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North Korea says it could reconsider Trump summit after cancelling Seoul talks

  • State news agency warns US over ‘provocative’ military exercises
  • Official says North Korea has no interest in ‘one-sided’ talks with US

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Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “North Korea threatens to cancel Trump summit over nuclear demands” was written by Julian Borger in Washington and Justin McCurry in Tokyo, for The Guardian on Wednesday 16th May 2018 07.51 UTC

North Korea has abruptly cancelled high-level talks with Seoul and threatened to pull out of a planned summit with Donald Trump if the US continues to insist on the regime giving up all of its nuclear weapons.

A North Korean official said the country had no interest in a summit with US if it was based on “one-sided” demands to give up nuclear weapons, according to state media.

Citing first vice minister of foreign affairs Kim Kye-gwan, North Korea’s central news agency also said the fate of the US summit as well as bilateral relations “would be clear” if Washington speaks of a Libya-style denuclearisation for the North.

The statement added Trump would remain as a “failed president” if he followed in the steps of his predecessors.

“We will appropriately respond to the Trump administration if it approaches the North Korea-US summit meeting with a truthful intent to improve relations,” Kim said.

He added: “But we are no longer interested in a negotiation that will be all about driving us into a corner and making a one-sided demand for us to give up our nukes and this would force us to reconsider whether we would accept the North Korea-US summit meeting.”

The statement came after North Korea cancelled a meeting with South Korean officials just two hours before it was due to start on Wednesday, in protest at joint US-South Korean military exercises, codenamed Max Thunder.

The drills, which began on Friday, involve about 100 warplanes from the US and South Korea, including eight F-22 stealth fighters and an unspecified number of B-52 bombers.

Yonhap news agency quoted an unnamed source as saying that a B-52 bomber, which has yet to join the drills, may not participate, in what could be interpreted as a concession to Pyongyang.

But South Korea’s defence ministry said exercises will continue, saying they were strictly defensive in nature and designed to help pilots improve their skills.

Max Thunder is one of several annual exercises involving the US and South Korean military that are routinely condemned by the North as preparation for an invasion.

South Korea’s defence minister, Song Young-moo, was to hold an emergency meeting with Gen Vincent Brooks, the commander of US Forces Korea, to discuss the allies’ response to the North’s protest.

For North Korea, the presence of bombers in joint US-South Korea drills triggers painful memories of the 1950-53 Korean war.

According to US air force estimates, bombing raids by US B-29s caused more damage to North Korea’s urban centres during that conflict than that seen in Germany or Japan during the second world war, with the US dumping 635,000 tons of bombs on Korea compared with 503,000 tons during the entire Pacific war.

Baik Tae-hyun, a spokesman for South Korea’s unification ministry, described Pyongyang’s decision as “regrettable” and said it ran counter to the “spirit and purpose” of the Panmunjom declaration agreed by Kim and the South Korean president, Moon Jae-in, last month.

Baik urged the North to swiftly return to the talks but would not speculate on whether the North’s move would affect next month’s planned meeting between Kim and Trump.

KCNA said the manoeuvres represented a “flagrant challenge” to the joint declaration by Kim and Moon at a summit at the “truce village” of Panmunjom on the dividing line between their countries in April.

The two leaders agreed to completely “cease all hostile acts against each other in every domain, including land, air and sea, that are the source of military tension and conflict”.

The state department spokeswoman, Heather Nauert, said the US had not heard directly from North Korea about any second thoughts.

“What we have to go on is what Kim Jong-un has said before, that he understands and appreciates the importance to the United States of having these joint exercises,” Nauert said. “We have had no formal or informal notification of anything.”

“We will continue to plan the meeting.”

Kim Hyun-wook, a professor at the Korea national diplomatic academy in Seoul, said: “North Korea knows that cancelling the (Trump-Kim) summit would not be good for its own interests, and not good for US interests either. But the North Korean regime cannot accept US demands for denuclearisation without first receiving guarantees about its security. Let’s see what Trump does about this.”

In its complaint about the exercises, the Pyongyang regime described them as offensive war games targeting North Korea. A Pentagon spokesman, Col Rob Manning, said they were defensive.

US and South Korean officials had previously said that North Korea would accept joint military exercises in the run-up to the Trump summit.

The Panmunjom summit was supposed to have been followed by a meeting of senior officials from the two Koreas on Wednesday to implement a declaration agreed by Moon and Kim. The agenda included issues such as a formal end to the Korean war, denuclearisation and reunions of families separated by the 1950-53 conflict.

“The North Koreans know how to make an explicit threat. By their standards, this is pretty circumspect,” said Adam Mount, a senior fellow at the Federation of American Scientists. “It could very well be a play for additional leverage or to see how the Trump team reacts.”

Mintaro Oba, a former state department expert on Korea, said in a tweet:

“The question is whether they’re willing to go so far as to go through with it, or whether they’re mainly trying to gain some leverage [and] test how much we want the summit.”

Meanwhile, satellite photos suggest that the North Korean leadership is so far following through on its promise to dismantle its nuclear test site at Punggye-ri.

Pictures published by 38 North, a website analysing Korean issues, several buildings around the mountain site have been razed in recent days.

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

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US Supreme Court Upholds Abortion Clinic Protest Zone Limits In Chicago, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

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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.

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Federal Judge Reverses Trump Asylum Policy Due To Government Failing To Abide By Administrative Procedure Act

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(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.

Read the full opinion below:

Asylum Ban Decision by Law&Crime on Scribd

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US Supreme Court Rules Public Funds Allowed For Religious Schools In State Tax Credit Program

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USA Today writes:

The Supreme Court delivered a major victory Tuesday to parents seeking state aid for their children’s religious school education. The court’s conservative majority ruled that states offering scholarships to students in private schools cannot exclude religious schools from such programs.

The decision was written by Chief Justice John Roberts, who has joined the liberal justices in three other major rulings this month. It was a decision long sought by proponents of school choice and vehemently opposed by teachers’ unions, who fear it could drain needed tax dollars from struggling public schools.

Read the US Supreme Court ruling here or below.

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