US says it’s ready to deter N Korea’s ‘bad behavior’ amid Pyongyang pressure

Robie de Guzman   •   November 20, 2019   •   157

Manila – The United States Defense Secretary said Tuesday that Washington was prepared to deter North Korea’s “bad behavior,” after Pyongyang announced it was not interested in holding more “fruitless” summits with his country.

Mark Esper, on his first official visit to the Philippines, made the announcement during a press conference in Manila after North Korea rejected Washington’s request to close the Sunday deal US President Donald Trump offered on Twitter.

Esper said he did not want to make forecasts about the future of the negotiations so far and prefers to move “one step at a time.” However, he warned Pyongyang and said the US is “prepared to deter North Korea’s bad behavior and if that fails we’re prepared to fight tonight.”

Kim Kye-gwan, an important regime figure and ex-North Korean vice-foreign minister, said Monday that there had hardly been improvements in the countries’ bilateral relations after three summits between his leader Kim Jong-un and Trump and urged Washington to end its “hostile policy” toward Pyongyang.

North Korea issued Tuesday a third statement in 24 hours, urging the US to stop what it called a hostile policy and proposed concessions to resume denuclearization talks.

The latest statement, released by state-owned KCNA agency and signed by the country’s chief negotiator in the disarmament negotiations, Kim Myong-gil, said talks were “impossible” if Washington “makes a bold decision to drop the hostile policy” against the regime.

Kim referred to a recent US offer to hold a fresh work meeting in December, which took place through Sweden – a country that has actively mediated between them for years.

The statement said Sweden no longer needed to work for the talks between the US and North Korea, given that the slow progress was “not for lack of communication channel or mediator.”

The recent statements by the regime calling for more concessions come after South Korea and the US announced the cancellation of imminent joint military drills, which the North considers a rehearsal to invade its territory.

The cancellation aims to give impetus to the denuclearization process, which has been blocked since the failed February summit in Hanoi, where Washington considered Pyongyang’s offer to dismantle its nuclear assets insufficient and refused to lift economic sanctions.

Both sides held a working-level meeting in October in Stockholm but it ended with North Korea accusing Washington of offering nothing new and holding onto its “hostile policy.”

Pyongyang has said the White House has until year’s end to consider its proposals and experts believe the regime could conduct new intermediate-range ballistic-missiles weapons tests from January if no progress is made.

After visiting South Korea and Thailand, Esper arrived Monday night in the Philippines and met Filipino counterpart Delfin Lorenzana at Camp Aguinaldo military base, where they discussed the situation in the South China Sea and revision of a Mutual Defense Treaty in 1951.

Esper also visited the Manila American Cemetery, where he paid respects to the US soldiers who died during the World War II in the Philippines.

The US secretary of defense is set to visit Vietnam, where he will conclude his Asia tour. EFE-EPA

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Trump’s defense team asks Senate to speedily reject impeachment case

UNTV News   •   January 21, 2020

US President Donald Trump. EFE-EPA/Jim Lo Scalzo/File

By Susana Samhan

Washington –
Defense attorneys for President Donald Trump on Monday called on the Republican-controlled Senate to “speedily reject” the impeachment case against him, scheduled to begin on Tuesday, and called the Democrats’ investigation of the president “rigged.”

The president’s lawyers had until noon on Monday to present in writing their arguments in defending Trump, after Democratic lawmakers who will be the “managers” of the impeachment case formally expressed their point of view in a similar document last Saturday.

Trump’s lawyers said in their memo released by the White House on Monday that House Democrats during the impeachment inquiry last fall were trying “to corrupt the extraordinary power of impeachment for use as a political tool to overturn the result of the 2016 election and to interfere in the 2020 election.”

“All of that is a dangerous perversion of the Constitution that the Senate should swiftly and roundly condemn,” wrote lead attorney and White House counsel Pat Cipollone. “The Articles themselves – and the rigged process that brought them here – are a brazenly political act by House Democrats that must be rejected.”

In a telephone press conference before the delivery and release of the document, sources working with Trump’s defense team and requesting anonymity refused to clarify if the request for a “speedy” rejection of the two impeachment articles filed against him will include a motion to demand that the Senate simply dismiss the charges.

The source said that they were not going to discuss details about what the defense strategy will be when the trial commences, saying only that neither of the two articles is legitimate because they do not specify that the president broke the law.

In the 171-page document, the legal team focuses more on claiming that the impeachment articles – for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress – are invalid than in denying that Trump illegally pressured Ukraine to launch an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden with an eye toward influencing the 2020 presidential election, in which the former VP is a top Democratic contender.

The attorneys called the charges shaky since they do not specify any crime, despite the fact that many legal scholars assert that a president does not have to break the law to commit an impeachable offense.

During their September-December impeachment investigation, House Democrats say they found ample evidence that Trump abused his power by pressuring Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to announce a bogus Biden corruption investigation while withholding some $400 million in military aid and that he obstructed Congress by refusing to release any documents related to – or allow any White House officials to testify on – the matter.

The two impeachment articles against Trump were approved along party lines in December by the House, but Speaker Nancy Pelosi withheld delivering them to the GOP-led Senate for weeks, during which time additional evidence of administration wrongdoing emerged.

On Saturday, the seven House managers who will prosecute the Democratic case against Trump in the Senate, filed a brief with the upper house saying that the president’s actions constituted “the Framers’ worst nightmare” and his behavior presents a “danger to our democratic processes.”

The president’s defense team includes Cipollone and Jay Sekulow, along with Ken Starr, Alan Dershowitz, Pam Bondi, Jane Raskin, Eric Herschmann and Robert Ray.

Trump is just the third US president to be impeached after Andrew Johnson in 1868 and Bill Clinton in 1998, both of whom were acquitted in the Senate. Richard Nixon resigned before he could be impeached in 1974.

The president will not be in Washington, at least for the start of the trial on Tuesday, because he is scheduled to travel to Davos, Switzerland, for the World Economic Forum.

Trump invites Duterte, other ASEAN leaders for March Summit

Aileen Cerrudo   •   January 20, 2020

ASEAN Summit and Related Meetings in Manila epa06325844 US President Donald J. Trump (L) talks to Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte (R) before the opening ceremony of the 31st Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit in Manila, Philippines,13 November 2017. The Philippines is hosting the 31st ASEAN Summit and Related Meetings from 10 to 14 November. EPA-EFE/MARK R. CRISTINO / POOL

United States (US) President Donald Trump has invited President Rodrigo Duterte and nine other leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nation (ASEAN) for the US-ASEAN Summit in March.

Trump previously invited the ASEAN leaders on November 1, 2019 and reiterated his invitation on January 9, 2020.

“This will provide an excellent opportunity for us to broaden and deepen our cooperation on matters of great importance to the nearly one billion people in the United States and ASEAN nations that we have the privilege to represent,” Trump said in his invitation.

However, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said there is still no official response on whether President Duterte will accept the invitation of the US president.—AAC

US soldiers injured in Iran’s attack on Iraqi military bases

UNTV News   •   January 17, 2020

US soldiers stand next to the damage caused by Iran’s missile attack inside Ain al-Assad air base in Anbar province, Iraq, 14 January 2020. EPA-EFE FILE/STR

Washington, DC — Eleven United States soldiers were injured in the Jan. 8 Iranian bombing of a military base in Iraq in retaliation for the killing of Qasem Soleimani in a targeted strike, the US Central Command said in a statement Thursday.

Initially, the Pentagon had said that the attack had not caused any injuries but now, after re-evaluating the victims, it has identified some symptoms of possible concussions due to the force of the impact of the missiles.

“While no US service members were killed in the Jan. 8 Iranian attack on Al Asad air base, several were treated for concussion symptoms from the blast and are still being assessed,” Centcom spokesperson Bill Urban said in a statement.

“Out of an abundance of caution,” in the days following the attack, eight soldiers were transported from the Al Asad air base in western Iraq to the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, while three others were sent to Camp Arifjan in Kuwait for follow-on screening, the official said.

“When deemed fit for duty, the service members are expected to return to Iraq following screening,” he added.

After the attack on the air base, Iran warned that it was only the beginning of a series of retaliatory actions it would take to avenge the death of Soleimani, the commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps’ elite Quds Force and a highly respected figure in the Persian county, in a US targeted strike in Baghdad on Jan. 3.

At the time, US President Donald Trump chose not to respond to the Iranian offensive with military force and said in a speech to the nation that he would impose more sanctions against Iran.

Those sanctions were directed against eight senior Iranian officials, including Iran’s Supreme National Security Council secretary Ali Shamkhani, as well as against the country’s steel, iron, aluminum and copper industry.

“The United States is targeting senior Iranian officials for their involvement and complicity in Tuesday’s ballistic missile strikes,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin had said in a statement outlining the sanctions.

“We are also designating Iran’s largest metals manufacturers, and imposing sanctions on new sectors of the Iranian economy including construction, manufacturing, and mining,” he added.

Tehran and Washington, which have had no diplomatic relations since 1979, have experienced multiple crises since Trump ordered the US’ exit from a landmark multilateral agreement on Tehran’s nuclear program in 2018.

The current escalation of tension coincides with the downing of a Ukrainian aircraft by the Islamic Republic, which caused the death of all 176 people aboard. EFE-EPA

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