Posts Tagged ‘Mike Pompeo’

Macron and Trump Plant an Historic Tree at The White House

April 24, 2018

Gone are the days when France would splurge on gifts for its old ally America, and ship the Statue of Liberty across the Atlantic as a grand gesture of friendship. Emmanuel Macron, who accompanied by his wife Brigitte arrived in Washington, DC, today (Apr. 23) to visit Donald Trump and his wife Melania, brought a much simpler cadeau: An oak sapling.

Kind of like that time in 1912 when Tokyo mayor Yukio Ozaki gave Washington, DC, 3,000 cherry trees—except this time there’s only one tree, and it’s a spindly one at that.

The tree was actually a thoughtful present: It came from Belleau Wood,northeast of Paris, the site of a 1918 World War I battle. Macron must know that Trump loves World War I—Trump’s favorite book, after all, is All Quiet on The Western Front.

https://qz.com/1260067/emmanuel-macron-gifted-donald-trump-a-bare-dead-looking-tree-and-first-lady-melania-trump-loves-it/

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President Donald Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron planted a tree outside the White House on Monday in the first ceremonial act of Macron’s state visit.

Trump and Macron piled dirt on the sapling on the South Lawn and posed for photos with their wives. The tree is a gift from Macron and his wife, French first lady Brigitte Macron.

The European Sessile Oak will grow to be four-and-a-half feet tall and live between five and 10 years, according to the first lady’s office. The tree comes from Belleau Woods, the site of a battle in World War I where more than 9,000 American soldiers died.

The Trumps and the Macrons departed from the White House to spend the evening touring George Washington’s mansion at Mount Vernon, where they will have dinner.

On Tuesday morning, nearly 500 soldiers and dozens of officials will greet Macron at the White House. That will be followed by a joint press conference with Macron and Trump.

Macron will attend a state dinner on Tuesday night.

Several foreign leaders have visited the White House since Trump took office, but Macron’s will be the first official state visit. The French president said in an interview broadcast Sunday that he and Trump have developed a strong personal relationship.

http://thehill.com/blogs/blog-briefing-room/384523-trump-macron-plant-tree-outside-white-house-as-gift-from-france

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Macrons and Trumps dine at Mount Vernon — After tree planting

April 24, 2018
© AFP | US President Donald Trump (L) and his wife Melania (C) participate in a tree planting ceremony with French President Emmanuel Macron (R) and his wife Brigitte (far L) at the White House

Latest update : 2018-04-24

Tending to bonding before business, President Donald Trump and France’s Emmanuel Macron opened the French president’s visit Monday with an anything-but-ordinary double date with their wives at George Washington’s house.

The presidents and their spouses hopped on a helicopter bound for Mount Vernon, Washington’s historic riverside home, for a private dinner one night before the leaders sit down for talks on a weighty agenda including security, trade and the Iran nuclear deal.

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Philip Crowther

@PhilipinDC

Summary so far of the Trumps and Macrons at Mount Vernon.

Macron’s pomp-filled three-day state visit to Washington underscores the importance that both sides attach to the relationship: Macron, who calls Trump often, has emerged as something of a “Trump whisperer” at a time when the American president’s relationships with other European leaders are more strained. Trump, who attaches great importance to the optics of pageantry and ceremony, chose to honor Macron with the first state visit of his administration as he woos the French president.

“This is a great honor and I think a very important state visit given the moment of our current environment,” Macron said after his plane landed at a U.S. military base near Washington.

For all their camaraderie, Macron and Trump disagree on some fundamental issues, including the multinational nuclear deal, which is aimed at restricting Iran’s development of nuclear weapons. Trump, skeptical of the pact’s effectiveness, has been eager to pull out as a May 12 deadline nears. Macron says he is not satisfied with the situation in Iran and thinks the agreement is imperfect, but he has argued for the U.S. sticking with the deal on the grounds that there is not yet a “Plan B.”

Emmanuel Macron

@EmmanuelMacron

Brigitte and I are thrilled and honored to be in Washington DC.
This State visit is very important for our people.

The Trumps and Macrons helped plant a tree on the White House grounds together before boarding Trump’s Marine One helicopter for a scenic tour of monuments built in the capital city designed by French-born Pierre L’Enfant as they flew south to Mount Vernon, the first U.S. president’s home along the Potomac River.

The young oak is an environmentally friendly gift to the White House from Macron, and one that also bears historical significance. It sprouted at a World War I site in France, the Battle of Belleau Wood, that became part of U.S. Marine Corps lore.

After Trump’s helicopter landed at Mount Vernon, the two presidents, each holding his wife’s hand, walked a short distance and posed for pictures before they boarded golf carts that ferried them to the front door of Washington’s plantation house. The couples were led on a brief outdoor tour before they entered the pale yellow building for dinner of Dover sole, pasta stuffed with lemon ricotta, and chocolate souffle and cherry vanilla ice cream.

Trump declared the dinner “really fantastic” before returning to the White House.

Philip Crowther

@PhilipinDC

The French Presidency has this in its readout of the Trump – Macron dinner at Mount Vernon: “they spoke about the US economy, President Trump’s polls and preparations for the US midterm elections.” Yes, his polls.

He ended his first year in office without receiving a foreign leader on a state visit, the first president in nearly 100 years to fail to do so. He was Macron’s guest last July at the annual Bastille Day military parade in the center of Paris. Macron and his wife also took Trump and America’s first lady on a tour of Napoleon’s tomb and whisked them up in the Eiffel Tower for dinner overlooking the City of Light.

Macron will be welcomed back to the White House on Tuesday with a traditional arrival ceremony featuring nearly 500 members of the U.S. military and a booming 21-gun salute. The state visit also offers Macron his first Oval Office sit-down with Trump and a joint White House news conference. There’s also a State Department lunch hosted by Vice President Mike Pence.

The French president’s White House day will be capped Tuesday night with a state dinner, the highest social tribute a president bestows on an ally and partner.

Melania Trump played an active role in every detail of the visit, said White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

The first lady settled on a state dinner menu of rack of lamb and nectarine tart, along with after-dinner entertainment provided by the Washington National Opera for about 150 guests. On Monday, she released details of the glitzy affair being planned to dazzle Macron and his wife, Brigitte.

Dinner will be served in the State Dining Room, which will feature more than 2,500 stems of white sweet pea flowers and nearly 1,000 stems of white lilac. Separately, more than 1,200 branches of cherry blossoms will adorn the majestic Cross Hall.

Philip Crowther

@PhilipinDC

Hungry yet? State dinner sneak preview, part deux.

The first lady opted for a cream-and-gold color scheme, and will use a mix of china services from the presidencies of Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.

State dinner tickets are highly sought after by Washington’s political and business elite. A few of those expected to attend: Christine Lagarde, head of the International Monetary Fund and a former top French government official; House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis.; Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and his wife, Louise Linton; Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., and Mike Pompeo, Trump’s choice to be the next secretary of state.

In a break with tradition, Trump has invited no congressional Democrats or journalists, said a White House official who was not authorized to discuss the arrangements publicly. But some Democrats did make the cut, including Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, whose office confirmed his attendance.

(AP)

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After Late Vote Switch, Senate Panel Approves Pompeo for Secretary of State

April 24, 2018

 

President Donald Trump’s choice for secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, has cleared the Senate Foreign Relations Committee with a favorable recommendation, narrowly avoiding a rare rebuke as his confirmation heads to the full Senate.

Democrats put up stiff resistance and voted against Pompeo, who is now the CIA director. Only a last-minute switch from Kentucky Republican Rand Paul — whom Trump called before the vote — enabled Pompeo to win committee approval.

It would have been the first time since the committee starting keeping records in 1925 that a secretary of state nominee faced an unfavorable report.

Pompeo’s nomination now goes to the full Senate, where votes are tallying in his favor. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says he looks forward to voting to confirm Pompeo this week.

Associated Press

https://apnews.com/ff753d0698c043a5b4c037f9936fce3b

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Mike Pompeo this month on Capitol Hill. On Monday, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved his confirmation to be the next secretary of state. Credit Lawrence Jackson for The New York Times

WASHINGTON — The Senate Foreign Relations Committee, in a late pivot on Monday evening, approved the confirmation of Mike Pompeo to be the next secretary of state, after Senator Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky, bowed to pressure from President Trump and dropped his opposition.

For days, the committee appeared ready to deliver a historic rebuke. Since it began considering nominees in the late 19th century, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has never given a nominee for secretary of state anything but a favorable vote, according to the Senate historian. It has been almost 30 years since any cabinet nominee was reported to the full Senate with an unfavorable recommendation.

But minutes before the committee convened, Mr. Paul, an ardent opponent of interventionist foreign policy, declared his support for Mr. Pompeo, the C.I.A. director, to lead the State Department, securing approval from the committee.

“After calling continuously for weeks for Director Pompeo to support President Trump’s belief that the Iraq war was a mistake, and that it is time to leave Afghanistan, today I received confirmation that Director Pompeo agrees with President Trump,” Mr. Paul wrote. “President Trump believes that Iraq was a mistake, that regime change has destabilized the region and that we must end our involvement with Afghanistan. Having received assurances from President Trump and Director Pompeo that he agrees with the president on these important issues, I have decided to support his nomination.”

Mr. Trump told reporters last week that Mr. Paul has “never let us down” and that “he’s a good man.”

NYT:https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/23/us/politics/mike-pompeo-rand-paul-secretary-of-state-foreign-relations-committee.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=first-column-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news

 

Bill Richardson talks North Korea negotiations, Pompeo [Video]

April 23, 2018

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Conclusion on North Korea “a long way” off: Trump

April 23, 2018
“We are a long way from conclusion…
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U.S. President says Washington hasn’t conceded anything to Pyongyang

April 22nd, 2018

U.S. President Donald Trump took to social media on Sunday to say that Washington was still “a long way” from solving the threat posed by North Korea’s weapons programs. Apparently reacting to comments made by a journalist working for NBC news, Trump also criticised his detractors on Twitter. “We are a long way from conclusion…
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CNN
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Washington DC (CNN) — President Donald Trump declared Sunday morning the United States has not “given up anything” in negotiations with North Korea in response to criticism that Pyongyang is getting more out of the talks than Washington.

“Wow, we haven’t given up anything & they have agreed to denuclearization (so great for World), site closure, & no more testing!” he tweeted.
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The President followed up with a second tweet that said, “We are a long way from conclusion on North Korea, maybe things will work out, and maybe they won’t — only time will tell.”
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Trump was responding to comments by Chuck Todd on NBC’s “Sunday Today” show in which he said North Korean leader Kim Jong Un “seems to be giving very little but making it seem like he’s giving a lot.”
Todd said the tone of cooperation was a positive development but added, “there’s not many preconditions the United States is asking for.”
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“So far in this potential summit, North Koreans have gotten a lot out of it,” Todd said, adding that Washington has not negotiated the release of Americans being held captive in North Korea and that Kim Jong Un has not pledged to denuclearize, he said.
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“There’s a lot of things they are not promising that is raising some red flags,” Todd said.
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While South Korea has said Pyongyang is willing to talk about denuclearization at the expected US-North Korea summit, officials have not said it has actually made a concrete commitment to abandoning its nuclear weapons program.
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North Korea said Friday that it is willing to stop nuclear as well as intermediate- and long-range ballistic rocket tests and would close a nuclear test site, but the country has not said it is willing to get rid of its nuclear arsenal.
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North Korea said its quest for nuclear weapons is complete and it no longer needs to test its weapons capability, a significant change in policy for Kim, who has relentlessly pursued nuclear and ballistic weapons as a means to ensure the regime’s survival.
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Kim said Saturday that “under the proven condition of complete nuclear weapons, we no longer need any nuclear tests, mid-range and intercontinental ballistic rocket tests, and that the nuclear test site in northern area has also completed its mission,” according to the state-run Korean Central News Agency, or KCNA.
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Analysts stressed caution over Kim’s words, noting that Pyongyang must be seeking something in return and can always go back on its word.
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Josh Pollack, senior research associate at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, California, said the news was Kim’s way of announcing his country is a fully paid-up member of the nuclear club.
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“They have wanted to be seen as an arrived nuclear power for a while, and one thing that the other nuclear powers don’t do is test. With the exception of India and Pakistan, no one has done it since 1996, so it’s a sign of immaturity to test and they’re saying: ‘We’re technically mature now, so we don’t need to (test) anymore.’
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“They’re not giving anything up, they’re keeping (their weapons), and that’s the message,” he said. “It was wrapped in this seeming concession, but it’s not really a concession. (If) they can decide to test after all, they can just start doing it again.”
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Republican Sen. Bob Corker, of Tennessee, said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union,” that Kim is making a “good public relations move” and everyone within Congress and the administration “approaches this with skepticism and caution.”
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Corker pointed out that Kim did not pledge to denuclearize “on the front end,” and he could easily start testing missiles again.
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Corker said he does not think Washington should make an agreement that does not include North Korea’s complete denuclearization, noting “denuclearization has been our policy for years.”
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But negotiations are just beginning, and “we have no idea where this is going to go,” he said.
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“This has been a 25-year saga” with the North Korean regime, Corker said, but he added that he is glad the meetings are taking place.
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White House counselor Kellyanne Conway also weighed in on North Korea on “State of the Union,” referring to the Senate’s consideration of Trump’s pick for secretary of State, current CIA DIrector Mike Pompeo.
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Trump “needs his new secretary of state confirmed so the chief diplomat can go back over to North Korea and elsewhere to sit down and try to denuclearize the Korean peninsula, which is in everybody’s interest,” she said.
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Following the Sunday morning talk shows, Trump tweeted: “Funny how all of the Pundits that couldn’t come close to making a deal on North Korea are now all over the place telling me how to make a deal!”

Kim Jong-un’s abrupt shift leaves skeptics unsettled

April 22, 2018
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US president Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

Washington: As North Korea’s reclusive ruler, Kim Jong-un, prepares for a landmark meeting with President Donald Trump, he has seized the diplomatic high ground, making conciliatory gestures on nuclear testing and US troops that have buoyed hopes in South Korea and won praise from Trump himself, who called it “big progress”.

But Kim’s audacious moves are unsettling officials in the United States, Japan and China. Some suspect he is posturing in advance of the summit meeting, as well as a separate meeting this coming week with South Korea’s president, and has no real intention of acceding to demands that he relinquish his nuclear weapons.

North Korea’s state-run television KRT said North Korea would suspend nuclear and missile tests effective immediately and abolish a nuclear test site.

They worry that his gestures could put Trump on the defensive in the difficult negotiations to come, by offering symbolically potent but substantively modest concessions in place of genuine disarmament — what one senior US official labeled a “freeze trap”.

The sudden offer of olive branches, from a leader who only four months ago warned the United States that he was ready to launch missiles from a nuclear button on his desk, is sharpening a question that has long bedeviled North Korea watchers: What does Kim want?

In Washington, most officials and experts believe the North Korean leader is determined to cement his country’s status as a nuclear state while escaping the chokehold of economic sanctions. His concessions on nuclear testing and the presence of US troops in South Korea, they said, are calculated to prod the United States into easing such penalties, even before the North dismantles its arsenal.

Trump has vowed not to do that. But aides say he is beguiled by the prospect of making history on the Korean Peninsula. He has yet to impose any preconditions on his meeting with Kim, not even the release of three Americans who are being held in North Korea, though officials say the United States is working hard to get them out.

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South Korean President Moon Jae-in.Photo: AP

This past week, he endorsed Kim’s effort to reach a peace accord with South Korea’s president, Moon Jae-in, which would formally end the 68-year military conflict in Korea. Inside the White House, some worry that Kim will use promises of peace to peel South Korea away from the United States and blunt efforts to force him to give up his nuclear weapons.

“People don’t realise the Korean War has not ended,” Trump said with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan sitting next to him. “It’s going on right now. And they are discussing an end to the war. So, subject to a deal, they would certainly have my blessing.”

The view from Japan

Abe pointedly did not echo those sentiments. Japan is deeply skeptical of Kim’s motives, and worried that its security concerns may not be taken into account in any agreement between either North and South Korea, or North Korea and the United States.

Japanese officials dismissed North Korea’s announcement that it was suspending nuclear and missile tests as “not sufficient” because it did not clearly state whether it included the short- and midrange missiles that are capable of hitting Japanese territory.

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Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.Photo: AP

“Just because North Korea is responding to dialogue, there should be no reward,” Abe said after spending two days with Trump at his Palm Beach estate in Florida, Mar-a-Lago. “Maximum pressure should be maintained, and actual implementation of concrete actions towards denuclearization will be demanded.”

Even China, which is accustomed to controlling its relationship with North Korea without interference from other powers, is chafing at the speed of events, and the increasingly warm feelings between Pyongyang and Washington. Chinese officials fear they will be sidelined in negotiations and that Kim will pursue a deal with the United States that places the North closer to Washington than Beijing.

Much of the anxiety in Tokyo and Beijing stems from the unpredictability of the main players. Trump, who threatened in August to rain “fire and fury” on the North, is now talking about “good will” between Washington and Pyongyang. Kim has proved more adroit than many expected in orchestrating the diplomatic opening to South Korea and the United States.

“They’re doing a great job of appearing reasonable, but picking apart the maximum pressure campaign, and positioning themselves to be accepted as a nuclear weapons state in the future,” said Evan S. Medeiros, a former senior Asia adviser to President Barack Obama.

Added uncertainty

Adding to the uncertainty is the flux on Trump’s national security team. Days after accepting Kim’s invitation to meet, the president fired his secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, and his national security adviser, Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, was forced to step down.

Now, Trump has entrusted the diplomacy to Mike Pompeo, the CIA director, whom he nominated to replace Tillerson and who is embroiled in a difficult Senate confirmation process. Pompeo traveled secretly to Pyongyang over Easter weekend to meet Kim, bringing along only aides from the spy agency.

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CIA director Mike Pompeo.Photo: Reuters

Pompeo raised the issue of the detained Americans, according to a senior official. But much of his one-day visit was devoted to logistical issues, like the venue and date for a meeting, which is expected in late May or early June. The lack of involvement by the White House or the State Department, another official said, has limited the amount of substantive preparation for the meeting with Kim.

McMaster’s hawkish successor, John R. Bolton, is another wild card. Two weeks before he was recruited as national security adviser, he said a meeting between Trump and Kim was useful only because it would inevitably fail, and then the United States could move swiftly on to the next phase — presumably a military confrontation.

“It could be a long and unproductive meeting, or it could be a short and unproductive meeting,” he said on Fox News.

Since entering the White House, however, Bolton has stuck to a traditional definition of his job, brokering proposals to present to Trump, officials said. Even among officials who worry about war, there is sympathy for his view that “failing quickly” would be valuable. The United States, they said, should flush out Kim’s intentions before he has another six months or a year to master intercontinental ballistic missiles.

Bolton’s presence has also not stopped Trump from praising Kim and voicing optimism — even excitement — about their looming encounter. On Friday, he tweeted, “North Korea has agreed to suspend all Nuclear Tests and close up a major test site. This is very good news for North Korea and the World — big progress! Look forward to our Summit.”

The administration viewed Kim’s statement about halting nuclear tests as more intriguing than his acceptance of a continuing US troop presence because he made it to his own people. Still, they noted his unwillingness to rule out short- and medium-range missiles, which they said could divide Japan from the United States.

Officials also acknowledged the challenge of staying in sync with Moon, who is acting as a mediator between the United States and North Korea and who is deeply invested in ending years of estrangement between the North and South.

Moon contends that it would not be difficult to broker a “broad” agreement between Trump and Kim in which North Korea commits to giving up its arsenal and the United States makes security guarantees, including a peace treaty and normalized ties, and offers aid that Kim needs to rebuild his economy.

South Korea envisions a sequential process, starting with an agreement to freeze North Korea’s nuclear program and ending with total denuclearization. The North, officials said, will insist that for each step it takes, the United States offer reciprocal incentives.

Such an approach is not new: The George W Bush administration tried it with Kim’s father, Kim Jong Il, in 2005. But the process could be open-ended if North Korea and the United States, mistrustful of each other, haggle each step of the way, as they did then.

The key to success, South Korean officials said, is if North Korea and the United States can agree to narrow the time span between the initial freeze, which Moon has called “the entrance,” and complete denuclearization, which he calls “the exit”.

South Korean officials are banking on Kim’s desperate desire to improve the economy and Trump’s need for a diplomatic victory before the midterm elections in November.

What happens then?

Once they reach a broad deal, analysts said, Kim could move to dismantle production facilities for intercontinental ballistic missiles and allow access to nuclear sites in the North; the two leaders could exchange liaison offices in Pyongyang and Washington; and Trump could ease sanctions, especially those that affect ordinary North Koreans.

Like their US counterparts, South Korean officials do not believe Kim will swiftly relinquish his nuclear weapons. But there is a growing belief in Seoul that he might ultimately bargain them away, if it helps him rebuild the economy. That is why some in South Korea viewed his announcement on testing as a hopeful sign.

“It means that North Korea is willing to give up an ICBM capability that threatens the United States,” said Cheong Seong-chang, a senior North Korea analyst at the Sejong Institute, a think tank in South Korea. “This is why it is good news for the Trump administration.”

The New York Times

https://www.smh.com.au/world/asia/kim-jong-un-s-abrupt-shift-leaves-skeptics-unsettled-20180422-p4zaze.html

Senate panel likely to reject Pompeo for State as Democrats balk

April 21, 2018

AFP

© AFP/File | CIA director Mike Pompeo could be the first secretary of state nominee in decades to be reported unfavorably out of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, but he is nonetheless likely to get a full confirmation vote

WASHINGTON (AFP) – President Donald Trump’s secretary of State pick Mike Pompeo is likely to be rejected by a Senate panel after all its Democrats opposed his nomination, but he may still win final confirmation next week.

Senator Chris Coons on Friday became the last Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to announce his position.

The panel has 11 Republicans and 10 Democrats.

With Republican Rand Paul joining all the Democrats in opposition, Pompeo is now expected to be reported unfavorably out of committee — a rare result — despite a full court press by the White House to get him across the line.

“I do not make this decision lightly or without reservations,” Coons said in a statement.

While he was convinced Pompeo, who currently heads the CIA, would help improve conditions for career professionals at the State Department, “I remain concerned that Director Pompeo will not challenge the president in critical moments.”

Coons said he worried that Pompeo “will embolden, rather than moderate or restrain, President Trump’s most belligerent and dangerous instincts.”

The committee’s Republican chairman, Senator Bob Corker, has scheduled a Monday panel vote.

Regardless of the outcome, Corker is expected to report the nominee to the full Senate for a vote. The White House is eager to see a final vote next week, before Congress goes on a one-week recess.

Pompeo, a former congressman, has promised to “push back” against Russian aggression. And he made headlines this week when it emerged that he secretly traveled to North Korea and met with leader Kim Jong Un ahead of a planned Kim-Trump summit.

But Democrats have warned Pompeo could be excessively partisan, something Corker sought to knock back on Thursday.

“I realize my Democratic friends in many cases feel like that in supporting Pompeo, it’s a proxy for support of the Trump administration policies, which many of them abhor,” Corker said.

But he insisted there was no one in Washington “that has more current knowledge about the threats” today than Pompeo.

He still has a shot at confirmation. Republicans hold 51 of the chamber’s 100 seats.

With Senator John McCain out indefinitely as he battles cancer, and Paul opposed, Pompeo would need support from just one Democrat if all other Republicans back the nominee.

On Thursday, Senator Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, who is up for reelection in November in a state won handily by Trump in 2016, announced her support for Pompeo.

Republican Senator Jeff Flake, meanwhile, has said he remained undecided.

Pompeo has been quietly courting other Senate Democrats from red states in his hopes to win a majority.

Hard To Figure Outcome of Trump-North Korea Diplomacy

April 20, 2018

Diplomatic overtures on the peninsula are raising expectations that may not be met

IT HAS been a busy week for anyone with even a passing interest in North-East Asian geopolitics. On April 17th the Washington Post reported that Mike Pompeo, the director of the CIA, went to meet North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong Un, in Pyongyang over the Easter weekend. The apparent intention of the visit was to prepare for a meeting between Mr Kim and Donald Trump in May or early June. A day later South Korean officials confirmed that talks about permanent peace on the Korean peninsula were on the table for a summit between Mr Kim and Moon Jae-in, South Korea’s president, on April 27th, along with a joint statement on “denuclearisation”. This is all a far cry from the situation only months ago, when Mr Kim’s frequent missile tests had diplomats worried that the world was on the brink of nuclear war. So is the current flurry of activity cause for optimism?

In principle, bringing North Korea back into international society would be a boon. The world at large would no longer have to put up with Mr Kim’s sabre-rattling provocations. South Korea and Japan, North Korea’s neighbours, might benefit from a new market just next door. For ordinary North Koreans an opening of the country would be even better news. Currently they are not just suffering from the oppressive policies of Mr Kim’s regime—which delights in staging public executions and sending citizens to prison camps for such innocuous activities as listening to K-pop—but also from complete isolation from the world. They cannot visit family members in the South, nor receive visitors from there. And the dense thicket of international sanctions against their country prevents them from taking advantage of the opportunities offered by the global economy.

Next week’s summit between Messrs Kim and Moon may go some way towards easing these pains, for example by establishing regular inter-Korean meetings and enabling further cultural exchanges between the two Koreas. But the kind of rapprochement needed to end the pain for good is still a long way off, for all Mr Trump’s insistence that Mr Pompeo formed a “good relationship” with Mr Kim during his recent visit. This is because the parties—America, North Korea and South Korea, and also Japan and China—are hardly on the same page about the conditions required for a sustained thaw. Mr Trump seems to believe that America’s policy of “maximum pressure” (the thorough implementation of sanctions accompanied by the threat of preventive military action) has brought North Korea to the negotiating table and that Mr Kim may be willing to abandon his nuclear programme in return for sanctions relief. Yet there has been no indication that Mr Kim is prepared to make any meaningful concessions in this regard. Instead he is reaping the benefits of talks with the world’s top diplomats while spouting the same phrases as his father and grandfather before him. Both Kims senior stressed their commitment to “denuclearisation”. But rather than the end of their own nuclear programme, they meant the withdrawal of American troops and the nuclear umbrella over South Korea and Japan, both of which they demanded as conditions for possible concessions by the North.

This means that unless there is a marked change in the North’s attitude, the current round of talks seems unlikely to yield any substantial results. Indeed, Mr Trump has already indicated that he may walk away if Mr Kim does not show himself to be amenable to America’s aims. The bigger danger is that he does not, and instead makes rash concessions that allow North Korea to divide America from its regional allies.

https://www.economist.com/blogs/economist-explains/2018/04/economist-explains-14

South Korea’s Moon says North seeking ‘complete denuclearization’

April 19, 2018

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FILE PHOTO: South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in is seen during a meeting with Vietnam’s Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc (not pictured) at the Government Office in Hanoi, Vietnam March 23, 2018. REUTERS/Kham/Pool

SEOUL (Reuters) – North Korea has expressed its desire for “complete denuclearization” of the Korean peninsula and is not seeking conditions such as U.S. troops withdrawing from the South first, South Korean President Moon Jae-in said on Thursday.

Moon said big-picture agreements about normalization of relations between the two Koreas and the United States should not be difficult to reach through planned summits between North and South, and between the North and the United States, in a bid to rein in the North’s nuclear and missile programs.

“North Korea is expressing a will for a complete denuclearization,” Moon told reporters.

“They have not attached any conditions that the U.S. cannot accept, such as the withdrawal of American troops from South Korea. All they are expressing is the end of hostile policies against North Korea, followed by a guarantee of security.”

North Korea has defended its weapons programs, which it pursues in defiance of U.N. Security Council resolutions, as a necessary deterrent against perceived U.S. hostility. The United States stations 28,500 troops in South Korea, a legacy of the 1950-53 Korean War.

North Korea has said over the years that it could consider giving up its nuclear arsenal if the United States removed its troops from South Korea and withdrew its so-called nuclear umbrella of deterrence from South Korea and Japan.

South Korea announced on Wednesday that it is considering how to change a decades-old armistice with North Korea into a peace agreement as it prepares for the North-South summit this month.

In this April 9, 2018, photo provided by the North Korean government, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un attends a meeting of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea, in Pyongyang, North Korea. 

Reclusive North Korea and the rich, democratic South are technically still at war because the 1950-53 conflict ended in a truce, not a peace treaty.

Moon also said he saw the possibility of a peace agreement, or even international aid for the North’s economy, if it denuclearizes.

But he also said the summit had “a lot of constraints”, in that the two Koreas could not make progress separate from the North Korea-United States summit, and could not reach an agreement that transcends international sanctions.

“So first, the South-North Korean summit must make a good beginning, and the dialogue between the two Koreas likely must continue after we see the results of the North Korea-United States summit,” Moon said.

U.S. CIA Director Mike Pompeo visited North Korea last week and met leader Kim Jong Un with whom he formed a “good relationship”, U.S. President Donald Trump said on Wednesday, ahead of a summit planned for May or June.

North Korea meanwhile will hold a plenary meeting of its ruling party’s central committee on Friday, state media KCNA said on Thursday.

The meeting was convened to discuss and decide “policy issues of a new stage” to meet the demands of the current “important historic period”, KCNA said.

Reporting by Joyce Lee; Editing by Nick Macfie

Seoul to seek deal on formally ending war with N. Korea

April 18, 2018

AFP

© AFP/File | The 1950-53 Korean War ended in an armistice rather than a peace treaty, leaving the two sides technically at war. The Demilitarised Zone between them bristles with minefields and fortifications

SEOUL (AFP) – South Korea is seeking to open discussions about formally declaring an end to the war with the nuclear-armed North at a rare inter-Korean summit next week, officials said Wednesday.”We are looking at the possibility of replacing the armistice regime on the Korean peninsula with a peace regime,” a senior official at the presidential Blue House told reporters.

“But this is not something we can do by ourselves. It needs close discussions with relevant parties including North Korea.”

The comments came after US President Donald Trump said that the summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and the South’s President Moon Jae-in could, with his “blessing”, discuss a peace treaty to formally close the conflict.

The 1950-53 Korean War ended in an armistice rather than a peace treaty, leaving the two sides technically at war. The Demilitarised Zone between them bristles with minefields and fortifications.

But while the US-led United Nations command, China and North Korea are signatories to the decades-old armistice, South Korea is not.

Reaching any final treaty would be fraught with complications.

Both Pyongyang and Seoul claim sovereignty over the whole Korean peninsula, but a treaty could imply mutual recognition of each other.

The North would be likely to demand the withdrawal of US troops, while the South’s national security adviser Chung Eui-yong said Wednesday that Seoul and Washington wanted to see Pyongyang give up its nuclear ambitions.

In meetings with his newly-appointed US counterpart John Bolton, the two had discussed ways to “establish an ultimate peace regime”, but only if the North “makes the correct decision”, he said.

Pyongyang has in the past demanded a peace treaty with the US, describing them as the two direct parties in the conflict.

“South Korea is a direct party. Who can argue that?” the Blue House official said.

The two Koreas could first reach an agreement which would be followed by a meeting between Kim and Trump and a trilateral summit to seal the deal, he suggested.

But four-party talks could also be needed, he added, in a reference to China.

But he cautioned “I am not sure if we will use the expression ‘ending the war'” at the summit. “We want to reach an agreement on banning hostile activities between the South and North,” he added.

The two Koreas will hold what will be their third summit since the 1950-53 Korean War next Friday, with a subsequent meeting planned between Kim and Trump — which would be the first time a sitting US president had met the North’s leader.

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