US attempts to communicate with North Korea have included the “New York Channel” – through the North Korean mission at the United Nations.
A US official told Reuters there had been “multiple attempts” to engage with North Korea, but no meaningful contact for more than 12 months, which includes much of Donald Trump’s final year as president.
President Biden has already announced a policy review on North Korea, which is expected to be unveiled in April.
He has called Kim Jong-un a thug and stressed the need for North Korean nuclear disarmament before heavy US and UN economic sanctions can be eased.
Kim Jong-un has continued to emphasize North Korea’s military capability, claiming the development of more accurate long-range missiles, super large warheads, spy satellites and a nuclear-powered submarine.
At the same time the North Korean leader has called on the US to ditch its “hostile policies”.
North Korea’s nuclear ambitions are expected to feature prominently during this week’s visit to Japan and South Korea by Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.
Relations between the US and North Korea plummeted in 2017 when North Korea tested long-range missiles capable of hitting American cities.
Tensions eased as President Trump bet on developing a personal rapport with Kim Jong-un.
However, the much-trumpeted meetings, including summits in Singapore and Vietnam, failed to overcome differences over nuclear disarmament and sanctions. The US rebuffed North Korean demands for the lifting of sanctions in return for only a partial reduction in nuclear capabilities.
North Korea is currently more cut off from the outside world than ever before. Its borders have been closed for over a year to prevent the spread of Covid-19.
Trade with North Korea’s main ally China has dwindled by more than 90% in the last few months.
The White House is seeking to push forward a plan to make anti-slavery activist Harriet Tubman the face of a new $20 bill.
A note featuring Harriet Tubman, who was born a slave in about 1822, was originally due to be unveiled in 2020.
The US Treasury said Harriet Tubman would replace former President Andrew Jackson, a slave owner.
The effort was delayed under former President Donald Trump, who branded it “pure political correctness”.
Now President Joe Biden has revived the project, with White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki telling reporters the Treasury was “exploring ways to speed up” the process.
The move would make Harriet Tubman the first African American to appear on a US banknote, and the first woman for more than 100 years.
Jen Psaki said on January 25: “It’s important that our notes, our money – if people don’t know what a note is – reflect the history and diversity of our country, and Harriet Tubman’s image gracing the new $20 note would certainly reflect that.”
The women last depicted on US notes were former First Lady Martha Washington, on the $1 silver certificate from 1891 to 1896, and Native American Pocahontas, in a group image on the $20 bill from 1865 to 1869.
However, given the complexities of redesigning and producing US banknotes, the bill is not expected to be released any time soon.
In 2019, President Trump’s Treasury Secretary, Steven Mnuchin, said the redesign would be delayed until at least 2026. At the time, he said he was focused on redesigning bills to address counterfeiting issues, not making changes to their imagery.
Donald Trump, an admirer of his populist predecessor Andrew Jackson – whose portrait hung in his office – expressed opposition to the redesign.
While campaigning in 2016, Donald Trump suggested that Harriet Tubman be put on the $2 bill instead.
Born into slavery in about 1822, Harriet Tubman grew up working in the cotton fields in Dorchester County, Maryland. She was the fourth of nine children born to two enslaved parents, Benjamin Ross and Harriet Rit.
As a teenager, Harriet Tubman was hit in the head by an iron weight thrown by an overseer, leaving her severely injured.
She escaped from a slave plantation in 1849, fleeing north to the neighboring state of Pennsylvania.
In the years that followed, Harriet Tubman returned multiple times to Maryland to rescue others, conducting them along the so-called “underground railroad”, a network of safe houses used to spirit slaves from the south to the free states in the north.
Harriet Tubman is estimated to have made some 13 missions to rescue more than 70 enslaved people, including family and friends, using the network.
Later, she became a spy for the Union Army during the Civil War, a prominent supporter of the women’s suffrage movement, and a famous veteran of the struggle for the abolition of slavery.
After the war, Harriet Tubman toured eastern cities giving speeches in support of women’s suffrage, drawing on her experiences in the fight against slavery.
Harriet Tubman died in 1913, aged 91, surrounded by her family.
The Trump administration’s rollout of the Covid-19 vaccine calling it “chaotic” and “very limited”, President Joe Biden’s Chief of Staff Ron Klain has said.
Ron Klain said there was no plan in the federal government for the distribution of vaccines across the United States.
President Joe Biden, who took office on January 20, has promised 100 million vaccine shots in his first 100 days.
The US has now reported more than 25 million Covid-19 cases.
About 417,500 deaths have been linked to the new coronavirus. In recent weeks, the daily number of Covid-linked deaths in the US has, on some days, exceeded 4,000.
President Biden signed a raft of new measures last week, including boosting vaccinations and testing. He has urged Americans to wear masks and warned that the death toll could get much worse.
His efforts follow widespread criticism of the Trump administration’s handling of the pandemic and of the vaccination program.
Vaccines have been distributed to states, and states and cities are carrying out the inoculations. But some have complained they are struggling with supply.
According to the CDC, about 41 million doses had been distributed by January 23 across the country, but only 20.5 million had been administered.
Speaking to NBC News, Ron Klain said: “The process to distribute the vaccine, particularly outside of nursing homes and hospitals out into the community as a whole, did not really exist when we came into the White House.”
He said it was a “complex” process but that the Biden administration would set up federal vaccination sites to help states without enough places.
Covid- 19 infections have spiraled in recent months – with a jump in new infections after Thanksgiving and Christmas, according to the Covid Tracking Project.
Hospital numbers hit their highest levels during the pandemic earlier this month but are slowly starting to drop alongside daily cases.
Dr. Anthony Fauci said on January 21 that rolling average data appeared to show infections leveling off.
Although the national picture has stabilized slightly, he warned the country remained in a “very serious situation”.
The CDC is particularly concerned that new variants could accelerate the virus spread.
The strain has been detected in 20 states, Dr. Fauci said January 21, but warned the country had “limited ability” to track its spread through the population.
President Biden has already enacted a raft of executive measures to combat the virus and he wants Congress to pass a $1.9tn package of economic relief funding.
He is hoping to get bipartisan approval for his broad stimulus agenda, but the proposal has already been met with skepticism and resistance by some Republicans.
Another one of the new president’s key promises is to oversee 100 million vaccinations in his first 100 days in office, but some have criticized this policy as not ambitious enough.
The current approved suppliers – Moderna and Pfizer – have pledged to deliver 200 million doses by March. Dr. Fauci has also suggested emergency approval of a third vaccine, a single-dose jab by Johnson & Johnson, could be just weeks away.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, who was appointed chief medical adviser by the new president, has expressed hope that if 70-85% of the US population is vaccinated by the end of summer, the country could “approach a degree of normality” by autumn.
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