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US, Canada Holding Trade Talks Following US-Mexico Pact

Negotiators from Canada and the United States are holding detailed trade negotiations in Washington as they seek to work out a replacement for the North American Free Trade Agreement.

The talks come after the United States and Mexico agreed to a bilateral trade deal this week while leaving the door open for Canada to join and preserve what has been a trilateral trade relationship for more than 20 years.

Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland met with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer on Tuesday for what she said were “very constructive” initial talks before more specific negotiations between the two sides on Wednesday.

Freeland said some of the details of the U.S.-Mexico agreement, particularly what she called “significant concessions” by Mexico on rules regarding automotive labor and parts origin, have given Canada optimism about the talks in Washington.

“The fact that Mexico was able to do something that I think must have been quite difficult for Mexico and make those concessions does really set the stage for some productive conversations for us here this week.”

It is unclear if the United States and Canada will resolve their long-standing disputes over duties on automobiles and dairy products that have persisted through months of NAFTA negotiations.

Freeland was also due to meet with Mexican trade officials who were still in Washington.

Final details of the U.S.-Mexico deal have yet to be worked out, but Lighthizer said he believes the tentative agreement is a win for both countries that creates more jobs for farmers and other workers.

To escape tariffs, the deal calls for 75 percent of “auto content” – parts and amenities – to be made in either the U.S. or Mexico, up from the current 62.5 percent North American content. In addition, 40 to 45 percent of the auto content must be produced by workers earning $16 or more an hour.

The average hourly pay for U.S. auto workers is more than $22 an hour, but in Mexico it is now less than $3.50 an hour. With the increase in labor costs, it likely will boost the cost of buying a vehicle.

“I think it’s going to modernize the way we do automobile trade, and I think it’s going to set the rules for the future at the highest standards in any agreement yet negotiated by any two nations for things like intellectual property, and digital trade, and financial services trade, and all of the things that we think of as the modernizing, cutting-edge places that our economy is going,” Lighthizer said.

“So this is great for business,” he said. “It’s great for labor. It has terrific labor provisions in it. Stronger and more enforceable labor provisions than have ever been in an agreement by a mile. Not even close.” 

However, lawmakers in both countries still need to approve the pact in the coming months.

Some of the agreement mirrors elements contained in the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the 12-nation Pacific Rim trade pact that Mexico and the U.S. both agreed to, before President Donald Trump withdrew the United States. It requires Mexico to allow more collective bargaining for workers and calls for more stringent air quality and marine life protections.

The accord is set to last for six years, at which point the United States and Mexico will review it, and if both sides agree, they would extend it for 16 more years.

But the agreement does not end steel and aluminum tariffs Trump imposed on Mexico earlier this year, leading to Mexican levies on U.S. imports. 

Trade between the U.S. and Mexico totaled an estimated $615.9 billion in 2017, with the U.S. exporting $63.6 billion more in goods and services than it imported.

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US, Canada Holding Trade Talks Following US-Mexico Pact

Negotiators from Canada and the United States are holding detailed trade negotiations in Washington as they seek to work out a replacement for the North American Free Trade Agreement.

The talks come after the United States and Mexico agreed to a bilateral trade deal this week while leaving the door open for Canada to join and preserve what has been a trilateral trade relationship for more than 20 years.

Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland met with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer on Tuesday for what she said were “very constructive” initial talks before more specific negotiations between the two sides on Wednesday.

Freeland said some of the details of the U.S.-Mexico agreement, particularly what she called “significant concessions” by Mexico on rules regarding automotive labor and parts origin, have given Canada optimism about the talks in Washington.

“The fact that Mexico was able to do something that I think must have been quite difficult for Mexico and make those concessions does really set the stage for some productive conversations for us here this week.”

It is unclear if the United States and Canada will resolve their long-standing disputes over duties on automobiles and dairy products that have persisted through months of NAFTA negotiations.

Freeland was also due to meet with Mexican trade officials who were still in Washington.

Final details of the U.S.-Mexico deal have yet to be worked out, but Lighthizer said he believes the tentative agreement is a win for both countries that creates more jobs for farmers and other workers.

To escape tariffs, the deal calls for 75 percent of “auto content” – parts and amenities – to be made in either the U.S. or Mexico, up from the current 62.5 percent North American content. In addition, 40 to 45 percent of the auto content must be produced by workers earning $16 or more an hour.

The average hourly pay for U.S. auto workers is more than $22 an hour, but in Mexico it is now less than $3.50 an hour. With the increase in labor costs, it likely will boost the cost of buying a vehicle.

“I think it’s going to modernize the way we do automobile trade, and I think it’s going to set the rules for the future at the highest standards in any agreement yet negotiated by any two nations for things like intellectual property, and digital trade, and financial services trade, and all of the things that we think of as the modernizing, cutting-edge places that our economy is going,” Lighthizer said.

“So this is great for business,” he said. “It’s great for labor. It has terrific labor provisions in it. Stronger and more enforceable labor provisions than have ever been in an agreement by a mile. Not even close.” 

However, lawmakers in both countries still need to approve the pact in the coming months.

Some of the agreement mirrors elements contained in the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the 12-nation Pacific Rim trade pact that Mexico and the U.S. both agreed to, before President Donald Trump withdrew the United States. It requires Mexico to allow more collective bargaining for workers and calls for more stringent air quality and marine life protections.

The accord is set to last for six years, at which point the United States and Mexico will review it, and if both sides agree, they would extend it for 16 more years.

But the agreement does not end steel and aluminum tariffs Trump imposed on Mexico earlier this year, leading to Mexican levies on U.S. imports. 

Trade between the U.S. and Mexico totaled an estimated $615.9 billion in 2017, with the U.S. exporting $63.6 billion more in goods and services than it imported.

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With Trump’s Support, Republican DeSantis Wins Primary for Florida Governor

Conservative U.S. Representative Ron DeSantis easily won the Republican primary for governor in Florida on Tuesday after a campaign in which he highlighted his enthusiastic loyalty to President Donald Trump.

DeSantis, who was endorsed by Trump, beat state Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam for the Republican nomination for governor, the Associated Press projected. He led by nearly 20 percentage points with about 85 percent of votes counted.

Trump, who captured the battleground state of Florida by just more than 1 percentage point in the 2016 White House race, tweeted his congratulations to DeSantis after the victory and said he would be “a fantastic governor.”

DeSantis made his allegiance to Trump the central theme of his race, airing a campaign ad in which he urged his toddler daughter to “build that wall” with toy blocks.

In the Democratic primary for Florida governor, progressive favorite Andrew Gillum narrowly led moderate former U.S. Representative Gwen Graham by nearly 2 percentage points with 85 percent of the vote counted.

Graham, the daughter of Bob Graham, a former Florida governor and U.S. senator, had led in polls heading into primary day, but Gillum surged in the late stages of the race.

Gillum, the mayor of Tallahassee, had been endorsed by U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders. He would be the first African-American governor of Florida.

Florida also will host one of the country’s top U.S. Senate races between term-limited Republican Governor Rick Scott, who won the Senate nomination against token opposition, and incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson. Nelson ran unopposed for the nomination.

Voters in Arizona also picked candidates for the November elections, when Democrats will try to pick up 23 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives and two seats in the Senate to gain majorities and slam the brakes on Trump’s legislative agenda.

Republican establishment favorite U.S. Representative Martha McSally has led consistently in opinion polls over former state Senator Kelli Ward and former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio in a three-way battle to prove which candidate is most loyal to Trump, who won Arizona by 4 percentage points in 2016.

The contest could be critical to the balance of power in the Senate in November. The Arizona seat of retiring Republican Jeff Flake, a Trump critic, is considered one of the two top takeover targets for Democrats, along with Nevada.

McSally is seen as a stronger general election candidate than either Ward or Arpaio, both hard-line conservatives.

McSally has already launched advertising aimed at her likely Democratic opponent in November, U.S. Representative Kyrsten Sinema.

The primaries in Arizona and Florida on Tuesday are the last big day of state primaries before November’s elections. After Tuesday’s primaries, only five states remain to pick candidates before full attention turns to the November election, when all 435 House seats and 35 of the 100 Senate seats will be at stake.

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With Trump’s Support, Republican DeSantis Wins Primary for Florida Governor

Conservative U.S. Representative Ron DeSantis easily won the Republican primary for governor in Florida on Tuesday after a campaign in which he highlighted his enthusiastic loyalty to President Donald Trump.

DeSantis, who was endorsed by Trump, beat state Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam for the Republican nomination for governor, the Associated Press projected. He led by nearly 20 percentage points with about 85 percent of votes counted.

Trump, who captured the battleground state of Florida by just more than 1 percentage point in the 2016 White House race, tweeted his congratulations to DeSantis after the victory and said he would be “a fantastic governor.”

DeSantis made his allegiance to Trump the central theme of his race, airing a campaign ad in which he urged his toddler daughter to “build that wall” with toy blocks.

In the Democratic primary for Florida governor, progressive favorite Andrew Gillum narrowly led moderate former U.S. Representative Gwen Graham by nearly 2 percentage points with 85 percent of the vote counted.

Graham, the daughter of Bob Graham, a former Florida governor and U.S. senator, had led in polls heading into primary day, but Gillum surged in the late stages of the race.

Gillum, the mayor of Tallahassee, had been endorsed by U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders. He would be the first African-American governor of Florida.

Florida also will host one of the country’s top U.S. Senate races between term-limited Republican Governor Rick Scott, who won the Senate nomination against token opposition, and incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson. Nelson ran unopposed for the nomination.

Voters in Arizona also picked candidates for the November elections, when Democrats will try to pick up 23 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives and two seats in the Senate to gain majorities and slam the brakes on Trump’s legislative agenda.

Republican establishment favorite U.S. Representative Martha McSally has led consistently in opinion polls over former state Senator Kelli Ward and former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio in a three-way battle to prove which candidate is most loyal to Trump, who won Arizona by 4 percentage points in 2016.

The contest could be critical to the balance of power in the Senate in November. The Arizona seat of retiring Republican Jeff Flake, a Trump critic, is considered one of the two top takeover targets for Democrats, along with Nevada.

McSally is seen as a stronger general election candidate than either Ward or Arpaio, both hard-line conservatives.

McSally has already launched advertising aimed at her likely Democratic opponent in November, U.S. Representative Kyrsten Sinema.

The primaries in Arizona and Florida on Tuesday are the last big day of state primaries before November’s elections. After Tuesday’s primaries, only five states remain to pick candidates before full attention turns to the November election, when all 435 House seats and 35 of the 100 Senate seats will be at stake.

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Officials: Trump Backs Off Plan to Roll Back Foreign Aid

President Donald Trump’s administration backed off on Tuesday on plans to bypass Congress and roll back billions of dollars from the U.S. foreign aid budget after lawmakers pushed back, senators, congressional aides and U.S. officials said.

Reuters reported on Aug. 16 that the White House Office of Management and Budget had asked the State Department and Agency for International Development to submit information for a “rescission” package that would have led to sharp cuts in foreign assistance.

Rescissions cut money appropriated by Congress but not spent. The unusual plan from Mick Mulvaney, the former Republican congressman who heads the OMB, would have defied Congress by eliminating foreign assistance it had already approved.

Trump’s focus on his “America First” agenda has meant fewer funds for foreign aid. His administration has pushed repeatedly to cut the amount of money sent abroad since he took office in January 2017.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urged the administration at a meeting on Tuesday to abandon the plan in the face of congressional opposition, several sources with knowledge of the situation said. It was a rare pushback against a Trump policy by fellow Republicans, who control Congress.

An OMB spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.

Republican Senator Bob Corker, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, said cutting a relatively small amount of foreign aid funding made no sense from an administration planning huge spending increases.

He speculated that the White House hoped the suggestion would “rev up” its base before November’s congressional elections but realized pushing the scheme would make it hard to work with angry lawmakers.

“I think they just kind of sat down and realized maybe that wasn’t so smart, and … they were right,” Corker told Reuters.

Loophole in law

Several administration officials had said the OMB was targeting some $3.5 billion in funds no longer needed for their original purpose, taking advantage of a loophole in the law to make cuts at the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30.

The cuts could have included more than $200 million Trump froze in March for recovery efforts in Syria.

Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy, vice chairman of the Appropriations Committee, welcomed the decision.

“Rescinding funds that had been agreed to by Congress and signed into law by the President, in the waning days of the fiscal year, would have set a terrible precedent and harmed programs that further United States interests around the world,” Leahy said in a statement.

Trump sought to slash foreign aid in this year’s budget, but he ended up signing a budget without those cuts after Congress objected.

The administration then tried to use the rescission process to slash $15 billion in domestic spending, including $7 billion for  children’s health insurance. That plan did not pass Congress.

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Officials: Trump Backs Off Plan to Roll Back Foreign Aid

President Donald Trump’s administration backed off on Tuesday on plans to bypass Congress and roll back billions of dollars from the U.S. foreign aid budget after lawmakers pushed back, senators, congressional aides and U.S. officials said.

Reuters reported on Aug. 16 that the White House Office of Management and Budget had asked the State Department and Agency for International Development to submit information for a “rescission” package that would have led to sharp cuts in foreign assistance.

Rescissions cut money appropriated by Congress but not spent. The unusual plan from Mick Mulvaney, the former Republican congressman who heads the OMB, would have defied Congress by eliminating foreign assistance it had already approved.

Trump’s focus on his “America First” agenda has meant fewer funds for foreign aid. His administration has pushed repeatedly to cut the amount of money sent abroad since he took office in January 2017.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urged the administration at a meeting on Tuesday to abandon the plan in the face of congressional opposition, several sources with knowledge of the situation said. It was a rare pushback against a Trump policy by fellow Republicans, who control Congress.

An OMB spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.

Republican Senator Bob Corker, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, said cutting a relatively small amount of foreign aid funding made no sense from an administration planning huge spending increases.

He speculated that the White House hoped the suggestion would “rev up” its base before November’s congressional elections but realized pushing the scheme would make it hard to work with angry lawmakers.

“I think they just kind of sat down and realized maybe that wasn’t so smart, and … they were right,” Corker told Reuters.

Loophole in law

Several administration officials had said the OMB was targeting some $3.5 billion in funds no longer needed for their original purpose, taking advantage of a loophole in the law to make cuts at the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30.

The cuts could have included more than $200 million Trump froze in March for recovery efforts in Syria.

Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy, vice chairman of the Appropriations Committee, welcomed the decision.

“Rescinding funds that had been agreed to by Congress and signed into law by the President, in the waning days of the fiscal year, would have set a terrible precedent and harmed programs that further United States interests around the world,” Leahy said in a statement.

Trump sought to slash foreign aid in this year’s budget, but he ended up signing a budget without those cuts after Congress objected.

The administration then tried to use the rescission process to slash $15 billion in domestic spending, including $7 billion for  children’s health insurance. That plan did not pass Congress.

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Sucking Carbon From Air, Swiss Firm Wins New Funds for Climate Fix

A small Swiss company won $31 million in new investment on Tuesday to suck carbon dioxide from thin air as part of a fledgling, costly technology that may gain wider acceptance from governments in 2018 as a way to slow climate change.

Climeworks AG, which uses high-tech filters and fans to extract carbon dioxide from the atmosphere at a cost of about $600 a ton, raised the money from investors including Zurich Cantonal Bank.

“It’s all about cost reductions,” Jan Wurzbacher, a co-founder and co-CEO of Climeworks, told Reuters of how the company would use the funds.

Extracting vast amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere could help to limit global warming, blamed for causing more heatwaves, wildfires, floods and rising sea levels.

The company says it has a long-term “vision” of capturing one percent of man-made carbon dioxide emissions by 2025.

But that is a far off. Its capacity is just 1,000 tons of carbon dioxide a year while global emissions totalled 32.5 billion tons in 2017, according to the International Energy Agency.

And costs are now too high.

In June, however, Climeworks’ main rival, Canadian-based Carbon Engineering, outlined the design of a plant that it said could extract carbon dioxide from the air for perhaps as little as $94 a ton.

That could make the technology more feasible if governments jack up penalties for carbon emissions this century. In a European market, carbon emissions prices are now about 21 euros a ton.

Climework’s industrial plant in Switzerland now sells carbon dioxide to nearby greenhouses as an airborne fertilizer for tomatoes or cucumbers. It also has a project in Iceland where the gas is buried deep underground.

After the new round, investments in Climeworks’s technology total about $50 million, it said. The company has expanded to 60 employees from 30 since the start of 2017.

A draft U.N. scientific report, due for publication in October about ways to achieve the goals of the 2015 Paris climate agreement, is likely to boost such “carbon dioxide removal” (CDR) technologies.

Until now, such CDR has often been bundled with other more exotic and risky “geoengineering” technologies such as spraying chemicals into the upper atmosphere to dim sunlight.

But the draft by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, seen by Reuters, categorizes CDR for the first time as “mitigation,” the mainstream term used for cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

($1 = 0.9957 Swiss francs)

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Sucking Carbon From Air, Swiss Firm Wins New Funds for Climate Fix

A small Swiss company won $31 million in new investment on Tuesday to suck carbon dioxide from thin air as part of a fledgling, costly technology that may gain wider acceptance from governments in 2018 as a way to slow climate change.

Climeworks AG, which uses high-tech filters and fans to extract carbon dioxide from the atmosphere at a cost of about $600 a ton, raised the money from investors including Zurich Cantonal Bank.

“It’s all about cost reductions,” Jan Wurzbacher, a co-founder and co-CEO of Climeworks, told Reuters of how the company would use the funds.

Extracting vast amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere could help to limit global warming, blamed for causing more heatwaves, wildfires, floods and rising sea levels.

The company says it has a long-term “vision” of capturing one percent of man-made carbon dioxide emissions by 2025.

But that is a far off. Its capacity is just 1,000 tons of carbon dioxide a year while global emissions totalled 32.5 billion tons in 2017, according to the International Energy Agency.

And costs are now too high.

In June, however, Climeworks’ main rival, Canadian-based Carbon Engineering, outlined the design of a plant that it said could extract carbon dioxide from the air for perhaps as little as $94 a ton.

That could make the technology more feasible if governments jack up penalties for carbon emissions this century. In a European market, carbon emissions prices are now about 21 euros a ton.

Climework’s industrial plant in Switzerland now sells carbon dioxide to nearby greenhouses as an airborne fertilizer for tomatoes or cucumbers. It also has a project in Iceland where the gas is buried deep underground.

After the new round, investments in Climeworks’s technology total about $50 million, it said. The company has expanded to 60 employees from 30 since the start of 2017.

A draft U.N. scientific report, due for publication in October about ways to achieve the goals of the 2015 Paris climate agreement, is likely to boost such “carbon dioxide removal” (CDR) technologies.

Until now, such CDR has often been bundled with other more exotic and risky “geoengineering” technologies such as spraying chemicals into the upper atmosphere to dim sunlight.

But the draft by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, seen by Reuters, categorizes CDR for the first time as “mitigation,” the mainstream term used for cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

($1 = 0.9957 Swiss francs)

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US Ready for Talks When It’s Clear North Korea Will Denuclearize

The United States is ready for talks with North Korea when it’s clear it will follow through on its commitment to denuclearize, the State Department said Tuesday after a planned visit to Pyongyang by top diplomat Mike Pompeo was shelved.

On Friday, President Donald Trump directed Pompeo to delay his trip, which had been slated for early this week, citing insufficient progress on getting the authoritarian regime to abandon its nuclear weapons, as agreed upon with leader Kim Jong Un in June.

Pompeo’s spokeswoman Heather Nauert declined to comment on reports that a tough-worded letter from an aide to Kim had derailed what would have been Pompeo’s fourth visit to North Korea this year.

Nauert said the president and his national security team, including Pompeo and national security adviser John Bolton, had judged that “now is not the right time to travel.” However, she said diplomatic efforts are “ongoing” though she could not say whether there had been communications between the State Department and North Korea since Friday.

She cited a statement from Pompeo that despite the decision to delay the trip, “America stands ready to engage when it is clear that Chairman Kim stands ready to deliver on the commitments that he made at the Singapore summit with President Trump to completely denuclearize North Korea.”

“The world is united behind the need for Chairman Kim to fulfill that commitment,” Nauert said.

Trump, who views the reduction in tensions with North Korea this year as a major foreign policy achievement, still voiced respect for Kim on Friday and said he looked forward to seeing him “soon.” He laid unspecified blame on China, North Korea’s leading trade partner, for the lack of progress. China is currently embroiled in a trade dispute with the U.S.

But Trump’s tweet marked a shift in his relentlessly upbeat messaging since the Singapore summit, the first ever held between leaders of the U.S. and North Korea. There is growing skepticism in Washington and beyond that Kim intends to denuclearize without first winning concessions such as sanctions relief or a declaration on formally ending the 1950-53 Korean War.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told reporters Tuesday that the U.S. might carry out military exercises with South Korea next spring after having canceled a major exercise this year as a gesture toward advancing diplomacy aimed at eliminating North Korea’s nuclear weapons. Mattis said no decision has been made on when to resume military exercises, but his statements suggested the recent cancellation might not be repeated.

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US Ready for Talks When It’s Clear North Korea Will Denuclearize

The United States is ready for talks with North Korea when it’s clear it will follow through on its commitment to denuclearize, the State Department said Tuesday after a planned visit to Pyongyang by top diplomat Mike Pompeo was shelved.

On Friday, President Donald Trump directed Pompeo to delay his trip, which had been slated for early this week, citing insufficient progress on getting the authoritarian regime to abandon its nuclear weapons, as agreed upon with leader Kim Jong Un in June.

Pompeo’s spokeswoman Heather Nauert declined to comment on reports that a tough-worded letter from an aide to Kim had derailed what would have been Pompeo’s fourth visit to North Korea this year.

Nauert said the president and his national security team, including Pompeo and national security adviser John Bolton, had judged that “now is not the right time to travel.” However, she said diplomatic efforts are “ongoing” though she could not say whether there had been communications between the State Department and North Korea since Friday.

She cited a statement from Pompeo that despite the decision to delay the trip, “America stands ready to engage when it is clear that Chairman Kim stands ready to deliver on the commitments that he made at the Singapore summit with President Trump to completely denuclearize North Korea.”

“The world is united behind the need for Chairman Kim to fulfill that commitment,” Nauert said.

Trump, who views the reduction in tensions with North Korea this year as a major foreign policy achievement, still voiced respect for Kim on Friday and said he looked forward to seeing him “soon.” He laid unspecified blame on China, North Korea’s leading trade partner, for the lack of progress. China is currently embroiled in a trade dispute with the U.S.

But Trump’s tweet marked a shift in his relentlessly upbeat messaging since the Singapore summit, the first ever held between leaders of the U.S. and North Korea. There is growing skepticism in Washington and beyond that Kim intends to denuclearize without first winning concessions such as sanctions relief or a declaration on formally ending the 1950-53 Korean War.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told reporters Tuesday that the U.S. might carry out military exercises with South Korea next spring after having canceled a major exercise this year as a gesture toward advancing diplomacy aimed at eliminating North Korea’s nuclear weapons. Mattis said no decision has been made on when to resume military exercises, but his statements suggested the recent cancellation might not be repeated.

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