Tag Archive: hi4e.com


 

 

 

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Aid groups say the toll from the collapse of a billion-dollar hydroelectric dam in Lao’s is far higher than the official figure of 27 dead and 131 missing. Despite a government ban on foreign media covering the disaster, the BBC reports the death toll could be closer to 300. Another 3,000 people are still stranded in homes surrounded by floodwaters and over 6,000 people have been displaced.  The dam collapse occurred around 8 p.m. on July 23rd and caused immediate flash flooding through the villages of Yai Thae, Hinlad, Ban Mai, Thasengchan, Tha Hin, and Samong, all in Sanamxay district.  Homes, roads and bridges were swept away.

The disaster has revived the debate about plans by the Laos government to boost the economy by building dozens of dams to export hydroelectricity to neighboring countries.  The South Korean company that is the main builder of the hydroelectric project has admitted that it knew the dam was deteriorating a day before it failed but the reason for the collapse remains unclear.  There are conflicting reports on when damages to the dam were first noticed, raising more questions on whether the order to evacuate villagers from their homes should have been issued earlier.  The portion of the dam that collapsed was reported to be a saddle dam—its official name was “Saddle ‘D’, an auxiliary structure used to hold water beyond what is held by the main dam”.

Emergency teams in southern Laos are continuing to search for survivors following the collapse of a dam, which released five billion cubic meters of water.  As floodwaters in began to recede, official sources said eight bodies had been recovered, while an official has suggested more than 1,100 people may still be unaccounted for.  Homes were swept away and farmland submerged when an auxiliary dam at the Xe Pian Xe Namnoy hydroelectric project collapsed.

An overwhelming amount of mud left behind is hampering search operations.  Some areas are inaccessible by boat, with helicopter flights being the only way to reach some communities.  Rescue efforts are further complicated by the fact that the area is densely forested with no mobile-phone coverage.  Roads that previously existed were washed away in the floods and thousands of people who fled their homes are packed into makeshift shelters.

Officials in northern Cambodia have ordered the evacuation of 25,000 people downriver of the collapsed dam, due to heavy flooding and rising water levels.  The Prime Minister of Laos, Thongloun Sisoulith, suspended his immediate meetings and travelled in person to the site.  Sisoulith also called in both the police and the army, declaring the area a disaster zone.  The local government requested emergency aid from neighboring communities.  The neighboring countries of China, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam have offered to provide any assistance needed by Laos.

 

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Violent protests erupted in Chicago after police officers shot and killed a 37-year-old African-American man on the South Side of Chicago. Harith Augustus was a well-known barber and the father of a 5-year-old daughter. Hundreds took to the streets to protest his killing.  Protesters and police clashed with protestors throwing rocks and bottles, some filled with urine at officers.  Four people were arrested, several officers were treated for minor injuries and two patrol cars were damaged.

The day after the protests, police released a 30 second clip with no sound of an officer’s body-cam footage.  Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said it was the quickest he had ever ordered such video released and that he hoped to dispel rumors Harith Augustus, 37, was unarmed.  He also said he hoped making the 30-second clip public would prevent another violent confrontation between residents and officers.  “The community needs some answers and they need them now, we can’t have another night like last night.”  Mr Johnson told reporters.  He said Mr Augustus’s family was in favor of releasing the video for the same reason.

The edited clip of body camera video shows at least three officers approaching Augustus as he is talking to another officer outside a store in the city’s South Shore neighborhood.  The first officer points at his waistband and Augustus backs away while reaching into his back pocket.  As Augustus pulls his wallet from his pocket, three officers try to grab his arms.  Augustus tries to get away, backing into a police cruiser as his shirt flies up, showing the gun.  The footage pauses and zooms in on the weapon, which police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said was done to ensure a semi-automatic handgun in its holster and two bullet magazines tucked into Mr Augustus’s waist could be seen clearly.

Augustus then runs into the street as a police SUV drives up. He spins away from the SUV and darts between the SUV and the police cruiser as he reaches towards his waist.  At that point, an officer opens fire, hitting Augustus multiple times.  Augustus did not fire his weapon and the footage does not show him pulling the gun out of its holster.  Police also released a 50-second, slow-motion clip showing Augustus reaching towards his waist. It was not clear if he was going for the weapon but it does appear he was grabbing for something at his waist.

Records show Augustus had a legal permit to carry a firearm and no recent arrest history. Augustus was known in the Grand Crossing neighborhood as “Snoop” — worked at a barbershop and had a five-year-old daughter.  A police spokesman said more videos will be released within 60 days but declined to say how many different angles exist or whether any of the officers’ cameras captured audio.

While the snippet of video released seems to have calmed some tensions, some pointed out that Augustus, a quiet man with only a few minor arrests from years ago, appeared to be trying to show the officers some sort of identification during the street stop, possible his firearm permit.  Experts on use of force have focused on how Augustus tried to evade arrest, twisting away from officers and fleeing into the street with his right hand hovering near his holstered gun.  The Civilian Office of Police Accountability, the city agency that investigates police-involved shootings, will try to determine if the officers followed policy and if any training issues need to be addressed.

 

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Accused NSA whistleblower Reality Winner has pled guilty to retaining and transmitting a document to a news organization after reaching a deal with the U.S. government to serve a 5-year prison sentence. Winner had faced up to 10 years in prison on charges she violated the Espionage Act by leaking a top-secret document to The Intercept about Russian interference in the 2016 election.  She’s been imprisoned for the last year at the Lincoln County Jail in Georgia.

Winner, a former Air Force linguist, was arrested last June and accused of sharing a classified report about Russian interference in the 2016 election with the news media.  Ms. Winner, who was honorably discharged from the Air Force in 2016, was working as a contractor for the National Security Agency when she obtained a copy of a report that described hacks by a Russian intelligence service against local election officials and a company that sold software related to voter registration.

The Intercept, an online news outlet that a prosecutor said Ms. Winner admired, published a copy of the top secret report shortly before Ms. Winner’s arrest was made public. The report described two cyberattacks by Russia’s military intelligence unit, the G.R.U. — one in August against a company that sells voter-registration-related software and another, a few days before the election, against 122 local election officials.

An F.B.I. affidavit made public after her arrest last year said there was a visible crease mark on the file, a scan of which The Intercept had provided to the government while trying to authenticate it. That prompted investigators to surmise it was a printout.  Audit trails showed six people had printed copies, but only one — Ms. Winner — had used a work computer to send emails to The Intercept.

A search warrant application said she had found the report by plugging keywords into the N.S.A.’s system that fell outside her normal work duties.  Computer security experts noted that the printer appeared to leave barely visible microdots on the printout identifying the serial number of the printer and the date and time of the printing: 6:20 a.m. on May 9, 2017.

The Justice Department prosecuted Ms. Winner under the Espionage Act, a World War I-era law that criminalizes the unauthorized disclosure of national-security secrets that could be used to harm the United States or aid a foreign adversary.  Her decision to plead guilty to one felony count allows the government to avoid a complex trial that had been scheduled for October.

Winner is the second person known to have reached a plea agreement in a leak prosecution case under the current administration.  Former F.B.I. agent, Terry J. Albury, pled guilty in April, but prosecutors in that case have hinted that they will ask that he serve 46 to 57 months in prison.  The Justice Department has recently filed charges in at least two other leak-related cases.  James Wolfe, a former Senate Intelligence Committee staff member, was arrested and charged with lying to the F.B.I. about his contacts with reporters, including a Times reporter with whom he had a personal relationship and whose phone records the department secretly seized, during a leak investigation.  In another case, Joshua A. Schulte, a former C.I.A. software engineer, was charged with violating the Espionage Act and other laws based on accusations that he sent a stolen archive of documents and electronic tools related to the agency’s hacking operations to WikiLeaks, which called them the Vault 7 leak.

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Nationwide outrage and protests has grown over the practice of forcibly separating immigrant children from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border, in violation of international human rights law. At least 3,700 immigrant children have been separated from their parents since October and Border Patrol says it has separated more than 2,300 kids since Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a “zero tolerance” policy in April.  The separated children have been sent to detention facilities in at least 17 states.

It had long been a misdemeanor federal offense to be caught illegally entering the US, punishable by up to six months in prison.  However, the administration didn’t always refer everyone caught for prosecution. Those apprehended were swiftly put into immigration proceedings and unless they met the threshold to pursue a valid asylum claim, were quickly deported from the country.  The “zero tolerance” policy plan makes no special arrangements for those who claim asylum when apprehended and refers all apprehended for prosecution-thus the increase in family separations.  While they will be allowed to pursue their claims and could eventually be found to have a legitimate right to live in the US, they could still already have a conviction for illegal entry.

Outrage grew as images of immigrant children housed in chain-linked cages covered with foil blankets circulated through social media and news outlets.  Investigative news source ProPublica obtained audio of children desperately crying for their parents at an immigrant detention facility.   ProPublica: “The desperate sobbing of 10 Central American children, separated from their parents one day last week by immigration authorities at the border, makes for excruciating listening. Many of them sound like they’re crying so hard, they can barely breathe. They scream ‘Mami’ and ‘Papá’ over and over again, as if those are the only words they know.”  The audio can be hard to listen to for many and sparked mass outrage from both sides of the political parties.

Governors of eight states—Maryland, Massachusetts, Virginia, Rhode Island, Colorado, New York, North Carolina and Connecticut—said they would either withhold or recall their National Guard troops from the border, in protest of the practice of separating children.  The resources in question from each state are relatively small, so the actions a more of a strong symbolic political gesture.

American Airlines and United Airlines have asked the administration to stop transporting immigrant children who have been separated from their families aboard their companies’ planes. American Airlines said in a statement, “We have no desire to be associated with separating families, or worse, to profit from it.”   United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz said, “Our Company’s shared purpose is to connect people and unite the world. This policy and its impact on thousands of children is in deep conflict with that mission and we want no part of it.”

On Wednesday, the US President signed an executive order claiming to end the separation of children from their parents at the border, by detaining them together while their legal cases go through the courts. The order does not say where the families will be detained or whether children will continue to be separated from their parents until the facilities are ready.  Critics warn the order will lead to the indefinite detention of entire families.  The order has not outlined any plans for reuniting children already separated from their families.

 

 

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A string of suicides by New York City taxi drivers in the last several months has advocates concerned about the impact of Uber and Lyft, as well as the loans cabdrivers have relied on to purchase taxi medallions.  Taxi medallions are permits that cities issue to cap the number of cabs on the road. Until the past several years, the value of the medallions seemed to keep rising as large taxi companies, individual operators and other investors bought them up.

The latest suicide that has shaken the cab industry is that of fifty-nine-year-old Abdul Saleh, a Yemeni immigrant who had been a taxi driver for 30 years. He was found dead in his Brooklyn apartment on Friday morning.  On March 16, Nicanor Ochisor, a 65-year-old yellow cab driver, took his own life in his Queens home. According to his family and friends, he had been drowning financially as his prized taxi medallion, on which he had hoped to retire, plummeted in value. In February, driver Douglas Schifter shot himself outside City Hall after posting a lengthy statement to Facebook blaming politicians for letting the streets get so saturated.

Another driver, Yu Mein Chow, 56, disappeared on May 11 and his body was found floating in the East River about nine miles south, near the Brooklyn Bridge, on May 16th.  Chow, had taken out a loan seven years ago to buy a $700,000 medallion that gave him the right to operate a cab.  It’s believed that he jumped to his death after being unable to make a payment on the $700,000 medallion loan.  According to the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, at least two other drivers have killed themselves since December in response to mounting financial pressures.

Many saw securing a taxi medallion as the fulfillment of their American Dream, and they financed them as they would a mortgage, assuming they would only grow in value over time.  In 2014, the price of a New York City medallion topped $1 million. That year, they went for $700,000 in Boston, $400,000 in Philadelphia, and $300,000 in Chicago.  As competition from ride-hailing services intensified, loans for medallions have dried up across the country and their values have plummeted.   In January, seven medallions in NYC sold for under $200,000 each at auction-leaving many drivers deeply in debt.  Though New York City had used taxi medallions to cap the number of yellow cabs at just over 13,600, it doesn’t limit the number of drivers for Uber, Lyft, or other services.  The lack of regulation has led to rapid growth.   Uber launched in the city in 2011 with just 105 cars on the road and grew to to 20,000 by 2015.  Today, there are more than 63,000 black cars providing rides through various ride-hailing apps, 60,000 of which are affiliated with Uber.

John Boit, spokesman for the national group, Taxicab, Limousine & Paratransit Association, said operators like Uber aren’t solely to blame for undermining what had been a respectable living for generations of drivers.  He said New York’s City Hall also deserves blame for not protecting those who had invested in driving careers.  “The city enriched itself with billions of dollars in medallion sales and then allowed a massive influx of new drivers, clogging the streets and bringing down income industrywide,” he said. “The current situation makes it impossible for many to repay their debts. What the drivers need now is a fair solution for their investment in city medallions and a level playing field for the future.”

The New York City Taxi Workers Alliance, the local yellow cab union, has also called for changes including capping the number of for-hire vehicles operating in the city.  The New York City Council is considering several bills that would curb the expansion of ride-sharing services — by charging annual fees to drivers, limiting how many apps one person can drive for or limiting the number of cars each company can have in operation.

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U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials in Ohio raided another company and said 146 workers were arrested as part of a year-long investigation into Fresh Mark, a northern Ohio meat supplier.  ICE officials raided the company’s plant in Salem, Ohio, about 4 p.m. Tuesday. Search warrants also were served at three other locations in the state.  An ICE spokesman said the investigation continues and could result in additional charges. He did not rule out charges against Fresh Mark employees who may have hired workers in the country illegally.

Fresh Mark was once touted by the government as a partner in preventing hiring undocumented workers. Under the Obama administration, ICE announced the supplier was the first Ohio company to partner with a program meant to “curtail the employment of unauthorized workers,” according to a 2012 news release announcing ICE’s partnership with Fresh Mark. “We are honored to be selected by ICE to participate in this program,” Fresh Mark human resources director Mark Sullivan said in the news release. “For nearly a decade, Fresh Mark has proactively partnered with the government to ensure the integrity of our workforce and the IMAGE program will be a tremendous addition to our future employee verification process.”

Under the program, called the ICE Mutual Agreement between Government and Employers, or IMAGE, employers can voluntarily partner with the agency by taking steps to weed out undocumented workers. They must use the government’s E-Verify system, which checks employees’ I-9 employment eligibility status and create hiring policies.  After the June 19th raid, ICE said the company may have knowingly hired undocumented workers and many are using fraudulent identification belonging to U.S. citizens.

Immigration officials lined up dozens of workers, many dressed in white helmets and smocks, outside the meat-processing plant in rural Ohio.  An ICE spokesman confirmed that about 60 workers at the Fresh Mark plant in Salem who were detained have been released.  Workers who are in the country legally but did not have proper documentation with them at the time of the raid were released after officials determined they are authorized to work in the United States.  ICE officials said they also released several workers for health and family reasons and other humanitarian concerns.

The remaining 86 workers detained in the raid are being held at the Northeast Ohio Correctional Center on Hubbard Road and the Geauga County jail while they await deportation proceedings.  The men were sent to the East Side private prison and the women were sent to Geauga County.  Sister Rene Weeks, of St. Paul Parish in Salem, said the majority of those detained in the raid were Guatemalan nationals who fled violence in that country and they comprise a large percentage of Salem’s immigrant community.  She added that those released for humanitarian reasons included parents who had children left behind after the raid as well as one woman who is several months pregnant and another who has leukemia.  “They were pretty terrified when the raid happened and relieved to be back with their families, but they are also worried about what comes next,” Sister Rene said.  Sister Rene said many of those who were released met with immigration lawyers Wednesday at St. Paul Parish.

ICE has carried out several such raids in recent months. Two weeks ago, it arrested 114 workers at a gardening company’s two Ohio locations. In April, ICE raided a meatpacking plant in rural Tennessee and arrested 97 immigrants. In January, ICE raided dozens of 7-Eleven stores nationwide, arresting 21.

 

 

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A class-action lawsuit has been filed against the University of Southern California (USC) and a former gynecologist there, Dr. George Tyndall, who is accused of sexually harassing and molesting dozens, and potentially hundreds, of students during his nearly 30 years at the university.  The attorneys who filed the lawsuit on behalf of Tyndall’s accusers, wrote that USC “actively and deliberately concealed Tyndall’s sexual abuse for years.”  The lawsuit was filed on behalf of seven women who claim Tyndall used racist and inappropriately sexual language during consultations and conducted pelvic examinations with his fingers without gloves.

After an LA Times piece published in May exposed the allegations, the Los Angeles Police Department has launched an investigation into the allegations, USC president C.L. Max Nikias has resigned, and the rest of the university faculty has been scrambling to address the school’s shortcomings in regard to issues of sexual misconduct.

Tyndall had a history of allegedly inappropriately touching female students during gynecological examinations, making lewd comments about their bodies, and taking pictures of their genitals. USC acknowledged it had received complaints against Tyndall as early as 2000.  Authorities say school administrators received reports of sexual abuse during pelvic exams dating back to the early 1990s but failed to investigate these reports until 2016. The doctor wasn’t fired until 2017, when his colleagues discovered a box full of pictures of female genitalia in his office.

They finally parted ways with him last June, but only after the university conducted an internal investigation and found out about the ignored complaints.  University officials said the school reached a settlement with the doctor and did not report him to law enforcement or state medical authorities at the time.  Authorities say fifty-two former patients of a Tyndall, who treated thousands of women at the University of Southern California have reported they may have been victims of inappropriate and possibly criminal behavior.  Police estimate Dr. George Tyndall may have seen 10,000 patients and they think there could be more victims among women who were examined by him.

The 71-year-old reportedly admitted that his exams were “extremely thorough” but claimed he never did anything inappropriate. Several former co-workers spoke to the LA Times “They felt like they were violated,” explained one nurse, who spoke with at least five women in 2013 and 2014 who refused to be seen by Tyndall.  “They felt like he was inappropriately touching them, that it didn’t feel like a normal exam.”  Other co-workers claim he was improperly taking pictures of students’ genitals and making inappropriate remarks during pelvic exams.  Tyndall would often commend patients on their “flawless” and “creamy” skin, while also making comments about their bodies, the employees said.  A nurse recalls an exchange where she watched him compliment a student on her “perky breasts.”  “They stand right up there, don’t they?’” she recalled him telling the patient.

In 2013, eight different medical assistants who were in exam rooms during exams, voiced their concerns about Tyndall to long time nurse Cindy Gilbert, but nothing was done about his behavior.  Gilbert reported the complaints to then-executive director Dr. Lawrence Neinstein who instead chose to handle the situation “independently.”

 

 

 

 

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The Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE), arrested 114 undocumented immigrants working at an Ohio gardening business in one of its largest workplace raids in recent years.  Tuesday’s arrests targeted employees of Corso’s Flower and Garden Center in Sandusky and Castalia, Ohio.  Those arrested are expected to face criminal charges, including identity theft and tax evasion.

About 200 ICE personnel were involved in the operations, which began at 7 a.m. and continued late into the evening.  Agents surrounded the perimeter of the Castalia locations, blocking off nearby streets as helicopters flew overhead.  Search warrants were served at both locations without incident.  They arrested 114 workers suspected of being in the country illegally and loaded many onto buses bound for ICE detention facilities.

Khaalid Walls, spokesman for ICE’s Northeastern region, said the investigation into Corso’s began in October 2017 with the arrest of a suspected document vendor.  They reviewed 313 employee records and found that 123 were suspicious.  He added that the majority of those arrested were Mexican nationals and some individuals were processed and released for humanitarian reasons.

Authorities are pursuing a bevy of allegations against Corso’s, including allegations of harboring illegal aliens, unlawful employment of aliens, false impersonation of a US citizen, fraud and aggravated identity theft, Walls said.

Steve Francis, special agent in charge of Homeland Security investigations said “We are attempting to identify what criminal network brought over 100 illegal aliens to Ohio to work.”  “If your business is operating legitimately, there’s nothing to fear.  If you are hiring illegal aliens as a business model, we will identify you, arrest you and prosecute you to the fullest extent of the law.”

In October 2017, Acting Director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement Tom Homan said he ordered the investigative unit of ICE to increase work site enforcement actions by as much as fivefold.  “We’ve already increased the number of inspections in work site operations, you will see that significantly increase this next fiscal year,” Homan said at the time.  Homan also said that those actions would target both the employers and the employees in violation of immigration law.  “Not only are we going to prosecute the employers that hire illegal workers, we’re going to detain and remove the illegal alien workers.  The aggressive efforts are meant to deter people from entering the country illegally and protect jobs for American workers.”

Corso’s employee Salma Sabala told news outlets that undercover officers showed up in an employee break room initially offering to give out Dunkin’ Donuts. Then, they started rounding up workers.  “ They’re armed. They had the dogs. We hear the helicopters on top of us,” Sabala said.  Videos captured by workers and reporters showed immigration agents putting employees in handcuffs and separating authorized U.S. residents from undocumented immigrants. No employees were seen fleeing.

The 114 people arrested were taken to detention facilities in St. Clair County, Michigan; Seneca County, Ohio; and the Youngstown, Ohio, area.  Families of the arrested workers gathered at St. Paul Catholic Church in Norwalk, Ohio, seeking answers as to the whereabouts of their loved ones.

 

 

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FEMA has ordered the evacuation of parts of a neighborhood on Hawaii’s Big Island as fast-moving lava from Kilauea volcano threatens to destroy more homes.  The volcano first erupted on May 3, 2018 and has destroyed over 100 houses.  Since the first eruption, 22 fissure vents have opened on the volcano’s East Rift Zone in the Leilani Estates and Lanipuna Gardens subdivisions.

Hawaii’s Highway 137 has been blocked by lava, cutting off access to Kapoho Bay, Vacationland, Hwy 132 and the Puna Geothermal power plant.  The flowing lava completely filled Kapoho Bay, inundated most of Vacationland and covered all but the northern part of Kapoho Beach Lots.  There are several hundred homes in these two subdivisions. Homes in Kapoho Beach Lots and Vacationland are on smaller lots and are closer together than in other parts of the Puna district.

More than 2,500 local residents have been forced to evacuate the dangerous lava flows and toxic sulfur dioxide fumes that have consumed the neighborhoods.  Officials have warned residents of the threat of toxic gases, choking ash plumes, and volcanic glass falling from the sky.  When the sulfur dioxide from the fissures mix with sunlight and oxygen it forms a type of volcanic smog called “vog,” which can cause pneumonia and bronchitis-like symptoms.

Lava continues oozing from volcanic fissures, burning homes to the ground and turning into rivers of molten rock.  The lava from Kilauea has spread across 2,000 acres of land into the surrounding neighborhoods on Hawaii’s Big Island.  The rate of lava flow in the East Rift Zone has increased, advancing at rates up to 300 yards per hour.  Officials say flowing lava has reached the Pacific Ocean, creating a steam cloud of lava haze commonly called “laze”.  Laze is a mix of hydrochloric acid and fine glass particles.  The laze extends 15 miles west of the Big Island and can cause breathing issues and skin irritation.

On May 29, 2018, the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory reported that an ash eruption at Kīlauea summit occurred overnight at around 2 am.  According to officials, the resulting ash plume reached 15,000 feet and the wind was blowing in the Northwest direction, sending ash fall out into the surrounding area.  A a 4.5 magnitude earthquake was also reported in the summit region of the Kīlauea Volcano at 1:56 a.m.  The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center issued a statement saying that no tsunami was expected.

Hawaii Civil Defense Service officials said they went through the neighborhood to warn residents this was their last chance to evacuate before their final escape route was cut off by lava Some chose to stay in the area, which now has no power, cell reception, landlines or county water, officials said.  Authorities are planning to airlift people out if the lava spreads farther and endangers the dozen or so holdouts.  Hundreds of residents are now living in shelters and emergency tents as local residents provide food and supplies.

 

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During a historic meeting between Kim Jong-un and South Korean leader Moon Jae-in at the Demilitarized Zone between the two countries, Kim Jong-un told Moon Jae-in that North Korea would be willing to denuclearize in return for a commitment that the U.S. will not invade the country. During the meeting, which was broadcast live on the Korean Peninsula and around the world, the two leaders held hands and pledged to work for peace and replace the 1953 armistice with a formal peace treaty. The two countries have been involved a tense standoff on the Korean Peninsula that’s been in place since fighting in the Korean War ended 65 years ago.
The meeting was aimed at paving the way for Kim’s upcoming summit with President Trump. During the meeting, Kim signed a joint declaration affirming a “complete denuclearization” and “a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula.” According to the South Korean government, the North Korean leader said he would invite experts and journalists from South Korea and the U.S. to witness the closing of the country’s only known underground nuclear test site. Kim announced an end to nuclear and long-range missile testing last week.
The Trump administration has been firm that complete denuclearization is required for the lifting of economic sanctions that have been placed on the country for years. U.S. officials spoke cautiously about the chances of reaching a deal and laid out a plan for the dismantling of the North’s nuclear program over a two-year period. National security adviser John R. Bolton said That would be accompanied by a “full, complete, total disclosure of everything related to their nuclear program with a full international verification.”
The two countries have recently taken other steps toward peace since the meeting with the South Korean military beginning to dismantle loudspeakers that have been blaring propaganda into the North since 2016. North Korea has announced it will shift its clocks forward 30 minutes to align with South Korea’s time zone. South Korean leader Moon Jae-in has also convinced North Korea’s Kim Jong-un to hold an upcoming summit with President Trump at the Demilitarized Zone, known as the DMZ.
Skeptics warn that North Korea previously made similar pledges of denuclearization on numerous occasions, with little or no intention of abiding by them. Kim’s could turn out to be nothing more than empty promises aimed at lifting sanctions on his isolated country. They say the closing of the nuclear site could be symbolic since the site may already be too unstable for further testing. They also question the honesty of Kim’s intentions siting the practicality of monitoring and inspections of supposedly closed sites.
The Denuclearization announcement came as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke for the first time about a “good conversation” he had with Mr. Kim during his secret visit to Pyongyang, the North Korean capital, over Easter weekend. “We had an extensive conversation on the hardest issues that face our two countries. I had a clear mission statement from President Trump. When I left, Kim Jong-un understood the mission exactly as I described it today” Mr. Pompeo said. Pompeo added that the administration’s objective was “complete, verifiable, irreversible denuclearization” with North Korea, and that Mr. Kim was prepared to “lay out a map that would help us achieve” denuclearization.