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Kim Jong Un wants to ‘write new history’ on South Korea reunification

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North Korean state media released images and comments from Kim’s dinner meeting with the South Korean officials, who included Seoul’s national security chief Chung Eui-yong. South Korea confirmed the meeting, which it said lasted for four hours from 6 p.m. Monday local time and included Kim’s wife Ri Sol Ju and sister Kim Yo Jong.
It’s believed to be the first time Kim has spoken face-to-face with officials from the South since he took power in 2011. It was also the first time a South Korean delegation had ever set foot in the main building of Korean Workers’ Party, according to South Korean officials.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (center right) sits with a visiting South Korean delegation in Pyongyang and other high-level North Koreans.
North Korea’s state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) described the encounter as an “openhearted talk” over issues aimed at “improving the North-South relations and ensuring peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula.”
The Seoul delegation also delivered a personal letter from South Korean President Moon Jae-in to Kim, according to KCNA.
The South Koreans’ trip north marks the latest development in President Moon’s efforts to broker a diplomatic agreement to the crisis brought about by North Korea’s pursuit of nuclear weapons. The visit comes in the wake of the thaw brought about by North Korea’s attendance at the PyeongChang Winter Olympics last month.
This picture released from North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on Tuesday shows North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (center) meeting with the South Korean delegation. To Kim's left is his sister and confidante, Kim Yo Jong.
The meeting marks a dramatic departure from 2017, when a string of North Korean weapons tests and hostile rhetoric from US President Donald Trump and Kim heightened tensions on the Korean Peninsula.
“Kim Jong Un as a leader has kept himself highly circumscribed. This is not someone who has met with many non-North Koreans in almost six years,” said John Delury, a professor at Yonsei University’s Graduate School of International Relations in Seoul.
“It’s a major signal of his personal commitment to this process and it gives the South Koreans, for the first time, someone can get a read on Kim Jong Un himself.”
Chung Eui-yong (second left), head of the presidential National Security Office pose with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on Monday in Pyongyang, North Korea.
To date, Kim has met few foreigners since taking control of the hermit state. He’s hosted former basketball star Dennis Rodman on multiple occasions and was photographed clasping hands with Liu Yunshan, a former top leader of China’s Communist Party, at a military parade in 2015.[1]
US official says North Korea is making progress on missile guidance

Kim did not appear to meet with a senior Chinese envoy who was sent to North Korea for rare talks in November 2017[2], nor did he meet with former US Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, who traveled to Pyongyang for a rare visit nearly four years ago[3].
The United States has said it would be willing to meet with North Korea, but has always insisted that Pyongyang eventually abandon its nuclear weapons program as part of any talks, a stance Trump reiterated Saturday night[4].
North Korea’s Foreign Ministry, for its part, accused the US of refusing to recognize realities on the ground and putting forward unrealistic roadblocks to dialogue.
The Olympic detente has been an opportunity for the Moon administration to try to prevent an escalation of last year’s tensions.
“There’s a clear determination on Moon’s part not to lose momentum after the Olympics,” said Euan Graham, the director of the international security program at the Lowy Institute, an Australian think tank.
To that end, the South Korean delegation in Pyongyang will “have an in-depth discussion on measures to continue various talks between North Korea and the international community, including the United States,” according to Chung.
“Above all, I will communicate clearly the will and intention of the president, who wants the de-nuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, and create a lasting peace by utilizing the flow of the inter-Korean dialogue,” Chung said.
Chung Eui-yong (center), head of the presidential National Security Office, Suh Hoon (second left), the chief of the South's National Intelligence Service, and others pose before boarding an aircraft as they leave for Pyongyang at a military airport on Monday.
Moon, who was elected last year after his conservative predecessor was ousted in a corruption scandal, has been proponent of dialogue and engagement with North Korea since his days as a presidential aide in the 2000s.
Now he has the difficult job of playing interlocutor between a North Korean regime steadfastly clinging to its nuclear weapons program — which it sees as the only way to ensure the survival of its regime — and an administration in Washington that believes Pyongyang’s development of a long-range ballistic missile potentially capable of hitting the US homeland with a nuclear warhead constitutes an unacceptable risk[5].
“What Moon is trying to do is interpose himself between North Korea and the United States so that there is a kind of defusing role that the South Koreans play, naively or not, in trying to at least sort of forestall any ramping up of tensions,” Graham said.
Kim Jong Un is seen shaking hands with South Korean chief delegator Chung eui-yong.

Another trip north?

Though Chung is officially leading the delegation, the attendance of South Korea’s spy chief, Suh Hoon, could signal that the two sides are laying the groundwork for Moon to eventually meet with Kim in person.
Moon was invited north last month by Kim’s sister, Kim Yo Jong, who also serves as the head of the country’s propaganda department. She was in South Korea last month to attend the Winter Games opening ceremony.
Chung Eui-yong (second from the right), head of the presidential National Security Office, and Suh Hoon (left), the chief of the South's National Intelligence Service, talk before leaving for Pyongyang Monday.
Suh was tapped by Moon to serve as the director of South Korea’s National Intelligence Service. His appointment fueled speculation about a new inter-Korean summit, as Suh helped organize the two inter-Korean summits in the 2000s that saw two consecutive South Korean presidents travel north to meet with Kim Jong Il.
Sending Suh to Pyongyang “suggests they’re already taking about summit preparations,” said Graham.
The delegation is expected to return to Seoul Tuesday and then travel to the United States to brief American officials.

References

  1. ^ military parade in 2015. (cnn.com)
  2. ^ rare talks in November 2017 (cnn.com)
  3. ^ nearly four years ago (www.cnn.com)
  4. ^ Saturday night (www.cnn.com)
  5. ^ constitutes an unacceptable risk (www.cnn.com)

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Houston Recalls Legacy of George Bush, Its Lone Star Yankee and Senior Booster

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HOUSTON — Inside the airport that bears his name, George Herbert Walker Bush looks, at a distance, as if he’s wearing a cape.

An 8-foot-tall bronze statue at the Houston airport shows Mr. Bush, who , Barbara Bush[4], who died in April at the age of 92. After Mr. Bush’s death on Friday, Houston lost its two most famous residents in the span of seven months.

“George H.W. Bush served with valor and integrity as the 41st president of the United States,” Houston’s mayor, Sylvester Turner, said in a statement. “But to Houstonians he was one of our most esteemed and relatable neighbors. He and his wife, Barbara Bush, were our sports teams’ biggest fans, and boosters for everything Houston.”

This was the man whose most memorable quote in years had to do with men’s hosiery. In 2012, as his fondness for wearing bright eye-catching socks was going strong, he explained that he simply “likes a good sock.” At his wife’s funeral at St. Martin’s Episcopal Church in Houston, Mr. Bush wore a pair of socks with a colorful stack-of-books design, a tribute to Mrs. Bush’s advocacy work for family literacy.

In Houston and its surrounding suburbs, Mr. Bush had not only an airport in his name but a park, a high school and a few more life-size statues. Above Buffalo Bayou, a bronze statue of Mr. Bush looks out into the distance with his hand in his pocket, gazing at, of all things, James A. Baker III, the former secretary of state and Mr. Bush’s tennis partner at the Houston Country Club. The statues of the two close friends face each other in the downtown park, separated by about 100 yards, in Houston’s oddest and longest-running staring contest.

“All I can do now,” Mr. Bush told The New York Times in 2011 about the statue, “is hope that the pigeons will be kind and gentle.”

Charles C. Foster, a Houston immigration lawyer and a longtime friend of the Bush family, came up with the idea for the George H.W. Bush Monument, which was unveiled in 2004. Mr. Foster recalled the day he sat in Mr. Bush’s office at 10000 Memorial Drive and asked for his blessing for the project.

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Mr. Bush in 1970, when he was a congressman.CreditAssociated Press

“He looked at me and he sort of looked up at the ceiling,” Mr. Foster said. “He pointed to the ceiling and said, ‘Shouldn’t you wait until I’m up there?’ And then he said, pointing downward, ‘Or perhaps down there?’”

In 1990, Mr. Bush helped turn the eyes of the world to Houston.

As president, he brought thousands of reporters and foreign dignitaries to Houston that summer for the Economic Summit of Industrialized Nations, an annual gathering of the world’s economic powers. The summits had been held in a number of global cities — London, Tokyo, Paris, Venice — and Mr. Bush made the case that his adopted hometown belonged among such world-class company.

Houston was scrappier back then. The city was rebounding from an oil bust in the 1980s that crippled the economy, and it tried hard to present its best, and cleanest, face to the cameras and the visitors, picking up millions of pounds of trash, repaving roads and enlisting the aid of 12,000 volunteers.

“That was huge for Houston,” Mr. Foster said of the 1990 summit. “When the president had a chance, he could have picked some mountain retreat. But he picked his hometown. He was well aware of the chip on our shoulders that we didn’t feel like Houston got the recognition that it should.”

Now, with 2.3 million residents (compared with 1.6 million in 1990), Houston is the fourth-largest city in America, known as much for its diversity as its energy-capital status. George Bush High School, part of the Fort Bend school district, is 43 percent Hispanic, 38 percent black, 12 percent Asian and 4 percent white. More than 90 languages and dialects are spoken in the district.

Early Saturday morning in the upscale Tanglewood area, Houstonians paused at the gates at South Post Oak Lane and North West Oak Drive — the entrance to the gated community where Mr. Bush lived. Someone draped an American flag in the center of the gates, decorated for the holidays with Christmas wreaths.

Shirley Matthews, 66, a lifelong Houstonian who lives nearby, walked up and took a picture of the memorial for her mother. “He was just a good person,” she said. “He wasn’t perfect. But it’s family, and we love each other.”

References

  1. ^ died at his home here on Friday (www.nytimes.com)
  2. ^ Read the obituary of George H.W. Bush. (www.nytimes.com)
  3. ^ the funeral for his wife (www.nytimes.com)
  4. ^ Barbara Bush (www.nytimes.com)

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A Close Race, a Mysterious Ballot and Control of Alaska’s House at Stake

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With a crucial legislative seat in Alaska teetering toward a tie earlier this month, lawmakers in Juneau braced for the possibility of a coin toss deciding control of the state’s House of Representatives. Then a mysterious extra ballot emerged that threw the process into further disarray.

Amid several counts, the latest coming on Friday afternoon, a single ballot drew scrutiny across the state.

The state’s review board certified the race, between Kathryn Dodge, a Democrat, and Bart LeBon, a Republican, as a tie earlier this week, with exactly 2,661 votes going to each candidate. The extra ballot, for Ms. Dodge, could have settled the race for the Fairbanks-area district seat.

Later on Friday, the mystery appeared to have been solved — but the standoff over who won the election continued.

Samantha Miller, a spokeswoman for the state elections office, said that workers at Fairbanks’s No. 6 precinct told officials that a woman had come into the polling place to request a special needs ballot on behalf of her husband, who was outside in a vehicle.

The woman came back into the precinct. Her husband had made a mistake, she told the precinct worker, and needed a new ballot. She left behind the one he had already marked, thus making it a spoiled ballot.

The precinct chair told the worker who took the spoiled ballot to put it into a secrecy sleeve, “and that they would deal with it later in the day,” Ms. Miller said.

But instead, the spoiled ballot was put into a compartment with other questioned ballots.

Typically, Ms. Miller said, spoiled ballots are destroyed once they are accounted for. So, because the mystery ballot was found to be spoiled, it will not be counted, she said.

Still, that left the question of what happens if the recount that began on Friday afternoon ends in a tie — again.

Ms. Miller said that both candidates had five days to file a legal challenge to the results. And if the court decided the recount went as it should have, and the race was still a tie?

The prevailing candidate would be determined “by lot,” Ms. Miller said. “It could be a coin toss or some other way of deciding, as long as it’s random.”

It would not be the first time an Alaska race was determined by coin toss.

In 2006, State Representative Bryce Edgmon[1], a Democrat from Dillingham, beat the incumbent, Carl Moses. Mr. Moses’s name was drawn, so he got to make the call: Heads.

The state’s elections director at the time flipped an Alaska Mint medallion — the side with a walrus being heads and the side with the state seal being tails. It landed state seal side up.

Ms. Miller would not speculate about when the recount would be complete, but said both candidates were present, along with observers and officials.

Mr. LeBon did not respond to requests for comment on Friday.

Sara Harriger, a spokeswoman for Ms. Dodge, said in a statement that during Friday’s recount, one additional vote was found for Ms. Dodge and a challenged ballot was allowed for her opponent, Mr. LeBon, which meant that the tally stood at 2,662 apiece. Still tied.

Ms. Dodge said in a statement that she believed every legally cast ballot should be counted. “I just want everyone watching this process to take away a sense of confidence in our democratic system and a commitment to cast their votes in future races,” she said, “and knowing that their votes will matter.”

Ms. Dodge had said earlier on Friday that legal action “unfortunately” seemed probable.

“It’s certainly not what any of us expect when we set out to campaign, to find ourselves in a squeaker of this nature,” she said. “I hope we don’t have a coin toss. I don’t know quite what to say, but it doesn’t feel like it’s an appropriate way to settle an election.”

In Alaska, the repercussions of this race will be felt into the next legislative session, though party control of the House in Juneau will be far from clear-cut.

Political coalitions in Juneau do not always come down to party-line votes like in other state houses. Even if Ms. Dodge wins the race, Democrats would still not have an outright majority, and so members of the House will still be tasked with negotiating a coalition majority.

References

  1. ^ Bryce Edgmon (akleg.gov)

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3 Killed After Pickup Truck Fleeing Border Patrol Hits Tire Spikes and Crashes

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Three people in a packed pickup truck were killed on Thursday afternoon after the driver ran over tire spikes and crashed on a Southern California highway while trying to flee Border Patrol officers, the authorities said.

The officers turned on their vehicle’s emergency lights and began chasing the pickup truck on Interstate 8, near Boulevard, Calif., at around 4:20 p.m., according to the United States Customs and Border Protection. The authorities said they believed that the pickup truck had been illegally driven over the southern border and had crashed through an “iron bar vehicle barrier.” They said they identified it by matching a piece that was missing from the truck to one agents had spotted on the ground near the border, though they did not elaborate.

The pickup truck reached speeds of over 100 miles per hour, weaving between cars and bypassing others on the side of the highway, before it drove over spikes that the Border Patrol had placed on the road, the California Highway Patrol said. About a mile later, the truck spun out of control and flipped over, ejecting the nine people who were riding in the truck’s bed, the authorities said.

A woman inside the truck, who was not wearing a seatbelt, was killed, as were two people riding in the bed, the police said. Seven people who had “multiple serious injuries” were taken to the hospital, a spokesman for Customs and Border Protection said.

The driver, a United States citizen whose name was not released, was the only person wearing a seatbelt, the agency said. The California Highway Patrol took the man into custody, but it was not clear whether he had been charged. The identities of the passengers in the truck have not been released either.

“The investigation into the smuggling incident is ongoing,” the spokesman said in an email, “and the Border Patrol is fully cooperating with the CHP in their investigation of the collision.”

About an hour after the crash, the Border Patrol stopped another vehicle that officers believed had crossed over the border with the pickup truck, the agency said. The driver of that car was also arrested.

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