Posts Tagged ‘Singapore’

Rescued Singapore Shipbuilder Buckles Under Debt Woes — Otto Marine has $877 million in liabilities

February 23, 2018

Bloomberg

By Andrea Tan and  David Yong

  • Otto Marine has $877 million in liabilities, it tells court
  • Provider of offshore support vessels has potential investor

A Singapore shipping company rescued by its chairman just over a year ago faces collapse unless the courts step in, a sign that an earlier slump in oil prices is still reverberating.

 Image result for Otto Marine, singapore, photos

Saddled with $877 million in liabilities and creditors demanding payment, Otto Marine Ltd. is asking the Singapore High Court for protection. The shipbuilder wants to turn itself around under the court’s supervision and fend off creditors while it restructures its debt, according to its Feb. 20 application for judicial management, which was obtained by Bloomberg News.

“I cannot be expected to continue shouldering the financial burden and injecting fresh capital into the company,” Executive Chairman Yaw Chee Siew said in the application.

Yaw, took full control of the ailing firm in October 2016 and is the single biggest creditor with $208 million due to him and affiliates, the papers show. The financial collapse of the group is imminent unless the High Court provides breathing room, he said.

Otto Marine made its case for an interim judicial manager in a closed door hearing on Friday. “The company will release a statement after the outcome of the hearing is known,” Mark Ortega, legal counsel, said in an email on Thursday.

Oil and Gas Struggles

The shipping company is among many in the oil and gas services industry struggling to meet financial obligations after a plunge in crude prices caused contracts to dry up. At least $15 billion of bonds and loans have fallen into distress in Southeast Asia in the past five years, according to data compiled by Bloomberg, and Otto Marine and peers including Swiber Holdings Ltd., Ezion Holdings Ltd. and Ezra Holding Ltd. contributed almost half of the amount.

The tumble in oil prices has pushed at least 134 North American oil producers into bankruptcy since 2015, according to Dallas-based law firm Haynes & Boone LLP. That pace has slowed as prices rallied about 50 percent from a bottom in 2017.

Otto Marine had $869 million in assets at the end of last year, and most of them are unlikely to be recovered in full, according to the court papers. The firm will probably survive for another two months based on its cash reserves, Yaw said in the filing. It has hired law firm PRP Law LLC and intends to appoint a judicial manager from KordaMentha Pte, the filing shows.

Yaw is a scion of the family that controls Malaysian timber giant Samling Group and also runs luxury-car dealerships in Hong Kong and China. He is the founding chairman of Perdana Parkcity, a closely held developer of a sprawling township outside Kuala Lumpur, according to data on the company’s website.

Otto Marine, established in 1979, has secured a letter of intent from an unidentified party willing to invest in the firm if certain conditions are met, Yaw said in the court papers.

“There is a reasonable probability of rehabilitating the company,” Yaw said in the papers, adding that the oil and gas market is slowly recovering.

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China Has Bought Brunei’s Silence in South China Sea Dispute

February 22, 2018
China’s takeover of the strategic South China Sea region is ‘steering the world toward war.’

In discussions about the South China Sea dispute, we often hear about China claiming nearly the entire resource-rich, strategic region. And we also often hear about rival claimants—nations such as Vietnam, Malaysia and the Philippines—who dispute China’s claims. International law says these smaller nations rightfully own the portions of the sea along their coasts, so they often cry foul of Beijing’s claims to their territory.

But there is one country with claims to part of the South China Sea that we no longer hear from in this context: Brunei.

Brunei lies on the northwest coast of the island of Borneo at the southern end of the South China Sea. Brunei can lawfully claim 200 nautical miles of the sea off its coast as its Exclusive Economic Zone (eez).

In previous decades, Brunei was clear about asserting its claims in the South China Sea. In the 1990s, its leadership launched a public objection after China had conducted unauthorized research off Brunei’s coasts. But more recently, Brunei has grown virtually silent about its claims.

In sharp contrast to the vocal governments in Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and elsewhere, Brunei has not openly contested China’s illegal claims that infringe on its eez.

Evidence indicates that Brunei’s reticence in this area is largely due to receiving billions of dollars in investments from China. “Total consolidated Chinese investment in Brunei is now estimated at around $6 billion and scheduled to rise,” the Asia Times recently reported.

For a nation as small as Brunei, this is a vast amount of money. And it is coming at a time when Brunei’s main economic lifeline, oil reserves, are dwindling.

Chinese investment in Brunei has helped build local infrastructure and a major oil refinery. China is also helping Brunei expand its manufacturing and improve its connectivity. China now also holds joint control of Brunei’s largest container terminal.

With these investments, China has essentially bought Brunei’s silence in the South China Sea dispute. Its government has even gone so far as to censor its own media from criticizing China.

Brunei is a member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (asean), an organization established largely to unify smaller nations in the region to stand up to China’s influence. China’s sway over Brunei erodes asean unity and complicates the ability of other member nations to challenge Beijing.

Trumpet editor in chief Gerald Flurry has said that China’s takeover of the strategic South China Sea is “steering the world toward war.” In the July 2016 Trumpet issue, he wrote:

Since Japan’s defeat in World War ii, America has protected this vital trade route and brought peace to this part of the world. Now the American military is retreating, and other great powers are coming in to fill the vacuum. … China is intimidating the nations of Southeast Asia into submission to its will. It is forcing these countries to do what it wants. Everything is headed in the direction of war.

Mr. Flurry’s understanding of the South China Sea dynamic is based on Bible prophecy.

In Deuteronomy 28:52, God warns the nations of Israel that if they reject Him, He will hand control over the world’s strategic sea gates to their enemies:

And he shall besiege thee in all thy gates, until thy high and fenced walls come down, wherein thou trustedst, throughout all thy land: and he shall besiege thee in all thy gates throughout all thy land, which the Lord thy God hath given thee.

Mr. Flurry explained that this warning in Deuteronomy is not for ancient peoples. “It is a prophecy for the modern-day descendants of Israel,” he wrote. “Two nations in particular represent Israel in this end time: America and Britain. … This prophecy and several others show that He will send foreign enemies to punish America and Britain!”

The fact that China has now essentially bought Brunei’s silence and compliance in the South China Sea, allowing Beijing’s ongoing takeover of the whole region, shows that the era of America ensuring peace to this part of the world is rapidly ending. It shows that this prophecy is now in the process of being fulfilled.

But Mr. Flurry made plain that this approaching war is closely linked to the best imaginable news. “All this prophesied destruction is what it will take for God to reach this world!” he wrote in that article. “After this, people will be ashamed—and they will get to know God! Ezekiel repeatedly talked about that inspiring conclusion (e.g. Ezekiel 6:7; 7:4; 11:10; 12:20; 13:9; 23:48-49; etc). Yes, there is a lot of bad news when you consider what it takes to get people to the point of knowing God. But ultimately, the outcome is spectacularly good news!”

To understand the details of these prophecies, and the profound hope that is tied to them, please request a free copy of Mr. Flurry’s book Ezekiel: The End-Time Prophet.

https://www.thetrumpet.com/16927-china-has-bought-bruneis-silence-in-south-china-sea-dispute

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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.

Broadcom lowers offer for Qualcomm as takeover saga continues

February 21, 2018

AFP

© AFP/File | Broadcom CEO Hock Tan is seen at a November 2017 White House meeting with President Donald Trump where he announced the Singapore-based firm would be reincorporating in the United States
WASHINGTON (AFP) – Singapore-based Broadcom said Wednesday it was cutting its offer price for mobile chip maker Qualcomm in the wake of the US firm’s increased bid for Dutch rival NXP.Broadcom reduced its offer to $79 a share, which would still be the largest-ever deal in the tech sector if completed at an estimated value of nearly $117 billion.

The move came amid a closely watched hostile bid for Qualcomm which could reshape the fast-evolving sector of chips for smartphones and connected devices.

A Broadcom statement said the offer was reduced because “Qualcomm’s board acted against the best interests of its stockholders by unilaterally transferring excessive value to NXP’s activist stockholders.”

Qualcomm, the dominant maker of smartphone chips, has moved to fend off Broadcom’s hostile takeover efforts and last week rejected the latest offer of $82 a share as too low.

The California company on Tuesday raised its offer for NXP to an estimated $43 billion, aiming to alleviate concerns of some NXP investors and seal the tie-up which would make a Broadcom acquisition of Qualcomm less enticing.

Broadcom said Wednesday it remained committed to acquiring Qualcomm and its cash-and-stock offer would revert back to $82 per share should Qualcomm fail to acquire NXP.

The Singapore firm accused Qualcomm’s board of acting against shareholder interest “by unilaterally transferring excessive value to NXP’s activist shareholders.”

“Broadcom remains confident that Qualcomm’s stockholders will continue to support its proposal to acquire Qualcomm,” Broadcom said in a statement.

Qualcomm is due to hold an annual meeting March 6 at which Broadcom has nominated six people to replace the majority of Qualcomm’s board of directors.

Broadcom’s original offer for Qualcomm came days after CEO Hock Tan visited the White House and told President Donald Trump the company would be moving back to the United States.

Singapore invites cyberattacks to strengthen defences

February 21, 2018

AFP

© AFP/File | Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong speaks at Singapore’s inaugural Cyber Week in 2016: the defence ministry has now held an unusual contest aimed at tightening cybersecurity

SINGAPORE (AFP) – Hundreds of hackers have targeted Singapore’s defence ministry — but the attacks were at the government’s invitation in an unusual attempt to strengthen cybersecurity.Authorities said Wednesday they had paid out US$14,750 in prize money to the best of the 264 so-called “white hat” hackers — specialists who seek to break into networks to check for vulnerabilities — involved in the project.

The programme, which ran from mid-January to early February, was introduced after an embarrassing breach last year which saw hackers steal personal data from about 850 military servicemen and other employees from a defence ministry web portal.

It was run with cybersecurity network HackerOne, which specialises in coordinating “bug bounty programmes” in which hackers are rewarded for spotting weaknesses in computer systems.

The top hacker in the contest was a Cyber Security Manager from Ernst and Young Singapore who gave his name only as Darrel and goes by the online moniker “Shivadagger”. He was awarded US$5,000.

A total of 97 vulnerability reports were submitted from 34 participants during the programme, with 35 reports deemed valid, according to the defence ministry.

David Koh, the defence ministry’s cybersecurity chief, hailed the project. “Our systems are now more secure,” he said.

While Singapore has some of the most advanced weaponry in the region, Koh said the ministry was at increasing risk of being targeted, and attackers could range from high-school students in their basements to criminals and state-actors.

Indonesia police seize over a ton of crystal meth on ship

February 20, 2018

The Indonesian navy early this month seized 1.3 tons of crystal methamphetamine and arrested four Taiwanese crew on a ship spotted in the strait between Singapore and Indonesia. (Courtesy Indonesian Navy)
JAKARTA: Indonesian authorities early Tuesday seized 1.6 tons of crystal methamphetamine hidden on a Singapore-flagged ship in their second major drug bust this month, officials said.
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Customs inspectors said they spotted the vessel between Indonesia’s Sumatra island and Singapore and reported it to police.
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A subsequent search of the ship turned up the huge haul of narcotics stuffed into some 81 rice sacks. Four Taiwanese crew were arrested including a 69-year-old man.
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“We are currently weighing the drugs and questioning four Taiwanese crew,” tax and customs agency spokesman Deni Sirjantoro said.
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Indonesian authorities said they had been looking for the ship for several months on suspicion it was shipping drugs to Indonesia and Australia, adding that it may have flown flags from different countries to avoid detection.
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Earlier this month the Indonesian navy seized 1.3 tons of crystal methamphetamine and arrested four Taiwanese crew on a ship spotted in the strait between Singapore and Indonesia.
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Indonesia has some of the world’s toughest anti-drugs laws, including capital punishment for some trafficking cases.

US needs better China strategy in real-life Game Of Thrones

February 19, 2018

By James Stavridis

In HBO’s Game Of Thrones, the most impressive single force on a very complex battlefield is the trio of dragons mastered by Queen Daenerys Targaryen. As she says: “We will lay waste to armies and burn cities to the ground!”

The symbol of China, of course, is the dragon. The US, whose symbol is the eagle, will need to learn to fly in uneasy company of the dragon in the decades ahead.

These metaphors can fly independently, but they are going to have to deconflict the airspace.

Let’s begin with a hopeful disclaimer: I do not believe we are headed towards a war with China. Our interests are far more likely to converge than to diverge overall, and our economies are deeply intertwined.

Yet the competition, assuming we can avoid outright conflict, will be fierce. A recent cover of The Economist talked about Chinese “sharp power”, meaning the combination of traditional “soft power” (hospitals, medical diplomacy, humanitarian operations) with more coercive tools (trade, economic domination, cyber piracy).

The United States needs a strategy to deal with a China that is increasingly comfortable engaging aggressively in the world. A good primer on this is Graham Allison’s recent book, Destined For War: Can America And China Escape Thucydides Trap?”

Professor Allison of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government tells the story of China’s truly meteoric rise over the past three decades, and makes the point that while we are playing checkers, the Chinese are not simply playing chess – they are playing a different game altogether: Go.

 

It is a complex, multi-move, long-dwell game of strategy. While the US crafts a strategy for the next decade or so (see the Donald Trump administration’s new National Security Strategy), China is planning the 200-year future. It is playing a long, long game.

An F-18 Hornet fighter jet set for take-off from the flight deck of aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson during a routine deployment in the South China Sea this month. The writer believes that while the US still has an overall military advantage over Chi

So what should the US do? Where are there zones of cooperation, and where must it confront? Is there a sensible strategy the US can pursue to ensure it is not incinerated in the dragon’s fire?

The strategy needs to leave behind the mode of “China versus the US” and into a truly integrated Asian coalition. We must not appear to encircle, contain, or intimidate China; we must avoid creating a stark choice between Washington and Beijing for our partners in the region. Rather, we want to build stronger coordinated approaches with Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore and other allies, friends and partners.

Let’s start with confrontation. At the top of the tactical watch list is the controversial set of Chinese claims over the South China Sea.

A body of water roughly the size of the Gulf of Mexico, it has billions of barrels of oil and trillions of cubic feet of natural gas under its normally placid waves. Acquisition of this rich trove of hydrocarbons would complete China’s strategic suite of cards in the 21st century.

The US rightfully opposes such an appropriation, and will continue to fly planes overhead and drive ships through what Beijing insists are its “territorial seas”. Similarly, both sides are in conflict in another dimension of time and space altogether: the cyberworld.

The Chinese habit of stealing intellectual property and pressuring US companies in the cybersphere is accelerating, despite assurances from President Xi Jinping to former president Barack Obama and President Trump that he would rein in Chinese activities.

Finally, the US will continue to fight with China over what constitutes “free and fair trade”, and find ways to bring its trade deficit more into balance. There will be confrontation and hard negotiations (and hopefully not a full-blown trade war) ahead.

Here’s the good news: We do have a set of shared interests, starting with perhaps the most important one, Mr Kim Jong Un. China wants to continue to see a divided Korean peninsula (fearing the creation of a powerful juggernaut in the form of a unified, Western-aligned democracy post-Kim). Beijing also wants to avoid a full-blown refugee crisis on the border. There is room to work together in crafting a compromise to solve the potentially catastrophic possibility of a war between the US and North Korea.

The two nations can also work together on a wide range of global problems from climate change (the Trump administration is even talking about re-entering the Paris Agreement) to peacekeeping (perhaps on the turbulent Horn of Africa, where China is building a military base and has real interests).

China and the US could conduct medical diplomacy together (both nations operate hospital ships) and humanitarian operations in Africa and Latin America. There is the possibility of working together to reduce tensions in South Asia, where the US is still at war in Afghanistan and China holds great influence over Pakistan.

None of these will be easy, but all are at least possible. The goal then is to craft a sensible strategic approach that confronts China where the US must, but cooperates where it can.

It should be developed together by the departments of Defence, State, Treasury and Homeland Security (for the cyberpiece), and led by National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster. The working group should take input from outside experts and strategists including Prof Allison; former ambassador to China and retired Navy four-star admiral Joe Prueher; current head of the US Pacific Command, Admiral Harry Harris (nominated to be the next US ambassador to Australia); and Dr Henry Kissinger.

It should feature six key elements:

• Use true long-term thinking. Like China, the US must stop thinking year-to-year or even over the current decade – where do we see the US-China relationship in a century? Two centuries? We are a Pacific nation, but sensible accommodations that can be made that reflect the power and reach of China. We need to think about long-term strategies and the resources necessary to execute them.

•Conduct international coalition-building. The strategy needs to leave behind the mode of “China versus the US” and into a truly integrated Asian coalition. We must not appear to encircle, contain, or intimidate China; we must avoid creating a stark choice between Washington and Beijing for our partners in the region. Rather, we want to build stronger coordinated approaches with Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore and other allies, friends and partners. Above all, we must work with India, the other emerging superpower of the 21st century and a fellow democracy.

•Retain a value-based approach. We must not surrender the importance of democracy, liberty, freedom of speech, gender equality, racial equality and other human rights. The US executes these values imperfectly, but they are the right ones and must be part of our strategic approach. Sometimes we think of this as a “war of ideas”, but that is not quite right. We are in a marketplace of ideas, and must compete with the alternate vision for structuring a society offered by China.

•Enhance our geo-economic posture. As the US becomes an energy superpower, revitalises its infrastructure (both physical and cyber), improves its global balance of trade, renegotiates important trade agreements, and uses Bretton Woods institutions – World Bank, International Monetary Fund – aggressively, it will have a more robust set of economic tools. Washington should use them with confidence in dealing with China, starting with returning to the idea of a multi-state Pacific trade agreement (a follow-on to the torpedoed Trans-Pacific Partnership) about which even Mr Trump has mused. Energising the private sector by defending its interests in China and US markets can provide leverage.

•Integrate the interagency. Today, various parts of the government are not well-coordinated in terms of an approach to China. The Defence Department is pursuing an aggressive strategy that names China (correctly) as a potentially dangerous peer-competitor; the State Department has a much softer approach. Treasury is hard-edged on currency manipulation, but the Department of Homeland Security is not aggressive enough in working on cyber defences. The US does not have a two-speed approach – it is more like a 10-speed bicycle

• Maintain a qualitative military edge. While the US still enjoys an overall military advantage over China, the margin is shrinking. It will require smart investments – especially in cyber, unmanned vehicles, advanced maritime platforms and fifth-generation fighters – to ensure it can succeed if forced into combat. Above all, it needs to move from a reactive China “policy” to a real strategy that connects ends, ways and means.

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America could easily take a page from Sun Tzu, the legendary Chinese strategist, who was known for his sophisticated blend of hard and soft power to win complex battles. Yet even he ultimately said: “In death ground, fight.”

We are not yet on a death ground with China, but we will need a new approach to ensure we don’t stumble onto one.

BLOOMBERG VIEW

•The writer is a retired US Navy admiral, former military commander of Nato, and dean of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 19, 2018, with the headline ‘US needs better China strategy in real-life Game Of Thrones’.
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Asean and China committed to code of conduct for South China Sea disputes

February 18, 2018

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Minister for Defence Dr Ng Eng Hen speaks at the 54th Munich Security Conference in Munich, Germany.PHOTO: MINISTRY OF DEFENCE

SINGAPORE – China and Asean are committed to completing code of conduct guidelines to handle disputes in the South China Sea, said Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen on Saturday (Feb 17).

Dr Ng told a maritime security roundtable at the Munich Security Conference in Germany that one aspect of China’s interest in the island chains in the South China Sea is they present potential encirclement against it.

The approach of Asean member states to these issues has been a “pragmatic one”, said Dr Ng, noting that the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, which Asean and China signed in 2002, took more than five years.

“This frames our expectations for the (code of conduct),” he said.

“In the meantime, the Asean Defence Ministers Meeting has worked hard to produce consensus on practical measures that prevent mishaps and miscalculations, or if there are,to de-escalate issues.”

He noted that there have been at least 38 reported small-scale incidents between claimant states’ ship since 2013, many of which involved fishing vessels that were eventually resolved peacefully.

Dr Ng said the Republic was glad to see that foreign affairs agencies had operationalised their hotline to respond to maritime emergencies, and that defence agencies in the region had also launched a similar direct communications infrastructure.

Dr Ng said Singapore is also pleased that the Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea (CUES) had been expanded to all ADMM-Plus countries in November last year (2017).

ADMM-Plus includes the 10 Asean states as well as eight other countries – Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea, Russia and the United States.

Singapore, the Asean Chair this year (2018), hopes to develop guidelines for encounters between regional military aircraft, he said, adding that multilateral undertakings, such as the Asean-China Maritime Exercise 2018, can “enhance practical cooperation and build confidence”.

Noting that an estimated one-third of all global shipping passes through the South China Sea, Dr Ng said: “All countries have recognised the critical need for peace and stability in these waters.”

http://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/asean-and-china-committed-to-code-of-conduct-for-south-china-sea-disputes-ng-eng-hen

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South China Sea: US Navy officer says won’t be bullied by China in disputed waters

February 18, 2018

 

US Navy

A Navy officer aboard a mammoth U.S. aircraft carrier brimming with F18 fighter jets said American forces will continue to patrol the South China Sea wherever “international law allows us.” 

One of the US Navy’s longest-serving active carriers arrived in Manila on Friday for a routine port visit during its Western Pacific deployment.

More than 5,500 sailors from aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson and guided-missile destroyer USS Michael Murphy will participate in community service projects while in Manila.

Philippine Star

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US Navy in South China Sea: ‘We’re Here’ No Matter China’s Military Buildup

  • Associated Press
Fishermen on board a small boat pass by the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier at anchor off Manila, Philippines, Feb. 17, 2018.
Fishermen on board a small boat pass by the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier at anchor off Manila, Philippines, Feb. 17, 2018.
U.S. forces are undeterred by China’s military buildup on man-made islands in the South China Sea and will continue patrolling the strategic, disputed waters wherever “international law allows us,” said a Navy officer aboard a mammoth U.S. aircraft carrier brimming with F-18 fighter jets.

Lt. Cmdr. Tim Hawkins told The Associated Press on board the USS Carl Vinson that the Navy has carried out routine patrols at sea and in the air in the region for 70 years to promote security and guarantee the unimpeded flow of trade that’s crucial for Asian and U.S. economies.

“International law allows us to operate here, allows us to fly here, allows us to train here, allows us to sail here, and that’s what we’re doing and we’re going to continue to do that,” Hawkins said Saturday on the flight deck of the 95,000-ton warship, which anchored at Manila Bay while on a visit to the Philippines.

When President Donald Trump came to power, Southeast Asian officials were uncertain how deep the U.S. would get involved in the overlapping territorial claims involving China and its Southeast Asian neighbors. Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama, was a vocal critic of China’s increasingly aggressive actions, including the construction of seven man-made islands equipped with troops, hangars, radar and missile stations and three long runways.

China claims the South China Sea almost in its entirety and has challenged the U.S. naval supremacy in the western Pacific.

“We’re committed,” Hawkins told reporters. “We’re here.”

With fighter jets in the background, Lt. Cmdr. Tim Hawkins talks to the media on board the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier anchored off Manila, Philippines, for a five-day port call along with guided-missile destroyer USS Michael Murphy, Feb. 17, 2018.
With fighter jets in the background, Lt. Cmdr. Tim Hawkins talks to the media on board the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier anchored off Manila, Philippines, for a five-day port call along with guided-missile destroyer USS Michael Murphy, Feb. 17, 2018.

Trump strategy

The Trump administration has outlined a new security strategy that emphasized countering China’s rise and reinforcing the U.S. presence in the Indo-Pacific region, where Beijing and Washington have accused each other of stoking a dangerous military buildup and fought for wider influence.

Washington stakes no claims in the disputes but has declared that their peaceful resolution and the maintenance of freedom of navigation are in its national interest. U.S. officials have said American warships will continue sailing close to Chinese-occupied features without prior notice, placing Washington in a continuing collision course with China’s interests.

In January, China accused the U.S. of trespassing when the U.S. guided missile destroyer USS Hopper sailed near the Chinese-guarded Scarborough Shoal, which Beijing wrestled from the Philippines in 2012, despite its proximity to the main northern island of Luzon. After voicing a strong protest, China said it would take “necessary measures” to protect its sovereignty.

The nuclear-powered Carl Vinson patrolled the sea before its Manila visit but did not conduct a freedom of navigation operation, Hawkins said.

“That’s not to say that we won’t or we can’t, but we have not, up to this point,” he said.

U.S. military aircraft sit on the flight deck of the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier anchored off Manila, Philippines, Feb. 17, 2018. Lt. Cmdr. Tim Hawkins said American forces will continue to patrol the South China Sea wherever international law allows.
U.S. military aircraft sit on the flight deck of the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier anchored off Manila, Philippines, Feb. 17, 2018. Lt. Cmdr. Tim Hawkins said American forces will continue to patrol the South China Sea wherever international law allows.

Stop in Vietnam?

There are reports that the Carl Vinson will also make a port call in Danang in Vietnam, another critical rival of China’s ambitions in the South China Sea, as the first American aircraft carrier since the Vietnam War ended in 1975, but Hawkins declined to provide details of future trips.

China has also opposed the Philippine military’s deployment of a Japanese-donated Beechcraft King Air patrol plane in late January to Scarborough, a Philippine official said on condition of anonymity because of a lack of authority to discuss the issue publicly. Chinese officials have relayed their objection to their Philippine counterparts, the official said.

China and Japan have their own territorial rifts in the East China Sea.

There was no immediate comment from Philippine military officials about China’s opposition to the surveillance flights at Scarborough.

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Chinese H-6 bomber at Scarborough Shoal last year

Gunboat diplomacy

U.S. and Chinese officials have said they have no intention of going to war in the disputed sea, but their governments have projected their firepower and clout in a delicate play of gunboat diplomacy and deterrence.

“We’re prepared to conduct a spectrum of operations, whether that’s providing humanitarian assistance, disaster relief in the time of an emergency, or whether we have to conduct operations that require us to send strike fighters ashore,” Hawkins said. “We don’t have to use that spectrum, but we’re ready to, in case we need to.”

The U.S. Navy invited journalists Saturday on board the 35-year-old Carl Vinson, which was packed with 72 aircraft, including F-18 Hornets, helicopters and surveillance aircraft.

President Rodrigo Duterte has tried to back down from what he said was a Philippine foreign policy that was steeply oriented toward the U.S., but has allowed considerable engagements with his country’s treaty ally to continue while reviving once-frosty ties with China in a bid to bolster trade and gain infrastructure funds.

China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei have long contested ownership of the South China Sea, where a bulk of the trade and oil that fuel Asia’s bullish economies passes through.

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Mischief Reef now an extensive Chinese military base
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Chinese military bases near the Philippines

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China has no greater rights than any other in the sea. 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.

Fast Europe Open: UK retail sales, Czech Republic GDP

February 16, 2018

View From Hong kong

Financial Times (FT)

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Alice Woodhouse in Hong Kong — 0800 GMT, February 16, 2018

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Beware the pollutants in your bathroom cabinet.

Volatile chemicals from everyday consumer items such as cleaning products, aerosols and even perfumes now rival vehicle emissions as a cause of air pollution.

A research team led by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reached the surprising conclusion after assessing the source of chemicals that reacted in the air to form fine particles and other lung-damaging pollutants in the US city of Los Angeles.

“As transportation gets cleaner, those other sources become more and more important,” said Brian McDonald, the project leader. “The stuff we use in our everyday lives can impact air pollution.”

In markets, Japanese stocks rallied as the rebound in global equities showed little sign of slowing following the sharp sell off last week. The Topix was 1.2 per cent higher although Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 dipped 0.1 per cent. Markets in China, Hong Kong, South Korea, Singapore, Taiwan and Vietnam were closed for the lunar new year.

Meanwhile, the dollar resumed its downward trajectory with the dollar index, a measure of the greenback against a basket of peers, falling 0.3 per cent to 88.305, a three-year low. The yen strengthened further to ¥105.75, a 15-month high.

Futures tip the FTSE 100 to open 0.5 per cent higher, while the S&P 500 is set to open up 0.2 per cent.

Corporate earnings and updates for Friday include Air France, EDF, Danone, Renault and Allianz. The economic calendar believes three is the magic number (all times London):

08.00: Czech Republic Q4 gross domestic product
08.20: European Central Bank’s Benoit Coeure speaks in Macedonia
09.30: UK retail sales

https://www.ft.com/content/ef966116-12d8-11e8-8cb6-b9ccc4c4dbbb

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Czech Republic

The economy had a strong showing in 2017: Growth picked up pace in three consecutive quarters, and indicators suggest the momentum carried over into the final quarter. Industrial production and retail trade turned in positive results again in November, albeit moderating from the prior month. Furthermore, the manufacturing PMI continued climbing throughout the quarter, clocking a multi-year high in January. However, while consumer confidence improved in January, business confidence slipped. Politically, the sailing is less smooth. President Milos Zeman, an ally of Russian president Vladimir Putin, won a second term on 27 January; he is one of the few allies of Andrej Babiš, who has been prime minister since December. Babiš, who lost a no-confidence vote on 10 January, has been unable to garner majority backing to form a government. However, the Communist Party agreed to restart talks over possible support of a Babiš-government. The combination of Zeman and Babiš could, however, strain relations with the EU further as both men oppose further EU integration.

See more:

https://www.focus-economics.com/countries/czech-republic

China has built seven new military bases in South China Sea, US navy commander says

February 15, 2018

Beijing’s assertive territorial claims in disputed waterway is ‘coordinated, methodical and strategic’, Admiral Harry Harris says

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 15 February, 2018, 1:15pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 15 February, 2018, 1:15pm

South China Morning Post

The commander of the United States Pacific Command on Wednesday warned of China’s growing military might, saying Beijing had unilaterally built seven new military bases in the South China Sea.

“China is attempting to assert de facto sovereignty over disputed maritime features by further militarising its man-made bases,” Admiral Harry Harris said in a congressional hearing.

Harris told the House Armed Services Committee that the new facilities included “aircraft hangers, barracks facilities, radar facilities, weapon emplacements [and] 10,000-foot runways”.

Beijing has overlapping territorial claims with Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan in the South China Sea, a strategic waterway through which more than a third of all global trade passes.

Harris said he saw Beijing’s assertive territorial claims in the East and South China seas as “coordinated, methodical and strategic, using their military and economic power to erode the free and open international order”.

In the East China Sea, Chinese vessels have repeatedly intruded into Japanese waters around the Senkaku Islands in an attempt to undermine Tokyo’s administration of the uninhabited islets.

Harris said the US alliance with Japan “has never been stronger” and that Washington’s alliance with South Korea was “ironclad”.

Harris, who is set to become the next US ambassador to Australia, also hailed the Washington-Canberra alliance, saying bilateral military ties were “terrific” and that Australia was “one of the keys to a rules-based international order”.

http://www.scmp.com/news/china/diplomacy-defence/article/2133483/china-has-built-seven-new-military-bases-south-china

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Chinese military bases near the Philippines

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China has no greater rights than any other in the sea. 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.