World and Canada News June 05/18

In the World…

Is North Korea secretly continuing its nuclear programme?

By Andreas Illmer/BBC News/July 2, 2018

Reports that North Korea is continuing its weapons programme, despite pledges to denuclearise, have cast doubt on its sincerity in peace talks.

The recent reports, based on US intelligence leaks, suggest the country is still upgrading its nuclear enrichment sites, among other activities. So what's actually going on?

What are the allegations?

Here's what has been reported across US media:

North Korea's only official nuclear enrichment site at Yongbyon is being upgraded.

The country is stepping up enrichment at two or more secret sites besides Yongbyon.

Pyongyang continues to produce more mobile launch vehicles for its ballistic missiles.

It has also expanded missile production of solid fuel engines which are more mobile and easier to launch.

How reliable are these reports? They are "only" reports but they are deemed accurate by respected North Korea watchers.

The information is based on multiple unnamed sources from the US intelligence community as well as the 38 North study of satellite images of the Yongbyon site.

How serious are they?

"None of that activity is in violation of any agreements made at the Singapore summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un," explains Vipin Narang, MIT professor for political science and specialist on nuclear proliferation.

In the declaration wrapping up that summit, Pyongyang merely agreed to work towards denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula, something it sees as a phased process.

Details of the process still remain to be worked out by the two sides.

"This was never going to be unilateral and immediate," says Mr Narang. "So Kim Jong-un is free to continue operating the existing sites."

Yet the reports that the North is continuing its nuclear activity is still seen as undermining the spirit of the summit and casts doubt on Pyongyang's sincerity to denuclearise.

"The bigger picture here is that North Korea's nuclear programme continues as directed by Kim Jong-un in his speech in January, where he urged the continued production of warheads and ballistic missiles," explains Ankit Panda, editor at The Diplomat magazine.

What is the biggest news?

Solid fuel engines are more mobile and hence a big step for Pyongyang. Together with the mobile launchers, it means that North Korea can fire missiles from sites that can be quickly set up and not be detected ahead of time by South Korea or the US.

Yet the biggest revelation has been the details about North Korea's secret enrichment sites. So far, Pyongyang has only ever admitted to one enrichment site: Yongbyon.

It's been a longstanding suspicion though that there are more, secret sites. An exclusive NBC report based on US intelligence sources confirmed and named one such site and says there is at least one more secret enrichment site.

"You can imagine a North Korean strategy where - without a full disclosure of all their facilities - they can offer to shut down some of the known sites in order to get sanctions relief," explains Mr Narang.

"At the same time they would clandestinely push ahead at the secret sites."

Why is timing important?

The information coming from the US intelligence sources is presumably something they have known for quite some time. Mr Trump is likely to have been briefed about that very information in the run-up to the Singapore summit.

So why is it now being leaked to the media?

"The sheer number of leaks on nuclear activity makes it look like an authorised attempt to get that intel out into the public sphere," says Mr Abrahamian.

Experts believe there are two reasons why the US intelligence community might have chosen to disclose its information at this point in time.

Scenario one would be "to counter the narrative coming from the White House that it's 'mission accomplished' and that North Korea is no longer a nuclear threat," explains Mr Narang.

It may therefore "constrain Trump a bit so he can't claim successes that have not yet be reached", agrees Mr Abrahamian. "It gets the foreign policy community riled up and increases pressure on Trump not to be soft on the [North] Koreans."

The other scenario would be that it's in fact co-ordinated by the Trump administration to generate leverage. By revealing the extent of US intel, Washington can put pressure on North Korea to admit to its secret sites and operations.

"The assumption was always that we would let the North Koreans disclose their own sites and check that against the list the US intelligence community maintains," explains Mr Panda. "Immediately you would have a sense of whether or not the North Koreans are negotiating in good faith.

"Now that we have put out what we know about the covert enrichment sites, we can see if the North Koreans will choose to disclose those or not."

Will the pressure work?

What remains is the bigger question of whether post-Singapore summit, this kind of pressure will really be able to steer Pyongyang into line.

The flurry of recent reports of North Korea's continued nuclear and military efforts suggest the country is intent on maintaining its nuclear and ballistic capabilities and even to continuing to produce them.

"It could be that Pyongyang is calculating that no matter what, China is already off the maximum pressure campaign of sanctions against North Korea. And the US really can't sustain it without China," warns Mr Narang.

"Kim Jong-un might simply say 'I've done what I have to in order to break the maximum pressure campaign' - and I think he might be right."

And in Canada…

'I don't remember any negative interactions,' Trudeau says of 18-year-old groping allegation

2000 newspaper editorial, before political career, accuses him of 'inappropriately handling' female reporter

CBC News/July 1, 2018

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has directly addressed allegations of "groping" a reporter at an event 18 years ago before he was involved in politics, saying he does not recall any "negative interactions" that day.

During a stop in Regina on Sunday, the prime minister was asked about an allegation dating back to 2000, when a 28-year-old Trudeau, then a teacher, was visiting a music festival in Creston, B.C.

The incident is alleged to have taken place at the Kokanee Summit, where money was being raised for the Avalanche Foundation, a charity Trudeau became involved with after his brother, Michel, died in an avalanche in 1998.

An unsigned editorial appeared in the Creston Valley Advance after the event accusing Trudeau of "groping" and "inappropriately handling" a young female reporter while she was on assignment. It suggests the woman felt "blatantly disrespected" but provides no other details about what occurred.

"I remember that day in Creston well," Trudeau told reporters Sunday. "I had a good day that day; I don't remember any negative interactions that day at all."

The prime minister made the comments while visiting supporters and steel workers in Regina as part of a three-city Canada Day tour.

Colleagues recall woman's account

Earlier this year, CBC News spoke by phone and emailed with the woman who was the subject of the editorial. She said she was not interested in being associated with any further coverage of the story. She also asked that her name not be used and that she not be contacted about the story again.

A former co-worker remembers the reporter's account of the encounter. Valerie Bourne was the publisher of the Creston Valley Advance at the time and says the reporter was "distressed" by her contact with Trudeau.

"My recollections of the conversation were that she came to me because she was unsettled by it. She didn't like what had happened. She wasn't sure how she should proceed with it because of course we're talking somebody who was known to the Canadian community."

Bourne told CBC News that the reporter was interviewing Trudeau when he touched her. "It was a brief touch," said Bourne.

"I would not classify it or qualify it as sexual assault."

The paper's editor at the time, Brian Bell, also spoke to CBC News.

"I don't recall that the reporter was coming across as having been traumatized or distraught about it, but definitely that, whatever physical touch or whatever had occurred in that moment was definitely not welcome and definitely inappropriate.

"I certainly believe that it happened, this reporter was of a high character in my opinion and was professional in the way she conducted herself and there's no question in my mind that what was alluded to, written about in that editorial, did happen."

Bourne believes the editorial was written by the reporter herself. Both Bourne and Bell say they did not write the editorial and that it must have been one of the two reporters on staff. The second reporter, Paul Frey, told The National Post that he didn't know anything about it.

'I've been very, very careful all my life'

The editorial suggested that the day after the incident Trudeau offered an apology of sorts: "I'm sorry," he is quoted as saying. "If I had known you were reporting for a national paper I never would have been so forward."

The account stands in contrast to Trudeau's own comments about his past. In an interview with CBC Radio's The House in January, host Chris Hall asked Trudeau about the topic of sexual assault and sexual harassment. Specifically, Hall asked if there was a chance that at some point some of Trudeau's own actions might have been misconstrued.

"I don't think so," Trudeau responded. "I've been very, very careful all my life to be thoughtful, to be respectful of people's space and people's headspace as well," Trudeau said in the interview.

That interview came as Trudeau was dealing with allegations of harassment by one of his ministers. He was asked if he held himself to the same standard he holds his own caucus members to.

"There is no context in which someone doesn't have responsibility for things they've done in the past."