All posts by MPolitics

State Department: Russia Not Justified in Retaliating After Expulsions

The State Department responded swiftly to an announcement by the Kremlin that Russia will retaliate for the expulsions of Russian diplomats from the U.S., Britain and other countries. Moscow announced Thursday it is expelling 60 U.S. diplomats and closing the U.S. consulate in St. Petersburg. State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert told reporters that is not justified and the U.S. reserves the right to respond. VOA’s Diplomatic Correspondent Cindy Saine has more from the State Department.

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Kim Jong Un’s China Visit Exposes Pitfalls for Nuclear Talks

While meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un may have revealed a glimpse of his vision of denuclearization that experts say could conflict with Washington’s expectation of a denuclearized North.

Chinese state news agency Xinhua reported that Kim confirmed his openness to discuss denuclearization during a secretive four-day excursion that began on Sunday with a train trip from Pyongyang to Beijing to meet with Xi.

“It is our consistent stand to be committed to denuclearization on the peninsula,” said Kim on his first foray outside North Korea since inheriting power from his father in 2011.

As reported by Xinhua, Kim’s commitment echoed the message that South Korea envoys conveyed to U.S. President Donald Trump in Washington on March 8, days after meeting with Kim in Pyongyang.

U.S. President Donald Trump, who has agreed to meet with Kim, welcomed this week’s meeting between Kim and Xi in a tweet saying, “Look forward to our meeting.”

What is denuclearization?

But despite Kim’s commitment to denuclearization, many experts are concerned that his vision of denuclearization could complicate the U.S. effort to denuclearize the North.

According to Xinhua, Kim also said the nuclear issue could be resolved through “progressive and synchronous measures” by his regime and the U.S.

Robert Manning, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, said Kim’s statement contains “a lot of loaded rhetoric” to “unpack.” Manning said Kim’s statement indicates that he mostly likely will demand the U.S. “remove its hostile policy” or what he perceives as a threat posed to the Kim regime by reducing sanctions, ending U.S.-South Korean military exercises and removing U.S. troops as well as the nuclear umbrella over South Korea and Japan.

Kim expects the U.S. to take “synchronous measures” in providing these concessions as the North agrees to take action-for-action steps, Manning said.

Evans Revere, a former State Department official who has negotiated with North Korea extensively, said these demands are consistent with North Korea’s definition of denuclearization.

“What the North Koreans have done in conveying this to the Chinese is an effort to buy some time by giving a vague reference to some future denuclearization that they are actually not committed to,” Revere said.

Ken Gause, an expert on North Korea and its leadership and a director at research and analysis group CNA said, “[His statement] shows that Kim is looking for a phased process that is conditional on U.S. and [South Korea] providing incentives that meet the requirement of creating an atmosphere of peace and stability.”

Christopher Hill, who negotiated with the North as the head of the U.S. delegation under the George W. Bush administration, believes North Korea needs to demonstrate that it will agree to a verification protocol on denuclearization for diplomatic efforts to advance.

“The issue will come down to whether they are prepared to be serious about this,” Hill said. “By serious, they need to adhere to some international standards of verification.”

Gary Samore, a former White House coordinator for arms control and weapons of mass destruction under the Obama administration, said, “If Trump really believes that he is going to go to this meeting and achieve nuclear disarmament overnight through some process of intimidation and promises, then I think he’s going to leave the meeting very disappointed.”

​Inter-Korea summit set

Seoul and Pyongyang held a high-level inter-Korean talks Thursday at the village of Panmunjom on their border and agreed to have the summit between the leaders of the two Koreas on April 27 at the Peace House on the southern side of the Panmunjom.

The prospects for nuclear summits with North Korea opened up when South Korean envoys traveled to Pyongyang at Kim’s invitation. South Korean envoys then traveled to Washington to deliver Kim’s invitation to a U.S.-North Korea summit that Trump has agreed to have by May. There is no official confirmation of the summit from North Korea.

Youngnam Kim contributed to this report, which originated on VOA Korean.

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Kim Jong Un’s China Visit Exposes Pitfalls for Nuclear Talks

While meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un may have revealed a glimpse of his vision of denuclearization that experts say could conflict with Washington’s expectation of a denuclearized North.

Chinese state news agency Xinhua reported that Kim confirmed his openness to discuss denuclearization during a secretive four-day excursion that began on Sunday with a train trip from Pyongyang to Beijing to meet with Xi.

“It is our consistent stand to be committed to denuclearization on the peninsula,” said Kim on his first foray outside North Korea since inheriting power from his father in 2011.

As reported by Xinhua, Kim’s commitment echoed the message that South Korea envoys conveyed to U.S. President Donald Trump in Washington on March 8, days after meeting with Kim in Pyongyang.

U.S. President Donald Trump, who has agreed to meet with Kim, welcomed this week’s meeting between Kim and Xi in a tweet saying, “Look forward to our meeting.”

What is denuclearization?

But despite Kim’s commitment to denuclearization, many experts are concerned that his vision of denuclearization could complicate the U.S. effort to denuclearize the North.

According to Xinhua, Kim also said the nuclear issue could be resolved through “progressive and synchronous measures” by his regime and the U.S.

Robert Manning, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, said Kim’s statement contains “a lot of loaded rhetoric” to “unpack.” Manning said Kim’s statement indicates that he mostly likely will demand the U.S. “remove its hostile policy” or what he perceives as a threat posed to the Kim regime by reducing sanctions, ending U.S.-South Korean military exercises and removing U.S. troops as well as the nuclear umbrella over South Korea and Japan.

Kim expects the U.S. to take “synchronous measures” in providing these concessions as the North agrees to take action-for-action steps, Manning said.

Evans Revere, a former State Department official who has negotiated with North Korea extensively, said these demands are consistent with North Korea’s definition of denuclearization.

“What the North Koreans have done in conveying this to the Chinese is an effort to buy some time by giving a vague reference to some future denuclearization that they are actually not committed to,” Revere said.

Ken Gause, an expert on North Korea and its leadership and a director at research and analysis group CNA said, “[His statement] shows that Kim is looking for a phased process that is conditional on U.S. and [South Korea] providing incentives that meet the requirement of creating an atmosphere of peace and stability.”

Christopher Hill, who negotiated with the North as the head of the U.S. delegation under the George W. Bush administration, believes North Korea needs to demonstrate that it will agree to a verification protocol on denuclearization for diplomatic efforts to advance.

“The issue will come down to whether they are prepared to be serious about this,” Hill said. “By serious, they need to adhere to some international standards of verification.”

Gary Samore, a former White House coordinator for arms control and weapons of mass destruction under the Obama administration, said, “If Trump really believes that he is going to go to this meeting and achieve nuclear disarmament overnight through some process of intimidation and promises, then I think he’s going to leave the meeting very disappointed.”

​Inter-Korea summit set

Seoul and Pyongyang held a high-level inter-Korean talks Thursday at the village of Panmunjom on their border and agreed to have the summit between the leaders of the two Koreas on April 27 at the Peace House on the southern side of the Panmunjom.

The prospects for nuclear summits with North Korea opened up when South Korean envoys traveled to Pyongyang at Kim’s invitation. South Korean envoys then traveled to Washington to deliver Kim’s invitation to a U.S.-North Korea summit that Trump has agreed to have by May. There is no official confirmation of the summit from North Korea.

Youngnam Kim contributed to this report, which originated on VOA Korean.

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Pentagon Remains Silent on Transgender Policy

Nearly a week after President Donald Trump issued an order banning some transgender people from serving in the U.S. military, the Pentagon is refusing to provide clarity, citing ongoing legal challenges.

Last Friday, the White House released a memo from Trump to Secretary of Defense James Mattis and Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen, stating the administration concurred with a policy for transgender service members privately recommended by Mattis in late February.

The memo said Mattis and Nielsen “have concluded that the accession or retention of individuals with a history or diagnosis of gender dysphoria — those who may require substantial medical treatment, including through medical drugs or surgery — presents considerable risk to military effectiveness and lethality.”

“Gender dysphoria” (formerly known as gender identity disorder) is defined by strong, persistent feelings of identification with the opposite gender and discomfort with one’s own assigned sex that results in significant distress or impairment.

The memo also granted the secretaries the authority to implement policies as they saw fit.

But since then, the Department of Defense has been silent, refusing to answer questions from reporters seeking clarity on a new policy that could affect nearly 9,000 transgender service members.

The pattern continued Thursday when Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White told reporters, “We will continue to comply with four court orders assessing transgender applicants for military service and retaining current transgender service members.”

White said she is prevented from discussing any aspect of the new policy because of ongoing litigation challenging Trump’s order to ban transgender forces.

The Pentagon said there are 8,980 service members who identify as transgender, but only 937 active-duty service members were diagnosed with gender dysphoria.

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Pentagon Remains Silent on Transgender Policy

Nearly a week after President Donald Trump issued an order banning some transgender people from serving in the U.S. military, the Pentagon is refusing to provide clarity, citing ongoing legal challenges.

Last Friday, the White House released a memo from Trump to Secretary of Defense James Mattis and Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen, stating the administration concurred with a policy for transgender service members privately recommended by Mattis in late February.

The memo said Mattis and Nielsen “have concluded that the accession or retention of individuals with a history or diagnosis of gender dysphoria — those who may require substantial medical treatment, including through medical drugs or surgery — presents considerable risk to military effectiveness and lethality.”

“Gender dysphoria” (formerly known as gender identity disorder) is defined by strong, persistent feelings of identification with the opposite gender and discomfort with one’s own assigned sex that results in significant distress or impairment.

The memo also granted the secretaries the authority to implement policies as they saw fit.

But since then, the Department of Defense has been silent, refusing to answer questions from reporters seeking clarity on a new policy that could affect nearly 9,000 transgender service members.

The pattern continued Thursday when Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White told reporters, “We will continue to comply with four court orders assessing transgender applicants for military service and retaining current transgender service members.”

White said she is prevented from discussing any aspect of the new policy because of ongoing litigation challenging Trump’s order to ban transgender forces.

The Pentagon said there are 8,980 service members who identify as transgender, but only 937 active-duty service members were diagnosed with gender dysphoria.

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Trump, Pentagon Chief Had ‘Initial Conversation’ About Border Wall

U.S. President Donald Trump has spoken with his top defense official about using military funding to build the border wall with Mexico.

“It’s been an initial conversation,” Chief Pentagon Spokesperson Dana White said Thursday when asked if Trump had broached the subject with Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.

“Remember, securing Americans and securing the nation is of paramount importance to the secretary,” White said.

This past Sunday, the president tweeted, “Because of the $700 & $716 Billion Dollars gotten to rebuild our Military, many jobs are created and our Military is again rich.”

He followed that with a second Tweet, saying, “Building a great Border Wall, with drugs (poison) and enemy combatants pouring into our Country, is all about National Defense. Build WALL through M!”

The Pentagon has not provided any details about how much military funding could be used to build the border wall, which has an estimated price tag of more than $20 billion, or what impact that would have on the U.S. military itself.  

But the defense appropriations act passed by Congress tells the Pentagon where to spend its money and a change in the budget would need Congressional approval.

“That’s a bridge too far because we don’t have those details,” the Defense Department’s White told reporters Thursday. “It’s been an initial conversation.”

“There’s no daylight between them (Mattis and Trump) with respect to making sure this military stays the most lethal in the world,” White added.

 

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Trump, Pentagon Chief Had ‘Initial Conversation’ About Border Wall

U.S. President Donald Trump has spoken with his top defense official about using military funding to build the border wall with Mexico.

“It’s been an initial conversation,” Chief Pentagon Spokesperson Dana White said Thursday when asked if Trump had broached the subject with Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.

“Remember, securing Americans and securing the nation is of paramount importance to the secretary,” White said.

This past Sunday, the president tweeted, “Because of the $700 & $716 Billion Dollars gotten to rebuild our Military, many jobs are created and our Military is again rich.”

He followed that with a second Tweet, saying, “Building a great Border Wall, with drugs (poison) and enemy combatants pouring into our Country, is all about National Defense. Build WALL through M!”

The Pentagon has not provided any details about how much military funding could be used to build the border wall, which has an estimated price tag of more than $20 billion, or what impact that would have on the U.S. military itself.  

But the defense appropriations act passed by Congress tells the Pentagon where to spend its money and a change in the budget would need Congressional approval.

“That’s a bridge too far because we don’t have those details,” the Defense Department’s White told reporters Thursday. “It’s been an initial conversation.”

“There’s no daylight between them (Mattis and Trump) with respect to making sure this military stays the most lethal in the world,” White added.

 

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Russia Orders Expulsion of US Diplomats in Tit-for-Tat Move

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov says Moscow will expel 60 U.S. diplomats after Washington announced it was ordering the expulsion of dozens of Russian diplomats over the poisoning of a former Russian spy in Britain.

Lavrov said Thursday Russia will also close the U.S. consulate in the city of St. Petersburg.

The U.S., along with more than 20 other nations, ordered the expulsion of Russian diplomats after Moscow was blamed for the nerve agent attack on former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter earlier this month in the British town of Salisbury.

Russia denies it was responsible for the nerve agent attack and has alleged the it was carried out by British intelligence services in order to make Russia look bad. Britain dismisses that allegation.

In a phone call this week with U.S. President Donald Trump, British Prime Minister Theresa May praised the “very strong response” by the United States in the wake of the poisoning.

The White House said “both leaders agreed on the importance of dismantling Russia’s spy networks in the United Kingdom and the United States to curtail Russian clandestine activities and prevent future chemical weapons attacks on either country’s soil.”

Meanwhile, Skripal’s daughter Yulia is “improving rapidly” after a nerve agent attack earlier this month and is no longer in critical condition, Christine Blanshard, Salisbury District hospital medical director, said.

Sergei Skripal  remains in critical condition, Blanshard added.

British police gave an update on the investigation Wednesday, saying that after forensic examinations detectives believe the Skripals first made contact with the toxin at the front door of their home. They cautioned that those living in the neighborhood will see continued searches taking place but that the risk to the public remains low.

So far, police say they have looked through 5,000 hours of security camera footage, examined more than 1,350 other exhibits and interviewed hundreds of witnesses.

National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin and White House correspondent Steve Herman contributed to this article.

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Russia Orders Expulsion of US Diplomats in Tit-for-Tat Move

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov says Moscow will expel 60 U.S. diplomats after Washington announced it was ordering the expulsion of dozens of Russian diplomats over the poisoning of a former Russian spy in Britain.

Lavrov said Thursday Russia will also close the U.S. consulate in the city of St. Petersburg.

The U.S., along with more than 20 other nations, ordered the expulsion of Russian diplomats after Moscow was blamed for the nerve agent attack on former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter earlier this month in the British town of Salisbury.

Russia denies it was responsible for the nerve agent attack and has alleged the it was carried out by British intelligence services in order to make Russia look bad. Britain dismisses that allegation.

In a phone call this week with U.S. President Donald Trump, British Prime Minister Theresa May praised the “very strong response” by the United States in the wake of the poisoning.

The White House said “both leaders agreed on the importance of dismantling Russia’s spy networks in the United Kingdom and the United States to curtail Russian clandestine activities and prevent future chemical weapons attacks on either country’s soil.”

Meanwhile, Skripal’s daughter Yulia is “improving rapidly” after a nerve agent attack earlier this month and is no longer in critical condition, Christine Blanshard, Salisbury District hospital medical director, said.

Sergei Skripal  remains in critical condition, Blanshard added.

British police gave an update on the investigation Wednesday, saying that after forensic examinations detectives believe the Skripals first made contact with the toxin at the front door of their home. They cautioned that those living in the neighborhood will see continued searches taking place but that the risk to the public remains low.

So far, police say they have looked through 5,000 hours of security camera footage, examined more than 1,350 other exhibits and interviewed hundreds of witnesses.

National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin and White House correspondent Steve Herman contributed to this article.

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Trump Accuses Amazon of Not Paying Taxes, Putting Retailers Out of Business

U.S. President Donald Trump attacked online tech giant Amazon, accusing the company of paying too little taxes and being responsible for putting retailers out of business.

In a Twitter post early Thursday, Trump blasted the online retail titan, saying “I have stated my concerns with Amazon long before the Election,” adding, “Unlike others, they pay little or no taxes to state & local governments, use our Postal System as their Delivery Boy (causing tremendous loss to the U.S.), and are putting many thousands of retailers out of business!”

Trump has a long history blaming Amazon for hurting traditional brick-and-mortar retailers. He tweeted last August, “Amazon is doing great damage to tax paying retailers. Towns, cities and states throughout the U.S. are being hurt – many jobs being lost!”

For years, Trump has been at odds with Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos, who owns the Washington Post newspaper.

In 2015, Trump tweeted, “The @washingtonpost, which loses a fortune, is owned by @JeffBezos for purposes of keeping taxes down at his no profit company, @amazon.”

In response, Bezos joked he would send Trump to space in one of the rockets owned by Blue Origin, a company he separately owns. “Finally trashed by @realDonaldTrump. Will still reserve him a seat on the Blue Origin rocket. #sendDonaldtospace,” Bezos tweeted.

Online news site Axios cited five unnamed sources in a report Wednesday that said Trump wants to “go after” Amazon, is “obsessed” with Amazon, believing Amazon “has gotten a free ride from taxpayers and cushy treatment from the U.S. Postal Service.”

According to the Axios report, the president has “wondered aloud if there may be any way to go after Amazon with antitrust or competition law.”

It quotes another source saying, “It’s been explained to him in multiple meetings that his perception is inaccurate and that the post office actually makes a ton of money from Amazon.”

After Trump’s attacks, Amazon’s stock price took a nose dive on Wednesday, dropping more than four percent, losing more than $30 billion in market value.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said “there aren’t any specific policies on the table” regarding Amazon at this time, but the president is “always looking to create a level playing field for all businesses, and this is no different.”

“As an online retailer, Amazon currently collects taxes in all states that have sales tax, regardless of whether Amazon has a physical presence or not.” It does not collect tax if items were purchased with third party sellers. Critics said this gives Amazon a competitive edge over traditional retailers that collect sales taxes on all purchases.

Amazon, founded in 1994, is the world’s largest Internet retailer measured by revenue and market capitalization. Last year, with over 40 subsidiaries, the company’s revenue exceeded $177 billion.

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