Trump: Talks Regarding June 12 Summit ‘Going Very, Very Well’
Talks regarding the planned June 12 U.S.-North Korea summit in Singapore are still on track and members of the U.S. administration are working to iron out the details, President Donald Trump told reporters in the Oval Office on Saturday evening.
The talks “are going very, very well,” Trump said.
“I think people want to see if we can get the meeting and get something done. We got that done and we can be successful in the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, that would be a great thing for North Korea, it would be a great thing for South Korea, it would be great for Japan, it would be great for the world, it would be great for the United States, it would be great for China. A lot of people are working on it. It’s moving along very nicely,” Trump said.
North, South leaders meet
In North Korea, state media reported Saturday night that it’s North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s “fixed will” that a summit with the U.S. president in Singapore should go ahead.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in met Saturday afternoon with the North Korean leader near the two Koreas’ heavily militarized border.
The leaders exchanged views on how to prepare for the North’s possible summit with Trump, the South Korean presidential office said.
After the meeting, South Korea’s President Moon was upbeat.
“It was like an ordinary encounter between friends,” he said of his Saturday meeting with Kim Jong Un.
Moon said the North Korean leader remains committed to denuclearization.
“What’s uncertain for Kim is not his intention to denuclearize, but the U.S. stance in hostile relations with North Korea and whether the U.S. can really secure and guarantee his regime,” Moon said.
Hopes for successful summit
The two leaders reiterated hopes for a successful North Korea-U.S. summit after Trump abruptly canceled a meeting between the two countries planned for June 12 in Singapore. Trump cited hostile comments from top North Korean officials as his reason for scrapping the meeting, as well as concern about the country’s commitment to giving up its nuclear weapons.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said Saturday in a statement, “The White House pre-advance team for Singapore will leave as scheduled in order to prepare should the summit take place.” Politico magazine reported earlier that an advance team of 30 White House and State Department officials were preparing to depart later this weekend.
Kim thanked Moon “for much effort made by him” toward the summit, and said he hoped to improve relations with Washington and “establish mechanism for permanent and durable peace.”
Leaders of North and South Korea also agreed to “meet frequently,” the North’s KCNA agency added.
OPEC, Russia Could Raise Oil Output After US Prodding
Saudi Arabia and Russia are discussing raising OPEC and non-OPEC oil production by about 1 million barrels a day, sources said, weeks after U.S. President Donald Trump complained about artificially high prices.
Riyadh and Moscow are prepared to ease output cuts to calm consumer worries about supply adequacy, their energy ministers said Friday, with Saudi Arabia’s Khalid al-Falih adding that any such move would be gradual so as not to shock the market.
Raising production would ease 17 months of strict supply curbs amid concerns that a price rally has gone too far, with oil hitting its highest since late 2014 at $80.50 a barrel this month.
Trump tweeted last month that OPEC had “artificially” boosted oil prices.
A need to respond
“We were in the meeting in Jeddah, when we read the tweet,” OPEC Secretary General Mohammad Barkindo said, referring to a meeting in Saudi Arabia April 20.
“I think I was prodded by his excellency Khalid Al-Falih that probably there was a need for us to respond. We in OPEC always pride ourselves as friends of the United States,” Barkindo told a panel with the Saudi and Russian energy ministers in St. Petersburg at Russia’s main economic forum.
OPEC officials said by “the need to respond” Barkindo was referring to a tweet he sent the same day, rather than the need to act.
Hitting agreed level
The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and allies led by Russia have agreed to curb output by about 1.8 million barrels per day (bpd) through 2018 to reduce global stocks, but the inventory overhang is now near OPEC’s target.
In April, pact participants cut production by 52 percent more than required, with falling output from crisis-hit Venezuela helping OPEC deliver a bigger reduction than intended.
Sources familiar with the matter said an increase of about 1 million bpd would lower compliance to 100 percent of the agreed level.
Barkindo also said it was not unusual for the United States to put pressure on OPEC as some U.S. energy secretaries had asked the producer group to help lower prices in the past.
Oil prices fell more than 2 percent toward $77 a barrel Friday as Saudi Arabia and Russia said they were ready to ease supply curbs.
Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak said current cuts were in reality 2.7 million bpd because of a drop in Venezuelan production, somewhere around 1 million bpd higher than the initially agreed reductions.
Novak declined to say, however, whether OPEC and Russia would decide to boost output by 1 million bpd at their next meeting in June.
“The moment is coming when we should consider assessing ways to exit the deal very seriously and gradually ease quotas on output cuts,” Novak said in televised comments.
Initial talks are being led by the energy ministers of OPEC kingpin Saudi Arabia and Russia at St. Petersburg this week, along with their counterpart from the United Arab Emirates, which holds the OPEC presidency this year, the sources said. OPEC and non-OPEC ministers meet in Vienna on June 22-23, and the final decision will be taken there.
Compliance at record high
Current discussions are aimed at relaxing record-high compliance with the production cuts, the sources said, in an effort to cool the market after oil hit $80 a barrel.
China has also raised concerns about whether enough oil is being pumped, according to a Saudi statement issued after Energy Minister Falih called China’s energy chief on Friday to discuss cooperation between their countries and to review the oil market.
Nur Bekri, administrator of China’s National Energy Administration, told Falih he hopes Saudi Arabia “can take further substantial actions to guarantee adequate supply” in the crude oil market, the Saudi Energy Ministry statement said.
While Russia and OPEC benefit from higher oil prices, up almost 20 percent since the end of last year, their voluntary output cuts have opened the door to other producers, such as the U.S. shale sector, to ramp up production and gain market share.
The final production number is not set yet as dividing up the extra barrels among deal participants could be tricky, the sources said.
“The talks now are to bring compliance down to the 100 percent level, more for OPEC rather than for non-OPEC,” one source said.
OPEC may decide to raise oil output as soon as June because of worries over Iranian and Venezuelan supply and after Washington raised concerns the oil rally was going too far, OPEC and oil industry sources told Reuters on Tuesday.
However, it is unclear which countries have the capacity to raise output and fill any supply gap other than Gulf oil producers, led by Saudi Arabia, and Russia, the sources said.
“Only a few members have the capability to increase production, so implementation will be complicated,” one OPEC source said.
So far, OPEC had said it saw no need to ease output restrictions despite concerns among consuming nations that the price rally could undermine demand.
The rapid decline in oil inventories and worries about supplies after the U.S. decision to withdraw from the international nuclear deal with Iran, as well as Venezuela’s collapsing output, were behind the change in OPEC’s thinking.
Pakistan Sets General Election in July
Pakistan will hold a general election July 25 and President Mamnoon Hussain has approved the date, electoral officials said Saturday, as the government enters its final week in office.
Pakistan’s government and parliament is to be dissolved May 31, when a new interim prime minister and an interim administration is meant to take over.
However, political wrangling between the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party and the opposition in parliament had delayed the announcement of the new interim premier.
Cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf, or Justice Party, is expected to be the main challenger to the ruling party.
The outgoing government of Shahid Khaqan Abbasi is only the second to complete a five-year term in office, which underscores a democratic transition in the nuclear-armed nation.
The upcoming election is to be held at a time of growing political instability, with the ruling PML-N party accusing the powerful military, which has ruled Pakistan for about half its history since independence in 1947, of interfering in politics and trying to weaken it.
The military denies involvement in politics.
The interim administration usually does not make any major decisions except for supervising elections until a new government is elected, though it may be forced to act to shore up the $300 billion economy amid a worsening macro-economic outlook.
Pakistan’s foreign reserves are rapidly depleting and the current account deficit has widened sharply over the past year, prompting many analysts to speculate Pakistan may need another International Monetary Fund (IMF) bailout.
However, Pakistan is expecting to obtain fresh Chinese loans worth $1-2 billion to help it avert a balance of payments crisis, Pakistani government sources have said.