Associated Press

Page: 7

The Latest on the sentencing of Hong Kong protest organizers (all times local):

11:40 a.m.

A court in Hong Kong handed down prison sentences of up to 16 months to eight leaders of massive 2014 pro-democracy protests after they were convicted last month of public nuisance offenses.

One other defendant, Tanya Chan, had her sentencing Wednesday postponed because of the need to undergo surgery.

The sentences are seen as an effort by the government of the semi-autonomous Chinese territory to draw a line under the protests. The charges carry potential sentences of up to seven years.

Three were given 16 months, one of them suspended for two years, two were given eight month sentences and two given suspended eight month sentences while another was ordered to perform 200 hours of community service.

It was not immediately clear if they planned to appeal.

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10 a.m.

A court in Hong Kong is preparing to sentence nine leaders of massive 2014 pro-democracy protests convicted last month of public nuisance offenses.

The sentences to be handed down Wednesday are seen as an effort by the government of the semi-autonomous Chinese territory to draw a line under the protests.

The nine were leaders of the “Occupy Central” campaign, which was organized as a nonviolent sit-in that became known as the “Umbrella Movement” after a symbol of defiance against police adopted by the street protests.

They could face up to seven years in prison.

Hong Kong, a former British colony, was handed over to Chinese rule in 1997 under an agreement in which China promised the city could retain its own laws, economic system and civil rights for 50 years.

Source: Fox News World

More than 350 people were killed in bombings of churches and hotels in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday.

Some details on the victims:

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SRI LANKA

The vast majority of victims were Sri Lankan, many from the nation’s Christian minority. Their names and details of their lives were slow to trickle in and difficult to report, in part because authorities blocked most social media after the blasts.

Colombo archbishop Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith says at least 110 people were killed at St. Sebastian’s Church in Negombo, a seaside town that’s the center of Sri Lanka’s small Catholic community

Sneha Savindi, 12, was among them. Her uncle, Duminda, said her badly wounded body was only identifiable by a birthmark on her foot. Stroking the sealed coffin, Savindi’s aunt, Lalitha, said, “I wanted to see you as a bride, but now you’re in this box.”

The Shangri-La Hotel in Colombo, the capital, said three of its employees died at work.

At the hotel restaurant, Nisanga Mayadunne posted a selfie on Facebook showing her and her relatives around a table, eating eggs and sausages. Moments later, she and her mother, Shantha Mayadunne, were killed.

Shantha was an acclaimed chef who hosted live cooking programs on Sri Lankan television.

“They were the most loving family anyone could ask for,” Manik Mayadunne, Nisanga’s cousin, wrote on his Facebook page Monday.

In some places, the violence struck entire families. On Easter Sunday, as they did every Sunday, Berlington Joseph Gomez, 33, and his wife, Chandrika Arumugam, 31, went to church at Colombo’s St. Anthony’s Shrine. As always, they brought their three sons: 9-year-old Bevon, 6-year-old Clavon and baby Avon, just 11 months old.

Two days later, they were all being mourned by dozens of neighbors gathered at the modest home of Berlington’s father, Joseph Gomez.

Candles burned beside three coffins and women sang hymns. The bodies of two grandsons have yet to be recovered.

“All family, all generation, is lost,” Gomez said.

Negombo resident Herman Peiris lost two sisters and two nieces — one of whom was about to get married. He said his sisters, Celine and Elizabeth, spent most of their time as involved members at St. Sebastian church, and now people in the community are afraid to go there. He called for more security and for leaders to take both the blame and action.

“We villagers, or civil people, we can’t do much,” Peiris said.

Carpenter Dileep Roshan, 37, left behind a wife and daughter, his family said.

“His wife and daughter won’t be able to do much now because he is gone,” said his older brother, Sanjeevani Roshan. “The real question is what will happen to their future.”

In addition to the suicide attacks at the hotels and churches, authorities have said two people were killed at a guesthouse and three police officers were killed by an explosion later Sunday that was set off by suspects trying to evade arrest.

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UNITED KINGDOM

Sri Lanka’s top diplomat in Britain says authorities know of eight British nationals killed in the bombings.

Londoner Matthew Linsey’s 15-year-old daughter, Amelie, and 19-year-old son, Daniel, died on the final day of their holiday while in the Shangri-La Hotel in Colombo. They apparently survived the first explosion but were killed by a second. Linsey described the event to The Times of London newspaper: “People were screaming. I was with my children. I couldn’t tell whether they were all right; it was dark. I was worried there would be another blast. We ran out — another blast.”

Lawyer Anita Nicholson, son Alex Nicholson and daughter Annabel Nicholson also died while on holiday and sitting at the Shangri-la Hotel restaurant, her husband, Ben Nicholson, said in a statement. He said, “The holiday we had just enjoyed was a testament to Anita’s enjoyment of travel and providing a rich and colorful life for our family, and especially our children.”

Former firefighter Bill Harrop and doctor Sally Bradley, a British couple who lived in Australia, were killed in one of the hotels, a family statement to The Australian newspaper said.

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INDIA

The Indian Embassy in Colombo says 10 Indian nationals died in the blasts.

H.D. Kumaraswamy, the chief minister of southern Karnataka state, mourned the deaths of two fellow Janata Dal Secular party members, K.G. Hanumantharayappa and M. Rangappa.

“I am deeply shocked at the loss of our JDS party workers, whom I know personally,” he wrote Monday on Twitter.

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UNITED STATES

The State Department says at least four Americans were killed and several others seriously injured. It did not identify the victims.

Fifth-grader Kieran Shafritz de Zoysa, spending a year in Sri Lanka on leave from the private Sidwell Friends School in Washington, D.C., was among those killed, the school said in an email to parents. The email said, “Kieran was passionate about learning, he adored his friends, and he was incredibly excited” about returning to school.

Dieter Kowalski, who lived in Denver and worked for international education company Pearson, died in the blasts shortly after he arrived at his hotel for a business trip, the company and his family told the AP.

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DENMARK

The Bestseller clothing chain confirmed Danish media reports that three of the children of its owner, business tycoon Anders Holch Povlsen, were killed in the attacks. However, spokesman Jesper Stubkier gave no details in an emailed response to a query on the matter and said the company had no further comment.

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SWITZERLAND

Switzerland’s foreign ministry says a Swiss national, a Swiss dual national and a non-Swiss member of the same family were killed in the bombings. It didn’t identify the second country or give other details on the victims.

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SPAIN

Spain’s foreign ministry says a Spanish man and woman were killed but didn’t provide further details. The mayor of Pontecesures in northwest Spain, Juan Manuel Vidal, told Radio Galega that he knew the local pair and says they were in their 30s, according to a report by the Spanish private news agency Europa Press.

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AUSTRALIA

Australia’s prime minister says a mother and daughter from that country were killed. Manik Suriaaratchi and her 10-year-old daughter, Alexendria, were attending a church service in Negombo when they died.

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CHINA

China’s foreign ministry says one Chinese citizen was killed in the blasts, while five are missing. Five others were injured, including two who suffered severe injuries.

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OTHERS

The Netherlands, Japan and Portugal have confirmed that some of their nationals were among the dead.

Source: Fox News World

Japan’s government has apologized to tens of thousands of victims forcibly sterilized under a now-defunct Eugenics Protection Law and promised to pay compensation.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga says he is offering “sincere remorse and heartfelt apology” to the victims.

Japan’s parliament enacted legislation earlier Wednesday to provide redress measures, including 3.2 million yen ($28,600) compensation for each victim.

An estimated 25,000 people were given unconsented sterilization while the 1948 Eugenics Protection Law was in place until 1996. The law allowed doctors to sterilize people with disabilities.

The apology and the redress law follow a series of lawsuits by victims who came forward recently.

Source: Fox News World

The death toll from the Easter suicide bombings in Sri Lanka rose to 359 and more suspects have been arrested, police said Wednesday.

The Islamic State group has claimed responsibility and released images that purported to show the seven bombers who blew themselves up at three churches and three hotels Sunday in the worst violence this South Asian island nation has seen since its civil war ended a decade ago.

The government has said the attacks were carried out by Islamic fundamentalists in apparent retaliation for the New Zealand mosque massacre last month but has said the seven bombers were all Sri Lankan. Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said investigators were still working to determine the extent of the bombers’ foreign links.

Police spokesman Ruwan Gunasekara said Wednesday morning that 18 suspects were arrested overnight, raising the total detained to 58. The prime minister had warned on Tuesday that several suspects armed with explosives were still at large.

The Islamic State group has lost all the territory it once held in Iraq and Syria and has made a series of unsupported claims of responsibility around the world.

Sri Lankan authorities have blamed a local extremist group, National Towheed Jamaar, whose leader, alternately known as Mohammed Zahran or Zahran Hashmi, became known to Muslim leaders three years ago for his incendiary speeches online.

The IS group’s Aamaq news agency released an image purported to show the leader of the attackers, standing amid seven others whose faces are covered. The group did not provide any other evidence for its claim, and the identities of those depicted in the image were not independently verified.

Meanwhile, in an address to Parliament, Ruwan Wijewardene, the state minister of defense, said “weakness” within Sri Lanka’s security apparatus led to the failure to prevent the nine bombings.

“By now it has been established that the intelligence units were aware of this attack and a group of responsible people were informed about the impending attack,” Wijewardene said. “However, this information has been circulated among only a few officials.”

In a live address to the nation late Tuesday, Sri Lanka President Maithripala Sirisena said he also was kept in the dark on the intelligence about the planned attacks and vowed to “take stern action” against the officials who failed to share the information. He also pledged “a complete restructuring” of the security forces.

Wijewardene said the government had evidence that the bombings were carried out “by an Islamic fundamentalist group” in retaliation for the March 15 mosque shootings in Christchurch, New Zealand, that killed 50 people, although he did not disclose what the evidence was.

The office of New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern issued a statement responding to the Christchurch claim that described Sri Lanka’s investigation as “in its early stages.”

“New Zealand has not yet seen any intelligence upon which such an assessment might be based,” it said. An Australian white supremacist, Brenton Harrison Tarrant, was arrested in the Christchurch shootings.

Word from international intelligence agencies that National Towheed Jamaar was planning attacks apparently didn’t reach the prime minister’s office until after the massacre, exposing continuing turmoil in Sri Lanka’s government.

A block on most social media since the attacks has left a vacuum of information, fueling confusion and giving little reassurance the danger had passed.

Wickremesinghe said he feared the massacre could unleash instability and he vowed to “vest all necessary powers with the defense forces” to act against those responsible.

The history of Buddhist-majority Sri Lanka, a country of 21 million including large Hindu, Muslim and Christian minorities, is rife with ethnic and sectarian conflict.

In the nation’s 26-year civil war, the Tamil Tigers, a powerful rebel army known for using suicide bombers, had little history of targeting Christians and was crushed by the government in 2009. Anti-Muslim bigotry fed by Buddhist nationalists has swept the country recently.

In March 2018, Buddhist mobs ransacked businesses and set houses on fire in Muslim neighborhoods around Kandy, a city in central Sri Lanka that is popular with tourists.

After the mob attacks, Sri Lanka’s government also blocked some social media sites, hoping to slow the spread of false information or threats that could incite more violence.

Sri Lanka has no history of Islamic militancy. Its small Christian community has seen only scattered incidents of harassment.

Source: Fox News World

A 69-year-old Arkansas woman has been convicted of second-degree murder in the fatal shooting of her husband after he ordered a pornography channel for their satellite television services.

The jury found Patricia Hill guilty Tuesday in Pine Bluff after she testified that she wasn’t thinking when she killed Frank Hill last July. She said she didn’t know that shooting at his feet could kill him as he bent over. She said she only meant for the shooting to get his attention.

The shooting happened at the Hills’ Pine Bluff home, about 40 miles (65 kilometers) southeast of Little Rock.

According to testimony, Patricia Hill had previously canceled the pornography channel but shot her husband twice after seeing a bill that showed the channel had been added again.

Source: Fox News National

The lawyers’ ads on the internet aggressively seeking clients to file sexual abuse lawsuits give a taste of what lies ahead this year for the Boy Scouts of America: potentially the most fateful chapter in its 109-year history.

Sexual abuse settlements have already strained the Boy Scouts’ finances to the point where the organization is exploring “all available options,” including Chapter 11 bankruptcy. But now the financial threats have intensified.

The reason: States have been moving in recent months to adjust their statute-of-limitations laws so that victims of long-ago sexual abuse can sue for damages. New York state has passed a law that will allow such lawsuits starting in August. A similar bill in New Jersey has reached the governor’s desk. Bills also are pending in Pennsylvania and California.

In New York and elsewhere, lawyers are hard at work recruiting clients to sue the Boy Scouts, alleging they were molested as youths by scoutmasters or other volunteers.

Plaintiffs’ lawyers “recognize that this is a very unique and lucrative opportunity,” said attorney Karen Bitar, who formerly handled sex-crime cases as a prosecutor in Brooklyn before going into private practice.

Attorney Tim Kosnoff, a veteran of major sexual abuse lawsuits against the Roman Catholic Church, said Tuesday that he and his team have signed up 186 clients from dozens of states in just the past few weeks who want to be part of litigation against the Boy Scouts. Kosnoff said 166 of them identified alleged abusers who have not been named in any of the Boy Scout files made public in past years.

Boy Scouts spokeswoman Effie Delimarkos said the organization continues to evaluate its financial situation, and she defended its current abuse-prevention policies. The organization serves more than 2.2 million youths.

A bankruptcy by the Boy Scouts could be unprecedented in its complexity, potentially involving plaintiffs in virtually every state, according to several lawyers. It would be national in scope, unlike the various Catholic Church bankruptcy cases in the U.S., which have unfolded diocese by diocese.

“A Boy Scout bankruptcy would be bigger in scale than any other sex abuse bankruptcy,” said Seattle-based attorney Mike Pfau, whose firm is representing more than 300 victims in New York state.

Jeffrey Schwartz, a New York-based bankruptcy expert with the firm McKool Smith, said the Boy Scouts don’t have a particularly large flow of cash and might be forced to sell off property in bankruptcy. The Boy Scouts have extensive land holdings, including camping and hiking terrain.

“They’ll play for time,” Schwartz said. “If their defense costs and settlement costs are greater than their membership fees, it could be a death spiral.”

However, Dallas-based trial attorney Michelle Simpson Tuegel, part of a team representing numerous sex abuse survivors, said bankruptcy might benefit the Boy Scouts and reduce any payouts to plaintiffs.

“It can be a tool that these institutions use to shield assets and avoid having to reveal some information,” she said. “In many ways, it’s a disservice to victims.”

Illustrating the depth of its problems, the Boy Scouts filed lawsuits last year against six of its own insurers, saying they have improperly refused to cover some of the sex abuse liabilities incurred by the organization. The insurers say the coverage obligation is voided because the Boy Scouts failed to take effective preventive measures such as warning parents that scouts might be abused. The suits are still pending.

The intensifying pressures on the Boy Scouts coincide with the mounting threats to the U.S. Catholic Church in regard to its own long-running sex abuse scandal. Catholic bishops will be meeting in Baltimore in June to discuss the next steps.

Both the church and the Boy Scouts are iconic, historically well-respected institutions now known as having been magnets for pedophiles trying to exploit the trust of boys and their parents.

“When you cloak people in badges of respect, you create the perfect opportunity for bad people to get access to children,” said Chris Hurley, whose Chicago law firm is representing 11 former scouts in sex abuse trials scheduled on a monthly basis this year.

Another common denominator for the Catholic Church and Boy Scouts: Both kept voluminous secret files with names of suspected abusers, yet balked at sharing the information with the public.

Since the 1920s, the Boy Scouts have been compiling “ineligible files,” which list adult volunteers considered to pose a risk of child molestation. About 5,000 of these files have been made public as a result of court action; others remain confidential.

Delimarkos said when any BSA volunteer is added to the database for suspected abuse, “they are reported to law enforcement, removed entirely from any Scouting program and prohibited from re-joining anywhere.”

Minnesota-based attorney Jeff Anderson, who had led many lawsuits against the Catholic Church, released a court deposition in New York on Tuesday in which an expert hired by the Boy Scouts said she tallied 7,819 individuals in the “ineligible files” as of January, as well as 12,254 victims.

Anderson expressed hope that litigation triggered by New York’s new Child Victims Act would increase pressure on the Boy Scouts to make public more of the still-confidential files.

Some of the files were ordered released after a 2010 sexual abuse case in Portland, Oregon, that led to a nearly $20 million judgment against the Boy Scouts on behalf of a man molested by a Scout leader in the 1980s.

Paul Mones, the plaintiff’s lawyer in that case, said there are no overall figures on Boy Scout abuse settlements because the details are kept confidential.

Both the Boy Scouts and the Catholic Church say they now have policies in place to sharply curtail abuse that abounded in past decades. In the Boy Scouts ‘ case, the steps included requiring criminal background checks for all staff and volunteers, and requiring two or more adult leaders be present with youth at all times during scouting activities.

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This story has been corrected to show that Effie Delimarkos is a spokeswoman, not a spokesman.

Source: Fox News National

Two months after he failed to win a badly needed easing of sanctions from President Donald Trump, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is traveling to Russia in a possible attempt to win its help as the U.S.-led trade sanctions hurt his country’s already-struggling economy.

There are no signs of a financial or humanitarian crisis in North Korea. But some observers say the sanctions, toughened over the past several years, are gradually drying up Kim’s foreign currency reserves and he is desperate to find ways to bring in hard currency. His propaganda service is already saying that North Koreans can survive with only “water and air.”

Russia, along with China, has called for the easing of the sanctions, though both are members of the U.N. Security Council, which has approved a total of 11 rounds of sanctions on North Korea since 2006. Some experts say Kim may ask Russian President Vladimir Putin in a meeting set to take place in Vladivostok on Thursday to voice strong opposition to the sanctions, enforce them less stringently and send humanitarian food aid to North Korea.

It’s still unclear how much assistance Kim could get from Putin. Along with China, Russia isn’t likely to want to openly evade the sanctions and face diplomatic friction with the United States. More than 90% of North Korea’s foreign trade has gone through China, with which it shares a long, porous land border.

Analyst Go Myong-Hyun of the Seoul-based Asan Institute for Policy Studies said Kim’s Russia trip, the first by a North Korean leader since 2011, may have been planned long before the February breakdown of the second summit between Kim and Trump in Vietnam. Go said North Korea and Russia had wanted to discuss economic cooperation if the summit had resulted in an easing of sanctions.

What will still likely be on the agenda is a request by Kim for food aid. In February, North Korea’s ambassador to the United Nations, Kim Song, issued an unusual appeal for “urgent” food assistance. North Korean officials blamed the shortage on bad weather and the sanctions.

Analyst Cho Bong-hyun of Seoul’s IBK Economic Research Institute said North Korea needs more than 1 million tons of food aid, so it would want Russia to provide hundreds of thousands of tons of corn, flour and other foodstuff. Russia could send North Korea food, but mostly in a secret manner, Cho said.

Kim will also likely raise the issue of thousands of North Korean workers in Russia, who must return home along with other overseas North Korean workers worldwide by the end of this year under the U.N. sanctions.

“There is a high possibility that Kim will ask Putin to be flexible on the issue as it’s related to the inflow of dollars,” said analyst Shin Beomchul of the Asan institute. He said North Korea may seek to persuade Russia to overlook North Korean visitors with short-term non-employment visas engaging in illegal work.

In May last year, South Korea’s Unification Ministry said North Korea sends an estimated 50,000 workers aboard, mostly to China and Russia. Most work at factories, construction sites, lumber camps and restaurants. They often toil in tough working conditions and large portions of their salaries are taken by North Korea’s government, according to activists and defectors.

After Kim failed to get sanctions relief from Trump in Vietnam, he called for national unity under the banner of self-reliance to surmount the sanctions. His state media called self-reliance “the treasured sword,” a term previously used to refer to his nuclear weapons.

“It is necessary to sweep away the whirlwind of sanctions by the hostile forces,” Kim said in a rare speech at the country’s rubber-stamp parliament earlier this month.

The Vietnam summit collapsed after Trump rejected Kim’s calls for the end of five of the 11 sanctions that he said impede his country’s civilian economy in return for partial steps toward nuclear disarmament. They include a ban on key exports such as coal, textiles and seafood; a significant curtailing of oil imports; and the repatriation of North Korean overseas workers by December.

These sanctions, approved one by one since 2016 when Kim began a series of nuclear and missile tests, are inflicting more pain than the six previously imposed sanctions that largely target North Korea’s weapons industry.

The new sanctions especially affect North Korea’s official external trade. According to China Customs figures, China’s imports from North Korea dropped by 88% and exports to the North by 33% in 2018. South Korea’s central bank said North Korea’s economy contracted 3.5% in 2017 from a year earlier.

North Korea monitoring groups in Seoul say the prices of rice and other key commodities at hundreds of markets in North Korea remain largely unchanged. South Korea’s spy agency told lawmakers last month that it hasn’t detected any signs of mass starvation.

Some experts say Kim has likely used some of his foreign currency reserves to import goods from China to maintain price stability. Some say North Korea’s huge trade deficit may have been offset by illicit border trade with China that is likely thriving again with lax enforcement of the U.N. sanctions. Others say North Korea is trying to locally produce items it had imported.

“It’s certain that North Korea is releasing a large amount of money,” Go said. “When its money runs out, it’ll face an urgent situation and step up calls for sanctions relief.”

There is no independently confirmed data on the size of North Korea’s foreign currency reserves. Go said some economists estimate them at $5 billon. Outside speculation varies over how long North Korea can withstand the impact of the sanctions without major economic and social chaos.

Cho speculates North Korea will likely hold out for the next three to five years. But others say it could face a drain on its foreign currency reserves sooner, by December or next year at the earliest.

Whether the sanctions will eventually force Kim to fully give up his nuclear program is unclear. Kim considers his nuclear weapons a stronger security assurance than any non-aggression promises the U.S. could offer. In his April 12 parliamentary speech, he described the sanctions as a plot to disarm North Korea before trying to overthrow his government.

If there is an indication of a humanitarian crisis in North Korea, many experts say China will likely make large-scale food shipments to prevent the exodus of refugees from the North.

Thae Yong Ho, a former minster at the North Korean Embassy in London who defected to South Korea in 2016, said in a recent blog post that there are rumors among North Korean residents that Chinese President Xi Jinping will visit Pyongyang, North Korea’s capital, in May. He said North Korea’s hard-line stance will continue for the time being if it gets help from Russia and China.

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Associated Press researcher Yu Bing in Beijing contributed to this report.

Source: Fox News World

A court in Hong Kong is preparing to sentence nine leaders of massive 2014 pro-democracy protests convicted last month of public nuisance offenses.

The sentences to be handed down Wednesday are seen as an effort by the government of the semi-autonomous Chinese territory to draw a line under the protests.

The nine were leaders of the “Occupy Central” campaign, which was organized as a nonviolent sit-in that became known as the “Umbrella Movement” after a symbol of defiance against police adopted by the street protests.

They could face up to seven years in prison.

Hong Kong, a former British colony, was handed over to Chinese rule in 1997 under an agreement in which China promised the city could retain its own laws, economic system and civil rights for 50 years.

Source: Fox News World

For Russian President Vladimir Putin, a meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un offers a chance to raise Moscow’s clout in the region and gain more leverage with Washington.

While Russia’s ability to influence Kim’s position is limited compared to that of China, a dialogue with Kim could allow Putin to emerge as an essential player in the North Korean nuclear standoff.

With Russia-U.S. ties at their post-Cold War low over the Ukrainian crisis, the war in Syria and Russia’s meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, the crisis over North Korea is a rare subject where Moscow and Washington could find some common ground and engage in political dialogue.

“There are areas where Washington and Moscow can and do cooperate, and North Korea is one of those areas,” said Dmitri Trenin, the director of the Carnegie Moscow Center.

He noted that Putin wants to send a message to Washington — as well as Beijing and Seoul — that “Russia should be factored in when Korean issues are discussed.”

Moscow’s involvement comes at a tense moment when talks between Washington and Pyongyang are on hold following the failure of U.S. President Donald Trump’s summit with Kim in Hanoi. For Kim, the meeting with Putin would be a win even if he just gets a cautious statement of solidarity with the North, or a rebuttal of Washington’s policies.

“Right now, after the failure of the Hanoi Summit, Russia can play a role,” said Georgy Toloraya, a former Russian diplomat who has extensive experience in the North Korean affairs. “That would be very useful. If Putin ever meets Trump, it will be one of the issues on the agenda.”

Russia has a border with North Korea and, like the U.S., strongly opposes Pyongyang’s nuclear bid.

“Russia is worried that Korea could become potentially a battleground for a new conflict … potentially with nuclear overtones,” Trenin said. “It is also worried that the North Korean nuclear and missile programs could lead to accidents that could endanger Russian security.”

Moscow has argued that the crisis should be settled through U.S. providing security guarantees to the North and easing sanctions against Pyongyang.

Putin’s foreign affairs adviser Yuri Ushakov hailed the importance of U.S.-North Korean talks and promised Tuesday that the Kremlin will seek to “strengthen the positive trends and work to create preconditions and positive atmosphere for reaching solid agreements.”

Putin has welcomed Trump’s meetings with Kim, but urged the U.S. to do more to assuage Pyongyang’s security concerns.

Trenin predicted that Putin “will try to steer the North Korean leader toward a productive, constructive dialogue with the U.S,” but added that “Russia will not go out of its way to help the U.S. to try to push Pyongyang closer to accepting Washington’s view.”

“We don’t need to punish North Korean people or even elite, we need to find a new way for them to be incorporated into the modern world,” Toloraya said. “The U.S. knows that we don’t have our own egoistic interests in North Korea, unlike China.”

A supportive statement from Putin would be a big gift for Kim, who is also hoping to woo Russian investment to help build up its infrastructure.

Russia’s past efforts to engage the North haven’t always been successful.

Moscow maintained strong ties with Pyongyang during the Soviet era, building dozens of factories, sending supplies and providing weapons. Those ties fell apart after the 1991 Soviet collapse, with Russia withdrawing its support for former Soviet allies amid an economic meltdown.

Putin visited Pyongyang months after he was first elected in 2000. Seeking to steal the global limelight, Putin boasted about securing then-leader Kim Jong Il’s promise to abandon Pyongyang’s missile program in exchange for foreign help in launching satellites, but he suffered a setback when Kim quickly disavowed his statement.

Despite the flop, Putin continued courting Kim, who crossed Russia by train to visit Moscow in 2001. The North Korean leader again visited regions in Russia’s far east the following year, and made another trip across the border in 2011.

When Kim Jong Un came to power, the Kremlin hoped that he would visit Moscow to attend a 2015 Red Square parade marking the 70th anniversary of its WWII victory. Kim didn’t show up.

Russia also was involved in the Chinese-led six-nation talks, aimed at persuading North Korea to abandon its nuclear programs in exchange for aid and security guarantees. The North withdrew from those talks in 2009.

For many years, Moscow has pushed for building a trans-Korean railway, natural gas pipeline and power lines — massive projects that would allow Russia to significantly increase its regional clout. No visible progress has been made.

While Russia’s leverage with North Korea was dwarfed by that of China, Pyongyang’s main sponsor and ally, the North has been wary of its overdependence on Beijing and willing to accept Moscow’s engagement.

“China and the U.S. are two superpowers, and North Korea has a reason to stand up to both in different ways,” Trenin said. “Russia is a country whose attractiveness to North Korea lies precisely in it not having major leverage. Russia has this potential of being seen as a relatively benign actor by the North Koreans.”

Russian-North Korean military cooperation and most of the trade was stopped by United Nations sanctions, but Moscow supplied grain and provided humanitarian aid to the North, and tens of thousands of North Korean migrant laborers have worked in Russia’s underpopulated Far East.

Toloraya warned against underestimating a role Russia could play in the standoff, saying that Moscow has taken a cautious line but could emerge as a top player if need be.

“We have the tools, we don’t use them. If we would like to supply a dozen or so of S-400 (air defense missile systems) to North Korea, it will change the whole balance of power in Korea, it’s just one example.”

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AP Pyongyang bureau chief Eric Talmadge contributed to this report from Tokyo. Francesca Ebel in Moscow contributed to this report.

Source: Fox News World

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un arrived in Russia on Wednesday morning for his much-anticipated summit with President Vladimir Putin in the Pacific port city of Vladivostok.

The official Korean Central News Agency said Kim was seen off by officials and residents as he left Pyongyang by his special train at dawn, and Russian news agency Tass quoted a local official as saying Kim was given flowers, bread and salt at the Hasan train station after crossing the border.

Kremlin adviser Yuri Ushakov told Russian media the summit on Thursday will focus on North Korea’s nuclear program, noting that Russia will seek to “consolidate the positive trends” stemming from President Donald Trump’s meetings with Kim.

Kim’s Russia trip comes about two months after his second summit with Trump failed because of disputes over U.S.-led sanctions on the North.

Kim will be the first North Korean leader to travel to Russia since his late father, Kim Jong Il, visited in 2011.

Some experts say Kim could try to bolster his country’s ties with Russia and China as he’s increasingly expressed frustration at the lack of U.S. steps to match the partial disarmament steps he took last year.

It’s not clear how big of a role Russia can play in efforts to restart the nuclear diplomacy. But the summit could allow Putin to try to increase his influence in regional politics and the standoff over North Korea’s nuclear program.

Putin’s adviser added that the Kremlin would try to help “create preconditions and a favorable atmosphere for reaching solid agreements on the problem of the Korean Peninsula,” Ushakov said.

Ushakov pointed at a Russia-China roadmap that offered a step-by-step approach to solving the nuclear standoff and called for sanctions relief and security guarantees to Pyongyang. He noted that the North’s moratorium on nuclear tests and scaling down of U.S.-South Korean military drills helped reduce tensions and created conditions for further progress.

Ushakov said that Putin-Kim summit’s agenda will also include bilateral cooperation. He added that Russia’s trade with North Korea is minuscule at just $34 million last year, mostly because of the international sanctions against Pyongyang.

Russia would like to gain broader access to North Korea’s mineral resources, including rare metals. Pyongyang, for its part, covets Russia’s electricity supplies and wants to attract Russian investment to modernize its dilapidated Soviet-built industrial plants, railways and other infrastructure.

In the meantime, Vladivostok has been seeing a number of unusually strict security measures. Maritime authorities said Tuesday that the waters around Russky Island, off the southern tip of Vladivostok, would be temporarily closed to all maritime traffic.

The island has a university with a conference hall and is seen as a likely summit venue.

Separately, local media reported that some platforms at Vladivostok’s main train station would be closed for several days, and that buses will be rerouted from the train station Wednesday.

News website Vl.ru reported on road construction to even out the entrance at the train station, possibly to allow Kim’s limousine to drive straight off the platform.

Source: Fox News World


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