April 22, 2018

‘Obviously, Kim Jong Un has learned about public relations’ with suspension of nuclear tests: Senator

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said North Korea's announcement that it is suspending nuclear testing shows that Kim Jong Un has “learned about public relations.” Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., told ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos on "This Week" Sunday that he is “glad” President Donald Trump is planning to meet with the North Korean leader, but added that “all of us look at this with great caution and skepticism.” “Obviously, Kim Jong Un has learned about public relations and is setting it up well" for himself for the talks by announcing the suspension of nuclear and missile tests, Corker said. “But I think everyone that's been around this looks at [the talks] as just the beginning. It may lead to something. It may not.” The Tennessee senator noted that Kim Jong Un has suspended nuclear testing before and that such a move is easily reversible. "Is it realistic to think that Kim Jong Un is actually going to give up his nuclear weapons?" Stephanopoulos asked. Corker responded, "[Kim Jong Un] views having deliverable nuclear weapons as his ticket to dying as an old man in his bed. He saw what happened with [Moammar] Ghadafi," the longtime Libyan leader who was killed by rebel forces in his country in 2011. "Ghadafi’s a dead man now because he gave up his nuclear weapons,” Corker said. “And so to think that somebody’s going to go in and charm [Kim] out of that is not realistic." The Republican senator said of the planned talks between Kim and Trump, "Is there some progress that can be made? I hope so. But, you know, it’s, that’s a big hurdle." North Korean state media announced this weekend that Kim had decided to suspend the country's nuclear and missile tests and to close one of its nuclear-testing sites. According to state TV, Kim said the country had "verified the completion of nuclear weapons" and that now "the Party and our nation will focus all its efforts towards socialist economic development.” The announcement comes ahead of a planned summit between North and South Korea, scheduled to take place on Friday, and a meeting between Trump and Kim possibly in May or June. Trump tweeted Friday that the North Korea announcement indicated "big progress," and that he was looking forward to his and Kim's summit. However, on Sunday morning, the president tweeted that "only time will tell" if the U.S. will succeed with North Korea. Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.
April 22, 2018

North Korea says it is suspending nuclear tests ahead of much-anticipated talks

iStock/Thinkstock(SEOUL, South Korea) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong Un declared the country will be suspending its nuclear tests ahead of much-anticipated talks between the two Koreas next week, and the U.S. and North Korea sometime next month. Kim announced his country would "no longer need any nuclear tests, mid and long and ICBM rocket tests," and therefore is suspending nuclear tests and launches of intercontinental ballistic missiles starting Saturday. The communist country also says it is also shutting down the Poongye-ri nuclear test site where six underground tests have taken place. The surprise announcements were delivered through North Korean state news outlet, Korean Central News Agency, and later on state TV. North Korea has "verified the completion of nuclear weapons" and now "the Party and our nation will focus all its efforts towards socialist economic development," Kim was quoted saying at a meeting of the central committee of the ruling Workers' Party of Korea convened Friday. The state TV stressed the meeting discussed policy issues related to a "new stage" in an "historic period." The two Koreas are set to hold a summit meeting next Friday at the truce border village of Panmunjom, while U.S. President Donald Trump and Kim plan to meet sometime in May or early June at a yet-to-be-announced location. Trump hailed the news of Korea suspending its nuclear tests as "very good news for North Korea and the World." The news came earlier this week that Mike Pompeo, Trump's as-yet-unconfirmed pick for secretary of state, met with Kim in early April. No details of the talks were released, though Trump said this week the meeting went "very smoothly" and the two got along "really well." Denuclearization of North Korea has been a key issue going into the talks between the U.S. and North Korea. The North is suspending, not freezing, its nuclear tests for now, but both Trump and South Korean President Moon Jae-in have expressed high hopes that the North is ready to give up its nuclear weapons in exchange for economic assistance. Policy measures announced by the North’s state TV suggest that Kim aims to improve quality of living. The country's leaders is quoted as saying that North Korea's long-term economic plan is to "provide proficient and culturally [advanced] lifestyle to all people." "North Korea's announcement signals a stepping stone for phased denuclearization," said An Chan Il, president of Seoul-based World Institute for North Korean Studies. "They are showing proof to the world that they have begun their efforts to eventually denuclearize, starting with shutting down the Punggye-ri nuclear test site. Punggye-ri test site is known to be the one and only nuclear weapon facility in North Korea at the moment. A significant slowdown in this facility was monitored in March, adding evidence that North's announcement was not a spontaneous one." Experts have cautioned that the wording of Kim's announcement specifically mentions a "suspension" and not a "freeze." "For North Korea to announce a nuclear freeze, they must have mentioned shutdown of the nuclear facility in Yongbyon," said Kim Yong-hyun, professor of North Korean Studies at Dongguk University in Seoul. "But this announcement said to suspend only the Punggye-ri facility and missile launches according to KCNA’s report. Still, there is a possibility open for discussion regarding Yongbyon facility which produces plutonium." "Some say this beginning phase should be called a 'freeze,'" said Kim Kwang-jin, a former congressman at the National Assembly’s Defense Committee. "But others see a complete abolishment of already-made plutonium, uranium and missiles as a 'freeze.' That is why key terms should be clarified before the final negotiation." South Korea's presidential office welcomed North Korea's announcement as well. Presidential secretary Yoon Young-chan said in a written statement released Saturday, "[The] North's announcement will brighten prospects for successful talks between Seoul, Pyongyang and Washington." The statement referred to the North’s suspending of nuclear tests and missile tests as meaningful progress toward denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. "It is not a declaration of nuclear dismantlement because it has not yet reached the consensus of some practical compensations for the abandonment of nuclear weapons," said Cheong Seong-Chang, director of unification strategic studies program at the Seoul-based Sejong Institute. "Since the economy has been in a state of containment after several nuclear tests and missile launches, the compromise with the international community was an inevitable choice for Kim Jong Un," Cheong added. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who visited Trump in Florida this week, was more cautious in his acknowledgment of Kim's announcement of suspending nuclear tests. "What is crucial here ... is how this development is going to lead to the complete, verifiable and irreversible dismantlement of nuclear arms, weapons of mass destruction and missiles," he said. "And I will keep a close eye on that." Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.
April 22, 2018

Queen Elizabeth’s 92nd birthday: Royal family pulls out all the stops

Andrew Parsons - WPA Pool/Getty Images(LONDON) -- The Royal Family paid tribute to Queen Elizabeth at a star-studded birthday party at Royal Albert Hall tonight -- where the likes of Sting, Sir Tom Jones, Shaggy, Kylie Minogue and Shawn Mendes joined a cast of commonwealth Nation artists to pay tribute to the 92-year-old Queen. The monarch took her seat at the concert hall flanked by her two heirs, Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales, and Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge. Prince William attended solo for the “Queens Birthday Party” as the event was named without Kate, who remained home with Prince George and Princess Charlotte and is due to give birth any day. The second in line could be seen periodically peering down at his phone, no doubt checking in his very pregnant wife. Prince Philip, who would normally be seated at Queen Elizabeth’s side, was home recovering from hip replacement surgery. Roads were shut down, concrete and steel barriers installed along with magnetometers, and heavily armed police showed a massive presence in one of the most high profile security operations ever seen in London, with 40 members of the Royal Family all congregating in one place. The security did not dampen the spirit of the crowd. Queen Elizabeth was beaming at her birthday party. Welshman Sir Tom Jones kicked off the night with a rendition of his classic hit "It’s Not Unusual," followed by a rousing duet by Sting and Shaggy. Prince William appeared to lean down to explain to his grandmother who Shaggy was. The concert included acts from across the generations. Queen Elizabeth at one point was seen bopping and clapping to a George Formby medley while her family looked on, thrilled that she was enjoying herself so much. Prince Harry made a poignant tribute to his grandmother in his first speech in his new role as President of the Queens Commonwealth Trust. He vowed to carry on her work and legacy. "Tonight we are celebrating the Queen's Birthday but Your Majesty, if you do not mind me saying, you are not someone who is easy to buy gifts for. But I think we have the perfect present," he said, referring to the Queen's Commonwealth Trust charity of which he was appointed president last week. The fifth in line, who was accompanied by his fianceé, Meghan Markle, was also appointed by Queen Elizabeth this week as the Commonwealth Youth Ambassador, a role that will see Harry and Meghan using their magic as humanitarians and role models to the 2.4 billion Commonwealth citizens, 60 percent of whom are under the age of 30. “As we celebrate your 92nd birthday this evening and in recognition of your incredible life of service, I am delighted to say that the Queen's Commonwealth Trust has now been launched to support young leaders around the Commonwealth. This organization, in your name, will provide a platform for those working to make a difference in their communities across 53 countries. Happy Birthday, Your Majesty," Harry added. Prince Charles closed the show on stage with his mother, asking the audience to give a “hip hip hooray” to “Your Majesty, Mummy” before the iconic venue dropped balloons and shot off firecrackers inside the hall. Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.
April 21, 2018

Four Palestinians killed, including teen boy and disabled man, by Israeli snipers in Gaza

iStock/Thinkstock(GAZA CITY) -- Four Palestinians, including a teenage boy and a disabled man, were killed Friday as Israeli soldiers opened fire across a fence dividing Israel and the blockaded Gaza Strip, officials said. According to the Gaza Health Ministry, gunfire from Israeli troops killed 15-year-old Mohammad Ayoub, 25-year-old Ahmed Nabil Aqel, who was disabled, 23-year-old Ahmad Rashad Al Athamna and 32-year-old Saddy Abu Taha. Friday marked the fourth straight week of demonstrations of what Palestinian organizers are calling the "Great March of Return," which began March 30 and is slated to continue through May 15. The demonstrations demand that Palestinian refugees and their descendants be allowed to return to their ancestral homes in what is now Israel, after hundreds of thousands of them fled or were displaced during the 1948 war over the country's proclamation of statehood. The six-week demonstration is timed to culminate in a mass march on the 70th anniversary of Israel's creation, which Palestinians annually recognize as the day of "Nakba," or catastrophe, to commemorate their mass uprooting. The end date also falls on the opening of the new U.S. embassy in Jerusalem this year. Hamas, the militant group governing the Gaza Strip, supports and endorses the protests. The demonstration are also seen as an attempt by Hamas to break the blockade imposed on Gaza by Israel and Egypt after it won Palestinian legislative elections and took control of the 140-square-mile territory in 2007. Israel and the United States both consider Hamas a terrorist organization. The latest deaths on Friday brought the number of Palestinians killed by Israeli forces to 35 since the demonstrations began, according to Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian ambassador to the United Nations. "The Israeli occupying forces continue demonstrating the cruelty of their occupation machine, responding to the calls of unarmed civilians for freedom and justice with brutal and lethal force," Mansour wrote in an open letter to the U.N. Security Council on Friday. "The number of wounded and injured has now far surpassed 4,000 people, including women and children." The Palestinian ambassador also renewed his calls for an "independent and transparent investigation into the killings." Nikolay Mladenov, the U.N. Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, expressed his outrage via Twitter over the killing of a teenage boy and called for an investigation into the incident. In a statement earlier this month, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for all parties on the ground to avoid confrontation and show restraint. “I particularly urge Israel to exercise extreme caution with the use of force in order to avoid casualties. Civilians must be able to exercise their right to demonstrate peacefully,” Guterres added. In a series of statements posted to its official Twitter account Saturday, the Israel military appeared to defend its actions. It accused Hamas of putting Palestinian civilians, including children, in "unnecessary danger" on Friday by using them "to carry out terror attacks and destroy infrastructure under the guise of smoke and riots." Tires apparently were set ablaze to create "smokescreens" while protesters attempted to damage and breach the barricade, according to the Israeli military. Protesters allegedly hurled rocks at Israeli troops and attached burning items to kites "with the intention of igniting fires in Israeli territory," it added. "The IDF will not allow the security infrastructure to be breached, and will act in order to fulfill its duty to protect the civilians and sovereignty of the State of Israel," it tweeted Saturday. Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.