Johnson seeks to push Trump at fractious G7

British Prime Minister Boris Johsnon is due to hold his first face-to-face meeting with President Donald Trump during the G7 summit. (File/AFP)
Updated 25 August 2019

Johnson seeks to push Trump at fractious G7

  • Boris Johnson will hold his first face-to-face meeting with Donald Trump since becoming British PM
  • The last time Johnson and Donald Tusk met they were at loggerheads over who’s to blame for a no deal Brexit

BIARRITZ, France: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will on Sunday seek to persuade President Donald Trump to offer flexibility on trade and also win concessions from the EU on Brexit, at a G7 summit hosted by France marked by stark divisions.
Johnson was to hold his long-awaited first face-to-face meeting as premier with Trump in the southern French resort of Biarritz and also at midday talk with EU Council President Donald Tusk after a bitter verbal spat the day earlier.
Host President Emmanuel Macron wants to make the three-day meeting of the Group of Seven nations that started Saturday, an example for international forums but the first day was marked by EU leaders rounding on Trump on trade.
In a radical break from previous meetings of the elite club, there is to be no final statement haggled over in late night talks. Macron also invited several world leaders from outside the G7 such as India’s Narendra Modi and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi.
The Basque resort of Biarritz, which at this time of year usually teems with surfers, sunbathers and tourists, has been turned into a fortress for the event with over 13,000 police on duty and its gleaming beaches out of bounds to the public.
An anti-capitalism demonstration in nearby Bayonne turned ugly Saturday when the crowd of several hundred tried to get through police barricades and was repelled with water cannon and tear gas.
On Sunday, all eyes will be on Johnson as he makes his biggest international appearance since taking office in July on a pledge to deliver Britain’s exit from the European Union and return the self confidence of his nation.
In the lead-up to the talks, Johnson appeared at pains to distance himself from Trump after facing accusations in the past of being too cosy with the American leader.
He urged Trump to remove the “considerable barriers” for UK companies seeking to export to the American market, saying they risked impeding a free-trade deal after Brexit.
Johnson pointed to a string of UK products — ranging from shower trays to Britain’s beloved pork pies — that he said were not allowed on the American market.
“We intend to seize those opportunities but they are going to require our American friends to compromise and to open up their approach, because currently there are too many restrictions,” he said.
In another comment that could rile the Americans, he said that US digital giants like Facebook and Google needed to be taxed “fairly and properly” on their revenues. Johnson also sounded the alarm over Trump’s escalating trade struggle with China.
Johnson’s talks with Tusk later in the day could prove to be prickly after the pair exchanged barbs on Saturday over who would be to blame if Britain left the European Union without a deal.
“I still hope that Prime Minister Johnson will not like to go down in history as Mr.’No Deal’,” Tusk told reporters in Biarritz.
Johnson retorted it was up to the EU to “get rid of” the so-called Irish backstop, a provision guaranteeing that border checks will not return between Ireland, an EU member, and Britain’s Northern Ireland.
G7 summits, gathering Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States, were once a meeting of like-minded allies. But they’ve become a diplomatic battlefield under Trump.
In an attempt to break the ice, Macron deployed the charms of French cuisine on Saturday, treating Trump to an unscheduled lunch as soon as he arrived on Air Force One.
Speaking to reporters in fluent English, Macron called Trump “a very special guest” and aides later said that the two men had found some common ground, notably on the Iran nuclear crisis.
G7 chiefs are also hoping to soothe tensions over Iran’s nuclear program and persuade Trump to ease his policy of “maximum pressure,” for example by lifting sanctions on Iranian oil sales to China and India.
Macron is also pushing for action against fires in the Amazon rainforest, despite Brazilian right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro’s angry response to what he sees as outside interference.


Kim Jong Un invites Trump to Pyongyang

Updated 34 min 3 sec ago

Kim Jong Un invites Trump to Pyongyang

  • Invitation extended in an undisclosed personal letter sent to Trump on Aug. 15

SEOUL: North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has invited US President Donald Trump to Pyongyang in his latest letter to the American head of state,  South Korea’s top diplomat said on Monday.

“I heard detailed explanations from US officials that there was such a letter a while ago,” Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-hwa told a  parliamentary session. “But I’m not in a position to confirm what’s in the letter or when it was delivered.”

The foreign minister’s remarks followed reports by a local newspaper, JoongAng Ilbo, which said that Kim’s invitation was extended in an undisclosed personal letter sent to Trump on Aug. 15.

If true, the invitation was made as diplomats of the two governments were in a tug-of-war over the resumption of working-level talks for the North’s denuclearization efforts.

During a surprise meeting at the Korean border village of Panmunjom on June 30, Trump and Kim pledged that working-level nuclear disarmament talks would resume within a month, but no such talks have been held,  with both sides indulging in a blame game instead.

“We are very curious about the background of the American top  diplomat’s thoughtless remarks and we will watch what calculations he has,” North Korea’s first vice Foreign Minister Choe Son-hui said on Aug. 30 in a statement carried by the North’s official Central News Agency (KCNA). He was referring to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s comments terming Pyongyang’s rocket launches as “rogue.”

However, the tone has changed significantly with the communist state recently offering to return to dialogue with Washington “at a time and place agreed late in September.”

“I want to believe that the US side would come out with an alternative based on a calculation method that serves both sides’ interests and is acceptable to us,” Choe said on Aug. 30.

On Monday, the director-general of the North Korean Foreign Ministry’s department of American affairs said working-level denuclearization talks will likely take place “in a few weeks” but demanded security guarantees and sanctions’ relief as prerequisites.

“The discussion of denuclearization may be possible when threats and hurdles endangering our system security and obstructing our  development are clearly removed beyond all doubt,” the statement said. 

HIGHLIGHT

It’s not clear whether the US president has responded to the invitation, thought he has touted his personal relationship with the young North Korean dictator.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in was upbeat about the early resumption of nuclear talks.

“North Korea-US working-level dialogue will resume soon,” he said, citing an “unchanged commitment” to trust and peace by the leaders of both Koreas and the US. 

The working-level meeting will serve as a “force to advance the peace process on the Korean Peninsula,” he added.

Moon is scheduled to meet Trump on the sidelines of a UN General Assembly session in New York next week.

“It will be an opportunity to share opinions and gather wisdom with Trump on the direction of further development of South Korea-US  relations,” he said.

The White House offered no immediate comment.

It’s not clear whether Trump responded to Kim’s invitation to Pyongyang, but the US commander-in-chief has touted his personal relationship with the young North Korean dictator, who oversaw the test-firings of short-range ballistic missiles and multiple launch rockets more than half a dozen times since late July.

While none of the projectiles are a direct threat to the US continent they still pose threats to US and its allied forces in South Korea and Japan.

“Kim Jong-un has been, you know, pretty straight with me, I think,” Trump told reporters on August 24 before flying off to meet with world leaders at the G7 in France. “And we’re going to see what’s going on. We’re going to see what’s happening. He likes testing missiles.”

Experts say the apparent firing of US National Security Adviser John Bolton has also boosted chances of fresh negotiations with the North, which had long criticized him for his hawkish approach toward the regime.

“The displacement of a ‘bad guy’ could be construed as a negotiating tactic to seek a breakthrough in the stalemate of nuclear talks. It’s a show of a will to engage the counterpart in a friendlier manner from the perspective of negotiation science,” Park Sang-ki, an adjunct professor at the department of business management at Sejong University in Seoul, told Arab News.