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  1. Tillerson Commends North Korea For 'Restraint,' Suggests Possible Dialogue

    WASHINGTON (AP) — Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Tuesday commended North Korea for recent restraint in its provocations and said it could point the way to a possible dialogue with the U.S.

    It was rare positive expression from the U.S. government toward the authoritarian government in Pyongyang and comes amid a slight easing in recent tensions between the adversaries that had flared after President Donald Trump pledged to answer North Korean aggression with “fire and fury.” North Korea, for its part, had threatened to launch missiles toward the American territory of Guam.

    Addressing reporters at the State Department, Tillerson said that North Korea had “demonstrated some level of restraint that we have not seen in the past” by not conducting missile launches or provocative acts since the U.N. Security Council adopted tough sanctions on Aug. 5.

    “We hope that this is the beginning of this signal that we have been looking for, that they are ready to restrain their level of tensions, they’re ready to restrain their provocative acts,” Tillerson said, “and that perhaps we are seeing our pathway to sometime in the near future having some dialogue.”

    Tillerson added a caveat.

    “We need to see more on their part,” he said, without elaborating.

    The U.N. sanctions were a response to twin tests last month of an intercontinental ballistic missile that may be able to reach parts of the U.S., heightening concern in Washington that North Korea could soon be able to threaten it with nuclear weapons. It was the latest salvo in the Trump administration’s push to increase economic and diplomatic pressure on Kim Jong Un’s government.

    However, the U.S. administration has left the door open to engagement with the North, with Tillerson recently urging it to stop missile tests to show its sincerity. While the two sides have maintained quiet diplomatic contacts in recent months, there has been scant sign that Pyongyang will oblige.

    Kim has held off on the North’s supposed plans to fire missiles into waters near Guam that were advertised in state media earlier this month, but his government this week has kept up its harsh criticism of the U.S. over annual military drills conducted with close ally South Korea.

    The North regards the drills as preparation for invasion and on Tuesday its military vowed “merciless retaliation” against the U.S. — a customary response. Senior U.S. military commanders dismissed calls to pause or downsize the exercises that they view as crucial to countering a clear threat from Pyongyang.

    In a reminder that the U.S. economic pressure campaign on North Korea continues, Trump administration on Tuesday imposed sanctions on 16 mainly Chinese and Russian companies and people for assisting North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs and helping the North make money to support those programs. The penalties are intended to complement the new U.N. sanctions.

    The Treasury Department said that the 16 entities either do business with previously sanctioned companies and people, work with the North Korean energy sector, help it place workers abroad or facilitate its evasion of international financial curbs.

    The measures block any assets the entities may have in U.S. jurisdictions and bar Americans from transactions with them.

    “It is unacceptable for individuals and companies in China, Russia, and elsewhere to enable North Korea to generate income used to develop weapons of mass destruction and destabilize the region,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said. “We are taking actions consistent with U.N. sanctions to show that there are consequences for defying sanctions and providing support to North Korea, and to deter this activity in the future.”

    Among those sanctioned are six Chinese companies, including three coal companies, and two Singapore-based companies that sell oil to North Korea and three Russians that work with them.

    The list also included a Russian company that deals in North Korean metals and its Russian director; and two Namibia-based companies.

    In addition to the Treasury sanctions, the Justice Department filed suit against two of the companies, Velmur Management of Singapore and China’s Dandong Zhicheng Metallic Material Co., demanding that they forfeit more than $11 million that they allegedly money-laundered for North Korea. The suits allege that the two companies participated in schemes to launder U.S. dollars on behalf of sanctioned North Korean entities. The suits seek almost $7 million from Velmur and just over $4 million from Dandong, the Justice Department said.

  2. Penn State: White Nationalist Spencer 'Not Welcome To Speak' On Campus

    The president of Pennsylvania State University on Tuesday announced that prominent white nationalist Richard Spencer “is not welcome to speak” on the college’s campus.

    University president Eric J. Barron said in a statement that the college “evaluated a request” for Spencer to speak on campus in the fall and “determined that Mr. Spencer is not welcome.”

    “The First Amendment does not require our University to risk imminent violence,” Barron said. “After critical assessment by campus police, in consultation with state and federal law enforcement officials, we have determined that Mr. Spencer is not welcome on our campus, as this event at this time presents a major security risk to students, faculty, staff and visitors to campus.”

    Barron said he disagrees “profoundly with the content that has been presented publicly about this speaker’s views which are abhorrent and contradictory to our University’s values.”

    “There is no place for hatred, bigotry or racism in our society and on our campuses,” he said. “It is the likelihood of disruption and violence, not the content, however odious, that drives our decision.”

    Penn State director of news and media relations Lisa Powers told the Daily Collegian, the university’s student-operated newspaper, that the school received the request from “an individual who claims to be a student at Georgia State University, and an acolyte to Richard Spencer.”

    “We’ve received no request from Spencer himself or any organization associated with him,” Powers told the Daily Collegian.

    In response to violence that erupted on August 12 at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, Texas A&M University canceled a September rally where Spencer was scheduled to speak.

    The colleges are among a wide swath of corporations, universities and localities pushing back against white nationalist groups in the aftermath of the rally.

  3. White House Appeals To Media For Privacy For Trump's Young Son Barron

    WASHINGTON (AP) — The White House is appealing to the news media for privacy for President Donald Trump’s young son, Barron.

    Stephanie Grisham, a spokesman for first lady Melania Trump, says the 11-year-old “deserves every opportunity to have a private childhood.”

    The request follows criticism of Barron in a column published by The Daily Caller, a conservative website.

    The column criticized the boy’s attire of shorts, a T-shirt that said “On Your Mark Tiger Shark” and loafers without socks for Sunday’s return trip to the White House after summer vacation at the family’s home on Trump’s private golf club in central New Jersey.

    Springer wrote that since Barron doesn’t have any responsibilities as the president’s son, he could at least dress the part when he’s in public.

    Chelsea Clinton defended Barron on Twitter.

  4. Trump Returns To Immigration Issue With Arizona Visit, Rally

    WASHINGTON (AP) — Fresh off a speech on Afghanistan that moved him in a different direction than many of his core voters, President Donald Trump is highlighting his pledge to combat illegal immigration by heading to a Marine Corps base along the U.S.-Mexico border Tuesday and inspecting a Predator drone used to patrol the region.

    Trump also scheduled a nighttime rally in Phoenix, which left local officials concerned that emotions may run hot among those inside and outside of the hall so soon after Trump blamed “both sides” for violence at a rally organized by white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia.

    Trump’s first scheduled stop was a base in Yuma that is a hub of operations for the U.S. Border Patrol. He planned to inspect equipment used on the southern border, including the drone and other aircraft.

    Administration officials briefing reporters on the trip said the area had seen a 46 percent drop in apprehensions of people attempting to illegally enter the U.S. between Jan. 1 and July 31, compared to the same period in 2016. None of the officials would agree to be identified by name.

    In fact, immigrant traffic around Yuma has dramatically slowed over the past dozen years. Once a hotbed for illegal immigration, the Border Patrol sector covering Yuma now ranks among the lowest in the Southwest for apprehensions and drug seizures.

    There were some 138,000 apprehensions in 2005. The number had dropped to 14,000 by last year.

    Trump is trying to shift the focus to his core campaign theme of getting tough on immigration after rankling some of his most loyal supporters with his decision, announced Monday, to maintain to a U.S. military presence in Afghanistan. They also were unhappy about the recent ouster of conservative Steve Bannon as White House chief strategist.

    Bannon had made it his mission to remind Trump of what his most fervent supporters want from his presidency, and some conservative strategists have openly worried that without Bannon around, Trump will be too influenced by establishment Republicans on issues such as Afghanistan policy.

    Democratic leaders and other Trump opponents planned protests and marches outside the Phoenix convention center to criticize the president’s immigration policies and his comments about Charlottesville. Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton had asked Trump to postpone the rally to allow time for national healing after one woman was killed during the clashes in Charlottesville.

    Gov. Doug Ducey, a Trump supporter, was expected to greet Trump upon his arrival in Phoenix, but will not attend the rally to focus on safety needs, his spokesman said.

    Vice President Mike Pence, asked about the rally by Fox News Channel on Tuesday, said Trump will be “completely focused” on his agenda for the country.

    “He’s also going to call on the Congress to get ready to come back when they arrive on Sept. 5th and go straight to work to make America safe again, make America prosperous again, and in his words, to make America great again,” said Pence. He was flying separately to Phoenix to introduce Trump at the rally.

    Neither of Arizona’s two republican senators planned to appear with Trump while he is in the state.

    Republican Sen. Jeff Flake, a conservative, has been a frequent target of Trump’s wrath. The president tweeted last week: “Great to see that Dr. Kelli Ward is running against Flake Jeff Flake, who is WEAK on borders, crime and a non-factor in Senate. He’s toxic!” Flake has been on tour promoting his book that says the Republican Party’s embrace of Trump has left conservatism withering.

    Ward planned to attend Trump’s rally, sparking talk that the president could take the politically extraordinary step of endorsing her from the stage over an incumbent Republican senator.

    In a modest but telling swipe at Ward and, by extension, at Trump, the Senate Leadership Fund, a political committee closely aligned with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, is spending $100,000 on digital ads that say of her, “Not conservative, just crazy ideas.”

    Arizona’s other senator, John McCain, is undergoing treatment for an aggressive form of brain cancer. Trump has been critical of McCain for voting against a Republican health care bill.

    Another potential subplot to the rally was the possibility that Trump could pardon former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who recently was convicted in federal court of disobeying a court order to stop his immigration patrols. Trump teased a possible pardon in a recent Fox News interview.

    White House officials declined to discuss the president’s intentions toward Arpaio.

  5. Analysts: Trump's Warning To Pakistan To End Afghan Operations Can Backfire

    ISLAMABAD (AP) — President Donald Trump’s warning to Pakistan to put an “immediate” end to harboring militants operating in Afghanistan didn’t spell out the consequences of defiance or suggest a new strategy to get it to yield to longstanding U.S. demands, analysts said Tuesday.

    They also said that isolating Pakistan could unsettle the U.S. relationship with Islamabad and push it closer to Russia, China and Iran, further complicating efforts to stabilize the region.

    “The idea of U.S. leverage in Pakistan is deeply exaggerated,” Michael Kugelman, deputy director of the U.S.-based Wilson Center’s Asia Program, said in an email to The Associated Press. “No matter the punishment, policy, or inducement, there’s little reason to believe that Pakistan will change its ways.

    “Pakistan has an unshakeable strategic interest in maintaining ties to militant groups like the Taliban because they help keep Pakistan’s Indian enemy at bay in Afghanistan,” he added.

    In a speech Monday night on his plan for the 16-year war in Afghanistan, Trump warned of the threat to U.S. security from militant groups operating there and in neighboring Pakistan.

    “Today, 20 U.S.-designated foreign terrorist organizations are active in Afghanistan and Pakistan — the highest concentration in any region anywhere in the world,” he said. “For its part, Pakistan often gives safe haven to agents of chaos, violence and terror.”

    The threat is compounded by the fact that both India and Pakistan are nuclear powers, he said, and their hostile relationship could spiral out of control.

    “And that could happen,” Trump said.

    Some in Pakistan were baffled by his later statement demanding that India get more involved in Afghanistan, a scenario dreaded by Islamabad and the reason cited most often for Pakistan’s support of the Taliban as a bulwark against India’s influence in Afghanistan.

    “Upgrading the Indian role in Afghanistan basically means perpetuating the hostilities,” said Imtiaz Gul, executive director of the Islamabad-based Center for Research and Security Studies.

    Pakistani Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal told reporters that his country “has rendered unmatched sacrifices in the war on terror. Our war against terrorism is not because of the United States; we will continue this war.”

    U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan David Hale met Tuesday with Foreign Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif, according to a government statement, which also announced a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson “in the next few days” in Washington. The U.S. policy toward Afghanistan and South Asia will feature prominently in their meeting, it said.

    While Trump’s speech was widely criticized in Pakistan by politicians of all parties, it was welcomed by Afghanistan’s shared leadership of President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah.

    Abdullah told a news conference the U.S. strategy marks a unique opportunity to ultimately achieve peaceful objectives in the region.

    “The regional aspect of this strategy is very clear. It shows that the problem was very well identified,” he said, referring to Trump’s singling out of Pakistan.

    But security analyst Amir Rana, director of the Pakistan Institute of Peace Studies, warned that isolating Pakistan as the sole culprit could stymie efforts to stabilize the region or bring the Taliban to the negotiating table. It also could increase the influence of Russia, China and even Iran, he said.

    “All regional actors have to decide how to collaborate in Afghanistan,” Rana said. “You can’t signal out one nation. There is not only one nation destabilizing Afghanistan.”

    The U.S. and Afghanistan have routinely accused Pakistan — and particularly its powerful intelligence agency, the ISI — of harboring insurgents and of waging a selective war. They say Pakistan attacks those insurgents it considers its enemy and allows those it has been known to use as proxies, either against India or Afghanistan, to flourish.

    Not all Afghans welcomed Trump’s speech, with some angry that he wasn’t interested in nation-building, only in “killing terrorists.”

    Aziz Rahman, who works at a bank in Kabul, said Trump’s speech will make little difference to ordinary Afghans. After 16 years of conflict and tens of thousands of U.S. and NATO troops in his homeland, Rahman said the situation has only deteriorated, with thousands of people fleeing.

    “Trump’s speech is good for Americans, not for the poor people of Afghanistan,” Rahman said.

    Waheed Muzhda, a political analyst in Kabul, expressed fear that Trump’s emphasis on a military victory seemed guaranteed to prolong the war and increase casualties.

    “In the future, we will witness a worsening of the war, more killing and more problems for the Afghan nation,” Muzhda said. “Mr. Trump only emphasized winning the war militarily, but if a military solution to the war could have been possible, this should have been achieved with presence of 150,000 troops.”

    In a statement emailed to the media, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said Trump’s strategy to remain in Afghanistan will mean more deaths of U.S. troops. The insurgents are willing to fight until all NATO and U.S. troops have left, he said.

    The Wilson Center’s Kugelman said he didn’t believe the Taliban “will exactly be shaking in their boots after this speech.”

    “They know that they survived, with flying colors, a U.S. troop surge that at its height exceeded 100,000 troops,” he said. “So for them, the idea of a modest troop increase, coupled with tough talk about the U.S. winning, won’t really faze them at all.”