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Trump Returns To The UN With Praise For North Korea — And A Warning For Iran
UNITED NATIONS — A year after he derided North Korea’s dictator as “Rocket Man,” President Donald Trump expressed lavish praise for Kim Jong Un on Monday as the president prepared to use his second United Nations address to denounce what an aide called Iran’s “global torrent of destructive activity.”
In New York for the annual U.N. General Assembly meeting, Trump told reporters he expects to meet Kim again as a follow-up to their June 12 summit in Singapore, a meeting Trump later claimed had produced a promise from Pyongyang to begin the process of denuclearization.
“Chairman Kim has been terrific,” Trump said Monday, insisting North Korea is “making tremendous progress.”
The progress is difficult to see. To all appearances, negotiations have stalled and the International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog, has found no evidence that Pyongyang has dismantled any nuclear infrastructure or prepared an inventory of its arsenal, the first steps toward denuclearization. U.S. officials have not challenged that assessment.
After attending a counternarcotics conference Monday morning, Trump held bilateral meetings in a suite at the Lotte Palace Hotel in midtown Manhattan. During the first, he and South Korean President Moon Jae-in celebrated the signing of a new trade agreement, marking the first time Trump has inked a bilateral trade deal with another country since taking office.
Trump called the agreement a “historic milestone” although the changes agreed upon — doubling the number of U.S. automobiles that can be sold in South Korea and keeping a tariff on South Korean steel in place through 2041 — were largely cosmetic, given that a broader renegotiation would have required approval from Congress.
“This agreement will reduce bureaucracy and increase prosperity in both of our countries,” Trump said.
Trump and his aides made clear he will focus his ire on Iran this week, and there were signs he is backing down from his demands for a quick withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria, a position that had put him at odds with his national security team.
John Bolton, Trump’s national security adviser, said the administration is planning to keep troops in Syria until Iran withdraws its own forces from the country, outlining a strategy shift that could leave U.S. forces on the ground there indefinitely.
“We’re not going to leave as long as Iranian troops are outside Iranian borders, and that includes Iranian proxies and militias,” Bolton told The Associated Press.
Later Monday, Secretary of Defense James N. Mattis said at the Pentagon that U.S. troops could stay in Syria after Islamic State is routed, the administration’s goal in the past. He said their mission would be to train local forces and to prevent the terrorist group from regaining a foothold.
Mattis did not say U.S. troops would stay until Iran withdrew its own forces, but he said there was “no daylight” between him and Bolton.
“Part of this overarching problem is we have to address Iran,” Mattis said. “Everywhere you go in the Middle East, where there is instability, you find Iran.”
U.S. policy until now called for withdrawing the 2,500 American troops once they and local militias in eastern Syria had defeated the last remnants of Islamic State, which appears near. That goal was aimed at mollifying Trump, who declared last April that he wanted to pull out of Syria as soon as possible.
Bolton and his allies in the administration have pushed to extend the U.S. military mission to put pressure on Tehran, which has sent troops and supported militias loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad in the country’s civil war. Iran also has stepped up its longstanding military support to Hezbollah, the anti-Israeli militant group in Lebanon.
The decision to keep U.S. troops in Syria is also aimed at preventing Russia, which has a naval base in Syria, from gaining more of a foothold there.
Speaking at a separate news conference, Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo said Trump would use his speech to the General Assembly on Tuesday to deliver “well-deserved strong words for the Iranian regime.”
He called it “among the worst violators” of U.N. Security Council resolutions, “if not the absolute worst in the world,” adding that Trump will “call on every country to join our pressure campaign in order to thwart Iran’s global torrent of destructive activity.”
Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., told reporters that Trump would repeat a theme he struck in his first General Assembly address and that has underpinned much of his foreign policy decisions: American sovereignty as the motivating force for U.S. military, economic and strategic actions overseas.
“The United States is determined to be involved in multilateral (organizations) … where we see it, not where it infringes on the American people,” Haley said.
In recent months, the Trump administration has cut funds for U.N. agencies dealing with refugees and peacekeeping; withdrawn from the U.N. Human Rights Council, and announced plans to slash the number of refugees who will be allowed to settle in the United States.
Some White House aides expressed cautious optimism that Trump would stick to his written script on Tuesday. They recalled last year’s speech, when Trump’s most memorable and controversial statement — threatening to “totally destroy” North Korea” and mocking Kim as “Rocket Man” — was not part of his prepared remarks.
Haley acknowledged that Trump’s debut last year was rocky, noting the administration was “trying to figure what the U.S. presence was going to be.”
This year, she said, Trump will lead his first Security Council meeting, Pompeo would attend his first Security Council session, and Vice President Mike Pence would attend an event on Venezuela.
“This year, we’re here with a bang,” she said.
©2018 Los Angeles Times. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
CAMP PENDLETON — The military prosecution of a Coast Guardsman accused of murder began Wednesday with a preliminary hearing at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton.
Seaman Ethan W. Tucker, 21, was arrested August 28 after a seven-month Coast Guard investigation into the January death of Seaman Ethan Kelch, 19, who served on the same ship as Tucker— the Kodiak, Alaska-based high endurance cutter Douglas Munro.
ANKARA (Reuters) - President Tayyip Erdogan said on Saturday Turkey would press on with its offensive into northeastern Syria and "crush the heads of terrorists" if a deal with Washington on the withdrawal of Kurdish fighters from the area were not fully implemented.
Erdogan agreed on Thursday in talks with U.S. Vice President Mike Pence a five-day pause in the offensive to allow time for the Kurdish fighters to withdraw from a "safe zone" Turkey aims to establish in northeast Syria near the Turkish border.
President Trump stoked confusion Friday by declaring the U.S. has "secured the Oil" in the Middle East amid continued fallout from the Turkish invasion of northern Syria that he enabled by pulling American troops out of the region.
It wasn't immediately clear what the president was talking about, as there were no publicly known developments in Syria or elsewhere in the Middle East relating to oil. White House aides did not return requests for comment.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A U.S. State Department investigation of Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server while she was secretary of state has found no evidence of deliberate mishandling of classified information by department employees.
The investigation, the results of which were released on Friday by Republican U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley's office, centered on whether Clinton, who served as the top U.S. diplomat from 2009 to 2013, jeopardized classified information by using a private email server rather than a government one.
BYESVILLE — A Meadowbrook High School student removed from class last Friday for being intoxicated is now facing a felony charge after allegedly threatening to shoot people if the previous incident harmed his chances to join a branch of the United States military.
Gabriel D. Blackledge, 18, of Cambridge, is facing one count of making terrorist threats, a third-degree felony, filed by the Guernsey County Sheriff's Office on Thursday. Blackledge remained incarcerated in the county jail on a $250,000 bond with no 10 percent allowed, according to the sheriff's office's website.