Diplomatic Briefing

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Archive for North America

Newsline: Sacked US Embassy guards in Cambodia stage protest

Almost three dozen security guards fired by the U.S. Embassy in Cambodia for allegedly sharing pornography on smartphones they used for work held a protest Tuesday demanding proper compensation from their former employer. The 32 protesting guards said they had been sacked without a full explanation and not according to the law, and placards they held complained of injustice. The protesters acknowledged that some pornographic images had been shared but argued that it had been on a private chat group they had set up on Facebook Messenger and not the official embassy chat group. Reports in Cambodia media had said some images featured people under the age of 18, but one placard declared the allegation unproven. A spokesman for the embassy, David Josar, said it did not comment on internal personnel matters but took the problem of child pornography seriously and also respected the right to peaceful protest. An embassy official accepted a petition from the group. The protesters claimed the phones at issue were their own property, not the embassy’s. They also accused the embassy of violating their rights by searching their phones. The guards said their terms of employment at the embassy ranged from five to 20 years. They said since they got fired in late March, they have filed several complaints with the embassy, but had not received a satisfactory response. Until the matter was fairly resolved, they said, they would continue to protest.



Newsline: U.S. embassy receives ‘suspicious substance’ meant for ambassador to Canada

Officials at the U.S. embassy in Ottawa say they received an envelope containing a “suspicious substance” that was addressed to the U.S. ambassador to Canada. The envelope was received at an off-site mail screening facility in Ottawa, but the mailing address was the embassy, with Kelly Knight Craft’s name on it. “The substance was tested and found not to be harmful,” the embassy told CityNews. An embassy staff member was exposed to the substance and received precautionary medical attention and is fine. A spokesperson for the embassy wouldn’t provide more details since the incident is under investigation. Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland tweeted about the incident, saying it is a “wholly unacceptable threat” and that Craft “does an essential and difficult job and Canada respects her service.” CTV reports that a death threat against Craft accompanied the substance, along with a threat to U.S. President Donald Trump.


Newsline: Cuba ‘doesn’t know what happened to latest US embassy worker to fall ill’

Cuba said on Sunday that it that has no idea what caused a US diplomat to suffer a mysterious ailment in the country, soon after similar symptoms were experienced by US officials in a Chinese consulate. Similar incidents have ended with US diplomats and their families suffering suspected brain injuries as a result of what some speculate may be a sonic weapon. Following the previous attacks, the US – saying Cuba had a responsibility to protect diplomats – expelled Cuban staff from the Cuban embassy in Washington, and issued a travel warning to US citizens. Sunday’s foreign ministry statement termed those actions politically motivated, pointing out that “after more than a year of investigations by Cuba and the United States … there are no credible hypotheses nor scientific conclusions that justify the actions taken by the US government against Cuba.” Havana said it sent investigators to the home who found no potential source of a sound and were not granted access to the official. US officials said on Friday that they had pulled two workers from Cuba and were testing them for possible brain injury. There was no immediate explanation of why the Cuban statement only referred to one official. The two individuals are considered “potentially new cases” but have not yet been “medically confirmed,” a State Department official said.


Newsline: Trump may discuss opening US embassy in Pyongyang

US President Donald Trump may discuss establishing official diplomatic ties with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and consider opening an American embassy in Pyongyang, a US media website reported, quoting sources. Citing two sources familiar with preparations for the Singapore summit, the Axios news website reported that this was among topics that could be discussed during their talks on Tuesday. “It’s definitely been discussed,” the unnamed source told Axios. “His view is: ‘We can discuss that: It’s on the table. Let’s see.’ Of course we would consider it. There’s almost nothing he’ll take off the table going in.” But nothing has been decided for sure or is necessarily expected to emerge from Mr Trump’s talks with Mr Kim, the Axios report said. The White House has not officially commented on the matter.


Newsline: Recent off-the-cuff remarks by U.S. ambassadors leaves former Foreign Service director calling them ‘bombastic and bullying appointees’

The art and protocols of effective diplomacy are coming under new scrutiny after a series of mostly off-the-cuff remarks by U.S. ambassadors that caused consternation abroad and at home. At least four times in recent months — twice in the past week alone — envoys appointed by President Donald Trump have said things that have made professional diplomats question whether the current crop of political appointees is getting adequate training and understands the norms expected of ambassadors. Over the weekend, the newly appointed ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell was accused of stepping over the line into partisan politics for saying in an interview with Breitbart News that he wants to “empower” conservatives throughout Europe. Last week, David Friedman, the ambassador in Jerusalem, told the Times of Israel that Republicans in the United States, “no question,” support Israel more than Democrats do. His remark provoked outrage among many career diplomats at the State Department who consider it a point of honor to represent the United States, not any political faction. The incidents came after ambassadors elsewhere were chastised for public gaffes. Peter Hoekstra, the ambassador to the Netherlands, was ridiculed by the Dutch media in January after he denied ever asserting there were “no-go zones” in the country’s Muslim enclaves. And last October, Scott Brown, the ambassador to New Zealand, was counseled on the State Department’s standards of conduct after he told women at a celebration in Samoa that they were “beautiful” and could earn “hundreds of dollars” in the hospitality industry. Taken as a whole, the awkward asides suggest Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has his work cut out for him as he seeks to boost sagging morale and wrest control of U.S. diplomacy back from the White House. “We’re sending out ambassadors who openly and almost intentionally are insulting not just host governments but host publics,” said Nancy McEldowney, a former director of the Foreign Service Institute charged with training diplomats and now at Georgetown University. “If this is how Mike Pompeo thinks he’s going to get the State Department’s swagger back, he’s going to find even more departures of career foreign officers who do not want to be party to this kind of bombastic and bullying appointees.”


Newsline: US Embassy warns of ‘imminent attacks’ in Mozambique

The US Embassy in Mozambique has warned of “imminent attacks” against government and commercial centers in a northern province of the southeastern African nation and urged US citizens to leave the area. The warning, issued Friday, applies to the Palma district of Cabo Delgado province, where a string of beheadings reportedly occurred last month. The government envisions the region as being a major industrial center for mining and the development of liquified natural gas. “In light of information pointing to the likelihood of imminent attacks on government and commercial centers in the district headquarters of Palma, Cabo Delgado Province in the coming days, we strongly advise American citizens in the district headquarters of Palma to consider departing the area immediately,” the US Embassy said. “Those who elect to remain in Palma district are strongly advised to avoid travel to the district headquarters and to postpone visits to both government offices and retail locations, including markets.” Americans with planned travel to the district “are strongly advised to postpone such travel,” the embassy said. It urged Americans to avoid the area, monitor local media for updates, be aware of their surroundings and review their security plans. According to the Mozambique News Agency, “unidentified criminals, believed to be Islamic fundamentalists, decapitated ten people” on May 27. The assaults took place “against two villages in the Palma district.” Police said attackers wielding machetes beheaded people, including two teen boys.


Newsline: Car crashes into US Embassy gates in South Korea’s capital

A car crashed into the gate of the U.S. Embassy in Seoul, South Korea. South Korean police told ABC News the driver was not drunk but declined to share further details about the incident. The investigation is ongoing. South Korean news agency Yonhap reported that the driver is a 48-year-old man who allegedly told police he drove into the U.S. Embassy gate because he has “stories related to North Korea” and wants to “seek asylum in the United States.”