May 2, 2017

From Washington, this is VOA news. I'm Jee Abbey Lee reporting.

Just days after reiterating that military options for dealing with North Korea are under consideration, President Donald Trump said he is willing to meet its leader Kim Jong Un.

The potential dramatic shift in the U.S. posture toward the Asian adversary comes as Pyongyang continues to conduct ballistic missile launches.

During an interview with Bloomberg News Monday, Trump said if it would be appropriate for him to meet Kim, he would be honored to do it.

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer faced questions Monday about Trump's comments. Spicer said, "The president understands the threat that North Korea poses and he will do whatever is necessary, under the right circumstances, to protect our country."

The last high-ranking American official to meet a North Korean leader was then-Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. That encounter in Pyongyang in 2000 was with the current leader's father, [Kim Jong Un] Kim Jong Il.

The United States and North Korea have never had diplomatic ties.

Human Rights Watch is accusing Syrian government forces of using deadly nerve gas on four occasions in recent months, including the April 4 chemical attack on Khan Sheikoun that killed nearly 100 people.

In a report issued Monday, the rights group said forces loyal to Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad also carried out gas attacks in December, 2016 and March this year.

The group's executive director, Kenneth Roth, said Damascus's recent use of nerve agents is a deadly escalation and part of a clear pattern.

The report urges the U.N. Security Council to immediately adopt a resolution "calling on all parties to fully cooperate with investigators."

This is VOA news.

U.S. lawmakers had sharply diverging reactions to President Donald Trump's assertion that he would be honored to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. VOA's Senate correspondent Michael Bowman reports.

While senators across the political spectrum would welcome a peaceful solution to the growing threat posed by Pyongyang's nuclear and ballistic missile program, many, including Democrat Mark Warner, were taken aback by President Trump's suggestion of a possible meeting with North Korea's leader.

"I think it's very dangerous when the president of the United States, whether it's tough nut leader of North Korea or the president of the Philippines with his human rights records, blesses these leaders with their dictatorial and anti-human rights attitudes."

Asked whether anything productive could come from a Trump-Kim encounter, Republican John McCain shrugged.

"I doubt it. I think you'd have to have some parameters before such a meeting took place. But I'd be very skeptical."

By contrast, independent Senator Angus King said he would be supportive of some form of dialogue between Washington and Pyongyang.

Michael Bowman, VOA news, the Capitol.

The White House on Sunday defended President Donald Trump's invitation to his Philippine counterpart to visit Washington.

Trump's chief of staff Reince Priebus said the need to fortify an Asian alliance against North Korea's growing military threat outweighed concerns about President Duterte's deadly domestic crackdown on drug trafficking.

U.N. human rights chief Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein on the invitation: "In terms of the invitation to the White House, my hope is that the president of the United States will convey this deep sense of alarm about the apparent shirking of the obligations under the law to subject any alleged violator of the law to the normal process that should be undertaken. So, we will wait to see what comes out of that meeting, but I hope the message will be very clear and firm on this." :U.N. human rights chief Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein.

The Palestinian militant group Hamas has issued a set of new policies that include removing anti-Semitic language in its existing charter, severing ties with the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood and accepting the idea of a Palestinian state in territories seized by Israel in the Six-Day War of 1967.

For more news, log on to voanews.com. I'm Jee Abbey Lee in Washington.

That's the latest world news from VOA.