Strong earthquake strikes Indonesia; 2 dead

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

Strong earthquake strikes Indonesia; 2 dead

Motorists in Cilacap, Indonesia, are stuck in traffic as they try to reach higher ground amid fears of a tsunami after an earthquake. A tsunami warning was canceled.

(CNN)Two people were killed and seven others were injured when a strong earthquake hit Indonesia late Friday, authorities said.

The 6.5-magnitude quake was centered in Cipatujah, in the western part of Java, the US Geological Survey said, at a depth of 91.9 kilometers (about 57 miles).
Residents felt the quake about 190 miles away (305 kilometers) in the capital of Jakarta, where people briefly evacuated to the ground floor of their high-rises.

Residents gather outside their apartment blocks in Jakarta after the earthquake.

Tremors were also felt in the cities of Bandung, more than 63.5 miles away (102.1 kilometers) and Yogyakarta, more than 211 miles away (339.9 kilometers), authorities said.
A tsunami alert was issued after the quake, which Indonesian authorities recorded at 11:47 p.m. as 6.9 magnitude, according to Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, spokesman for Indonesia’s National Disaster Management and Mitigation Agency
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The two victims were buried in rubble, one in Ciamis, in West Java, and the other in Pekalongan, in Central Java, emergency officials said.
A few hundred homes and buildings were destroyed or damaged, the officials said. Several hospitals were damaged. Seventy patients from Banyumas Hospital were moved to tents and another temporary shelter.

Patients are evacuated outside a hospital in Banyumas overnight after an earthquake.

Fears of a tsunami prompted people to evacuate their homes for higher ground, but there were no reports of tsunamis occurring along the southern coasts of western, central and eastern Java and the city of Yogyakarta.
The alert was lifted at 2:30 a.m., the spokesman said.
Most residents returned to their homes on Saturday and they were advised to seek temporary shelter if their dwellings aren’t safe. Several aftershocks continue to be felt in the areas hit by the quake, emergency officials said.
An earthquake on December 7, 2016, struck Indonesia’s Aceh province in Sumatra and killed at least 100 people.

‘Recalcitrant’ Activist Charged by Singapore Police for Organizing ‘Illegal Assemblies’

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF GLOBAL VOICES)

 

‘Recalcitrant’ Activist Charged by Singapore Police for Organizing ‘Illegal Assemblies’

Jolovan Wham (person wearing red shirt) is joined by friends during a solidarity event. Photo from Facebook page of Lynn Lee.

On November 29, Singaporean activist Jolovan Wham was charged by the police for “organizing public assemblies without a permit under the Public Order Act, an offense of vandalism under the Vandalism Act, and for refusing to sign his statements under the Penal Code.”

Wham is an activist known for his campaigns promoting the rights of migrant workers, free speech in Singapore, and reform of the country’s laws on detention and death penalty.

Wham’s seven offences listed by the police are in connection several protest events: 1. July 14 candle lighting vigil in solidarity with the family of a person facing the death penalty 2. June 13 ‘silent protest’ inside a train about the arrest of “Marxist conspirators’ in 1987 and 3. November 26, 2016 indoor forum whose speaker included Hong Kong pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong speaking via Skype.

The police accused Wham of organizing these activities without securing the approval of authorities and described Wham as a ‘recalcitrant’:

Wham is recalcitrant and has repeatedly shown blatant disregard for the law, especially with regard to organizing or participating in illegal public assemblies.

Wham was briefly detained on November 29 but released after posting bail.

His case alarmed many activist groups which warned about the shrinking space for freedom of expression in Singapore.

An online petition signed by more than 3,900 people (as of this writing) urged the government to drop the charges against Wham:

The prosecution of Jolovan Wham has a chilling effect on free speech where the law is used as a tool of intimidation against peaceful and non-violent activists. These charges also violate his constitutional and universal rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.

Another online petition addressed to the country’s prime minister highlighted the importance of Wham’s activism:

He is a constant reminder that we, as a first world country, should strive to attain the standard of human rights enjoyed by other first world countries.

Function 8, a non-government organization (NGO), praised Wham as “the voice of the voiceless.”

We do not understand why the State is pursuing the seven charges against Jolovan Wham for events which were all peaceful and non-violent. He works for the good of our country, which we are told, aims to be inclusive and which respects diverse voices.

Community Action Network, another local NGO, appealed to the government to reconsider its policies restricting free speech:

The Singapore government has long used a range of public order offenses to manage public opinion. As a mature, advanced nation which exhibits the key forms of parliamentary democracy, the stifling of free speech has been widely condemned for its chilling effect on human rights.

The Singapore police should not proceed with charges against Wham. The government must reconsider its position on free speech and freedom of assembly. It is time for Singapore to recognize that peaceful protest is not a crime.

Aware Singapore, a human rights group, thinks it’s time to review regulations that undermine the people’s civil liberties:

Some regulation of public assembly may be necessary to safeguard the public interest in safety and prevent disruption. Yet it may be timely to reconsider how restrictive these regulations should be. Events that do not threaten the safety and well-being of any person, damage any property or cause disruption to ordinary affairs should not be made difficult to organize, and it is doubtful whether society’s interests are best served by making them liable to criminal prosecution.

MARUAH, another human rights group, insisted that Wham’s activism should not be treated by the police as a criminal act.

Mr Wham’s actions are merely public criticisms of the government’s stance on detention without trial, capital punishment and free speech. It is revealing that in the police press release announcing the arrest of Mr Wham, the police make a great deal of Mr Wham’s “recalcitrance” as if he were a child defying parental authority.

Wham’s supporters organized a solidarity event on December 10 in time for International Human Rights Day celebrations. Some of his friends also shared storiesof how Wham inspired many people through his activism.

Wham also got the support of 52 Malaysian NGOs which signed a statement urging the Singapore government to withdraw the charges filed against him.

This ironic tweet featuring reflects the determination of Wham and his colleagues to question the legitimacy of being labeled ‘recalcitrant’:

“Wham is recalcitrant and has repeatedly shown blatant disregard for the law, especially with regard to organising or participating in illegal public assemblies,” the police said.

Over 1000-year-old sunken Chinese treasure returns home

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES OF INDIA)

 

Over 1000-year-old sunken Chinese treasure returns home

The 162 pieces of treasure were part of a huge cargo of ninth-century porcelain traded from China during the Tang Dynasty.

WORLD Updated: Dec 11, 2017 18:26 IST

Press Trust of India, Beijing
A Ru Guanyao brush washer bowl from China's Song Dynasty is displayed during a press conference after its record breaking sale for $ 37.7 million at the Sotheby's Chinese Works of Art Autumn Sales in Hong Kong on October 3.
A Ru Guanyao brush washer bowl from China’s Song Dynasty is displayed during a press conference after its record breaking sale for $ 37.7 million at the Sotheby’s Chinese Works of Art Autumn Sales in Hong Kong on October 3.(AFP File Photo/Representative image)

A stash of 1,200-year-old Chinese treasure found under the sea has been returned to China’s central Hunan province.

Experts believe they will provide evidence of China’s overseas porcelain trade during the Tang Dynasty (618-907).

The 162 pieces of treasure were part of a huge cargo of ninth-century porcelain traded from China during the Tang Dynasty via an Arab dhow, which wrecked in Indonesia’s Java sea.

In 1998, a German salvage company discovered the shipwreck and named it ‘Batu Hitam’.

More than 67,000 pieces of treasure were found in the ship, 85 per cent of which came from a kiln in Changsha, now Hunan’s capital city.

Most of the porcelain is now owned by Tilman Walterfang, head of the salvage company.

In September, the administration office of the kiln in Changsha signed an agreement with Walterfang to return a collection of 162 pieces to China, state-run Xinhua news agency reported today.

The treasure sent home includes fine ceramics from several kilns in the provinces of Hunan, Zhejiang, Hebei, Henan and Guangdong.

The treasure is expected to be accessible to the public at a museum in Changsha by early 2018.

China must accelerate implementation of big data strategy: Xi

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SHANGHAI CHINA ‘SHINE’ NEWSPAPER)

 

China must accelerate implementation of big data strategy: Xi

Xinhua

Chinese President Xi Jinping has urged the country to accelerate implementation of big data strategy to better serve social and economic development and improve people’s lives.

Efforts should be made to advance national big data strategy, improve digital infrastructure, promote integration and sharing of digital resources, and safeguard data security, Xi said during a collective study session of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee’s Political Bureau on Friday.

“We should target cutting-edge technology and mobilize prime resources to make breakthroughs in developing core big data technology, and accelerate building an independent and controllable industrial chain, value chain and eco-system of big data,” said Xi, who is also general secretary of the CPC Central Committee.

He called for building high-speed, mobile, ubiquitous and safe information infrastructure, integrating government and social data resources, and improving the collection of fundamental information and important information resources in key areas.

The market should play a key role in the mission, and data must work as a bridge to integrate production, study and research. A group of pioneering companies and a varied and diverse talent workforce should be established, he said.

Xi underscored the importance of building a digital economy with data as a key factor, highlighting the fact that research on and use of big data is indispensable in building a modern economy.

The Internet, big data and Artificial Intelligence (AI), and the real economy should be interconnected. Industrialization and the use of information should be integrated deeper, according to Xi.

Xi also emphasized the necessity of using big data to improve governance. A nationwide information-sharing platform should be set up with the use of e-government and smart city systems.

He also ordered efforts to improve Internet governance and clean up cyberspace.

Xi urged better use of big data in improving people’s wellbeing, calling for the advancement of “Internet plus education,” “Internet plus medical treatment” and “Internet plus culture” to further ensure citizens’ equitable access to public services.

He stressed solving problems, especially prominent problems concerning people’s wellbeing, urging the widespread use of big data in areas such as education, employment, social security, medicine and the healthcare system, housing and transportation.

Big data should also be used extensively in implementing targeted poverty reduction and environmental protection, he added.

Efforts should be made to safeguard the nation’s data security, Xi said, urging strengthened ability to protect the nation’s crucial data resources, speed up relevant legislation, and improve protection of data property rights.

Protection of technical patents, digital copyrights and individual privacy should be enhanced to safeguard people’s interests, social stability and national security, said Xi.

He stressed increasing research on international data governance rules.

He urged leading officials at all levels to intensively study big data and improve their ability to use big data in their work.

China warns its nationals of imminent attacks by ‘terrorists’ in Pakistan

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES OF INDIA)

 

China warns its nationals of imminent attacks by ‘terrorists’ in Pakistan

The alert comes as thousands of Chinese are in Pakistan working on projects in President Xi Jinping’s signature Belt and Road development plan, which aims to link China with the Middle East and Europe.

WORLD Updated: Dec 08, 2017 16:11 IST

Reuters, Beijing
File photo of Pakistan police officers in Islamabad. The Chinese embassy has warned all “Chinese-invested organisations and Chinese citizens to increase security awareness”.
File photo of Pakistan police officers in Islamabad. The Chinese embassy has warned all “Chinese-invested organisations and Chinese citizens to increase security awareness”.(AP)

China on Friday warned its nationals in Pakistan of plans for a series of imminent “terrorist attacks” on Chinese targets there, an unusual alert as it pours funds into infrastructure projects into a country plagued by militancy.

Thousands of Chinese workers have gone to Pakistan following Beijing’s pledge to spend $57 billion there on projects in President Xi Jinping’s signature “Belt and Road” development plan, which aims to link China with the Middle East and Europe.

Protecting employees of Chinese companies, as well as individual entrepreneurs who have followed the investment wave along what is known as the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, has been a concern for Chinese officials.

“It is understood that terrorists plan in the near term to launch a series of attacks against Chinese organisations and personnel in Pakistan,” the Chinese embassy in Pakistan said in a statement on its website.

The embassy warned all “Chinese-invested organisations and Chinese citizens to increase security awareness, strengthen internal precautions, reduce trips outside as much as possible, and avoid crowded public spaces”.

It also asked Chinese nationals to cooperate with Pakistan’s police and the military, and to alert the embassy in the event of an emergency.

It did not give any further details.

Pakistan’s foreign ministry could not be reached immediately for comment.

China has long worried about disaffected members of its Uighur Muslim minority in its far western region of Xinjiang linking up with militants in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

At the same time, violence in Pakistan’s southwestern Baluchistan province has fuelled concern about security for planned transport and energy links from western China to Pakistan’s deepwater port of Gwadar.

The Taliban, sectarian groups linked to al Qaeda and the Islamic State all operate in Baluchistan, which borders Iran and Afghanistan and is at the centre of the “Belt and Road” initiative.

In addition, separatists there have long battled the government for a greater share of gas and mineral resources, and have a long record of attacking energy and other infrastructure projects.

Islamic State claimed responsibility for killing two kidnapped Chinese teachers in Baluchistan in June, prompting the government in Islamabad to pledge to beef up security for Chinese nationals.

It had already promised a 15,000-strong army division to safeguard projects along the economic corridor.

China’s security concerns abroad have grown along with its global commercial footprint.

In 2016, a suspected suicide car bomber rammed the gates of the Chinese embassy in the Kyrgyz capital Bishkek, killing the attacker and wounding at least three people.

Some Of China’s Neighbors Are Saying No Thanks To China’s Money

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ‘QUARTZ’ AND THE WEBSITE OF ANDY TAI)

((oped) TO SAY YES TO CHINA’S MONEY IS TO GIVE AWAY YOUR COUNTRY’S SOVEREIGNTY AND THE FREEDOM OF ALL OF YOUR PEOPLE!)(trs)

DAMMED IF YOU DO

More neighbors are saying “no thanks” to Chinese money—for now

December 04, 2017

There’s a learning curve to becoming a superpower, as China, having recently suffered setbacks with two of its neighbors, is learning.

Pakistan and Nepal, each involved in China’s Belt and Road initiative, a massive infrastructure push, announced last month they would no longer seek Chinese funding for two large-scale developments. In mid-November, Pakistan said that China’s conditions for financing the long-delayed $14 billion Diamer-Basha dam on the Indus River—part of the roughly $60 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor—”were not doable and against our interest,” including as it did China taking ownership of the entire project. Pakistan decided to go ahead with the dam, but to build it by itself.

Around the same time, Nepal decided to stop the $2.5 billion Budhi Gandaki hydropower plant from going forward in the hands of China Gezhouba Group, citing irregularities and the lack of a competitive bidding process. Last week, Nepal said that it would go ahead and build the dam itself, handing the 1,200-megawatt project over to the state-owned Nepal Electricity Authority.

“Very early on the countries along the Belt and Road initiative were at first very excited and happy about Chinese investment,” said Christopher Balding, professor of economics at Peking University HSBC Business School. “But there have been significant changes: Countries now look at how China has behaved with Sri Lanka or with Mexico.”

China, with about 60 other nations, pursue ambitious plans to connect three continents with infrastructure investments.
An ambitious Belt and Road initiative. (Source: The Economist)

In Sri Lanka, the Hambantota port is now on a 99-year lease to China Merchants Port Holdings, which has a 70% stake in the venture. In 2015, Sri Lanka sought a review of how construction of the port had been awarded and halted its development. But in the face of economic and financing difficulties, it backtracked. With some $8 billion owed to China, thanks to loans taken to rebuild after its civil war, Colombo agreed to convert some of this debt into equity in projects.

Further afield, China has asked Mexico for a $600 million refund (link in Spanish) for the scrapping of a railway project.

While most countries along the Belt and Road initiative welcome foreign investment and assistance in building modern infrastructure, the pressure being exercised by Beijing doesn’t always go down well. Countries on the receiving end of Chinese cash are starting to realize that when all is done and dusted, the infrastructure that is built is likely to end up controlled by China.

A common pattern has been for China to sign controversial projects when a pro-China government is in place—as was the case with Sri Lanka’s former president Mahinda Rajapaksa and the Hambantota port deal—only to see them revisited once less receptive administrations are in power. In Nepal, outgoing prime minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal, chairman of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Centre), signed a preliminary agreement for the dam in June, just days before he relinquished his post to the rival Nepali Congress as part of a pre-existing power-sharing agreement. Current deputy prime minister Kamal Thapa criticized and scrapped the project for not having gone through open bidding as required by law.

That said, China’s rise in Asia and the world is beyond dispute—and its might is likely to grow as it proceeds firmly with its Belt and Road initiative. And in several countries in Asia and elsewhere, particularly those facing global criticism on human rights or other issues, China’s infrastructure spending plans and hands-off stance on such touchy topics are likely to overcome any reservations toward the country.

Take the example of nearby Myanmar, which in 2011 saw the cancellation (paywall) of a major Chinese hydroelectric project in the face of environmental concerns. In the years since then, Myanmar has been on the receiving end of increasing international criticism due to its purges of the Muslim Rohingya minority. Criticism deepened this year after a particularly harsh pogrom in August saw more than half a million flee to neighboring Bangladesh.

In the same month that the nonprofit Fortify Rights and the US Holocaust Memorial Museum released a major report documenting killings and rape of Rohingya, and the US made the determination that the Myanmar military is carrying out “ethnic cleansing,” China proposed a Pakistan-like economic corridor crossing the country. China is already helping to build a $7 billion port in Rakhine, the western Myanmar state that has seen the worst of the violence. Last week, as Myanmar continued to face criticism over what many see as a flawed agreement with Bangladesh to accept the return of the Rohingya—one that China may have played a role in brokering—Aung San Suu Kyi was in Beijing for a conference of international political parties, and for more discussion on investment.

China can also take heart that the vagaries of electoral fortune in democracies can sometimes revive projects China wants to back. The fate of the Nepali dam, for example, could change yet again as the country holds parliamentary polls for the first time since the end of its civil war just over a decade ago. The final stage of voting will take place Dec. 7. The two main blocks contesting the elections represent a conflicting set of alliances, with one of them saying that it will, should it win, hand the project back to China.

16 Dead, 100 Missing As Cyclone Hits India, Sri Lanka

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE PAKISTANI NEWS PAPER ‘DAWN’)

 

Indian pedestrians walk on the road after copious rains in Bangalore on December 1, 2017. —AFP
Indian pedestrians walk on the road after copious rains in Bangalore on December 1, 2017. —AFP

A powerful cyclone has killed at least 16 people across India and Sri Lanka, uprooting trees and cutting power for millions amid warnings on Friday that the storm would intensify.

Disaster officials said nine people were killed in India and seven in neighbouring Sri Lanka, most crushed by trees ripped up by destructive winds raging at 130 kilometres per hour.

Warships have been deployed to comb the southeastern coast for fishing boats missing in wild seas, India’s Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said.

Another official said an estimated 100 crew were aboard the missing vessels, with fears held for their safety.

Torrential wind and rain unleashed by Cyclone Ockhi has shut down schools in Chennai, a coastal Indian city of seven million where conditions are set to worsen.

Images broadcast from southern India showed the scale of the destruction as the cyclone reached the shore, with electricity poles toppled and trees torn asunder.

Tourists in Kochi, a coastal city in the southern Kerala state, have been told to stay away from popular beaches where huge waves are pounding the shore.

Power was cut for millions in Kerala and neighbouring Tamil Nadu state as the storm made its way from Sri Lanka, with India’s meteorological department warning of worse to come.

“The system is very likely to intensify further during next 24 hours,” the department said in its update.

India’s eastern coast — including state capitals like Chennai and Bhubaneswar that are home to millions — is prone to seasonal storms that wreak immense damage between April and December.

In 1999, more than 8,000 people were killed when a cyclone battered the eastern state of Orissa.

2 Americans who bared butts at Bangkok temples are arrested

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF FOX NEWS)

 

2 Americans who bared butts at Bangkok temples are arrested

Two American men who were reportedly honeymooning in Thailand were detained after they shared photos of their exposed butts taken at two famous Bangkok temples.

The pair, Joseph and Travis DaSilva of San Diego, both 38, were arrested at Don Mueang International Airport in Bangkok on Tuesday, just days after they uploaded photos of their bared backsides to Instagram, the Bangkok Post reported; the photos were taken at Wat Arun (The Temple of Dawn) and Wat Pho temples.

“They were detained as they were about to leave Thailand,” said Col. Cherngron Rimpadee, an immigration police spokesman. The colonel said the couple were on a “watch list” after their social media posts caught authorities’ attention.

“Once they are through with the charges, the Thai immigration police will revoke their visas and push for deportation,” he said, according to the BBC. “They will also be blacklisted from coming back to Thailand.”

He added that the two men admitted to taking down their pants and posing for photos at the temples.

The DaSilvas were charged with getting naked in public and fined $150 apiece. However, some Thai officials have told the media that there could be more serious charges. Officials are now seeking court approval to prosecute them on the Computer Crime Act for uploading pornographic pictures, Col. Jarupat Thongkomol said from the police station near the temple, Agence France-Press reported. They could face jail time.

The couple were in Thailand celebrating their honeymoon one year after tying the knot, according to San Diego’s NBC 7.

San Diego City Commissioner Nicole Murray-Ramirez said the men reached out to him for assistance. “Though I am very disappointed in their actions, I am talking to U.S. government officials to see what assistance we can give them,” Murray-Ramirez told San Diego Gay and Lesbian News.

Wat Arun and Wat Pho, known to many travelers as the home of the golden reclining Buddha, are considered two of the holiest places in Thailand.

According to reports, this is not the first time the couple have posted images of their naked backsides online. The now-deleted Instagram account, @traveling_butts, followed their adventures across the globe with pictures of their bare bottoms at famous tourist sites around the world.

While some of the posts seemed harmless, the photos of the two men in Thailand triggered an intense backlash once they went viral, news.com.au reported.

In 2015, two American women were arrested, fined and deported for taking nude photographs inside Cambodia’s Angkor Wat complex.

Lucia I. Suarez Sang is a Reporter for FoxNews.com.

Follow her on Twitter @luciasuarezsang

North Korea’s latest missile launch puts Washington, D.C., in range

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

 

North Korea’s latest missile launch appears to put Washington, D.C., in range


North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. (KCNA via Reuters)
 November 28 at 4:26 PM
 North Korea appears to have launched another intercontinental ballistic missile, the Pentagon said Tuesday, with experts calculating that Washington, D.C., is now technically within Kim Jong Un’s reach.The launch, the first in more than two months, is a sign that the North Korean leader’s regime is pressing ahead with its stated goal of being able to strike the United States mainland.

“We will take care of it,” President Trump told reporters at the White House. It is a “situation we will handle.”

The missile traveled some 620 miles and reached a height of about 2,800 miles before landing off the coast of Japan early Wednesday local time, flying for a total of 54 minutes. This suggested it had been fired almost straight up — on a “lofted trajectory” similar to North Korea’s two previous ICBM tests.

 3:11
Why does North Korea hate the U.S.? Look to the Korean War.

Why does North Korea hate the U.S.? Look to the Korean War. 

If it had been flown on a standard trajectory designed to maximize its reach, this missile would have a range of more than 8,100 miles, said David Wright, co-director of the global security program at the Union of Concerned Scientists.

“This is significantly longer than North Korea’s previous long-range tests, which flew on lofted trajectories for 37 minutes and 47 minutes,” Wright said. “Such a missile would have more than enough range to reach Washington, D.C.”

The U.S. capital is 6,850 miles from Pyongyang.

Although it may be cold comfort, it is still unlikely that North Korea is capable of delivering a nuclear warhead to the U.S. mainland.

Scientists do not know the weight of the payload the missile carried, but given the increase in range, it seems likely that it carried a very light mock warhead, Wright said. “If true, that means it would not be capable of carrying a nuclear warhead to this long distance, since such a warhead would be much heavier,” he said in a blog post.

The Pentagon said the missile did indeed appear to be an ICBM.

“Initial assessment indicates that this missile was an intercontinental ballistic missile,” a Pentagon spokesman, Col. Robert Manning, said of the launch.

The South Korean and Japanese governments both convened emergency national security council meetings, and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said such launches “cannot be tolerated.”

In Washington, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said the missile was fired “higher, frankly, than any previous shots” that North Korea has taken.

He said Kim Jong Un’s continued effort to develop nuclear weapons “endangers world peace, regional peace and certainly he United States.”

The missile was launched just before 3 a.m. Wednesday local time from the western part of North Korea.

Japan’s Defense Ministry said it landed in waters inside Japan’s exclusive economic zone, off the coast of Aomori prefecture. The coast guard told ships to watch for falling debris, and the Japanese government condemned the launch.

South Korea’s military conducted a “precision strike” missile launch exercise in response, the South’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said.

Although it was the firstNorth Korean missile launch in more than two months, there had been signs that the North was making preparations. The Japanese government had detected radio signals suggesting that North Korea might be preparing for a ballistic missile launch, Kyodo News reported Monday, citing government sources.

Pyongyang has been working to fit a nuclear warhead to a missile capable of reaching the U.S. mainland, a weapon it says it needs to protect itself from a “hostile” Washington. It has made rapid progress this year, firing two intercontinental ballistic missiles in July, the second of which was technically capable of reaching as far as Denver or Chicago, or possibly even New York.

A senior South Korean official said Tuesday that North Korea could announce next year that it has completed its nuclear weapons program.

“North Korea has been developing its nuclear weapons at a faster-than-expected pace. We cannot rule out the possibility that North Korea could announce its completion of a nuclear force within one year,” Cho Myoung-gyon, the unification minister, who is in charge of the South’s relations with the North, told foreign reporters in Seoul.

Kim Jong Un opened 2017 with a New Year’s address announcing that North Korea had “entered the final stage of preparation for the test launch of intercontinental ballistic missile.”

Then, in July, his regime launched two ICBMs, the first on U.S. Independence Day. The second, on July 28, flew almost straight up for 45 minutes and reached a height of about 2,300 miles before crashing into the sea off Japan. But if it had been launched on a normal trajectory designed to maximize its range, it could have flown 6,500 miles, experts said.

After its most recent missile launch, an intermediate-range missile that flew over the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido on Sept. 15 , North Korea said it was seeking military “equilibrium” with the United States as a way to stop American leaders from talking about military options for dealing with Pyongyang.

That was the second launch over Japan in less than three weeks and came less than two weeks after North Korea exploded what was widely believed to be a hydrogen bomb.

Those events triggered ire overseas, with Trump denouncing North Korea’s regime during a speech to the United Nations General Assembly and mocking Kim as “little rocket man.”

That label triggered an angry and unusually direct response from the North Korean leader, who called Trump a “mentally deranged U.S. dotard” and warned the U.S. president that he would “pay dearly” for his threat to destroy North Korea.

But despite an increase in tensions over the past two months, including a U.S. Navy three-carrier strike group conducting military exercises in the sea between Japan and the Korean Peninsula, 74 days had passed without any missile launches by the North.

That was the longest pause all year, according to Shea Cotton, a research associate at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies in Monterey, Calif. North Korea has now tested 20 missiles this year, compared with 24 by this time last year.

The pause had raised hopes that North Korea might be showing interest in returning to talks about its nuclear program.

In a speech to the Council on Foreign Relations late last month, Joseph Yun, the State Department’s special representative for North Korea policy, said that if North Korea went 60 days without testing a missile or a nuclear weapon, it could be a sign that Pyongyang was open to dialogue.

Taiwanese Say Taiwan Representation at China’s National Congress Was Simply Beijing Propaganda

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

Many Taiwanese Say Taiwan Representation at China’s National Congress Was Simply Beijing Propaganda

Taiwan-born delegate of 19th CCP Congress, Lu Li’an. Chinese state-owned Xinhua photo.

Mainland China and Taiwan have a rocky relationship. Taiwan is a de facto political entity that has operated independently from mainland China since 1949, when the Kuomintang forces were defeated by the Communists in the civil war and retreated to Taiwan. Beijing has never recognized Taiwan’s independent status and vows to one day “reunite” China and reclaim the territory.

So at first glance, it might seem unusual that Beijing arranges for Taiwan representatives to attend the National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) every five years.

However, the presence of Taiwan delegates at the event is intended as a political demonstration of Beijing’s “one China” principle. In the past, these so-called Taiwan representatives were born in mainland China.

In a break with tradition, the chosen Taiwan delegate at the 19th National Congress held in October 2017, Lu Li’an, was actually born and educated in Taiwan — before she went to China to work as a professor.

Nevertheless, many Taiwanese saw her participation as inane, given that Taiwan is not ruled by China, and a political move meant to pressure Taiwan into accepting Beijing’s understanding of the “one China” principle and suppressing the pro-independence movements in Taiwan.

Since Taiwan has been colonized by different countries throughout its history, Taiwanese defectors are not unheard of. Lu is not the first person (and will not be the last one) leveraged like this. Yifu Lin, for example, who served as the chief economist and senior vice president of the World Bank from 2008 to 2012, swam to mainland China in 1979 when he was a military officer in Taiwan.

While Lu’s presence at the CCP’s National Congress was largely considered a joke in Taiwan, it did touch on the the serious issue of nationality for Taiwanese working in China. Taiwanese law prohibits  Taiwanese from establishing a residence or holding a Chinese passport, or taking positions in the CCP, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army, or the Chinese civil service. Given that Lu holds a Chinese passport and became a delegate at the CCP’s National Congress, the Taiwan government decided to revoke her citizenship.

At the same time, Taiwan’s National Security Bureau also announced that they will examine the status of another 19 Taiwanese who have taken positions in the CCP or the People’s Liberation Army.

‘If you upset Taiwanese before you join the [CCP], what use are you’?

To further fire up the discussions in Taiwan, two Taiwanese graduate students from Beijing University publicly declared that they wanted to join the CCP not long after the National Congress.

One of them did so in a letter published on Guancha, an online news and comments aggregator. In it, he claimed that he wants to join the CCP because speech freedom is limited, thought is monopolized, and democracy is controlled by a few people in Taiwan.

The student’s letter was widely condemned in Taiwan, given that Taiwan is ranked 45 and China is ranked 176 in 2017 World Press Freedom Index and Taiwanese voted to choose their president and legislators directly.

Given that Beijing’s goal is to eventually regain control over Taiwan, Joyce Yen, the founder of publishing house Ars Longa Press, explained on Facebook that these two students won’t benefit the CCP like Lu does:

Please notice that [Lu Li’an] did not apply to be a delegate. It is Sha Hailin, the director of the United Front Work Department in Shanghai, who introduced her for this position.
To be chosen as an example for this position, her outlook and communication skills are seriously evaluated.
Regarding those two Taiwanese students who claimed to join the Chinese Communist Party, aside from their background, their outlook and communication skills are too far below the standard. Do they think that the Communist Party would like you only because you say good things about it?
Wrong answer! […] If you upset Taiwanese before you join the Chinese Communist Party, what use are you to their United Front?

The United Front Work Department is one of five departments directly under the CCP’s Central Committee which orchestrates soft power policies at home and abroad. It has a bureau that works on the “one country, two systems” political relationship between China and the special administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macao, and recruits the pro-China Taiwanese.

Yi-Luo People, a mainland Chinese exchange student in Taiwan, argued on Facebookthat the Taiwan-born Beijing University students were motivated by material interest to denounce Taiwan:

When they say they are selling Taiwan, it is actually Taiwan’s independence movement on sale. When the pro-independence movement in Taiwan becomes stronger, Beijing will pay more and more to build up a united front in Taiwan.

[Quote from the writer’s letter to local media outlet] “As a Henan-born Chinese, it is obvious that I cannot get what they get from the Chinese Communist Party even if I shamelessly sell out my homeland. It is the same for anyone born in Beijing, Shanghai, Sichuan, or Guangdong. What Taiwanese differ from us is that Taiwan is a de facto independent country and has its own government, military, and diplomatic interactions with those Euro-American countries no matter how Beijing claims it to be part of China.’

‘I love Taiwan, and I love China as my home country, too.’

Putting border politics aside, the controversy surrounding Lu has put many Taiwanese in a difficult situation. While neither Taiwan nor China allows dual citizenship, quite a number of Taiwanese working in mainland China or couples married across the Taiwan Strait have attained citizenship in China. If they are forced to choose between the two, they must either give up their work in mainland China or conform to Chinese patriotic sentiment, which expects a person to love the country more than their homeland.

Even CCP delegate Lu Li’an faced criticism from mainland Chinese patriots when she told a Taiwanese reporter during the CCP Congress that “I love Taiwan, and I love China as my home country, too.” Her answer was viewed by some mainland Chinese as “politically incorrect”. A Weibo user called “Lazy-fish-play-in-Weibo” explained the logic of Lu’s critics:

People who [criticized Lu’s answer], Lu’s response “I love Taiwan, and I love China too” does not sound right. They don’t like the word “too” because they interpreted “too” as the second place. Which means she had not put China in the first place. Secondly, she seems to separate Taiwan from China. […] This author even prepared a model answer for her. S/he suggested Lu say, “I love China, and I love Taiwan as part (or a province) of China, [or] I also love Taiwan because it belongs to China.”

After Tsai Ing-Wen, who is the leader of Taiwan’s pro-independence party, won the presidential election in 2016, Beijing cut off diplomatic dialogue with the Taiwanese government and pressured other countries to end their relations. On the other hand, China’s United Front Work Department has tried very hard to win support from elites in Taiwan. Recently, China’s Fujian Province claimed to open 1,000 positions in universities for Taiwanese academics to apply. To apply or not to apply for the positions — the choice will be both personal and political.

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