Posts Tagged ‘Hua Chunying’

After Trump Hammers China for Oil Sales To North Korea — China Denies any Illicit Oil Products Selling — “Don’t believe those U.S. pictures…”

December 29, 2017

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BEIJING/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – China on Friday denied reports it has been illicitly selling oil products to North Korea, after U.S. President Donald Trump said he was not happy that China had allowed oil to reach the isolated nation.

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Trump said on Twitter the previous day that China had been “caught” allowing oil into North Korea and that would prevent “a friendly solution” to the crisis over North Korea’s nuclear program.

“I have been soft on China because the only thing more important to me than trade is war,” Trump said in a separate interview with The New York Times.

South Korea’s Chosun Ilbo newspaper this week quoted South Korean government sources as saying that U.S. spy satellites had detected Chinese ships transferring oil to North Korean vessels about 30 times since October.

U.S. officials have not confirmed details of this report.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters she had noted recent media reports including suggestions a Chinese vessel was suspected of transporting oil to a North Korean vessel on Oct. 19.

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Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying

“The Chinese side has conducted immediate investigation. In reality, the ship in question has, since August, not docked at a Chinese port and there is no record of it entering or leaving a Chinese port,” Hua said.

She said she was not aware if the vessel had docked at the port in other countries but the relevant media reports “did not accord with facts”.

“China has always implemented U.N. Security Council resolutions pertaining to North Korea in their entirety and fulfils its international obligations. We never allow Chinese companies and citizens to violate the resolutions,” Hua said.

“If, through investigation, it’s confirmed there are violations of the U.N. Security Council resolutions, China will deal with them seriously in accordance with laws and regulations.”

In the New York Times interview, Trump explicitly tied his administration’s trade policy with China to its perceived cooperation in resolving the North Korea nuclear crisis.

“When I campaigned, I was very tough on China in terms of trade. They made — last year, we had a trade deficit with China of $350 billion, minimum. That doesn’t include the theft of intellectual property, O.K., which is another $300 billion,” Trump said, according to a transcript of the interview.

“If they’re helping me with North Korea, I can look at trade a little bit differently, at least for a period of time. And that’s what I’ve been doing. But when oil is going in, I‘m not happy about that.”

An official of the U.S. State Department said the U.S. government was aware of vessels engaged in such activity involving refined petroleum and coal.

“We have evidence that some of the vessels engaged in these activities are owned by companies in several countries, including China,” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The United States says the full cooperation of China, North Korea’s neighbor and main trading partner, is vital to the success of efforts to rein in North Korea, while warning that all options are on the table, including military ones, in dealing with it.

China has repeatedly said it is fully enforcing all resolutions against North Korea, despite suspicion in Washington, Seoul and Tokyo that loopholes still exist.

‘EVADING SANCTIONS’

South Korea said on Friday it had seized a Hong Kong-flagged ship suspected of transferring oil to North Korea in defiance of the sanctions.

A senior South Korean foreign ministry official said the ship, the Lighthouse Winmore, was seized when it arrived at a South Korean port in late November.

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“It’s unclear how much oil the ship had transferred to North Korea for how long and on how many occasions, but it clearly showed North Korea is engaged in evading the sanctions,” the official told Reuters.

South Korea’s customs service concluded that the Lighthouse Winmore had loaded about 14,000 tons of Japanese refined petroleum products in South Korea on Oct. 11, reportedly bound for Taiwan, the official said.

But instead, it transferred as much as 600 tons to the North Korea-flagged Sam Jong 2 on Oct. 19 in international waters between China and the Korean peninsula, on the order of its charterer, Billions Bunker Group Corp., based in Taiwan, the ministry official said.

Image result for Lighthouse Winmore, ship, photos

The United States Treasury Department said that these images show the transfer of refined petroleum between the Lighthouse Winmore and the North Korean ship Rye Song Gang 1

It was not immediately possible to find contact information for the company.

Of the 25 people aboard, 23 were of Chinese nationality and two from Myanmar, according to the customs office.

Employees at the office of Lighthouse Ship Management, the ship’s registered manager, in the Chinese port city of Guangzhou, declined to comment and said they had no knowledge of the situation.

China’s foreign ministry spokeswoman said she did not have any information about the matter.

Both ships were among 10 vessels that the United States had proposed that the U.N. Security Council should blacklist for transporting banned items from North Korea, documents seen by Reuters this month showed.

China and Russia subsequently asked for more time to consider the U.S. proposal.

Ship tracking data in Thomson Reuters Eikon shows that the Lighthouse Winmore has mainly been doing supply runs between China and Taiwan since August.

Prior to that, it was active between India and the United Arab Emirates. In October, when it allegedly transferred petroleum products to the North Korean ship, the Lighthouse Winmore had its tracking transponder switched off.

The Trump administration has led a drive to step up global sanctions on North Korea in response to its efforts to develop nuclear-tipped missiles capable of hitting the United States.

The U.N. Security Council last week unanimously imposed new sanctions on North Korea for a recent intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) test, seeking to further limit its access to refined petroleum products and crude oil.

The U.S.-drafted U.N. resolution seeks to ban nearly 90 percent of refined petroleum exports to North Korea by capping them at 500,000 barrels a year.

It also caps crude oil supplies to North Korea at 4 million barrels a year and commits the Security Council to further cuts if North Korea conducts another nuclear or intercontinental ballistic missile test.

In September, the Security Council put a cap of 2 million barrels a year on refined petroleum products exports to North Korea.

Additional reporting by Hyonhee Shin and Josh Smith in Seoul and Brenda Goh in Shanghai; Writing by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Robert Birsel

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An undated photo of the Lighthouse Winmore, a Hong Kong-flagged vessel suspected of transferring oil to North Korea in violation of United Nations sanctions. Credit Iwan Afwan/MarineTraffic

SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea has seized a Hong Kong-flagged oil tanker accused of transferring 600 tons of refined oil to a North Korean ship in October in violation of United Nations sanctions, South Korean officials said on Friday.

The officials revealed that they had impounded the 11,253-ton Hong Kong tanker, the Lighthouse Winmore, and questioned its crew. The revelation came a day after President Trump accused China of letting fuel oil flow into North Korea through illicit ship-to-ship transfers on international waters.

But there was no immediate evidence of Chinese involvement in the Lighthouse Winmore’s dealings with the North Koreans. The ship was being leased by the Taiwanese company Billions Bunker Group Corporation, South Korean Foreign Ministry officials told reporters on Friday.

The Lighthouse Winmore docked at the South Korean port of Yeosu on Oct. 11 to load refined petroleum from Japan, they said. Four days later, it departed Yeosu, saying it was headed for Taiwan. Instead, it transferred the refined oil to four other ships on international waters, including 600 tons transferred to a North Korean ship on Oct. 19, officials said.

That transfer between the Lighthouse Winmore and the North Korean ship Rye Song Gang 1 was captured in satellite photos released by the United States Treasury Department on Nov. 21, although the department did not release the Lighthouse Winmore’s name at the time.

The Lighthouse Wimore was seized and its crew members questioned by the South Korean authorities when it revisited Yeosu on Nov. 24. It remains in South Korean custody, officials said on Friday.

United Nations sanctions resolutions require nations to inspect and impound any vessel in their ports that was suspected of illegally transporting goods to North Korea.

Word of the seizure emerged after Mr. Trump used a tweet and an interview to accuse China of letting oil flow into North Korea in defiance of United Nations sanctions, warning that there will be no “friendly solution” until this stops.

A petrol station in Pyongyang, North Korea, in July. Washington has called on the United Nations to blacklist 10 ships for circumventing sanctions intended to limit fuel shipments to North Korea. Credit Ed Jones/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Mr. Trump’s accusation came amid deepening suspicions in Washington and among its allies that Chinese oil tankers were secretly transferring petroleum to North Korean ships on the high seas despite United Nations sanctions that prohibit such trade. China insists that there was no sanctions violation.

“Caught RED HANDED — very disappointed that China is allowing oil to go into North Korea,” Mr. Trump wrote in a Twitter post Thursday. “There will never be a friendly solution to the North Korea problem if this continues to happen!”

The United Nations Security Council has ramped up its efforts to squeeze North Korea’s oil supplies after the country conducted its sixth nuclear test on Sept. 3 and followed it with the launching of an intercontinental ballistic missile, or ICBM, on Nov. 29.

The United Nations sanctions resolutions call for capping annual exports of refined petroleum to North Korea at a half-million barrels, an 89 percent cut from previous annual shipments. They also call for freezing crude oil shipments at four million barrels a year, committing the Security Council to further reductions if North Korea conducts another nuclear or ICBM test.

But the impact of sanctions depends largely on how faithfully they are enforced by China, which handles 90 percent of North Korea’s external trade, including nearly all of its oil imports, analysts say. If the reports of ship-to-ship oil transfers are true, it could mean that much more oil is flowing secretly into North Korea than allowed under United Nations sanctions, with or without the Chinese authorities’ knowledge.

Mr. Trump has repeatedly urged President Xi Jinping to use China’s economic leverage to stop North Korea’s nuclear weapons programs. But analysts warn that Beijing is unlikely to push North Korea to the brink of collapse, still cherishing its neighbor as a buffer against the influence of the United States and its closest allies in the region, Japan and South Korea.

In an interview with The New York Times published Thursday night, Mr. Trump explicitly said for the first time that he has “been soft” on China on trade in the hopes that its leaders will pressure North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons program. He hinted that his patience may soon end, signaling his frustration with the reported oil shipments.

“Oil is going into North Korea. That wasn’t my deal!” he exclaimed, raising the possibility of aggressive trade actions against China. “If they don’t help us with North Korea, then I do what I’ve always said I want to do.“

Despite saying that Mr. Xi “treated me better than anybody’s ever been treated in the history of China” when he visited in November, Mr. Trump said Thursday that “they have to help us much more.”

The United States Treasury Department said that these images show the transfer of refined petroleum between the Lighthouse Winmore and the North Korean ship Rye Song Gang 1 in October. Credit U.S. Department of Treasury

“We have a nuclear menace out there, which is no good for China,” he said.

When it blacklisted several Chinese trading companies and North Korean shipping companies and their vessels in November, the United States Treasury Department said that North Korea was “known to employ deceptive shipping practices, including ship-to-ship transfers,” a practice banned under a United Nations sanctions resolution adopted on Sept. 11.

Mr. Trump’s criticism of China came after the South Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo, quoting anonymous sources, reported that American spy satellites have spotted 30 ship-to-ship transfers of oil and other products since October in international waters between North Korea and China.

The report said the “smuggling” took place between North Korean vessels and ships believed to be from China.

In its latest sanctions, adopted on Dec. 22, the Security Council expressed concern that North Korea was “illicitly exporting coal and other prohibited items through deceptive maritime practices and obtaining petroleum illegally through ship-to-ship transfers.”

Washington has called on the Security Council to blacklist 10 ships — including the Lighthouse Winmore — for circumventing sanctions by conducting ship-to-ship transfers of refined petroleum products to North Korean vessels or transporting North Korean coal, Reuters reported, citing United Nations documents. China and Russia subsequently asked for more time to consider the proposal, it said.

The South Korean Foreign Ministry refused to confirm the Chosun report, saying that the matter was being discussed at the Security Council’s sanctions committee.

But Chinese officials disputed the news media reports.

“I would like to know whether the relevant media could specify which ship or ships were involved in the situation?” Hua Chunying, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, said on Wednesday. “What made them conclude that these ships violated the Security Council resolutions? Any solid evidence?”

Ms. Hua insisted that China has been “comprehensively, accurately, faithfully and strictly implementing” the United Nations sanctions.

Ren Guoqiang, a spokesman for the Chinese Defense Ministry, was more categorical in denial: “The situation you have mentioned absolutely does not exist,” he told reporters on Thursday.

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China lashes out at German ambassador over cyber security

December 27, 2017

The Associated Press

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China’s foreign ministry lashed out at the German ambassador on Wednesday after he said Beijing failed to respond to requests to discuss Chinese internet controls foreign companies worry will disrupt business.

Ambassador Michael Clauss told the South China Morning Post newspaper of Hong Kong the two governments agreed in 2016 to set up a group to discuss cyber issues but it “has yet to see the light of day.” He said requests for a “meaningful dialogue” about Chinese curbs on virtual private networks, which are used for encrypted communication and can evade Beijing’s web filters, have “regrettably not yet received a positive response.”

“The remarks by the relevant ambassador are not constructive, and some of them are even wrong,” said a foreign ministry spokeswoman, Hua Chunying, at a regular briefing.

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Hua Chunying, China’s foreign ministry

Hua said Germany had been invited to send delegations for consultation but was reluctant to do so.

“Instead, they accuse China of lacking sincerity for dialogue. It does not make sense,” said Hua. “I hope the German Embassy and the people involved can refrain from unprofessional and irresponsible remarks and do something conducive to development of bilateral relationship and mutually beneficial cooperation.”

It is almost unheard of for the Chinese foreign ministry to criticize a foreign diplomat, but Clauss is unusually forthright in talking publicly about import curbs, internet controls and other sensitive issues.

In June, Clauss called on communist authorities to release a detained bishop of the underground Roman Catholic church. He expressed concern about proposed changes in regulations on worship.

Chinese authorities have banned use of unlicensed VPNs as part of a sweeping crackdown on technology to evade controls aimed at preventing the public from seeing material deemed subversive or obscene.

China has the world’s biggest population of internet users, with some 730 million people online. Estimates of the number of scientists, businesspeople, students and others who rely on VPNs for work and study run into the tens of millions.

Foreign companies use VPNs to communicate securely with their offices abroad and to see news and other websites that are blocked by Chinese web filters.

Companies already cite internet controls as among the biggest obstacles to doing business in China. Some have expressed concern being required to use only government-approved VPNs could weaken their security.

The VPN crackdown coincides with a Cybersecurity Law that took effect on June 1 and tightens control over data. It limits use of foreign security technology and requires companies to store information about Chinese citizens within this country.

Clauss’s comments followed a warning this month by the head of Germany’s domestic intelligence agency that Chinese intelligence was engaged in a “broad-based attempt to infiltrate” its government. The official said Chinese agents used social networks to try to cultivate lawmakers and other officials as sources and targeted more than 10,000 Germans.

In the newspaper interview, Clauss said that issue could have been discussed by the German-Chinese cyber group but it has never met.

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China calls for constructive efforts to ease Korean tensions

December 25, 2017

China called on Monday for all countries to make constructive efforts to ease tension after North Korea said the latest U.N. sanctions against it are an act of war and tantamount to a complete economic blockade.

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FILE PHOTO: A Chinese flag is seen in front of the Friendship bridge over the Yalu River connecting the North Korean town of Sinuiju and Dandong in China’s Liaoning Province on April 1, 2017. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj/File Photo Reuters

BEIJING (Reuters) – China called on Monday for all countries to make constructive efforts to ease tension after North Korea said the latest U.N. sanctions against it are an act of war and tantamount to a complete economic blockade.

The U.N. Security Council unanimously imposed new sanctions on North Korea on Friday for its recent intercontinental ballistic missile test, seeking to limit its access to refined petroleum products and crude oil and its earnings from workers abroad.

The U.S.-drafted resolution also caps crude oil supplies to North Korea at 4 million barrels a year and commits the Council to further reductions if it were to conduct another nuclear test or launch another intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).

North Korea on Sunday rejected the resolution, calling it an act of war.

Speaking in Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said the resolution appropriately strengthened the sanctions but was not designed to affect ordinary people, normal economic exchanges and cooperation, or humanitarian aid.

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 Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying

Hua noted it also called for the use of peaceful means to resolve the issue and that all sides should take steps to reduce tension.

“In the present situation, we call on all countries to exercise restraint and make proactive and constructive efforts to ease the tensions on the peninsula and appropriately resolve the issue,” she told a daily news briefing.

The North’s old allies China and Russia both supported the latest U.N. sanctions.

Tension has been rising over North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs, which it pursues in defiance of years of U.N. Security Council resolutions, with bellicose rhetoric coming from both Pyongyang and the White House.

In November, North Korea demanded a halt to what it called “brutal sanctions”, saying a round imposed after its sixth and most powerful nuclear test on Sept. 3 constituted genocide.

North Korea on Nov. 29 said it successfully tested a new ICBM that put the U.S. mainland within range of its nuclear weapons.

U.S. diplomats have made clear they are seeking a diplomatic solution but proposed the new, tougher sanctions resolution to ratchet up pressure on North Korea’s leader.

China, with which North Korea does some 90 percent of its trade, has repeatedly called for calm and restraint from all sides and for a return to talks.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Robert Birsel)

Beijing defends jailing of Hong Kong activists — Using “so-called democracy” to conduct “illegal violent activities” will not be tolerated

August 18, 2017

AFP

© AFP/File | Joshua Wong and two other young leaders of Hong Kong’s huge Umbrella Movement protests were sentenced to months in jail on Thursday for their role in the 2014 rallies
BEIJING (AFP) – China on Friday rejected international criticism of the jailing of three prominent Hong Kong activists, warning against using “so-called democracy” to conduct “illegal violent activities”.Joshua Wong and two other young leaders of Hong Kong’s huge Umbrella Movement protests were sentenced to months in jail on Thursday for their role in the 2014 rallies.

Supporters and rights group said the ruling by the Court of Appeal was more proof that Beijing is tightening its grip on the semi-autonomous city and that rule of law is being compromised.

“Hong Kong people are fully entitled to rights and freedoms. But no one can use the excuse of so-called democracy and freedom to conduct illegal violent activities,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said.

“I want to reiterate that Hong Kong is a special administration of China… China is firmly opposed to any external forces interfering in Hong Kong affairs,” Hua said at a regular press briefing.

Britain, Hong Kong’s former colonial ruler, said it hoped the sentencing would not discourage “legitimate protest” in future.

US Senator Marco Rubio, chairman of the Congressional Executive Commission on China, described the three as “pro-democracy champions worthy of admiration, not criminals deserving jail time”.

Amnesty International slammed authorities’ pursuit of jail terms as a “vindictive attack on freedom of expression and peaceful assembly”.

Wong, who became the face of the mass protests while still a teenager, as well as Nathan Law and Alex Chow were given terms of six months, eight months and seven months respectively after the court upped their previous non-custodial sentences.

Anyone who receives a jail term of more than three months is barred from running for Hong Kong’s partially directly elected parliament for five years.

Defence lawyers argued the trio had insisted on non-violence including at Civic Square, where there was pushing and shoving between protesters and police.

Hong Kong enjoys freedoms unseen on the mainland after being handed back to China in 1997 under a “one country, two systems” deal, but there are growing fears those rights are disappearing.

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China Warns U.S. Against ‘Trade War’

August 17, 2017

BEIJING — China’s government on Thursday warned “there is no winner in a trade war” after an aide to President Donald Trump called in published comments for a tougher stance toward Beijing.

A foreign ministry spokeswoman, Hua Chunying, appealed for dialogue to preserve stable relations when asked about the comments by Trump’s chief strategist, Steve Bannon.

In comments to The American Prospect posted online, Bannon said the United States is in an “economic war” with China. He recommended pursuing a trade investigation of Beijing’s technology policies and anti-dumping action over Chinese exports of steel and aluminum.

Stephen K. Bannon, President Trump’s chief strategist. Credit Doug Mills/The New York Times

“There is no winner in a trade war,” Hua said at a regular news briefing. “We hope the relevant people can refrain from dealing with a problem in the 21st century with a zero-sum mentality from the 19th or the 20th century.”

Hua appealed for dialogue to “preserve the sound and steady growth of China-U.S. relations.”

On Monday, Trump instructed U.S. trade officials to look into whether to launch a formal investigation into whether Beijing improperly requires foreign companies to hand over technology as a condition of market access.

The Chinese government criticized that as a violation of the spirit of global trade rules. It warned it will take “all appropriate measures” if Chinese companies are hurt.

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

August 15, 2017

AFP

© 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.

China Angered by U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s Remarks

June 6, 2017
U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, left, and U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson listen to Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, right, during a joint press conference in Sydney, Monday, June 5, 2017. In their first joint appearance abroad, Secretary Mattis and Secretary of State Tillerson pledged unity with longtime ally Australia in fighting Islamic extremists who seek to intimidate the West. AP/Rick Rycroft

MANILA, Philippines — US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson irked Beijing in his recent comment that China is using its economic powers to buy its way out of problems.

“China is a significant economic and trading power, and we desire a productive relationship, but we cannot allow China to use its economic power to buy its way out of other problems, whether it’s militarizing islands in the South China Sea or failure to put appropriate pressure on North Korea,” Tillerson said in Sydney.

READ: US accuses China of ‘buying its way out’ of sea row

The Chinese Foreign Ministry, on the other hand, reiterated that China and Southeast Asian countries have been making efforts to jointly uphold peace and stability in the disputed South China Sea.

Beijing also stressed that it has been pushing for the peaceful settlement of the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue.

“We hope relevant parties can fully respect and support regional countries’ efforts to safeguard peace and stability in the South China Sea and play a constructive role in this regard, rather than the opposite,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said on Monday.

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Hua noted that the US and Australia have made remarks on the contested waters.

In a joint statement after the Australia-US Ministerial Consultations in Sydney, Tillerson and Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop called for the demilitarization of disputed features in the South China Sea.

China insisted that the South China Sea issue has returned to the track of solution through negotiation and consultation of concerned parties.

“China and the Philippines have reached consensus on properly addressing the South China Sea issue and have just successfully held the first meeting of the bilateral consultation mechanism on the South China Sea issue,” Hua said.

Hua added that China and ASEAN countries have reached a framework of a code of conduct in the South China Sea.

“China and ASEAN countries are also actively engaged in maritime practical cooperation and follow through on a series of early harvest projects,” the spokesperson said.

http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2017/06/06/1707292/china-hits-tillersons-remarks-evading-south-china-sea-issue

China rejects ‘irresponsible’ US remarks on South China Sea

June 5, 2017

AFP

© AFP | Competing claims to the South China Sea, which is believed to sit atop vast oil and gas deposits, have for decades made it one of Asia’s potential military flashpoints

BEIJING (AFP) – 

China has expressed “firm opposition” to remarks made by US Pentagon chief Jim Mattis during a regional defence summit over the weekend, after he criticised Beijing’s “militarisation” of the South China Sea.

Washington has repeatedly expressed concerns that China’s development of artificial islands in the region poses a threat to freedom of navigation through its waters, a major artery for international trade.

Competing claims to the sea, which is believed to sit atop vast oil and gas deposits, have for decades made it one of Asia’s potential military flashpoints.

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U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis speaks at the 16th IISS Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore June 3, 2017. REUTERS/Edgar Su

“The scope and effect of China’s construction activities in the South China Sea differ from other countries in several key ways,” Mattis noted, saying Beijing’s “militarisation” and “disregard for international law” showed its “contempt” for other nations’ interests.

In a statement late Sunday, Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying called Mattis’s comments “irresponsible” and accused “certain countries outside the region” of making “erroneous remarks driven by ulterior motives”.

“China has indisputable sovereignty over the (Spratly) Islands and their adjacent waters,” Hua said, referring to reefs and islets in the South China Sea where Beijing has built installations that could be used by its military.

China’s behaviour in the South China Sea, which is claimed in part by the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam, has sparked broad concern in the region.

But in May, Beijing and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) took a step towards easing friction over the sea, agreeing to a framework for a “code of conduct” to prevent incidents in the disputed waters.

Tensions over the Spratlys have also quieted down in recent months as new Philippines president Rodrigo Duterte has pursued friendlier relations with Beijing.

China has balked at US involvement in the dispute and last month accused a US warship of trespassing after it sailed near a reef claimed by Beijing.

Hua said China “respects and safeguards all countries’ freedom of navigation and overflight” in the area “but definitely opposes certain country’s show of force in the South China Sea under the pretext of navigation and overflight freedom, challenging and threatening China’s sovereignty and security”.

In addition to Mattis, Japanese defence secretary Tomomi Inada also took the opportunity of the summit to scold China for its “unprovoked, unilateral attempts to alter the status quo” in the East and South China Seas.

Beijing is involved in a simmering territorial row with Tokyo over the disputed Senkaku Islands, claimed by China as the Diaoyus.

“Remarks made by the Japanese side, which confuse right and wrong, are not worth refuting,” Hua said in her statement.

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China Calls for THAAD to Be Removed From South Korea

June 1, 2017

BEIJING — China reiterated on Thursday its call for the U.S. THAAD missile defense system to be removed from South Korea.

Foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying made the remark at a regular press briefing.

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Hua Chunying, China’s foreign ministry.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard, Writing by Michael Martina)

South Korea’s Moon says ‘high possibility’ of conflict with North as missile crisis builds

May 17, 2017

Reuters

South Korean President Moon Jae-in carries a food tray as he has lunch with technical staff of the Presidential Blue House at an employee cafeteria of the Presidential Blue House in Seoul, South Korea May 12, 2017. Yonhap via REUTERS
By Christine Kim | SEOUL

South Korean President Moon Jae-in said on Wednesday there was a “high possibility” of conflict with North Korea, which is pressing ahead with nuclear and missile programs it says it needs to counter U.S. aggression.

The comments came hours after the South, which hosts 28,500 U.S. troops, said it wanted to reopen a channel of dialogue with North Korea as Moon seeks a two-track policy, involving sanctions and dialogue, to try to rein in its neighbor.

North Korea has made no secret of the fact that it is working to develop a nuclear-tipped missile capable of striking the U.S. mainland and has ignored calls to halt its nuclear and missile programs, even from China, its lone major ally.

It conducted its latest ballistic missile launch, in defiance of UN Security Council resolutions, on Sunday which it said was a test of its capability to carry a “large-size heavy nuclear warhead”, drawing Security Council condemnation.

“The reality is that there is a high possibility of a military conflict at the NLL (Northern Limit Line) and military demarcation line,” Moon was quoted as saying by the presidential Blue House.

He also said the North’s nuclear and missile capabilities seem to have advanced rapidly recently but that the South was ready and capable of striking back should the North attack.

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IRBM launch from North Korea, Sunday, May 14, 2017. Image Credit Rodong Sinmun screen grab

Moon won an election last week campaigning on a more moderate approach towards the North and said after taking office that he wants to pursue dialogue as well as pressure.

But he has said the North must change its attitude of insisting on pressing ahead with its arms development before dialogue is possible.

South Korean Unification Ministry spokesman Lee Duk-haeng told reporters the government’s most basic stance is that communication lines between South and North Korea should reopen.

“The Unification Ministry has considered options on this internally but nothing has been decided yet,” said Lee.

NO WORD YET ON THAAD

Communications were severed by the North last year, Lee said, in the wake of new sanctions following North Korea’s fifth nuclear test and Pyongyang’s decision to shut down a joint industrial zone operated inside the North.

North Korea and the rich, democratic South are technically still at war because their 1950-53 conflict ended in a truce, not a peace treaty. The North defends its weapons programs as necessary to counter U.S. hostility and regularly threatens to destroy the United States.

Moon’s envoy to the United States, South Korean media mogul Hong Seok-hyun, left for Washington on Wednesday. Hong said South Korea had not yet received official word from the United States on whether Seoul should pay for an anti-missile U.S. radar system that has been deployed outside Seoul.

U.S. President Donald Trump has said he wants South Korea to pay for the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-missile system which detected Sunday’s test launch.

China has strongly opposed THAAD, saying it can spy into its territory, and South Korean companies have been hit in China by a nationalist backlash over the deployment.

The United States said on Tuesday it believed it could persuade China to impose new U.N. sanctions on North Korea and warned that Washington would also target and “call out” countries supporting Pyongyang.

Speaking to reporters ahead of a closed-door U.N. Security Council meeting, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley also made clear that Washington would only talk to North Korea once it halted its nuclear program.

FILE PHOTO: North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un watches a military drill marking the 85th anniversary of the establishment of the Korean People’s Army (KPA) in this handout photo by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) made available on April 26, 2017. KCNA/Handout via REUTERS/File Photo

As about Haley’s comments, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said China would work hard at reducing tensions on the Korean peninsula and finding a peaceful resolution.

Trump has called for an immediate halt to North Korea’s missile and nuclear tests and U.S. Disarmament Ambassador Robert Wood said on Tuesday that China’s leverage was key and Beijing could do more.

Trump warned this month that a “major, major conflict” with North Korea was possible, and in a show of force, sent the Carl Vinson aircraft carrier strike group to Korean waters to conduct drills with South Korea and Japan.

The U.S. troop presence in South Korea, a legacy of the Korean War, is primarily to guard against the North Korean threat.

(Additional reporting by Michelle Nichols at the UNITED NATIONS and Ben Blanchard in BEIJING; Editing by Nick Macfie)