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North Korea will invite outside experts to observe closing of nuclear test site

Kim Jong-un has pledged to allow foreign journalists and experts to witness the decommissioning in May ahead of a meeting with Donald Trump

Trump says summit with Kim Jong-un could happen in ‘three or four weeks’

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Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “North Korea will invite outside experts to observe closing of nuclear test site” was written by Benjamin Haas in Seoul, for theguardian.com on Sunday 29th April 2018 09.04 UTC

The North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, has pledged to shutter a nuclear test site and invite foreign experts and journalists to witness the decommissioning in May as he prepares to meet Donald Trump as early as next month.

Kim also said there was no need for the North to maintain a nuclear arsenal if a peace treaty is formalised and relations with the US improve, according to South Korea’s presidential office.

“Once we start talking, the United States will know that I am not a person to launch nuclear weapons at South Korea, the Pacific or the United States,” Kim was quoted as saying by Yoon Young-chan, a spokesman for the South Korean president, Moon Jae-in.

“If we maintain frequent meetings and build trust with the United States and receive promises for an end to the war and a non-aggression treaty, then why would be need to live in difficulty by keeping our nuclear weapons?”

Kim made the comments during meeting with Moon on Friday, where the two leaders signed a declaration calling for a “nuclear-free Korean peninsula”. Kim earlier said the North would halt nuclear and missile tests, but this was the first mention of inviting foreign observers.

“Some say that we are terminating facilities that are not functioning, but you will see that we have two more tunnels that are bigger than the existing ones and that they are in good condition,” Yoon quoted Kim as saying.

North Korea conducted all six of its nuclear tests at its Punggye-ri facility, buried deep beneath mountains, between 2006 and 2017. There had been speculation last week that the site was damaged beyond repair, a claim Kim seemed to rebuff. Little is known about the North’s military infrastructure so most intelligence is gleaned from satellite photos.

“This is a small but welcome step. But, as always, we must take North Korea’s actions with appropriate caution,” said Mintaro Oba, a former US diplomat who focused on North Korea policy. “We can’t rule out that Kim Jong-un wants to be seen as a maverick. He has a clear taste for bold moves that surprise the international community, something that sets him apart from his father.”

The US and South Korea still needed to maintain continuous dialogue with Pyongyang, Oba said, and he warned Kim is “a master of defining the public narrative”.

A meeting between the leaders of the US and North Korea could take place within “three or four weeks”, Trump said at a rally on Saturday in Michigan. He also warned any discussions “may not work out, I leave”.

Kim also pledge to align the North’s timezone with the South during the inter-Korean summit. Pyongyang time is currently 30 minutes ahead of Seoul, a change instituted by Kim in 2015. The change was framed at the time as a break with Japan’s colonial legacy on the peninsula from 1910 to 1945.

“I feel sad to see that there are two clocks hung on the wall of the Peace House, one for Seoul time and the other for Pyongyang time,” Kim said during his talks with Moon. “Since it is us who changed the time standard, we will return to the original one.”

The unified time zone was meant to ease communication between the South and US, Yoon said.

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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Israel says it has conducted ‘wide-ranging’ air strikes against Hamas

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Israeli aircraft and tanks hit targets across the Gaza Strip Friday after shots were fired at troops on the border, the army said, with Hamas reporting three members of its military wing killed.

An army statement said shots were fired at troops during renewed protests along the Gaza-Israel frontier and “in response, (Israeli) aircraft and tanks targeted military targets throughout the Gaza Strip.”

The IDF says its warplanes have carried out ‘wide-ranging’ air strikes against Hamas targets in Gaza, in response to the earlier gunfire.

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US Secretary of State Pompeo demands “full enforcement of sanctions” on North Korea

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U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told United Nations Security Council envoys on Friday that there needs to be “concrete actions” by North Korea before an easing of sanctions on Pyongyang can be discussed, said Dutch U.N. Ambassador Karel van Oosterom.

“The secretary made very clear we need concrete deeds, concrete actions and only then we can start the discussion,” van Oosterom told reporters after Pompeo informally briefed envoys from the 15-member council, Japan and South Korea behind closed doors at the South Korea U.N. mission.

(New York Times)

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Michael Cohen Secretly Taped Trump Discussing Payment to Playboy Model

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 President Trump’s longtime lawyer, Michael D. Cohen, secretly recorded a conversation with Mr. Trump two months before the presidential election in which they discussed payments to a former Playboy model who said she had an affair with Mr. Trump, according to lawyers and others familiar with the recording.

The F.B.I. seized the recording this year during a raid on Mr. Cohen’s office. The Justice Department is investigating Mr. Cohen’s involvement in paying women to tamp down embarrassing news stories about Mr. Trump ahead of the 2016 election. Prosecutors want to know whether that violated federal campaign finance laws, and any conversation with Mr. Trump about those payments would be of keen interest to them.

The recording’s existence further draws Mr. Trump into questions about tactics he and his associates used to keep aspects of his personal and business life a secret. And it highlights the potential legal and political danger that Mr. Cohen represents to Mr. Trump. Once the keeper of many of Mr. Trump’s secrets, Mr. Cohen is now seen as increasingly willing to consider cooperating with prosecutors.

Rudolph W. Giuliani, Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer, confirmed in a telephone conversation on Friday that Mr. Trump had discussed the payments with Mr. Cohen on the tape but said the payment was ultimately never made. He said the recording was less than two minutes and demonstrated that the president had done nothing wrong.

“Nothing in that conversation suggests that he had any knowledge of it in advance,” Mr. Giuliani said, adding that Mr. Trump had directed Mr. Cohen that if he were to make a payment related to the woman, write a check, rather than sending cash, so it could be properly documented.

“In the big scheme of things, it’s powerful exculpatory evidence,” Mr. Giuliani.

Mr. Cohen’s lawyers discovered the recording as part of their review of the seized materials and shared it with Mr. Trump’s lawyers, according to three people briefed on the matter.

“We have nothing to say on this matter,” Mr. Cohen’s lawyer, Lanny J. Davis, said when asked about the tape.

(New York Times)

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