TPM World News

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — South Korea on Monday offered talks with North Korea to ease animosities along their tense border and resume reunions of families separated by their war in the 1950s.

It was unclear how North Korea will react since it remains suspicious of new South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s outreach to it. But Moon’s overture, the first formal offer of talks since his inauguration in May, indicates he wants to use dialogue to defuse the international standoff over North Korea’s weapons programs, despite having condemned the North’s first intercontinental ballistic missile test on July 4 and vowed a firm response.

If realized, the talks would be the first inter-Korean dialogue since December 2015. Ties between the Koreas have plunged over the North’s expanding missile and nuclear programs and the hard-line policies of Moon’s conservative predecessors.

South Korean Vice Defense Minister Suh Choo Suk proposed on Monday that defense officials from the two Koreas hold talks at the border village of Panmunjom on Friday on how to end hostile activities along the border. South Korean acting Red Cross chief Kim Sun Hyang told a news conference that it wants separate talks at the border village on Aug. 1 to discuss family reunions.

North Korea’s state media didn’t immediately respond to South Korea’s proposals. But analysts say North Korea may accept the defense talks because it wants the South Korean army to halt loudspeaker broadcasts at the border that began after North Korea’s fourth nuclear test in January 2016. Prospects for talks on family reunions are less good because North Korea has previously demanded that South Korea repatriate some North Korean defectors living in the South before any reunions take place, according to the analysts.

Earlier this month, Moon said in a speech in Germany that he’s willing to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong Un if certain conditions are met. Moon also said the two Koreas must halt hostile activities along the border, restart family reunions and cooperate on the 2018 Winter Olympics to be held in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

Moon has said he will use both dialogue and pressure to resolve the standoff over North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs. But he has achieved little progress, with North Korea test-firing a series of newly developed missiles.

North Korea is believed to possess hundreds of missiles capable of striking South Korea and Japan. It recent test of an ICBM put it one step closer to its goal of developing nuclear-armed missiles capable of reaching anywhere in the United States.

After the ICBM launch, Kim said he would never negotiate over his weapons programs as long as U.S. hostility and nuclear threats persist.

The two Koreas have been divided since the 1950-53 Korean War ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty. About 28,500 American troops are stationed in South Korea.

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MOSUL, Iraq (AP) — There was a smell of death in Mosul’s Old City when Ayman Hashem came back this week to see what happened to his home. His neighborhood was unrecognizable.

“All that’s left is rubble and the bodies of families trapped underneath,” the 23-year-old said. He flipped through photos on his phone, showing picture after picture of wreckage. His own house was “cut in half,” he said. He had to cover his nose with his tee-shirt because of the smell of buried, rotting bodies.

Iraq’s U.S.-backed forces wrested Mosul from the Islamic State group at the cost of enormous destruction. The nearly 9-month fight culminated with a crescendo of devastation — the blasting of the historic Old City to root out the deeply dug-in militants.

Nearly a third of the Old City — more than 5,000 buildings — was damaged or destroyed in the final three weeks of bombardment up to July 8, according to a survey by U.N. Habitat using satellite imagery. Across the city, 10,000 buildings were damaged over the course of the war, the large majority in western Mosul, the scene of the most intense artillery, airstrikes and fighting during the past five months. The survey only covers damage visible in satellite photos, meaning the real number is likely higher.

The population, once numbering 3 million, is battered and exhausted, with hundreds of thousands displaced. Without a swift campaign to rebuild Mosul, aid and rights groups warn the current humanitarian crisis will balloon and resentment will likely give way to extremism, undermining the victory.

“If the western half is ignored it will produce a social disaster and this social disaster will create bigger destruction if it’s not addressed,” said Khatab Mohammed al-Najjar, a resident of eastern Mosul who watched the Old City burn from across the Tigris River during the operation.

“West Mosul produced Daesh, and it is very possible it may produce a new Daesh,” he said, referring to west Mosul’s historically more religious and traditional residents. He used the Arabic acronym for IS.

When Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared victory in Mosul Monday, he pledged reconstruction would begin soon. But his government still struggles to finance day-to-day workings of the state amid low oil prices.

Thousands of Mosul families have been left without a home. Schools have been leveled, utility grids wrecked, highways pounded into broken dirt roads.

All five of the city’s bridges spanning the Tigris River have been damaged. The main hospital complex where a battle raged for more than a month is a burned out shell. Mosul’s airport looks like a derelict parking lot, booby-trapped with explosives by fleeing IS fighters.

In eastern Mosul, the destruction was less intense. More than 160,000 of the 176,000 people who fled the east have returned, according to the U.N. Residents have begun rebuilding homes, shops have reopened, and demining is underway.

But west of the Tigris, neighborhoods have been rendered into ghost towns. There, coalition strikes killed some 5,805 civilians between Feb. 19 and June 19, according to Airwars, a London-based monitoring group tracking civilian deaths resulting from coalition actions.

Fewer than a tenth of the more than 730,000 people who fled western Mosul have filtered back.

Saif Mohammed recently re-opened his sandwich shop on a main avenue in the west, repairing war damage with the help of a $5,000 loan from relatives. On the same street, only two or three other shops are open. The other storefronts are bombed out and burned, the corrugated Iron doors warped by explosions.

His shop is a bet that residents will return. “But what people really need is government help,” he said. “If the government doesn’t give money, there won’t be any rebuilding.”

Hiyam Mohammed hid in her home with her family on the edge of the Old City throughout the fight. They could see the cemetery from their house.

“Some days the funerals lasted from dawn into the night. There were so many bodies piled up, it looked like a hill,” she said. “I thought I was going crazy seeing this. They didn’t even have time to wash the dead.”

She said the only way to justice is if the government and coalition pay compensation to those who lost relatives or property.

“The government brought Daesh to us,” she said, referring to sectarian rule that fueled Sunni extremism and corruption that weakened the country’s security forces. “This mess is God’s revenge for that.”

But some in the security forces have resentments of their own, blaming Mosul residents for supporting IS.

“The people here have always had a rebellious nature, so they should take some responsibility for what has happened,” said Maj. Imad Hassan, a federal police officer from Baghdad.

During the campaign, his unit fought to capture a stretch of the corniche running along the Tigris, hammering it with artillery for weeks to clear out IS resistance. The former municipal center was shredded, rows of buildings blackened, palm trees lining the boulevard burned.

“I hope this destruction teaches them their lesson,” he said.

Iraqi and coalition officials say the devastation was the result of the Islamic State group’s tenacious grip. IS transformed the city into a fortress. Its fighters used hospitals and schools as military bases, moved civilians from the rural outskirts into central neighborhoods to use as shields from airstrikes and rigged hundreds of houses and roads with explosives.

Nearly 10 years ago, Maj. Maher Aziz Khalaf fought IS’ predecessor, al-Qaida, in Mosul alongside U.S. forces. But when he rolled into western Mosul with the first wave of Iraqi special forces troops in early February he said he immediately realized this battle would alter the city in a way previous fights hadn’t.

“In 2008 it was different. We would just identify which houses the terrorists were living in, come in at night and arrest them,” he said. “We were fighting gangs, not an entire city.”

A coalition spokesman, Col. Joe Scrocca, said the forces had to balance between protecting non-combatants and infrastructure on one hand and moving quickly on the other. Another factor, he said, was that the longer it took to free the city, the more danger civilians were in, whether from lack of food or IS retaliation.

Hesitant to risk casualties along their own troops, Iraqi military commanders relied on airpower and artillery to clear neighborhoods where a handful of IS fighters armed with light weapons and civilians as human shields repeatedly stalled entire units of Iraq’s military.

As the fight moved to the Old City, rights groups and the U.N. warned the coalition and Iraqi forces against using large munitions. Still, the U.S.-led coalition repeatedly approved the use of 500- and 2,000-pound bombs inside the densely populated district.

As waves of civilians fled the Old City, more than a dozen individuals told the AP they knew of multiple families killed under their homes by what they believed to be airstrikes.

“The buildings can be rebuilt, but the human lives lost cannot,” said Iraqi special forces Lt. Gen. Abdul-Ghani al-Asadi from a base on the edge of Old City on Tuesday.

“But the buildings in the Old City were all very old anyway,” he said. “Now we can demolish them and build apartment buildings.”

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MOSCOW (AP) — Russia’s Foreign Ministry said on Friday that it would have to expel U.S. diplomats and shut down some U.S. compounds in Russia if the United States does not reopen two Russian recreational estates in the U.S. that were shut down last year.

In response to reports of Russian meddling in the presidential election, the outgoing Obama administration last year expelled 35 Russian officials from the U.S. and shut down two Russian estates that President Barack Obama said were being used for spy operations.

New President Donald Trump and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin last week discussed the two diplomatic compounds but did not reach an agreement.

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told reporters on Friday that Moscow “will have to take reciprocal measures” if the issue is not resolved.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov and U.S. Undersecretary of State Tom Shannon are scheduled to meet on Monday for much-anticipated talks that Moscow abruptly canceled last month in response to new Ukraine-related sanctions announced by the Trump administration. Russia is hoping that Shannon will have “detailed suggestions on how to resolve the situation” with the Russian property in the U.S., Zakharova said.

The State Department wants a deal that could include restarting U.S. adoptions of Russian children. It also has to deal with concerns at home — the FBI and some U.S. intelligence professionals fear giving back the sites would aid Russian spy efforts.

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JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel’s government says a Jerusalem holy site that was the site of a deadly attack earlier in the day won’t reopen before Sunday, after additional security assessments.

The shrine was closed after three Palestinian assailants opened fire from there on Friday, killing two Israeli police officers before being shot dead.

The Muslim-administered site is revered by both Muslims and Jews.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said in a statement that an investigation of the attack would continue over the weekend. It says that “in accordance with security assessments to be held Sunday,” the shrine would open gradually to worshippers and visitors.

Jordan, a custodian of the sacred compound, called for its immediate reopening.

Jordanian government spokesman Mohammed Momani said Israel must not take any steps that “would change the historic situation in Jerusalem” and at the shrine.

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JERUSALEM (AP) — Three Palestinian assailants opened fire on Israeli police from inside a major Jerusalem holy site Friday, killing two officers before being shot dead, police said.

The rare attack from within the contested shrine, revered by both Muslims and Jews, raised new concerns about an escalation of violence.

The sacred compound sits at the fault line of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and has triggered major confrontations in the past.

Israel closed the site, known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as the Temple Mount, for further weapons sweeps Friday.

The rare closure meant a cancellation of noon prayers, which typically draw tens of thousands of Muslims from Israel and the Israeli-occupied West Bank to the compound on Fridays.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu quickly tried to allay Muslim fears, saying that the status quo at the Muslim-administered site “will be preserved.”

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas reached out to Netanyahu in a rare phone call to discuss the situation in Jerusalem, highlighting the concern about a possible escalation, according to the official Palestinian news agency WAFA. The leaders have almost no direct contact.

Abbas condemned the attack and said he rejects “any violence from any party, particularly at holy sites.”

Police identified the assailants as Arab citizens of Israel. Friday’s shooting was the latest in a wave of Palestinian attacks that erupted in 2015, in part over tensions at the Jerusalem holy site.

Israeli police chief Roni Alsheikh said Friday that the weapons used in the attack had been brought into the holy compound.

The attackers opened fire on the Israeli officers from inside the site, he said.

In response, “a police force charged at the terrorists, killed two and wounded the third,” he said. The wounded assailant used a knife to attack an officer checking him for explosives and was killed, the police chief said.

Alsheikh said such an attack is “without precedent” at the holy site and an “incident of the highest severity.”

Amateur video broadcast on Israeli TV stations showed a few seconds of what appeared to be part of the chase in the compound.

In the video, several people — only visible as dark figures in the footage shot from a distance — were running inside the compound. A man who had dropped to the ground suddenly jumps up and lunges at one of the officers before he is shot.

The sacred compound, popular with tourists, is the holiest site in Judaism and the third-holiest in Islam, after Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia.

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PARIS (AP) — France’s annual Bastille Day parade turned into an event high on American patriotism this year, marked by a warm embrace between President Donald Trump and his French counterpart on Friday.

French President Emmanuel Macron invited Trump as the guest of honor for the celebration to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the U.S. entry into World War I. The two men sat side by side with their wives, speaking animatedly as American and French warplanes roared above the Champs-Elysees.

The parade coupled traditional displays of military might with a look at wars past and present — and a nod to the U.S. role in both.

Macron, in a speech near the end of the event, thanked the U.S. for intervening in World War I and said the fact that Trump was at his side “is the sign of a friendship across the ages.

“And that is why I wish to thank them, thank the United States for the choice it made 100 years ago,” he said.

Macron also said that the U.S. and France are firm friends and “this is why nothing will ever separate us.”

Five of the 145 U.S. troops marching in Friday’s parade wore period World War I uniforms. Trump saluted the detachment as it passed. The U.S. president didn’t make any remarks.

Also in the parade were French soldiers taking part in the mission against the Islamic State group. France and the United States are among a coalition of nations fighting the extremist organization.

Shortly after his speech, Macron and Trump walked down from the tribune where they were sitting to stand in front of giant French and American flags that were unfurled by soldiers. The two mean shook hands and embraced, then clasping their hands together for a while before Trump was whisked away in his motorcade.

Trump is returning to the U.S., and Macron heads to the southern city of Nice, where last year an extremist plowed a truck into the holiday crowd, killing dozens. IS claimed responsibility for that attack and others in France, including one just last month on the Champs-Elysees that left only the attacker dead.

Two hours before the parade Friday, the famed Champs-Elysees avenue was emptied as was the Place de la Concorde with its golden-tipped obelisk. The wide boulevard has been targeted repeatedly by Islamic extremists, most recently last month when a man crashed his car into a convoy of gendarmes.

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PARIS (AP) — With a military parade on the Champs-Elysees and a gilded tour of France’s most storied monuments, French President Emmanuel Macron laid on the charm as he positioned himself as the indispensable intermediary between Europe and Donald Trump.

The Bastille Day demonstration on Friday capped two days of Parisian glitz for Trump and his wife, who were Macron’s guests of honor in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of America’s entry into World War I.

Thanking the United States for the decision that turned the tide of a devastating conflict, Macron said the Trumps’ presence on France’s national holiday “is the sign of a friendship across the ages.”

Macron made a point of detailing both the long history of ties between France and America and the areas where he and Trump disagree. But he made clear it was in the spirit of bluntness with a friend and ally, even offering a conspiratorial wink during a joint news conference.

The two-day visit beginning Thursday featured a personal tour of the golden-domed Invalides monument and a private dinner high in the Eiffel Tower prepared by chef Alain Ducasse himself.

Trump had front-row seats at the reviewing stand Friday, applauding during the hours-long parade carried out under blue skies as various French military units marched past. At one point, Trump saluted a combined group of U.S. Army and Navy troops and Marines taking part in the annual event.

Macron and Trump both came to office as unlikely outsider candidates. The youngest president of modern France — and the same age as Donald Trump Jr. — Macron started his own political movement just over a year ago. He won strong parliamentary majority and is riding high in the polls.

The flattering French visit gave Trump a respite from his troubles at home, and he amended the opinion of a friend he calls Jim, who believes that “Paris isn’t Paris any longer” because of the blight of Islamic extremism.

Asked about Jim’s criticisms Thursday, Trump deflected and said Paris was “going to be just fine” because France now has a “great” and “tough” president. At Macron and Trump’s first encounter in May, the two shared a white-knuckle handshake that the French president said was intended to show he was no pushover.

As Friday’s visit ended, the men embraced and then the arm wrestling seemed to begin anew. As Trump walked to his motorcade, he gripped Macron’s hand firmly, pulling the smaller man off-balance and held fast as they walked together toward their wives.

Still, both seemed to minimize their differences, said Spencer Boyer, former national intelligence officer for Europe and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.

“President Macron was highly skilled at putting President Trump at ease and avoiding any land mines that would have derailed the show of unity,” Boyer said. “Macron was especially adept at sidestepping questions about U.S. political controversies, which Trump clearly appreciated.”

Although the welcome may have taken some of the sting out of their first encounter, Macron’s amiable meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel earlier in the day showed the balance Macron appears to be striking.

With Merkel, he emphasized their agreement on nearly every issue as well as their joint development of a fighter jet.

The German leader said there was no getting around interdependence in the 21st century. “Europe alone cannot win the war on terrorism,” Merkel said.

“There is no divergence between France and Germany in the manner of treating President Trump,” Macron added.

Still, the German chancellor, who was less than a block from the U.S. Embassy when Trump was ensconced inside, left the presidential palace before she and Trump could cross paths.

Trump left open the possibility that he would reconsider his decision to pull the U.S. out of the Paris climate accord — the main source of disagreement with European Union governments. But he said if it doesn’t happen, “that will be OK too.”

Macron’s ability to firmly acknowledge his differences with Trump are part of modern French tradition. His invitation to Trump was “a way of illustrating the history of France and America, allied but not aligned,” said Thomas Gomart, director of the French Institute for International Relations.

Trump’s parting tweet showed a photo of the two men looking out over the Champs-Elysees, standing shoulder to shoulder during what the American described as a “magnificent #BastilleDay parade.”

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SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — After his country’s first test-firing of an intercontinental ballistic missile last week, North Korea’s young leader, Kim Jong Un, has moved one step closer to perfecting a nuclear missile capable of reaching the United States, a weapons program launched by his grandfather and nurtured by his father.

For nearly 70 years, the three generations of the Kim family have run North Korea with an absolute rule that tolerates no dissent. They have devoted much of the country’s scarce resources to its military but have constantly feared Washington is intent on destroying their dynastic rule. They concluded that a powerful nuclear deterrent against potential U.S. aggression would guarantee their survival.

A look at how North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs have evolved under each of the three Kims.

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THE PATRIARCH: KIM IL SUNG (1948-1994)

1948: Kim Il Sung, a former guerrilla leader fighting against Japan’s colonial rule, establishes the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in the northern half of the Korean Peninsula.

1950: Kim’s army invades South Korea, triggering the three-year Korean War. The United States fights alongside South Korea while China backs North Korea.

1985: North Korea joins the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. But the country doesn’t allow inspections required by the pact, arousing suspicions that it’s engaging in clandestine work to develop atomic weapons.

1993: North Korea announces its withdrawal from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, touching off an international nuclear crisis.

July 1994: Kim Il Sung dies of a heart attack at age 82. His son and longtime heir apparent, Kim Jong Il, takes power.

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THE SON: KIM JONG IL (1994-2011)

October 1994: North Korea and the United States sign a landmark nuclear disarmament deal in Geneva. North Korea pledges to freeze and eventually dismantle its nuclear weapons program in exchange for international aid to build two power-producing nuclear reactors.

1998: North Korea stuns the region by firing a suspected missile over Japan and into the Pacific Ocean.

2002: Assistant U.S. Secretary of State James Kelly says North Korean officials admitted to having a secret nuclear weapons program during his visit to Pyongyang. The 1994 pact subsequently falls apart and a nuclear crisis flares again.

2003: North Korea attends Beijing-hosted disarmament talks that also involve Washington, Seoul, Tokyo and Moscow. The on-and-off talks continue until late 2008, producing two major now-stalled disarmament-for-aid deals.

July 2006: North Korea launches a three-stage rocket with a potential range of 6,700 kilometers (4,100 miles) but it fizzles after liftoff, according to U.S. and South Korean officials. North Korea has never acknowledged the launch.

October 2006: North Korea conducts its first underground nuclear test blast, citing “extreme threat of a nuclear war” from the United States.

2009: North Korea conducts its second nuclear test explosion.

2011: Kim Jong Il dies of a heart attack at 69. Kim’s youngest son, Kim Jong Un, succeeds him as leader.

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THE GRANDSON: KIM JONG UN (2011-present)

2012: North Korea puts a satellite in orbit with a long-range rocket. The United States, South Korea and others condemn the launch as a cover for testing long-range missile technology. It is the North’s first successful satellite launch.

2013: North Korea carries out its third nuclear test.

January 2016: North Korea says it has conducted a hydrogen bomb test. It’s the North’s fourth nuclear test, but many outsiders are skeptical that it was a hydrogen bomb explosion.

February 2016: North Korea succeeds in its second satellite launch.

August 2016: North Korea fires a ballistic missile from a submarine that flies 500 kilometers (310 miles) before crashing into waters near Japan. Missiles launched from submarines are generally harder to detect than land-based ones.

September 2016: North Korea stages its fifth nuclear test, its most powerful atomic bomb explosion to date.

February 2017: North Korea tests a new midrange ballistic missile, the Pukguksong-2. It says the missile used solid fuel, an advance that increases a weapon’s mobility and makes it harder for outsiders to detect a coming launch. The North tests this missile again in May.

July 4, 2017: North Korea test-fires its first ICBM at an extremely lofted angle. The missile, called Hwasong-14, is capable of reaching Alaska and beyond if launched at a normal trajectory, according to outside experts. After the launch, Kim says he won’t put his weapons programs on the negotiating table unless the United States ends its hostility and nuclear threat.

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TRIESTE, Italy (AP) — French President Emmanuel Macron is acknowledging France hasn’t done its part in welcoming migrants during the influx Europe has experience during the last several years.

But Macron says there is a “profound” distinction that must be made between economic migrants and refugees fleeing war or persecution at home.

He was speaking Wednesday after meeting with Italian Premier Paolo Gentiloni and German Chancellor Angela Merkel on the sidelines of an EU-Balkans summit.

Macron says France is accelerating its process to welcome legitimate refugees. But he says his country cannot take in all the people who want to come to Europe for economic reasons.

Gentiloni has insisted other European countries need to do more to relieve the migration burden on Italy. But he says Macron is right in making a distinction between economic migrants and refugees who are guaranteed international protection.

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LONDON (AP) — Royal Bank of Scotland said Wednesday it has reached a $5.5 billion settlement in the United States over mortgage-backed securities issued before the financial crisis.

The deal with the Federal Housing Finance Agency — the conservator of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac — resolves claims regarding the issuance and underwriting of approximately $32 billion (25 billion pounds) of residential mortgage-backed securities.

RBS CEO Ross McEwan says the announcement is “an important step forward in resolving one of the most significant legacy matters facing RBS.”

McEwan has been at pains in recent months to insist RBS has put its legacy issues behind it. The bank was bailed out at the height of the financial crisis and is now owned by the British taxpayer.

“This settlement is a stark reminder of what happened to this bank before the financial crisis, and the heavy price paid for its pursuit of global ambitions,” McEwan said.

Under the settlement, RBS will pay $5.5 billion, but be reimbursed for $754 million under indemnification agreements with third parties.

The cost is largely covered by money it had already set aside. It will take an extra charge of $196 million.

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