While You Were Sleeping: 5 stories you might have missed, June 12

North Korea says sees no improvement in relations to be made by maintaining Kim-Trump ties

North Korea on Friday said it sees no improvement in relations to be made by maintaining a relationship between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and US President Donald Trump, the state news agency KCNA reported.

The US policy proves Washington remains a long-term threat to North Korean people and that the North will build up more reliable force to confront the US military threats, North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Son Gwon said on KCNA.

The Singapore summit in June 2018 represented the first time a sitting American president met with a North Korean leader, but the statement that came out of the meeting was light on specifics, opting instead for four general commitments.

Ri said in retrospect the Trump administration appears to have been focusing on only scoring political points while seeking to isolate and suffocate North Korea, and threatening it with preemptive nuclear strikes and regime change.


US Senate committee unveils $1 trillion defence Bill, targets China

The US Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday unveiled its version of the annual National Defence Authorisation Act, or NDAA, a US$740 billion (S$1.03 trillion) Bill setting policy for the Defense Department on everything from troop salaries and equipment purchases to great power competition with China.

The 2021 Bill also wades into current controversies revolving around racial issues highlighted by protests after Minneapolis police killed George Floyd, an African American.

The proposed NDAA, which is several steps from becoming law, backs renaming bases named after Confederate generals and bars the use of the military against peaceful protests.


Twitter suspends Chinese operation pushing pro-Beijing coronavirus messages

Twitter on Thursday said it was removing hundreds of thousands of accounts tied to a Beijing-backed influence operation that deceptively spread messages favorable to the Chinese government, including about the coronavirus.

The social media company suspended a core network of 23,750 highly active accounts, as well as a larger network of about 150,000 “amplifier” accounts, which it said were used to boost the core accounts’ content.

Twitter, along with researchers who analysed the accounts, said the network had not gained much traction, and instead created an echo chamber of fake accounts.


Britain abandons plan to introduce full border checks with EU on Jan 1

The United Kingdom has abandoned its plan to introduce full border checks with the European Union on Jan 1 as British ministers face pressure from businesses not to increase chaos already caused by the coronavirus outbreak, the Financial Times newspaper reported.

Instead, Britain will introduce a temporary “light-touch regime” at ports such as Dover for incoming EU goods, the newspaper reported, adding that this will happen whether or not there is a Brexit free trade agreement with the EU.

The newspaper said that officials have conceded, however, that goods flowing to the EU from the UK could face full checks as they enter France.


Microsoft joins rivals in barring police use of facial recognition technology

Microsoft on Thursday joined its Big Tech rivals in announcing it would bar law enforcement from using its facial recognition tools in the absence of government regulations.

Microsoft President Brad Smith told a Washington Post event that the company has not sold its technology to police in the United States, and would maintain that policy until there are laws in place “grounded in human rights.”

The comments follow similar moves by Amazon and IBM and come as activists press tech firms to curb deployment of tech tools that may be used to discriminate against minorities.


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