Posts Tagged ‘Japan’

U.S. warship stayed on deadly collision course despite warning – container ship captain

June 26, 2017
Reuters

FILE PHOTO: The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald, damaged by colliding with a Philippine-flagged merchant vessel, is towed into the U.S. naval base in Yokosuka, south of Tokyo, Japan June 17, 2017. REUTERS/Toru Hanai/File Photo
By Tim Kelly | TOKYO

A U.S. warship struck by a container vessel in Japanese waters failed to respond to warning signals or take evasive action before a collision that killed seven of its crew, according to a report of the incident by the Philippine cargo ship’s captain.

Multiple U.S. and Japanese investigations are under way into how the guided missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald and the much larger ACX Crystal container ship collided in clear weather south of Tokyo Bay in the early hours of June 17.

In the first detailed account from one of those directly involved, the cargo ship’s captain said the ACX Crystal had signaled with flashing lights after the Fitzgerald “suddenly” steamed on to a course to cross its path.

The container ship steered hard to starboard (right) to avoid the warship, but hit the Fitzgerald 10 minutes later at 1:30 a.m., according to a copy of Captain Ronald Advincula’s report to Japanese ship owner Dainichi Investment Corporation that was seen by Reuters.

The U.S. Navy declined to comment and Reuters was not able to independently verify the account.

The collision tore a gash below the Fitzgerald’s waterline, killing seven sailors in what was the greatest loss of life on a U.S. Navy vessel since the USS Cole was bombed in Yemen’s Aden harbor in 2000.

Those who died were in their berthing compartments, while the Fitzgerald’s commander was injured in his cabin, suggesting that no alarm warning of an imminent collision was sounded.

A spokesman for the U.S. Navy’s Seventh Fleet in Yokosuka, the Fitzgerald’s home port, said he was unable to comment on an ongoing investigation.

The incident has spurred six investigations, including two internal hearings by the U.S. Navy and a probe by the United States Coast Guard (USCG) on behalf of the National Transportation Safety Board. The Japan Transport Safety Board, the JCG and the Philippines government are also conducting separate investigations.

Spokesmen from the Japan Coast Guard (JCG), U.S. Coast Guard and ship owner, Dainichi Invest, also declined to comment. Reuters was not able to contact Advincula, who was no longer in Japan.

The investigations will examine witness testimony and electronic data to determine how a naval destroyer fitted with sophisticated radar could be struck by a vessel more than three times its size.

Another focus of the probes has been the length of time it took the ACX Crystal to report the collision. The JCG says it was first notified at 2:25 a.m., nearly an hour after the accident.

In his report, the ACX Crystal’s captain said there was “confusion” on his ship’s bridge, and that it turned around and returned to the collision site after continuing for 6 nautical miles (11 km).

Shipping data in Thomson Reuters Eikon shows that the ACX Crystal, chartered by Japan’s Nippon Yusen KK (9101.T), made a complete U-turn between 12:58 a.m. and 2:46 a.m.

(Reporting by Tim Kelly; Additional reporting by Nobuhiro Kubo; Editing by Alex Richardson)

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China, U.S. Agree Aim of ‘Complete, Irreversible’ Korean Denuclearisation

June 24, 2017

BEIJING — China and the United States agreed that efforts to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula should be “complete, verifiable and irreversible”, Chinese state media said on Saturday, reporting the results of high level talks in Washington this week.

“Both sides reaffirm that they will strive for the complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula,” a consensus document released by the official Xinhua news agency said.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had said on Thursday that the United States pressed China to ramp up economic and political pressure on North Korea, during his meeting with top Chinese diplomats and defence chiefs.

China’s top diplomat Yang Jiechi and General Fang Fenghui met Tillerson and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis during the talks. Yang later met with U.S. President Donald Trump in the White House, where they also discussed North Korea, Xinhua reported.

Image result for Yang Jiechi, photos, june 2017

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson shakes hands with Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C.

The consensus document also highlighted the need to fully and strictly hold to U.N. Security Council resolutions and push for dialogue and negotiation, which has long been China’s position on the issue.

Military-to-military exchanges should also be upgraded and mechanisms of notification established in order to cut the risks of “judgement errors” between the Chinese and U.S. militaries, the statement also said.

Chinese state media described the talks, the first of their kind with the Trump administration, as an upgrade in dialogue mechanisms between China and the United States, following on from President Xi Jinping’s meeting with Trump in Florida in April.

Xi and Trump are next expected to meet again in Hamburg during the G20 Summit next month.

A day last week’s talks, President Donald Trump said China’s efforts to use its leverage with North Korea had failed, raising fresh doubts about his administration’s strategy for countering the threat from North Korea.

The death of American university student Otto Warmbier earlier this week, after his release from 17 months of imprisonment in Pyongyang, further complicated Trump’s approach to North Korea.

China, North Korea’s main trading partner, has been accused of not fully enforcing existing U.N. sanctions on its neighbour, and has resisted some tougher measures.

Washington has considered further “secondary sanctions” against Chinese banks and other firms doing business with North Korea, which China opposes.

(Reporting by Christian Shepherd; Editing by Simo cameron-Moore)

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USS Fitzgerald did not detect container ship before collision — Freighter was on autopilot

June 23, 2017

U.S. Navy guided missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald arrives at its mother port US Naval Yokosuka Base, Kanagawa

U.S. Navy guided missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald arrives at its mother port US Naval Yokosuka Base, Kanagawa / Getty Images

BY:
June 23, 2017 5:00 am

The deadly collision between a U.S. destroyer and a container ship June 17 took place while the freighter was on autopilot, according to Navy officials.

The Philippines-flagged cargo ship ACX Crystal was under control of a computerized navigation system that was steering and guiding the container vessel, according to officials familiar with preliminary results of an ongoing Navy investigation.

Investigators so far found no evidence the collision was deliberate.

Nevertheless, an accident during computerized navigation raises the possibility the container ship’s computer system could have been hacked and the ship deliberately steered into the USS Fitzgerald, an Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer.

A more likely explanation is that collision was the result of an autopilot malfunction, or the autopilot’s warning signals, used to notify the ship’s operators, were missed.

The destroyer was severely damaged when the protruding undersea bow of the cargo ship struck Fitzgerald on the right side. Seven sailors died as a result and the captain and two others were injured. It was the Navy’s worst accident at sea.

Image may contain: ocean, sky, outdoor and water

The two ships hit about 64 miles off the coast of Japan.

The collision occurred at around 1:30 a.m. local time but was not reported by the freighter’s crew until around 2:25 a.m. Investigators believe the time lag was the result of the crew not realizing they had hit another ship.

Commercial ship autopilot systems normally require someone to input manually the course for the ship travel. The computer program then steers the ship by controlling the steering gear to turn the rudder.

The system also can be synchronized with an electronic chart system to allow the program to follow courses of a voyage plan.

Tracking data broadcast from the Crystal as part of the Automatic Identification System (AIS) shows the ship changed course by 90 degrees to the right and slightly reduced its speed between around 1:32 a.m. and 1:34 a.m. After that time, the data shows the ship turned to the left and resumed a northeastern coarse along its original track line.

Private naval analyst Steffan Watkins said the course data indicates the ship was running on autopilot. “The ACX Crystal  powered out of the deviation it performed at 1:30, which was likely the impact with the USS Fitzgerald, pushing it off course while trying to free itself from being hung on the bow below the waterline,” Watkins told the Free Beacon.

The ship then continued to sail on for another 15 minutes, increasing speed before eventually reducing speed and turning around. “This shows the autopilot was engaged because nobody would power out of an accident with another ship and keep sailing back on course. It’s unthinkable,” he added.

Watkins said the fact that the merchant ship hit something and did not radio the coast guard for almost 30 minutes also indicates no one was on the bridge at the time of the collision.

By 2:00 a.m., the freighter had turned around and headed back to the earlier position, according to the tracking data.

The officials said the Crystal eventually came upon the stricken Fitzgerald.

The Fitzgerald’s AIS data was not available so its track was not reported publicly.

Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson traveled to Japan to oversee the transfer of the fallen sailors.

“There are multiple U.S. and Japanese investigations underway to determine the facts of the collision,” Richardson said in a statement. “Our goal is to learn all we can to prevent future accidents from occurring. This process will unfold as quickly as possible, but it’s important to get this right.”

According to the officials who spoke on condition of anonymity, initial reports on the incident indicate no crew member was manning the controls in the pilot house of the Crystal when it hit the Fitzgerald.

After impact, the freighter’s was not immediately aware that it had collided with anything and continued sailing. The ship’s crew then realized it had been in a collision and sailed back to try to determine what had happened.

Transport safety authorities and coast guard investigators in Japan on Thursday announced the data recorder from the Crystal had been secured, the Associated Press reported. The freighter is currently docked in the port of Yokohama, near Tokyo.

The Navy and Coast Guard are investigating the incident. The Fitzgerald is currently at its home port of Yokosuka naval base. The investigation is expected to be completed in several months.

For the Navy, investigators are trying to determine why the ship’s radar and other sensors did not detect the Crystal in time to take steps to avoid the collision.

The Fitzgerald is equipped with the AN/SPS-64 advanced military navigation radar, and also uses a commercial radar system to enhance the shipping traffic picture of ships in its vicinity.

Navy ships operate radar systems to detect approaching ships or submarines. Lookouts posted on the bridge are responsible for detecting ships that pose a risk of collision.

Additionally, all commercial ships over 300 tons are required under international rules to operate AIS location data. AIS information from Crystal should have been monitored by sailors on the bridge of the Fitzgerald.

The sailors aboard the 505-foot-long Fitzgerald waged what officials said was a heroic battle about the ship to seal off flooding after the collision.

“We were struck by the stories of heroism and sacrifice—by both the sailors on board and their families back home—as they fought the damage to their ship and brought her back to Yokosuka,” Richardson said.

The ship was not in danger of sinking but was listing to one side and was able to remain under its own power.

The bodies of the seven dead sailors were found in sealed off areas of the ship on Sunday after it reached port.

Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin, commander of the U.S. 7th Fleet told reporters the Fitzgerald suffered extensive flooding and damage caused by a large puncture below the waterline on the starboard side underneath the pilot house.

The ship’s commander, Cmdr. Bryce Benson was airlifted by Japanese coast guard helicopter. Two other injured sailors also were evacuated. All appear to have injuries that are not life threatening.

The officials said Benson was in his stateroom at the time of the collision.

The Fitzgerald was commissioned in 1995 and has a crew of some 300 crew members. It has a top speed of 30 knots and is armed with Tomahawk cruise missiles, SM-1 anti-ship and anti-submarine missiles, as well as machine guns and torpedoes.

The Crystal was built in South Korea, is 730 feet long and capable of carrying up to 2,858 shipping containers.

The Crystal is classified as a mid-size container ship part of the Asia Container Express or ACX, an Asian container shipping trade subsidiary of NYK Line, a global shipping division of Japan’s Mitsubishi.

Will Djibouti Become Africa’s Dubai?

June 23, 2017

It’s a weird place, really, says one foreign diplomat of the tiny, strategically located republic on the Horn of Africa that’s made itself a global player with help of Chinese investment without losing its soul

BY JAMES JEFFREY

The South China Morning Post
23 JUN 2017

Nowadays, however, this tiny republic of about 900,000 people on the Horn of Africa has grand plans to establish itself on the global stage. And international powers are increasingly interested in what it has to offer: “an oasis in a bad neighbourhood”, as one foreign ambassador puts it.

Since gaining independence from France, in 1977, Djibouti has carved out a regional role by virtue of its strategic and commercial relevance. At the junction of Africa and the Middle East, and at the confluence of the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden, Djibouti overlooks waters used by 30 per cent of the shipping that passes through the Suez Canal.

Obock, a small town in Djibouti. Picture: James Jeffrey

Chinese investment totalling more than US$12 billion is funding the building of six ports, two airports, a railway and what is being touted as the biggest and most dynamic free-trade zone in Africa. Enthusiastic officials talk of the capital, Djibouti City, becoming an African Dubai.

All aboard for Africa’s heartland – on a train built in China

Overseas powers view Djibouti as some of the most valuable military real estate in the world, necessary to both counter the piracy threatening that key shipping lane and to shore up regional stability. Foreign military personnel already stationed in Djibouti – including those from the United States, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain and Japan – number about 25,000. China’s first overseas military base will house a further 10,000 military personnel.

But beyond the barracks, construction cranes and new flashy hotels, a very different Djibouti survives.

A ferry from the capital sails across the Gulf of Tadjoura to the small town of Obock. Passengers sit on the open deck, above a handful of cars and boxes of cargo crammed in tight, whiling away the two-hour journey by vigorously fanning themselves, sipping Ethiopian coffee freshly brewed over a coal brazier and perching on the forward raised walkways to enjoy the breeze and the views over the water towards the distant Goda Mountains.

A China-funded port under construction in Djibouti. Picture: Alamy

In 1862, the Afar sultans sold their land to the French, and construction of Obock began. But it was soon eclipsed by Djibouti City and little remains to suggest that Obock, with its dusty streets and small fishing industry, was once the country’s capital.

How a Chinese investment boom is changing the face of Djibouti

Come sunset, wooden fishing boats are tied up along the beach a stone’s throw from ramshackle huts on the town’s edge. Beside the ferry pier, lights come on at Obock’s large mosque, as preparations are made for evening prayers.

A further 40km west by minibus, along the surf-pounded shore, Tadjoura nestles in the shadow of the green Goda Mountains. With its palm trees, whitewashed houses and numerous mosques, there’s an Arabian feel to this town, even allowing for the daily queues of people waiting outside bakeries to collect baguettes – a Gallic-inspired scene repeated across the country.

A container terminal in Djibouti. Picture: James Jeffrey

Djibouti’s days as colonial French Somaliland have left a mark in other ways. Along with Somali, Afar and Arabic, French remains one of the main languages. A constant stream of “bonsoirs” greets the visitor during an evening wander amid the colonial-style architecture, orderly avenues and boulevards of Djibouti City’s so-called European quarter and its focal point, Place du 27 Juin 1977, a large square of white­washed buildings and Moorish arcades named for the date of national independence.

Welcome to limbo: Somaliland, country that never was

To the south lies the dustier and more ramshackle African quarter. Here, a heady melting pot bubbles: cafés brew coffee in the traditional Ethiopian style, Yemeni restaurants serve their speciality poisson Yemenite and the haggling in the open-air markets is in rapid-fire Somali.

The streets become livelier still once the sun has set, as people take advantage of a slight easing of the heat to peruse street-side stalls and markets, meet over sweet Somali tea in open-air cafés or ice cream in the giant Place Mahmoud Harbi square, in the lee of the Hamoudi Mosque, or simply find a spot on the street in which to sit and chew the mildly narcotic khat and gossip away the long hot night.

Locals in Tadjoura buying their daily baguettes. Picture: James Jeffrey

Whether this lively blend will withstand modernisation is a concern for some locals, proud of their country’s past and its mixture of traditions.

“My fear is not about cultural change, because we need that as this is an ultra-conservative society,” says an elegant Djiboutian professional in her early 30s, her hair covered in the Muslim style, a cigarette clasped in her slender fingers as the sun dips behind the distant old port. “It is more about the effects on our customs, such as traditional clothing, food and decorations that symbolise our identity.”

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Others are more outspoken, criticising Djibouti’s strategic and economic upswing and lamenting a country run by a business-savvy dictatorship that has reaped profits from its superpower tenants while not doing enough to relieve poverty.

The “African quarter” in Djibouti City. Picture: James Jeffrey

Admittedly, dreams of a Dubai-type future don’t appear to have much relevance for most Djiboutians, 42 per cent of whom live in extreme poverty while up to 60 per cent of the labour force are unemployed. Furthermore, a 2014 US State Department human-rights report cited the authorities’ restrictions on free speech and assembly, their use of excessive force, including torture, as well as the harassment and detention of government critics.

Foreign visitors are unlikely to encounter this side to the country, however. Djibouti is one of the safest destinations in Africa, with the large Western military presence being an influential factor. Even pickpocketing is rare. A greater danger is presented by unscrupulous tour operators overcharging for a trip into the interior to see the country’s otherworldly offerings.

Tiny African nation of Djibouti banks on Chinese tourists

Located 140km southwest of Djibouti City, Lake Abbe has been described as a slice of the moon on the crust of the Earth. Its science-fiction-like landscape is dotted with hundreds of limestone chimneys, some as tall as 50 metres, belching out puffs of steam. Nomads depend on the area’s mineral-rich springs to nourish pasture for their camels and goats. Flamingoes gather on the banks of the lake at dawn.

Men play a traditional Afar game at a beach in Tadjoura. Picture: James Jeffrey

Lake Assal, 100km west of the capital, displays another of Africa’s most spectacular natural phenomena. Encircled by dark, dormant volcanoes, this crater lake 155 metres below sea level is the lowest point on the continent. Its aquamarine water is ringed by a huge salt flat, 60 metres deep in parts and mined for centuries by the Afar nomads, who can still be seen loading up their camels for the long trek inland to Ethiopia’s markets.

Harar: ancient Ethiopian city that reveres ‘magical’ hyenas

Meanwhile, back in the 21st century, ships continue to glide to and from the nation’s ports, where cranes offload containers onto waiting trucks late into the night under arc lights. Lacking a river or extractable minerals, Djibouti’s location has always been its most precious resource, accounting for the armies, mercenaries, smugglers, gun­runners and traders – anyone and everyone concerned with the movement or control of merchandise – it has attracted in the past 150 years.

“It’s a weird place, really,” says a foreign diplomat in neighbouring Ethiopia. “I don’t know why more isn’t reported about it.”

http://www.scmp.com/magazines/post-magazine/travel/article/2099090/will-djibouti-poised-between-timeless-past-and-flashy

Location of Djibouti

EU leaders will take on the issue of globalisation at a Brussels summit — And how to deal with others seeking more protections like france and the U.S.

June 23, 2017

AFP

© AFP / by Alex PIGMAN | EU leaders will take on the issue of globalisation at a Brussels summit

BRUSSELS (AFP) – EU leaders tackle the thorny topic of globalisation at a summit on Friday with deep divisions between proponents of free markets and others seeking more protections, most notably France.

The election of “America First” President Donald Trump has sown confusion in Europe, with free trade advocates asking that the EU take leadership and sign new trade deals with Japan, Mexico and South America.

But French President Emmanuel Macron has warned leaders to prioritise protections for Europeans worried about globalisation or risk a spike in populist sentiment that helped Trump win the presidency and brought on Brexit.

“It’s not a secret that there is not one single view on how globalisation can be better controlled,” a senior EU diplomat said ahead of the summit, on condition of anonymity.

“There are quite a few nuances between those who are more free on trade and those who want to have more controls,” he added.

The most divisive issue is a proposal spearheaded by pro-EU Macron to hand Brussels more powers to control Chinese investments in Europe’s key industries.

“I’m in favour of fair protection… I’m in favour of free trade, not of being naive,” Macron said after a first session of talks on Thursday.

Macron, who beat far-right leader Marine Le Pen in last month’s run-off, is asking that the summit launch measures towards screening investments by China in Europe that have startled some Europeans.

– Anti-dumping defenses –

But according to a draft of the summit conclusions seen by AFP, opponents of Macron’s efforts have so far succeeded in blocking the effort, in effect delaying discussion to an unspecified later date.

Instead, leaders will only ask the European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, to “examine the need” to screen investments from countries outside the EU, with China the main target, the draft said.

Macron’s idea has faced significant opposition from Sweden, Finland and the Czech Republic, as well as European Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstroem, all highly suspicious of French-style meddling in the open market.

“We don’t want to hurt investment,” Malmstroem told a conference organised by Politico on Monday.

Historically, export-driven Germany has steered clear of protectionism, but recently got spooked by the acquisition of leading robot-maker Kuka by Chinese firm Midea, a transaction that caused a stir domestically.

Germany for now has quietly backed Macron in his quest to screen sensitive Chinese investments and will heavily influence the final outcome of the debate.

The summit is less divided on finding ways to set up stronger anti-dumping defenses against China and other countries.

Beijing has faced international condemnation for flooding the world with super cheap steel, solar panels and other products, leaving international rivals on their knees.

EU leaders are expected to urge EU institutions to swiftly implement anti-dumping measures currently under negotiation in Brussels.

by Alex PIGMAN

Chinese General’s Unexplained Early Exit From Vietnam Visit Raises Concern Over Rift

June 22, 2017

Image may contain: ocean, sky, outdoor, water and nature

A Chinese coast guard ship (L) uses a water cannon on a Vietnamese ship in disputed waters in the South China Sea, May 2, 2014.

AFP/Vietnamese Foreign Ministry

A truncated visit this week by a Chinese military officer to neighboring Vietnam has raised eyebrows among foreign affairs analysts who are questioning whether the incident could indicate an about-face in relations between the two communist allies who are embroiled in a territorial dispute.

Chinese General Fan Changlong, who is part of the delegation visiting the capital Hanoi this week, abruptly left Vietnam on Tuesday after a private meeting with Vietnamese defense officials.

Public and private accounts of the incident vary. Chinese and Vietnamese state media report that defense relations are going well and that the parties reached an agreement on personnel training between their defense ministries.

But analysts, citing government sources, said a discussion over disputed territory in the South China Sea, where China is building artificial islands and military infrastructure, may have prompted a row leading to Fan’s early departure, which caused him to skip a cross-border exchange program.

They cited Vietnam’s efforts to form strategic military partnerships with the United States and Japan, and a recent move by Vietnam to allow a foreign company to exploit oil in the Vanguard Bank area of the South China Sea where a Chinese fishing vessel cut a Vietnamese boat’s cable in May 2011, triggering street protests in Hanoi.

Vietnam has long claimed Vanguard Bank is part of its continental shelf, and not part of the disputed territory with China. The two countries, however, have agreed not to explore or exploit oil in disputed areas of the sea.

Le Hong Hiep, a research fellow at the ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute in Singapore and an international relations scholar at Vietnam National University in Ho Chi Minh City, said he could only speculate on the matter since there is no official information about it.

“In the past, Vietnam has been under pressure to maintain its growth rate, so it has had discussions on enhancing oil exploration on the South China Sea,” he said.

“Vietnam’s activities in the South China Sea have touched China’s interests, and as usual, China will find ways to discourage the country from pursing them,” he said.

“It is therefore not difficult to understand if the conflict in the South China Sea is related to the exploitation of marine resources,” he said. “And perhaps this is the reason why Fan Changlong cut short his visit to Vietnam.”

Carl Thayer, a Southeast Asia expert based in Australia who has taught at several defense universities, said it is likely that Fan asked Vietnam to stop the oil exploitation in Vanguard Bank, which indicates that the country has not complied with an agreement with China not to explore and exploit oil reserves in the disputed area.

Le Hong Hiep agreed with Thayer’s assessment and said China wants to put pressure on Vietnam to stop its activities and to comply with the two parties’ agreement so as to not complicate the situation.

This also depends on each side’s interpretation of the agreement, he said.

“Vietnam’s exploration and exploitation of oil on its continental shelf does not complicate the situation, because Vietnam has sovereignty over that region,” Hiep said. “However, China sees it as a disputed area, so actions such as unilateral oil exploration and exploitation may be a complication.”

Possible miliary clash

Thayer, who noted that China is deploying 40 ships and several Y-8GX6 turboprop anti-submarine warfare aircraft to the area, raised the possibility that a military clash between China and Vietnam could occur during the next few days.

Hiep, however, declined to forecast the outcome, but added that if hostilities did occur, they would pose a major challenge to the countries’ bilateral relations, which could have the same or even a greater effect than did the oil rig crisis of May 2014.

In that crisis, China deployed a giant oil-drilling rig in the South China Sea about 120 miles from Vietnam’s coast near islands claimed by both countries and within Hanoi’s 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone set by international law.

The event sparked a bitter bilateral row, with both sides accusing the other of ramming ships patrolling the area.

Thayer also said that Fan’s rumored cancellation of activities in connection with the fourth Vietnam-China friendly border exchange in Lai Chau and Yunnan provinces on June 20-22 would be the “most significant setback in bilateral relations” since the 2014 incident.

“This setback would also be a sign that China is being more assertive in response to Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc’s visits to Washington and Tokyo in order to curtail the development of Vietnam’s defense and security relations with these two countries,” he said.

Phuc and high-raking delegations visited the U.S. in May, and Japan in early June.

“If true, this would be a clumsy and counterproductive act by China,” he said.

Reported by RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Translated by Emily Peyman. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.

http://www.rfa.org/english/news/vietnam/chinese-generals-unexplained-early-exit-from-vietnam-visit-raises-concern-over-rift-06212017162614.html

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FILE photo provided by Filipino fisherman Renato Etac —  A Chinese Coast Guard boat approaches Filipino fishermen near Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea. Scarborough Shoal has always been part of the Philippines, by international law. China says it is happy to control fishing in the South China Sea. Credit: Renato Etac

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For about five years China has been loudly proclaiming “indisputable sovereignty over the South China Sea.” China has said, everything north of the “nine dash line” shown here, essentially, belongs to China.  On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague said China’s “nine dash line” was not recognized under international law.

 

North Korea calls Trump a ‘psychopath’ — Or is he “crazy like a fox”?

June 22, 2017

AFP

© AFP | “South Korea must realise that following psychopath Trump…will only lead to disaster,” an editorial carried by Pyongyang’s official Rodong Sinmun newspaper said

SEOUL (AFP) – North Korea on Thursday called US President Donald Trump a “psychopath” as tensions soar following the death of American student Otto Warmbier, who was evacuated in a coma from North Korean detention last week.

Pyongyang’s official Rodong Sinmun newspaper said the US president was in a “tough situation” at home and claimed he was toying with the idea of a preemptive strike on North Korea to divert attention from a domestic political crisis.

“South Korea must realise that following psychopath Trump…will only lead to disaster,” an editorial carried by the paper said.

A series of atomic tests and missile launches since last year have ratcheted up tensions on the Korean peninsula, and Warmbier’s death has further strained relations between Pyongyang and Washington.

Trump slammed the “brutal regime” in Pyongyang, and said he was determined to “prevent such tragedies from befalling innocent people at the hands of regimes that do not respect the rule of law or basic human decency.”

His language was echoed by South Korean President Moon Jae-In, who said in an interview ahead of a White House visit next week that North Korea bears responsibility for the student’s death.

“I believe we must now have the perception that North Korea is an irrational regime,” Moon told CBS television’s “This Morning.”

Moon, a centre-left politician who was sworn in last month after a landslide election win, favours engagement with the North, rather than the hardline stance taken by his ousted conservative predecessor Park Geun-Hye.

Washington has also stepped up its muscle-flexing in the region, flying two B-1 bombers over the Korean peninsula Tuesday in a planned training mission with Japan and South Korea as its latest show of force.

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China Cancels Military Meeting With Vietnam Over Territorial Dispute in South China Sea after “Heated Words”

June 21, 2017

HONG KONG — State-run newspapers in Vietnam and China reported in recent days that senior military officials from the two countries would hold a fence-mending gathering along a border where their militaries fought a brief but bloody war in 1979.

But Tuesday, the scheduled start of the gathering, came and went without any of the coverage in the state news media that readers in the two countries had expected. The Chinese Defense Ministry later said in a terse statement that it had canceled the event “for reasons related to working arrangements.”

Analysts, citing government sources, said that the Chinese delegation had unexpectedly cut short a trip to Vietnam after tempers flared during a closed-door discussion on disputed territories in the South China Sea.

The cancellation is highly unusual for the two Communist neighbors, and it comes as Beijing continues to build artificial islands in the South China Sea, where the Chinese seek to expand their military influence at a time of uncertainty over President Trump’s policies in the region.

“This was not what the Vietnamese expected from a polite guest,” said Alexander L. Vuving, a Vietnam specialist at the Daniel K. Inouye Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies in Hawaii.

“You can say both sides miscalculated,” he added. But another interpretation is that both countries are “very committed to showing the other their own resolve” on matters of territorial sovereignty.

The dispute happened during a visit to Hanoi this week by Gen. Fan Changlong of China. It was unclear what precisely roiled his meeting with Vietnamese officials, much less whether the general’s actions had been planned.

Analysts said he appeared to have been angry over Vietnam’s recent efforts to promote strategic cooperation with the United States and Japan. Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc recently visited those two countries in quick succession, and the Vietnamese and Japanese coast guards conducted joint drills in the South China Sea last week focused on preventing illegal fishing.

Another reason, analysts said, could be Vietnam’s apparent refusal to abandon oil and gas exploration in areas of the South China Sea that both it and Beijing claim.

Mr. Vuving said a specific source of the dispute may have been the so-called Blue Whale project, a gas-drilling venture in the South China Sea by Vietnam’s state oil company, PetroVietnam, and Exxon Mobil. The companies signed an agreement during a January trip to Hanoi by John Kerry, the secretary of the state at the time.

The drilling site, which is expected to produce gas for power generation by 2023, is close to the disputed Paracel Islands and near the “nine dash line” that shows expansive territorial claims on Chinese maps. Mr. Vuving said that China probably resents that Vietnam has formed a partnership with an American oil company, particularly one whose previous chief executive, Rex W. Tillerson, is Mr. Trump’s secretary of state.

The project appears to set a “very damaging precedent for China’s strategy in the South China Sea,” Mr. Vuving said.

The Chinese and Vietnamese Foreign Ministries did not respond to requests for comment on Wednesday, and an Exxon Mobil spokeswoman in Singapore could not be reached for comment.

Other analysts said that the source of tension may have been Vietnam’s recent decision to resume oil exploration in another disputed part of the South China Sea.

Carl Thayer, a longtime analyst of the Vietnamese military and emeritus professor at the University of New South Wales, said that if General Fan had indeed asked Vietnam to cease oil exploration in that area, Vietnam would have considered the request “inflammatory”; it would have implied Chinese territorial control in the Exclusive Economic Zone off the Vietnamese coast.

“Vietnam’s leaders would have refused this request and responded by reasserting Vietnam’s sovereignty,” Mr. Thayer said in an email to reporters and diplomats.

There were unconfirmed reports on Wednesday that China had recently deployed 40 vessels and several military transport aircraft to the area. Vietnam accused Chinese ships of cutting the cables of one of its seismic survey vessels there in 2011.

Though China is Vietnam’s largest trading partner and a longtime ideological ally, the neighbors have long been at odds over competing claims to rocks, islands and offshore oil and gas blocks in the South China Sea, which Vietnam calls the East Sea.

Tensions came to a head in 2014, when a state-run Chinese company towed an oil rig near the Paracel Islands and within about 120 nautical miles of Vietnam. No one was killed at sea, but a maritime standoff led to anti-China riots near foreign-invested factories in central and southern Vietnam, bringing relations between the countries to their lowest point in years.

Image result for China oil rig, 2014, near vietnam, photos

China’s gigantic oil rig, Haiyangshihou 981

A few days before General Fan’s Hanoi visit, Mr. Vuving said, China moved the same oil rig to a position in the South China Sea that is near the midway point between the Chinese and Vietnamese coasts, apparently seeking to pressure Vietnam to cease oil and gas exploration in disputed waters. Data from myship.com, a website affiliated with the Chinese Transport Ministry, showed that the rig has been about 70 nautical miles south of China and 120 nautical miles northeast of Vietnam over the past week.

The first fence-mending gathering, called the Vietnam-China Border Defense Friendship Exchange Program, took place in 2014 and was intended to promote bilateral trust. The meeting this week was expected to include a drill on fighting cross-border crime.

Xu Liping, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing who specializes in Vietnam and Southeast Asia, said that the countries were expected to disagree over territorial claims in the South China Sea. But they have established frameworks to defuse disagreements through government channels as well as through the two countries’ Communist parties, he added.

In the end, the two countries “will come out and resolve this problem since both want stability,” Mr. Xu said.

Le Hong Hiep, a research fellow at the Iseas Yusof Ishak Institute in Singapore, agreed with that conclusion, but warned that new tensions could emerge in the short term. China appears increasingly eager to stop Vietnam from growing too close to Japan and the United States, he said.

“As Vietnam tries to achieve its economic growth targets, it is planning to exploit more oil from the South China Sea,” Mr. Hiep wrote in an email. “As such, the chance for confrontation at sea may also increase.”

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/21/world/asia/china-vietnam-south-china-sea.html?rref=collection%2Fsectioncollection%2Fasia

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U.S., China meet on North Korea after Trump points to failed Chinese effort

June 21, 2017

Reuters

By David Brunnstrom | WASHINGTON

Top diplomats and defense chiefs from the United States and China began a day of talks in Washington on Wednesday looking for ways to press North Korea to give up its nuclear and missile programs.

The talks come a day after U.S. President Donald Trump said Chinese efforts to persuade North Korea to rein in its weapons programs had failed, ratcheting up the rhetoric after the death of an American student who had been detained by Pyongyang.

Trump’s statement is likely to increase pressure on Beijing at the Diplomatic and Security Dialogue, which pairs U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis with China’s top diplomat, State Councilor Yang Jiechi, and General Fang Fenghui, chief of joint staff of the People’s Liberation Army.

The State Department says Wednesday’s talks would focus on ways to increase pressure on North Korea, but also cover such areas as counter-terrorism and territorial rivalries in the South China Sea.

The U.S. side is expected to press China to cooperate on a further toughening of international sanctions on North Korea. The United States and its allies would like to see an oil embargo and bans on the North Korean airline and guest workers among other moves, steps diplomats say have been resisted by China and Russia.

Trump has had high hopes for greater cooperation from China to exert influence over North Korea, leaning heavily on Chinese President Xi Jinping for his assistance. The two leaders had a high-profile summit in Florida in April and Trump has frequently praised Xi while resisting criticizing Chinese trade practices.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Defense Secretary James Mattis meet with Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi and General Fang Fenghui, chief of the People’s Liberation Army’s Joint Staff Department prior to the U.S.-China Diplomatic and Security Dialogue at the State Department in Washington, U.S., June 21, 2017. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein

“While I greatly appreciate the efforts of President Xi & China to help with North Korea, it has not worked out. At least I know China tried!” Trump wrote on Twitter.

It was unclear whether his remark represented a significant shift in his thinking in the U.S. effort to stop North Korea’s nuclear program and its test-launching of missiles or a hardening in U.S. policy toward China.

China’s Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday that Beijing had made “unremitting efforts” to resolve tensions on the Korean peninsula, not as a result of external pressure but because China was a responsible member of the international community and resolving nuclear issue was in its own interests.

On Tuesday, a U.S. official said U.S. spy satellites had detected movements recently at North Korea’s nuclear test site near a tunnel entrance, but it was unclear if Pyongyang was preparing for a new nuclear test, perhaps to coincide with Wednesday’s high-level talks.

A South Korean Defense Ministry official said North Korea remained prepared to conduct a sixth nuclear test at any time but there were “no new unusual indications that can be shared.”

North Korea last tested a nuclear bomb in September, but it has conducted repeated missile tests since and vowed to develop a nuclear-tipped missile capable of hitting the U.S. mainland, putting it at the forefront of Trump’s security worries.

Trump has hardened his rhetoric against North Korea following the death of Otto Warmbier, a University of Virginia student who died on Monday. He had returned to the United States in a coma after being held captive in North Korea.

On Tuesday the president called what happened to Warmbier “a disgrace.”

China’s state-run Global Times newspaper said Chinese officials must be wary that Warmbier’s death might push Washington to put greater pressure on Beijing, but China would not act as a “U.S. ally” on the issue.

If Washington imposed sanctions on Chinese enterprises dealing with North Korea, it would lead to “grave friction” between the two countries, wrote the paper, which does not represent Chinese government policy.

Trump’s tweet about China took some advisers by surprise. A senior administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the United States had limited options to rein in North Korea without Chinese assistance.

(Additional reporting by Steve Holland in Washington and Michael Martina in Beijing; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)

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Trump says China tried but failed to help on North Korea

June 21, 2017
Reuters

U.S. President Donald Trump (L) and China’s President Xi Jinping walk along the front patio of the Mar-a-Lago estate after a bilateral meeting in Palm Beach, Florida, U.S., April 7, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
By Steve Holland and David Brunnstrom | WASHINGTON
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President Donald Trump said on Tuesday that Chinese efforts to persuade North Korea to rein in its nuclear program have failed, ratcheting up the rhetoric over the death of an American student who had been detained by Pyongyang.

Trump has held high hopes for greater cooperation from China to exert influence over North Korea, leaning heavily on Chinese President Xi Jinping for his assistance. The two leaders had a high-profile summit in Florida in April and Trump has frequently praised Xi while resisting criticizing Chinese trade practices.

“While I greatly appreciate the efforts of President Xi & China to help with North Korea, it has not worked out. At least I know China tried!” Trump wrote on Twitter.

It was unclear whether his remark represented a significant shift in his thinking in the U.S. struggle to stop North Korea’s nuclear program and its test launching of missiles or a change in U.S. policy toward China.

“I think the president is signaling some frustration,” Christopher Hill, a former U.S. ambassador to South Korea, told MSNBC. “He’s signaling to others that he understands this isn’t working, and he’s trying to defend himself, or justify himself, by saying that at least they tried as opposed to others who didn’t even try.”

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un inspects the defence detachment on Jangjae Islet and the Hero Defence Detachment on Mu Islet located in the southernmost part of the waters off the southwest front, in this undated photo released by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on May 5, 2017. KCNA/ via REUTERS
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On Tuesday, a U.S. official, who did not want to be identified, said U.S. spy satellites had detected movements recently at North Korea’s nuclear test site near a tunnel entrance, but it was unclear if these were preparations for a new nuclear test – perhaps to coincide with high-level talks between the United States and China in Washington on Wednesday.

“North Korea remains prepared to conduct a sixth nuclear test at any time when there is an order from leadership but there are no new unusual indications that can be shared,” a South Korean Defense Ministry official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

Seoul was in close consultation with Washington over the matter, the official added.

North Korea last tested a nuclear bomb in September, but it has conducted repeated missile test since and vowed to develop a nuclear-tipped missile capable of hitting the U.S. mainland, putting it at the forefront of Trump’s security worries.

U.S.-CHINA DIALOGUE

The Trump statement about China was likely to increase pressure on Beijing ahead of Wednesday’s Diplomatic and Security Dialogue, which will pair U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Defense Secretary James Mattis with China’s top diplomat, State Councilor Yang Jiechi, and General Fang Fenghui, chief of joint staff of the People’s Liberation Army.

 Image may contain: 1 person, closeup

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson listens as President Donald Trump speaks during a Cabinet meeting, Monday, June 12, 2017, in the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington. (Andrew Harnik – Associated Press)

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The State Department says the dialogue will focus on ways to increase pressure on North Korea to give up its nuclear and missile programs, but also cover such areas as counter-terrorism and territorial rivalries in the strategic South China Sea.

The U.S. side is expected to press China to cooperate on a further toughening of international sanctions on North Korea. The United States and its allies would like to see an oil embargo and bans on the North Korean airline and guest workers among other moves, steps diplomats say have been resisted by China and Russia.

In a sign that U.S.-Chinese relations remain stable, a White House aide said Trump’s daughter Ivanka Trump and her husband, White House senior adviser Jared Kushner, were invited by the Chinese government to visit the country later this year.

Trump has hardened his rhetoric against North Korea following the death of Otto Warmbier, a University of Virginia student who died on Monday in the United States after returning from captivity in North Korea in a coma.

Image may contain: 3 people, people standing

Otto Warmbier

“A DISGRACE”

In a White House meeting with visiting Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko, Trump criticized the way Warmbier’s case was handled in the year since his arrest, appearing to assail both North Korea and his predecessor, President Barack Obama.

“What happened to Otto is a disgrace. And I spoke with his family. His family is incredible … but he should have been brought home a long time ago,” Trump said.

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said the United States holds North Korea accountable for Warmbier’s “unjust imprisonment” and urged Pyongyang to release three other Americans who are detained.

Chinese state-run newspaper the Global Times, published by the official People’s Daily, said Chinese officials must be wary that Warmbier’s death might push Washington to put greater pressure on Beijing.

“China has made the utmost efforts to help break the stalemate in the North Korean nuclear issue. But by no means will China, nor will Chinese society permit it to, act as a ‘U.S. ally’ in pressuring North Korea,” the Global Times said in an editorial.

If Washington imposes sanctions on Chinese enterprises, it would lead to “grave friction” between the two countries, said the paper, which does not represent Chinese government policy.

Trump’s tweet about China took some advisers by surprise. A senior administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the United States had limited options to rein in North Korea without Chinese assistance.

White House spokesman Sean Spicer said a meeting between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is less likely following Warmbier’s death.

Spicer said Trump would be willing to meet Kim under the right conditions, but “clearly we’re moving further away, not closer to those conditions.”

For graphic on Americans detained by North Korea, click: tmsnrt.rs/2r5xYpB

(Additional reporting by David Brunnstrom, David Alexander and John Walcott in Washington, Jack Kim in Seoul and Michael Martina in Beijing; Editing by Howard Goller, Leslie Adler and Lincoln Feast)

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