Trump praises North Korean dictator’s ‘great and beautiful’ vision for his country

Donald Trump has heaped fresh affection on North Korea’s Kim Jong-un– praising his “great and beautiful” vision for the country.

Earlier this week, the US president played down the significance of a series of short-range missile tests carried out by Pyongyang, saying they were “very standard” and would not impact his ongoing diplomatic engagement with Mr Kim.

Speaking to reporters before he left the White House for a rally in Ohio, Mr Trump was asked about the missile tests, the latest of which was fired from North Korea’s South Hamgyong province.

“I think it’s very much under control, very much under control,” he said, saying the tests were of short-range missiles. “We never made an agreement on that. I have no problem. We’ll see what happens. But these are short-range missiles. They are very standard.”

Mr Trump, who in June made history by becoming the first sitting US president to visit North Korea when he met Mr Kim at the demilitarised zone between the two countries on the Korean peninsula and stepped into the north, on Friday repeated his claim the missile tests were not a problem.

“Kim Jong-un and North Korea tested 3 short range missiles over the last number of days. These missiles tests are not a violation of our signed Singapore agreement, nor was there discussion of short range missiles when we shook hands,” he said on Twitter. 

He added: “I may be wrong, but I believe that chairman Kim has a great and beautiful vision for his country, and only the United States, with me as president, can make that vision come true.

“He will do the right thing because he is far too smart not to, and he does not want to disappoint his friend, president Trump!”

Mr Trump’s outreach to the North Korean dictator, accused of overseeing widespread human rights abuses, has divided opinion. 

Some have accused the president of giving legitimacy to the North Korean regime, while securing little in return. 

Others, including some of those who frequently criticised the president, have praised his outreach, and said it is better the nuclear-armed nations are talking to each other, after decades of hostility and mutual suspicion.

[The Independent]

US formally withdraws from nuclear treaty with Russia and prepares to test new missile

The United States formally withdrew from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty with Russia Friday, as the US military prepares to test a new non-nuclear mobile-launched cruise missile developed specifically to challenge Moscow in Europe, according to a senior US defense official.

The US withdrawal puts an end to a landmark arms control pact that has limited the development of ground-based missiles with a range of 500 to 5,500 kilometers and is sparking fears of a new arms race.

“Russia is solely responsible for the treaty’s demise,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement Friday announcing the US’ formal withdrawal from the Cold-War era nuclear treaty.

Pompeo said, “Russia failed to return to full and verified compliance through the destruction of its noncompliant missile system.”

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told CNN’s Hala Gorani that the treaty’s end is a “serious setback.”

‘A bad day’

“The fact that we don’t have the INF Treaty anymore, the fact that the Russians over the years have deployed new missiles, which can reach European cities within minutes, which are hard to detect, are mobile and are nuclear capable, and therefore reduce the threshold of any potential use of nuclear weapons in an armed conflict — of course that’s a bad day for all of us who believe in arms control and stability in Europe,” Stoltenberg said.”At the same time, NATO is there to protect all our allies and we will take the necessary measures to retain credible defense,” he added.The new US missile test, which CNN reported Thursday, is expected to take place in the next few weeks and will essentially be the Trump administration’s answer to Russia’s years-long non-compliance with the INF treaty, the senior US defense official said.A senior administration official told reporters that the US will be testing the cruise missiles that were forbidden by the INF treaty because “Russia cannot maintain military advantage,” but claimed that it will take years for the US to deploy those weapons.

Deployment

“We are literally years away before we would be at a point where we would talk about basing of any particular capability. Because of our steadfast adherence to the treaty over 32 years, we are barely, after almost a year, at a point where we are contemplating initial flight tests,” explained the senior administration official, noting that the US would only look at deploying conventional weapons, not nuclear weapons.

But the Pentagon said in March that this ground launched missile could be ready for deployment within 18 months. The administration’s budget request for fiscal year 2020, released in February, included $96 million for continued research and development on INF range missile systems.

And arms control experts say it’s not difficult to convert existing air- or sea-based systems into the ground-based missile the Pentagon plans to test. “It is not a significant engineering task,” said Jon Wolfsthal, director of the Nuclear Crisis Group and a former nuclear expert for the National Security Council under the Obama administration. “It’s well within the capability of major defense contractors and the army to pull off.”

The end of the INF pact leaves the US and Russia with just one nuclear arms agreement, the New START Treaty, which governs strategic nuclear weapons and delivery systems for each side. If New START isn’t renewed or extended by 2021, the world’s two largest nuclear powers would have no limits on their arsenals for the first time in decades.

President Donald Trump’s ambivalent comments about New START and national security advisor John Bolton’s well-known dislike for arms control treaties have given rise to deep concern about a new nuclear arms race.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres told reporters Thursday that the INF Treaty’s expiry means “the world will lose an invaluable brake on nuclear war. This will likely heighten, not reduce, the threat posed by ballistic missiles.”

He urged the US and Russia to “urgently seek agreement on a new common path for international arms control.”

Retired Gen. Wesley Clark, a former NATO supreme allied commander, said on CNN “New Day” that the termination of the treaty also marks “one more ratchet up on the movement towards a more adversarial relationship with Russia.”

But he added that the US “really didn’t have a choice” because the treaty wasn’t effective.

‘A competition with nuclear arms’

“We’re going into a new competition, a military competition, including a competition with nuclear arms against development that Russia, and to some extent, China are making,” Clark said. “No one wants to do this. It’s expensive, it’s dangerous, but it’s necessary if we’re going to maintain our security in an uncertain world.”The Trump administration casts the forthcoming test of the new ground-based missiles as necessary to US national security, even as it seeks to tamp down any suggestion that the US is triggering an arms race, a claim that’s met with skepticism in the arms control community.When asked if the US will commit to maintaining some kind of arms control despite this treaty being defunct, the official largely put the onus on Russia.”I can’t speak for the Russian federation so I can’t promise that they will be amenable to additional arms control,” the official said. “I can only tell you that the US, from the President on down, is interested in finding an effective arms control solution.”On Friday, Russia said it is inviting the US and NATO to join them in declaring a moratorium on deployment of intermediate-range and shorter-range missiles.

‘Not credible’

“We invited the US and other NATO countries to assess the possibility of declaring the same moratorium on deploying intermediate-range and shorter-range equipment as we have, the same moratorium Vladimir Putin declared, saying that Russia will refrain from deploying these systems when we acquire them unless the American equipment is deployed in certain regions,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said, Russian state news agency TASS reported.Stoltenberg on Friday dismissed Russia’s offer of a moratorium as “not credible,” because Russia has been deploying missiles for years.”There is zero credibility in offering a moratorium on missiles they are already deploying,” he said. “There are no new US missiles, no new NATO missiles in Europe but there are more and more Russian missiles,” Stoltenberg said in a press conference at NATO headquarters in Brussels.International allies, including the United Kingdom, emphasized their support for the US’ move to withdraw from the INF treaty.NATO allies said in a statement that Russia remains in violation of the INF Treaty, “despite years of U.S. and Allied engagement,” adding that they fully support the US’ decision.

NATO added that over the past six months Russia had a “final opportunity” to honor the treaty but failed.UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said Russia caused the INF Treaty collapse, tweeting, “Their contempt for the rules based international system threatens European security.”The senior US defense official said that the US has long had evidence that Russia has developed, tested and fielded “multiple battalions” of non-INF compliant cruise and ballistic missiles. The US believes the deployments are “militarily significant” because the missiles are mobile, allowing Moscow to move them rapidly and making it difficult for the US to track them.The Russian missiles use solid fuel, which also means they can be readied in a very short time frame to be fired at targets, especially in western Europe.Alexandra Bell, senior policy director at the non-partisan Center for Arms Control & Non-Proliferation, explains that “with this type of missile there’s very short warning, attacks are harder to spot by radar, so it’s just more destabilizing. They made the situation in Europe more dangerous.”

Russian targets

The Pentagon has been working on the new missile system’s very initial phases, which will lead to the first test in the coming weeks, the defense official said. The official emphasized there is no formal program yet to develop the missile, because the INF treaty has been in effect.The US also has yet to formally discuss and commit to firm basing options, the defense official said. The concept, the official said, would be to position the missiles in militarily advantageous positions from which they could fire past Russian defenses and target ports, military bases or critical infrastructure.But no NATO member “has said it would be willing to host new US intermediate range missiles,” Kingston Reif, director for disarmament and threat reduction policy at the Arms Control Association.Indeed, several NATO members, including Poland, have made clear that any deployment of the missiles in Europe would have to be approved by all NATO members. Stoltenberg has emphasized that NATO will respond to the end of the INF Treaty as an alliance and would not be amenable to US missile deployments on its border.”What we will do will be measured, it will be coordinated as a NATO family, no bilateral arrangements, but NATO as an alliance,” Stoltenberg said last month. “We will not mirror what Russia is doing, meaning that we will not deploy missiles,” the NATO chief said.

[CNN]

Trump Offered Putin U.S. Help Fighting Wildfires, Kremlin Says

Donald Trump called Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday to offer U.S. help fighting Siberian wildfires, the Kremlin said in a statement.

Putin thanked Trump for the offer but said a group of airplanes had been formed in Siberia to fight the fires, according to a translation of the statement. Putin said that Trump’s call was a signal that “in the future, it will be possible to restore full-format relations between the two countries.”

The White House later confirmed the call and said that the two leaders also discussed trade.

Relations between the U.S. and Russia deteriorated after American intelligence agencies determined that the Kremlin interfered in the 2016 election on Trump’s behalf. The U.S. issued sanctions against Russia both for the election interference and the attempted murder of a former Russian spy in the U.K. that the British government blamed on the Kremlin.

Trump has nonetheless tried to maintain a personal friendship with Putin. The two leaders agreed to continue discussions by phone and in meetings, the Kremlin statement said.

Putin ordered the Russian military to help fight the Siberian fires earlier on Wednesday. Russia has declared a state of emergency in four Siberian districts because of the fires. Plumes of smoke visible from space have stretched across the region to the Ural mountains thousands of miles away.

June temperatures in the Siberian districts were about 10 degrees Fahrenheit (6 degrees Celsius) above the 30-year average from 1981 to 2010. About 3 million hectares were burning as of Wednesday, according to the country’s Federal Forestry Agency.

Wildfires in the U.S. haven’t always drawn sympathy from the American president.

Trump sparked outrage last year as wildfires devastated parts of California by insisting that poor forest management by the state’s Democratic leaders was to blame. He threatened to withhold federal money for maintaining the forests even as the fires raged through Butte County north of Sacramento, effectively destroying the town of Paradise and killing dozens of people.

After a backlash, Trump softened his tone and approved an expedited request for disaster aid.

Nevertheless, Trump has proposed cutting the U.S. Forest Service’s funding for the national forest system by as much as 19%. Some of the programs designed to reduce wildfire risk, including restoring forest landscapes and the Integrated Resource Restoration Pilot, would be eliminated altogether.

[Bloomberg]


Trump enters North Korea, announces nuclear talks will resume

President Trump made history on Sunday by becoming the first sitting U.S. president to cross into North Korea, a symbolic gesture toward Kim Jong Un during a meeting at the heavily guarded Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) in which the two leaders agreed to restart stalled nuclear talks.

Trump and Kim afterward spoke privately for more than 50 minutes, turning what was supposed to be a brief exchange of pleasantries into a negotiating session in which Trump said they both agreed to “designate a team” and “work out some details” in his on-again, off-again effort to end Pyongyang’s nuclear program.

“Speed is not the object. We want to see if we can do a really comprehensive, good deal,” Trump told reporters. “This was a great day. This was a very legendary, very historic day.”

“It’ll be even more historic if something comes up, something very important,” the president added.

Trump’s meeting with Kim was his first since nuclear talks broke down at a February summit in Hanoi, Vietnam. Major doubts still surround the negotiations and Kim’s willingness to surrender his nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles.

But Trump was determined to show the public he can secure a nuclear deal with North Korea, which would be his biggest achievement on the world stage.

It came days after he agreed at the Group of 20 summit to reopen trade talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping, pressing to secure another elusive deal and show voters he can be the dealmaker in chief ahead of his 2020 reelection race.

The history-making moment came at 3:45 p.m. Korea time, when Trump and Kim shook hands across a concrete slab that forms the line separating the North and South. At Kim’s request, Trump stepped over the line, and the two men walked back toward a plaza in the North, where they posed for photos.

“Good to see you again,” Kim said to Trump, according to a translator. “I never expected to see you in this place.”

“Good progress. Good progress,” Trump said as he and Kim crossed back into South Korea.

“Stepping across that line was a great honor,” Trump said, adding that he would invite Kim to visit the White House.

The image-conscious Trump framed the gesture as a rebuttal to critics who say he will not be able to secure a deal with Kim.

“You don’t report it accurately, but that’s OK. Some day, history will record it accurately,” he said.

Trump and Kim met at the Freedom House on the South Korean side of the DMZ, where the North Korean leader said he was “willing to put an end to the unfortunate past.”

Kim said he was “surprised” when Trump made the invitation by tweet on Saturday but hailed the importance of the meeting as a sign of the “excellent relations between the two of us.”

“You hear the power of that voice” Trump said, adding that the North Korean leader “doesn’t do news conferences.”

“This is a historic moment, the fact that we’re meeting,” he added.

Trump later told U.S. troops at Osan Air Base in Pyeongtaek, South Korea, that he noticed that “many people … from Korea were literally in tears” when he crossed the DMZ but did not cite specific examples.

He also said during brief remarks to reporters that sanctions against Pyongyang remain in place but that “at some point during the negotiations things can happen.”

In a tweet before leaving South Korea, Trump described his meeting with Kim as “wonderful,” adding that standing on North Korean soil was “an important statement for all.”

Despite the historic nature of Trump’s visit to the Korean Peninsula, the outcome essentially got the U.S. and North Korea back to the same place they were before talks broke down four months ago.

The Hanoi summit collapsed when Trump refused to accept Kim’s offer of sanctions relief in exchange for shuttering the North’s largest nuclear facility. Washington is looking for far greater concessions from Pyongyang, including a full accounting of their nuclear stockpile, comprehensive inspections and eventually the elimination of all nuclear weapons.

Before and during his trip to Asia, Trump had repeatedly hinted about the possibility of meeting with Kim.

The two leaders recently resumed contact. Trump said he received what he called a “beautiful letter” from Kim this month containing birthday greetings. In return, the president sent Kim a thank-you note and letter.

Trump first publicly suggested the possibility of a brief greeting with Kim at the DMZ in a tweet Friday.

In an exclusive interview with The Hill on Monday, Trump said he would be visiting the DMZ and that he “might” meet with Kim. The Hill delayed publishing news of the trip earlier in the week at the request of the White House, which cited security concerns about publicizing the president’s plans that far in advance.

Trump said Saturday that the North Korean leader was open to a meeting, but the president noted potential logistical challenges could prevent it from taking place.

Sunday’s meeting with Kim came after bad weather blocked Trump’s attempt to make a surprise visit to the DMZ in November 2017.

Trump considered meeting Kim there in 2018 before deciding to hold the first summit between the two leaders in Singapore.

[The Hill]

Trump defends Putin’s claim that democracy is dead with bizarre, confused rant about California

Ahead of the G20 summit in Osaka, Vladimir Putin told the Financial Times that “the liberal idea has become obsolete,” a line that drew sharp rebuke from the democratic world.

But when President Donald Trump was asked about the line by Peter Baker of The New York Times, he didn’t even appear to understand what Putin was talking about, responding with a confused rant about how terrible California is.

Los Angeles and San Francisco, Trump said, are “sad to look at” because they are run by “liberal people”:

Putin, of course, was not talking about “liberal” in the sense of California or the Democratic Party. He was talking about the whole concept of Western, pluralistic, multicultural democracy, and arguing that giving marginalized groups like refugees and LGBTQ persons human rights is dying off.

Even if Trump had understood Putin, it is not clear he wouldn’t agree, given that his administration is rolling back LGBTQ protections, holding asylum seekers in camps with no soap and toothpaste, and broadly pushing to remove federal protections for the democratic process.

[Raw Story]

Trump praises Saudi crown prince, ignores questions on Khashoggi killing

President Donald Trump enjoyed breakfast here Friday with Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, heaping praise on the Saudi ruler while ignoring evidence of his role in the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

The crown prince had faced some isolation at last year’s G20 summit in Buenos Aires after being implicated in the grisly murder of the Washington Post columnist and legal resident of the U.S., who disappeared after visiting the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last October.

But Trump has largely ignored the evidence, including a conclusion by the Central Intelligence Agency, that Prince Mohammed ordered the killing.

At a news conference on Saturday, Trump said he did raise the killing privately with the crown prince, who told him about 13 people who had been prosecuted for the crime.

“He’s very angry about it,” he said. “He’s very unhappy about it.”

But Trump did not indicate that he confronted the crown prince over his own complicity. And when pressed about the CIA’s conclusion at the news conference, Trump responded, “I can’t comment on the intelligence community. I guess I’m allowed to declassify … but the truth is I don’t want to talk about intelligence.”

It wasn’t the first time Trump has declined to confirm or deny the CIA’s assessment, which has been shared with U.S. lawmakers and administration officials.

“I’m extremely angry and unhappy about a thing like that taking place,” Trump said. “But as of this moment, more than 13 people are being prosecuted, and I hear the numbers are going to be going up.”

Earlier, before their breakfast at the Imperial Hotel in Osaka, Trump and Prince Mohammed ignored at least two questions about Khashoggi’s death.

“Mr. President, will you discuss Jamal Khashoggi?”

Trump instead answered a question about his plans to visit the North Korean dictator, Kim Jong-Un.

“Mr. President, will [you] address the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, sir, with the crown prince?”

Trump instead answered a question about his plans to discuss the technology company Huawei with President Xi Jinping of China, saying it would be part of their talks on trade.

Trump also did not raise the issue of Khashoggi’s murder in his opening remarks.

United Nations report last week found there was “credible evidence” to warrant further investigation into allegations the crown prince masterminded the killing. “No conclusion is made as to guilt,” the report stated, adding, however: “Evidence points to the 15-person mission to execute Mr. Khashoggi requiring significant government coordination, resources and finances.”

In his remarks, Trump proclaimed his admiration for the crown prince, declaring that it was an honor to be in his company.

“It’s an honor to be with the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, a friend of mine, a man who has really done things in the last five years in terms of opening up Saudi Arabia,” Trump said. “And I think especially what you’ve done for women. I’m seeing what’s happening; it’s like a revolution in a very positive way.”

Trump continued, “I want to just thank you on behalf of a lot of people, and I want to congratulate you. You’ve done, really, a spectacular job.”

Saudi Arabia will host next year’s G20 summit, which gave Prince Mohammed a prominent place at the front and center of this year’s “family photo” of leaders on Thursday.

Trump posed alongside Prince Mohammed, who greeted him with a warm smile, a robust handshake and a pat on the hand. Trump and the prince spoke together during the photo shoot, gesturing actively, and the two men continued to talk as they walked off the platform together.

At the Imperial Hotel, before breakfast, Trump insisted that it was his good relationships that were keeping the United States safe and free from conflicts.

“We have a very good friendship,” Trump said of China. “We have a very, very good friendship, like I have with Mohammed. I mean, we have a great — a great relationship, and that’s very important, especially when you have a place like — whether it’s Saudi Arabia, in all fairness, or China, or any country. Or any country. Or North Korea. It’s about relationship. Otherwise, you end up in very bad wars and lots of problems. The relationship is very important.”

[Politico]

Trump pressures other G-20 leaders to weaken climate goals

President Donald Trump is pressuring some of his fellow leaders to help weaken a G-20 commitment on fighting climate change in a move that could kill chances of agreeing on a final leaders’ declaration.

Three senior officials told POLITICO that Trump is trying to enlist the leaders of Saudi Arabia, Brazil, Australia and Turkey in opposing commitments to stand by the Paris climate agreement made at previous G-20 summits.

The U.S. has refused to back the part of the G-20 declaration that supports the Paris accord since the G-20 summit in Hamburg in 2017, but supported the final communique under an ‘agree to disagree’ arrangement.

But this year, Trump is pushing allies to join him in opposition and French President Emmanuel Macron warned he would rather veto a final communiqué rather than allow the climate change section to be weakened further. Officials said negotiations would go on through the night and would likely be left for the leaders themselves to continue on Saturday.

The failure to secure agreement on a final communiqué would be a stinging defeat for the summit host, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe, who has sought to maintain consensus and a spirit of multilateralism.

“The President has spoken with many of those leaders that could be part of those that are lowering the ambition of the language on climate,” a senior Elysée official said. “He spoke with Turkish President Erdoğan, with Brazilian President Bolsonaro, to say that it was absolutely imperative to maintain the format 19+1 … and that no backtracking on the Paris agreement was imaginable.”

For the EU leaders including Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the communiqué must read that the Paris agreement is “irreversible” and that the G-20 countries “fully commit” to implementing it, officials explained.

Backtracking on that specific language would raise the question of whether a final communiqué was even worth it, an official said.

[Politico]

Trump tweets Kim Jong Un an invitation to ‘shake his hand’ at DMZ

President Donald Trump extended what he claimed was a spontaneous invitation to North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un for a handshake on the highly fortified Korean Demilitarized Zone, lending his upcoming visit to Seoul new drama.

In a Saturday morning tweet from his hotel in Japan, Trump said if Kim was interested he’d be open to a greeting on the border.”If Chairman Kim of North Korea sees this, I would meet him at the Border/DMZ just to shake his hand and say Hello(?)!” Trump wrote.

Trump is due to arrive in Seoul, South Korea, on Saturday evening, and is scheduled for talks with the South Korean President on Sunday before returning to Washington.

During a brief photo-op with reporters Saturday, Trump said he “put out a feeler” to Kim for a potential handshake on the DMZ in order to advance their warm friendship.

“All I did was put out a feeler if he’d like to meet,” Trump told reporters in Japan, where he is meeting with leaders on the sidelines of the G20. “He sent me a very beautiful birthday card.

“Trump told reporters later Saturday that Kim was “very receptive to meeting.”

“I can’t tell you exactly but they did respond very favorably,” Trump said of the possibility of a meeting.Trump also told reporters he would feel “very comfortable” stepping foot in North Korea when he visits the DMZ Sunday.

“Sure I would,” Trump said when asked whether he would step foot into the country.”I feel very comfortable doing that. I would have no problem,” Trump said in Osaka.No sitting US president has ever visited North Korea, though former presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton have made the trip.

Trump also insisted it would not be a bad sign if Kim stands him up.”No, of course I thought of that,” Trump said when asked if it should be interpreted as a bad sign if Kim failed to meet him.”It’s very hard,” he said of the US-North Korea situation, noting that Kim “follows my Twitter.”Asked if he knew that to be a fact, Trump said his team “got a call very quickly” after his tweet.

[CNN]

Trump gives Putin light-hearted warning: ‘Don’t meddle in the election’

President Donald Trump issued a breezy warning to his Russian counterpart Friday against meddling in US elections, laughing and smiling as he told his counterpart not to interfere.”Don’t meddle in the election, please,” Trump said, smirking and wagging his finger at Putin. He only raised the matter after being questioned by reporters whether he would issue a warning.”Yes, of course I will,” Trump said before making his joking aside.It was an off-hand moment that came at the start of the men’s first meeting since the conclusion of Robert Mueller’s investigation.Trump said he enjoyed a “very, very good relationship” with Putin, and said “many positive things are going to come out of the relationship.””We have many things to discuss, including trade and some disarmament, some little protectionism, in a very positive way,” Trump said.

When he made his playful admonishment against election interference, Putin sat beside him laughing. Trump’s aides, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, also smiled.It was hardly the serious confrontation that many of Trump’s critics — and even some officials in the US government — have been hoping he’d make ahead of the 2020 contest, which could be vulnerable again to foreign meddling efforts.Instead, it appeared to be Trump’s way of injecting levity into what remains a deeply fractured Washington-Moscow relationship.In the seven months since Trump last encountered his Russian counterpart, the Russians detained a former Marine on espionage charges and were accused by Mueller in his report of waging a “sweeping and systematic” influence campaign during the 2016 election.That’s a distant cry from the warmed-up relations with Russia that Trump entered office vowing to pursue. When he sat down with Putin on the sidelines of the G20 summit here on Friday, ties between the two countries were near the lowest ebb since the Cold War.In Trump’s view, that’s the fault of Democrats and overzealous investigators intent on finding links between his campaign and Russian officials. As he greeted Putin for the first time since Mueller concluded his investigation and released a final report, there was little to indicate his view of Moscow’s influence efforts has changed or that his prickliness on the topic had waned.”I’ll have a very good conversation with him,” Trump told reporters at the White House as he was departing for Japan.But he declined to detail what he might say regarding election meddling, or whether he would raise it at all.”What I say to him is none of your business,” Trump said.

[CNN]

Trump jokes to Putin they should ‘get rid’ of journalists

Donald Trump joked with Vladimir Putin about getting rid of journalists and Russian meddling in US elections when the two leaders met at the G20 summit in Japan.

As they sat for photographs at the start of their first formal meeting in nearly a year, the US president lightheartedly sought common ground with Putin at the expense of the journalists around them in Osaka.

“Get rid of them. Fake news is a great term, isn’t it? You don’t have this problem in Russia but we do,” Trump said.

To which Putin responded, in English: “We also have. It’s the same.”

Twenty-six journalists have been murdered in Russia since Putin first became president, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), many of them investigative reporters scrutinising governmental abuses.

Trump has frequently referred to the press as the “enemy of the people” and in February the CPJ expressed concern about the safety of journalists covering Trump rallies, where they have been the target of derision and abuse from the president and his supporters. It is a year to the day since five Capital Gazette employees were killed in their newsroom in Annapolis, Maryland. The shooting led to the organisation Reporters Without Bordersadding the US to its list of the five deadliest countries for journalism.

It was the first meeting between the two men since a summit in Helsinki last July, and since the publication of a report by the special counsel Robert Mueller, which found Russia had interfered extensively in the 2016 US presidential election, but found insufficient evidence that the Trump campaign had conspired with Moscow.

When journalists asked Trump just before he left for Japan what he would like to talk to Putin about, he told them it was “none of your business”. As they sat alongside each other, a reporter asked whether he was going to tell Putin not to meddle in the 2020 election.

Trump said: “Yes, of course I will,” drawing a laugh from Putin. Then, without looking at Putin, Trump said briskly: “Don’t meddle in the election, please,” and then repeated the phrase with a mock finger wag as Putin and the US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, smiled broadly.

Relations between the two countries have been sour for years, worsening after Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 and backed Bashar al-Assad in the Syrian war. In a recent television interview, Putin said relations between Moscow and Washington were “getting worse and worse”.

Trump has sought better relations with Putin to tackle a host of issues, including his goal to rein in North Korea’s nuclear ambitions. On Friday, he emphasised the positives.

“It’s a great honour to be with President Putin,” Trump said. “We have many things to discuss, including trade and including some disarmament.”

Trump and Putin had been scheduled to meet at the end of November at the last G20 in Buenos Aires, but Trump cancelled the meeting as he flew to Argentina, citing Russia’s seizure of Ukrainian navy ships and sailors. The two spoke informally at the event. The Ukrainian sailors have still not been freed.

“We’ve had great meetings. We’ve had a very, very good relationship,” Trump said on Friday. “And we look forward to spending some very good time together. A lot of very positive things are going to come out of the relationship.”

In May, the two leaders had their first extensive phone conversation in months. Trump said they talked about a new accord to limit nuclear arms that could eventually include China. Russia is under punitive sanctions imposed by the US and the EU and wants them lifted.

Trump’s critics have accused him of being too friendly with Putin and castigated him for failing to publicly confront the Russian leader in Helsinki over Moscow’s meddling in the 2016 election.

In an interview with the Financial Times on Thursday, Putin claimed Trump’s victory in 2016 and the rise of nationalist-populist movements in Europe signalled the death of liberal policies in the west.

“[Liberals] cannot simply dictate anything to anyone just like they have been attempting to do over the recent decades,” he said. “The liberal idea has become obsolete. It has come into conflict with the interests of the overwhelming majority of the population.”

Trump later held talks with Brazil’s far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro. “He is a special man, doing very well, very much loved by the people of Brazil,” Trump said, smiling broadly. For his part, Bolsonaro told the US president: “I have been a great admirer of you for quite some time, even before your election. I support Trump, I support the United States, I support your re-election.”

[The Guardian]

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