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News Wrap: Death toll climbs in Russian building explosion

In our Wednesday news wrap, President Trump said he’d like a second meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. U.S. diplomatic talks have stalled, but the president said he and Kim have a “very good relationship.” Also, in western Russia, the death toll from an apartment building collapse in the city of Magnitogorsk has risen to 33. A gas leak is believed to have caused the Monday explosion.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    In the day's other news: President Trump said he's hoping for a second meeting soon with North Korea's leader, Kim Jong-un. On New Year's Day, Kim had said that he, too, would like to meet again this year. He also said that he is still committed to denuclearizing the Koreas. U.S. talks with the North have stalled, but Mr. Trump argued today that good things are happening.

  • Donald Trump:

    We will probably now have another meeting. He would like to meet. I would like to meet. But we have established a very good relationship. We're given no credit for it.

    You know, frankly, if this administration didn't take place, if another administration came in, instead of this administration, namely, Mike and myself and the group around this table, you would be at war right now. You would be having a nice big fat war in Asia.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    The president also defended his decision to withdraw troops from Syria, but suggested he's changed his mind about it happening quickly. Instead, he said it would be — quote — "over a period of time."

    Utah's incoming Republican U.S. senator Mitt Romney spoke out today against Mr. Trump's performance as a moral leader. Romney wrote in The Washington Post that — quote — "The president has not risen to the mantle of the office."

    And he went on: "Presidential leadership and qualities of character is indispensable. And it is in this province where the incumbent's shortfall has been most glaring."

    The president fired back on Twitter, saying — quote — "Would much prefer that Mitt focus on border security and be a team player."

    The United States is pressing Russia to free a former U.S. Marine accused of espionage. Russian authorities arrested Paul Whelan last week, and, today, they allowed the U.S. ambassador to visit him. In Brazil, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that he wants more information.

  • Mike Pompeo:

    We have made clear to the Russians our expectation that we will learn more about the charges, come to understand what it is he's been accused of, and if the detention is not appropriate, we will demand his immediate return.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Whelan received a bad conduct discharge from the Marine Corps 10 years ago. He is now head of security detail — or security program for a U.S.-based auto parts supplier. His brother says that Whelan was in Moscow for a wedding when he was arrested.

    In Russia, the death toll climbed to 33, after an explosion destroyed part of a 10-story apartment building in the Western city of Magnitogorsk. Crews kept digging into a huge mound of rubble today, and found 14 more bodies. Yesterday, they rescued a baby boy still alive despite freezing temperatures. Officials have said Monday's explosion was apparently caused by a gas leak.

    China's President Xi Jinping called today for unification talks with Taiwan. He also warned that independence for Taiwan is — quote — "a dead end." In a Beijing speech, the Chinese leader said reunification must come one way or the other, including military means.

  • Xi Jinping:

    We are willing to try our hardest with the biggest sincerity for the peaceful reunification of the motherland because it serves the best interest of the compatriots across the straits and the whole nation. But we will not rule out the use of force and will reserve all options of necessary measures.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Taiwan's president rejected Xi's call for reunification, but didn't rule out talks. Taiwan split from China after the communists won power on the mainland in 1949. Beijing still considers it a renegade province.

    Japan's aging Emperor Akihito has made his final New Year's appearance, before he abdicates in April. An estimated 150,000 well-wishers gathered outside the Imperial Palace in Tokyo today. Akihito greeted them, as he has every year since assuming the throne in 1989. His eldest son, the current crown prince, will take his place.

    And back in this country, Wall Street started the new year with another bumpy ride. The Dow Jones industrial average finally was up 18 points, after dropping nearly 400 in the opening minutes. It closed at 23346. The Nasdaq rose 30 points, and the S&P 500 edged up three.

    Still to come on the "NewsHour": the president meets with congressional leaders to discuss the ongoing government shutdown; tensions rise on the U.S.-Mexico border as agents fire tear gas at rock-throwing migrants; Brazil's new far-right president takes control, as the U.S. looks to transform its South America strategy; and researchers scramble to understand a mysterious polio-like condition that has spiked among children in the past year.

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