Experts: Pyongyang Pushing for Further Concessions from US If It Wants to Talk

Pyongyang is pushing for major concessions from Washington before it agrees to resume working-level talks or hold another summit with the U.S., experts say.“What the North Koreans are indicating that they want right now (are) … two things essentially” as “preconditions before they schedule any talks,” said Harry Kazianis, director of Korean Studies at the Center for the National Interest.  “I think that is some kind of promise on sanctions relief, and I also think they want some sort of written or verbally given security guarantees.”North Korea said Tuesday that the U.S. decision to postpone joint military drills with South Korea is not enough for it to return to the negotiating table.“We demand that the U.S. quit the drills or stop it once and for all,” said Kim Yong Chol, chairman of North Korea’s Asia-Pacific Peace Committee, in a statement carried by the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).  “The U.S. should not dream of negotiating for denuclearization before dropping its hostile policy.”U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper announced Sunday that the U.S. and South Korea agreed to postpone a joint air force drill scheduled for later this month. He described the move as “an act of good will” aimed at providing an atmosphere for North Korea to return to the negotiating table.Protesters shout slogans while holding signs to oppose planned joint military exercises between South Korea and the United States near the U.S. embassy in Seoul, South Korea, Aug. 5, 2019.Earlier in the month, the U.S. had announced the drills would be scaled back to provide room for diplomacy. John Bolton, left, and others attend an extended bilateral meeting between North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Donald Trump, in Hanoi, Vietnam Feb. 28, 2019.“In addition to the postponement of the drills, it’s trying to get sanctions relief,” said Fitzpatrick, adding, “The U.S. is not going to bend over backward to make concessions on sanctions.”   Kazianis said North Korea is mistaken if it thinks Trump is in a position to grant concessions to Kim either directly through another summit or through working-level talks while the impeachment inquiry is underway.“I don’t think they understand the pressure that Donald Trump is in,” said Kazianis. “He has no political bandwidth to forge some sort of grand bargain with Kim Jong Un right now. There is no way he would be able to sell hawkish Republican senators or really almost anybody here in Washington that he would give sanctions relief and all these other concessions either upfront or during working-level talks.”   Joseph DeTrani, who served as the special envoy for the six-party denuclearization talks with North Korea during the George W. Bush administration, thinks working-level talks should and could resume.However, he said the U.S. will not and should not grant more concessions than it had with the postponement of the joint drills.“Suspending the joint military exercises with (South Korea) was a sign of extreme goodwill on the part of the U.S.,” said DeTrani. “I think the U.S. is showing a lot of flexibility on that. I think that’s enough. (If) North Korea is putting conditions on another summit for other deliverables from the U.S., they are terribly mistaken. I just don’t see that ever happening.”Christy Lee contributed to this report originated by the VOA Korean Service.

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US National Security Aides Troubled by Trump Call for Ukraine Investigations

It was a long and exhausting day in Washington Tuesday, where testimony in the House of Representatives impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump lasted more than 11 hours.Lawmakers on the Intelligence Committee heard from four witnesses – three of whom directly listened to Trump’s July 25 telephone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, when he asked Zelenskiy to investigate Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden.Army Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the top Ukraine expert on the White House’s National Security Council, said Trump’s call was “inappropriate” and “improper.”National Security Council aide Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman testifies before the House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Nov. 19, 2019.”Frankly, I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. It was probably an element of shock that maybe, in certain regards, my worst fear of how our Ukrainian policy could play out was playing out,” he said.Vindman said Trump’s request to investigate Biden “had nothing to do with U.S. national security” interests and was not part of the talking points Vindman and others prepared for Trump ahead of the call.Vindman appeared before the committee in his full Army dress uniform, including a decoration for Iraqi war wounds.Donald Trump Jr. tweeted that Vindman was a “low-level partisan bureaucrat.” Vindman called character attacks on public servants testifying “reprehensible,” while stressing that he is 100% nonpartisan and was only there to give the facts.Jennifer Williams, special adviser to Vice President Mike Pence for European and Russian affairs, testifies before a House Intelligence Committee hearing as part of the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump on Capitol Hill, Nov. 19, 2019.Jennifer Williams, a foreign affairs adviser to Vice President Mike Pence, also testified Tuesday. She heard the call and said the Trump request for a Biden probe was “unusual” because it involved a “domestic political matter” and not foreign policyWilliams said in her 14 years as a foreign service officer, she has heard a lot of presidential phone calls, but nothing like what Trump has asking for.After a break, the committee heard from two more witnesses.Ambassador Kurt Volker, the former U.S. special envoy to Ukraine, had said in closed-door testimony that he did not see a link between Trump pressuring Ukraine for a Biden probe and Trump withholding nearly $400 million in military aid.Volker said in Tuesday’s testimony that after hearing other witnesses and seeing the transcript of the July 25 phone call, he now believes there was a connection. He said if he had seen things differently earlier, he would have raised objections.Ambassador Kurt Volker, former special envoy to Ukraine, testifies before the House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Nov. 19, 2019.Volker also said he failed to realize that when the White House asked for a corruption investigation into the Ukrainian gas company Burisma, it really meant an investigation into Biden, whose son, Hunter, sat on the company’s board.Volker defended Biden, saying he has known the former U.S. vice president for more than 20 years and called allegations that Biden had a financial motive in Ukraine not credible.Volker said he believes Trump has a deeply negative view of Ukraine as a hopelessly corrupt country full of “terrible people” who tried to destroy him by meddling in the 2016 election on behalf of the Democrats. Volker said Trump’s views were rooted in the past, before Zelenskiy took over, and egged on by Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer, who insists Biden is corrupt and leaned hard on the Ukrainians to investigate.Tim Morrison, who was the top director for European affairs on the National Security Council, testified Tuesday that he did not hear anything in Trump’s July phone call that he would call illegal.Tim Morrison, a former official at the National Security Council, listens as he testifies before the House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Nov. 19, 2019, during an impeachment hearing.But Morrison said he does not think investigating Biden should be a “policy objective.”Democrats want to know why a complete word-for-word transcript of the July 25 call was put in a highly secure White House location, reserved only for the most sensitive of documents.Morrison called it a “mistake” and an “administrative error.”The impeachment inquiry was sparked by an intelligence community whistleblower who was disturbed by the July 25 phone call and informed the intelligence inspector general.Republican lawmakers have been fishing for the name of the whistleblower during the hearings and tried to get Vindman to reveal the name, believing he knows who it is. But Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff has said he will not permit such tactics, reminding the Republicans that federal law protects the whistleblower’s identity.Trump and the Republicans allege that when Biden was vice president, he threatened to withhold loan guarantees to Ukraine unless prosecutors stopped a corruption probe into Burisma.No evidence of wrongdoing by the Bidens has surfaced, and the allegations of Ukrainian election interference are based on a debunked conspiracy theory.Democrats are focused on whether Trump froze military aid to Ukraine in exchange for Zelenskiy publicly committing to an investigation of the Bidens and Democrats. Some Democrats accuse Trump of bribery — an impeachable crime.Trump calls the hearings a huge scam and a witch hunt, insisting he did nothing wrong.U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland, left, walks to a secure area of the Capitol to testify as part of the House impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump, Oct. 28, 2019, in Washington.Three more witnesses will testify Wednesday, including U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland. Sondland was in frequent contact with Trump and other administration officials about Ukraine policy and pressure to carry out the investigations Trump demanded.
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MTV Launches 2020 ‘+1thevote’ Campaign to Mobilize Millennial, Gen Z

In 1990, a bikini-clad Madonna wrapped in a U.S. flag urged MTV viewers to vote in Senate elections as the youth television network partnered with a “Rock the Vote” campaign that mixed pop culture and politics.Thirty years on, with Millennials and Gen Z poised to outnumber the Baby Boomer generation for the first time in a U.S. presidential election, MTV on Tuesday launched its most ambitious turnout campaign ever, reaching beyond celebrities to tap into burgeoning youth activism.The year-long “+1thevote”  initiative across MTV’s multiple TV platforms, social media and live events includes plans to open new polling stations at college campuses, sponsor school proms that host registration drives, and integrate voting messages into shows.”You need to look no further than the climate change strikes and what is happening in the streets to see that this is a fired-up generation,” said Brianna Cayo Cotter, SVP of social impact for MTV and its affiliate platforms VH1, CMT and Logo.”But they have to vote in this election to take that passion and turn it into political power. That’s the aim of this campaign – how do we help young people, who are so passionate but for whom voting today was not really designed,” she told Reuters.The campaign is aimed at first time voters, especially the 4 million Americans who will turn 18 in time for the Nov. 8 presidential elections. It aims to make voting an experience to be shared with friends, or a “plus one.”Millennials and Gen Z – those born between 1981-96 and after 1996, respectively – will make up 37 percent of the U.S. electorate, according to a January report from the Pew Research Center, outnumbering for the first time Boomers born between 1946-64.FILE – Various logos of the different cable channels from the MTV Networks are pictured at the Cable Television Critics Association press tour in Pasadena, California, July 13, 2006.MTV, a unit of Viacom, is well-placed to catch their attention as the most-watched non-sports U.S. cable network in primetime with 18-34 year olds, according to Nielsen data.The past three years have seen a boom in youth activism on issues ranging from climate change, partly inspired by 16 year-old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, to gun control, civil rights and immigration.Yet for the two generations raised on the internet and smart phones, the process of registering and voting can seem bewildering, MTV found during months of research.”People have questions that are like, ‘What do I wear to vote?’, and ‘Where do I go?’ To young people who can order anything on their phones automatically, the fact that in a lot of places they would have to go to a post office and get a stamp feels crazy,” said Cayo Cotter.Part of the +1thevote campaign involves a partnership with Campus Vote Project and two other grassroots groups to create dozens of new polling stations on college campuses and in local communities nationwide to make youth voting more accessible.Voters cast their ballots in state and local elections at Pillow Boro Hall in Pillow, Pennsylvania, Nov. 5, 2019.Some 1,200 polling stations have been shut down across the Southern United States since 2014, according to a September report by the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.The MTV initiative also includes a drive to integrate voting messages in TV shows across the industry and plans to register voters waiting in line at MTV events like the Video Music Awards.”If we can use our platforms’ superpowers to reach an untapped and largely ignored audience, we’re going to be able to unlock an incredible amount of first time voters that otherwise would probably sit this election out,” said Cayo Cotter. 

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Пентагон: ракетний арсенал Ірану не має собі рівних на Близькому Сході

Ракетний арсенал Ірану не має собі рівних на Близькому Сході, він є більшим, ніж ізраїльський, повідомило Агентство військової розвідки США 19 листопада.

Упродовж останніх 40 років Іран розробив «широку ракетну програму ракет, розмір і складність її ракетних сил зростають, попри десятиліття зусиль протидії, спрямованих на стримування його прогресу», йдеться в повідомленні Пентагону.

Загалом нарощування військової сили Тегерана служить двом важливим цілям – «забезпечення виживання режиму та забезпечення панівного становища в регіоні», вказують автори доповіді.

 

Раніше цього тижня державний секретар США Майк Помпео оголосив, що скасовує один із чотирьох винятків з обмежень проти Ірану. Йдеться про виняток, який дозволяв закордонним компаніям співпрацювати з цією країною в рамках цивільної ядерної програми, не наражаючись на санкції Вашингтону.

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США: Волкер змінив частину свідчень у справі про імпічмент Трампа

Колишній спецпредставник США по Україні Курт Волкер разом із колишнім високопосадовцем Ради національної безпеки Тімом Моррісоном протягом п’яти годин 19 листопада свідчили в Палаті представників Конгресу в справі про імпічмент.

Як виглядає, під час публічних слухань Волкер змінив частину попередніх свідчень, які він дав у закритому режимі. Зокрема, він заявив, що нещодавно зрозумів: українська енергетична компанія «Бурізма» пов’язана з сином провідного політика-демократа Гантером Байденом. Волкер відокремлює розслідування щодо «Бурізми», яке, за його словами, було б «доцільним», і щодо Байденів, яке він вважає «неприйнятним».

Крім того, він назвав «теорією змови» твердження, що Джо Байден мав корупційні зв’язки з Україною на посаді віцепрезидента.

«Я знаю віцепрезидента Байдена вже 24 роки. Він чесна людина, і я поважаю його», – сказав Волкер.

Свідчення Волкера стосувалися зустрічі 19 липня з особистим адвокатом Трампа Руді Джуліані. Того дня вони обговорювали роль Джо Байдена як віцепрезидента в час, коли його син був членом правління «Бурізми».

На запитання про майже 400 мільйонів доларів військової допомоги, виділення яких Україні затримував Трамп, Волкер відповів, що виступав проти будь-яких затримок із надання такої допомоги.

Раніше 19 листопада свідчення дав високопосадовець Білого дому, керівник Європейського відділу в Раді національної безпеки США підполковник Александер Віндман, а також помічниця віцепрезидента Майкла Пенса Дженніфер Вільямс.

20 листопада показання дасть посол США в ЄС Гордон Сондланд. 21 листопада виступлять двоє чиновників Міністерства оборони і Держдепартаменту США, 22 листопада – колишня співробітниця Білого дому, яка відповідала за роботу з Росією й Україною, Фіона Гілл.

Палата представників Конгресу США вивчає питання про те, чи чинив Трамп тиск на владу України з метою нашкодити своєму політичному опонентові, демократу Джо Байдену. У центрі розслідування – питання про те, чи була прямо пов’язане замороження військової допомоги Києву з боку США з вимогою до української влади розслідувати діяльність сина Байдена в Україні.

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Trump: Without a China Trade Deal, the US Will Hike Tariffs

The United States would raise tariffs on Chinese imports if no  deal is reached with Beijing to end a trade war, U.S. President Donald Trump said on Tuesday, threatening an escalation of the spat that has damaged economic growth worldwide.Speaking at a cabinet meeting at the White House, Trump said he had a good relationship with China, noting that China was “moving along.” However, he said China would have to make a deal “I like.””If we don’t make a deal with China, I’ll just raise the tariffs even higher,” he told a room filled with senior U.S. officials.The United States and China have been locked in successive waves of tit-for-tat tariffs that have roiled financial markets and threatened to drag growth in the global economy to its lowest rate since the 2007-2008 financial crisis.Hopes were high that a partial trade deal could be signed at a summit in Santiago, Chile that was scheduled for mid-November.The summit was canceled amid unrest in Chile and a path forward for a deal remains unclear.Sticking points include how and when to reduce tariffs and how much U.S. agricultural products China would commit to buy.White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said last week that the two countries were getting close to an agreement to end the 16-month-long trade war, but he gave no further details on the timing of a possible deal.Still, Chinese state media outlet Xinhua said “constructive talks” were held by phone on Saturday between China’s Vice Premier Liu He, U.S. trade representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. 

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Ruling Backs Asylum-seekers at Border Prior to Policy Shift

A federal judge ruled Tuesday that a partial ban on asylum does not apply to anyone who appeared at an official U.S. border crossing before the policy was announced in July, a decision that may affect thousands of people.The Trump administration announced July 16 that it would deny asylum to anyone who traveled through another country without applying there first.Immigrants advocates went to court on behalf of the many migrants who heeded the recommendations of the U.S. government and showed up at official crossings earlier this year to request asylum, rather than cross the border illegally.The advocates said the administration engaged in an “immoral bait-and-switch” against those immigrants by imposing the ban.U.S. District Judge Cynthia Bashant ruled in their favor Tuesday, saying anyone who appeared at a U.S. border crossing with Mexico before July 16 would be exempt from the ban.”(These) asylum-seekers understood their access to asylum in the United States to be premised on their willingness to wait in Mexico,” Bashant wrote. “In reliance on this representation by the U.S. Government, they did so. The Government — in a shift that can be considered, at best, misleading, and at worst, duplicitous — now seeks to change course.”FILE – In this Nov. 21, 2018 file photo, United States Border Patrol agents stand by a vehicle near one of the border walls separating Tijuana, Mexico and San Diego, in San Diego.Faced with a surge in asylum-seeking families last year, the U.S. said there wasn’t enough processing capacity at official crossings and began telling people to wait in Mexico to claim asylum. The practice, known as “metering,” has left many waiting months.The number of names on waiting lists in 11 Mexican border cities totaled nearly 21,400 this month, according to a survey by the Strauss Center for International Security and Law at the University of Texas, Austin and the Center for U.S.-Mexico Studies at the University of California, San Diego.In Tijuana, the waiting list hovers below 9,000 names. People whose names were getting called last week said they had been waiting in Mexico for five months.The U.S. does not manage the waiting lists, spawning haphazard systems that vary by city. Over time, they have been overseen by Mexican federal, state and local officials, Mexican migrant shelters and immigrants themselves.The lack of U.S. control or centralized management of the lists makes it difficult to know how many asylum-seekers got in line before July 16 and were admitted after the ban took effect in September. Attorneys for the plaintiffs estimate it is in the thousands.Neither the Justice nor Homeland Security Departments immediately responded to requests for comment.Groups representing asylum-seekers applauded the ruling.”These asylum-seekers have a deep commitment to following our laws in seeking protection, and we are relieved to see that their decision to follow our government’s instructions to wait in Mexico will not prejudice their chances for relief,” said Erika Pinheiro, director of litigation and policy at Al Otro Lado, which was represented by the Southern Poverty Law Center, Center for Constitutional Rights, and American Immigration Council.The partial asylum ban was on hold until the U.S. Supreme Court decided Sept. 11 that it could take effect during a legal challenge.

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Trump Pushes Congress to Pass USMCA as AFL-CIO Steps on Brakes

U.S. President Donald Trump and top administration officials on Tuesday renewed pressure on Congress to ratify the U.S.-Mexico-Canada (USMCA) trade agreement, after a major U.S. labor leader on Monday said there was more work to do on the deal.The White House has dismissed House Democrats’ efforts to shore up enforcement of the trade agreement’s labor and environmental provisions, which are key union concerns, as purely political.On Tuesday, Trump accused House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of being unable to get the bill “off her desk,” while claiming Democrats, unions and farmers were in favor. “She’s using USMCA, because she doesn’t have the impeachment votes,” the president said, without evidence.FILE – Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., talks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, Nov. 14, 2019.Pelosi last week predicted a breakthrough in the talks was imminent. But she faces continued opposition from labor unions who felt burned by the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) that became law in 1993.AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka told union members in Maryland on Monday that NAFTA had been “a disaster for working people,” with Maryland alone losing more than 70,000 manufacturing jobs.”We’ve been lobbying the White House specifically on NAFTA for more than two years, slowly but surely moving the ball down the field. But we are not there yet,” Trumka said, according to excerpts of his remarks provided to Reuters by an AFL-CIO spokeswoman.Trumka said there was pressure to “fold on core issues” to secure a deal, but vowed not to let that happen. “Getting this done right is more important than getting it done fast. So until the administration can show us in writing that the new NAFTA is truly enforceable, with stronger labor standards, there is still more work to be done,” he said.U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross on Tuesday said the agreement included much tighter environmental provisions and worker protections than any previous U.S. trade agreement.FILE – U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross listens during a Cabinet meeting in the Cabinet Room of the White House, July 16, 2019.”We have no doubt that if Speaker Pelosi lets it come to the floor, it will pass overwhelmingly,” Ross told a talk radio program at the White House on Tuesday, part of a series of interviews the Trump administration organized on the trade deal.The USMCA, signed by the three countries about a year ago in an effort to replace the $1 trillion NAFTA, must be passed by lawmakers in all three countries.Mexico has already ratified the new deal, while Canada says it is waiting to move in tandem with the United States.Pelosi introduced Trumka at a meeting attended by about 40 newly elected Democrats at the Capitol on Tuesday, according to a source in the room. The union leader emphasized the need for solidarity at this “most critical” stage of negotiations and said the union remained concerned about Mexico’s ability to implement and sustain labor reforms.
 

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Two Prison Guards Charged for Failing to Monitor Epstein

Two American prison guards were indicted Tuesday in connection with the death of financier and convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.A federal grand jury in New York accused the guards of failing to check on Epstein every half hour, as regulations required for prisoners deemed to be suicide risks.Toval Noel and Michael Thomas were charged with six counts of falsifying prison logs and records to mask their dereliction of duty.FILE – Jeffrey EpsteinIn a press release, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Geoffrey S. Berman said the guards “repeatedly signed false certifications attesting to having conducted multiple counts of inmates that they did not do.”The indictment alleged that instead of checking on Epstein, the two instead “sat at their desk, browsed the internet and moved around the common area.” The indictment also alleges Noel and Thomas may have slept at their desk.The multimillionaire Epstein was found dead in his cell in August as he awaited trial on charges of sexually abusing teenage girls and sex trafficking. He faced up to 45 years in prison if found guilty.New York City’s medical examiner ruled Epstein’s death a suicide.Epstein had been put on suicide watch weeks prior after an “apparent suicide attempt” in July, according to a press release by the U.S. Justice Department. As a result, Epstein was placed in a special housing unit where guards were supposed to check on him every 30 minutes.Additionally, Epstein was assigned to the cell closest to the correctional officers’ desk, fewer than four meters away.The Associated Press reported Friday that the officers rejected a plea deal offered by prosecutors.
 

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Amnesty International: в Ірані загинули щонайменше 106 протестувальників

Міжнародна правозахисна організація Amnesty International із посиланням на «достовірні дані» повідомляє про загибель щонайменше 106 протестувальників у 21 місті Ірану під час протестів проти підвищення цін на пальне.

«Організація вважає, що справжнє число загиблих може бути значно вищим, за деякими даними – до 200», – йдеться в повідомленні.

Правозахисники заявляють, що мають свідчення очевидців, за словами яких, у протестувальників стріляли снайпери із дахів будинків, а в одному випадку – з гелікоптера.

За даними інших очевидців, силовики забирали мертвих і поранених людей із доріг і лікарень.

 

Водночас влада Ірану повідомила про 12 загиблих протестувальників і представників сил безпеки, а також про арешт понад 600 людей від 15 листопада, коли почалися масові акції.

Тим часом, ООН закликала Тегеран обмежувати застосування сили проти мирних демонстрантів і відновити інтернет-зв’язок у країні.

Верховний лідер Ірану Алі Хаменеї 17 листопада підтримав рішення уряду підвищити ціни на бензин і розкритикував протестувальників.

Нинішні демонстрації спалахнули після того, як уряд заявив, що почне обмежувати продаж пального в одні руки і підвищувати ціни через те, що економіка країни потерпає від санкцій США.

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