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On Trump-Moon Agenda: What to Do About threat posed by North Korea President Kim Jong Un

Moon, a liberal, took office early last month, succeeding the impeached Park Geun-hye, known for her tough stance toward North Korea

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South Korean President Moon Jae-in
South Korean President Moon Jae-in and his wife, Kim Jung-sook, wave before leaving for the United States at the Seoul military airport in Seongnam, South Korea, June 28, 2017. Moon left for the United States for a summit meeting with his U.S. counterpart. VOA
  • For the Trump-Moon meeting, “building a rapport” will be as important as anything else, considering how closely they will be working together, the senior U.S. official told reporters at a background briefing
  • The U.S. president had hoped that Chinese President Xi Jinping would quickly bring into line North Korean leader Kim Jong Un
  • Moon also has put the brakes on his predecessor’s move to quickly deploy the U.S. Theater High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-ballistic missile system in South Korea

USA, June 29, 2017: U.S. President Donald Trump on Thursday evening hosts South Korean President Moon Jae-in for cocktails and dinner, a prelude to talks the next day on the “very urgent threat posed by North Korea,” according to a senior White House official.

It’ll be the first time the two leaders meet.

Moon, a liberal, took office early last month, succeeding the impeached Park Geun-hye, known for her tough stance toward North Korea.

ALSO READ: Korea is Emerging as an Important Economic Partner for India

“It’s going to be a meeting with a lot of uncertainty about whether the two presidents can agree on a common policy toward North Korea in terms of the specific tactics,” said Gary Samore, research executive director at Harvard’s Belfer Center.

Tens of thousands of men and women pump their fists in the air
Tens of thousands of men and women pump their fists in the air and chant as they carry placards with anti-american propaganda slogans at Pyongyang’s central Kim Il Sung Square on Sunday, June 25, 2017, in Pyongyang North Korea, to mark what North Korea calls “the day of struggle against US imperialism” – the anniversary of the start of the Korean War. (AP Photo/Jon Chol Jin)

For the Trump-Moon meeting, “building a rapport” will be as important as anything else, considering how closely they will be working together, the senior U.S. official told reporters at a background briefing.

“My biggest concern is that President Moon will want to dive into tough policy challenges, rather than focusing on building a rapport with President Trump,” said Mansfield Foundation President Frank Januzzi.

Moon and North Korea

“I believe Moon is coming to Washington with a very specific proposal — if (North Korean leader) Kim Jong Un agrees to pause nuclear and missile testing, that should open the door to a diplomatic engagement, which would try to create a negotiation for eventual nuclear disarmament,” Samore, a non-proliferation and arms control official in the Clinton and Obama administrations, told VOA. “But I don’t know that Trump is going to be in a position to accept that proposal.”

Taro O, adjunct fellow at Pacific Forum CSIS, concurred.

“I don’t think Moon’s messages and various protests in South Korea help to set a positive tone for the summit,” O said.

But O expressed hope the long-standing alliance “would have a soothing effect.”

U.S. officials are downplaying any potential disagreement.

“We’re comfortable with where the two governments are right now,” the senior U.S. official said.

Increasing pressure

The Trump administration desires to substantially increase pressure on Pyongyang “to change its calculus in order to have substantive talks with us when they reduce the threat,” the official said.

Moon and Trump, he added, both want North Korea’s nuclear weapons and ballistic missile development programs completely dismantled.

“Moon might want to adopt an approach that asks Trump for dealmaking advice, even as he expresses the clear will of the South Korean people that dialogue be a key part of any diplomatic strategy to reduce the threats posed by North Korea,” Januzzi, a former East Asia policy director for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told VOA.

The U.S. president had hoped that Chinese President Xi Jinping would quickly bring into line North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. But Trump acknowledged recently that Beijing’s influence has failed to dissuade Pyongyang from its provocative course.

“We very much want to see China do more,” the U.S. official said.

“We are adding pressure and have really only begun to do so,” the official added, rejecting criticism that pressure has not worked.

FILE - Protesters attend an anti-THAAD protest in Seongju, South Korea. ​THAAD
FILE – Protesters attend an anti-THAAD protest in Seongju, South Korea. VOA

THAAD

Moon also has put the brakes on his predecessor’s move to quickly deploy the U.S. Theater High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-ballistic missile system in South Korea.

China strongly objected to the presence of THAAD on its neighbor’s territory.

“It is not unreasonable for the U.S. to be perplexed when South Korea appears to disregard a real missile threat from North Korea, succumb to China’s bullying, and portrays THAAD as a U.S. infringement of South Korean sovereignty,” O, a retired U.S. Air Force officer who worked at the Pentagon and intelligence agencies on Korean security issues, told VOA.

Administration officials discount the differences.

THAAD will be “a routine point of housekeeping” in the Trump-Moon talks but it is not being treated as a major issue, the senior White House official said.

Seoul diverging on security matters “could marginalize South Korea as a key player in dealing with North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, especially when Pyongyang is getting closer to developing a nuclear-tipped ICBM that can strike the U.S.,” O said.

Trade issues

There also are trade disagreements between Seoul and Washington, but “it’ll be a friendly, frank discussion,” the senior U.S. official predicted.

Trump has repeatedly termed the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement (KORUS) “horrible.” In April he threatened to terminate the decade-old pact because “we’re getting destroyed in Korea.”

The senior White House official diplomatically acknowledged “there are aspects of the trade relationship that are not in balance.”

Particular irritants: The lack of sales of American-made cars in Seoul and Chinese steel coming into the United States via South Korea.

Moon should have in mind Trump’s job creation agenda and inform him “about the great contributions that Korean companies are making to the U.S. economy, employing hundreds of thousands of Americans, both directly and indirectly,” Januzzi suggested. (VOA)

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Texas Mass Shooting: ‘It isn’t a guns situation, but a mental problem’, Says Trump

An eyewitness to the shootings, who is a Vietnam War vet, told VOA's Mehtap Colak Yilmaz that he had not seen anything like the church massacre "since Vietnam."

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U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a news conference with Shinzo Abe, Japan's prime minister, not pictured, at Akasaka Palace in Tokyo, Japan, on Monday, Nov. 6, 2017. Photographer: Kiyoshi Ota/Bloomberg(VOA)

White House, November 6, 2017 : A man opened fire with an assault weapon at a church near San Antonio, Texas, Sunday morning, killing 26 worshippers and wounding at least 20.

The victims range from five to 72 years old.

The gunman is also dead and there is no clue so far as to his motive.

Federal investigators from the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms have joined local law enforcement officers in tiny Sutherland Springs, Texas, about 50 kilometers from San Antonio.

On Monday, U.S. President Donald Trump said the mass shooting “isn’t a guns situation” but is instead “a mental health problem at the highest level. It’s a very, very sad event.” He said the shooter was “a very deranged individual.” The president is monitoring the situation from Japan, the first stop on his five-nation Asian trip.

Earlier, Trump called the shootings “an act of evil” and appealed for prayers. He ordered U.S. flags on federal buildings to be flown at half-staff through Thursday.

“We cannot put into words, the pain and grief we all feel and we cannot begin to imagine the suffering of those who lost the ones they so dearly loved. Our hearts are broken,” the president said.

Texas Governor Gregg Abbott says this is worst mass shooting in Texas history. He said there are “many pieces of a complex puzzle” to put together.

Texas
Members of the Wilson County Sheriff’s office stand inside a taped off area near the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, Nov. 5, 2017. VOA

What is known, according to Texas public safety official Freeman Martin, is that the gunman, later identified as Devin P. Kelley, was described as a young white male dressed in black and wearing a bullet-proof vest. He first opened fire with an assault rifle outside the First Baptist Church and continued shooting after going inside.

Freeman said a local resident with his own rifle confronted the shooter, causing the gunman to drop his weapon and flee in his car. The citizen pursued the gunman, joined shortly by police. Freeman said the suspect crashed the car just over the county line and was found dead in the vehicle from a gunshot wound. It is unclear if he killed himself or was shot by the citizen.

Wilson County Sheriff Joe Tackitt says police found multiple weapons in the suspect’s car.

U.S. Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek told VOA late Sunday that records show Kelley was discharged from the Air Force about three years ago: “Records checks confirm Devin P. Kelley was previously a USAF member, who served in Logistics Readiness at Holloman AFB, NM, from 2010 until his discharge in 2014. Kelley was court-martialed in 2012 for two counts of Article 128 UCMJ ((EDS: Uniform code of Military Justice)) — assault on his spouse and assault on their child. Kelley received a Bad Conduct Discharge, confinement for twelve months and a reduction to the grade of E-1.”

ALSO READ 26 people killed as a Shooter opens fire in a Church in Texas

Two of the victims were killed outside the church. The rest were shot inside.

An eyewitness to the shootings, who is a Vietnam War vet, told VOA’s Mehtap Colak Yilmaz that he had not seen anything like the church massacre “since Vietnam.”

Marie Ann Montgomery, the church’s Sunday school director, told VOA’s Yilmaz that people in the congregation knew Kelley and some of the suspect’s family members were among the victims. Montgomery stopped short, however, of saying the suspect deliberately targeted his family.

While none of the victims have been publicly identified, First Baptist Church Pastor Frank Pomeroy told U.S. news networks that his 14-year-old daughter, Annabelle Renee Pomeroy, is among the deceased.

Pomeroy was in Oklahoma at the time of the shooting. He told ABC News he was on his way back to Sutherland Springs.

Sutherland Springs, Texas on the map. VOA

​He said all of the people killed Sunday were close friends. Pomeroy also said he wants the world to know his daughter “was one very beautiful special child.”

Sheriff Tackitt says the church posts its weekly services on YouTube and that the massacre was likely caught on camera. The FBI says it believes only one gunman was involved.

Sunday’s Texas shooting comes just weeks after October’s mass killing in Las Vegas. Stephen Paddock opened fire on a country music show there, killing 58 and wounding about 500. Paddock shot from his 32nd floor hotel room and killed himself as police moved in. Investigators in the Las Vegas shooting are still working to confirm a motive. (VOA)

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Twitter Employee, on his Last Day, Deactivates Trump Account

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Donald Trump

U.S. President Donald Trump’s @realdonaldtrump Twitter account was deactivated by a Twitter Inc employee whose last day at the company was Thursday, and the account was down for 11 minutes before it was restored, the social media company said.

“We have learned that this was done by a Twitter customer-support employee who did this on the employee’s last day. We are conducting a full internal review,” Twitter said in a tweet.

“We are continuing to investigate and are taking steps to prevent this from happening again,” the company said in an earlier tweet.

A Twitter representative declined to comment further.

The White House did not respond immediately to a request for comment.

Trump has made extensive use of messages on Twitter to attack his opponents and promote his policies both during the 2016 presidential campaign and since taking office in January.

He has 41.7 million followers on Twitter.

His first tweet after Thursday’s outage:

In a similar incident last November, Twitter Chief Executive Officer Jack Dorsey’s account was briefly suspended as a result of what he said was an internal mistake. (VOA)

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Mattis Warns North Korea About Aggressive Nuclear Program

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North Korea About Aggressive Nuclear Program
U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, left, and South Korean Defense Minister Song Young-moo shake hands while posing for a photo before the 49th Security Consultative Meeting at Defense Ministry in Seoul, South Korea. VOA

Seoul, October 29: The U.S. defense secretary says the U.S. will never accept a nuclear-armed North Korea.

Jim Mattis said Saturday in Seoul that the North’s aggressive nuclear and missile development programs are undermining the isolated nation’s security instead of securing it.

Mattis warned the North that its military is no match for the military might of the U.S. and South Korea alliance.

“Make no mistake,” Mattis said, “any attack on the United States or our allies will be defeated and any use of nuclear weapons by the North will be met with a massive military response that is effective and overwhelming.”

The secretary said once again as he as said all week on his Asian trip that diplomacy is the preferred way of dealing with North Korea.

Mattis and General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, held annual consultations with South Korean defense officials Saturday, marking the first time the Security Consultative Meeting has been held since the inauguration of South Korea President Moon Jae-in and U.S. President Donald Trump.

On Friday, Mattis met with President Moon and spoke to U.S. and South Korean troops at the Panmunjom “truce village” where South Korea meets North Korea.

The secretary’s Asian trip has included stops in Thailand and the Philippines.(VOA)