China opposes US warships’ sailing near islands in South China Sea

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF SHANGHAI CHINA’S SHINE NEWS NETWORK)

 

China opposes US warships’ sailing near islands in South China Sea

Xinhua

China on Monday expressed strong dissatisfaction over and resolute opposition to two US warships’ sailing near Chinese islands in the South China Sea.

Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said two US warships entered the waters adjacent to Chinese islands in the South China Sea without permission from the Chinese government. The Chinese navy identified and verified the US warships and warned them to leave according to law.

“The relevant moves of the US warships violated China’s sovereignty and undermined peace, security and healthy order in the relevant sea areas,” said Geng.

Geng said that at present, with the joint efforts of China and ASEAN countries, the situation in the South China Sea has stabilized and been improving. China urges the US side to stop such provocative acts, respect China’s sovereignty and security interests, and respect the efforts of regional countries to maintain peace and stability in the South China Sea.

China will continue to take all necessary measures to safeguard national sovereignty and security, and maintain peace and stability in the South China Sea, he said.

India among world leaders expected to push for China-backed trade deal excluding US

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

 

India among world leaders expected to push for China-backed trade deal excluding US

World leaders, including China, Japan, India and other Asia-Pacific countries, will push for the rapid completion of a massive, China-backed trade deal that excludes the US at a summit this week, in a rebuke to rising protectionism and Donald Trump’s “America First” agenda.

WORLD Updated: Nov 11, 2018 11:22 IST

India,China,trade deal
Not only is the US absent from the deal, but Donald Trump is skipping the summit in Singapore.(NYT)

World leaders will push for the rapid completion of a massive, China-backed trade deal that excludes the US at a summit this week, in a rebuke to rising protectionism and Donald Trump’s “America First” agenda.

China, Japan, India and other Asia-Pacific countries could announce a broad agreement on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), which covers half the world’s population, on the sidelines of the annual gathering.

Not only is the US absent from the deal, but Trump is skipping the summit in Singapore, highlighting how far he has pulled back from efforts to shape global trade rules and raising further questions about Washington’s commitment to Asia.

Trump launched his unilateralist trade policy with a bang shortly after coming to office by withdrawing from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a deal spearheaded by predecessor Barack Obama that aimed to bind fast-growing Asian powers into an American-backed order to counter China.

His approach has left the floor open for Beijing to promote a rival pact it favours, the 16-member RCEP, a free trade deal which also aims to cut tariffs and integrate markets, but gives weaker protection in areas including employment and the environment.

The pact championed by Obama has been kept alive even without the US, and is due to go into force this year, but the Beijing-backed pact has now overtaken it as the world’s biggest.

Announcing in Singapore that talks for the deal — which formally began in 2012 — are mostly concluded would be “important as a symbol of Asia’s commitment to trade at a time of rising global tensions”, Deborah Elms, executive director of the Asian Trade Centre, told AFP.

US commitment questioned

She said negotiations in some areas were likely to continue into next year, however, while a diplomat attending the summit, speaking anonymously, said “substantial progress” had been made but there were still sticking points.

The gathering of 20 world leaders comes against a backdrop of a months-long trade dispute between China and the United States after Trump imposed tariffs on most Chinese imports this summer, and Beijing retaliated with its own levies.

The standoff is having an impact far beyond the US and China, and leaders at the four days of meetings that begin Monday will be keen to voice their grievances to Vice President Mike Pence, attending in Trump’s place, and Premier Li Keqiang.

Trump’s absence from the Singapore gathering and a subsequent meeting of world leaders in Papua New Guinea is even more notable given Obama, who launched a so-called “pivot to Asia” to direct more US economic and military resources to the region, was a regular participant.

Washington, however, argues that it remains committed to Asia, pointing to regular visits by top officials.

“We are fully engaged,” insisted Patrick Murphy, one of the State Department’s most senior Asia diplomats. “That is very sustained and has been enhanced under the current administration.”

Nukes, sea tension

Myanmar’s embattled leader Aung San Suu Kyi is attending the meetings, and will deliver a keynote address at a business forum Monday.

She may face criticism over a military crackdown on the Muslim Rohingya that saw hundreds of thousands flee to Bangladesh last year, and has sparked rare criticism of Myanmar from within regional bloc the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

Also on the agenda will be North Korea’s nuclear programme. Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un signed a vaguely worded agreement on denuclearisation at a historic summit in June, but progress has been slow since.

Pence will also keep on pressure on Beijing over its growing aggression in the South China Sea. China claims almost all the strategically vital waters, a source of friction with Southeast Asian states that have overlapping claims as well as the US, the traditionally dominant military power in the region.

Other leaders attending include Russian President Vladimir Putin and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

But much of the focus will be on the RCEP as leaders seek to send a message in support of free trade. The deal groups the 10 ASEAN members plus China, India, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand.

World leaders “should present a united front advancing trade liberalisation in (the Asia-Pacific) despite global headwinds to trade from the rising tide of global protectionism,” Rajiv Biswas, chief regional economist at IHS Markit, told AFP.

First Published: Nov 11, 2018 11:21 IST

Vietnam President Tran Dai Quang dies after ‘serious illness’

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ALJAZEERA NEWS)

 

Vietnam President Tran Dai Quang dies after ‘serious illness’

Tran Dai Quang died at a military hospital in Hanoi, state media reported without elaborating on the illness.

Vietnam’s President Tran Dai Quang has died aged 61 after prolonged serious illness, according to state media.

Quang died in a military hospital in Hanoi on Friday from a “serious illness despite efforts by domestic and international doctors and professors”, Vietnam Television reported.

Quang, one of the country’s top three leaders but with mostly ceremonial duties, hosted President Donald Trump during his first state visit to the communist country last year.

He had appeared thin and pale in public and was unstable on his feet last week when he hosted a welcoming ceremony for Indonesian President Joko Widodo in Hanoi.

Quang’s last public appearance was at a Politburo meeting of the ruling Communist Party and a reception for a Chinese delegation on Wednesday.

Tough leader

Originally from a small farming community 115 km south of Hanoi, Quang rose through party ranks to become a police general and member of Vietnam’s powerful decision-making Politburo.

Quang was elected president in April 2016 with a reputation of being a tough leader with little tolerance for dissent.

He often appeared uncomfortable in the public eye and lacked the charisma of some of his peers in the upper echelons of the party.

In an interview with the AFP news agency in 2016 before a visit by the former French leader Francois Hollande, Quang read from a prepared statement and was quickly escorted from the room by staff when a question went off-script.

“We are saddened to hear the news that the president has died,” said Bui Duc Phi, chairman of the village in which Quang was born.

Vietnam has no paramount ruler and is officially led by the president, prime minister and Communist Party chief.

SOURCE: NEWS AGENCIES

Laos: Truth, Knowledge, History Of This South-East Asian Nation

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CIA WORLD FACT BOOK)

 

Laos

Introduction Modern-day Laos has its roots in the ancient Lao kingdom of Lan Xang, established in the 14th Century under King FA NGUM. For three hundred years Lan Xang had influence reaching into present-day Cambodia and Thailand, as well as over all of what is now Laos. After centuries of gradual decline, Laos came under the domination of Siam (Thailand) from the late 18th century until the late 19th century when it became part of French Indochina. The Franco-Siamese Treaty of 1907 defined the current Lao border with Thailand. In 1975, the Communist Pathet Lao took control of the government ending a six-century-old monarchy and instituting a strict socialist regime closely aligned to Vietnam. A gradual return to private enterprise and the liberalization of foreign investment laws began in 1986. Laos became a member of ASEAN in 1997.
History Laos traces its history to the kingdom of Lan Xang, founded in the fourteenth century by Fa Ngum, himself descended from a long line of Lao kings, tracking back to Khun Borom. Lan-Xang prospered until the eighteenth century, when the kingdom was divided into three principalities, which eventually came under Siamese suzerainty. In the 19th century, Luang Prabang was incorporated into the ‘Protectorate’ of French Indochina, and shortly thereafter, the kingdom of Champassack and the territory of Vientiane were also added to the protectorate. The French saw Laos as a useful buffer state between the two expanding empires of France and Britain. Under the French, Vientiane once again became the capital of a unified Lao state. Following a brief Japanese occupation during World War II, the country declared its independence in 1945, but the French re-asserted their control and only in 1950 was Laos granted semi-autonomy as an “associated state” within the French Union. Moreover, the French remained in de facto control until 1954, when Laos gained full independence as a constitutional monarchy. Under a special exemption to the Geneva Convention, a French military training mission continued to support the Royal Laos Army. In 1955, the U.S. Department of Defense created a special Programs Evaluation Office to replace French support of the Royal Lao Army against the communist Pathet Lao as part of the U.S. containment policy.

Laos was dragged into the Vietnam War, and the eastern parts of the country were invaded and occupied by the North Vietnamese Army (NVA), which used Laotian territory as a staging ground and supply route for its war against the South. In response, the United States initiated a bombing campaign against the North Vietnamese, supported regular and irregular anticommunist forces in Laos and supported a South Vietnamese invasion of Laos. The result of these actions were a series of coups d’état and, ultimately, the Laotian Civil War between the Royal Laotian government and the communist Pathet Lao.

In the Civil War, the NVA, with its heavy artillery and tanks, was the real power behind the Pathet Lao insurgency. In 1968, the North Vietnamese Army launched a multi-division attack against the Royal Lao Army. The attack resulted in the army largely demobilizing and leaving the conflict to irregular forces raised by the United States and Thailand.

Massive aerial bombardment by the United States followed as it attempted to eliminate North Vietnamese bases in Laos in order to disrupt supply lines on the Ho Chi Minh/Trường Sơn Trail. Between 1971 and 1973 the USAF dropped more ordnance on Laos than was dropped worldwide during World War II (1939−45). In total more than 2 million tonnes of bombs were dropped (almost 1/2 a tonne per head of population at the time).

Pha That Luang in Vientiane, the national symbol of Laos.

In 1975, the communist Pathet Lao, backed by the Soviet Union and the North Vietnamese Army (justified by the communist ideology of “proletarian internationalism”), overthrew the royalist government, forcing King Savang Vatthana to abdicate on December 2, 1975. He later died in captivity.

After taking control of the country, Pathet Lao’s government renamed the country as the “Lao People’s Democratic Republic” and signed agreements giving Vietnam the right to station military forces and to appoint advisers to assist in overseeing the country. Laos was ordered in the late 1970s by Vietnam to end relations with the People’s Republic of China which cut the country off from trade with any country but Vietnam. Control by Vietnam and socialization were slowly replaced by a relaxation of economic restrictions in the 1980s and admission into ASEAN in 1997.

The Tai Dam are an ethnic group from Laos that escaped the country as a group. After thousands of years of political oppression, the Tai Dam people vowed to unite as one group and find a country they could call their own. The Tai Dam are known as “the people without a country.” More than 90 percent of Tai Dam refugees emigrated to the state of Iowa after the governor agreed to take the Tai Dam as a group and have organizations sponsor families. In 2005, the United States established Normal Trade Relations with Laos, ending a protracted period of punitive import taxes.

Geography Location: Southeastern Asia, northeast of Thailand, west of Vietnam
Geographic coordinates: 18 00 N, 105 00 E
Map references: Southeast Asia
Area: total: 236,800 sq km
land: 230,800 sq km
water: 6,000 sq km
Area – comparative: slightly larger than Utah
Land boundaries: total: 5,083 km
border countries: Burma 235 km, Cambodia 541 km, China 423 km, Thailand 1,754 km, Vietnam 2,130 km
Coastline: 0 km (landlocked)
Maritime claims: none (landlocked)
Climate: tropical monsoon; rainy season (May to November); dry season (December to April)
Terrain: mostly rugged mountains; some plains and plateaus
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Mekong River 70 m
highest point: Phou Bia 2,817 m
Natural resources: timber, hydropower, gypsum, tin, gold, gemstones
Land use: arable land: 4.01%
permanent crops: 0.34%
other: 95.65% (2005)
Irrigated land: 1,750 sq km (2003)
Total renewable water resources: 333.6 cu km (2003)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural): total: 3 cu km/yr (4%/6%/90%)
per capita: 507 cu m/yr (2000)
Natural hazards: floods, droughts
Environment – current issues: unexploded ordnance; deforestation; soil erosion; most of the population does not have access to potable water
Environment – international agreements: party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Law of the Sea, Ozone Layer Protection
signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements
Geography – note: landlocked; most of the country is mountainous and thickly forested; the Mekong River forms a large part of the western boundary with Thailand
Demographics 69% of the country’s people are ethnic Lao, the principal lowland inhabitants and the politically and culturally dominant group. The Lao belong to the Tai linguistic group who began migrating southward from China in the first millennium AD. A further 8% belong to other “lowland” groups, which together with the Lao people make up the Lao Loum.

Hill people and minority cultures of Laos such as the Hmong (Miao), Yao (Mien), Tai dumm, Dao, Shan, and several Tibeto-Burman speaking peoples have lived in isolated regions of Laos for many years. Mountain/hill tribes of mixed ethno/cultural-linguistic heritage are found in northern Laos which include the Lua (Lua) and Khammu people who are indigenous to Laos. Today, the Lua people are considered endangered. Collectively, they are known as Lao Soung or highland Laotians. In the central and southern mountains, Mon-Khmer tribes, known as Lao Theung or mid-slope Laotians, predominate. Some Vietnamese and Chinese minorities remain, particularly in the towns, but many left in two waves; after independence in the late 1940s and again after 1975.

The term “Laotian” does not necessarily refer to the ethnic Lao language, ethnic Lao people, language or customs, but is a political term that also includes the non-ethnic Lao groups within Laos and identifies them as “Laotian” because of their political citizenship. In a similar vein, the word “Lao” can also describe the people, cuisine, language and culture of the people of Northeast Thailand (Isan) who are ethnic Lao.

The predominant religion in Laos is Theravada Buddhism which, along with the common Animism practiced among the mountain tribes, coexists peacefully with spirit worship. There also are a small number of Christians, mostly restricted to the Vientiane area, and Muslims, mostly restricted to the Myanmar border region. Christian missionary work is regulated by the government.

The official and dominant language is Lao, a tonal language of the Tai linguistic group. Midslope and highland Lao speak an assortment of tribal languages. French, still common in government and commerce, has declined in usage, while knowledge of English, the language of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), has increased in recent years.

People Population: 6,677,534 (July 2008 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 41% (male 1,374,966/female 1,362,945)
15-64 years: 55.9% (male 1,846,375/female 1,885,029)
65 years and over: 3.1% (male 91,028/female 117,191) (2008 est.)
Median age: total: 19.2 years
male: 18.9 years
female: 19.5 years (2008 est.)
Population growth rate: 2.344% (2008 est.)
Birth rate: 34.46 births/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Death rate: 11.02 deaths/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Net migration rate: NA (2008 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.01 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 0.98 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.78 male(s)/female
total population: 0.98 male(s)/female (2008 est.)
Infant mortality rate: total: 79.61 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 88.9 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 69.88 deaths/1,000 live births (2008 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 56.29 years
male: 54.19 years
female: 58.47 years (2008 est.)
Total fertility rate: 4.5 children born

China’s trade surplus narrows 21.8% in Q1

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

 

China’s trade surplus narrows 21.8% in Q1

Xinhua

Imaginechina

A cargo truck drives amid stacked shipping containers at the Yangshan Deep-Water Port in Shanghai on March 29, 2018.

China’s goods trade surplus shrank 21.8 percent in the first quarter of this year as the country saw a better balance of trade, customs data showed on Friday.

China’s goods exports rose 7.4 percent year on year in the first three months while imports grew 11.7 percent, resulting in a trade surplus of 326.18 billion yuan (US$51.85 billion), according to the General Administration of Customs.

Total foreign trade volume expanded 9.4 percent to 6.75 trillion yuan in the first quarter from the same period last year.

Huang Songping, a spokesperson with the GAC, told a press briefing that the relatively fast trade growth was a result of a mild global economic recovery that has given rise to robust trading activities, as well as the sound development of the domestic economy, which has strengthened demand for imports.

Steady progress in the Belt and Road Initiative and stronger trading with emerging markets also supported the first-quarter growth, Huang said, as trade volume with Belt and Road countries jumped 12.9 percent in the three-month period, 3.5 percentage points faster than the overall increase.

Trade with countries along the Belt and Road reached 1.86 trillion yuan, accounting for 27.5 percent of China’s total foreign trade in the first quarter, according to Huang.

The European Union, the United States and ASEAN were the top three trading partners of China, which together accounted for 41.2 percent of foreign trade.

From January to March, trade between China and the United States rose 13 percent in dollar-denominated terms, with Chinese exports to the United States increased 14.8 percent and the China-US trade surplus standing at 58.25 billion dollars.

Chinese private enterprises played a bigger role in trade by contributing 38.3 percent to total trade, up 1.7 percentage points compared with the first quarter of 2017.

The country’s less developed regions, including central and western China, all outpaced the national average trade growth in the January-March period.

Huang said he sees rising pressure and challenges for the global economy and international trade in the second quarter stemming from global uncertainties and intensifying protectionism.

Fiercer competition in the global manufacturing sector will also pose challenges for China’s foreign trade, he said.

But Huang said he expects China’s foreign trade will maintain an upward trend as the country has pledged to take measures to further open up its market and expand imports.

Singapore’s flip-flop stance toward China hard to change

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE GLOBAL TIMES OF SINGAPORE)

 

Singapore’s flip-flop stance toward China hard to change

Source:Global Times Published: 2017/6/11 23:48:40

Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said in a recent interview with Australia’s ABC Radio National that many countries, including Singapore, see the Belt and Road initiative as a constructive way for China to integrate with other countries as China’s influence in the region continues to grow. He said his country supports the Belt and Road initiative as well as the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.

These could be the most positive remarks Lee has made on China recently. Since last year, China and Singapore have witnessed a cooling relationship due to the latter’s siding with the US and Japan regarding the South China Sea issue. The detention of nine armored vehicles of Singapore in Hong Kong added to the chill in the bilateral ties. Seven heads of state and governments of ASEAN countries participated in the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation held last month in Beijing, but Lee was absent. This sparked more controversy.

Through the interview, Lee seems to be showing a willingness to turn around the Sino-Singaporean relationship. As one of the core US allies among ASEAN countries, Singapore has long faced the difficulty of balancing between China and the US alongside Beijing’s rise. As the country tries its best to strike a balance between the two sides, it tilts toward the US when a balance is impossible.

The reason for its choice is that as a small country sandwiched between two giants – Indonesia and Malaysia – Singapore’s security is very fragile, and it has to rely on the US for the greatest security guarantee.

Singapore was the most active ASEAN country, besides the Philippines, that supported the South China Sea arbitration case. In addition, it opened its military base to US’ anti-submarine reconnaissance aircraft for patrols over the South China Sea.

However, China is Singapore’s largest trading partner. Plus, the entire ASEAN bloc emphasizes the relationship with China, and most members advocate caution in dealing with the world’s two biggest countries.

More importantly, the administration of US President Donald Trump stresses cooperation with China and sent a delegation to the Belt and Road forum. This was followed by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s subtle change on his posture toward China. Singapore must have felt an unprecedented isolation.

Lee’s positive comments on the Belt and Road are welcome. No matter what the Singapore government said and did previously, Beijing can move forward with it. It is the generosity a big country should have.

On the other hand, Singapore may not abandon its flip-flop diplomacy and China needs to be prepared for this. Singapore’s diplomatic thinking is hard to change shortly. Lee Hsien Loong is less adept at balancing diplomacy than his father Lee Kuan Yew, and geopolitical competition in Asia nowadays has become more complicated. Therefore, Singapore is confronted with more difficulties.

Singapore is a former a colony of Britain. Its dependence on the US, not so special compared with other ASEAN countries, is driven by pragmatism of safeguarding its own interests. As China grows more powerful, it will naturally readjust the balance between China and the US.

China sent a delegation led by a Lieutenant General to this year’s Shangri-La Dialogue. We feel that the level of this delegation is still a bit too high, and suggest a lower-level delegation be sent next year. The Shangri-La Dialogue is a platform Singapore built for the US and Japan, and China has no reason to show support to it.

In recent years, China sent fewer officials for training in Singapore, another sign of the decreasing influence of the country over China.

In a nutshell, China needs to take a normal attitude toward Singapore swinging between the US and China.

King Obama’s Aloofness Drives Philippines President Duterte Into China’s Open Arms

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SHANGHAI DAILY NEWS)

Duterte’s visit to China lauded as win-win, conducive to regional peace

PHILIPPINE President Rodrigo Duterte’s visit to China shows the two countries have resumed friendly relations for win-win, which are also conducive to regional peace and stability, global observers and analysts told Xinhua.

The visit is significant in that it is not only Duterte’s first visit outside the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), but also came ahead of his visit to the Philippines’ traditional allies, the United States and Japan, said Earl Parreno, a political analyst at the Institute of Political and Electoral Reforms in the Philippines.

“This visit could mean more investments coming into the country, more opportunities for businessmen and more employment for Filipinos. It could also mean markets for Philippine products like bananas and pineapples,” said Parreno.

Ngeow Chow Bing, deputy director of the Institute of China Studies at the University of Malaya, also spoke highly of Duterte’s visit to China, saying that the China-Philippine relationship going back on track is conducive to regional peace and stability.

The relationship between China and the Southeast Asian countries is comprehensive and complex, which involves not just military or security issues, but also trade, cultural and tourism opportunities, the Malaysian expert said.

Soukthavy Keola, a former counselor at the Lao Embassy in China, said the result of Duterte’s visit is of strategic importance to the region.

The development of cooperation between the two countries will have a positive influence on cooperation between China and ASEAN countries, said Keola.

Li Mingjiang, an associate professor at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies of Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, said Duterte’s visit is an obvious adjustment of Philippine foreign policy, especially about its relations with major world countries.

Different from his predecessor Benigno Aquino III, who largely depended on the United States in his foreign policy, Duterte has adopted a policy of diversifying friendly relations with major world countries and his visit to China reflects this policy, said Li.

“It is expected that in the next few years, China-Philippine relations will return to the normal track, and cooperation in many areas will be strengthened,” he said.

Pierre Picquart, an expert in Geopolitics and China at the University of Paris VIII, told Xinhua that Duterte has chosen the path of reason “rather than promoting geopolitical, economic and territorial tensions about the South China Sea, and unlike his predecessor Benigno Aquino.”

“This is a peaceful way, with bilateral negotiations and path of economic growth in partnership with Beijing for win-win partnerships in the region,” Picquart said, hailing that the “former American colony now seems to break his ancestral chains.”

Bambang Purwanto, director of international department at Indonesia’s Antara News Agency, said Duterte has made a good start on relations with China and the two countries should strike for positive results from the current visit to create a good atmosphere.

“I am sure that the visit will ease the tension in the South China Sea, and start the process to make the two people’s know each other, to know that cooperation is the right way to develop bilateral ties,” said Purwanto.

Duterte arrived in Beijing Tuesday night for a four-day state visit to China, the first country he has visited outside ASEAN since taking office in June.

The visit came against a backdrop of deteriorating China-Philippines ties due to the South China Sea arbitration case unilaterally initiated against China by his predecessor Benigno Aquino III.