U.S. open to North Korea talks despite missile program activity

FILE PHOTO: Intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) are driven past the stand with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and other high-ranking officials during a military parade marking the 105th birth anniversary of the country's founding father Kim Il Sung, in Pyongyang April 15, 2017. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj/File Photo

By David Brunnstrom and Hyonhee Shin

WASHINGTON/SEOUL (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump is open to additional talks with Pyongyang over denuclearization, his national security adviser said on Thursday, despite reports that North Korea is reactivating parts of its missile program.

New activity has been detected at a factory that produced North Korea’s first intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) capable of reaching the United States, South Korea’s JoongAng Ilbo and Donga Ilbo newspapers reported, citing lawmakers briefed by the National Intelligence Service.

This week, two U.S. think tanks and Seoul’s spy agency said North Korea was rebuilding a rocket launch site, prompting Trump to say he would be “very, very disappointed in Chairman Kim” if it were true.

The reports of North Korean activity raise more questions about the future of the dialogue Trump has pursued with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un after a second summit between the two leaders in Vietnam broke down last week.White House national security adviser John Bolton said on Thursday that Trump was still open to additional talks with North Korea over denuclearization.

“The president’s obviously open to talking again. We’ll see when that might be scheduled or how it might work out,” Bolton said in an interview with Fox News.

He said it was too soon to make a determination on the reports of the North Korean activities.

“We have a lot of ways of getting information,” he said. “We’re going to study the situation carefully. As the president said, it would be very, very disappointing if they were taking this direction.”

The Vietnam summit between Kim and Trump last week collapsed over differences on how far North Korea was willing to limit its nuclear program and the degree of U.S. willingness to ease economic sanctions against the isolated country.

Trump, eager for a big foreign policy win on North Korea that has eluded his predecessors for decades, has repeatedly stressed his good relationship with Kim. He went as far late last year as saying they “fell in love,” but the bonhomie has failed so far to bridge the wide gap between the two sides.

MISSILE FACTORY

Movement of cargo vehicles was spotted recently around a North Korean factory at Sanumdong in Pyongyang, which produced ICBMs.

South Korean spy chief Suh Hoon told lawmakers he viewed the activity as missile-related, the JoongAng Ilbo said. It quoted Suh as saying North Korea continued to run its uranium enrichment facility at the main Yongbyon nuclear complex after a first summit between Trump and Kim last June in Singapore.

The Sanumdong factory produced the Hwasong-15 ICBM, which can fly more than 13,000 km (8,080 miles). After its test flight in 2017, North Korea declared the completion of its “state nuclear force,” before pursuing talks with South Korea and the United States last year.

South Korea’s presidential office and defense ministry declined to confirm the reports on Sanumdong, saying they were closely monitoring North Korea’s activities together with the United States.

The U.S. State Department said it could not comment on intelligence matters.

Separately, U.S. think tanks reported on Thursday that North Korea’s Sohae Satellite Launching Station appeared to be operational again after work that began days before Trump met with Kim in Hanoi.

Washington’s Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank called the work a “snapback” after North Korea partially dismantled the site, acting on a pledge by Kim to Trump at the Singapore summit.

“The rebuilding activities at Sohae demonstrate how quickly North Korea can easily render reversible any steps taken towards scrapping its WMD program with little hesitation,” it said.

“North Korea’s actions constitute an affront to the president’s diplomatic strategy (and) demonstrate North Korean pique at Trump’s refusal to lift economic sanctions during the meetings in Hanoi.”

The Washington-based 38 North think tank also said the Sohae site appeared now to have returned to normal operational status.

FILE PHOTO: North Korean leader Kim Jong Un makes his way to board a train to depart for North Korea at Dong Dang railway station in Vietnam, March 2, 2019. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

FILE PHOTO: North Korean leader Kim Jong Un makes his way to board a train to depart for North Korea at Dong Dang railway station in Vietnam, March 2, 2019. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

SANCTIONS WARNING

Some analysts see the work as aimed at pressing Washington to agree to a deal, rather than as a definite move to resume tests.

A U.S. government source, who did not want to be identified, said North Korea’s plan in rebuilding the site could have been to offer a demonstration of good faith by conspicuously stopping again if a summit pact was struck, while furnishing a sign of defiance or resolve if the meeting failed.

Imagery from Planet Labs Inc analyzed by the Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies in California showed activity at Sohae from Feb. 23 until Wednesday.

38 North said photos from Wednesday showed the rail-mounted transfer building used to move rockets at the site was complete, cranes had been removed from the launch pad and the transfer building moved to the end of the pad.

“But we don’t draw any conclusions from that besides they are restoring the facility,” Joel Wit of 38 North told Reuters. “There is no evidence to suggest anything more than that.”

On Wednesday, Bolton, a hardliner who was argued for a tough approach to North Korea in the past, warned of new sanctions if it did not scrap its weapons program.

Despite the sanctions talk, there have been signs across Asia that Trump’s “maximum pressure” sanctions campaign against North Korea has sprung leaks.

In a new sanctions breach, three South Korean companies were found to have brought in more than 13,000 tons of North Korean coal, worth 2.1 billion won ($2 million) since 2017, by making it out to have been produced in China and Vietnam, South Korea said.

North Korean media has given conflicting signals about its relations with the United States, while appearing to target Bolton as a spoiler.

Its state television aired a 78-minute documentary late on Wednesday focused on showing a cordial mood between Trump and Kim as the summit ended, indicating Pyongyang was not about to walk away from negotiations, experts say.

It also showed a stone-faced Bolton during a meeting in Hanoi, while Trump and other U.S. participants were all smiles.

In a return to a more usual, strident tone, the KCNA news agency criticized new small-scale military exercises that the United States and South Korea plan to hold instead of a large-scale spring exercise they have called off.

The news agency said the drills would be a “violent violation” of agreements signed between the United States and North Korea as well as between the two Koreas.

The U.S. and South Korean militaries said last week that they would not carry out a large-scale spring joint military exercises, replacing it with smaller-scale ones.

(Reporting by Jeff Mason and David Brunnstrom; additional reporting by Mark Hosenball, David Alexander and Tim Ahmann in Washington and Hyonhee Shin and Joyce Lee in Seoul; Editing by Clarence Fernandez and Alistair Bell)

Trump and North Korea’s Kim predict success in high-stakes nuclear summit

U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un shake hands before their one-on-one chat during the second U.S.-North Korea summit at the Metropole Hotel in Hanoi, Vietnam February 27, 2019. REUTERS/Leah Millis

By Soyoung Kim and Jeff Mason

HANOI (Reuters) – North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Donald Trump met in Vietnam on Wednesday for a second summit that the United States hopes will persuade North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons in exchange for promises of peace and development.

Kim and Trump shook hands and smiled briefly in front of a row of their national flags at the Metropole hotel in the Vietnamese capital, Hanoi, before heading to dinner together.

Trump told reporters he thought the talks would be very successful, and asked if he was “walking back” on denuclearization, said “no”.

At their historic first summit in Singapore last June, Trump and Kim pledged to work toward denuclearization and permanent peace on the Korean peninsula but little progress has been made.

Kim said they had overcome obstacles to hold their second summit and praised Trump for his “courageous decision” to begin a dialogue.

“Now that we’re meeting here again like this, I’m confident that there will be an excellent outcome that everyone welcomes, and I’ll do my best to make it happen,” Kim said.

Trump and Kim held a 20-minute, one-on-one chat before sitting down to dinner with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo Trump’s acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, Kim’s top envoy, Kim Yong Chol, and North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho.

On Thursday, the two leaders will hold a series of meetings, the White House said. The venue has not been announced.

“We’re going to have a very busy day tomorrow,” said a smiling, relaxed-looking Trump, seated beside Kim at a round table with the other four officials and two interpreters.

“Our relationship is a very special relationship.”

Experts said the pair were at pains to show their relationship had improved since their first meeting, with their body language closely mirroring each other.

A child with stickers of the North Korean and Vietnamese flags on her face reacts at the Vietnam-North Korea Friendship kindergarten, founded by North Korean Government in Hanoi, ahead of the North Korea-U.S. summit in Hanoi, Vietnam February 27, 2019. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha

A child with stickers of the North Korean and Vietnamese flags on her face reacts at the Vietnam-North Korea Friendship kindergarten, founded by North Korean Government in Hanoi, ahead of the North Korea-U.S. summit in Hanoi, Vietnam February 27, 2019. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha

GOOD RELATIONS

Trump said late last year he and Kim “fell in love”, but whether the bonhomie can move them beyond summit pageantry to substantive progress on eliminating Pyongyang’s nuclear arsenal that threatens the United States is the question that will dominate the talks.

Trump and Kim’s Singapore summit, the first meeting between a sitting U.S. president and a North Korean leader, ended with great fanfare but little substance over how to dismantle North Korea’s nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles.

In the run-up to this summit, Trump has indicated a more flexible stance, saying he was in no rush to secure North Korea’s denuclearization. He repeated that on Wednesday, saying while some people believed the talks should be moving more quickly, he was satisfied.

He has also said he would be happy as long as North Korea, which has not tested a nuclear weapon or intercontinental ballistic missile since 2017, maintained that freeze.

Some critics have said Trump appeared to be wavering on a long-standing U.S. demand for complete and irreversible denuclearization by North Korea and risked squandering leverage if he gave away too much, too quickly.

Asked if he would declare a formal end to the Korean War, which North Korea has long called for, Trump said: “We’ll see.”

North and South Korea have been technically at war since their 1950-53 conflict, with the Americans backing the South, ended in a truce, not a treaty.

Evans Revere, a former U.S. negotiator with North Korea, said Trump was under pressure, given the criticism and other domestic problems, and Kim might try to use that.

“Kim may be tempted to push Trump even harder for concessions, knowing how much the president wants and needs that testing pause,” Revere said.

Students from Nguyen Du secondary school hold U.S. and Vietnam flags outside the Presidential Palace, as they wait for wait to greet U.S. President Donald Trump, in Hanoi, Vietnam, February 27, 2019. REUTERS/Leah Millis

Students from Nguyen Du secondary school hold U.S. and Vietnam flags outside the Presidential Palace, as they wait for wait to greet U.S. President Donald Trump, in Hanoi, Vietnam, February 27, 2019. REUTERS/Leah Millis

‘AWESOME’ POTENTIAL

U.S. intelligence officials have said there is no sign North Korea will ever give up its entire arsenal of nuclear weapons, which it sees as its guarantee of national security. Analysts say it won’t commit to significant disarmament unless punishing U.S.-led economic sanctions are eased.

The two sides have discussed specific and verifiable denuclearization measures, such as allowing inspectors to observe the dismantlement of North Korea’s Yongbyon nuclear reactor, U.S. and South Korean officials say.

U.S. concessions could include opening liaison offices or clearing the way for inter-Korean projects.

Despite little progress on his goal of ridding North Korea of its weapons programs, Trump appeared to be betting on his personal relationship with Kim, and the economic incentive after 70 years of hostility between their countries.

“Vietnam is thriving like few places on earth. North Korea would be the same, and very quickly, if it would denuclearize,” Trump said on Twitter ahead of the meeting.

“The potential is AWESOME, a great opportunity, like almost none other in history, for my friend Kim Jong Un. We will know fairly soon – Very Interesting!”

For Trump, a deal that eases the North Korean threat could hand him a big foreign-policy achievement in the midst of domestic troubles.

While he is in Hanoi, his former personal lawyer Michael Cohen is testifying before U.S. congressional committees, with the president’s business practices the main focus.

Cohen, in wide-ranging testimony he is due to deliver on Wednesday, refers to a comment Trump made to him about avoiding the U.S. military draft for the Vietnam War on medical grounds: “‘You think I’m stupid, I wasn’t going to Vietnam’,” Cohen cited Trump as saying.

“I find it ironic, President Trump, that you are in Vietnam right now,” Cohen said in a draft statement seen by Reuters.

Trump, responding to the statement on Twitter, said Cohen was lying to reduce his prison time. He declined to respond when a reporter asked him about Cohen later.

 

(Reporting by Soyoung Kim and Jeff Mason in HANOI; Additional reporting by Hyonhee Shin, James Pearson, Mai Nyugen, Ju-min Park, Khanh Vu, Josh Smith in HANOI, David Brunnstrom and Matt Spetalnick in WASHINGTON; Editing by Robert Birsel and Lincoln Feast)

North Korea warns U.S. skeptics as Kim heads for summit with Trump

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un waves from a train as he departs for a summit in Hanoi, in Pyongyang, North Korea in this photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on February 23, 2019. KCNA via REUTERS

By Jack Kim and Josh Smith

HANOI (Reuters) – North Korea warned President Donald Trump on Sunday not to listen to U.S. critics who were disrupting efforts to improve ties, as its leader, Kim Jong Un, made his way across China by train to a second summit with Trump in Vietnam.

The two leaders will meet in Hanoi on Wednesday and Thursday, eight months after their historic summit in Singapore, the first between a sitting U.S. president and a North Korean leader, where they pledged to work toward the complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.

But their vaguely worded agreement has produced few results and U.S. Democratic senators and U.S. security officials have warned Trump against cutting a deal that would do little to curb North Korea’s nuclear ambitions.

The North’s KCNA state news agency said such opposition was aimed at derailing the talks.

“If the present U.S. administration reads others’ faces, lending an ear to others, it may face the shattered dream of the improvement of the relations with the DPRK and world peace and miss the rare historic opportunity,” the news agency said in a commentary, referring to North Korea by the initials of its official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

The Trump administration has pressed the North to give up its nuclear weapons program, which, combined with its missile capabilities, pose a threat to the United States, before it can expect any concessions.

But in recent days Trump has signaled a possible softening, saying he would love to be able to remove sanctions if there is meaningful progress on denuclearization.

Trump also said he was in no rush and had no pressing schedule for North Korea’s denuclearization, hinting at a more gradual, reciprocal approach, long favored by Pyongyang.

The North also wants security guarantees and a formal end of the 1950-1953 Korean War, which ended in a truce, not a treaty.

Trump said on Sunday that he and Kim expect to make further progress at this week’s summit and again held out the promise that denuclearization would help North Korea develop its economy.

He also said Chinese President Xi Jinping has been supportive of Trump’s meeting with Kim. “The last thing China wants are large scale nuclear weapons right next door.”

TRUMP SCOFFS AT CRITICS

Trump scoffed at critics of his handling of North Korea.

“So funny to watch people who have failed for years, they got NOTHING, telling me how to negotiate with North Korea. But thanks anyway!” he said in a tweet.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told “Fox News Sunday” that North Korea has yet to take “concrete” steps on denuclearization and said another summit might be needed beyond the one in Hanoi, but that he hoped for substantial progress this week.

“The alternative to giving up his nuclear weapons is remaining a pariah state, remaining a nation that is unable to trade, unable to grow, unable to take care of its own people,” Pompeo said of Kim in an interview with CNN’s “State of the Union.”

In a letter to Trump last week, three Democratic chairmen of key committees in the House of Representatives accused the administration of withholding information on the negotiations with North Korea.

“There are ample reasons to be skeptical that Chairman Kim is committed to a nuclear-free North Korea,” the lawmakers wrote.

U.S. intelligence officials recently testified to Congress that North Korea was unlikely to ever give up its entire nuclear arsenal.

The New York Times reported on Sunday that Pompeo has conceded in private discussions with Korea experts that he would be lucky if North Korea agreed to dismantle 60 percent of what the United States has demanded, although he added that it would still be more than any other administration had achieved.

The State Department declined to comment on the report.

KCNA, referring to U.S. fears of the North’s weapons, said if this week’s talks ended without results, “the U.S. people will never be cleared of the security threats that threw them into panic”.

Few details of Kim’s trip to Vietnam were announced until early on Sunday, when North Korean state media confirmed he had left Pyongyang by train, accompanied by senior officials as well as his influential sister, Kim Yo Jong.

RED CARPET SEND-OFF

In rare, revealing coverage of Kim’s travel, the North’s Rodong Sinmun newspaper featured photographs of the leader getting a red-carpet send-off on Saturday afternoon and waving from a train door while holding a cigarette.

He was joined by top officials also involved in the Singapore summit, including Kim Yong Chol, former spy chief and Kim’s top envoy in negotiations with the United States, as well as senior party aide Ri Su Yong, Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho and defense chief No Kwang Chol.

Other senior officials, such as his de facto chief of staff, Kim Chang Son, and Kim Hyok Chol, negotiations counterpart to U.S. envoy Stephen Biegun, were already in Hanoi to prepare for the summit.

Both sides are under pressure to forge more specific agreements than were reached in Singapore.

The two leaders are likely to try to build on their personal connection to push things forward in Hanoi, even if only incrementally, analysts said.

“They will not make an agreement which breaks up the current flow of diplomacy. (President Trump) has mentioned that they’ll meet again; even if there is a low-level agreement, they will seek to keep things moving,” said Shin Beom-chul, a senior fellow at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies.

Few details of summit arrangements have been released.

Some lamp posts on Hanoi’s tree-lined streets are decked with North Korean, U.S. and Vietnamese flags fluttering above a handshake design, and security has been stepped up at locations that could be the summit venue, or where the leaders might stay.

It could take Kim at least 2-1/2 days to travel to Vietnam by train.

(Additional reporting by Joyce Lee, Ju-min Park, Soyoung Kim, Hyonhee Shin, James Pearson, and Ginger Gibson in Washington; Editing by Robert Birsel and Jeffrey Benkoe)

Trump won’t rush North Korea on denuclearization; peace deal possible

A person walks past a banner showing North Korean and U.S. flags ahead of the North Korea-U.S. summit in Hanoi, Vietnam, February 25, 2019. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

By Hyonhee Shin

HANOI (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korea’s Kim Jong Un will hold a second summit this week with no real expectation of a final deal on ridding the North of nuclear weapons but raised hopes on Monday for an official peace on the peninsula at long last.

The two leaders are due to meet in the Vietnamese capital, Hanoi, on Wednesday and Thursday, eight months after their historic summit in Singapore, the first between a sitting U.S. president and a North Korean leader.

At the time, they pledged to work toward the complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, but their vague agreement has produced few results. U.S. Democratic senators and security officials have warned Trump against cutting a deal that would do little to curb North Korea’s nuclear ambitions.

Trump, speaking in Washington on the eve of his departure for Vietnam, said he believed he saw eye to eye with Kim and that they had developed “a very, very good relationship”.

In a tweet on Monday, Trump stressed the benefits to North Korea if it gave up its nuclear weapons.

“With complete Denuclearization, North Korea will rapidly become an Economic Powerhouse. Without it, just more of the same. Chairman Kim will make a wise decision!”

Vietnamese police leave their headquarters to patrol ahead of the upcoming North Korea-U.S. summit in Hanoi, Vietnam February 25, 2019. Doan Tan/VNA via REUTERS

Vietnamese police leave their headquarters to patrol ahead of the upcoming North Korea-U.S. summit in Hanoi, Vietnam February 25, 2019. Doan Tan/VNA via REUTERS

A South Korean presidential spokesman told reporters in Seoul the two sides might agree to a formal end of the 1950-1953 Korean War, which the North has long called for as a major step towards normalizing ties.

“The possibility is there,” the spokesman, Kim Eui-kyeom told a briefing in Seoul when asked if an end-of-war declaration was on the agenda.

In a speech on Sunday night, Trump appeared to play down any hope of a major breakthrough, saying he would be happy as long as North Korea maintained its pause on weapons testing.

“I’m not in a rush. I don’t want to rush anybody,” he said. “I just don’t want testing. As long as there’s no testing, we’re happy.”

Trump is expected to leave for Vietnam at about 12:30 p.m. EST (1730 GMT).

North Korea conducted its last nuclear test, its sixth, in September 2017. It last tested an intercontinental ballistic missile in November 2017.

Before that freeze, the North conducted a series of tests that it says has given it powerful nuclear bombs and missiles capable of reaching the U.S. mainland.

The United States has for years demanded North Korea’s complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization before any concessions will be granted. North Korea denounced that stance as unilateral and “gangster-like”.

But in recent days, Trump has signaled a possible softening, saying he would love to be able to remove tough sanctions if there was meaningful progress on denuclearization.

Trump said he and Kim expected to make progress at the summit. He scoffed at critics of his handling of North Korea, and added that Chinese President Xi Jinping has been supportive of U.S. efforts.

A man walks past a banner depicting North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Donald Trump ahead of the North Korea-U.S. summit in Hanoi, Vietnam, February 25, 2019. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

A man walks past a banner depicting North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Donald Trump ahead of the North Korea-U.S. summit in Hanoi, Vietnam, February 25, 2019. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

LIMITED DEAL?

Speculation that the Trump administration is open to a limited deal at the summit has raised expectations the two sides might finally declare an end to a technical state of hostilities that has existed on the Korean peninsula since the Korean War ended with an armistice, not a truce.

In return, North Korea could allow international inspectors to observe the dismantlement of its nuclear reactor at Yongbyon, analysts say.

The United States could also agree to opening U.S.-North Korea liaison offices and allow some inter-Korean projects, provided the North takes steps toward denuclearization.

South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in, who supports opening up North Korea, praised both Trump and Kim in comments in Seoul, and said those opposed to better ties on the peninsula, and between North Korea and the United States, should “discard such biased perspectives”.

Trump is scheduled to arrive in Vietnam on Tuesday evening, Vietnam’s foreign ministry said. On Wednesday morning, Trump is set to meet Vietnam President Nguyen Phu Trong, who is also general secretary of the ruling Communist Party, the ministry said.

Vietnam has released few details about arrangements for the summit including its specific venue or timing.

Kim is making his way to Vietnam by train and passed through the Chinese city of Hengyang at about 3.30 p.m. (0730 GMT), South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reported.

That means he would be due to arrive in Vietnam early on Tuesday. No official details of his travel have been released.

(Additional reporting by Mai Nguyen and Josh Smith in HANOI and David Brunnstrom in WASHINGTON; Writing by Robert Birsel; Editing by Lincoln Feast and Bill Berkrot)

U.S. and North Korean officials met in Hanoi to discuss second Trump-Kim summit: South Korean newspaper

FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un walk after lunch at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa island in Singapore June 12, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst/File Photo

SEOUL (Reuters) – U.S. State Department officials recently met multiple times with North Korean counterparts in Hanoi and discussed planning a second summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, a South Korean newspaper reported on Monday.

U.S. officials discussed the schedule for the second Trump-Kim summit while in contact with North Korean officials in the Vietnamese capital city, fuelling speculation that Vietnam could host the event, the Munhwa Ilbo reported, citing unnamed diplomatic sources in Seoul and Washington.

Vietnam has diplomatic relations with both the United States and North Korea, with North Korea maintaining a diplomatic office in Vietnam, and has the symbolic significance of a communist country that has reformed its economy, the newspaper reported.

A spokesperson for the U.S Embassy in Seoul did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

On Sunday, Trump told reporters in Washington that the United States and North Korea are negotiating a location for a second summit.

“It will be announced probably in the not too distant future,” Trump said. They do want to meet and we want to meet and we’ll see what happens.”

While the two sides had a very good dialogue and the American president had communicated with Kim, Trump said sanctions would be enforced until more progress is made.

In a nationally televised New Year address, Kim said he is willing to meet Trump again anytime to achieve their common goal of denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula, but warned he may have to take an alternative path if U.S. sanctions and pressure against the country continued.

“I am always ready to sit together with the U.S. president anytime in the future, and will work hard to produce results welcomed by the international community without fail,” Kim said.

(Reporting by Joyce Lee; Editing by Michael Perry)

Thousands endure blazing Arizona heat to view Senator John McCain’s casket

Cindy McCain, wife of U.S. Senator John McCain, arrives with her sons Jack and Jimmy during a memorial service at the Arizona Capitol in Phoenix, Arizona, U.S., August 29, 2018. Ross D. Franklin/Pool via REUTERS

By David Schwartz

PHOENIX (Reuters) – Thousands of admirers of the late Senator John McCain stood in line for hours on Wednesday in the blazing Arizona sun and triple-digit heat for a chance to pay final respects to the war hero and two-time Republican presidential candidate.

The single-file procession through the Arizona Capitol rotunda, where McCain’s flag-draped coffin was lying in state, stretched across the statehouse plaza and widened to two or three abreast as it extended down adjacent streets.

More than a dozen canvas awnings were set up to provide shade for the throngs, with temperatures reaching 106 degrees Fahrenheit (41 degrees Celsius) at midday.

The public viewing of his casket, following a brief ceremony for family and dignitaries led by Governor Doug Ducey, came on the first of five days of memorial tributes planned for McCain, who died on Saturday from brain cancer. He was 81.

The onetime U.S. Navy fighter pilot endured 5-1/2 years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam before embarking on a celebrated political career. McCain stood out during the last two years as a key rival and critic of U.S. President Donald Trump, a fellow Republican whom McCain’s family has asked not to attend the funeral.

Members of the public listen to a private ceremony while waiting in line to pay their respects to U.S. Senator John McCain as he lies in state at the Arizona State Capitol in Phoenix, Arizona, U.S., August 29, 2018. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

Members of the public listen to a private ceremony while waiting in line to pay their respects to U.S. Senator John McCain as he lies in state at the Arizona State Capitol in Phoenix, Arizona, U.S., August 29, 2018. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

Among several thousand waiting to glimpse McCain’s coffin at Arizona’s Capitol was James Fine, 54, a Dallas funeral director who drove over 1,000 miles (1,609 km) to Phoenix to bid farewell to a man he called a “statesman.”

“I get up every day and read the news, and then I see what John McCain has to say,” Fine told Reuters. “They don’t make heroes like him anymore.”

Earlier, the hearse bearing McCain’s coffin was greeted outside the statehouse by National Guard troops, military veterans, law enforcement officers and firefighters, all in dress uniform and standing at attention as they saluted.

Inside, close relatives and dozens of politicians, including several former Republican colleagues from Arizona’s congressional delegation, paid tribute to McCain’s life and legacy during a 30-minute ceremony.

“He fought like hell for the causes he believed in,” Ducey said. “He did it with humor and humanity, and without compromising the principles he held so dear.”

McCain’s wife, Cindy, widely seen as a possible candidate for appointment to succeed her husband, led a procession of 90 mourners past his casket. She paused briefly, stooping down to rest her cheek on the coffin, then patted it gently.

Their daughter Meghan McCain, co-host of the television talk show “The View,” sobbed openly.

McCain will lie in state again at the U.S. Capitol on Friday, followed by a funeral Saturday at Washington’s National Cathedral and a burial on Sunday at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland.

Ducey has said he will wait until after McCain’s burial to name an immediate successor.

(Additional reporting by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles and Brian Snyder in Phoenix; writing by Steve Gorman; editing by Frances Kerry and Cynthia Osterman)

U.S. Senator John McCain loses fight with brain cancer, age 81

FILE PHOTO - Republican presidential hopeful John McCain points to his head during his Carolina kickoff rally at Presbyterian College February 2, 2000. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque/File Photo

Senator John McCain’s brave fight against cancer came to an end on Saturday afternoon.  The Senator had been battling glioblastoma, an aggressive form of brain cancer, diagnosed by his doctors in 2017.

A statement from his office on Saturday said: “Senator John Sidney McCain III died at 4:28 p.m. on August 25, 2018. With the senator when he passed were his wife Cindy and their family. At his death, he had served the United States of America faithfully for sixty years.”

McCain served in the military and was a prisoner of war for 5 1/2 years in Vietnam.  He was nominated as the 2008 Republican Presidential candidate with his running mate Sarah Palin and served as a U.S. Senator for the state of Arizona for close to three decades.  

“My heart is broken. I am so lucky to have lived the adventure of loving this incredible man for 38 years,” Cindy McCain wrote on Twitter. “He passed the way he lived, on his own terms, surrounded by the people he loved, in the place he loved best.”

Our deepest prayers are with his family.    

More than 3,000 Vietnamese fell victim to human traffickers in 2012-2017

FILE PHOTO - A woman walks along a dirt road during a misty day in Sapa, northwest Vietnam, May 23, 2011. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

By Khanh Vu

HANOI (Reuters) – More than 3,000 people in Vietnam, most of them women and children, were trafficked between 2012 and 2017, many of them into China, the Ministry of Public Security said on Friday, as parliament sought to tighten laws to tackle the problem.

Human traffickers took people from markets and schools, and used Facebook and a Vietnamese messaging app to befriend victims before selling them to karaoke bars, restaurants or smuggling them abroad, the ministry said in a statement.

Seventy-five percent of cases involved people being smuggled across the border into China, the ministry said.

“Human trafficking has been taking place across the country, not just in remote and mountainous areas,” Le Thi Nga, head of the National Assembly’s justice department, told a hearing on the problem on Thursday.

The National Assembly is reviewing its anti-human trafficking law, introduced in 2012.

Nga said enforcement of the law had faced “difficulties and shortcomings” and urged legislators to introduce more comprehensive guidelines.

The Ministry of Public Security said police had launched investigations into 1,021 human trafficking cases and arrested 2,035 people in the 2012-2017 period.

A total of 3,090 people had been victims of human trafficking during that time, the ministry said, of whom 90 percent were women and children from ethnic minorities living in remote, mountainous areas.

Vietnam should “reduce poverty, eradicate illiteracy, provide vocational training and create jobs for people – especially for the ethnic minorities”, to help address the problem, the ministry said.

(Reporting by Khanh Vu; Editing by James Pearson)

Vietnam flood death toll rises to 27, more rain forecast

A woman wades through a flooded village after heavy rainfall caused by tropical storm Son Tinh in Ninh Binh province, Vietnam, July 22, 2018. REUTERS/Kham

HANOI (Reuters) – The death toll from floods and landslides triggered by tropical storm Son Tinh rose to 27 on Tuesday, and seven people are still missing, the government’s Disaster Management Authority said.

With a long coastline, Vietnam is prone to destructive storms and flooding, with 389 people killed last year in natural disasters such as floods and landslides, according to government statistics.

A woman paddles past a submerged temple with her granddaughter after heavy rainfall caused by tropical storm Son Tinh at a village outside Hanoi, Vietnam July 24, 2018, REUTERS/Kham

A woman paddles past a submerged temple with her granddaughter after heavy rainfall caused by tropical storm Son Tinh at a village outside Hanoi, Vietnam July 24, 2018, REUTERS/Kham

Though tropical storm Son Tinh weakened to a tropical depression by the time it reached Vietnam last week, the torrential rains it brought caused heavy flooding and landslides in many parts of northern Vietnam. Some areas in the outskirts of the capital Hanoi remain submerged.

The remote mountainous province of Yen Bai has suffered the heaviest casualties in the latest floods and landslides, with 13 people reportedly killed, 18 injured and four missing, the disaster management agency said in a statement.

The floods and landslides have also damaged and submerged more than 12,000 houses, more than 90,000 hectares (222,395 acres) of crops, mostly paddy, and cut off traffic to several parts of northern Vietnam, the agency said.

Last month, heavy rains triggered flash floods and landslides which killed 24 people in the remote and mountainous northern provinces of Lai Chau and Ha Giang.

A man stands at his submerged house after heavy rainfall caused by tropical storm Son Tinh at a village outside Hanoi, Vietnam July 24, 2018, REUTERS/Kham

A man stands at his submerged house after heavy rainfall caused by tropical storm Son Tinh at a village outside Hanoi, Vietnam July 24, 2018, REUTERS/Kham

The agency urged the authorities and people to keep vigilant for more floods and landslides over the coming days.

According to the National Centre for Hydro-Meteorological Forecasting, heavy rain is forecast to continue in the northern part of the country until early August.

(Reporting by Mai Nguyen and Khanh Vu; Editing by Jacqueline Wong)

China installs cruise missiles on South China Sea outposts: CNBC

FILE PHOTO: Chinese dredging vessels are purportedly seen in the waters around Fiery Cross Reef in the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea in this still image from video taken by a P-8A Poseidon surveillance aircraft provided by the United States Navy May 21, 2015. U.S. Navy/Handout via Reuters/File Photo

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – China has installed anti-ship cruise missiles and surface-to-air missile systems on three of its outposts in the South China Sea, U.S. news network CNBC reported on Wednesday, citing sources with direct knowledge of U.S. intelligence reports.

The installations, if confirmed, would mark the first Chinese missile deployments in the Spratly Islands, where several Asian countries including Vietnam and Taiwan have rival claims.

China has made no mention of any missile deployments but says its military facilities in the Spratlys are purely defensive, and that it can do what it likes on its own territory.

China’s Defense Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the latest report.

The foreign ministry said China has irrefutable sovereignty over the Spratly Islands and that its necessary defensive deployments were for national security needs and not aimed at any country.

“Those who do not intend to be aggressive have no need to be worried or scared,” ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters in Beijing.

China “hopes relevant parties can objectively and calmly view this”, she added.

CNBC quoted unnamed sources as saying that according to U.S. intelligence assessments, the missiles were moved to Fiery Cross Reef, Subi Reef and Mischief Reef within the past 30 days.

The U.S. Defense Department, which opposes China’s installation of military facilities on outposts it has built up in the South China Sea, declined comment. “We don’t comment on matters of intelligence,” a spokesman said.

Greg Poling, a South China Sea expert at Washington’s Center for Strategic and International Studies think-tank, said deploying missiles on the outposts would be important.

“These would be the first missiles in the Spratlys, either surface to air, or anti-ship,” he said.

He added that such deployments were expected as China built missile shelters on the reefs last year and already deployed such missile systems on Woody Island further to the north.

Poling said it would be a major step on China’s road to dominating the South China Sea, a key global trade route.

“Before this, if you were one of the other claimants … you knew that China was monitoring your every move. Now you will know that you’re operating inside Chinese missile range. That’s a pretty strong, if implicit, threat,” he said.

CNBC said the YJ-12B anti-ship cruise missiles allowed China to strike vessels within 295 nautical miles. It said the HQ-9B long-range, surface-to-air missiles could target aircraft, drones and cruise missiles within 160 nautical miles.

Last month, U.S. Admiral Philip Davidson, nominated to head U.S. Pacific Command, said China’s “forward operating bases” in the South China Sea appeared complete.

“The only thing lacking are the deployed forces,” he said. Once these were added, “China will be able to extend its influence thousands of miles to the south and project power deep into Oceania”.

Davidson said China could use the bases to challenge the U.S. regional presence, and “would easily overwhelm the military forces of any other South China Sea-claimants.

“China is now capable of controlling the South China Sea in all scenarios short of war with the United States,” he said.

(Reporting by David Brunnstrom; Additional reporting by Ben Blanchard in BEIJING; Editing by Cynthia Osterman and Darren Schuettler)