Vladivostok, Apr 25 (AP/UNB) — Russian President Vladimir Putin sat down for talks Thursday with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, saying the summit should help plan joint efforts to resolve a standoff over Pyongyang's nuclear program.
Speaking at the start of the talks at a university on the Russky Island across a bridge from Vladivostok, Putin voiced confidence that Kim's visit will "help better understand what should be done to settle the situation on the Korean Peninsula, what we can do together, what Russia can do to support the positive processes going on now."
Kim's first trip to Russia comes about two months after his second summit with President Donald Trump failed because of disputes over U.S.-led sanctions on the North. Putin meanwhile wants to expand Russia's clout in the region and get more leverage with Washington.
"We welcome your efforts to develop an inter-Korean dialogue and normalize North Korea's relations with the United States," Putin told Kim.
For his part, Kim noted that with the world's attention now concentrated on the Korean Peninsula, "I think we will have a very meaningful dialogue on sharing our opinions on this matter while also jointly apprising and studying it."
He also congratulated the Russian leader on his reelection to another six-year term last year.
In February, Trump-Kim talks ended without any agreement because of disputes over U.S.-led sanctions. There have since been no publicly known high-level contacts between the U.S. and North Korea, although both sides say they are still open to a third summit.
Kim wants the U.S. to ease the sanctions to reciprocate for some partial disarmament steps he took last year. But the U.S. maintains the sanctions will stay in place until North Korea makes more significant denuclearization moves.
North Korea has increasingly expressed frustration at the deadlocked negotiations. Last week, it tested a new weapon and demanded that U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo be removed from the nuclear talks.
Kim arrived in Vladivostok Wednesday aboard an armored train, telling Russian state television that he was hoping that his first visit to Russia would "successful and useful." He evoked his father's "great love for Russia" and said that he intends to strengthen ties between the two countries. The late Kim Jong Il made three trips to Russia, last time in 2011.
Like the U.S., Russia has strongly opposed Pyongyang's nuclear bid. Putin has welcomed Trump's meetings with Kim, but urged the U.S. to do more to assuage Pyongyang's security concerns.
Speaking before the talks, Putin's foreign affairs adviser Yuri Ushakov said that Russia will seek to "consolidate the positive trends" stemming from Trump-Kim meetings. He noted that the Kremlin would try to help "create preconditions and a favorable atmosphere for reaching solid agreements on the problem of the Korean Peninsula."
Dmitri Trenin, the director of the Carnegie Moscow Center, said that Putin will likely encourage Kim to continue constructive talks with the U.S., reflecting Russia's own worry about the North nuclear and missile programs. "Russia can't be expected to side with North Korea and, let's say, support the North Koreans all the way in the Security Council where Russia is a veto wielding member and where all sanctions imposed on North Korea require Russia's approval," he said.
Trenin emphasized that Moscow is skeptical that the North could be persuaded to fully abandon its nuclear weapons, considering it a "mission impossible."
"North Korea will not give up the only guarantee of the survival of the North Korean state and its regime," Trenin said.
Russia would also like to gain broader access to North Korea's mineral resources, including rare metals. Pyongyang, for its part, covets Russia's electricity supplies and investment to modernize its dilapidated Soviet-built industrial plants, railways and other infrastructure.
Vladivostok, a city of more than half a million on the Sea of Japan, faced gridlock on its roads as traffic was blocked in the city center due to Kim's visit. The authorities have temporarily closed the waters around Russky Island to all maritime traffic.
Wellington, Apr 24 (AP/UNB) — New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said Wednesday that she and French President Emmanuel Macron will host a meeting in Paris next month seeking to eliminate acts of violent extremism and terrorism from being shown online.
Ardern said she and Macron will ask world leaders and chief executives of technology companies to agree to a pledge called the "Christchurch Call," named after the New Zealand city where an attack took place last month.
Ardern didn't release any details of the pledge, saying they were still being developed.
She said she'd been talking with representatives from companies including Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft and Google along with world leaders and felt they could reach consensus by keeping the pledge tightly focused.
"This isn't about freedom of speech," Ardern said. "It's specifically focused on eradicating those extreme acts of terrorism online."
The man accused of murdering 50 people in two Christchurch mosques on March 15 livestreamed the attack on Facebook after mounting a camera on his helmet. The chilling 17-minute video was copied and viewed widely on the internet even as tech companies scrambled to remove it.
Ardern said the shooter had used social media in an unprecedented way to promote an act of terrorism and hate. She said nobody would argue that a terrorist had the right to livestream the murder of 50 people.
"No tech company, just like no government, wishes to see violent extremism and terrorism online," Ardern said. "And so we have a starting point that is one of unity."
In an opinion piece in the Washington Post last month, Facebook founder and chief executive Mark Zuckerberg called for governments and regulators to play a more active role from in policing the internet.
"As part of this, we have a responsibility to keep people safe on our services," Zuckerberg wrote. "That means deciding what counts as terrorist propaganda, hate speech and more. We continually review our policies with experts, but at our scale we'll always make mistakes and decisions that people disagree with."
In his op-ed, Zuckerberg didn't directly address problems with livestreaming, although he did say it was impossible to remove all harmful content from the internet.
Ardern said Macron had played a leadership role among the Group of Seven major economies in trying to eliminate online terrorism, and his role would complement her experience from the recent Christchurch attacks when they co-chair the May 15 meeting.
La Paz, Apr 23 (AP/UNB) — Bolivian police say a bus crashed head-on with another vehicle and plunged down a deep ravine, killing at least 25 people and leaving 24 others injured on Monday.
Traffic Police Col. Rodel Cano told local news media that 25 bodies had been recovered and police were continuing rescue and recovery efforts. He said some of the 24 injured were in serious condition.
Interior Minister Carlos Romero said the bus driver tried to pass a tanker truck, collided with another vehicle and then tumbled down a roughly 1,000-foot (300-meter) deep ravine in the northern town of Yolosa, roughly 50 miles (80 kilometers) north of the capital, La Paz.
Television images showed the roof torn off the mangled vehicle.
London, Apr 20 (AP/UNB) — Police in Northern Ireland on Saturday arrested two teenagers in connection with the fatal shooting of a journalist during rioting in the city of Londonderry.
The men, aged 18 and 19, were detained under anti-terrorism legislation and taken to Belfast for questioning, the Police Service of Northern Ireland said.
The men have not been identified or charged. Police had said earlier there was one gunman who pulled the trigger who had been backed by an "organization," and said they were searching for multiple suspects.
Lyra McKee, 29, a rising star of investigative journalism, was shot and killed, probably by a stray bullet aimed at police, during rioting Thursday night. Police said the New IRA dissident group was most likely responsible and called it a "terrorist act."
The use of a firearm apparently aimed at police marks a dangerous escalation in sporadic violence that continues to plague Northern Ireland 21 years after the Good Friday peace agreement was signed.
Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hamilton said earlier that a gunman fired a number of shots at police during the unrest. Police on Friday night released closed-circuit TV footage showing the man suspected of firing the shots that killed McKee.
The footage shows the police facing a barrage of gasoline bombs before the shots were fired by someone wearing a balaclava to obscure his face.
Police appealed for help from the community, stating that people knew the shooter and should help police identify him. The rioting started after police moved into the Creggan housing complex to search for weapons.
The killing was condemned by all the major political parties as well as the prime ministers of Britain and Ireland.
The European Union's chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, said the killing was "a reminder of how fragile peace still is in Northern Ireland" and called for work to preserve the Good Friday peace agreement.
Some politicians believe uncertainty over Brexit and the possible re-introduction of a "hard border" between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland are stoking tensions in the region.
The victim was mourned by friends, those who had read her work, and by the wider community. She rose to prominence in 2014 with a moving blog post — "Letter to my 14 year old self" — describing the struggle of growing up gay in Belfast, the capital of Northern Ireland.
In the post, she described the shame she felt at 14 as she kept the "secret" of being gay from her family and friends, and the love she eventually received when she was finally able to reveal it.
She also had recently signed a contract to write two books.
Hours before her death, she tweeted a photo of the rioting with the words: "Derry tonight. Absolute madness."
Her partner, Sara Canning, told a vigil Friday that McKee's amazing potential had been snuffed out.
Canning said the senseless murder "has left me without the love of my life, the woman I was planning to grow old with."
"It has left so many friends without their confidante," she added.
The shooting reveals how difficult it is to snuff out the last bit of violent resistance to the peace agreement.
Catholic priest Joseph Gormley, who administered the last rites to McKee in the hospital, told the BBC the rioting was "clearly orchestrated" by a "small group of people who want to play political games with our lives and want to use our community as a place where they can play their little war games."
He said he and other community leaders had tried to talk to the dissidents without success.
The New IRA is a small group that rejects the 1998 Good Friday agreement that marked the Irish Republican Army's embrace of a political solution to the long-running violence known as "The Troubles" that claimed more than 3,700 lives.
The group is also blamed for a Londonderry car bombing that did not cause any injuries in January. It is regarded as the largest of the splinter dissident groups still operating and has been linked to several other killings in the past decade.
Moscow, Apr 18 (AP/UNB) — Residents of a village in Russia's far eastern Kamchatka Peninsula were stunned by the sight of a polar bear prowling for food hundreds of miles from its usual habitat.
Russian media reported Wednesday that the exhausted-looking animal apparently traveled from Chukotka to the village of Tilichiki on Kamchatka, some 700 kilometers (434 miles) south.
Environmentalists said the bear could have lost its sense of direction while drifting on an ice floe.
"Due to climate change, the Arctic is getting warmer, hunting environment gets smaller and less convenient," said Vladimir Chuprov of Greenpeace. "The ice is receding, and polar bears look for new ways to survive. And the easiest way is coming to people."
Locals were making the bear feel welcome, giving it fish, media reported.
Videos posted online showed the animal moving past residents, showing no aggression.
Authorities in Kamchatka are preparing a rescue effort later this week. They plan to use a sedative to put the bear to sleep and then airlift it to Chukotka in a helicopter.
Polar bears' dependence on sea ice makes them highly vulnerable to global warming. Shrinking Arctic ice cover could increasingly deprive them of their usual prey, seals.