Washington, Jun 12 (AP/UNB) — The meeting between acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan and his Chinese counterpart began with all the hallmarks of a routine staged and scripted session between two uneasy rivals.
First came the posed photo, as the two men shook hands with broad smiles in front of their nations' flags, and then they moved quickly into the hotel conference room, surrounded by staff. There, Shanahan presented Chinese Defense Minister Wei Fenghe with a gift.
But what at first glance looked like a coffee table book was actually 32 pages of photographs and satellite images of North Korean ships getting and delivering shipments of oil. Many of the photos are stamped with dates, times, locations and descriptions, and, according to officials, represent proof that Pyongyang is violating punishing economic sanctions right off China's coast.
"I gave him this beautiful book," Shanahan said a day after his meeting with Wei and his top staff at a national security conference in Singapore. "I said this is an area where you and I can cooperate."
The pointed message from the acting Pentagon chief comes as the Trump administration is at odds with China over a wide range of issues, including trade, Chinese theft of American technology, the possible sale of U.S. weapons to Taiwan and how to pressure North Korea into giving up its nuclear weapons program.
China agreed to the U.N. sanctions against its ally and neighbor North Korea, but, as the photo book illustrates, appears to be allowing violations to take place.
On one page of the book viewed by The Associated Press, a photo shows the North Korean-flagged oil tanker Kum Un San 3 next to the M/V New Regent, a Panama-flagged tanker, and a number of lines and hoses are draped between the two ships. The photo is dated June 7, 2018.
The U.N., in an October 2018 press release, said the June 7 ship-to-ship transfer was a violation and said it likely involved oil. The U.N. sanctioned the two ships and said they are subject to de-flagging and prohibited from entering U.N. member ports.
Another photo in the book shows the North Korean tanker An San 1, and says it is "offloading refined petroleum" through an undersea pipeline at the terminal in Nampo, near Pyongyang.
Lt. Col. Joe Buccino, a Pentagon spokesman, said Shanahan devised the book to show that enforcement of U.N. sanctions off the Chinese coast is "an area for potential coordination and collaboration" with the Chinese military.
A U.S. defense official said Shanahan had the photographs and information in the book declassified and bound. Shanahan presented the book to Wei at the start of their meeting, saying he had a gift for the minister, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss a private meeting. The official said Wei initially appeared taken aback at receiving a gift, but when he realized what it was he quickly turned it over to his staff.
During the meeting, Shanahan told Wei that the U.S. and Chinese navies could work together to prevent such violations of the U.N. sanctions, said the official.
"It's actually very clever," said Bonnie Glaser, director of the China power project at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies. "It's really calling out China. This is a way of telling them that we know what's going on, we have quite a bit of evidence, and here's an opportunity for you to expand cooperation with the United States."
Glaser, who also attended the Singapore conference, said she spoke with members of the China delegation and they described the meeting between Shanahan and Wei as positive and upbeat. No one, she said, mentioned the book.
"I think it was probably embarrassing," she said. "They probably thought they were getting something wonderful, that would highlight something positive, not something calling out China for their failure to step up and crack down on North Korea."
The oil and trade sanctions against North Korea have hurt its already struggling economy, and both Russia and China have called for easing them. China isn't likely to want to openly evade the sanctions and face diplomatic friction with the United States, but more than 90% of North Korea's foreign trade has gone through China.
The U.N. Security Council in March said North Korea was continuing to defy its resolutions through a "massive" increase in ship-to-ship transfers of petroleum products and coal. The U.S. Navy has been working with a number of countries, including South Korea, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and France, to catch sanctions violations such as ship-to-ship transfers.
Shanahan's meeting with Wei at the Shangri-La Dialogue security conference earlier this month came just the evening before he delivered a speech that denounced China's efforts to steal technology from other nations and militarize man-made outposts in the South China Sea as a "toolkit of coercion." But he also made clear the U.S. wants to work with China on other international issues.
In a brief mention of the book during questions after his conference speech, Shanahan said the two countries must work through their differences.
"Trust is built over time," he said. "Trust is built by working on projects and being shoulder to shoulder. It isn't done by conferences or by policies or by speeches. We need to find areas in which we can grow."
New York, Jun 12 (AP/UNB) — The pilot killed when his helicopter hit the roof of a New York City skyscraper in rain and fog radioed that he was lost and trying to get back to the heliport but couldn't find it, an official briefed on the investigation told The Associated Press on Tuesday.
The radio calls are the clearest evidence yet that foul weather might have played a role in Monday's crash.
The person wasn't authorized to discuss the radio calls publicly because of the ongoing federal safety investigation and spoke on condition of anonymity.
Videos posted on social media soon after the crash showed a helicopter that investigators believe is the doomed chopper pausing and hovering south of the heliport, then turning and making an erratic flight back north through rain and clouds.
The pilot, 58-year-old Tim McCormack, was not authorized to fly in limited visibility, raising questions about why he took off in the first place.
McCormack was only licensed to fly under regulations known as visual flight rules, which require generally good weather and clear conditions, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.
The rules demand at least 3 miles (4.8 kilometers) of visibility and that aircraft steer clear of clouds for daytime flights. The visibility at the time of Monday's crash was about 1¼ miles (2 kilometers) at nearby Central Park, with low clouds blanketing the skyline.
The crash in the tightly controlled airspace of midtown Manhattan shook the 750-foot (229-meter) AXA Equitable building, obliterated the Agusta A109E helicopter, sparked a fire and forced office workers to flee.
It briefly triggered memories of 9/11 and fears of a terrorist attack, but authorities said there is no indication the crash was deliberate.
The crash, the second in Manhattan in a month, also led to renewed calls for restricting helicopter flights over the city.
U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney, who represents the area where McCormack crashed, said it's "past time" for the FAA to ban "unnecessary helicopters" from the city's skies.
Fellow Democrat Rep. Nydia Velazquez said she wants tourist flights grounded. Last year, five passengers were killed when a sightseeing helicopter plunged into the East River .
"The risks to New Yorkers are just too high," Maloney said.
At a National Transportation Safety Board briefing Tuesday, investigator Doug Brazy said that McCormack had arrived at a heliport on New York City's East River after a trip carrying one passenger from nearby Westchester County.
The passenger told investigators there was nothing out of the ordinary about the 15-minute flight, Brazy said.
McCormack waited at the heliport for about two hours and reviewed the weather before taking off on what was supposed to be a trip to the helicopter's home airport in Linden, New Jersey, Brazy said.
That trip would have taken the helicopter south, over the city's harbor and past the Statue of Liberty.
The helicopter hit the building about 11 minutes after taking off, in an area where flights aren't supposed to take place.
A flight restriction in effect since President Donald Trump took office prohibits aircraft from flying below 3,000 feet (914 meters) within a 1-mile (1.6 kilometer) radius of Trump Tower, only a few blocks from the crash site.
Helicopters going in and out of the heliport on Manhattan's East Side are only allowed to fly in the restricted area if they have permission and are communicating with air traffic control at LaGuardia Airport.
Brazy said the pilot never made such a request and didn't contact air traffic control.
It's unclear if authorities were aware before the crash that the helicopter had entered restricted air space.
"Those questions are part of our investigation," safety board spokesman Terry Williams said.
Brazy said McCormack's planned route to Linden wouldn't have required him to contact air traffic control. The helicopter was not equipped with a flight data recorder or a cockpit voice recorder, he said.
Asked if the weather may have played a factor, Brazy said "it is certainly one of the most interesting concerns we have."
"Should the helicopter have been flying? I do not know yet," he said.
The crashed helicopter was owned through a real estate firm and used for "executive travel," authorities said.
In New York City, helicopters giving tourists a whirlybird's eye view of landmarks account for the majority of take offs. Those flights were cut in half to about 30,000 a year under a 2016 deal between operators and the city, which runs two of Manhattan's three commercial heliports.
But a new Uber service is threatening to crowd the skies once more.
The ride-hailing service said last week it would start helicoptering passengers between Manhattan and Kennedy Airport at $200 a ride, drawing scrutiny from Velazquez and City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, a Democrat, who asked: "Is that really necessary? Is it safe?"
John Dellaportas, the president of the Stop the Chop advocacy group, said only public safety and medical flights should be allowed.
"It's a bit like Groundhog Day that every time there's a deadly crash, politicians say great things and then everybody goes back to their business," said Dellaportas, a lawyer.
Sam Goldstein, a spokesman for New York's tourist helicopter industry, said operators "have already regulated themselves into a position where they're safe, predictable and a good neighbor."
McCormack, a former fire chief in upstate Clinton Corners, had 15 years of experience flying helicopters and single-engine airplanes and was certified as a flight instructor last year, according to FAA records.
McCormack was "a highly seasoned" and "very well regarded" pilot, Linden airport director Paul Dudley said.
Brazy said a salvage crew expected to start moving the wreckage from the roof Tuesday to a secure location, possibly by taking pieces down the stairs and elevator.
"The location — within the city and on top of the roof of a building — is probably the biggest challenge in the investigation," Brazy said.
Tapachula, Jun 12 (AP/UNB) — Mexican officials said Tuesday they are beginning deployment of the country's new National Guard for immigration enforcement, an accelerated commitment of a 6,000-strong force made as part of an agreement with the United States to head off threatened U.S. tariffs on imports from Mexico.
President Andrés Manuel López Obrador and Foreign Relations Secretary Marcelo Ebrard also announced that a team of five officials, including a general and a prison director, has been formed to implement the immigration plan.
Ebrard said that Gen. Vicente Antonio Hernández Sánchez, commander of the Tapachula military zone near the border with Guatemala, will begin a tour of the south "to speed up the deployment in the area."
The main objective is to register migrants, offer them options for regularizing their immigration status and return those who don't want to register, he added.
The Associated Press has not yet seen any National Guard deployment in Tapachula, where soldiers and federal police have been working to support immigration agents. At the Suchiate River that forms the border between the two countries, the usual drip-drip of irregular crossings by small groups on rudimentary rafts continued.
Also Tuesday, Interior Secretary Olga Sánchez Cordero said the National Guard will not resemble the U.S. Border Patrol in the sense that it will work to regularize immigration flows, not stop it, and be deployed throughout the country.
Ebrard did not mention detentions, which have risen notably in recent months, but said there is a need to expand and improve overcrowded immigration facilities that operate as de facto detention centers.
He said later Tuesday at a news conference that the deployment would be "along the entire frontier."
Another deployment is going to the border with the United States to attend to migrants who have been returned to Mexico while their asylum claims are processed in U.S. courts.
As part of the deal reached last Friday with Washington, Mexico agreed to an expansion of the program known as Migrant Protection Protocol, though the United States has run into its own logistical obstacles to ramping it up.
Ebrard said it would be expanded from the current three border points to three more that will be decided in talks with the U.S. officials this week.
There have been more than 11,000 returns by migrants to Mexico under MPP since it launched in January, according to the most recent figures from the Mexican government.
Mexico's National Guard is a newly formed force tasked with policing rising insecurity. It is separate from the military and is legally supposed to be under civilian command, though it is largely made up of current or former soldiers and federal police.
The Guard was created for reasons of national security, Sánchez Cordero said, and "the entry of irregular migrants is part of our national security. For that reason we want an orderly and safe migration."
"We also have the right for our laws to be respected," she said, "and to take care of our border.
Dallas, Jun 11 (AP/UNB) — Residents in North Texas began to come to grips Monday with the widespread damage left after a sudden thunderstorm bearing near hurricane-strength winds rolled through the area and collapsed a crane onto an apartment complex, killing one person and injuring five others.
Wind gusts measuring as high as 71 mph (114 kph) blew out the windows of high-rise buildings and tore trees apart, taking power and telephone lines with them, especially in Dallas and its northern suburbs. The electric utility Oncor reported that 140,000 customers had service restored by nightfall Monday, but 210,000 still remained in the dark. In a statement, Oncor said some customers may not have service restored until Thursday. Crews from across Texas and some other states have been brought in to help in the restoration process.
Kiersten Symone Smith, 29, was pronounced dead at a hospital, according to the Dallas County Medical Examiners' office, after the construction crane smashed into a five-story building near downtown. The crane destroyed many apartments at the Elan City Lights complex and reduced parts of an adjacent parking garage to a pile of concrete and mangled cars.
Smith was a resident of the apartment building, her sister, Toni Smith, told The Associated Press in a brief interview Monday. Toni Smith referred other questions to attorney Jonathan Cox, who said he could not immediately provide answers but that the family intends to issue a statement. The cause of her death has not been determined.
Dallas Fire-Rescue spokesman Jason Evans said Monday that the five other people were hospitalized after the collapse and all are expected to recover. Two people were discharged Sunday; a 35-year-old man and 35-year-old woman remain hospitalized but have been upgraded from "critical" to "good" condition; and a 23-year old man remains in "serious" condition, Evans said.
Meanwhile, fire-rescue crews escorted residents of the apartment building briefly into their homes Monday to retrieve pets and some essentials as city workers and Occupational Safety and Health Administration officials ponder how to remove the crane embedded in the structure's east side. As of late Monday morning, almost 500 traffic signals were inoperable across Dallas, and about 170 were flashing red lights, according to the city.
Bigge Crane and Rigging Co., which owns the downed crane, had representatives in Dallas Monday to assist and cooperate with OSHA's investigation, said Randy Smith, the California-based equipment rental company's lawyer. He said the crane was "not in service" during the storm.
The crane fell around 2 p.m. Sunday as storms ripped across parts of Oklahoma and Texas, bringing high winds, heavy rain and hail that flooded streets and caused power outages. Wind gusts up to 71 mph (114 kph) were measured at Dallas Love Field airport, said National Weather Service meteorologist Patricia Sanchez.
Another woman, whose identity has not been released, died Sunday when the sailboat she was in overturned on Eagle Mountain Lake, a few miles northwest of Fort Worth.
Meanwhile, a tornado graded by the National Weather Service as an EF-2 struck Copperas Cove, about 55 miles (89 kilometers) southwest of Waco, on Sunday with winds estimated at 115 mph. A city fire official said about 200 homes were damaged and three of those are uninhabitable.
"The sun was out, and then all of a sudden a wind came in, it got dark, the lights went off, and once the lights got off then the wind started blowing," Copperas Cove resident Erasmus Julien told the Killeen Daily Herald.
Heavy rain and winds up to 80 mph (129 kph) also cut through the Austin area, blowing down tree branches and gas station canopies, said meteorologist Bob Fogarty.
New York, Jun 11 (AP/UNB) — A helicopter crashed on the roof of a rain-shrouded midtown Manhattan skyscraper Monday, killing the pilot and briefly triggering memories of 9/11, after an erratic trip across some of the nation's most restricted airspace. Authorities said they did not suspect terrorism.
The crash near Times Square and Trump Tower shook the 750-foot (229-meter) AXA Equitable building, sparked a fire, and forced office workers to flee on elevators and down stairs, witnesses and officials said.
The pilot was the only person aboard, and there were no other reports of injuries, authorities said.
It was not immediately clear what caused the crash, or why the Agusta A109E was flying in a driving downpour with low cloud cover and in the tightly controlled airspace of midtown Manhattan. A flight restriction in effect since President Donald Trump took office bans aircraft from flying below 3,000 feet (914 meters) within a 1-mile (1.6-kilometer) radius of Trump Tower, which is less than a half-mile (0.8 kilometers) from the crash site.
"There's something mysterious here," Mayor Bill de Blasio told CNN, saying officials were scrutinizing video of a "very erratic" flight and authorities needed to find out more about the pilot at the time he decided to take off.
One lawmaker called for "non-essential" helicopter flights over Manhattan to be banned.
The pilot, identified by his employer as Tim McCormack, was a former fire chief in upstate Clinton, New York. With 15 years of experience flying helicopters and single-engine airplanes, he was certified as a flight instructor last year, according to Federal Aviation Administration records.
The East Clinton Volunteer Fire Department posted on Facebook that McCormack's "technical knowledge and ability to command an emergency were exceptional."
The 19-year-old helicopter was linked to a real estate company founded by Italian-born investor Daniele Bodini, according to FAA records.
The helicopter went down about 11 minutes after taking off from a heliport along the East River, a little more than a mile (1.6 kilometers) away. Police Commissioner James O'Neill said it may have been returning to its home airport in Linden, New Jersey.
The director at Linden Municipal Airport, Paul Dudley, described McCormack as "a highly seasoned" and "very well regarded" pilot who was a regular at the airfield.
He suspects that a mechanical problem or the weather "overwhelmed him and the helicopter," Dudley said. "I believe he tried to get on the roof and spare the people on the ground."
McCormack, 58, chronicled some of his helicopter flights on his Facebook page, including a 2014 emergency landing caused by a bird strike. He had been conducting a sightseeing tour over Manhattan when the bird penetrated the windshield of his Bell BHT 407, causing McCormack to land unexpectedly at the West 30th Street Heliport.
"It was pretty much like an explosion going off in your cockpit," McCormack told television station WABC at the time.
The crash happened shortly before 2 p.m. Monday, when clouds obscured the roof of the building. Rescue vehicles swarmed to the scene a few blocks from Rockefeller Center.
Pedro Rodriguez, a pastry line cook at Le Bernardin, a well-known restaurant in the AXA Equitable building, said workers got an announcement telling everyone to exit, and he later heard from people around him that there was a fire on the roof.
The evacuation was not chaotic, Rodriguez said, but he was rattled because he immediately thought of the Sept. 11 attacks.
"It's scary when something like this happens," he said.
Videos posted by onlookers showed emergency vehicles in the street, but no obvious damage to the skyscraper. The fire department later tweeted a photo of the helicopter's wreckage that showed piles of burned debris on the roof.
"If you're a New Yorker, you have a level of PTSD, right, from 9/11. And I remember that morning all too well. So as soon as you hear an aircraft hit a building, I think my mind goes where every New Yorker's mind goes," Gov. Andrew Cuomo told reporters.
Working for a bank on the building's seventh floor, Kendall Sawyer felt a shake — "jarring enough to notice," but workers weren't sure what it was, she said.
Then came an announcement that the situation was being looked into, and a few minutes later, an instruction to evacuate, without explanation, she said.
"It was a little bit crazy, a little bit scary" as workers walked down the stairs, she said.
A block south, lawyer Lance Koonce heard a loud sound he thought could be a low-flying helicopter. From his 21st-story window, he looked up and saw smoke.
"I couldn't tell if the smoke preceded the helicopter coming over, or if it was from the helicopter crashing into the building," he said.
Trump tweeted from Washington that he had been briefed on the crash. Cuomo's office said the president and governor had spoken.
The National Transportation Safety Board was sending an investigator.
In Washington, Rep. Carolyn Maloney, a Manhattan Democrat, called on the Federal Aviation Administration to ban "non-essential" helicopter flights over Manhattan, as she did after a previous crash.
"Why should some tour guide be able to endanger the lives of people by flying over probably one of the most densely populated areas in the world?" she asked. "It doesn't make any sense at all, and it should have been banned long ago."
The city currently allows helicopters to take off and land from three heliports, one each on the East and West sides and in downtown Manhattan. All of the facilities border rivers.
It was once more common for helicopters to take off from private Manhattan rooftops, the most famous of which was on the tower then known as the Pan Am building. In 1977, four people waiting on the roof were killed when a helicopter toppled over and a rotor blade broke off and hit them. A fifth person, a pedestrian, was killed by falling debris.
That spurred a push to close down private helipads.
Still, the city has seen a string of helicopter accidents since. The most recent was just last month, when a chopper crash landed in the Hudson River near a busy Manhattan heliport. The pilot escaped mostly unscathed.
Five people died when a sightseeing helicopter crashed into the East River last year. Three people died in another crash into the same river in 2011. Back in 2009, a sightseeing helicopter collided with a small plane and killed nine people not far from the scene of Monday's mishap.
In 2006, New York Yankees pitcher Corey Lidle's single-engine plane slammed into the 20th floor of a building on Manhattan's Upper East Side, killing Lidle and his flight instructor. It was not clear which one was piloting the plane.
The National Transportation Safety Board concluded the pilot misjudged a narrow U-turn before veering into the building.