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
US Supreme Court Upholds Abortion Clinic Protest Zone Limits In Chicago, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday left in place policies in Chicago and Pennsylvania’s capital Harrisburg that place limits on anti-abortion activists gathered outside abortion clinics.
The justices declined to hear two appeals by anti-abortion groups and individual activists of lower court rulings upholding the cities’ ordinances.
The Chicago policy bars activists from coming within eight feet (2.4 meters) of someone within 50 feet (15 meters) of any healthcare facility without their consent if they intend to protest, offer counseling or hand out leaflets. The Harrisburg measure bars people from congregating or demonstrating within 20 feet (6 meters) of a healthcare facility’s entrance or exit.
Both cases pitted the free speech rights of anti-abortion protesters against public safety concerns raised by women’s healthcare providers regarding demonstrations outside clinics. There is a history of violent acts committed against abortion providers.
At issue before the Supreme Court was whether the ordinances violate free speech rights protected by the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment.
The Chicago-based 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last year upheld the Chicago ordinance, which was introduced in 2009. The Philadelphia-based 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Harrisburg in 2019. That measure was enacted in response to disruptions by protesters outside two abortion clinics in the city.
The cases did not directly implicate abortion rights. In a major ruling on Monday, the struck down a Louisiana law placing restrictions on doctors that perform abortions.
Also on Thursday, the court directed a lower court to reconsider the legality of two Indiana abortion restrictions – one that would require women to undergo an ultrasound procedure at least 18 hours before terminating a pregnancy and another that would expand parental notification when a minor seeks an abortion. The lower court had struck down both measures.
Abortion remains a divisive issue in the United States. The Supreme Court in its landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling legalized abortion nationwide, finding that women have a constitutional right to the procedure. In recent years, numerous Republican-governed states have sought to impose a series of restrictions on abortion.
Federal Judge Reverses Trump Asylum Policy Due To Government Failing To Abide By Administrative Procedure Act
(Law & Crime) — A federal judge appointed by President Donald Trump on Tuesday evening overturned the Trump Administration’s second and most restrictive asylum policy, all because the government failed to abide by the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), the judge reasoned.
In a 52-page opinion, U.S. District Judge Timothy Kelly of Washington, D.C. held that in enacting the rule, which required immigrants to seek asylum in any country they passed through before they could claim asylum in the U.S., the Trump administration “unlawfully dispensed” with mandatory procedural requirements allowing the public to weigh in on proposed rule changes.
Kelly, who was appointed to the court in 2017, rejected the Trump administration’s assertion that the asylum rule fell within exceptions to the APA permitting the government to disregard the notice-and-comment requirement if there’s “good cause” such commentary is unnecessary or if the rule involves a military or foreign affairs function.
“[The court] also holds that Defendants unlawfully promulgated the rule without complying with the APA’s notice-and-comment requirements, because neither the ‘good cause’ nor the ‘foreign affairs function’ exceptions are satisfied on the record here,” Kelly wrote. “Despite their potentially broad sweep, the D.C. Circuit has instructed that these exceptions must be ‘narrowly construed’ and ‘reluctantly countenanced.’ The Circuit has also emphasized that the broader a rule’s reach, ‘the greater the necessity for public comment.’ With these baseline principles in mind, the Court considers whether either the good cause or foreign affairs function exception applies here. Neither does.”
According to Kelly, the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) generally allows any person physically in the U.S. seeking refuge to apply for asylum — with some exceptions for immigrants who have committed certain crimes or who had previously been “firmly resettled” prior to arriving in the U.S.
“The Court reiterates that there are many circumstances in which courts appropriately defer to the national security judgments of the Executive. But determining the scope of an APA exception is not one of them,” Kelly wrote. “As noted above, if engaging in notice-and-comment rulemaking before implementing the rule would have harmed ongoing international negotiations, Defendants could have argued that these effects gave them good cause to forgo these procedures. And they could have provided an adequate factual record to support those predictive judgments to which the Court could defer. But they did not do so.”
Claudia Cubas, the Litigation Director at CAIR Coalition, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, praised the decision as removing an “unjust barrier to protection” for those in need.
“By striking down this rule, Judge Kelly reaffirmed two fundamental principles. The protection of asylum seekers fleeing for safety is intertwined with our national values and that the United States is a country where the rule of law cannot be tossed aside for political whims,” Cubas said.