Trump searches for credit on North Korea nuclear deal

President Donald Trump speaks to reporters on the North Lawn of the White House, Friday, June 15, 2018, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
Updated 16 June 2018
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Trump searches for credit on North Korea nuclear deal

  • Trump’s frustrations are all the more notable now during the honeymoon phase of the deal, when a triumphant cloud of goodwill has yet to be tempered by reality
  • Facing questions about his public embrace of Kim and the North Korean’s autocratic leadership style — including what Trump said was a joke about the obedience of the autocratic Kim’s advisers

WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump credits his accord with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un with saving tens of millions of people from nuclear war. Now he just has to get everyone else on board.
Frustrated with lukewarm backing from congressional Republicans, criticism from Democratic opponents and skepticism from allies and the media, Trump made a stop Friday on the North Lawn of the White House to promote the nuclear deal that critics have criticized as vague and lacking in clear objectives.
The surprise appearance on “Fox & Friends,” followed by a combative round of questions with reporters, came two days after Trump returned from Singapore expecting a hero’s welcome and tweeting that the world could “sleep well.” Trump — who has long pitched himself as a master dealmaker — feels the agreement represents a radical step toward solving an intractable foreign policy problem and has been publicly and privately grumbling that not everyone agrees.
Trump’s frustrations are all the more notable now during the honeymoon phase of the deal, when a triumphant cloud of goodwill has yet to be tempered by reality. The US goal of complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization, even in the most optimistic case, will likely take years — and that’s assuming North Korea won’t violate the accord, as it has every previous nuclear agreement.
Facing questions about his public embrace of Kim and the North Korean’s autocratic leadership style — including what Trump said was a joke about the obedience of the autocratic Kim’s advisers — the president said he was doing what is necessary for peace.
“I don’t want to see a nuclear weapon destroy you and your family,” Trump told reporters. He added: “If you’re fair, when I came in, people thought we were probably going to war with North Korea. ... If we did, millions of people would have been killed.”
The joint statement signed this week by Trump and Kim promises to work toward a denuclearized Korean peninsula, but includes no details on how or when weapons might be eliminated or even reduced. The summit marked the first meeting between a US and North Korean leader in six decades of hostility and did mark a reduction in tensions from last fall, when Trump and Kim were trading insults that raised the specter of war.
Trump emerged from the meeting convinced he could sell the vaguely worded deal, as evidenced by his hour-plus press conference in Singapore immediately after the sit-down. Since then, he has sent out a battery of tweets and messages, peaking with his Friday visit to the White House driveway. The impromptu press availability underscored Trump’s isolation, increasingly relying on his own intuition, as he consults with a shrinking bench of advisers and is at odds with longtime international allies.
“He’s his own communications director. Once again his press team is trying to catch up to him,” said GOP consultant Alex Conant. “He’s focused more on the optics than the policy, which is a trend we’ve seen throughout this presidency.”
Trump also issued a video message Friday, defending the nuclear agreement and saying the US must pursue a chance to avert nuclear conflict “at all costs.” Trump said: “Our world has seen more than enough conflict. If there’s a chance at peace, if there’s a chance to end the horrible threat of nuclear conflict, then we must pursue it at all costs.”
One key frustration for Trump is his belief that his predecessor would have gotten a different reception — and that he should receive credit for making an agreement on an issue where former President Barack Obama was unable to make progress.
Trump has been calling lawmakers to express enthusiasm for the agreement — but also complaining that he has not had more robust support from GOP lawmakers, said a person with knowledge of the calls, who spoke on condition of anonymity to share internal conversations. He also has been arguing that he has already done more than Obama.
Among Trump’s most vocal supporters is Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who led negotiations with Pyongyang to set up the summit and will hold talks with the North to work out vital details of the deal.
The challenge of defending the agreement became apparent earlier this week when Pompeo lashed out at a reporter asking how the US would verify the North’s compliance with the deal.
“I find that question insulting and ridiculous and, frankly, ludicrous,” Pompeo said in Seoul, where he was seeking to reassure US ally South Korea about Trump’s negotiation, including a surprise halt to joint military exercises involving the US and South Korea.
Trump’s vigorous press strategy comes after a bare-bones messaging strategy around the actual summit, after the broadly worded joint statement signed by the president and Kim raised questions White House officials seemed unable to answer. Trump’s announcement that he would halt the exercises appeared to catch Pentagon officials unaware and they initially said there was no change to planned exercises.
White House staff said Trump’s seat-of-the-pants changes on the day of the summit undercut their plans to roll out the agreement. Those plans included trying to change the time of his press conference — causing a logistical headache of moving the media into place — to deciding he personally wanted to reveal the contents of the deal live. He changed his mind after news photographs showing the signed agreement text appeared on television.
The president’s frustration also comes as his West Wing continues to hollow out. The latest departure news is that White House legislative director Marc Short has told staff he’ll leave this summer, said two White House officials who were not authorized to speak publicly. And rumors persist that more top aides are looking for the exits, as it becomes increasingly challenging to find new hires.


Child bride auction in South Sudan goes viral, sparks Facebook anger

Updated 21 November 2018
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Child bride auction in South Sudan goes viral, sparks Facebook anger

JUBA: Five hundred cows, two luxury cars, $10,000, two bikes, a boat and a few cell phones made up the final price in a heated bidding war for a child bride in South Sudan that went viral after the auction was pointed out on Facebook. It is the largest dowry ever paid in the civil war-torn country, the government said.
The highest bidder was a man three times the 17-year-old’s age. At least four other men in Eastern Lakes state competed, said Philips Anyang Ngong, a human rights lawyer who tried to stop the bidding last month. Among the bidders was the state’s deputy governor.
“She has been reduced to a mere commodity,” Ngong told The Associated Press, calling it “the biggest test of child abuse, trafficking and auctioning of a human being.” Everyone involved should be held accountable, he said.
Earlier this month, Nyalong became the man’s ninth wife. Photos posted on Facebook show her sitting beside the groom, wearing a lavish dress and staring despondently at the floor. The AP is using only her first name to protect her identity.
South Sudan has a deeply rooted cultural practice of paying dowries for brides, usually in the form of cows. It also has a long history of child marriage. Even though that practice is now illegal, 40 percent of girls still marry before age 18, according to the United Nations Population Fund. The practice “threatens girls’ lives” and limits prospects for their future, said Dr. Mary Otieno, the agency’s country representative.
The bidding war has caused local and international outrage. It took several days for Facebook to remove the post that first pointed out the auction, and after it was taken down other posts “glorifying” the situation remained, George Otim, country director for Plan International South Sudan, told the AP.
“This barbaric use of technology is reminiscent of latter-day slave markets. That a girl could be sold for marriage on the world’s biggest social networking site in this day and age is beyond belief,” he said. The auction was discussed, not carried out, on the site.
Facebook did not reply to a request for comment.
While South Sudan’s government condemns the practice of child marriage it says it can’t regulate communities’ cultural norms, especially in remote areas.
“You can’t call it bidding as if it was an auction. It’s not bidding. If you see it with European eyes you’ll call it an auction,” government spokesman Ateny Wek Ateny told the AP. “You have to see it with an African eye, as it’s a tradition that goes back thousands of years. There’s no word for it in English.”
Some local lawmakers and activists disagree. In a statement released this week, the National Alliance for Women Lawyers in South Sudan called upon officials to comply with the government’s plan to end child marriage by 2030. Ending the practice includes putting a stop to the auctioning of girls.
South Sudan’s anti-human trafficking chief called the case reminiscent of others he has seen across the country, in which girls are forced or tricked into marriage after being told they are going to live with relatives and go to school instead.
“It is clear that some human trafficking practices are hidden in our culture,” John Mading said.
In other cases, some girls who grow up in the South Sudanese diaspora are brought back to the country and forced to marry. The AP spoke with several people who know girls who arrived for what they thought was a vacation, only to have their passports taken away and forced into marriage by their families.
“Some families want children to marry in their countries and in their ethnic communities, but most do it if the kids are misbehaving,” said Esther Ikere Eluzai, undersecretary for South Sudan’s ministry of gender.