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U.S. has plan to dismantle North Korea nuclear program within a year: Bolton

by UNTV News   |   Posted on Monday, July 2nd, 2018

FILE PHOTO: White House National Security Advisor John Bolton steps from Air Force One upon U.S. President Donald Trump’s arrival in West Palm Beach, Florida, U.S., April 16, 2018. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque/File Photo

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – White House national security adviser John Bolton said on Sunday he believed the bulk of North Korea’s weapons programs could be dismantled within a year, although some experts say the complete process could take far longer.

Bolton told CBS’s “Face the Nation” that Washington has devised a program to dismantle North Korea’s weapons of mass destruction – chemical, biological and nuclear – and ballistic missile programs in a year, if there is full cooperation and disclosure from Pyongyang.

“If they have the strategic decision already made to do that and they’re cooperative, we can move very quickly,” he said. “Physically we would be able to dismantle the overwhelming bulk of their programs within a year.”

He said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will likely discuss that proposal with the North Koreans soon. The Financial Times reported that Pompeo was due to visit North Korea this week but the State Department has not confirmed any travel plans.

Some experts disputed Bolton’s optimistic time frame.

“It would be physically possible to dismantle the bulk of North Korea’s programs within a year,” said Thomas Countryman, the State Department’s top arms control officer under President Barack Obama.

“I do not believe it would be possible to verify full dismantlement within a year, nor have I yet seen evidence of a firm DPRK decision to undertake full dismantlement.”

Siegfried Hecker, a nuclear scientist and Stanford University professor, has predicted it would take around 10 years to dismantle and clean up a substantial part of North Korea’s Yongbyon nuclear site.

South Korea media reported on Sunday that U.S. envoy Sung Kim, the American ambassador to the Philippines, met with North Korean officials at the border on Sunday to coordinate an agenda for Pompeo’s next visit to North Korea.

U.S. intelligence is not certain how many nuclear warheads North Korea has. The Defense Intelligence Agency is at the high end with an estimate of about 50, but all the agencies believe Pyongyang is concealing an unknown number, especially smaller tactical ones, in caves and other underground facilities around the country.

TRUST BUT VERIFY

North Korea agreed at the summit to “work toward denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,” but the joint statement signed by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Donald Trump on June 12 gave no details on how or when Pyongyang might surrender its nuclear weapons.

U.S. intelligence agencies believe North Korea has increased production of fuel for nuclear weapons at multiple secret sites in recent months and may try to hide these while seeking concessions in nuclear talks with the United States, NBC News quoted U.S. officials as saying on Friday.

The Washington Post reported on Saturday that U.S. intelligence officials have concluded that North Korea does not intend to fully give up its nuclear arsenal and is considering ways to hide the number of weapons it has. It also reported Pyongyang has secret production facilities, according to the latest evidence they have.

Bolton refused to comment on intelligence matters but the United States was going into nuclear negotiations aware of Pyongyang’s failure to live up to its promises in the past.

“We know exactly what the risks are – them using negotiations to drag out the length of time they have to continue their nuclear, chemical, biological weapons programs and ballistic missiles,” he said.

“There’s not any starry-eyed feeling among the group doing this,” he said. “We’re well aware of what the North Koreans have done in the past.”

Asia expert Patrick Cronin called the NBC and Washington Post reports “extremely worrisome.”

Cronin, senior director of the Asia-Pacific Security Program at the Center for a New American Security, said he had heard from U.S. and South Korea officials that Pompeo was expected to return to Pyongyang at the end of this week and that Sung Kim was working to prepare the way for that trip.

The U.S. side was “working to see whether they can prepare for high-level talks between Secretary Pompeo and Kim Jong Un and others in Pyongyang that would be a specific denuclearization road map, or at least significant dismantlement steps that could fill in a roadmap,” he said.

Republican Senator Susan Collins said she was troubled by the news reports. “North Korea has a long history of cheating on agreements that it’s made with previous administrations,” she said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” Collins stressed the need for “verifiable, unimpeded, reliable inspections” of the North’s weapons programs.

Another of Trump’s fellow Republicans in the U.S. Senate, Lindsey Graham, echoed the need for skepticism.

“If it is true that they are saying one thing and doing another, nobody should be surprised,” he said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

Reporting by Doina Chiacu; Additional reporting by David Brunnstrom, Lindsay Dunsmuir, Howard Schneider, John Walcott; Editing by Lisa Shumaker and Nick Zieminski

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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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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Empty taxis, buses and hotel lobbies: Cuba sees tourism dropping due to Trump travel restrictions

by Robie de Guzman   |   Posted on Friday, July 12th, 2019

Tourists boarding tourist bus, antique cars that function as tourist taxis parked and waiting for clients, empty lobby in hotel | Courtesy : Reuters

Tourism to Cuba will likely drop 8.5% this year in the wake of tighter U.S. restrictions on travel to the Caribbean island, the government said on Thursday (July 11), and the decline in arrivals will further hurt Cuba’s already ailing centrally planned economy.

A boom in tourism over the last few years has helped offset weaker exports and a steep decline in aid from key ally Venezuela that has forced the government to take austerity measures like cutting imports.

The administration of U.S. President Donald Trump has decided to squeeze that hard currency revenue stream too as part of its attempt to force the government to reform and stop supporting Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro.

Last month it banned cruise ships and private planes and yachts from traveling to the island and ended a heavily used educational category of travel allowed as an exemption to the overall ban on U.S. tourism.

Cubans at the heart of the tourism industry call the changes “noticeable.”

Luis Manuel Perez, who drives antique cars that serve as taxis, said that several drivers had recently resigned because of poor business.

And Fernando Lopez, a horse-drawn carriage driver, said the decline in tourism since the cruise ship restriction has affected all tourism-related industries.

Tourism minister Manuel Marrero estimated 4.3 million people would visit Cuba this year, down from the goal of more than 5 million, and 4.7 million last year.

Looser restrictions on U.S. travel to Cuba under former President Barack Obama, the re-establishment of diplomatic relations and commercial flights and cruises had caused a spike in U.S. visits to the country.

U.S. travelers excluding Cuban-Americans became the second- biggest group of tourists on the island in recent years after Canadians, with cruise travelers accounting for half of them.

But Trump has rolled back much of Obama’s detente and taken additional measures to punish the economy and government.

Marrero said the country would continue to develop the tourism sector regardless of the U.S. measures. It is planning new dolphinariums and the country’s first amusement park, for example.

Cranes tower around Havana at the construction sites of what are to be the city’s first generation of luxury hotels, in a bid to attract a new type of client.

Cuba, which receives just two-thirds of the visitors that neighboring Dominican Republic does although it is twice as large, has traditionally focused on resort tourism or travelers on a medium budget. (REUTERS)

(Production: Nelson Gonzalez/Mario Fuentes/Heriberto Rodriguez/Anett Rios

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