In Japan, Trump pushes allies on trade before meeting Putin

US President Donald Trump, left, sits with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, center, and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi during a trilateral meeting on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in Osaka, western Japan on June 28, 2019. (Carl Court/Pool Photo via AP)
Updated 28 June 2019
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In Japan, Trump pushes allies on trade before meeting Putin

  • Trump’s meeting with Putin will be the leaders’ first extended conversation since the two met in Finland, nearly a year ago
  • The summit will be a test of Trump’s go-it-alone style as well as his “America First” doctrine

OSAKA, Japan: With an eye on the race back home to challenge him, President Donald Trump opened his most consequential trip of the year Friday by pushing allies on trade and defense spending at an international summit.
Trump opened the G20 summit in Japan by meeting with the host, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, followed by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. He sounded optimistic about inking trade deals with all three and praised alliances he has strained in the past.
With an array of world issues on the agenda, Trump could not resist weighing in on events at home: As he held meetings with these world leaders, 10 Democrats stood on a stage in Miami as part of the first debates of the 2020 presidential race.
“I just passed a television set on the way here. I saw that health care and maximum health care was given to 100% of the illegal immigrants coming into our country by the Democrats,” Trump said, turning to Merkel. “I don’t know if you saw it, it wasn’t very exciting, I can tell you... So I look forward to spending time with you rather than watching.”
Trump was also set to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday, their first sit-down since the special counsel found extensive evidence of Russian meddling in the 2016 US election.
The president, who in the past has disrupted carefully choreographed summits by attacking allies and adversaries alike, made no public mention of his recent complaints that the US military alliance with Japan is one-sided, that Germany was taking advantage of the US on support for NATO and that India’s tariffs on the US “must be withdrawn!“
Abe and Trump discussed trade and North Korea, while the three leaders spoke about enhanced security cooperation in the South China Sea and Huawei, the Chinese telecommunications giant that Trump has put on a blacklist and is viewed as a national security threat because of the possibility that its equipment could be used for cyber espionage.
And earlier, as Abe officially received Trump, the president waved over his daughter Ivanka Trump and son-in-law Jared Kushner, both senior White House aides, to pose with him for the official welcome photo. Trump and Abe were later joined by Modi, who a day earlier was the target of a Trump tweet complaining about tariffs. The portion of the meeting open to reporters was convivial: at Trump’s urging, the three leaders engaged in a group fist bump.
But the day’s main event will be Trump’s first public meeting with Putin since the Helsinki summit last July in which Trump refused to side with US intelligence agencies over his Russian counterpart.
Trump said in advance that he expected a “very good conversation” with Putin but told reporters that “what I say to him is none of your business.” His aides have grown worried that Trump could use the meeting to once again attack special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe on the world stage, particularly since Mueller recently agreed to testify before Congress next month.
Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer pressed the president to directly challenge the Russian leader on election interference and send a signal “not merely to Putin but to all of our adversaries that interfering with our election is unacceptable, and that they will pay a price — a strong price — for trying.”
The United States and Russia are also on opposing sides of the escalating crisis with Iran, which shot down an American drone last week. Trump nixed a possible retaliatory air strike and stressed Friday that the “there’s no rush. There’s absolutely no time pressure” to ease the tension with Tehran.
Trump’s meeting with Putin will be the leaders’ first extended conversation since the two met in Finland, nearly a year ago. That’s when Trump set off an uproar by declining to say he believed the US intelligence services’ conclusions over Putin’s denials of election interference.
The Mueller report did not establish a criminal conspiracy between Trump associates and the Kremlin to sway the outcome of the election. The finding lifted a cloud over the White House even as tensions have increased between Washington and Moscow. While Trump has long placed a premium on establishing close personal ties with Putin, his government has increased sanctions and other pressures on the Russian government.
At a summit last November in Argentina, Trump canceled what would have been the leaders’ first post-Helsinki meeting after Russia seized two Ukrainian vessels and their crew in the Sea of Azor. Those crew members remain detained, yet Trump — who did briefly greet Putin in Buenos Aires — has opted to forge ahead with the meeting, which will likely include discussions about hotspots in Iran, Syria and Venezuela, as well as nuclear weapons.
The leaders last year announced their withdrawal from a key arms control pact, the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. It is set to terminate this summer, raising fears of a new arms race. Another major nuclear agreement, the New Start treaty, is set to expire in 2021 unless Moscow and Washington negotiate an extension. Along with arms control frictions, Russia’s annexation of Crimea and its support for a separatist insurgency in eastern Ukraine also weigh heavily on Russia-US relations.
But the backdrop, as always, will be Russia’s 2016 election interference.
Putin has denied that Russia meddled in the American election to help Trump win, even though Mueller uncovered extensive evidence to the contrary. That included a Russian military intelligence operation to break into Democratic Party emails and efforts by a “troll farm” to spread divisive rhetoric and undermine the US political system by using phony social media accounts.
At the news conference that followed the Helsinki summit, Trump responded to a reporter’s question by declining to denounce Russia’s election interference or side with his own intelligence agencies over Putin. The two men also spent more than two hours in a private meeting in Helsinki with only their interpreters present; some US intelligence officials were never briefed on the discussions.
For Trump, the Putin meeting comes amid a gauntlet of negotiations on international crises, trade wars and a growing global to-do list.
Trump landed in Osaka on Thursday amid a tropical cyclone that is predicted to turn into a typhoon — a possible metaphor for the four days of high-stakes diplomacy that lie ahead. As his re-election bid heats up, Trump was eager to produce breakthroughs on a series of foreign policy challenges including the showdown between the US and Iran, a trade war with China and stalled nuclear talks with North Korea.
The summit will be a test of Trump’s go-it-alone style as well as his “America First” doctrine that has frustrated traditional allies over disputes on defense spending and trade and set the United States apart from global consensus on how to deal with international concerns like climate change and Iran’s nuclear program.


Dutch court cuts state’s liability for Srebrenica deaths

In this Wednesday, March 20, 2019 file photo, a woman prays at the Potocari memorial center for victims of the Srebrenica genocide, in Potocari, Bosnia and Herzegovina. (AP)
Updated 20 July 2019
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Dutch court cuts state’s liability for Srebrenica deaths

  • The 350 were among the almost 8,000 Muslim men and boys were killed in the genocide at Srebrenica, the worst massacre in Europe since World War II

THE HAGUE: The Dutch Supreme Court on Friday slashed the state’s liability for 350 victims of the 1995 Srebrenica massacre, saying peacekeepers had only a “slim” chance of preventing their deaths.
The 350 men were among 5,000 terrified residents who had sought safety in the Dutch peacekeepers’ base when the besieged Muslim enclave was overrun by Bosnian Serb forces in July 1995.
The lightly armed Dutch troops eventually became overwhelmed and shut the gates to new arrivals before allowing Bosnian Serb forces commanded by Ratko Mladic to evacuate the refugees.
The men and boys were separated and taken in buses to their deaths, their bodies dumped in mass graves.
Judges, however, on Friday reduced from 30 percent to 10 percent the Dutch state’s responsibility for compensation to the families in a case brought by the Mothers of Srebrenica victims’ organization.
The 350 were among the almost 8,000 Muslim men and boys were killed in the genocide at Srebrenica, the worst massacre in Europe since World War II and the darkest episode in the break-up of the former Yugoslavia.
“The Dutch State bears very limited liability in the ‘Mothers of Srebrenica’ case,” the Supreme Court said. “That liability is limited to 10 percent of the damages suffered by the surviving relatives of approximately 350 victims.”

After the ruling, Mothers’ president Munira Subasic, who lost family members including her son, husband and father in the massacre, expressed disappointment.
“Today we experienced humiliation upon humiliation. We could not even hear the judgment in our own language because we were not given a translator,” she told AFP.
At Srebrenica “every life was taken away 100 percent. There is little we can do with 10 percent, but yes, the responsibility still lies where it does.”
“I only have two bones. I have found less than 10 percent of his body,” she added, referring to her teenage son.
The Dutch government accepted responsibility, saying it was relieved that “finally there was some clarity.”
A Dutch court originally held the state liable for compensation in 2014. In 2017 the appeals court upheld that decision before it was referred to the Supreme Court.
The lower court had said in 2017 that the Dutch actions meant the Muslims were “denied a 30 percent chance of avoiding abuse and execution,” and thus the Dutch state was liable for 30 percent of damages owed to families.
The Supreme Court agreed that “the state did act wrongfully in relation to the evacuation of the 5,000 refugees” in the compound, including 350 Muslim men the Bosnian Serbs were unaware of.
It said the Dutch peacekeepers “failed to offer these 350 male refugees the choice to stay where they were, even though that would have been possible.”
But explaining the decision to reduce the liability, the Supreme Court said that “the chance that the male refugees would have escaped the Bosnian Serbs had they been given the choice to stay was slim, but not negligible.”
Reacting to the ruling, Dutch Defense Minister Ank Bijleveld said in a statement the cabinet would “examine how to best implement the liability for damages suffered by the relatives in such a way it does justice to the Supreme Court ruling.”

In a swipe at the failure of other foreign powers to act during the 1995 crisis, the top court added that the “chance of Dutchbat (the Dutch UN mission) receiving effective support from the international community was slim.”
Former Dutchbat soldiers attending the case said they were disappointed on behalf of the victims’ families.
“I think the final judgment is a bit disappointing, especially when you see the court ruling of 30 percent and now it’s downgraded to 10 percent,” said Remko de Bruijne, a former Dutch blue helmet who served at Srebrenica.
“I think that’s not fair for the Mothers of Srebrenica but, on the other hand, now it’s clear,” he told AFP.
Srebrenica has cast a long shadow over The Netherlands, forcing a the government to resign in 2002 after a scathing report on the role of politicians in the episode.
Former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic is currently serving a life sentence in jail in The Hague after being convicted of genocide over Srebrenica and war crimes throughout the 1990s.
Ex-military chief Mladic, 76, dubbed the “Butcher of Bosnia,” is currently appealing a life sentence on similar charges at an international tribunal in The Hague.
Slobodan Milosevic, Karadzic’s long-time patron during the war, was on trial in The Hague at the time of his death in 2006.