Japan PM beefs up European ties amid North Korea tensions

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (L) and his Estonian counterpart Juri Ratas (R) address a press conference in Tallinn, Estonia on January 12, 2018. Japan’s prime minister arrived in Estonia, his first stop on a tour of the Baltic states and other European nations as he seeks to drum up support for his hawkish stance on North Korea. (AFP)
Updated 13 January 2018
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Japan PM beefs up European ties amid North Korea tensions

TALLINN: Japan’s prime minister on Friday landed in Estonia, his first stop on a tour of the Baltic states and other European nations as he seeks to drum up support for his hawkish stance on North Korea.
Despite a recent cooling of tensions in the run-up to the Winter Olympics in South Korea, Shinzo Abe has insisted on “maximizing pressure” on Pyongyang over its nuclear and missile programs.
In the Estonian capital Tallinn, Abe met with President Kersti Kaljulaid and Prime Minister Juri Ratas and discussed bilateral cooperation on cybersecurity, a topic that digital-savvy Estonia has championed since being hit by one of the first major cyberattacks a decade ago.
Abe will then visit fellow Baltic states Latvia and Lithuania, before continuing on to Bulgaria, Serbia and Romania. He is the first sitting Japanese leader to visit these countries.
Abe told reporters that he and Ratas had “agreed that we would not accept nuclear armament of North Korea, and that it was necessary to maximize pressure on North Korea.”
The leaders also said their countries would start working together on cyberdefense and a Japanese spokesperson later said Tokyo would cooperate with NATO countries including Estonia on cybersecurity.
“Estonia and Japan are separated by thousands of kilometers, but tightly connected by a digital umbilical cord,” Ratas said, adding that “Japan will soon become a contributing participant with regard to the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defense Center of Excellence, which is located in Tallinn.”


Japan’s foreign ministry press secretary Norio Maruyama told reporters in Tallinn that “step by step we understand which way NATO can be a useful entity for Japan and in which area can Japan be useful for NATO.”
Maruyama added that given the threats posed by cyberterrorism “we need to have closer coordination among the countries that share the same values.
“I think that the NATO center provides us with a kind of information and a way we can cooperate together,” he added.
Representatives from more than 30 companies would accompany Abe to develop business ties in the region.
Japan is keen to raise its profile in the region as China bolsters its ties there.
All six nations Abe is visiting are among the 16 Central and Eastern European countries that hold an annual summit meeting with China.
China has been pushing its massive $1 trillion “One Belt, One Road” initiative, which seeks to build rail, maritime and road links from Asia to Europe and Africa in a revival of ancient Silk Road trading routes.
Abe is due to return to Japan on Wednesday.
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Ex-Trump lawyer Cohen providing info in Mueller probe

Updated 42 min 54 sec ago
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Ex-Trump lawyer Cohen providing info in Mueller probe

  • Trump’s longtime fixer-turned-foe could be a vital witness for prosecutors as they investigate whether Trump’s campaign coordinated with Russians
  • Cohen pleaded guilty in August to eight federal charges and said Trump directed him to arrange payments before the 2016 election to buy the silence of porn actress Stormy Daniels

WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump’s former personal lawyer claimed Thursday he is providing “critical information” as part special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 US election and possible coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign.
Michael Cohen, who pleaded guilty to campaign finance and other charges last month, said he is providing the information to prosecutors without a cooperation agreement.
Trump’s longtime fixer-turned-foe could be a vital witness for prosecutors as they investigate whether Trump’s campaign coordinated with Russians. For more than a decade, Cohen was Trump’s personal lawyer, and he was a key power player in the Trump Organization and a fixture in Trump’s political life.
Cohen pleaded guilty in August to eight federal charges and said Trump directed him to arrange payments before the 2016 election to buy the silence of porn actress Stormy Daniels and a former Playboy model who had both alleged they had affairs with Trump. It was the first time any Trump associate implicated Trump himself in a crime, though whether — or when — a president can be prosecuted remains a matter of legal dispute.
On Thursday night, Cohen tweeted: “Good for @MichaelCohen212 for providing critical information to the #MuellerInvestigation without a cooperation agreement. No one should question his integrity, veracity or loyalty to his family and country over @POTUS @realDonaldTrump.”
The tweet was deleted almost immediately and was later reposted by his attorney, Lanny Davis, who said he wrote the tweet for Cohen and asked him to tweet it because he has a “much larger following.” Davis said he was delayed posting the tweet on his own account, so Cohen tweeted it first.
ABC News reported earlier Thursday that Cohen has met several times — for several hours — with investigators from the special counsel’s office.
The television network, citing sources familiar with the matter, said he was questioned about Trump’s dealings with Russia, including whether members of the Trump campaign worked with Russians to try to influence the outcome of the election.
Davis had asserted last month that his client could tell the special counsel that Trump had prior knowledge of a June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower with a Russian lawyer, Trump’s son-in-law and Trump’s eldest son, who had been told in emails that it was part of a Russian government effort to help his father’s campaign. But Davis later walked back the assertions, saying he could not independently confirm the claims that Cohen witnessed Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., telling his father about the Trump Tower meeting beforehand.
In the last two weeks, the special counsel secured the cooperation of Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort; signaled that he has obtained all the information he needs from former national security adviser Michael Flynn — who was also a government cooperator; and dispensed with the case of the campaign aide who triggered the Russia probe.
The president has continued a very public battle against the Mueller investigation, repeatedly calling it a politically motivated and “rigged witch hunt.” He has said he is going to declassify secret documents in the Russia investigation, an extraordinary move that he says will show that the investigation was tainted from the start by bias in the Justice Department and FBI.