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No deal: Trump, Kim summit collapses over sanctions impasse

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HANOI, Vietnam — Talks between President Donald Trump and North Korea’s Kim Jong Un collapsed Thursday after the two sides failed to bridge a standoff over U.S. sanctions, a dispiriting end to high-stakes meetings meant to disarm a global nuclear threat.

Trump blamed the breakdown on North Korea’s insistence that all the punishing sanctions the U.S. has imposed on Pyongyang be lifted without the North committing to eliminate its nuclear arsenal.

“Sometimes you have to walk,” Trump explained at a closing news conference after the summit was abruptly cut short. He said there had been a proposed agreement that was “ready to be signed.”

“I’d much rather do it right than do it fast,” Trump said. “We’re in position to do something very special.”

Mere hours after both nations had seemed hopeful of a deal, the two leaders’ motorcades roared away from the downtown Hanoi summit site within minutes of each other, their lunch cancelled and a signing ceremony scuttled. The president’s closing news conference was hurriedly moved up, and he departed for Washington more than two hours ahead of schedule.

The disintegration of talks came after Trump and Kim had appeared to be ready to inch toward normalizing relations between their still technically warring nations and as the American leader dampened expectations that their negotiations would yield an agreement by North Korea to take concrete steps toward ending a nuclear program that Pyongyang likely sees as its strongest security guarantee.

In something of a role reversal, Trump had deliberately ratcheted down some of the pressure on North Korea, abandoning his fiery rhetoric and declaring that he wanted the “right deal” over a rushed agreement. For his part, Kim, when asked whether he was ready to denuclearize, had said, “If I’m not willing to do that I won’t be here right now.”

The breakdown denied Trump a much-needed triumph amid growing domestic turmoil back home, including congressional testimony this week by his former personal lawyer Michael Cohen, who called Trump a “racist” and “con man” and claimed prior knowledge that WikiLeaks would release emails that would damage Hillary Clinton’s campaign in 2016.

North Korea’s state media made no immediate comment on the diplomatic impasse, and Kim remained in his locked-down hotel after leaving the summit venue. The North Korean leader was scheduled to meet with top Vietnamese leaders on Friday and leave Saturday on his armoured train for the long return trip, through China, to North Korea.

Trump insisted his relations with Kim remained warm, but he did not commit to having a third summit with the North Korean leader, saying a possible next meeting “may not be for a long time.” Though both he and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said significant progress had been made in Hanoi, the two sides appeared to be galaxies apart on an agreement that would live up to U.S. stated goals.

“Basically, they wanted the sanctions lifted in their entirety, and we couldn’t do that,” Trump told reporters.

Kim, he explained, appeared willing to close his country’s main nuclear facility, the Yongbyon Nuclear Scientific Research Center, if the sanctions were lifted. But that would leave him with missiles, warheads and weapon systems, Pompeo said. There are also suspected hidden nuclear fuel production sites around the country.

“We couldn’t quite get there today,” Pompeo said, minimizing what seemed to be a chasm between the two sides.

Longstanding U.S. policy has insisted that U.S. sanctions on North Korea would not be lifted until that country committed to, if not concluded, complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization. Trump declined to restate that goal Thursday, insisting he wanted flexibility in talks with Kim.

“I don’t want to put myself in that position from the standpoint of negotiation,” he said.

White House aides stressed that Trump stood strong, and some observers evoked the 1987 Reykjavík summit between Ronald Reagan and the Soviet Union’s Mikhail Gorbachev, a meeting over nuclear weapons that ended without a deal but laid the groundwork for a future agreement.

The failure in Hanoi laid bare a risk in Trump’s unpredictable negotiating style: Preferring one-on-one meetings with his foreign counterparts, his administration often eschews the staff-level work done in advance to assure a deal and envisions summits more as messaging opportunities than venues for hardline negotiation.

There was disappointment and alarm in South Korea, whose liberal leader has been a leading orchestrator of the nuclear diplomacy and who needs a breakthrough to restart lucrative engagement projects with the impoverished North. Yonhap news agency said that the clock on the Korean Peninsula’s security situation has “turned back to zero” and diplomacy is now “at a crossroads.”

The collapse was a dramatic turnaround from the optimism that surrounded the talks after the leaders’ dinner Wednesday and that had prompted the White House to list a signing ceremony on Trump’s official schedule for Thursday.

The two leaders had seemed to find a point of agreement when Kim, who fielded questions from American journalists for the first time, was asked if the U.S. may open a liaison office in North Korea. Trump declared it “not a bad idea,” and Kim called it “welcomable.” Such an office would mark the first U.S. presence in North Korea and a significant grant to a country that has long been deliberately starved of international recognition.

But questions persisted throughout the summit, including whether Kim was willing to make valuable concessions, what Trump would demand in the face of rising domestic turmoil and whether the meeting could yield far more concrete results than the leaders’ first summit, a meeting in Singapore less than a year ago that was long on dramatic imagery but short on tangible results.

There had long been skepticism that Kim would be willing to give away the weapons his nation had spent decades developing and Pyongyang felt ensured its survival. But even after the summit ended, Trump praised Kim’s commitment to continue a moratorium on missile testing.

Trump also said he believed the autocrat’s claim that he had nothing to do with the 2017 death of Otto Warmbier, a American college student who died after being held in a North Korean prison.

“I don’t believe that he would have allowed that to happen,” Trump said. “He felt badly about it.”

The declaration immediately called to mind other moments when Trump chose to believe autocrats over his own intelligence agencies, including siding with the Saudi royal family regarding the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and supporting Russia’s Vladimir Putin’s denials that he interfered with the 2016 election.

If the first Trump-Kim summit gave the reclusive nation’s leader entree onto the international stage, the second appeared to grant him the legitimacy his family has long desired.

Kim, for the first time, affably parried with the international press without having to account for his government’s long history of oppression. He secured Trump’s support for the opening of a liaison office in Pyongyang, without offering any concessions of his own. Even without an agreement, Trump’s backing for the step toward normalization provided the sort of recognition the international community has long denied Kim’s government.

Experts worried that the darker side of Kim’s leadership was being brushed aside in the rush to address the North’s nuclear weapons program: the charges of massive human rights abuses; the prison camps filled with dissidents; a near complete absence of media, religious and speech freedoms; the famine in the 1990s that killed hundreds of thousands; and the executions of a slew of government and military officials, including his uncle and the alleged assassination order of his half-brother in a Malaysian airport.

Trump also has a history of cutting short foreign trips and walking out of meetings when he feels no progress is being made. That includes a notable episode this year when he walked out of a White House meeting with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer over a government shutdown, calling the negotiation “a total waste of time.”

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Associated Press writers Jill Colvin, Zeke Miller and Darlene Superville in Washington contributed to this report.

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Follow Lemire on Twitter at http://twitter.com/@JonLemire , Riechmann at http://twitter.com/@debriechmann and Klug at http://twitter.com/@APklug

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Follow all of AP’s summit coverage: https://apnews.com/Trump-KimSummit

Jonathan Lemire, Deb Riechmann And Foster Klug, The Associated Press


























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Cabinet secretaries sell Biden's ambitious agenda across US

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Marty Walsh remembers what it was like when a Cabinet secretary would come to town.

“It really is a big deal. They give you the dates, and you just clear your schedule,” said Walsh, a former mayor of Boston.

He recalls 300 people packing into a room to hear Julián Castro, then Housing and Urban Development secretary. “He was speaking on behalf of President Obama and Vice President Biden, and people hung on every word.”

Now Walsh, as secretary of labor, is on the other side of the equation, crisscrossing the country on behalf of President Joe Biden’s American Jobs Plan. As the massive infrastructure package goes through torturous negotiations in Congress, Walsh and a handful of other Cabinet secretaries have launched an ambitious travel schedule to promote the plan and the larger Biden agenda.

“It’s clear the administration has decided to take their message on the road,” said Ravi Perry, head of the political science department at Howard University. “The amount of trips, how much they’ve traveled … there really has been a shift.”

Starting around the beginning of May, Biden’s Cabinet members have made dozens of TV appearances and trips around the country, promoting the Biden agenda with an ambitious roadshow.

“I don’t know that I can think of an equivalent to this kind of rollout,” said HUD Secretary Marcia Fudge, who in recent weeks has traveled to Newark, New Jersey; Kansas City, Missouri; and Tulsa, Oklahoma. “We are an extension of the administration. We are carrying the president’s agenda.”

The Cabinet outreach campaign is particularly striking in the context of the country’s gradual emergence from the COVID-19 pandemic. Although restrictions on mass gatherings are being lifted all around the country, several Cabinet secretaries noted that the national mood is not quite ready for large political rallies.

“You’re not getting the crowds, of course,” said Walsh, who misses the intimacy of working lunches without social distancing restrictions. “It really restricts what you can do. You want to be around people.”

Much of the traveling has been done by Biden’s Jobs Cabinet: Walsh, Fudge, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm and Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo.

Buttigieg, who said he was “itching to get on the road since Day One,” said the presence of a Cabinet secretary brings particular gravitas. More than perhaps any position in government, he said, Cabinet secretaries are a direct extension of the president and his policies.

“You represent the administration and the president, writ large,” said Buttigieg, who has traveled to North Carolina, Georgia and Tennessee. “It’s a way to let people know that they’re important.”

A former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, Buttigieg recalled, “It was a pretty big deal if a regional administrator for a federal agency came to town, much less a Cabinet secretary.”

The campaign is proceeding with active coordination from the White House. Fudge said her department plans her travel schedule, but the White House regularly makes requests for her to appear in certain places or arranges for her to team up with another secretary for a joint appearance. Biden announced the informal Jobs Cabinet grouping in April, telling reporters that the quintet would be asked “to take special responsibility to explain the plan to the American public.”

Anita Dunn, senior adviser to Biden, said the Cabinet members had largely been confined to long-distance television interviews for the first few months of the administration.

“It’s all been virtual until quite recently,” she said.

Dunn described the Cabinet members as “accomplished people who represent the administration and allow us to increase our reach.”

It also helps that several of the secretaries are former mayors, like Buttigieg and Walsh, or former governors like Granholm and Raimondo, enabling them to find easy common ground with local officials and stakeholders.

“That’s a huge advantage for the administration,” Dunn said.

The logistics and cost of planning a secretary’s visit are also far less daunting than they would be for the president or vice president. Dunn said the secretaries travel on a mixture of government planes and commercial airlines, and Cabinet secretaries have their own security details, but not Secret Service protections. As a result, the administration can get the impact of a direct presidential emissary for far less cost and hassle.

In some cases the secretary’s role is to rally sympathy and momentum; in others they seek to reassure nervous audiences in deeply Republican states that the Biden agenda won’t leave them behind.

Granholm, speaking on the phone during a visit to West Virginia, said her primary goal on that trip was to reassure citizens of the coal mining-dependent state that Biden’s clean energy plans won’t destroy their economy. A former governor of Michigan, Granholm compared West Virginia to her home state when the auto industry started contracting.

“I get that fear and nervousness when a state’s whole identity and economy is wrapped around a sector that’s shrinking. I get when a community has been on its knees,” she said.

Her presence in West Virginia “means that the president of the United States deeply cares,” Granholm said.

The approach represents a direct departure from the previous administration. Former President Donald Trump’s Cabinet secretaries did their share of pre-pandemic speaking engagements, but Trump generally preferred to be his own messenger and promoter through Twitter, interviews with sympathetic media outlets and famously raucous rallies with himself as the centerpiece.

“It’s a huge shift in how Cabinet members are being used by the president,” Perry said. “What we’re seeing here is a much more decentralized executive branch. In some ways, it’s a return to normalcy in terms of domestic diplomacy.”

Ashraf Khalil, The Associated Press








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Advocates call for more rights for migrant workers amid deaths on the job

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It’s dawn in Batangas, a city more than a hundred kilometres north of the Philippine capital city of Manila, when Eric Gutierrez recalls memories of his college best friend Efren Reyes.

Reyes was smart and unassuming, and they would play pool, eat fast food and hang out in the early 2000s. Gutierrez jokingly says without Reyes, he probably would’ve failed all of his courses.

The last time they spoke three years ago, Reyes had just arrived in Canada and told him about his new job working as a chicken catcher and his hope of making the country a permanent home for his family.

But on May 26, while on the job at a poultry farm in Wetaskiwin, Alta., Reyes was struck by a Bobcat machine and died on the spot.

“There are a lot of bad people in the world,” Gutierrez says in Filipino. “Why does it have to be him?”

Reyes was not the first migrant worker to suffer this fate.

According to Syed Hussan, executive director of the Migrant Workers Alliance for Change, there hasn’t been a national assessment on the number of migrant workers who have died on the job in Canada. However, in the shadow of the pandemic, these deaths and the rights of migrants have found their way to public discussions.

Migrant Workers Alliance says four migrant workers have died of COVID-19 since the pandemic began in Canada last year.

Hussan said in 2021 alone, there have been at least 10 migrant workers who died of various causes on farms. One of those, Mexican migrant Fausto Ramirez Plazas, died of COVID-19.

Ramirez Plazas arrived in Canada shortly after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced a mandatory 14-day quarantine for international arrivals. Five workers, including Ramirez Plazas, have died while in quarantine, but there has been no assessment of the causes of death for the other four migrants, Hussan said.

He said, based on families asking the organization for assistance and on cases it hears about, the number of migrant workers’ deaths in workplaces is severely underreported. Employers are more likely to violate these workers’ rights due to their temporary status and fail to report accidents, he said.

In some cases, he said, migrant workers were sent back to their country of origin and ended up dying outside of Canada. In other instances, when migrant workers develop sickness, like cancer due to years of exposure to pesticides, they are sent back to their country and not invited back, he said.

“It’s very difficult to count all of the people who have died as a direct result of working in Canada,” Hussan said, but he believes the numbers are “quite astonishing.”

When a migrant worker gets injured, they are typically supposed to make a claim along with their employer to their province’s workers’ compensation board. However, Hussan said there’s little to no data when it comes to injured migrant workers or one that accounts for the number of deaths.

The federal government, on the other hand, only regulates a number of industries such as airline attendants, interprovincial truck drivers and federal employees.

Chris Ramsaroop is an organizer for the advocacy group Justice for Migrant Workers. He said in some cases when a worker dies on the job, workers’ compensation provides support for the family.

Depending on the number of years the person has been working in Canada, their family could also get survivor benefits from the Canadian pension plan.

“It’s also incumbent on the provincial Ministry of Labour to both prosecute and hold employers accountable,” Ramsaroop added.

In Reyes’s case, his family will receive benefits from his employment insurance and from the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration in which he’s an active member.

All Filipino temporary foreign workers need to register with OWWA before they work outside the Philippines to ensure coverage in case of their deaths. It also co-ordinates repatriation of remains.

Calgary’s Philippine Consulate General Zaldy Patron said his office, along with OWWA, is in touch with Reyes’ workplace, Elite Poultry Services, with regards to supporting Reyes’ family and in finding a funeral home to lay his body before repatriation to the Philippines.

In a statement, Elite Poultry Services says it’s still investigating the accident and co-operating fully with authorities.

“We are saddened by the loss of one of our team members,” it reads. “Our sympathies and condolences go out to the family and those involved in the incident.”

Hussan says there needs to be a greater push to improve the lives of migrant workers in Canada.

“We have a federal government who are well aware of what the crisis is and what the solutions are,” Hussan said. “Most people will tell you not having permanent residency is the reason people don’t have full rights.”

“The question we need to ask is,” Hussan added, “what is politically stopping the decision-makers from doing the right thing?”

When asked who takes responsibility for migrant workers’ deaths in Canada, he answered, “Nobody takes responsibility. That’s the problem.”

“That’s why our people keep dying, and all you get are platitudes.”

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada as well as Employment and Social Development Canada did not respond in time for publication to requests for comment on the federal government’s role when a migrant worker is injured or dies on the job.

Gutierrez recalls Reyes telling him how tough his job as a chicken catcher was. When grabbing chickens for processing, he would hold five of them in his right hand and four in the left.

“He said he felt three times more exhausted in his new job compared to the last one,” Gutierrez remembers. “But he said it was all worth it for his family.”

He wants Reyes to be remembered as a kind friend who had big dreams not just for himself but for his family.

Mostly, his family.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 13, 2021.

Arvin Joaquin, The Canadian Press

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