Vietnam Is Becoming Asia’s Most Aggressive Maritime Nation After China  

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ASIA FOREIGN AFFAIRS, FORBES)

 

Asia #ForeignAffairs

Vietnam Is Becoming Asia’s Most Aggressive Maritime Nation After China

Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.

Activists chant anti-China slogans during a rally in Hanoi on March 14, 2016, to mark the anniversary of a 1988 battle in the Spratly Islands, a rare act of protest over an issue that has come to dog relations between Hanoi and Beijing. (HOANG DINH NAM/AFP/Getty Images)

China has stoked many of Asia’s maritime sovereignty disputes by reclaiming land to build artificial islands and, in some cases, adding military infrastructure to those islands. To rub in the message that it has the more power than anyone else in the widely disputed, 3.5 million-square-kilometer South China Sea, the Beijing government glibly sails coast guard ships around the exclusive ocean economic zones of Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam. Off its east coast, China routinely passes boats through a tract of sea disputed with, and controlled by Japan.

But let’s linger on another country for a second – Vietnam.

A fisherman and his son try to fix the roof of their boat on Thuan Phuoc port in prior to the next fishing trip on August 30, 2016 in Danang, Vietnam. (AFP/Getty image)

The country with a 3,444 kilometer-long coastline shows every sign of being Asia’s second most expansion-minded maritime power after China.

Here’s the evidence:

  • Last year the American Center for Strategic & International Studies said Vietnam had landfilled more South China Sea islets than China itself, though China’s method was probably more destructive. It holds 21 tiny islets in the Spratly archipelago, more than any of its regional rivals.
  • This year Vietnam renewed a deal with the overseas subsidiary of state-owned Indian oil firm ONGC to explore for fossil fuels under the ocean floor. Beijing will likely bristle at this move because it too claims waters off the Vietnamese east coast as part of its position that 95% of the whole sea is Chinese, but Vietnam has not backed down. In any case, India is Vietnam’s new best friend — to wit its call in July to step up a year-old partnership.
  • Vietnamese fishing boats, a large share of the 1.72 million that trawl the South China Sea, have been sent off by other coastal states and as far off as Indonesia and Thailand, scholars who follow the maritime dispute say. Two Vietnamese fishermen turned up dead 34 kilometers from the Philippines last month in what’s believed to be an incident involving an official vessel from Manila. Fish were 10% of Vietnam’s export revenues as of a decade ago, the University of British Columbia says in this study. “Fish stocks in Vietnam have been depleted, so they have to venture further away to continue their business,” says Le Hong Hiep, a fellow at the ISEAS Yusof Ishak Institute in Singapore. “As they venture further away it’s easier for them to get into other countries’ waters and they commit illegal fishing.”
  • Vietnam protests when Taiwan makes its presence felt on Taiping Island. Although Taiping is the largest feature in the South China Sea’s Spratly archipelago, Taiwan has little clout in the bigger sovereignty dispute and has even used its Taiping facilities to help Vietnamese fishermen in distress. But the Vietnamese foreign ministry formally protested at least once in 2016 and again in March this year when Taiwan had a live-fire military drill. “They said Taiwan’s activities violated its sovereignty,” said Huang Kwei-bo, vice dean of the College of International Affairs at National Chengchi University in Taipei. “Whenever Taiwan makes a move, Vietnam always protests. It’s been like that all along. Vietnam is pretty assertive.”
  • China has to watch it, too. China is using economic incentives to get along with other South China Sea states but things keep going wrong with Vietnam. In June, a senior Chinese military official cut short his visit to Vietnam as the host was looking for oil in disputed waters, and in August foreign ministers from the two countries cancelled a meeting – presumably over their maritime disputes — on the sidelines of an Association of Southeast Asian Nations event.

Vietnam’s maritime muscle makes a lot of sense. The country of 93 million people is on the move economically, dependent on the sea. Nationalism is growing, too, and citizens believe the government should gun hard for its claims.

Two 16 Year Old Young Men Face 23 Murder Charges For allegedly Lighting School Fire

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

Two boys face 23 murder charges for allegedly lighting school fire

Police and rescue personnel work at an Islamic religious school cordoned off after a deadly fire on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur on Thursday, September 14, 2017.

(CNN)Two teenagers have been charged with 23 counts of murder in Malaysia for allegedly lighting a fire that killed 21 children at an Islamic school in Kuala Lumpur in September.

Two adults also died in the blaze that engulfed Darul Quran Ittifaqiyah Tahfiz religious school in the early hours of September 14.
The two suspects, both aged 16, haven’t entered a plea, according to state news agency Bernama. In Malaysia, a murder charge carries an automatic death sentence, but in cases involving juveniles, the maximum penalty is prison.
The boys were also charged with drug-related offenses, as were four other suspects. One 16-year-old was released without charge due to lack of evidence, deputy public prosecutor Othman Abdullah said.
Two days after the fire, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak announced special funding of RM30 million ($7 million) to upgrade religious schools across the country.
Authorities have conducted fire safety inspections at 104 of 402 registered religious schools in the state of Selangor, according to Bernama.
Several were found to have faulty wiring and no fire extinguishers, Selangor Fire and Rescue Department director Azmi Osman was quoted as saying.
Authorities are also inspecting a number of unregistered schools, he said.

Family members cry outside the school.

‘So many involved’

Sharifuddin Musa’s son Mohammad Shahir was inside the building when it was allegedly set alight.
The 11-year-old survived the blaze but is still in intensive care. He suffered internal injuries, broken bones and burns to 20% of his body in the fire, Musa told CNN.
Musa was at the court Thursday to find out “who was involved” in the crime.
“We want to know the details. We want to know what is the action to be taken against the perpetrators. I will follow the proceedings.
“I’m very sad because there are so many involved,” Musa said.
He said his son still wants to study at the religious school.
“We see that since he studied there, there have been a lot of changes in him. He is happy and has many friends. We can see that he could manage himself better at the school. So the family is encouraging him.”

Trapped, burned alive

As the fire engulfed the building, witnesses reported being awoken by cries for help from children who appeared trapped by metal window grills.
“I saw children kicking on the grill, but they couldn’t get out. My friends and I rushed over and tried to reach them, but we couldn’t get in,” one witness, Shahirman Shahril told CNN.
When emergency responders arrived, “almost 90% of the building was already on fire,” a fire and rescue department official told reporters.

A forensic police officer investigates burnt windows at an Islamic religious school following the fire.

Many of the victims were found piled on top of each other, while others were discovered in front of the main door, fire and rescue department official spokesman Soiman Jahid told reporters.
One of two fire exits in the building had been blocked by renovations taking place on the second floor, Jahid told CNN.
“The firemen could hear cries for help from inside the building,” spokesman Soiman Jahid said. “The first team from (the) fire station managed to save five of the children from the lower level.”

People console each other outside an Islamic religious school following the fire.

School shouldn’t have been open, official says

The building where the fire erupted was new and had been used as a religious school specializing in Quranic studies, said Deputy Inspector General of Police Noor Rashid Ibraham.
But the school’s license had been under review by authorities, and the facility should not have been in operation, said Malaysia’s minister of urban well-being, housing and local government, Noh Omar.
The charges came shortly after a fire partially gutted another religious school in Serembam, around 20 miles south of the capital on Thursday.
Local press reported that the fire department received the distress call at around 1.50 a.m. local time (1.50 p.m. Wednesday ET).
All 37 students housed in the school’s hostel managed to escape, and three had to be treated for smoke inhalation.

At Least 21 Students And 2 Adults Die In A School Fire In Malaysia

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

Kuala Lumpur (CNN) At least 21 students have been killed after a fire broke out at a school in the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur early Thursday morning.

When emergency responders first arrived on the scene, “almost 90% of the building was already on fire,” a Fire and Rescue department official told reporters. Two adults also died in the blaze.
“The firemen could hear cries for help from inside the building,” spokesman Soiman Jahid said. “The first team from (the) fire station managed to save five of the children from the lower level.”

Fire damage at the school.

Jahid said firefighters found bodies in three different locations, all of them badly burned. A large number of victims found were piled on top of each other, while another was discovered in front of the main door.
“Based on my observation, the building has grills that could not be opened from inside,” he said. “Because of the grills, they could not escape through the windows, except for the five students who escaped through the door and sought help from the firemen.”
Photos from the scene showed fire damage to the top floor of the three-story Tahfiz Darul Quran Ittifaqiyah school. Emergency services were still at the scene mid-morning local time.

Norhayati Khalid talked to CNN on her way to hospital to identify the body believed to be her son, 11-year-old Amin Ashraf.
She said she’d last seen Amin on Wednesday afternoon when she’d given him some food and drink and he’d passed her a note to say he loved her and his siblings.

School should not have been in operation

Malaysia’s Minister of Urban Wellbeing, Housing and Local Government, Noh Omar, said there have been 29 similar incidents in the past involving fires at religious schools.
The school’s license was being reviewed by the authorities and it should not have been in operation, Noh told reporters.
Six students and a member of the public were injured in the incident, Malaysia’s official Bernama news agency reported.

Firefighters at the scene of the fire

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak expressed his sympathy for those affected on social media.
“Deeply saddened to hear Darul Quran Ittifaqiyah Tahfiz Center burned and that more than 20 lives were lost. May their souls be blessed by Allah SWT. Al Fatihah,” he wrote on Twitter.
Malaysian media earlier reported that 25 people were killed, 23 students and two wardens.

North Korea leader Kim Jong Un ‘killed relatives over China coup plot’

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF SKY NEWS)

 

North Korea leader Kim Jong Un ‘killed relatives over China coup plot’

The authoritarian ruler mistrusts Beijing since learning of an alleged plan by family members to oust him with China’s help.

15:00, UK,Thursday 24 August 2017

Kim has has purged senior officials, including family members, to maintain his grip on power
Image:Kim has purged senior officials, including family members, to maintain his grip on power

Kim Jong Un’s half-brother and uncle were both killed after the North Korean ruler uncovered a Chinese-backed plot to oust him, it has been claimed.

Since taking power in 2011, Kim is said to have purged a series of senior officials – including members of his own family – who represent a threat to his leadership.

Two of the most high-profile killings were those of Jang Song Thaek, Kim’s uncle who was executed in 2013, and Kim Jong Nam, the ruler’s exiled half-brother, who died in Malaysia in a chemical attack earlier this year.

Both the deaths have now been linked to an apparent 2012 plot to replace the leader with Kim Jong Nam, reported to have been hatched in the Chinese capital and the source of continuing tensions between Pyongyang and Beijing.

Jang Song Thaek is led away by guards prior to his execution
Image:Kim’s executed uncle Jang Song Thaek was branded ‘worse than a dog’

According to Japan’s Nikkei Asian Review magazine, Jang met with China’s then-president Hu Jintao in Beijing less than a year after Kim replaced his late father as North Korea’s leader.

The publication claims Jang proposed toppling the young ruler, with Beijing’s help, in favour of Kim’s elder half-brother.

But he did not get a clear answer from the Chinese leader who was dealing with his own problems at home, the report states.

An ally of Kim within the Chinese government, Zhou Yongkang, later secretly informed him of the coup plot, on which the dictator is said to have flown into a rage.

Jang was executed in 2013 after being removed from all his posts over allegations of corruption, drug use, gambling, womanising and leading a “dissolute and depraved life”.

State media branded him “worse than a dog”, a “counter-revolutionary” and “despicable human scum”.

Kim Jong Nam was killed by a nerve agent at Kuala Lumpur airport
Image:Kim Jong Nam was killed by a nerve agent at Kuala Lumpur airport

However, a widely-published account of Jang being stripped naked and fed to a pack of starving dogs was later debunked.

The Nikkei Asian Review added Zhou was arrested at the same time as Jang’s killing, but Beijing hid news of his detention until months later in order to hide a link between the pair’s fate.

He was jailed for life in 2015 after state TV showed him pleading guilty to bribery, abuse of power and intentionally disclosing national secrets.

Earlier this year, Kim Jong Nam – who had been living in exile in the Chinese territory of Macau – died at Kuala Lumpur airport in Malaysia.

Defector says displays of loyalty are coerced through fear

Video:N Korea defector on Kim’s brutal regime

Two women have been charged with his murder after being accused of smearing his face with a nerve agent.

The US and South Korea accuse Pyongyang of being behind the killing, although the women claim they believed they were taking part in a reality show prank.

The reported coup plot has led Kim to “establish an intense mistrust” of China, according to the Nikkei Asian Review, with North Korea’s ruler stepping up efforts to gain nuclear weapons as part of a plan for Pyongyang to break away from Beijing’s influence.

Recent missile tests by North Korea have escalated tensions with the US, with Kim threatening to target the US Pacific island territory of Guam.

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.

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(END)

This Is How President Trump Is Going To Commit Treason Against The Working Class Who Voted For Him

 

First I would like to say to the readers of this article that I hope that I am wrong on this issue, but I don’t think that I am going to be wrong about President Trump and his agenda. As most of the people here in the States know, it was the white working class male voters who helped a whole lot in getting Mr. Trump elected last November. I just said working class though I almost said ‘middle-class’, the reason for saying working class instead is because as almost all of us know, the middle class has been sinking into the lower middle class arena for several decades now.  Our American financial society used to always be considered to be labeled into mainly three classes, you had the rich folks who tended to own the businesses where the middle class/working class earned their income while hoping to be able to have a decent life style. Then you had the working poor who were busting their behinds each day in menial jobs who were just trying to survive at all. These folks tend to be less educated and could only find minimum wage type jobs.

 

I was born in 1956 in a small  town in southwest Virginia to parents who never had the chance to go to college and were factory workers their whole lives. I learned early on that these factories only paid the minimum wage, what they had to by law. During the early 1960’s this wage was $1.25 per hour and this is what they both made. These factories only paid overtime because they were forced to by law but they did not have to give any benefits to their employees like insurance of any kind, or holiday pay, and they did not. Some politicians, mostly just Republicans, who argue that the people making the minimum wage are only teenagers and kids who are in school working part-time. People who live in the real world know that this argument is total BS. If these politicians lived in the real world they would also know that many millions of Americans work for companies that only pay between 10-50 cents per hour above whatever the minimum wage is at the time. Simply put almost all companies only pay their employees as much as they are forced to pay by law. The reason is simple and this reason is honest and true, the less you as an employer pay out in expenses the higher the profit amount that goes to the CEO’s and to the stockholders. This is just like in politics, the two parties want all of the credit on good bills and they are not willing to share in the glory. With companies the top end wants higher profits so that they can get bigger paychecks, the Stock Market then reinforces this theology of greed. Throughout human history it has been true that the people who are physically making the products receive the lowest income. Any pie is only finite, they are only just so large, their pieces are just capable of being so big, the trouble is when it comes to business everyone is wanting a bigger slice of that pie and the only way to achieve this is to take away from others who are in that pie pan with them.

 

For 14 years I lived in the Morristown Tennessee area so I am going to use Berkline as an example of greed and of not caring anything about the ‘working class’. When I moved there I went to change over my car plates and driver’s license as the law requires. I went there on a Monday morning shortly after they opened for business. When I came into the building there were two rather long lines of young Hispanic folks already there so I just fell into the back of a line. A lady that worked inside noticed me and she came out and got me and took me inside. When I asked her about the two lines of folks she told me that they were only there to get a state I.D. so that they could go to work, they weren’t there to do the same things I was there for. While doing the paperwork for me she told me her story about Berkline. She said she had worked there for 14 years and was only making about 25 cents above the  minimum wage. She said that one Monday morning as she was at her job station waiting for the ‘get to work’ buzzer to sound that her foreman came up to her with a very young Hispanic male who couldn’t even speak English and told her that this was her replacement that she was fired. You see, the company was busing in Mexican folks to take the local folks jobs. Think about it for a moment, you as a company fire your experienced workers who are barely making the minimum wage for people who have no experience, why would you do that? The answer is simple, the new hires were being paid less than the minimum wage and they knew that these folks would work hard and that they were afraid to complain about the work or the working conditions. Berkline was the largest employer in Morristown at that time and they basically fired almost all of the local workers. This situation lasted for a few years then the company decided it was cheaper to quit shipping workers up there from Mexico and just close the Morristown factory and move their operation to Mexico, so they did. The local economy lost hundreds of jobs at it really hurt the local economy. Now this type of issue is a big part of what Mr. Trump’s campaign rhetoric was about, punishing companies who do and or have done this type of thing. By the way, Berkline is the company that makes Lazy Boy furniture.

 

Now to the meat of this article. As we all know Mr. Trump is very pro business and I do not have any problem with this fact. Yet even though he says he will bring the “good” jobs back to America and he is/was talking about manufacturing jobs, as he has often said the “we” here in America don’t make anything any more. This sounds great and I hope he can do it. He also talks about lowering the business income tax down to about 15% and I do not have a problem with that either, as long as all the loopholes are eliminated so that they are actually paying that 15%.  Mr. Trump has a history of bashing Union workers and their Unions because they make too much money. He has recently bashed the Auto Industries and then he bashed the workers and their Union at the Carrier Air Conditioner factory in Indianapolis Indiana for the same thing. He very obviously believes that Union workers are lazy and overpaid. Mr. Trump has also spoken out several times about the minimum wage being to high as he has said ‘companies can’t afford it’. So here is what I believe Mr. Trumps ideology is about ‘bringing the good jobs’ back to this Country. His policies may help to bring jobs here to the States and they may well be industrial manufacturing type of jobs. But, here is my concern, let’s say a new steel mill opens back up in Bethlehem PA and they hire 500 workers to fill those open jobs, at $5.00 per hour with no benefits of any kind. Would this be a ‘good’ job for the employees? If he is able to get rid of the minimum wage and overtime laws (which he has also said he favors because of the expense to the company’s) Americans  will find themselves working ‘menial’ jobs like sales clerks and at burger joints like McDonald’s for two or three dollars per hour.

 

Before you say that this can’t happen, that Mr. Trump would never do something like this I want you to consider two pieces of facts. 1) Think about it , all of Mr. Trump’s businesses  products he has them made in third-world countries. The reason is very simple, higher profits for him personally. He has his products made in countries where there is no EPA laws to worry about, no minimum wage laws so the sweat shops can employ children and women at a dollar per day wages, no overtime pay laws, no benefits, no OSHA laws to protect the workers. He has spent his whole adult life preying on the poorest of the poor for his own personal benefit, do you really think he has all of a sudden changed, really? 2) When a company leaves the States and moves to (for example) Thailand or Malaysia or China they made the move to bring down their costs, if your company is on the Stock Market this is a great move for your stockholders. But who loses when this is done, folks it is the working class people here in the States. Now for the purpose of an illustration let us take cars as an example or shirts or shoes. The company closes their factory in let’s say Michigan and moved their production to Mexico for the purpose of cutting the company’s cost per unit. Have you ever seen the price of that product lowered for the consumer? The company’s aren’t going to move back to the States unless it is financially profitable for them to do so. I honestly believe that Mr. Trump’s intentions are to make himself and his billionaire buddies the recipients of a cash windfall at the expense of the people physically doing the work. You may get a new job because of Mr. Trump’s policies but if it is a $3.00 per hour job but the cost of living doesn’t drop with the wages there are going to be a lot more homeless and starving people right here in the States. Are you really naive enough to believe Mr. Trump gives a damn about you or your family? Like I said at the beginning of this article, I hope that I am wrong about these issues but I seriously doubt  that I am wrong on this.

The Sad Life And Death Of Kim Jong Nam: Ostracized By His Father And Murdered By His Brother

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

Kim Jong Nam led a life of loneliness and fear and seclusion, rejected by his father, orphaned by his mother, stuck in a shadowy exile where he constantly had to worry about spies and secret agents and reporters.And it all came to a pitiful end, with Kim slumped in a chair in a Malaysian airport clinic, his belly protruding from his navy-blue polo shirt, then dying in an ambulance en route to the hospital. He had been smeared with VX, a lethal nerve agent that is used as a chemical weapon.

“He’s like a country-and-western song — it’s sad, sad stuff,” said Michael Madden, editor of the North Korea Leadership Watch website.

Kim’s painful demise is a blow for the United States and South Korea, which have lost a potential source of intelligence on the world’s most secretive regime. They also have lost a potential replacement for his half brother Kim Jong Un, the North Korean leader who again has thrown down the gauntlet to the outside world.

“Kim Jong Un is testing nukes and missiles like crazy,” said Alexandre Mansourov, a North Korea leadership expert who once studied at Kim Il Sung University in Pyongyang. “Now he feels confident enough to send his goons around the world to assassinate people he doesn’t like.”

CCTV footage allegedly shows attack on Kim Jong Nam

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CCTV footage released on Feb. 20 purportedly shows the attack on Kim Jong Nam, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s half brother, at Kuala Lumpur airport in Malaysia a week earlier. The footage has been edited for clarity. (CCTV via Fuji TV)

Kim Jong Un feels this emboldened because he keeps challenging the outside world, especially the United States, and it does nothing to stop him, Mansourov said. “It’s a sign of supreme confidence that he can get away with anything, that he can literally get away with murder.”

The blame for the well-planned attack on Kim Jong Nam in a Kuala Lumpur airport terminal on Feb. 13 is, however, being directed squarely at the leader of North Korea.

Malaysia says that Kim died because of exposure to VX, and it has implicated eight North Koreans in the attack, including a diplomat and a scientist.

South Korean intelligence officials have said that Kim Jong Un put out a “standing order” for his older half brother’s assassination years ago, but even so, analysts agree that he would have had to give the green light for this attack.

“The fact that so many North Korean agents were involved shows that the operation was planned well in advance and was done with Kim Jong Un’s blessing,” said Sue Mi Terry, a former North Korea analyst at the CIA.

It would not be the first time Kim Jong Un has acted in such a ruthless way. The 33-year-old has ordered the purge or execution of several hundred officials during his five years at the helm. These included his uncle, Jang Song Thaek, who had been a mentor to Kim Jong Nam and was accused of amassing too much power.

“This fits into the larger narrative of what Kim Jong Un wants to do,” said Ken Gause, a North Korea leadership expert at CNA, a Virginia-based consulting firm. “He’s getting rid of potential contenders to the throne.”

‘Without even one friend’

Kim Jong Nam was the result of a secret relationship between North Korea’s second-generation leader, Kim Jong Il, and his consort, an actress named Sung Hye Rim.

He led a lonely childhood in Pyongyang, “without even one friend,” Sung’s sister wrote in her memoir.

When he was 8, Kim moved to Moscow with his aunt and grandmother, but he hated it. He then moved on to Geneva. There he seemed to fit in better, although he still lived in a cloud of half-truths.

“He introduced himself as the son of the North Korean ambassador,” said Anthony Sahakian, a Swiss businessman who went to school with Kim, whom he knew as “Lee.”

“North Korea, South Korea — we were 13 years old. We didn’t know the difference,” Sahakian said.

But some things did make Kim different — for instance, he had a driver’s license that said he was older than he was.

“That was strange because he showed up in a Mercedes 600, driving it himself,” Sahakian said, referring to the huge sedan that was a favorite among dictators. “At the time, all we wanted to do was drive, so we were very jealous. We’d skip class and go somewhere else during the day to drink coffee.”

Kim was multilingual as a result of his international childhood. He spoke fluent English and French, and Sahakian said they conversed in Russian.

In 1988, when he was almost 18, Kim went back to Pyongyang and to a life of cloistered misery, the polar opposite from his freewheeling youth in Europe. To boot, he found that the affection his father once had showered upon him now was directed at a new family, which included a young boy called Jong Un.

Kim Jong Nam had talked about “life in the palace” being oppressive. “He had everything he could possibly desire, but he was in a black depression there,” said a school friend who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive details.

So Kim Jong Il struck a deal with his son: If he got married and had a child, he could leave, the friend said.

Kim Jong Nam married and had a son in 1995, although it is not known exactly when he left North Korea.

Certainly a turning point came in 2001, when the family was caught entering Japan on false Dominican Republic passports. Kim, whose passport name was Chinese for “Fat Bear,” told the authorities that they had wanted to go to Tokyo Disneyland.

After that, the family moved to Macau, where they were under Chinese protection and could live relatively freely, with Kim indulging his passion for gambling. He traveled to Beijing, where he was thought to have another family, and around Southeast Asia, popping up in Indonesia and Singapore.

He also traveled regularly to Europe — sometimes to see his oldest son, who had been studying in France, and sometimes on business, apparently buying wine or property for wealthy Asian clients.

He always kept his wits about him, said Sahakian, who had seen his old friend several times in Geneva in recent years. “He wasn’t paranoid, but he was worried,” he said. “When he was out he was careful, and he avoided talking to Asians because he was worried they were spies. He was on his guard, but it wouldn’t stop him.”

Dynastic competition

Although he had been mentioned as a potential leader in dynastic North Korea, friends say he did not have any interest in the prospect.

But he appears to have antagonized his younger brother just enough. In 2010, the day before Kim Jong Un was to make his first appearance as heir apparent in North Korea, Kim Jong Nam gave an interview to Japan’s TV Asahi in which he said that the choice was his father’s and that there appeared to be internal reasons for hurrying the process along.

“Personally speaking, I am opposed to the third-generation succession,” he said, a statement that might be considered anodyne elsewhere but was tantamount to treason in North Korea.

Madden, of North Korea Leadership Watch, said that there was always a chance of Kim Jong Nam’s being thrust into leadership. “Jong Nam still had a power base, and there was always a remote possibility that he would take power,” he said.

Terry, the former CIA analyst, agreed. “However improbable, there are always rumors that Kim Jong Nam could replace Kim Jong Un as the head of the regime at the behest of China or the U.S.” she said.

There have been reports in South Korea that Kim Jong Nam had acted as a middleman between South Korean President Park Geun-hye and officials in North Korea. Just a few days before his death, a South Korean newspaper reported that Kim Jong Nam had tried to defect to South Korea several years ago.

This would have given the regime ample reason to get rid of him, said Cheong Seong-chang, senior fellow at the Sejong Institute, a South Korean think tank.

Indeed, Kim’s defection would have been much more catastrophic for the regime than that of Thae Yong-ho, the deputy North Korean ambassador in London who fled to South Korea last year, said one former official in the regime.

“Imagine how detrimental the impact would have been if Kim Jong Un’s half brother were to speak out against Kim Jong Un,” said the former official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity out of concern for his safety. “It would have a much bigger impact than Thae Yong-ho is having now in South Korea.”

Thae has become an outspoken critic of the regime, calling for a flood of information into North Korea to encourage people there to flee or rise up.

The downside for the United States and South Korea is that they have lost the opportunity to recruit someone in the family to provide information. They also have lost someone who could be installed as a slightly friendlier leader in North Korea while still maintaining the Kim family bloodline — an important factor in Korean culture.

“They wanted him alive, not dead,” said Mansourov. “The only party interested in his premature departure was Pyongyang.”

Malaysia summons North Korean ambassador, recalls envoy from Pyongyang

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF REUTERS NEWS AGENCY)

Malaysia summons North Korean ambassador, recalls envoy from Pyongyang

Malaysia’s foreign ministry summoned North Korea’s ambassador on Monday over allegations he had made over the Southeast Asian country’s handling of the investigation into the murder in Kuala Lumpur of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s half-brother.

Malaysia also recalled its envoy from Pyongyang “for consultations”, the foreign ministry said in a statement.

The ministry said the North Korean ambassador Kang Chol was summoned for “an explanation on the accusations he made against the Government of Malaysia in his press conference on 17 February 2017”.

“In his press conference, the Ambassador…insinuated that…the Malaysian Government had ‘something to conceal’. The Ambassador also alleged that Malaysia was ‘colluding and playing into the gallery of external forces’,” the statement said.

(Reporting by Rozanna Latiff; Writing by Kanupriya Kapoor)

China navy says aircraft carrier conducted routine drills in South China Sea

 

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES)

 

China navy says aircraft carrier conducted routine drills in South China Sea

WORLD Updated: Jan 03, 2017 10:09 IST

Reuters, Shanghai

Highlight Story

China’s Kuznetsov-class aircraft carrier Liaoning sails the water in East China Sea on December 25, 2016. (Reuters file photo)

China’s sole aircraft carrier conducted drills in the South China Sea, the navy said, days after neighbouring Taiwan said the carrier and accompanying ships had passed 90 nautical miles south of the island amid renewed tension between the two sides.The Soviet-built Liaoning aircraft carrier and accompanying warships sailed round the east coast of Taiwan in what China called a routine exercise complying with international law.The carrier’s J-15 fighters conducted flight exercises in “complex sea conditions” on Monday, the People’s Liberation Army Navy said on its official microblog later on the same day.

The carrier group also ran helicopter exercises, it said, but did not give details on the exact location.

China claims most of the South China Sea through which about $5 trillion in ship-borne trade passes every year. Neighbours Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also have claims.

The drills also come at a time of heightened strain with self-ruled Taiwan, which Beijing claims as its own, following US President-elect Donald Trump’s telephone call with the island’s president that upset Beijing.

Last month, China conducted its first ever live-fire drills using an aircraft carrier close to Korea and announced on December 25 that the Liaoning and its accompanying fleet will carry out what it called routine exercises in the Western Pacific.

Taiwan’s defence ministry on December 26 said the Liaoning and five accompanying ships had entered the top half of the South China Sea after passing south of Taiwan, and later docked at a base on China’s Hainan island.

The flotilla raised alarm in Japan when it steamed between the Japanese islands of Miyako and Okinawa.

Japan said one of its maritime self defence force ships and a P3C patrol aircraft had spotted six Chinese naval vessels including the Liaoning travelling through the passage, and they also scrambled jets after a helicopter which took off from a Chinese frigate flew near Miyako Island.

China has been angered recently by US naval patrols near islands that China claims in the South China Sea. This month, a Chinese navy ship seized a US underwater drone in the South China Sea. China later returned it.

China’s air force conducted long-range drills this month above the East and South China Seas which rattled Japan and Taiwan. China said those exercises were also routine.

Taiwan Scrambles Jets, Navy As China Aircraft Carrier Enters Taiwan Strait

 

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF REUTERS NEWS AGENCY)

 

Taiwan scrambles jets, navy as China aircraft carrier enters Taiwan Strait

Taiwan deploys jets to watch Chinese ships (01:08)

Taiwan deploys jets to watch Chinese ships
Taiwan scrambled jets and navy ships on Wednesday as a group of Chinese warships, led by its sole aircraft carrier, sailed through the Taiwan Strait, the latest sign of heightened tension between Beijing and the self-ruled island.

China’s Soviet-built Liaoning aircraft carrier, returning from exercises in the South China Sea, was not encroaching in Taiwan’s territorial waters but entered its air defense identification zone in the southwest, Taiwan’s defense ministry said.

As a result, Taiwan scrambled jets and navy ships to “surveil and control” the passage of the Chinese ships north through the body of water separating Taiwan and China, Taiwan defense ministry spokesman Chen Chung-chi said.

Taiwan military aircraft and ships have been deployed to follow the carrier group, which is sailing up the west side of the median line of the strait, he said.

Taiwan’s top policymaker for China affairs urged Beijing to resume dialogue, after official communication channels were suspended by Beijing from June.

“I want to emphasize our government has sufficient capability to protect our national security. It’s not necessary to overly panic,” said Chang Hsiao-yueh, minister for Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council, during a news briefing in response to reporters’ questions on the Liaoning.

“On the other hand, any threats would not benefit cross-Strait ties,” she said.

China has said the Liaoning was on an exercise to test weapons and equipment in the disputed South China Sea and its movements complied with international law.

On the weekend, a Chinese bomber flew around the Spratly Islands in a show of “strategic force”, a U.S. official said on Tuesday.

The latest Chinese exercises have unnerved Beijing’s neighbors, especially Taiwan which Beijing claims as its own, given long-running territorial disputes in the South China Sea.

Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin said China’s ships “couldn’t always remain in port” and the navy had to hone its capabilities.

“The Taiwan Strait is an international waterway shared between the mainland and Taiwan. So, it is normal for the Liaoning to go back and forth through the Taiwan Strait in the course of training, and it won’t have any impact on cross-Strait relations,” Liu said at a briefing on Asia-Pacific security.

China claims most of the energy-rich waters of the South China Sea, through which about $5 trillion in ship-borne trade passes every year. Neighbors Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also have claims.

China distrusts Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen and has stepped up pressure on her after U.S. President-elect Donald Trump broke years of diplomatic protocol and took a congratulatory call last month from her.

Trump then riled China by casting doubt on the “one China” policy that Beijing regards as the basis of U.S.-Chinese relations.

Tsai drew anger from China again when she met senior U.S. Republican lawmakers in Houston on Sunday en route to Central America, in a transit stop that Beijing had asked the United States to not allow.

Beijing suspects Tsai wants to push for the island’s formal independence, a red line for the mainland, which has never renounced the use of force to bring what it deems a renegade province under its control.

Tsai says she wants to maintain peace with China.

(Reporting by J.R. Wu and Faith Hung; Additional reporting by Michael Martina in Beijing; Editing by Michael Perry, Robert Birsel)

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