(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CHINA TV NEWS STATION ‘NDTV’)
- China recently celebrated the 68th anniversary of their navy
- China’s naval strategy has changed to increase its presence overseas
- China’s signature Liaoning carrier has finished its blue sea training
India should focus less on speeding up the process of building aircraft carriers to contain China in the Indian ocean and more on its economic development, Chinese official media said today. “New Delhi is perhaps too impatient to develop an aircraft carrier. The country is still in its initial stage of industrialisation, and there will be many technical obstacles that stand in the way of a build-up of aircraft carriers,” an article in the state-run Global Times said.
“In the past few decades, India and China have taken different paths in terms of aircraft carriers, but the different results achieved by the two countries point to the underlying importance of economic development,” it said.
“New Delhi should perhaps be less eager to speed up the process of building aircraft carriers in order to counter China’s growing sway in the Indian Ocean, and focus more on its economy,” it said.
China yesterday celebrated the 68th anniversary of the establishment of its navy amid massive expansion of its fleet. A fleet of three Chinese naval ships left Shanghai in the morning for a friendly visit to more than 20 countries in Asia, Europe and Africa.
“With the expansion of foreign trade, as well as China’s ‘One Belt and One Road’ initiative, the Chinese navy has taken on a new mission, which is to protect the country’s overseas interests,” a report in the same daily said.
As a consequence, China’s military strategy for the navy has changed and it must increase its presence overseas to meet the new requirements, military expert Song Zhongping said. As a signature achievement of the navy, the Liaoning aircraft carrier built from an empty hull of former Soviet ship has finished its blue sea training, he said.
While the Chinese navy flexed muscle with massive expansion overseas with new “logistic” based in Gwadar in Balochistan and Djibouti in the Indian Ocean, the Chinese official media sought to project India deploying aircraft carriers decades ahead of China in a negative light.
“As the world’s second-largest economy, China is now capable of building a strong navy to safeguard the security of strategic maritime channels. China’s construction of its first aircraft carrier is a result of economic development,” an article in the Global Times said.
“The country would have finished work on it several years ago if Beijing had simply wanted to engage in an arms race to have more influence in the Asia-Pacific and Indian Ocean regions,” the article said. “India itself could be taken as a negative example for a build-up of aircraft carriers,” it said.
Unlike China, India operated the aircraft carrier since 1961. INS Vikrant which was purchased in 1957 played a key role in enforcing the naval blockade of then East Pakistan in 1971 before it was decommissioned in 1997. Its successor INS Virat that was commissioned in 1987 has recently been decommissioned after an eventful four decades of service. It was succeeded by INS Vikramaditya, a modified version of Russian ship Admiral Gorshikov, which became operational in 2013.
The second INS Vikrant being built in Cochin Shipyard is expected to be ready by 2018.
(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)
Trump crams agenda as 100-day mark nears
Washington (CNN) In advance of his approaching 100th day as president, Donald Trump sat down with the Associated Press for an interview about what he’s done and what he’s failed to do in office so far. But Trump just couldn’t stop talking about the 2016 election.
“Yeah, my White House team. I think Reince (Priebus) has been doing an excellent job. I think that, you know, this is a very tough environment not caused necessarily by me. Although the election has, you know, look, the Democrats had a tremendous opportunity because the electoral college, as I said, is so skewed to them. You start off by losing in New York and California, no matter who it is. If, if Abe Lincoln came back to life, he would lose New York and he would lose California. It’s just the registration, there’s nothing you can do. So you’re losing the two biggest states, that’s where you start. OK. The Electoral College is so skewed in favor of a Democrat that it’s very, very hard…..so she had this massive advantage, she spent hundreds of millions of dollars more money than I spent. Hundreds of millions … Yeah. Or more, actually because we were $375 she was at $2.2 billion. But whatever. She spent massive amounts of money more and she lost. Solidly lost, because you know it wasn’t 270, it was 306.”
(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)
Two years into his campaign as change agent in this conservative oil kingdom, Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman appears to be gaining the confidence and political clout to push his agenda of economic and social reform.
The young prince outlined his plans in a nearly 90-minute conversation Tuesday night at his office here. Aides said it was his first lengthy on-the-record interview in months. He offered detailed explanations about foreign policy, plans to privatize oil giant Saudi Aramco, strategy for investment in domestic industry, and liberalization of the entertainment sector, despite opposition from some people.
Mohammed bin Salman said that the crucial requirement for reform is public willingness to change. “The most concerning thing is if the Saudi people are not convinced. If the Saudi people are convinced, the sky is the limit.” he said.
Change seems increasingly desired in this young, restless country.
A recent Saudi poll found that 85 percent of the public, if forced to choose, would support the government rather than other authorities, said Abdullah al-Hokail, the head of the government’s public opinion center.
He added that 77 percent of those surveyed supported the government’s “Vision 2030” reform plan, and that 82 percent favored entertainment performances at public gatherings. Though these aren’t independently verified numbers, they do indicate the direction of popular feeling, which Saudis say is matched by anecdotal evidence.
“MBS,” as the deputy crown prince is known, said that he was “very optimistic” about President Trump. He described Trump as “a president who will bring America back to the right track” after Barack Obama, whom Saudi officials mistrusted. “Trump has not yet completed 100 days, and he has restored all the alliances of the US with its conventional allies.”
A sign of the kingdom’s embrace of the Trump administration was the visit here this week by US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. While the Obama administration had criticized the Saudi war in Yemen, Mattis discussed the possibility of additional US support if the Houthis there don’t agree to a UN-brokered settlement.
(Writer’s note: I traveled to Saudi Arabia as part of the press corps accompanying Mattis.)
Mohammed bin Salman has been courting Russia, as well as the United States, and he offered an intriguing explanation of Saudi Arabia’s goal in this diplomacy.
“The main objective is not to have Russia place all its cards in the region behind Iran,” he said. To convince Russia that Riyadh is a better bet than Tehran, the Saudis have been “coordinating our oil policies recently” with Moscow, he said, which “could be the most important economic deal for Russia in modern times.”
There’s less apparent political tension than a year ago, when many analysts saw a rivalry between Mohammed bin Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, who is officially next in line for the throne.
The deputy crown prince appears to be firmly in control of Saudi military strategy, foreign policy and economic planning. He has gathered a team of technocrats who are much younger and more activist than the kingdom’s past leadership.
Reform plans appear to be moving ahead slowly but steadily. Mohammed bin Salman said that the budget deficit had been cut; non-oil revenue increased 46 percent from 2014 to 2016 and is forecast to grow another 12 percent this year. Unemployment and housing remain problems, he said, and improvement in those areas isn’t likely until between 2019 and 2021.
The biggest economic change is the plan to privatize about 5 percent of Saudi Aramco, which Mohammed bin Salman said will take place next year. This public offering would probably raise hundreds of billions of dollars and be the largest such sale in financial history. The exact size of the offering will depend on financial-market demand and the availability of good options for investing the proceeds, the prince told me.
The rationale for selling a share of the kingdom’s oil treasure is to raise money to diversify the economy away from reliance on energy. One priority is mining, which would tap an estimated $1.3 trillion in potential mineral wealth.
The Saudi official listed other investment targets: creating a domestic arms industry, reducing the $60 billion to $80 billion the kingdom spends annually to buy weapons abroad; producing automobiles in Saudi Arabia to replace the roughly $14 billion the government spends annually for imported vehicles; and creating domestic entertainment and tourism industries to capture some of the $22 billion that Saudis spend traveling overseas each year.
The entertainment industry is a proxy for the larger puzzle of how to unlock the Saudi economy. Changes have begun.
A Japanese orchestra performed here this month, before a mixed audience of families. A Comic Con took place in Jeddah recently, with audience dressing up as characters from the TV show “Supernatural” and other favorites. Comedy clubs feature sketch comedians (but no female stand-up comics, yet).
These options are a modest revolution for a Saudi Arabia where the main entertainment venues, until recently, were restaurants and shopping malls. The modern world, in all its raucousness, is coming, for better or worse.
King Fahd International Stadium in Riyadh hosted a Monster Jam last month with souped-up trucks. There are plans for a Six Flags theme park south of Riyadh.
Maya al-Athel, one of the dozens of young people hatching plans at the Saudi General Entertainment Authority, said in an interview that she’d like to bring a Museum of Ice Cream, like one she found in New York, to the kingdom.
“We want to boost the culture of entertainment,” said Ahmed al-Khatib, a former investment banker who’s chairman of the entertainment authority. His target is to create six public entertainment options every weekend for Saudis. But the larger goal, he said, is “spreading happiness.”
The instigator of this attempt to reimagine the kingdom is the 31-year-old deputy crown prince. With his brash demeanor, he’s the opposite of the traditional Bedouin reserve of past Saudi leaders. Unlike so many Saudi princes, he wasn’t educated in the West, which may have preserved the raw combative energy that is part of his appeal for young Saudis.
The trick for Mohammed bin Salman is to maintain the alliance with the United States, without seeming to be America’s puppet. “We have been influenced by US a lot,” he said. “Not because anybody exerted pressure on us — if anyone puts pressure on us, we go the other way. But if you put a movie in the cinema and I watch it, I will be influenced.” Without this cultural nudge, he said, “we would have ended up like North Korea.” With the United States as a continuing ally, “undoubtedly, we’re going to merge more with the changes in the world.”
Mohammed bin Salman is careful when he talks about religious issues. So far, he has treated the religious authorities as allies against radicalism rather than cultural adversaries. He argues that extreme religious conservatism in Saudi Arabia is a relatively recent phenomenon, born in reaction to the 1979 Iranian revolution and the seizure of the Grand Mosque in Mecca by Sunni radicals later that year as a reaction to the Shi’ite radicalism.
“I’m young. Seventy percent of our citizens are young,” the prince said. “We don’t want to waste our lives in this whirlpool that we were in the past 30 years. We want to end this epoch now. We want, as the Saudi people, to enjoy the coming days, and concentrate on developing our society and developing ourselves as individuals and families, while retaining our religion and customs. We will not continue to be in the post-’79 era,” he concluded. “That age is over.”
The Washington Post
(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)
Cairo – Conflicts in the Arab region, most notably in Syria, Libya and Yemen, should be resolved, stressed Egyptian Foreign Affairs Minister Sameh Shoukry.
The minister added there is a possibility to contain terrorism through Western intelligence agencies, not just military operations.
Speaking to Asharq al-Awsat, the FM said that certain known factories are providing terrorist organizations with arms and equipment, calling for serious and effective cooperation to end this.
Shoukry pointed out that the US administration shares the same vision as Egypt in countering terrorism. He also discussed the situation in the region and the importance of giving people a chance to end their struggles and solve their problems.
When asked if there were any initiatives for a solution in Yemen, Shoukry replied that they are monitoring the UN envoy and other countries’ efforts to establish a resolution according to the agreed bases, such as the outcomes of the national dialogue, the Gulf initiative and supporting the legitimacy.
On terrorism, the FM stressed that Egypt will continue to fight it, especially after the two attacks on the Tanta and Alexandria Churches earlier in April.
Shoukry stated that he believes terrorism is expanding because the international effort that has been established did not succeed in containing terrorism, except in Iraq recently.
He added that the situations in Syria and Libya are complicated and terrorist organizations are spreading in Africa. He also cited the frequent attacks in Europe and Egypt that are evidence of the continued presence of these terror organizations.
According to the minister, the international community should “credibly tackle the matter because it is impossible that these organizations receive weapons and support unbeknownst to the western intelligence.”
Shoukry said: “If there a real international will to fight terrorism, then the international community should begin with determining how these terrorist organizations receive all these advanced weapons and equipment.”
The FM said it is “impossible” that intelligence agencies are unable to trace and determine the parties and states responsible for backing terrorist organizations. He added that this is crucial for the credibility of anyone who says they are fighting terror.
Commenting on Egyptian President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi’s recent trip to the US, Shoukry explained that it took place shortly after US President Donald Trump came to office and when the US policy was still being shaped.
He did say however certain concepts were agreed upon, like fighting terrorism.
When asked whether Egypt will continue to unite all three Libyan parties, Shoukry stressed that his country never did and never will stop trying to unite Libyan parties. He explained that there are three institutions in Libya: presidential council, the parliament and the state’s council, which will form a committee to agree on the amendments needed to the Sukhayrat agreement.
He added that this constant effort with Libyan leaderships, which have met with Egyptian officials in Cairo, will continue until they are successful.
The minister stressed that Egypt aims to have natural relations with regional countries according to certain bases, which include mutual respect for sovereignties.
Furthermore, Cairo does not interfere in internal affairs and does not support organizations that back terrorism.
The FM was in Sudan recently on a visit, which he described as having “positive outcomes”.
He stated that it was an opportunity to review bilateral relations and the outcomes of the meetings of the joint high committee. He also explained that Egypt and Sudan agreed on a mechanism for political dialogue and discussed the regional situation.
The minister stated that bilateral relations might have had some misunderstandings or misinterpretations, which drove brotherly relations off their track.
When asked if the past has been forgotten, Shoukry stressed that Cairo is committed to a strategic ties with Sudan, which goes beyond any special relationships, adding: “Egypt does not conspire against or interfere in the affairs of any state.”
On Ethiopia, Shoukry said that both Cairo and Addis Ababa requested better coordination and asked for more frequent meetings. He explained that this could make it clearer to the public that issues are being discussed frankly and openly.
When asked about the Egyptian-Ethiopian relations, Shoukry said that Ethiopian FM Workneh Gebeyehu conveyed his country’s prime minister’s message to Sisi during his recent visit to Cairo. He added that the visit was an opportunity to discuss the importance of the mutual relations which are based on respect and common interests.
The Ethiopian FM stressed publically that his country will not take any move that could harm Egyptian interests. Meanwhile, Shoukry confirmed that Egypt is concerned with the Ethiopian development efforts, expressing Egypt’s willingness to be part of it through investments.
Shoukry said that the two countries agreed on dialogue to reach an ongoing mechanism to hold meetings every two months in order to discuss any misunderstanding or misinterpretation that could lead to wrong assumptions.
(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)
The World Health Organization announced on Monday that Ghana, Kenya and Malawi have been chosen to test the first malaria vaccine, which will be administered to hundreds of thousands of young children next year.
The vaccine, which has partial effectiveness, has the potential to save tens of thousands of lives if used with existing measures, the WHO regional director for Africa, Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, said in a statement.
The challenge is whether impoverished countries can deliver the required four doses of the vaccine for each child.
The injectable vaccine, called RTS,S or Mosquirix, was developed by British drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline to protect children from the most deadly form of malaria in Africa. The $49 million for the first phase of the pilot is being funded by the global vaccine alliance GAVI, UNITAID and Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.
It will be tested on children five to 17 months old to see whether its protective effects shown so far in clinical trials can hold up under real-life conditions. At least 120,000 children in each of the three countries will receive the vaccine, which has taken decades of work and hundreds of millions of dollars to develop.
Kenya, Ghana and Malawi were chosen for the vaccine pilot because all have strong prevention and vaccination programs, but continue to have high numbers of malaria cases, WHO said. The countries will deliver the vaccine through their existing vaccination programs.
Malaria remains one of the world’s most stubborn health challenges, infecting more than 200 million people every year and killing about half a million, most of them children in Africa. Bed netting and insecticides are the chief protection.
Sub-Saharan Africa is hardest hit by the disease, with about 90 percent of the world’s cases in 2015. Malaria spreads when a mosquito bites someone already infected, sucks up blood and parasites, and then bites another person.
A global effort to counter malaria has led to a 62 percent cut in deaths between 2000 and 2015, WHO said. But the UN agency has said in the past that such estimates are based mostly on modeling and that data is so bad for 31 countries in Africa — including those believed to have the worst outbreaks — that it couldn’t tell if cases have been rising or falling in the last 15 years.
WHO is hoping to wipe out malaria by 2040 despite increasing resistance problems to both drugs and insecticides used to kill mosquitoes.
“The slow progress in this field is astonishing, given that malaria has been around for millennia and has been a major force for human evolutionary selection, shaping the genetic profiles of African populations,” Kathryn Maitland, professor of tropical pediatric infectious diseases at Imperial College London, wrote in The New England Journal of Medicine in December. “Contrast this pace of change with our progress in the treatment of HIV, a disease a little more than three decades old.”
Southeast Asia, Latin America and the Middle East also have malaria cases.
Trump Needs To Stop Treating The Purple Heart Like A Game Show Prize
On Saturday afternoon, President Donald Trump took to Twitter to let the country know how excited he was to be heading to Walter Reed Medical Center to meet with wounded warriors.
When he arrived, Trump held a brief ceremony to award a Purple Heart medal to Army Sgt. 1st Class Alvaro Barrientos, who was wounded in Afghanistan on March 17.
“When I heard about this … I wanted to do it myself,” Trump said during the ceremony. “Congratulations on behalf of Melania and myself and the entire nation. Tremendous.”
😑 😑 😑
Shakin’ my damn head.
There’s nothing congratulatory about receiving a Purple Heart. No service member signs up for the military hoping to get a leg blown off, or a bullet lodged inside them. No service member is banking on ending up paralyzed for the rest of their life, or left with chronic pain that they have to cope with on a daily basis.
Sgt. 1st Class Alvaro Barrientos doesn’t think he’s won something. But, when he signed up for the Army, he knew it was a possibility that he could be injured, or even killed, and he did it anyway. Every service member knows the risk and they choose to put themselves in harm’s way regardless.
Trump still doesn’t seem to get that.
This isn’t the first time he has treated the Purple Heart like some kind of prize you get at the bottom of a cereal box. In August 2016, after retired Lt. Col. Louis Dorfman handed him his own Purple Heart, Trump said, “I always wanted to get the Purple Heart. This was much easier.”
Trump doesn’t seem to understand that no one wants a Purple Heart, because you don’t earn it without giving something up in return. As Elana Duffy wrote last year, “I didn’t want the award because I knew it meant at least a piece of me would be left behind. We didn’t get the award; we each traded something for it. We traded our brains, our limbs, and many times our lives for that piece of metal.”
Until Trump acquires some awareness of what military service actually entails, he should just smile and nod and stick to these five words, “Thank you for your service.” Once he masters those, then he can move onto more complex phrases like, “You have inspired the future generation with your courage and sacrifice.”
But, for now, he needs to keep it simple before he ends up chest-bumping a combat veteran for “winning” the Medal of Honor.