Posts Tagged ‘US President Donald Trump’

White House statement does not accurately reflect Erdogan’s phone call with Trump: Turkish source

January 25, 2018

Turkish army tanks enter Afrin, an enclave in northern Syria controlled by US-allied Kurdish fighters, in Hassa, Hatay, Turkey, Monday, Jan. 22, 2018. Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said his country will “not take a step back” from its military operation on Afrin. (AP)

ISTANBUL: The statement issued by the White House regarding Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan’s phone call with US President Donald Trump does not accurately reflect the content of their conversation, a Turkish source said on Thursday.

“President Trump did not share any ‘concerns about escalating violence’ with regard to the ongoing military operation in Afrin,” the source said, referring to one comment in the White House summary of their phone call.
“The two leaders’ discussion of Operation Olive Branch was limited to an exchange of views,” the source said.

Reading Between the Lines of Donald Trump’s Jerusalem Announcement

December 7, 2017
 The Jerusalem Post
DECEMBER 7, 2017 12:16

What did the president say and why and how did he say it.

In a thirteen minute, 1,200 word speech, US President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

Image may contain: 3 people, people standing and suit

With Vice President Mike Pence looking on, US President Donald Trump gives a statement on Jerusalem, during which he recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, in the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House in Washington, US, December 6, 2017. (photo credit: REUTERS/KEVIN LAMARQUE)

Although he promised a departure from failed policies of the past and sought to put his imprimatur on the peace process, much of the speech he gave was based on careful wording intended not to upset the status quo too much.

It was crafted with careful attention to carry Trump’s own message, alongside a message the future administrations could stand by.

The following are several key elements of the statement.

 We cannot solve our problems by making the same failed assumptions and repeating the same failed strategies of the past.

Trump promised when he came into office to move beyond the problems he claimed to have inherited from past administrations.

Some of these related to what he sees as failed policies in the Middle East, wasted lives and money.

Like Obama before him, Trump wants to depart from these failures and try something new.

 I have determined that it is time to officially recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. While previous presidents have made this a major campaign promise, they failed to deliver. Today, I am delivering.

Trump wants to remind voters that he has accomplished something in 2017, after almost a year in office. This is a campaign promise he can deliver.

He’s trying to break with former presidencies and distinguish himself.

 The Israeli people have built a country where Jews, Muslims, and Christians, and people of all faiths are free to live and worship according to their conscience and according to their beliefs.

 Jerusalem is today, and must remain, a place where Jews pray at the Western Wall, where Christians walk the Stations of the Cross, and where Muslims worship at Al-Aqsa Mosque.

Here the speechwriters have carefully chosen “Israeli people” and not “Jewish people,” trying to be cognizant that Israel is not just made up of Jews. The “Israeli people” are contrasted with the three monotheistic religions.

It’s interesting they chose the “stations of the cross” and not the Holy Sepulchre which is probably because Protestants do not have a space in the Sepulchre, and one of Trump’s base of support has tended to be among more rural Christian Americans.

 But today, we finally acknowledge the obvious: that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital.

The centerpiece of the speech, doubling down on mentioning Jerusalem, which is mentioned eighteen times in the speech, compared to “Israel” which is mentioned twenty-three times.

The word “obvious” feels very Trump-like. Diplomats tend to shy away from “obvious” in favor of complex terminology and views that are not obvious. The Golan is obviously part of Israel, but according to the UN is still part of Syria, for instance.

 This will immediately begin the process of hiring architects, engineers, and planners, so that a new embassy, when completed, will be a magnificent tribute to peace.

Here, Trump seems to lapse into a discussion about building something “great” in America.

During the campaign he often references his acumen as a builder of things, such as in Atlantic city, or the numerous places that have the “Trump” name.

There was no reason to delve into the minutiae of “hiring architects, engineers and planners,” but this is classic Trump.

 I also want to make one point very clear: This decision is not intended, in any way, to reflect a departure from our strong commitment to facilitate a lasting peace agreement.

 We want an agreement that is a great deal for the Israelis and a great deal for the Palestinians.

The second part of the speech seeks to re-assure local allies in the region that the US administration will stand by its commitment to “lasting” peace.

This term “lasting” is one of the meaningless generalizations regarding “peace” that always finds its way into US policy statements.

Trump adds a flourish though, “a great deal,” to show that he has taken part in this statement.

 In the meantime, I call on all parties to maintain the status quo at Jerusalem’s holy sites, including the Temple Mount, also known as Haram al-Sharif.

Here the speechwriters wants to make sure to include the Islamic holy site, a quiet communication to Saudi Arabia and Jordan that the US cares about the holy sites and the status quo.

This is a historic status quo reference from the 19th century, one that the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan takes very seriously as a custodian of the holy sites.

 I repeat the message I delivered at the historic and extraordinary summit in Saudi Arabia earlier this year:

Trump seeks to reach out to Saudi Arabia which has been one of his closes allies in the region.

Saudi Arabia was not only the site of his speech to 50 Muslim countries in the spring, but also the Kingdom has been pushing Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to make peace.

In the region the Saudis are widely blamed for Trump’s decision and they are accused of accepting the recognition quietly. Trump wants to remind listeners, the Saudis are on his side and he is on theirs.

Palestinians Promise Explosion of Violence if Trump Recognizes Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital

December 3, 2017

Israel Today
Sunday, December 3, 2017

Image may contain: one or more people and outdoor

Rumors are rife that US President Donald Trump will officially recognize a united Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Israel sometime this week, possibly in lieu of actually moving the US Embassy to the Holy City in the short term.

But the Palestinian leadership is warning that if Trump takes either of those steps, they will unleash a wave of terrorist violence that will affect the entire world.

“Any American declaration of recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel – if there is one – would mean total destruction of the peace process,” senior Palestinian Authority advisor Mahmoud Al-Habbash told reporters on Saturday. “The whole world will pay a price for any change or harm to the political reality of Jerusalem.”

It was pointed out that Al-Habbash issued the violent threat with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas standing at his side, meaning it is the official Palestinian Authority (PA) position.

Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip and with which the PA is trying to reconcile, was slightly less dramatic, though its threat was probably more legitimate.

“We warn against such a move and call on the Palestinian people to revive the intifada (terrorist uprising) if these unjust decisions on Jerusalem are adopted,” Hamas said in a statement released to the press.

PHOTO: Palestinians protested against Trump and his support for Israel during the president’s visit to the region in May 2017. (Nasser Ishtayeh/Flash90)


Hamas threatens new ‘intifada’ over US moves on Jerusalem

December 3, 2017


© THOMAS COEX / AFP | A picture taken with a smartphone using panoramic mode on December 1, 2017 shows a view of Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives.

Text by FRANCE 24 

Latest update : 2017-12-03

The Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas which controls Gaza called Saturday for a new “intifada” if Washington recognises Jerusalem as the capital of Israel or moves its embassy to the disputed city.

Reports in Washington have suggested US President Donald Trump may on Monday fulfil a campaign pledge on the American embassy, which like all other foreign missions is currently located in the coastal city of Tel Aviv.

“We warn against such a move and call on the Palestinian people to revive the intifada if these unjust decisions on Jerusalem are adopted,” Hamas said in a statement.

Any decision to move its embassy there would be “a flagrant attack on the city by the American administration” and give Israel “a cover for continuing its crime of Judaising the city and emptying it of Palestinians,” it said.

The status of Jerusalem is a key issue in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Both Israelis and Palestinians claim the city as their capital and previous peace plans have stumbled over debates on whether, and how, to divide sovereignty or oversee holy sites.

A weighted issue

The last Palestinian intifada, or uprising, which claimed the lives of some 3,000 Palestinians and 1,000 Israelis, was sparked by right-wing opposition leader Ariel Sharon’s visit to the city’s flashpoint Al-Aqsa mosque compound in 2000.

The Palestinian president’s office told AFP on Friday that American recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel would “destroy the peace process”.

Since 1995 it has been US law that Washington’s embassy in Israel must be moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, as demanded by the Jewish state.

But every six months since the law was passed a succession of US presidents have signed a waiver to hold off on a switch which would enrage Palestinians and their Arab supporters.

Trump has signed the waiver once, and grudgingly, after vowing to Jewish-American supporters that he would be the president to finally make the switch permanent.

The next deadline comes on Monday, and some in Washington suggest that Trump is planning a speech on the issue next week, before his deputy Mike Pence heads to Jerusalem.

The White House has described reports he may refuse to sign the waiver as premature — but sources told AFP they expect Trump to formally declare Jerusalem Israel’s capital.

The international community has never recognised Jerusalem as the capital of Israel or its unilateral annexation of a band of territory around the city’s eastern sector, which it captured in the 1967 Six-Day war.

Tensions within the Palestinian Territories

Meanwhile, tensions are also simmering within the main political groups in the Palestinian Territories. On Saturday, Hamas accused the Palestinian Authority of blocking a landmark unity deal and called for a lifting of its sanctions on the Gaza Strip.

“We demand that the government of (prime minister) Rami Hamdallah assume its responsibilities in full and lift the unjust sanctions imposed on our people in Gaza,” said Hamas, the faction which controls the coastal enclave..

The PA, dominated by Fatah, was scheduled to take over control of Gaza by December 1 under a landmark unity deal signed in October, but the deadline passed with the two factions accusing each other of not respecting the accord.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)


Intifada (انتفاضة intifāḍah) is an Arabic word literally meaning, as a noun, “tremor”, “shivering”, “shuddering”.[1][2] It is derived from an Arabic term nafada meaning “to shake”, “shake off”, “get rid of”,[1] as a dog might shrug off water, or as one might shake off sleep,[3] or dirt from one’s sandals,[4] and is a key concept in contemporary Arabic usage referring to a legitimate uprising against oppression.[5] It is often rendered into English as “uprising“, “resistance“, or “rebellion“.

The concept intifada was first utilized in modern times in 1952 within the Kingdom of Iraq, when socialist and communist parties took to the streets to protest the Hashemite monarchy, with inspiration of the 1952 Egyptian Revolution. In the Palestinian context, with which it is particularly associated, the word refers to attempts to “shake off” the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip in the First and Second Intifadas,[5][6] where it was originally chosen to connote “aggressive nonviolent resistance”,[1] a meaning it bore among Palestinian students in struggles in the 1980s and which they adopted as less confrontational than terms in earlier militant rhetoric since it bore no nuance of violence.

Britain: Downing Street calls Donald Trump ‘wrong’ for re-tweeting anti-Muslim videos from British far-Right group

November 29, 2017

The Telegraph

By Louis Emanuel and 

Donald Trump has re-tweeted three anti-Muslim videos posted by a British far-Right group.

The US president shared three posts by Jayda Fransen, deputy leader of Britain First, on Wednesday. The posts included unverified videos titled “Muslim Destroys a Statue of Virgin Mary!” and “Muslim migrant beats up Dutch boy on crutches!”

Downing Street has condemned the tweets, saying Mr Trump was “wrong” to share them with his followers.

However, a spokesman for Prime Minister Theresa May said plans for the President’s state visit remain in place.

Brendan Cox, the widower of MP Jo Cox, responded in a tweet, saying: “Trump has legitimised the far-Right in his own country, now he’s trying to do it in ours. Spreading hatred has consequences & the President should be ashamed of himself.”
Jayda Fransen, deputy leader of Britain First, with leader Paul Golding in Bromley CREDIT: LONDON NEWS PICTURES

Chuka Umunna, the Labour MP, said the State Visit invitation to Mr Trump to be withdrawn immediately.

Mr Umunna told Sky News: “He is normalising hatred. If we don’t call this out we are going down a very dangerous road.”

Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader, said: “I hope our Government will condemn far-right retweets by Donald Trump. They are abhorrent, dangerous and a threat to our society.

There was no immediate reaction from Theresa May, who was on a surprise visit to Baghdad.

Home Secretary Amber Rudd did not immediately respond when Labour MPs raised the issue in Parliament.

There was also no immediate comment from the White House.

I hope our Government will condemn far-right retweets by Donald Trump. They are abhorrent, dangerous and a threat to our society.

In the US the Council on American-Islamic Relations condemned Mr Trump’s retweets.

Nihad Awad, the group’s executive director, said: “He is clearly telling members of his base that they should hate Islam and Muslims. It amounts to incitement to violence against American Muslims.”

Fransen’s videos appear to have come to Mr Trump’s attention through Ann Coulter, the American conservative political commentator and best-selling author.

Coulter’s account is one of the only 45 followed by Mr Trump.

On Tuesday, Coulter had retweeted Fransen’s video of a Dutch boy on crutches being attacked.

After Mr Trump’s retweet some Dutch media reported that the video of the boy on crutches being attacked was not what it seemed.

According to reports there the video was first posted on the internet in May but removed at the request of police. The incident was said to have taken place in Monnickendam. A 16-year-old was arrested but was not a migrant or a Muslim, but an “ordinary Dutchman,” according to the Dutch reports.

Britain First has campaigned against what it calls the “Islamisation” of the UK since it was founded in 2011 by former members of the British National Party. The group has organised a number of public rallies in cities across the UK.

Jayda Fransen responded to Mr Trump's tweet
Jayda Fransen responded to Mr Trump’s tweet

One of the videos Mr Trump shared was titled: “Islamist mob pushes teenage boy off roof and beats him to death!”. The video, tweeted at 7.40am this morning, shows a mob attacking a group of young men taking refuge on top of a water tower on a building before being thrown down and beaten.

The video first surfaced in 2013 and was recorded in Egypt, amid violence following the overthrow of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi. The perpetrators were later sentenced to death.

Fransen appeared to celebrate Mr Trump sharing the videos. In a tweet from her account, which is verified as authentic by Twitter, she said in full caps. “The President of the United States, Donald Trump, has retweeted three of deputy leader Jayda Fransen’s Twitter videos! Donald Trump himself has re-tweeted these videos and has around 44 million followers! God bless you Trump! God bless America!!

An identical message was also sent from the Britain First account, which is not verified, and the account of Paul Golding, the leader of Britain First, which is verified.

A Muslim Council of Britain spokesperson said: “It is outrageous that the President of the USA is sharing anti-Muslim content from a renowned far-right extremist group in the UK.

“We hope our Prime Minister and Home Secretary will distance ourselves from Mr Trump and his comments, and will reiterate the government’s abhorrence to all forms of extremism.”

David Lammy, the MP for Tottenham, said he stood by Brendan Cox today in light of Mr Trump’s tweets. Thomas Mair, the man convicted of killing Jo Cox, shouted “Britain First” as he attacked the MP in June 2016. At his trial, no link was found between Mr Mair and the group Britain First.

Mr Lammy said: “Trump sharing Britain First. Let that sink in. The President of the United States is promoting a fascist, racist, extremist hate group… He is no ally or friend of ours. Trump, you are not welcome in my country and my city.”

Jayda Fransen CREDIT: REX

Unlike some major politicians Mr Trump generally sends his own tweets, although there is one other person who has been known to be involved in composing tweets from his account.

Dan Scavino, the White House director of social media, has been described as the president’s “mini-me” and managed his social media during last year’s election campaign.

During the campaign Mr Scavino, a former general manager at one of Mr Trump’s golf courses, was involved in the tweeting from Mr Trump’s account of an anti-Hillary Clinton message that included a six-pointed star, which critics suggested was anti-Semitic. It was later deleted.

On that occasion Mr Scavino released a statement about why he selected the image, and why he then deleted it.

It was not known if Mr Scavino was involved in the selection of the latest videos, or if Mr Trump selected them himself.

Tracy Brabin, who succeeded the murdered Jo Cox as MP for Batley & Spen, said Mr Trump would not be welcome in the UK.

Ms Brabin told World At One: “These retweets are incredibly troubling. He has shown such lack of leadership over the months that he has been President of the US, but this just beggars belief, justifying this organisation.”

She added: “Absolutely the Government must get involved in this. We are not holding this man’s hand, we are challenging him and holding him to account.”

Chris Bryant, the Laboutr MP, added: “He should be banned from this country not invited.”

But Brexit minister Lord Callanan said Mr Trump may have not been aware of the “appalling” nature of Britain First. He said the incident showed the president should be “more careful” in his tweeting.

The Conservative peer told BBC Radio 4’s World At One: “Britain First is an appalling organisation and there is no excusing the things they stand for.

“I can only assume that he has made a mistake and that he did not realise who Britain First were. Most people in the UK don’t know who Britain First are.

“I’m not excusing it. He clearly needs to be more careful what he tweets to 44 million followers. This is manna from heaven for them – we are doing exactly what they want in publicising them and giving coverage to their awful views, and Trump has helped them in that.”


Trump retweets anti-Muslim videos

November 29, 2017


© AFP/File | US President Donald Trump retweeted three anti-Muslim videos posted by a British far-right group

President Donald Trump on Wednesday retweeted three anti-Muslim videos posted by a British far-right group.

One of them purports to show a Muslim beating up a Dutch boy on crutches. Another is described as showing an Islamist mob pushing a teenager of a rooftop.

The third purports to show a Muslim throwing down and smashing a statue of the Virgin Mary.

The footage was posted by Jayda Fransen, deputy leader of the far-right group Britain First.

The retweets were part of an early morning burst in which Trump again dismissed CNN as “Fake News” and insisted the US economy was in “record territory” by many measures.

Trump also said consumer confidence was at an all-time high.

“I guess somebody likes me (my policies)!” the president wrote.

The video of the Virgin Mary statue being wrecked has been on YouTube at least since 2013. It is labeled as showing a jihadist in Syria doing the destroying of the icon.

China warns of retaliation after fresh US trade probe — China’s possible aluminium dumping under scrutiny

November 29, 2017

© AFP/File / by Ryan McMorrow with Douglas Gillison in Washington | Less than three weeks after US President Donald Trump met in Beijing with China’s President Xi Jinping, the US launched a new trade investigation into possible dumping and subsidies for imports of aluminum sheet from China


China on Wednesday warned it would take the “necessary measures” to protect its businesses after the United States launched a new trade probe into China’s possible aluminium dumping.

The investigation into imports of aluminium sheet worth hundreds of millions of dollars a year was an unusually aggressive move by the United States.

For the first time since 1991, the US Commerce Department said it launched the investigation on its own initiative, rather than responding to a request from a US company.

“This practice by the US side is very rare in the history of international trade,” China’s Ministry of Commerce said in a statement.

“China expresses strong dissatisfaction towards the tendency of trade protectionism displayed by the United States.”

The US Commerce Department said Tuesday it opened the probe into possible dumping and inappropriate subsidies of common alloy aluminium sheet from China, which may be harming US industry.

“President Trump made it clear from day one that unfair trade practices will not be tolerated under this administration, and today we take one more step in fulfilling that promise,” Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said in a statement.

“We are self-initiating the first trade case in over a quarter century, showing once again that we stand in constant vigilance in support of free, fair and reciprocal trade.”

The US imported more than $600 million of aluminium sheet from China last year. The product, used in building and construction, transportation and making appliances, may benefit from subsidies and may be sold in the US market below cost, the statement said.

The government could retaliate by imposing punitive import duties on the Chinese aluminium.

China’s Commerce Ministry said the aluminium trade was mutually beneficial to China and the US.

“Man-made obstruction to the normal aluminium trade will harm the interests of both China and the US,” the statement said, which was attributed to Wang Hejun, the director of the trade remedy and investigation bureau.

China said it would adopt the “necessary measures to protect the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese enterprises”, but did not detail what those measures would be.

Washington’s use of the rare tactic capped a series of adversarial manoeuvrers on trade with China, and came shortly after President Donald Trump’s two-week trip to Asia this month, which included a stop in Beijing.

Among the steps taken was the Trump administration in April launching national security investigations into Chinese imports of aluminium and steel, warning that they threatened to undermine producers crucial to US defence needs.

– Trade cases rise under Trump –

The US also has slapped punitive duties on imports of Chinese aluminium foil and plywood, and announced earlier Tuesday it had done likewise for imports of Chinese-made tool chests and cabinets.

Trump rose to office on a nationalist economic agenda, squarely blaming alleged unfair Chinese trading practices for US job losses and economic hardship — part of a combative overall stance that has focused upending prevailing trade policies to reduce deficits.

The Trump administration has launched 65 percent more trade investigations than the final year of the Obama administration, with 79 opened compared to just 48 in 2016, according to the Commerce Department.

The last time the Commerce Department self-initiated a countervailing duty case was 1991, on Canadian softwood lumber — a dispute that continues. The last self-initiated anti-dumping investigation was into Japanese semiconductors in 1985.

The department said it acted based on information suggesting import prices for the Chinese alloy aluminium sheets “may be less than the normal value” and production of the material may have been unfairly subsidised, the statement said.

“The department also has evidence that imports of common alloy sheet from China may be materially injuring, or threatening material injury to, the domestic industry producing common alloy sheet in the United States,” the department said.

by Ryan McMorrow with Douglas Gillison in Washington

Trump ‘will tweet what he wants’ inside China’s Great Firewall

November 8, 2017


© AFP | US President Donald Trump will be one of a select few with access to Twitter when he arrives in China

BEIJING (AFP) – President Donald Trump will not curtail his notorious Twitter missives during his visit to China even though the social media platform is blocked by a “Great Firewall”, a US official said Wednesday.”The president will tweet whatever he wants,” the senior White House official told reporters aboard Air Force One shortly before Trump landed in Beijing.

“That’s his way of communicating directly with the American people. Why not? So long as he can access his Twitter account, because Twitter is banned in China along with Facebook and most of the other social media.”


The official assured, “I’m sure we’ve got the gear aboard this airplane to make it happen.”

China monitors people’s internet habits and blocks websites such as Twitter, Facebook and Google in the name of “protecting national security.”

Chinese nationals can face fines or even jail time for unfavourable social media posts. Authorities have further tightened internet controls in recent months, shutting down celebrity gossip blogs and probing platforms for “obscenity.”

Web users can circumvent the firewall if they download a virtual private network (VPN) — software that allows people to surf the internet as if they were using a server in another country.

Foreign visitors can also access banned websites with their phones if they are in roaming mode — but only because the authorities currently allow it, according to experts.

Weibo, a Twitter-like Chinese social media platform, was ablaze Wednesday with comments about what Trump would do without his most cherished form of communication.

No automatic alt text available.

Since Trump’s election in 2016, critics among Chinese internet users have mockingly described American governance as “rule by Twitter.”

Some commenters feigned ignorance about the verboten site.

“Fake news. What’s Twitter? This website doesn’t exist,” one quipped.

Others appeared to be asking for explanations about Twitter in earnest, while still others called on Trump to create a Weibo account.

“In the three days that Trump’s off Twitter, someone else will surely seize the throne,” commented a user on Zhihu, a question-and-answer platform akin to Quora.

On North Korea Border, Mattis Says Kim Threatening ‘Catastrophe’

October 27, 2017


By Kanga Kong and Kyungji Cho

  • North Korea says it will repatriate crew of South Korean boat
  • Pyongyang has avoided provocations since Sept. 15 missile
 Image result for mattis at dmz, photos

 U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and South Korean Defense Minister Song Young-moo visit Observation Post Ouellette in Paju in the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) on the border between North and South Korea on Friday. Jung Yeon-je / AP

In a visit to the Demilitarized Zone that separates the two Koreas, U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis on Friday accused North Korea of building a nuclear arsenal to “threaten others with catastrophe,” the Yonhap news agency reported.

Mattis pledged solidarity with U.S. ally South Korea, saying that President Donald Trump’s administration wants to avoid war if possible and remains committed to forcing North Korea to disarm, according to Yonhap.

The defense secretary is in South Korea for talks this weekend with counterpart Song Young-moo on a trip that comes ahead of Trump’s planned visit to the country early next month. They are set to discuss the bilateral defense alliance, including a timetable for returning wartime operational control to Seoul from Washington.

While a Trump visit to the DMZ hasn’t been ruled out by the White House, it could been seen as provocative — North and South Korean soldiers stand feet part on either side of a line that marks the heavily fortified border. Tensions have eased in recent weeks during a brief halt in Pyongyang’s nuclear tests and missile launches. The reclusive nation’s last missile launch was on Sept. 15., an intermediate-range missile that flew over the northern Japan.

Making time to visit a U.S.-South Korean military observation post to peer into North Korea, Mattis was also briefed on conditions along the border created after a truce halted the Korean War in 1953.

Diplomacy should “start by addressing a fundamental issue at the heart of the problem: namely, that no peace treaty has ever been signed,” Carl Bildt, former prime minister of Sweden, wrote in an article published Wednesday by Project Syndicate. “A dialogue to replace the 64-year-old armistice with a formal peace agreement could pave the way for broader discussions about nuclear escalation and other threats to regional stability.”

Call for Talks

“The nuclear device and missiles that North Korea is developing are unusable weapons, and any use of them will be strongly retaliated by the united forces of South Korea and the U.S.,” said South Korea’s Song, who accompanied Mattis on the trip. “We strongly call for North Korea to stop its reckless provocations and come to the inter-Korean dialogue for peace as soon as possible.”

South Korea’s military said this week that no particular signs beyond ordinary activities have been spotted, though North Korea continues to seek the capability to strike the U.S. with a nuclear weapon.

Kim In Ryong, North Korea’s deputy ambassador to the United Nations, said Oct. 16 that a nuclear war “may break out any moment” and that “the entire U.S. mainland is within our firing range.” Another senior official told CNN this week that the world should take literally his country’s threat to test a nuclear weapon above ground.

Fishing Boat

In a rare gesture ahead of Mattis’s visit, North Korea plans to return on Friday a South Korean fishing boat and crew captured last week. Pyongyang notified Seoul via a report from its official Korean Central News Agency as all inter-Korean communication lines have been cut off, South Korea’s Unification Ministry spokesman Baik Tae-hyun said at a briefing.

If returned, this would be the first repatriation by North Korea of South Korean citizens since 2010, Baik said. South Korea has returned North Koreans crossing maritime borders on seven occasions since President Moon Jae-in took power in May.

KCNA said the crew “deliberately intruded” into its waters, but will return them “from the humanitarian point of view.”

Separately, the U.S. Treasury Department added seven more individuals and three entities connected with the North Korean regime to its sanctions list.

“We also are targeting North Korean financial facilitators who attempt to keep the regime afloat with foreign currency earned through forced labor operations,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement.

— With assistance by Peter Pae, and David Tweed



SEOUL (Reuters) – South Korea said on Friday it (Oct 27) will accept the release of a South Korean fishing boat captured by North Korea later in the day, with a government spokesman saying it is “a relief” the crewmen on board would be returned.

The proposed return of the boat and its crew would avoid a potential flashpoint to the months-long standoff between Pyongyang and South Korea and its US ally.

The vessel and its crew would be released in waters at the military boundary between the two Koreas, which are still technically at war after their 1950-53 conflict ended in a truce not a peace treaty.

It will happen hours after a visit  on Friday morning by US Defence Secretary James Mattis to the truce village of Panmunjom inside the Demilitarised Zone (DMZ).

Mattis said America’s goal was not to wage war with Pyongyang but to convince leader Kim Jong Un to give up his nuclear arsenal.

“North Korean provocations continue to threaten regional and global security despite unanimous condemnation by the United Nations Security Council,” Mattis said in prepared remarks as he visited the DMZ.

Ahead of a visit by US President Donald Trump to Asia starting next week, Mattis has emphasised diplomatic efforts to find a peaceful solution to the current crisis during his week-long trip to the region.

“I carried the message that the more we do together today the greater the chance for enduring peace in the future,” Mattis said earlier this week following three days of meetings with Asian defence chiefs in the Philippines.

“That’s really what it was all about – to keep the (North Korea) effort firmly in the diplomatic lane for resolution.”

“Do we have military options in defence for attack, if our allies are attacked? Of course we do. But everyone is out for a peaceful resolution,” Mattis told reporters travelling with him earlier this week. “No one’s rushing for war.”

The highest-ranking military officers of South Korea and the United States on Friday (Oct 27) held talks in Seoul on key alliance issues and will report the outcome of their talks to the defence ministers — South Korea’s Song Young Moo and Mattis on Saturday.

In a show of force, the US has sent three aircraft carriers and their missile-armed escorts to the western Pacific Ocean for the first time since 2017 ahead of Mr Trump’s visit to Asia.

“This was a unique opportunity to show that the US (is) the only power in the world that can demonstrate that kind of presence, and a unique opportunity for them to be together,” chief Pentagon spokesperson Dana White said during a regular press briefing on Thursday.

“It’s not directed towards any particular threat, but it’s a demonstration that we can do something that no one else in the world can.”

The deployment of USS Nimitz, USS Theodore Roosevelt and USS Ronald Reagan came amid heightened tensions over North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile tests.

The United States on Thursday imposed sanctions on seven North Korean individuals and three entities for “flagrant” human rights abuses, including killings, torture, forced labour and the hunting down of asylum seekers abroad.

The South’s Unification Ministry’s spokesman Baik Tae Hyun said the North’s message via its state agency early on Friday was the first contact Seoul had received regarding the vessel, Baik told a regular media briefing.

The fishing boat, which left port on Oct 16, had been reported as missing from Oct 21 and relevant authorities had been searching for the vessel, Baik added.

North Korea said it had captured the boat on Oct 21 and will release it at 5.30 pm on Friday (Singapore time) in waters off the east coast.

A report by North Korea’s news agency KCNA said that an investigation by the North had proved the boat and crew had entered North Korean waters for fishing.

North Korea decided to release the boat after “taking into account the fact that all the crewmen honestly admitted their offence, repeatedly apologising and asking for leniency,” the report said in English.

North Korean fishing boats have been found drifting south of the maritime border between the two Koreas at times, often having run out of fuel or broken down. Most North Korean crew are released to the North after interrogations by intelligence officials if they wish to return.

It is more unusual for South Korean fishing vessels to be found under similar circumstances.

A South Korean Unification Ministry official said it was aware the fishing boat had gone missing earlier in the week. The crew of 10, including seven South Koreans and three Vietnamese, would be questioned by officials on their return, he added.

The last time North Korea released a South Korean ship was in September 2010 roughly a month after a fishing vessel had accidentally drifted north of the maritime border following engine malfunctions.

Even before landing in Seoul on Friday, Mattis held a meeting in the Philippines on Monday with his South Korea and Japanese counterparts, where they agreed to keep bolstering intelligence sharing about North Korea and enhance exercises.

Japanese Defence Minister Itsunori Onodera warned the threat from North Korea has grown to a “critical and imminent level”.

CIA chief Mike Pompeo said last week North Korea could be only months away from developing the ability to hit the United States with nuclear weapons, a scenario Trump has vowed to prevent.

US intelligence experts say Pyongyang believes it needs the weapons to ensure its survival and have been sceptical about diplomatic efforts, focusing on sanctions, to get Pyongyang to denuclearize.

Trump, in a speech last month at the United Nations, threatened to destroy North Korea if necessary to defend itself and allies. Kim has blasted Trump as “mentally deranged”.

Despite the rhetoric, White House officials say Trump is looking for a peaceful resolution of the standoff. But all options, including military ones, are on the table.