Axios Feb 20
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North Koreans canceled a secret meeting with Pence

Pence in South Korea
President of South Korea Moon Jae-in, his wife Kim Jung-sook, Karen Pence, Mike Pence, above them President of North Korea Kim Yong-nam and Kim Yo-jong, sister of President of North Korea Kim Jong-un during the Opening Ceremony of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games. Photo: Jean Catuffe/Getty Images

During his visit to South Korea, Vice President Mike Pence was scheduled to meet with Kim Yo-jong, the sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, but it was cancelled two hours before it was supposed to happen, the Washington Post reported and the State Department has now confirmed.

“North Korea dangled a meeting in hopes of the Vice President softening his message, which would have ceded the world stage for their propaganda during the Olympics.”
— Nick Ayers, the vice president’s chief of staff

Why it matters: Pence took a far more hardline tone against the North Koreans during his trip to Asia, the Post says, in contrast to "the image of progress being promoted by the South Koreans, who would also have been eager to involve the United States in direct talks with the North."

From State Dept. spokesperson Heather Nauert:

  • "During the Vice President’s recent visit to South Korea to demonstrate allied resolve and support American athletes, the possibility arose of a brief meeting with the North Korean delegation leaders.  The Vice President was ready to take this opportunity to drive home the necessity of North Korea abandoning its illicit ballistic missile and nuclear programs.
  • "At the last minute, DPRK officials decided not to go forward with the meeting.  We regret their failure to seize this opportunity. We will not apologize for American values, for calling attention to human rights abuses, or for mourning a young American’s unjust death.
  • "We will not allow North Korea’s attendance at the Winter Olympics to conceal the true nature of the regime and the need for the world to remain united in the face of its illicit weapons programs.  The maximum pressure campaign deepening North Korea’s diplomatic and economic isolation will continue until North Korea agrees to credible talks on a way forward to a denuclearized Korean peninsula."
Dave Lawler 7 hours ago
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Russia in U.N. protest: Peace and security not linked to human rights

A Russian official during a 2017 Security Council hearing. Photo: EuropaNewswire/Gado/Getty Images

U.N. human rights chief Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein has been blocked from addressing the Security Council about atrocities being committed in Syria following a Russia-led protest backed by China. He will instead give an informal briefing.

  • The dispute: Per the AP, Russia "had argued that human rights have nothing to do with the council's mandate of ensuring international peace and security." Western diplomats countered that they're closely linked.
  • The backdrop: Russia has played an active role in the slaughter of civilians in Syria in its efforts to prop up the Assad regime. Hundreds have been killed in an ongoing offensive on the rebel-held suburb of Eastern Ghouta.
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Palestinian president calls U.S. ambassador "son of a dog"

Abbas speaks in Ramallah. Photo: Issam Rimawi/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas personally attacked U.S. ambassador to Israel David Friedman today, calling him a "son of a dog" during a speech at his Fatah party meeting. The U.S. State Department has condemned his rhetoric as "outrageous and unhelpful."

Why it matters: This is another escalation in Abbas's rhetoric against the U.S. since President Trump's Jerusalem announcement. In another speech two months ago, Abbas went on a personal attack against Trump himself and told him to "go to hell".