Posts Tagged ‘China’

Pakistan Hopes To Resurrect Railway in Karachi With Chinese Money

August 16, 2017

KARACHI, Pakistan (Reuters) – After many false starts, plans to resurrect a railway in Pakistan’s teeming metropolis of Karachi are moving ahead with the help of Chinese cash. Not everyone is happy.

The Chinese-funded $2 billion project to revive Karachi Circular Railways (KRC), nearly two decades since it was shut down, has been touted as a way to ease pollution and chronic congestion in the port city of 20 million people.

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KCR tracks running through Nipa, Gulshan-e-Iqbal — Credit Mohammad Ali, White Star

It is also viewed with suspicion by Pakistanis who have built homes and businesses along the 43-km route connecting Karachi’s sprawling suburbs with the industrial and commercial areas of the megacity.

In April, a push to remove shanty towns near the rubbish-strewn railway track was met with violence as residents clashed with police and set fire to machinery used for demolishing homes.


A man sleeps on a bench at Cantonment railway station, once a stop on the now disused Karachi Circular Railway line, in Karachi, Pakistan, May 23, 2017.Caren Firouz

Officials say nearly 5,000 houses and 7,650 other encroaching structures have been erected along the route of the old KRC, which closed in 1999 after 29 years of shunting passengers across the sweltering city.

Three-wheel auto-rickshaws and mini-buses – often cramped and with no air conditioning – have filled the transport gap on Karachi’s streets despite grumbling from commuters.

Work on the new KRC is scheduled to begin later this year, with financing from the $57 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project, part of Beijing’s wider Belt and Road initiative to build trade routes from Asia to Europe and Africa.

Beijing’s cash is building motorways and power plants to alleviate Pakistan’s energy shortages, but Karachiites hope it could also modernize their city at a time when traffic appears to be spiraling out of control.

“Let’s hope under CPEC, KCR is revived and people will get an alternate to miserably public transport,” said Manzoor Ahmed Razi, chairman of the Railway Workers Union.

Reporting by Syed Raza Hassan; Writing by Drazen Jorgic, editing by Darren Schuettler and Nick Macfie

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Karachi Circular Railway’s Nipa station

South China Sea: Philippine Foreign Minister Defends Chinese Presence in Philippine Waters — Urges mutual trust with Beijing

August 16, 2017
Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano gestures during a news conference following the conclusion of the 50th ASEAN Foreign Ministers Meeting and Related Meetings Tuesday Aug. 8, 2017 at the Philippine International Convention Center in Manila, Philippines. AP/Bullit Marquez

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines’ top diplomat justified the reported presence of Chinese ships near Pag-asa Island in Palawan, stressing that the country should develop mutual trust with Beijing.

Rep. Gary Alejano of party-list group Magdalo earlier said that China has deployed two frigates, one Coast Guard vessel and two large fishing vessels one to three nautical miles north of Pag-asa Island.

READ: China ships massing near Pag-asa sandbars?

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File photo

Pag-asa, a fifth class municipality in Palawan, is the second biggest island in the Spratly Islands next to the Taiwanese-occupied Itu Aba.

Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said that China should not be regarded as an enemy.

“Why were we not concerned about the US doing freedom of navigation, ang lalaki ng ships nila. You know why? Kasi they’re our allies so if we keep looking at China as the enemy, every time na may movement sila masyado tayong nag-re-react,” Cayetano said.

Cayetano added that the Philippines should instead ask China for an explanation regarding their presence instead of being alarmed.

On the other hand, Alejano called on the Duterte administration to ask China to order their ships away from Pag-asa Island and file a diplomatic protest against China.

“I call on the Philippine government officials to be transparent in what is happening in West Philippine Sea. We must assert our rights in the midst of talks with China,” Alejano said.

The foreign ministers of the member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, under the leadership of Cayetano, earlier released a joint communique emphasizing the importance of self-restraint and non-militarization in the conduct of activities in the South China Sea.

Cayetano, however, admitted that he did not want to initially include “land reclamation” in the statement as Beijing supposedly stopped its land-filling activities in the region.

RELATED: Photos disprove China’s claim of halting land reclamation


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Deepsea Metro I

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Chinese H-6 bomber

 (Is the Philippines just a pawn for China now?)

The ONLY TRULY JOYFUL FACES at the ASEAN conference were provided by North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho, left, and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi.  (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)



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China says it has sovereignty over all the South China Sea north of its “nine dash line.” On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague said this claim by China was not valid. But China chose to ignore international law.

Where did North Korea get its missile technology?

August 16, 2017

A new media report claims North Korea was able to develop its missile system after buying rocket engines on the black market in Ukraine. Kyiv denies the link. In this international mystery, the clues lead to Russia.

Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko visits a rocket plant (picture alliance/dpa/epa/M. Markiv)

Anyone who asks Vitaly Zushtchevski about the allegations being made against his former employer is quickly interrupted. “It is a lie,” said the ex-deputy production manager for engines at Yuzhmash, the former Soviet rocket manufacturer based in the eastern Ukrainian city of Dnipro. According to a New York Times report published on Monday, North Korea’s surprising progress in missile technology may be linked to Yuzhmash.

The engineering plant is in financial difficulty, and this may be the reason why criminals and former employees reportedly smuggled old Soviet engines, or parts of them, into North Korea. The Times referred to a study conducted by Michael Elleman from the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) in London and assessments by US intelligence agencies. The newspaper did not provide evidence, only clues.

Read – German weapons makers profiting from Korea tensions

Aiding a technological leap

Elleman has analyzed North Korean medium-range and intercontinental ballistic missiles of the Hwasong 12 and 14 types, whose extended range holds the potential to hit the United States. He concluded that the surprisingly fast development in the last two years has only been possible with the help of foreign suppliers, meaning countries from the former Soviet Union. Even the German missile expert Robert Schmucker from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) agreed with Elleman’s analysis, although he avoided any explicit accusations.

Experts believe that the one-chamber engine used in the latest Hwasong missiles is reminiscent of the Soviet RD-250 rocket engine, which had two chambers and was developed in the 1960s.

It is difficult to prove whether the RD-250 was also manufactured by Yuzhmash. Vitaly Zushtchevski said that they received these engines from Russia, where they were “produced in low quantities.” Elleman suggested that they were also made in Ukraine. In his IISS study, he wrote that “hundreds, if not more” RD-250 engines have remained in Russia, as well as in Ukraine, adding it is also possible that Moscow is Pyongyang’s supplier.

North Korean rocket (picture alliance/AP Photo)Does North Korea’s Hwasong-14 missile contain old Soviet technology?

“We have never produced the types of engines that are shown in the New York Times article,” said Zushtchevski, who worked at Yuzhmash for almost five decades. The retired engineer confirmed that since the end of the company’s cooperation with Moscow, triggered by the annexation of Crimea, the rocket plant in Dnipro has been “virtually dead.” Smuggling technology into North Korea is unfathomable to him. Kyiv and Yuzhmash officials both denied the Times report. Elleman suspects the government in Kyiv knew nothing about the smuggling.

Read – North Korea: Who would have to go to war with Trump?

Shadow of the past

It is the first time that Yuzhmash, the former manufacturer of the giant Soviet SS-18 intercontinental ballistic missile, has been suspected of violating UN sanctions or any other international treaties. However, Pyongyang has shown its interest in Ukrainian expertise in the past. In 2012, two North Koreans were tried in Ukraine for spying on Yuzhmash.

In 2002, there were press reports claiming that Ukraine wanted to supply Iraq with modern radar systems. Kyiv denied the reports and no radar systems were found in Iraq. But there were cases of verified smuggling. In 2005, the then-prosecutor general of Ukraine admitted in a newspaper interview that a group of Ukrainians and Russians illegally sold 18 cruise missiles to China and Iran in 2001.

Kim Jong-un watches a rocket test (Reuters/KCNA)North Korean rocket technology has made significant strides in recent years

Oleg Uruski, former head of the State Space Agency of Ukraine, finds it improbable that the same could have happened in this case, saying that the state has a multistage monitoring system. However, Uruski did not rule out that the clues point to wrongdoing. “A crime is possible in every sphere,” he said.

Pointing the finger at Moscow

Observers in Kyiv believe that the Times article may be part of a targeted campaign by Russia. In an analysis published on Tuesday, the Center for Army, Conversion and Disarmament Studies (CACDS) in Kyiv wrote that the US publication shows “signs of an information attack on Ukraine.” Among other things, the aim of the article is apparently to divert attention from “their own missile technology shipments to North Korea” and to discredit Ukraine, especially in the eyes of the US.

“Russia shares a border with North Korea, so one can deliver anything, even entire engines,” said Mykhailo Samus, the CACDS deputy director for international affairs. Ukraine, on the other hand, would have logistical problems, he said.

TUM’s Robert Schmucker said that the latest story is about more than just the engines. “What about the missiles? The information itself is of no use; you need production facilities, technical equipment and above all, good quality control,” he said. “A lot more must have come from Ukraine than just a few engines.”

South China Sea: Vietnam Forced To End Oil Drilling Due to China’s Pressure

August 16, 2017
THE drilling ship at the centre of a row between Vietnam and China over oil prospecting in disputed waters in the South China Sea has arrived in waters off the Malaysian port of Labuan, shipping data showed today.

PUBLISHED: 09:50, Mon, Aug 14, 2017 | UPDATED: 10:00, Mon, Aug 14, 2017

A tumultuous history of the South China Sea dispute

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Drilling by the Deepsea Metro I ship was suspended in Vietnam’s Block 136/3 last month after pressure from , which says the concession operated by Spain’s Repsol overlaps the vast majority of the waterway that it claims as its own.

The ship, used by Norway’s Odfjell Drilling Ltd., was reported to be in Labuan at 9.17am (0117 GMT). It was last recorded at the drilling site on July 30.

Odfjell Drilling did not respond immediately to a request for comment.

Xi Jinping, Vietnam flag and Deepsea Metro I shipGETTY/ODFJELL DRILLING

Drilling ship at centre of row between China and Vietnam has arrived at the Malaysian port of Labuan

The row over the drilling inflamed tensions between Vietnam and China, whose claims in the South China Sea are disputed by five Southeast Asian countries.

Repsol said last month that drilling had been suspended after the company spent $27 million on the well. Co-owners of the block are Vietnam’s state oil firm and Mubadala Development Co of the United Arab Emirates.

The block lies inside the U-shaped “nine-dash line” that marks the area that China claims in the sea.

China had urged a halt to the exploration work and a diplomatic source with direct knowledge of the situation said that the decision to suspend drilling was taken after a Vietnamese delegation visited Beijing.


Drilling was suspended after pressure from China

Deepsea Metro I shipODFJELL DRILLING

Deepsea Metro I ship used by Norway’s Odfjell Drilling Ltd

Vietnam has never confirmed that drilling started or that it was suspended, but last month defended its right to explore in the area.

Vietnam has emerged as the most vocal opponent of Chinese claims in the South China Sea, where more than $3 trillion in cargo passes every year, and China was also angered by Vietnam’s stand at a regional meeting last week.Vietnam held out for language that noted concern about island-building and criticised militarisation in South China Sea in the communique from foreign ministers of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN).


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Deepsea Metro I

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Chinese H-6 bomber

 (Is the Philippines just a pawn for China now?)

The ONLY TRULY JOYFUL FACES at the ASEAN conference were provided by North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho, left, and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi.  (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)



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China says it has sovereignty over all the South China Sea north of its “nine dash line.” On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague said this claim by China was not valid. But China chose to ignore international law.

China, India Soldiers Hurl Stones at One Another in Kashmir

August 16, 2017

SRINAGAR, India — Officials say Indian and Chinese soldiers hurled stones at one another during an altercation in the high Himalayas in Indian-controlled Kashmir, escalating the tensions between two nations already engaged in a lengthy border standoff elsewhere.

Police and Indian army officials said Wednesday the Chinese soldiers hurled stones while attempting to enter Ladakh region near Pangong Lake on Tuesday but were confronted by Indian soldiers. They said Indian soldiers retaliated but neither side used guns.

Soldiers from the two countries are already locked in a bitter but non-violent standoff in Doklam, an area disputed between China and India’s ally Bhutan, where New Delhi sent its soldiers in June to stop China from constructing a strategic road.


South China Sea: Vietnam takes up fight against China

August 15, 2017

Updated 11:32 PM ET, Mon August 14, 2017

Gregory B. Poling is director of the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative and a fellow with the Southeast Asia Program at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies. The opinions expressed here are solely his.

(CNN)When it comes to the disputed waters of the South China Sea, Vietnam’s leaders must feel very lonely these days.

Their fellow Southeast Asian claimants have either reversed course after years of escalating tensions with Beijing, or are keeping their heads down and letting Hanoi take up the fight.
In June, the Vietnamese government refused a Chinese demand to halt drilling by a subsidiary of Spanish company Repsol in an oil and gas block on Vanguard Bank—an area of the seabed that, as far as international law is concerned, is undisputedly Vietnam’s.
Now Vietnam could be on the hook to Repsol for hundreds of millions of dollars and it will have a hard time convincing other companies that any of its offshore contracts are a smart bet.
Repsol didn’t respond to a CNN request for comment, and Vietnam’s Foreign Ministry said its oil and gas activities take place in waters entirely within its sovereign rights.

Military bases destroy reefs in S. China Sea
Military bases destroy reefs in S. China Sea 03:29

Deafening silence

How did Vietnam’s neighbors and the international community respond to this act of bullying by China? With deafening silence.
After pushing back against Chinese coercion for years, the Philippines has turned defeatist under the year-old government of President Rodrigo Duterte. Manila now appears eager to trade silence regarding its maritime claims for economic carrots from Beijing.
Malaysia, whose government is embroiled in corruption allegations and is barreling toward political crisis in the next general election, has little appetite for confrontation with China, an important benefactor.
And Indonesia is happy to occupy a middle ground, resisting at the margins when it comes to Chinese fishing encroachments in its waters, but uninterested in taking a more active role in the disputes.
Even Singapore, which remains deeply skeptical of China’s long-term intentions, is keeping its head down after being made a diplomatic punching bag by Beijing for its perceived support of the Philippines’ international arbitration victory last July.

Divisions on display


The divisions within Southeast Asia were on full display during the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Foreign Minister’s Meeting earlier this month.
The Philippines, which hosted the summit, and Cambodia wanted to strip out anything that could irritate China. But Vietnam, smarting from the Vanguard Bank incident and convinced that China’s diplomatic softening over the previous year was just a delaying tactic, argued for stronger language.
Its tactics got it singled out in a China Daily editorial, which slammed Hanoi for “hypocritically trying to insert tough language criticizing China’s island building.”
Late on Sunday, the group reached a compromise that reinserted several points from previous ASEAN statements, including concern over recent land reclamation and militarization.
The comprise language in the communique was weaker that some previous statements, particularly the Sunnylands Declaration signed by ASEAN leaders and President Barack Obama in 2016.
But it was stronger than the group’s last statement, issued by Duterte following the ASEAN Summit in April, and helped avoid a repeat of the group’s 2012 debacle when then-host Cambodia blocked the release of any statement at all.

Modest victory


Still, Vietnam had won a modest victory and received a measure of support, even if grudgingly, from its neighbors. But the victory was short-lived.
The next day, Philippine foreign secretary Alan Peter Cayetano sided with China, telling the press,“I didn’t want to include it. It’s not reflective of the present position. They (China) are not reclaiming land anymore. So why will you put it again this year?”
It was a surprising break for an organization built on consensus. Here was the group’s chair publicly airing disagreements with the supposed consensus and appearing to back an outside power over a fellow ASEAN member.

China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi arrives in Manila on August 5, 2017 to attend the ASEAN meeting, where Vietnam urged other Southeast Asian nations to take a stronger stand against Chinese expansionism in the South China Sea.

One-two punch


The one-two punch of China’s successful coercion over Vanguard Bank and ASEAN’s tattered consensus in Manila has left Hanoi exposed.
That isolation, which has been building for months, helps explain why Defense Minister Ngo Xuan Lich arranged a visit to Washington on the heels of the ASEAN meetings.
Following his meeting with Defense Secretary James Mattis, the Pentagon announced that the two had “agreed to deepen defense cooperation, including by expanding maritime cooperation.” They even confirmed plans for a US aircraft carrier to visit Vietnam in the future—something that would have been unthinkable just a few years ago.
Hanoi remains convinced that China’s new charm offensive in the South China Sea is mostly smoke and mirrors—a conclusion strengthened by its recent experiences—and that sooner or later its neighbors will figure it out too. In the meantime, it will look for support wherever it can find it.


Includes video:


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Deepsea Metro I

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Chinese H-6 bomber

 (Is the Philippines just a pawn for China now?)

The ONLY TRULY JOYFUL FACES at the ASEAN conference were provided by North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho, left, and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi.  (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)



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China says it has sovereignty over all the South China Sea north of its “nine dash line.” On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague said this claim by China was not valid. But China chose to ignore international law.

North Korea Follows Familiar Playbook With Guam Reversal

August 15, 2017

Cycle of tensions is set for another jolt with next week’s U.S.-South Korea military exercises

In this photo distributed on Tuesday by the North Korean government, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is shown visiting his military forces.
In this photo distributed on Tuesday by the North Korean government, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is shown visiting his military forces. PHOTO: KOREA NEWS SERVICE/ASSOCIATED PRESS

Aug. 15, 2017 10:43 a.m. ET

North Korea’s climbdown from its threat to attack Guam was a product of textbook brinkmanship from Pyongyang, amid economic pressure from Beijing, President Donald Trump’s bellicose rhetoric and an effort by senior U.S. officials to emphasize the need for diplomacy.

But concrete progress is less certain. Pyongyang is expert at rapidly escalating and de-escalating tensions, and the next cycle could begin as early as next week, when American forces begin annual joint exercises with South Korea.

North Korea’s turnaround also does little to address the Trump administration’s longer-term challenge: stopping the country’s quest for an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of reliably delivering a nuclear warhead to the U.S. mainland.

An escalation of threats between Washington and Pyongyang has rattled world leaders, injected uncertainty into markets, and sparked fear of a nuclear showdown. The WSJ’s Shelby Holliday takes a look back at the week. Photo: AP

Pyongyang’s exact motivations for dialing down tensions are as opaque and subject to debate as its motivation for having threatened Guam in the first place. In addition to concerns about further escalation, they appear to have been influenced by Beijing’s announcement Monday that it would enforce new trade sanctions and diplomatic statements by senior U.S. officials.

Officials in China, Japan, South Korea and many other nations had been alarmed last week when Mr. Trump threatened to unleash “fire and fury” in response to threats from North Korea, and declared that U.S. military solutions were “locked and loaded.”

In many ways, North Korea’s announcement on Tuesday that it would hold off—for now—on threats to surround Guam with an “enveloping fire” of intermediate-range ballistic missiles follows a familiar pattern in Pyongyang’s playbook.

Beachgoers enjoy Ypao Beach Park in Tamuning, Guam on Tuesday. North Korea threatened an attack near the American territory before backing down this week.
Beachgoers enjoy Ypao Beach Park in Tamuning, Guam on Tuesday. North Korea threatened an attack near the American territory before backing down this week. PHOTO: JUSTIN SULLIVAN/GETTY IMAGES

Two years ago, during another August standoff, North Korea issued a 48-hour ultimatum to South Korea to switch off loudspeakers blaring propaganda critical of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un across the demilitarized zone that separates the two countries, following the explosion of a land mine there that maimed two South Korean soldiers. North Korea threatened to use force to stop the broadcasts.

South Korea ignored the deadline, and days later, North Korea expressed regret for the land mine, dismissed several senior officials and put inter-Korean relations back on what it called a “track of reconciliation and trust.” South Korea shut off its loudspeakers.

In March last year, also during U.S.-South Korea military exercises, Pyongyang threatened to attack Seoul’s presidential palace unless it received an apology from then South Korean President Park Geun-hye. No apology was forthcoming, and the threat never materialized.

North Korea’s threat to Guam was consistent with its record of using strategic brinkmanship to compensate for its relative weakness, said Yang Xiyu, a former Chinese diplomat who has taken part in multilateral talks on North Korea’s nuclear program.

“They try to create a situation where North Korea and the U.S. are at the brink of war and if you want to save the whole world, then you have to return to negotiations,” he said.

The North Korea Crisis

A timeline of the escalating tensions between Washington and Pyongyang

  • July 4, 2017

    North Korea test-launches its first intercontinental ballistic missile, a weapon capable of hitting the mainland U.S.
  • July 28, 2017

    A North Korean missile flies even higher in a new test, establishing that if launched at a standard trajectory it could hit the contiguous U.S. states and possibly go as far as Denver and Chicago.PHOTO: KOREAN CENTRAL NEWS AGENCY/ASSOCIATED PRESS

  • Aug. 5, 2017

    In a show of unanimity, the United Nations Security Council approves new sanctions against North Korea.
  • Aug. 6, 2017

    North Korea calls the sanctions “a frontal attack on our republic and violent infringement on our sovereignty.”
  • Aug. 8, 2017

    President Donald Trump says North Korea will be met with “fire and fury” if it continues threatening the U.S.PHOTO: NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

  • Aug. 9, 2017

    North Korea says it is considering plan to launch four missiles to surround Guam with “enveloping fire.”
  • Aug. 10, 2017

    Mr. Trump ratchets up his rhetoric, saying maybe his threat of fire and fury “wasn’t tough enough.”
  • Aug. 11, 2017

    Mr. Trump tweets that military solutions to the crisis are “in place, locked and loaded.” Separately, Mr. Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping discuss North Korea by phone. China says it urged restraint. The U.S. says the leaders affirmed the importance of the new sanctions.
  • Aug. 12, 2017

    The Trump administration announces plan to investigate alleged Chinese intellectual-property theft.
  • Aug. 14, 2017

    China announces ban on imports of coal, iron and seafood from North Korea.
  • Aug. 15, 2017

    North Korea says it has decided not to carry out missile attack on Guam.PHOTO: JUSTIN SULLIVAN/GETTY IMAGES

Source: Staff and news reports

However, Mr. Yang said Pyongyang’s climbdown this time came faster than expected. He gave some of the credit for North Korea’s apparent reversal to China’s rapid implementation on Monday of new United Nations sanctions banning North Korean exports of goods including coal, iron, lead and seafood.

“The significance is that if China can stop major imports like these, then it can do something further too,” he said.

China has resisted U.S. pressure to take bolder measures, such as cutting oil exports to Pyongyang, fearing that might cause the regime to collapse, trigger a flood of refugees into northeastern China and bring U.S. forces closer to its border.

China almost certainly sent back-channel messages to the North Koreans in the past few days warning them against firing missiles toward Guam, said Dennis Wilder, a former senior China analyst at the Central Intelligence Agency.

“Kim [Jong Un] has to worry that the newly imposed U.N. sanctions will be combined with unannounced unilateral sanctions from Beijing on such commodities as jet and diesel fuel,” Mr. Wilder said.

Beijing also appeared to indicate displeasure with Pyongyang by proceeding with a long-planned visit to China this week by Gen. Joe Dunford, the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, he added.

Gen. Dunford signed an agreement with his Chinese counterpart on Tuesday to formalize and increase the level of communication between the U.S. and Chinese militaries. On Wednesday, Gen. Dunford is due to visit China’s Northern Theater Command, which oversees Chinese forces on the North Korean border, according to Chinese and U.S. military officials.

On a visit to Seoul before arriving in Beijing on Tuesday, Gen. Dunford said the U.S. military was supporting efforts to find a diplomatic solution to the North Korean crisis, even as it prepared other options.

His comments echoed remarks from other senior administration officials, including Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who in recent days have sought to moderate Mr. Trump’s threats toward North Korea.

Some longtime North Korea watchers say that North Korea had likely never intended to launch four missiles toward Guam. The leadership in Pyongyang may also have been encouraged that, while President Trump raised the rhetorical temperature last week, the U.S. refrained from taking any actions that would signal more of a war footing.

North Korea was particularly sensitive about the dispatching of B-1B bombers from the U.S. Air Force base on Guam, the initial stated impetus for the North’s most recent threat, said Euan Graham, director of the international security program at the Lowy Institute for International Policy, an Australian think tank. The U.S. hasn’t conducted any further B-1B flyovers since the threat against Guam.

Mr. Trump’s tough talk could also have spooked the North Koreans into fearing that the regime was truly in danger of unleashing a war against the U.S., said Grant Newsham, a senior research fellow at the Japan Forum for Strategic Studies in Tokyo.

“Maybe North Korea felt that they had pushed it a little too far, at least for now,” said Mr. Newsham, a retired U.S. Marine colonel. “Now you’ve got a president who is certainly a different kind of president, and when Kim starts talking big, Trump says ‘I see you and raise you one.’ ”

But any lull in tensions could prove ephemeral.

“I don’t think they’ve taken the threat off the table,” said Adam Mount, senior fellow with the left-leaning Center for American Progress think tank in Washington.

The North’s statement now appears to tie a Guam launch to the coming military exercises, Mr. Mount said.

Much could depend on whether the U.S. sends major assets, such as aircraft carriers, to participate, or stages lower-key drills.

Ahead of those exercises, Gen. Vincent Brooks, the top American military commander in South Korea, on Monday played down questions about whether the U.S. was planning to deploy more “strategic assets” to the Korean Peninsula. The phrase “strategic assets” typically refers to nuclear weapons, stealth bombers or aircraft carriers—all of which tend to trigger complaints from Pyongyang.


Donald Trump sends tough signal to China on unfair IP, tech practices

August 15, 2017

WASHINGTON – The United States in effect served notice on China on Monday (Aug 14) by opening an investigation into unfair trade practices focused on intellectual property (IP) and advanced technology.

But punitive action is still about a year away, and conclusions may also depend on the outcomes of the current international pressure campaign on North Korea led by the US, but in which China has a key role as the Pyongyang regime’s economic lifeline.

While the US administration has not linked trade issues with progress on North Korea, the President has explicitly linked the two. China insists that any action on trade must conform to World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules, and must not be linked to North Korea, where it says Beijing’s influence is limited.

Mr Trump’s memo directs US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to determine whether to launch an investigation – which in turn could give the President authority to take measures under Section 301 of its Trade Act, against China if it finds that country is damaging American interests by stealing IP or unfairly forcing transfer of technology.

For the US, this has long been a major bone of contention with China. A 2017 report of the US’s IP Commission on “The Theft of American Intellectual Property” estimated that in 2015 “anywhere from US$58 billion to US$118 billion of counterfeit and pirated tangible goods may have entered the United States.”

Yet the US business community is not entirely united, analysts say.

“Some see the potential for retaliation the Chinese could take against their commercial or market access issues wholly unrelated to IP” Amy Celico, a former senior director for China at the USTR and currently head of the China team at the consultancy Albright Stonebridge Group, told The Straits Times.

“But other industries feel they are facing an existential threat to their ability to operate in the Chinese market and they agree that something has to happen, the administration has to stand up to China on unfair trade practices.”

Mr Trump told journalists at a brief event where he signed the memo “Washington will turn a blind eye no longer.”

“I’m directing the United States Trade Representative to examine China’s policies, practices, and actions with regard to the forced transfers of American technology and the theft of American intellectual property.”

“We will stand up to any country that unlawfully forces American companies to transfer their valuable technology as a condition of market access. We will combat the counterfeiting and piracy that destroys American jobs, we will enforce the rules of fair and reciprocal trade that form the foundation of responsible commerce” he said.

Left unsaid was the question of North Korea. The US has been pressing Beijing which accounts for some 90 per cent of North Korea’s trade, to pull the plug on Pyongyang to force the regime to stop its nuclear missile programme.

On August 11 Mr Trump said “We lose hundreds of billions of dollars a year on trade with China. They know how I feel. It’s not going to continue like that but if China helps us, I feel a lot differently toward trade.”

“Certainly it seems the administration is trying to use every possible tool in dealing with this critical issue of North Korea” Ms Celico said in a phone interview.

“The Chinese have come out quite forcefully as they see it as a stick the administration is using to get China to be more aggressive in dealing with North Korea, and they are disavowing any kind of linkage as destabilising for the bilateral relationship.”

“The problem for President Trump is he’s the one who linked these two issues. Looking into launching an investigation rather than launching an investigation, would seem to be responsive to Chinese pressure.”

Ms Yun Sun, a Fellow at the Stimson Centre in Washington, told The Straits Times: “It’s an investigation at this stage, it could take a year.”

“With the Party Congress coming up President Xi Jinping does not want any major instability in foreign affairs. Also, Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump are supposed to visit China to pave the way for President Trump’s visit.”

“I think the Chinese will appear to be angry but I don’t see any substantive retaliation on trade” she said.

China’s debt on a ‘dangerous trajectory’: IMF

August 15, 2017


© AFP | Debt-fuelled investment in infrastructure and real estate has underpinned China’s growth for years but Beijing has launched a crackdown over fears of a potential financial crisis
BEIJING (AFP) – China’s massive debt is on a “dangerous” path, raising the risk of a sharp slowdown in growth, the IMF warned on Tuesday, urging Beijing to speed up structural reforms.The International Monetary Fund, which has repeatedly warned China over its ballooning debt, said in a new report that the world’s second largest economy must turn toward a sustainable growth path.

“International experience suggests that China’s credit growth is on a dangerous trajectory, with increasing risks of a disruptive adjustment and/or a marked growth slowdown,” IMF experts wrote.

While the country’s near-term growth outlook firmed up, it is at the cost of “further large and continuous increases in private and public debt, and thus increasing downside risks in the medium term,” the report said.

The IMF maintained its forecast of 6.7 percent growth for this year, but the report warned that the country’s debt load could soar from around 235 percent of gross domestic product last year to more than 290 percent in 2022.

Debt-fuelled investment in infrastructure and real estate has underpinned China’s growth for years but Beijing has launched a crackdown over fears of a potential financial crisis.

The IMF recommended that Beijing press on with reforms to further boost consumption.

“China has the potential to sustain strong growth over the medium term,” the report said.

“But to do this safely requires accelerating reforms to rebalance towards less credit-intensive growth, while using still-sizeable buffers to smooth the transition.”

China says N.Korea crisis faces ‘turning point’ — Time for a “less bellicose tone”

August 15, 2017


© KCNA VIA KNS/AFP/File | China, which is Pyongyang’s main diplomatic ally, has repeatedly called on the United States and North Korea to tone down their bellicose rhetoric in recent day

BEIJING (AFP) – China said Tuesday that the North Korean nuclear crisis had reached a “turning point” and it was time to enter peace talks.

The comments by foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying came as the verbal sparring between the United States and North Korea took a less bellicose tone on Tuesday.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un said he would hold off on a threatened missile strike near Guam, though he warned the highly provocative move would go ahead in the event of further “reckless actions” by Washington.

Top US officials, meanwhile, said Washington was not interested in regime change in Pyongyang, and South Korean President Moon Jae-In warned that there could be no war without his country’s consent.

“It’s the turning point to make a resolute decision and return to peace talks,” Hua said when asked about Moon’s comments at a regular news briefing.

China, which is Pyongyang’s main diplomatic ally, has repeatedly called on the United States and North Korea to tone down their bellicose rhetoric in recent days.

“We now hope that all the concerned parties, in what they say and what they do, can contribute to extinguishing the fire (of the tense situation), rather than adding fuel to the fire,” Hua said.

Beijing has also pressed for a return of six-nation talks that have been dormant since 2009.

Hua applauded the “positive” article written by US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in the The Wall Street Journal in which they say that America has “no interest” in regime change in Pyongyang.

“We hope the US can translate this positive statement into concrete DPRK-related policies,” Hua said, using the initials of North Korea’s official name. “At the same time, we call on the DPRK to respond” to the positive statement.