Category Archives: World

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China ‘Resolutely Opposes’ New US Law on Tibet

China denounced the United States on Thursday for passing a new law on restive Tibet, saying it was “resolutely opposed” to the U.S. legislation on what China considers an internal affair, and it risked causing “serious harm” to their relations.

U.S. President Donald Trump on Wednesday signed into law the Reciprocal Access to Tibet Act.

The law seeks to promote access to Tibet for U.S. diplomats and other officials, journalists and other citizens by denying U.S. entry for Chinese officials deemed responsible for restricting access to Tibet.

Beijing sent troops into remote, mountainous Tibet in 1950 in what it officially terms a peaceful liberation and has ruled there with an iron fist ever since.

China: wrong signals

Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a daily briefing that the law “sent seriously wrong signals to Tibetan separatist elements,” as well as threatening to worsen bilateral ties strained by trade tension and other issues.

“If the United States implements this law, it will cause serious harm to China-U.S. relations and to the cooperation in important areas between the two countries,” Hua said.

The United States should be fully aware of the high sensitivity of the Tibet issue and should stop its interference, otherwise the United States would have to accept responsibility for the consequences, she added, without elaborating.

Difficult life in Tibet

Rights groups say the situation for ethnic Tibetans inside what China calls the Tibet Autonomous Region remains extremely difficult. The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights said in June conditions were “fast deteriorating” in Tibet.

All foreigners need special permission to enter Tibet, which is generally granted to tourists, who are allowed to go on often tightly monitored tours, but very infrequently to foreign diplomats and journalists.

Hua said Tibet was open to foreign visitors, as shown by the 40,000 American visitors to the region since 2015.

At the same time, she said it was “absolutely necessary and understandable” that the government administered controls on the entry of foreigners given “local geographic and climate reasons.”

Rights groups welcome law

Tibetan rights groups have welcomed the U.S. legislation. The International Campaign for Tibet said the “impactful and innovative” law marked a “new era of American support” and was a challenge to China’s policies in Tibet.

“The U.S. let Beijing know that its officials will face real consequences for discriminating against Americans and Tibetans and has blazed a path for other countries to follow,” the group’s president, Matteo Mecacci, said in a statement.

Next year marks the sensitive 60th anniversary of the flight into exile in India of the Dalai Lama, the highest figure in Tibetan Buddhism, after a failed uprising against Chinese rule.

China routinely denounces him as a dangerous separatist, although the Dalai Lama says he merely wants genuine autonomy for his homeland.

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Yemeni Mother Holds Dying Baby in California Hospital

A mother from Yemen cradled her dying infant son in a California hospital Thursday when, just a few days ago, she thought she would never be able to tell him goodbye.

The State Department granted Shaima Swileh a waiver to President Donald Trump’s travel ban, allowing her to hold her baby and tell him how much she loves him, perhaps for the last time.

Friends and reporters mobbed Swileh when she arrived at the San Francisco airport Wednesday night.

Husband, son US citizens

Two-year-old Abdullah Hassan, a U.S. citizen, is on life support with a rare genetic brain condition. His father, Ali Hassan, also an American citizen, has been at the hospital with his son.

The couple married in Egypt in 2016. But Swileh, a Yemeni, was not allowed to come to the United States because of the travel ban.

Hassan has said he was ready to take his son off life support, giving up hope his wife would ever be able to see the child.

State Department grants waiver

Lawyers from the Council on American-Islamic Relations sued the State Department, which granted her a visa earlier this week.

State Department spokesman Robert Palladino called it a “very sad case” and said U.S. officials struggle to determine which appeals for waivers are legitimate while balancing national security concerns.

“These are not easy questions. We’ve got a lot of foreign service officers deployed all over the world that are making these decisions on a daily basis, and they are trying to do the right thing at all times,” Palladino said earlier this week.

Trump’s travel ban restricts citizens from Yemen and six other mostly Muslim countries, along with North Korea and Venezuela, from coming to the United States, citing a threat of terrorism.

But critics of the ban have pointed to the Swileh case as an example of what they call discrimination against Muslims.

U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee, a Democrat from California, also intervened on the family’s behalf, calling the travel ban “heinous” and “un-American.”

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Yemeni Mother Holds Dying Baby in California Hospital

A mother from Yemen cradled her dying infant son in a California hospital Thursday when, just a few days ago, she thought she would never be able to tell him goodbye.

The State Department granted Shaima Swileh a waiver to President Donald Trump’s travel ban, allowing her to hold her baby and tell him how much she loves him, perhaps for the last time.

Friends and reporters mobbed Swileh when she arrived at the San Francisco airport Wednesday night.

Husband, son US citizens

Two-year-old Abdullah Hassan, a U.S. citizen, is on life support with a rare genetic brain condition. His father, Ali Hassan, also an American citizen, has been at the hospital with his son.

The couple married in Egypt in 2016. But Swileh, a Yemeni, was not allowed to come to the United States because of the travel ban.

Hassan has said he was ready to take his son off life support, giving up hope his wife would ever be able to see the child.

State Department grants waiver

Lawyers from the Council on American-Islamic Relations sued the State Department, which granted her a visa earlier this week.

State Department spokesman Robert Palladino called it a “very sad case” and said U.S. officials struggle to determine which appeals for waivers are legitimate while balancing national security concerns.

“These are not easy questions. We’ve got a lot of foreign service officers deployed all over the world that are making these decisions on a daily basis, and they are trying to do the right thing at all times,” Palladino said earlier this week.

Trump’s travel ban restricts citizens from Yemen and six other mostly Muslim countries, along with North Korea and Venezuela, from coming to the United States, citing a threat of terrorism.

But critics of the ban have pointed to the Swileh case as an example of what they call discrimination against Muslims.

U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee, a Democrat from California, also intervened on the family’s behalf, calling the travel ban “heinous” and “un-American.”

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USDA Moves to Tighten Work Requirements for Food Stamps

The Trump administration is setting out to do what this year’s farm bill didn’t: tighten work requirements for millions of Americans who receive federal food assistance.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture on Thursday proposed a rule that would restrict the ability of states to exempt work-eligible adults from having to obtain steady employment to receive food stamps.

The move comes the same day that President Donald Trump signed an $867 billion farm bill that reauthorized agriculture and conservation programs while leaving the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which serves roughly 40 million Americans, virtually untouched.

Passage of the farm bill followed months of tense negotiations over House efforts to significantly tighten work requirements and the Senate’s refusal to accept the provisions.

Currently, able-bodied adults ages 18-49 without children are required to work 20 hours a week to maintain their SNAP benefits. The House bill would have raised the age of recipients subject to work requirements from 49 to 59 and required parents with children older than 6 to work or participate in job training. The House measure also sought to limit circumstances under which families that qualify for other poverty programs can automatically be eligible for SNAP.

Measures don’t make final farm bill

None of those measures made it into the final farm bill despite Trump’s endorsement. Now the administration is using regulatory rule making to try to scale back the SNAP program.

Work-eligible able-bodied adults without dependents, known as ABAWDs, can currently receive only three months of SNAP benefits in a three-year period if they don’t meet the 20-hour work requirement. But states with an unemployment rate of 10 percent or higher or a demonstrable lack of sufficient jobs can waive those limitations.

States are also allowed to grant benefit extensions for 15 percent of their work-eligible adult population without a waiver. If a state doesn’t use its 15 percent, it can bank the exemptions to distribute later, creating what Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue referred to as a “stockpile.”

The USDA’s proposed rule would strip states’ ability to issue waivers unless a city or county has an unemployment rate of 7 percent or higher. The waivers would be good for one year and would require the governor to support the request. States would no longer be able to bank their 15 percent exemptions. The new rule also would forbid states from granting waivers for geographic areas larger than a specific jurisdiction.

​Proposed rule a tradeoff

Perdue said the proposed rule is a tradeoff for Trump’s support of the farm bill, which Trump signed Thursday.

“I have directed Secretary Perdue to use his authority to close work requirement loopholes in the food stamp program,” Trump said at the signing ceremony. “That was a difficult thing to get done, but the farmers wanted it done, we all wanted it done, and in the end, it’s going to make a lot of people happy.”

Democratic House leader Nancy Pelosi on Thursday slammed the Trump administration’s efforts to restrict SNAP.

“Why at Christmas would you take food out of the mouths of American people?” she said.

The USDA in February solicited public comment on ways to reform SNAP, and Perdue has repeatedly voiced support for scaling back the program.

The Trump administration’s effort, while celebrated by some conservatives, has been met with criticism from advocates who say tightening restrictions will result in more vulnerable Americans, including children, going hungry.

A Brookings Institution study published this summer said more stringent work requirements are likely to hurt those who are already part of the workforce but whose employment is sporadic.

Conaway leads the way

House Agriculture Chairman Michael Conaway, R-Texas, was the primary champion for tighter SNAP work requirements in the House farm bill and remained committed to the provision throughout negotiations.

Conaway praised the rule Thursday for “creating a roadmap for states to more effectively engage ABAWDs in this booming economy.”

Conaway in September blasted the Senate for refusing to adopt work requirements and suggested that Perdue doesn’t have the authority to make broad changes to the SNAP program.

“The Senate seems to have abandoned the idea that it is Congress’ responsibility to fix the waiver issue and that somehow Secretary Perdue could wave a magic wand and fix that. It’s not his responsibility; he does not have the authority,” Conaway said in an interview with Pro Farmer, a trade publication.

Democrats blast farm bill

On Thursday, Conaway spokeswoman Rachel Millard said the congressman was referring to Perdue’s authority to change laws, which he does not have, not the secretary’s ability to pursue regulatory action. She said Conaway continues to support Perdue’s efforts to limit SNAP.

The top Democrat on the Senate Agriculture Committee, Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, who along with its Republican chairman, Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas, crafted the bipartisan Senate bill without any changes to SNAP, blasted the Trump administration for its attempt to restrict the program.

“This regulation blatantly ignores the bipartisan farm bill that the president is signing today and disregards over 20 years of history giving states flexibility to request waivers based on local job conditions,” Stabenow said. “I expect the rule will face significant opposition and legal challenges.”

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USDA Moves to Tighten Work Requirements for Food Stamps

The Trump administration is setting out to do what this year’s farm bill didn’t: tighten work requirements for millions of Americans who receive federal food assistance.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture on Thursday proposed a rule that would restrict the ability of states to exempt work-eligible adults from having to obtain steady employment to receive food stamps.

The move comes the same day that President Donald Trump signed an $867 billion farm bill that reauthorized agriculture and conservation programs while leaving the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which serves roughly 40 million Americans, virtually untouched.

Passage of the farm bill followed months of tense negotiations over House efforts to significantly tighten work requirements and the Senate’s refusal to accept the provisions.

Currently, able-bodied adults ages 18-49 without children are required to work 20 hours a week to maintain their SNAP benefits. The House bill would have raised the age of recipients subject to work requirements from 49 to 59 and required parents with children older than 6 to work or participate in job training. The House measure also sought to limit circumstances under which families that qualify for other poverty programs can automatically be eligible for SNAP.

Measures don’t make final farm bill

None of those measures made it into the final farm bill despite Trump’s endorsement. Now the administration is using regulatory rule making to try to scale back the SNAP program.

Work-eligible able-bodied adults without dependents, known as ABAWDs, can currently receive only three months of SNAP benefits in a three-year period if they don’t meet the 20-hour work requirement. But states with an unemployment rate of 10 percent or higher or a demonstrable lack of sufficient jobs can waive those limitations.

States are also allowed to grant benefit extensions for 15 percent of their work-eligible adult population without a waiver. If a state doesn’t use its 15 percent, it can bank the exemptions to distribute later, creating what Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue referred to as a “stockpile.”

The USDA’s proposed rule would strip states’ ability to issue waivers unless a city or county has an unemployment rate of 7 percent or higher. The waivers would be good for one year and would require the governor to support the request. States would no longer be able to bank their 15 percent exemptions. The new rule also would forbid states from granting waivers for geographic areas larger than a specific jurisdiction.

​Proposed rule a tradeoff

Perdue said the proposed rule is a tradeoff for Trump’s support of the farm bill, which Trump signed Thursday.

“I have directed Secretary Perdue to use his authority to close work requirement loopholes in the food stamp program,” Trump said at the signing ceremony. “That was a difficult thing to get done, but the farmers wanted it done, we all wanted it done, and in the end, it’s going to make a lot of people happy.”

Democratic House leader Nancy Pelosi on Thursday slammed the Trump administration’s efforts to restrict SNAP.

“Why at Christmas would you take food out of the mouths of American people?” she said.

The USDA in February solicited public comment on ways to reform SNAP, and Perdue has repeatedly voiced support for scaling back the program.

The Trump administration’s effort, while celebrated by some conservatives, has been met with criticism from advocates who say tightening restrictions will result in more vulnerable Americans, including children, going hungry.

A Brookings Institution study published this summer said more stringent work requirements are likely to hurt those who are already part of the workforce but whose employment is sporadic.

Conaway leads the way

House Agriculture Chairman Michael Conaway, R-Texas, was the primary champion for tighter SNAP work requirements in the House farm bill and remained committed to the provision throughout negotiations.

Conaway praised the rule Thursday for “creating a roadmap for states to more effectively engage ABAWDs in this booming economy.”

Conaway in September blasted the Senate for refusing to adopt work requirements and suggested that Perdue doesn’t have the authority to make broad changes to the SNAP program.

“The Senate seems to have abandoned the idea that it is Congress’ responsibility to fix the waiver issue and that somehow Secretary Perdue could wave a magic wand and fix that. It’s not his responsibility; he does not have the authority,” Conaway said in an interview with Pro Farmer, a trade publication.

Democrats blast farm bill

On Thursday, Conaway spokeswoman Rachel Millard said the congressman was referring to Perdue’s authority to change laws, which he does not have, not the secretary’s ability to pursue regulatory action. She said Conaway continues to support Perdue’s efforts to limit SNAP.

The top Democrat on the Senate Agriculture Committee, Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, who along with its Republican chairman, Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas, crafted the bipartisan Senate bill without any changes to SNAP, blasted the Trump administration for its attempt to restrict the program.

“This regulation blatantly ignores the bipartisan farm bill that the president is signing today and disregards over 20 years of history giving states flexibility to request waivers based on local job conditions,” Stabenow said. “I expect the rule will face significant opposition and legal challenges.”

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Trump Declares Victory Against Islamic State, Calls Troops Home

With a single tweet, U.S. President Donald Trump shocked many in Washington, changing the course of U.S. policy in Syria and, simultaneously, announcing an end to the fight against the Islamic State terror group’s self-declared caliphate. But as U.S. officials scurry to explain the change, many questions remain unanswered. VOA national security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

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Trump Declares Victory Against Islamic State, Calls Troops Home

With a single tweet, U.S. President Donald Trump shocked many in Washington, changing the course of U.S. policy in Syria and, simultaneously, announcing an end to the fight against the Islamic State terror group’s self-declared caliphate. But as U.S. officials scurry to explain the change, many questions remain unanswered. VOA national security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

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North Korea’s Human Rights Emerge as Issue as Nuclear Talks Stall

North Korea’s human rights record is emerging as the latest issue separating Washington and Pyongyang, as denuclearization talks have stalled.

Often condemned as having one of the worst human rights records in the world — in a 2017 report, the U.S. State Department called the violations “egregious” — North Korea has rejected such criticisms, calling them ploys to overthrow its political system.

President Donald Trump said he raised North Korea’s human rights issue to Kim during the Singapore summit in June and that Kim responded “very well.” But Trump was criticized for failing to obtain a concrete human rights agreement in the joint statement signed by the two leaders at the summit.

US sanctions

The latest tension is triggered by sanctions imposed by the U.S. under the “maximum pressure” campaign designed to push Pyongyang toward denuclearization.

The North Korean Foreign Ministry said that “it will block the path to denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula forever” if the U.S. escalates the human rights campaign against its country and increases sanctions.

The ministry said that it would be the “greatest miscalculation” to think such a campaign would cause it to denuclearize.

The statement issued Sunday came after the U.S. Treasury Department last week blacklisted three top North Korean officials suspected of human rights abuses and censorship, including a top aide to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

The sanctions bar the three senior officials from engaging in transactions with anyone in the U.S. and freeze their assets within U.S. jurisdiction.

​UN resolution

On Monday, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution condemning North Korea’s “systematic, widespread and gross violation of human rights.”In response, North Korea’s U.N. Ambassador Kim Song said the resolution is “a product of a political plot and hostile forces,” which Pyongyang “categorically rejects.”

A State Department official said the U.S. will continue to bring up North Korea’s human rights issues.

“The president raised North Korea’s human rights record in his summit meeting with Chairman Kim (Jong Un), and will continue to raise this issue going forward,” the official said in an email sent to VOA Korean Service on Monday.

The official added, “(North Korea) is among the most repressive authoritarian states in the world. The United States continues to work with the international community to raise awareness, highlight abuses and violations, promote access to independent information, and keep pressure on (North Korea) to respect human rights.”

​Denuclearization talks

North Korea’s warning comes after denuclearization talks between Washington and Pyongyang stalled in early November when North Korea suddenly called off a planned meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

It remains unclear if the human rights issue will derail denuclearization talks.

Ken Gause, director of the International Affairs Group at the Center for Naval Analyses, believes the U.S., by raising North Korea’s human rights record, could disrupt denuclearization talks because Pyongyang sees the issue as undercutting agreements it made with Washington at the Singapore summit in June.

“I think it would be because North Korea sees the agreement at the Singapore summit as one of the agreements — that the objectives, goals that they had — was to improve the U.S.-North Korean relationships, and North Korea sees these actions by the United States undermining that agreement,” Gause said.

John Feffer, director of Foreign Policy in Focus, disagrees. He said the U.S. campaign against North Korea’s human rights violations will not derail denuclearization talks but might “undermine” Trump’s “negotiating position” on the process of denuclearization.

“I don’t think that human rights issues will ultimately derail the talks,” Feffer said. “Ultimately, North Korea is more interested in seeking whether Trump will agree to some kind of mutual process of give and take. That is the major hurdle at this point — the process. The talks will continue to limp along if the process remains murky.”

Robert Manning, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, thinks the Trump administration should delink North Korea’s human rights issues from denuclearization talks in the beginning of the negotiation process, because speaking out against North Korea’s human rights violations might divert diplomatic efforts.

“I think it is appropriate for the administration to speak out on the issue,” Manning said. “But not to link it to denuclearization. If the diplomacy advances, and we begin discussions on U.S.-(North Korea) normalizations, human rights has to be discussed as part of that process.”

​Improving relations

Despite its sharp retort against U.S. actions toward its alleged human rights abuses, Pyongyang credited Trump’s willingness to improve relations with North Korea, suggesting it is open to talks with him.

A State Department official said the Singapore agreements Trump and Kim made on denuclearization will be fulfilled.

“At the summit in Singapore, President Trump and Chairman Kim made the first leader-level U.S.-(North Korea) commitment on denuclearization in history,” said the official in an email message sent to VOA Korean Service on Sunday.

“We remain confident that the commitments made by President Trump and Chairman Kim at their summit Singapore will be fulfilled.”

Baik Sung-won of VOA’s Korean Service contributed to this report.

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North Korea’s Human Rights Emerge as Issue as Nuclear Talks Stall

North Korea’s human rights record is emerging as the latest issue separating Washington and Pyongyang, as denuclearization talks have stalled.

Often condemned as having one of the worst human rights records in the world — in a 2017 report, the U.S. State Department called the violations “egregious” — North Korea has rejected such criticisms, calling them ploys to overthrow its political system.

President Donald Trump said he raised North Korea’s human rights issue to Kim during the Singapore summit in June and that Kim responded “very well.” But Trump was criticized for failing to obtain a concrete human rights agreement in the joint statement signed by the two leaders at the summit.

US sanctions

The latest tension is triggered by sanctions imposed by the U.S. under the “maximum pressure” campaign designed to push Pyongyang toward denuclearization.

The North Korean Foreign Ministry said that “it will block the path to denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula forever” if the U.S. escalates the human rights campaign against its country and increases sanctions.

The ministry said that it would be the “greatest miscalculation” to think such a campaign would cause it to denuclearize.

The statement issued Sunday came after the U.S. Treasury Department last week blacklisted three top North Korean officials suspected of human rights abuses and censorship, including a top aide to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

The sanctions bar the three senior officials from engaging in transactions with anyone in the U.S. and freeze their assets within U.S. jurisdiction.

​UN resolution

On Monday, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution condemning North Korea’s “systematic, widespread and gross violation of human rights.”In response, North Korea’s U.N. Ambassador Kim Song said the resolution is “a product of a political plot and hostile forces,” which Pyongyang “categorically rejects.”

A State Department official said the U.S. will continue to bring up North Korea’s human rights issues.

“The president raised North Korea’s human rights record in his summit meeting with Chairman Kim (Jong Un), and will continue to raise this issue going forward,” the official said in an email sent to VOA Korean Service on Monday.

The official added, “(North Korea) is among the most repressive authoritarian states in the world. The United States continues to work with the international community to raise awareness, highlight abuses and violations, promote access to independent information, and keep pressure on (North Korea) to respect human rights.”

​Denuclearization talks

North Korea’s warning comes after denuclearization talks between Washington and Pyongyang stalled in early November when North Korea suddenly called off a planned meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

It remains unclear if the human rights issue will derail denuclearization talks.

Ken Gause, director of the International Affairs Group at the Center for Naval Analyses, believes the U.S., by raising North Korea’s human rights record, could disrupt denuclearization talks because Pyongyang sees the issue as undercutting agreements it made with Washington at the Singapore summit in June.

“I think it would be because North Korea sees the agreement at the Singapore summit as one of the agreements — that the objectives, goals that they had — was to improve the U.S.-North Korean relationships, and North Korea sees these actions by the United States undermining that agreement,” Gause said.

John Feffer, director of Foreign Policy in Focus, disagrees. He said the U.S. campaign against North Korea’s human rights violations will not derail denuclearization talks but might “undermine” Trump’s “negotiating position” on the process of denuclearization.

“I don’t think that human rights issues will ultimately derail the talks,” Feffer said. “Ultimately, North Korea is more interested in seeking whether Trump will agree to some kind of mutual process of give and take. That is the major hurdle at this point — the process. The talks will continue to limp along if the process remains murky.”

Robert Manning, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, thinks the Trump administration should delink North Korea’s human rights issues from denuclearization talks in the beginning of the negotiation process, because speaking out against North Korea’s human rights violations might divert diplomatic efforts.

“I think it is appropriate for the administration to speak out on the issue,” Manning said. “But not to link it to denuclearization. If the diplomacy advances, and we begin discussions on U.S.-(North Korea) normalizations, human rights has to be discussed as part of that process.”

​Improving relations

Despite its sharp retort against U.S. actions toward its alleged human rights abuses, Pyongyang credited Trump’s willingness to improve relations with North Korea, suggesting it is open to talks with him.

A State Department official said the Singapore agreements Trump and Kim made on denuclearization will be fulfilled.

“At the summit in Singapore, President Trump and Chairman Kim made the first leader-level U.S.-(North Korea) commitment on denuclearization in history,” said the official in an email message sent to VOA Korean Service on Sunday.

“We remain confident that the commitments made by President Trump and Chairman Kim at their summit Singapore will be fulfilled.”

Baik Sung-won of VOA’s Korean Service contributed to this report.

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