China Vows to Continue Helping Myanmar Achieve Peace

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

China Vows to Continue Helping Myanmar Achieve Peace

Xi

China’s President Xi Jinping voiced to Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi on Tuesday his country’s commitment to help its neighbor achieve peace as fighting along their shared border forced thousands to seek refuge in China, state media said.

Fighting in March in Myanmar prompted Beijing to call for a ceasefire between ethnic militias and the security forces there and carry out military drills along the border.

Xi met Nobel laureate Suu Kyi – who serves as Myanmar’s foreign minister while also being de facto head of its civilian government – following China’s Belt and Road Forum on Sunday and Monday.

“China is willing to continue to provide necessary assistance for Myanmar’s internal peace process,” China’s official Xinhua news agency cited Xi as saying.

“The two sides must jointly work to safeguard China-Myanmar border security and stability,” Xi said.

The news agency did not elaborate on what assistance China would provide.

China has repeatedly expressed concern about fighting along the border that has occasionally spilled into its territory, for instance in 2015, when five people died in China.

Xi also said China would work to enhance cooperation with Myanmar on his Belt and Road development plan, which aims to bolster China’s global leadership by expanding infrastructure between Asia, Africa, Europe and beyond.

Suu Kyi told Xi that Myanmar was grateful for Chinese help and that it would work with China to safeguard stability in the border region, Xinhua said.

Beijing last month offered to mediate a diplomatic row over the flight of around 69,000 minority Rohingya Muslims to Bangladesh to escape violence in Buddhist-majority Myanmar, according to officials from Bangladesh.

Myanmar has been sharply criticized in the West over violence against the Rohingya.

Suu Kyi is barred from the presidency under Myanmar’s army-drafted constitution, but effectively leads the government through the specially created post of “state counsellor”.

Meanwhile, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said Tuesday that he and Xi resolved to strengthen their countries’ friendship during their meeting in Beijing, with China pledging to speed up infrastructure projects it is funding in the Philippines.

“We renewed our resolve to strengthen our friendship and mutually beneficial partnership on a broad range of areas,” Duterte said in southern Davao City on his return from Beijing. “We resolved to fully use the mechanisms we have established to dialogue openly, monitor progress and ensure implementation of projects.”

Duterte, who took office last June, has worked to repair relations with China that have been strained by territorial conflicts in the South China Sea and an international arbitration ruling on a case filed by his predecessor that invalidated Beijing’s claims to the disputed territory. Duterte met separately with Xi and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang after attending last weekend’s “Belt and Road” trade initiative.

Duterte said both he and Xi were looking forward to officials from both countries meeting later this week for inaugural bilateral talks on the South China Sea. Philippine officials have said the meeting will be held Friday in southwestern China.

Four agreements were signed during the visit, including a Chinese grant of 500 million yuan ($72.5 million) for feasibility studies of infrastructure projects in the Philippines and construction of a drug rehabilitation center.

Also signed were memorandums of understanding on cooperation in human resources development and personnel exchanges, energy cooperation, and enhancing government capabilities in communication and publishing.

Duterte thanked China for its generosity, including providing grants and loans, promising to build two bridges for free in metropolitan Manila and increasing imports of Philippine agricultural products.

Asharq Al-Awsat English

Asharq Al-Awsat English

Asharq Al-Awsat is the world’s premier pan-Arab daily newspaper, printed simultaneously each day on four continents in 14 cities. Launched in London in 1978, Asharq Al-Awsat has established itself as the decisive publication on pan-Arab and international affairs, offering its readers in-depth analysis and exclusive editorials, as well as the most comprehensive coverage of the entire Arab world.

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China’s Silk Road push in Thailand may founder on Mekong River row

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE REUTERS NEWS AGENCY)

China’s Silk Road push in Thailand may founder on Mekong River row

A Chinese boat, with a team of geologists, surveys the Mekong River at border between Laos and Thailand April 23, 2017. Picture taken April 23, 2017. REUTERS/Jorge Silva
By Brenda Goh and Andrew R.C. Marshall | KHON PI LONG, THAILAND

China’s plan to blast open more of the Mekong River for bigger cargo ships could founder on a remote outcrop of half-submerged rocks that Thai protesters have vowed to protect against Beijing’s economic expansion in Southeast Asia.

Dynamiting the Pi Long rapids and other sections of the Mekong between Thailand and Laos will harm the environment and bring trade advantages only to China, the protesters say.

“This will be the death of the Mekong,” said Niwat Roykaew, chairman of the Rak Chiang Khong Conservation Group, which is campaigning against the project. “You’ll never be able to revive it.”

Niwat said blasting the Mekong will destroy fish breeding grounds, disrupt migrating birds and cause increased water flow that will erode riverside farmland.

Such opposition reflects a wider challenge to China’s ambitious “One Belt, One Road” project to build a modern-day Silk Road through Asia to Europe.

Second Harbour Consultants, a subsidiary of state-owned behemoth China Communications Construction Corp (CCCC) (601800.SS) said it was surveying the Mekong for a report that China, Laos, Myanmar and Thailand would use to decide whether blasting should go ahead.

It added that it was not tasked with the blasting work, which would need to be tendered.

The company said in an e-mail it had held meetings with local people “to communicate, build confidence and clear doubts.”

China’s foreign ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Clearing the Mekong for bigger ships is not officially a part of One Belt, One Road, a project announced in 2013; China blasted sections of the river in Laos several years earlier.

But some Chinese engineers involved in the survey speak of it as a part of the broader plan, and it is consistent with Beijing’s Silk Road objectives.

Even in its Southeast Asian backyard, where it has sympathetic governments and ancient historical ties, China sometimes struggles to convince ordinary people that One Belt One Road will benefit them.

Thailand, Laos and Myanmar have approved the survey work, which is funded by China, but further studies and approvals are needed before blasting.

KEEPING A LOW PROFILE

The Mekong River originates in the Tibetan plateau and cascades through China and five Southeast Asian countries.

China has built a series of dams along its stretch of the river that Thai campaigners say has impacted the water flow and made the regional giant hard to trust.

Chinese flags now flutter from company speedboats, while CCCC Second Harbour has met with Thai protesters three times since December in a bid to avert opposition to their work.

A unit of the conglomerate faced violent protests in January in Sri Lanka, where people objected to plans for an industrial zone in the south.

Chinese engineers on the Mekong said they were worried that Thai protesters would board the rickety cargo ship where they slept, prompting them to moor it on the Laotian side of the Mekong each night.

“We are afraid for our team’s safety,” one engineer told Reuters, declining to be named because he wasn’t authorized to speak to the media.

“We keep a low profile here,” he added. “We want to do this project well and benefit Thailand, Myanmar, Laos, China, these four countries. This is not just for China.”

China wants to remove rocks and sandbanks to allow ships of up to 500 tonnes to sail from its landlocked province of Yunnan to the sleepy Laotian town of Luang Prabang.

That would expedite the shipping of Chinese freight deep into northern Laos, said Paul Chambers, an expert in international relations at Thailand’s Naresuan University.

“Luang Prabang may seem sleepy, but northern Laos … represents a hub of Chinese influence,” he said.

LOCALS REMAIN WARY

Despite reassurances from CCCC Second Harbour, some locals still believed the engineers were marking out areas for blasting, said Niwat, who represented campaigners in meetings with the Chinese company.

His group draped a large white banner reading “Mekong Not For Sale” on the bank overlooking the Pi Long rapids, whose name in Thai means “lost ghosts.”

“At the moment we’re only thinking about the economy and the earning figures without considering the unimaginable value of the eco-system to humanity,” he said.

The military seized power in Thailand in 2014 and banned gatherings of five or more people.

But Narongsak Osotthanakorn, governor of Chiang Rai – the Thai province where the Mekong is currently being surveyed – said people could “protest freely” against the Chinese plan.

Narongsak said the survey was the first stage in a process that would include an environmental study, public hearings and negotiations between China, Thailand, Myanmar and Laos.

While he wouldn’t say whether or not he supported blasting, Narongsak said local people had much to gain from increased river trade. “I think no country would be happy to lose the benefits,” he said.

(Editing by Mike Collett-White)

Malaysia agrees to send body of Kim Jong-nam to N. Korea

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE KCNA AND YONHAP NORTH KOREAN NEWS AGENCIES)

(3rd LD) Malaysia agrees to send body of Kim Jong-nam to N. Korea

2017/03/31

(ATTN: UPDATES with body arriving in Beijing)

SEOUL/BEIJING, March 31 (Yonhap) — Malaysia released the body of the slain half brother of North Korea’s leader to the North, ending a diplomatic row between the two countries over Kim Jong-nam’s death.

“Malaysia agreed to facilitate the transfer of the body to the family of the deceased in North Korea,” according to a joint statement between North Korea and Malaysia carried by the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).

The deceased refers to Kim Jong-nam, who was killed last month in Malaysia after two Asian women smeared the banned chemical weapon VX nerve agent on his face.

The agreement also called for lifting a travel ban imposed on citizens staying in each other’s countries, the KCNA said.

Under the deal, Kim’s body as well as those of two North Korean diplomats suspected of involvement in the killing left Kuala Lumpur on a Malaysia Airlines Flight 360 Thursday afternoon and arrived in Beijing around 2 a.m. Friday. The North Korean diplomats were seen leaving the airport in a black limousine.

The officials and Kim’s body are expected to leave for Pyongyang on an Air Koryo flight as early as on Saturday.

Malaysian police earlier said that eight North Koreans are suspected of being involved in the killing. North Korea claimed that Malaysia colluded with South Korea to manipulate the probe.

North Korea imposed a temporary exit ban on Malaysians staying in the North, saying that the move will be effective until the row over his death is resolved. In a tit-for-tat action, Malaysia banned North Korean diplomats from leaving the country.

“This would allow the nine Malaysians presently in Pyongyang to return to Malaysia and (North Korean) citizens in Kuala Lumpur to depart Malaysia,” the KCNA said.

Both countries decided to patch up their frayed ties as they reaffirmed the importance of their relations which were established in 1973, it added.

“In this connection, both countries agreed to positively discuss the re-introduction of the visa-free system and work towards bringing the relations to a higher level,” it said.

Malaysia canceled its visa-waiver program with North Korea and kicked out North Korean Ambassador to Malaysia Kang Chol in retaliation for North Korea’s “diplomatically rude” remarks.

Pyongyang claimed that the dead man is Kim Chol, the name on a passport held by Kim Jong-nam. It said that a North Korean citizen carrying a diplomatic passport fell into a state of “shock,” without making any references to his identity.

Seoul has claimed that North Korea is behind the killing, saying that the North’s leader has issued a standing order to kill his brother since he assumed power in 2011.

Out of the eight North Korean suspects, four fled Malaysia on the day of Kim’s death. Kim Jong-chol, who was earlier taken into custody, was released.

Malaysian police have been looking for three suspects including a diplomat believed to be hiding at the North Korean Embassy in Malaysia.

[email protected]

(END)

NORTH KOREA IS ANGRY AT CHINA FOR INCREASING SANCTIONS

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NORTH KOREAN OFFICIAL NEWS AGENCY ‘YONHAP’)

NORTH  KOREA IS ANGRY AT CHINA FOR INCREASING SANCTIONS

2017/04/22

SEOUL, April 22 (Yonhap) — North Korea has apparently asked China not to step up anti-North sanctions, warning of “catastrophic consequences” in their bilateral relations.

Pyongyang issued the warning through commentary written by a person named Jong Phil on its official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), which was released Saturday.

It’s rare for Pyongyang’s media to level criticism at Beijing, though the KCNA didn’t directly mention China in the commentary titled “Are you good at dancing to the tune of others” and dated Friday.

The commentary instead called the nation at issue “a country around the DPRK,” using North Korea’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

“Not a single word about the U.S. act of pushing the situation on the Korean peninsula to the brink of a war after introducing hugest-ever strategic assets into the waters off the Korean peninsula is made but such rhetoric as ‘necessary step’ and ‘reaction at decisive level’ is openly heard from a country around the DPRK to intimidate it over its measures for self-defense,” the commentary’s introduction in English read.

“Particularly, the country is talking rubbish that the DPRK has to reconsider the importance of relations with it and that it can help preserve security of the DPRK and offer necessary support and aid for its economic prosperity, claiming the latter will not be able to survive the strict ‘economic sanctions’ by someone.”

Then, the KCNA commentary warned that the neighbor country will certainly face a catastrophe in their bilateral relationship, as long as it continues to apply economic sanctions together with the United States.

“If the country keeps applying economic sanctions on the DPRK while dancing to the tune of someone after misjudging the will of the DPRK, it may be applauded by the enemies of the DPRK, but it should get itself ready to face the catastrophic consequences in the relations with the DPRK,” it said.

North Korea watchers here say the commentary appears to be Pyongyang’s response after Chinese experts and media have recently called for escalating sanctions against the North, including the suspension of oil exports, in case of its sixth nuclear test.

[email protected]

(END)

Pakistan Says U.S. Should Change It’s Attitude Toward China’s ‘Belt Road’ Project

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE PAKISTAN OBSERVER)

US should change its attitude toward CPEC, avoid missing opportunities: Global Times

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Beijing

China and the US should tap the potential for cooperation under the One Belt, One Road (B&R) initiative, taking the multi-billion dollar China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) as a starting point.
China is overtaking the US as the largest foreign investor in Pakistan. The US has been gradually losing its dominance of foreign direct investment into the South Asian nation at a time when the Pakistani economy is steadily improving, according to an article published in daily ‘Global Times’ here on Monday.
The UK and some other countries are currently eyeing investment opportunities in Pakistan and have expressed an interest in partnering with the CPEC, which is a flagship project of the B&R initiative, but the US has lagged behind.
Washington’s sceptical attitude toward China’s B&R initiative is one of the reasons why US companies have yet to take a bigger share of Pakistan’s burgeoning market. In this context, China and Pakistan could encourage enterprises’ cooperation to allow more US firms to participate in major infrastructure projects under the CPEC.
Companies from China and the US share great potential for cooperation in fields like the green energy sector and it can be expected that business success achieved by US firms in the South Asian country will eventually influence Washington’s attitude toward the CPEC.
We believe that China, which is a latecomer among big powers including the US in terms of developing economic ties with Pakistan, will be happy to see more US firms take part in projects under the CPEC. US companies’ rich experience in investment in the South Asian country could boost the progress of the CPEC.
As for Pakistan, it is clear that Islamabad also hopes its cooperation with Beijing will have a positive effect in persuading other countries to increase their investment in the country.
With its efforts in stepping up industrialization along the CPEC, Pakistan is integrating itself into the global industrial chain.
Although Asia’s integration will be a very slow process, reconstruction of the Asian industrial chain is likely to reshape the global economic landscape. Countries who refuse to participate in the process will suffer as a result.
Hopefully the decreased presence of US investment in Pakistan will ring alarm bells for Washington to rethink its strategy toward the CPEC and other projects in China’s B&R initiative.—APP

China Tells India They Should Concentrate On Their Economy, Not Aircraft Carriers

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CHINA TV NEWS STATION ‘NDTV’)

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India Should Focus On Economy, Not Aircraft Carriers To Counter China: Chinese Media

Chinese media projected India deploying aircraft carriers decades ahead of China in a negative light

BEJING: 

HIGHLIGHTS

  1. China recently celebrated the 68th anniversary of their navy
  2. China’s naval strategy has changed to increase its presence overseas
  3. 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.

China’s cargo spacecraft Tianzhou-1 docks with Tiangong-2 space lab

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SHANGHAI DAILY NEWS)

China’s cargo spacecraft Tianzhou-1 docks with Tiangong-2 space lab

China’s Government Renames 6 Cities In Norther India: They Say They Have The Right

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES)

China hits back, says it has ‘lawful right’ to standardise names in Arunachal

INDIA Updated: Apr 21, 2017 16:55 IST

Arunachal Pradesh

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang at a news conference in Beijing in October 2015. Beijing says Arunachal Pradesh is part of South Tibet with close Buddhist links, and its official map show the state as part of South Tibet. (Reuters File Photo)

China on Friday asserted that it was its “lawful right” to standardise official names for six places in Arunachal Pradesh, while its state-run media warned that India will pay “dearly” if it continues to play the Dalai Lama card.“China’s position on the eastern section of the India- China boundary is clear and consistent,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said at a media briefing here while reacting to India’s assertion that Arunachal Pradesh is its integral part.

“Relevant names have been used by ethnic Momba and Tibetan Chinese who have lived here for generations. So it is a fact that cannot be changed. To standardise these names and publicise them is a legitimate measure based on our lawful right,” he said.

Lu also countered India’s charge that China was inventing names to make its territorial claims over the area legal.

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India on Thursday hit out at China for giving Chinese names to six places in Arunachal Pradesh, saying assigning invented names to towns of the neighbour does not make illegal territorial claims legal.

External affairs ministry spokesperson Gopal Baglay in New Delhi had also asserted that Arunachal Pradesh is an integral part of India.

Earlier, the Global Times, in an op-ed article, said India will pay “dearly” if it continues the “petty game” of playing the Dalai Lama card and dismissed as “absurd” New Delhi’s reaction to China’s renaming of six places in Arunachal Pradesh.

“It is time for India to do some serious thinking over why China announced the standardised names in South Tibet at this time,” said the article titled ‘India playing Dalai card worsens territorial spats with China’.

The daily said “playing the Dalai Lama card” was never a wise choice for New Delhi.

“If India wants to continue this petty game, it will only end up in playing dearly for it,” the daily warned.

“South Tibet (Arunachal Pradesh) is historically part of China and name of the places there is part of the local ethnic culture. It is legitimate for the Chinese government to standardise the names of the places,” it said.

China claims Arunachal Pradesh as ‘South Tibet’.

Read more

China on Wednesday had announced that it has “standardised” official names for six places in the northeastern state and termed the provocative move as a “legitimate action”.

The Chinese move came days after Beijing lodged strong protests with India over the Dalai Lama’s visit to the frontier state.

Lu had earlier said that the Chinese government was conducting the second nationwide survey on geographical names, “an important task to standardise the geographical names in the languages of ethnic minority groups.”

He had also said that more standardised names will be announced later.

Highlighting China’s stand on the border dispute, the Global Times said, “China has been making efforts to solve the territorial disputes with India, but over the past decades, India has not only increased migration to the disputed area and boosted its military construction there, but it also named Arunachal Pradesh, China’s South Tibet, as a formal state of India in 1987.”

The India-China border dispute covers the 3,488 km-long Line of Actual Control (LAC). While China claims Arunachal Pradesh as South Tibet, India asserts that the dispute covers the Aksai Chin area which was occupied by China during the 1962 war.

World leaders for Silk Road talks

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SHANGHAI DAILY NEWS)

World leaders for Silk Road talks

The Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation will be held from May 14 to 15 in Beijing and President Xi Jinping will attend the opening ceremony and host the round table summit of the leaders, Foreign Minister Wang Yi said yesterday.

Xi has championed the “One Belt, One Road” initiative to build a new Silk Road linking Asia, Africa and Europe, a landmark program to invest billions of dollars in infrastructure projects.

China has dedicated US$40 billion to a Silk Road Fund and the idea was the driving force behind the establishment of the US$50 billion Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.

Among those attending will be Russian President Vladimir Putin, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi, Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak and Indonesian President Joko Widodo will also be attending the forum.

British finance minister Philip Hammond will come as Prime Minister Theresa May’s representative, while Germany and France will send high-level representatives.

Wang confirmed Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte as one of the leaders coming, along with the Spanish, Greek, Hungarian, Serb and Polish prime ministers and Swiss and Czech presidents.

“This is an economic cooperation forum, an international cooperation platform that everyone is paying attention to, supports and hopes to participate in,” Wang said.

“One Belt, One Road is to date the most important public good China has given to the world, first proposed by China but for all countries to enjoy,” said.

“The culture and historical genes of One Belt, One Road come from the old Silk Road, so it takes Eurasia as its main region,” he said, adding that representatives of 110 countries would attend the forum.

A section of the New Silk Road is in Pakistan, where some projects run through the disputed Kashmir region.

Wang dismissed concerns, saying the Pakistan project had no direct connection to the dispute and India was welcome to participate in the New Silk Road.

“Indian friends have said to us that One Belt, One Road is a very good suggestion,” he said.

During the forum, China is expected to sign cooperative documents with nearly 20 countries and more than 20 international organizations, Wang told reporters.

China will work with countries along the route on action plans concerning infrastructure, energy and resources, production capacity, trade and investment, which will help to turn the grand blueprint into a clear roadmap, he said.

Another task of the forum will be to push forward delivery of cooperative projects, Wang said.

During the forum, parties will identify major cooperative projects, set up working groups and establish an investment cooperation center.

China will also work with all parties on a set of measures that will include improved financial cooperation, a cooperation platform for science, technology and environmental protection, and enhanced exchanges and training of talent.

Participants will sign financing agreements to support their cooperative projects, Wang said.

China will use the forum to build a more open and efficient international cooperation platform; a closer, stronger partnership network; and to push for a more just, reasonable and balanced international governance system, Wang said.

North Korea parades military might and warns US as nuclear test fears persist

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE GUARDIAN NEWS)

North Korea parades military might and warns US as nuclear test fears persist

As thousands of soldiers mass at Kim Il-sung square, Pyongyang tells US to end its dangerous ‘military hysteria’

Tanks prepare to parade in Pyongyang on Saturday as part of celebrations marking the birth of founder Kim Il-sung on Saturday.
Tanks prepare to parade in Pyongyang on Saturday as part of celebrations marking the birth of founder Kim Il-sung on Saturday. Photograph: AP

North Korea has begun a vast military parade to celebrate the birth of its founding father, Kim Il-sung, and warned that it was prepared to take the “toughest” action unless the US ended its “military hysteria”, as speculation grows that the regime is preparing to conduct a nuclear test.

On a sunny morning in the capital, Pyongyang, military vehicles and tens of thousands of soldiers filled Kim Il-sung square as a band played rousing military music, the instruments falling silent for oaths of loyalty to the country’s leader, Kim Jong-un.

Dressed in his trademark black suit and flanked by senior military and Workers’ party officials, Kim applauded and occasionally smiled as he watched the tributes to his grandfather, who was born 105 years ago today.

But the “Day of the Sun” was clouded in uncertainty as the world waited to see if Kim Jong-un, the country’s third-generation ruler, would provoke a potential regional crisis with what would be North Korea’s sixth nuclear test in just over a decade, or a test launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile.

As the USS aircraft carrier Carl Vinson and its strike group sailed towards the peninsula in a show of force, North Korea’s official KCNA news agency, citing a spokesman for the General Staff of the Korean People’s Army, warned of “merciless” retaliation against any US provocation.

Donald Trump’s decision to send an “armada” of warships to waters off the tense peninsula, coupled with recent US strikes in Syria and Afghanistan, were proof that Washington had chosen the path of “open threat and blackmail”, KCNA said.

“Our toughest counteraction against the US and its vassal forces will be taken in such a merciless manner as not to allow the aggressors to survive,” it added.

It said the Trump administration’s “serious military hysteria” has reached a “dangerous phase that can no longer be overlooked”.

It added: “Under the prevailing grave situation, the United States has to come to its senses and make a proper option for the solution of the problem.”

Choe Ryong-hae, a high-ranking party official, earlier told crowds North Korea was ready for war. “We will respond [to a US attack] with an all-out war … and nuclear attacks with nuclear strikes,” Choe said in a speech, according to Yonhap.

As the parade unfolded in Pyongyang, China’s state-run media warned that the US president was mistaken if he believed that piling military pressure on North Korea would resolve the regime’s nuclear and ballistic missile programmes.

The Global Times said Trump’s decision to drop the “mother of all bombs” on Afghanistan was clearly “a new gimmick in US military deterrence” designed to intimidate Kim Jong-un.

“North Korea must have felt the shock wave travelling all the way from Afghanistan,” the Communist party-controlled newspaper said in an editorial.

However, the Global Times, which sometimes reflects government views, said the use of such a “vicious weapon” was in fact likely to make Pyongyang even more determined to upgrade its own arsenal. “[Trump] has demonstrated a certain level of obsession and pride toward US military prowess,” it said, adding, that the US president “may go down in history as the ‘war president’”.

As North Korea’s only ally and biggest trading partner, China has come under unprecedented pressure in recent days to use its influence to persuade Kim not to risk conflict with a nuclear test or ballistic missile launch.

On Friday, China again called for talks to defuse the crisis. “We call on all parties to refrain from provoking and threatening each other, whether in words or actions, and not let the situation get to an irreversible and unmanageable stage,” the Chinese foreign minister, Wang Yi, told reporters in Beijing.

Speaking to Russia’s foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, on Friday night, Wang said steps were needed to prevent “war and chaos” on the Korean peninsula.

US officials have said the policy of “strategic patience” pursued by the Obama administration has ended, after years of diplomatic pressure and international sanctions failed to slow North Korea’s progress towards developing nuclear missiles capable of striking the US mainland – a milestone some experts believe is only years away.

In echoes of the bellicose rhetoric that reverberated around the Korean peninsula during its last major crisis in the spring of 2013, KCNA said North Korea would respond in kind to any perceived US military provocation.

Referring to the country by its official title, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, it warned: “The army and people of the DPRK will as ever courageously counter those who encroach upon the dignity and sovereignty of the DPRK and will always mercilessly ravage all provocative options of the US with Korean-style toughest counteraction.”