying it was the "right step to be taking at this moment in time". Prime Minister Boris Johnson has come under fire from some scientists for easing a lockdown put in place 10 weeks ago, with some saying it was a premature and risky move in the absence of a fully functioning system to track new outbreaks. With Britain experiencing one of the world's highest death rates from COVID-19, the government says it is easing the stringent lockdown "cautiously" to balance the need to restart the economy, but also to try to prevent another increase in the number of infections.

  • Taj Mahal damaged in deadly India thunderstorm
    News
    AFP News

    Taj Mahal damaged in deadly India thunderstorm

    A deadly thunderstorm that rolled across parts of northern India damaged sections of the Taj Mahal complex, including the main gate and a railing running below its five lofty domes, officials said Sunday. One of the New Seven Wonders of the World, India's top tourist attraction has been shut since mid-March as part of measures to try and combat the coronavirus pandemic. "One sandstone railing which was a part of the original structure has been damaged," Superintending Archaeologist of the Archaeological Survey of India, Vasant Kumar Swarnkar, told AFP.

  • German engineer on China charter flight tests positive for coronavirus
    News
    AFP News

    German engineer on China charter flight tests positive for coronavirus

    A German engineer on the first flight carrying European workers back to China has tested positive for coronavirus as an asymptomatic carrier, local authorities said Sunday. The man was on a Lufthansa flight from Frankfurt to the northeastern city of Tianjin which landed with around 200 passengers, mainly German workers and their families.

  • Paris cafes to get extra terrace space as lockdown eases
    News
    AFP News

    Paris cafes to get extra terrace space as lockdown eases

    Restaurants, cafes and bars in Paris will be able to put more tables outside when they reopen Tuesday after two months of lockdown, allowing them to serve more clients even as their inside dining rooms must remain closed. While other restaurants across France can fully reopen Tuesday, the high number of COVID-19 cases and higher contagion risks in the densely populated Paris region prompted authorities to allow only limited operations for now.

  • Saudi Arabia reopens mosques with strict regulations for worshippers
    News
    Reuters

    Saudi Arabia reopens mosques with strict regulations for worshippers

    Saudi Arabia's mosques opened their doors to worshippers on Sunday for the first time in more than two months as the kingdom, the birthplace of Islam, eased restrictions imposed to combat the coronavirus. "It is great to feel the mercy of God and once again call people for prayers at mosques instead of at their homes," said Abdulmajeed Al Mohaisen, who issues the call to prayer at Al Rajhi Mosque, one of the largest in the capital Riyadh.

  • Spanish PM Sanchez to extend lockdown a final time to June 21
    News
    Reuters

    Spanish PM Sanchez to extend lockdown a final time to June 21

    Spain's prime minister said on Sunday the country needed 15 more days of lockdown until June 21 "to finish with the pandemic once and for all", and he would ask parliament to approve a final two-week extension to the stay home rule. "We have almost set out what we set out to do," Pedro Sanchez told a press conference, as he expressed his intense relief that the number of new cases of COVID-19 in Spain, one of the nations hardest-hit by the virus, had fallen dramatically. Spain's death toll rose by four on Saturday to 27,125, the health ministry said, while the number of COVID-19 infections rose by 271 overnight to 239,228 on Saturday.

  • Sadness on the border as France turns back Belgian trippers
    News
    AFP News

    Sadness on the border as France turns back Belgian trippers

    For hundreds of Belgians hoping to spend time with French friends and relatives after almost three months of lockdown, the sunny holiday weekend proved a grim disappointment. While families with ties in the Netherlands, Germany and Luxembourg were able to put the coronavirus epidemic out of their minds for a short while, the French border remained shut. Renee-France Ringard had tears in her eyes as she told AFP how she had hoped to cross into France to see her elderly father in the suburbs of Lille for the first time in more than two-and-a-half-months.

  • Going viral: the dark online gags soothing youthful angst
    Health
    AFP Relax

    Going viral: the dark online gags soothing youthful angst

    Climate change, debt, mental health struggles and now the coronavirus: life is no laughing matter. "We joke that we post because none of us can afford therapy," says Chuck Wentzell, 26, a member of Twitter group chats where gallows humor is the order of the day.

  • Canada to promote holidays at home because of COVID-19 border closures
    News
    Reuters

    Canada to promote holidays at home because of COVID-19 border closures

    Canada will invest C$30 million ($21.8 million) to enable its provinces and territories to promote holidays in their "own back yard" because of the closure of the country's borders due to the novel coronavirus pandemic. Destination Canada, the country's national marketing body which usually focuses on luring international visitors, is due to announce the new funding later on Sunday, according to a statement seen by Reuters before its official release. Canada, which has had more than 7,000 deaths due to COVID-19, has closed its borders to non-essential travel since March, and it is unclear when they will be opened again.

  • Nike says "Don't Do It" on racism
    News
    AFP Relax

    Nike says "Don't Do It" on racism

    Nike has taken a stand against racism with a "Don't do it" campaign, a twist on its famous catch phrase, as protests against police brutality spread across the United States. "For once, Don't Do It... Don't pretend there's not a problem in America," the US sports apparel giant said in a video posted to Twitter late Friday. The message came as protesters across the United States took to the streets against the treatment of George Floyd, an African American who died in the hands of police in Minneapolis earlier this week.

  • World virus cases top 6 mn as leaders disagree on pandemic response
    News
    AFP Relax

    World virus cases top 6 mn as leaders disagree on pandemic response

    The number of coronavirus cases worldwide topped six million Sunday, with Brazil registering another record surge in daily infections as divisions deepened on how to deal with the pandemic. Latin American countries are bracing for difficult weeks ahead as the disease spreads rapidly across the region, even as much of the world exits lockdowns that have wrecked economies and stripped millions of their jobs. In Brazil -- the epicentre of South America's outbreak with nearly 500,000 confirmed cases, lagging only behind the United States -- disagreement among leaders over lockdown measures has hampered efforts to slow the virus as the number of fatalities in the country nears 30,000.

  • Iran's new parliament speaker says talks with US 'futile'
    News
    AFP News

    Iran's new parliament speaker says talks with US 'futile'

    Iran's parliament speaker Mohammad-Bagher Ghalibaf said any negotiations with the United States would be "futile" as he delivered his first major speech to the conservative-dominated chamber on Sunday. Ghalibaf, a former commander of the Revolutionary Guards' air force, was elected speaker on Thursday after February elections that swung the balance in the legislature towards ultra-conservatives. The newly formed parliament "considers negotiations with and appeasement of America, as the axis of global arrogance, to be futile and harmful," said Ghalibaf.

  • Russian small businesses reopen to uncertain future
    Business
    AFP News

    Russian small businesses reopen to uncertain future

    When Moscow authorities closed non-essential businesses to stop the spread of the coronavirus, Boris Kupriyanov began to personally deliver books to his customers. "In many ways this has become our salvation," Kupriyanov, co-founder of Falanster, one of the country's most famous independent bookshops, told AFP. Many small and medium-sized businesses including Kupriyanov's bookstore will be allowed to reopen on Monday as authorities gradually ease confinement restrictions in Russia, which has reported more than 396,000 coronavirus infections -- the third-largest caseload after the United States and Brazil.

  • China factory activity slows as global slump drags on growth
    Business
    AFP News

    China factory activity slows as global slump drags on growth

    Factory activity in China expanded at a slower pace in May as the country attempts to get back on track after the coronavirus, official data showed Sunday, with the global economic slump making the sector's recovery difficult. China's factories have stirred back to life after the lifting of strict lockdown measures imposed when the deadly virus surfaced in the central city of Wuhan, but its spread worldwide has dragged down key foreign markets -- weighing heavily on Chinese exports. The Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI), a key gauge of activity in China's factories, was at 50.6 points in May, remaining above the 50-point mark separating growth from contraction each month.

  • Mumbai ambulance start-up joins coronavirus battle
    News
    AFP News

    Mumbai ambulance start-up joins coronavirus battle

    With bodies piling up in wards and patients sharing beds, the coronavirus has crippled Mumbai's health care system. Aditya Makkar, 20, was inspired to start HelpNow three years ago when his father suffered a cardiac arrest and was told he would have to wait 47 minutes for a government ambulance. Many others in Mumbai, a city of 18 million where the high-rises of the super-rich soar over the shacks of the dirt poor, are not as lucky.