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No time, speed limit on North Korea denuclearisation: Donald Trump

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President Donald Trump said on Tuesday there is no hurry to denuclearise North Korea under his accord with Kim Jong-un — a shift in tone from when the US leader said the process would start very soon.

Last month, Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un held historic talks and pledged to denuclearise the Korean peninsula. The accord did not have a timetable for the process or plan to carry it out. Since the meeting between Trump and Kim on June 12, there has been little-reported progress towards denuclearisation.

“Discussions are ongoing and they’re going very, very well,” Trump told reporters. “We have no time limit. We have no speed limit.” Trump said he discussed North Korea with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday at their summit in Helsinki.

Last week, North Korea accused the US of making “gangster-like” demands for the process, and branded the US attitude at high-level talks as “extremely troubling”.

The White House has hailed the summit between Kim and Trump in Singapore as a major breakthrough toward disarming the isolated, nuclear-armed North in exchange for easing of sanctions and other help with economic development.

But since then, Trump has suggested that dismantling North Korea’s nuclear arsenal could be some way off. Speaking at a press conference in the UK last week, the US President said negotiations with Pyongyang would be “probably a longer process than anybody would like”.

International News

Chinese executive Meng Wanzhou facing US extradition, appears in court




Vancouver | A Canadian prosecutor urged a Vancouver court to deny bail to a Chinese executive at the heart of a case that is shaking up US-China relations and worrying global financial markets. Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer of telecommunications giant Huawei and daughter of its founder, was detained at the request of the US during a layover at the Vancouver airport last Saturday — the same day that Presidents Donald Trump and Xi Jinping of China agreed over dinner to a 90-day ceasefire in a trade dispute that threatens to disrupt global commerce.

The US alleges that Huawei used a Hong Kong shell company to sell equipment in Iran in violation of US sanctions. It also says that Meng and Huawei misled American banks about its business dealings in Iran. The surprise arrest, already denounced by Beijing, raises doubts about whether the trade truce will hold and whether the world’s two biggest economies can resolve the complicated issues that divide them.

“I think it will have a distinctively negative effect on the US-China talks,” said Philip Levy, senior fellow at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and an economic adviser in President George W Bush’s White House.  “There’s the humiliating way this happened right before the dinner, with Xi unaware. Very hard to save face on this one. And we may see (Chinese retaliation), which will embitter relations.” Canadian prosecutor John Gibb-Carsley said in a court hearing on Friday that a warrant had been issued for Meng’s arrest in New York August 22.  He said Meng, arrested en route to Mexico from Hong Kong, was aware of the investigation and had been avoiding the United States for months, even though her teenage son goes to school in Boston.

Gibb-Carsley alleged that Huawei had done business in Iran through a Hong Kong company called Skycom. Meng, he said, had misled US banks into thinking that Huawei and Skycom were separate when, in fact, “Skycom was Huawei.” Meng has contended that Huawei sold Skycom in 2009. In urging the court to reject Meng’s bail request, Gibb-Carsley said the Huawei executive had vast resources and a strong incentive to bolt: She’s facing fraud charges in the United States that could put her in prison for 30 years.

Meng’s lawyer, David Martin, argued that it would be unfair to deny her bail just because she “has worked hard and has extraordinary resources.” He told the court that her personal integrity and respect for her father, Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei, would prevent her violating a court order. Meng, who owns two homes in Vancouver, was willing to wear an ankle bracelet and put the houses up as collateral, he said. There was no bail decision by the judge on Friday so Meng will spend the weekend in jail and the hearing will resume Monday.

Justice William Ehrcke said he would think about proposed bail conditions over the weekend. Huawei, in a brief statement emailed to the AP, said that “we have every confidence that the Canadian and US legal systems will reach the right conclusion.” The company is the world’s biggest supplier of network gear used by phone and internet companies and long has been seen as a front for spying by the Chinese military or security services. “What’s getting lost in the initial frenzy here is that Huawei has been in the crosshairs of US regulators for some time,” said Gregory Jaeger, special counsel at the Stroock law firm and a former Justice Department trial attorney.

“This is the culmination of what is likely to be a fairly lengthy investigation.” Meng’s arrest came as a jarring surprise after the Trump-Xi trade cease-fire in Argentina. Exact details of the agreement are elusive. But the White House said Trump suspended for 90 days an import tax hike on USD 200 billion in Chinese goods that was set to take effect January 1; in return, the White House said, the Chinese agreed to buy a “very substantial amount of agricultural, energy, industrial” and other products from the United States.

The delay was meant to buy time for the two countries to resolve a trade conflict that has been raging for months. The US charges that China is using predatory tactics in its drive to overtake America’s dominance in technology and global economic leadership. These allegedly include forcing American and other foreign companies to hand over trade secrets in exchange for access to the Chinese market and engaging in cyber theft.

Washington also regards Beijing’s ambitious long-term development plan, “Made in China 2025,” as a scheme to dominate such fields as robotics and electric vehicles by unfairly subsidising Chinese companies and discriminating against foreign competitors. The United States has imposed tariffs on USD 250 billion in Chinese goods to pressure Beijing to change its ways.

Trump has threatened to expand the tariffs to include just about everything China ships to the United States. Beijing has lashed back with tariffs on about USD 110 billion in American exports.

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Robert Mueller files new papers in court on Russian investigations




Donald Trump

Washington | Special Counsel Robert Mueller has filed a new set of papers in court that may increase the legal woes of US President Donald Trump in connection with the alleged Russian interference in the 2016 election and possible contacts between the Trump’s presidential campaign and Moscow.

While the court papers does not answer the central question of whether Trump or his associates conspired with the Russians, the documents suggest that the president’s legal woes are far from over and reveal a previously unreported contact from a Russian to Trump’s inner circle during the campaign, according to a report in the Washington Post.

The Court papers directly implicated Trump in plans to buy women’s silence as far back as 2014 and offering new evidence of Russian efforts to forge a political alliance with Trump before he became the president – disclosures that show the deepening political and legal morass enveloping the administration, said the report. In his filings before a US federal court in Washington DC, Muller said that Paul Manafort, the former Trump campaign manager lied to prosecutors about his contacts with the White House and an associate with suspected ties to Russian intelligence. The president and the White House denied of any wrongdoings.

“Totally clears the President. Thank You,” Trump responded with his characteristic fiery tweets. In another court submission, Mueller said Michael Cohen, the former personal attorney of Trump, has gone to “significant lengths” to assist his ongoing Russia investigation. Mueller said Cohen has provided the special counsel “with useful information concerning certain discrete Russia-related matters core to its investigation that he obtained by virtue of his regular contact with company executives during the campaign.”

A federal court in New York is scheduled to give its sentencing order against Cohen on December 12. In August he had pleaded guilty to the charges of campaign-finance violations and tax frauds.  Federal prosecutors have recommended substantial prison time for Cohen. The White House said none of these filing showed any involvement of the president. “The government’s filing in Mr Manafort’s case says absolutely nothing about the President. It says even less about collusion and is devoted almost entirely to lobbying-related issues. Once again the media is trying to create a story where there isn’t one,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said.

Sanders also said that the government’s filing in Cohen’s case was nothing new. “The government’s filings in Mr Cohen’s case tell us nothing of value that wasn’t already known. Mr Cohen has repeatedly lied and as the prosecution has pointed out to the court, Mr Cohen is no hero,” Sanders said in another statement.

Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking member Dianne Feinstein said that these legal documents outline serious and criminal wrongdoing, including felony violations of campaign finance laws at the direction of President Trump.  She said that false statements were given to Congress about communications with Russian government officials in the pursuit of Trump Tower Moscow and lies to Special Counsel Mueller about meetings with Konstantin Kilimnik, a suspected Russian intelligence operative.

“It has been clear from the outset that Special Counsel Mueller has been conducting a serious and strenuous investigation. He has now secured 36 indictments, six guilty pleas and the cooperation of key individuals,” she said. “He (Muller) is working meticulously to uncover the truth about Russian interference in the 2016 election and potential coordination with the Trump campaign. His work must be allowed to continue unfettered. The American people deserve to know the truth,” Feinstein said.

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US stocks tumble amid trade war fears




US Stocks

US President Donald Trump, only days after announcing a tariff ceasefire with Chinese leader Xi Jinping, said on Twitter that talks with China are “going very well!” 


New York| Losses on Wall Street deepened Friday afternoon amid anxiety over the US-China trade clash as the White House sent conflicting messages on trade policy.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 2.3 per cent, or close to 600 points, at 24,364.52 around 1915 GMT.

The broad-based S&P 500 also dropped 2.3 per cent to 2,633.25, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index slumped 2.8 per cent to 6,986.27.

Analysts said the declines reflected anxiety after the US-initiated arrest of a top Chinese Huawei executive was seen as exacerbating the US-China clash.

“The market is kind of falling back into our interpretation of where we are in the US-China trade war,” said Art Hogan, chief market strategist at B Riley FBR.

The Huawei arrest dampened expectations that the US and China could quickly hash out a deal following a tariff ceasefire announced last weekend, Hogan added.

US President Donald Trump, only days after announcing a tariff ceasefire with Chinese leader Xi Jinping, said on Twitter that talks with China are “going very well!”

But investors were unnerved by White House advisor Peter Navarro, a hawk on China, who told CNN that Trump would “simply raise” tariffs on USD 200 billion worth of Chinese goods if talks fail.

If China falls short of meeting US goals, “we have a president that’s going to stand up to that for once,” Navarro said.

Earlier, the Labor Department reported that the US economy added 155,000 jobs in November, below analyst expectations, even while unemployment held steady at 3.7 per cent.

A survey of US chief executives released by the Business Roundtable showed a decline in confidence for the third straight quarter amid trade disputes, although the group said the index remained high by historical standards.

Most sectors were sharply lower on Wall Street, with financials, industrials and technology losing two per cent or more.

Losses among energy shares were comparatively small after an OPEC deal boosted oil prices. But shares of Chevron, ExxonMobil and others that had been strongly positive earlier in the session, also slipped into the red amid the sell-off.

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