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Trump, Kim share smiles, dinner before nuke talks

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HANOI, Vietnam — U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, leaders of two nations with a long history of hostilities, opened their second summit Wednesday with smiles, hopeful talk and a friendly dinner that will set the stage for more difficult talks to come about curbing North Korea’s pursuit of nuclear weapons.

Facing widespread skepticism about what they can achieve, the two men exchanged a warm handshake before a phalanx of alternating American and North Korean flags before disappearing for a private, 30-minute pre-dinner chat.

“A lot of things are going to be solved I hope,” Trump said as dinner commenced. “I think it will lead to a wonderful, really a wonderful situation long-term.”

Kim, for his part, said that his country had been “misunderstood” and viewed with “distrust.”

“There have been efforts, whether out of hostility or not, to block the path that we intend to take,” he said. “But we have overcome all these and walked toward each other again and we’ve now reached Hanoi after 261 days” since their first meeting in Singapore.

“We have met again here and I am confident that we can achieve great results that everyone welcomes.”

For all of the optimistic talk, there was broad concern that Trump, eager for an agreement, would give Kim too much and get too little in return — perhaps a peace declaration for the Korean War that the North could use to eventually push for the reduction of U.S. troops in South Korea, for example, or sanctions relief that could allow Pyongyang to pursue lucrative economic projects with the South.

Skeptics insist Trump must first get real progress on the North abandoning its nuclear weapons before giving away important negotiating leverage.

Asked if this summit would yield a political declaration to end the Korean War, Trump told reporters: “We’ll see.”

The two leaders were joined for an intimate dinner by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, Kim Yong Chol, a former military spy chief and Kim’s point man in negotiations, and North Korean Foreign Affairs Minister Ri Yong Ho. Interpreters for each side also attended.

As Trump reached for a summit victory abroad, back in Washington his former personal attorney, Michael Cohen, was prepared to deliver explosive testimony on Capitol Hill that the president is a “racist,” a “conman” and a “cheat.” Unable to ignore the drama playing out thousands of miles away, Trump tweeted that Cohen, who has been sentenced to three years in prison for lying to Congress, “did bad things unrelated to Trump” and “is lying in order to reduce his prison time.”

Anticipation for what could be accomplished at the summit ran high in Hanoi. But the carnival-like atmosphere in the Vietnamese capital, with street artists painting likenesses of the leaders and vendors hawking T-shirts showing Kim waving and Trump giving a thumbs-up, contrasted with the serious items on their agenda: North Korea’s nuclear weapons program and peace on the Korean Peninsula.

Trump has been trying to convince Kim that his nation could thrive economically like the host country, Vietnam, if he would end his nuclear weapons program.

“I think that your country has tremendous economic potential — unbelievable, unlimited,” Trump said. “I think that you will have a tremendous future with your country — a great leader — and I look forward to watching it happen and helping it to happen.”

The summit venue, the colonial and neoclassical Sofitel Legend Metropole in the old part of Hanoi, came with a dose of history: Trump was trying to talk Kim into giving up his nuclear arsenal at a hotel with a bomb shelter that protected the likes of actress Jane Fonda and singer Joan Baez from American air raids during the Vietnam War.

Trump and Kim first met last June in Singapore, a summit that was long on historic pageantry but short on any enforceable agreements for North Korea to give up its nuclear arsenal. North Korea has spent decades, at great economic sacrifice, building its nuclear program, and there are doubts that it will give away that program without getting something substantial from the U.S.

The Korean conflict ended in 1953 with an armistice, essentially a cease-fire signed by North Korea, China and the 17-nation, U.S.-led United Nations Command. A peace declaration would amount to a political statement, ostensibly teeing up talks for a formal peace treaty that would involve other nations.

North and South Korea also want U.S. sanctions dialed back so they can resurrect two major symbols of rapprochement that provided much-needed hard currency to North Korea: a jointly run factory park in Kaesong and South Korean tours to the North’s scenic Diamond Mountain resort.

Ahead of the private dinner, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders excluded some U.S. reporters, including The Associated Press, after reporters asked questions of Trump during a previous photo opportunity. “Due to the sensitive nature of the meetings we have limited the pool for the dinner to a smaller group,” she said in a statement.

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AP journalists Hau Dinh and Hyung-jin Kim in Hanoi and Kim Tong-hyung in Seoul, South Korea, contributed to this report.

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

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









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Supreme Court to rule on constitutionality of genetic discrimination law

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OTTAWA — The Supreme Court of Canada is slated to rule this morning on the constitutionality of a federal law that forbids companies from making people undergo genetic testing before buying insurance or other services.

The Genetic Non-Discrimination Act also outlaws the practice of requiring the disclosure of existing genetic test results as a condition for obtaining such services or entering into a contract.

The act is intended to ensure Canadians can take genetic tests to help identify health risks without fear they will be penalized when seeking life or health insurance.

The law, passed three years ago, is the result of a private member’s bill that was introduced in the Senate and garnered strong support from MPs despite opposition from then-justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould.

The Quebec government referred the new law to the provincial Court of Appeal, which ruled in 2018 that it strayed beyond the federal government’s jurisdiction over criminal law.

The Canadian Coalition for Genetic Fairness then challenged the ruling in the Supreme Court of Canada, which heard the appeal last October.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 10, 2020.

The Canadian Press

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North Atlantic right whales nearing extinction, international nature body says

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OTTAWA — North Atlantic right whales are now considered one step away from complete eradication.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature is moving the whales from “endangered” to “critically endangered” on its red list of global species facing threats to their survival.

The only step beyond “critically endangered” is extinction.

Fewer than 250 mature whales were known to exist at the end of 2018, in a total population of only about 400.

More than 30 whales have been killed by ships or fishing gear entanglements in the last three years, two-thirds of them in Canadian waters.

The conservation group classified right whales as endangered in 2008, and since then the population has declined more than 15 per cent.

Sean Brillant, a senior conservation biologist with the Canadian Wildlife Federation in Halifax, says the change in status is not surprising and should put even more pressure on governments in Canada and the United States to do more to stop these whales from being wiped out.

“We are an affluent country with an incredible amount of knowledge and resources, we have good controls over our oceans industry,” he said. “And we can’t figure this out? How embarrassing. We need to step up and solve this problem.”

He said Canada has done a lot in recent years to try to protect the whales, including closing fisheries and implementing speed limits for boats. This year, more than 12,000 square kilometres of the Gulf of St. Lawrence has already been closed to fixed-gear fishing until November, because so many North Atlantic right whales were spotted in the region this summer.

Department of Fisheries and Oceans rules close about 2,000 square kilometres for 15 days around a place where a whale is spotted; if a whale is spotted within that area again in that period, the area closes for the rest of the season.

Brillant said it’s still not enough. Oceans Canada recently called on Ottawa to make speed limits in the Cabot Strait mandatory instead of voluntary after research showed most ship captains were choosing not to follow it. The Cabot Strait is the entrance to the Gulf of St. Lawrence between Newfoundland and Cape Breton that most of the whales use.

Brillant also said speed limits are better than nothing but the only full solution is to prevent the ships from going near the whales at all.

Amy Butcher, a spokeswoman for Transport Minister Marc Garneau, said the government has mandatory speed restrictions in most of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, and this year imposed a new restricted area that requires ships to stay away or reduce speeds even further from 10 knots to eight.

“Our government takes the protection and recovery of the North Atlantic right whale very seriously,” she said.

Brillant said so far this year has been positive with no whales dying in Canadian waters thus far. Two calves have died in American waters, and one of their mothers has not been seen since the calf showed up dead. Both calves were killed by ships, and one was hit by ships twice in its seven months of life.

The whales, which migrate along the eastern coast of North America, spend winters off Florida and Georgia before migrating north to New England and Atlantic Canada in the summer. 

The whales are threatened by a combination of factors, including climate change, which appears to be driving them further north in the summer months to find food. Brillant said before 2017, surveys of the whales in the Gulf of St. Lawrence were limited, but when that work began in more detail, it was clear there were a lot of whales present in waters that opened them up to serious risk of being hit by big ships or tangled in fishing lines.

Brillant said in addition to the 31 whales that have died, at least another 10 have been entangled with fishing gear, most of them in Canada. Whales tangled up in fishing gear are “as good as dead” because they cannot reproduce and their prospects for survival are not good.

“We are not going to be graded on good intentions and good decisions unless we get the results. And the results have to be that we don’t drive this species to extinction.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 9, 2020.

Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press

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