North Korea’s Nuclear Ambitions – North Korea has rejected U.S. calls to show it is serious about abandoning its nuclear ambitions, and said it won’t engage in talks unless its right to nuclear weapons is recognized, reports the Guardian. North Korea’s Rodong Sinmun newspaper rejected U.S. and South Korean conditions that it agree to dismantle its nuclear weapons and suspend missile launches before talks can begin, writes the Guardian. North Korea conducted its third nuclear test in February, and China‘s top general said on Monday that a fourth North Korean nuclear weapons test is a possibility – underlining the continuing need for talks between Pyongyang and other regional parties. But on Tuesday, Pyongyang’s Foreign Ministry remained defiant, vowing to strengthen its nuclear program in response to a U.S. State Department report accusing North Korea of human rights abuses, claiming the annual report is aimed at toppling North Korea’s leadership, the AP reports.
Paraguay’s New President — Reuters notes that Paraguay’s president-elect Horacio Cartes, a millionaire cigarette and soft drink magnate, has to tackle the country’s widespread poverty. Nearly 40% of Paraguayans are in poverty and in 2011 the per-capita gross domestic product stood at $5,413, the second-lowest in South America after Bolivia. The 56-year-old businessman campaigned with a pro-business agenda, pledging to support the private sector in a nation where the state employs about 10% of all Paraguayan workers.
E.U. Membership — The European Commission has suggested starting E.U. membership talks with Serbia after brokering a deal that normalizes ties between Serbia and its former province of Kosovo, reports the BBC. Both Serbia and Kosovo want to join the 27-nation bloc but five E.U. members — Cyprus, Greece, Romania, Slovakia and Spain — do not recognize Kosovo’s independence. The commission has also proposed opening talks with Kosovo to eventually move towards full E.U. accession negotiations, according to the BBC.
Iran’s Food Prices — Increasing food prices in Iran are raising concerns about the country’s political stability, reports the AP. International and Western sanctions over Iran’s controversial nuclear program have damaged the local economy in multiple ways: reducing foreign currency, cutting the government’s income and prolonging inflation that hurts consumers’ buying power. Growing frustration over hikes in food prices could lead to restlessness ahead of the June 14 presidential election, forecasts the AP.
Fukushima Solution – The United Nations nuclear watchdog agency said the operator of Japan’s stricken Fukushima nuclear plant should look for a permanent solution to make the plant safe, reports the New York Times. A huge earthquake and the subsequent tsunami two years ago damaged the plant’s cooling systems, resulting in a core meltdown that spread radiation across northeastern Japan. Since then, the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), the operator of the plant, has managed to stabilize the plant and made progress in the complicated task of dismantling its three damaged nuclear reactors. But this has often been achieved using mobile or temporary equipment. The International Atomic Energy Agency (I.A.E.A.) recommended that the plant’s operators should prepare for the unexpected, writes the Times. On Monday, TEPCO was forced to shut down a cooling system at the plant after a dead rat was found nearby, in order to check for damage to electrical circuits.