Updated: 23 min 59 sec ago
Four prisoners were killed during a riot at a northern Myanmar jail, officials said Thursday, coming on the heels of an amnesty, which saw more than 6,000 inmates released -- including high-profile Reuters reporters Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo. The unrest at Sagaing region's Shwe Bo prison began on Wednesday evening, said chief minister Myint Naing. "They were demanding for equal rights. They became anarchic," he said, adding that everything was now "under control." Myint did not say how the prisoners died. Military spokesman Zaw Min Tun said border affairs officials were called in to "control" the situation. "We heard there was some shooting," he said, adding that there were also reports of unrest in jails in Karen and Kachin states. The violence in Shwe Bo comes days after more than 6,000 people were freed in the latest round of presidential pardons -- part of an annual prisoner amnesty granted by Myanmar President Win Myint. According to local newspaper Eleven Media, prison department director Min Tun Soe said the riots were triggered over the inmate anger at not being included in the amnesty. In total, 23,000 prisoners were released in three rounds of pardons since April 17. The majority of those released are usually serving time for petty drug crimes, but Tuesday's release included Reuters reporters Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, who were jailed after reporting on the Rohingya crisis in northern Rakhine state. Myanmar has freed thousands since a military junta ceded power in 2011 after five decades of brutal repression. Former prisoners have denounced conditions in Myanmar's overcrowded prisons as abysmal.
China is "fed up" with hearing complaints from the United States about its Belt and Road program to re-create the old Silk Road, the government said on Thursday, following stinging criticism from U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. The initiative, a key thrust of President Xi Jinping's administration, has hit opposition in some countries over fears its opaque financing could lead to unsustainable debt and that it aims more to promote Chinese influence than development. China sought to tackle those concerns at a summit in Beijing last month, promising to make the program sustainable and green and follow international standards, especially regarding debt. The United States has been particularly critical, and Pompeo, speaking in London on Wednesday, slammed China for peddling "corrupt infrastructure deals in exchange for political influence" and using "bribe-fueled debt-trap diplomacy". In Beijing, Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said various people in the United States had been making "irresponsible comments" on the program, especially before the summit when, he said, such criticism reached a crescendo. "But what was the result? One hundred and fifty countries, 92 international organizations and more than 6,000 delegates from various countries attended the second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation, including 50 delegates from the United States," Geng told reporters. "I think this is the international community taking actual actions to cast a vote of confidence and support in the Belt and Road initiative, and the best response to the words and actions of the United States.” In the past two days, some Americans have been "singing the same old tune", seeking to attack and smear the program, he added. "They're not fed up with saying it; we're fed up with hearing it," he said. "I want to remind them again, don't overestimate your ability to create rumors, and don't underestimate the judgment of others. If they want to, let them continue talking. We will continue getting on with things.” The spat has fueled already tense relations between Beijing and Washington, most notably over their trade war, which the two countries have been seeking to end. Vice Premier Liu He will hold talks in Washington on Thursday and Friday aimed at salvaging a deal that appeared to be unraveling after U.S. officials accused China of backtracking on earlier commitments and President Donald Trump threatened to hike tariffs on Chinese goods on Friday.
After relentless diplomatic pressure and global outrage, fallen democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi finally decided that a pardon for two Myanmar journalists jailed for reporting on a Rohingya massacre was the only way to resolve an issue that has dogged her government for nearly 18 months. Observers say the unexpected release of the two Reuters reporters was a political decision timed to save face for the country's civilian leader, after a vigorous international campaign that saw Amal Clooney join their legal team, Time magazine put the pair on their cover, and journalism awards and honours pile up -- including the prestigious Pulitzer Prize. A presidential pardon freed Wa Lone, 33, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 29, from prison on Tuesday to a media frenzy and messages of congratulations from the White House to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. The pair spent more than 500 days behind bars under colonial-era state secrets convictions after probing the extrajudicial killing of 10 Rohingya Muslims during a military crackdown. Global attention on the reporters and the damage already done to the country's reputation were "potentially costly" to the government, said independent analyst Richard Horsey. Nobel Laureate Suu Kyi -- already seen as a pariah by many for perceived complicity in the Rohingya's plight -- provoked outcry when she refused to intervene, insisting "rule of law" must be followed. The abrupt decision to release the pair this week was made because Myanmar's leaders had "taken into consideration the long-term interest of (the) country", said government spokesman Zaw Htay. Retired Thai diplomat Kobsak Chutikul, who has worked in an advisory capacity to Suu Kyi's government, said senior officials had all known a pardon must be granted at some point but "nobody felt they could bring this up with her". Political timing was also a factor, observers say. Myanmar is due to go to the polls next year and this was a chance to "get it out of the way" beforehand rather than risk overshadowing the vote, Kobsak said. ‘Albatross Round Their Necks’ Behind the international condemnation, backroom diplomacy appears to have played a key role in convincing Suu Kyi to pardon the reporters. One man waiting among the crowds outside the gates of Yangon's notorious Insein Prison was British health expert Lord Ara Darzi, whose name barely came up during regular media coverage of the saga. A close confidant of Suu Kyi, he has regularly visited the country over the past two years in an advisory role on a Rakhine state commission. But he has known the leader for years, and hosted her in London after her release from house arrest. "From what I hear, he finally found the opportunity to convince Suu Kyi this was an albatross hanging round their necks," said Kobsak, who served alongside Darzi on another Myanmar government commission. The discussion would have taken place "behind the scenes, in quiet conversations in her house", he added. Darzi later hinted about his role to reporters at a press conference following the journalists' release. "The lesson is simple: Dialogue works even in the most difficult of circumstances," he said. Among 23,000 Freed Presidential pardons are traditionally granted around the Myanmar new year in April. Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were freed in the third amnesty in just over a week that saw a total of 23,000 prisoners released. The pair were handed a seven-year jail sentence last September, upheld first by Yangon's High Court and then the country's Supreme Court last month. Reuters maintained the duo were imprisoned in retaliation for their expose, while legal experts argued the case was riddled with irregularities. With the judicial process having run its course all the way to Myanmar's top court, Suu Kyi "may have been convinced the twisted passage of justice had been served," Yangon-based analyst David Mathieson said, calling her change of heart a "political calculation". Despite the release, observers warn against reading too much into prospects for greater press freedom in the beleaguered democracy, which began a troubled transition from military rule in 2010. "The pardon will not change the conditions that journalists (in Myanmar) are facing," said activist Cheery Zahau.
It’s a little-known fact that Sweden was the first western country to recognize the government of Vietnam, in 1969, at a time when many states were wary of ruffling the feathers of their ally, the United States, which was fighting a war in the Southeast Asian country. Sweden went on to become the biggest foreign donor in Vietnam, which faced international isolation in the 1980s leading up to the 1990s, when Washington lifted its economic embargo on Hanoi. Now Stockholm and Hanoi are marking their 50 year anniversary with what they call a shift from aid to trade. Vietnam sees some potential pointers from Sweden, a small country with social democratic policies that is home to many companies people may not realize have Swedish roots: Skype, Spotify, and Ericsson, as well as Ikea, Volvo, and H&M. Sustainable trade The Crown Princess of Sweden, Victoria Ingrid Alice Desiree, brought a delegation to Hanoi this week to try some Vietnamese bun bo noodles and conical hats, as well as to promote commerce that is good for the environment. “I would like to stress that sustainability and trade are not mutually exclusive,” the crown princess said, adding that, on the contrary, sustainable trade is the only option going forward. That is in contrast to global trade after the first industrial revolution, when businesses did not mind burning fossil fuels and filling garbage dumps — known in economics as a classic externality, because the culprit does not suffer the direct impact of its pollution. A different Kind of industrialization As Vietnam industrializes, some hope it will do things differently from the west’s old polluting industries. It can join the “circular economy” that wastes fewer raw inputs, with more emphasis on putting materials back into the business process. Swedish firms have been looking for ways to clean up their act. H&M, for example, allows shoppers to bring back clothes for recycling, although that can give them an excuse to consume even more new products. The fashion retailer also aims to source from factories that treat and reuse wastewater. Ikea will ban single-use plastic from its stores by next year and find new uses for plastic so that it doesn’t end up in the ocean. The plastic efforts are an example of areas where big corporations may have a bigger impact than the individuals who have stopped using plastic straws and plastic bags to do their part. A Swedish model Vietnamese Deputy Prime Minister Pham Binh Minh said Sweden was a small country that turned to foreign trade and industrialized responsibly. “That is a lesson Vietnam wants to learn from Sweden,” he said. Relations between the two countries used to be underpinned by Sweden’s official aid money to Vietnam, money that went toward common goals like gender equality. The Swedish crown princess, for example, is next in line to the throne because her country revised a law that had restricted royal succession to males. In Vietnam, Sweden has supported equality programs in areas from agriculture, such as training female farmers to market their products, to Wikipedia, where there are more biographies of men than of women. Business partners But today the focus is changing from development assistance to business development. Instead of getting aid from Sweden, Vietnam is getting investment, whether it’s Spotify launching its music streaming app in the communist country in 2018, or Electrolux selling air conditioners and washing machines to the emerging middle class. The change is also indicative of broader trends in Vietnam, generally shifting from cash assistance from foreign countries, to doing business with them. Among Vietnam’s many new trade deals is the European Union-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement, which Swedish officials also touted on their visit this week to increase cross-border commerce. Such commerce, including more technology investment, could help Vietnam move up from lower middle income status. “How to escape the middle income trap in a rapidly changing global economy,” Fulbright scholar Vu Thanh Tu Anh told an audience of Vietnamese and Swedish businesses this week. “That is our objective.”
China says it has "made all necessary preparations" if the United States follows through on a pledge to impose a new set of tariffs on Chinese goods, as its chief trade negotiator arrives in Washington for another round of talks aimed at ending its trade war. Vice Premier Liu He, President Xi Jinping's top economic advisor, will sit down with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin Thursday, a day before tariffs increase from 10 percent to 25 percent on $200 billion worth of Chinese imports. U.S. President Donald Trump set the Friday deadline to raise tariffs after the United States accused China of reneging earlier this week on commitments made during months of talks to end their trade war. "They broke the deal. So they're flying in. The vice premier tomorrow is flying in, but they broke the deal. They can't do that. So they'll be paying," Trump told supporters at a rally in Florida. Earlier Wednesday, Trump said he would be "happy" to maintain tariffs on Chinese imports, and added that Beijing would be mistaken if it hopes to negotiate trade later with a Democratic presidential administration. Chinese Commerce Ministry spokesman Gao Feng told reporters in Beijing Thursday that China will not bow to any pressure, and warned it has the "determination and ability to defend its own interests." The ministry issued an earlier statement vowing to take any "necessary" countermeasures if the tax is implemented. The Trump administration hopes the new tariffs will force changes in China's trade, subsidy and intellectual property practices. The two sides have been unable to reach a deal due, in part, to differences over the enforcement of an agreement and a timeline for removing the tariffs.
Donald Trump on Wednesday suggested South Korea was “rich as hell and probably doesn’t like us too much,” firing the latest shot in a dispute over how to share the cost of the U.S. troop presence here. Trump did not specifically name South Korea in his comments during a political rally in Florida. But the figures Trump cited match his previous complaints about Seoul, and analysts said there is little doubt who Trump was referencing. “I won't say the country, but one country we spend a lot of money on defending — [in] very dangerous territory — and it costs us $5 billion,” Trump said. After complaining that the country in question only contributed around $500 million of that figure, Trump said: “We lose four and a half billion dollars to defend a country that's rich as hell and probably doesn't like us too much.” Trump also said he told “my people [to] call them and ask for the rest of it and they’ll pay. They’ll pay.” For decades Trump has criticized U.S. allies — including South Korea, Japan, and various NATO countries — for not paying enough of the cost of U.S. troops on their soil. But Trump’s Wednesday comment was directed specifically at South Korea, says David Maxwell, a retired U.S. Army Special Forces colonel who is now at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies. “It is a hopeful indicator that he did not name Korea and is just using this as campaign rhetoric,” added Maxwell. Cost-sharing dispute Trump’s comment could complicate the contentious cost-sharing negotiations between Washington and Seoul that were only temporarily addressed in February with a one-year deal that replaced the previous five-year agreement. South Korea’s Foreign Ministry did not respond to a VOA request for comment. In the past, South Korean officials have expressed confusion about Trump’s inaccurate statements on the cost-sharing dispute. South Korea agreed in February to pay $925 million to support the U.S. military presence next year. That represents an 8 percent increase from the previous year — much less than the 50 percent spike Trump had demanded. But days later, Trump claimed he had convinced South Korea to double its share. Trump says $5 billion is needed annually to pay for U.S. troops and bases in South Korea. Most estimates put that figure closer to $2 billion. In February, Trump incorrectly said 40,000 U.S. troops are in South Korea. The Pentagon says roughly 28,000 troops are in South Korea to help deter North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Trump on alliances According to a 2018 Gallup poll, 80 percent of South Koreans have a favorable view of the United States. In contrast, just 44 percent of South Koreans have confidence in Trump, the poll found. During his 2016 presidential campaign, Trump repeatedly questioned the value of U.S. alliances with countries including South Korea, saying they should pay their “fair share” of the costs of U.S. troop deployments. South Korea rejects Trump’s notion it doesn’t contribute enough toward the cost of the U.S. troops, insisting it pays almost half of the total cost of $2 billion. That doesn’t include the expense of rent-free land for U.S. military bases, Seoul says. In 2017, South Korea spent 2.6 percent of its gross domestic product on military expenditures, according to World Bank data. That is a bigger percentage than any NATO member, except for the United States. South Korea also paid for over 90 percent of the cost to build Camp Humphreys, the largest U.S. overseas military base, just 65 kilometers south of Seoul, according to U.S. officials.
South Korea’s military says North Korea has fired at least one unidentified projectile from its western area. It’s the second such launch in the last five days. The projectile was fired about 4:30 p.m. (0730 GMT) from a location in North Korea’s northwest toward the east, the South’s Joint Chiefs said in a statement. The South’s Joint Chiefs of Staff had no other immediate details of the Thursday afternoon launch. North Korea and the United States are deadlocked in diplomacy meant to rid the North of its nuclear arsenal. The launch came hours after the North through its state media described its earlier firing of rocket artillery and an apparent short-range ballistic missile Saturday as a regular and defensive military exercise and ridiculed South Korea for criticizing the launches.
U.S. lawmakers used an event at the Capitol Wednesday night to praise Taiwan as an ally and a healthy alternative to China. Relations between Washington and Beijing have been strained because of a growing trade dispute, China’s unwillingness to democratize and the threat of the spread of its illiberal influence as it reaches more regions of the world. Wednesday marked the 40th anniversary of the enactment of the Taiwan Relations Act, which provides a framework for continuing bilateral ties after Washington established official diplomatic ties with Beijing in 1979. In praise of Taiwan Some lawmakers used the occasion to praise relations between Washington and Taipei. “We have to stick with the folks that are most like us and that we are most like, that is just how it has to be, and we should be unafraid to say it,” Congressman Scott Perry, a Republican who represents Pennsylvania, said. “If we want to be leaders in the world and we do, we have to stick with our friends and our allies very closely and show the world who we believe in and where our allegiances lie,” Perry said. “We still want to trade with China, we still want to be good partners, however, we have a better partner.” Perry told VOA that Taiwan is a natural partner and ally “especially compared to the government of China.” He quickly added that it is important to clarify that there’s a difference between the government of China and the people of China, “because there are many Chinese people who also agree with our values.” Bipartisan, bicameral gathering House Speaker Nancy Pelosi also attended the event, which she described as a “celebration of the relationship” between the United States and Taiwan. Pelosi pointed to the congressional members who were present at the event as evidence of “bipartisan, bicameral expression and manifestation of support and recognition of the importance of the Taiwan Relations Act,” which she described as having fostered an “unshakable bond between the United States and Taiwan.” She also spoke about how impressed she was with the “vitality of the country” on her visit to the island, adding, “I can’t wait to go back again … my understanding is, the best Chinese food in the world is in Taiwan!” The event, co-hosted by Taiwan Causes in both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, drew more than two dozen senators and congressmen. Humbled by US support As the event concluded, Stanley Kao, Taiwan’s representative to the United States, told VOA that he was humbled by the broad show of support for Taiwan among U.S. lawmakers. Kao said Taiwan will continue to uphold the values that endear it to the United States and other democracies around the world. “We ourselves must zheng-qi,” he said, invoking the traditional Chinese phrase meaning “fight for and be worthy of one’s own breath.”
North Korea on Thursday described its firing of rocket artillery and an apparent short-range ballistic missile over the weekend as a regular and defensive military exercise and ridiculed South Korea for criticizing the launches. North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency published a statement by an unnamed military spokesman who called South Korea’s criticism a “cock-and-bull story,” hours before senior defense officials from South Korea, United States and Japan met in Seoul to discuss the North Korean launches and other security issues. A separate statement by a North Korean foreign ministry spokesman described the launches as a “routine and self-defensive military drill.” South Korea’s presidential Blue House and Defense Ministry have raised concern that Saturday’s launches went against the spirit of an inter-Korean military agreement reached last year to cease all hostile activities and urged North Korea to refrain from acts that could escalate tensions. North Korean state media on Sunday showed leader Kim Jong Un observing live-fire drills of long-range multiple rocket launchers and what appeared to be a new short-range ballistic missile fired from a launch vehicle. South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff a day earlier said it detected North Korea firing multiple projectiles toward the sea from near the eastern town of Wonsan. The launches, which likely represented North Korea’s first ballistic missile launch in more than 500 days, were clearly a sign of Pyongyang’s frustration at stalled diplomatic talks with Washington meant to provide coveted sanctions relief in return for nuclear disarmament. They also highlighted the fragility of the detente between the Koreas, which in a military agreement reached last September vowed to completely cease “all hostile acts” against each other in land, air and sea. The North Korean statements implied that Saturday’s weapons launches counter joint military drills conducted by the United States and South Korea in March and April. The North also criticized the test of a U.S. Minuteman intercontinental ballistic missile from a U.S. Air Force base in California last week. While the United States and South Korea have stopped their annual large-scale military exercises and replaced them with smaller exercises since last year to create room for diplomacy, the North has still criticized the South for continuing joint drills with the United States. The statement by the North Korean military spokesman said the South’s military has “no qualification” to vilify the North when they “staged a provocative combined air drill against the sovereign state together with the U.S.” and kept silence about the Minuteman test that it said was meant to threaten the North.
Malaysian prosecutors are seeking the forfeiture of millions of dollars in cash and assets seized from disgraced former prime minister Najib Razak, his family, and others, the state news agency Bernama reported on Wednesday. Prosecutors named Najib, his wife Rosmah Mansor, his stepson Riza Aziz, and the couple's two other children among 18 respondents in a notice of motion filed at the Kuala Lumpur High Court on Tuesday, Bernama reported. Najib said the forfeiture action was being used by authorities to delay or avoid returning the assets, which he said were mostly cash belonging to his political party and gifts from various friends and family. "It is also being used to allow them to continue telling lies and propaganda against me," he said in a Facebook post Wednesday. Rosmah's lawyer did not respond to a request for comment on the filing. Legal representatives for Riza and other family members named in the motion were not immediately available for comment. Since losing a general election in May last year, Najib has been charged with 42 criminal offenses, mostly linked to a multibillion-dollar scandal at 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), a state fund he founded in 2009. Authorities have seized cash and luxury goods worth about $275 million from properties linked to Najib, who denies any wrongdoing. The latest motion concerned cash and assets - including property, vehicles, luxury handbags, watches and shoes - seized from the respondents between May 2018 and March 2019, Bernama reported. Prosecutors say they were related to alleged money laundering or the result of illegal activities involving the respondents, Bernama said. A date for the forfeiture hearing has not yet been fixed, it added. Authorities in six countries are investigating alleged money laundering and graft at 1MDB. U.S. prosecutors estimate that about $4.5 billion was misappropriated from 1MDB by high-level officials at the fund and their associates. According to Bernama, other respondents named in the forfeiture suit include Goh Gaik Ewe, the mother of Low Taek Jho, a Malaysian financier who has been charged in the United States and Malaysia for his alleged central role in the 1MDB case. Goh and Low's whereabouts are unknown, though Low has consistently denied wrongdoing. A spokesman for Low did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the latest motion. The suit also named Malaysian Roger Ng, a former Goldman Sachs banker, who has been charged over his role in helping the bank raise bonds totaling $6.5 billion for 1MDB, some of which were allegedly misappropriated. Last week, Ng was extradited to the United States where he pleaded not guilty to conspiring to launder money and bribe foreign government officials. Goldman Sachs has consistently denied wrongdoing and said certain members of the former Malaysian government and 1MDB lied to it about how the bond proceeds would be used.
A senior U.S. State Department official said there is no need for President Donald Trump to sign an executive order to explicitly ban Chinese telecommunication company Huawei from taking part in the buildout of the U.S. 5G networks. The four largest U.S. telecom carriers — Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint — have agreed not to use Huawei in any part of their 5G networks, said Ambassador Robert Strayer, deputy assistant secretary of state for cyber and international communications and information policy. Strayer spoke with VOA about U.S. 5G policy and security concerns over Huawei. He also said the United States will only use trusted vendors, including South Korea’s Samsung, Sweden’s Ericsson and Finland’s Nokia, in the buildout of the U.S. 5G networks. The following is an edited excerpt of the interview: VOA: VOA broadcasts to many countries in Africa and Asia. These are places eager to develop their economies with high-tech communications. What does the U.S. say to those countries, which are eager for 5G and see the most attractive equipment and financing packages for those networks are all Chinese? If countries resist the Huawei offer, how many years back does that set their 5G networks? What would be the alternatives? Deputy Assistant Secretary Robert Strayer: All around the world, we’re all very excited to see the promise of 5G technology. It’s going to empower things like telemedicine, autonomous vehicles, autonomous manufacturing, and including autonomous transportation networks in general. So it’s going to be very important that network be incredibly secure because of all the critical infrastructure that’s going to ride on top of it. We know that there are a number of vendors besides Chinese technology vendors that are providing the equipment, the underlying infrastructure for 5G networks. Those include Samsung in South Korea, Ericsson in Sweden and Nokia in Finland. So we believe those are trusted vendors. We have grave concerns about the Chinese vendors because they can be compelled by the National Intelligence Law in China as well as other laws in China to take actions that would not be in the interests of the citizens of other countries around the world. Those networks could be disrupted or their data could be taken and be used for purposes that would not be consistent with fundamental human rights in those countries. VOA: But it’s going to be a difficult choice. China is offering a great deal, in some cases 0% interest loans, 20-year payment plans, and what are the alternative plans like? Is there an analogy that you have that can show how turning down that kind of offer for something like 5G is actually in their long-term interest? Strayer: We think that there should be commercially reasonable terms applied to financing deals. There’s obviously private financing available from telecom companies, but there are also a number of multinational, multilateral development banks providing potential sources of financing for infrastructure deals around the world. We don’t think that countries need to adhere to, be left with only the predatory lending terms that are often offered by the Chinese Development Bank and other financing mechanisms that the Chinese companies are offering. Zero percent interest for 20 years is not commercially reasonable. It comes with huge strings attached. In fact, many of these things aren’t even transparent enough for countries to know what they’re signing up to. We’re encouraging countries to think carefully about how they will move into 5G, make sure that they’re applying and signing up to financing terms that are commercially reasonable and ones that they can pay back in the long term. We know of stories, of course, of ports being used as collateral in some of these financing deals, so countries could lose access to their very critical infrastructure under the terms of some of these deals. So we think that while 5G has huge promise and we should move quickly to it, we’re not in any way slowing ourselves down by going with vendors that are more trustworthy, and under financing conditions that are probably concessionary but are not at the level of some of these deals that are in no way reasonable in any type of commercial sense. VOA: If Washington is asking other countries to ban Huawei from their 5G networks, why hasn’t the U.S. done so? I mean, the president has not signed an executive order on a comprehensive ban on Huawei, not just in the government, but in the private sector as well. Is the U.S. credibility at stake? How certain are you that the U.S. will ban Huawei equipment from its 5G network? Strayer: So in our view, we don’t need to have a legal mechanism to ban Huawei in our private sector networks. The four largest U.S. telecom carriers have already agreed that they will not use Huawei or ZTE in any part of their 5G networks and they’re not using it in their 4G networks. So we don’t think that we need a legal tool to force them to do so. In addition, last year in the National Defense Law that was enacted at the end of the year, the government was prohibited — our U.S. government is prohibited from using these high-risk vendors. VOA: Chinese Vice Premier Liu He is coming to Washington this week for the latest round of trade negotiation with the U.S. There are allegations against Huawei for stealing U.S. intellectual property. How should Huawei and 5G be discussed in the bilateral trade talks? Could they be hurdles for the two nations to reach a deal? Strayer: I just want to be very clear that everything we’re talking about with countries around the world is about a national security threat that we see facing now, and that we think could have significant economic implications for them as well. We are not talking about this in the context of trade. And I would just mention, too, that the concerns we have about Huawei that are well-documented are related to corruption, related to the theft of intellectual property, and related to defying sanctions, and using basically money-laundering schemes, have raised great concern about that company itself, but they’re not part of our trade discussions. VOA: Is the U.S. lagging China in developing 5G infrastructure? Strayer: No. We think we’re leading the world. By the end of this year, we’ll have 90 trials rolled out across the United States. We’ve already seen them being rolled out by Verizon and AT&T. We think we are actually leading the world in this field and we’re using only vendors from those three countries I mentioned that are trusted vendors, not the ones in China. VOA: Thank you for talking to VOA. Strayer: Thank you.
Russia Today’s documentary, “My Mother Sold Me”, which aired in October 2017, depicted a young Cambodian woman selling her daughter’s virginity. The film went viral – but it wasn’t good news for Cambodian fixer, Rath Rott Mony, who worked for RT. Cambodian authorities labeled if fake news and jailed him for “incitement to discriminate.” Now, Mony’s family says the Russian government, which bankrolls RT, should be working to get him free. VOA Khmer’s Chetra Chap reports.
What is extradition? Extradition is the formal process, established by a bilateral or multilateral treaty, that allows one country to return a criminal to face prosecution or punishment in the country where the crime was committed. What is contained in an extradition treaty? Modern treaties consider as extraditable any action that is considered a crime in both countries. Most nations make exceptions, however, such as in the case of political or military actions. Some countries also refuse to extradite individuals who may face the death penalty or life in prison, but they might make exceptions if the requesting authority pledges not to impose those penalties. Many states also will not extradite their own citizens to face punishment in another country. How does the US extradition process work? To extradite a person from the U.S.: the country requesting the extradition must submit a request to the U.S. State Department along with details about the subject, the crime and evidence. The request is then passed on to the Justice Department, which reviews the case to make sure it complies with the treaty in place. If so, a warrant is obtained, the person is arrested and brought before a federal judge or magistrate. After that, it is up to the court to decide if there is a probable cause for the person to be extradited. The case then goes back to the State Department, and the Secretary of State has the final say. To extradite a person to the U.S.: a state or federal prosecutor must first determine if the case is worth pursuing. If it is so determined, a request is sent to the Justice Department, which must determine the case's merit. If approved it is then sent to the State Department, which sends it on to the relevant U.S. embassy. It is then turned over to the proper authorities in the country of refuge. If the extradition request is approved, the U.S. Marshals Service is often sent to escort the fugitive to the United States. Interpol red notice: Any country that belongs to the international police organization, and has a valid arrest warrant or court order, can request what is known as a red notice for a wanted individual. The red notice puts all police departments and border agencies on alert. If the subject of the red notice is found, the arresting country can initiate extradition proceedings. Which countries have extradition treaties with the US? The U.S. has extradition treaties with more than half the nations of the world, including most of Europe and all of Central and South America. It does not have treaties, though, with dozens of others, including China, Iran, North Korea, and Russia, as well as many African, Middle Eastern, and former Soviet nations. But not having a treaty in place does not mean nationals of those countries cannot be extradited. In those cases, fugitive-return requests are evaluated on a case-by-case basis. Extradition case in the news right now On Wednesday, a top Chinese technology executive is set to appear in a Canadian court as she continues to fight extraction to the U.S. Huawei Technologies Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou, who also is the daughter of the company's founder, was arrested in December at the Vancouver airport at Washington's request. U.S. officials have charged Meng with bank and wire fraud related to Huawei's business with Iran, which is under sanctions from the United States. Meng has denied any wrongdoing.
North Korea's "strike drill" last week at which leader Kim Jong Un oversaw the launch of rockets and at least one short-range ballistic missile was "regular and self-defensive," the country's foreign ministry said on Wednesday. "The recent drill conducted by our army is nothing more than part of the regular military training, and it has neither targeted anyone nor led to an aggravation of the situation in the region," an unidentified ministry spokesperson said in a statement to the state-run KCNA news agency. Acting U.S. Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan told a congressional hearing on Wednesday that North Korea launched "rockets and missiles," the first time the Pentagon has detailed what it believes Pyongyang fired. Saturday's drill was the first test of a ballistic missile by North Korea since it launched a long-range intercontinental ballistic missile in November 2017. It came in the wake of talks with the United States and South Korea stalling in February, and raised alarms in both countries, which have been seeking to entice the North into abandoning its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs. Seoul responded on Saturday by calling on its northern neighbor to "stop acts that escalate military tension on the Korean Peninsula." In a second statement carried by KCNA on Wednesday, a spokesman for the North Korean office in charge of military engagement with South Korea lashed out at Seoul over any suggestion that the rocket drills had violated an inter-Korean agreement aimed at reducing military tension. "The South Korean military should take a close look at the inter Korean military agreement and recall what it has done itself before talking nonsense that it was against the spirit of the agreement," the spokesperson said, according to KCNA. North Korea critical of U.S. test The second statement also criticized last week's test of a U.S. Minuteman intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) by the U.S. Air Force out of California over the Pacific, saying South Korea was in no position to criticize North Korea. "The South Korean military has no right to say a word to its fellow countrymen when it acted like a mute who ate honey when the United States fired a Minuteman ICBM which threatens us," the military spokesman said. According to a subsequent English-language report on KCNA, the spokesman also took aim at Seoul for staging "provocative" combined air drills with the United States and for allowing the stationing of a U.S. THAAD anti-missile system on its territory. It also appeared to hint at the possibility of more weapons tests, saying: "The south Korean military were astonished by the recent strike drill. It might fall into a swoon to see a strike drill involving more powerful cutting-edge weapons." U.S. President Donald Trump, who has met with Kim twice, said on Saturday he was still confident he could have a deal with Kim, and U.S. and South Korean officials have subsequently played down last week's tests. North Korea's foreign ministry statement hit back at "spiteful remarks" about the tests from unnamed critics, warning that "baseless allegations" might "produce a result of driving us to the direction which neither we nor they want to see at all." ‘Note of warning' The ministry spokesperson said there was a double standard, with South Korea and the United States carrying out military drills with little criticism. "Only our regular and self-defensive military drill is branded as provocative, and this is an undisguised manifestation of the attempt to press the gradual disarmament of our state and finally invade us," the spokesperson said. "We think this is very much unpleasant and regrettable, and we sound a note of warning." After meeting with Kim for the first time in June last year, Trump abruptly announced he was cancelling all large-scale military exercises with South Korea. Smaller exercises have continued, however, drawing regular criticism from Pyongyang. North Korea had maintained a freeze in nuclear and ballistic missiles testing in place since 2017, a fact Trump has repeatedly pointed out as an important achievement from his engagement with Pyongyang. Denuclearisation talks with North Korea have stalled, however, after Trump and Kim met in February for a second summit but failed to reach an agreement. North Korea balked at the extent of the demands made by American negotiators, and Trump said he ended the summit early because Kim was asking for nearly all major sanctions to be lifted while offering little in return. The U.S. special envoy for North Korea, Stephen Biegun, arrived in Seoul on Wednesday for talks with South Korean officials. He did not respond to questions from journalists, but his agenda is expected to include the missile test, as well as other aspects of talks with North Korea, including plans for possible humanitarian aid.
The Pentagon said Wednesday that it has suspended a joint effort with North Korea to recover the remains of US servicemen after Pyongyang stopped communicating in the wake of the failed Hanoi summit. The effort saw the remains of more than 50 US servicemen killed in the 1950s Korean war handed over by North Korea last year in a sign of improved relations between Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un. But communications on the program halted after the two leaders failed to make progress in talks on North Korea's nuclear program in their February summit in Hanoi, according to Chuck Prichard, a spokesman for the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA). North Korean officials "have not communicated with DPAA since the Hanoi Summit," Prichard said in a statement. "As a result, our efforts to communicate with the Korean People's Army regarding the possible resumption of joint recovery operations for 2019 has been suspended." "We have reached the point where we can no longer effectively plan, coordinate, and conduct field operations" with North Korea, he said. In July 2018 Pyongyang handed over the remains of more than 50 American servicemen who were lost in North Korea territory during the Korean War of 1950-1953. The return of the remains marked the partial fulfillment of an agreement reached between Trump and Kim at their historic initial summit in Singapore in June 2018. The White House at the time called it "a significant first step" in the process of searching for an estimated 7,700 Americans considered still missing from the war, of which 5,300 were believed lost in North Korea.
Britain is eager to negotiate trade deals with the United States and China to compensate for leaving the European Union, by far the country's largest trading partner, but it is already discovering the snag of balancing geo-political requests of its traditional ally with the ambitions of Beijing, say analysts and diplomats. Beijing hopes a trade deal will not only make Britain a secure base for Chinese companies looking to enhance their global brand value and make new acquisitions, but will lead to the British becoming advocates within the West for China's interests, say China-watchers. Beijing has "high hopes of the UK acting as a cheerleader for China's global ambitions," according to Yu Jie of Britain's Chatham House. But cheerleading for China will come at the expense of its traditional alliance with the United States. Lure of Huawei The transatlantic spat over whether Britain should allow the Chinese technology giant Huawei to build parts of Britain's fifth-generation (5G) mobile network is a preview of Britain's post-Brexit dilemma. Chinese technology and investment already looks alluring enough for a Britain desperate to fashion post-Brexit trade deals to disregard U.S. security alarm over Huawei and to place short-term commercial gain ahead of its established diplomatic relations with the United States. Washington fears the Chinese telecoms giant will act as a Trojan horse for China's espionage agencies, allowing them to sweep up data and gather intelligence, compromising not only Britain's security, but also America's, say U.S. officials. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo reiterated Washington's alarm in meetings Wednesday with Prime Minister Theresa May and British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt in London. Pompeo has warned Western allies to shun Huawei or risk losing intelligence-sharing arrangements with Washington. U.S. officials say a failure to reverse the decision will harm Britain's much vaunted special relationship with America. The United States has blocked Huawei from government communication systems, but Washington has not yet banned Chinese telecommunications gear from civilian networks. That’s partly because some American carriers in rural areas already use Huawei equipment. May provisionally gave the go-ahead last month for the Chinese tech giant's involvement in developing the 5G network. She did so in the face of opposition from her security and foreign ministers, amid the dire U.S. warnings. A White House official told VOA the issue will likely be raised during U.S. President Donald Trump's state visit next month to Britain. Australia and New Zealand have decided to block or heavily restrict using Huawei's technology in developing their 5G networks. Huawei denies being controlled by the Chinese government and says its equipment can't be used for espionage. British officials dismiss claims May's decision was made in Britain's search for post-Brexit trade deals. But critics say if Britain is going to strike a trade deal with China after leaving the European Union, Huawei will likely play a major role and London could ill-afford to offend Beijing by blocking the telecom giant. Huawei, one of China's biggest exporters, has pledged to spend $4 billion on British products and services. The critics worry the Huawei decision is part of the pattern of a Chinese government that attaches political strings to commercial deals. 'Easy prey for Beijing' A post-Brexit Britain will be "easy prey for Beijing," fears Ed Lucas, a commentator for Britain's The Times newspaper. He argues London will be in a position of weakness in negotiating bilateral trade deals and there is a high risk of a "hard-pressed and isolated Britain being bossed around by China's Communist Party." "On most fronts, Britain is already quite prepared to grovel," he said, pointing to the visit last month of Britain's finance minister, Philip Hammond, to a conference in China. In Beijing, Hammond praised the "truly epic ambition" of China's Belt and Road Initiative, a massive trillion-dollar trade, investment and infrastructure program launched in 2015 to spur trade along land and sea routes linking Asia, Africa and Europe, that is prompting Western concern. The European Union last month dubbed China a "systemic rival." Britain's previous Conservative government also looked toward China for commercial deals. Hard-pressed from the fallout of the 2008 financial crash, it too was attracted by Chinese investment, and in 2013 became the first Western country to join the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. The move was condemned by the administration of then-U.S. President Barack Obama, with a senior U.S. official complaining to the London-based Financial Times about Britain's failure to maintain a united front and its "constant accommodation" of China. As Britain re-thinks its place in the world, it appears to be hedging its bets when it comes to choosing between Washington and Beijing, says Jonathan Shaw, the former head of cybersecurity at Britain's defense ministry, a critic of May's Huawei decision. "We are facing a new technological Cold War between China and America, and America has asked us to choose," he told a London radio program.
If a rising tide lifts all boats, then Vietnam may find that there is a related saying in economics: when the tide goes out, you will see who was swimming naked. The Southeast Asian country has fared fairly well amid the trade frictions around the world, with its foreign investment and gross domestic product continuing to grow. But even Vietnam is not immune if a recession hits the global economy, as some are expecting, which is why they are bracing for a hard landing. News this week that U.S. President Donald Trump plans to increase tariffs on Chinese goods has just added to the frictions, sending Asian stock markets plummeting. An economic downturn — in other words, the tide going out — could expose vulnerabilities for Vietnam, the equivalent of those swimming naked. Most analysts are forecasting slower GDP growth for Vietnam in the year ahead. Economic slowdown ahead It “is important to recognize that the region continues to face heightened pressures that began in 2018 and that could still have an adverse impact,” said Andrew Mason, who is acting as the chief economist for the World Bank in the East Asia and Pacific region. “Continued uncertainty stems from several factors, including further deceleration in advanced economies, the possibility of a faster-than-expected slowdown in China, and unresolved trade tensions.” His office projects the Vietnamese economy will expand 6.6 percent in 2019, while researchers at Capital Economics peg growth at an even lower rate of 6 percent year-on-year. That compares with the annualized rate of 7.1 percent in 2018. The pending slowdown, if it comes, would be due to a variety of reasons, not least among them global demand. If more and more countries see their economies decelerate — because of the trade wars or otherwise — they will buy fewer goods from Vietnam. As an export-led economy based on factory products, Vietnam is extremely sensitive to the knock-on effects of foreign trade and consumption. Another key risk factor for the economy is the portfolio of state-owned enterprises. The government has not divested its shares in the enterprises as quickly as planned. At the same time it faces a growing burden from tax and spending needs. Public debt and a budget deficit “Fiscal policy is also likely to become less supportive. Vietnam has one of the highest levels of public debt and the largest budget deficit in the region,” Capital Economics, an economic research company, said in a note to investors. “Tighter policy, in the form of slower spending growth and higher taxes, is needed to bring debt levels down to more sustainable levels.” Both the company and the World Bank agree that, besides public debt, private debt poses a notable challenge in the country as well, especially at banks. Lenders have not completely offloaded their non-performing loan problem, which refers to loans that are unlikely to be repaid. That contributes to tightening credit, which can be a blessing and a curse. “On the plus side, weaker credit demand is needed to reduce risks in the financial sector and put the economy on a more sustainable footing,” Capital Economics wrote. “But in the near term a slowdown in credit growth will drag on consumption and investment growth.” Large trade deals All of this comes during a transition period for Vietnam, which is preparing for new trade deals like the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership and the European Union-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement. Academic researchers Tran Thi Bich Nhan and Do Thi Minh Huong say the transition period will create plenty of opportunities, but not everyone will come out ahead. “In terms of society, the increased competition from participating in FTAs can push some companies in developing countries, primarily state-owned enterprises and companies with outdated production technology, into difficulties, bringing along the possibility of unemployment for a portion of the workforce,” Nhan and Huong wrote in the finance ministry's official newspaper. If Vietnam adds to that a slowdown in the global economy, workers and other vulnerable groups are most likely to be hardest hit. While the overall impact of a recession is generally negative, some say there is a silver lining. When the tide goes out, it can help distinguish between the efficient and inefficient companies, distinguish between an economy’s strengths and the weaknesses to be addressed. But no one expects it to be a pleasant process.
Chinese Vice Premier Liu He arrives in Washington this week for trade talks as the United States prepares to raise tariffs on Chinese goods in the middle of his visit. The U.S. will boost tariffs from 10 percent to 25 percent on $200 billion worth of Chinese imports on Friday, according to a notice published Wednesday in the Federal Register from the U.S. Trade Representative’s office. The increase takes effect on the second day of Liu’s visit, but it will not dampen hopes for an agreement, at least in the mind of U.S. President Donald Trump. “China has just informed us that they (Vice-Premier) are now coming to the U.S. to make a deal,” Trump said Wednesday in a post on Twitter. Trump said he would be “happy” to maintain tariffs on Chinese imports, and added that Beijing would be mistaken if it hopes to negotiate trade later with a Democratic presidential administration. Trump set the new Friday deadline to raise tariffs after the U.S. accused China of reneging earlier this week on commitments made during months of talks to end their trade war. The administration hopes the new tariffs will force changes in China's trade, subsidy and intellectual property practices. The two sides have been unable to reach a deal due, in part, to differences over the enforcement of an agreement and a timeline for removing the tariffs.
Rights groups are calling for greater international attention on the Chinese government due to recent cases of alleged rights abuses, including the latest clampdown in Xinjiang to ban Uighurs, young and old, from fasting or observing Ramadan, which starts this week. They also denounced Beijing's treatment of prominent rights lawyer Wang Quanzhang, who has been held incommunicado since 2015. Fasting forbidden in Xinjiang In Xinjiang, Uighur households are asked to keep an eye on one another and will receive collective punishment if any of them is found to be fasting, according to Dilxat Raxit, spokesman for the exile, Germany-headquartered World Uighur Congress. Even local officials or pro-Beijing Uighurs are monitored to see if they've truly given up their own religious belief and pledged absolute loyalty to the Communist rule, which sees fasting as "a sign of extremism," Raxit said. China is believed to have categorized open or even private displays of religious affiliation —including growing an "abnormal" beard, wearing a veil or headscarf, regular prayer, fasting or avoidance of alcohol — as "signs of extremism." Across China, young Uighur students in college are asked to report to school canteens in person at least three days a week to have lunch or else they, school faculties and their parents in Xinjiang will be punished or sent to so-called "re-education centers," Raxit added. International pressure? "I fear that more and more people may be forced into re-educational concentration camps as a result of their practice of fasting during the month of Ramadan. The international society should pay more attention to the fact that Uighurs are put under a series of restrictions and systemic persecution during Ramadan," he said. Religious observance has long been monitored by authorities in Xinjiang. Since 2013, there have been more systematic efforts to enact regulations pertaining to all aspects of the practice of Islam there, from monitoring of mosques to individual dress and comportment, according to Michael Clarke, an associate professor at Australian National University's National Security College. "It appears that the 're-education' system will be an indefinite fixture of CCP [Chinese Communist Party] rule in Xinjiang," Clarke said in an email to VOA. "This has been illustrated by the fact that more facilities are being built, different types and categories of centers within the system have been more clearly delineated and that the system appears to be under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Justice," he added. Making matters worse, it appears Uighurs are not being released from the system, but shifted to different categories of internment camps within the system, said the professor. Clarke added it would be ideal if the international community via the United Nations or other multilateral organizations would issue a clear statement, declaring China's internment system unacceptable, or impose economic sanctions on officials in Xinjiang, who abuse human rights. But, he said, "there appears [to be] little prospect for action to ameliorate the situation given China's economic and strategic weight." Condemnation from Washington Last Friday, Randall Schriver, who leads Asia policy at the U.S. Defense Department, accused China of having imprisoned "at least a million, but likely close to three million citizens out of a population of 10 million" in "concentration camps" in Xinjiang. His remarks were seen as some of Washington's strongest condemnation of Beijing's treatment of Muslim minorities. But Monday, China said such comments "are a gross interference in China's internal affairs." Foreign Affairs spokesperson Geng Shuang reiterated: "the vocational and educational training institutions there were set up as a preventive approach to combat terrorism. Relevant measures were taken entirely according to law, which is endorsed and supported by people of all ethnic groups and has produced positive social effects." More rights abuses Rights activists also express grave concerns over China's continued suppression of local dissidents. Albert Ho, chairman of China Human Rights Concern Group in Hong Kong, finds it unacceptable that China continues to keep rights lawyer Wang Quanzhang inaccessible to his family. In late January, a court in Tianjin found Wang guilty of state subversion and sentenced him to four-and-a-half years in prison. According to his wife Li Wenzu, Wang was relocated to a prison in Shandong province in late April, which refuses to arrange family visits on the grounds its visiting room is under renovation. "If you let [his] wife goes [sic] into the prison cell to see him, it could still be arranged. There's no reason why the visiting room while [being] re-decorated can be excused to deprived Wang Quanzhang's rights of receiving visits by his family members," Ho said. "I think it's totally absurd and a blatant violation of the laws," he added. During a meeting Monday with five foreign diplomats, Li demanded Chinese authorities abide by the laws and arrange her meeting with Wang within a month.
The chief financial officer for Chinese tech giant Huawei will appear in a Canadian courtroom Wednesday for a new hearing about her potential extradition to the United States, where she is wanted on charges of violating U.S. sanctions on Iran. Meng Wanzhou has been free on $7 million bond since her arrest last December at the request of U.S. authorities as she changed planes in Vancouver. She has been charged with bank fraud, wire fraud and conspiracy. Meng, the daughter of Huawei founder Ren Zhangfe, has denied the charges and is suing the Canadian government, its border security agency and the national police force for rights violations. The lawsuit says Meng was detained, searched and questioned for hours before being told she was under arrest and allowed access to counsel. Her lawyers have argued the charges are politically motivated and are linked to the current negotiations between Washington and Beijing to resolve the escalating trade war between the two economic superpowers, spurred by U.S. concerns over China's trade, investment and intellectual property rights policies. U.S. officials have rejected that Meng's extradition case is related to the broader U.S.-China trade talks. China has repeatedly called on Canada to release Meng, but Canada has refused, saying the case is a legal matter, not political one. Since Meng's arrest, two Canadians have been arrested in China, and a third who was already in a Chinese prison for drug violations has seen his sentence switched from 15 years to death. It could be months, or even years, before Meng, who is under house arrest in Canada, is ever sent to the United States, since the Canadian justice system allows many of its legal decisions to be appealed. Huawei has filed a lawsuit challenging the legality of a law passed by the U.S. Congress last year that bars government agencies and contractors from doing business with the tech giant. The company says the law is "unconstitutional" because it singles out the company for penalties.