Posts Tagged ‘Tillerson’

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

June 22, 2017

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

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

AFP/Vietnamese Foreign Ministry

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Possible miliary clash

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

US, China agree to stop firms from doing business with North Korea over nuclear threat, Tillerson says

June 22, 2017

Pledge to impose UN sanctions on Pyongyang comes after Trump’s tweet that Beijing’s efforts to rein in the reclusive state have ‘not worked out’

By Zhenhua Lu
South China Morning Post

Thursday, June 22, 2017, 11:45am

China and the US held high-level security talks on Wednesday and called on North Korea to halt its missile and nuclear programme, despite US President Donald Trump’s tweeted claim a day earlier that Beijing’s efforts to rein in Pyongyang have “not worked out”.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said at a press conference after the talks that the US has made a commitment to hold North Korea accountable for multiple violations of UN Security Council resolutions that “explicitly prohibited its nuclear weapon and missile programme”.

“We both agreed that our companies should not do business with any UN-designated North Korean entities in accordance with these resolutions,” Tillerson said.

China restated its position that the Korean peninsula should be denuclearised, but added that the issue should be resolved through dialogue, according to a statement released by the Chinese embassy in the US.

The statement also restated China’s opposition to the deployment of a US developed anti-missile shield in South Korea.

 US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson pictured after the security talks. Photo: Associated

Tillerson reiterated the Trump administration’s argument that China has the “diplomatic responsibility to exert pressure greater to prevent further escalation in the region”.

The two nations’ inaugural diplomatic and security dialogue in Washington came as tension in the Korean peninsula has risen after Otto Warmbier, a 22-year-old American student held by North Korea for nearly 18 months, died six days after returning to the US on June 13.

During the joint press conference with Tillerson, US Defence Secretary James Mattis accused North Korea of being “beyond any kind of understanding of law and order and humanity”. He added that Trump’s sentiments in his Twitter post represented “American people’s frustrations with the [North Korean] regime [which] provokes and provokes, and basically plays outside the rules”.

Trump said on Twitter on Tuesday that China’s efforts to bring a resolution to the North Korea crisis had “not worked out”, adding: “At least I know China tried!”

Mattis said the US and China both reaffirmed that the North Korean nuclear and missile programme was an urgent threat and both pledged a strong commitment to cooperate on the shared goal of denuclearising the Korean peninsula. “Meanwhile we will take necessary actions to defend ourselves and our allies,” he said.

 US Secretary of Defence James Mattis pictured after the security talks. Photo: Associated Press

Tillerson said he was unable to provide an update on the status of the other three Americans currently held in North Korea.

Abraham Denmark, former US deputy assistant secretary of defence for East Asia, who stepped down in January, said: “It is only a matter of time before the president realises that China is not going to solve this problem.” Denmark added that additional sanctions from the US, including against Chinese companies with alleged links with North Korea, were “certainly possible”.

The Trump administration has also provided China with a list of people or bodies that allegedly support Pyongyang’s missile and nuclear weapons network, which Beijing needs to take action against, Tillerson told a hearing of the House Foreign Affairs Committee last week.

A Chinese-based company, Mingzheng International Trading, is accused of laundering money on behalf of the Foreign Trade Bank, a North Korean lender subject to sanctions, the US Attorney’s office in the District of Columbia said last Thursday.

 North Korean leader Kim Jong-un pictured by a missile launcher. Photo: Associated Press

Heather Nauert, a US State Department spokeswoman, declined to comment after the US press conference on whether China had agreed to curb the cited Chinese groups’ trading with North Korea.

Bonnie Glaser, director of the China Power Project at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, a security policy focused think tank in Washington, said: “Frustration is growing in the administration that China is not [doing] enough in this regard.”

Glaser added that if Beijing does not work more actively to stop these activities or take other measures such as reducing crude oil exports, there was likely to be more friction between the US and China over North Korea.

 US and Chinese officials pictured during the talks in Washington. Photo: Xinhua

In signs reflecting the two nations tensions over China’s more assertive claims in the South China Sea, Tillerson said the US opposed the “militarisation” of disputed waters in the region and “excessive maritime claims unsupported by international law”. The US would “uphold the freedom of navigation and overflight”, he said.

China called on the US not to take sides over the disputes and respect China’s territorial sovereignty, the Chinese embassy statement said.

http://www.scmp.com/news/china/diplomacy-defence/article/2099435/us-and-china-agree-cooperate-halt-north-korea-nuclear

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After A Break, Beijing Must Fear The U.S. Again Over South China Sea Expansion

June 21, 2017

By Ralph Jennings
Forbes Contributor

Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.

US Secretary of Defense James Mattis arrives to testify on the Defense Department budget at a House Appropriations Committee Defense Subcommittee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, June 15, 2017. (SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)

U.S. President Donald Trump gave China a break in April on its tightening of control over Asia’s most hotly disputed sea. But the leeway that has allowed China and the United States to work together on containing North Korea shows signs of expiring. The two superpowers may still tag-team over North Korea for a while, but Trump is expected to start upping pressure against Beijing so it stops assuming it can take full rein over the South China Sea.

China’s claims to the resource-rich, 3.5 million-square-kilometer tract of water off its south coast overlap those of militarily weaker Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan, Vietnam and the Philippines. Some of those governments looked to the United States for help under former-president Barack Obama. But now Washington is more distant, and those countries are tilting toward China, which has consecrated its maritime power partly by offering them aid, trade and investment in exchange for muting any protest, per the view of political scientists. China is almost done landfilling a series of pivotal islets so it can park combat aircraft and radar systems, as well, according to the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative under U.S. think tank Center for Strategic and Investment Studies.

When U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Secretary of Defense James Mattis meet Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi for an initial security dialogue Wednesday in Washington, the two sides are expected at least to touch on the issue.

“The South China Sea will be an issue high on the agenda, or at least from the U.S. perspective,” says Yun Sun, senior associate with the East Asia Program under Washington-based think tank the Stimson Center. “China is likely to see the South China Sea as less of a problem today given its improved relations with Manila, but it remains a key concern for Washington.”

A file photograph showing an island that China built on the Fiery Cross Reef in the South China Sea. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)

Manila handed Washington a classic case of how China has turned Southeast Asia to its favor. The Philippines asked a world arbitration court in 2015 to rule against China, and in July last year it did: Beijing, it said, lacks a legal basis for its claims to some 90% of the sea. Since then, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has made friends with China, putting the maritime sovereignty dispute on hold as Manila receives aid and investment from the other side. The Philippines for its part is on a push to improve infrastructure and China’s good at that.

The United States doesn’t want China to get too much of a hold over Southeast Asia. An expansionist Beijing goes against the long-standing U.S. interest in keeping at least a geopolitical balance between the two powers (China would say the same for the United States). Washington wants the South China Sea open for free commercial navigation, too. About $5 trillion worth of trade passes through its shipping lanes every year.

A so-called “freedom of navigation operation” passage in late May by a U.S. naval vessel in the South China Sea came despite Chinese objections as one sign that the U.S. government is raising pressure. Earlier this month Mattis said he anticipated friction between China and the United States. “The scope and effect of China’s construction activities in the South China Sea differ from those in other countries in several key ways,” the Department of Defense quotes him saying June 3. “This includes the nature of its militarization, China’s disregard for international law, its contempt for other nations’ interests, and its efforts to dismiss non-adversarial resolution of issues.”

The USS Carl Vinson (pictured here in May, 2017) leads a significant U.S. military presence in Asia. (Photo by Z.A. Landers/U.S. Navy via Getty Images)

What about North Korea? You might expect Trump’s people to keep downplaying the South China Sea matter so Beijing stays happy and works with them on throttling the mysterious and potentially dangerous Kim Jong-un regime. North Korea will inevitably come up at this week’s dialogue, a process established in April when Trump met Chinese President Xi Jinping in Florida, analysts say. This dialogue, as a first in a potential series, will probably be more pro forma than substantive, observers say. But once the two sides dive deeper, cooperation might be nuked into a standoff. U.S. officials worry for one thing that China is letting North Korea get around economic sanctions by using its own procurement supply chain to get financing from Chinese banks, I have reported.

“There might be some general commitment to Korean denuclearization, but Beijing won’t do anything consequential on that front, as it wants to keep North Korea around more than it disapproves of Pyongyang’s nukes,” says Sean King, senior vice president of New York political consultancy Park Strategies. “Hopefully, (the U.S. government) has put Xi on notice that we’re moving toward secondary sanctions against the mainland Chinese entities and banks that are fronting for North Korea if he doesn’t take real action.”

With that bold new approach to China over North Korea, Trump has little to lose by adding pressure on Beijing over the South China Sea.

https://www.forbes.com/sites/ralphjennings/2017/06/19/after-a-break-beijing-must-fear-the-u-s-again-over-south-china-sea-expansion/#4745d68d76b5

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

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

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

June 21, 2017

Reuters

By David Brunnstrom | WASHINGTON

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Trump says China tried but failed to help on North Korea

June 21, 2017
Reuters

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

U.S.-CHINA DIALOGUE

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

 Image may contain: 1 person, closeup

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

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

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

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

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

Image may contain: 3 people, people standing

Otto Warmbier

“A DISGRACE”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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US and China officials meet under North Korea cloud — De-nuclearizing the peninsula is the goal — Has China done enough to stop Kim Jong-un?

June 21, 2017

AFP

Image may contain: 5 people, people smiling, people sitting, suit and table

US President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping shaking hands during a dinner at Mr Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort, on April, 6, 2017, PHOTO by NYTIMES

WASHINGTON (AFP) – Senior US officials will meet their Chinese counterparts Wednesday to seek a tougher line on North Korea’s nuclear ambitions — despite President Donald Trump implying this is already a lost cause.Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis are to meet top Beijing diplomat State Councilor Yang Jiechi and General Fang Fenghui, chief of Chinese army staff, at the State Department.

US officials said the first and main item on the agenda would be persuading China to lean on Kim Jong-Un’s North Korea regime, in order to halt its provocative missile and nuclear plans.

But, just hours before the talks began, Trump sent a tweet implying that China’s President Xi Jinping had already tried and failed to rein in Pyongyang.

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

Trump did not elaborate on what might happen next, and US diplomats insisted the talks would go ahead as planned, and with the same agenda.

In April, Trump hosted Xi at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, glossing over his harsh campaign comments against Beijing and — after apparently successful talks — hailing the dawn of “a very, very great relationship.”

Last month Beijing and Washington signed a limited deal to open new markets for each other’s exports, and a long-standing friend of the Chinese leadership, Iowa Governor Terry Branstad, was confirmed as ambassador.

But tensions remain — particularly over China’s building of artificial islands in disputed South China Sea waters, and Washington’s strong desire to get Beijing to rein in Kim Jong-Un’s isolated North Korean regime.

Susan Thornton, acting assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, said that the first meeting of the new “US-China Diplomatic and Security Dialogue” on Wednesday would focus on North Korea.

“We continue to urge China to exert its unique leverage as North Korea’s largest trading partner, including by fully implementing all UN Security Council sanctions,” she said.

Despite international condemnation and sanctions, North Korea has a small nuclear arsenal and is developing nuclear-capable ballistic missiles that threaten Japan and South Korea — and one-day could even hit some US cities.

Washington has some 28,000 troops deployed in South Korea and a naval armada in the region.

– Prisoner in a coma –

Last week, the release of a detained US tourist in what initially seemed a gesture of goodwill by Pyongyang turned sour when it was revealed that 22-year-old Otto Warmbier had been in a coma for some time.

Warmbier died on Monday after returning to his hometown in Ohio, triggering outrage in the United States.

Trump’s White House has made halting the nuclear threat its number one foreign policy priority, putting aside concerns over trade and currency manipulation to seek Beijing’s help in facing down Kim.

China has tightened controls on trade in North Korean coal, but many doubt that Beijing will truly enforce any sanctions that might threaten the stability of its unpredictable neighbor.

– Isolate Kim –

“We’re going to be focusing, as I said, on particularly on the urgent threat posed by North Korea, and we expect that that will take some time,” Thornton said.

“We don’t expect that we’ll resolve that problem on Wednesday.”

The chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Joseph Dunford, agrees that the few short weeks since the Mar-a-Lago summit was probably too short to be able to tell whether China is ready to isolate Kim.

He said Monday the Pentagon would maintain lines of communication with the Chinese military to head off any escalation in the South China Sea, but keep this separate from the diplomatic effort on North Korea.

“Secretary Tillerson has said that a key element of any success we would have in de-nuclearizing the peninsula would be the cooperation of China,” he said.

by Dave Clark
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Iran protests against Tillerson ‘transition’ remarks — Tillerson seemed to say U.S. would back a change of government in Iran

June 20, 2017

AFP

© AFP/File | US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson made the Iran transition remarks whilst giving evidence to a Congressional committee on June 13, 2017

TEHRAN (AFP) – Iran has called in the Swiss charge d’affaires, who looks after US interests, to protest against comments by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson backing “peaceful transition” in the Islamic republic.The administration of President Donald Trump has taken an increasingly hawkish position towards Iran since taking office in January but Tillerson’s testimony to a Congressional committee last week appeared to be the first expression of support for a change of government.

“The Swiss charge d’affaires was summoned to the foreign ministry to be a handed a strong protest from the Islamic Republic of Iran against the comments by the US secretary of state…. which were contrary to international law and the UN charter,” ministry spokesman Bahram Ghassemi told Iranian media.

Alongside Monday’s summoning of the Swiss envoy, Iran also sent a protest letter to UN chief Antonio Guterres, the ISNA news agency reported.

In last Wednesday’s testimony to the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Tillerson accused Iran of seeking “hegemony” in the Middle East at the expense of US allies like Saudi Arabia.

“Our policy towards Iran is to push back on this hegemony… and to work toward support of those elements inside of Iran that would lead to a peaceful transition of that government,” the US top diplomat said.

“Those elements are there certainly, as we know,” he added, without elaborating on the groups he was referring to.

Iran was, with North Korea and Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, part of the “axis of evil” that the George W. Bush administration earmarked for “regime change” after it took office in 2001.

But when Saddam’s ouster in the US-led invasion of 2003 triggered a deadly insurgency that continues to this day, the policy fell out of favour.

In his testimony, Tillerson also raised the possibility of imposing sanctions on the whole of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, Iran’s main military force and a major player in the country’s economy.

Currently, Washington has only blacklisted the Guards’ foreign operations arm — the Quds Force — and some individual commanders.

“We continually review the merits, both from the standpoint of diplomatic but also international consequences, of designating the Iranian Revolutionary Guard in its entirety as a terrorist organisation,” Tillerson said.

The Guards have played a major role in training Shiite militias in Iraq that are a significant force in the fightback against the Islamic State group, and have also trained thousands of “volunteers” to battle alongside President Bashar al-Assad’s forces in Syria.

The United States has had no diplomatic relations with Iran since the aftermath of the Islamic revolution of 1979 and its interests are looked after by Switzerland.

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 (Includes links to Saudi, Qatar dispute articles)

Dennis Rodman headed into North Korea again — amid signs U.S. can’t wait for China to act

June 13, 2017

CBS News

Last Updated Jun 13, 2017 3:58 AM EDT

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BEIJING — Former NBA player Dennis Rodman arrived on Tuesday in North Korea on his first visit since President Donald Trump took office.

He told reporters before departing Beijing airport on Tuesday that he was “just trying to open a door” with North Korea.

Rodman has received the red-carpet treatment on four past trips since 2013. He also has been roundly criticized for visiting during times of high tensions between the U.S. and North Korea over its weapons programs.

Asked if he had spoken to Mr. Trump about his trip, he said, “Well, I’m pretty sure he’s pretty much happy with the fact that I’m over here trying to accomplish something that we both need.”

His entourage included Joseph Terwilliger, a professor who has accompanied Rodman on previous trips to North Korea.

Rodman said the issue of several Americans currently detained by North Korea was “not my purpose right now.”

Image result for Dennis Rodman with Kim Jong-un, photos

Former NBA player Dennis Rodman is expected to arrive in North Korea on June 13, according to reports. Rodman’s trip comes at a time when President Trump is said to be trying to set up a secret channel to North Korea. (Reuters)

In Tokyo, a visiting senior U.S. official said Rodman’s trip is as a private citizen.

“We are aware of his visit. We wish him well, but we have issued travel warnings to Americans suggested they not travel to North Korea for their own safety,” U.S. Undersecretary of State Thomas Shannon told reporters after discussing the North Korean missile threat and other issues with Japanese counterparts.

In 2014, Rodman arranged a basketball game with other former NBA players and North Koreans and regaled leader Kim Jong Un with a rendition of “Happy Birthday.” On the same trip, he suggested that an American missionary was at fault for his own imprisonment in North Korea, remarks for which he later apologized.

Any visit to North Korea by a high-profile American is a political minefield, and Rodman has been criticized for failing to use his influence on leaders who are otherwise isolated diplomatically from the rest of the world.

Americans are regarded as enemies in North Korea because the two countries never signed a peace treaty to formally end the 1950-53 Korean War. Thousands of U.S. troops are based in South Korea, and the Demilitarized Zone between the North and South is one of the most heavily fortified borders in the world.

A statement issued in New York by a Rodman publicist said the former NBA player was in the rare position of being friends with the leaders of both North Korea and the United States. Rodman was a cast member on two seasons of Mr. Trump’s “Celebrity Apprentice.”

Rodman tweeted that his trip was being sponsored by Potcoin, one of a growing number of cybercurrencies used to buy and sell marijuana in state-regulated markets.

North Korea has been hailed by marijuana news outlets and British tabloids as a pothead paradise and maybe even the next Amsterdam of pot tourism. But the claim that marijuana is legal in North Korea is not true: The penal code lists it as a controlled substance in the same category as cocaine and heroin.

Americans have been sentenced to years in North Korean prisons for such seemingly minor offenses as stealing a political banner and likely could not expect leniency if the country’s drug laws were violated.

See also:

Dennis Rodman is on his way to North Korea. Was he sent by Trump?

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/dennis-rodman-is-on-his-way-to-north-korea-was-he-sent-by-trump/2017/06/12/5c9c19cc-4fd9-11e7-a973-3dae94ed3eb7_story.html?utm_term=.35c32a79c464

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US ‘proudly stands’ with Philippines in war vs IS

June 13, 2017
Soldiers salute during a flag-raising ceremony at the Lanao del Sur provincial capitol in Marawi yesterday. AFP

MANILA, Philippines – The United States “proudly stands” with the Philippines as a longstanding ally and supports the government’s operations against the Islamic State (IS)-aligned Maute militants in Marawi City.

This was the message of US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on the celebration of the 119th Philippine Independence Day.

“The United States proudly stands with the Philippines as a longstanding ally, especially as the country confronts challenges associated with terrorism and extremism, including recent attacks in Marawi City and elsewhere,” Tillerson said.

“On behalf of President Trump and the American people, congratulations and best wishes to the people of the Republic of the Philippines as you commemorate your 119th Independence Day on June 12,” he said.

“We admire the resilience and strength of Filipino people in battling adversity and building a more prosperous and secure future,” Tillerson added.

The secretary said the US honors “the enduring US-Philippine alliance, built on our shared democratic values, growing commerce and strong people-to-people ties.”

US Ambassador Sung Kim, meanwhile, said the Philippine government knew of Washington’s military assistance in Marawi City, despite President Duterte’s claim that he was unaware of the arrangement.

When asked about the presence of American troops in Marawi, Kim said it was part of the continued US effort to provide counterterrorism support for the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

“We have clearly stated already that we will continue our cooperation and support for the AFP, and I don’t think it would be appropriate to go into the technical details of what we’re providing,” Kim said at the 119th Independence Day ceremony held in Rizal Park.

While Kim did not divulge details of the assistance, he maintained that the Philippine government knew of the arrangement.

“All I can say is this is a cooperation that has continued for some time now, it’s a cooperation that’s appreciated by the Philippine military and it’s a cooperation that’s continued with the knowledge of the Philippine government and the AFP,” the ambassador said.

After the AFP confirmed getting technical assistance from the US in the campaign against Maute militants, President Duterte said he did not seek help from the US, but was nevertheless thankful for the assistance.

Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said Duterte had allowed the defense department and the AFP to decide on matters pertaining to martial law.

He noted that General Order No. 1, dated May 23, designated the defense secretary as martial law administrator and the AFP chief as the martial law implementor.

The designated officials could “undertake all measures to prevent and suppress all acts of rebellion and lawless violence, including seeking technical assistance from the United States, within the limits prescribed by the Constitution,” Abella said.

Duterte declared martial law in Mindanao after Maute militants launched a series of attacks in Marawi City. A total of 191 terrorists, 58 government troopers and 20 civilians have died since the clashes began last month.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Cayetano said the US is not the AFP’s only source of intelligence information.

“Now that the President has been going all over the world, asking that when it comes to terrorists, extremist groups, everyone should share intelligence. Actually, the intelligence is not only between us and the US, we’re also relying on other friends to share intelligence,” Cayetano said.

“That’s the decision of the chief of staff… But as far as day-to-day technical advice goes, that’s part of the cooperation agreements even beyond the VFA (Visiting Forces Agreement) and EDCA (Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement), and even with some of our friends – not treaty allies, but friends – we have ongoing sharing of intelligence and information,” he added.

Image result for Lu Kang, foreign ministry spokesman, photos
China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang (File photo)

In Beijing, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang told a regular press briefing that China supports the Philippines’ anti-terrorism operations against Islamist militants.

“Terrorism is the common enemy of mankind. China understands and firmly supports Duterte’s leadership and its government in fighting terrorism,” Lu said.

“We support these antiterrorism operations,” he added. – Janie Cameron, AFP

http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2017/06/13/1709526/us-proudly-stands-philippines-war-vs

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Rights group slams Gulf states for ‘toying’ with people in Qatar row

June 11, 2017

AFP

© Stringer, AFP | Passengers wait to check-in at the Hamad International Airport in Doha on June 7, 2017.

Latest update : 2017-06-11

Amnesty International said on Saturday that the Gulf states opposed to Qatar were “toying” with thousands of ordinary individuals after Saudi Arabia and its allies cut ties with the emirate over its alleged support to terrorism.

Amnesty International warned that the sea and land blockade and other “drastic” measures against Qatar were taking their toll on families, workers and students.

Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates are toying with the lives of thousands of Gulf residents as part of their dispute with Qatar, splitting up families and destroying people’s livelihoods and education,” the London-based watchdog said.

Human rights of potentially thousands of people in Gulf affected by steps imposed after political dispute with Qatar http://amn.st/60108lv6O 

It noted that Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the UAE had warned of harsh punishment, including up to 15 years in jail, if people “dare to criticise these measures” against Qatar.

The measures include banning Qatar Airways from airspace and closing Qatar’s only land border with Saudi Arabia. The Arab states have also ordered Qataris out within 14 days.

“These drastic measures are already having a brutal effect, splitting children from parents and husbands from wives,” said Amnesty after its researchers interviewed dozens of people affected by the crisis.

“People from across the region… risk losing jobs and having their education disrupted.”

Amnesty, quoting Qatar’s National Human Rights Committee, said more than 11,000 nationals of Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the UAE live in Qatar, while many Qataris are residents of the three other Gulf states.

Qatar said on Sunday that citizens of states that have cut ties with the emirate will be allowed to stay in the country despite measures against its own nationals.

Saudi-Iranian rivalry in the Gulf

The blockade is widely seen as a way to punish Qatar for its good relations with Tehran, as part of the larger struggle between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Tehran reacted by showing its support for the emirate, sending five planes of food to Qatar.

“So far five planes carrying perishable food items such as fruit and vegetables have been sent to Qatar, each carrying around 90 tonnes of cargo, while another plane will be sent today,” Iran Air spokesman Shahrokh Noushabadi told AFP news agency on Sunday.

“We will continue deliveries as long as there is demand” from Qatar, Noushabadi added, without mentioning if these deliveries were exports or aid.

Three ships loaded with 350 tonnes of food were also set to leave an Iranian port for Qatar, the Tasnim News Agency quoted a local official as saying.

Qatar hires former US attorney general

Qatar has denied Saudi accusations and dispatched Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani on a diplomatic offensive to enlist support from abroad.

Russia called Saturday for dialogue to resolve a dispute between Qatar and its Gulf neighbours, as Riyadh and its allies welcomed US President Donald Trump’s demand that Doha stop funding extremist groups.

Qatari authorities also hired John Ashcroft, the US attorney general during the September 11 attacks, in a bid to rebut accusations from US President Donald Trump and its Arab neighbours that it supports terrorism.

Qatar will pay the Ashcroft Law Firm $2.5m (€2.2m) for a 90-day period as the country seeks to confirm its efforts to fight global terrorism and comply with financial regulations including US Treasury rules, according to a Foreign Agents Registration Act, or FARA, filing on Friday with the Justice Department.

The Ashcroft Law Firm was hired to do a compliance and regulatory view of Qatar’s anti-money laundering and counterterrorist financing framework, Ashcroft partner Michael Sullivan said in an email.

“Qatar is confident that the review and analysis will confirm that Qatar has significant measures in place to prevent and detect efforts to launder funds and/or to use its financial systems to finance terrorist organisations,” he said.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP, REUTERS)