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North and South Korea Rapprochement Leaves U.S. Out in the Cold

The White House remains unclear if the term “denuclearization” bandied about by South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in their meeting at Pyongyang means what they think it means.

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Arthur J. Villasanta – Fourth Estate Contributor

Washington, DC, United States (4E) – The White House remains unclear if the term “denuclearization” bandied about by South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in their meeting at Pyongyang means what they think it means.

The Trump administration, however, now wants in on the action and is ready to “immediately” restart denuclearization talks with North Korea that have gone nowhere since the widely lampooned summit between Kim and Donald Trump in Singapore on June 12.

Moon and Kin agreed to take steps towards “denuclearization” to promote “a land of peace” after their summit in Pyongyang on Sept. 19. They also issued the “Pyongyang Joint Declaration,” one of whose provisions is the “permanent dismantlement” of North Korea’s main nuclear production facility at Yongbyon near the border with China.

The declaration might also allow international inspectors to observe the disassembly of an engine test site. Moon said the United States, a non-player in this latest meeting between Moon and Kim, needs to reciprocate the declaration in some way.

Kim, however, made the offer to dismantle Yongbyon contingent on the U.S. taking “corresponding measures.” He didn’t specify what these measures should be.

“The North Koreans want reciprocal action. What is that reciprocal action? They don’t specify so we don’t know,” said Sue Mi Terry, a former senior CIA Korea analyst now at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies. “It is more than a peace declaration — a peace treaty, we have a problem.”

The Pyongyang Joint Declaration signed by Moon and Kim offers more specifics than the hazy Singapore Declaration signed by Kim and Trump. In it, Moon and Kim agreed to “cooperate closely in the process of pursuing complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula,” but again without spelling out the exact meaning of denuclearization.

Experts said denuclearization to North Korea signifies a phased process of mutual confidence building and arms control that will involve major U.S. concessions. It in no way means the unilateral disarmament of North Korea as demanded by Trump. The declaration made no mention of a deadline as to when denuclearization will be completed.

Kim and Moon also agreed to collaborate on a bid to host the 2032 Summer Olympics. Kim said he “promised” to visit Seoul “in the near future.”

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Politics

North Korea Threatens to Cancel Denuclearization Talks over Latest Sanctions

North Korea angrily blasted the latest United States sanctions, saying this move by the Trump administration could “block the path to denuclearization on the Korean peninsula forever.”

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Arthur J. Villasanta – Fourth Estate Contributor

Pyongyang, North Korea (4E) – North Korea angrily blasted the latest United States sanctions, saying this move by the Trump administration could “block the path to denuclearization on the Korean peninsula forever.”

North Korea denounced the latest U.S. sanctions, which Washington imposed on three top Noorth Korean officials for serious human rights abuses and censorship. It expressed “shock and indignation” at the new U.S. sanctions while accusing Trump of being “bent on bringing… relations back to the status of last year which was marked by exchanges of fire.”

Pyongyang noted Trump’s policy of “maximum pressure” will be his “greatest miscalculation.”It urged Trump to return to the confidence building that was hoped for following the summit in Singapore last June between Trump and Kim Jong-un.

Washington said it imposed the sanctions after a U.S. Department of State report revealed human rights abuses committed by the men. The U.S. Department of Treasury named those sanctioned as Ryong Hae Choe, an aide close to Kim, who leads the Workers’ Party of Korea Organization and Guidance Department. Also sanctioned was State Security Minister Kyong Thaek Jong sand Propaganda and Agitation Department head Kwang Ho Pak.

The sanctions freeze any assets the three North Koreans might have under U.S. jurisdiction. It also generally prevents them from making transactions with anyone in the United States. The sanctions were announced as the State Department released a report on North Korean human rights and other abuses.

The State Department report said human rights abuses in North Korea “remain among the worst in the world and include extrajudicial killings, forced labor, torture, prolonged arbitrary detention, rape, forced abortions, and other sexual violence.

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Chris Matthews Predicts Trump Might Resign “in the Coming Weeks”

Liberal pundit Chris Matthews, who hosts the talk show, “Hardball with Chris Matthews” on MSNBC, told his TV audience about his hunch Donald Trump might resign in the coming weeks as part of a deal with Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

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New York, NY, United States (4E) – Liberal pundit Chris Matthews, who hosts the talk show, “Hardball with Chris Matthews” on MSNBC, told his TV audience about his hunch Donald Trump might resign in the coming weeks as part of a deal with Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

Matthews also said Donald Trump Jr. and Ivanka Trump could be the “next dominoes to fall” in the Mueller investigation. Trump’s children might face prosecution and possible prison time for their roles related to Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential elections.

“But what if the prosecutor were to offer the president an alternative,” asked Matthews. “What if he were to say he would let the children walk if the old man does the same? That would mean giving up the presidency in exchange for acquittals all around — not just for himself, but for all his kids.”

He said Trump might have to emulate former Vice President Spiro Agnew, who resigned in 1973 as part of a deal with prosecutors to avoid prison time in a tax evasion case.

“Leverage the office while you still have it,” said Matthews in a piece of advice to Trump.

“So let’s watch the probable events of the coming weeks bring all this to a breaking point,” he said. “It is going to be historic.”

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US Senate Passes Criminal Justice Reform

The U.S. Senate on Tuesday overwhelmingly approved legislation to decrease America’s substantial prison population by lowering some mandatory federal sentences, giving inmates added opportunities to earn reductions in jail time, and encouraging prisoners to better themselves so they are less likely to return to crime upon release.

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Washington, DC, United States (VOA) – The U.S. Senate on Tuesday overwhelmingly approved legislation to decrease America’s substantial prison population by lowering some mandatory federal sentences, giving inmates added opportunities to earn reductions in jail time, and encouraging prisoners to better themselves so they are less likely to return to crime upon release.

Passing 87-12, the First Step Act was hailed by proponents as a long-overdue retooling of the federal criminal justice system, an effort that drew resounding support from both Republican and Democratic lawmakers as well as President Donald Trump.

“Congratulations to the Senate on the bipartisan passing of a historic Criminal Justice Reform Bill,” Trump tweeted shortly after the vote. “I look forward to signing this into law!”

“The bill makes smart changes to our criminal justice system in ways that will make it fairer, more humane, and more just,” Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer of New York said.

“This legislation is proof that we can be tough on crime and more compassionate to those who deserve a second chance,” Mississippi Republican Roger Wicker said in a statement.

The bill retroactively ends the discrepancy in federal sentences for drug offenses involving crack and the powder form of cocaine, which would reduce jail time for thousands of prisoners convicted of crack offenses.

The legislation also reduces some mandatory sentences, gives federal judges more flexibility to make exceptions to mandatory prison terms, and allow inmates to earn greater sentence reductions through good behavior and vocational training.

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