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WASHINGTON, June 21, 2018 (News Wires) - First Lady Melania Trump made a surprise visit to the US-Mexican border Thursday, as her husband's administration seeks to quell a firestorm over migrant family separations.

President Donald Trump first announced the trip by his wife, who was touring a non-profit social services center for migrant children, before heading to a customs and border patrol processing center, according to a statement from her office.

The first lady landed in McAllen, Texas under a heavy downpour, her motorcade driving through deep water as it headed for the Upbring New Hope Children's Shelter, a federally-funded facility that houses around 60 children from Honduras and El Salvador, ages five to 17.

Her visit comes a day after Trump, in a stunning about-face, took executive action to end the practice of separating migrant families at the border, the result of a "zero tolerance" policy towards illegal border crossers.

Images and recordings of wailing children detained in cage-like enclosures has ignited global outrage, and Melania Trump herself had called for a political compromise to end the separations.

"This was 100 percent her idea. She absolutely wanted to come," Stephanie Grisham, the first lady's communications director, told reporters travelling with her to Texas.

"She wanted to see everything for herself," Grisham said. "She supports family reunification. She thinks that it's important that children stay with their families."

Despite Trump's executive order, there was no immediate plan in place to reunite the more than 2,300 children separated from their families since early May.

"The executive order certainly is helping pave the way a little bit, but there's still a lot to be done," Grisham said.

WASHINGTON, June 21, 2018 (Reuters) - The missile engine test site that President Donald Trump said North Korean leader Kim Jong Un had committed to destroy is a major facility in the western part of the country that has been used for testing engines for long-range missiles, according to a US official.

Trump told reporters after their June 12 summit that Kim had pledged to dismantle one of his missile installations, which would be North Korea’s most concrete concession at the landmark meeting in Singapore.

However, the president at the time did not name the site.

A US official identified it on Wednesday as the Sohae Satellite Launching Ground, saying North Korea “has used this site to test liquid-propellant engines for its long-range ballistic missiles.”

Pyongyang has said its missiles can reach the United States.

“Chairman Kim promised that North Korea would destroy a missile engine test stand soon,” the official told Reuters, speaking on condition of anonymity.

There was no immediate word on the exact timetable, and North Korea has not publicly confirmed that Kim made such a commitment.

CBS News was the first to identify the site, which is the newest of North Korea’s known major missile testing facilities.

Although Trump has hailed the Singapore summit as a success, skeptics have questioned whether he achieved anything, given that Pyongyang, which has rejected unilateral nuclear disarmament, appeared to make no new tangible commitments in a joint written declaration.

The US-based North Korea monitoring group 38 North said in an analysis at the end of last week there had been no sign of any activity toward dismantling Sohae or any other missile test site.

The US official said: “The United States will continue to monitor this site closely as we move forward in our negotiations.”

What little is known about the Sohae site, located in Tongchang-ri, has been pieced together from analysts’ assessments and the North Korean state news agency KCNA.

It was reported to have been established in 2008 and has research facilities nearby for missile development as well as a tower that can support ballistic missiles. The site is mainly used to test large Paektusan engines built for long-range missiles such as the Hwasong-15.

North Korea has spent considerable effort and resources to develop the site as a “civilian space programme” facility, denying that it has a military application, said Jenny Town, a research analyst at the 38 North.

“Presumably, if North Korea does destroy the Sohae facility, they are also signaling that they are willing to stop satellite/rocket launches this time around as well, a point that has derailed negotiations in the past and is a significant new development,” she said.

North Korea has other missile testing facilities but the shutdown, if it happens, would be significant, analysts said.

“The missile testing is not just done in Tongchang-ri so it does not necessarily mean all ICBMs (intercontinental ballistic missiles) will be disabled. But the most well-known one is this, so there is a great symbolic meaning if this is shut down,” said Moon Hong-sik, a research fellow at the Institute for National Security Strategy in South Korea.

North Korea announced ahead of the Singapore summit the suspension of its ICBM testing and also closed its nuclear bomb test site. US officials, however, have cautioned that such actions are reversible.

Asked on Wednesday whether North Korea has done anything toward denuclearisation since the summit, US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis told reporters: “No, I’m not aware of that. I mean, obviously, it’s the very front end of a process. The detailed negotiations have not begun. I wouldn’t expect that at this point.”

Yang Uk, senior research fellow at the Korea Defence and Security Forum, agreed that a shutdown of the Sohae testing site would be a symbolic gesture rather than a move to technically disable its missile capabilities.

NEW YORK, June 19, 2018 (News Wires) - Global stock markets fell Tuesday after President Donald Trump threatened to put tariffs on another $200 billion in imports from China, and the Chinese government said it would retaliate.

The Dow Jones industrial average lost 370 points, or 1.5 per cent. The Hang Seng index in Hong Kong lost 2.8 per cent. Major stock indexes in Asia and Europe also took sharp losses.

Trump's new proposal calls for a 10 per cent tariff on $200 billion in goods, and Beijing said it would respond with "comprehensive measures." It doesn't import enough goods from the US to match the scale of Trump's proposal but could adopt other methods.

Last week Trump ordered a 25 per cent tax on $34 billion in Chinese imports and Beijing matched that total. Those tariffs won't take effect until July 6, which leaves more time to negotiate for the world's two largest economies.

The Dow traded as 24,617 as of 10:00 a.m. Eastern time. The S&P 500 index gave up 26 points, or 1 per cent, to 2,746. The Nasdaq composite fell 89 points, or 0.8 per cent, to 7,658.

Industrial and technology companies took some of the worst losses as investors worried that the dispute could grow more intense and drag down global economic growth.

Trump accused Beijing of being unwilling to resolve the dispute over complaints it steals or pressures foreign companies to hand over technology. China's Commerce Ministry criticized the White House action as blackmail and said Beijing was ready to retaliate.

Aerospace company Boeing dropped 3 per cent to $344.07 and construction and mining equipment maker Caterpillar shed 2.7 per cent to $144.60. Apple fell 1.5 per cent to $185.93 and Facebook gave up 0.9 per cent to $196.55.

Bond prices climbed as investors turned a bit more cautious. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 2.89 per cent from 2.92 per cent. That sent interest rates lower and banks skidded as well. JPMorgan Chase surrendered 1.2 per cent to $106.84 and Bank of America slid 1.3 per cent to $29.01.

Oil prices turned lower, with US crude down the most. It fell 1.4 per cent to $64.96 a barrel in New York, and Brent crude, the international standard for oil prices, fell 0.5 per cent ot$74.99 a barrel in London. That affected energy companies. Chevron lost 1.2 per cent to $124.44 and Schlumberger dipped 2.3 per cent to $65.52.

Steel companies also took sharp losses. US Steel fell 3.5 per cent to $43.87 and Nucor lost 2.9 per cent to $64.84 while aluminum producer Alcoa declined 3 per cent to $44.40.

Germany's DAX was down 1.4 per cent after a similar loss Monday. The CAC 40 of France fell 1.2 per cent and in London the FTSE 100 lost 0.5 per cent.

The losses were even heavier in Asia, where Tokyo's Nikkei 225 retreated 1.8 per cent and Seoul's Kospi gave up 1.5 per cent. Indexes in Australia and India took smaller losses.

With bond yields falling, some investors bought high-dividend companies like utilities and real estate investment trusts. NextEra Energy rose 0.9 per cent to $161.71 and Welltower gained 0.9 per cent to $57.54.

Smaller US companies with a domestic focus continued to do better than multinationals, and the Russell 2000 index lost 8 points, or 0.5 per cent, to 1,683. The Russell is up almost 10 percent this year while the S&P has risen 3 per cent and the Dow has taken a small loss.

 

SINGAPORE, June 12, 2018 (News Wires) -- President Donald Trump and North Korea's Kim Jong Un concluded an extraordinary summit Tuesday with lofty promises by the American president to take care of a "very dangerous problem" and Kim forecasting "major change for the world."

They signed a document that Trump described as "pretty comprehensive," but he declined to describe it, saying the details would be revealed later.

The document signing followed a series of meetings at a luxury Singapore resort.

SINGAPORE, June 11, 2018 (News Wires) - US President Donald Trump said on Monday his historic summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore could “work out very nicely” as officials from both countries met to narrow differences on how to end a nuclear stand-off on the Korean peninsula.

Kim and Trump arrived in the tropical city-state on Sunday for the first ever face-to-face meeting by leaders of two countries that have been enemies since the 1950-1953 Korean War.

With gaps remaining over what denuclearisation would entail, officials from both sides held two hours of talks to push the agenda forward ahead of Tuesday’s summit.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement that the meetings were “substantive and detailed” but there was no immediate word on what the outcome was.

Trump sounded a positive note in a lunch meeting with Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

“We’ve got a very interesting meeting in particular tomorrow, and I just think it’s going to work out very nicely,” Trump said.

He also told Lee: “We appreciate your hospitality and professionalism and friendship...You’re my friend.”

Trump and Kim are staying in separate hotels in the famous Orchard Road area of Singapore, dotted with high-rise luxury apartment blocks, offices and glittering shopping malls. Traffic was held up in the steamy midday sun and scores of bystanders were penned in by police when Trump went to meet Lee.

Similar scenes were seen on Sunday when Kim and Trump arrived in the city, and when Kim went to meet Lee. Entry to their hotels is extremely restricted.

Commenting for the first time on the summit, North Korea’s state-run KCNA news agency earlier said the two sides would exchange “wide-ranging and profound views” to re-set relations. It heralded the summit as part of a “changed era”.

Discussions would focus on “the issue of building a permanent and durable peace-keeping mechanism on the Korean peninsula, the issue of realising the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula and other issues of mutual concern,” KCNA said.

In the lead up to the summit, North Korea rejected any unilateral nuclear disarmament, and KCNA’s reference to denuclearisation of the peninsula has historically meant that Pyongyang wants the United States to remove its “nuclear umbrella” protecting South Korea and Japan.

Pompeo said in an earlier tweet that Washington was “committed to the complete, verifiable, irreversible denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula”.

Many experts on North Korea, one of the most insular and unpredictable countries in the world, remain skeptical Kim will ever completely abandon nuclear weapons. They believe Kim’s latest engagement is aimed at getting the United States to ease the crippling sanctions that have squeezed the impoverished country.

A Trump administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the US side was entering the talks with a sense of optimism and an equal dose of scepticism given North Korea’s long history of developing nuclear weapons.

“We will not be surprised by any scenario,” said the official.

The official said Trump and Kim would hold a one-on-one meeting on Tuesday that could last up to two hours. He described it as a “get to know you plus” meeting.

Later, a meeting including officials could last another hour.

The summit’s venue is the Capella hotel on Sentosa, a resort island off Singapore’s port with luxury hotels, a Universal Studios theme park and man-made beaches.

Trump, speaking in Canada on Saturday, said any agreement at the summit would be “spur of the moment,” underscoring the uncertain outcome of what he called a “mission of peace”.

He initially touted the potential for a grand bargain with North Korea to rid itself of a nuclear missile program that has advanced rapidly to threaten the United States.

But he has since lowered expectations, backing away from an original demand for North Korea’s swift denuclearisation.

He has said the talks would be more about starting a relationship with Kim for a negotiating process that would take more than one summit.

LA MALBAIE, Quebec, June 10, 2018 (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump on Saturday threw the G7’s efforts to show a united front into disarray after he became angry with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and said he might double down on import tariffs by hitting the sensitive auto industry.

Trump’s bombshell announcement that he was backing out of the Group of Seven communique, made after he left the summit in Canada early, torpedoed what appeared to be a fragile consensus on the trade dispute between Washington and its top allies.

“PM Justin Trudeau of Canada acted so meek and mild during our @G7 meetings only to give a news conference after I left saying that, ‘US Tariffs were kind of insulting’ and he ‘will not be pushed around.’ Very dishonest & weak. Our Tariffs are in response to his of 270% on dairy!” the U.S. president tweeted.

In his press conference, Trudeau had spoken of retaliatory measures that Canada would take next month in response to Trump’s decision to slap tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from Canada, Mexico and the European Union.

“Canadians, we’re polite, we’re reasonable but we also will not be pushed around,” Trudeau, the host of the two-day summit in La Malbaie, Quebec, told reporters.

Reacting to Trump’s tweets, Trudeau’s office said: “We are focused on everything we accomplished here at the summit. The Prime Minister said nothing he hasn’t said before - both in public, and in private conversations with the President.”

Trump’s salvo capped a dizzying two days of controversies that began with his suggestion Russia be readmitted to the G7, then what a French official described as a “rant” full of “recriminations” against U.S. trading partners, followed by Trump’s denial of any contention with leaders at the summit and his description of their relationship as a “10.”

By ordering his representatives to back out of the communique, Trump appeared to be asserting his oft-stated aim of upsetting the status quo whether by pulling out of the global climate accord or the international nuclear deal with Iran or threats to scrap the North American Free Trade Agreement.

The communique, which appeared to have papered over the cracks that have surfaced in the G7, said the leaders of the United States, Canada, Britain, France, Italy, Germany and Japan agreed on the need for “free, fair, and mutually beneficial trade” and the importance of fighting protectionism.

“We strive to reduce tariff barriers, non-tariff barriers and subsidies,” the statement said.

Trump’s reversal, announced while he was en route to Singapore for a meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, sent his G7 partners scrambling.

“We stick to the communique as agreed by all participants,” a European official said on condition of anonymity.

Trump’s counterparts in the G7 had sought this week to try to find some semblance of consensus with Washington on trade and the other key issues that have formed the basis of the 42-year-old grouping of industrialized nations.

French President Emmanuel Macron had labeled the summit a success before Trump’s Twitter posts, saying there was relief within the G7 that an escalation of the trade dispute had been avoided.

“The nature of the debate we had was rather appeasement and it stopped the escalation in terms of behavior,” Macron, who had exchanged terse Twitter messages with Trump in the run-up to the summit, told reporters.

“It allowed a dialogue, where for weeks there were uncoordinated unilateral actions and non-cooperation.”

Macron is aware of the latest twist on the communique and does not have a comment at this time, a French presidential official said.

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