Posts Tagged ‘United States’

Trump Gaining Allies in Trade War Against China

September 19, 2018

Trump pressure on partners pays off as they succumb to the art of the deal

South China Morning Post

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 19 September, 2018, 9:16pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 19 September, 2018, 11:19pm
US President Donald Trump has touted the success of trade negotiations with US allies which could leave China exposed in the trade war. Photo: EPA

China risks standing alone against the United States in US President Donald Trump’s trade war, with its allies showing signs of compromise, a former American trade official has warned.

Wendy Cutler, vice-president of the Asia Society Policy Institute and a former deputy US trade representative, made the assessment from the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Tianjin, northeast China, following sustained pressure from Trump on US allies to compromise in trade negotiations.

Trump has touted the success of negotiations with Mexico to revise the North American Free Trade Agreement, while Canada is showing signs it may make concessions in its Nafta talks with the US. In July, meanwhile, the EU and US reached a deal pledging zero tariff and zero barriers on non-car products.

Former deputy US trade representative Wendy Cutler warns China risks standing alone against the US in Donald Trump’s trade war. Photo: Bruce Yan

Despite efforts by South Korea and Japan to diversify trade patterns, Seoul is about to sign a trade deal with Washington in the coming weeks and Tokyo, a close ally, is also on Trump’s agenda in trade talks.

“So with all of these trading partners, it looks like the Trump administration is close to finding a path forward, a way to resolve differences,” Cutler said.

She said she expected the US administration would be able to focus more on China and probably ask its allies to “support the US position on China and to work with the US to urge China to open its market and to reform”.

China’s major trading partners share US concerns about the sluggish progress in opening Chinese markets significantly, as well as heavy state interference in the economy and technology, which may squeeze foreign business out of China.

Observers are bracing for the growing likelihood that the trade dispute may last for some time as both China and the US have refrained from backing down first.

The two countries have engaged in a series of retaliatory moves, imposing 25 per cent tariffs on US$50 billion worth of each other’s imports.

In a further escalation this week, the US announced it would impose 10 per cent tariffs on an additional US$200 billion worth of Chinese products from September 24, with the tariff rate increasing to 25 per cent on January 1 next year unless China makes concessions. China responded by imposing tariffs on US$60 billion worth of US goods.

“We all need to get prepared for a world where there will be significant tariffs in place between the two countries for the foreseeable future,” Cutler said.

Chinese Vice-Premier Liu He is reported to be organising a meeting to discuss China’s response to the latest US trade tariffs. Photo: Reuters

Chinese Vice-Premier Liu He was reported to be organising a meeting to discuss the response to the latest US tariffs which have fuelled concerns about an already slowing Chinese economy.

There have been suggestions China may go beyond using tariffs, using instruments such as regulatory harassment of US firms operating in China, or even depreciating the yuan and dumping Chinese holdings of US Treasury bonds.

Cutler warned China faced a “conundrum” as such moves could further provoke the Trump administration and add to the difficulties of finding a negotiated solution.

The opening up of the “Made in China 2025” sectors, however, could send a signal to the US about China’s seriousness to resolve the issue, she said.

A former assistant US trade representative speaking on the sidelines at the World Economic Forum said he expected China would move very cautiously to avoid further escalating the situation.

Timothy Stratford, now managing partner in law firm Covington & Burling’s Beijing office, said he believed the Chinese government had come to the conclusion that the Trump administration was very serious about addressing issues stemming from the systemic differences between the two countries.

“Now that this new round of tariffs is being imposed by both sides, the most realistic goal for our countries to focus on next would be to agree on a moratorium on any further sanctions – so that each side has a chance to evaluate the impact of the existing tariffs and consider the best path forward,” he said.

“This would probably require them to agree on a process, agenda, and time frame for negotiations in the systemic issues.”


China Ready To End Trade Tariffs With U.S.

September 19, 2018

Sources in Beijing tell Peace and Freedom that China is prepared to announce a “win” in the trade war.

Without making any concessions or admitting any fault, China will announce its intention of moving forward to secure “free and fair trade” for all from Beijing through Europe and to the United States.

Xi Jinping, who has wisely stayed out of the trade dispute thus far, will be the winner, vowing to abide by WTO rules, end unfair trade practices and agree to international norms on intellectual property.

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Xi’s message masters are already working on his first statement — made to get the attention of the international community and Donald Trump and put in place a cease-fire on tariffs.

Then the negotiating process can begin. And in the arena of negotiations, China believes it has the upper hand over Trump — who also believes he has the upper hand.

With China’s equity markets and currency down, it knows it has to make some changes before more nations outside the U.S. lose interest in China trade and investments.

Already, Europeans are becoming nervous about China’s monster economy and China’s voracious Belt and Road appetite of eating smaller economies and presenting them with a bill for the debt.

Europe knows it cannot stop the Belt and Road but it can be the gateway western hub of all trade with China — if it plays its cards right.

The key is to save face. Xi can blame his Commerce Ministry and Li Keqiang for any past misunderstandings while taking credit for his wisdom in solving a difficult problem.

Donald Trump will take himself for the winner — at least until the results of any agreements which could be years away become clearly known to all.

In the meantime, China can get its markets going again while negotiations with the likes of Steven Mnuchin and Robert Lighthizer get moving in earnest.

China believes it can be the master of it all.

Related image

See also:

Europe Turns Down Chinese Offer For Grand Alliance Against The US



Sir Frank Lowy: Australia ‘moving in the wrong direction’

September 14, 2018

Describing himself as a “boat person” Sir Frank Lowy has used the 15th annual address of the think tank he founded in his family’s name, the Lowy Institute, to call for the nation to reject the insularity that is sweeping western politics and embrace immigration, innovation and infrastructure.

“When I established the institute, I made it very clear that it would not be a platform for my own opinions,” he said last night in a speech introduced by the former foreign minister, Julie Bishop.

By Nick O’Malley

“I have kept that commitment. Until now.”

In the speech Sir Frank described his memories of being a child refugee at the end of World War II.

Sir Frank Lowy

“As a boy I stood at the doorway of our hiding place in Budapest and watched Russian troops fight house by house to liberate the city and therefore rescue us from certain death.”

“I was also aware back then that Britain and the United States were forces for good in the world.

“I remember huddling around the radio with others, waiting for the chimes of Big Ben to signal the start of the BBC broadcast that would tell us what was happening in Europe.

As a teenager I became a boat person – a refugee – as I made my way to Palestine.

Sir Frank Lowy

“I knew that Britain and the United States were beacons of freedom and democracy at a time when my life – and Western civilisation itself – was at grave risk.

“As a teenager I became a boat person – a refugee – as I made my way to Palestine.”

Sir Frank eventually made his way from Israel to Australia at a time when it was deliberately and rapidly expanding its population and made his fortune with Westfield shopping centres.

Describing Australia as blessed by its social harmony, economy, natural resources and geographic location Sir Frank said, “I look at all this and ask: “Why are we so timid? Why are we so quick to assume that we cannot have an impact?”

Sir Frank said he was an unashamed advocate for a “big Australia”.

“But I note that for the first time in the history of Lowy Institute polling, I am in the minority. In the 2018 [Lowy Institute] Poll, 54 per cent of Australians say the total number of migrants coming to Australia is too high.

“There is a rising crescendo of opinion from columnists and politicians saying we should reduce our immigration intake.

“And in the past year our immigration intake has declined. We have gone from migration targets to migration caps. I think we are moving in the wrong direction.”

Sir Frank argued that despite a “chequered” past that included the white Australia policy, Australia still had the best functioning multicultural society on earth.

For Australia’s remarkable prosperity to continue over the coming years it had to maintain the current massive rate of expenditure in infrastructure, he said.

“You might think this is more idealism. I promise you it is pragmatism. Large scale investment in roads, rail, airports, housing, energy, agriculture and digital infrastructure will make a huge difference to our future.”

Finally Sir Frank argued that while such nation building was difficult, “being prime minister of Australia is even tougher”.

No prime minister can push through the reforms we need if they cannot even finish a term in office.

Sir Frank Lowy

He said that Australian democracy needed to be nurtured with care.

“We need to give the prime minister of the day a chance. If he or she cannot win an election, so be it. But no prime minister can push through the reforms we need if they cannot even finish a term in office.”

Sir Frank’s speech marked the first occasion that he had made the institute’s annual address, which in the past had been delivered by figures including prime ministers John Howard and Malcolm Turnbull, former CIA director David Petraeus, as well as the German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

See also:

Migrant Frank Lowy urges more immigration

Britain’s South China Sea ‘provocation’ puts post-Brexit trade talks at risk, China says

September 7, 2018

Editorial in state-run China Daily says decision to send warship past disputed Paracel Islands could hamper talks on post-EU free-trade deal

PUBLISHED : Friday, 07 September, 2018, 11:31am
UPDATED : Friday, 07 September, 2018, 11:59am

A British Royal Navy warship that sailed close to islands in the South China Sea claimed by China risked hampering any talks about a free-trade agreement after Britain leaves the European Union, a major Chinese state-run newspaper said on Friday.

China and Britain agreed last month to look at the possibility of reaching a “top notch” post-Brexit free-trade deal which, if struck, would be an important political win for Britain’s Conservative government.

“China and the UK had agreed to actively explore the possibility of discussing a free-trade agreement after Brexit. Any act that harms China’s core interests will only put a spanner in the works,” the official China Daily newspaper said in an editorial.

Britain has long courted China for a post-Brexit trade deal and talked up a “golden era” in ties, although any formal talks could not begin until Britain officially leaves the European Union next year and typically take many years to conclude.

The HMS Albion, a 22,000-tonne amphibious warfare vessel, sailed near the Paracel Islands claimed by China last month, Reuters reported on Thursday, prompting an angry reaction from China which called it a “provocation”.

The Paracels are occupied entirely by China but also claimed by Vietnam and Taiwan.

China’s claims in the South China Sea, through which some US$3 trillion of shipborne trade passes each year, are contested by Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam. Britain does not have any territorial claims in the area.

The China Daily article said Britain was trying to “curry favour” with the United States, which has been pushing for more international participation in freedom of navigation operations in the strategic waterway.

“Now that it is eyeing the US as an economic lifeline after it exits the European Union – the United Kingdom is no doubt eager to seize whatever opportunity it can to get into Washington’s good books,” the English-language newspaper said.

China’s Defence Ministry said in its statement responding to the Royal Navy action that, with the joint efforts of China and Southeast Asian countries, the situation in the South China Sea had stabilised.

“Certain countries from outside the region pay no heed to this, and send military ships and aircraft to the South China Sea to foment trouble, creating problems where none exist, threatening regional peace and stability,” it said.

China has repeatedly denounced what it views as interference from “countries outside the region” in the South China Sea, generally a message to the United States and its allies to stay out of the dispute.

Reuters and SCMP


[China’s seizure of much of the South China Sea was a violation of international law much like Russia’s moves on Crimea and Ukraine]

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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. Vietnam has been unable to develop its own undersea oil due to China’s aggressive behavior.

Trump Eyes a Japan Trade Fight

September 7, 2018

In a Thursday phone call, the President sounds courteous and stable, but unfortunately still focused on trade deficits.

President Donald Trump speaks with Republican members of Congress in the Roosevelt Room of the White House on Thursday.
President Donald Trump speaks with Republican members of Congress in the Roosevelt Room of the White House on Thursday. PHOTO: ALEX EDELMAN/ZUMA PRESS

People inclined to believe that the President is crazy should pause before accepting such diagnoses from journalists without medical degrees quoting anonymous non-doctors in the federal bureaucracy. But investors hoping for a quick end to the Trump trade debates may have reason to be nervous.


Fox News


.@FreemanWSJ: “[@POTUS] is giving us, in what seems a much more disciplined way than the normal politician, a very methodical rollout of his program and it’s working on the economic side.”

Your humble correspondent appeared on the Fox News Channel this morning and gave the President due credit for the outstanding economic results of his tax and regulatory reforms. This prompted a gracious phone call from Mr. Trump in which the President sounded very stable but unfortunately also still very focused on eliminating trade deficits with America’s trading partners.

Such deficits often correlate with a thriving economy like the one we have now. We are buying stuff we need or want from other countries and if it’s more than they choose to buy from us, they use the difference to invest in America. Thank goodness that due to the policies of Mr. Trump and many of his predecessors, the world still loves to invest in the United States.

But the President sees a problem and even if he wraps up negotiations with our friends in North America and Europe, the trade uncertainty won’t necessarily end. It seems that he is still bothered by the terms of U.S. trade with Japan. Mr. Trump described his good relations with the Japanese leadership but then added: “Of course that will end as soon as I tell them how much they have to pay.”

This columnist noted that Mr. Trump’s tax and regulatory reforms have largely solved the competitiveness problem with the U.S. economy and that if he resolved the trade fights with our friends and simply focused on combatting Chinese intellectual property theft, he could rally a large global coalition to demand a solution.

Perhaps the President will be encouraged not to seek new tariffs as he continues to see how well the economy is doing without them. Today the latest National Federation of Independent Business jobs report shows a small-business sector so healthy that it’s biggest problem is finding workers to fill all of the available positions:

Small business plans to create new jobs and job openings hit a 45-year high in August… A survey high of 38 percent of owners reported job openings they could not fill in the current period… A record 25 percent of owners cited the difficulty of finding qualified workers as their Single Most Important Business Problem, up two points from last month.

This suggests that America could use more immigrants and here’s hoping that can be the subject of another phone call.


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Mr. Freeman is the co-author of “Borrowed Time,” now available from HarperBusiness.

Nauru blasts ‘insolent’ China for speaking out of turn at meeting — “He was from a big country he wanted to bully us”

September 5, 2018

China’s envoy to the Pacific Islands Forum was “very insolent” and a “bully” for speaking out of turn during a leaders’ meeting, the president of host-nation Nauru said, after an angry exchange made for a tense start to the annual gathering.

Nauru is hosting leaders of 18 Pacific nations, plus delegations from non-member countries including the United States and China, at a time of growing tension and rivalry in a strategically important region with access to swathes of resource-rich ocean.

“The Chinese demanded to be heard when (Tuvalu’s) prime minister was about to speak,” Nauru President Baron Waqa said at a news conference late on Tuesday, after media reported a heated start to the leaders’ closed-door meeting.

Image result for Nauru President Baron Waqa, photos

Baron Waqa, President of Nauru

“He insisted and was very insolent about it, and created a big fuss and held up the meeting of leaders for a good number of minutes when he was only an official. So maybe because he was from a big country he wanted to bully us,” Waqa said.

Nauru and Tuvalu are two of six Pacific countries to have diplomatic ties with Taiwan, another major source of tension with China, which regards Taiwan as a wayward province, to be taken back by force if necessary.

China’s foreign ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment. China’s delegation was led by Du Qiwen, its ambassador to Fiji.

Waqa said protocol dictated speaking priority was given to ministers over diplomats.

China has become one of the dominant economic players in the Pacific, spending billions of dollars in trade, investment, aid and tourism in a region that staunch U.S. ally Australia has long regarded as its “back yard”.

Chinese lending to the region has surged from nearly zero to $1.3 billion over the last decade, stoking concern that tiny nations could end up overburdened and in debt.

It is also the second-largest bilateral donor in the region, behind Australia. Nauru has no diplomatic relations with China.

New Zealand Foreign Minister Winston Peters attended the leaders’ meeting, and had told reporters on Tuesday there was no walk-out by China’s delegation, contrary to some reports.

The dispute echoes an incident in 2017 when Chinese delegates were reported to have disrupted the opening remarks at a conference in Australia about conflict diamonds, because a Taiwan delegation was invited.

Separately, Nauru on Wednesday also reinstated the press credentials of a New Zealand journalist who had been briefly held by police for failing to seek permission to meet a refugee sent to Nauru under Australia’s hardline immigration policy.

Reporting by Charlotte Greenfield in WELLINGTON and Tom Westbrook in SYDNEY. Additional reporting by Ben Blanchard in BEIJING; Editing by Robert Birsel





Pacific Islands Forum masking human rights abuse – advocate

Behind the scenes of the Pacific Islands Forum in Nauru human rights abuses are continuing, a refugee advocate says.

A ward at the RON Hospital on Nauru

A ward at the RON Hospital on Nauru Photo: Asylum Seeker Resource Centre

Ian Rintoul from the Refugee Action Coalition said journalists attending the forum needed to look at the bigger picture.

Mr Rintoul said to avoid scutiny, staff working at Australia’s refugee detention centres on the island had been told not to speak to the media.

He said despite the Nauru president’s denial of a mental health crisis among about 900 refugees on the island, they were still committing acts of self harm.

“There’s a woman on Nauru at the moment who’s swallowed a razor blade,” Mr Rintoul said.

“There have been recomendations from doctors on Nauru and in Australia that she can’t be treated on Nauru.

“She needs to be taken off Nauru for that treatment. She was sent home from the RON (Republic of Nauru) hospital last night [and was told] ‘come back when you start vomiting blood’.”

Nauru’s hospital was inadequate and in a poor state compared to facilities prepared for the forum, Mr Rintoul said.

“It’s one of the things the Australian government boasts about, how much money has been spent on the RON hospital. But when you look at photos of the hospital compared to facilities built for the forum you will see where the money has gone,” he said.

The Nauru Civic Centre.

The Nauru Civic Centre. Photo: Refugee Action Coalition

“It’s not just refugees, Nauruan people can’t get the treatment they need at the hospital. We’ve got hundreds of people (refugees) who’ve had to be sent off Nauru to Australia and other countries for medical treatment they can’t get on Nauru.”

Meanwhile, the New Zealand government said it would close the “backdoor route” to Australia – should the government there ever take up its offer of resettling 150 refugees from Nauru and Manus Island, in New Zealand.

Foreign Minister Winston Peters met with his Australian counterpart, Marise Payne, on the sidelines of the Pacific Islands Forum yesterday.

Currently New Zealanders can travel freely to, and live in Australia, and the Australian government is concerned this will allow refugees to ultimately settle there.

Mr Peters said he was certain changes could be made in New Zealand to shut that door and ease those concerns.


Reuters Journalists Guilty in Myanmar — Sentenced To Seven Years in Prison

September 3, 2018

A Myanmar judge on Monday found two Reuters journalists guilty of breaching a law on state secrets and sentenced them to seven years in prison, in a landmark case seen as a test of progress towards democracy in the Southeast Asian country.

Yangon northern district judge Ye Lwin said Wa Lone, 32, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 28, breached the colonial-era Official Secrets Act when they collected and obtained confidential documents.

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Detained Reuters journalists Wa Lone (3rd from L) and Kyaw Soe Oo (3rd from R) sit beside police officers as they leave a courthouse in Yangon, Myanmar, July 9, 2018. Reuters photo

“The defendants … have breached Official Secrets Act section 3.1.c, and are sentenced to seven years. The time already served by the defendants from December 12 will be taken into consideration,” the judge said.

Press freedom advocates, the United Nations, the European Union and countries including the United States, Canada and Australia had called for the Reuters journalists’ acquittal.

“Today is a sad day for Myanmar, Reuters journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, and the press everywhere,” Reuters editor in chief Stephen J Adler said in a statement.

“We will not wait while Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo suffer this injustice and will evaluate how to proceed in the coming days, including whether to seek relief in an international forum.”

The reporters had told the court two police officials handed them papers at a north Yangon restaurant moments before other officers arrested them.

One police witness testified the restaurant meeting was a set-up to entrap the journalists to block or punish them for their reporting of a mass killing of Rohingya Muslims.

“I have no fear,” Wa Lone said after the verdict.

“I have not done anything wrong … I believe in justice, democracy and freedom.”

The verdict means Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo – who both have young daughters and have not seen their families outside of prison visits and court hearings for nearly nine months – remain behind bars.

Kyaw Soe Oo has a three-year-old daughter and Wa Lone’s wife, Pan Ei Mon, gave birth to their first child last month.

Myanmar government spokesman Zaw Htay has mostly declined to comment throughout the proceedings, saying Myanmar’s courts were independent and the case would be conducted according to the law.

The verdict had been postponed for a week because Judge Ye Lwin was sick. It comes amid mounting pressure on the government of Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi over a security crackdown sparked by attacks by insurgents from the Rohingya Muslim minority on the security forces in August 2017.

More than 700 000 stateless Rohingya Muslims fled across western Myanmar’s border with Bangladesh, according to UN agencies.

Dozens of reporters from domestic and international media organizations and diplomats were at the court for the verdict.

‘Hammer blow’

US ambassador Scot Marciel said he was sad for the two reporters and also for Myanmar.

“It’s deeply troubling for everybody who has struggled so hard here for media freedom. I think one has to ask will this process increase or decrease the confidence the people of Myanmar have in their justice system,” Marciel told reporters.

“We are disappointed by today’s court decision,” the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Myanmar, Knut Ostby, said in a statement. “The United Nations has consistently called for the release of the Reuters journalists and urged the authorities to respect their right to pursue freedom of expression and information.”

British ambassador Dan Chugg, speaking on behalf of his government and EU members, said he was “extremely disappointed” by the verdict in a case that had “passed a long shadow” over freedom of expression and the rule of law.

“This has dealt a hammer blow for the rule of law,” Chugg said.


The Reuters reporters were arrested on December 12 while investigating the killing of 10 Rohingya men and boys and other abuses involving soldiers and police in Inn Din, a village in Rakhine State.

Myanmar has denied allegations of atrocities made by refugees against its security forces, saying it conducted a legitimate counterinsurgency operation against Muslim militants.

But the military acknowledged the killing of the 10 Rohingya men and boys at Inn Din after arresting the Reuters reporters.

A UN mandated fact-finding mission said last week Myanmar’s military carried out mass killings and gang rapes of Muslim Rohingya with “genocidal intent” and called for top generals to be prosecuted. Myanmar rejected the findings.

The International Criminal Court is considering whether it has jurisdiction over events in Rakhine, while the United States, the European Union and Canada have sanctioned Myanmar military and police officers over the crackdown.


Vietnam convicts 12 ‘terrorists’ for subversion — Mostly bloggers, activists and rights lawyers

August 22, 2018

Vietnam Wednesday jailed two American citizens and 10 others from an outlawed US-based “terrorist” group for attempting to overthrow the state after they spread anti-government leaflets and tried to incite protests last year.

Critics of the communist regime are routinely jailed in the one-party state. Most are loosely-linked bloggers, activists and rights lawyers, with few groups designated as “terrorist organisations”.

One of those groups is the California-based Provisional National Government of Vietnam (PNGV), an anti-communist organisation with its own self-appointed prime minister that pledges allegiance to the former South Vietnam regime.

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Twelve of their members were jailed for between five and 14 years after a two-day trial in Ho Chi Minh City for “attempting to overthrow the state”, according to Phap Luat newspaper, the mouthpiece of the city’s justice department.

They were accused of printing 4,000 leaflets, plotting to take over national radio and calling for demonstrations on April 30 last year — celebrated as “reunification day” to mark the end of the Vietnam War in 1975.

The group included two American citizens, Phan Angel and Nguyen James Han, who allegedly travelled to Vietnam from the United States to help the failed plot, state media reported.

They were the only two to receive the harshest sentences of 14 years in prison and will be deported after serving their sentences.

“The defendants’ behaviour was extremely serious, violating national security, undermining the country’s stability and development (and) causing political and social disorder,” the official Vietnam News Agency quoted the court decision as saying.

US embassy spokesman Pope Thrower said the safety of American citizens was a top priority.

“We will continue to monitor Mr Nguyen’s welfare, advocate for him and provide consular services until his release,” Thrower said in a statement. The embassy was not authorised to speak about Phan.

The foiled plan was allegedly set to coincide with a failed attack on Ho Chi Minh City’s Tan Son Nhat international airport last year, for which 15 PNGV members were convicted.

The group was also accused of bombing a police station in the city in June and injuring three people.

The PNGV was established in 1990 in California, where large numbers of Vietnamese refugees settled after the end of the war.

Vietnamese officers escorted Will Nguyen to his trial in Ho Chi Minh City where it was announced that he would be deported. Mr. Nguyen, who is from Houston, could have been sent to prison for seven years. Credit Reuters

Its members, many who wear the yellow-and-red-striped southern flag of the former Saigon regime, say their aim is to “liberate Vietnam from communism”.

Hanoi and Washington now enjoy close ties, although a number of incidents involving US citizens in Vietnam this year have created a diplomatic headache between the former foes.

Michael Nguyen, a California-based father of four is in custody for “attempting to overthrow the state”, while American student Will Nguyen was convicted and deported last month for disturbing public order after joining protests in Ho Chi Minh City.


Russian Media: Saudi Arabia Spending Billions of Dollars to Keep US in Syria

August 22, 2018
A leading Russian newspaper reported that the US was on the verge of a pull-out from Syria but continued to keep its military build-up in the country after Saudi Arabia undertook to finance their stay with multibillion-dollar budget.

The Russian-language Svobodnaya Pressa daily said Riyadh and Washington have not yet worked out the timeline for the budgeting, but Saudi Arabia has, though unwillinglly, taken up to provide for the multibillion dollar financing.

The report said Saudi Arabia was unwilling to make the spending despite Washington’s warnings about its pullout, but it conceded after Trump used its options to pressure Saudi Arabia that include Riyadh’s fears of the collapse of anti-Assad coalition after a US withdrawal.

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According to the report, the Saudi spending might entail deployment of thousands of US troops in Syria.

Last week, US President Donald Trump praised Washington’s cancellation of $230mln in funding for stabilization in war-torn Syria, stating that let “other rich countries” pay it, while the US spends its money on its military and allies.

The US officially ended support for stabilization projects in Syria on Friday. The $230mln worth of funding had been frozen for months before that however, after House forbid any funding for government-controlled territories in Syria.

“The United States has ended the ridiculous 230 Million Dollar yearly development payment to Syria. Saudi Arabia and other rich countries in the Middle East will start making payments instead of the US. I want to develop the US, our military and countries that help us!” Trump wrote on Twitter.

Trump has long been promising the US would leave Syria “like very soon”, but so far the stabilization money is the only thing that’s been withdrawn. American military presence and support for anti-government fighters remains, and, according to diplomat Brett McGurk, is gearing up to a “final phase” of the offensive against Daesh (ISIS or ISIL).

Fars news (Iran)

Canada Hajj pilgrims, Saudi students face uncertainty due to diplomatic row

August 16, 2018

Canadian Muslims traveling to the Hajj pilgrimage face delays coming back due to a diplomatic dispute with Saudi Arabia that is also prompting thousands of students from the kingdom to scramble to sell their assets and return home to meet a month-end deadline.

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Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman — FILE photo

As the stalemate continues, Canada is reaching out to its allies, including the United States and European Union, to rally support, and talking to Saudi Arabia to resolve the dispute.

Riyadh abruptly severed diplomatic and trade ties earlier this month in response to Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland’s tweet demanding the release of civil society activists in the kingdom. Riyadh also ended state-backed educational and medical programs in Canada, resulting Saudi students here hustling to return home.

In Halifax, the Ummah Masjid organized yard sales to help students sell their furniture, electronics and even cars.

“Some of them, they only come one week ago and they are prepared to leave,” said Abdallah Yousri, the mosque’s imam. “Some of them, they were in Saudi Arabia for summer vacation, and they just came to sell their products and then [leave].”

As of the end of June, there were more than 5,100 Saudi students with valid study permits for post-secondary institutions in Canada.

Many Canadian Muslims had booked flights with Saudia, the Kingdom’s official airline, to perform the Hajj pilgrimages in the Saudi city of Mecca, which takes place from August 19 to 24 this year.

While Saudia trips to Mecca before August 13 were not affected, returns home prove to be a concern for many.

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FILE PHOTO: Muslim pilgrims pray around the holy Kaaba at the Grand Mosque, during the annual hajj pilgrimage in Mecca September 27, 2014. REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed/File Photo

“We’re nervous as a family because we don’t want her to be stranded in an airport,” Jawad Chaudhry, a real estate broker in Hamilton, said of his mother, who is traveling via Saudia for Hajj.


Freeland has spoken with officials of the European Union, Germany, Sweden and the United Arab Emirates in an effort to find support, a spokesman for the foreign minister told Reuters.

“We have a dialogue that is continuing with the Saudis, that’s encouraging, we know that we need to maintain an open dialogue with them to resolve this issue,” he added.

But silence from Canada’s traditional backers has sparked some soul-searching in Ottawa.

The big issue is the future of foreign relationships in a world where Canada can no longer count on support from its major allies, said Roland Paris, a former foreign affairs adviser to Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

“We’re getting a glimpse of what the world looks like when the United States isn’t a strong advocate of human rights, one in which liberal democracies are keeping their heads down,” Paris said.

The U.S. State Department last week urged Canada and Saudi Arabia to use diplomacy to resolve their dispute, which did not come up during a phone call between U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on Monday. [L1N1UY1I1]

Bob Rae, former leader of the federal Liberal party, said Canada has to be more strategic about how to push its human rights agenda.

“There needs to be a clearer sense of strategy about why we are intervening in some situations and not in others, and how one would ever expect countries to take criticism without responding,” Rae told Reuters.

Reporting by Andrea Hopkins and Danya Hajjaji; Editing by Dan Grebler