Posts Tagged ‘Joko Widodo’

Indonesia’s maritime affairs and fisheries minister takes on China

June 9, 2018

Susi Pudjiastuti was scooping up lunch with one hand, using her thumb and two fingers to extricate bones from a chunk of fish. With the other hand, she simulated grinding a stiletto heel into the ground.

“This is what I can do if the Chinese try to play tricks on me,” said Ms. Pudjiastuti, the maritime affairs and fisheries minister of Indonesia. “I can smile very nicely and then I can use my high heel.”

“Very sharp,” she added, popping the piece of fish into her mouth.

Suffice it to say that Ms. Pudjiastuti is not a conventional Indonesian woman, much less a conventional cabinet minister. She chain smokes, although Indonesia’s health minister — one of eight women in the cabinet of President Joko Widodo — has warned her that a public figure should not be seen lighting up.

Susi Pudjiastuti, the maritime affairs and fisheries minister of Indonesia, is taking on illegal fishing boats, even those from China. CreditKemal Jufri for The New York Times

By  Hannah Beech and Muktita Suhartono
New York Times
Ms. Pudjiastuti likes her coffee black and her alcohol only in the form of champagne. “My family thinks I am a little bit of a nut case,” she said.

Perhaps it takes a little bit of a nut case to challenge Beijing, going so far as to seize Chinese fishing boats poaching in Indonesian waters. She has created a lot of enemies along the way, at home as well as abroad, but she says her success can be measured by the improved health of Indonesia’s fishing grounds, and she is not about to back down.

With more than 13,000 islands, Indonesia is the world’s largest archipelagic nation, yet its maritime sovereignty had long been neglected. When she was appointed in 2014, Ms. Pudjiastuti, a seafood and aviation magnate who never finished high school, inherited a ministry that was in danger of being eliminated. But she has transformed her portfolio, declaring war on foreign fishing boats that had encroached on territorial waters and threatened some of the world’s most biodiverse seas.

The demolition and sinking of a pirate fishing ship by the Indonesian Navy at the Pangandaran Sea, West Java. Photo: NurPhoto via AFP/ Donal Husni

The demolition and sinking of a pirate fishing ship by the Indonesian Navy at the Pangandaran Sea, West Java. Photo: NurPhoto via AFP/ Donal Husni

Not all of the offenders have been from China. Boats from other Southeast Asian nations stray into Indonesia’s waters as well, costing the country at least $1 billion a year in lost resources, the United Nations has reported. Ms. Pudjiastuti has not relied on subtlety: Under her aegis, hundreds of impounded foreign vessels have been blown up.

But it is Ms. Pudjiastuti’s entanglements with the Chinese that have created the greatest uproar, while also making her an unlikely heroine for those calling for international defiance of Beijing’s muscular foreign policy.

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India stresses free navigation, ‘rules-based order’ for Asian seas

June 1, 2018

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi stressed on Friday the importance of ensuring the freedom of navigation in Asian waters for free trade, days after pledging to help develop a strategic port in Indonesia.

India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi meets with Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the Istana in Singapore on Friday. REUTERS/Edgar Su

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi meets with Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the Istana in Singapore on Friday. REUTERS/Edgar Su   | Photo Credit: Reuters

Modi is visiting three countries in Southeast Asia this week as part of an “Act East” policy of strengthening relations in the region amid concern over China’s rising maritime influence, in particular in the disputed South China Sea.

“We also reiterated our principal stance, as far as maritime security is concerned, our commitment to a rules-based order,” Modi said through an interpreter after holding talks with Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi is welcomed by Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the Istana in Singapore June 1, 2018. REUTERS/Edgar Su

“We also agreed on having an open, fair and transparent maritime trade commitment in this area,” Modi said.

On Wednesday, Modi met Indonesian President Joko Widodo and pledged to develop infrastructure and an economic zone at Sabang, on the northern tip of Sumatra island at the mouth of the Malacca Strait, one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes.

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Modi stopped in Kuala Lumpur briefly on Thursday to meet newly elected Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad before arriving in Singapore, where he will deliver the keynote address at the annual Shangri-la Dialogue security forum.

Modi’s talks in Singapore included an agreement for greater engagement between their navies including exercises.

“Both prime ministers further agreed to India’s proposal for continuous and institutionalized naval engagements in their shared maritime space, including the establishment of maritime exercises with like-minded regional partners,” the Singapore Defence Ministry said in a statement.

Modi this year invited the leaders of all 10 Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries to India Republic Day parade in New Delhi, the biggest such gathering of foreign leaders at the event.

There has been growing unease about China’s activity in the South China Sea, which it claims almost in full, and which Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Vietnam claim in part.

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said on Tuesday the United States would push back against what it sees as China’s militarization of islands in the South China Sea despite China’s condemnation of a voyage through the region on the weekend by two U.S. Navy ships.

Writing by Jack Kim; Editing by Robert Birsel

Two suicide bombers blow themselves up at Indonesian police HQ

May 14, 2018

Two militants on a motorcycle blew themselves up at a police headquarters in Indonesia’s second city Surabaya on Monday, wounding at least 10 people including officers, authorities said, a day after a deadly wave of suicide bombings hit churches.

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© Andy Pinaria, AFP | This handout photo from the Surabaya local government taken on May 13, 2018, shows police at the site of a blast outside the Gereja Pantekosta Pusat Surabaya.

Citing CCTV footage from the scene East Java Police spokesman Frans Barung Mangera said a man and a woman on the bike stopped at the security checkpoint.

“That’s where the explosion happened,” he added.

“Two people were riding (on the East Java Police ) and a woman was sitting at the back.”

The authorities said the wounded included six civilians and four police.

Ambulances and the bomb squad descended on the chaotic scene with the CCTV images showed the mangled wreckage of a motorbike at the security gate at the headquarters in the heart of the city.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility after the latest suicide bombing.

“This is a cowardly act, undignified and inhumane,” Indonesian President Joko Widodo told reporters in Jakarta.

“There will be no compromise in taking action on the ground to stop terrorism.”

The lethal explosion comes just a day after a family of six including two young daughters staged suicide bombings at three churches in Surabaya during Sunday services.

At least 14 civilians have died as a result of that attack, which was claimed by the Islamic State group, and the toll could climb with more than 40 injured in hospital.

The archipelago nation of some 17,000 islands has long struggled with Islamic militancy, including the 2002 Bali bombings that killed 202 people — mostly foreign tourists — in the country’s worst-ever terror attack.

Deadliest attack in years

Sunday’s church bombings was Indonesia’s deadliest attack in years. The attackers — a mother and father, two daughters aged nine and 12, and two sons aged 16 and 18 — were linked to local extremist network Jamaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD) which supports IS, police have said.

Authorities said they believed some of the family members had recently returned from Syria, where hundreds of Indonesians have flocked in recent years to fight alongside IS in its bid to carve out a caliphate ruled by strict Islamic law.

A further three people in another family were killed and two wounded when another bomb exploded at an apartment complex about 30 kilometres (20 miles) from Surabaya, just hours later, police said.

The mother and one child died from the explosion while police said they shot dead the father who was carrying a bomb detonator.

Two other children were injured in the blast and were taken to hospital.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the apartment bomb.

In the church attacks, the mother, identified as Puji Kuswati, and her two daughters were wearing niqab face veils and had bombs strapped to their waists as they entered the grounds of the Kristen Indonesia Diponegoro Church and blew themselves up, police have said.

The father, JAD cell leader Dita Priyanto, drove a bomb-laden car into the Surabaya Centre Pentecostal Church while his sons rode motorcycles into Santa Maria church, where they detonated explosives they were carrying, according to authorities.

JAD, led by jailed radical Aman Abdurrahman, has been linked to several deadly incidents, including a 2016 gun and suicide attack in the capital Jakarta that left four attackers and four civilians dead.

That was the first assault claimed by IS in Southeast Asia.

Police on Sunday said four suspected JAD members were killed in a shootout during raids linked to a deadly prison riot this week.

Five members of Indonesia’s elite anti-terrorism squad and a prisoner were killed in clashes that saw Islamist inmates take a guard hostage at a high-security jail on the outskirts of Jakarta. IS claimed responsibility.

Karnavian said Sunday’s church attacks may have been revenge for the arrest of some of JAD’s leaders and for the prison crisis which eventually saw the surrender of the radical inmates.

(AFP)

Indonesia president says attacks on churches ‘barbaric’ — Islamic State claims responsibility

May 13, 2018

Indonesian President Joko Widodo said on Sunday that suicide attacks by suspected Islamist militants on three churches in the country’s second-biggest city of Surabaya were “barbaric” and ordered police to track down the perpertrators.

Reuters

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Indonesia President Joko Widodo (R) visits the burned church location at the Pentecost Church Central Surabaya (GPPS), in Surabaya, Indonesia May 13, 2018. REUTERS/Beawiharta

At a news briefing alongside Police Chief Tito Karnavian, Widodo said that in one of the attacks, two children had been used in the bombing.

Firefighters try to extinguish a blaze following a blast at the Pentecost Church Central Surabaya (GPPS), in Surabaya, East Java, Indonesia. Photo: Handout Surabaya Government via REUTERS

“I have instructed police to look into and break up networks of perpetrators,” said Widodo.

Reporting by Kanupriya Kapoor; Writing by Ed Davies; Editing by Lincoln Feast

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Islamic State claimed responsibility for suicide bomb attacks on three churches in the Indonesian city of Surabaya on Sunday that has killed 11 people, the Islamist militant group’s Amaq news agency said, without providing any evidence.

“Three martyrdom attacks inflicts at least 11 deaths and 41 injuries of the churches’ guards and Christians in the city of Surabaya in East Java province in Indonesia,” the agency said in a statement that gave no further details.

(Reporting by Sami Aboudi)

Chinese Hackers Hit U.S. Firms Linked to South China Sea Dispute

March 17, 2018

 

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China has militarized the South China Sea — even though they have no legal claim. This is Mischief Reef, now an extensive Chinese military base — one of seven Chinese military bases near the Philippines

Bloomberg

By David Tweed

 Updated on 
  • Victims are in maritime industries with South China Sea ties
  • Hackers ‘most likely’ operating on behalf of a government

Chinese hackers have launched a wave of attacks on mainly U.S. engineering and defense companies linked to the disputed South China Sea, the cybersecurity firm FireEye Inc. said.

The suspected Chinese cyber-espionage group dubbed TEMP.Periscope appeared to be seeking information that would benefit the Chinese government, said FireEye, a U.S.-based provider network protection systems. The hackers have focused on U.S. maritime entities that were either linked to — or have clients operating in — the South China Sea, said Fred Plan, senior analyst at FireEye in Los Angeles.

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“They are going after data that can be used strategically, so it is line with state espionage,” said Plan, whose firm has tracked the group since 2013. “A private entity probably wouldn’t benefit from the sort of data that is being stolen.”

The TEMP.Periscope hackers were seeking information in areas like radar range or how precisely a system in development could detect activity at sea, Plan said. The surge in attacks picked up pace last month and was ongoing.

Increased Attacks

While FireEye traced the group’s attacks to China, the firm hasn’t confirmed any link to Chinese government entities or facilities. FireEye declined to name any targets. Although most were based in the U.S., organizations in Europe and at least one in Hong Kong were also affected, the firm said.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Lu Kang told a briefing Friday in Beijing that China opposed all kinds of cyber attacks. “We will continue to implement the important consensus on cybersecurity reached in 2015,” he said.

Plan said suspected Chinese cyber-attacks on U.S. targets has picked up in recent months, after both sides agreed not to attack civilian entities. The 2015 deal to tamp down economic espionage was hammered out between then-U.S. President Barack Obama and President Xi Jinping.

The U.S. indicted five Chinese military officials in 2014 on charges that they stole trade secrets from companies including Westinghouse Electric Co. and United States Steel Corp. after hacks were detected by Mandiant, a unit of FireEye. China denies the charges and argues the country is a victim rather than an instigator of cybersecurity attacks.

Strategic Data

Data sought in the latest incidents could be used, for instance, to determine how closely a vessel could sail to a geographical feature, Plan said. “It is definitely the case that they can use this information for strategic decision-making,” he said.

The U.S. Navy sometimes conducts so-called freedom of navigation operations to challenge Chinese claims to more than 80 percent of the South China Sea — one of the world’s busiest trading routes. China has reclaimed some 3,200 acres (1,290 hectares) of land in the waters and built ports, runways and other military infrastructure on seven artificial features it has created.

China has been involved in other attacks related to the South China Sea. In 2015, during a week-long hearing on a territorial dispute in the water, Chinese malware attacked the website of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague, taking it offline.

The latest attacks were carried out using a variety of techniques including “spear-phishing,” in which emails with links and attachments containing malware are used to open back doors into computer networks. In some examples, the emails were made to look as if they originated from a “big international maritime company,” Plan said.

FireEye said in a separate report that government offices, media and academic institutions have been attacked, along with engineering and defense companies. Plan declined to comment when asked whether the U.S. Navy was among the targets.

“Given the type of organizations that have been targeted — the organizations and government offices — it is most likely the case that TEMP.Periscope is operating on behalf of a government office,” Plan said.

— With assistance by Dandan Li, Peter Martin, and Andy Sharp

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We’ve heard 白痴國家 (Means “Idiot Nation”)

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China has long had its eye on James Shoal and may move toward the island unless Malaysia or Indonesia protest…

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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 and the Philippine government then chose to ignore international law.

Indonesia pushes for Southeast Asian patrols of disputed waters

March 16, 2018

REUTERS | 

Image result for Indonesian President Joko Widodo, on navy ship, photos

Indonesia’s president Joko Widodo holds a cabinet meeting on a warship off the Natuna Islands, in what has been called Indonesia’s strongest message to China over assertion of the South China Sea.

SYDNEY: Indonesia has lobbied Southeast Asian countries to carry out maritime patrols in the disputed South China Sea, claimed in most part by China, to improve security, Defense Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu said on Friday.

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Indonesia says it’s a non-claimant state in the South China Sea dispute but has clashed with China over fishing rights around the Natuna Islands and expanded its military presence there, and also renamed the northern reaches of its exclusive economic zone, asserting its own maritime claim.

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Austalian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and Defense Minister Marise Payne held talks with their Indonesian counterparts Retno Marsudi and Ryacudu in Sydney, ahead of an Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit.

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Australia is hosting the meeting, despite not being a member of the 10-nation bloc, as it seeks to tighten political and trade ties in the region amid China’s rising influence.

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“For the South China Sea, I went around to friends — ASEAN defense ministers — so that each country that faces the South China Sea patrols up to 200 nautical miles, around 230 kilometers,” Ryacudu told reporters at a joint press conference.

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HMAS Ballarat (center) conducts a passage exercise in the South China Sea with Japanese maritime self defense force ships,  June 2017

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Indonesia is focusing on three areas, notably the Sulu Sea, the Malacca Strait and the seas around the coast of Thailand, Ryacudu said, referring to existing cooperation with Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam, Cambodia and the Philippines.

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“If we look at the (borders) from Vietnam down to Indonesia and to the Philippines, we can see we have secured almost half of the South China Sea (in areas) we are already patrolling.”

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China claims most of the South China Sea, an important trade route and which is believed to contain large quantities of oil and natural gas, and has been building artificial islands on reefs, some with ports and air strips, developments that have irked ASEAN members.

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China has also been rapidly increasingly its military deployment in the South China Sea and its air force said last month that Chinese Su-35 fighter jets took part in a combat patrol over the disputed waterway.

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Su-35 fighter jet

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Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam, the Philippines, all of which are members of ASEAN, and Taiwan also have claims in the sea.

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China’s foreign minister Wang Yi said last week that China’s resolve to protect peace and stability in the South China Sea was unshakeable, and that outside forces were attempting to muddy the waters.

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Wang Yi

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China has been angered in the past by freedom of navigation patrols in the South China Sea by the United States which it sees as provocative.

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Australia — which says it takes no sides on South China Sea disputes but has supported US-led freedom of navigation activities — has previously said it had no plans to take part in joint patrols.

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Officially, the ASEAN summit will focus on fostering closer economic ties among the members of ASEAN and Australia, and countering the threat of militants returning to the region from the Middle East.

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Australian Foreign Minister Bishop also said Australia would “very seriously” consider any formal invitation to join the grouping, a move advocated by Indonesian President Joko Widodo.

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Peace and Freedom Note:

China has long coveted the Natuna Islands and James Shoal. ASEAN will have to repeatedly invoke international law before China grabs more in the South China Sea.

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Related:

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We’ve heard 白痴國家 (Means “Idiot Nation”)

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No automatic alt text available.

China has long had its eye on James Shoal and may move toward the island unless Malaysia or Indonesia protest…

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No automatic alt text available.

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 and the Philippine government then chose to ignore international law.

Militants attack army post near military academy in Afghan capital — Message to Trump for State of the Union

January 29, 2018

Reuters

KABUL (Reuters) – Gunmen attacked an army outpost near one of Afghanistan’s main military academies on Monday and five soldiers were killed and 10 wounded before the attackers were subdued, the defense ministry said.

 Image result for Afghan National Army (ANA) soldiers stand guard at the entrance gate of Marshal Fahim military academy in Kabul, Afghanistan January 29, 2018, photos

Afghan National Army (ANA) soldiers stand guard at the entrance gate of Marshal Fahim military academy in Kabul, Afghanistan January 29, 2018. REUTERS/Omar Sobhani

Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack near the Marshal Fahim military academy in the western outskirts of the capital, Kabul, according to the militant group’s Amaq news agency.

It came two days after an ambulance bomb in the center of the city killed more than 100 people and just over a week after another attack on the Hotel Intercontinental, also in Kabul, killed more than 20.

Both of those attacks were claimed by the Taliban.

Ministry of Defence officials said the five militants armed with rocket-propelled grenades and automatic rifles attacked the outpost near the well-defended academy just before dawn.

Two of the attackers blew themselves up, two were killed in fighting and one was captured, the ministry said in a statement announcing that the fighting was over. Five soldiers were killed and 10 wounded, it said.

“The Afghan National Army is the country’s defence force and makes sacrifices for the security and well-being of the people,” the ministry said.

While militants claiming allegiance to Islamic State operate in mountains in the eastern province of Nangarhar, little is known about the group and many analysts question whether they are solely responsible for the attacks they have claimed in Kabul and elsewhere.

The attack came as the president of Indonesia, Joko Widodo, was due to visit Kabul.

Indonesia has the world’s biggest Muslim population and Widodo has proposed that Indonesian Islamic scholars could help promote Afghan peace, media reported recently.

MESSAGE TO TRUMP

 Image result for Afghan National Army (ANA) soldiers stand guard at the entrance gate of Marshal Fahim military academy in Kabul, Afghanistan January 29, 2018, photos

An Afghan security force member stands guard in front of the Marshal Fahim military academy in Kabul, Afghanistan January 29, 2018. REUTERS/Omar Sobhani

Earlier, resident Mohammad Ehsan said he heard a series of explosions coming from the area beginning at around 5 a.m. (0030 GMT) and lasting for at least an hour, with smaller blasts continuing at less frequent intervals.

In October, a suicide attacker rammed a car full of explosives into a bus carrying cadets from the academy, known as the Defence University, which is home to one of Afghanistan’s main officer training schools, killing 15 of them.

The wave of attacks has put pressure on President Ashraf Ghani and his U.S. allies, who have expressed growing confidence that a new more aggressive military strategy has succeeded in driving Taliban insurgents back from major provincial centers.

The United States has stepped up its assistance to Afghan security forces and increased its air strikes against the Taliban and other militant groups, aiming to break a stalemate and force the insurgents to the negotiating table.

However, the Taliban have dismissed suggestions they have been weakened and said Saturday’s bombing was a message to U.S. President Donald Trump.

“The Islamic Emirate has a clear message for Trump and his hand kissers that if you go ahead with a policy of aggression and speak from the barrel of a gun, don’t expect Afghans to grow flowers in response,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said in a statement, using the term the Islamist militants use to describe themselves.

Saturday’s blast in one of the most heavily protected parts of the city, close to foreign embassies and government buildings, was the worst seen in the Afghan capital since a truck bomb near the German embassy killed 150 people in May.

With Ghani embroiled in confrontation with provincial powerbrokers defying central rule, pressure is mounting on the government to set aside political divisions and focus on security.

The United States and Afghanistan have accused Pakistan of helping the Taliban in a bid to undermine old rival India’s growing influence in Afghanistan.

Pakistan, which denies accusations it fosters the Afghan war, condemned the attack and called for “concerted efforts and effective cooperation” to tackle militancy.

Afghanistan declared Sunday a day of mourning for the victims of Saturday’s blast and said Monday would be a day off to allow care for the victims’ families.

Reporting by Omar Sobhani; Additional reporting by Nayera Abdallah in CAIRO; Writing by James Mackenzie; Editing by Robert Birsel and Paul Tait

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BBC News

Afghan security forces patrolling a street near the site of the attack
Security forces have blocked off the roads near the site of the attack. Reuters photo

Militants have attacked an army base near a military academy in the Afghan capital, Kabul, killing at least 11 soldiers.

Sixteen other Afghan soldiers were injured, a defence ministry spokesman told the BBC.

Five militants were involved, said the spokesman. Four were killed in the attack but one was arrested.

The attack has been claimed by the Islamic State (IS), according to the militant group’s Amaq news agency.

Earlier reports said the attack had taken place at the Marshal Fahim National Defense University, which is near the military base.

It comes days after the deadliest bombing for months hit Kabul when an ambulance packed with explosives killed at least 100 people.

IS and the Taliban have increased their attacks on targets in the country in recent days.

Several explosions were heard, as well as small-arms fire, as the attack began at about 05:00 local time (00:30 GMT) at the military base of the Afghan National Army in the west of Kabul.

Two attackers blew themselves up, two others were killed by security forces and another one was arrested, defence ministry spokesman Gen Dawlat Waiziri told the BBC.

Four AK-47 assault rifles, one suicide vest and one rocket-launcher were seized, he said.

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The president’s spokesperson said none of the attackers had been able to get further than the first gate, Afghan news website Tolo reports.

Afghan military institutions are frequently targeted by militants.

A surge in violence

The base is near the Marshal Fahim National Defense University which the Taliban have targeted before.

In October 2017, 15 military cadets were killed in an explosion outside the Marshal Fahim military academy as they were leaving by minibus.

The university is sometimes referred to as “Sandhurst in the Sand” as it is closely modelled on the officer training academy in Britain.

Monday’s deadly attack is the third in just over a week to have rocked the country.

On Saturday, more than 100 people were killed in a suicide bombing when attackers drove an ambulance past a police checkpoint into a district with many government buildings and embassies.

a group of men carrying a coffin up a dusty hill, with city buildings in the distance
Funerals for the victims of Saturday’s attack took place over the weekend. EPA

One week earlier, another attack on a Kabul hotel killed 22 people – mostly foreigners. Six militants stormed the hotel in suicide vests the attack continued for several hours until Afghan troops regained control of the building.

The Taliban said it had carried out both those Kabul attacks.

IS said it had carried out a suicide attack on the international charity Save the Children in the city of Jalalabad last week.

Three members of staff and at least two others were killed in the attack and the siege of the compound.

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-42855374

Indonesia holds cabinet meeting in Bali as volcano threatens tourism

December 22, 2017

Tourists take photos of the Mount Agung volcano during a sunrise in Kintamani, Bali, Indonesia, Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2017. (AP)

JAKARTA: Indonesian President Joko Widodo will on Friday hold his cabinet meeting on the holiday island of Bali in a bid to reassure visitors that there is nothing to worry about from the rumbling Mount Agung volcano.

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Authorities last month raised the alert status of Mount Agung in northeastern Bali to the highest level, imposing an exclusion zone of up to 10 km (6 miles) around its crater as it spewed clouds of ash, steam, and other volcanic material.
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Widodo will take the unusual step of gathering his cabinet in Bali as part of government efforts to assure visitors that the island is safe to come to and to stave off a major drop off in visitor numbers during the upcoming holiday season.
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“For those who have plans to vacation in Bali, there’s no need to doubt or be worried about the status of Mount Agung, Bali is very safe to visit,” Energy Minister Ignasius Jonan said in a Twitter message after visiting an observatory overlooking the volcano, before the cabinet meeting.
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President Widodo is expected to make a statement after the cabinet meeting.
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The cabinet usually meets at the state palace in the capital Jakarta or on its outskirts in Bogor.
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The relatively small island of Bali, famous for its beaches and temples, has an outsized importance for Indonesian tourism. In January-September, Bali received 4.5 million foreign tourist arrivals, nearly half of the 10.5 million arrivals in Indonesia.
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Tourism Minister Arief Yahya said this week that Indonesia was expecting an estimated 15 trillion rupiah ($1.11 billion) in lost income and around 1 million fewer tourists because of the volcano, according to daily newspaper Kompas.
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Many business operators and hotels have seen cancelations since authorities first raised the alert in September, and most expect the holiday season to be slower than in previous years.
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Thousands of tourists were left stranded late last month when a volcanic ash cloud forced the closure of Bali’s airport for several days.
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Countries like Australia and Singapore have advised their citizens to be cautious when traveling to Bali.
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China’s Silk Road revival hits the buffers

November 13, 2017

AFP

China’s ‘One Belt, One Road’ has run into problems from a stalled Indonesian rail project to an insurgency-threatened economic corridor in Pakistan

The ‘One Belt, One Road’ initiative, unveiled by China’s President Xi Jinping in 2013, envisages linking China with Africa, Asia and Europe through a network of ports, railways, roads and industrial parks. Photo: Reuters

The ‘One Belt, One Road’ initiative, unveiled by China’s President Xi Jinping in 2013, envisages linking China with Africa, Asia and Europe through a network of ports, railways, roads and industrial parks. Photo: Reuters

Singapore: From a stalled Indonesian rail project to an insurgency-threatened economic corridor in Pakistan, China’s push to revive Silk Road trade routes is running into problems that risk tarnishing the economic crown jewel of Xi Jinping’s presidency.

The “One Belt, One Road” initiative, unveiled by Xi in 2013, envisages linking China with Africa, Asia and Europe through a network of ports, railways, roads and industrial parks.

Xi, the most powerful Chinese leader in decades, has pushed the infrastructure drive which is central to his goal of extending Beijing’s economic and geopolitical clout.

The initiative was enshrined in the Communist Party’s constitution at a key congress last month, and some estimates say more than $1 trillion has been pledged to it, with projects proposed in some 65 countries.

But on the ground it has run into problems. Projects traverse insurgency-hit areas, dictatorships and chaotic democracies, and face resistance from both corrupt politicians and local villagers.

“Building infrastructure across countries like this is very complicated,” said Murray Hiebert, from Washington think tank the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), who has studied some of the projects in Southeast Asia.

“You’ve got land issues, you have to hammer out funding agreements, you have to hammer out technological issues.”

Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying however insisted the initiative was “moving forward smoothly”.

Beijing won the contract to build Indonesia’s first high-speed railway in September 2015, but more than two years later work has barely started on the route from Jakarta to the city of Bandung.

A recent visit to Walini, where President Joko Widodo broke ground on the train line in January last year, found excavators flattening land but no track laid for the train, which is meant to start operating in 2019.

“The first year after the ground-breaking ceremony, I did not see any progress at all,” Neng Sri, a 37-year-old food stall owner from nearby Mandala Mukti village, told AFP.

The central problem has been persuading villagers to leave their land on the proposed route, which is often an issue in the chaotic, freewheeling democracy.

The Indonesian transport ministry declined to give an update on the project and the consortium of Chinese and Indonesian companies building the line did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

On another planned high-speed line from southern China to Singapore, the Thai stretch of the railway was delayed by tussles over financing and protective labour regulations, and it was only in July that the military government finally approved $5.2 billion to start construction.

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Work is under way on the 415-kilometre (260-mile) part of the line in Laos, a staunch ally of Beijing.

But even there the project has stoked controversy due to its huge price tag—at $5.8 billion, roughly half the country’s 2015 GDP—and the question of how much deeply poor Laos will gain from the project.

There have been concerns in many countries about how much they will benefit from One Belt, One Road initiatives.

Gains for China, such as access to key markets and tackling overcapacity in domestic industries, are often more obvious than those for their partners.

Such worries have bedevilled projects in Central Asia, part of a potential route from western China to Europe.

These include a free trade zone at Horgos on the China-Kazakh border, notable for flashy malls on the Chinese side and relatively little on the Kazakh side, and a planned railway to Uzbekistan that has stalled in large part due to opposition in Kyrgyzstan, through which the line would run.

“I am against this railway as it stands because the financial benefits that could accrue to Kyrgyzstan accrue to (China and Uzbekistan) instead,” said Timur Saralayev, head of the Bishkek-based New Generation movement.

The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a $54-billion project launched in 2013 linking western China to the Indian Ocean via Pakistan, has been targeted by separatist rebels in Balochistan province, who have blown up gas pipelines and trains and attacked Chinese engineers.

But the Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua insisted the One Belt, One Road initiative enjoyed broad support.

“We have seen more and more support and approval of our projects. Many projects have delivered tangible benefits to the people in these countries,” she said.

The view from the ground, however, is not always so positive.

“The high-speed train… is only for super busy people who think time is money,” said the villager Sri, who lives next to the Indonesian rail project.

“We are not rushing to go anywhere.”

South Korea’s Moon unveils new focus on Southeast Asia

November 9, 2017

 

South Korea’s presidential Blue House has said the policy will mirror Moon Jae-in’s “New Northern Policy” aimed at expanding cooperation between China, Japan, Russia and Mongolia. (Reuters)
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JAKARTA: South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Thursday unveiled a new policy aimed at deepening ties with Southeast Asia, as the North Asian economic powerhouse seeks to curb its reliance on traditional trading partners like China and the United States.
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Moon made Indonesia, Southeast Asia’s biggest economy, his first state visit to the region and was accompanied by a delegation of around 200 business leaders.
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The “New Southern Policy,” aims to better connect South Korea to Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and expand the economic influence of Asia’s fourth-largest economy in the region home to over half a billion people.
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“Korean diplomacy in Asia has been more toward Japan, China and Russia. But I see that it should expand to new horizons and Indonesia has good prospects,” Moon said in opening remarks at a business forum.
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South Korea’s presidential Blue House has said the policy will mirror Moon’s “New Northern Policy” aimed at expanding cooperation between China, Japan, Russia and Mongolia. Moon announced that in September while at the East Economic Forum in Russia.
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Indonesia and South Korea signed a memorandum of understanding to develop a light rail transit (LRT) system, Indonesia’s industry minister Airlangga Hartarto said.
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South Korea’s Yonhap news agency said the project in Jakarta was part of a series of MOUs worth up to $1.9 billion due to be signed.
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A recent year-long diplomatic standoff between Seoul and Beijing over the deployment of a US anti-missile system has exposed the dependence of Korean companies on Chinese customers and likely exacerbated Seoul’s urgency to diversify ties.
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During a joint news conference with US President Donald Trump this week, Moon said he was aiming for a more “balanced diplomacy,” which would include Russia, ASEAN countries, and members of the EU.
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Moon is due to meet Indonesian President Joko Widodo at a state palace in Bogor, south of Jakarta, later on Thursday for talks and then a state dinner.
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The two are due to discuss infrastructure, trade, and also tensions on the Korean peninsula.
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Indonesia has traditionally had good relations with North Korea and maintains diplomatic ties and is one of a small number of countries with an embassy in Pyongyang.
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A number of South Korean companies already have or are planning big investments in Indonesia. Steel giant POSCO has a multi-billion-dollar joint venture with Indonesia’s Krakatau Steel, Hyundai Motor is setting up a car factory and Samsung Electronics assembles smartphones in the country.
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Indonesia is also emerging as an important market for South Korean defense equipment and the countries are cooperating on a venture to jointly build a fighter plane, dubbed KF-X.
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Indonesia’s trade with South Korea was worth about $10 billion in the first nine months of 2017, while Korean foreign direct investment rose about a quarter to $1.37 billion over period. South Koreans make up one of the largest expatriate groups in Indonesia and parts of Jakarta have numerous Korean restaurants and bars.
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As well as corporate muscle, Korea’s soft power has also grown in Indonesia alongside other countries in Southeast Asia. Korean K-Pop is hugely popular among Indonesians, with long-established fan clubs and bands, like BTS, touring the Southeast Asian country. Indonesian Twitter accounts dedicated to Korean pop idols have around a million followers.