AP: Trump, Kim share smiles, dinner before nuke talks

HANOI, Vietnam (AP) — U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un projected optimism Wednesday as they opened high-stakes talks about curbing Pyongyang’s pursuit of nuclear weapons, a problem that has bedeviled generations of leaders.

The second summit between Trump and Kim came against the backdrop of the American president’s domestic troubles. As the leaders dined on steak and chocolate cake, Trump’s former personal attorney was readying explosive congressional testimony claiming the president is a “conman” who lied abut his business interests with Russia.

The turmoil in Washington has escalated concerns that Trump, eager for an agreement, would give Kim too much and get too little in return. The leaders’ first meeting in June was heavy with historic pageantry but light on any enforceable agreements for North Korea to give up its nuclear arsenal. Still, both offered optimistic words before dinner.

“A lot of things are going to be solved I hope,” Trump said as dinner began. “I think it will lead to a wonderful, really a wonderful situation long-term.”

Kim said his country had long been “misunderstood” and viewed with “distrust.”

“There have been efforts, whether out of hostility or not, to block the path that we intend to take,” he said. “But we have overcome all these and walked toward each other again and we’ve now reached Hanoi after 261 days” since their first meeting in Singapore.

“We have met again here and I am confident that we can achieve great results that everyone welcomes,” he added.

The leaders’ formal talks continue Thursday. Possible outcomes could include a peace declaration for the Korean War that the North could use to eventually push for the reduction of U.S. troops in South Korea, or sanctions relief that could allow Pyongyang to pursue lucrative economic projects with the South.

Skeptics say such agreements would leave in place a significant portion of North Korea’s nuclear-tipped missiles while robbing the United States of its negotiating leverage going forward.

Asked if this summit would yield a political declaration to end the Korean War, Trump told reporters: “We’ll see.”

Trump’s schedule for Thursday promised a “joint agreement signing ceremony” after their meetings conclude.

The two leaders were joined for dinner by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, Kim Yong Chol, a former military spy chief and Kim’s point man in negotiations, and North Korean Foreign Affairs Minister Ri Yong Ho. Interpreters for each side also attended.

Trump did not answer a question from a reporter about his former attorney Michael Cohen’s congressional testimony. Shortly after, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders excluded some U.S. reporters, including the reporter from The Associated Press who asked the president about Cohen, from covering Trump and Kim’s dinner.

“Due to the sensitive nature of the meetings we have limited the pool for the dinner to a smaller group,” she said in a statement.

Still, Trump was unable to ignore the drama playing out thousands of miles away, tweeting that Cohen “did bad things unrelated to Trump” and “is lying in order to reduce his prison time.”

Cohen has been sentenced to three years in prison for lying to Congress.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., a close White House ally, said the Cohen hearing was evidence that “Democrats’ hatred of Trump is undercutting an important foreign policy effort and is way out of line.”

Anticipation for what could be accomplished at the summit ran high in Hanoi, and there were cheers and gasps as Trump’s motorcade barreled through this bustling city. Crowds three or four deep lined the streets and jockeyed to capture his procession with their mobile phones.

The carnival-like atmosphere in the Vietnamese capital, with street artists painting likenesses of the leaders and vendors hawking T-shirts showing Kim waving and Trump giving a thumbs-up, contrasted with the serious items on their agenda: North Korea’s nuclear weapons program and peace on the Korean Peninsula.

Trump has been trying to convince Kim that his nation could thrive economically like the host country, Vietnam, if he would end his nuclear weapons program.

“I think that your country has tremendous economic potential — unbelievable, unlimited,” Trump said. “I think that you will have a tremendous future with your country — a great leader — and I look forward to watching it happen and helping it to happen.”

The summit venue, the colonial and neoclassical Sofitel Legend Metropole in the old part of Hanoi, came with its own dose of history: Trump was trying to talk Kim into giving up his nuclear arsenal at a hotel with a bomb shelter that protected the likes of actress Jane Fonda and singer Joan Baez from American air raids during the Vietnam War.

After their first summit, where Trump and Kim signed a joint statement agreeing to work toward a denuclearized Korean Peninsula, the president prematurely declared victory, tweeting that “There is no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea.” The facts did not support that claim.

North Korea has spent decades, at great economic sacrifice, building its nuclear program, and there are doubts that it will give away that program without getting something substantial from the U.S.

The Korean conflict ended in 1953 with an armistice, essentially a cease-fire signed by North Korea, China and the 17-nation, U.S.-led United Nations Command. A peace declaration would amount to a political statement, ostensibly teeing up talks for a formal peace treaty that would involve other nations.

North and South Korea also want U.S. sanctions dialed back so they can resurrect two major symbols of rapprochement that provided $150 million a year to the impoverished North by some estimates: a jointly run factory park in the North Korean border city of Kaesong and South Korean tours to the North’s scenic Diamond Mountain resort.

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AP journalists Hau Dinh and Hyung-jin Kim in Hanoi and Kim Tong-hyung in Seoul, South Korea, contributed to this report.

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‘TIME TO BRING OUR SOLDIERS HOME’: Trump calls for end to military drills on Korean peninsula in wake of successful Singapore summit

Washington, D.C. — President Donald Trump on Tuesday called for an immediate end to all military drills on the Korean peninsula following the penning of a historic agreement with North Korea in which North Korean leader Kim Jung- Un agreed to the denuclearization of his region.

“We will be stopping the war games, which will save us a tremendous amount of money unless and until we see the future negotiation is not going along like it should,” Trump said after his meeting with Kim. “But we’ll be saving a tremendous amount of money. Plus, I think it’s very provocative.”

It’s time to “bring our soldiers back home,” he added.

While those hoping for peace worldwide celebrated the president’s comments, South Korean leaders took the news with a certain level of apprehension.

“At this current point, there is a need to discern the exact meaning and intent of President Trump’s comments,” Seoul’s Defense Ministry said, according to the Associated Press.

A spokesperson for U.S. Forces Korea, which oversees approximately 30,000 troops on the Korean Peninsula, said the military unit has not yet received clarification as to when the ongoing exercises will end.

“The USFK has received no updated guidance on execution or cessation of training exercises — to include this fall’s scheduled Ulchi Freedom Guardian,” the spokesperson said in a statement.

Still, as Republicans tout the history-making agreement with Kim, Democrats have been quick to criticize Trump as ‘naive” in his negotiations with the North Korean leader.

“In his haste to reach an agreement, President Trump elevated North Korea to the level of the United States while preserving the regime’s status quo,” House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said on Tuesday. “The millions of families currently living in fear of nuclear weapons in the region deserve strong and smart leadership built on diplomacy and engagement with our regional partners and allies.”

“The President’s marginalization of the vast expertise of the State Department and his habitual disparaging of our allies as demonstrated at the G7 Forum hinders a lasting, stable pathway to peace,” Pelosi added.

But an undeterred Trump on Tuesday celebrated the monumental agreement and criticized prior administrations for allowing U.S., North Korea relations to deteriorate to such levels.

“You know, we did sanctions and all the things you would do but I think without the rhetoric,” the president said during an appearance on Sean Hannity. “You know, other administrations, I don’t want to get specific on that, but you know they had a policy of silence.”

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IT’S OFFICIAL: Trump wins nomination for Nobel Peace Prize

Washington, D.C. (Washington Examiner) — Eighteen House Republicans have formally nominated President Trump for the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize for his role in helping to improve relations between North and South Korea.

Led by Rep. Luke Messer, R-Ind., the Republican lawmakers sent a letter to the Norwegian Nobel Committee on Wednesday outlining the actions Trump has taken to pressure North Korea to end its nuclear weapons program and commit to a denuclearized Korean peninsula.

“Although North Korea has evaded demands from the international community to cease its aggressions for decades, President Trump’s peace through strength policies are working and bringing peace to the Korean Peninsula,” the Republicans wrote. “We can think of no one more deserving of the committee’s recognition in 2019 than President Trump for his tireless work to bring peace to our world.”

The GOP lawmakers credited the Trump administration with uniting the international community to impose sanctions on Pyongyang, which they said have “decimated the North Korean economy and have been largely credited for bringing North Korea to the negotiating table.”

Messer has been pushing for a Nobel Peace Prize for Trump since March, and last week, the Indiana congressman said he was gathering support from his congressional colleagues to formally nominate the president.

His latest push came after South Korean President Moon Jae-in met for a historic summit with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un. The two committed to ending the 65-year-old Korean War and will sign a peace treaty.

In a joint statement released after the meeting before the two Koreas, North and South Korea said they’re committed to achieving a denuclearized Korean Peninsula.

Trump has agreed to meet with Kim himself, though the date and location are still being discussed.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, then the CIA director, met with Kim last month.

“This is more progress in North Korea than we saw during the entire Obama administration,” Messer said in a statement. “And it’s a direct result of President Trump’s leadership on the world stage.”

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IT’S ON! North Korean leader Kim Jong Un agrees to sit down with Trump at DMZ

WASHINGTON, D.C.– North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has agreed to meet President Trump for a landmark summit, claims a report published Tuesday.

According to CNN, there’s a “strong possibility” the meeting will take place at the venue in Panmunjom, an area located on the border between North and South Korea.

The announcement comes after last week’s highly publicized meeting between Jong-un and South Korean president Moon Jae-in during which the pair vowed to work together to help ensure the “complete denuclearization” of the peninsula.

A spokesperson for Moon on Tuesday said he backed the proposal.

“(We) think Panmunjom is quite meaningful as a place to erode the divide and establish a new milestone for peace,” the spokesperson said. “Wouldn’t Panmunjom be the most symbolic place?”

Trump, who praised the peace agreement between Jong-un and Jae-in, said he was in favor of holding the meeting at Panmunjom.

“There’s something I like about it, because you’re there, if things work out, there’s a great celebration to be had on the site, not in a third-party country,” he said during a White House news conference in the Rose Garden on Monday.

A select few other locations are also being considered for the meeting, but one thing that is said to be paramount is neutrality.

“Ultimately, they need a country where both leaders have the security they need,” Jean Lee, a North Korea expert at the Wilson Center, told CNN. “To have a country where they can meet in common ground … it’s a small number of countries to be honest.”

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FINDING MIDDLE GROUND: Trump agrees to talks with North Korea leader Kim Jung-un

WASHINGTON, D.C. — President Donald Trump on Wednesday announced that he would be willing to talk with North Korean leader Kim Jung-un, “at the appropriate time, under the right circumstances.

The breakthrough in peace talks came as a result of the president’s telephone call with South Korean Pres. Moon Jae-in, according to The White House.

The announcement came via a press release issued by The White House Wednesday afternoon.

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PRESIDENT TRUMP: ‘Era of strategic patience’ with North Korea ‘is over’

TOKYO, JAPAN — President Donald Trump stepped up his war of words against North Korea on Monday while speaking at a joint press conference with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Speaking of the ongoing tensions with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, Trump said the “era of strategic patience is over”.

The president made the comments as he tours Asia alongside wife, Melania Trump.

“Some people said that my rhetoric is very strong,” said Trump. “But look at what’s happened with very weak rhetoric over the last 25 years. Look where we are now.”

Prime Minister Abe said he and President Trump are in “complete agreement” on the need to step up efforts against North Korea and pledged to help the United States do whatever is necessary to curb Jong-un’s nuclear ambitions.

“We were in complete agreement as to the measures to be taken on the situation with North Korea,” Abe said, adding that he agrees with President Trump’s assertion that “all options” should remain on the table when it comes to dealing with Jong-un.

“For more than 20 some years, the international community attempted dialogue with North Korea,” Abe said. “Now is the time not for dialogue but for applying a maximum level of pressure on North Korea.”

On Tuesday, President Trump will head to South Korea, where he is expected to meet with South Korean government officials on the growing escalations regarding their neighbors to the north.

When asked by “Full Measure” in an interview that aired Sunday whether or not he would be willing to meet face to face with Jong-un, Trump said he would (http://fullmeasure.news/news/terrorism-security/president-trump-on-security).

“I would sit with anybody I feel. I don’t think it’s strength or weakness. I think sitting down with people is not a bad thing,” he said.

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BREAKING NEWS: NORTH KOREA NUCLEAR THREAT

WASHINGTON, D.C. — According to military officials, North Korea has successfully tested a nuclear weapon that has the ability to be loaded on to a long-range missile that is capable of reaching the United States.

The rogue nation tested the weapon overnight, causing a 5.6 magnitude tremor. South Korean officials said the latest test took place in Kilju County, where the North’s Punggye-ri nuclear test site is located.

China, North Korea’s only major ally, has publicly condemned the test.

North Korea “has ignored the international community’s widespread opposition, again carrying out a nuclear test. China’s government expresses resolute opposition and strong condemnation toward this,” a Chinese foreign ministry official said in a statement.

I will, of course, be watching for developments on this breaking story and will report the latest updates as they come available.

 

…STORY DEVELOPING

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KIM TARGETS TRUMP: North Korea vows ‘ruthless’ retaliation toward America as tensions mount

Washington, D.C. — North Korea released a propaganda video on Tuesday showing President Donald Trump looking out over a graveyard full of crosses (http://www.express.co.uk/news/world/844271/World-War-3-North-Korea-v-USA-Guam-warning-video-propaganda-Kim-Jong-Un).

The video, which was paired with an ominous warning from North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, criticized the president for “spouting rubbish” and parodied his frequent use of Twitter and other social media platforms.

The video also showed a figure resembling Vice President Pence consumed by flames and mocked South Korea’s “puppy-like” Defense Minister Song Young-moo for “pinning hope on that mad guy.”

“Trump spouted rubbish that if a war breaks out, it would be on the Korean Peninsula, and if thousands of people die, they would be only Koreans and Americans may sleep a sound sleep,” a statement from KCNA, North Korea’s official news agency, read on Tuesday.

In a separate statement issued by South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency (http://english.yonhapnews.co.kr/news/2017/08/22/0200000000AEN20170822002752315.html), the KCNA vowed to wage “ruthless” retaliation against South Korea and the U.S. in response to their participation in a series of ongoing joint military exercises.

“The U.S. will be wholly held accountable for the catastrophic consequences to be entailed by such reckless aggressive war maneuvers, as it chose a military confrontation [with North Korea],” a North Korean military spokesman told the KCNA.

In related news, the US Treasury Department announced on Tuesday new sanctions which target Chinese and Russian entities that help fund and facilitate North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

“As a result of today’s action, any property or interests in property of the designated persons in the possession or control of US persons or within the United States must be blocked, and US persons are generally prohibited from dealing with them,” the Treasury Department said in a released statement (https://www.treasury.gov/press-center/press-releases/Pages/sm0148.aspx).

“Treasury will continue to increase pressure on North Korea by targeting those who support the advancement of nuclear and ballistic missile programs and isolating them from the American financial system,” Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said. “It is unacceptable for individuals and companies in China, Russia and elsewhere to enable North Korea to generate income used to develop weapons of mass destruction and destabilize the region. We are taking actions consistent with UN sanctions to show that there are consequences for defying sanctions and providing support to North Korea and to deter this activity in the future.”

North Korea’s latest round of threats come on the heals of Monday’s Reuters report which revealed that two North Korean shipments bound for a Syrian chemical arms facility were recently “intercepted.”

“The panel is investigating reported prohibited chemical, ballistic missile and conventional arms cooperation between Syria and the [North Korea],” the report read (http://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-northkorea-syria-un-idUKKCN1B12G8?utm_campaign=trueAnthem:+Trending+Content&utm_content=599b6e2604d301797510cb1b&utm_medium=trueAnthem&utm_source=twitter).

North Korea has been under U.N. sanctions since 2006 over its ballistic missile and nuclear weapons programs. The Security Council has stepped up efforts in recent weeks to shut those programs down since North Korea’s recent tests of nuclear weapons and four long-range missile launches.

President Trump has heavily called on China to put more pressure on North Korea but thus far China has done little to curb the threats of it’s neighbor and ally.

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NORTH KOREA THREATENS US WITH NUCLEAR STRIKE IN WAKE OF TOUGHER SANCTIONS

WASHINGTON, D.C. — North Korea said on Monday that it’s ready to give the United States a “severe lesson” in the wake of stricter sanctions imposed upon the rogue state by the United Nations.

The statement came after the U.N. Security Council voted unanimously to approve tough new U.S.-drafted sanctions last Saturday, which included a ban on coal and other exports worth over $1 billion.

Speaking at the ASEAN Regional Forum on Monday, North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho blamed the Trump administration for the UN crackdown and said it’s ready to give the United States a “severe lesson” if met with military force to surrender it’s nuclear weapons.

“We will, under no circumstances, put the nukes and ballistic rockets on the negotiating table,” North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho told the ASEAN Regional Forum on Monday.

Yong Ho’s comments coincided with a statement released by North Korea’s state-run KCNA news agency in which North Korean officials accused the United States of “trying to drive the situation of the Korean peninsula to the brink of nuclear war, running amuck to conduct missile drill against the DPRK and deploying massive strategic equipment to the peninsula.”

“(North Korea) will make the US pay dearly for all the heinous crimes it commits against the state and people of this country,” KCNA said.

In response, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the new UN measures were necessary to send a message to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un that the international community is united in its efforts to disarm North Korea of it’s nuclear weapons.

“We hope again that this ultimately will result in North Korea coming to a conclusion to choose a different pathway, and when the conditions are right that we can sit and have a dialogue around the future of North Korea so that they feel secure and prosper economically,” Tillerson said.

When asked about a time frame while speaking at the annual Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) meeting in Manila, Tillerson said America’s patience is wearing thin but that the Trump administration is doing everything it can to avoid bloodshed by first taking the strategic route.

“We’re not going to give someone a specific number of days or weeks,” Tillerson said. “This is not a ‘give me 30 days and we are ready to talk.’ It’s not quite that simple. So it is all about how we see their attitude toward approaching a dialogue with us.”

“The best signal that North Korea could give us that they’re prepared to talk would be to stop these missile launches,” Tillerson added.

However, according to a White House statement, during a phone call between President Trump and South Korean president Moon Jae-in on Sunday, the leaders “affirmed that North Korea poses a grave and growing direct threat to the United States, South Korea and Japan, as well as to most countries around the world.”

Chinese state media on Monday said it agreed that North Korea must be punished for its missile tests, but criticized the U.S. for its “arrogance”. China, the second largest foreign creditor of the United States behind Japan, is North Korea’s most important ally.

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NORTH KOREA ACCUSES CIA OF ASSASSINATION PLOT TO TAKE OUT KIM JONG UN AS THREATS OF NUCLEAR STRIKE CONTINUE

PYONGYANG, NORTH KOREA — North Korean officials on Friday accused the United States of staging a CIA plot to assassinate dictator Kim Jong Un.

Accusing U.S. officials with working with South Korea to take out the North Korean leader with a “biochemical substance,” the rogue state vowed to “mercilessly destroy” those behind the plot.

According to a propaganda piece published by North Korea’s state-run Korean Central News Agency, “a hideous terrorists’ group” directed by the Central Intelligence Agency and South Korean cohorts “ideologically corrupted” a North Korean dissident and paid the man, who was identified only only as “Kim”, over $20,000 to carry out the hit.

“The Central Intelligence Agency of the U.S. and the Intelligence Service (IS) of south Korea, hotbed of evils in the world, hatched a vicious plot to hurt the supreme leadership of the DPRK and those acts have been put into the extremely serious phase of implementation after crossing the threshold of the DPRK,” the KCNA said (http://www.reuters.com/article/us-northkorea-usa-idUSKBN18113D?feedType=RSS&feedName=topNews&utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=Social). “A hideous terrorists’ group, which the CIA and the IS infiltrated into the DPRK on the basis of covert and meticulous preparations to commit state-sponsored terrorism against the supreme leadership of the DPRK by use of bio-chemical substance, has been recently detected.”

“They hatched a plot of letting human scum Kim commit bomb terrorism targeting the supreme leadership during events at the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun and at military parade and public procession after his return home,” the statement continued. “They told him that assassination by use of biochemical substances including radioactive substance and nano poisonous substance is the best method that does not require access to the target, their lethal results will appear after six or twelve months.”

The North’s Ministry of State Security released a statement referring to the plot as “the last-ditch effort” of U.S. “imperialists” and a “pipe-dream” that could never succeed. “Criminals going hell-bent to realize such a pipe dream cannot survive on this land even a moment,” the statement read.

The National Intelligence Service has dismissed North Korea’s accusations as “groundless”.

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