North Korea Threatens to Pull out of Singapore Summit with President Trump


The White House responded cautiously Tuesday afternoon to news reports the North Korean regime abruptly canceled talks on Wednesday with the South Koreans. Citing a recent iteration of routine joint military exercises between South Korea and the United States, Pyongyang hinted that the involvement could endanger the upcoming talks between President Trump and Kim Jong-un in Singapore. “The United States must carefully contemplate the fate of the planned North Korea-U.S. summit amid the provocative military ruckus that it’s causing with South Korean authorities,” said the North Korean government.

“We are aware of the South Korean media report,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Tuesday. “The United States will look at what North Korea has said independently, and continue to coordinate closely with our allies.”

The administration seemed to be taken by surprise by the news, which was reported by both a South Korean outlet and a North Korean state-run organ. During her Tuesday afternoon briefing, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said she did not have a chance to verify the reports before taking questions from reporters. Nauert insisted that the June 12 summit between Trump and Kim will continue as planned.

“Kim Jong-un had said previously that he understands the need and the utility of the United States and the Republic of Korea continuing in its joint exercises,” Nauert said. “They’re exercises that are legal, they’re planned well, well in advance. We have not heard anything from that government or the government of South Korea to indicate that we would not continue conducting these exercises or that we would not continue planning for our meeting between President Trump and Kim Jong-un next month.”

Nauert’s comments about the North Koreans’ “understanding” of the joint exercises echoes what South Korea’s national security adviser, Chung Eui-Yong said at the White House on March 8 when he announced the possibility of a U.S.-North Korea summit. “I told President Trump that, in our meeting, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un said he is committed to denuclearization,” Chung said at the time. “Kim pledged that North Korea will refrain from any further nuclear or missile tests. He understands that the routine joint military exercises between the Republic of Korea and the United States must continue.”

So will Kim and North Korea flake on the meeting? It’s uncertain, though Korea watchers are skeptical that the reaction from Kim to what’s been a longstanding practice of the South Korean-U.S. alliance will have any effect on whether the meeting will happen. That’s because the summit itself is a critical strategic goal for both leaders, and the potential for success—as a legitimizing event for Kim and a major step toward a diplomatic achievement for Trump—outweighs the possibility either man will step away.

On the other hand…

Mark It Down—“We will continue to go ahead and plan the meeting between President Trump and Kim Jong-un.” —Heather Nauert, State Department press secretary, May 15, 2018

Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, on Tuesday defended Israel’s response to aggressive Palestinian protesters at the border of the Gaza strip, saying that the troops who fired on Palestinians had acted with restraint and blaming the Monday violence on Hamas.

“I ask my colleagues here in the Security Council: Who among us would accept this type of activity on your border?” Haley asked in a speech at the United Nations. “No one would. No country in this chamber would act with more restraint than Israel has.”

Haley’s comments came at an emergency meeting of the Security Council called to discuss the violence in Gaza, where Palestinians stormed the border, some hurling rocks and explosives. They were met by Israeli troops who fired back with tear gas, rubber bullets, and live ammunition, killing at least 60. The protest, which was encouraged by Hamas, was ostensibly a response to the official opening of the American embassy in Jerusalem Monday.

Mueller Watch—A federal judge on Tuesday dealt a serious legal blow to Paul Manafort, throwing out the former Trump campaign chairman’s motion alleging that special counsel Robert Mueller lacked legal standing to file charges against him.

Manafort, who is fighting criminal charges for money laundering and conspiracy against the United States related to his decade of work as a political consultant for pro-Russian politicians in Ukraine, had filed a motion to dismiss the charges on the grounds that Mueller’s mandate from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein was broader than Justice Department regulations allowed. Jackson disagreed, saying the indictment “falls squarely” within Mueller’s assignment to find “any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign.”

“Given the combination of his prominence within the campaign and his ties to Ukrainian officials supported by and operating out of Russia, as well as to Russian oligarchs, Manafort was an obvious person of interest,“ Jackson wrote. “Given what was being said publicly, the Special Counsel would have been remiss to ignore such an obvious potential link between the Trump campaign and the Russian government.”

President Trump addressed a memorial service for law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty at the U.S. Capitol Tuesday, praising the sacrifices America’s police officers make while calling for stronger penalties, including execution, for people who kill them.

“The Trump administration has a policy and it’s very clear: We will protect those who protect us,” the president told the crowd gathered for the 37th Annual National Peace Officers’ Memorial Service. “We believe criminals who kill our police should get the death penalty—bring it forth.”

Trump also used the opportunity to renew his calls for tighter controls to stop illegal immigration on the southern border. “The first duty of government is to protect our citizens,” Trump said. “That is why we are calling on Congress to secure our borders, support our border agents, stop sanctuary cities, and shut down policies that release violent criminals back into our communities.”

“If you want to bring down violent crime, then we must stand up for our police,” the president added. “We must confront and condemn dangerous anti-police prejudice.”

Book Review of the Day—Daniel Halper reviews Amy Chozick’s Chasing Hillary for Commentary. “It wasn’t just Hillary Clinton who failed to secure a job on November 8, 2016. It was also her traveling press corps, a gang of reporters and journalists from myriad outlets assigned to cover the presumptive president’s every movement. Its members wouldn’t be going to the White House, either,” Halper writes. “Among them was Amy Chozick, the New York Times’s beat reporter, who covered Clinton for a decade and had in mind a Georgetown fixer-upper to share with her habitually neglected husband, Bobby, after the Clinton win.”

Rest In Peace—Tom Wolfe, one of the most celebrated and inventive writers of the last 60 years, died Monday at the age of 88.

Song of the Day—“The Waiting” by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers





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