N. Korea needs written guarantees that US will end drills to start talks – Russian senator

FILE PHOTO: A US-South Korea joint landing operation drill in Pohang, South Korea, March 12, 2016 © Kim Hong-Ji / Reuters

Pyongyang needs written guarantees of security and an end to military drills on the Korean Peninsula from Washington for negotiations between the sides to begin, a senior Russian senator, Vladimir Dzhabarov, has said.

“In order for talks between the US and North Korea to start, certain special conditions must be met,” Dzhabarov, deputy head of the upper house Committee for International Relations, told RIA Novosti. The most important one is that “Washington [gives] up staging military drills near the Korean Peninsula. And Pyongyang needs written guarantees of that,” he added.

According to Dzhabarov, the Americans have already violated their promise to curb the exercises in the autumn. It was the US move to hold new exercises that forced North Korea to resume ballistic missile tests, which were earlier put on hold, he said.
Also on Friday, US Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, said that a “sustained cessation of North Korea’s threatening behavior” would be required for the US to agree to sit down at the negotiations table. “Apart from that step, there are no preconditions for talks, nor will we accept preconditions from North Korea or others,” Tillerson said during a UN Security Council meeting dedicated to the Korean issue.

The secretary of State also urged Moscow and Beijing to increase pressure on Pyongyang and go “beyond full implementation of the UN Security Council resolutions,” sanctioning the country over its nuclear program and ballistic missile tests. He questioned “Russia’s dedication as a partner for peace,” blaming it for continuing to allow North Korean workers to toil in “slave-like conditions” for wages used to fund nuclear arms.

Tillerson also doubted China’s commitment to “solving an issue that has serious implications for the security of its own citizens” due to the crude oil still being supplied to the North Koreans by the Chinese.

READ MORE: Russia won’t be part of ‘strangling’ North Korea, says US should do its part to start talks

Earlier, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Morgulov said that the pressure on North Korea has already reached the “red line,” with the country being at risk of “economic strangulation.” Morgulov told Interfax: “Russia will not be part of this,”adding that the sanctions were “counterproductive” and were hurting ordinary people.

Russia and China have been proposing the so-called “double freeze” solution to the Korean crisis, which envisages a halt on the joint US drills with South Korea in exchange for the North stopping its nuclear and missile tests, which would create the conditions for negotiations.

After his phone call with President Vladimir Putin earlier Friday, US President Donald Trump said that he would “love” to have help from Russia on North Korea. Kremlin press secretary Dmitry Peskov said that the Russian and US leaders agreed to share information and initiatives on the issue during the conversation.

READ MORE: Chinese Navy begins live-fire drills near N. Korea as S. Korea & US escalate activity

Tensions have been on the rise on the Korean Peninsula in recent months as Pyongyang keeps pursuing its nuclear program and missile testing, despite international sanctions and condemnation, while the US and its allies intensify drills near North Korea’s borders. US President Donald Trump has repeatedly warned of a military scenario for North Korea, and recently included the country on the list of state sponsors of terrorism, paving the way for more sanctions. However, recently both sides have shown some interest in resolving the crisis via diplomatic means.

N Korea Says US Naval Blockade Would Be ‘Big Step’ Towards Nuclear War – Reports

Previously, Pyongyang already slammed a proposed US naval blockade saying such measures will be regarded as “a declaration of war.”

 

The DPRK has warned that possible enforcement of the naval blockade by the US will lead to “merciless self-defensive” measures, North korea’s state news agency KCNA reports, citing a foreign ministry spokesperson.

According to KCNA, Pyongyang urged US President Donald Trump to refrain from imposing a maritime blockade, as such move would be an “extremely dangerous and big step towards the nuclear war.” 

READ MORE: ‘Now Is Not the Right Time’ for US Talks With North Korea — State Dept.

Pyongyang’s response comes after US State Secretary Rex Tillerson stated that “the international community must take additional measures to enhance maritime security, including the right to interdict maritime traffic transporting goods to and from” North Korea.

The naval blockade was also pushed for by Washington in September while deciding on sanctions against North Korea, however, the initiative was opposed by China and Russia.

In the wake of the latest missile launch by North Korea, the US together with South Korea and Japan carried out joint military drills aimed at testing their ability to track potential rockets fired from North Korea.

READ MORE: N Korean Ruling Party Compares Possible US Maritime Blockade With Declaring War

On Thursday, during the annual press conference Russian President Vladimir Putin called on both the United States and North Korea to stop aggravating a crisis, adding that he considers more severe international sanctions against North Korea “counterproductive”.

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Why Flynn’s plea is a dead end for ‘Russiagate’ conspiracy

President Donald Trump’s short-lived national security adviser, Michael Flynn, pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI. Most US media jumped on the plea as proof of Trump’s collusion with Russia. Actual documents, however, tell a different story.

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court document signed by special counsel Robert Mueller, dated Thursday, specifies two instances of Flynn telling FBI investigators things that were not true. They relate to two conversations he had with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, in December 2016.

In the Statement of Offense signed by Flynn at his court appearance on Friday, he admitted to acting on instructions from a senior “Presidential Transition Team” (PTT) official, prompting breathless speculation if that was Trump himself, his son-in-law Jared Kushner, or someone else altogether. The one question nobody seems to be asking is, “So what?”

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It is intuitively obvious to even the most casual observer that Flynn’s “crime” is a procedural one: he told FBI investigators he hadn’t done a thing that he actually did. But was the thing he did – namely, speak with the Russian ambassador to the US – against the law? Not really.

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Under the 1799 Logan Act, it is technically against the law for a private US citizen to engage in diplomacy. However, only two people have ever been indicted under that law, and no one has ever been prosecuted. Flynn was a member of the presidential transition team whose duties involved contacts with foreign diplomats. So why would the FBI even ask him about his contacts with Ambassador Kislyak?

“There was nothing wrong with the incoming national security adviser’s having meetings with foreign counterparts or discussing such matters as the sanctions in those meetings,” Andrew McCarthy of National Review wrote on Friday.

Because Flynn was “generally despised by Obama administration officials,” McCarthy added, there has always been cynical suspicion that the decision to interview him was driven by the expectation that he would provide the FBI with an account inconsistent with the recorded conversation – i.e., that Flynn was being set up for prosecution on a process crime.”

Back in May, former deputy Attorney General Sally Yates testified before the Senate Judiciary subcommittee that she came to the White House on January 26 – two days after Flynn’s FBI interview – to say that he had lied about his conversations with Kislyak. How did she know? That, she said, was “based on classified information.”

Clearly, Yates knew Flynn was lying about the conversations because US intelligence had been listening in on them. An Obama administration official leaked that information to the Washington Post’s David Ignatius, who reported on the Flynn-Kislyak conversation on January 12, eight days before Trump’s inauguration.

Responding to that report, Vice President Pence said that Flynn’s conversation with Kislyak “had nothing whatsoever to do” with the Obama administration’s expulsion of Russian diplomats and closure of two diplomatic properties, enacted on December 29, 2016.

After the Post reported that the two did in fact discuss Obama’s sanctions, citing anonymous sources again, Flynn submitted his resignation.

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The dark undertone of the Post’s reporting was that Flynn was somehow “subverting” Obama’s sanctions, intended as punishment for – alleged, and to this day unproven – Russian “meddling” in US elections. What Flynn actually did, as documented by the special counsel, was to ask Russia not to escalate in response to Obama’s actions.

It worked, too: Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that Moscow would not expel any US diplomats, but rather invite them to the Kremlin for holiday celebrations. It wasn’t until July, after the passage of an anti-Russian bill in Congress, that Putin ordered the US to downsize its diplomatic staff in Russia by 755.

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So what about the frantic insistence of “Russiagate” partisans that Flynn’s plea practically portends the downfall of the president they refuse to accept as legitimate? Their elation is unwarranted and premature, warns McCarthy. If a prosecutor has a cooperating witness who is an accomplice in a criminal scheme, the plea is structured so it proves the existence of the scheme.

“That is not happening in Flynn’s situation. Instead, like Papadopoulos, he is being permitted to plead guilty to a mere process crime,” he wrote, referring to a volunteer Trump campaign adviser who likewise pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about seeking contacts with (a nonexistent) “Putin’s niece.”

Flynn’s plea did include an admission he failed to report activities undertaken on behalf of a foreign government: Turkey, a key NATO ally of the US.

‘We’re talking strongly about bringing peace to Syria’: Trump after hour-long phone call with Putin

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The issue of Syria dominated the more than hour-long phone call between the Russian and American presidents. Putin briefed Trump of his recent meeting with Assad, and both leaders agreed on the importance of the UN-led Syrian peace process.

Putin told Trump that President Bashar Assad confirmed his commitment to political reforms in Syria, including constitutional amendments. Assad also supported the idea of holding presidential and parliamentary elections as part of a transitional political process during his Monday meeting with Putin in Sochi.

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The Russian president informed his US counterpart of the forthcoming meeting between the leaders of Russia, Iran and Turkey aimed at finding ways to further normalize the situation in Syria while contributing to the political process in the Middle Eastern country. The trilateral talks are scheduled for Wednesday, November 22.

“Both the parties expressed satisfaction with the phone call, which was practical and informative,” a statement from the Kremlin reads.

The White House said Washington reaffirmed its support for the Joint Statement of the US and Russia issued at the APEC summit on November 11.

“We’re talking very strongly about bringing peace to Syria, very strongly about North Korea, and about Ukraine,” Trump told journalists following the phone call with Putin.

The Russian president said a resolution of the Syrian political crisis must be based on the principles of preserving sovereignty, territorial integrity and the independence of Syria. Putin added that Russia has offered to host the Syrian Congress on National Dialogue in Sochi.

Putin again spoke of normalizing bilateral relations, especially when it comes to fighting terrorism. He added that cooperation between Russian and US security services could be of great practical significance. Trump supported Putin’s ideas, the Kremlin said.

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Putin and Trump agreed that the crisis around the Korean peninsula should be solved through diplomatic means, according to the Kremlin. While discussing the Iranian nuclear program, the Russian president restated Moscow’s commitment to the full implementation of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JPCOA). He also called the agreement “an important factor of regional stability” that also contributes to the global nuclear non-proliferation regime.

Putin and Trump also touched on the terrorist threat and drug production in Afghanistan. Speaking about the situation in Eastern Ukraine, Putin once again underlined that there is no viable alternative other than the full implementation of the Minsk Agreements by all parties to the Ukrainian conflict.

Trump and Putin last spoke on the sidelines of the Vietnam APEC summit in mid-November. And even though there was no official meeting between the two leaders during the gathering, they still managed to hammer out a joint statement on Syria, in which they said the Syrian conflict “does not have a military solution.”

Trump later described his brief encounters with Putin during the summit as “good discussions.” He also slammed those who oppose US rapprochement with Russia, branding them “haters and fools.” He tweeted that “Russia can greatly help” the US in solving many pressing world issues.

Putin also held separate phone conversations with King Salman of Saudi Arabia, Egyptian president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday. The discussions centered on the situation in Syria as well as a range of bilateral issues.

North Korea ‘sent Russia letter warning it would nuke US’

A delegation from the Stalinist state is said to have got a letter to Russian president Vladimir Putin last month during the Inter-Parliamentary Union talks in St Petersburg. Pictured: North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un during a test launch of a ground-to-ground medium long-range strategic ballistic rocket Hwasong-12

By IAIN BURNS

North Korea sent a letter to Russia explaining that the totalitarian dictatorship was ‘prepared to conduct a nuclear strike against the United States’, according to a report. 

A delegation from the Stalinist state is said to have got a letter to Russian president Vladimir Putin last month during the Inter-Parliamentary Union talks in St Petersburg.

According to Kremlin propaganda tool Sputnik News, the Americans changed their stance towards North Korea after being told about the letter by Russia.

Sputnik said the document was given to upper house speaker Valentina Matviyenko by the North Korea delegation, who then passed it on to President Putin.

According to Kremlin propaganda tool Sputnik News , the Americans changed their stance towards North Korea after being told about the letter by Russia. Pictured: Trump and Putin shake hands in Vietnam on Friday

This July 28 picture released from North Korea’s state news agency shows a Hwasong-14 intercontinental ballistic missile being test-lauched at an undisclosed site in North Korea

President Donald Trump on Saturday said he was offended by North Korean ruler Kim Jong-un after official state media in Pyongyang referred to him as a ‘lunatic old man’

But Putin press secretary Dmitry Peskov said on Saturday that he was unaware of the letter.

It comes after three US aircraft carriers teamed up with Japanese ships for joint naval exercises designed to send a clear warning to North Korea.

The four-day drills that began in waters off South Korea‘s eastern coast came as President Donald Trump traded insults with North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un.

The battle groups of the USS Ronald Reagan, the Theodore Roosevelt and the Nimitz will successively enter the exercise area during the drills that run until tomorrow, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said.

Sputnik said the document was given to upper house speaker Valentina Matviyenko by the North Korea delegation, who then passed it on to President Putin. Pictured: The dictator inspecting technology

The United States has been sending its strategic assets, also including long-range bombers, to the region more frequently for patrols or drills amid accelerating North Korean efforts to expand its nuclear weapons program.

In recent months, North Korea has tested intercontinental ballistic missiles that could reach the U.S. mainland with further development and has conducted its most powerful nuclear test. It also flew two new midrange missiles over Japan and threatened to launch them toward Guam, a U.S. Pacific territory and military hub.

Trump has been working to rally global pressure against North Korea’s nuclear weapons program on a trip to Asia. That includes a stern speech delivered in South Korea’s National Assembly on Tuesday, in which he said: ‘Do not underestimate us. And do not try us…The weapons you’re acquiring are not making you safer, they are putting your regime in grave danger. Every step you take down this dark path increases the peril you face.’

The aircraft carriers USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76), USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) and USS Nimitz (CVN 68) are underway, conducting operations, in international waters as part of a three-carrier strike force exercise in the western Pacific

On Saturday, Kim’s government responded by accusing Trump of trying to demonize North Korea, keep it apart from the international community and undermine its government.

‘Reckless remarks by an old lunatic like Trump will never scare us or stop our advance,’ the North’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement. ‘On the contrary, all this makes us more sure that our choice to promote economic construction at the same time as building up our nuclear force is all the more righteous, and it pushes us to speed up the effort to complete our nuclear force.’

In response to that Trump tweeted from Hanoi on Sunday morning: ‘Why would Kim Jong-un insult me by calling me ‘old,’ when I would NEVER call him ‘short and fat?”

Trump went on to say: ‘Oh well, I try so hard to be his friend – and maybe someday that will happen!’

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-5077475/North-Korea-sent-Russia-letter-warning-nuke-US.html#ixzz4yQUUhMra
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SCHLICHTER: THE GOP ESTABLISHMENT WANTS TO BURN DOWN THE VILLAGE TO SAVE IT — FOR ITSELF

Is GOPe planning to throw 2018 elections to spite Trump voters?

Town Hall – NOVEMBER 13, 2017

We keep hearing about how angry Trump voters are destroying the Republican Party, but last week’s Schumer-show demonstrated that the people running it would rather run it into the ground than give up their grip on power. The Smart Set managed to get slaughtered on election night – let’s not sugarcoat it, we got creamed. And the dim bulbs in Congress seem determined to somehow turn tax cuts into something Republican voters hate. The GOPe makes everything worse, like pumpkin spice.

Oh, and then there’s Roy Freaking Moore, whose creepitude led to the inevitable lecture about conservative principles, which apparently now include accepting every accusation pushed by our media enemies at face value. We know the guy is guilty of being like Jerry Seinfeld, and he may be worse and actually criminal. If he is, Moore needs to drop and the Alabama legislature needs to redo the rules to get a viable Republican into the race. But we don’t know, and the voters have a right to wonder why the GOPe was so eager to embrace a shaky claim pushed by a media we have seen lie and lie again about Republicans to help their liberal masters. All this makes it hard to come to any conclusion but that the GOP establishment thinks that the only way to defeat the virus of conservatism is to set fire to the party and hope that a few elections from now their Boehner-based, crony trough-feeding paradigm will rise again from the ashes like a K Street phoenix. It’s as if they want to get wiped out in 2018, and that’s the one objective they actually seem capable of achieving.

Gillespie’s loss was no shock – Virginia is a blue state no matter what the hope-springs-eternal crowd keeps saying. What was a shock is that the GOP failed to anticipate the down ticket Democrat turn-out tsunami. A Frisco zillionaire targeted marginal GOP districts, pumped in money and support and caught the GOP napping. A bunch of Republican delegates lost their seats, and not by that much – but by enough. Yet, none of the GOP brain trust saw this coming, and the enemy stole a march on us. Who is getting fired for this screw-up? If the answer is “Nobody,” we might as well pack it in next year.

It’s never good to lose, but losing will teach you more important lessons than winning. We now know that not only are Dems motivated, but they’ll be playing – with money and data support – in every marginal race. We have a year to prepare – are we doing that? What’s our strategy? Who the hell is responsible for coordinating 2018 anyway?

Is the GOPe planning on throwing the mid-term election to teach us uppity rubes a lesson?

Crazy? Would you put it past them? According to some of the fanatic Never Trumpers – who overlap with much of the GOPe/Conservative Inc. crew – we have some sort of moral obligation to lose as penance for not adhering to their measured, sensible guidance. Make no mistake – some of them see a defeat in 2018 as the first step back to their former glory. Think of all the cruise cabins they can sell in 2019 to folks eager to hear from superstars like Vin Weber and Eric Cantor about the great stuff the GOP will do when it controls the House again!

One obvious answer to the 2018 problem, assuming the GOPe even feels that the fact we are on track to lose our House and maybe Senate majorities is a problem, is for our legislators to do the things they promised to do and thereby make us not hate them so much. But the big problem is that in election after election they promised us what they would do if given the chance, and then, when we gave them the chance, they revealed that they didn’t actually want to do what they promised. They are discovering that blatantly lying to your base’s collective face is a risky strategic choice.

The GOP congressjerks couldn’t manage to undo Obamacare, despite their unequivocal promises, and now they seem intent on passing some sort of tax reform that is worse than not passing any sort of tax reform. What is this insane “taxes on a postcard” fixation? What we care about is paying less – I want a fifty page return if it saves me money. You take away deductions and our tax bills go up – and this nonsense about lowering rates is not going to undo the damage to the kind of people who usually … wait for it… vote Republican. But hey, the corporate rate will drop. Let’s all chip in for that. I know I’m glad to lose key deductions so the big donors can keep more cash.

Now, we could always lower everyone’s rates, and “pay for it” by…brace yourself…cutting spending. Except apparently cutting the budget is off the table. Leave it to the GOPe to decide that the winning Republican message for 2018 is “Tax and Spend.”

But hey, who says Congress can’t deliver? They’ve already delivered a year of investigations into the Trump/Putin/Chet the Unicorn collusion conspiracy. I know investigating our president in line with a liberal election defeat excuse narrative was my second biggest GOP priority following the humiliation of Felonia von Pantsuit and her supporters in the conservative cruise industry.

My first priority, and yours, was always to give amnesty and citizenship to millions of illegal aliens, and the GOP caucus is chomping at the bit to do that. Apparently Dreamers’ dreams of taking advantage of violating our laws and eventually become loyal Democrat voters are much more important than our own conservative voters’ dreams of their mandatory crummy health insurance rates not doubling.

And then there is Roy Moore, an outsider who I would prefer was not the nominee but I am not an Alabamian and I don’t get a say. I don’t know whether he did something 40 years ago, nor do you, but was it a smart move by the GOPe to immediately jump on-board the tumbrel taking him to the guillotine and give up on a Senate seat based upon a mere accusation? We know the case against him – he may well have done it, and there may be more shoes to drop – but why might GOP voters view this ultra-convenient revelation with suspicion? Here are some reasons:

  • A critical Senate seat is at stake, and this ancient news only dropped after it became impossible to replace him.
  • Moore denies it.
  • It is a uniquely deadly charge that cannot be refuted (or proven) except by believing one of the alleged participants.
  • We’ve seen many false sex crimes accusations.
  • We’ve seen Fusion GPS paid by Never Trumpers and/or the Democrats manufacture a fake dossier to falsely accuse the President of sex weirdness.
  • The Washington Post is a rabidly partisan liberal paper and part of a mainstream media whose members have, in the era of Trump, decreed that they are no longer to be objective put instead advocate for their partisan agenda.
  • We have not heard directly from the woman. Yes, the WaPo article contains alleged quotes, but those quotes are processed through the paper (Raise your hand if you’ve ever been misquoted – yep, that’s everyone). Her claims have not been subject to cross-examination. That makes her WaPo statements hearsay, which is traditionally viewed skeptically if admitted at all.
  • The WaPo did not reveal that one of the (legal age) girls worked for Hillary. That seems like a potentially relevant fact, right?
  • The WaPo found this woman when no one else – either in Alabama’s media or among opposition researchers over decades of Moore’s political life – did, no doubt via the extensive web of contacts that WaPo maintains in rural Alabama. Doesn’t that seem…odd? What’s the real story about how this all came out?

I don’t know if Moore is guilty – if he is, the hell with him and let’s replace him on the ballot a la Robert Torricelli – but I know that the facts around this claim should make any reasonable person want to know more before they judge. Except not among the GOPe. In 2017’s least surprising development, John McCain demanded Moore drop out simply because he was accused. Yet when the New York Times accused McCain – he says falsely – of an affair, well, the Blue Falcon didn’t drop out of anything. And Mitt Romney, who always reminds me of a talking weasel wearing a $5,000 suit, had to pipe up and do the same. This was the same Mitt who Harry Reid lied about regarding his taxes so effectively. You’d think they’d both be sensitive to the potential for left wing smears, but no. We have two Republicans who were both falsely accused demanding that we give up a Senate seat because of an accusation the accused says is false – an accusation made on the pages of one of our greatest enemies no less. Does that seem legit?

So what are GOP voters supposed to think when they note how these paragons of virtue signaling have not been demanding the resignation of Democrat Senator Bob Menendez, who is in the midst of a federal corruption trial – a case where there are hints their pal The Distinguished Gentleman from New Jersey cavorted with underage hookers? And the Adults In The Room wonder why their voters have nothing but contempt for them.

As for Moore, it is properly the people of Alabama who will pass judgment. My guess is the voters of Alabama will believe Moore and choose him over the guy who wants to kill babies. I suspect that part of the reason will be to tell the GOPe that Alabamians will decide for themselves who represents them.

What a mess. The Republican Party seems to have no interest in addressing its electile dysfunction. The Democrats are preparing for battle; the Professional Republicans are sulking because their voters won’t obey. They seem not just unable but unwilling to pass the agenda they promised the base. And whenever there’s a narrative damaging to the party to be hopped on, despite reasonable grounds for skepticism, hop on they do. If the GOP establishment wanted to lose, what would it do differently?