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U.S. to ban Americans’ travel to North Korea – State Department

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WASHINGTON/SEOUL : – The U.S. government will ban Americans from travelling to North Korea due to “the serious risk of arrest” after a U.S. student was jailed while on a tour and later died, the State Department said on Friday.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson authorised a “Geographical Travel Restriction” on all Americans’ use of a passport to the country, spokeswoman Heather Nauert said.

“Once in effect, U.S. passports will be invalid for travel to, through and in North Korea, and individuals will be required to obtain a passport with a special validation in order to travel to or within North Korea,” Nauert said.

The move was due to “mounting concerns over the serious risk of arrest and long-term detention under North Korea’s system of law enforcement,” she added.

The State Department plans to publish a notice in the Federal Register next week, starting a 30-day clock before the restriction takes effect, Nauert said.

Koryo Tours, which offers tours to North Korea, had said the ban would be announced this month. The Swedish embassy in Pyongyang, which handles consular affairs for the United States in the North, informed Koryo of the ban, but did not say how long it would last, the company said.

“But it does seem to be the case that in just over a month, it will be impossible for Americans to visit as tourists,” Koryo Tours general manager Simon Cockrell told Reuters by telephone.

Nauert said Americans who want to travel to North Korea “for certain limited humanitarian or other purposes” can apply for a special passport to do so.

Young Pioneer, another company that arranges tours to North Korea, took U.S. student Otto Warmbier to the country at the end of 2015.

He was arrested there and sentenced to 15 years of hard labour for an incident at his hotel where he was accused of trying to steal a propaganda banner.

North Korea released the 22-year-old Warmbier in June in a coma and he died days after getting back to the United States. The circumstances surrounding his death are not clear, including why he fell into a coma.

North Korea has said through its state media that Warmbier’s death was “a mystery” and dismissed accusations that he had died as a result of torture and beating in captivity.

The isolated North Korea allows foreign tourists to visit but their travel is strictly limited.

Reporting by Se Young Lee and James Pearson in SEOUL and Matt Spetalnick and David Brunnstrom and Yeganeh Torbati in WASHINGTON; Writing by Jack Kim; Editing by Robert Birsel and Jeffrey Benkoe

 

America

Trump announces White House counsel to quit in fall

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Washington, Aug 30 (IANS) US President Donald Trump announced on Wednesday on Twitter that White House counsel Don McGahn, who has played a key role in defending the President in the Russia probe, will leave his post in the fall.

McGahn, who began serving as White House counsel in January 2017, was questioned several times by the special prosecutor heading the Russia investigation, Robert Mueller, and his testimony could be key for determining if Trump tried to obstruct that investigation, Efe reported.

“White House Counsel Don McGahn will be leaving his position in the fall, shortly after the confirmation (hopefully) of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the United States Supreme Court. I have worked with Don for a long time and truly appreciate his service!” tweeted Trump.

Although it had nothing to do with McGahn’s departure, Trump took advantage of the occasion to mention in his tweet the process of confirming Kavanaugh, his nominee for the vacant Supreme Court seat, who must receive the approval of the Senate.

Trump’s announcement comes a few hours after the Axios Web site, citing White House officials and sources close to McGahn, reported that the White House counsel was intending to leave his post as the administration’s top legal adviser sometime this autumn.

According to Axios, McGahn wants his successor to be veteran attorney Emmet T. Flood, who was one of the lawyers who represented former President Bill Clinton during his 1998 impeachment in Congress after lying to lawmakers about his relationship with intern Monica Lewinsky.

Trump hired Flood last May with the aim of making his legal strategy more “aggressive” in responding to the Mueller investigation of his 2016 presidential campaign’s potential connections with the Kremlin.

Since May 2017, May has been investigating the scope of the alleged Russian interference in the 2016 vote and whether there was any kind of coordination between Moscow and members of the Trump campaign.

According to The New York Times earlier this month, McGahn has been cooperating with Mueller’s investigation and during the past nine months has been questioned by the special counsel’s team three times.

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Trump once again compares Russia probe to McCarthyism

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Washington, Aug 20 (IANS) President Donald Trump on Sunday once again, as he has regularly done, compared the Russia probe investigation to McCarthyism, the anti-communist campaign pursued by Sen. Joseph McCarthy in the 1950s.

“Study the late Joseph McCarthy, because we are now in period with Mueller and his gang that make Joseph McCarthy look like a baby! Rigged Witch Hunt!” said Trump on Twitter.

This kind of comparison has become a staple of Trump’s tweets, in which he regularly refers to the probe headed by Special Counsel Robert Mueller as McCarthyism and a “witch hunt,” Efe reported.

Since May 2017, Mueller has been tasked with heading an independent investigation of possible links between Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and the Kremlin.

US media reported Saturday that Mueller’s team of prosecutors have proposed up to six months in prison for George Papadopoulos, a former adviser to Trump, for having lied to the FBI during questioning of him for the Russia probe.

Papadopoulos is expected to be sentenced on Sept. 7.

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US sanctions Myanmar military personnel, units over human rights abuse

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Washington, Aug 18 (IANS) The US Treasury Department on Friday announced to sanction four commanders and two military units in Myanmar, accusing them of being related with human rights abuse cases in the country.

In a statement, the Treasury said the targeted commanders were from Burmese military and Border Guard Police (BGP), Xinhua reported.

Together with the 33rd Light Infantry Division (LID) and the 99th LID, the commanders were punished over the alleged involvement in ethnic cleansing in Rakhine State and “other widespread human rights abuses” in Kachin and Shan States.

These individuals and entities were designated according to the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act of 2016 that targeted “perpetrators of serious human rights abuse and corruption.”

Sigal Mandelker, Treasury Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, said in the statement that the US government “will continue to systematically expose and bring accountability to human rights abusers in this region.”

As a result of these actions, any property, or interest in property, of those designated within U.S. jurisdiction is blocked.

Additionally, US persons are generally prohibited from engaging in transactions with blocked persons, including entities 50 percent or more owned by designated persons.

Building upon the act, US President Donald Trump signed Executive Order (E.O.) 13818, or “Blocking the Property of Persons Involved in Serious Human Rights Abuse or Corruption.” To date, 84 individuals and entities have been sanctioned under the order.

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