Posts Tagged ‘Shinzo Abe’

Trade with China offers clues to North Korea’s economic health — “Sanctions? What Sanctions?”

July 10, 2017

Image result for north korea, industry, photos, air pollution

North Korea — Coal fired electricity generation plant

Trade with China offers clues to North Korea’s economic health Hermit kingdom’s purchasing power may be more resilient than assumed

By Lucy Hornby, Archie Zhang, Tom Mitchell and Liu Xinning

Until recently Donald Trump was claiming his strategy on North Korea was working, and that Beijing was stepping up the pressure on Pyongyang to convince it to ditch its weapons programmes.

But last week he took a closer look at Chinese data and did not like what he saw.

“Trade between China and North Korea grew almost 40 per cent in the first quarter,” the US president tweeted.

“So much for China working with us — but we had to give it a try!”

The dismay may be new but the data are not.

Mr Trump was quoting a growth figure announced in April by the China Customs Administration which, along with subsequent monthly figures, shows Chinese measures are having less effect than Washington had hoped.

In February Beijing announced a ban on North Korean coal imports after the assassination in Malaysia of the older brother of Kim Jong Un, who had been living under Chinese protection. Data from the first quarter would only show a partial impact from that ban.

Data to May shows the ban appears to have had little immediate impact on North Korea’s ability to buy Chinese goods — a sign the hermit kingdom’s purchasing power may be more resilient than many external analysts believe.

In terms of overall trade, China’s monthly imports from North Korea clearly show the impact of the coal import ban. Coal accounted for about 40 per cent of North Korea’s total exports before this year, according to the UN, earning the country an average of $94m per month since early 2015.

But despite expectations that the move would reduce Pyongyang’s purchasing power, the value of Chinese exports to North Korea stayed strong in April and May. Shipments in February, when both countries celebrate the Lunar New Year, are usually lower than other months. Stronger exports from China to North Korea in January (before the cut-off in coal shipments) largely account for growth in first-quarter trade. Published customs data show growth in renminbi terms in the first three months of the year was only 8 per cent.

The customs administration said the 40 per cent quarterly growth figure reflects revisions in the prices of bulk commodities after the data were published. What is more noteworthy — and probably more uncomfortable for the White House — is that China’s April and May exports to North Korea stayed strong, too.

There are always questions around data when it is so politically charged.

For instance, Chinese customs figures show that no coal has been imported from North Korea since February. However, China turned away North Korean ships in April, raising the question of whether other vessels succeeded in continuing a clandestine coal trade that would not appear in official customs data.

North Korea begins journey from feudalism to crony capitalism Kim’s reforms have led to higher wages and private enterprise — making it harder to pressure the state with sanctions

It is also possible that North Korea continued to ship coal elsewhere, including Russia, and used the cash earned to continue to buy goods from the Chinese.

Any analysis of North Korea’s domestic economy or of its true trade with China is partially a guessing game, because some data simply drop off.

For instance, crude shipments have not been reported since 2013. So what do we know about North Korean trade with China? Its top imports are oil and oil products, as well as coke for its steel mills.

Years of data show that shipments of coke, iron ore and steel between the two countries closely match satellite images of activity at decrepit steel complexes that are at the centre of Pyongyang’s juche, or self-reliance, policy.

A Chinese trader interviewed in Dandong, the border city that handles most trade with North Korea, told the Financial Times he carefully checked “shopping lists” from North Korean buyers against a 236-page Chinese translation of items sanctioned by the UN. One such list, reviewed by the FT, includes a number of petrochemical components that have been regularly imported since at least 2009. Many are ingredients used in fertiliser (meaning they can also be used as explosives) or in motor fuel blending. But even given the gaps in the data, trade patterns give a peek into the health of the North Korean economy.

For instance, China consistently exported about 50,000 tonnes of crude oil a month from 2006 to 2009. That dropped to roughly 44,000 tonnes a month from 2010 to 2012 before rebounding to previous levels in 2013.

Monthly shipments were consistent at just under 5,900 tonnes a month until the beginning of 2011. That year, North Korea appears to have liberalised the import trade because monthly imports began to fluctuate a lot. Fuel imports rose sharply in 2012 but then dipped again from 2012 to 2014.

The drop could reflect the global collapse in coal prices that devastated the neighbouring resource-dependent economies of northern China and Mongolia — it is possible lower earnings from coal also hit North Korea’s domestic economy.

The drop could reflect the global collapse in coal prices that devastated the neighbouring resource-dependent economies of northern China and Mongolia — it is possible lower earnings from coal also hit North Korea’s domestic economy.

The drop in fuel import volumes in 2017 appears closely correlated to the cut in coal shipments — in following months, North Korean purchases of Chinese refined products sagged noticeably.

If fuel shipments are down and revenues from coal exports are curtailed, what has kept the value of Chinese exports to North Korea afloat for the past few months? According to Chinese customs data, shipments of cars, cooking oil, boat engines, oranges and tomatoes are all up.

Follow Lucy Hornby on Twitter: @HornbyLucy

https://www.ft.com/content/c8ddc208-62bb-11e7-91a7-502f7ee26895

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 (Wall Street Journal) — Includes “North Korea’s Nuclear Push Is Just One Piece of a Nationwide Building Boom” (New York Times)

Trump, Asian allies seek counter to North Korean ‘menace’

July 9, 2017

By KEN THOMAS and DARLENE SUPERVILLE

HAMBURG, Germany (AP) — Wrapping up his second European tour, President Donald Trump searched for consensus with Asian allies Saturday on how to counter the “menace” of North Korea after its test-launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile.

“Something has to be done about it,” Trump said as he met with Chinese President Xi Jinping. In a separate meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Trump said the two were tackling “the problem and menace of North Korea.”

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The White House said after the meeting with Abe that the U.S. was “prepared to use the full range of capabilities” in defense of Japan. Trump and Abe committed, the White House said, “to redoubling their efforts to bring all nations together to show North Korea that there are consequences for its threatening and unlawful actions.”

The Trump administration has tried to press Beijing to rein in North Korea, a major trading partner of China, and halt Kim Jong Un’s development of nuclear weapons before they can threaten U.S. territory. Trump has voiced his frustration in recent days that China hasn’t done more, suggesting he may take steps of his own.

But during his meeting, Trump told Xi, “I appreciate the things that you have done relative to the very substantial problem that we all face in North Korea.”

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U.S. President Donald Trump talks to China’s President Xi Jinping during the G20 leaders summit in Hamburg, Germany July 7, 2017. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer

Xi said during the meeting that “sensitive issues remain” in the China-U.S. relationship and more work needed to be done. But he said he had built with Trump a “close contact.”

Trump’s extensive slate of meetings with Abe, Xi, British Prime Minister Theresa May and others came on the final day of the annual Group of 20 summit, which has been marked by violent demonstrations by anti-globalization activists. Trump also had a brief, unscheduled meeting with Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan about the situation in Syria.

Abe, speaking through a translator, noted that the security situation in the Asia Pacific region has become “increasingly severe” due to North Korea’s push to develop its ballistic missile and nuclear program. Abe said he wanted to “demonstrate the robust partnership as well as the bonds” between Japan and the U.S. on the issue.

North Korea’s successful test launch of an ICBM was a milestone in its long-term effort to build a missile that could carry a nuclear warhead to attack the United States.

The issue was a frequent topic of discussion at the summit, and the White House said earlier that the U.S., South Korea and Japan were pressing for additional measures against North Korea to demonstrate the “serious consequences” for its latest provocations.

The three nations have been calling for “early adoption” of a new U.N. Security Council resolution and additional sanctions to demonstrate to Pyongyang the consequences of its actions.

Bringing China on board is a key part of the plan. The administration wants China to fully enforce international sanctions intended to starve Pyongyang of revenue for its nuclear and missile programs. But Trump has been dissatisfied with China’s response.

Earlier in the week, he vented on Twitter that trade between China and North Korea had grown nearly 40 percent at the start of 2017. “So much for China working with us – but we had to give it a try!”

Trump officials said later that the president hadn’t given up on the relationship.

Trade was also a key part of the discussions. The Trump administration is investigating the possibility of putting new barriers on steel imports based on national security considerations, a move that could target China, which has flooded international markets with cheap steel exports.

“Many things have happened that have led to trade imbalances and we’re going to turn that around,” Trump said during the meeting with Xi. Trump said he wanted a new arrangement that is “equitable” and “reciprocal.”

Meeting with May, the British leader, Trump pointed to their “special relationship,” and said the two countries were working on a trade agreement.

May was the first foreign leader to visit Trump at the White House and he told her he would soon “be going to London” once details were worked out. Independent trade negotiations between the two countries are a possibility as Britain exits the European Union — a move Trump has supported.

Earlier, Trump said Saturday he had a “tremendous meeting” with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday, his first comments on the talks with the Russian leader. Trump raised the issue of Russia’s meddling in the 2016 elections and discussed plans for a cease-fire agreement in Syria.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Friday that Trump and Putin had a “robust and lengthy” discussion about Russian election interference but Putin denied any involvement.

Putin, in a news conference Saturday, offered his version of events and said he thought Trump believed his in-person denials of Russian meddling. White House officials traveling aboard Air Force One did not dispute that account.

Tillerson, who took part in the meeting, said Trump had been “rightly focused on how do we move forward from something that may be an intractable disagreement at this point?”

In Washington, House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi criticized Trump and called his response to the Russian threat “nonsensical and absurdly inadequate.” In a written statement, she said reports of Trump’s meeting with the Russian leader “leave the American people asking why the President continues to fawn over Putin instead of standing up for the integrity of America’s democracy.”

Trump also joined a women’s entrepreneurial finance event, a project spearheaded by his daughter and senior adviser Ivanka Trump. He lauded his daughter’s efforts to help female entrepreneurs, joking that “if she weren’t my daughter, it would be so much easier for her.”

Trump returned to Washington on Saturday evening after the conclusion of the annual G-20 meetings. He won’t be stateside for long: The president is scheduled to return to Europe next week to attend Bastille Day celebrations in Paris.

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Associated Press writers Jill Colvin and Vivian Salama in Washington contributed to this report.

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Trump Discusses North Korea Threat in Calls With China, Japan Leaders

July 3, 2017

BRIDGEWATER, N.J. — U.S. President Donald Trump spoke to Chinese President Xi Jinping and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Sunday and discussed the threat posed by North Korea, the White House said.

“Both leaders reaffirmed their commitment to a denuclearized Korean Peninsula. President Trump reiterated his determination to seek more balanced trade relations with America’s trading partners,” the White House said of Trump’s call with Xi.

Trump has become increasingly frustrated with China’s inability to rein in North Korea.

Trump and Abe, in their call, reiterated their commitment to increase pressure on North Korea.

“They reaffirmed that the United States-Japan Alliance stands ready to defend and respond to any threat or action taken by North Korea,” the White House said in a statement.

(Reporting by Jeff Mason; Editing by Paul Tait)

Tokyo heads to polls in vote that could spell trouble for PM Abe

July 2, 2017

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FILE PHOTO: Tokyo Governor and head of Tokyo Citizens First party Yuriko Koike (R) delivers a speech to voters atop of a campaign van as election campaign officially kicks off for Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly election, on the street in Tokyo June 23, 2017.REUTERS/Issei Kato/File Photo
By Linda Sieg | TOKYO

Voters in the Japanese capital cast ballots on Sunday in an election that could spell trouble for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who is suffering from slumping support because of a scandal over suspected favoritism for a friend doing business.

On the surface, the Tokyo Metropolitan assembly election is a referendum on Governor Yuriko Koike’s year in office, but a poor showing for Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) will also be taken as rebuke of his 4-1/2-year-old administration.

Past Tokyo elections have been bellwethers to national trends. A 2009 Tokyo poll in which the LDP won just 38 seats was followed by its defeat in a general election that year, although this time no lower house poll need be held until late 2018.

Koike, a media-savvy ex-defence minister and former LDP member pushing a reformist message, hopes her Tokyo Citizens First party and allies win a majority in the 127-member assembly, to end the LDP’s domination of the chamber.

Among her allies is the Komeito party, the LDP’s national coalition partner.

A strong showing by Koike’s party would fuel speculation that she will make a bid for the nation’s top job, though probably not until after the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

It could also widen cracks between the LDP and the Komeito while damaging prospects for the opposition Democratic Party.

Abe’s rivals in his party could be encouraged by a dismal LDP performance to challenge him in a leadership race in September 2018, victory in which would set Abe on course to become Japan’s longest-serving leader and bolster his hopes of revising the post-war, pacifist constitution.

Gerry Curtis, professor emeritus at Columbia University, said Japan’s political landscape could be set for a shake-up if Koike’s party and its allies win big.

“We may discover that Japan is not all that different from Britain, France, and the U.S. in its ability to produce a big political surprise,” he said, referring to recent elections in those countries.

Abe’s troubles center on concern he may have intervened to help Kake Gakuen (Kake Educational Institution), whose director, Kotaro Kake, is a friend, win approval for a veterinary school in a special economic zone.

The government has not granted such an approval in decades due to perceived glut of veterinarians. Abe and his aides have denied doing Kake any favors.

Potentially more troublesome is the impression among many voters that Abe and his inner circle have grown arrogant.

A survey last week by the Jiji news agency forecast Koike’s party and allied groups would win at least 64 seats.

(Reporting by Linda Sieg; Editing by Robert Birsel and Marguerita Choy)

North Korea Claims Breakthrough in Missile Technology

May 30, 2017

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Latest launch marks third apparent missile milestone for Pyongyang in less then three weeks; move threatens new South Korean president’s policy

A screen showing the path of North Korea's latest missile, in the Japanese city of Osaka on Monday. ‘This cannot be tolerated,’ said Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

A screen showing the path of North Korea’s latest missile, in the Japanese city of Osaka on Monday. ‘This cannot be tolerated,’ said Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. PHOTO: MEIKA FUJIO/ASSOCIATED PRESS

SEOUL—North Korea’s latest missile launch is its third apparent breakthrough in missile technology in less than three weeks.

Pyongyang claimed Tuesday that the short-range ballistic missile fired Monday had a speeded-up launch process and a precision-control guidance system that can zero in within 23 feet of a target.

If true, the North’s new capability would mark the third major milestone that North Korea has claimed in less than three weeks. Tuesday’s claim follows the launch of what analysts believe is North Korea’s longest-range functioning missile and the test-firing last week of a solid-fueled missile that requires virtually no preparation time before launch.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un attended Monday’s test-launch, the state-run North Korean Central News Agency said Tuesday. It said the missile was fired from the back of a “newly designed” launch vehicle.

The missile employed a preparatory launch process that was more highly automated “for markedly reducing the launching time” of its traditional liquid-fueled missiles, Mr. Kim was quoted as saying.

Almost all of North Korea’s missiles use liquid fuel and must be filled at the launch site before firing, a laborious process that makes the missile vulnerable to a pre-emptive strike. North Korea has recently turned to developing solid-fueled missiles that contain the fuel inside and don’t need to be filled beforehand.

But according to North Korea’s latest boast, the liquid-fueled missile tested Monday, which analysts believe to be a variant of a short-range liquid-fueled Scud missile, can now be launched with less lead time.

Also notable were the North’s new claims of precision guidance. The missile featured stabilization systems to regulate speed and altitude, and a warhead with “control wings” that “correctly hit a planned target point with deviation of seven meters,” or 23 feet, the state news agency said.

The missile was first displayed at North Korea’s mid-April military parade in central Pyongyang, the report said, where independent analysts noted the apparently new missile and have provisionally labeled it the KN-17.

The missile, launched at 5:10 a.m. local time Monday from near the east-coast city of Wonsan, reached a maximum altitude of about 75 miles before splashing down six minutes and 280 miles later in the waters between Korea and Japan, according to the U.S. and South Korean militaries.

Monday’s test showed Mr. Kim isn’t throttling back in his drive to perfect his growing arsenal, particularly to develop a long-range missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead.

The launches are also likely to be a headache for South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who has been riding a wave of popularity since he was sworn in on May 10, ending a political crisis capped by the impeachment and then arrest of his predecessor, Park Geun-hye.

As North Korea continues its missile push, Mr. Moon’s pledge to seek more dialogue and economic cooperation with Pyongyang—Ms. Park was a hard-liner—is likely to run into growing concerns both within South Korea and internationally about a softer policy.

Monday’s test-launch “is an embarrassment for Moon Jae-in, and sets a very high barrier to change on the policy toward North Korea,” said Jung Kim, professor of political science at the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul. “Without at least a behavioral change by North Korea, it’s very hard to justify any kind of departure from the status quo right now.”

North Korea has shown great disrespect for their neighbor, China, by shooting off yet another ballistic missile…but China is trying hard!

U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner (R., Colo.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s subpanel on East Asia, said Monday evening in Seoul that the missile launches underscored North Korea’s indifference to the new Moon administration’s attempts to pursue engagement with Pyongyang.

“If this administration is willing to take a different path than the previous administration, it apparently doesn’t mean anything to North Korea because we’ve now seen a third missile launch since this president has been inaugurated,” Mr. Gardner said. “It just shows what kind of a regime you’re dealing with.”

U.S. President Donald Trump said on Twitter Monday that “North Korea has shown great disrespect for their neighbor, China, by shooting off yet another ballistic missile.” But he added that “China is trying hard!”—an apparent reference to Beijing’s efforts to tighten sanctions enforcement on North Korea.

Earlier this year, China said it would suspend imports of coal from North Korea, in a move that would deprive the isolated country of a major source of income.

The attempts to squeeze North Korea come as the country has touted new capabilities with its recent launches.

Two weeks ago, Pyongyang test-fired a missile that it later called the Hwasong-12, which analysts said could fly 2,800 miles—considerably farther than its previous missiles, and far enough to reach the U.S. military base on Guam. About a week later came the Polaris-2 missile, fueled by a solid rather than a liquid fuel—meaning it requires much less time to prepare for launch, giving Pyongyang more flexibility and stealth.

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North Korean leader Kim Jong Un inspects the Hwasong 12 missile

Mr. Kim, the North Korean leader, last week declared the Polaris-2—unveiled about three months earlier—“very accurate,” and ordered its mass production, according to North Korea’s state media.

After Monday’s launch, Mr. Kim called for more missile research, which he said would allow the North “to send bigger ‘gift package’ to the Yankees.”

“Whenever news of our valuable victory is broadcast recently, the Yankees would be very much worried about it and the gangsters of the South Korean puppet army would be dispirited more and more,” Mr. Kim was quoted as saying.

In Japan, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said the projectile had landed within 200 miles of the nation’s coastline, meaning it had fallen within its exclusive economic zone. “We condemn these actions in the strongest manner,” he said.

“This cannot be tolerated,” said Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who told reporters he would work with the U.S. and South Korea to monitor North Korea’s actions.

Write to Jonathan Cheng at jonathan.cheng@wsj.com

Appeared in the May 30, 2017, print edition as ‘Pyongyang Claims Missile Breakthrough.’

https://www.wsj.com/articles/north-korean-missiles-threaten-new-south-korean-presidents-policy-1496057303?mod=e2tw

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North Korea warns of ‘bigger gift package’ for U.S. after latest test

May 30, 2017

Reuters

FILE PHOTO: Kim Jong Un reacts with Ri Pyong Chol (C in rear line) and Jang Chang Ha (R) during a test launch of ground-to-ground medium long-range ballistic rocket Hwasong-10 in this undated photo released June 23, 2016. REUTERS/KCNA/File Photo
By Ju-min Park and Jack Kim | SEOUL
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North Korean leader Kim Jong Un supervised the test of a new ballistic missile controlled by a precision guidance system and ordered the development of more powerful strategic weapons, the North’s official KCNA news agency reported on Tuesday.

The missile launched on Monday was equipped with an advanced automated pre-launch sequence compared with previous versions of the “Hwasong” rockets, North Korea’s name for its Scud-class missiles, KCNA said. That indicated the North had launched a modified Scud-class missile, as South Korea’s military has said.

The North’s test launch of a short-range ballistic missile landed in the sea off its east coast and was the latest in a fast-paced series of missile tests defying international pressure and threats of more sanctions.

Kim said the reclusive state would develop more powerful weapons in multiple phases in accordance with its timetable to defend North Korea against the United States.

“He expressed the conviction that it would make a greater leap forward in this spirit to send a bigger ‘gift package’ to the Yankees” in retaliation for American military provocation, KCNA quoted Kim as saying.

South Korea said it had conducted a joint drill with a U.S. supersonic B-1B Lancer bomber on Monday. North Korea’s state media earlier accused the United States of staging a drill to practise dropping nuclear bombs on the Korean peninsula.

The U.S. Navy said its aircraft carrier strike group, led by the USS Carl Vinson, also planned a drill with another U.S. nuclear carrier, the USS Ronald Reagan, in waters near the Korean peninsula.

A U.S. Navy spokesman in South Korea did not give specific timing for the strike group’s planned drill.

North Korea calls such drills a preparation for war.

Monday’s launch followed two successful tests of medium-to-long-range missiles in as many weeks by the North, which has been conducting such tests at an unprecedented pace in an effort to develop an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) capable of hitting the mainland United States.

Such launches, and two nuclear tests since January 2016, have been conducted in defiance of U.S. pressure, U.N. resolutions and the threat of more sanctions.

They also pose one of the greatest security challenges for U.S. President Donald Trump, who portrayed the latest missile test as an affront to China.

“North Korea has shown great disrespect for their neighbor, China, by shooting off yet another ballistic missile … but China is trying hard!” Trump said on Twitter.

PRECISION GUIDANCE

Japan has also urged China to play a bigger role in restraining North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s top national security adviser, Shotaro Yachi, met China’s top diplomat, State Councillor Yang Jiechi, for five hours of talks near Tokyo on Monday after the North’s latest test.

Yachi told Yang that North Korea’s actions had reached a new level of provocation.

“Japan and China need to work together to strongly urge North Korea to avoid further provocative actions and obey things like United Nations resolutions,” Yachi was quoted as telling Yang in a statement by Japan’s foreign ministry.

A statement from China’s foreign ministry after the meeting made no mention of North Korea.

North Korea has claimed major advances with its rapid series of launches, claims that outside experts and officials believe may be at least partially true but are difficult to verify independently.

A South Korean military official said the North fired one missile on Monday, clarifying an earlier assessment that there may have been more than one launch.

The test was aimed at verifying a new type of precision guidance system and the reliability of a new mobile launch vehicle under different operational conditions, KCNA said.

However, South Korea’s military and experts questioned the claim because the North had technical constraints, such as a lack of satellites, to operate a terminal-stage missile guidance system properly.

“Whenever news of our valuable victory is broadcast recently, the Yankees would be very much worried about it and the gangsters of the south Korean puppet army would be dispirited more and more,” KCNA cited leader Kim as saying.

(Reporting by Jack Kim and Ju-min Park; Additional reporting by James Pearson in SEOUL, Ben Blanchard in BEIJING, and Elaine Lies in TOKYO; Editing by Dan Grebler and Paul Tait)

South China Sea: Japan, New Zealand Support International Law, Arbitral Ruling, Angering China

May 19, 2017
New Zealand Prime Minister Bill English, right, accompanied by his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe, reviews an honor guard prior to their meeting at Abe’s official residence in Tokyo, Wednesday, May 17, 2017. AP/Shizuo Kambayashi, Pool
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MANILA, Philippines — Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and New Zealand Prime Minister Bill English have expressed concern over the disputed South China Sea following their meeting in Tokyo on Wednesday.

In their joint statement released after the meeting, the two leaders called on concerned parties to settle disputes by peaceful means in accordance with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and in light of the award issued by an international arbitral tribunal.

On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration issued the award invalidating China’s nine-dash line claim over the disputed waters. The court also ruled that Beijing violated its commitment under the UNCLOS for building artificial islands within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.

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The Philippines, under the Duterte administration, has decided to set aside the ruling in settling the dispute with China.

‘Inopportune’

Abe and English called for the early finalization of a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea and full implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea.

“They called on all parties to uphold freedom of navigation and overflight and ensure unimpeded trade while avoiding provocative actions that could increase tensions and erode regional trust and confidence, including land reclamation, building of outposts, construction and militarisation,” the joint statement read.

Beijing, however, finds the statement of Japan and New Zealand “rather inopportune.”

“Given all these, Japan still exerts itself in every possible way to stir up trouble and exaggerate what it called ‘the tense situation’ which does not exist at all,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said in a press briefing Thursday.

Hua stressed that the arbitration case on the South China Sea has “already been turned over as a page of history.”

Philippine-China bilateral talks

Beijing urged Tokyo to adjust its mindset for mutual trust between regional countries and for peace and stability in the region.

“We cannot help but wondering: what does Japan really want? Peace and stability in the South China Sea? Or is it exactly peace and stability in the South China Sea as well as improving relations between China and the Philippines and other ASEAN member states that worry Japan so much?” Hua said.

The Philippines and China are set to hold the inaugural meeting of their bilateral consultation mechanism on the South China Sea dispute on Friday.

“The two sides expect to have friendly exchanges during this meeting on the relevant maritime issue and properly manage disputes through bilateral dialogues so as to create favorable conditions for the final settlement of the relevant dispute and ensure a good atmosphere for the sound and steady development of bilateral ties and the smooth progress of practical cooperation in various fields,” the spokesperson said.

RELATED: China expects to ‘disperse suspicion’ in planned talks with Philippines

http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2017/05/19/1701542/japan-new-zealand-underscore-arbitral-ruling-south-china-sea-angering

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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 this claim by China was not valid. But China chose to ignore international law.

S.Korea, Japan seek to lower tensions over ‘comfort women’

May 18, 2017

AFP

© AFP | A man (L) wearing a mask of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe kneels down in a mock apology next to the statue (R) of a teenage girl symbolizing former “comfort women” who served as sex slaves for Japanese soldiers during World War II

TOKYO (AFP) – Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe met with a senior South Korean envoy on Thursday, as the two countries try to lower tensions over Tokyo’s wartime use of “comfort women”.

The special envoy dispatched by South Korea’s new President Moon Jae-In said in Tokyo that Seoul wants regular summits and improved relations, which have been hindered by the memory of Japan’s harsh colonial rule of the Korean peninsula from 1910-1945.

Abe also struck a conciliatory note, saying: “With the new president, I wish to build future-oriented Japan-South Korea relations.”

In what both governments hoped was a major step forward, the two countries had agreed in 2015 to a deal designed to end a row over Korean “comfort women” forced into sex slavery for Japanese soldiers during the World War II.

However, the election this month of Moon as president, replacing the ousted Park Geun-Hye, has cast doubt over the agreement, which both governments previously had said “resolved (the issue) finally and irreversibly”.

Moon in a phone call with Abe last week said that most Koreans cannot accept the agreement.

That raised worries in Tokyo that the issue could again hinder ties, at a time when both countries are seeking unity to face the threat posed by North Korea’s nuclear and missile development.

As part of the accord, Japan offered an apology and a payment totalling one billion yen ($9 million) to the dozens of remaining survivers.

But critics of the deal in South Korea said Japan did not go far enough, and earlier this year Tokyo recalled its ambassador over a statue symbolising “comfort women”, which was erected outside its consulate in the South Korean city of Busan.

Speaking to reporters after Thursday’s meeting, envoy Moon Hee-Sang confirmed that the “comfort women” issue had been raised, but did not offer further details.

“We had a serious discussion but I find it uncomfortable to say more about it,” Moon said, adding that both sides expressed their positions.

Japan has pressed Seoul to implement the deal and also to remove another “comfort women” statue near the Japanese embassy in Seoul.

Mainstream historians say up to 200,000 women, mostly from Korea but also China and other parts of Asia, were forced to work in Japanese military brothels during World War II.

New South Korean President Opens Talks With China, Japan, U.S.

May 11, 2017

AFP

© Yonhap/AFP | South Korea’s new President Moon Jae-In talks to Chinese leader Xi Jinping, at the presidential Blue House in Seoul, on May 11, 2017

SEOUL (AFP) – 

New South Korean President Moon Jae-In spoke to the leaders of China and Japan Thursday, hours after a telephone call with his US counterpart Donald Trump, officials and reports said, as he began shaping his approach to the nuclear-armed North.

In a 40-minute conversation with Chinese leader Xi Jinping, the two agreed denuclearising Pyongyang was a “common goal” between them, Moon’s office said.

Ties between Seoul and Beijing have soured over the South’s deployment of a controversial US anti-missile system aimed at guarding against threats from the nuclear-armed North.

Moon also had a telephone call with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Japanese news agency Jiji reported.

Seoul is embroiled in a diplomatic dispute with former colonial power Japan over wartime history, but fellow US ally Tokyo is also targeted by the North.

China sees the deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system as a threat to its own military capability and has slapped a series of measures against South Korean businesses seen as economic retaliation.

In their first phone conversation, Moon and Xi “agreed that denuclearising the Korean peninsula is the two countries’ common goal”, the South Korean president’s spokesman Yoon Young-Chan told reporters.

Moon, who took office on Wednesday, favours engagement with the North — whose key diplomatic backer is China — to bring it to the negotiating table over its nuclear and missile ambitions.

Moon also called for “dialogue along with sanctions and pressure” on the North to push Pyongyang to talks, Yoon said.

Moon has previously expressed ambivalence over the THAAD system and told Xi he was “well aware” of Chinese concerns about it, calling for bilateral talks to “increase understanding over the issue”.

The two leaders agreed to exchange special envoys “at an early date” and Moon proposed sending a separate delegation to Beijing that will “exclusively discuss the THAAD and the North’s nuclear issues”, Yoon said.

Echoing the United States’ line, Moon also suggested that China — the North’s sole major ally and economic lifeline — should do more to tame Pyongyang, saying “solving the THAAD problem would be easier if there was no more provocation by the North.”

Xi officially invited Moon to visit Beijing, Yoon added.

The phone conversation came a day after Moon and US President Donald Trump agreed on “close cooperation” in dealing with the North’s nuclear ambitions in their first conversation Wednesday night.

The North has staged two atomic tests and dozens of missile launches since last year in its quest to deliver a nuclear warhead to “imperialist enemy” the US.

Tensions have been running high with Washington calling for more sanctions and warning a military option was on the table, but Trump recently softened his posture, saying he would be “honoured” to meet the North’s leader Kim Jong-Un.

The US is the South’s security guarantor and has 28,500 troops stationed in the country, but Seoul was startled when Trump suggested it should pay for the $1 billion THAAD system.

Japan’s biggest warship to escort US supply vessel

April 30, 2017
/ 01:57 PM April 30, 2017

Japan Maritime Self Defense Forces latest helicopter destroyer Izumo anchors at its Yokosuka base in Yokosuka on March 31, 2015. The JS Izumo (DDH-183), with a length of 248-meters and displacing 19,500 tons, is the largest vessel procured by the MSDF ever. AFP PHOTO / TOSHIFUMI KITAMURA / AFP PHOTO / TOSHIFUMI KITAMURA

Japan Maritime Self Defense Forces latest helicopter destroyer Izumo anchors at its Yokosuka base in Yokosuka on March 31, 2015. The JS Izumo (DDH-183), with a length of 248-meters and displacing 19,500 tons, is the largest vessel procured by the MSDF ever. AFP FILE

TOKYO, Japan — Japan will dispatch its biggest warship since World War II to protect a US supply ship, as tensions mount in the region over North Korea, media reports said on Sunday.

The helicopter carrier Izumo will leave the mother port of Yokosuka, south of Tokyo, on Monday and join the US supply ship to escort it further into the western Pacific, the leading Asahi Shimbun daily and Jiji Press reported citing unnamed government sources.

It will be the first deployment — outside of troop exercises –to protect the US fleet after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe expanded the country’s military capabilities in 2015, though they remain restricted under Japan’s pacifist constitution.

The US supply ship is expected to support America’s naval fleet in the Pacific, possibly including the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson, which remains on high alert over North Korea’s ballistic missile firings, the reports said.

Japanese naval officials declined to comment on the reports.

Earlier this week, the US carrier had joint drills with Japan’s naval forces.

Image may contain: ocean, sky, outdoor and water

Izumo

The Carl Vinson arrived in the Sea of Japan and kicked off a joint drill with the South Korean navy on Saturday, hours after North Korea launched a ballistic missile in apparent defiance of the US.

North Korea’s state media has said the North’s military is capable of sinking the US aircraft carrier with a single strike.

The latest missile launch, which South Korea said was a failure, ratchets up tensions on the Korean peninsula, with Washington and Pyongyang locked in an ever-tighter spiral of threat, counter-threat and escalating military preparedness.

US President Donald Trump, who has warned of a “major conflict” with North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un’s regime, said the latest test was a pointed snub to China — the North’s main ally and economic lifeline.

“North Korea disrespected the wishes of China & its highly respected President when it launched, though unsuccessfully, a missile today. Bad!” Trump tweeted. CBB/rga

Read more: http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/893107/japans-biggest-warship-to-escort-us-supply-vessel-media#ixzz4fj7Mr3KL
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