‘What the hell?’ Trump-Kim love fest ignores human rights nightmare

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE POLITICO NEWS AGENCY)

 

Kim Jong Un and Donald Trump are pictured. | Getty Images
Few observers expected President Donald Trump to challenge Kim Jong Un on human rights. The subject in general hasn’t been a priority for him. | Kevin Lim/The Strait Times/Handout/Getty Images

‘What the hell?’ Trump-Kim love fest ignores human rights nightmare

The president once raged at the North Korean leader as a ‘madman’ and a killer, but showed little concern for his brutal style during their meeting in Singapore.

Almost exactly one year ago, North Korea returned an imprisoned 22-year-old American college student to his family in the United States. It was not a happy reunion.

Otto Warmbier, whom the North Koreans had imprisoned for more than a year, arrived in a coma and died a few days later — spurring President Donald Trump to rail against the “brutality” of a North Korean government that lacked “basic human decency.” Trump gradually focused his attacks on the regime’s leader, Kim Jong Un, calling him a “sick puppy” and a “madman who doesn’t mind starving or killing his people.”

In Singapore this week, Trump warmly embraced that so-called madman.

He called Kim a “smart” and “funny guy” who “loves his people.” He predicted the two of them would have a “terrific relationship.” Trump told reporters that human rights had come up only briefly, but he gave no indication that he had confronted Kim about Warmbier’s death, whose precise cause remains unclear.

Still, Trump described what happened to Warmbier as a catalyst for the sudden, if uncertain, rapprochement between America and North Korea, saying the University of Virginia student “did not die in vain.”

Trump’s public turnabout on Kim and his regime’s atrocious human rights record was among the most dizzying developments of the past 48 hours, which saw the two leaders meet in Singapore for an unprecedented nuclear summit. It dismayed lawmakers, human rights activists and others who — while supportive of diplomacy — fear that Trump went overboard in his flattery of Kim to the point of normalizing his rule.

“Kim’s gulags, public executions, planned starvation, are legitimized on the world stage,” Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut raged on Twitter. “What the hell?”

“Talking to dictators is one thing; embracing them is another,” former Vice President Joe Biden said in a statement, denouncing “the horrendous human rights abuses North Korea’s leaders perpetrate against their own people.”

“It was really over the top and excessive,” added Sarah Margon, Washington director for Human Rights Watch.

Amid the outrage is the question of what, practically speaking, Trump could have accomplished.

Past American presidents have pressed Middle Eastern and Asian autocrats over lists of political prisoners numbering in the dozens or hundreds. Kim has imprisoned many thousands of people for what amount to thought crimes, and political executions are commonplace. As a self-proclaimed supreme ruler, it may be nearly impossible for him to concede that he has governed in anything but a judicious way.

Some activists nevertheless argued that Trump could have used his interaction with Kim to win a broad gesture such as granting the United Nations access to his forced labor camps, and that if Kim agreed, it would have bolstered the credibility of his pledge to denuclearize. But Kim offered no hint that he is prepared to address the subject, and a joint statement he and Trump signed after their meeting made no mention of it.

Kim’s totalitarian regime may be the world’s cruelest, with practices reminiscent of the Nazis and the Soviet Union under Josef Stalin. The government, run by Kim’s father and grandfather before him, is believed to keep as many as 100,000 people— quite possibly more — in gulags and other detention sites, many in slave-like conditions. Defectors describe a terror state with zero tolerance for dissent, in which entire families are often punished for the actions of one member.

The young Kim — thought to be in his early- to mid-30s — has ruled just as ruthlessly as his father, who died in 2011. He’s alleged to have consolidated power by having an uncle executed — reportedly by anti-aircraft guns — and ordering his half-brother’s murder with nerve agent in a Malaysian airport.

Few observers expected Trump to challenge Kim vigorously on human rights. The subject in general hasn’t been a priority for the Republican president.

Just a few months ago, however, North Korea was an exception to that rule: Throughout 2017, as Trump ramped up sanctions on Pyongyang, he repeatedly highlighted the “depraved” Kim regime’s human rights abuses.

During a visit to South Korea last fall, Trump denounced the “horror of life” across the border, saying that people “would rather be slaves than live in North Korea.” In January, Trump invited to his State of the Union address Ji Seong-ho, a North Korean amputee who’d fled the country on crutches that he raised in defiance as Trump hailed his bravery on national television.

And by all accounts, Trump was genuinely distressed by the fate of Warmbier, whom the North Koreans held captive for 17 months for allegedly trying to steal a propaganda poster from a hotel where he was staying during a visit. (In a statement Tuesday, Warmbier’s family said: “We appreciate President Trump’s recent comments about our family. We are proud of Otto and miss him. Hopefully something positive can come from this.”)

But Trump is a real estate mogul who puts great stock in personal relationships, and he appears to have decided it’s more productive to be nice to a ruthless autocrat already accustomed to being treated like a god.

When asked by Voice of America’s Greta Van Susteren how Kim reacted when Trump raised human rights, Trump said: “Very well,” before acknowledging it was only a small part of the conversation. Trump went on to indicate that the reason Kim has been a “rough guy” is because that’s the only way his family has known how to rule.

“He’s doing what he’s seen done,” Trump said, suggesting that Kim can change. “He’s smart, loves his people, he loves his country. He wants a lot of good things, and that’s why he’s doing this.”

Although Trump is the first sitting president willing to meet face-to-face with a North Korean leader, other U.S. presidents have sat down with autocrats from friendly and adversarial countries alike.

Former President Richard Nixon made history when he met China’s Mao Zedong in February 1972. Trump’s immediate predecessor, Barack Obama, met with Cuba’s Raúl Castro. Plenty of U.S. presidents have met, and even held hands, with the monarchs who’ve led Saudi Arabia.

James Carafano, a foreign policy analyst with the Heritage Foundation, said that in the long run the United States must engage North Korea on its human rights practices but that diplomacy at this stage requires prioritization.

“In good U.S. diplomacy human rights is always on the menu. That doesn’t mean it’s always the first course,” Carafano wrote in an email.

Several U.S. lawmakers, including top Democrats, sent out carefully crafted statements that either didn’t raise or made scant mention of human rights — reflecting a widespread belief that ridding North Korea of its nuclear weapons through diplomacy is a much higher priority.

“We must remain sober about who Kim Jong Un is: a brutal dictator who has killed his family, overseen campaigns of mass murder and starvation, and masterfully manipulated his rivals on the global stage,” Rep. Eliot Engel of New York, the ranking Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said at the end of a lengthy statement.

One concern is that Kim — who rarely leaves North Korea and has limited diplomatic experience — will take Trump’s lack of emphasis on human rights as a sign of American indifference to how he treats his people.

Amnesty International spearheaded a letter to Trump in advance of the summit urging him to seize the opportunity this week to ask Kim for immediate positive moves on human rights. Francisco Bencosme, who handles Asia-related issues for Amnesty, stressed that it’s not known exactly what Trump said to Kim about human rights, but it doesn’t appear the president took a strong stance.

Bencosme said Trump could have asked Kim to give U.N. officials access to North Korean prisoners, or urged him to help reunite North and South Korean families torn apart by the Korean War. Such moves would have been “a way of opening up the aperture on human rights issues,” Bencosme said.

And such moves are not without precedent.

The Obama administration’s outreach to Myanmar, long an isolated, pariah regime, included requests that the government free hundreds of political prisoners to help demonstrate its seriousness about improving ties with the United States. That led to freedom for at least 1,500 people, including some very prominent opponents of the junta that had run the country. But even within the Obama administration there were fierce debates over how much to push Myanmar on human rights.

When asked by a reporter Tuesday whether he had “betrayed” the people trapped in North Korea’s gulag system, Trump grew defensive — then suggested those prisoners should think long-term.

“I think I’ve helped them because I think things will change,” Trump said. “That large group of people that you’re talking about — I think ultimately they are going to be one of the great winners as a group.”

Asked about Warmbier, Trump said the college student’s tragic death had played a pivotal role in bringing about the summit — even though he had not previously mentioned it as a reason for his diplomatic push with Kim.

“I think without Otto, this would not have happened. Something happened from that day. It was a terrible thing. It was brutal. But a lot of people started to focus on what was going on, including North Korea,” Trump said.

“I really think that Otto is someone who did not die in vain.”

Kim had a great summit he didn’t give anything away

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

Kim had a great summit. And he didn’t even need to give anything away

But the real reward was five hours with US President Donald Trump on Tuesday, when the two leaders signed a document that essentially reiterated promises North Korea has already made, extracted no new or concrete concessions to demonstrate Pyongyang was committed to denuclearization, and further, spoke of “security assurances” the dictator had long sought from the United States.
“The only thing that Kim has done is suspend testing of weapons, that’s not giving them away,” said Bruce Bechtol, a professor of political science at Angelo State University who has authored several books on North Korea.
There was certainly nothing in the vague final statement that might result in potential blowback from his cadre of loyalists watching his every move from Pyongyang.
North Korea had declared earlier this year that since the country had satisfactorily achieved all it wanted with regard to its nuclear program, it would suspend its tests. Since then, it has closed down two test sites. Trump announced on Tuesday that Kim had informed him that he would be shutting down a third, one that tested missile engines.

Stunning press conference

But perhaps the most stunning moment of the summit came after Kim had left the summit venue. In a freewheeling press conference lasting more than an hour, Trump was pressed by reporters to elaborate on the security guarantees he could provide to North Korea. In response, Trump pointed to the presence of nearly 30,000 US troops in South Korea, something that has long irked not only North Korea, but also its biggest backer: China.
“I want to get our soldiers out. I want to bring our soldiers back home,” Trump said.
While the US President qualified that a troop withdrawal was “not part of the equation right now,” he made it clear that it could be, in the future.
And to the apparent surprise of South Korea, Trump promised to halt what he called “the war games” — joint military exercises with South Korea — that North Korea has long regarded as a provocation. They were expensive, inappropriate — and “provocative,” he said.
Trump: We will stop 'war games'

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Trump: We will stop ‘war games’ 01:21
To Korea-watchers, the commitment to suspend these regular training drills would raise questions about the continued presence of US forces in the region.
“If we have a force of 28,500 military personnel that does not conduct training, then we may as well bring them home and this is what I fear from President Trump’s comments that war games cost a lot of money and South Korea does not pay sufficient funds,” said David Maxwell, a retired US Army Special Forces colonel and a fellow at the Institute of Korean American Studies. “A force that does not train is of no value to deterrence and no value to war fighting and does a disservice to those military personnel and our national security.”

Low expectations on human rights

There were few expectations that Trump would confront Kim on the many issues North Korea faces, like its appalling human rights record, the North Koreans who slave in labor camps, the kidnapped foreign nationals from South Korea and Japan, and beyond, its arsenal of medium and short range missiles.
Trump: North Koreans in prison camps are 'winners'

Trump: North Koreans in prison camps are ‘winners’
Those have been high on the list of priorities for North Korea’s neighbors including Japan and South Korea. The leaders of both countries spoke to Trump while he was in Singapore before he met with Kim to ensure their fears were firmly in Trump’s mind when he spoke to Kim Jong Un.
As he spoke to reporters, Trump rejected the suggestion that even by meeting with Kim, he’d given the young leader a win.
“It’s not a big deal to meet,” he insisted.
Experts watching the talks disagreed.
“Throughout the tenure of Kim Jong Il [Kim Jong Un’s father], a meeting with a sitting US president was the ultimate sign of the country’s international recognition,” said Catherine Dill, a research associate at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies.
kim jong un CSR 3_00004717

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How North Korea got its nuclear program 01:16
“Through parsing North Korean state media during Kim Jong Un’s tenure, North Korea plainly seeks the legitimacy that a summit might confer. I think it would only be more priceless for Kim Jong Un if President Trump was coming to North Korea.”
That, by the way, was a possibility Trump told reporters he would consider. He also said he would “absolutely” invite Kim Jong Un to the White House.
On the North Korean laborers, Trump said: “I think I’ve helped them,” adding: “Not much I can do right now, but at some point. I think they are one of the great winners today.”
On human rights, Trump steered the conversation to the matter of the remains of American servicemen missing in action and presumed dead from fighting during the Korean War. About 5,300 of the nearly 7,800 U.S. troops who are still unaccounted for from the 1950-53 war were missing in North Korea. “Human rights were discussed and will be discussed in the future,” Trump said. “What was also discussed in great detail and I must have had countless calls and letters, they want the remains of their sons back. I asked for it today and I got it.”

Little that wasn’t in past statements

The document Trump and Kim signed had little of the detail that past agreements with North Korea had laid out. It echoed statements already agreed to by North Korea when Kim Jong Un met with South Korean President Moon Jae-in last April.
Tuesday’s communiqué said that North Korea “commits to work towards the complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.”
North Korea, South Korea Meet to discuss summit

North Korea, South Korea Meet to discuss summit
In contrast, the agreement signed in 2005 between North Korea and the US, China, Japan, Russia and South Korea, committed Pyongyang “to abandoning all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programs and returning, at an early date, to the Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons and to IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] safeguards.”
The North Koreans have given no indication that they are seeking to abide by international conventions or admit independent experts to verify the extent of their nuclear program.
“The North Koreans have given nothing so far, while the Americans on the other hand have given Kim Jong Un a summit with the US president,” said Andrew O’Neil, the dean of research at the Griffith Business School in Australia.
“Whatever happens from now, Pyongyang comes out of this looking like it’s scored a major victory. It’s an instructive and compelling lesson on how weak states can achieve asymmetrical outcomes if they are prepared to stand tough against materially stronger powers,” he said.
South Korea: North Korea committed to denuclearization

South Korea: North Korea committed to denuclearization
The White House told reporters Tuesday that it had largely agreed to North Korea’s demand for parity in all aspects of the summit, from the number of officials during the bilateral meetings to the number of US and North Korean flags side by side during the arrival ceremony. The images of the six US and six North Korean flags in the background of the Trump-Kim handshake will undoubtedly be used by North Korean propaganda to suggest the US and North Korea are on level footing, another boost to Kim’s legitimacy at home.
The North Koreans have spent decades negotiating with the West, and have studied the Trump White House and were prepared for this meeting, and it showed, said Jean H. Lee, director of the Hyundai Motor-Korea Foundation Center for Korean History and Public Policy.
“To see President Trump and Kim Jong Un shaking hands warmly and chatting so easily was both stunning and chilling,” she told CNN. “It’s a powerful moment that augers a change in the tense relationship between these two countries. But it also legitimizes the path Kim took to get here: Building and testing illicit nuclear weapons that have the potential to wreak unimaginable destruction.”
For Kim Jong Un, this momentous day was one for North Korea’s history books that won’t require exaggeration.

Reporters thought this video was N. Korea propaganda. It came from the White House.

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

 

Reporters thought this video was North Korea propaganda. It came from the White House.

June 12 at 3:45 PM
 4:16
Watch the video shown before the Trump-Kim news conference

Before the news conference President Trump held at the end of his June 12 summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, a propaganda-style film was played. 

Reporters crowded into a Singapore auditorium Tuesday, expecting President Trump to walk out and announce the results of his historic meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
Suddenly, two huge screens on either side of the empty podium came to life. Soaring music boomed over the speakers, and the reporters were bombarded with a montage portraying North Korea as some sort of paradise.
Golden sunrises, gleaming skylines and high-speed trains. Children skipping through Kim Il Sung square in Pyongyang. North Korean flags fluttering between images of Egyptian pyramids, the Taj Mahal and the Lincoln Memorial.
In a split-screen shot, Kim Jong Un waved to an adoring crowd while President Trump stood beside him with his thumb in the air. The pair appeared over and over again, like running mates in a campaign video.
The film went on like this for more than four minutes, with brief interludes of missiles, soldiers and warships interrupting the pageantry. Some journalists, unable to understand the Korean-language narration, assumed they were watching one of Pyongyang’s infamous propaganda films. “What country are we in?” asked a reporter from the filing center.

Andrew Beatty

@AndrewBeatty

They are playing a propaganda video before Trump presser. Not kidding. What is happening??!!

But then the video looped, playing this time in English. And then Trump walked onto the stage and confirmed what some had already realized.
The film was not North Korean propaganda. It had been made in America, by or on the orders of his White House, for the benefit of Kim.
“I hope you liked it,” Trump told the reporters. “I thought it was good. I thought it was interesting enough to show. … And I think he loved it.”
The crowd sounded skeptical. Some wondered if Trump had not, in fact, just provided U.S.-sanctioned propaganda to one of the country’s oldest adversaries.
But as the president explained it, the video was more like an elevator pitch. It was the type of glitzy production that Trump might have once used to persuade investors to finance his hotels, and now hoped could persuade one of the most repressive regimes in the world to disarm its nuclear weapons and end nearly 70 years of international isolation and militant hostility to the United States.
The nearly five-minute movie even had its own Hollywood-style vanity logo: “A Destiny Pictures Production,” though a film company by the same name in Los Angeles denied any involvement in making it, and the White House has not yet responded to questions about it.

“Of those alive today, only a small number will leave a lasting impact,” the narrator said near the beginning, as alternating shots of Trump, Kim and North Korean pageantry flashed on the screen. “And only a very few will make decisions or take actions to renew their homeland, or change the course of history.”
The message was clear: Kim had a decision to make. Then the film progressed from grim black-and-white shots of the United States’ 1950s-era war with North Korea into a montage of rose-colored parades and gold-tinted clouds.
“The past doesn’t have to be the future,” the narrator said. “What if a people that share a common and rich heritage can find a common future?”
The same technique repeated even more dramatically a minute later in the film, when the footage seemed to melt into a horror montage of war planes and missiles bearing down on North Korean cities — much like the apocalyptic propaganda videos Pyongyang had produced just a few months ago, when Kim and Trump sounded as if they were on the brink of nuclear war.

But in Trump’s film, the destruction rewound itself. The missiles flew back into to their launchers, and a science fiction-like version of North Korea took its place — one of crane-dotted skylines, crowded highways, computerized factories and drones, all presided over by a waving, grinning Kim.
“You can have medical breakthroughs, an abundance of resources, innovative technology and new discoveries,” the narrator said, the footage more and more resembling a Hollywood movie trailer as it built to its finale:
“Featuring President Donald Trump and Chairman Kim Jong Un in a meeting to remake history,” the narrator concluded, as Korean words flashed on a black background: “It is going to become a reality?”

Zeke Miller

@ZekeJMiller

Haven’t seen this before: Before POTUS comes out for press conference, WH shows a Michael Bay-esque video showing Trump and Kim, military weapons, bombs

The reporters had many questions.
“Do you now see Kim Jong Un as an equal?” asked a Time magazine correspondent.
“In what way?” Trump asked.
“You just showed a video that showed you and Kim Jong Un on equal footing, and discussing the future of the country.”
The president may have misunderstood the question, as he referred in his answer to his closed-door talks and a few carefully negotiated photo ops with Kim — not the U.S.-made video that presented the totalitarian autocrat as a hero.
“If I have to say I’m sitting on a stage with Chairman Kim and that gets us to save 30 million lives — it could be more than that — I’m willing to sit on a stage, I’m willing to travel to Singapore, very proudly,” Trump said.
“Are you concerned the video you just showed could be used by Kim as propaganda, to show him as …”
Trump cut the question off. “No, I’m not concerned at all. We can use that video for other countries.”
The president was more talkative when discussing how Kim had reacted to the video, which Trump had presumably played for him during a brief, private meeting hours earlier.
“We didn’t have a big screen like you have the luxury of having,” Trump said. “We didn’t need it, because we had it on cassette, uh, an iPad.
“And they played it. About eight of their representatives were watching it, and I thought they were fascinated by it. I thought it was well done. I showed it to you because that’s the future. I mean, that could very well be the future. And the other alternative is just not a very good alternative. It’s just not good.”
International reviews of the video were decidedly mixed.
“Schlocky” — Vanity Fair.
“Odd.” — The Canadian Broadcasting Corp.
“One observer dismissed it as ‘a word salad topped with gratuitous appeasement of a monstrous regime,'” the South China Morning Post reported.
The Daily Mail noted that as the narrator described North Korea’s glorious future of  technology and international investment, the video showed stock footage of the Miami Beach shoreline, not far from a Trump-owned hotel. The Spectator called the whole sequence “real-estate politik” — which wasn’t necessarily a bad thing.
“The text reads like some godawful martial-arts movie trailer crossed with a corporate advertisement for an ambitious construction project,” Freddy Gray wrote for the British newspaper. “But clearly, in some peculiar way, it works.”
The president acknowledged that some of the film’s imagery may seem far-fetched. North Korea is mired in poverty, internationally isolated, and has been mismanaged for decades by a family of dictators — Kim, his father and grandfather.
“That was done at the highest level of future development,” Trump told the reporters in Singapore, as if he had just offered Kim a multi-tiered vacation package. “I told him, you may not want this. You may want to do a much smaller version. … You may not want that, with the trains and everything.”
He waved his hands. “You know, with super everything, to the top. It’s going to be up to them.”
And then, in his usual style, Trump was thinking out loud about the “great condos” that might one day be built on the “great beaches” of North Korea.
“I explained it,” he said. “You could have the best hotels in the world. Think of it from the real estate perspective.”
As the screens above Trump emphasized, he certainly had.
Anne Gearan, Min Joo Kim and Philip Rucker contributed to this r

G7 summit: War of words erupts between US and key allies

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BBC)

 

G7 summit: War of words erupts between US and key allies

Photo from the G7 summit of the leaders, tweeted by the German government on 9 June 2018Image copyrightAFP
Image captionThe final communique had been intended as a face-saving agreement after a bad-tempered summit

A war of words has erupted between the US and its G7 allies, hours after the group had put on an apparent show of unity at the end of a tense summit.

US President Donald Trump and two of his advisers lashed out at Canadian PM Justin Trudeau, accusing him of engaging in “bad faith diplomacy”.

Germany’s Angela Merkel said Mr Trump’s decision to reject a joint communique was “sobering” and “depressing”.

That statement had sought to overcome deep disagreements, notably over trade.

In recent weeks, trading partners of the US have criticised new tariffs on steel and aluminium imports imposed by the Trump administration.

So how did the latest spat unfold?

In a news conference after the summit, the Canadian leader reasserted his opposition to the US tariffs, and vowed to press ahead with retaliatory moves on 1 July.

“Canadians are polite and reasonable but we will also not be pushed around,” he said.

Media captionTrudeau: “I don’t want to hurt American workers”

Mr Trump responded by tweeting en route to his next summit, in Singapore, that he had instructed US officials “not to endorse the communique as we look at tariffs on automobiles”.

He said the move was based on Mr Trudeau’s “false statements… and the fact that Canada is charging massive tariffs to our US farmers, workers and companies”.

His top economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, and trade adviser, Peter Navarro, then took to the Sunday morning news shows to further attack Mr Trudeau.

“He really kind of stabbed us in the back,” Mr Kudlow said, while Mr Navarro said: “There is a special place in Hell for any leader that engages in bad faith diplomacy with President Donald J Trump and then tries to stab him in the back on the way out the door.”

Canada’s Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland responded by saying Mr Trump’s argument for imposing tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminium was “absurd and frankly insulting to Canadians”.

Mr Trump has cited national security as his reason, telling a news conference on Saturday that “to have a great military you need a great balance sheet”.

Canada, she said, is “the closest and strongest ally the United States has had. We can’t pose a security threat to the United States and I know that Americans understand that”.

Other G7 partners also seemed stunned by Mr Trump’s reaction, and pledged to support the communique.

Media captionWho left their mark on President Trump at the G7 summit?

French President Emmanuel Macron said international co-operation could not be “dictated by fits of anger and throwaway remarks”.

“Let’s be serious and worthy of our people,” a statement from the French presidency said. “We make commitments and keep to them.”

What is in the joint communique?

In the communique after the summit in La Malbaie, Quebec province, the group of major industrial nations – Canada, the US, the UK, France, Italy, Japan and Germany – had agreed on the need for “free, fair, and mutually beneficial trade” and the importance of fighting protectionism.

Other agreements reached include:

Mr Trump’s twitter attack on Mr Trudeau came minutes after the communique had been published.

What are the tariffs?

On 1 June, the US imposed a 25% tariff for steel and 10% for aluminium on imports from the European Union (EU), Canada, and Mexico. Mr Trump said the move would protect domestic producers that were vital to US security.

The EU then announced retaliatory tariffs on US goods ranging from Harley-Davidson motorcycles to bourbon. Canada and Mexico are also taking action.

Media captionDairy wars: Why is Trump threatening Canada over milk?

What is the G7?

It is an annual summit bringing together seven major industrialised nations which represent more than 60% of global net worth between them.

Economics tops the agenda, although the meetings now always branch off to cover major global issues.

Russia was suspended from the group – then called the G8 – in 2014 because of its annexation of Crimea from Ukraine.

On Friday, Mr Trump made a surprise call for Moscow to be readmitted but German Chancellor Angela Merkel said other members were against the idea.

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US & Canada

North Korean Know Kim Jong Un Is A Liar, They Just Don’t Know How Much

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BUSINESS INSIDER)

 

North Koreans understand their government lies, but there’s one thing they don’t know, according to a defector

North Korea
Servicepersons of the Ministry of People’s Security met on August 10, 2017 to express full support for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) government statement.
Reuters/KCNA
  • North Korean defector Kim Young-il is the 39-year-old founder of People for Successful Corean Reunification (PSCORE). He escaped North Korea at 19 years old.
  • Kim said that it is obvious to North Koreans that the government of Kim Jong Un is lying to the people about the country’s situation and its reality.
  • The one thing it is impossible for North Koreans to understand, however, is how big the difference in prosperity is between their country and developed nations like the US and South Korea.

North Koreans understand that their government regularly lies to them and feeds them propaganda that contradicts their current situation, but few understand the true discrepancy between their country and the outside world, according to North Korean defector Kim Young-il.

Kim, the 39-year-old founder of People for Successful Korean Reunification (PSCORE), escaped North Korea when he was 19 years old. PSCORE is a nonprofit that promotes reunification, raises awareness about human rights issues in North Korea, and helps defectors adjust to life in South Korea.

In 1997, Kim and his father left the country in the midst of a four-year-long famine and economic crisis that some estimates suggest claimed the lives of between 240,000 and 3.5 million North Koreans, out of a population of 22 million.

The dire situation made it obvious to North Koreans at the time that the government was not telling the truth about country, Kim told Business Insider in a recent interview. Kim, whose organization helps defectors escape North Korea and China and assists them once they reach South Korea, said that, even now, the situation is much the same; North Koreans know their government is lying.

“The people know these are all lies because it’s obvious. When the government says, there is prosperity in terms of food and rice, we see it ourselves and see that there is a drought and there is no food for us,” Kim said.

“When they see that what they say doesn’t match with what is actually happening, they understand the government is lying.”

The one thing that North Koreans can’t know, according to Kim, is the actual disparity between the country and other nations like the US, South Korea, or China.

“They know [those countries are more prosperous and developed], but they don’t know at what level and how different the countries are. They have no frame of reference. All the government says are lies, Kim said. “They have no way to obtain information about what South Korea or the United States look like.”

As Kim told the International Business Times last year, he and his family thought it was normal to “have our freedoms restricted.” It was only upon arriving in South Korea that Kim said he realized “how unhappy we were.”

Trump’s Korea Blunder Is Worse Than It Looks

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF BLOOMBERG NEWS)

 

Trump’s Korea Blunder Is Worse Than It Looks

Kim Jong Un appears shrewd. China is stronger. And U.S. allies know not to trust Washington.

7
So much for gut instincts.

Photographer: SeongJoon Cho/Bloomberg

Donald Trump thinks he’s a great negotiator, a brilliant bluffer whose gut instincts are so stellar that ignorance of history and refusal to deal with substantive complexities are irrelevant.

That’s why he bragged he’d win the Nobel Peace Prize for his genius in getting North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons. Except, of course, it didn’t. It’s good his Singapore summit with Kim Jong Un was canceled. The larger picture in this and other major issues is how the American president is remarkably ill-prepared and uninformed.

Incredibly, he might have been outmatched in the June 12 face-off with the “little Rocket Man,” the untested North Korean tyrant. Analysts suggest Kim “has done his homework,” according to Jung Pak, a Brookings Institution scholar who was the North Korea expert at the Central Intelligence Agency and then for the director of National Intelligence. “He’s apparently well read on the issue and pretty comfortable with the technology,” she said.

Pak wasn’t surprised when Trump, after canceling the summit, said the next day that it might be back on. South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Kim held a surprise weekend meeting. A subsequent session now seems likely.

But there’s little reason to believe a U.S. president who governs by bluster and is interested only in whether he gets credit and looks good would be better prepared for any next round. That’s unsettling.

Clearly, the North Koreans played games and were duplicitous; they always do and always are. It’s a brutal, corrupt regime.

Trump and his sycophants claim it was his toughness that scared Kim and forced him to consider negotiations; they say the president showed resolve and guts in walking away.

More likely, this has been Kim’s long-range plan for several years, as Robert Carlin, a former diplomat and intelligence official who has been to North Korea dozens of times, told the Washington Post’s David Ignatius. Kim effectively built up his nuclear arsenal, ignoring threats from Trump and others, and giving himself enough leverage to start to backtrack a bit. The regime supposedly dismantled one its nuclear testing sites last week.

Without question, the economic sanctions, begun under President Barack Obama and toughened by Trump, pressured this economic basket case of a country. And more important than Trump’s “fire and fury” rhetoric was a new South Korean administration willing to deal with its seven-decade-old enemy; a war on the peninsula would topple Kim but at a cataclysmic price.

Trump, being Trump, didn’t have the decency to give the South Koreans advance notice of his plans to cancel the summit. This is a pattern. He surprised our close ally when he impulsively announced he would meet with Kim, though no preparations had been made.

Trump’s hawkish national security adviser John Bolton, eager to sabotage any deal, raised the analogy of Libya, which gave up its nuclear weapons and later, with Western support, was toppled. Vice President Mike Pence weighed in similarly.

“Citing the Libyan example was very counterproductive,” notes Charles Armstrong, a Columbia University professor and Korean scholar. Trump’s clamor about de-nuclearization was a misnomer. Kim might make important concessions, but he’s never going to totally give up his most powerful chip; put yourself in his shoes.

Early last year Trump acknowledged, after China’s Xi Jinping had explained it to him, that the Korean situation was more complicated than he had thought. Unfortunately, the president didn’t seem to learn much, alternately crediting and blaming China for North Korea’s behavior. There is mutual contempt between these two neighbors, but they need each other, a reality reinforced by Trump’s bumbling.

History bores Trump – he seems not to know or care much – and he doesn’t read briefing books. A few months ago in the New Yorker, top aides to former national security adviser H.R.McMaster attested to the president’s shallowness. National security briefings, one former staffer said, had to be boiled down to two or three bullet points, “with the syntactical complexity of ‘See Jane run.'”

The great deal maker has yet to make even a decent deal as president; he hasn’t negotiated anything on health care, immigration or infrastructure, and the trade negotiations with China may be a bust.

In Korea, here’s what his gut instincts, with little knowledge, produced: North Korea is a greater nuclear threat than it was 17 months earlier. Kim Jong Un, depicted then as an irrational roly-poly comic-book figure with weird hair, is seen more as shrewd operative. China’s influence on the Korean peninsula and the region has grown. And as American allies, especially South Korea, painfully learned, Washington is not reliable.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

To contact the author of this story:
Albert R. Hunt at [email protected]

To contact the editor responsible for this story:
Katy Roberts at [email protected]

China says North Korea pledges denuclearization during friendly visit

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF REUTERS NEWS AGENCY)

 

China says North Korea pledges denuclearization during friendly visit

Ben Blanchard and Joyce Lee

(Reuters) – North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has pledged to denuclearize and meet U.S. officials, China said on Wednesday after an historic meeting with President Xi Jinping, who promised China would uphold its friendship with its isolated neighbor.

After two days of speculation, China and North Korea both confirmed that Kim had visited Beijing and met Xi during what China’s Foreign Ministry called an unofficial visit to China from Sunday to Wednesday.

The China visit was Kim’s first known trip outside North Korea since he assumed power in 2011 and is believed by analysts to serve as preparation for upcoming summits with South Korea and the United States.

North Korea’s KCNA news agency made no mention of Kim’s pledge to denuclearize, or his anticipated meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump that is planned for some time in May.

Beijing has traditionally been the closest ally of secretive North Korea, but ties have been frayed by North Korea’s pursuit of nuclear weapons and China’s backing of tough U.N. sanctions in response.

China’s Foreign Ministry cited Kim in a lengthy statement as telling Xi that the situation on the Korean peninsula is starting to improve because North Korea has taken the initiative to ease tensions and put forward proposals for peace talks.

“It is our consistent stand to be committed to denuclearization on the peninsula, in accordance with the will of late President Kim Il Sung and late General Secretary Kim Jong Il,” Kim Jong Un said, according to the statement.

North Korea is willing to talk with the United States and hold a summit between the two countries, he said.

“The issue of denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula can be resolved, if South Korea and the United States respond to our efforts with goodwill, create an atmosphere of peace and stability while taking progressive and synchronous measures for the realization of peace,” Kim said.

Kim Jong Un’s predecessors, grandfather Kim Il Sung and father Kim Jong Il, both publicly promised not to pursue nuclear weapons but secretly continued to develop the programs, culminating in the North’s first nuclear test in 2006 under Kim Jong Il.

The North had said in past failed talks aimed at dismantling its nuclear program that it could consider giving up its 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.

Many analysts and former negotiators believe this still constitutes North Korea’s stance on denuclearization of the Korean peninsula and remain deeply skeptical Kim is willing to give up the nuclear weapons his family has been developing for decades.

TRUMP BRIEFED

Though billed as an unofficial trip, Kim’s appearance in Beijing contained almost all the trappings of a state visit, complete with an honor guard and banquet at Beijing’s Great Hall of the People.

Kim and Xi also met at the Diaoyutai State Guest House, where Kim Il Sung planted a tree in 1959 that still stands.

State television showed pictures of the two men chatting amiably and Kim’s wife, Ri Sol Ju, getting an equally warm welcome from Xi’s wife, Peng Liyuan.

China briefed Trump on Kim’s visit and the communication included a personal message from Xi to Trump, the White House said in a statement.

“The United States remains in close contact with our allies South Korea and Japan. We see this development as further evidence that our campaign of maximum pressure is creating the appropriate atmosphere for dialogue with North Korea,” the statement said.

A top Chinese diplomat, Politburo member Yang Jiechi, will brief officials in Seoul on Thursday, including President Moon Jae-in, on Xi’s meeting with Kim, according to the presidential office in Seoul.

Kim told a banquet hosted by Xi the visit was intended to “maintain our great friendship and continue and develop our bilateral ties at a time of rapid developments on the Korean peninsula”, according to KCNA.

Xi had accepted an invitation “with pleasure” from Kim to visit North Korea, KCNA said.

However, China’s statement made no mention of Xi accepting an invitation, saying only that Xi pledged to keep frequent contacts with Kim through the exchange of visits and sending special envoys and letters to each other.

China had largely sat on the sidelines as Pyongyang improved its relations with Seoul, prompting worry in Beijing that it was no longer a central player in the North Korean issue, reinforced by Trump’s subsequent announcement of his proposed meeting with Kim in May.

“China is North Korea’s lifeline, so the notion, from a Chinese perspective, that Kim Jong Un couldn’t have these other two meetings before meeting with Xi Jinping, I think the Chinese just thought that is not going to happen,” said Paul Haenle, director of the Carnegie–Tsinghua Center in Beijing and the former White House representative to North Korea denuclearization talks from 2007-2009.

Speculation about a possible visit by Kim to Beijing was rife earlier this week after a train similar to the one used by Kim’s father was seen in the Chinese capital, along with heavy security and a large motorcade.

Improving ties between North Korea and China would be a positive sign before planned summits involving the two Koreas and the United States, a senior South Korean official said on Tuesday.

Kim Jong Il met then-president Jiang Zemin in China in 2000 before a summit between the two Koreas in June that year. That visit was seen at the time as reaffirmation of close ties with Beijing.

The secrecy around the visit was not unusual. The later visits of Kim Jong Il to China were only announced by both countries once he had left the country.

(Additional reporting by Christine Kim and Soyoung Kim in SEOUL, David Stanway and John Ruwitch in SHANGHAI and Ayesha Rascoe in WASHINGTON, Writing by Lincoln Feast; Editing by Paul Tait)

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Better That 7 Rulers Die Than 7 Billion Citizens?

Better That 7 Rulers Die Than 7 Billion Citizens?

 

Those of you who know me know that I am a person who does not condone any form of violence toward another human. I had to word that sentence the way I did because I do eat some meat and when you are slaughtering live stock for your dinner table, you do condone some forms of violence upon another living thing. Now back to the base of this article today. I can only name about 12-15 State leaders so this is the reason that I am going to name the 7 that I do. I have chosen 7 that are in my opinion very corrupt and very evil but this does not mean that I wish these 7 would die, I just wish that they would become less crooked and less evil. So, this is totally a what if article.

 

That the general public knows of there are 8 Nuclear Countries and I thought about choosing 7 of these Nations Leaders for my examples today but I decided to choose 7 Leaders that I believe are crooked and evil instead. If you had a vision where an Angel of God was speaking with you and He said to you that you had to make a choice between you fingering 7 Rulers for God to kill, or, if you didn’t then 7 billion of Earths citizens would die in a world war that these 7 start, what would you do? Now imagine that He gave you that list of 7 and that your own Nations Leaders name was on the list, and maybe even another 2 or 3 names of Leaders that you personally like, what then? Would you condone the death of 7 to save 7 billion? Now what if all seven on the Angels list were people that you feel are crazy and totally evil, even if your Leader was one of the 7, would that change your mind? What if you could choose the 7, or, if you had to choose the 7, would you?

 

Personally I believe that the citizens of the world have some very, very dangerous Rulers of countries today, but then again, hasn’t that always been so? What if we could go back through history and pick out 7 former Rulers that you personally had to throw into Hell, could you, would you do it? The first name on my history list would be Hitler, then probably Stalin, Lennon, Chairman Mao, the former Shaw of Iran, and the last Leader of Communist East Germany and the last Communist Leader of Hungry would probably be folks that I could think of. Yet honestly I would still rather one of God’s Angels pull that trap door lever than me having to do it. Am I a coward because I would prefer not to have to sentence these men to Hell? If you are a person whom knows me, you know better than that. I just know that I have committed a whole bunch of horrible sins in my life so I don’t want to ever have to sit in judgement of another.

 

Just for trivia’s sake if you had to make up a list of 7 current Rulers that you were required to give to the Angel of Death, who would they be? Now take into context the reality that I only know the names of about 12-15 Rulers of Countries today, the following would be my ‘off the top of my head’ list.

1.) Turkey: Erdogan

2.) Russia: Putin

3.) Iran: Ali Khomeini

4.) North Korea: Kim Jong Un

5.) China: Xi Jinping

6.) Syria: Assad

7.) America: Trump

I guess this would be my “dirty 7” list that I would give to the Angel. Well, what do you think, who would be your 7 dastardly dudes, or ladies? Do you agree with any of mine? Or, would you tell the Angel to go ahead and let the 7 evil Leaders start a war that would see 7 billion die? I just thought of another angle, would this change your answer? What if the Angel told you that God said the you personally had to kill the 7 on your list, could you do it? Would you do it even if you were told that God would give you total immunity along with knowledge that you would totally get away with it without any harm coming to you or your family, could you, would you do it? If you have ever been in the military, think of it from that view, would you sacrifice a squad to save a Company? As I said at the beginning of this article, I do not condone any harm ever coming to anyone, I totally wish that the world had no violence in it. I wish that the 7 men on my list would see the Light of God and change from their evil ways before they do meet God face to face. It is not like I am without sin myself and I truly do hope that I never have to pull the trigger on anyone but I do know that if I felt I had to, I would not even hesitate if it meant saving a loved one or an innocent person. Okay, that is the end of the trivia for the day, hope that you enjoyed the read.

Trump accepts offer to meet Kim Jong Un

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

Trump accepts offer to meet Kim Jong Un

(CNN)President Donald Trump has agreed to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un by May, the White House and the South Korean national security adviser said Thursday evening.

“President Trump greatly appreciates the nice words of the South Korean delegation and President Moon. He will accept the invitation to meet with Kim Jong Un at a place and time to be determined. We look forward to the denuclearization of North Korea. In the meantime, all sanctions and maximum pressure must remain,” White House press secretary Sarah Sanders announced in a statement.
Trump tweeted, “Kim Jong Un talked about denuclearization with the South Korean Representatives, not just a freeze. Also, no missile testing by North Korea during this period of time. Great progress being made but sanctions will remain until an agreement is reached. Meeting being planned!”
The stunning announcement came after Kim extended an invitation to Trump to meet through South Korean officials, who met with Trump on Thursday. Trump would be the first sitting US president to meet with his North Korean counterpart, a stunning diplomatic breakthrough with uncertain consequences.
The South Korean delegation first met with national security adviser Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster and then Trump, who then delivered the news, a senior administration official official said. It all happened in about an hour.
Kim told the South Koreans “he is committed to denuclearization” and pledged North Korea will “refrain from any further nuclear or missile tests,” the South Korean national security adviser Chung Eui-Yong said Thursday at the White House.
Kim also told the South Koreans he understands that the US and South Korea will move forward with their joint military exercises later this year.
Speaking from outside the West Wing, Chung said Kim “expressed his eagerness to meet President Trump as soon as possible.”
Trump has expressed an openness to dialogue with North Korea, but the Trump administration has said North Korea must first take concrete steps toward denuclearization. As of Thursday evening, there was no indication that North Korea had pledged to take those steps.
“All options are on the table and our posture toward the regime will not change until we see credible moves toward denuclearization,” a senior administration official told reporters on Tuesday. “What we are looking for is concrete steps toward denuclearization.”
Trump’s approach to North Korea has wavered between bellicose rhetoric and expressions of openness to diplomacy — with the President saying the US would rain “fire and fury” on North Korea one day and then saying he would consider speaking directly with the country’s leader under the right circumstances.
Amid the potentially breakthrough talks between North and South Korea, the Trump administration has also credited its campaign of “maximum pressure” on North Korea as having brought Pyongyang to the negotiating table.
Since Trump came in to office, the US has leveled some of its most significant and far-reaching sanctions against North Korea and has also succeeded in pressuring China to further isolate the regime.

North Korea’s Kim Jong Un Wants to ‘Write a New History’ With South Korea

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TIME.COM NEWS)

((Commentary: by TRS) Just how foolish is President Moon of South Korea? Yes, it is obvious that Kim Jong Un wants to “write a new history” of the Korean Peninsula with himself as the supreme ruler of all of the peninsula. The only thing acceptable to Kim Jong Un is for the people of South Korea to totally and completely give up all of their freedom. Even China’s Xi Jinping has made it clear that China will not tolerate a “non-Communist” government on their border. So, it is my belief that President Moon is acting like either a total fool, or, he is a total traitor to the people of South Korea!)

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COMING UP…
I’D LIKE TO BE OPTIMISTIC.’ DONALD TRUMP SEES SIGN OF PROGRESS IN POSSIBLE NORTH KOREA TALKS WITH U.S.
By FOSTER KLUG / AP

March 6, 2018

(SEOUL, South Korea) — North Korean leader Kim Jong Un had an “openhearted talk” in Pyongyang with envoys for South Korean President Moon Jae-in, the North said Tuesday.

It’s the first time South Korean officials have met with the young North Korean leader in person since he took power after his dictator father’s death in late 2011 — and the latest sign that the Korea’s are trying to mend ties after a year of repeated North Korean weapons tests and threats of nuclear war.

North Korea’s state media said Kim expressed his desire to “write a new history of national reunification” during a dinner Monday night that Seoul said lasted about four hours.

Given the robust history of bloodshed, threats and animosity on the Korean Peninsula, there is considerable skepticism over whether the Koreas’ apparent warming relations will lead to lasting peace.

North Korea, some believe, is trying to use improved ties with the South to weaken U.S.-led international sanctions and pressure, and to provide domestic propaganda fodder for Kim Jong Un.

But each new development also raises the possibility that the rivals can use the momentum from the good feelings created during North Korea’s participation in the South’s Pyeongchang Winter Olympics last month to ease a standoff over North Korea’s nuclear ambitions and restart talks between Pyongyang and Washington.

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COMING UP…
NORTH KOREA’S KIM JONG UN WANTS TO ‘WRITE A NEW HISTORY’ WITH SOUTH KOREA AFTER TALKS
I’D LIKE TO BE OPTIMISTIC.’ DONALD TRUMP SEES SIGN OF PROGRESS IN POSSIBLE NORTH KOREA TALKS WITH U.S.

The North Korean report sought to make Kim look statesmanlike as he welcomed the visiting South Koreans, with Kim offering views on “activating the versatile dialogue, contact, cooperation and exchange.”

He was also said to have given “important instruction to the relevant field to rapidly take practical steps for” a summit with Moon, which the North proposed last month.

Moon, a liberal who is keen to engage the North, likely wants to visit Pyongyang. But he must first broker better ties between the North and Washington, which is Seoul’s top ally and its military protector.

The role of a confident leader welcoming visiting, and lower-ranking, officials from the rival South is one Kim clearly relishes. Smiling for cameras, he posed with the South Koreans and presided over what was described as a “co-patriotic and sincere atmosphere.”

Many in Seoul and Washington will want to know if, the rhetoric and smiling images notwithstanding, there’s any possibility Kim will negotiate over the North’s breakneck pursuit of an arsenal of nuclear missiles that can viably target the U.S. mainland.

The North has repeatedly and bluntly declared it will not give up its nuclear bombs. It also hates the annual U.S.-South Korean military exercises that were postponed because of the Olympics but will likely happen later this spring. And achieving its nuclear aims rests on the North resuming tests of missiles and bombs that set the region on edge.

Photos distributed by the North showed a beaming Kim dressed in a dark Mao-style suit and holding hands with Moon’s national security director, Chung Eui-yong, the leader of the 10-member South Korean delegation. Chung’s trip is the first known high-level visit by South Korean officials to the North in about a decade.

The South Korean delegates have another meeting with North Korean officials on Tuesday before returning home, but it’s unclear if Kim Jong Un will be there.

Kim was said to have expressed at the dinner his “firm will to vigorously advance the north-south relations and write a new history of national reunification by the concerted efforts of our nation to be proud of in the world.”

There is speculation that better inter-Korean ties could pave the way for Washington and Pyongyang to talk about the North’s nuclear weapons. The United States, however, has made clear that it doesn’t want empty talks and that all options, including military measures, are on the table.

Previous warming ties between the Korea’s have come to nothing amid North Korea’s repeated weapons tests and the North’s claims that the annual U.S.-South Korean war games are a rehearsal for an invasion.

Before leaving for Pyongyang, Chung said he would relay Moon’s hopes for North Korean nuclear disarmament and a permanent peace on the peninsula.

Chung’s delegation includes intelligence chief Suh Hoon and Vice Unification Minister Chun Hae-sung. The South Korean presidential Blue House said the high-profile delegation is meant to reciprocate the Olympic trip by Kim Jong Un’s sister, Kim Yo Jong, who became the first member of the North’s ruling family to come to South Korea since the end of the 1950-53 Korean War.

Kim Yo Jong, who also attended Monday’s dinner, and other senior North Korean officials met with Moon during the Olympics, conveyed Kim Jong Un’s invitation to visit Pyongyang and expressed their willingness to hold talks with the United States.

After the Pyongyang trip, Chung’s delegation is scheduled to fly to the United States to brief officials about the outcome of the talks with North Korean officials.

President Donald Trump has said talks with North Korea will happen only “under the right conditions.”

If Moon accepts Kim’s invitation to visit Pyongyang it would be the third inter-Korean summit talk. The past two summits, one in 2000 and the other in 2007, were held between Kim’s late father, Kim Jong Il, and two liberal South Korean presidents. They resulted in a series of cooperative projects between the Korea’s that were scuttled during subsequent conservative administrations in the South.

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