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US Public Might Not Be Told About Foreign Efforts to Alter Next Election

Senior U.S. officials say they are already busy buttressing the nation’s defenses against foreign interference for the 2020 presidential election. Only they admit the public may be kept in the dark about attacks and intrusions.

Intelligence and election security officials have warned repeatedly that Russia, among other state and nonstate actors, remains intent on disrupting the upcoming elections and that the Kremlin may even have gone easy on the U.S. during the 2016 midterm elections, seeing the ability to impact the 2020 presidential race as the bigger prize.

At the same time, election and security officials have come under increased scrutiny for failing to reveal the size and scope of Russia’s efforts to hack into voter databases and other critical systems.

In April, special counsel Robert Mueller released his report into Russia’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 U.S. presidential election as well as allegations of obstruction of justice by President Donald Trump.

Florida representatives

In May, two U.S. representatives from Florida, Republican Michael Waltz and Democrat Stephanie Murphy, wrote to the FBI and Justice Department, demanding a classified briefing on the extent of Russia’s exploits after the Mueller report indicated Moscow managed to infiltrate critical systems in at least one county during the 2016 presidential election.

“Florida voters have the right to know the extent to which foreign actors may have breached our state’s election security systems, and what the federal government is doing to prevent it from happening again,” Murphy said in a statement.

Senior Trump administration officials, however, cautioned Monday they may decide to keep information like that from the public.

“There are hard choices to be made,” one official told reporters while briefing them on efforts to protect the 2020 election from foreign interference.

“The ultimate question is going to be whether the federal or national interests in doing so — publicly disclosing it — outweigh any counter veiling consideration,” the official added.

Intelligence and law enforcement officials said the ability to disclose information can often be limited by the need to protect the sources and methods that discovered the attacks or intrusions in the first place.

Impact on victims

There are also concerns about the impact on the victims.

“Victims who work with the FBI do so because they trust that we’ll protect and handle their information appropriately,” a senior law enforcement official said. “For example, the majority of technical information that we were able to give election officials during the 2016 time frame was initiated from this type of trusted outreach.”

In cases involving foreign influence campaigns, the decision to make them public can be even more difficult.

“Disclosing a foreign influence operation might do more harm than good because it might draw more attention to an operation that would otherwise go unnoticed,” the senior administration official said.

A senior intelligence official agreed that in some cases, the less said, the better.

“It’s less about highlighting for the public that there might be a problem,” the official said. “We actually want to stop it from happening, whether we do that through cyber channels or diplomatic channels or other operations.”

2020 campaign

With the 2020 presidential campaign getting under way, intelligence agencies, along with the Department of Homeland Security and FBI, have set about briefing the candidates and making them aware of the resources available should their campaign come under attack.

There are also increased efforts to reach out to U.S. state and local officials to make sure they have the information they need to protect their voter databases and election systems from attacks.

Officials said there have even been ongoing discussions with the private sector, both those that provide voting machines and other election infrastructure, as well as with social media companies.

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US Treasury Inspector to Look Into Delay of New Tubman $20 Bill

The U.S. Treasury inspector general says he will look into why the Trump administration decided to scrap plans to put escaped slave turned abolitionist Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin announced the move last month, saying the change is because of “counterfeiting issues.”

But Democratic Senate Minority leader Chuck Schumer said he is not satisfied with Mnuchin’s vague explanation, saying it lacked credibility.

He asked the Treasury’s watchdog to investigate the circumstances “including any involvement by the White House.”

“There are no women, there are no people of color on our paper currency today even though they make up a significant majority of our population,” Schumer said.

The redesigned bill was to have entered circulation next year, but Mnuchin said it will be put off until 2028. It is also unclear whether Tubman will still be on the new bill when it is finally rolled out.

He said the “imagery feature” (who will appear on the bill) will not be a matter until long after he and U.S. President Donald Trump are out of office.

The $20 bill currently features a picture of 19th century U.S. President Andrew Jackson. Jackson owned slaves and forced Native Americans out of their ancestral lands in the southeastern U.S. leading to the deaths of thousands of Indians. 

The move to replace Jackson, preferably with a historically-important woman, was announced during the Obama administration. 

Tubman was chosen from an online poll of Americans.

President Trump is said to be an admirer of Andrew Jackson — not because of Jackson’s racism — but because Trump regards him as a populist and anti-establishment. 

Trump called replacing Jackson with Tubman “pure political correctness” and proposed putting Tubman on the $2 bill, which is rarely printed. 

Harriet Tubman escaped from slavery in Maryland as a young woman and returned to the southern U.S. to help other slaves escape and to work as a union government spy during the Civil War.

She was thought to be in her early 90s when she died in 1913.

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Brazil’s Bolsonaro to Meet China’s Xi for First Time at G-20

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who criticized China last year for “buying” up his country, will meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping for the first time on the sidelines of this week’s G-20 meeting in Japan, his office said on Monday.

Bolsonaro, a far-right firebrand, has softened his stance on Brazil’s largest trading partner since taking office in January and will meet with Xi for 40 minutes on Friday morning before the summit of leaders of the world’s 20 largest economies kicks off in Osaka, according to the schedule released by his office.

A representative of China’s embassy in Brazil said the two countries were discussing a bilateral meeting, although the details had yet to be agreed to. Given the packed schedule at the G-20, any bilateral meeting would likely be informal and brief, the diplomat said, speaking on background.

China is by far the largest buyer of Brazilian soybeans and iron ore, and Brazil hopes to upgrade its commodities exports to include products with greater added value.

Bolsonaro expressed concern about Chinese domination during his election campaign. Citing the purchase of electrical assets by Chinese companies, he complained that “China isn’t buying in Brazil, China is buying Brazil.”

But he has dropped his criticisms as the reality of Brazil’s dependence on the Chinese market set in.

His vice president, retired general Hamilton Mourao, visited Beijing in May to resume high-level talks that had stalled under the previous government. Mourao’s visit followed Agriculture Minister Tereza Cristina’s mission to China seeking to widen food sales to China.

Mourao met in Beijing with Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. Chief Executive Ren Zhengfei and later told journalists that Brazil had no plans to follow the United States in barring the Chinese telecom company’s participation when Latin America’s largest country launches its 5G network next year.

Washington has asked countries to reject Huawei technology in the development of new mobile phone networks due to security concerns.

Bolsonaro and Xi are expected to discuss a date for the Brazilian leader’s planned visit to Beijing later this year, before Xi visits Brazil in November for the summit of the BRICS leading emerging economies.

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Ethiopia Hunts for Plotter of Failed Coup in Amhara Region

Ethiopian security is hunting for the leader of the failed coup in the northern Amhara region where security is tight, as well as in the capital, Addis Ababa.
 
An internet shutdown remains in force across the country, following the assassinations of Amhara’s governor and an adviser in the regional capital, Bahir Dar, Saturday. Later in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s military chief was shot dead by his own bodyguard who also killed a visiting retired general.
 
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said that Brig. Gen. Asamnew Tsige masterminded the plot. Ethiopian officials said that Asamnew has not yet been arrested.
 
Ethiopian military have set up checkpoints in the capital and in the Amhara region.
 
Flags are flying at half-mast Monday which has been declared a day of national mourning following the four killings.

 

 

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Domestic Quarrel Disrupts Boris Johnson’s Britain Leadership Bid

A plate-hurling, screaming quarrel with his latest girlfriend has turned the spotlight fully on where Boris Johnson’s advisers didn’t want it — on his character and chaotic private life, which even his friends have described as “unruly.”

The altercation, recorded by neighbors in south London who phoned the police, has thrown a wrench into Johnson’s smooth-running campaign to succeed Theresa May as Britain’s prime minister, which commentators say is his race to lose.

His bid to win a leadership contest, which is now in its final stages after lawmakers whittled down in knockout ballots the succession choice to two candidates for the party’s 160,000 members to vote on by mail, has been built on avoiding television debates and dodging journalists.

Johnson has refused to answer questions about the screaming match in the apartment of his girlfriend, 31-year-old Carrie Symonds, but calls are mounting on the 55-year-old to address questions about the altercation on Friday.

Johnson ended a 25-year-long marriage, his second divorce, to move in last year with the younger Symonds, but his unruly private life has been marked by serial relationships, children fathered out of wedlock and terminated pregnancies.

The quarrel has allowed his remaining opponent in the leadership race, the country’s current and normally mild-mannered foreign minister, Jeremy Hunt, to pile on the pressure and to launch Monday an uncharacteristically personal attack on his rival, accusing him of being a “coward” by trying to avoid public scrutiny and “slink through the back door” of Downing Street.

Johnson, who was finally backed by more than half of Conservative lawmakers to be the new party leader has appeared on only one TV debate and granted a single short broadcast interview and one newspaper interview. Hunt says the public want a “fair and open contest, not one that one side is trying to rig to avoid scrutiny.”

He added: “One of the strengths of our system is that we scrutinize our politicians with more intelligent ferocity than anywhere else in the World. But in this case it just isn’t happening. Nothing could be worse for a new prime minister in these challenging times than to come to power with a fake contest.”

FILE – Britain’s Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt leaves 10 Downing Street, London, Britain, Nov. 13, 2018.

Hunt’s aides say it is especially important for May’s successor to be scrutinized closely as they will be entering Downing Street not via a general election but through a party vote with their democratic legitimacy questioned because the country as a whole would not have had any say in their selection.

Hunt says he doesn’t want to quiz Johnson, a former two-term London mayor and short-lived foreign minister, about his private life, but about his claim that he can “guarantee” Britain will leave the European Union by October 31, the latest deadline for the country’s exit from the bloc.

But while Hunt is avoiding focusing directly on Johnson’s character, some of his aides are happily fanning the flames and briefing reporters behind the scenes that the frontrunner’s highly colorful private life represents a security risk.  It could leave him vulnerable to leaks about past behavior and even open to blackmail by foreign powers, they charge.

The accusation has infuriated Johnson supporters, who say the explosive argument between Symonds and Johnson was just a normal domestic “tiff” apparently provoked by Johnson spilling red wine on a sofa. They maintain the quarrel was blown out of proportion by neighbors who are politically motivated. The police left without charging anyone.

Nonetheless, the dispute, which is depressing Johnson’s poll numbers, is contributing to a picture of a Conservative party in disarray and fearful that it is facing an existential crisis because of Brexit. It comes as pro-European Union Conservatives have started to plot a strategy to wreck a Johnson-led government, if he seeks to take Britain out of the European bloc without an exit deal approved by Brussels.

Sharp divisions between Brexiters and pro-EU lawmakers wrecked Theresa May’s prime ministership and there are growing signs that it might quickly upend Johnson’s, too, if he wins the leadership race.

Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May speaks to the media outside her official residence of 10 Downing Street in London, April 18, 2017.

May’s fate was sealed when the British House of Commons declined three times to approve a Brexit Withdrawal Agreement she negotiated with Brussels — a deal vehemently opposed by a third of her own parliamentary party on the grounds it would keep Britain subservient to EU regulations and rules and prevent it from negotiating trade deals bilaterally with non-EU countries.
 
Europhiles are also opposed to the deal. Several top Conservatives who want to retain close ties with the EU have warned they could join opposition parties in a non-confidence vote in the House of Commons and bring down a Johnson government.

A former Conservative attorney-general, Dominic Grieve, said: “If the new prime minister announces that he is taking the country on a magical mystery tour towards an October 31 crash-out, I don’t think that prime minister is going to survive very long.”

Even Britain’s current top finance minister, Philip Hammond, has warned the next prime minister “will not survive,” if they seek to leave the EU without a deal. He has declined publicly to rule out that he would vote with opposition parties against Johnson, if he sought a no-deal Brexit.

Britain’s fractious Conservatives are ruling as a minority government, and they rely on the support of a Northern Irish party to give them a working majority of just three in the House of Commons. A handful of Conservative standouts could trigger a chain of events leading to an early election the Conservatives are unlikely to win.

Johnson’s supporters say he remains the favorite of party activists because he has the star quality the party needs to win elections and curb both the populist threat from Nigel Farage’s new Brexit party and combat Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn.

They also claim he has the political inventiveness to break the Brexit deadlock that has turned traditional British politics upside down and might even have the ability to persuade hardline Brexiters to accept a compromise and something short of their objective to break completely with the EU.

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UN: Hong Kong Should Consult Broadly on Extradition Bill

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights is urging Hong Kong authorities to “consult broadly before passing or amending” an extradition bill or “any other legislation,” as protests in the autonomous territory continue.

Speaking at the opening of a three-week session of Human Right Council in Geneva, Switzerland, Michelle Bachelet also said that she continues to discuss with China issues related to Xinjiang, including allowing “unfettered access” to the western region, and other matters.

U.N. observers and activists say that about one million ethnic Uighurs and other Muslims are held in detention centers in Xinjiang. The international community has condemned China for setting up such complexes which Beijing describes as “education training centers” helping to eradicate extremism and give people new skills.

Hong Kong protesters blocked access to a Hong Kong government office building for about two hours Monday and plan another demonstration Wednesday to raise awareness among leaders attending the G-20 summit this week in Japan.

Thousands of student protesters dressed in black have been marching in Hong Kong for weeks, demanding the full withdrawal of the controversial extradition bill and the resignation of the territory’s pro-Beijing leader Carrie Lam.

Last week, Lam offered an apology for the political crisis and unrest sparked by the proposed law.

The Hong Kong protests pose the greatest challenge to Chinese President Xi Jinping since he took office in 2012. The Chinese government had supported the extradition proposal, and accused protest organizers of colluding with Western governments.

The U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said President Donald Trump plans to discuss the Hong Kong issue with Xi at the upcoming G-20 summit.

 

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Trump: ‘Not Looking for War’ With Iran

U.S. President Donald Trump says he is “not looking for war” with Iran and willing to negotiate with its leaders without preconditions, but that under no circumstances can the Islamic Republic be allowed to mass a nuclear weapons arsenal.

Trump told NBC’s Meet the Press show that if the U.S. went to war with Iran, “It’ll be obliteration like you’ve never seen before.”

“But,” he added, “I’m not looking to do that.”

The U.S. leader said, “Here it is. Look, you can’t have nuclear weapons. And if you want to talk about it, good. Otherwise, you can live in a shattered economy for a long time.”

Trump’s comments, taped Friday, were aired after he announced Saturday, without providing any details, that he plans to impose “major” new sanctions on Iran on Monday. He said the sanctions would be dropped as soon as the country becomes “a productive and prosperous nation again.”

Iran cannot have Nuclear Weapons! Under the terrible Obama plan, they would have been on their way to Nuclear in a short number of years, and existing verification is not acceptable. We are putting major additional Sanctions on Iran on Monday. I look forward to the day that…..

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 22, 2019

Two other key U.S. officials, national security adviser John Bolton and Vice President Mike Pence, issued new warnings to Iran that Trump’s last-minute decision to not militarily retaliate for Tehran’s Thursday shoot-down of an unmanned U.S. drone near the Strait of Hormuz should not be viewed as a sign of “weakness.”

National security adviser John Bolton talks to reporters about Venezuela, outside the White House, May 1, 2019, in Washington.

“Neither Iran nor any other hostile actor should mistake U.S. prudence and discretion for weakness,” Bolton said in Jerusalem ahead of a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“No one has granted them a hunting license in the Middle East,” Bolton said of Iran. “Our military is rebuilt new and ready to go.”

Pence told the CNN television network, “Iran must not take restraint for a lack of resolve. This is a president who hopes for the best for the Iranian people…but we will stand up to their provocations.”

Bolton said existing sanctions against Tehran already are having a sharp effect on the Tehran economy.

“Sanctions are biting,” he said. “Iran can never have nuclear weapons — not against the U.S.A. and not against the world.”

Trump spoke with reporters Saturday at the White House before leaving for the presidential retreat at Camp David outside Washington for a meeting with top administration officials, at one point saying as soon as Tehran agreed to renounce nuclear weapons, “I’m going to be their best friend.”

Trump’s tone was much softer on Saturday after a week of intense actions between the U.S. and Iran.

Concern about a potential armed confrontation between the U.S. and Iran has been growing since U.S. officials recently blamed Tehran for mine attacks on two oil tankers in the Strait of Hormuz, allegations Tehran denies, and Iran’s downing of the drone.

On Friday, Trump said that he had canceled late Thursday a retaliatory strike against several Iranian targets.

He tweeted that the United States was “cocked & loaded to retaliate last night on 3 different sights when I asked, how many will die. 150 people, sir, was the answer from a General. 10 minutes before the strike I stopped it,” Trump tweeted, saying the action would have been disproportionate.

Pence said the U.S. was “not convinced” the downing of the drone “was authorized at the highest level” of the Iranian government. As Trump weighed how to respond last week, he said the shoot-down might have been launched on orders of a “loose and stupid” Iranian officer.

World powers have called for calm after the incidents.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Saturday urged for a political resolution of the crisis. “That is what we are working on,” she told Reuters.

On Sunday, Britain’s Middle East minister, Andrew Murrison, will travel to Tehran for talks with Iranian officials.

Britain’s Foreign Office said Murrison would call for “urgent de-escalation in the region.” He will also discuss Iran’s threat to cease complying with the nuclear deal that the United States pulled out of last year.  

James Phillips, a senior researcher at the conservative Washington-based Heritage Foundation, said he believes the immediate risk of a U.S.-Iran conflict has passed.

“It’s probably over as far as the incident goes with the shoot down of the drone. But, I think if there are further provocations, the president will respond in a strong and effective manner,” he said.

Phillips also said he does not expect Tehran to accept U.S. calls for negotiations while Trump continues a “maximum pressure campaign” of sanctions on Iran. “I doubt that Tehran will be serious until it sees who wins the next presidential election,” he said.

The U.S. announced this week it was authorizing another 1,000 troops — including a Patriot missile battery and additional manned and unmanned reconnaissance aircraft to bolster defenses at U.S. positions in Iraq and Syria.

 

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Ruling Party Candidate Concedes Defeat in Istanbul Re-Vote

The ruling party candidate in the re-run of Istanbul’s mayoral election, Binali Yildirim, has conceded defeat to opposition candidate Ekrem Imamoglu.

Sunday’s vote was held because election authorities controversially annulled Imamoglu’s initial historic election victory in March on a technicality after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan disputed the defeat of his candidate.

Electoral authorities rejected Erdogan’s AKP Party’s claims of voting fraud, but ordered a revote on the grounds a number election officials were ineligible. The opposition condemned the decision and claimed the Sunday vote is now more than just about who runs the city.

In a sign of the importance of Sunday’s election, voting was brisk from the moment the Kadikoy district ballot station opened, in a city where people traditionally vote late.  Early heavy voting  was reported across the city.

“The election is very important for Turkey, this will change the face of Turkey,” said retiree Cengiz Demir, one of the first to vote in Kadikoy district. “We have to return to democratic settings. Maybe more than a majority have had enough of one man rule,” he added.

One man rule is a reference to President Erdogan who many of his opponents accuse of undermining democracy and turning Turkey into an authoritarian state.

“In the name of our Turkey, in the name of our Istanbul, we are going through a very important election,” Imamoglu said to hundreds of supporters after voting. “This is not only about the Istanbul metropolitan, municipal election but at the same time a day for the repair the damage of this unlawful process imposed on our nation for the sake of democracy in Turkey.”

Observers say Imamoglu’s strategy of avoiding polarizing politics and pledging inclusivity has been key to turning his CHP party’s fortunes around in the city.

“I have so many hopes for Turkey,” said Ayse, a teacher who only wanted to be identified by her first name, “Imamoglu is the only person who can make the change. Before I was so pessimistic.”

The importance of Sunday’s election has seen hundreds of thousands of people cut short their vacations to vote. The city’s airports and roads were full the night before the polls opened.

“This is so important,” said Deniz Tas speaking after voting, “I have traveled 12 hours on the road to vote and to right this injustice that has been done.”

Istanbul is Erdogan’s home city and has been his power-base for 25 years, since his rise to power started as the city’s mayor. The city accounts for a third of Turkey’s economy and nearly half the taxation, and the mayorship is widely seen as Turkey’s most important political prize after the presidency.

Underscoring the importance of the vote,  Erdogan has again put his political prestige on the line, campaigning heavily for Yildirm in the run-up to the election.  Erdogan too claims democracy is at stake, repeatedly accusing the opposition of voter manipulation. Observers say a second defeat for Erdogan could have significant consequences, damaging his reputation of electoral invincibility empowering opponents both in and outside his party.

In what was a bitter campaign Yildirim appeared conciliatory. “If we’ve ever made any wrongdoing to any rival or brother in Istanbul, I would like to ask for their forgiveness and blessing,” he said after casting his vote.

 Some AKP supporters expressed similar sentiments. “Re-vote happens in other countries, too, the voting can be repeated,” said a woman who didn’t want to be named.  “It is very normal that we have a repeat as well. The candidate who deserves it should win. The person with experience will win. Also, for us, Binali Yildirim has the experience to run Istanbul.”

 Both the leading candidates mobilizing thousands of lawyers and monitors to scrutinize the vote, claiming to defend democracy, Istanbul is bracing itself for a tense election.

 

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India Dismisses US Religious Freedom Report

India says it is proud of its secular credentials as it rejected a U.S. report that said that religious freedom in the country has come under attack in recent years.

The latest U.S. State Department Report on International Religious Freedom released Friday said that right wing Hindu-groups claiming to protect cows that Hindus consider holy had used “violence, intimidation, and harassment” against Muslims and low-castes. It also noted that Christians have been targeted for proselytizing.

In a statement, the Indian Foreign Ministry said that no foreign government had the right to criticize its record. “We see no locus standi for a foreign entity to pronounce on the state of our citizens’ constitutionally protected rights.” It said that India is proud of “its status as the largest democracy and a pluralistic society with a longstanding commitment to tolerance and inclusion.”

New Delhi’s sharply worded statement comes ahead of a visit by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to India starting Tuesday. His talks in New Delhi are expected to lay the ground for a meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the sidelines of a Group of 20 summit in Japan later next week.

The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party also rejected the U.S. report on religious freedom saying that the presumption that “there is some grand design behind anti-minority violence is simply false.”

In a statement, party media head Anil Baluni said that Prime Minister Modi and other BJP leaders have strongly deplored violence against minorities and weaker sections of the society.

The U.S. report had said that senior BJP officials had last year made “inflammatory speeches” against religious minorities and that despite Indian government statistics indicating that communal violence has increased sharply over the past two years, the Modi administration has not addressed the problem.

 

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Kim Jong Un Praises ‘Excellent’ Letter from Trump

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has received a personal letter from U.S. President Donald Trump and is contemplating its contents, North Korean state media reported Sunday.

The official Korean Central News Agency posted a picture of a pensive Kim holding a letter, apparently with White House letterhead. The report quoted Kim as praising its “excellent content.”

“Appreciating the political judging faculty and extraordinary courage of President Trump, Kim Jong Un said that he would seriously contemplate the interesting content,” KCNA reported.

The report did not say anything else about the content of the letter.

Exchanging letters, photos

Trump said earlier this month he received a “beautiful,” “very personal” and “very warm” letter from the North Korean leader.

Though nuclear talks between U.S. and North Korean officials are stalled, Kim and Trump have been exchanging letters and pictures for the past year, and both men say their relationship remains warm.

U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un meet during the second U.S.-North Korea summit at the Sofitel Legend Metropole hotel in Hanoi, Feb. 28, 2019.

Working-level talks broke down after a February summit between Trump and Kim in Hanoi, Vietnam, ended in no deal. Kim was unhappy with the pace of U.S. sanctions relief, while Trump was upset Kim would not commit to completely giving up his nuclear program.

Since then, North Korea has tested several short-range ballistic missiles and other weapons. Kim has said he will give Washington until the end of the year to become more flexible in the talks.

U.S. officials have shrugged off North Korea’s weapons tests and end-of-the-year ultimatum. Trump has said he is willing to hold a third summit with Kim if the conditions are right.

G-20 and beyond

Next week, Trump will visit South Korea following his meetings in Japan at the Group of 20 summit.

There has been speculation, though no evidence, that Trump could try to hold another high-profile summit at that time.

South Korean officials have also said they are working to hold a summit between the leaders of North and South Korea before Trump’s visit.

The letter comes a day after Chinese President Xi Jinping wrapped up a state visit to North Korea, where he promised to play an active role in the nuclear talks. 

“After months of an impasse in the negotiations and little contact between the U. S. and North Korea, it appears there is some diplomatic maneuvering underway,” said Bonnie Glaser, an Asia specialist at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

“[It is] unclear yet whether Xi’s visit to Pyongyang played a role, or whether other factors are at play,” she added.

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