TPM World News

WASHINGTON (AP) — The United States has evacuated several more government workers out of the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou after medical testing revealed they might have been affected by unexplained health incidents that have already hurt U.S. personnel in Cuba, the State Department said Wednesday.

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said “a number of individuals” have been brought to the U.S. They are in addition to a U.S. worker in Guangzhou who was evacuated earlier, as the Trump administration had already disclosed.

The new evacuations come after the U.S. sent a medical team to Guangzhou to screen American government workers. The team arrived earlier this week, and Nauert said the medical screenings were ongoing. She said they are being offered to “any personnel who have noted concerning symptoms or wanted baseline screening.”

A U.S. official said the evacuated Americans are being brought for testing to the University of Pennsylvania. That’s where doctors have been treating and studying patients evacuated from the U.S. Embassy in Havana.

The official wasn’t authorized to discuss the situation publicly and requested anonymity.

It wasn’t clear whether the incidents occurred in the consulate or at the homes of diplomats and other employees, many of them located in luxury high rises.

The China incidents have raised fears the unexplained incidents that started in Cuba in 2016 have expanded. The U.S. government has deemed those incidents “specific attacks” on American workers but hasn’t publicly identified a cause or culprit. Most of the incidents were accompanied by bizarre, unexplained sounds that initially led U.S. investigators to suspect a sonic attack.

The American government worker who was removed from China earlier reported “subtle and vague, but abnormal, sensations of sound and pressure.” China said last month that it had found no explanation.

In testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last month, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said China had “said all the right things and have demonstrated their willingness to help us identify the vector which led to this medical incident.”

The China incidents affect one of the most important of the seven U.S. diplomatic outposts in the country. The Guangzhou consulate opened months after the establishment of diplomatic relations between Beijing and Washington in 1979 and moved to its new purpose-built facility in 2013.

It serves four southern provinces with a combined population of more than 204 million and processes more than 1 million visa applications of all types annually. It is also the only U.S. diplomatic installation in China authorized to process immigrant visas and handle adoptions.

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WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un will meet at a luxury resort on Sentosa Island for nuclear talks next week in Singapore, the White House said Tuesday.

The historic meeting will be held at the Capella Hotel, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders tweeted.

“We thank our great Singaporean hosts for their hospitality,” Sanders said.

Trump and Kim’s highly anticipated meeting is scheduled for 9 a.m. local time June 12 at — or 9 p.m. June 11 on the East Coast of the U.S. — after a flurry of on-again-off-again action.

Trump hopes to secure a nuclear deal with the North Koreans, seeking for Kim to give up his nuclear program, though he stressed last week that the process would likely take longer than a single meeting.

Located a quarter-mile off the coast of the city-state, Sentosa Island is known for its high-end beach hotels, golf courses and amusement parks. A U.S. advance team was spotted at the Capella Hotel last week meeting with North Korean officials in preparation for the summit.

The hotel is known for luxury amenities, impeccable service and, above all, privacy for business and leisure. Two of the hotel’s buildings were built in the 1880s for British officers based on the island.

On Tuesday evening, workers were painting a fresh coat on the façade, extra security was in place and red carpets were being rolled out at the hotel’s two entrances.

Officials had also considered the Shangri-La Hotel, which hosts an annual international security summit and was the venue for a 2015 meeting between Chinese President Xi Jinping and Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou.

Trump is expected to stay at that hotel, which is near a major shopping district and less secluded than the island facility chosen for his meeting with Kim.

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WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump couldn’t get what he wanted from months of three-way trade talks with Canada and Mexico.

So now his administration wants to pursue separate negotiations with the two U.S. neighbors to try to overhaul the 24-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement, which Trump has condemned as a job-killing disaster.

Trump’s top economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, went on “Fox & Friends” on Tuesday to convey the president’s preference for dealing separately with Canada and Mexico. Kudlow said Trump doesn’t plan to abandon NAFTA — something the president has threatened since taking office — but “is just going to try a different approach.”

Yet it’s far from clear that separate discussions by the United States with Mexico and Canada could leave the three-nation NAFTA deal altered but intact.

“It’s impossible to make sense of (Kudlow’s) statements,” said Michael Camunez, president of Monarch Global Strategies consultancy and a former U.S. Commerce Department official.

By saying there is no plan to leave NAFTA, “he’s probably trying to keep the markets calm … while we negotiate separate bilateral agreements.”

Trade analysts said they were skeptical that Canada and Mexico, angry that the U.S. has slapped tariffs on their steel and aluminum, would be drawn into one-on-one negotiations to appease Washington.

“This divide-and-conquer strategy is not entirely unexpected, especially now that the three-way negotiating process seems to have hit a wall,” said Mary Lovely, an economist at Syracuse University.

Trump has frequently expressed his preference for reaching agreements with other countries one at a time, rather than multilateral agreements like NAFTA or a 12-country Asia-Pacific deal he abandoned upon taking office last year. Earlier this year, he nudged South Korea into making concessions and accepting changes to a six-year-old trade pact between the two countries.

“He’s believed that bilaterals have always been better,” Kudlow said, adding: “He hates large treaties… When you have to compromise with a whole bunch of countries, you get the worst of the deals. Why not try to get the best of the deals for the American people, the American workforce, the American economy and presumably for their economies as well?”

Most economists say broader trade deals typically work more effectively than one-on-one pacts between countries. A hodgepodge of two-country trade deals tends to distort corporate decision-making. Companies will then typically target countries with the lowest tariffs instead of trying to sell to the markets that make the most economic sense.

It “replaces market signals with tariffs and quotas,” Lovely said.

What’s more, Washington’s new strategy could prove a hard sell in Ottawa and Mexico City, with the Canadians and Mexicans still furious over Trump’s decision last week to impose tariffs on their steel and aluminum shipments. The administration has argued that a reliance on imported metals poses a threat to America’s national security.

“The atmosphere is utterly toxic right now,” said Edward Alden, senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. “There will be enormous pressures on Canada and Mexico not to talk to President Trump.”

On Tuesday, in fact, Mexico announced retaliatory tariffs on a range of U.S. products, including pork, cheese, apples, cranberries, whiskey and motorboats. Canada earlier announced plans to slap tariffs on $12.8 billion worth of U.S. products, ranging from steel to yogurt.

Rod Hunter, a trade lawyer with Baker & McKenzie, said the Trump administration seems to reckon that America’s economic clout is potent enough to win concessions from smaller trading partners.

“But everybody has politics,” said Hunter, a former economic official with the U.S. National Security Council. “If you put economic interests up against political interests, politics usually wins.”

Analysts note that Mexico is expected to elect a new president — the left-leaning Andrews Manuel Lopez Obrador — who would likely take a harder line in talks with the United States.

NAFTA lifted down most trade barriers between the U.S., Canada and Mexico. Trade surged within the NAFTA bloc, benefiting American farmers who export corn and other products.

But many U.S. manufacturers moved production south of the border to capitalize on Mexico’s low labor costs, then shipped goods back to the United States. The influx of imports swelled America’s trade deficit with Mexico, which came to $69 billion last year. (The United States posted a nearly $3 billion trade surplus with Canada in 2017).

Trump campaigned on a promise to negotiate a better NAFTA — or withdraw from the deal altogether.

The three countries started talks last August. But little progress has been made. The U.S. wants changes to the deal would shift more auto production back to the United States. It also wants to end the deal every five years if the countries didn’t vote to keep it. Canada has called that “sunset clause” a deal-killer.

Still, Lovely said it’s possible that the United States can craft a separate agreement with Canada. The Trump administration says it wants a big chunk of auto manufacturing to be produced by workers earning around $15 an hour. That’s not a problem for Canada, but is a big one Mexico, where factory workers usually earn less than $5 an hour.

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Barreling toward a historic summit with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, President Donald Trump has his sights set on a nuclear deal, leaving allies and advocates worried that he may give short shrift to human rights abuses and regional security concerns.

With a week to go before the June 12 meeting in Singapore, Trump has largely kept his focus on denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, recently stressing that it may take more than one meeting to achieve that goal. That singular focus could mean Trump looks past a range of troublesome actions by the regime as he promises Kim “protection” in exchange for giving up a nuclear program that could pose a direct threat to the U.S. mainland.

Critics have started invoking the Iran nuclear deal that Trump recently exited as a cautionary tale. Republicans and some Democrats objected to the 2015 agreement for not doing more to halt that country’s ballistic missile program and support for Hezbollah and other extremist groups.

“We want to make sure the president’s desire for a deal with North Korea doesn’t saddle the United States, Japan and South Korea with a bad deal,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., told reporters Monday.

White House officials say the plight of the North Korean people, who live under one of the world’s most repressive governments, is not a priority for the summit.

In a meeting that lasted more than an hour Friday with one of Kim’s top deputies, Kim Yong Chol, Trump said he did not raise the issue of human rights. Trump did say he “probably” would bring up human rights when he meets with the North Korean leader — “and maybe in great detail.”

As for other concerns, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders last week wouldn’t say whether Trump would bring up the North’s extensive chemical and biological weapons programs since the priority is the nuclear question. Kim Jong Un’s half brother was fatally poisoned with VX nerve agent in a Malaysian airport last year in an attack the U.S. attributes to the North.

Meanwhile, U.S. allies in the region are privately pressing the administration to maintain pressure on the North over its regional missile program out of concern that Trump could boost the security of the U.S. at the expense of its partners. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is meeting Trump at the White House on Thursday to advocate for his country’s interests at the talks.

Senate Democrats on Monday released a letter to the Trump administration outlining the parameters of what they believe constitutes a satisfactory agreement — including a call for a permanent end to the North’s nuclear, chemical and biological programs, a suspension of ballistic tests, and anytime-anywhere inspections.

The delicate balancing of U.S. needs and alliances with the promotion of human rights abroad has long bedeviled American leaders. And Trump is not the first U.S. leader to concentrate on a nuclear issue at the expense of other matters.

But Trump has eschewed the path of his predecessors, who explicitly declared the promotion of human rights to be in the national interest, even if they were forced to make Faustian bargains with unsavory actors.

The president’s national security strategy, released in December, said little on the subject. And it was left to his vice president, Mike Pence, to elevate the issue during a February trip to the region.

Addressing the subject with the North is particularly difficult given that Kim’s government is believed to view the raising of human rights as tantamount to advocating regime change. So bringing it up could make it harder to make progress on eliminating North Korea’s weapons program.

While Trump has made gestures toward human rights issues in North Korea, those efforts have largely been designed to increase pressure on the country’s government.

That was the case when Trump recognized a North Korean defector during his State of the Union address in January and hosted a group of North Korean escapees in the Oval Office.

Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida said that while the summit presents the opportunity for a denuclearized peninsula, “I urge the Trump administration to also prioritize human rights and hold accountable the North Korean dictatorship for being one of the world’s worst human rights abusers.”

Kim is on a Treasury Department blacklist for human rights abuses and is likely to seek removal from the list as a concession.

The U.S. imposed those sanctions two years ago as part of the Obama administration’s effort to isolate North Korea, but it came as the Kim government rapidly developed its nuclear program. It was the first time that Kim had been personally sanctioned and the first time that any North Korean officials had been blacklisted in connection with rights abuses. Announcing the sanctions, the U.S. accused North Korea of cruelty and hardship, “including extrajudicial killings, forced labor and torture.”

White House officials have pushed back publicly against the notion that Trump has deprioritized international human rights. They point to Trump’s rollback of his predecessor’s opening with Cuba and his comments about the devastation wrought by the Islamic State group and Iranian-backed Hezbollah.

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Countries around the world fought back Friday against President Donald Trump’s decision to slap tariffs on steel and aluminum imports, announcing retaliatory countermeasures and warning that the U.S. plan will hurt U.S. consumers.

French President Emmanuel Macron said in a statement Friday that he told Trump in a phone call that the new U.S. tariffs on European, Mexican and Canadian goods are illegal and a “mistake.” Macron pledged the riposte would be “firm” and “proportionate” and in line with World Trade Organization rules.

Germany’s Volkswagen, Europe’s largest automaker, warned that the decision could start a trade war that no side would win. The European Union and China said they will deepen ties on trade and investment as a result.

“This is stupid. It’s counterproductive,” former British trade minister Francis Maude told the BBC.

“Any government that embarks on a protectionist path inflicts the most damage on itself,” he added.

Macron warned that “economic nationalism leads to war. This is exactly what happened in the 1930s.”

Trump’s move makes good on a his campaign promise to crack down on trading partners that he claims exploit poorly negotiated trade agreements to run up big trade surpluses with the United States. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross says the tariffs — 25 percent on imported steel, 10 percent on aluminum from Canada, Mexico and the European Union — take effect Friday.

The import duties threaten to drive up prices for American consumers and companies and are likely to heighten uncertainty for businesses and investors around the globe. Stock prices slumped amid fears of a trade war, with the Dow Jones industrial average falling nearly 252 points, or 1 percent, to 24,415.84.

Mexico complained that the tariffs will “distort international trade” and said it will penalize U.S. imports including pork, apples, grapes, cheeses and flat steel.

In Canada, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Thursday that the tariffs were “totally unacceptable.” Canada announced plans to slap tariffs on $12.8 billion worth of U.S. products, ranging from steel to yogurt and toilet paper.

“Canada is a secure supplier of aluminum and steel to the U.S. defense industry, putting aluminum in American planes and steel in American tanks,” Trudeau said. “That Canada could be considered a national security threat to the United States is inconceivable.”

Trump had originally imposed the tariffs in March, saying a reliance on imported metals threatened national security. But he exempted Canada, Mexico and the European Union to buy time for negotiations — a reprieve that expired at midnight Thursday.

Other countries, including Japan, America’s closest ally in Asia, are already paying the tariffs.

“This is protectionism, pure and simple,” said Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission.

The EU earlier threatened to counterpunch by targeting U.S. products, including Kentucky bourbon, blue jeans and motorcycles. David O’Sullivan, the EU’s ambassador in Washington, said the retaliation will probably be announced in late June.

Trump had campaigned for president on a promise to crack down on trading partners that he said exploited poorly negotiated trade agreements to run up big trade surpluses with the U.S.

The U.S. tariffs coincide with — and could complicate — the Trump administration’s separate fight over Beijing’s strong-arm tactics to overtake U.S. technological supremacy. Ross is leaving Friday for Beijing for talks aimed at preventing a trade war with China.

The world’s two biggest economies have threatened to impose tariffs on up to $200 billion worth of each other’s products.

The steel and aluminum tariffs could also complicate the administration’s efforts to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico, a pact that Trump has condemned as a job-killing “disaster.”

The White House released a statement from Trump Thursday night saying of NAFTA, “Earlier today, this message was conveyed to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada: The United State (sic) will agree to a fair deal, or there will be no deal at all.”

Trump had offered the two U.S. neighbors a permanent exemption from the steel and aluminum tariffs if they agreed to U.S. demands on NAFTA. But the NAFTA talks stalled.

Ross said there was “no longer a very precise date when they may be concluded,” and that as a result, Canada and Mexico were added to the list of countries hit with tariffs.

Likewise, the Trump trade team sought to use the tariff threat to pressure Europe into reducing barriers to U.S. products. But the two sides could not reach an agreement.

The import duties will give a boost to American makers of steel and aluminum by making foreign metals more expensive. But companies in the U.S. that use imported steel will face higher costs.

And the tariffs will allow domestic steel and aluminum producers to raise prices, squeezing companies — from automakers to can producers — that buy those metals.

House Speaker Paul Ryan and several leading Republicans in Congress were critical of the administration’s tariff action. Ryan said there are better ways to help American workers and consumers and that he plans to work with Trump on “those better options.”

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NEW YORK (AP) — A top aide to Kim Jong Un will make a rare visit to Washington Friday to hand a letter from the North Korean leader to President Donald Trump, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said after reporting “good progress” in talks between the two sides to revive an on-again, off-again nuclear summit.

“I am confident we are moving in the right direction,” Pompeo told reporters at a news conference in New York after meeting Thursday with former North Korean military intelligence chief Kim Yong Chol. “Our two countries face a pivotal moment in our relationship, and it would be nothing short of tragic to let this opportunity go to waste.”

He would not say that the summit is a definite go for Singapore on June 12 and could not say if that decision would be made after Trump reads Kim Jong Un’s letter.

However, his comments were the most positive from any U.S. official since Trump abruptly canceled the meeting last week after belligerent statements from the North.

The two countries, eying the first summit between the U.S. and the North after six decades of hostility, have also been holding negotiations in Singapore and the demilitarized zone between the two Koreas.

Early Thursday, Trump told reporters “we are doing very well” with North Korea. He added there may even need to be a second or third summit meeting to reach a deal on North Korean denuclearization but still hedged, saying “maybe we’ll have none.”

Kim Yong Chol is the highest-ranking North Korean official to visit the U.S. in 18 years, and his trip to the White House will be a highly symbolic sign of easing tensions after fears of war escalated amid North Korean nuclear and missile tests last year.

Pompeo, the former CIA chief who has traveled to North Korea and met with Kim Jong Un twice in the past two months, said he believed the country’s leaders are “contemplating a path forward where they can make a strategic shift, one that their country has not been prepared to make before.”

He tweeted from New York: “Good progress today during our meetings” with Kim and his team. Yet he also said at his news conference that difficult work remains including hurdles that may appear to be insurmountable as negotiations progress on the U.S. demand for North Korea’s complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization.

“We will push forward to test the proposition that we can achieve that outcome,” he said.

Pompeo spoke after meeting with Kim Yong Chol for a little more than two hours at the residence of the deputy U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. The talks had been expected to be held in two sessions, one in the morning and one in the early afternoon, and had not been expected to conclude until 1:30 p.m. Instead, the two men wrapped up at 11:25 a.m.

Pompeo said they finished everything they needed to address in the morning session. Immediately afterward, he tweeted that he had had substantive talks on the priorities for the potential summit. Pompeo was accompanied by Andrew Kim, the head of a CIA unit assigned to work on North Korea, and Mark Lambert, the head of the State Department’s Korea desk.

“Our secretary of state is having very good meetings,” Trump told reporters at Joint Base Andrews before departing on a trip to Texas. He said of the North Koreans, “I believe they will be coming down to Washington on Friday. A letter being delivered to me from Kim Jong Un. It is very important to them.”

“It is all a process,” he said of arranging the summit. “Hopefully we will have a meeting on the 12th.”

Despite the upbeat messaging in the United States, Kim Jong Un, in a meeting with Russia’s foreign minister on Thursday, complained about the U.S. trying to spread its influence in the region, a comment that may complicate the summit plans. “As we move to adjust to the political situation in the face of U.S. hegemonism, I am willing to exchange detailed and in-depth opinions with your leadership and hope to do so moving forward,” Kim told Sergey Lavrov.

North Korea’s flurry of diplomatic activity following an increase in nuclear weapons and missile tests in 2017 suggests that Kim is eager for sanctions relief to build his economy and for the international legitimacy a summit with Trump would provide.

But there are lingering doubts on whether he will ever fully relinquish his nuclear arsenal, which he may see as his only guarantee of survival in a region surrounded by enemies.

Trump views a summit as a legacy-defining opportunity to make a nuclear deal, but he has left the world guessing since canceling the meeting last week in an open letter to Kim that complained of the North’s “tremendous anger and open hostility.” North Korea’s conciliatory response to that letter appears to have put the summit back on track.

Kim Yong Chol is the most senior North Korean visitor to the United States since Vice Marshal Jo Myong Rok visited Washington in 2000 to meet President Bill Clinton and Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. That was the last time the two sides, which are technically at war, attempted to arrange a leadership summit. It was an effort that ultimately failed as Clinton’s time in office ran out, and relations turned sour again after George W. Bush took office in early 2001 with a tough policy on the North.

Kim Yong Chol, vice chairman of the North Korean ruling party’s central committee, was allowed into the United States despite being on a U.S. sanctions list, and North Korean officials are not normally allowed to travel outside the New York area.

The North Korean mission at the United Nations did not respond to an email seeking comment Thursday, and phone calls were not answered.

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SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North and South Korea agreed Friday to hold military and Red Cross talks later this month on reducing tensions and resuming reunions of families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War.

The rivals also agreed at a meeting of senior officials at the border village of Panmunjom to establish a liaison office at the North Korean border town of Kaesong and hold sports talks on fielding combined teams for some sports at the Asian Games in August, as they continue to take steps toward reconciliation.

South Korea says building trust with North Korea is crucial amid a U.S.-led diplomatic push to persuade the North to give up its nuclear weapons.

The high-level meeting between the Koreas followed talks in New York between U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and senior North Korean envoy Kim Yong Chol on a possible summit between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. American delegations are also meeting with North Koreans at Panmunjom and in Singapore as part of efforts to plan the summit, which may take place June 12 in Singapore.

South Korea’s Unification Ministry said the Koreas agreed to set up the liaison office at a factory park in Kaesong that had been jointly operated by the countries until the South shut it down in February 2016 after a North Korean nuclear test. The Koreas agreed to hold the military talks at Panmunjom on June 14 and the Red Cross talks on June 22 at the North’s Diamond Mountain resort.

The talks between sports officials were set for June 18 at Panmunjom, the ministry said.

“If we continue to engage with each other like we did today, there will be no problem that can’t be solved between the South and North,” South Korean Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon said after the meeting.

Panmunjom has also been the site of pre-summit negotiations between American and North Korean officials. The American delegation is led by Sung Kim, the U.S. ambassador to Manila, who said on Friday that a summit between Washington and Pyongyang would provide an opportunity to “lead our two countries into new era of security, prosperity and peace.”

South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who met with Kim Jong Un twice in the past two months, has said progress in inter-Korean reconciliation will be a crucial part of international efforts to resolve the nuclear standoff with North Korea because the North won’t give up its nuclear program unless it feels its security is assured.

Ri Son Gwon, chairman of the North Korean agency that deals with inter-Korean affairs, told Cho at the start of the meeting that the rivals should work on building “trust and consideration for each other” to carry out the agreements forged at the recent inter-Korean summits.

When Moon and Kim met for their first summit at Panmunjom in April 27, they spoke of vague aspirations for a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula and permanent peace, which Seoul has tried to sell as a meaningful breakthrough that increases the chances of successful nuclear negotiations between Trump and Kim.

But relations chilled when North Korea canceled an inter-Korean meeting and threatened to walk away from the summit with Trump because of the South’s participation in regular military exercises with the United States and comments from U.S. officials. Trump canceled the summit, then said it may still take place, shortly before Kim and Moon met again and agreed to resume high-level talks between their countries.

Talking to South Korean reporters ahead of Friday’s meeting, Ri seemed irritated when asked whether North Korea sees its grievances as resolved, saying reporters must ask questions that “meet the demand of changing times.” When asked about the potential Trump-Kim meeting, Ri replied: “Go fly to Singapore to ask that question. This is Panmunjom.”

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MADRID (AP) — Socialist party leader Pedro Sanchez is set to become Spain’s new prime minister after a no-confidence vote in parliament Friday unseated Mariano Rajoy’s conservative government.

Sanchez, the leader of the largest opposition party, could be sworn in as early as Saturday and appoint his Cabinet next week.

To prevent a power vacuum after a no-confidence motion, Spanish law makes the motion’s author — in this case, Sanchez — the country’s new leader as soon as the king swears him in.

The end of Rajoy’s more than six-year reign as Spanish prime minister was the first ouster of a serving leader by parliament in four decades of democracy.

Rajoy went to shake hands with Sanchez after the result was announced.

The reputation of Rajoy’s Popular Party’s was badly damaged by a court verdict last week that identified it as a beneficiary of a large kickbacks-for-contracts scheme.

Sanchez saw that as his opening and managed to muster enough support from smaller parties to send him to La Moncloa palace, the seat of government in Madrid.

Sanchez, 46, takes the helm of the 19-country eurozone’s fourth-largest economy at a time when the European Union faces numerous challenges, including the United Kingdom’s departure from the bloc and migrants continuing to enter the continent from North Africa.

Sanchez and his party are staunch supporters of the EU and the continent’s shared currency.

The Madrid stock exchange was up nearly 1.6 percent after Sanchez won the vote, earning a standing ovation from his party’s lawmakers.

Sanchez, who will be Spain’s seventh prime minister since the country’s return to democracy in the late 1970s, arrives in power after a spectacular turnaround in his political fortunes.

He was ousted by his own party’s heavyweights in 2016 over back-to-back losses in general elections and after he tried to block Rajoy’s bid to form a government.

The former economics professor regained the Socialists’ leadership last year.

The incoming prime minister has outlined that his priorities will be social issues before calling elections, though he hasn’t said when there might be a vote.

He faces a tough time, however, catering to demands from small nationalist parties whose votes he captured in the no-confidence motion.

The support of leftist and nationalist parties for ousting Rajoy won’t necessarily lead to parliamentary backing for Sanchez’s government and could produce a political stalemate.

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NEW YORK (AP) — A senior North Korean official and the top U.S. diplomat had dinner in New York as President Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un try to salvage prospects for a high-stakes nuclear summit. It’s the highest-level official North Korean visit to the United States in 18 years.

Kim Yong Chol, the former military intelligence chief and one of the North Korean leader’s closest aides, landed midafternoon Wednesday on an Air China flight from Beijing. Associated Press journalists saw the plane taxi down the tarmac before the North’s delegation disembarked at JFK International Airport.

During his unusual visit, Kim Yong Chol had dinner for about an hour-and-a-half with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who traveled from Washington to see him. The two planned a “day full of meetings” Thursday, the White House said. Their talks will be aimed at determining whether a meeting between Trump and Kim Jong Un, originally scheduled for June 12 but later canceled by Trump, can be restored, U.S. officials have said.

The talks come as preparations for the highly anticipated summit in Singapore were barreling forward on both sides of the Pacific Ocean, despite lingering uncertainty about whether it will really occur, and when. As Kim and Pompeo were meeting in New York, other U.S. teams were meeting with North Korean officials in Singapore and in the heavily fortified Korean Demilitarized Zone.

“If it happens, we’ll certainly be ready,” White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said of the Singapore summit. Regarding the date for the meeting, she added, “We’re going to continue to shoot for June 12th.”

North Korea’s flurry of diplomatic activity following a torrid run in nuclear weapons and missile tests in 2017 suggests that Kim Jong Un is eager for sanctions relief to build his economy and the international legitimacy the summit with Trump would provide. But there are lingering doubts on whether Kim will ever fully relinquish his nuclear arsenal, which he may see as his only guarantee of survival in a region surrounded by enemies.

Trump announced that Kim Yong Chol was coming to New York for talks with Pompeo in a tweet on Tuesday in which he said he had a “great team” working on the summit. That was a shift from last week, when Trump announced in an open letter to Kim Jong Un that he had decided to “terminate” the summit following a provocative statement from the North.

Pompeo, Trump’s former CIA chief, has traveled to Pyongyang twice in recent weeks for meetings with Kim Jong Un, and has said there is a “shared understanding” between the two sides about what they hope to achieve in talks. South Korean media speculated that Pompeo could make a third trip to Pyongyang and that Kim Yong Chol was carrying a personal letter from Kim Jong Un and might push to travel to Washington to meet with Trump.

North Korea’s mission to the United Nations in New York is its sole diplomatic presence in the United States. That suggests Kim might have chosen to first go to New York because it would make it easier for him to communicate with officials in Pyongyang, North Korea’s capital. North Korea and the United States are still technically at war and have no diplomatic ties because the 1950-53 Korean War ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty.

Trump views a summit as a legacy-defining opportunity to make the nuclear deal that has evaded others, but he pledged to walk away from the meeting if he believed the North wasn’t serious about discussing dismantling its nuclear program.

After the North’s combative statements, there was debate inside the Trump administration about whether it marked a real turn to belligerence or a feint to see how far Kim Jong Un could push the U.S. in the lead-up to the talks. Trump had mused that Kim’s “attitude” had changed after the North Korean leader’s surprise visit to China two weeks ago, suggesting China was pushing Kim away from the table. Trump’s letter, the aides said, was designed to pressure the North on the international stage for appearing to have cold feet.

White House officials maintain that Trump was hopeful the North was merely negotiating but that he was prepared for the letter to mark the end of the two-month flirtation. Instead, the officials said, it brought both sides to the table with increasing seriousness, as they work through myriad logistical and policy decisions to keep June 12 a viable option for the summit.

Kim Yong Chol is a vice chairman of the North Korean ruling party’s central committee. The last official of his stature to visit the United States was Jo Myong Rok, the late first vice chairman of the National Defense Commission, who visited Washington in 2000, South Korea’s Unification Ministry said.

The White House emphasized that it has remained in close contact with South Korean and Japanese officials as preparations for the talks continue. Spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Trump will host Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan on June 7 to coordinate their thinking ahead of the summit. Trump hosted South Korean President Moon Jae-in last week.

Moon, who has lobbied hard for nuclear negotiations between Trump and Kim Jong Un, held a surprise meeting with the North Korean leader on Saturday in an effort to keep the summit alive.

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WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump’s administration is planning to impose tariffs on European steel and aluminum imports after failing to win concessions from the European Union, a move that could provoke retaliatory tariffs and inflame trans-Atlantic trade tensions.

U.S. and European officials held last-ditch talks in Paris on Thursday to try to avert a deal, though hopes are low and fears of a trade war are mounting.

“Global trade is not a gunfight at the OK Corral,” France’s finance minister quipped after meeting U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross. “It’s not about who attacks whom, and then wait and see who is still standing at the end.”

The tariffs are likely to go into effect on the EU with an announcement before Friday’s deadline, according to two people familiar with the discussions. The administration’s plans could change if the two sides are able to reach a last-minute agreement, said the people, who spoke only on condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.

Ross told Le Figaro newspaper that the announcement would come Thursday, likely after markets close.

Trump announced in March that the United States would slap a 25 percent tariff on imported steel and a 10 percent tariff on imported aluminum, citing national security interests. But he granted an exemption to the EU and other U.S. allies; that reprieve expires Friday.

“Realistically, I do not think we can hope” to avoid either U.S. tariffs or quotas on steel and aluminum, said Cecilia Malmstrom, the European Union’s trade commissioner.

Even if the U.S. were to agree to waive the tariffs on imported steel and aluminum, Malmstrom said, “I expect them nonetheless to want to impose some sort of cap on EU exports.”

Malmstrom is meeting U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer in Paris on Thursday among other international trade chiefs.

If the U.S. moves forward with its tariffs, the EU has threatened to impose retaliatory tariffs on U.S. orange juice, peanut butter and other goods in return.

Fears of a global trade war are already weighing on investor confidence and could hinder the global economic upturn. European officials argue that tit-for-tat tariffs will hurt growth on both sides of the Atlantic.

French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire called the U.S. tariffs “unjustified, unjustifiable and dangerous.”

“This will only lead to the victory of those who want less growth, those who don’t think we can develop our economies across the world. We think on the contrary that global trade must have rules in a context of multilateralism. We are ready to rebuild this multilateralism with our American friends.”

Tariffs on steel and aluminum imports to the U.S. can help local producers of the metals by making foreign products more expensive. But they can also increase costs more broadly for U.S. manufacturers who cannot source all their needs locally and have to import the materials. That hurts the companies and can lead to more expensive consumer prices, economists say.

“Unilateral responses and threats over trade war will solve nothing of the serious imbalances in world trade. Nothing,” French President Emmanuel Macron said in an impassioned speech Wednesday.

In a clear reference to Trump, Macron added: “These solutions might bring symbolic satisfaction in the short term. … One can think about making voters happy by saying, ‘I have a victory, I’ll change the rules, you’ll see.'”

But Macron said those “who waged bilateral trade wars … saw an increase in prices and an increase in unemployment.”

Besides the U.S. steel and aluminum tariffs, the Trump administration is also investigating possible limits on foreign cars in the name of national security.

Ross criticized the EU for its tough negotiating position. But German Economy Minister Peter Altmaier insisted the Europeans were ready to negotiate special trade arrangements, notably for liquefied natural gas and industrial goods, including cars.

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