UN Chief Warns Paris Climate Goals Still Not Enough

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres took his global message urging immediate climate action to officials gathered in the United Arab Emirates on Sunday, where production of hydrocarbons remains a key driver of the economy.
 
Guterres is calling on governments to stop building new coal plants by 2020, cut greenhouse emissions by 45% over the next decade and overhauling fossil fuel-driven economies with new technologies like solar and wind. The world, he said, “is facing a grave climate emergency.”
 
In remarks at a summit in Abu Dhabi, he painted a grim picture of how rapidly climate change is advancing, saying it is outpacing efforts to address it.
 
 He lauded the Paris climate accord, but said even if its promises are fully met, the world still faces what he described as a catastrophic three-degree temperature rise by the end of the century.
 
Arctic permafrost is melting decades earlier than even worst-case scenarios, he said, threatening to unlock vast amounts of methane, a greenhouse gas.
 
“It is plain to me that we have no time to lose,” Guterres said. “Sadly, it is not yet plain to all the decision makers that run our world.”
 
 He spoke at the opulent Emirates Palace, where Abu Dhabi was hosting a preparatory meeting for the U.N. Climate Action Summit in September. Guterres was expected to later take a helicopter ride to view Abu Dhabi’s Noor solar power plant.
 
When asked, U.N. representatives said the lavish Abu Dhabi summit and his planned helicopter ride would be carbon neutral, meaning their effects would be balanced by efforts like planting trees and sequestering emissions. The U.N. says carbon dioxide emissions account for around 80% of global warming.
 
Guterres was in Abu Dhabi fresh off meetings with The Group of 20 leaders in Osaka, Japan. There, he appealed directly to heads of state of the world’s main emitters to step up their efforts. The countries of the G-20 represent 80% of world emissions of greenhouse gases, he said.
 
At the G-20 meeting, 19 countries expressed their commitment to the Paris agreement, with the only the United States dissenting.
 
In 2017, President Donald Trump pledged to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris climate agreement as soon as 2020, arguing it disadvantages American workers and taxpayers. Trump has also moved steadily to dismantle Obama administration efforts to rein in coal, oil and gas emissions. His position has been that these efforts also hurt the U.S. economy.
 
The secretary-general’s special envoy for the climate summit, Ambassador Luis Alfonso de Alba, told The Associated Press it was disappointing that the U.S. has pulled out from the accord. However, he said there are many examples of efforts at the local and state level in the United States to combat climate change.
 
“I think it is very important to have all countries committing to this cause… even more when we are talking about the country of the importance and the size – not only in terms of the economy but also the emissions – of the United States,” he said.
 
Guterres is urging business leaders and politicians to come to the Climate Action Summit later this year with their plans ready to nearly halve greenhouse emissions by 2030 and reach carbon neutrality by 2050.
 
He suggested taxing major carbon-emitting industries and polluters, ending the subsidization of oil and gas, and halting the building of all new coal plants by next year.
 
“We are in a battle for our lives,” he said. “But it is a battle we can win.”

 

 

Thousands of Protesters Demand Civilian Rule in Sudan

Tens of thousands of protesters rallied across Sudan on Sunday against the ruling generals, calling for a civilian government nearly three months after the army forced out the long-ruling autocrat Omar al-Bashir.

The mass protests, centered in the capital, Khartoum, were the first since a June 3 crackdown when security forces violently broke up a protest camp. In that confrontation, dozens were killed, with protest organizers saying the death toll was at least 128, while authorities claim it was 61, including three security personnel.

Sunday’s demonstrators gathered at several points across Khartoum and in the sister city of Omdurman, then marching to the homes of those killed in previous protests.

The protesters, some of them waving Sudanese flags, chanted “Civilian rule! Civilian rule!” and “Burhan’s council, just fall,” targeting Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan, the head of the military council. Security forces fired tear gas at the demonstrators.

Gen. Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, deputy head of the military council, said the generals want to reach an “urgent and comprehensive agreement with no exclusion. We in the military council are totally neutral. We are the guardians of the revolution. We do not want to be part of the dispute.”

The European Union and several Western countries have called on the generals to avoid bloodshed.

The June 3 raid followed the collapse of talks on a new government, whether it should be led by a civilian or soldier.

Ethiopia and the African Union have offered a plan for a civilian-majority body, which the generals say could be the basis for new negotiations.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ancient Peruvian Water-Harvesting System Could Lessen Modern Water Shortages

Sometimes, modern problems require ancient solutions.  
 
A 1,400-year-old Peruvian water-diverting method could supply up to 40,000 Olympic-size swimming pools’ worth of water to present-day Lima each year, according to new research published in Nature Sustainability.
 
It’s one example of how indigenous methods could supplement existing modern infrastructure in water-scarce countries worldwide. 
 
More than a billion people across the world face water scarcity. Artificial reservoirs store rainwater and runoff for use during drier times, but reservoirs are costly, require years to plan and can still fail to meet water needs. Just last week, the reservoirs in Chennai, India, ran nearly dry, forcing its 4 million residents to rely on government water tankers.  
 

Animation showing monthly rainfall in the tropical Andes. Humid air transports water vapor from the Amazon and is blocked by the Andean mountain barrier, producing extreme differences between the eastern and western slopes. (B. Ochoa-Tocachi, 2019)

Peru’s capital, Lima, depends on water from rivers high in the Andes. It takes only a few days for water to flow down to Lima, so when the dry season begins in the mountains, the water supply rapidly vanishes. The city suffers water deficit of 43 million cubic meters during the dry season, which it alleviates with modern infrastructure such as artificial reservoirs. 
 

Panoramic view of the Andean highlands in the Chillon river basin where Huamantanga is located. The city of Lima would be located downstream in the horizon background. (S. Grainger, Imperial College London, 2015)

Artificial reservoirs aren’t the only solution, however. Over a thousand years ago, indigenous people developed another way of dealing with water shortages. Boris Ochoa-Tocachi, a postdoctoral researcher at Imperial College London and lead author of the study, saw firsthand one of the last remaining pre-Inca water-harvesting systems in the small highland community of Huamantanga, Peru. 

Water diverted, delayed
 
The 1,400-year-old system is designed to increase the water supply during the dry season by diverting and delaying water as it travels down from the mountains. This nature-based “green” infrastructure consists of stone canals that guide water from its source to a network of earthen canals, ponds, springs and rocky hillsides, which encourage water to seep into the ground. It then slowly trickles downhill through the soil and resurfaces in streams near the community.  
 
Ideally, the system should be able to increase the water’s travel time from days to months in order to provide water throughout the dry season, “but there was no evidence at all to quantify what is the water volume that they can harvest from these practices, or really if the practices were actually increasing the yields of these springs that they used during the dry season,” said Ochoa-Tocachi. 
 

A diversion canal as part of the pre-Inca infiltration system during the wet season. Canals like this divert water during the wet season to zones of high permeability. (M. Briceño, CONDESAN, 2012)

To assess the system’s capabilities, the researchers measured how much it slowed the flow of water by injecting a dye tracer high upstream and noting when it resurfaced downstream. The water started to emerge two weeks later and continued flowing for eight months — a huge improvement over the hours or days it would normally take. 
 
“I think probably the most exciting result is that we actually confirmed that this system works,” Ochoa-Tocachi added. “It’s not only trusting that, yeah, we know that there are traditional practices, we know that indigenous knowledge is very useful. I think that we proved that it is still relevant today. It is still a tool that we can use and we can replicate to solve modern problems.” 

Considerable increase in supply
 
The researchers next considered how implementing a scaled-up version of the system could benefit Lima. Combining what they learned from the existing setup in Huamantanga with the physical characteristics of Lima’s surroundings, they estimated that the system could increase Lima’s dry-season water supply by 7.5% on average, and up to 33% at the beginning of the dry season. This amounts to nearly 100 million cubic meters of water per year — the equivalent of 40,000 Olympic-size swimming pools. 
 
Todd Gartner, director of the World Resources Institute Natural Infrastructure for Water project, noted that this study “takes what we often just talk about — that ‘green [infrastructure] is as good as grey’ — and it puts this into practice and does a lot of evaluation and monitoring and puts real numbers behind it.” 
 
Another benefit of the system is the cost. Ochoa-Tocachi estimated that building a series of canals similar to what exists in Huamantanga would cost 10 times less than building a reservoir of the same volume. He also noted that many highland societies elsewhere in the world have developed ways of diverting and delaying water in the past and could implement them today to supplement their more expensive modern counterparts. 
 
“I think there is a lot of potential in revaluing these water-harvesting practices that have a very long history,” Ochoa-Tocachi said. “There are a lot of these practices that still now could be rescued and could be replicated, even though probably the actual mechanics or the actual process is different than the one that we studied. But the concept of using indigenous knowledge for solving modern engineering problems, I think that is probably very valuable today.” 

White House: Trade Agreement with China Not Close

White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said Sunday resumption of trade talks between the U.S. and China “is a very big deal,” but acknowledged there is no immediate prospect for an agreement between the world’s two largest economies.

“The talks will go on for quite some time,” Kudlow told the Fox News Sunday interview show.

He said the countries had reached agreement on 90 percent of a new deal by early May, before talks broke down in what has turned out to be a seven-week stalemate. U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed Saturday on the sidelines of the Group of 20 economic summit in Japan to restart negotiations.

U.S. President Donald Trump attends a bilateral meeting with China’s President Xi Jinping during the G-20 leaders summit in Osaka, Japan, June 29, 2019.

But Kudlow assessed that “the last 10 percent could be the toughest,” with such unresolved issues as cyberattacks, Chinese demands that U.S. companies turn over proprietary technology they use, Chinese government support for its companies and the sale of U.S. technology components to the giant Chinese multinational technology giant Huawei.

Trump agreed in his meeting with Xi to ease sales of some U.S.-made components to Huawei, a policy change that some of Trump’s Republican colleagues in the U.S. disagree with because they contend that Huawei can insert Chinese intelligence eavesdropping chips in their consumer products sold overseas. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida called it a “catastrophic mistake.”

Kudlow said he realizes “there are national security concerns” with sales to Huawei. “We will look at this carefully,” Kudlow said, adding that Trump’s easing of sales of components to Huawei “is not a general amnesty.”

Trump, in a series of Twitter comments, said, “I had a great meeting with President Xi of China yesterday, far better than expected. I agreed not to increase the already existing Tariffs that we charge China while we continue to negotiate. China has agreed that, during the negotiation, they will begin purchasing large amounts of agricultural product from our great Farmers. At the request of our High Tech companies, and President Xi, I agreed to allow Chinese company Huawei to buy product from them which will not impact our National Security.”

I had a great meeting with President Xi of China yesterday, far better than expected. I agreed not to increase the already existing Tariffs that we charge China while we continue to negotiate. China has agreed that, during the negotiation, they will begin purchasing large…..

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 29, 2019

He said the U.S. relationship with China “continues to be a very good one. The quality of the transaction is far more important to me than speed. I am in no hurry, but things look very good! There will be no reduction in the Tariffs currently being charged to China.” 

….again with China as our relationship with them continues to be a very good one. The quality of the transaction is far more important to me than speed. I am in no hurry, but things look very good! There will be no reduction in the Tariffs currently being charged to China.

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 29, 2019

China Daily, an English-language daily Beijing often uses to relay messages, agreed with Kudlow’s assessment that a trade agreement is not close.

“Even though Washington agreed to postpone levying additional tariffs on Chinese goods to make way for negotiations, and Trump even hinted at putting off decisions on Huawei until the end of negotiations, things are still very much up in the air,” the Chinese Daily editorial published late Saturday said.

“Agreement on 90 percent of the issues has proved not to be enough, and with the remaining 10 percent where their fundamental differences reside, it is not going to be easy to reach a 100-percent consensus, since at this point, they remain widely apart even on the conceptual level,” the editorial said.

 

Hong Kong Braces for More Protests on Handover Anniversary

More than 50,000 people rallied in support of the Hong Kong police on Sunday as the semi-autonomous territory braced for another day of protests on the anniversary of the former British colony’s return to China.

 
The crowd filled a park in front of the legislature and chanted “Thank you” to the police, who have been criticized for using tear gas and rubber bullets during clashes with demonstrators that left dozens injured on June 12. Some carried Chinese flags. Police estimated the turnout at 53,000.

A protest march has been called for Monday, the third in three weeks, this one on the 22nd anniversary of the handover of Hong Kong to China on July 1, 1997. Activists have also said they will try to disrupt an annual flag-raising ceremony attended by senior Hong Kong and mainland Chinese officials in the morning.
 
Police have erected tall barriers and shut off access to Golden Bauhinia Square, where the flag-raising will be held, to prevent protesters from massing there overnight.
 
The anniversary always draws protests, but this year’s is expected to be larger than usual because of widespread opposition to a government proposal to allow suspects to be extradited to mainland China to face charges. More than a million people took to the streets in two previous marches in June, organizers estimate.
 
The proposal has awakened broader fears that China is eroding the freedoms and rights that Hong Kong is guaranteed for 50 years after the handover under a “one country, two systems” framework.
 
The government has already postponed debate on the extradition bill indefinitely, leaving it to die, but protest leaders want the legislation formally withdrawn and the resignation of Hong Kong’s leader, Chief Executive Carrie Lam. They also are demanding an independent inquiry into police actions on June 12.
 
Hundreds of people gathered Sunday at the Education University of Hong Kong to hold a moment of silence and lay flowers for a 21-year-old student who fell to her death the previous day in an apparent suicide. Hong Kong media reports said she wrote a message on a wall stating the protesters’ demands and asking others to persist.
 
 “It’s reminding us we need to keep going on the process of fighting with the, I wouldn’t say fighting with the government, but we need to keep going on fighting not to have the extradition law,” said student Gabriel Lau.

 

 

American Baseball Brings a Wild Show to London

Rest assured, British fans: Most baseball games are not like the one played Saturday in London, not even the crazy ones between the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox.  

Each team scored six runs in a first inning that lasted nearly an hour, with Aaron Hicks hitting the first European homer. Brett Gardner had a tiebreaking, two-run drive in the third, Aaron Judge went deep to cap a six-run fourth and the Yankees outlasted their rivals 17-13 in a game that stretched for 4 hours, 42 minutes — 3 minutes shy of the record for a nine-inning game. 

“Well, cricket takes like all weekend to play, right? So, I’m sure a lot of people are used to it,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. “We should remind them there’s not 30 runs every game.” 

Britain’s Prince Harry, top left, and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, watch during the first inning of a baseball game between the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees, June 29, 2019, in London.

The game was played before a sellout crowd of 59,659 that included supporters from Britain, Beantown and the Big Apple plus royalty, and America’s national pastime seemed to make a positive impression on British fans. 

“I think we’re getting as good a reception as football has for the last couple years,” Yankees first baseman Luke Voit said.  

Great weather

The weather helped. It was a warm, picture-perfect day in often overcast London — baseball weather at its best, played on a midsummer’s eve with sunlight that seemed to never fade. 

Things American fans take for granted, like standing for the national anthem, or joshing rival fans without getting overly crude, struck many Brits in London Stadium as a refreshing change. 
 
“It’s brilliant, it’s amazing, it’s so American as well,” said Jack Lockwood, a 23-year-old who pitches and plays catcher in an amateur baseball league in the city of Sheffield. “I’ve been to hundreds of football (soccer) games and it’s just such a different atmosphere. I just like the American positivity.” 
 
Lockwood spent about six hours on a train to get to and from London for the game, but he considered the trip well worth it, even though his favorite team — the Los Angeles Dodgers — wasn’t playing. 
 
He said it would be impossible to have fans from two rival English soccer teams sit in the same stands — intermingled as Yankee and Red Sox fans were Saturday — without violent scenes. 
 
“You put two rival football teams’ fans in the same stands, you’ll get a fight,” he said. “In baseball, you can put the fans together and you can have a laugh with anyone.” 

Fans arrive before a baseball game between the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees, June 29, 2019, in London. Major League Baseball was making its European debut with the game at London Stadium.

British touches
 
There were some British touches at the game, like the roaming vendors selling Pimm’s cocktails and gin and tonics, but the focus was generally on typical American ballpark fare: hot dogs, nachos, burgers and beer. There were even supersized hot dogs, checking in at 2 feet long. 
 
“It’s the way the Americans do sports,” said pleased British fan Stuart Graham, 45. “The way they have the spectator in mind. You know, you’re sitting there and the man comes around with your beer and your hot dogs, and you can relax and enjoy the game. It’s really very different to what we’re used to.” 
 
He and Ian Muggridge bought the tickets months ago, spurred in part by the storied Red Sox-Yankees rivalry, which promised to bring top talent to the British capital. 
 
“Two big heavyweights of U.S. baseball, sort of like Manchester United playing Liverpool in the UK,” he said, referring to British soccer rivals. “Great spectacle to come and see.” 
 
He did find one disappointment to baseball in Britain: The hot dogs weren’t as good as the ones he’d enjoyed at an American park. 

Muggridge appreciated the mood in the park, with the playing of the U.S. and British national anthems before the game. 

A fan makes a diving catch in the “fan zone” before the game between the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankies at London Stadium, Jun 29, 2019. ( S. Flynn/USA Today Sports)

‘Patriotic feel’
 
“I like the fact that it’s got quite a patriotic feel about it,” he said. “You don’t often get that in British sports. We tend to avoid that, whereas in America you just put it out there.” 
 
While many British fans only had to jump a Tube train to get to the park, thousands of American fans flew across the Atlantic at considerable expense to catch the historic games. 
 
Yankees fan Danielle McCauley of Clifton, N.J., built a weeklong British holiday around Saturday’s game.  
 
“It’s been fun. The whole thing has been really cool,” she said, although she found the crowd far less raucous than those she had been part of in Yankee Stadium and Fenway Park. Call it British reserve. 
 
“It’s quiet,” she said. “It’s the quietest sporting event I’ve ever been to.” 

Tens of Thousands Join Gay Pride Parades Around the World 

Tens of thousands of people turned out for gay pride celebrations around the world on Saturday, including a boisterous party in Mexico and the first pride march in North Macedonia’s capital. 
 
Rainbow flags and umbrellas swayed and music pounded as the march along Mexico City’s Paseo de la Reforma avenue got underway, with couples, families and activists seeking to raise visibility for sexual diversity in the country.   
 
Same-sex civil unions have been legal in Mexico City since 2007, and gay marriage since 2009. A handful of Mexican states have also legalized same-sex unions, which are supposed to be recognized nationwide. But pride participants said Mexico has a long way to go in becoming a more tolerant and accepting place for LGBTQ individuals.  
 

Revelers attend the gay pride parade in Quito, Ecuador, June 29, 2019.

“There’s a lot of machismo, a lot of ignorance still,” said Monica Nochebuena, who identifies as bisexual.  
 
Nochebuena, 28, attended the Mexico City march for the first time with her mother and sister on Saturday, wearing a shirt that said: “My mama already knows.” Her mother’s shirt read: “My daughter already told me.” 
 
Human rights activist Jose Luis Gutierrez, 43, said the march is about visibility, and rights, especially for Mexico’s vulnerable transgender population. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights says that poverty, exclusion and violence reduce life expectancy for trans women in the Americas to 35 years. 
 
In New York City, Friday marked the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall uprising, when a police raid on a gay bar in Manhattan led to a riot and days of demonstrations that morphed into a sustained LGBTQ liberation movement. The city’s huge Pride parade on Sunday will swing past the bar. 
 
Other LGBTQ celebrations took place from India to Europe, with more events planned for Sunday. 
 

People take part in the first gay pride parade in Skopje, North Macedonia, June 29, 2019.

In the North Macedonian capital of Skopje, U.S. Charge d’Affaires Micaela Schweitzer-Bluhm attended the first pride march there in a festive and incident-free atmosphere despite a countermarch organized by religious and “pro-family” organizations. 
 
People from across Macedonia took part, along with marchers from neighboring Bulgaria, Greece and Serbia and other countries.  
 
“This year Skopje joined more than 70 Pride [marches] and the USA are very proud to be part of this,” Schweitzer-Bluhm told reporters. “There is a lot of progress here in North Macedonia but still a lot has to be done.” 

Thousands March in Madrid to Save Anti-Pollution Plan

Thousands marched through Madrid on Saturday to ask the Spanish capital’s new mayor not to ditch ambitious traffic restrictions in the center only recently set up to improve air quality. 
 
“Madrid Central,” as it is called, was one of the measures that persuaded the European Commission not to take Spain to court last year over its bad air pollution in the capital and Barcelona, as it did with France, Germany and the United Kingdom. 
 
“Fewer cars, better air” and “The new city hall seriously harms your health” were the messages on banners as protesters walked through the city’s center in 40-degree-Celsius heat. 
 
The capital’s new conservative mayor, Jose Luis Martinez-Almeida, made ditching “Madrid Central” a priority during his campaign, saying it had done nothing to ease pollution and only caused a nuisance for locals. 
 
But since he has taken power as part of a coalition with center-right party Ciudadanos, city officials have toned this down, saying the government is merely seeking to reform a system that does not work properly, having mistakingly handed out some fines. 
 
When the system was launched in November, Madrid followed in the steps of other European cities such as London, Stockholm and Milan that have restricted traffic in their centers. 
 

A woman takes part in a protest against Madrid’s new conservative People’s Party municipal government plans to suspend some anti-car emissions policies in the city center, June 29, 2019.

But while in these cases drivers can pay to enter such zones, Madrid went a step further, banning many vehicles from accessing the center altogether and fining them if they did. 
 
These fines will be suspended from July 1 to the end of September as the new city hall team audits the system. 
 
For Beatriz Navarro, 44, a university biochemistry professor who took part in the march, the system is working fine. 
 
“It’s a small seed … among everything that has to be done to slow down climate change,” she said. 
 
In a statement, environmental group Ecologistas en Accion said “the levels of pollution from nitrogen dioxide (NO2) registered during May this year were lower than those of 2018 in all the [measuring] stations in the system.” 
 
“In 14 of the 24 stations [in Madrid], the value registered in May 2019 was the lowest in the last 10 years.” 

Trump’s Korea Visit to Include ‘Long-Planned’ Visit to DMZ

U.S. President Donald Trump said early Sunday that his schedule while in South Korea would include a visit with U.S. troops and a trip to the Demilitarized Zone. 
 
It did not mention, however, the invitation Trump had sent through social media on Saturday, in which he tweeted an invitation to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to meet him at the border “to shake his hand and say Hello(?)!”

After some very important meetings, including my meeting with President Xi of China, I will be leaving Japan for South Korea (with President Moon). While there, if Chairman Kim of North Korea sees this, I would meet him at the Border/DMZ just to shake his hand and say Hello(?)!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 28, 2019

Sunday morning, Trump plans to address South Korean business leaders. He will then travel to the presidential residence to meet with South Korean President Moon Jae-in. 
 
He will travel to the DMZ Sunday afternoon, and then address U.S. troops at Osan Air Base in South Korea, before departing for the U.S.

Speaking to reporters at the Group of 20 summit in Japan, Trump said he decided Saturday morning to “put out a feeler” to meet Kim, adding such a meeting would last only two minutes.

“We’ll see each other for two minutes,” Trump said. “That’s all we can. But that will be fine.”

Trump later said he would feel “very comfortable” stepping across the border into North Korea. If that happened, it would be the first time a sitting U.S. president visited North Korea.

Kim has not responded to Trump’s offer. But North Korea’s vice foreign minister, Choe Son Hui, called the invitation an “interesting suggestion.”

FILE – Choe Son Hui, deputy director general of the Department of US Affairs of North Korea Foreign Ministry, briefs journalists outside the North Korean embassy in Beijing, China, June 23, 2016.

“We see it as a very interesting suggestion, but we have not received an official proposal in this regard,” Choe said in a statement published in the official Korean Central News Agency.

“It would serve as another meaningful occasion in further deepening the personal relations between the two leaders and advancing the bilateral relations,” Choe added.

Another meeting between Trump and Kim could help reset stalled nuclear talks. But a meeting without substance risks becoming theatrics and would appear to further legitimize the North Korean leader, many analysts warn.

“The DMZ is too consequential a venue to be used simply as backdrop for a photo op,” said Daniel Russel, former U.S. assistant secretary of state for East Asia and the Pacific.

FILE – U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un sign documents that acknowledge the progress of talks and pledge to keep momentum going, after their summit at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa island in Singapore, June 12, 2018.

Talks stalled

Trump and Kim met in Singapore last June and in Vietnam in February. Since Vietnam, working-level negotiations between Washington and Pyongyang have broken down because of disagreement over how to pace sanctions relief with the dismantlement of North Korea’s nuclear weapons.

In recent weeks, Trump and Kim have exchanged personal letters, raising hopes the talks may get back on track. But it isn’t clear how additional top-level diplomacy can advance the talks, as neither side appears to have softened their negotiating position.

A key indicator of progress is whether North Korean counterparts meet with U.S. Special Representative Stephen Biegun, said Leif-Eric Easley, a professor at Ewha University in Seoul.

“Progress on inter-Korean relations and denuclearization requires that the Kim regime agree to working-level talks to negotiate next steps,” Easley said. Absent substantive talks, further summits with Kim “run the risk of appearing to accept North Korea as a nuclear state,” he added.

FILE – North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, left, and South Korean President Moon Jae-in walk together at the border village of Panmunjom in the Demilitarized Zone, April 27, 2018.

Meeting at JSA?

U.S. officials haven’t said where along the 250-kilometer Demilitarized Zone Trump intended to visit.

The Joint Security Area (JSA) has long been mentioned as a possible venue for a Trump-Kim meeting. The JSA, also known as the Panmunjom border village, is the only spot along the DMZ where North and South Korean soldiers can stand face to face.

Past U.S. presidents have used visits to the DMZ to deliver messages on strengthening the U.S.-South Korea alliance, to pay respect to the troops, and to demonstrate a symbolic show of resolve against North Korea.

“It is absolutely not the place to praise his ‘friend’ Kim, to complain about ‘freeloading’ allies, or to muse about withdrawing U.S. troops,” said Russel, the former State Department official who is now a vice president at the Asia Society.

While Trump’s language may differ from that of past presidents, some analysts welcomed a more conciliatory approach.

“While no major agreements will be signed, both sides can reaffirm their commitment to dialogue and diplomacy, essentially resetting the table for a future deal in the weeks and months to come,” said Harry Kazianis, senior director of Korean Studies at the Center for the National Interest.

DMZ visit planned ahead of time?

In 2017 during his first visit to South Korea as president, Trump canceled a surprise stop at the DMZ after heavy fog grounded the helicopters that were to take him there.

Bad weather is again a possibility, with the onset of the rainy season in South Korea. However, because of the possibility of a summit with Kim, Trump could choose to take a motorcade to the DMZ, if the weather becomes an issue.

Trump’s visit to the DMZ is less spontaneous than the president suggests. In an interview Monday with the Washington-based newspaper and website The Hill, Trump acknowledged a likely visit to the DMZ, adding he “might” want to meet Kim there.

In Monday interview, Trump acknowledged likely visit to the DMZ and said he “might” want to meet KJU there. WH asked we delay publication, citing security concerns. We agreed. Then he just tweeted it out https://t.co/WHMqJ0ABHz

— Jordan Fabian (@Jordanfabian) June 28, 2019

However, White House officials asked the website to delay the publication of those remarks, citing security concerns.

Before leaving Washington, Trump said he would “not quite” meet with Kim, though he said he may talk with him in a “different form.”

Earlier this week, a North Korean state media article said Kim was “seriously contemplating” the “interesting” contents of a recent letter from Trump.

In a statement, South Korea’s presidential Blue House said “nothing has been finalized,” adding it continues to call for more dialogue with North Korea.

The Financial Times reported late Saturday that White House officials were drafting an “official invitation” for Kim to meet Trump at the DMZ.

It isn’t clear whether South Korea’s Moon  would also attend any meeting at the DMZ.

Wide gaps

There appear to be wide gaps between North and South Korea on how to proceed with nuclear talks.

Although Trump and Kim agreed in Singapore to work “toward complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,” U.S. officials have acknowledged that Washington and Pyongyang do not agree on what “denuclearization” means.

North Korean officials have made clear they do not see “denuclearization” as Pyongyang unilaterally giving up its nuclear weapons.

Instead, the North wants to see the United States take reciprocal steps, including ending U.S. and U.N. sanctions and providing various security guarantees.

In Hanoi, Kim offered to dismantle a key nuclear complex in exchange for the lifting of most U.N. sanctions. Trump rejected that offer, insisting that Kim agree to give up his entire nuclear weapons program before receiving sanctions relief.

Kim has given the United States until the end of the year to offer what it sees as an adequate counterproposal.

Experts Warn Mali Border Violence Could Spiral Out of Control 

A volatile mix of intercommunal conflict and violent extremism near Mali’s border with Niger and Burkina Faso has become a looming crisis, experts are warning. 
 
Yearslong regional violence has spiked in recent months, making headlines and raising concerns that overstretched security forces could lose control of an already tenuous situation. 
 

FILE – A Fulani herder leads his cattle to the landfill next to the internally displaced persons camp in Faladie, Mali, where nearly 800 IDPs have found refuge after fleeing intercommunal violence, on May 14, 2019.

On June 14, gunfire near Liptako, Mali, forced a French Gazelle helicopter to make an emergency landing, defenceWeb, a South African defense news site, reported. The Islamic State in the Greater Sahara, a local affiliate of ISIS, claimed responsibility for the attack, which wounded the crew, the report added. 
 
Counterterrorism 
 
The helicopter and its crew were part of Operation Barkhane, a French-led counterterror operation based in the Sahel. At the time, they were conducting an attack on ISGS hideouts, which left 20 suspected militants dead.  
 
Pauline Le Roux, a visiting assistant research fellow with the Africa Center for Strategic Studies, said ISGS emerged in 2015 from the remnants of other extremist groups in the region. It gained international notoriety in 2017 when it claimed responsibility for an attack in Niger that left four U.S. Green Berets, four Nigerien soldiers and a Nigerien interpreter dead. 
 
The extremist group has proven difficult to eradicate, and Le Roux said it has taken advantage of the sparsely populated border region between the three countries. Nearly 90% of ISGS’s attacks occur within 100 kilometers of the three countries’ borders. 
 
“When they faced defeat, they basically relocated to other areas,” Le Roux told VOA. “This three-border region is quite porous. You have forests; you have vast desert zones. And so, it’s been quite easy for them to change locations.” 
 
Intercommunal violence 
 
Extremists have also benefited from long-standing tensions between communities in the border region. Those conflicts have turned violent with increasing frequency, creating opportunities for militias to recruit, and pushing security forces to the limit of their capabilities. 
 

FILE – An aerial shows an internally displaced persons camp in Faladie, Mali, where nearly 800 IDPs have found refuge after fleeing intercommunal violence, on May 14, 2019.

For many years, intercommunal conflicts have flared between nomadic and agrarian groups in the region, Corinne Dufka, the West Africa director at Human Rights Watch, told VOA. 
 
But the situation has deteriorated since 2012, when militias began recruiting members of the Fulani, a local ethnic group, sparking reprisals and more violence, Dufka said. 
 
“Other ethnic groups felt the need to organize ethnically allied civil defense groups. And those groups have not only defended their villages but, as we have seen, they have gone on the offensive and killed many, many Ful[ani], whom they blamed for supporting — or being direct members of — the armed dissident groups,” Dufka said. 
 
All the while, radical preachers fanned the flames, Le Roux added. 
 
“They endorsed feelings of injustice and discrimination, and they used these grievances” to foment violence, she said. 
 
Climate change has also contributed to conflict, increasing competition for an already short supply of water and arable land. 
 
But it is rising ethnic tensions that give analysts the greatest concerns. 
 
“Right now, what is extremely worrying is the fact that these interethnic tensions appear to be growing and to become the most worrying trend, at least in Mali,” Le Roux said. 
 
“The lethality and the frequency of these very serious incidents is increasing at an alarming rate,” Dufka added. “The violations are really at a fever pitch.”