US president denies derogatory remarks against migrant countries

In this Jan. 8, 2018 photo, Mateo Barrera, 4 originally from El Salvador, whose family members benefit from Temporary Protected Status, TPS, attends a news conference in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)
Updated 13 January 2018
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US president denies derogatory remarks against migrant countries

WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump tweeted a denial on Friday after he was quoted as describing African and other states as “sh**hole countries,” amid an international furor over the remarks.
Trump, who reportedly made the comment during a meeting with legislators Thursday on immigration reform, drew charges of racism.
“Why are we having all these people from sh**hole countries come here?” Trump said, people briefed on the meeting told The Washington Post.
The New York Times later reported the same comment, citing unnamed people with direct knowledge of the meeting.
“The language used by me at the DACA meeting was tough, but this was not the language used,” Trump tweeted early Friday.
The reference was to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which shields from deportation nearly 800,000 immigrants brought to the country illegally as children.
Thursday’s meeting was to discuss a compromise under which DACA would be preserved but a visa lottery and a policy allowing legal immigrants to bring family members into the country would be ended.
“I want a merit based system of immigration and people who will help take our country to the next level,” Trump said in another tweet.
“I want safety and security for our people,” he added, criticizing the proposed bipartisan deal.
“USA would be forced to take large numbers of people from high crime countries which are doing badly,” Trump tweeted.
The Post and the Times said Trump’s vulgar remark on Thursday was in reference to African countries and Haiti. The Post included El Salvador on its list.
Trump suggested the US should instead welcome immigrants from places like Norway, whose prime minister met with Trump on Wednesday.
UN rights office spokesman Rupert Colville said “there is no other word one can use but ‘racist’” to describe Trump’s remarks.
Democratic Congressman Luis Gutierrez called Trump “a racist who does not share the values enshrined in our Constitution.”
The 55-nation African Union condemned Trump’s reported remarks while the southern African state of Botswana hauled in the US ambassador to complain.
The comment “truly flies in the face of accepted behavior and practice,” said Ebba Kalondo, spokeswoman for AU chief Moussa Faki.
“This is even more hurtful given the historical reality of just how many Africans arrived in the United States as slaves, and also terribly surprising as the United States remains a massively positive example as just how migration can give birth to a nation,” Kalondo said.
The comments were “clearly” racist, Kalondo said, but stressed the US was “much stronger than the sum total of one man.”
Botswana summoned the US ambassador to the country to “clarify if Botswana is regarded as a ‘sh**hole’ country,” according to a Foreign Ministry statement which called Trump’s comments “irresponsible, reprehensible and racist.”
This is not the first time Trump has rubbed Africans up the wrong way — he was widely derided last year after he twice referred to Namibia as “Nambia.”
Many Africans reminded the US of its historic role in the continent’s woes.


Korean border troops check removal of each other’s posts

Updated 11 min 16 sec ago
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Korean border troops check removal of each other’s posts

  • The two Koreas have each dismantled or disarmed 11 of their guard posts inside the Demilitarized Zone that forms their 248-km-long, 4-km -wide border
  • The Demilitarized Zone was originally created as a buffer between the countries at the end of the 1950-53 Korean War

INSIDE THE DEMILITARIZED ZONE: Dozens of South Korean soldiers visited former front-line North Korean guard posts on Wednesday to verify their recent removal as part of warming diplomacy by the rival Koreas while US-North Korea nuclear disarmament efforts remain stalled.
The two Koreas have each dismantled or disarmed 11 of their guard posts inside the Demilitarized Zone that forms their 248-kilometer (155-mile) -long, 4-kilometer (2.5-mile) -wide border. The removals will leave South Korea with about 50 other DMZ posts and North Korea with 150, according to defense experts in South Korea.
A small group of journalists was allowed to enter the zone to watch a South Korean team leave for a North Korean guard post on Wednesday morning to verify its destruction. North Korean teams wre also going to verify the work on the South Korean side of the zone later Wednesday.
Seven helmeted South Korean soldiers wearing backpacks, one carrying a camera and another a camcorder, approached the line separating the north and south sides of the DMZ. North Korean troops then walked in a row down a hill to meet them. The soldiers from the rival Koreas exchanged handshakes before moving up the hill together to go to the dismantled North Korean guard post.
Other groups of South Korean soldiers were simultaneously visiting 10 other North Korean guard posts. They inspected whether the guard posts and any underground structures have been completely dismantled and whether all troops, weapons and other equipment have been withdrawn, according to Seoul’s Defense Ministry.
The Demilitarized Zone was originally created as a buffer between the countries at the end of the 1950-53 Korean War. But contrary to its name, the DMZ has become the world’s most heavily fortified frontier after the rival Koreas planted an estimated 2 million mines, deployed combat troops and heavy weapons and set up layers of barbed wire fences.
When the leaders of the Koreas met in Pyongyang in September, they agreed to lower military tensions along their border, including the withdrawal of some DMZ guard posts, halting live-fire exercises near the border, demilitarizing their shared border village of Panmunjom and removing mines at a DMZ area to launch joint searches for Korean War dead.
Conservatives in South Korea have criticized the deals, saying Seoul shouldn’t have agreed to such conventional arms reduction programs because North Korea’s nuclear threat remains unchanged.
US-led nuclear diplomacy aimed at stripping North Korea of its nuclear program has reported little progress since North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and President Donald Trump met for a summit in Singapore in June. North Korea has made a vague disarmament pledge, and some experts say the North’s turn to diplomacy after last year’s string of weapons tests is aimed to weaken US-led sanctions.