SEOUL: The US hopes to see “major disarmament” of nuclear-armed North Korea by the end of President Donald Trump’s first term in 2020, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Wednesday.
Speaking the day after an unprecedented summit between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, Pompeo told reporters in Seoul negotiations on Pyongyang’s atomic arsenal could move forward quickly and would take place “most certainly in the president’s first term.
“Major disarmament… We’re hopeful that we can achieve that in the two and half years,” he said, adding that there is “a lot of work left to do”. At the first-ever meeting between sitting leaders of the US and North Korea on Tuesday in Singapore, Trump and Kim pledged in a joint statement to work toward the “complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula”.
However, this stock phrase, favored by Pyongyang, stopped short of longstanding US demands for North Korea to give up its atomic arsenal in a “verifiable” and “irreversible” way. When questioned on the wording of the statement, Pompeo said Wednesday that Trump’s intention was to allow the US the opportunity to pursue further productive conversations on the issue with Pyongyang.
“Let me assure you that ‘complete’ encompasses verifiable in the minds of everyone concerned. One can’t completely denuclearise without validating, authenticating,” he said. Critics have said the encounter between Trump and Kim was more style than substance, producing a document short on details about the key issue of the North’s atomic weapons.
4 years of coalition strikes on Syria kill 3,300 civilians!
BEIRUT: More than 3,000 civilians have been killed in US-led coalition air strikes against the Islamic State group in Syria since they began four years ago, a monitor said on Sunday.
The Washington-led alliance puts the toll at just over 1,000 civilians in both Syria and neighboring Iraq and says it does all it can to prevent civilian deaths. The coalition began bombing IS targets in Iraq in August 2014 after the jihadist group seized swathes of territory straddling the two countries, proclaiming an Islamic “caliphate”. The coalition extended its strikes to Syria on September 23, 2014. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitoring group, said on Sunday those Syria strikes had since killed 3,331 civilians. The monitor relies on a network of sources inside Syria and tracks flight patterns, aircraft involved and ammunition used to determine who carries out raids.
“Among those killed are 826 children and 615 women,” said Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman. The coalition says it takes every possible precaution to prevent civilian deaths. In its latest civilian casualty report published last month, the coalition said its strikes had unintentionally killed 1,061 civilians in both Iraq and Syria up until July 30, 2018. It is still assessing a further 216 reports of civilian casualties, some of them in strikes dating back to 2014. Its spokesman did not immediately respond to an AFP request for comment on the discrepancy between its toll and that of the Observatory, or for a breakdown of civilian casualties in Syria. The coalition’s operations have largely wound down, with the jihadists ousted from all but tiny bits of territory in Syria. More than 360,000 people have been killed across Syria since the conflict broke out in 2011, nearly a third of them civilians, according to the Observatory.
Maoist rebels kill India lawmaker: police
NEW DELHI: Maoist rebels were accused Sunday of assassinating a south Indian lawmaker and another former legislator in a brazen daytime ambush on their vehicle, police and media reports said.
Kidari Sarveswara Rao, a member of the ruling party in Andhra Pradesh state, was shot dead near the coastal city of Visakhapatnam in what police say was a targeted hit on the sitting legislator.
Former lawmaker S. Soma, who was accompanying Rao, was also gunned down in the attack blamed on Maoist fighters active in a forested belt of central and eastern India.
E. Naidu, a local police official, told AFP that Rao was on a Maoist “hit list” of powerful figures accused of having ties to bauxite miners in the mineral-rich state.
“There were some 30 Maoists in hiding. They attacked suddenly, giving no time for them (Rao and Soma) to react,” he said.
The Press Trust of India reported that a large group blocked the car and overpowered the bodyguards escorting the two officials, before turning their weapons on them.
It was the first such attack in many years in Andhra Pradesh, once a hotbed for insurgents fighting for what they say are the land rights of marginalized tribal communities.
Maoists are still active across thousands of square miles of central and eastern India known as the “Red Corridor”.
The insurgency began in West Bengal five decades ago when peasant farmers rose up against feudal landlords. Some 10,000 people have been killed since.
Macron’s popularity at record lows
PARIS: The popularity of French President Emmanuel Macron has hit its lowest level since the start of his term, according to a major tracker poll published on Sunday, with just 29 percent of respondents satisfied with his leadership.
The poll by research group Ifop and published in the Journal du Dimanche showed an overall fall of five points in September compared with August, reflecting the 40-year-old’s battle with a series of domestic and foreign setbacks.
The results of the widely watched Ifop poll are broadly in line with other surveys that have shown the approval ratings of the centrist falling sharply following a scandal involving a security aide in July.
A separate poll by the Kantar Sofres Onepoint group published on September 17 showed that only 19 percent of French people had a positive view of Macron’s record, while another survey on September 11 showed only 29 percent thought he was a “good president.” The results reinforce a longer-term trend of French voters turning quickly on their presidents soon after their election — something suffered by Macron’s predecessors Francois Hollande and Nicolas Sarkozy.
But many analysts also believe Macron has made a series of political errors, including failing to address the scandals over the summer quickly enough and repeatedly creating negative headlines with harsh or condescending remarks.
His leadership style was again questioned last week when he told an unemployed gardener that he should look for a job in a restaurant or on a building site and implied he was not searching hard enough.
Macron’s biggest challenge remains the economy, however, with his pro-business reforms failing so far to produce a significant fall in unemployment or a major uptick in growth. His government will unveil its draft budget for 2019 on Monday, which is set to see fresh efforts to rein in France’s chronic overspending via cuts to the public sector payroll and caps on pensions.
The survey by Ifop published on Sunday was conducted between September 14-22 on 1,964 people. Macron’s approval rating of 29 percent includes 3.0 percent of people who declared themselves “very satisfied” and 26 percent who said they were “mostly satisfied.”
Hollande had an inferior rating of 23 percent at the same time of his term and Sarkozy had a rating of 34 percent.