Former US First Lady Barbara Bush in Failing Health

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WASHINGTON, (KEN BREDEMEIR-VOANEWS).- Barbara Bush, the wife of one U.S. president and the mother of a second, is in failing health and has decided to seek "comfort care" rather than further medical treatment.

The office of her husband, former president George H.W. Bush, said Sunday the 92-year-old former first lady made the decision following a recent series of hospitalizations and after consulting with her family and doctors.

The statement did not specify what she has been treated for recently, but CNN reported she suffers from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and congestive heart failure. In years past she has been hospitalized for Graves' disease, a thyroid condition, and bronchitis, a respiratory ailment.

"It will not surprise those who know her that Barbara Bush has been a rock in the face of her failing health, worrying not for herself - thanks to her abiding faith - but for others," the statement said. "She is surrounded by a family she adores, and appreciates the many kind messages and especially the prayers she is receiving."

President Donald Trump's press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, said in a statement Sunday evening that "the president's and first lady's prayers are with all of the Bush family during this time.'

Barbara Bush, often known for her outspoken remarks and self-deprecating wit, was the U.S. first lady from 1989 to 1993 when her husband was the country's 41st president. He is 93 years old and also has been in failing health in recent years.

Barbara Bush is the mother of former President George W. Bush, the country's 43rd president and former Florida governor Jeb Bush.

She is one of only two first ladies who was also the mother of a president. The other was Abigail Adams, wife of John Adams, the nation's second president, and mother of John Quincy Adams, the sixth president.

The Bushes married on Jan. 6, 1945. They had six children and have been married longer than any presidential couple in U.S. history.

While in the public eye, Barbara Bush was always a fierce advocate of her husband and children. As recently as 2016, she campaigned for her son Jeb, who was seeking the presidency of the United States.

As first lady, she made her main focus literacy and became involved in a number of reading organizations. She established the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy decades ago, promoting reading skills across America, particularly for young children.

She's known for her white hair and triple-strand fake pearl necklace.

Her brown hair began to gray in the 1950s, while her 3-year-old daughter Pauline, known to her family as Robin, underwent treatment for leukemia and eventually died in October 1953. Barbara Bush later said dyed hair didn't look good on her and credited the eventual all-white color to the public's perception of her as "everybody's grandmother.''

Her pearls sparked a national fashion trend when she wore them to her husband's inauguration in 1989. The pearls became synonymous with Bush, who later said she selected them to hide the wrinkles in her neck. The candid admission only bolstered her common sense and down-to-earth public image.

She was also known for her quick temper and sharp tongue.

Barbara Bush kept her sarcasm under wraps in public, though one noted slip came in 1984 when her husband was running for re-election as vice president with President Ronald Reagan. Their Democratic challengers, Walter Mondale and Geraldine Ferraro, questioned whether wealthy people like the Bushes could relate to average Americans. An irritated Barbara Bush told a reporter that Ferraro was a “$4 million — I can’t say it — but it rhymes with rich.” Bush later said she meant “witch” and apologized. Ferraro, the first female vice presidential candidate representing a major U.S. political party, accepted the apology. She died in 2011.

Barbara Bush also came under intense criticism was for her remarks after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans. The Bushes had toured relocation centers in Texas, where a number of victims had relocated. After the visit, the former first lady remarked that many of the poor people she had seen were faring better than before the storm hit.

"What I'm hearing, which is sort of scary, is they all want to stay in Texas," Barbara Bush said in a radio interview. "And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway," she said, "so this is working very well for them."

Barbara Pierce Bush was born June 8, 1925, in Rye, New York. Her father was the publisher of McCall's and Redbook magazines. Along with her memoirs, she is the author of C. Fred's Story and Millie's Book, based on the lives of her dogs.

https://www.voanews.com/a/barbara-bush/4349222.html

US Strike on Syria Sends Mixed Messages to North Korea

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SEOUL, (BRIAN PADDEN-VOANEWS).- The recent U.S. missile strikes against Syria could increase pressure on North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons, or reinforce in Pyongyang the need for nuclear deterrence.

The United States, France and Britain fired 105 missiles at three Syrian chemical weapons facilities on Saturday, in response to an alleged Syrian chemical weapons attack in the city of Douma that killed at least 40 people and wounded or sickened hundreds of others. The Syrian government has repeatedly denied any use of banned weapons.

The combined military strike on Syria comes as the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump and the government of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un are preparing for an expected summit in late May or early June to discuss dismantling the North’s nuclear program in exchange for security guarantees.

Maximum pressure

Trump’s willingness to use force against Syria can be seen to reinforce his “maximum pressure” campaign message, that in addition to imposing tough sanctions banning most North Korean exports, the U.S. would take military action, if necessary, to force Kim to terminate his nuclear program and end the continued development of a nuclear armed intercontinental ballistic missile that can reach the U.S. mainland.

Calling the U.S. attack on Syria “a warning for Pyongyang,” the South Korean newspaper the Korea Joongang Daily, in an editorial on Monday said, “If Kim wants to be free from the fear of a potential raid, then he must be willing to denuclearize.”

From this perspective the U.S. show of force in Syria will increase pressure on the leadership in North Korea to offer meaningful nuclear concessions at the Trump-Kim summit.

“Unless it abandons at least part of its nuclear and missile capabilities then the Trump administration will not be satisfied,” said Bong Young-shik, a political analyst with the Yonsei University Institute for North Korean Studies in Seoul

Nuclear deterrence

However the U.S. military strike on Syria could also reinforce concerns in North Korea that giving up its nuclear deterrent would make the country more vulnerable to a similar attack.

“If it thinks that its regime is not guaranteed, it will keep the nuclear program,” said Kim Hyun-wook, a professor of American studies at the Korea National Diplomatic Academy in Seoul.

North Korea has long justified the need for its nuclear program by pointing to the fate of Moammar Gadhafi in Libya, who was overthrown and killed by U.S. and NATO backed rebel forces, just a few years after he agreed to give up his country’s nuclear weapons.

The U.S. and its allies justified their military action in Libya as a “humanitarian intervention” to prevent government forces from slaughtering the civilian opposition. Without a nuclear deterrent, leaders in Pyongyang worry the U.S. could use a similar humanitarian justification to intervene in North Korea.

“The U.S. can view North Korea as a autocratic state or human rights violator, and then it can always overthrow the Kim Jong Un regime that does not have nuclear program,” said Professor Kim.

From this perspective, the Kim government could use the strike against Syria to emphasize its step-by-step approach to denuclearization to maintain stability, which would include the reduction or removal of U.S. forces in Korea over time as part of the required security guarantees.

Asia reaction

Major U.S. Asian allies Japan, South Korea and Australia voiced strong support for combined military action to punish Syria’s alleged use of chemical weapons and to deter other countries as well.

China, however, objected to the U.S. and its allies taking “unilateral military action” prior to an impartial investigation and without the consent of the U.N. Security Council, where Russia, a close ally of Syria, holds veto power.

Lee Yoon-jee in Seoul contributed to this report.

https://www.voanews.com/a/us-syria-response-could-push-north-korea-to-denuclearization/4349838.html

Tags: The United Sates, Syria North Korea

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TAIPEI, (RALPH JENNINGS-VOANEWS).-Taiwan expects a slow absorption of U.S. military submarine technology due to technical barriers and opposition from its chief rival China, despite Washington’s agreement this month to let American contractors pass on the sensitive information.

In early April, the U.S. Department of State agreed to grant marketing licenses to American defense contractors that offer Taiwan the technology, military officials in Taipei say. Taiwan plans to develop its own conventional submarine.

Washington had prohibited those transfers before because of the information’s sensitivity, military scholars in Taiwan say.

“This is the very first step. Contractors can openly discuss these issues with their contractors in Taiwan,” said Andrew Yang, secretary-general of the Chinese Council of Advanced Policy Studies in Taiwan. “However, we still don't know how much can be approached.”

Obstacles in China

China protested to the United States April 11 over its agreeing to licensing of submarine technology, with a foreign ministry spokesman saying any U.S. effort to “play the Taiwan card” would fail.

American contractors keen to sell technology to Taiwan would risk getting cut off by China if they do business there, too, said Alexander Huang, strategic studies professor at Tamkang University in Taiwan.

“There is a long way to go before that any shape of submarine can be contemplated,” Huang said.

Taiwan and China have been separately ruled since the Chinese civil war of the 1940s, when the Nationalists lost and fled to the island. Beijing insists that the two eventually unify, though opinion polls in Taiwan indicate most Taiwanese oppose unification.

China has a more powerful military than Taiwan's and has not renounced threats to use force if Taiwan declares formal independence. Beijing resents the United States, which has the world’s most powerful armed forces, for helping in Taiwan’s defense.

Last week’s announcement in Beijing of live-fire naval drills in the strait west of Taiwan on April 18 was meant to warn Washington and Taipei, said Yun Sun, East Asia Program senior associate at the Stimson Center think tank in the United States.

China would particularly oppose a senior official’s visit to the island under the Taiwan Travel Act approved in March, Sun said.

U.S. officials could tone down their support for Taiwan’s submarines or ramp it up after those drills, said Huang Kwei-bo, international affairs college vice dean at National Chengchi University in Taipei. Washington values its economic ties with China but backs Taipei as part of a loose alliance of Asian Pacific democracies.

“The drills in the South China Sea and the Taiwan Strait, what’s the impact?” the vice dean asked. “Whether it will make the U.S. think twice or accelerate its help for Taiwan, I don't know, but it will definitely have an impact, whether positive or negative.”

If anyone involved in the submarine technology copies it to China as a spy, he added, Washington might reconsider its level of military aid to Taiwan.

Legal and technical barriers

In early 2016, the Taiwan Ministry of National Defense found local manufacturers to develop a $3.3 billion submarine within eight years. That hardware would join Taiwan’s slow-growing effort to build its own military technology rather than relying on sales from abroad. Today the military operates two aging submarines bought from the Netherlands in the 1980s.

Taiwan is starting from scratch to build its submarine, pointing to a long discussion process with any willing American contractors, Yang said. To get a deal from an American contractor may take more U.S. government support, he said.

The U.S. government periodically sells Taiwan billion-dollar-plus arms packages that include military expertise. It never before included anything as far-reaching or sensitive as submarine technology, they say.

The defense ministry must develop a budget for any technology if negotiations reach that point, ministry spokesman Chen Chung-chi said. He said it had set no timeline for getting the U.S. submarine technology.

It would take time to negotiate with contractors, arrange a budget and wait for possible legislative discussions, he said.

Because the U.S. navy no longer uses the type of diesel-electric submarines that Taiwan hopes to build, a willing American contractor may also need to “find spare parts” for Taiwan, Alexander Huang said. “We still are in the beginning of it, at square one,” he said.

But the ministry spokesman called the U.S. nod to submarine licenses a “breakthrough” with “major significance” that he hopes will inspire more military technology transfers.

https://www.voanews.com/a/taiwan-us-trade-agreement/4349820.html

Tags: The United Sates,

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MOSCOW, (VOANEWS).- Russia said Monday it will not interfere with the work of a fact-finding mission investigating an alleged chemical attack last week near Syria's capital.

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons has sent a team to Syria to probe what happened in Douma, and the watchdog held an emergency meeting Monday in The Hague to discuss the situation.

Britain, France and the United States all say Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's forces were responsible for using chemical weapons in Douma, which Syria and Russia deny. The three Western allies launched coordinated airstrikes Saturday that hit several sites linked to Syria's chemical program.

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said Monday the strikes were "entirely the right thing to do."

"I'm afraid the Syrian war in many ways will go on in its horrible, miserable way. But it was the world saying that we've had enough of the use of chemical weapons," Johnson said.

He spoke as European foreign ministers gathered to discuss the situation in Syria. The EU reiterated its condemnation of the use of chemical weapons on Syria, including the most recent reported attack, and said it supports the work of international chemical weapons investigators.

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini also said there is a clear need to push for relaunching a U.N.-led peace process. She called on Russia and Iran to use their influence as allies of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to "start serious and meaningful discussions under U.N. auspices in Geneva."

Also Monday, the United States is expected to unveil new sanctions against Russia. U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley told CBS News the measures would "go directly to any sort of companies that were dealing with equipment related to Assad and chemical weapons use."

In a separate interview with Fox News, Haley warned Assad that the U.S. would launch new missile strikes against his government if he carries out another chemical weapons attack.

Haley said, "If Assad doesn't get it" after Saturday's barrage of 105 missiles fired by the U.S., Britain and France at three Syrian chemical weapons facilities, "it's going to hurt. There will be more. We can't allow even the smallest use of chemical weapons."

She said that it is "entirely up to Assad" whether the missile attack on Syria was a one-time response to the suspected chemical attack by Syrian forces a week ago that killed more than 40 people or part of a continuing allied military effort.

"We'll see how smart he is," Haley said. "We'll watch his actions. Hopefully he's gotten the message."

https://www.voanews.com/a/russia-says-it-will-not-interfere-with-chemical-weapons-prove-/4349903.html

Tags: The United Sates, Russia Syria

Britain: No Additional Syria Strikes for Now

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Britain's foreign secretary says there are no plans to launch additional military strikes against Syria but his country and its allies will consider further action if Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad uses chemical weapons against his people in the future.

"There is no proposal on the table at the moment for further attacks because so far, thank heavens, the Assad regime have not been so foolish as to launch another chemical weapons attack," Boris Johnson told the BBC.

The U.S., France and Britain launched the strikes early Saturday morning, firing 105 missiles at three Syrian chemical weapons facilities — one in the capital of Damascus and two others near Homs, near the border with northern Lebanon.

U.S. military officials said an initial assessment showed every one of the missiles struck its target, reducing the facilities to rubble while avoiding any civilian casualties.

The action was in response to a recent attack in the town of Douma which killed more than 40 people and sickened hundreds more. The U.S. and its allies accused Assad's forces of using chemical weapons. Syria and Russia denied this.

U.S. defense officials say they have high confidence chlorine gas was used and are still assessing evidence indicating the presence of sarin gas. But late Saturday, senior administration officials called the evidence “incontrovertible.”

The Syrian Foreign Ministry Saturday condemned what it called “the brutal American-British-French aggression… which constitutes a flagrant violation of international law."

Russia also decried the U.S.-led operation as a failure, saying the majority of the rockets fired at Syria were intercepted by the Syrian government's air defense systems.

President Donald Trump called the joint military action "a perfectly executed strike. On Twitter Saturday, he thanked France and Britain for their "wisdom and the power of their fine Military. Could not have had a better results. Mission Accomplished!"