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Mike Pompeo Travels to North Korea to Prepare For Meeting Between Kim Jong And President Trump

Washington has demanded Pyongyang give up chemical and biological weapons, in addition to nuclear weapons and programs.

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The U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is traveling to North Korea, preparing for the upcoming meeting between President Donald Trump and North Korea leader Kim Jong Un.
U.S. Secretary Mike Pompeo, Wikimedia commons
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The U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is traveling to North Korea, preparing for the upcoming meeting between President Donald Trump and North Korea leader Kim Jong Un.

“Plans are being made. Relationships are building. Hopefully, a deal will happen and, with the help of China, South Korea, and Japan, a future of great prosperity and security can be achieved for everyone,” said Trump on Tuesday at the White House.

Pompeo’s arrival in Pyongyang Wednesday coincided with a trilateral summit in Tokyo between Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and South Korean President Moon Jae-in to discuss the escalating diplomatic rapport between North and South Korea, highlighted by last month’s historic summit between Moon and Kim at the Demilitarized Zone separating the two rivals.

South Korea’s Yonhap news agency says the three leaders issued a statement expressing support for the commitment made by the two Korean leaders to denuclearize the Korean peninsula, and reaffirmed their joint efforts towards convincing North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons program.

The chief U.S. diplomat is also on a mission, hoping to secure the release of three Americans detained by Pyongyang.

“We’ve been asking for the release of these detainees for 17 months,” Pompeo said en route to North Korea. “We’ll talk about it again. It’d be a great gesture if they’d agree to do so.”

Three Korean-Americans currently are imprisoned in North Korea. Tony Kim and Kim Hak Song were teaching at the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology. They were separately detained in 2017, and accused of participating in anti-state activities and trying to overthrow the government.

The U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is traveling to North Korea, preparing for the upcoming meeting between President Donald Trump and North Korea leader Kim Jong Un.
Kim Jong Un will meet US President, VOA

The third detainee, Kim Dong Chul, was arrested in Rason on the northeast tip of North Korea in October 2015. He was sentenced in 2016 to 10 years in prison with hard labor after being convicted of espionage.

Pompeo’s latest trip to North Korea came just weeks after he met with Kim.

“The first time it was truly an intelligence effort” to validate Kim’s intention, said Pompeo, while the second visit is hoping to “put in place a framework,” and “conditions” for a successful summit between the two presidents.

“We are not going to head back down the path that we headed down before. We’re not going to relieve sanctions until such time as we achieved our objectives. We are not going to do this in small increments, where the world is essentially coerced into relieving economic pressure,” Pompeo said.

‘New and bold approach’

Senior State Department officials traveling with Pompeo said Washington is taking a “new and bold approach,” while continuing to consult closely with America’s allies, including Japan and South Korea.

“We — the secretary — will be listening for signs from North Korea that things have substantively changed since Kim’s declaration on New Year’s Eve to mass produce nuclear warheads and the means to deliver them,” said a senior official.

Officials traveling with Pompeo include White House National Security Council senior director for Asian affairs Matt Pottinger, State Department policy planning director Brian Hook, and acting Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Heather Nauert.

Experts told VOA on Tuesday that Pompeo’s second trip to North Korea, following Kim’s second meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping this week, shows that negotiations have reached a critical juncture.

“Each side is now negotiating for maximum benefit to their security,” said Dennis Wilder, who served as the senior director for East Asian affairs at the National Security Council under former President George W. Bush. “The issue of sequencing steps that each side must take is one of the toughest parts of any negotiation of this magnitude.”

“It suggests that a major deal is under consideration that involves major concessions on each side,” Wilder told VOA.

‘More than declarations’

Other experts said there can’t be a summit unless North Korea were to release the three American prisoners.

“I would expect Secretary Pompeo to bring home these captives on his plane — unless North Korea was for some reason getting cold feet,” said Harry Kazianis, director of defense studies at The Center for the National Interest in Washington.

Atlantic Council’s senior fellow Robert Manning told VOA that what the Trump administration is looking for is “more than declarations.”

"I would expect Secretary Pompeo to bring home these captives on his plane — unless North Korea was for some reason getting cold feet," said Harry Kazianis, director of defense studies at The Center for the National Interest in Washington.
Kim Jong-un And Donald Trump

The U.S. is eyeing “commitments to dismantle North Korea’s weapons of mass destruction and milestones to benchmark,” Manning said.

Washington has demanded Pyongyang give up chemical and biological weapons, in addition to nuclear weapons and programs.

Tuesday, in a readout after Chinese President Xi’s call with Trump, Beijing said Xi stressed his support of the planned meeting between Trump and Kim, while asking Washington to take Pyongyang’s “reasonable security concerns” into consideration.

Also Read: ASEAN Parliamentarians Urge Indonesian Government to Tackle Rising Intolerance in the Country

The call between Chinese and American leaders came just hours after Xi met with Kim on Monday and Tuesday in the northeastern Chinese port city of Dalian, their second meeting since late March.

In a statement published by Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Kim told Xi that the realization of denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula is a consistent and clear position of North Korea.

“As long as relevant parties eliminate the hostile policy and security threats against North Korea, Pyongyang does not need to have nuclear weapons, and denuclearization is achievable,” said Kim, according to the Chinese statement. (VOA)

 

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Attorney General Jeff Sessions Steps Down As Asked By Donald Trump

It remains to be seen whether Trump will tap Whitaker for the job permanently and send his name to the Senate for confirmation.

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U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions attends a news conference on the arrest of a suspect in the sending of at least a dozen parcel bombs to Democratic politicians and high-profile critics of President Trump. VOA

U.S. President Donald Trump forced his controversial Attorney General Jeff Sessions to resign Wednesday, setting up a possible showdown with newly energized congressional Democrats over the investigation of Russia’s involvement in the 2016 presidential election.

Sessions, in a resignation letter to Trump, wrote that he was stepping down at “your request,” accepting a fait accompli he’d long sought to avert despite Trump’s repeated public humiliations of the attorney general over his recusal from oversight of the Russia probe.

The forced departure of Sessions, a former Republican senator and early supporter of Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, capped a turbulent tenure that hit a rough patch in early 2017 when he stepped aside from the Russia investigation shortly after taking office.

Trump blamed Sessions’ recusal for the speedy appointment of Special Counsel Robert Mueller and, over the course of the attorney general’s 20-month tenure, repeatedly castigated Sessions for failing to rein in what he called a “witch hunt” being led by Mueller and “17 Angry Democrats.”

While undertaking a wholesale repeal of Obama-era policies and implementing Trump’s tough-on-crime and immigration agenda, Sessions was increasingly shunned by the president, to the point that Trump told an interviewer earlier this year, “I don’t have an attorney general.”

In a pair of tweets Wednesday afternoon announcing Sessions’ resignation, Trump thanked the attorney general for his service and said Matt Whitaker, Sessions’ chief of staff and a former U.S. attorney under former President George W. Bush, would take over as acting attorney general. A permanent replacement would be announced later, Trump said.

Though long expected, Sessions’ departure fueled Democratic fears that Trump may be maneuvering to assert control over the Mueller investigation through a trusted appointee or possibly shut down it all together.

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U.S. President Donald Trump acknowledges supporters as he arrives for a campaign rally at the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum in Fort Wayne, Indiana. VOA

Congressional probe urged

Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, the top Democrat on the House oversight committee and a frequent Trump critic, urged Congress to investigate “the real reason” for the attorney general’s “termination.”

At a testy White House news conference earlier Wednesday, Trump said he could end the Mueller investigation “right now,” but “I stay away from it … I let it just go on.”

Other Democratic congressional leaders, including House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, and Senate Intelligence Committee Ranking Member Mark Warner issued nearly identical tweets urging Whitaker to recuse himself from the Russia investigation, citing his vocal criticism of the probe.

 

“Given his previous comments advocating defunding and imposing limitations on the Mueller investigation, Mr. Whitaker should recuse himself from its oversight for the duration of his time as acting attorney general,” Schumer tweeted.

 

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Then-Iowa Republican senatorial candidate and former U.S. Attorney Matt Whitaker is pictured before a televised debate in Johnston, Iowa. VOA

 

Whitaker served as U.S. attorney for the southern district of Iowa from 2004 to 2009. According to his LinkedIn profile, he headed Foundations for Accountability and Civic Trust (FACT), a self-described ethics watchdog, until September 2017, shortly before joining the Justice Department.

In an opinion piece for CNN.com in July 2017, two months after Mueller’s appointment, Whitaker wrote that he agreed with Trump that investigating the president’s finances fell outside Mueller’s mandate, and he urged Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to limit the special counsel’s authority.

‘In charge of all matters’

Asked whether Whitaker would take control of the Russia probe, Justice Department spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores said, “The acting attorney general is in charge of all matters under the purview of the Department of Justice.”

Flores did not directly answer questions about whether Whitaker had consulted or planned to consult Justice Department ethics experts on whether he should recuse himself from the Russia probe.

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Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., departs Capitol Hill, Oct. 6, 2018, in Washington. VOA

“We’re following regular order here,” she wrote via email.

John Malcolm, a former federal prosecutor now with the Heritage Foundation, a conservative research group, said he saw no reason for Whitaker to step aside.

“He is the acting attorney general. He has no reason to recuse himself,” Malcolm told VOA.

Malcolm said Sessions did “a solid job of implementing the president’s law enforcement priorities,” and he praised the attorney general for “protecting the integrity of the department and trying to keep it above politics.”

It remains to be seen whether Trump will tap Whitaker for the job permanently and send his name to the Senate for confirmation.

Also Read: U.S. Midterm Elections See Muslim American Women Making History

Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a Republican member of the Senate Judiciary Committee and close Trump ally, tweeted that he looked “forward to working with President Trump to find a confirmable, worthy successor. (VOA)