Trump ignores pleas to calm North Korea tensions
Trump ignores pleas to calm North Korea tensions
For the first time, Trump publicly accused Pyongyang of abusing the late 22-year-old Otto Warmbier, an allegation likely to heighten tensions between the two nuclear powers.
Last June the Ohio native was sent home in a coma after more than a year in prison in North Korea. He died a few days later.
Aides say Trump was personally shocked and angered by Warmbier’s death, and that the government suspects mistreatment.
But the US president had stopped short of publicly accusing the regime of torture, a move that would raise expectations of a tough response, raise tensions and could complicate any future releases.
Since June, the US and North Korea have traded military moves and bombastic insults in a stand-off over Kim Jong-Un’s nuclear and ballistic weapons programs.
After seeing Warmbier’s parents on television Tuesday morning, Trump cast previous concerns aside.
“Otto was tortured beyond belief by North Korea,” he said in an early morning tweet.
The missive came just hours after South Korea — whose densely-populated capital Seoul is located just 35 miles from the demilitarized zone dividing the Korean peninsula — asked its US ally to take the heat out of the situation.
Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha visited Washington to warn it was imperative to “prevent further escalation of tensions or any kind of accidental military clashes which can quickly go out of control.”
Similarly, China, the North’s neighbor and only major ally, warned Tuesday that any conflict would have “no winners.”
Foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said rhetorical sparring “will only increase the risk of confrontation and reduce the room for policy maneuver.”
US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, visiting India, stressed that Washington wants a diplomatic solution to the North Korean nuclear crisis.
“We maintain the capability to deter North Korea’s most dangerous threats but also to back up our diplomats in a manner that keeps this as long as possible in the diplomatic realm,” he said in New Delhi after talks with his Indian counterpart.
Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un traded barbs in the wake of the North’s sixth nuclear bomb and multiple missile tests.
Pyongyang says it needs the weapons to defend itself against the threat of a US invasion.
Alarm over Pyongyang’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs dominated the gathering of world leaders at the United Nations, amid fears the heated rhetoric could accidentally trigger a war.
In his UN address last week, Trump delivered the blunt threat to “totally destroy” North Korea if provoked, deriding leader Kim Jong-un as “Rocket Man.”
Kim hit back with a personal attack of his own, branding Trump “mentally deranged” and a “dotard” and warning he would “pay dearly.”
The North’s Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho on Monday called a press conference to hit back at a US bomber mission near the North’s coastline and a slew of bombastic warnings from the American president.
Taking umbrage at Trump’s weekend tweet that North Korea’s leadership “won’t be around much longer” if it keeps up its threats, Ri told reporters the international community hoped that a “war of words” would “not turn into real actions.”
“However, last weekend, Trump claimed our leadership would not be around much longer,” said Ri, who attended this year’s UN General Assembly session. “He declared a war on our country.”
The White House said Ri’s interpretation of Trump’s saber-rattling as “absurd.”
Fears of a clash were sharpened after US bombers flew off the coast of North Korea on Saturday — going further north of the demilitarized zone than any US aircraft has flown this century.
“Since the United States declared war on our country, we will have every right to take counter-measures including the right to shoot down US strategic bombers even when they are not yet inside the airspace border of our country,” Ri said.
“The question of who won’t be around much longer will be answered then.”
A Pentagon spokesman stressed the bombers flew in international airspace and had every right to do so.
South Korea’s National Intelligence Service (NIS) said that while Pyongyang did not appear to have picked up the presence of the US warplanes over the weekend, it had since bolstered its coastal defenses.
“North Korea relocated its warplanes and strengthened defenses along the east coast,” said Lee Cheol-Woo, the chief of the National Assembly’s intelligence committee.
Trump administration seeks to expand immigrant family detention
- The proposed expansion comes days after a public outcry moved the administration to cease the practice of separating children from their migrant parents on the border
- More than 2,300 children have been taken from their parents since Homeland Security announced a plan in April to prosecute all immigrants caught on the border
SANTA ANA, Calif: The Trump administration is calling for the expanded use of family detention for immigrant parents and children who are stopped along the US-Mexico border, a move decried by advocates as a cruel and ineffective attempt to deter families from coming to the United States.
Immigration authorities on Friday issued a notice that they may seek up to 15,000 beds to detain families. The Justice Department has also asked a federal court in California to allow children to be detained longer and in facilities that don’t require state licensing while they await immigration court proceedings.
“The current situation is untenable,” August Flentje, special counsel to the assistant attorney general, wrote in court filings seeking to change a longstanding court settlement that governs the detention of immigrant children. The more constrained the Homeland Security Department is in detaining families together during immigration proceedings, “the more likely it is that families will attempt illegal border crossing.”
The proposed expansion comes days after a public outcry moved the administration to cease the practice of separating children from their migrant parents on the border. More than 2,300 children have been taken from their parents since Homeland Security announced a plan in April to prosecute all immigrants caught on the border.
In all, about 9,000 immigrants traveling in family groups have been caught on the border in each of the last three months, according to federal authorities.
Immigrant advocates contend detention is no place for children and insist there are other alternatives to ensure they and their parents attend immigration court hearings, such as ankle bracelets or community-based programs. The federal court ruled several years ago that children must be released as quickly as possible from family detention.
“It is definitely not a solution under any circumstances,” said Manoj Govindaiah, director of family detention services at the RAICES advocacy group in Texas. “At no point should a child be incarcerated, and children need to be with their parents.”
Immigration and Customs Enforcement currently has three family detention facilities — a 100-bed center opened in Pennsylvania in 2001 and two much larger facilities opened in Texas in 2014. Only the Pennsylvania facility can house men, and all of the detainees at the Texas centers are women with children.
In Dilley, Texas, a facility was built on a remote site that was once an old oil workers’ encampment. It includes collections of cottages built around playgrounds. The other Texas center, in Karnes City, is ringed by 15-foot fences and has security cameras monitoring movements. It also offers bilingual children’s books in the library, classes, TVs and an artificial turf soccer field.
Inside the Karnes City center, there are five or six beds to a room typically shared by a couple of families. Cinderblock walls are painted pastel colors, said Govindaiah, who added that the facilities are run by private prison operators, not humanitarian organizations, as is the case with shelters for unaccompanied immigrant children.
Currently, most families spend up to a few weeks in the facilities and are released once they pass an initial asylum screening. They are then given a date to appear before an immigration judge in the cities where they are headed to see if they qualify to stay in the country legally or will face deportation.
Those who do not pass initial screenings can seek additional review in a video conference with a judge, a process that lasts about six weeks.
But that’s much shorter than the six months or a year many families were being held several years ago when the Obama administration began detaining mothers and children in a bid to stem a surge in arrivals on the border, Govindaiah said.
At the time, many were being held until their immigration cases — not just the initial screenings — were resolved.
Advocates then asked the federal court to enforce a decades-old settlement over the detention of immigrant children, and a judge ruled the children should be released as quickly as possible.
The settlement is seen by advocates as a way to ensure children are placed in age-appropriate facilities and for no longer than necessary. State licensing adds another layer of oversight.
“You will have children in facilities that are entirely inappropriate for children and are not meeting child welfare standards,” said Michelle Brane, director of the migrant rights and justice program at the Women’s Refugee Commission. “They are trying to circumvent child welfare standards.”
Brane said there is a viable alternative: supervised release to communities around the country. The federal Family Case Management Program — terminated under the Trump administration — compiled a perfect record of attendance by migrants at court hearings, and a 99 percent appearance record at immigration check-ins, according to a 2017 report by the Homeland Security inspector general.
Just 2 percent of participants — 23 out of 954 — were reported as absconders.
In Friday’s notice, ICE said the family detention beds should be in state-licensed facilities and allow freedom of movement for detainees, and should preferably be located in states along the southwest border.
In addition to providing private showers and educational field trips for children, the centers should appear “child-friendly rather than penal in nature,” the agency said.