July 2019

China’s sanctions to show teeth to US firms

Photo: IC

The Chinese foreign ministry said on Friday that China will impose sanctions on US firms selling weapons to the island of Taiwan. The announcement made a splash in the US. A US State Department spokesperson said on Monday it will “closely monitor any actions that would unfairly disadvantage US firms” while tried to find excuses for the arms sale to the island.

Although China hasn’t released details of sanctions, the US feels the pressure. According to VOA Chinese, US Representative Ted Yoho said in the past 40 years US presidents have approved 86 arms sales to the island of Taiwan, implying that China should get used to that and not overreact. However, what’s wrong is wrong. The world has no reason to adapt to wrongness.

The third joint communiqué between China and the US signed on August 17, 1982 demanded the US to gradually reduce its arms sales to Taiwan until the issue is completely resolved.

But Washington violated the communiqué by repeatedly expanding its arms sales to the island. This has had a destructive impact on cross-Straits peace.

If the US insists on doing so, the Chinese mainland is destined to adopt increasingly resolute countermeasures against it.

The US attaches more importance to China’s recently announced sanctions on US firms selling arms to the island of Taiwan than before, because China is growing stronger. We are more capable of safeguarding our national interests and launching precise counterattacks on entities that harm China’s interests and national security.

We are no longer in the era in which only the US can impose sanctions on Chinese enterprises but not vice versa. China announced on May 31 the establishment of an “Unreliable Entity List” to prevent China’s interests from being jeopardized by US firms. Regardless of how much we can punish relevant US companies, China has made itself clear and heard. The game between China and US is now bilateral rather than unilateral.

US weapons companies that participate in arms sales to Taiwan have to pay the price, now or later. They have reaped handsome profits by selling outdated but overpriced equipment to Taiwan. These weapons dealers have become the major promoter, as well as biggest beneficiary of US arms sales to Taiwan.

Some Chinese doubt the effect of sanctioning US weapons companies, but the actual result may not be what they think.

The four US arms companies involved this time can’t turn a blind eye to the Chinese market. For example, General Dynamics owns the world’s largest business jet maker – Gulfstream Aerospace – of which China is the third largest market. Aircraft rescue and fire fighting vehicles produced by Oshkosh Corporation are used in more than 60 airports in China.

Sanctioning US companies that undermine China’s national interests will serve as a warning to other American companies which may do the same thing. In the long run, individuals who harm China’s interests and cross the legal redline could also be the target of China’s sanctions. These people should take note.

5 injured in explosion in Nepal’s far-western city

Five people were injured in an explosion in Nepal’s far-western city of Dhangadhi on Thursday evening, local authorities said here Friday.

Assistant Chief District Officer of Kailali district, Mohan Raj Joshi, told Xinhua by phone that the explosion took place near a restaurant at the heart of the city.

“Of the five injured, two are undergoing treatment in local hospital in critical condition,” Joshi said.

The local administration has stepped up security in the city. “We have confirmed that improvised explosive devices (IEDs) kept inside plastic bags were detonated near the restaurant,” Joshi added.

Superintendent of Police Sudeep Giri told local media that dozens of police officials have been mobilized following the incident.

“We have started an investigation into the incident,” Giri was quoted by local media as saying.

Police have seized a pistol from the site following the incident.

The preliminary investigation carried out by the police has shown that an underground armed outfit was responsible for the explosion, according to Giri.

DPRK’s Kim inspects newly built submarine

Kim Jong Un, top leader of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), recently made an on-site inspection of a newly built submarine, the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported on Tuesday.

The submarine will perform its duty in the operational waters of the East Sea of Korea and its operational deployment is nearly completed, the report said.

According to KCNA, Kim “expressed great satisfaction” over the fact that the submarine was designed and built to be capable of fully implementing the military strategic intention under various circumstances.

Saying that the operational capacity of a submarine is an important component of the country’s national defense, Kim stressed the need to steadily and reliably increase the national defense capability by directing big efforts to the development of naval weapons and equipment such as submarines, the report said.

Kim said the successful building of a powerful submarine is another demonstration of the rapid development of the DPRK’s defense industry, the report added.

Merkel congratulates von der Leyen’s election as new European Commission chief

German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Tuesday warmly congratulated Ursula von der Leyen’s election as European Commission’s new president, saying she “won a new partner in Brussels.”

“I am pleased because a confident and convincing European woman will become head of the European Commission. It will now tackle the challenges we face as the European Union with great vigor. This was made very clear in her speech today in the European Parliament,” said Merkel in a statement.

Von der Leyen won a slim majority in the European Parliament on Tuesday evening, as lawmakers voted on her nomination of European Commission president by the European Council.

Von der Leyen will be the first female president of the European Commission, and after more than 50 years a German will head of the European executive body again.

“Even if I lose a long-time Minister today, I win a new partner in Brussels. Therefore, I am looking forward to good cooperation,” added Merkel.

Von der Leyen announced Monday that she would resign as German defense minister on Wednesday, no matter how the result of the European Parliament vote would be.

A member of the German Christian Democratic Union, von der Leyen has held various posts in all the four terms of Merkel’s chancellorship since 2005, and she is widely viewed as a close ally of Merkel.

Pakistan PM Khan says to meet Taliban in peace push

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan said Tuesday he would meet with the Taliban after returning to his country, as part of efforts to end 18 years of war in Afghanistan.

Khan spoke in Washington on his first official trip to the US, where President Donald Trump hosted him at the White House a day earlier.

He said that he had also spoken with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, and now, when he goes back, “I will meet the Taliban and I will try my best to get them to talk to the Afghan government.”

Speaking at the US Institute for Peace, a bipartisan federal body, Khan said that he had been contacted by the Islamist extremist Afghan Taliban “a few months back,” after his election win in July 2018, but did not take a meeting at that time because Kabul was not in favor of it.

The militants reached out to him “because I always maintained there was no military solution” to the war in Afghanistan, he said.

“So because of that, I had a certain amount of credibility amongst them,” added Khan.

Khan earlier Tuesday met with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who emphasized the importance of working together and “Pakistan’s significant role in supporting the Afghan peace process and counterterrorism,” according to a US statement.

The US peace envoy to Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, left for Kabul Monday for the latest round of talks. From there he is to head to Doha, Qatar. Khalilzad has had several meetings with the Taliban in the past year, the most recent being on July 9 in Doha.

But the major hurdle has so far been the Taliban’s refusal to negotiate directly with the Afghan government.

“It’s not going to be easy because there’s no centralized command, it’s a devolved movement,” Khan cautioned about the insurgent group.

“But we feel that if we all work together, we feel this is the best chance of there to be peace in Afghanistan, ” he said.

33 killed in suspected Japan arson attack

A suspected arson attack on an animation production company in Japan killed 24 people and injured dozens more on Thursday, with flames gutting the building in the city of Kyoto.

Police said the fierce blaze appeared to have been started deliberately but there was no immediate information on a possible motive.

The toll continued to climb hours after the fire began, with fire department officials saying bodies were being discovered as they searched the ravaged building.

A fire department official told AFP that at least 11 more people had been found “in cardio-respiratory arrest,” a term used in Japan to signify a victim’s death before it is officially certified.

The discoveries, on the building’s second floor and a stairwell leading to the roof, raised the toll to at least 33 dead.

Officials said 35 people had also been injured in the fire, 10 of whom were in serious condition, and local media said around 70 people were believed to have been in the building when the fire started.

Footage of the blaze showed thick white smoke pouring from the windows of the three-storey building. Its facade was charred black on much of one side where the flames had shot out of the windows.

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe took to Twitter to express his horror.

“It’s so dreadful that I’m lost for words,” he wrote.

“I pray for those who passed away.”

The fire department said it began receiving calls around 10:35 am about the fire at the studio belonging to Kyoto Animation.

“Callers reported having heard a loud explosion from the first floor of Kyoto Animation and seeing smoke,” a fire department spokesman said.

Police said they were still investigating the cause of the fire but it was a suspected arson attack.

“A man threw a liquid and set fire to it,” a Kyoto prefectural police spokesman told AFP.

Public broadcaster NHK reported that a man had been detained in connection with the blaze and was later taken to hospital for treatment.

It reported that the suspect had poured a gasoline-like substance around the building and said “drop dead” as he set fire to it.

Beijing probes two men smoking in Palace Museum

Photo taken on April 30, 2019 shows peony flowers in the Palace Museum in Beijing, capital of China. (Photo: Xinhua)

Beijing police are investigating a smoking case at the Palace Museum on Friday, after a video showing two men showing off while smoking in the world’s largest museum went viral on Chinese social media.

The video shows two male tourists sitting in a corner in the museum, with one man smoking and talking to the camera, saying, “Who dares smoke in the Palace Museum?”

“Smoking is banned at the Palace Museum,” he said while smoking. The man sitting next to him was also smoking, and the voice from a man taking the video said “Bro, you two are awesome!”

Their behavior drew public condemnation after the video went viral.

“They should be on the black list and banned from entering all tourist sites and museums,” one netizen said on China’s Twitter-like Weibo.

Beijing police have begun an investigation, and the two will be dealt with in accordance with law.

Beijing’s health authority said that the two have violated smoking regulations, the Beijing Evening News reported.

Smoking at the Palace Museum has been banned since 2013. Beijing implemented its strictest-ever ban on smoking in 2015, and the ban not only applies to indoor smoking, but also extends to open-air spaces near school buildings and cultural relic protection sites. Smokers who violate the ban can be fined up to 200 yuan ($32).

Global Times

China, Angola agree to further intensify ties

Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi(R) meets with Angolan Foreign Minister Manuel Domingos Augusto, who is also Angolan President Joao Lourenco’s special envoy, in Beijing, capital of China, July 23, 2019. (Xinhua/Shen Hong)

Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi met with Angolan Foreign Minister Manuel Domingos AugustoTuesday, pledging to further develop bilateral ties.

Wang said that China is ready to implement consensus reached by leaders of the two countries and strengthen strategic communication with Angola.

He called on the two sides to press ahead pragmatic cooperation on the platform of the Belt and Road and the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation.

The Chinese side will continue to encourage its enterprises and financial institutions to cooperate with the Angolan side, provide assistance within its capability and facilitate the African country’s economic diversification, Wang said.

Augusto, who is visiting China as a special envoy of Angolan President Joao Lourenco, appreciated China’s long-term support to Angola’s development and voiced his country’s willingness to continue pragmatic cooperation.

Boris Johnson set to become UK PM

File photo taken on Oct. 3, 2017 shows then British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson delivering his keynote speech during the Conservative Party Annual Conference 2017 in Manchester, Britain. Former British Foreign Secretary and ex-mayor of London Boris Johnson was elected the leader of the ruling Conservative party on Tuesday and set to become the country’s prime minister. (Xinhua/Han Yan)

Former British Foreign Secretary and ex-mayor of London Boris Johnson was elected the leader of the ruling Conservative party on Tuesday and set to become the country’s prime minister.

Johnson won 92,153 votes against the 46,656 received by his rival, Jeremy Hunt, the current foreign secretary.

Johnson said as PM he will bring “a new spirit of can-do” to the country.

“It’s time to deliver Brexit, unite the country and defeat Jeremy Corbyn,” he told audience after winning the leadership.

The Queen Elizabeth Center, just a few hundred meters from the Houses of Parliament was crowded with an audience who had been waiting to hear the name of Britain’s incoming prime minister.

Johnson’s brother and MP Jo Johnson sat alongside their sister Rachel and father Stanley Johnson to hear the announcement.

Outside the Houses of Parliament pro-leave and pro-EU supporters gathered, waving flags and shouting messages, as Brexit remains a hot topic across Britain.

Johnson had always been the favorite among the majority of the party’s 160,000 members, but his victory is expected to lead to a string of front bench resignations.

Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond has already stated publicly he will quit, saying he cannot support the possibility of a no-deal Brexit.

Johnson has pledged to bring Britain out of the European Union (EU) by Oct. 31, with or without a deal.

The prospect of Britain leaving the bloc with no deal has already provoked talk of a rebellion among pro-Euro Conservative MPs.

The win on Tuesday comes four years after Johnson abandoned ambitions to join a leadership race following the resignation of the then prime minister David Cameron in the wake of the 2016 referendum result.

The announcement of the result Tuesday triggers a hand-over between Johnson and Theresa May, who succeeded Cameron in 2016.

In what will be 48 historic hours in British politics, May will make her last ever appearance Wednesday at Prime Minister’s Question Time in the House of Commons. She is also expected to make a farewell speech.

Later Wednesday afternoon May will travel to Buckingham Palace to offer her resignation as prime minister to Queen Elizabeth. An hour later, Johnson will make the same journey to the palace to be appointed as prime minister by the British monarch. Both are part of a formal ceremonial ritual between crown and state.

Johnson will then head to his new home at 10 Downing Street where he will make his first public speech as prime minister in front of one of the world’s most famous front doors.

Behind the closed door of No. 10, Johnson is immediately expected to start the task of assembling his new ministerial team, including appointing secretaries of state to the great offices of state, foreign secretary, home secretary and defense secretary. It is likely to take several days to complete his ministerial team.

May sent her congratulations to Johnson on her Twitter account, and said “we now need to work together to deliver a Brexit that works for the whole UK and to keep Jeremy Corbyn out of government.”

She said Johnson will have her full support from the back benches.

Responding to the result, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said: “Boris Johnson has won the support of fewer than 100,000 unrepresentative Conservative Party members by promising tax cuts for the richest, presenting himself as the bankers’ friend.”

Corbyn said Johnson’s No Deal Brexit would mean job cuts, higher prices in the shops, and risk Britain’s NHS (National Health Service) being sold off to US corporations in a sweetheart deal with US President Donald Trump.

Corbyn added: “The people of our country should decide who becomes the prime minister in a General Election.”

In Brussels, the EU’s Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said: “We look forward to working constructively with Boris Johnson when he takes office, to facilitate the ratification of the Withdrawal Agreement and achieve an orderly Brexit. We are ready also to rework the agreed Declaration on a new partnership in line with EU guidelines.”

US President Donald Trump also sent his congratulations to Johnson on his Twitter account, saying that “He will be great!”

Afghan leader seeks ‘clarification’ of US counterpart’s war comments

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said Tuesday the US should clarify remarks President Donald Trump made about Afghanistan, including a claim that he could easily win the war but didn’t “want to kill 10 million people.”

The US leader made several surprising statements Monday alongside Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan at the White House, including that he had plans for a quick end to the Afghan conflict, but which would wipe the country “off the face of the Earth.”

Afghanistan “would be gone. It would be over in, literally, in 10 days,” Trump said, adding, “I don’t want to go that route” and that he didn’t want to kill millions.

His comments sparked upset and outrage in Afghanistan, where the war-weary and traumatized population is already worried about a precipitous pullout of US forces and whether that means a return to Taliban rule and a spiralling civil war.

“The government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan calls for clarification on the US president’s statements expressed at a meeting with the Pakistan prime minister, via diplomatic means and channels,” Ghani’s office said.

Trump also said Pakistan would help the US “extricate” itself from Afghanistan, adding there was “tremendous potential” in the relationship between Washington and Islamabad.

Afghanistan has long blamed Pakistan for fuelling the Afghan conflict and for supporting the Taliban, and Ghani is furious about being continually sidelined by the US in ongoing peace talks with the Taliban.

Pakistan was the Taliban’s chief sponsor when it took power in neighboring Afghanistan during the 1990s.

Its influence over the group, which has waged an insurgency since it was ousted from power by US-led forces in 2001, is seen as key in facilitating a political settlement with Ghani’s government.

“While the Afghan government supports the US efforts for ensuring peace in Afghanistan, the government underscores that foreign heads of state cannot determine Afghanistan’s fate in absence of the Afghan leadership,” Ghani’s office said.