'Significant' North Korea, U.S. differences on denuclearization put revival of summit in doubt
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- North Korea and the U.S. have "significant" differences when it comes to denuclearization, a top South Korean official concedes, casting doubts over efforts to revive a June peace summit meeting
- Russian journalist Arkady Babchenko, a well-known critic of the Russian president who was reportedly assassinated in Ukraine yesterday, made a dramatic return from the dead this morning
- The city of St. John's is in the midst of a low-tech crime spree, and parking meters are the target
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Slow climb to a summit
North Korea and the United States are barely on the same page when it comes to denuclearization, a top South Korean official conceded today, casting doubts over efforts to revive a proposed June summit meeting between Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump.
"I can say that the differences in stances between North Korea and the U.S. remain quite significant," Cho Myoung-gyon, Seoul's unification minister, told a gathering of European ambassadors today.
"It will not be easy to narrow the gap and find common ground, but I think it would not be impossible."
Cho said his government remains optimistic, but views the process of creating a lasting, nuke-free peace between the two Koreas as a long and difficult journey.
The downbeat assessment highlights the vast gulf in the bargaining positions that must be bridged if the face-to-face meeting between the leaders is to take place as scheduled on June 12 in Singapore.
Trump is demanding a quick and complete abandonment of the North's nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief. Kim wants a phased disarmament program tied to security guarantees.
American officials crossed into Korea's DMZ again today for talks with regime representatives about summit logistics. And Kim's right-hand man, Kim Yong-chol, is in New York for high-level discussion with Mike Pompeo, the U.S. secretary of state.
But the 70-something North Korean hardliner — a former spy chief who has served three generations of the Kim dynasty — seems an unlikely bringer of concessions. An immigration waiver had to be issued to permit him to enter the U.S., as he was on a no-entry list due to suspicions that he ordered the 2010 torpedoing of a South Korean naval vessel, killing 46 sailors.
Japan has been pushing for months to include the issue of its 17 missing citizens in the negotiations with Kim.
Trump himself has suggested that it is a high-priority concern. Last November, he met with the mother of Megumi Yokota, who was snatched from an isolated beach as a 13-year-old some four decades ago.
Trump called it a "very, very sad" situation. "We'll work together and see if we can do something, now the spotlight is on," he promised.
"I think it would be a tremendous signal if Kim Jong-un would send them back," he added.
But news has emerged that North Korea is ready to embrace something that is close to Trump's heart — fast food.
Last night, NBC News reported on a new American intelligence assessment that concluded that the Kim regime has no intention of giving up its nuclear weapons.
However, the briefing did include the tidbit that the North Korean leader is preparing to offer a North American hamburger chain the chance to set up restaurants in Pyongyang as a "show of goodwill."
Perhaps the clearest indication that Kim intends to have it his way.
Babchenko back from dead
It appears that Vladimir Putin just got punked.
Russian journalist Arkady Babchenko, a well-known critic of the Russian president who was reported to have been assassinated in Ukraine yesterday, made a dramatic return from the dead at Kyiv news conference this morning.
"I'm still alive," Babchenko said, stating the obvious, before apologizing to his family and friends for the deception.
Babchenko, one of Russia's best-known war correspondents, has been living in exile in Kyiv since early 2017 after receiving death threats over his criticism of Russia's military interventions in Syria and Ukraine.
Yesterday, police said he had been discovered by his wife outside of their home, suffering from multiple gunshot wounds to his back. They reported that he later died en route to the hospital.
The head of Ukraine's police force told the media that it appeared to be a targeted hit, and that investigators were considering two motives, Babchenko's "professional work and civil position." Police even went as far as to post a sketch of a possible suspect — a bearded man wearing a baseball cap.
Police had been tipped off that Russian agents had allegedly paid a Ukrainian citizen $40,000 US to orchestrate Babchenko's death. The as-yet unidentified man then hired a former soldier to carry out the attack, said Gritsak.
Petro Poroshenko, the Ukrainian president, sent out a tweet a short time later promising that his country will protect Babchenko and his family from further assassination attempts.
"Ukrainian law enforcement agencies are becoming stronger every day in countering Russian aggression," he boasted.
The Kremlin denied any responsibility for those attacks.
Today, a spokeswoman for Russia's Foreign Ministry rejected Ukraine's claim that agents of the state had been plotting against Babchenko.
"The best news is that Babchenko is alive. Let it always happen," Maria Zakharova wrote in a Facebook post. "It is a pity that masquerade has failed in other cases. It is evident that the propagandistic effect was meant to make up the story."
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Blunt force drama
The city of St. John's is in the midst of a low-tech crime spree.
Earlier this week, the heads of 64 parking meters were found in a pile on a downtown street, separated from their posts — and emptied of their coins — by sledgehammer-wielding thieves.
Can't have nothing.. water st now <a href="https://twitter.com/CityofStJohns?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@CityofStJohns</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/RNC_PoliceNL?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@RNC_PoliceNL</a> <a href="https://t.co/ZfBfClataY">pic.twitter.com/ZfBfClataY</a>—@pbsnow12
Adding insult to the injury was the fact that these were brand new meters, installed only a couple of months ago after an identical strong-armed robbery.
All told, the capital of Newfoundland and Labrador has seen almost all of its 1,067 parking meters vandalized since the spring of 2015. The cost of repairing or replacing them has exceeded $1.4 million, in addition to hundreds of thousands more in lost parking revenue.
St. John's is not alone.
In Vancouver, where bulkier machines make whack-and-go thefts harder, people have found ingenious ways to fish out the coins with magnets and chains, costing the city an estimated $600,000 a year.
Although sometimes there appears to be a revenge motive. In the English town of Lewes, someone has been periodically stuffing the machines with fireworks and blowing them apart ever since street parking charges came into effect in 2004.
The solution seems obvious enough —cashless parking machines that take bank or credit cards, and systems where people can pay via phone apps.
That's what many big cities have moved to in recent years, and it's the way St. John's is heading, too.
The first cashless parking spaces will debut early next month. By 2023, all the coin meters in St. John's — and the heavy-hitting thieves — will be gone.
Quote of the moment
"People of all races, religions and nationalities work at Sanofi every day to improve the lives of people around the world. While all pharmaceutical treatments have side effects, racism is not a known side effect of any Sanofi medication."
- Sanofi, the makers of Ambien, take issue with Roseanne Barr's suggestion that her racist Twitter outburst had something to do with their sleep-aid.
What The National is reading
- Ottawa orders independent review of Hassan Diab extradition case (CBC)
- Riot police clear 1,000 migrants from makeshift Paris camp (Guardian)
- Belgian authorities link Liège attacker to fourth murder (CBC)
- Porn is 'root cause' of school shooting, says Tennessee lawmaker (CNN)
- Spanish rapper flees to avoid jail sentence for lyrics that praise terrorism (El Pais)
- Syria recognizes Georgia's breakaway regions in nod to Russia (Deutsche Welle)
- Las Vegas bookies will lose big if the Golden Knights win Stanley Cup (Washington Post)
- Scientists 3D print human corneas (Science Daily)
- Shaolin monks swap temple for wrestling ring (South China Morning Post)
Today in history
May 30, 1967: Hippies flock to Vancover's Human Be-in
Helium balloons. Check. Trippy Music. Check. Long, lingering shots of people sleeping, a cat cleaning itself, and the shadow of a flute-playing man. Check, check, check. Fifteen minutes of televisual goodness on Vancouver's first Be-in at Stanley Park during the chilly Spring of Love.
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