United Nations, Sep 27 (AP/UNB) — President Donald Trump on Wednesday defended his work to settle a nuclear deal with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, saying he has given up nothing but his time during a June summit yet stands on the cusp of denuclearizing the North.
In a wide-ranging news conference on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly, Trump told reporters that despite tough U.S. sanctions against the North staying in place, he believes that Kim wants to get a deal done because of their close ties.
"We have a very good relationship. He likes me, I like him, we get along," Trump said. "He wants to make a deal and I'd like to make a deal."
He wouldn't put a timeframe, however, on when the two leaders might settle the standoff. "We're not playing the time game," he said.
It has lasted for decades, flummoxed a long line of U.S. and South Korean presidents and had many fearing war last year during a series of increasingly powerful North Korean weapons tests that experts believe put the country close to a long-time goal of viably targeting any spot on the U.S. mainland.
Trump and his top diplomat, Mike Pompeo, are trying to get past the deadlock that has followed the Singapore summit. Pompeo is planning to visit Pyongyang next month to prepare for a second Kim-Trump summit. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe Wednesday also said separately that he wants to meet with Kim though no details had been decided on yet.
Trump's optimistic comments come amid widespread skepticism that Kim will actually relinquish an arsenal that Pyongyang likely sees as the only way to guarantee the Kim dynasty's continued authoritarian rule.
Although Trump maintained that he'd given up nothing in his dealings with Kim, he has faced criticism for his decision during the Singapore summit to scrap annual U.S. military drills with ally South Korea. Critics called it a concession for the North, which has long railed against the drills as invasion preparation and proof of U.S. hostility.
Trump said Wednesday that he'd long wanted to stop the drills, which had always been portrayed by the allies as defensive in nature, because of their high cost and said he could restart them if needed. "For the taxpayer, we're saving a fortune," Trump said.
Trump also made the stunning claim that former President Barack Obama told Trump that Obama was "very close" to going to war with the North.
"If I wasn't elected," Trump said, "you'd be in a war."
The State Department said Pompeo was invited by Kim to Pyongyang, the North's capital, "to make further progress on the implementation" of agreements made during the Singapore summit and to set up another leaders' meeting.
Pompeo met earlier Wednesday with North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho at the U.N. General Assembly meeting in New York. Pompeo said on Twitter that his meeting with Ri was "very positive." There were no details immediately available about what the diplomats discussed.
"Much work remains, but we will continue to move forward," Pompeo said.
Also at the U.N. session, South Korean President Moon Jae-in said high-level diplomacy has "removed the shadow of war" that hung over the Korean Peninsula last year as Kim and Trump threatened each other with destruction during the run of North Korean weapons tests.
"Over the past year, something miraculous has taken place on the Korean Peninsula," Moon said in an address to world leaders. "We have crossed the barriers of division and are tearing down the walls in our heart."
Moon met with Kim in Pyongyang last week and has been the leading force behind the summitry. He and others hope another Trump-Kim summit will lead to disarmament progress.
Diplomacy has stalled following Kim's vague promise at the Singapore summit to work toward "complete denuclearization" of the Korean Peninsula in exchange for U.S. security guarantees.
At the heart of the impasse: a North Korean demand for a declaration to formally end the Korean War before it takes any major disarmament steps. That war ended in 1953 with a ceasefire, not a peace treaty.
Washington wants the North to first provide a list of the contents of its nuclear arsenal before agreeing to that war declaration, which could remove a big piece of diplomatic leverage over the North.
Also Wednesday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov warned that dismantling an Iran nuclear accord would threaten global efforts to halt North Korea's nuclear program.
Lavrov and others defended the 2015 Iran deal at a U.N. Security Council meeting chaired by Trump about non-proliferation. Trump pulled the U.S. out of the accord, arguing it wasn't tough enough on Iran, and is threatening new sanctions.
Lavrov said dismantling the accord would "be counterproductive for the efforts under way now to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula.
United Nations, Sep 27 (AP/UNB) — Jacinda Ardern knows all about juggling her role as a mother with the requirements of her job.
The prime minister of New Zealand has brought her infant daughter to the United Nations' annual gathering of world leaders. Mother and daughter have been spotted together inside the assembly hall.
She says she's a breastfeeding mother and needs to keep her daughter alive.
"I'm combining my role as a mum and also as a leader and it is entirely possible to do both," Arden said Wednesday. "She comes to functions with me. So, politicians love holding babies."
Baby Neve was born in June.
Ardern giving birth while in office was a point of contention before the election. Television hosts asked her about her plans for children and she said she was happy to talk about it, but that it was broadly an unacceptable question for women in the workplace.
Her answers resonated with many people around the world.
Ardern is just the second elected world leader in modern times to give birth while in office. The last female politician to give birth while heading a government was the late Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, who gave birth to her daughter Bakhtawar in 1990.
Male, Sep 27 (AP/UNB) — Maldives President Yameen Abdul Gayoom is working on how to stay in power despite having conceded defeat in this week's election, the opposition alliance said Wednesday.
Joint opposition spokesman Ahmed Mahloof told The Associated Press that government officials say Yameen is planning to complain to the Maldives Election Commission about the conduct of the vote and pressure the commission to delay releasing the final results, due Sunday. Mahloof said Yameen is also trying to get police officers loyal to him to prepare intelligence reports saying the election was flawed.
"It's serious. After conceding the election he is trying to play dirty," Mahloof said of Yameen.
Provisional results released Monday showed joint opposition candidate Ibrahim Mohamed Solih decisively defeated Yameen with about 58 percent of the vote in Sunday's election.
Presidential spokesman Ibrahim Hussain Shihab noted that Yameen had conceded the election in a speech Monday. He said Yameen accepted the results and pledged to ensure a smooth transition when his term ends Nov. 17. However, Shihab did not comment on whether Yameen's stance has changed since then.
The election outcome surprised many given opposition warnings that the voting could be rigged. The European Union didn't send election observers because the Maldives failed to meet conditions for monitoring, and few foreign media were allowed into the country to cover the vote. The U.S., which earlier threatened sanctions if the elections were not free and fair, urged calm while the election results were being finalized.
Maldives became a multiparty democracy in 2008 after decades of autocratic rule.
However, after Yameen became president in 2013 the country lost many of its democratic gains. He jailed almost all of his political opponents following allegedly flawed trials and forced some into exile. Yameen also consolidated power by exerting control over the courts, bureaucracy, police and the military.
Canberra, Sep 27 (AP/UNB) — The chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Corp. resigned on Thursday over allegations that he pressured the independent national broadcaster to fire two political journalists because the ruling conservative government disliked them.
The scandal has damaged the credibility of both the governing coalition and the ABC, which is government-funded but is required by law to operate independently of party politics. The ABC is many Australians' most trusted news source.
ABC chairman Justin Milne announced on Monday that ABC managing director Michelle Guthrie, who is also the broadcaster's editor-in-chief, had been fired halfway through her five-year contract because the board did not like her leadership style.
Media reports have since alleged that Milne, who is responsible for maintaining ABC independence, had unsuccessfully pressured Guthrie to fire political editor Andrew Probyn and chief economics correspondent Emma Alberici to prevent potential cuts in government funding.
Milne, who was appointed by the conservative government last year and is a friend of former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, said he had quit for the good the corporation.
"It's clearly not a good thing for everybody to be trying to do their job with this kind of fire storm going on, so I wanted to provide a release valve," Milne told the ABC in a television interview.
Milne said his resignation was "absolutely, 100 percent not" an admission that he had failed to safeguard the ABC's editorial independence.
"There was absolutely no interference in the independence of the ABC by the government. Nobody from the government has ever rung me and told me what to do in relation to the ABC. Nobody ever told me to hire anybody, fire anybody or do anything else," Milne said.
Fairfax Media has reported that Milne wrote an email to Guthrie calling for Alberici be fired on May 8, a day after Turnbull complained to the ABC's news director about an Alberici report on government spending.
"They (the government) hate her," Milne reportedly wrote to Guthrie.
"Get rid of her. We need to save the ABC — not Emma," he added.
News Corp., citing ABC board documents, reported Milne told Guthrie in a June 15 telephone conversation that Turnbull "hates" Probyn and: "You have to shoot him."
Turnbull, who has lived in New York since he was ousted as prime minister on Aug. 24, said on Thursday that while he had complained about the two reporters' journalism, he had never asked for them to be fired.
"The bottom line is I've never called for anybody to be fired. My concern has been on the accuracy and impartiality of reporting," Turnbull told reporters.
The government on Wednesday ordered a communications department investigation into the published allegations that Milne had pressured Guthrie to fire the two journalists, warning she was "putting the future of the ABC at risk" and jeopardizing 500 million Australian dollars (360 million) in government funding the chairman wanted for his pet project to digitize the broadcaster.
The minor Greens Party has called for a Senate inquiry into the entire ABC board, not trusting a government inquiry into the government's potential involvement in the scandal.
The conservative coalition has long complained of a leftist bias in ABC reporting. But center-left governments have also complained of unbalanced reporting in the past.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison tweeted that Milne's resignation was the right decision.
Earlier, Morrison had described the interference allegations against Milne as "pretty serious" and "very concerning."
"The idea that the government has somehow got some list and is telling the ABC who should work there and who shouldn't — that's complete rubbish," Morrison told reporters.
United Nations, Sep 27 (AP/UNB) — Iran's President Hassan Rouhani said Wednesday his country doesn't want a war with the United States and believes America will "sooner or later" support the Iran nuclear agreement again following the Trump administration's withdrawal.
Rouhani told a wide-ranging news conference that the U.S. decision to pull out of the 2015 nuclear deal in May was "a mistake" because there are no benefits for the people of the United States, Iran, Europe or any other country.
"The United States of America one day will come back, sooner or later," he said.
He said the Trump administration made a "second mistake" in holding a meeting of the U.N. Security Council earlier Wednesday during which 14 countries either directly or indirectly backed the nuclear agreement between Iran, the U.S. and five other major powers.
Only U.S. President Donald Trump, who chaired the session, spoke against the deal known as the JCPOA and appeared isolated as a result, Rouhani said.
Addressing the council, Trump called the JCPOA a "horrible one-sided deal," declaring that Iran "must never be allowed to possess a nuclear weapon" and accusing its government of exporting "violence, terror and turmoil."
Rouhani said it was "quite strange, unprecedented and amazing" that while presiding over the Security Council as its president Trump also called on the 14 other council members to violate the legally binding resolution endorsing the JCPOA that the council adopted unanimously in 2015 — including a "yes" vote from the United States.
He added that Trump not only disagreed with that resolution but said whoever implements it "will be punished."
Responding to a question about whether the harsh language that Trump and his top official have used about Iran might lead to war, Rouhani said Iran since the 1979 revolution "has been subjected to that type of language many times." But he said Trump administration officials "speak with a different style, presumably because they're new to politics."
As for war, Rouhani said, "We do not wish to go to war with American forces anywhere in the region. We do not wish to attack them. We do not wish to increase tensions — none of the above."
"But we ask the United States of America to adhere to laws and respect national sovereignty of nations," he said.
Rouhani also said "America must think again about her presence in the region, in the Persian Gulf, in the Sea of Oman, in Afghanistan, in Iraq and other places."
Trump has vowed to continue to isolate Iran through U.S. sanctions that are being re-instated following the U.S. pullout from the nuclear agreement in May. The next round of sanctions will take effect in early November.
But Rouhani told reporters that sanctions which "were supposed to be proactive in November became proactive in September, so there are no other sanctions that will start in November."
He complained that the United States "has spared no effort" to exert pressure on Iran's oil sales and banking relationships, and there is not much left for the Trump administration to do.
Rouhani said Iran will continue working with countries that support the nuclear deal.
He called Monday's decision by the five other signatories to the agreement who still support it — Russia, China, Britain France and Germany — to establish a financial facility in the European Union to facilitate payments for Iranian imports and exports "a very good step forward."
"We have lived up to the JCPOA," Rouhani said. "Up until such time when we keep reaping the benefits promised within that agreement for our nation and our people, we will remain in the agreement."
But he said without elaborating: "Should this situation change, we have other paths and other solutions which we will embark upon."