Trump returns to White House after summit collapse clouds future of U.S.-North Korea nuclear diplomacy

Robie de Guzman   •   March 1, 2019   •   3194

President Trump returns to White House on Thursday (February 28) following his second meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Hanoi, Vietnam. | Reuters

(REUTERS) — U.S. President Donald Trump returned to Washington D.C. Thursday (February 28) from Hanoi, Vietnam after his meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un collapsed over sanctions, and the two sides gave conflicting accounts of what happened, raising questions about the future of their denuclearisation negotiations.

Trump said two days of talks in the Vietnamese capital Hanoi had made good progress in building relations and on the main issue of denuclearisation, but it was important not to rush into a bad deal. He said he had walked away because of unacceptable North Korean demands.

“It was all about the sanctions,” Trump told a news conference after the talks were cut short. “Basically, they wanted the sanctions lifted in their entirety, and we couldn’t do that.”

However, North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho told a news conference past midnight and hours after Trump left Hanoi that North Korea had sought only a partial lifting of sanctions “related to people’s livelihoods and unrelated to military sanctions”.

He said it had offered a realistic proposal involving the dismantling of all of its main nuclear site at Yongbyon, including plutonium and uranium facilities, by engineers from both countries.

North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui told the same briefing she had the impression that Kim “might lose his willingness to pursue a deal” after the U.S. side rejected a partial lifting of sanctions in return for destruction of Yongbyon, “something we had never offered before”.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders, asked about North Korea’s statements, said the president was aware of the comments and the White House had nothing to add to what Trump said at the Hanoi news conference.

US tests first land-based cruise missile after quitting INF treaty

Robie de Guzman   •   August 21, 2019

The U.S. Defense Department on Monday announced the test of a medium-range land-based cruise missile for the first time after pulling out of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty.

It was reported that the “conventionally configured” test missile hit the target after flying more than 500 kilometers on Sunday local time in San Nicolas Island, California.

That was the first time the United States carried out a missile test previously prohibited by the INF, marking the resumption of an arms race.

According to the statement, the data collected from this test will be applied for development of future intermediate-range capabilities.

The INF Treaty, signed in 1987 between the former Soviet Union and the United States, had banned land-based missiles with a range of 500 km (310 miles) to 5,500 km (3,410 miles).

The treaty ceased to operate on Aug 2 after the United States and Russia accused each other of violating it.

On the same day, the U.S. Defense Department announced the full development of the ground-based conventional cruise missile previously banned by the arms control treaty. (Reuters)

Oplan Pamamalakaya: US, PH soldiers install artificial reefs in Batangas

Aileen Cerrudo   •   August 20, 2019

Jackstone-type artificial habitat reefs made from simple construction materials

The Philippine and the United States military divers, along with local government units and non-government organizations installed artificial reefs in Batangas on August 15.

Oplan Pamamalakaya is a collaboration between by the Philippine Air Force, DV Boer Farm, Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), Community Environment and Natural Resources Office, and Municipality of Calatagan local government and residents.

The team were able to install a total of 30 jackstone-type artificial habitat reefs made from simple construction materials. 

“This project was a fantastic opportunity for us to partner with our friends in the PAF and help preserve the Philippine environment for future generations,” said Major Zach Hart, a participating diver.—AAC

Iran warns U.S. against tanker seizure attempt

Robie de Guzman   •   August 19, 2019

Iranian Foreign Minister’s Spokesman Abbas Mousavi (Image grabbed from Reuters footage)

An Iranian tanker headed through the Mediterranean towards Greece on Monday (August 19) after it was released from detention off Gibraltar as Tehran warned against any U.S. move to seize the vessel again.

The Grace 1, renamed the Adrian Darya 1, left anchorage off Gibraltar about 11 p.m. (2100 GMT) on Sunday (August 18).

Refinitiv ship tracking data showed early on Monday that the vessel was heading to Kalamata in Greece.

The seizure of the tanker by British Royal Marines near Gibraltar on July 4 on suspicion it was carrying oil to Syria in violation of European Union sanctions led to a weeks-long stand-off between Tehran and the West. It also heightened tensions on international oil shipping routes through the Gulf.

Gibraltar, a British overseas territory, lifted the detention order on Thursday (August 22) but the next day a federal court in Washington issued a warrant for the seizure of the tanker, the oil it carries and nearly $1 million.

Iran on Monday said any U.S. attempt to seize the tanker would have “heavy consequences” and that a crisis in Iran’s ties with Britain would not be over until the vessel reached its destination. (Reuters)

(Production: Kristian Brunse)

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