Taiwan Calls for Quick Start to Trade Talks with EU

Taiwan’s government called on the European Union to quickly begin trade talks after the bloc pledged to seek a trade deal with the tech-heavyweight island, something Taipei has long angled for.

The EU included Taiwan on its list of trade partners for a potential bilateral investment agreement in 2015, the year before President Tsai Ing-wen first became Taiwan’s president but has not held talks with Taiwan on the issue since then.

Responding to the EU’s newly announced strategy to boost its presence in the Indo-Pacific, including seeking a trade deal with Taiwan, Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry said on Friday talks should start soon. The European Parliament has already given its backing to an EU trade deal with Taiwan.

“We call on the European Union to initiate the pre-negotiation work of impact assessment, public consultation and scope definition for a Bilateral Investment Agreement with Taiwan as soon as possible in accordance with the resolutions of the European Parliament,” it said.

“As a like-minded partner of the EU’s with core values such as democracy, freedom, human rights and the rule of law, Taiwan will continue to strengthen cooperation in the supply chain reorganization of semiconductors and other related strategic industries, digital economy, green energy, and post-epidemic economic recovery.”

EU member states and the EU itself have no formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan due to objections from China, which considers the island one of its provinces with no right to the trappings of statehood, so any investment deal could be tricky politically for the EU.

But the EU’s relations with China have worsened.

In May, the European Parliament halted ratification of a new investment pact with China until Beijing lifts sanctions on EU politicians, deepening a dispute in Sino-European relations and denying EU companies greater access to the world’s second-largest economy.

The EU has also been looking to boost cooperation with Taiwan on semiconductors, as a chip shortage roils supply chains and shuts some auto production lines, including in Europe. 


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Why North Korea Launched Its Latest Missiles from a Train

North Korea said the ballistic missiles it launched Wednesday were fired from a train, the first time the nuclear-armed country has tested a railway-based launch system.Wednesday’s launch is North Korea’s second in less than a week, as it increases pressure on the United States over stalled nuclear talks.Pictures posted in state media Thursday showed a dark green missile emerging from a railcar parked near a tunnel in a mountainous area, which was filled with orange plumes of smoke and fire from the launch.The drill, which involved North Korea’s Railway Mobile Missile Regiment, is part of a wider effort to enable the country to strike an “intensive blow to the menacing forces in many places at the same time,” according to the Korean Central News Agency.The train-based launch gives North Korea yet another option for launching and protecting its rapidly expanding missile arsenal.North Korea has been pushing hard to develop more ways to launch missiles, whether from the sea, roads, or, now, railways. Analysts say the multipronged strategy is meant to make it more difficult for U.S. and other intelligence agencies to monitor, predict, and detect North Korean launches.“They’re trying everything they can think of,” Joshua Pollack, a researcher at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, told VOA.“It’s just one more set of problems for the enemy,” he said.North Korea has long test-fired missiles using a variety of road-mobile launch vehicles, which provide more of an element of surprise than do firings from its formal launch facilities.The North has also unveiled a series of submarine-launched ballistic missiles. Although it does not currently have a submarine capable of deploying such missiles, Pyongyang in 2019 offered its first glimpse of what appeared to be such a vessel under construction.North Korea’s strategyWith its latest train-based launch system, North Korea appears to be pursuing a relatively cheap and reliable way to rapidly transport a small number of missiles in ways that are difficult to detect, said Adam Mount, a senior fellow at the Federation of American Scientists.“Russia did it. The U.S. considered it. It makes a ton of sense for North Korea,” Mount said on Twitter.There are drawbacks to such a strategy. North Korea’s rail system is relatively small, old, and in bad shape.“In a crisis, U.S. intelligence will be capable of monitoring this rail network closely to determine its status, chart the movement of trains, and try to distinguish between decoy trains and ones that are nuclear armed,” Mount said.There are similar limitations with North Korea’s other launch systems.Many of North Korea’s road-mobile launchers are massive, featuring as many as 22 wheels. That makes them difficult to maneuver, especially on North Korean roads, many of which are in poor condition.While submarine-launched ballistic missiles would provide North Korea with an unpredictable new capability, some analysts say the threat is exaggerated. That is in part because North Korea apparently has yet to finish building, much less deploy, a single submarine capable of firing the missiles. The vessel being built, some analysts say, appears outdated.Although each launch system has its own vulnerabilities, analysts say the North’s approach looks more dangerous when considered as a whole.By diversifying its launch systems, North Korea is “compounding the demands on a finite number of U.S. sensors,” Mount said.It is not clear whether or when North Korea will deploy its new launch systems, such as the ballistic missile submarine or the train-based launch system. However, it may feel more motivation to do so, as South Korea continues to unveil new weapons.On Wednesday — the same day as the North’s ballistic missile launch — South Korea announced it conducted its first underwater test of a submarine-launched ballistic missile. The test makes South Korea only the seventh country with a homegrown one.South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who observed the launch, said his country’s upgraded missile capabilities can be a “sure-fire deterrent to North Korea’s provocation.”Kim Yo Jong, the politically powerful sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, blasted Moon’s remarks. North Korea’s launches, she insisted, were not a “provocation,” but “part of a normal and self-defensive action.”North Korea has repeatedly cited the South Korean military buildup, as well as the presence of U.S. troops, as justification for its own weapons advancement. 

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China Targets Canada Goose, Maker of Posh Parkas

Canada Goose, the Canadian maker of parkas it claims are designed to keep wearers toasty warm in the “the coldest places on Earth,” is the latest foreign brand targeted by Chinese regulators.China’s state-controlled CCTV revealed that authorities fined the company’s affiliated operation in Shanghai about $70,000 (450,000 RMB) for “falsely advertising goods or services, deceiving and misleading consumers.”The Shanghai Huangpu District Market Supervision and Administration Department acted against the local outlet of Canada Goose Holdings Inc. of Toronto in June, a move CCTV made public on Sept. 2.The National Enterprise Credit Information Publicity System (Shanghai) announced that Shanghai district regulators found that Canada Goose, which was marketing its products as filled with goose down, was using mostly duck to stuff its garments.The regulators said the company advertised that it uses “Hutterite down,” claiming it is the warmest down available. The Hutterites, a religious group in Canada similar to the Amish and Mennonites in the United States, enjoy a reputation for raising high-quality geese and ducks.And while the Canada Goose marketing stresses the warming quality of the down it uses, Shanghai regulators said the place of origin has nothing to do with down’s warmth.On Sept. 8, other state-affiliated media outlets in China began criticizing the expensive parkas that as The New Yorker suggested, broadcast, “I earned the money, and then I spent the money. And now, here I am, warmer than you are.”The Economic Daily published a commentary titled Catching the Lying Canada Goose on Sept. 8, suggesting that Canada Goose had violated China’s law regarding advertising standards. It continued to accuse the company of failing to credit Chinese buyers as savvy consumers who are capable of market research.Calling on Chinese consumers to purchase goods from Chinese brands, the Economic Daily urged Chinese companies to seize the opportunity to expand market share.The newspaper also said Xiji (Shanghai) Trading Co., operator of the Canada Goose Official Flagship Store on China’s online retailer Tmall, had sales of $25.9 million (167 million yuan) in 2020. On the company’s U.S. website, the most expensive Canada Goose parka, the Polar Bear International, costs $1,545. The same coat on the company’s Chinese website costs $1,616 (10,400 yuan).Canada Goose told Canada’s CBC News on Sept. 8 that a technical error on a partner website caused confusion about the down.”Earlier this year, a misalignment of text was found on a partner site, Tmall, in our (Asia-Pacific) region. The error was corrected immediately,” the email to CBC said.The company told CBC that it uses both goose and duck down, depending on the garment. Although Canada Goose is best known for its parkas, it makes other down and non-down products.VOA Mandarin contacted Canada Goose but did not receive a response.Consumer nationalismCanada Goose is not the only company targeted by China’s regulators. Earlier this month, Chinese regulators fined H&M, the Swedish multinational retailer, $51,000, claiming the company misrepresented that some of its products were sold exclusively in China.This came after Chinese netizens attacked H&M in April for a statement expressing concern about allegations of Uyghur forced labor in cotton production in Xinjiang, a stronghold of the Muslim minority.Major e-commerce websites removed H&M products, and dozens of Chinese celebrities ended their endorsement contracts with the company. Brands such as Nike and Adidas, which had expressed similar concerns about the situation in Xinjiang, saw China sales plummet.Experts say that the surge in China’s nationalist sentiment since the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, coupled with Beijing’s official policy of supporting domestic brands, could lead to consumer nationalism.According to its official website, Canada Goose currently has 21 stores in China, making it one of the fastest expanding brands in the Chinese market. The company has nine stores in Canada.”The campaign fits in with ‘equality’ themes recently emphasized by President Xi. Foreign brands are something like private schools — patronized by higher income Chinese households,” Gary Hufbauer, an economist at Peterson Institute for International Economics, told VOA in an email. ”Domestic brands are seen as the preference of ordinary people.”Analysts believe that as tensions increase between China and the West, Chinese nationalists are equating the purchase of Western brands to approval of Western values. To reject foreign brands is to resist foreign influence, according to the nationalists.Amid the nationalists’ push, Beijing is actively promoting domestic brands and promoting patriotism in the shopping decisions among Chinese consumers.In July, Chinese sports brand Erke became famous overnight after donating about $7.6 million (50 million RMB) to the flood-stricken central Henan province. Chinese netizens heralded the move, and Erke experienced its biggest single-day sales jump.”Foreign companies are facing a less receptive environment in China,” Hufbauer added. ”Official statements are often hostile to the United States, with the result that buying foreign brands, especially U.S. brands, seems unpatriotic to ordinary Chinese.”Caught in the middleCanada Goose entered the Chinese market in 2018 when the relationship between Ottawa and Beijing began to fray. Canada detained Huawei Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou on a U.S. extradition request for fraud in December 2018, and China subsequently took custody of two Canadians — Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor — over espionage charges. Spavor was sentenced to 11 years in prison last month.The Chinese Consulate General in Montreal said Sept. 11 that the current Canada Goose action is related only to market regulations and disputed any “political interpretation of the case.”Wang Qing, a professor of marketing and innovation at Warwick Business School in London, told VOA via email that the Chinese government has emphasized the importance of building strong Chinese brands for several years. “We have seen real improvement of domestic brands in terms of quality and brand image,” she said.Yet she argued that currently, the competitive edge between Chinese and Western brands are different.”In the short term, there is no real threat to high-end foreign brands, as most Chinese brands are value for money. They do not compete directly with foreign brands,” she added.Reuters contributed additional reporting. 

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Report Points to Success in Global Campaign Against Cluster Bombs

Authors of theCluster Munition Monitor 2021report say great progress toward the elimination of these lethal weapons has been made since the Cluster Ban Treaty came into force in 2010.The Monitor finds there has been no new use of cluster munitions by any of the 110 states that has joined the treaty, nor by the 13 states that have signed but not yet ratified it.  The report says the remaining problems lie with countries that remain outside the convention.The most notable use of cluster munitions last year was by non-member states Armenia and Azerbaijan during their war over the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh. The Monitor records 107 casualties from cluster munition attacks in Azerbaijan, the most in any country last year.  Syria has continuously used cluster munitions since 2012.  Human Rights Watch arms advocacy director Mary Wareham says use of the weapons in 2020 was greatly reduced compared to previous years.She says another visible example of the treaty’s success is in the destruction of stockpiles.”We know that at least 1.5 million cluster munitions and more than 178 million submunitions have been destroyed from stocks today,” said Wareham. “That goes to show that this convention is truly lifesaving because every single one of those explosive submunitions could take a life or a limb.”   Globally, the monitor has recorded at least 360 new cluster munition casualties in 2020, caused either from attacks or explosive remnants. The editor of the Monitor, Loren Persi, says children are the main victims of these weapons, which kill and maim civilians indiscriminately.”Almost half of all casualties, 44 percent are children. About a quarter of casualties were women and girls,” said Persi. “But what we found in 2020 was that women and girls were far less likely to survive their incident with cluster munitions. This is something of concern that we will have to look into as more data becomes available.”   The report says many of the 16 countries outside the convention reserve the right to keep making cluster munitions, even though they currently are not doing so.Authors of the report say they are concerned that China and Russia are actively researching, testing, and developing new types of cluster munitions.  China, Russia and the United States have not joined the convention. The three countries are among the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council.

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Hong Kong Security Chief Demands List of Press Group Members

Hong Kong’s security chief called on Wednesday for the city’s main press association to disclose to the public who its members work for and how many of them are students, a day after he accused the group of infiltrating schools. 
The comments by Secretary for Security Chris Tang are likely to deepen concern over a crackdown on civil society in the Asian financial hub after Beijing imposed a sweeping national security law on the former British colony last year. 
Tang, in an interview with the pro-Beijing newspaper Ta Kung Pao published on Tuesday, said the Hong Kong Journalists’ Association (HKJA), was infiltrating schools to recruit students as journalists. 
The HKJA, responding to Tang, did not specifically mention the infiltration accusation but said that as of Wednesday it had 486 members and 56 of them were students. It does not disclose who its members work for. 
Tang defended his comments on Wednesday saying he was conveying “doubts held by many in society” about the press association. 
“I believe if they openly let the public know the information, it will clear their name,” Tang told reporters outside the city’s Legislative Council, referring to details about who the HKJA members work for. 
The media industry has seen profound changes since Beijing imposed the security law last year. 
Media tycoon Jimmy Lai, a staunch critic of Beijing, is in jail and awaiting trial on national security charges. His pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily closed following police raids and the arrest of executives including its chief editor. 
Scores of civic groups and opposition parties have disbanded or scaled back operations over the past year, while some of their members have been arrested and jailed. 
The Professional Teachers’ Union, Hong Kong’s largest, disbanded this month after it was criticized by Chinese state media for “politicizing” education. 
The security law, imposed after months of at times violent pro-democracy protests, punishes what Beijing broadly refers to as subversion, secession, collusion with foreign forces and terrorism with up to life in jail. 
The Hong Kong government has repeatedly said the law is only aimed at a tiny group of “troublemakers” and all law enforcement actions against individuals or groups “have nothing to do with their political stance or background.” 
Hong Kong’s once-thriving media sector and vibrant civil society have long been features of the city that returned to Chinese rule in 1997 with a promise of wide-ranging freedoms not guaranteed on the mainland.  

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Central Vietnam Faces Strictest Lockdown to Date

As the delta variant of COVID-19 has surged through Vietnam over the past two months, the country’s central provinces have endured the strictest lockdown measures to date.  As of Tuesday, the country had recorded 624,547 confirmed cases and 15,660 deaths, according to the John Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center. Both foreigners and locals have been complaining that food and water supplies have been mishandled because of restrictions on motorbike delivery people known locally as “shippers.” When the full lockdown was announced three days in advance it caused people to rush to stock up at local markets. ‘Directive 16’On July 22, the government issued “Directive 16,” an official notice to follow stay-at-home orders, for the coastal city of Da Nang.Under the new directive, residents couldn’t leave their homes. Non-essential businesses were shut, food shipping stopped and residents were banned from exiting Da Nang without official written permission.  Ward leaders were mobilized to the various neighborhoods,enforcing curfews and issuing order forms to residents for food and water deliveries.If residents were in green zones,they were allowed out during a two-hour period but only in close proximity to their homes.Some ward bosses provided free groceries consisting of a few different vegetables and instant noodles. Supermarket aisles emptied, and anxiety about a Wuhan-style lockdown was starting to collectively set in. Expatriates and locals have been panicking and venting their frustrations in online forums.  “Why wasn’t there a concrete plan for food supply chains if outbreaks were to get this bad, that’s what I am most angry about,” said Brian Edwards, a British national whose name has been changed for privacy. Because of an existing respiratory problem, Edwards was afraid to go out into crowded spaces such as supermarkets and is relying on local contacts to help him receive food.Shelves at a local minimart are nearly empty after authorities announce a lockdown in Da Nang, Vietnam. August 2021.In August, People line up to get tested for COVID-19 in a Da Nang neighborhood in September, 2021.As of Tuesday, leaving the central provinces of Vietnam requires flight tickets, a COVID-19 test, and a written letter of permission to leave from an embassy or city police authorization. Those leaving need to hire a private car to drive them to Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh, depending on the departing city. The cost is roughly 7.5 million dong ($330) per person if ride-shared, and the journey itself can take up to 24 hours depending on traffic and the time required to pass through provincial checkpoints.  In Facebook groups, people have been lamenting that visa agents are overcharging them for extending their visas or local immigration officials making them pay excessive overstay fines at the airport. Expatriates’ main gripes include lack of communication or miscommunication between the government and foreigners residing in Vietnam and the ever-changing rules. “They (immigration officials) are so corrupt, they will try to make money from you in any way possible,” wrote one foreigner on Facebook about his recent exit experience.  “There is no reliable information, nobody knows what’s going on and they are making it impossible to leave,” said Mark Warth, an Australian national who is desperate to leave Vietnam with his wife. His name has been changed to protect his privacy.  The dearth of reliable information has likely prompted Vietnamese authorities to implement a new hotline for foreigners in Da Nang; however, responses have been either slow or nonexistent. Most expatriates in Da Nang are English teachers. Due to the closure of many local schools and the recent worldwide termination of most foreign teaching contracts with online Chinese schools, many foreign teachers are struggling financially. And the situation for the poorest locals has worsened as the Vietnamese economy slows. “Many local people are starving and haven’t had paid work for a long time,” said Nga Hanh, a local woman working as a consultant in Da Nang whose name has been changed to protect her privacy. Hanh has a brother who works for the government. His salary has been slashed in half since last year, but he says he is one of the lucky ones to still have a job.  “Some of my friends in the tourism industry haven’t worked for over a year,” Hanh said. Her sister, a nurse, has been forced to stay in the hospital and work 24-hour shifts since the latest lockdown began, and she isn’t being paid for overtime. “It must be so terrible for the really poor people here in my country right now. Nobody takes care of the poor people adequately,” said Hanh.  

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Nine Hong Kong Activists Sentenced for Taking Part in Banned Vigil

Nine Hong Kong pro-democracy activists were sentenced to several months in jail for taking part in an unauthorized candlelight vigil in observance of the brutal 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown on student protesters. The nine defendants include such figures as Albert Ho and Figo Chan, who were sentenced earlier this month to lengthy sentences for taking part in an unauthorized demonstration in October 2019 at the height of anti-government protests triggered by a controversial extradition bill that evolved into a greater demand for greater freedoms for the financial hub.  The nine defendants pleaded guilty earlier this month for attending the 2020 candlelight vigil which authorities banned, citing the COVID-19 pandemic. The vigil had traditionally been held every year to commemorate the June 4,1989 crackdown on student-led pro-democracy protests staged in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, where they called for an end to official corruption, political reforms and a more fair and open society. Human rights groups believe as many as several thousand people were killed when tanks rolled through Tiananmen Square to squelch the demonstrations. The nine activists were handed sentences ranging between six and 10 months in jail. Three other defendants who also pleaded guilty for taking part in last year’s vigil received suspended sentences.   The 2019 demonstrations prompted Beijing to approve a sweeping national security law for Hong Kong last year under which anyone believed to be carrying out terrorism, separatism, subversion of state power or collusion with foreign forces could be tried and face life in prison if convicted.  Hong Kong authorities have increasingly clamped down on the city’s pro-democracy forces since the law took effect last year. Some information for this report came from the Associated Press and Reuters.  

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N.Korea Fired Possible Ballistic Missile Amid Deadlocked Nuclear Talks

North Korea fired an unidentified projectile from its east coast, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said on Wednesday, days after testing a long-range cruise missile. Japan’s Coast Guard also said an object that could be a ballistic missile was fired from North Korea. Both the South Korean military and Japanese Coast Guard gave no details. The launch came after North Korea said it successfully  tested a new long-range cruise missile last weekend, calling it “a strategic weapon of great significance.” Analysts say the missile could be the country’s first such weapon with a nuclear capability. Pyongyang has been steadily developing its weapons program amid a standoff over talks aimed at dismantling its nuclear and ballistic missile programs in return for U.S. sanctions relief. The negotiations have stalled since 2019. 

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Macau Kicks Off Public Gaming Consultation Ahead of Casino Rebidding

Macau’s government is due to begin a 45-day public gaming consultation starting Wednesday as it tries to gauge public consensus ahead of a closely watched rebidding of its multibillion-dollar casinos next year.   Lei Wai Nong, secretary for economy and finance in the world’s biggest gambling hub, said the government would further promote the “sustained and healthy development” of Macau’s gambling industry as there were still some deficiencies in industry supervision.   At a press briefing on Tuesday, Lei detailed nine areas for the consultation, including the number of licenses to be given, increased regulation and protecting employee welfare, as well as introducing government representatives to supervise day-to-day operations at the casinos. A Chinese special administrative region, Macau has tightened scrutiny of casinos in recent years, with authorities clamping down on illicit capital flows from mainland China and targeting underground lending and illegal cash transfers. Beijing has also intensified a war on cross-border flows of funds for gambling, affecting the financing channels of Macau’s junket operators and their VIP casino customers.   In June this year, Macau more than doubled the number of gaming inspectors and restructured several departments to ramp up supervision. Macau casino operators Sands China, Wynn Macau, Galaxy Entertainment, SJM Holdings, Melco Entertainment and MGM China are all required to rebid for their casino licenses when they expire in June 2022. D.S. Kim, an analyst at J.P. Morgan in Hong Kong, said all Macau gaming names were being downgraded from “overweight” to “neutral” or “underweight” following the briefing because of heightened scrutiny of capital management and daily operations ahead of the license renewal. “We admit it’s only a ‘directional’ signal, while the level of actual regulation/execution still remains a moot point,” he said, adding that the announcement would have already planted a seed of doubt in investors’ minds.   George Choi, an analyst at Citigroup in Hong Kong, said that while the public consultation document offered limited details, the suggested revisions enhance long-term sustainable growth for the industry, with “positive implications on the six casino operators.”  He cautioned, however, that “we will not be surprised if the market focuses only on the potentially negative implications, given the weak investor sentiment.”   Shares in U.S. casinos with operations in Macau fell heavily on Tuesday, with Las Vegas Sands and Wynn Resorts down more than 12% on concerns over tighter regulations. 

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US, Japan, South Korea Hold Talks in Tokyo on North Korea Nukes

Special envoys from the United States and South Korea met with their Japanese counterpart Tuesday in Tokyo for talks on North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, following tests conducted by the rogue state Saturday and Sunday.Sung Kim, U.S. special representative for North Korea, and Noh Kyu-duk, South Korea’s special representative for Korean Peninsula peace and security affairs, joined Japan’s director-general for Asian and Oceanian affairs, Takehiro Funakoshi, for a meeting on how to address this latest development with North Korea.North Korea state media confirmed the nation tested “newly developed long-range cruise missiles” Saturday and Sunday. Cruise missiles fly at relatively low altitudes and can be guided in-flight. That allows them to fly under or around missile defense radars.Analysts say the missiles appeared visually similar to the U.S. Tomahawk, a nuclear-capable cruise missile with a range of about 1,600 kilometers. North Korea hinted the missile is nuclear-capable, though it’s not clear the North yet has a nuclear warhead small enough to fit on it.Regardless, the missiles represent another lethal component in North Korea’s arsenal, which has significantly expanded since 2019 when it resumed major weapons tests.As the three envoys addressed reporters before their talks, Kim said the recent events in North Korea are a reminder of the importance of close communication and cooperation among Japan, North Korea and the U.S.Noh agreed, saying it was good the three representatives can have a candid discussion on how to “engage with North Korea based on our shared understanding of the urgency of denuclearization.”In recent comments, Kim has indicated Washington remained open to diplomacy to deal with North Korean issues.Pyongyang has so far rejected those overtures, saying nothing has changed from the U.S., citing issues such as ongoing sanctions and joint military drills with South Korea.Some information for this report came from  the Associated Press, Reuters, and Agence France-Presse. 

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Singapore News Site Suspended, Critics Fear Censorship

A Singaporean news website often critical of authorities had its license suspended Tuesday for failing to declare funding sources, regulators said, with a rights group slamming the move as “unacceptable censorship.” 
Critics frequently accuse the tightly regulated city-state of curbing media freedoms, and The Online Citizen (TOC) had long been in the government’s crosshairs. 
One of Singapore’s few alternative news sources, it often ran stories more critical of the authorities than those in the pro-government mainstream media.  
The city-state’s media regulator said it had suspended the company’s license to operate its websites and social media channels as it had not fully met obligations to declare funding.  
Sites such as TOC “are required to be transparent about their sources of funding”, the Infocomm Media Development Authority said in a statement. 
“This is to prevent such sites from being controlled by foreign actors or coming under the influence of foreign entities or funding.” 
TOC was ordered to disable its websites and social media accounts by Thursday. If it fails to provide enough further information, then its license to operate may be cancelled entirely, the regulator warned.  
But chief editor Terry Xu told AFP that the site “has never received any foreign funding, nor would it in the future”, and the company was considering its options. 
Earlier this month, Xu and one TOC writer were ordered to pay substantial damages after losing a defamation suit against Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.  
Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director for Human Rights Watch, said the license suspension was “outrageous and unacceptable censorship, disguised as government regulatory action.” 
“The reality is the Singaporean government has been looking to shut down TOC by hook or by crook, because they simply don’t like their independence or their critical reporting.” 
Singapore ranks 160th out of 180 countries and territories in Reporters Without Borders’ World Press Freedom Index, where number one indicates the country with the greatest media freedoms.  

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Australian Nanolaser Breakthrough Promises Medical Applications  

Researchers in Australia have developed new microscopic lasers that have a range of potential medical, surgical, industrial and military uses.   Researchers at the Australian National University (ANU) say “nanolasers” promise to be even more powerful than conventional technology. The technology uses laser light instead of electronics and is an approach called photonics. Nanolasers, they say, need only a small amount of energy to start shining. Instead of using mirrors that reflect light, the team has created a device that traps energy and prevents it from escaping. That power is harnessed and builds into a “strong, well-shaped” beam. Researchers say this overcomes a well-known challenge of nanolasers — “energy leakage.”   The project is a collaboration with academics at Korea University, and is published in the journal Nature Communications. The lead researcher is professor Yuri Kivshar, who says the beams would act like a torch, or flashlight, to guide a surgeon.   “Why do we need [it] smaller? Imagine you are doing [a] kind of operation inside of body [sic] and you are using optical fiber. So, optical fibers introduced inside of body will see only light, which inside there is basically nothing, so you need a kind of torch. This torch will lighten the place which you need to work on and that will be a kind of real torch effect,”  he said.Academics have said that while their nanolasers are not the smallest ever developed, they are among the most efficient and powerful.   According to the ANU study, the energy threshold at which the laser starts to work is about 50 times lower than any previously documented nanolaser.    The physicists believe the technology could have a range of applications in small devices, including hair removal, laser printing, night-time surveillance and the illumination of delicate surgery inside the body.   

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China’s Global Network of Shipping Ports Reveal Beijing’s Strategy

A powerhouse in global trade, China has more shipping ports at home than any other country. Key investments add about another 100 ports in at least 60 nations. And Beijing is looking for more. Earlier this month, operations at Israel’s port of Haifa, one of the largest maritime transport hubs in Mediterranean, were handed over to China’s state-run Shanghai International Port Group to run for the next 25 years. Another gigantic Chinese shipping company, COSCO Shipping, is poised to expand its footprint in Europe by taking a stake in the port of Hamburg. Negotiations have been reportedly going well, and a deal is expected soon. If COSCO succeeds, it would be the company’s eighth port investment in Europe.   The state-owned company’s previous investment involves the acquisition of Greece’s Port of Piraeus, one of the world’s most important shipping centers located at the crossroads of Europe, Asia, and Africa. COSCO bought 51% of the port’s operating company in 2016. After a Greek court gave the go-ahead last month, COSCO now can raise its stake in Piraeus to 67%.   The Chinese government does not have an official platform summarizing the overall data for China’s overseas port projects, but publicly available information shows that Beijing now has a foothold in at least 100 ports in 63 countries. According to data published on the COSCO official website, as of June this year, the group has operated and managed 357 terminals in 36 ports around the world. Its port portfolio has stretched from Southeast Asia to the Middle East, Europe and the Mediterranean. In addition, China Merchants Group, another major port developer and operator in China, says on its website that the company completed “equity acquisition of eight high-quality ports in Europe, the Middle East and the Caribbean last year alone, expanding the group’s global port layout to 27 countries, 68 ports.” China’s global port expansion means Beijing now has investments in more than 100 ports in 63 countries.In a recent opinion piece published by the Daily Mail, former British Defense and International Trade Secretary Dr Liam Fox and former U.S. National Security Adviser Robert McFarlane noted that China now owns 96 ports around the world. Some of these are at key locations for maritime trade, “giving Beijing strategic dominance without having to deploy a single soldier, ship or weapon.” In 2013, China for the first time surpassed the United States to become the world’s largest trading nation. That same year, Chinese president Xi Jinping proposed a strategic framework of what has been dubbed the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road (MSR) – the sea route part of the broader Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).  The specific trade route of MSR connects China to Southeast Asia, Africa, and even Europe by sea. Chinese companies are now owners of all of the major ports along the route. Dr. Sam Beatson, of King’s College London, says it makes sense for China to be engaging in these deals given the volume of containers China continues to deliver at accelerating rates of growth. “China’s ports, shipping and maritime trade industry is strategic in part because of its massive size and global role, not only the huge numbers it employs and its role as a national industry that has championed the growth of many of China’s largest coastal cities,” he told VOA.Key Chinese shipping routes along the country’s new maritime “silk road”The most Mahanian country Over a century ago Captain Alfred Thayer Mahan, one of the most influential American writers of his day, designated seaports as one of three pillars of sea power. His writing argued that Britain’s control of the seas was critical for its emergence as a dominant global power. The view heavily influenced American policymakers. “Since the Cold War, China has bought into the Mahanian construct wholesale,”  James R. Holmes, the J.C. Wylie Chair of Maritime Strategy at the U.S. Naval War College told VOA. “It is safe to say he’s more popular in China today than anywhere else in the world.” Reports by official Chinese media in recent years show that since 2013, Chinese president Xi Jinping has visited a port almost every year, including the visit to the port of Piraeus in 2019, where China’s MSR and BRI connect and a project that Xi personally pushed for with Greek leaders multiple times, according to China’s official Xinhua News Agency. China experts believe that establishing ports in geo-strategically important countries, including those that are located near maritime chokepoints, are central to Beijing’s global strategy. “These port linkages allow Beijing to exert political influence not only in the country hosting the port, but in many cases the surrounding countries as well,” Craig Singleton, a China expert at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told VOA. Holmes, a former U.S. Navy officer, noted prosperity is the top priority for any government. And Beijing’s port investments mean it can hold a large portion of a country’s prosperity hostage, compelling its leadership to take political stances agreeable to the Chinese Communist Party. “So, seaports are a critical enabler for China’s bid for commercial, diplomatic, and military influence.” King’s College’s Beatson, who lecturers on China-related business and finance, pointed out that among all the deals, “neither governments nor companies within countries seem to want to block control of their ports by companies from China – I highlighted this in 2017 I think when pointing out the role of China Merchant Group in ownership of Houston and Miami ports through the joint venture with France’s Terminal Links.”Beijing either controls or has major investments in all 15 of the world’s top 15 ports ranked by container volume.As commercial ports could be used for military purposes, analysts have long been concerned about the security implications of ports controlled by Beijing. China’s first overseas military base was established at the port of Djibouti situated at the entrance to the Red Sea and the Suez Canal. “China’s militarization of its port project in Djibouti serves as a warning vis-à-vis Beijing’s port interests in other countries, such as Tanzania, the United Arab Emirates, Pakistan, and Burma, among others,” said Singleton.  One of the thorniest issues between the U.S. and Israel in recent years has been the Chinese takeover of Haifa Port, place where the Sixth Fleet of the US Navy docks. Washington feared that the port would provide an opportunity for Chinese surveillance. Dr. Eyal Pinko, a former Israeli intelligence officer pointed out that the port can easily be used to collect naval intelligence. “You can track the whereabouts of ships and communications. Once you own and operate the port site, these are very easy to do. You can do whatever you want. You are the landlord there,” he told VOA in a telephone interview. 

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Vietnam Speeds Up Hanoi Vaccine Drive; 1M Jabs Over Weekend

Vietnam is speeding up its vaccination program in an effort to loosen coronavirus lockdown restrictions in major cities by the end of the month, the government said Monday.
Health workers administered vaccines throughout the night in the capital, Hanoi, which has been under lockdown since July.  
More than a million vaccine shots were given over the weekend in Hanoi, out of around 5.5 million administered there since vaccinations started in March, the Health Ministry said.
“We have to speed up the vaccination program so we can make a plan to reopen the city,” Hanoi mayor Chu Ngoc Anh said Sunday. More than half of the country’s 98 million population is also under lockdown.
About 80% of the city’s 5.7 million adults have received at least one shot, with authorities aiming for 100% by the end of this week.
However, the country’s overall vaccination rate remains low at about 28%, and only 4% have been fully vaccinated with both jabs.
Vietnam managed to keep its infection rate relatively low up until April this year, with only 35 deaths. Last year it was praised for keeping the virus under control, an accomplishment generally attributed to the discipline of being a single-party communist state with tight controls at all levels.
But vaccine shortages forced Vietnam to slow down its vaccination program in recent months, even as the delta variant of the virus infected over 600,000 people and killed more than 15,000 in just four months.
In Ho Chi Minh City, the nation’s business hub and most hard-hit by the surge, over 95% of adults have received the first vaccine, but many who need to come in for the second dose aren’t able to get it due to low supplies.
Among measures to cope with the shortage, Vietnam’s health authority has allowed combinations of different two-dose COVID-19 vaccines to speed up the vaccination campaign. Experts say this tactic is likely safe and effective, but researchers are still gathering data to be sure.
Vietnam is currently using AstraZeneca, Pfizer, Moderna and Sinopharm, a Chinese-made vaccine.

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New Malaysian Prime Minister, Opposition Leader to Sign Cooperation Deal 

Malaysian Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob will sign a cooperation deal with the main opposition bloc Monday aimed at ensuring the stability of his new government.Under the accord between Prime Minister Ismail and veteran opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, Ismail has agreed to a set of reforms including new laws to prevent party defections, limiting the prime minister’s term to 10 years, and lowering the voting age from 21 to 18.The agreement also ensures bipartisan agreement on every bill that is introduced in parliament, input from the opposition on a national recovery council, and an assurance that the opposition leader receives the same pay and privileges as a Cabinet minister.Ismail became Malaysia’s third prime minister in three years when he was appointed prime minister by King Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah last month to succeed Muhyiddin Yassin. Muhyiddin resigned after conceding he had lost the majority of lawmakers. Ismail served as deputy prime minister under Muhyiddin.The king selected Muhyiddin as prime minister in March 2020 after then-Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad’s ruling coalition had collapsed a month earlier. But Muhyiddin was beset by constant challenges to his leadership within his fragile coalition and rising anger over his government’s poor response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The country of 32 million is suffering the highest rate of new daily COVID-19 cases per 1 million people in Southeast Asia, with 1.9 million total infections and 20,711 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.Muhyiddin’s tenuous grip on power began unraveling when a group of lawmakers with the United Malays National Organization, the largest party in the coalition, withdrew their support. UMNO, once Malaysia’s long-serving ruling party dating back to the country’s independence in 1957, has a handful of politicians facing corruption charges, including former Prime Minister Najib Razak.Muhyiddin’s 17-month tenure as prime minister is the shortest in Malaysian history.(Some information for this report came from the Associated Press and Reuters.)  

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Shanghai Suspends Schools, Flights as Typhoon Approaches China

Authorities in Shanghai and neighboring coastal regions canceled flights, and suspended schools, subways and trains as Typhoon Chanthu approached China after drenching Taiwan though causing little damage there. The storm, with winds of more than 170 kilometers per hour near its eye, had been downgraded from a super typhoon to a strong typhoon on Sunday evening and was expected to gradually weaken, Shanghai city authorities said in a post on their official WeChat account. But it was still expected to bring strong winds and heavy rain to coastal regions. The province of Zhejiang near Shanghai raised its emergency response to the highest level on Sunday, closing schools and suspending flights and rail services in some cities, the official Xinhua news service reported. Zhejiang also issued red alerts for flash floods in nine districts. Ningbo port, China’s second-biggest container transporting hub after Shanghai, had suspended operations since Sunday noon. The port just resumed from a weeks-long port congestion, following typhoon In-Fa in late-July and a COVID-19-related terminal closure in mid-August. In Shanghai, home to about 26 million people, all flights at the city’s larger Pudong International Airport were to be canceled from 11 a.m. local time (0300 GMT), while flights from the smaller Hongqiao airport in the west of the city were to be canceled from 3 p.m., the Shanghai government announced on WeChat. Port terminals in Shanghai regions suspended containers import and export services from Monday till further notice. The city also suspended subway services on some lines serving the city’s southern districts, and said parks, outdoor tourist attractions and playgrounds would be closed on Monday and Tuesday. Classes were also due to be suspended on Monday afternoon and Tuesday. Official forecasts called for rainfall of 250-280 millimeters in some areas of southeastern Jiangsu province, Shanghai and northeastern Zhejiang. The typhoon passed by Taiwan’s east coast over the weekend, disrupting transport and causing some power outages, but otherwise little damage.  

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N. Korea Tests Long Range Cruise Missile Designed to Evade Defenses

North Korea has conducted its first missile test in about six months. The long-range cruise missile being tested could give Pyongyang another way to evade its neighbors’ missile defenses, say analysts.  The “newly-developed long-range cruise missiles” flew 1,500 kilometers over North Korean territory before successfully hitting their targets, North Korean state media reported Monday.  The reports did not say how many missiles were tested, but said the tests occurred Saturday and Sunday. Pictures posted in North Korean state media showed one of the cruise missiles being fired from a five-canister, road-mobile launcher that appeared to be parked on a highway.  Several analysts said the missile appeared visually similar to the U.S. Tomahawk, a nuclear-capable cruise missile with a range of about 1,600 kilometers.  The cruise missile test appears to be less provocative than a long-range or intercontinental ballistic missile launch, which would involve technology that could target the mainland United States. But the launch will still serve as a test for U.S. President Joe Biden, who has said he is open to both diplomacy and additional economic pressure on North Korea. Designed to evade U.S. and South Korean officials, who usually detect and report North Korean missile tests shortly after they occur, did not publish statements until after the North Korean state media announcement.  In a statement, the U.S. military said it was aware of the reported launches and is monitoring and consulting closely with its allies and partners. “This activity highlights DPRK’s continuing focus on developing its military program and the threats that poses to its neighbors and the international community,” the statement read.  In a statement to VOA, South Korea’s military confirmed the launch, saying it is conducting a “detailed analysis in close coordination with South Korean and U.S. intelligence agencies.” It is North Korea’s first known missile launch since March, when it also appeared to test cruise missile technology. That test was only confirmed by U.S. officials after the first reports of the test appeared in The Washington Post.North Korea Conducts First Launch of 2021 Test is routine, US officials insist Cruise missiles are harder to detect than the ballistic missiles typically launched by North Korea, since they fly at a relatively low altitude and can be controlled in-flight. “This is another system that is designed to fly under missile defense radars or around them,” Jeffrey Lewis, an expert in nuclear nonproliferation with the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, said on Twitter. Nuclear-capable? North Korean state media referred to the cruise missiles as “strategic,” implying a nuclear capability. Some defense experts are not sure whether that statement reflects current or eventual capabilities. “While you could say the missile will be nuclear capable, there is no known North Korean warhead for it yet,” said Melissa Hanham, an affiliate with the Stanford Center for International Security and Cooperation. Hanham stressed that she has not yet conducted analysis to estimate the size of the missile, but it does not appear North Korea has a nuclear warhead small enough to fit on it.  “They are certainly claiming to have a new cruise missile with a range and look similar to the U.S. Tomahawk,” Hanham said.  A range of 1,500 kilometers would mean that the new North Korean cruise missiles could reach all of South Korea and most of Japan. Latest test The missile represents another lethal component in North Korea’s missile arsenal, which has significantly expanded since 2019, when Pyongyang resumed major weapons tests.  Since then, North Korea appears to have test-fired at least five types of new missiles — mostly short-range ballistic missiles also designed to evade its neighbor’s defenses.  North Korea has not conducted an intercontinental ballistic missile or nuclear test since 2017, though Pyongyang has at times hinted it may do so. In January 2020, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un announced he no longer felt bound by his self-imposed moratorium on long-range ballistic missile and nuclear tests.  That moratorium was put in place during the diplomacy between Kim and former U.S. President Donald Trump.  Trump repeatedly downplayed North Korea’s short-range launches. Biden, too, in March, shrugged off North Korea’s cruise missile test, calling it “business as usual.”  Biden has not yet responded to the North’s latest test.  Under United Nations Security Council resolutions, North Korea is prohibited from any ballistic missile activity. Although those resolutions do not mention cruise missile technology, some analysts say the latest tests could still receive a tough U.S. response, given the missiles’ possible nuclear capability.  “If that is the case, then the test is deserving of an international effort to strengthen sanctions,” said Leif-Eric Easley, a professor at Ewha University in Seoul.  Stalled talks Negotiations between the U.S. and North Korea broke down in 2019 over disagreements on how to pace sanctions relief with steps to dismantle North Korea’s nuclear program.  The Biden administration has repeatedly said it is open to resuming talks with North Korea, but for now North Korea’s focus appears elsewhere. For the past year and a half, North Korea has imposed a strict pandemic lockdown, sealing its borders, cutting imports, and restricting domestic travel. 

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North Korea Test-fires Long-range Cruise Missile, State Media Says

North Korea carried out successful tests of a new long-range cruise missile over the weekend, its state media, KCNA, said on Monday, amid a protracted standoff with the United States over denuclearization.The missiles flew 1,500 km (930 miles) before hitting their targets and falling into the country’s territorial waters during the tests held on Saturday and Sunday, KCNA said.It was seen as the North’s first missile launch after it tested a new tactical short-range ballistic missile in March. North Korea also conducted a cruise missile test just hours after U.S. President Joe Biden took office in late January.The latest test highlighted steady progress in Pyongyang’s weapons program amid gridlock over talks aimed at dismantling the North’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs in return for U.S. sanctions relief. The talks have stalled since 2019.Rodong Sinmun, the ruling Workers’ Party’s official newspaper, ran photos of the new long-range cruise missile flying and being fired from a launcher.North Korea tested a “newly developed long-range cruise missile,” according to its Rodong Sinmun newspaper. Tests allegedly happened Saturday and Sunday, but we never heard about them from US or South Korean authorities. pic.twitter.com/puPaPLegtY— William Gallo (@GalloVOA) September 12, 2021The missile is a strategic weapon that has been developed over the past two years and is a key element of a five-year plan outlined in January to advance defense science and arsenals, KCNA said.The test provides “strategic significance of possessing another effective deterrence means for more reliably guaranteeing the security of our state and strongly containing the military maneuvers of the hostile forces,” KCNA said.”In this course, detailed tests of missile parts, scores of engine ground thrust tests, various flight tests, control and guidance tests, warhead power tests etc. were conducted with success,” KCNA added.North Korean leader Kim Jong Un did not appear to have attended the test, with KCNA saying Pak Jong Chon, a member of the Workers’ Party’s powerful politburo and a secretary of its central committee, oversaw it.The reclusive North has long accused the United States and South Korea of a “hostile policy” toward Pyongyang.The unveiling of the test came just a day before chief nuclear negotiators from the United States, South Korea and Japan meet in Tokyo to explore ways to break the standoff with North Korea.China’s foreign minister, Wang Yi, is also scheduled to visit Seoul on Tuesday for talks with his counterpart, Chung Eui-yong.Biden’s administration has said it is open to diplomacy to achieve North Korea’s denuclearization but has shown no willingness to ease sanctions.Sung Kim, the U.S. envoy for North Korea, said in August in Seoul that he was ready to meet with North Korean officials “anywhere, at any time.”A reactivation of inter-Korean hotlines in July raised hopes for a restart of the negotiations, but the North stopped answering calls as annual South Korea-U.S. military exercises began last month, which Pyongyang had warned could trigger a security crisis.

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Why China Would Give More Aid, Investment to Leery Philippines

The Philippines will get more aid and investment from China, Chinese officials say, as analysts believe assistance given so far has failed to meet Filipinos’ expectations and Beijing doesn’t want the Southeast Asian country to depend too much on the United States, China’s rival.“China is willing to work with the Philippines to implement more cooperation projects and allow the people in both countries to benefit more from bilateral cooperation,” the Chinese Foreign Affairs Ministry said in an August 27 statement issued after a tele-summit between Chinese President Xi Jinping and Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte.According to the statement, Xi added that his country’s cooperation with the Philippines would “make more contributions to regional peace and prosperity.”  After Duterte and Xi met in Beijing in 2016, auguring a new Sino-Philippine friendship, China pledged $24 billion in aid that was expected to speed infrastructure renewal work in the relatively poor Southeast Asian country. China was already known for building infrastructure across Eurasia as a way to open trade routes.China has offered several billion dollars’ worth of investment in Philippine railways among other projects, helped the country explore for undersea oil, sent COVID-19 vaccines and donated arms to fight Muslim rebels who periodically attack government positions in the archipelago’s southernmost islands.Many Filipinos, though, believe this support has fallen short of Beijing’s original pledge, especially against the backdrop of a festering South China Sea maritime sovereignty dispute that exploded in March when 220 Chinese fishing vessels moored at a contested islet, analysts in Manila say.Chinese ‘Flotilla’ in Contested Waters Further Sours Once-Upbeat RelationsManila concerned over presence of 220 finishing boats near a reef in the Spratly Islands, demands their removal“It’s kind of like maybe the Chinese side really wanting to make sure that the bilateral relations will remain stable and maintain the current momentum going forward – avoid disruptions,” said Aaron Rabena, research fellow at the Asia-Pacific Pathways to Progress Foundation in Metro Manila.Xi discussed aid with Duterte the tele-summit and pledged on the call to help further with infrastructure projects and COVID-19 relief.Duterte said in a statement that day he looks forward to China’s “continued support for landmark projects,” including flood control work, a railway north of Manila and two key bridges.Some earlier Chinese-funded projects are still in the pipeline or may be stalled by Philippine bureaucracy, Rabena said.Aid as pledged in 2016 was seen then as part of China’s bid for friendship with the Philippines, a historic U.S. ally. Duterte pushed back against Washington in the early part of his six-year presidential term as he pursued a multicountry foreign policy but pivoted back this year by lifting an order to cancel the U.S.-Philippine Visiting Forces Agreement of 1999.Philippines Says US Visiting Forces Agreement to Remain in EffectDuterte retracts termination letter sent last yearDuterte’s renewed support for that agreement probably worries China, Rabena said.“You could say that the relationship between the two countries[China and the Philippines] [is] not as quiet and rosy as they were in the past five years,” said Jay Batongbacal, international maritime affairs professor at the University of the Philippines in Quezon City.U.S. forces regularly train their Philippine counterparts to fight in the South China Sea, if needed, and the Visiting Forces Agreement gives U.S. troops easy access to the Philippines.Beijing claims about 90% of the 3.5 million-square-kilometer sea, overlapping waters the Philippines and four other governments also claim.Chinese officials point to documents dating back more than 1,000 years as support for their maritime claim. Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam cite a United Nations convention to back their own. Taiwan claims most of the sea as well. Claimant governments prize the sea for fisheries, fossil fuel reserves and marine shipping lanes.Most Filipinos questioned Duterte’s overtures to China that began in 2016, according to a poll two years later by the Quezon City-based research organization Social Weather Stations.“Assuming Beijing even follows through on any of its supposed aid pledges, the Filipino public and military are strongly pro-American and would most likely resent Xi Jinping trying to buy them off,” said Sean King, vice president of the Park Strategies political consultancy in New York.Duterte, who must step down in mid-2022 due to term limits, wants China to keep its aid pledges partly to give him the “political capital” to endorse a successor in next year’s election, Rabena said. 

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Country Violators to be Scrutinized by UN Human Rights Council 

The human rights records of more than 40 countries will come under scrutiny by the 47-member United Nations Human Rights Council during its upcoming four-week session.  
The session promises to be extremely busy.  Nearly 90 reports on a wide range of thematic issues will be presented.  They include torture, enforced disappearances, the right to development, slavery, the rights of people of African descent and racism. As in previous years, the council’s laser-lens focus on the way governments treat their people is expected to garner a lot of attention.  Reported abuses, some amounting to crimes against humanity, will be examined in countries such as Myanmar, Belarus, Syria, Eritrea, Burundi, Nicaragua, and Venezuela. U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michele Bachelet will present an oral update on the situation in Afghanistan Monday as a follow-up to the council’s August 24 special session on that country. The European Union, Mexico and Britain along with human rights activists have criticized the resolution that was adopted for failing to establish a robust independent mechanism to monitor violations by the Taliban. Council President Fiji Ambassador Nazhat Shameem Khan says discussion on Afghanistan has not ended with the special session. “And, really, it is a matter for states to decide whether they want to take the outcome of the special session further and achieve another result,” she said. “But I do want to note that the Security Council on the 30th of August adopted a resolution on safe passage.  It addressed human rights concerns particularly as it relates to women and children.”   Human Rights Watch executive director Kenneth Roth says he is dismayed at the council’s reluctance to take on powerful countries such as Russia and China.  He says he fears the Kremlin will not be held to account for its unprecedented crackdown on opposition parties in advance of this month’s parliamentary elections. “Ideally, we would like to have a resolution.  At minimum, there should be a joint statement.  But, again, this is a situation that just because a government is relatively powerful, should not mean that it escapes scrutiny.  And this is again a bit of a test of the council’s credibility,”  he said.Roth says the same dynamics are playing out regarding China’s abusive treatment of more than a million Uyghurs in internment camps in Xinjiang province. “China has always escaped formal scrutiny by the council.  There has never been a resolution on China.  It is time to end that, given the severity and the atrocities, the crimes against humanity being committed in Xinjiang,”  he said.China maintains the Uyghurs are being held in reeducation camps and that the vocational training they are receiving is necessary to counter terrorism and alleviate poverty.   Roth is calling on Bachelet to present a report describing the inhumane conditions under which the Uyghurs are being incarcerated and to call for the Chinese government to be held accountable. 

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