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North Korea tells US it is prepared to discuss denuclearisation

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North Korea has told the United States for the first time that it is prepared to discuss denuclearisation.

Washington had previously heard from South Korea that the North was willing to negotiate on the issue – but no direct discussion had taken place.

Secret talks between the US and North Korea have now reportedly seen Pyongyang reveal directly its willingness to discuss the denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula.

Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un are due to meet in May, after the US President tweeted he would meet with the North Korean leader several weeks ago.

“Great progress being made but sanctions will remain until an agreement is reached,” Mr Trump tweeted. “Meeting being planned!”




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Kim visits China in first overseas trip as leader

The extraordinary turn of events came after South Korea’s national security adviser revealed Mr Kim was willing to meet with Mr Trump, and that he would “refrain from any further nuclear or missile test” and was “committed to denuclearisation”.

If it goes ahead the meeting will follow a summit between the leaders of North and South Korea on 27 April – only the third ever to be held between the two countries.

A date for the historic event was set last month, shortly after Mr Kim told China he was committed to denuclearisation during a trip to Beijing – his first foreign trip as North Korean leader.

The shift in tone around North Korean diplomacy has come as a surprise to many – particularly since Mr Trump promised to bring “fire and fury” to the state if it continued with nuclear threats.


Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un



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Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un trade insults

No serving US President has ever met with a North Korean leader, the two countries do not have formal diplomatic relations and they are still technically at war following the 1950-53 Korean conflict.

Former US ambassador to South Korea Christopher Hill said North Korea’s invitation was “quite extraordinary”, saying that North Korean officials had previously extended invitations, but the US had not agreed.

More questions than answers still remain over the planned meeting, however, including over understood definitions of “denuclearisation” and what expectations on the US and South Korea might involve.

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North Korea troops shot dead South Korean official and burned his body, Seoul claims | UK News

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A South Korean government official was shot and killed by troops in North Korea who set his body on fire over fears he might be carrying coronavirus, officials in Seoul have claimed.

The South’s defence ministry said the 47-year-old government official had been killed and his corpse burned after disappearing from an inspection boat in waters off the western border island of Yeonpyeong on Monday.

South Korea‘s President Moon Jae-in called the killing a “shocking” and “unpardonable” act and demanded the North punish those responsible.

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South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in called the killing a ‘shocking’ and ‘unpardonable’ act

North Korea sent staff in gas masks aboard a boat near the man to find out why he was there on Tuesday afternoon, South Korea’s Defence Ministry said.

Later in the day, a North Korean navy boat arrived and opened fire at him, they added.

Sailors from the boat, wearing gas masks and protective suits, then poured petrol on his body and set it on fire, the ministry said, citing intelligence gathered by surveillance equipment and other assets.

It is unclear what caused the official’s death and whether he died after being shot.

Citing intelligence sources, the South’s military said the unidentified man appeared to have been questioned at sea – north of the border and around 24 miles from where he went missing – before he was executed on an “order from a superior authority”.

If confirmed by the North’s officials, it would be the first time that North Korea has killed a South Korean citizen in its territory since 2008.

The South Korean government did not know how he came to have crossed the border, but a defence official said the man may have been trying to defect to the North.

The demilitarised zone separating North and South Korea
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The demilitarised zone separating North and South Korea

The official said the man was wearing a life jacket on a small floating object and that the military had obtained information that he wanted to go to North Korea.

“Our military strongly condemns such an atrocity, and strongly demands North Korea provide explanations and punish those who are responsible,” General Ahn Young-ho, who is in charge of operations at the South’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, said.

Officials believe that military in Pyongyang may have decided to kill the man in line with stringent anti-coronavirus rules that involve shooting anyone illegally crossing the border.

North-South relations are expected to sour further as a result of the killing.

In June, North Korea blew up an inter-Korean liaison office on its territory in protest against South Korean civilians sending anti-North leaflets across the border.

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Trump booed and heckled by mourners while paying respects to Ruth Bader Ginsburg | US News

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Donald Trump has been booed and heckled while paying his respects to Ruth Bader Ginsburg, whose death has triggered a political row.

The president and wife Melania, both wearing masks, stood a few metres behind the late Supreme Court Justice’s coffin in Washington DC as her body lay in repose at the country’s highest court.

On Friday, she will be moved to lie in state at the US Capitol – the first woman to receive such an honour, before being buried next week in a private service at Arlington National Cemetery.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg honoured in Court ceremony
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A ceremony took place on Wednesday for Justice Ginsburg at the country’s highest court

Mr Trump has sparked controversy by planning to replace her on the court before November’s presidential election.

Moments after he arrived at the court, booing could be heard from some in the crowd who then briefly chanted: “Vote him out”.

He is set to announce on Saturday his nominee to fill the seat of the liberal-leaning justice and women’s rights champion.

The 87-year-old, also known as RBG, had sat on the Supreme Court since 1993 until her death on Friday due to complications from pancreatic cancer.

Her dying wish was reportedly that she would not be replaced until a new president was installed.

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden has accused Mr Trump of an “abuse of power” over his plans to replace her before the 3 November poll.

Mr Biden urged Senate Republicans to delay any vote on her replacement until after the election.

Democrats argue that voters should have their say first on election day and the winner of the White House battle should fill the post.

The procedure for appointing a Supreme Court justice allows the president to nominate a candidate and then requires the Senate to confirm them.

This would give Mr Trump the opportunity to expand the court’s conservative majority to 6-3, from 5-4.

It had previously been made up of an even balance of four liberal justices and four conservatives, with Anthony Kennedy considered a more neutral member of the court who would frequently become the swing vote in 5-4 decisions.

Mr Trump replaced him with conservative judge Brett Kavanaugh when he retired in 2018.

Democrats have pointed to the Republican Senate’s refusal in 2016 to act on then president Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee.

Conservative Antonin Scalia had died 10 months before that year’s election, and Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell then said the Senate should not act on a nominee during an election year.

It was Justice Ginsburg's dying wish to not be replaced until a new president is in power
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Justice Ginsburg was a liberal and a women’s rights champion

But McConnell has reversed his stance this time and is pushing ahead with plans to begin the confirmation process, vowing to vote this year on Mr Trump’s nominee.

It would take four Republicans to break ranks to keep Mr Trump’s nominee off the court.

The president has refused to commit to a peaceful transfer of power if he loses November’s election and said he believes the Supreme Court could end up deciding the result.

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Announcing a nominee on Saturday would leave less than 40 days for the Senate to hold a confirmation vote before the election.

No nominee has won confirmation that quickly since Sandra Day O’Connor became the first woman to serve on the Supreme Court in 1981.

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Coronavirus: Italy president fires back at Boris Johnson over COVID remark | Politics News

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Italy’s president has hit back at Boris Johnson after he suggested the UK had higher coronavirus infection rates because it was a more “freedom-loving country”.

In parliament this week, the prime minister was quizzed about why Germany and Italy appeared to have lower COVID-19 rates than the Britain.

Mr Johnson disputed a claim that the relative success of different countries’ test and trace schemes was a factor.

And the PM added that there was “an important difference between our country and many other countries around the world: our country is a freedom-loving country”.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson making a statement to MPs in the House of Commons on the latest situation with the coronavirus pandemic.
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The PM had told MPs: ‘Our country is a freedom-loving country’

“If we look at the history of this country over the past 300 years, virtually every advance, from free speech to democracy, has come from this country,” he continued.

“It is very difficult to ask the British population uniformly to obey guidelines in the way that is necessary.”

Asked about Mr Johnson’s comments, Italian President Sergio Mattarella said on Thursday: “We Italians also love freedom, but we also care about seriousness.”

The Reuters news agency reported Mr Mattarella was asked about Mr Johnson during a private conversation, but his words were swiftly reported in the local media and his office confirmed the remarks.

According to a tally by the Johns Hopkins University, the UK has been the worst-affected country in Europe from COVID-19 in terms of death, ahead of Italy, France and then Spain.



Boris Johnson battles thunder to get his message about coronavirus out







PM’s app message during thunderclap

Germany has suffered less than one-quarter of the number of deaths the UK has, according to the tally.

It is not the first time Mr Johnson’s comments have prompted a response from an Italian politician.

In 2016, Mr Johnson – then foreign secretary – was accused of “insulting” the country’s government by claiming Italy should support a generous post-Brexit trade deal in order to prevent a decline in its exports of prosecco.

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The prime minister’s fiancee, Carrie Symonds, was this week photographed in Lake Como, northern Italy, with the Daily Mail website reporting she had been spending a few days with the couple’s baby, WIlfred, and friends.

Downing Street recently condemned “completely untrue” claims that Mr Johnson travelled through Perugia airport on a secretive trip this month.

And the president of the airport said on Monday there had been an “error” in a previous statement and that Mr Johnson did not recently land there.

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