Posts Tagged ‘Singapore’

US, South Korea Discuss Way Forward After Kim Jong Un Balks Before Singapore Summit

May 20, 2018

US President Donald Trump and South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Sunday discussed North Korea’s recent threats to cancel its unprecedented summit with Washington, Seoul’s presidential office said.

© AFP/File | Trump and Moon have agreed to “work closely” to ensure the US President’s meeting with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un is a success

After weeks of warm words and diplomatic backslapping, Pyongyang abruptly threatened to pull out of the planned summit next month because of US demands for “unilateral nuclear abandonment”, according to the North’s official KCNA news agency.

North Korea also cancelled at the last minute a high-level meeting with the South, protesting joint military drills between Seoul and Washington.

In a phone conversation on Sunday, Trump and Moon “exchanged views on various actions taken by North Korea recently”, Moon’s office said in a statement.

The two leaders agreed to “work closely” for the success of the landmark summit in Singapore on June 12, which would be the first meeting between a sitting US President and a North Korean leader.

They are due to meet in Washington on Tuesday.

North Korea’s sudden shift in attitude followed a weeks-long charm offensive that has seen leader Kim Jong Un hold a historic summit with Moon and meet twice with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

At a dramatic summit last month in the Demilitarised Zone dividing their two countries, Kim and Moon pledged to pursue nuclear disarmament and a peace treaty.

Pyongyang also raised hopes ahead of the US summit by announcing it will destroy its nuclear testing site next week.

But the promise is open to interpretation on both sides and the North has spent decades developing its atomic arsenal, culminating last year in its sixth nuclear test — by far its biggest to date — and the launch of missiles capable of reaching the US.


North Korea ‘declines’ South Korea media for nuclear site event; China urges ‘stability’ — Effort to divide U.S. and South Korea could be in play

May 18, 2018

North Korea has declined to accept a list of South Korean journalists hoping to observe the closure of its nuclear test site, South Korea said on Friday, raising new questions about the North’s commitment to reducing tension.

North Korea had invited a limited number of journalists from South Korea and other countries to witness what it said will be the closing of its only nuclear weapons test site at Punggye-ri next week.

The North Korean offer to scrap the test site has been seen as major concession in months of easing tension between it, on the one hand, and South Korea and the United States on the other.

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But the remarkable progress appears to have been checked in recent days with North Korea raising doubts about an unprecedented June 12 summit in Singapore between leader Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Donald Trump, and calling off talks with the South.

The South Korean Unification Ministry, which handles dealings with the North, said on Friday North Korea had “declined to accept” the list of journalists submitted by the South for the test site dismantling.

The ministry did not elaborate but the North Korean decision is likely to raise doubts about its plan for the test site.

Trump on Thursday sought to placate North Korea after it threatened to call off the June summit, saying Kim’s security would be guaranteed in any deal and his country would not suffer the fate of Muammar Gaddafi’s Libya, unless that could not be reached.

North Korea had said on Wednesday it might not attend the Singapore summit if the United States continued to demand it unilaterally abandon its nuclear arsenal, which it has developed in defiance of U.N. Security Council resolutions to counter perceived U.S. hostility.

On Thursday, North Korea’s chief negotiator called South Korea “ignorant and incompetent” and denounced U.S.-South Korean air combat drills and threatened to halt all talks with the South.

Trump, in rambling remarks in the White House’s Oval Office, said as far as he knew the summit was still on track, but that the North Korean leader was possibly being influenced by Beijing.

But he also stressed that North Korea would have to abandon its nuclear weapons and warned that if no deal was reached, North Korea could be “decimated” like Libya or Iraq.


China, responding to U.S. President Donald Trump suggestion that Beijing may be influencing North Korea’s new hardline stance, said on Friday it stands for stability and peace on the Korean peninsula and for settlement of confrontation over its development of weapons through talks.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang, asked about Trump’s comments, said China’s position had not changed and he reiterated that it supported the goal of denuclearisation on the Korean peninsula.

“We are consistently supporting all relevant parties in resolving the peninsula issue through political consultations and peaceful means,” Lu told a regular briefing.

Kim has made two visits to China recently for talks with President Xi Jinping, including a secretive train trip to Beijing in late March, his first known visit outside North Korea since coming to power.

He flew to the port city of Dalian this month.

Both times, Kim’s encounters with Xi were cast by Chinese state media as friendly. They included beachside strolls and Xi saying that previous generations of North Korean and Chinese leaders had visited each other as often as relatives.

The warmth between the two leaders marks a sharp reversal in what had been months of frosty ties, as China ratcheted up sanction pressure on North Korea in response to its relentless missiles and nuclear tests last year.

China is North Korea’s largest trading partner and considers it an important security buffer against the U.S. military presence in region.

What had seemed until this week to be rapidly warming ties between North Korea, on the one hand, and South Korea and the United States on the other, had fueled fears in Beijing that it might be left out of a new deal on the peninsula, according to analysts.

Additonal reporting by Micheal Martina, in BEIJING; Writing by Christian Shepherd; Editing by Josh Smith, Robert Birsel


U.S. reportedly demanded North Korea ship nuclear warheads and an ICBM abroad within six months

May 17, 2018

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The United Stated has demanded North Korea ship some nuclear warheads, an intercontinental ballistic missile and other nuclear material overseas within six months, the Asahi newspaper said on Thursday, citing several sources familiar with North Korean issues.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also appeared to have told North Korean leader Kim Jong Un when they met this month that Washington might remove Pyongyang from a list of state sponsors of terrorism if the North ships out those nuclear items.

If Pyongyang agrees to complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization at a planned summit with the United States on June 12, Washington is considering giving guarantees for Kim’s regime and including that stance in a joint statement by the two leaders, the newspaper report said.

North Korea has thrown into question next month’s unprecedented summit between Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Donald Trump, denouncing on Wednesday U.S.-South Korean military exercises as a provocation and calling off high-level talks with Seoul.

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Declassified Report on Malaysia’s 1MDB Shows Funding Anomalies

May 16, 2018
Report does not mention former premier Najib Razak by name — New premier Mahathir says enough evidence to reopen 1MDB probe
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A newly-declassified report on scandal-plagued Malaysia state fund 1MDB shows investigators expressed widespread concern about anomalies in its accounts, as Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad accelerates efforts to reopen probes into the company and the actions of his predecessor.

While there were no massive surprises in the summary of the Auditor General’s report, and it did not mention former premier Najib Razak by name, the audit said 1MDB officers took investment actions against or without full knowledge of the board of directors on several occasions, while giving inaccurate or conflicting information to stakeholders.

1MDB, set up in 2009 to fund domestic infrastructure projects and whose advisory board Najib once chaired, didn’t submit management accounts for the year ended March 2015 and bank statements from foreign financial institutions. The audit team said it couldn’t access computers, notebooks and servers at 1MDB for the purpose of crosschecking and analyzing its findings.

“Overall, corporate governance and internal controls in 1MDB were less than satisfactory,” the summary said. “Some actions by 1MDB’s management and decisions by the board of directors were carried out in a manner that wasn’t proper.”

Singapore Crime Busters Tackle 1MDB to Penny Stocks: QuickTake

The audit report on 1MDB had been protected since 2016 by the Official Secrets Act. Mahathir’s move to release it comes as he seeks to tighten the net around Najib, whom he defeated in an election last week, and other officials over the multi-billion dollar scandal surrounding the fund’s actions dating back some years. Mahathir has barred Najib from leaving Malaysia in the meantime.

“By declassifying the file, Dr Mahathir is showing Malaysia and the world that he means business and is very serious in getting to the bottom of 1MDB,” says Ahmad Martadha Mohamed, an associate professor at Universiti Utara Malaysia. “The timing is a little surprising, rather fast as it’s done before even the nominations for a new cabinet is complete. The executive summary shows what transpired and confirms certain suspicions there were some shady investments made.”

Mahathir, who was once Najib’s mentor and ally and who is back in power after a prior stint as premier from 1981 to 2003, accused him repeatedly on the campaign trail of being a “thief” over alleged graft at 1MDB. Najib has denied any wrongdoing and was cleared by the attorney general at the time, while the fund has consistently denied any misconduct.

The 1MDB sandal spawned global probes as investigators tracked a money trail stretching from Switzerland to Singapore and the U.S. The Department of Justice alleges that $3.5 billion from the fund went missing.

Malaysian financier Low Taek Jho has been ordered by a U.S. court to turn over his $250 million yacht “Equanimity” to the U.S. authorities who plan to sail it from Indonesia and sell it in the U.S. The yacht is among more than $1.5 billion in assets that the U.S. claims Low and his accomplices acquired with money they siphoned from 1MDB.

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yacht “Equanimity”

Debt Payments

The declassified report found, among others things, that 1MDB used 288 million ringgit ($73 million) of government funds to pay interest on its debt, which went against the monies’ original purpose. 1MDB raised 3.98 billion ringgit from domestic debt and sukuk issuance, of which only 246 million ringgit was invested in two property projects, while 2.16 billion ringgit was advanced to the company. 1MDB said in March all its funds are fully accounted for.

Swiss prosecutors said Tuesday they wanted to start talks with investigators in Malaysia as soon as possible to better coordinate various criminal probes into the sprawling case.

The Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland “is very much interested in renewing dialogue with the competent authorities in Malaysia” and “favors an exchange between partnering authorities at their earliest convenience,” it said in an email.

Singapore authorities also weighed in. The city-state has cooperated extensively with their Malaysian counterparts on past requests on the matter and is ready to extend further assistance, the Monetary Authority of Singapore and the Commercial Affairs Department said in an email early Wednesday.

Swiss Attorney General Michael Lauber has been publicly critical of the lack of cooperation his team of prosecutors got from Najib’s government. Singapore has punished banks over lapses related to 1MDB, seized assets and jailed bankers over the scandal.

— With assistance by Yudith Ho, and Hugo Miller


Trump Shifts From Trade War Threats to Concessions in Rebuff to Hard-Liners

May 15, 2018

President Trump’s recent threat to impose tariffs on as much as $150 billion worth of Chinese goods appeared to be the first volley in what looked like a full-scale trade war with the nation’s greatest economic adversary. Now, suddenly, Mr. Trump seems ready to make peace.

To alleviate trade tensions, Mr. Trump is considering easing up on a major Chinese telecommunications company, ZTE, in exchange for China agreeing to buy more American products and lifting its own crippling restrictions on American agriculture, people familiar with the deliberations said.

The United States government threatened the continued existence of ZTE as a business last month, when the Commerce Department ordered a seven-year halt in American shipments of computer microchips and software that lie at the heart of most of ZTE’s gear. Credit Johannes Eisele/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The shift is an abrupt reversal that reflects another twist in the pitched battle inside the White House between the economic nationalists, who channel Mr. Trump’s protectionist instincts, and more mainstream advisers, who worry about the effects of hard-line policies on the stock market and long-term economic growth.

While the nationalists had recently seemed ascendant — pushing Mr. Trump toward a showdown with the Chinese over steel exports and their co-opting of American technology — a deal on ZTE, and potentially a range of other trade actions, would represent a victory for the mainstream contingent, led by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

Mr. Mnuchin has taken the lead role in trying to head off potentially harmful tariffs and investment restrictions on China and has succeeded, at least for now, in persuading Mr. Trump to adopt a more conciliatory approach than the president’s more hard-line advisers have advocated, according to people familiar with the deliberations.

An agreement on ZTE, which administration officials said could be struck with a visiting Chinese vice premier, Liu He, later this week, would remove a major source of tension between the United States and China at a sensitive moment: In just a few weeks, Mr. Trump is scheduled to meet the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, at a landmark summit meeting in Singapore.

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Malaysia-Singapore Union Flickers Back to Life

May 11, 2018

The election shock brings back Mahathir Mohamad and may give fresh currency to an idea raised repeatedly by the late Lee Kuan Yew.

Singapore’s then-Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew (right) meets with then-former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad in Kuala Lumpur in 2005.  Photographer: Bazuki Muhammad/AFP/Getty Images

Lee Kuan Yew, the founding father of Singapore, was a canny politician, an extraordinary statesman and an astute analyst of geopolitics. At times it was hard to tell which hat he was wearing.

That seems to have been the case when, speaking to the press in 1996, a little more than three decades after his city was ejected by Malaysia and forced to become a nation-state, Senior Minister Lee  boldly speculated on the idea of a  re-merger.

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Mahathir Mohamad returns as Maysia’s Prime Minister

Let politicians across the causeway that links the neighbors drop race-based discrimination, giving the Chinese and Indian minorities the same rights as the majority Malays, and a reunion wouldn’t be impossible, he said.

While the comment annoyed Malaysian politicians no end, Lee made a similar remark in a 2007 interview. Only in 2013 – two years before his death – did he concede that being thrown out once was enough. Economic ties, which were even then strengthening in the form of Singapore’s investment in Malaysia’s southern state of Johor, were the way forward, he said.

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But guess what. The latest Malaysian election, with its big upset, offers a reason to reconsider Lee’s 1996 and 2007 optimism. Maybe the analyst in him was right all along.

Once Anwar Ibrahim is out of prison and in the Malaysian prime minister’s seat, and once he starts taking apart the system of state-sponsored racism that has existed there since 1971, the difference between peninsular Malaysia and Singapore will be of living standards. In fact, with a shared heritage of British-inspired common law and parliamentary democracy, the difference will be even less than it is between Shenzhen and Hong Kong.

Even if you believe that it’s too late for unification, given the investment Singapore has made in forging its independent identity, a “one country, two systems” arrangement is entirely possible.

Such a proposal was on the table even in the run-up to the separation, as Janadas Devan, currently the Singapore government’s information czar, noted in a 2015 speech. Under the plan, Malaysia would have handled defense and external relations for both parts of the confederacy, and there would have been a common market. Singapore politicians, including Lee, balked at the unfairness of having to pay taxes to Kuala Lumpur without political representation. That, plus the Malaysians’ insistence that Singapore stay out of the lives of its own Malay minorities, made the idea a non-starter.

That was then. Much better institutional arrangements are possible now, taking a leaf perhaps out of the Greater Bay Area that Beijing wants for Hong Kong, Macau and Guangdong province. If the agglomeration proves to be an economic success for Hong Kong, it would again put pressure on Singapore to find the one thing it doesn’t have: a hinterland.

A hinterland, and babies. Almost 25 percent of Malaysia’s 32 million population is below 14 years of age. For aging Singapore, where the figure is 15 percent, the neighbor’s demographic dividend — if harvested well by Anwar — is a valuable resource. Defense savings, should the two countries agree to share resources, are an added attraction.

The fate of a high-speed rail link between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore may have become more uncertain now that Mahathir Mohamad is back on the scene. As Malaysia’s prime minister between 1981 and 2003, Mahathir took a hard stance on sales of raw water to its neighbor; He also obsessed over replacing the existing causeway with an S-shaped crooked bridge. Now that Mahathir has wrested power from his protege-turned-foe Najib Razak, whom Mahathir never forgave for not proceeding with the bridge, old tensions could flare up.

Still, don’t forget Mahathir is 92 years old, and is only standing in for Anwar, 70, who needs to come out of jail and get elected as a lawmaker before he can take over from his old boss.

Mahathir is too wedded to the status quo to move the needle on race relations. But if Anwar does manage to plant the seed of equal opportunity and rules-based competition while clearing out the weeds of rent-seeking and cronyism, a mutually beneficial economic union with some sharing of the defense burden is possible.

None of this will occur tomorrow. The shock election result has increased the odds of a loose confederacy from zero to, say, 10 percent over the coming 30 years. Still, that’s a start.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

To contact the author of this story:
Andy Mukherjee at

To contact the editor responsible for this story:
Matthew Brooker at


Asian stocks near three-week high point, dollar eases after lower US inflation report

May 11, 2018

Asian shares rallied on Friday as risk appetite got a boost from soft US inflation, helping alleviate worries of faster rate hikes by the Federal Reserve, while investors also cheered US-North Korean steps to further ease tensions on the Korean Peninsula.

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Thursday’s slower-than-expected April consumer price rises followed payrolls data last week which pointed to sluggish wage growth.

The two data sets meant “inflation may be rising but not so rapidly that the Fed would have to take aggressive actions to keep the economy from overheating,” said James McGlew, analyst at Perth-based stock broker Argonaut.

The recent shakeout in markets, partly stoked by Sino-US trade tensions, has also eased off, while money managers expect the relatively global low rates that fueled the ‘goldilocks’ boom in stock markets last year will remain in place for some time.

“While inflation is continuing to trend up its only happening slowly. So Goldilocks continues,” Shane Oliver, chief investment manager at AMP, said in a note.

Indeed, a key measure of expected market swings, the Cboe Volatility Index, or VIX, has fallen very close to levels last seen in early January when stock markets were buoyant.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan rose 0.9 percent to near three-week highs with broad-based gains across all sectors.

Japan’s Nikkei climbed 1 percent while South Korea’s KOSPI added 0.7 percent. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index jumped 1.4 percent. Chinese shares gave up early gains to be marginally lower.

On Wall Street, the Dow rose 0.8 percent, the Nasdaq Composite gained 0.89 percent and the S&P 500 rose 0.9 percent, surging past key resistance of 2,717 points.


Investors also appeared to welcome continued moves between the United States and North Korea to reduce tensions in the region.

US President Donald Trump will meet North Korean leader Kim Jong un in Singapore next month amid high hopes of “doing something very meaningful” to curtail Pyongyang’s nuclear ambitions.

Concerns still remain around US-China trade skirmishes and rising tensions in the Middle East, although analysts say the June 12 US-Korea summit will ensure the trade war rhetoric takes a back-seat for now.

“Trump still needs President Xi (Jinping) and China’s support in dealing with North Korea and this will be his priority in the short term,” economists at JPMorgan wrote in a note to clients.

“Once the meeting is finished, trade may return to the fore.”

The United States and China locked horns over import tariffs earlier this year after Trump first announced hefty duties on Chinese goods, provoking a tit-for-tat response from Beijing.

“It is notable that in line with this view, the US has extended hearings over China tariffs, drawing out the process,” they added.

Currency markets were largely muted during Asian trading.

The dollar index was up 0.1 percent after falling the most since late March overnight.

Investors trimmed their expectations for four Fed rate hikes after inflation data showed US price pressures remained weak. The Fed has already raised rates once this year and is widely expected to go two more times in 2018.

The British pound inched above a four-month low of $1.3457 touched on Thursday after the BoE held key borrowing costs. It was last at $1.3525.

The recent slowing in price growth in major economies has boosted expectations that most central banks except the Fed will continue their massive bond-buying programs to keep policy stimulatory.

The euro was barely changed at $1.1911. The Japanese yen was a tad weaker at 109.45 per dollar.

Malaysian markets were closed Friday but its newly appointed Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad emerged with key election pledges including repealing an unpopular goods and services tax and restoring a petrol subsidy.

Ratings agency Moody’s said some campaign promises would be “credit negative” for Malaysia.

Such concerns pushed up the cost of insuring against a Malaysia default, with the country’s 5-year credit default swap price at its highest since early June 2017 at 95.090 basis points.

In commodities markets, spot gold slipped 0.1 percent to $1,319.33 an ounce.

Oil prices eased but stayed near multi-year peaks amid supply concerns after Trump withdrew from an Iranian nuclear deal and reinstated sanctions.

US crude futures were last down 10 cents at $71.26 a barrel. Brent crude futures fell 18 cents to $77.29 a barrel, after hitting $78 earlier in the day, their highest since November 2014.


Trump will reportedly meet with Kim Jong Un in Singapore

May 10, 2018

President Trump will face off with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un in Singapore, CNN reported Wednesday.


“Administration officials have been instructed to move forward with plans to convene a historic summit between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore,” reporter Kaitlin Collins tweeted.

Singapore had been rumored to be among the possible choices — but Trump had also pitched having the summit in the Demilitarized Zone separating the North from South Korea.

Trump ruled that out earlier in the day.

The date for the sitdown — to discuss the North’s nuclear weapons program, sanctions and other contentious issues — has not been set.

Philippines Learns A Hard Lesson About China: China Does Whatever China Pleases

May 8, 2018

Now there are Chinese missiles stationed inside the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ)….

In May 2014, China installed an oil rig near the Paracel Islands in the South China Sea, an area also claimed by Vietnam.

Refusing to take the provocation sitting down, Vietnam fired off a strongly worded diplomatic protest: “Vietnam demands China to withdraw the oil rig Haiyang 981 and all of its ships and aircraft from Vietnam’s waters and not to repeat similar actions,” said its Ministry of Affairs.


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Additionally, Vietnam sent 29 ships to try to stop the rig’s operations, with resulting confrontations and water-spraying incidents between Chinese and Vietnamese vessels.

Vietnam also attempted to rally support against China’s actions at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, whose member-countries Brunei, Malaysia and the Philippines have overlapping territorial claims with Beijing.

Vietnam even asked that the United States, its former enemy, lend a “stronger voice” against China.

Singapore, Japan, India, Russia, Australia, other countries and the European Union also issued statements of concern, urging caution against “unilateral actions [that] could affect the security environment in the region,” as the EU statement put it.

Beijing eventually bowed to the pressure. In July of that year, it quietly removed the oil rig — a full month earlier than was first announced.

What does Vietnam have that the Philippines doesn’t?

A leadership not the least bit beholden to China, for one. Vietnam’s sense of ownership over its claimed territories is such that it was willing to employ all possible actions — diplomatic protest, international consensus, even physical confrontation with Chinese vessels — to defend itself against the encroachments of its giant neighbor. And over an oil rig, mind — in waters that were still officially undemarcated under international law.

Contrast that with the Philippine position, which won tremendous international legal and moral standing with its 2016 victory in the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague.

That ruling not only invalidated China’s so-called historic claim over almost the entire South China Sea, it also declared that Beijing violated the Philippines’ sovereign rights to fish and explore for resources in the West Philippine Sea, waters that were within the Philippines’ 370-kilometer exclusive economic zone.

Those waters happen to include the Kagitingan, Zamora and Panganiban reefs — three features within the Philippine exclusive economic zone that China at first seized, then transformed into artificial islands.

All for peaceful purposes, it repeatedly said. But recently, with its reclamation all but complete and the Beijing-friendly Duterte administration not bothering to protest any of its actions, China has set aside all such pretense by confirming that it has militarized the area with the “deployment of necessary national defense facilities … aimed at protecting China’s sovereignty and security.”

The CNBC news network was more specific: It said China had deployed antiship cruise missiles and surface-to-air missile systems on the Philippine-claimed reefs.

Will Malacañang now wake up to the grave implications to Philippine national security of its policy of appeasement toward Beijing?

Strangely, President Duterte remains completely besotted with his Chinese friends.

Not only are those weapons not directed at the Philippines and hence should pose no worry, said Malacañang; according to the President, China has also said, “We will protect you … We are just here and you can call for our help anytime.”

What kind of help is gobbling up the territory of a friendly country and — in violation of its own promise in 2015 — arming that territory to the gills?

Certainly, war is not an option to settle this dispute, but why, on the other hand, embrace the extreme opposite position of deference and obsequiousness to a country that has repeatedly run roughshod over Philippine interests?

Acquiescence has obviously not worked; it has only further emboldened China to take advantage of a complaisant government. Look at what two years of bowing and kowtowing has earned the Philippines thus far: foreign missiles in its own backyard.

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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.



Singapore likely to host Trump-Kim summit in June: report

May 7, 2018

US President Donald Trump and North Korea’s Kim Jong Un are likely to meet in Singapore next month, reports said Monday, as anticipation builds for unprecedented talks between the mercurial leaders.

© AFP | Trump said on the weekend that Washington and Pyongyang had settled on a date and a location for the summit


Trump said at the weekend that the two sides had settled on a date and location for the summit — the first between a sitting US president and a North Korean leader — without providing details.

“We’ll be announcing it soon,” Trump told reporters.

The landmark summit will take place in “mid-June”, South Korea’s Chosun Ilbo daily reported Monday, citing diplomatic sources who quoted Trump’s National Security Advisor John Bolton.

The newspaper suggested that the possibility of Singapore hosting the landmark meeting had “increased greatly”, after a decision by Trump to host South Korean president Moon Jae-in at the White House later this month, without giving further explanation.

Bolton met his South Korean counterpart Chung Eui-yong in Washington late last week to discuss plans for both locations, according to local media reports.

A similar report on the weekend from South Korea’s Yonhap news agency also said Singapore was firming as the favoured location for the summit.

Trump had previously suggested that the demilitarised zone between the two Koreas — the site of a recent summit between Kim and Moon — could also be an appropriate venue for his meeting with the North’s leader.

Other possible sites reportedly included Mongolia and Switzerland.

Preparations for the landmark meeting have gained momentum since the Korean summit late last month, which saw Pyongyang and Seoul promise to pursue the complete denuclearisation of the peninsula and a formal peace treaty to end the 1950-53 Korean War.

North Korea has offered to close its nuclear test site this month — and invited US experts to verify the move.

Other less dramatic but notable signs of rapprochement have emerged almost daily, including North Korea moving its clocks forward by 30 minutes early Saturday to match time with the South.