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Pompeo visits North Korea, forms ‘good relationship with Kim’, says Trump

by UNTV News   |   Posted on Wednesday, April 18th, 2018

FILE PHOTO: A combination photo shows CIA Director Mike Pompeo (L) in Washington, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (C) in Pyongyang, North Korea and U.S. President Donald Trump (R), in Palm Beach, Florida, U.S., respectively from Reuters files. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas (L) & KCNA handout via Reuters & Kevin Lamarque (R)

WASHINGTON/SEOUL (Reuters) – CIA director Mike Pompeo, U.S. President Donald Trump’s nominee to become the top U.S. diplomat, visited North Korea last week and met leader Kim Jong Un with whom he formed a “good relationship”, Trump said on Wednesday.

Pompeo became the most senior U.S. official known to have met Kim when he visited Pyongyang to discuss a planned summit with U.S. President Donald Trump.

“Mike Pompeo met with Kim Jong Un in North Korea last week. Meeting went very smoothly and a good relationship was formed. Details of Summit are being worked out now. Denuclearization will be a great thing for World, but also for North Korea!” Trump said on Twitter.

Pompeo’s visit and the Tweet provide the strongest sign yet about Trump’s willingness to become the first serving U.S. president ever to meet a North Korean leader, amid a protracted standoff over the North’s nuclear and missile programs it pursues in defiance of U.N. Security Council resolutions.

U.S. officials said earlier Pompeo visited over the Easter weekend, March 31 to April 2. Representatives for the White House and the State Department did not immediately respond to a query on the exact date of the meeting with Kim.

At the same time, old rivals North Korea and South Korea are preparing for their own summit, between Kim and South Korean President Moon Jae-in, on April 27, with a bid to formally end the 1950-53 Korean War a major factor in talks.

“As one of the plans, we are looking at a possibility of shifting the Korean peninsula’s armistice to a peace regime,” a top South Korean presidential official told reporters in Seoul earlier on Wednesday when asked about the North-South summit.

“But that’s not a matter than can be resolved between the two Koreas alone. It requires close consultations with other concerned nations, as well as North Korea,” the official said.

South Korea and a U.S.-led U.N. force are technically still at war with North Korea after the Korean War ended with a truce, not a peace treaty. The U.S.-led United Nations Command, Chinese forces and North Korea signed the 1953 armistice, to which South Korea is not a party.

“I do not know if any joint statement to be reached at the inter-Korean summit would include wording about ending the war, but we certainly hope to be able to include an agreement to end hostile acts between the South and North,” the official said.

Trump said on Tuesday he backed efforts between North and South Korea aimed at ending the state of war.

Such discussions between the two Koreas, and between North Korea and the United States, would have been unthinkable at the end of last year, after months of escalating tension, and fear of war, over the North’s weapons programs.

But then Kim declared in a New Year’s speech his country was “a peace-loving and responsible nuclear power” and called for lower military tension and improved ties with the South.

He also said he was considering sending a delegation to the Winter Olympics in South Korea in February, a visit that began a succession of steps to improve ties.

But finance ministers from the Group of Seven (G7) industrialized countries said in a statement they were still concerned about North Korea’s evasion of sanctions and its “ability to access the international financial system”.

CHINA’S XI TO VISIT PYONGYANG?

Pompeo’s visit to the North was arranged by South Korean intelligence chief Suh Hoon with his North Korean counterpart, Kim Yong Chol, and was intended to assess whether Kim was prepared to hold serious talks, a U.S. official said.

Pompeo flew from a U.S. air force base in Osan, south of Seoul, an official with the South’s defense ministry said. The South’s presidential office declined to comment on the trip.

Amid the diplomatic flurry, CNN reported that Chinese President Xi Jinping also planned to visit Pyongyang soon, after North Korean leader Kim made a surprise trip last month to China, its major sole ally.

Speaking in Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said she had no information about any Xi visit to North Korea.

“What I can stress is that China and North Korea have a tradition of high level mutual visits,” she told reporters.

“China is willing to strengthen high-level exchanges with North Korea, deepen strategic communications, expand talks and cooperation, and to bring out the important leading role of high-level contact in China-North Korea relations.”

Trump said on Tuesday he believed there was a lot of goodwill in the diplomatic push with North Korea, but added it was possible the summit – first proposed in March and which the president said could take place in late May or early June – may not happen, in which case the United States and its allies would maintain pressure on North Korea through sanctions.

Nevertheless, Pompeo’s conversations in North Korea had fueled Trump’s belief that productive negotiations were possible, according to a U.S. senior official briefed on the trip.

The two Koreas have meanwhile been pressing ahead with preparations for the inter-Korean summit next week.

South Korea’s presidential office said they had agreed to broadcast live, for the first time, parts of the summit, including the hand shake between the two leaders.

Additional reporting by Soyoung Kim and Joyce Lee in SEOUL, Susan Heavey, John Walcott and Steve Holland in WASHINGTON, and Christian Shepherd in BEIJING; Editing by Robert Birsel and Nick Macfie

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North Korea’s Kim Jong Un inspects new submarine, points out weapons systems

by Robie de Guzman   |   Posted on Tuesday, July 23rd, 2019

Kim and officials looking around a submarine. Courtesy: Reuters

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un inspected a newly built submarine and pointed out its tactical capabilities and weapons systems, North Korea’s official news agency KCNA said on Tuesday (July 23).

The submarine, which was built under Kim’s “special attention”, will be operational in the East Sea, also known as the Sea of Japan, KCNA said.

KCNA released still photographs of Kim looking around the submarine, but did not describe the kind of weapons systems the submarine contained or when the inspection took place.

Kim tasked defense and scientific officials accompanying him with achieving more strategic initiatives in submarine use, state media added. (REUTERS)

(Production: Minwoo Park)

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Lawmakers call Trump’s attack as attempt to distract from his policies

by Robie de Guzman   |   Posted on Tuesday, July 16th, 2019

Four minority U.S. congresswomen, known as the “the squad”, accused President Donald Trump of trying to sow division and distract attention from what they characterized as failed policies on immigration, health care and taxation on Monday (July 15).

“This president does not know how to make the argument that Americans do not deserve health care. He does not know how to defend his policies. So, what he does is attack us personally and that is what this is all about,” Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (New York – Democrat) said.

Rep. Ayanna Pressley (Massachusetts – Democrat) urged the public to “not take the bait” following Trump’s Twitter messages on Sunday (July 14) that said the lawmakers should go back to “the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.”

All four of the first-term House members are U.S. citizens and all but one were born in the United States.

The president’s remarks were widely derided and some, though not many, of his fellow Republicans spoke out against them.

Trump did not identify the lawmakers by name in his Sunday tweets, but he appeared to refer to representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan.

“This is not the first, nor will it be the last time we hear disgusting, bigoted language from the president,” Rep. Rashida Tlaib (Michigan- Democrat) said.

Omar said Trump’s remarks were rooted in the “agenda of white nationalists.”

Tlaib and Omar repeated their calls for Trump to be impeached. (REUTERS)

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Iran ready to talk to U.S. if sanctions lifted

by Robie de Guzman   |   Posted on Monday, July 15th, 2019

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani speaking at televised address | Courtesy: Reuters footage

Iran is ready to hold talks with the United States if Washington lifts sanctions and returns to the 2015 nuclear deal it quit last year, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said in a televised speech on Sunday (July 14).

“When a big power that is a bully, well then we have to stand up to it. It must stop being a bully. We have always believed in talks. Always, right this hour, right this moment, if they stop the oppression, if they stop the belligerence, if they lift sanctions, return to the table, return to to logic; we are ready,” said Rouhani.

U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration says it is open to negotiations with Iran on a more far-reaching agreement on nuclear and security issues.

But Iran has made any talks conditional on first being able to export as much oil as it did before the United States withdrew from the nuclear pact with world powers in May 2018.

Confrontations between Washington and Tehran have escalated, culminating in a plan for U.S. air strikes on Iran last month that Trump called off at the last minute. (REUTERS)

(Production: Vin Shahrestani)

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