Posts Tagged ‘Mike Pence’

Trump’s Immigration Choice

June 21, 2018

Does he want his border wall and a Dreamer solution, or not?

Watched by Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and Vice President Mike Pence, President Donald Trump signs an executive order on immigration in the Oval Office of the White House, June 20.
Watched by Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and Vice President Mike Pence, President Donald Trump signs an executive order on immigration in the Oval Office of the White House, June 20. PHOTO: MANDEL NGAN/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES

President Trump on Wednesday walked back his policy of separating immigrant children from their parents at the border that had united most of America in opposition. This may mitigate some self-inflicted political damage, but Congress ought to go further and pass a bill that fixes this and other immigration woes.

In classic Trumpian fashion, the President took credit for reversing a policy he had previously said he couldn’t reverse. “We’ve dealt with a lot of different problems. This is one that has been going on for many decades,” Mr. Trump said in the Oval Office. “So we’re keeping families together and this will solve that problem. At the same time we are keeping a very powerful border and it continues to be a zero tolerance. We have zero tolerance for people that enter our country illegally.”

But this was a problem of his own creation, and “zero tolerance” is part of it. In May the Justice Department directed that all immigrants apprehended at the border be prosecuted as criminals. But a 1997 consent decree known as the Flores settlement prohibits the detention of children. So the Department of Health and Human Services took custody of the kids as their parents were charged and processed for deportation.

Homeland Security had previously kept families together in detention centers for a few weeks and then released them with ankle monitors. Restrictionists claimed letting immigrants go encouraged illegal immigration, though border apprehensions had been falling for years until a modest surge in recent months.

About 2,300 kids have been separated from their parents since May, and pictures of caged toddlers and recordings of crying babies have resulted in the biggest public backlash of the Trump Presidency.

Mr. Trump’s executive order is clever in trying to duck the Flores settlement by assigning the Defense Department to house the detained families, presumably in barracks. Meanwhile, the order instructs the Attorney General to ask the court to “modify” the Flores settlement to allow other detention solutions that keep families together. All of this should get the traumatized toddlers out of the headlines.

But the President will face another defeat of his own making on Thursday if the House rejects a compromise immigration bill negotiated by GOP leaders. The bill tries to satisfy competing GOP factions by toughening enforcement while granting legal status to the 1.8 million so-called Dreamers who were brought here illegally as kids.

Restrictionists as ever are playing their “amnesty” song, though the bill fulfills all of Mr. Trump’s priorities including cutting family-based migration, ending the diversity lottery and authorizing $25 billion for a border wall. Their main gripe is that Dreamers could eventually qualify for green cards and thus have a pathway to citizenship. The claim is that this supposedly rewards “lawbreakers,” though someone else brought them here.

Even President Trump has endorsed a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers. Restrictionists also cavil that the bill doesn’t eliminate family-based migration in toto, but that isn’t a majority position even in the GOP. The bill re-allocates 88,000 visas for family preferences and the diversity lottery to Dreamers.

What the GOP restrictionists really want is to deport all illegal immigrants, no matter the harm to families or how long they’ve been here. They also want to reduce legalimmigration, as legislation sponsored by Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte would do. His bill includes an e-Verify mandate on employers, slashes family-based preferences and boosts interior enforcement. This is unacceptable to Members who represent immigrant communities or farm families that need more workers.

The leadership’s bill has a shot if Mr. Trump would offer some full-throated protection to Members against the restrictionists. The President huddled with Republicans on Tuesday and endorsed both bills, but that is a cop-out. It’s an excuse for conservatives to vote for Goodlatte, though they know it will fail.

If Mr. Trump wants a solution for Dreamers and his border wall, he needs to say publicly and clearly that the “amnesty” charge is a distortion. Otherwise he’ll get nothing and Democrats will run against GOP failure in November.


Trump signs order to stop separating families at border

June 20, 2018

Government officials familiar with early drafts say the executive order would allow families to be held in immigration detention together.

President Donald Trump, under pressure from angry members of his own party, signed on Wednesday an executive order that is meant to keep families together at the border, halting a policy he instituted earlier this year.

“It’s about keeping families together while ensuring we have a powerful border,” Trump said of the order.

Image may contain: 3 people, people standing, suit and indoor

President Donald Trump signs an executive order on immigration in the Oval Office of the White House with Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and Vice President Mike Pence on June 20, 2018 in Washington.Mandel Ngan / AFP – Getty Images

Trump said the order “will solve that problem” of children being separated from their parents, but that it wouldn’t end his administration’s “zero tolerance” policy of charging everyone who attempts to cross the U.S.-Mexico border illegally, a decision that led to the current crisis.

“I didn’t like sight of families being separated,” Trump said.

Earlier in the day, Trump had said he’d “be doing something that’s somewhat pre-emptive and ultimately will be matched by legislation I’m sure,” after he was asked if he wanted to try to keep to families together at the U.S. border.

Trump did not disclose exactly what he would be signing, but an administration official confirmed to NBC News that an executive order had been drafted by the departments of Justice and Homeland Security to temporarily stop separating children from the parents of people detained at the border.

Government officials familiar with early drafts of the executive order also told NBC News it would allow families to be detained together but would not stop the “zero tolerance” policy of charging people with a misdemeanor for entering illegally.

Several administration officials say the executive order would allow families to be held in immigration detention together. That will run up against a longstanding federal court decree that prohibits the government from holding children in detention for long periods — generally around 20 days.

The order will also move up hearings for families in detention, putting them at the head of the line, to speed up that processing, officials said.

It remains unclear how the government will get around the immediate separations that occur when the parents are charged with a crime and taken to court for entering illegally. But officials say they believe they have found a way to continue those charges without separating the children.

The president, nonetheless, doubled down on his hard-line stance on immigration, saying that he “like to be strong” and that migrants were “using the children as a ticket to get into” the U.S.

Trump also announced that he’d canceled a congressional picnic that had been scheduled for Thursday, saying the timing “just didn’t feel right.”

Trump’s announcement contradict comments he made last week — he said Friday that when it came to keeping migrant families together, “you can’t do it through executive order” — but follow intense and growing backlash to his administration’s policy of separating children from parents who cross the U.S.-Mexico border illegally. Many Republicans have demanded an end to the policy, and bills are under consideration in Congress that would halt it.

Pressure grew Tuesday night after The Associated Press reported that Trump administration officials have been sending babies and other young children forcibly separated from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border to at least three “tender age” shelters in South Texas.

First lady Melania Trump has also been a factor, a source familiar with the matter told NBC News. According the source, Mrs. Trump has been having private discussions behind the scenes in order to try to end the separation of kids and families at the border. Earlier this week, she uncharacteristically waded into the immigration debate, pushing for bipartisan cooperation to end the separation of migrant children from their parents at the border.

The House is set to vote Thursday on two immigration bills: a more conservative bill authored by Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, and a compromise immigration bill.

Following Trump’s remarks, roughly two dozen House Republicans headed to the White House to discuss the measures.

Seoul says N. Korea sanctions may be eased before full denuclearisation

June 18, 2018

Lots of carrots. No stick.

South Korea said Monday that sanctions against North Korea could be eased once it takes “substantive steps towards denuclearisation”, seemingly setting the bar lower than Washington for such a move.

Last week’s Singapore summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un produced only a vague statement in which Kim “reaffirmed his firm and unwavering commitment to complete denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula”.

Amid fears the summit would weaken the international coalition against the North’s nuclear programme, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo stressed after the meeting that sanctions would remain in place until North Korea’s complete denuclearisation.

But his South Korean counterpart suggested Monday they could be eased sooner.

© POOL/AFP/File | Kang meets Pompeo in Seoul last week: she has suggested sanctions on North Korea could be eased before full denuclearisation

“Our stance is that the sanctions must remain in place until North Korea takes meaningful, substantive steps towards denuclearisation,” Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha told reporters

Seoul and Washington shared the same “big picture” view and would continue close consultations, she added.

The comments come just days after China’s foreign ministry suggested that the UN Security Council could consider easing the economic punishment of its Cold War-era ally.

Any reduction in tensions on its doorstep is welcome for China, North Korea’s closest ally, which accounts for around 90 percent of Pyongyang’s trade.

The same goes for the South’s dovish President Moon Jae-in, who supports engagement with North Korea and held his own summit with Kim in April.

Until recently Trump had pursued a “maximum pressure” campaign — with both China and South Korea on board — of tough rhetoric and tightened sanctions against Pyongyang.

But analysts say the Singapore summit has made it hard for the Trump administration to return to that policy even if its current diplomacy with North Korea proves to be a failure.

“The symbolism of the meeting ensures that the maximum pressure campaign has peaked,” said Scott Snyder, senior fellow for Korea Studies at the US Council on Foreign Relations, in a commentary.

“In practice, China and South Korea will push for relaxation of economic pressure on North Korea,” he added.



Singapore Summit: The Meeting Is The Message

By Stott Snyder

Donald J. Trump and Kim Jong Un changed the trajectory of the U.S.-North Korea relationship from confrontation toward cooperation and provided dramatic images of reconciliation with their well-hyped June 12, 2018 summit meeting in Singapore. This meeting has bought time to address North Korea’s nuclear threat and reduced the risk of near-term military conflict. But the four points of the joint statement signed by the two leaders underscored the magnitude and difficulty of the work remaining to be done.

The document signed by the two leaders for the first time envisioned a normal relationship between the United States and North Korea and reiterated Kim Jong Un’s commitment first made to South Korean President Moon Jae-in in the April 27, 2018 inter-Korean Panmunjom declaration to “complete denuclearization,” and pledged to renew joint work toward prisoners of war/missing-in-action (POW/MIA) recovery of remains from the Korean War. It also authorized a process of follow-on negotiations to be led by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and a North Korean counterpart.

By normalizing Kim Jong Un as an actor on the world stage, by pledging efforts to establish “new U.S.-DPRK relations,” and by pledging to curtail U.S.-South Korea joint military exercises, Trump has moved dramatically in the direction of meeting longstanding North Korean demands to end the “hostile relationship” between Washington and Pyongyang and offering security guarantees as a requirement for denuclearization.

But Kim Jong Un does not appear to have reciprocated U.S. concessions. This is concerning given North Korea’s track record of pocketing concessions rather than delivering quid pro quos. North Korea reiterated an aspiration to achieve “complete denuclearization” and pledged to destroy a missile engine test site, but the timeline and scope of such a process are not clear. In this respect, the United States appears to have given more than expected, while there are no concrete North Korean actions envisioned that might validate Kim Jong Un’s seriousness of purpose to denuclearize. Meanwhile, Kim Jong Un is being normalized on the international stage despite North Korea’s status as an illegal nuclear weapons state.

The joint statement did not directly address North Korea’s missile development, chemical and biological weapons programs, or human rights situation, underscoring the limited time and progress made during technical negotiations. Likewise, U.S. and UN sanctions will stay in place pending tangible progress toward complete denuclearization, although no additional U.S. sanctions will be added. But the symbolism of the meeting ensures that the maximum pressure campaign has peaked and that, in practice, China and South Korea will push for relaxation of economic pressure on North Korea.

Nor did the U.S.-North Korea joint statement provide any sense of linkage to the processes between peace and denuclearization or to inter-Korean commitments outlined in the April 27, 2018 Panmunjom declaration. All these issues must go onto the agenda of the Pompeo-led process to come, but the likelihood of rapid progress is not high given the apparent vagueness of the commitments contained in the joint statement between the two leaders.

Despite the drama and historic nature of the meeting, the outcome did not live up to the hype. As a result, Trump faces a huge challenge in selling a turn in U.S.-North Korea relations as an historic accomplishment. The best way to do that will be for Pompeo and his team to roll up their sleeves and get back to work, together with our allies, to make a real peace on the Korean peninsula.

Opinion: Donald Trump’s North Korea gamble has backfired

May 25, 2018

Donald Trump has called off a planned meeting with Kim Jong Un to avoid embarrassment. It’s clear that Washington’s all-or-nothing approach to peace talks with North Korea has failed, says DW’s Matthias von Hein.

USA - Trump sagt Gipfel in Nordkorea ab (picture-alliance/newscom/K. Dietsch)

It looks like the United States’ Dealmaker-in-Chief won’t be bringing peace to the Korean peninsula after all. President Donald Trump’s announcement on Thursday came mere hours after North Korea declared the destruction of its Punggye-ri nuclear weapons test site, which is a positive signal, no matter how skeptical one should be.

Trump’s decision does not come out of the blue. In recent weeks, the tone between the US and North Korea had become noticeably harsher. And evidence was mounting that the meeting in Singapore would amount to little more than a welcome photo-op for North Korea’s Kim Jong Un.

From the very beginning, the US administration overestimated what kind of concession North Korea would be willing to make. That much is clear from US National Security Adviser John Bolton’s demand that North Korea unilaterally dismantle its entire nuclear weapons program, for which, in return, it would receive economic relief.

The US all-or-nothing approach backfired. And it didn’t help when Bolton, and then on Monday Vice President Mike Pence, touted the “Libya model” for North Korea — in reference to former Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, who gave up his nuclear weapons program in 2003 in return for economic relief, but who in 2011 was deposed and brutally executed by Western-backed rebels. Unsurprisingly, North Korea does not find the “Libya model” all that appealing.

Washington’s assessment that sanctions and military threats had cowed North Korea into seeking talks also proved wrong. The opposite is true: Kim’s arsenal of intercontinental missiles and nuclear weapons has imbued him with a bold new confidence that made high-level talks seem alluring.

Matthias von Hein


DW’s Matthias von Hein

Meeting would have been coup for Kim

Granted, meeting Trump face-to-face would have been a major coup for Kim. His grandfather as well as his father had both always wanted direct US talks. If Kim would have actually succeeded in overcoming his isolation and sitting down with the US president, it would have been a tremendously prestigious step — especially so if he would have managed to secure a lifting of sanctions and economic aid. But would Kim have surrendered his nuclear arsenal for this, knowing that they are the only insurance he has to keep his family’s dynasty in power? Hardly.

Especially because the US cannot be trusted to keep its word. Gadhafi’s demise make that clear, as does Trump’s withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal.

Hope remains

Hopes for an actual peace agreement that would finally end six decades of armistice between North Korea and South Korea have been dashed — for now. Quite conspicuously, North Korea has refrained from personal attacks on Trump. And Trump’s statement canceling the summit did not categorically rule out future talks.

It should not be forgotten that only last autumn, the Korean peninsula looked like it was on the verge of war after Pyongyang tested several intercontinental missiles, and Washington responded with threats. But Kim’s reconciliatory New Year’s speech, North Korea’s participation in the Winter Olympics, and Kim’s meeting with South Korean President Moon Jae-in set a different tone — as did the planned and now canceled high level talks with Trump.

Hopefully, this thawing in relations will not be immediately superseded by another phase of high tensions. It’s about time that US and North Korean diplomats pave the way for a meeting between both nations’ leaders, because Washington’s all-or-nothing approach will lead to just that: nothing.

Peace and Freedom note: With all due respect to Matthias, there is an old American saying: “It’s not over ’till it’s over.” We are hopeful there is more to this story. You should be too.


North Korea blows up tunnels at nuclear test site

May 24, 2018

Pyongyang has dismantled its nuclear testing site deep in the mountains of the country’s northeast. While foreign journalists were on hand, international inspectors were not invited to witness the event.

The Punggye-ri nuclear test facility (Reuters/2018 DigitalGlobe, a Maxar company)

North Korea closed and rendered unusable its Punggye-ri nuclear test site, where the country conducted all six of its nuclear weapons tests, according to international journalists who witnessed the event. Explosions at the complex on Thursday were carried out over several hours and centered on three tunnels into the underground testing site, nearby towers and barracks used by guards and other workers.

The carefully choreographed move comes as previously announced and despite doubts cast on whether a summit of North Korea leader Kim Jong-un and US President Donald Trump will go ahead as planned. Questions have been raised about the June 12 meeting in Singapore after a series of sharp verbal exchanges between the two countries.

Earlier on Thursday, North Korean Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Choe Son Hui called comments from US Vice President Mike Pence “ignorant and stupid.” Pence said North Korea could end up like Libya, which found itself in a civil war and its leader killed after giving up its nuclear weapons.

Trump’s new national security advisor, John Bolton, also said last week that the US was considering the “Libya model” for North Korean denuclearization. Washingon has also insisted on complete, verifiable and “irreversible denuclearization.”

The decision to shutter the site was welcomed, but by not allowing international experts to observe the facility’s destruction the question of how much effort it might take to reopen or rebuild the site remains.

Geologists said the site had become unstable after a series of earthquakes in September 2017 that Pyongyang said was triggered by a hydrogen bomb explosion. Kim said in April that North Korea would halt its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

Read more: Will Trump and Kim hash out ‘something like the Iran deal’? ​​​​​​

sms/kms (AP, AFP, Reuters)


North Korea Threatens to Call Off Summit, Calls Pence a ‘Political Dummy’ — Back to insults and ‘jerking around’

May 24, 2018

Trump-Kim Jong Un summit planned for June 12 in Singapore

Choe Son Hui, North Korea’s vice minister for foreign affairs, in Beijing in 2016.
Choe Son Hui, North Korea’s vice minister for foreign affairs, in Beijing in 2016. PHOTO: ANDY WONG/ASSOCIATED PRESS

North Korea’s senior envoy for U.S. affairs renewed a threat to call off a planned summit with President Donald Trump and warned that Pyongyang could “make the U.S. taste an appalling tragedy it has neither experienced nor even imagined.”

In its most direct language aimed at Washington following a recent rapprochement between the two countries, Choe Son Hui, the North’s vice minister of foreign affairs, said if the June 12 talks were called off, the U.S. could instead face off with North Korea in a “nuclear-to-nuclear showdown.”

Ms. Choe’s statement, issued through official state media, called out Vice President Mike Pence, to whom she referred as “a political dummy.”

Ms. Choe’s release followed strongly worded statements last week from other senior North Korean officials aimed at U.S. national security adviser John Bolton and at the South Korean government of Moon Jae-in, who has pushed for dialogue with Pyongyang to avoid a nuclear standoff.

It also comes after a meeting at the White House of Messrs. Trump and Moon, who have both staked their hopes—and their credibility—on a successful U.S.-North Korea summit, which has been planned for June 12 in Singapore.

As recently as two weeks ago, the planned summit in Singapore was shaping up to be the high point following a monthslong bout of diplomacy between North Korea and the U.S. and South Korea. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made two trips to Pyongyang to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, while Messrs. Kim and Moon met for a triumphant summit at the inter-Korean demilitarized zone, where they declared an end to war.

A man walks past a television news screen showing North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, right, and US President Donald Trump at a railway station in Seoul. Pyongyang has renewed its threat to pull out of a summit next month with President Donald Trump. (AFP)

In a sign of raised expectations for the summit, the White House Communications Agency earlier this week unveiled a commemorative coin to mark the coming summit between Messrs. Trump and Kim.

But in the last two weeks, a series of ominously worded North Korean statements has changed the tone. Last week, Pyongyang warned the U.S. and South Korea against conducting joint air force drills, and called on Seoul to muzzle defectors who were questioning the North’s motives in seeking detente.

About a week ago, a senior North Korean official said that Pyongyang wasn’t interested in a summit with the U.S. focused solely on denuclearization and accused Washington of trying to “impose on our dignified state the destiny of Libya or Iraq.”

Mr. Trump said in his meeting with Mr. Moon on Tuesday that he would call off his summitwith Mr. Kim if the conditions didn’t work out, and put the odds of it continuing as planned at about 50-50.

“I don’t want to waste a lot of time, and I’m sure he doesn’t want to waste a lot of time. So there’s a very substantial chance that it won’t work out. And that’s OK,” Mr. Trump said.

In an interview Wednesday before Ms. Choe’s comments, Mr. Trump said the U.S. and North Korea remained in contact about the summit.

“Right now we’re looking at it, we’re talking about it, and they’re talking to us,” Mr. Trump told Fox News. “We have certain conditions. We’ll see what happens. But there’s a good chance.”

Meantime, Mr. Pompeo said Wednesday that the denuclearization of North Korea was the U.S.’s top national security priority. In remarks before the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Mr. Pompeo said that, during his two recent meetings in Pyongyang with Mr. Kim, the North Korean leader expressed his desire for economic growth and aid from the U.S. He added that the U.S. so far has “made zero concessions” to the North.

Ms. Choe, in her statement Thursday, took issue with an interview that Mr. Pence gave to Fox News earlier this week in which he suggested that the North sought the summit meeting with Mr. Trump.

She also criticized the vice president for bringing up Libya in the context of denuclearization—a sensitive subject for North Korea, after Moammar Gadhafi was overthrown and killed in 2011, eight years after giving up Libya’s nuclear weapons. Mr. Pence said the Libya model would only come about if North Korea failed to denuclearize.

In her Thursday statement, published by the Korean Central News Agency, Ms. Choe called Mr. Pence’s words “unbridled and impudent” and said that “Pence should have seriously considered the terrible consequences of his words.”

“As a person involved in the U.S. affairs, I cannot suppress my surprise at such ignorant and stupid remarks gushing out from the mouth of the U.S. vice president,” she said.

Ms. Choe added that, if the U.S. continues to offend the North’s “goodwill,” she would tell Mr. Kim to reconsider the Singapore summit with the U.S.

“It is the U.S. who has asked for dialogue, but now it is misleading the public opinion as if we have invited them to sit with us,” Ms. Choe said. “We will neither beg the U.S. for dialogue nor take the trouble to persuade them if they do not want to sit together with us.”

Write to Jonathan Cheng at

Appeared in the May 24, 2018, print edition as ‘North Korea Threatens to Cancel Summit.’

North Korea Seems To Be Trying To Kill Summit With Trump

May 24, 2018

North Korea has renewed its threat to pull out of a summit next month with President Donald Trump, saying it is just as ready to meet in a nuclear confrontation as at the negotiating table.

A man walks past a television news screen showing North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, right, and US President Donald Trump at a railway station in Seoul. Pyongyang has renewed its threat to pull out of a summit next month with President Donald Trump. (AFP)

Pyongyang’s latest salvo follows recent comments by U.S. Vice President Mike Pence suggesting the North may end up like Libya if it doesn’t move forward with denuclearization.

Choe Son Hui, the vice minister of foreign affairs, was quoted Thursday by the North’s state-run news agency slamming as “ignorant” and “stupid” comments Pence made in an interview with Fox News that compared North Korea to Libya, saying they showed he does not understand North Korea’s situation.

She also questioned whether the summit, scheduled for June 12 in Singapore, would be worthwhile if the remarks reflect Washington’s position.

“We will neither beg the U.S. for dialogue nor take the trouble to persuade them if they do not want to sit together with us,” KCNA quoted her as saying. “Whether the U.S. will meet us at a meeting room or encounter us at nuclear-to-nuclear showdown is entirely dependent upon the decision and behavior of the United States.”

The summit plan has hit a number of speed bumps recently as both sides have begun taking tougher positions and trading barbs. Trump met with South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Tuesday at the White House for consultations and suggested the summit could be delayed. But the U.S. says it is still working on making it happen.

Choe, a veteran diplomat and former head of the North America desk at the Foreign Ministry, was responding to comments Pence made to Fox News this week that it would be a “mistake” for the North Koreans to think they can “play” Trump. Pence said both the Clinton and Bush administrations had been “played” by the North Korean government.

“We offered concessions to the North Korean regime in exchange for promises to end their nuclear weapons program, only to see them break those promises and abandon them,” he said, adding that if Pyongyang does not go along with talks to give up its nuclear weapons, Washington could return to the “Libya model.”

That suggestion, which was made earlier this month by National Security Adviser John Bolton and also sparked an outraged response from the North, is especially inflammatory to Pyongyang.

The Libya model refers to negotiations in 2004 that led to the shipping of nuclear components to the U.S. from Libya under Moammar Gadhafi. But in Pyongyang’s mind the most important part of the story is what came after that. Gadhafi was deposed after a 42-year reign and killed in 2011 — the year Kim assumed power in North Korea — while his country spiraled into chaos.

Image result for Muammar Gaddafi, photos

Moammar Gadhafi

“In view of the remarks of the U.S. high-ranking politicians who have not yet woken up to this stark reality and compare the DPRK to Libya that met a tragic fate, I come to think that they know too little about us,” she said, using the acronym for North Korea’s official name.

She added: “To borrow their words, we can also make the U.S. taste an appalling tragedy it has neither experienced nor even imagined up to now.”

How seriously the North would really consider calling off the summit isn’t entirely clear, however.

Meeting with Trump as an equal on the world stage would be an important moment for Kim and Choe couched her statement carefully, noting that she would only recommend the North Korean leader withdraw from the meeting if Washington “clings to unlawful and outrageous acts.”

North Korea was also expected to go through with a major gesture of goodwill ahead of the summit by dismantling its nuclear test site. The North, which has vowed to stop all underground nuclear testing and intercontinental ballistic missile launches, has invited foreign media to the remote site to observe a ceremony to mark the closing.

The ceremony was expected to be held Thursday or Friday, depending on the weather.

The Associated Press

Trump to Withdraw U.S. From Iran Accord

May 8, 2018

President set to announce pullout from deal aimed at curbing Tehran’s nuclear activity

President Donald Trump speaking in Cleveland on May 5.
President Donald Trump speaking in Cleveland on May 5. PHOTO: MANUEL BALCE CENETA/ASSOCIATED PRESS

WASHINGTON—President Donald Trump is set to announce that the U.S. will withdraw from the Iranian nuclear accord, according to a person familiar with the decision, dismantling his predecessor’s signature foreign-policy achievement and bucking the wishes of key allies around the globe.

Mr. Trump is scheduled to formally announce his decision at 2 p.m. Tuesday at the White House. The president has started calling foreign leaders to inform them of his decision, and Vice President Mike Pence was on Capitol Hill explaining the decision to key members of Congress.

The president has called the agreement “the worst deal ever” and “a horrible agreement for the United States.” He has backed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who charged last week that Iran hadn’t been honest about previous nuclear weapons work, citing what he said was new evidence.

A parade of European leaders has come through Washington in recent weeks to urge Mr. Trump not to abandon the accord. French President Emmanuel Macron late last month warned that doing so would “open Pandora’s box” in the absence of a follow-on plan. German Chancellor Angela Merkel reinforced that message days later on her own visit with Mr. Trump, describing the Iranian nuclear deal as a “building block” and part of a “mosaic” needed to contain Tehran.

On Monday British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson made a last-minute appeal to save the accord, including meetings with Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and an appearance on one of Mr. Trump’s favorite television programs, “Fox & Friends.”

In those discussions Mr. Johnson acknowledged some of Mr. Trump’s criticism of the accord, which limits and monitors Iran’s nuclear activity but doesn’t restrain its ballistic-missile program or its support for regional foes of the U.S. such as Hezbollah and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

“We need to find a way of fixing that and the president has been right to call attention to it,” Mr. Johnson said on Fox. “But you can’t do that without just throwing the baby out with the bath water.”

Write to Michael C. Bender at

Trump push for quick NAFTA deal slowed by persistent divide — Mexico needs for the U.S. to present a complete plan

April 19, 2018
  • U.S., Canada and Mexico differ on several major issues
  • Digging in for more technical talks after seven rounds
  • Sides say deal could be completed within weeks

President Donald Trump’s push for a quick resolution to NAFTA talks is being stymied by persistent differences among the U.S., Canada and Mexico over a handful of make-or-break issues.

After seven rounds of talks rotating between the three countries, negotiators have entered what they’ve called a permanent round in Washington and are expected to keep going until a deal is struck.

Digging in for more technical talks starting on Monday, they remain at loggerheads over regional content rules for automobiles and other sticking points, even as U.S. Vice President Mike Pence and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said over the weekend that an agreement could be wrapped up in weeks.

A meeting between cabinet-level trade officials planned for last week to deal with the toughest issues was canceled when U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer skipped a regional summit in Peru. On Monday, Mexican Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo told reporters that he spoke to his Canadian counterpart and plans to talk with Lighthizer on Tuesday about rescheduling their meeting for Thursday in Washington. He repeated his assessment that the nations may reach a deal in the coming weeks.

Image may contain: 2 people, suit

Guarjardo speaks during the World Economic Forum on Latin America in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on April 6, 2018.

Photographer: Sarah Pabst/Bloomberg

Guajardo said that it’s important for Lighthizer to look for solutions with Mexico and Canada so that he can turn his attention to China and tariff decisions.

“The faster that he resolves one of these various issues, the better,” Guajardo said.

While talks are continuing on less contentious topics such as the environment and financial services, they weren’t the catalysts that spurred Trump to call for a renegotiation of the decades-old trade deal in the first place. And on key topics — from cars to government procurement — the U.S. is sticking with demands that its partners consider untenable.

Although leaders of the countries say a deal could be completed within weeks, that won’t be possible if the sides remain as far apart on the most important points as they are now, according to people familiar with the talks.

“The only way that this thing gets done, frankly, is if Donald Trump capitulates,” Jerry Dias, head of Unifor, Canada’s largest private sector union representing auto workers, said Friday after meeting with Canada’s lead Nafta negotiator, Steve Verheul.

“Ultimately, he is going to have to find a way to claim a victory while backing off of a whole host of U.S. proposals. I don’t know how you do both,” Dias said.

Emily Davis, a spokeswoman for USTR, declined to comment.

Trump’s negotiating team is pushing for a deal by early May. That’s in order to meet U.S. timelines for having an agreement approved, at the latest, by the lame-duck congressional session following mid-term elections in November, according to two people familiar with the negotiations.

While Mexico has a presidential election in July, the nation has fewer legal timing requirements, and a potential deal reached as late as August could probably be debated and voted on before the nation’s next Senate is seated in September. Mexico’s new president will take over in December; President Enrique Pena Nieto isn’t eligible for another term.

Other trade talks could potentially complicate the near-term schedule. Several Mexican negotiators will be in Brussels this week in a push to close an update of the nation’s 17-year-old free-trade agreement with the European Union, said two people familiar with the schedule.

Guajardo plans to join them later in the week, and is expected to remain there next week, when Pena Nieto arrives in Germany for Hannover Messe, an industry show where Mexico is the chosen partner country this year. Mexican negotiators are aiming to announce the close of that agreement with the EU during Pena Nieto’s visit, the people said.

Deepening ties with the EU is part of Mexico’s push to diversify from the U.S., which was the destination for 72 percent of the nation’s $435 billion in exports last year.

Schedulers are attempting to arrange this week’s Nafta talks around the Mexican negotiators who are departing Washington for Belgium. Topics on the agenda include labor guidelines, financial services and agriculture, according to two people familiar with the plans.

Content rule

Talks last week included a focus on content rules for cars, where the U.S. is pushing for more regional content and higher salaries for Mexican factory workers. Progress has been clouded by the lack of a paper proposal from the U.S. — its suggestions continue to be debated verbally without any clear text, according to the people.

And on the key topic of autos, the impasse that’s existed over regional content since the initial U.S. proposal was presented in October still stands, although the U.S. softened its position by dropping a demand for specific American content. Recent adjustments in the U.S. proposal go in the right direction, but “the devil is in the details,” and Mexico needs for the U.S. to present a complete plan, Guajardo said Monday.

The differences in positions contrast with the upbeat public statements by the top officials in the U.S., Canada and Mexico, who’ve expressed optimism recently about the process.

Moody’s: Michigan among most at risk in NAFTA termination

“I’ll leave this summit very hopeful that we are very close to a renegotiated Nafta,” Pence told reporters at the Summit of the Americas in Lima.

After the meeting with Pence, Trudeau said the “positive momentum” included the thorny issue of U.S. demands around automobile production. “We would like to see a renegotiated deal land sooner rather than later,” he said.


Nafta Agreement Could Come in Weeks, Pence and Trudeau Say

April 15, 2018
  • U.S., Canada leaders spoke after meetings in Peru Saturday
  • Trudeau says progress has been seen on contentious auto file
Mike Pence at the CEO Summit of the Americas on Saturday. Photographer: Guillermo Gutierrez/Bloomberg

The Nafta trade agreement could be renegotiated in the next few weeks, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence and Canada’s Prime Minister said Saturday in Peru, avoiding new political opposition that could emerge during Congressional and Mexican elections later this year.

“I’ll leave this summit very hopeful that we are very close to a renegotiated Nafta,” and “there is a real possibility that we could arrive at an agreement within the next several weeks,” Pence told reporters at the Summit of the Americas in Lima.

After the meeting with Pence, Canada’s leader Justin Trudeau said the “positive momentum” included the thorny issue of U.S. demands around automobile production. “We would like to see a renegotiated deal land sooner rather than later,” he added.

Justin Trudeau

Photographer: Guillermo Gutierrez/Bloomberg

“There is a desire and a recognition by all three Nafta partners that the time-lines imposed upon us by both the upcoming, the imminent Mexican elections and the upcoming American midterms, means that we have a certain amount of pressure to try and move forward successfully in the coming weeks,” Trudeau said.

The comments restore some more optimism on Nafta after U.S. President Donald Trump earlier this week canceled a trip to Peru where Nafta could have been discussed further, and said he could let trade talks go on indefinitely because it would deter companies from investing there.

Pence later tweeted that it was “great to speak” with Trudeau. “We discussed progress toward reaching an agreement on Nafta as soon as possible and that a deal must ensure FAIR and RECIPROCAL trade.”

Pence also said funding of a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border didn’t come up during a meeting with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto. “We are very close to the kind of breakthrough on issues of immigration, drug interjection” that will be of benefit to both sides, Pence said.

By Greg Quinn, Ben Bartenstein , and  Jennifer Epstein