Tag Archives: East Asia

China debt to be added to key global bonds index.

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Chinese government debt is set to be included on a key global bonds index, which could see tens of billions of dollars of foreign investment in the country’s increasingly internationalised financial markets.

The move by FTSE Russell comes as trading in China becomes an increasingly controversial move in Washington as relations between the superpowers grow increasingly fraught.

But analysts said the attraction of higher yields — the yield on 10-year Chinese government bonds is 2.4 percentage points higher than US Treasuries — and a relatively stable currency have made the country an attractive prospect for investors.

Inclusion in the World Government Bond index, which could begin next October if approved, means CGBs will be a must-have asset for investment giants such as pension funds desperate for good returns as the global bond market is battered by the virus pandemic.

Pan Gongsheng, deputy governor at the central People’s Bank of China said international investments in the Chinese market had grown more than 40 percent over the past three years, with 2.8 trillion yuan ($410 billion) of Chinese bonds currently held by international investors.

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Goldman Sachs said inclusion could see up to $140 billion floods into the debt market.

AxiCorp strategist Stephen Innes said the move was “big news” which would open up China’s bond market to “a broader band of passive investors”.

This photo taken on September 24, 2020 shows workers setting up national flags along a street ahead of the upcoming National Day in Ningbo in China’s eastern Zhejiang province. (Photo by STR / AFP) / China OUT

FTSE Russell, which is owned by the London Stock Exchange, decided against including Chinese debt in the index last year owing to several worries such as liquidity and the settlement of transactions, but it said the concerns had been addressed.

In the statement its CEO Waqas Samad said authorities had “worked hard to enhance the infrastructure of their government bond market”.

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Jason Pang of JP Morgan Asset Management said that while foreign ownership of CGBs had risen to around nine percent from two percent in recent years, it is still well below the 15-30 percent seen in other Asian markets.

But he added: “It is increasingly clear that China bonds’ globalisation is simply a matter of time, further accelerated by increasingly accessible hedging options that enable investors to manage risk.

“Over the past 20 years, China’s bond market has grown more than sixtyfold to nearly $14 trillion.”

The Chinese economy has largely bounced back after a virus-induced sharp economic shock seen earlier in the year, with most people back to work after the government brought the disease largely under control through lockdowns and mass testing.


#Newsworthy…

Border War: China, India blames each other.

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Beijing accuses New Delhi of ‘severe military provocation’ but India denies its soldiers crossed the disputed border.

China and India have accused each other of firing shots on their flashpoint Himalayan border in a further escalation of military tension between the nuclear-armed Asian rivals.

The relationship between the two countries has deteriorated since a hand-to-hand combat clash in the Ladakh region on June 15 in which 20 Indian troops were killed.

Experts fear the latest incident will intensify a months-long standoff between the Asian giants that erupted in late April.

Beijing’s defence ministry accused India of “severe military provocation”, saying soldiers crossed the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in the western border region on Monday and “opened fire to threaten the Chinese border defence patrol officers”.

“According to the Chinese side, Chinese troops approached the India side for negotiations, and then they say some Indian troops fired at the Chinese side,”

“As a result, China’s military said it was forced to take countermeasures – although we don’t know what those countermeasures were, or if there were any casualties,” she added.

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India denies transgression
New Delhi was swift to give its own account, accusing Chinese border forces of “blatantly violating agreements” and firing “a few rounds in the air” to intimidate their Indian rivals.

“It is the PLA that has been blatantly violating agreements and carrying out aggressive manoeuvres,” the Indian army said in a statement on Tuesday.

“Despite the grave provocation, (our) own troops exercised great restraint and behaved in a mature and responsible manner,” the statement said.

Reporting from New Delhi NRM said that, according to India, “China’s army was trying to close in on one of India’s positions – and that when they [China] were dissuaded by their own troops, they fired in the air”.

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The countries fought a brief border war in 1962 but, officially, no shots have been fired in the area since 1975 when four Indian troops were killed in an ambush.

A spokesperson for the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) gave no specifics and did not report casualties, calling on India to investigate the incident.

India has deployed thousands of soldiers following deadly border clashes in June [File: Danish Ismail/Reuters]

China’s western military command said the incursion occurred on Monday along the southern shore of Pangong Tso Lake in the area known in Chinese as Shenpaoshan. On the Indian side, the area is known as Chushul, where the two countries’ local military commanders have held several rounds of talks to defuse the tense standoff.

Zhang Shuili, spokesperson for the Western Theater Command of the PLA, said India had violated agreements reached by the two countries and warned their actions could “easily cause misunderstandings and misjudgements”.

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China’s foreign ministry said Indian troops had illegally crossed the LAC and had been the first to fire shots. “This is a serious military provocation,” spokesman Zhao Lijian told a daily news conference in Beijing on Tuesday.

Late last month, India said its soldiers had thwarted the Chinese military’s moves “to change the status quo”, also on the southern shore of Pangong Lake, in violation of a consensus reached in past efforts to settle the standoff. In turn, China also accused Indian troops of crossing established lines of control.

Both sides have sent tens of thousands of troops to the disputed Himalayan border, which sits at an altitude of more than 4,000 metres (13,500 feet).

China said the incursion occurred on Monday along the southern coast of Pangong Lake in the area known in Chinese as Shenpaoshan [File: Manish Swarup/AP Photo]

Their troops have had several showdowns since the June 15 clash. China has also acknowledged it has had casualties but not given figures.

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Detailed border protocols in place for peaceful disengagement seem to have broken down since the June clash. India’s military has also reportedly changed its rules of engagement, allowing troops to carry guns.

Military commanders and diplomats have held several rounds of talks since July to reduce tension, but have made little progress to calm the border tensions.

Last week, defence ministers from the two countries spoke in Moscow on the sidelines of an international meeting – with both sides later releasing rival statements accusing each other of inflaming the showdown.

And earlier this week, an Indian minister said New Delhi had alerted China to allegations five men had been abducted by the PLA close to the disputed border in the northeastern Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh


#Newsworthy

Typhoon Haishen cause tree falls, knocks out power in South Korea.

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Haishen, the country’s tenth typhoon this year, brought heavy rain, strong winds to areas north of Busan.

Typhoon Haishen made landfall just north of the South Korean city of Busan on Monday morning, cutting power to homes and factories, toppling trees, and forcing trains to be cancelled and flights grounded.

The storm, with heavy rain and powerful winds of as much as 126 km/h (78 mph), made landfall in Ulsan in the southeastern part of the Korean Peninsula at approximately 9am (02:00 GMT) on Monday morning, according to Yonhap news agency.

It knocked out power in some 30,000 homes as well as in factories belonging to Hyundai Motor and Hyundai Mobis, the country’s biggest car parts manufacturer. Across the country, 298 flights were cancelled and wind shear warnings issued.

Typhoon Haishen Japan
A landslide site caused by Typhoon Haishen as it passed through southwestern Japan. Local media reported four people missing in Shiiba Town in Miyazaki prefecture [Kyodo/via Reuters]
Haishen arrived in South Korea after battering Japan’s southern islands and cutting power to thousands of homes, but not causing major damage or injury.

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Some 440,000 homes in the southwestern Kyushu region remained without power on Monday morning after the storm passed through, public broadcaster NHK reported.

It added that 32 people had been injured, including a woman who fell down a flight of stairs in the dark and four people who sustained cuts after the glass windows of an evacuation centre were blown in.

Almost 2 million people had been ordered to evacuate the region, which was still recovering from heavy rains and flooding in July that killed 83 people.

Typhoon Haishen follows just days after Typhoon Maysak smashed into the Korean Peninsula, leaving at least two dead and thousands without power.

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The storm is forecast to weaken as it moves up the Peninsula during the day, reaching North Korea around midnight.

North Korea has borne the brunt of both Maysak and Typhoon Bavi, a storm the week before.

Live footage on state television showed trees shaking and waves rising in Tongchon county in Gangwon province bordering the South. The state broadcaster reported that all Tongchon residents had been evacuated.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un visited coastal areas after Maysak and ordered party members to join the relief effort.


#Newsworthy…

Dozens arrested in Hong Kong’s protest. [China]

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Hundreds take to the streets to demonstrate against the postponement of legislative election and the new security law.

More than 30 people have been arrested by Hong Kong police as riot officers swoop in on pro-democracy protesters – opposed to the postponement of the local legislative election – with rounds of pepper balls.

Hundreds of protesters took to the streets on Sunday in the Asian financial hub to demonstrate against a new national security law imposed by China and the postponement of the legislative poll.

Sunday was meant to be voting day for the city’s partially elected legislature, one of the few instances where Hong Kong voters get to cast ballots.

But Chief Executive Carrie Lam on July 31 postponed the election for one year, citing a surge in novel coronavirus cases. Critics say her government worried the opposition would gain seats if voting was held as scheduled.

The poll would have been the former British colony’s first official vote since Beijing imposed the new security legislation in late June, which critics say aims to quash dissent in the city.

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Anti-government protests have been held in Hong Kong almost every weekend since June 2019. They erupted over opposition to a proposed extradition law and spread to include demands for greater democracy and criticism of Beijing’s efforts to tighten control over the city.

Police fire pepper balls
Thousands of police were stationed around the bustling Kowloon Peninsula on Sunday as marchers waved placards and chanted popular anti-government slogans such as, “liberate Hong Kong”.

One woman was arrested during a protest in the Kowloon district of Yau Ma Tei on charges of assault and spreading pro-independence slogans, the police department said on its Facebook page. It said such slogans are illegal under the newly enacted National Security Act.

Police fired pepper balls at protesters in Kowloon’s Mong Kong neighbourhood, the South China Morning Post newspaper reported.

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Some 30 other people were arrested on suspicion of illegal assembly and two were arrested for disorderly conduct, police said.

In the Jordan neighbourhood, protesters raised a banner criticising the election delay, the Post said. It put the number of arrests at 33.

“I want my right to vote,” activist Leung Kwok-hung, popularly known as Long Hair, was quoted as saying. The newspaper said Leung was later arrested.

Reporting from the city, Noble Reporters Media said many people were also carrying out individual acts of defiance across the city, carrying banners or chanting slogans, to protest the new law.

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“These acts are remarkable because these individuals are doing that in the face of the sweeping national security law, which makes chants like that, saying things like that illegal,” he said.

“The demonstration was also an unconventional one as people tried hard to blend in with regular shoppers in the heart of the city, and occasionally chanted slogans or make the hand sign of the opposition.”

Limited gatherings
Anti-government demonstrations have declined this year mainly because of limits on group gatherings and the security law that punishes actions China sees as subversive, secessionist, “terrorist” or colluding with foreign forces.

Hong Kong police arrested several well-known pro-democracy activists during the demonstration [Tyrone Siu/Reuters]

Hong Kong has reported about 4,800 coronavirus cases since January, far lower than in other large cities around the world. The number of new daily infections has fallen substantially from triple digits in July to single digits currently.

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While street protests have largely lost momentum, anti-government and anti-Beijing sentiment persists, with China’s offer of mass coronavirus testing for Hong Kong residents prompting calls for a boycott amid public distrust.

Gatherings are currently limited to two people. Police have cited such restrictions in rejecting applications for protests in recent months, effectively preventing demonstrations.

Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule in 1997 under a guarantee of autonomy but critics say the new law undermines that promise and puts the territory on a more authoritarian path.

Supporters of the new security law say it will bring more stability after a year of often-violent anti-government and anti-China unrest and it plugs loopholes in national security left by the city’s inability to fulfil a constitutional requirement to pass such laws on its own.


#Newsworthy…

Typhoon Haishen brings heavy winds to Japan.

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The powerful typhoon has begun to lash southern Japan with officials warning it could bring record rainfall.

Typhoon Haishen has drawn closer to Japan’s southern mainland, prompting authorities to recommend evacuations and warn of potentially record rainfall, unprecedented wind, high tides and large ocean swells.

Authorities urged early evacuation for more than 100,000 households in the southern prefectures of Okinawa, Kagoshima, Kumamoto, and Nagasaki, according to the Fire and Disaster Management Agency (FDMA).

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Sunday met the relevant cabinet ministers to discuss the emergency response to the typhoon, his office said.

“Maximum caution is needed as record rain, violent winds, high waves and high tides are possible,” he said.

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“I ask the Japanese people, including those who live in high-risk areas for flooding rivers or high tides to stay informed and take action immediately to ensure their safety.”

Elderly citizens wearing face masks due to the coronavirus outbreak were slowly gathering at evacuation centres in Kagoshima and other parts of southern Japan, footage on national broadcaster NHK showed.

The typhoon has cut power to more than 3,000 homes in Okinawa, the southernmost island prefecture, and more than 8,000 homes in Amamioshima, according to NHK.

Two injuries have been reported, according to the FDMA, but authorities were advising the highest levels of caution for a typhoon.

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The typhoon is forecast to have an atmospheric pressure of 935 hectopascals at its centre, and sustained winds of up to 234 kilometres per hour (145 miles per hour) by Monday, the meteorological agency said.

Haishen, currently equivalent to a strong Category 2 storm, is located about 400km (260 miles) south of Sasebo on the island of Kyushu, moving northwest at 30km/h (20mph).

Japanese authorities urged early evacuation for more than 100,000 households in the southern prefectures of Okinawa, Kagoshima, Kumamoto and Nagasaki [AFP]

The storm is expected to pass to the west of Kyushu any time between 12:00-18:00 GMT on Sunday, and is likely to lose some intensity as it hits southwest Japan.

Haishen is expected to be further downgraded by the time it makes landfall with 150km/h (90mph) wind, equivalent to a Category 1 hurricane. It is then forecast to hit the Korean Peninsula early on Monday morning.

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High waves lashed the southwest coast of Kagoshima and strong winds rattled street signs, NHK video footage showed.

“I live near a river, and I wanted to go to a safe place and thought about the coronavirus too,” a woman in Miyazaki told NHK after bringing her family to a local hotel.

Airlines have cancelled more than 500 flights departing from Okinawa and southern Japan, NHK said.

Typhoon Haishen follows Typhoon Maysak, which smashed into the Korean Peninsula on Thursday, leaving at least two dead and thousands temporarily without power.

Just a week before Maysak, Typhoon Bavi caused widespread damage and flooding in North Korea.


#Newsworthy…

New Report: China Plans Huge Investment in Next Generation Chips.

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Facing pressure from the US, China wants to develop its own chip-making technology, sources tell Bloomberg.


China is planning a sweeping set of new government policies to develop its domestic semiconductor industry and counter Trump administration restrictions, conferring the same kind of priority on the effort it accorded to building its atomic capability, according to people with knowledge of the matter.

Beijing is preparing broad support for so-called third-generation semiconductors for the five years through 2025, said the people, asking not to be identified discussing government deliberations. A suite of measures to bolster research, education and financing for the industry has been added to a draft of the country’s 14th five-year plan, which will be presented to the country’s top leaders in October, the people said.

China’s top leaders will gather next month to lay out their economic strategy for the next half decade, including efforts to ramp up domestic consumption and make critical technology at home. President Xi Jinping has pledged an estimated $1.4 trillion through 2025 for technologies ranging from wireless networks to artificial intelligence. Semiconductors are fundamental to virtually every component of China’s technology ambitions — and an increasingly aggressive Trump administration threatens to cut off their supply from abroad.

“The Chinese leadership realizes that semiconductors underpin all advanced technologies, and that it can no longer dependably rely on American supplies,” said Dan Wang, technology analyst at research firm Gavekal Dragonomics. “In the face of stricter U.S. restrictions on chip access, China’s response can only be to keep pushing its own industry to develop.”

Shares in several major Chinese chipmakers gained. Shanghai Fudan Microelectronics Group Co. finished 4.3% higher in Hong Kong. On mainland bourses, Will Semiconductor Ltd. — the second most valuable listed Chinese chip firm — rose almost 10%. Xiamen Changelight Co. closed 14% up while Focus Lightings Tech Co. jumped 5.6%.

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The Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, which is responsible for drafting the tech-related goals, did not reply to a request for comment.

China imports more than $300 billion worth of integrated circuits each year and its semiconductor developers rely on U.S.-made chip design tools and patents, as well as critical manufacturing technologies from U.S. allies. But deteriorating ties between Beijing and Washington have made it increasingly difficult for Chinese companies to source components and chipmaking technologies from overseas.

The U.S. government has blacklisted dozens of China’s tech companies so they can’t buy American parts, and slapped bans on ByteDance Ltd.’s TikTok and Tencent Holdings Ltd.’s WeChat. In the case of technology giant Huawei Technologies Co., the Trump administration sanctioned the company and pressed allies to ban the company’s equipment from their telecom networks.

Chinese firms such as Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp, whose chips are seen here, Will Semiconductor Ltd and National Silicon Industry Group Co could benefit from the government’s new push [File; Qilai Shen/Bloomberg]

This month, Huawei, the country’s largest handset maker, will even lose access to chips from the likes of Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. under new American regulations that prohibit suppliers anywhere in the world from working with the company if those suppliers use American equipment. The tighter rules have raised the urgency of building domestic alternatives in Beijing.

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Third-generation semiconductors are mainly chipsets made of materials such as silicon carbide and gallium nitride. They can operate at high frequency and in higher power and temperature environments, and are widely used in fifth-generation radio frequency chips, military-grade radars and electric vehicles.

Since no single country now dominates the fledgling, third-generation technology, China’s gamble is its corporations can compete if they accelerate research into the field now. Global leaders such as U.S.-based CREE Inc. and Japan’s Sumitomo Electric Industries Ltd. are just beginning to grow this business, while Chinese tech giants such as Sanan Optoelectronics Co. Ltd. and state-owned China Electronics Technology Group Corp. have made inroads on third-generation chipsets.

The country’s other chipmakers, which include Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp., Will Semiconductor Ltd. and National Silicon Industry Group Co., may benefit more broadly from the state support.

“This is a sector about to see explosive growth,” Alan Zhou, managing partner of Fujian-based chip investment fund An Xin Capital Co., told an industry forum last week. Because of China’s increasing demand and investment, this is an area that could create a “world-class Chinese chip giant.”


#Newsworthy…

[China] Hong Kong’s Jimmy Lai cleared of charges, released.

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Case against media tycoon dates back to 2017 and is not related to his arrest under China-imposed national security law.


A court in Hong Kong has declared media tycoon and pro-democracy activist Jimmy Lai not guilty of criminal intimidation, ending one of several cases against him after his high-profile arrest under a new national security law.

Thursday’s verdict was for a case that dates back to 2017 and was unrelated to his arrest last month.

Lai, who is a key critic of Beijing, had used foul language when confronting a reporter from Oriental Daily News, a major competitor to Lai’s tabloid Apple Daily.

Police, however, only charged him in February this year.

The mainland-born media magnate had pleaded not guilty.

He smiled after the verdict was read out and shook hands with supporters who filled the courtroom.

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Lai’s case comes after he was arrested for suspected collusion with foreign forces on August 10, making him the highest-profile person to be arrested under the Beijing-imposed law.

Jimmy Lai is also facing separate court cases for illegal assembly relating to anti-government protests last year [Tyrone Siu/ Reuters]

The 71-year-old had been a frequent visitor to Washington, where he met officials including US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to rally support for Hong Kong democracy, prompting Beijing to label him a “traitor”.

After Lai’s August arrest about 200 police officers searched the office of his Apple Daily newspaper.

The national security law punishes any act China considers subversion, succession, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces with up to life in prison. Critics say it crushes freedoms, while supporters say it will bring stability after prolonged anti-China, pro-democracy protests last year.

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Lai’s Apple Daily has vied with pro-Beijing Oriental Daily for readership in the special administrative region. In 2014 the Oriental Daily published a fake obituary of Lai, claiming that he had died of AIDS and many types of cancer.

Prosecutors in the case said Lai had intimidated the Oriental Daily reporter.

Lai’s lawyers said Lai had been followed by reporters for three years and his comments were not intended to harm the reporter but expressed his exasperation.

Lai is also facing separate court cases for illegal assembly relating to anti-government protests last year.


SOURCE: NOBLE REPORTERS MEDIA, NEWS AGENCIES


#Newsworthy…

Storyline: Ship conveying cattles, 42 crew, lost off Japan.

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Japan’s coastguard said one Filipino crew member had so far been found during the search.


Rescuers in Japan were searching on Thursday for a ship carrying 43 crew and nearly 6,000 cattle that was feared sunk after it sent a distress signal during stormy weather in the East China Sea.

Japan’s coastguard said one person had so far been found in a search involving four vessels and several planes.

The rescued crew member, 45-year-old Filipino Sareno Edvarodo, told the coastguard that the Gulf Livestock 1, a 139-metre Panamanian-flagged vessel, capsized after losing an engine.

The cargo ship sent a distress call from the west of Amami Oshima island in southwestern Japan on Wednesday as the region experienced strong winds, heavy seas and torrential rain from Typhoon Maysak as it headed towards the Korean Peninsula.

Japan’s coastguard said P-3C surveillance aircraft spotted Edvarodo, who was the ship’s chief officer, on Wednesday night. He was wearing a life vest and waving while bobbing up and down in the water.

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According to Edvarodo, who is able to walk and in good health, the ship lost an engine before it was hit by a wave and capsized, a coastguard spokeswoman said.

When the ship capsized, the crew were instructed to put on lifejackets. Edvarodo said he jumped into the water and did not see any other crew members before he was rescued.

The crew included 39 people from the Philippines, two from New Zealand and two from Australia, the coastguard said. Pictures provided by the agency showed a person in a lifejacket being hauled from choppy seas in darkness.

The Gulf Livestock 1 left Napier in New Zealand on August 14 with 5,867 cattle and 43 crew, bound for the Port of Jingtang in Tangshan, China. The journey was expected to take about 17 days, New Zealand’s foreign ministry told the Reuters news agency.

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New Zealand animal rights organisation, Save Animals From Exploitation (SAFE), said the tragedy demonstrated the risks of the live animal export trade.

A Filipino crew member believed to be onboard Gulf Livestock 1 is rescued by a Japan coastguard boat [Japan Coast Guard/ Handout via Reuters]

“These cows should never have been at sea,” said the campaigns manager, Marianne Macdonald.

“This is a real crisis, and our thoughts are with the families of the 43 crew who are missing with the ship. But questions remain, including why this trade is allowed to continue.”

Meanwhile, on the Korean Peninsula, one woman was killed in the South Korean city of Busan when a strong gust of wind shattered her apartment window after Maysak made landfall.

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More than 2,200 people were evacuated to temporary shelters, and around 120,000 homes were left without power across southern parts of the peninsula and on Jeju island.

The typhoon also brought heavy downpours across the north, and North Korea’s state media have been carrying live broadcasts of the situation, with one showing a reporter standing in a street inundated with water in the port town of Wonsan.

But authorities lifted their typhoon warning as the storm weakened and moved towards China.

“The typhoon will pass through Musan and leave our country,” a meteorological officer told Korean Central Television. “I don’t expect any effects.”


SOURCE: NOBLE REPORTERS MEDIA, NEWS AGENCIES


#Newsworthy…

North Korea still on ballistic missile development – United States warns

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The US government warned Tuesday that North Korea continues to acquire materials and equipment for its ballistic missile program, despite claims in Washington that Pyongyang has pulled back on its nuclear ambitions.

In a joint global “advisory” the Treasury, Commerce and State Departments detailed North Korea’s ongoing efforts to obtain everything from forestry trucks for missile launchers to common metals and materials that can be used in rockets, warning sellers to beware of sanctions on the country.

“The United States is committed to disrupting North Korea’s ballistic missile procurement network and promoting accountability for entities and individuals assisting or providing support to North Korea’s ballistic missile program,” the Treasury said.

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The State Department said Pyongyang’s missile development efforts “pose a significant threat to both regional and global stability.”

People watch footage of a North Korean missile test at a railway station in Seoul Jung Yeon-je AFP/File

The advisory came as negotiations between the two countries aimed at halting North Korea’s nuclear weapons progress, launched with fanfare at a 2018 summit between President Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un, have remained at a standstill since early last year.

Nevertheless, two months before a presidential election, Trump and his campaign have claimed success in dealing with North Korea.

“In North Korea, the president lowered the temperature, and against all odds got the North Korean leadership to the table. No nuclear test. No long range missile test,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told the Republican National Convention last week in support of Trump.


#Newsworthy…

[Japan] LDP sets leadership contest rules as candidates position.

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Liberal Democratic Party members agree to shorten voting process because of COVID-19 pandemic, economic slowdown.


Ordinary members of Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party will be excluded from a September 14 vote to choose a successor to Shinzo Abe, the country’s longest-serving prime minister, who is resigning for health reasons, local media reported on Tuesday.

A decision on a shortened voting process that will exclude rank-and-file members has already been approved, and an official announcement from the LDP is expected either later on Tuesday or on Wednesday.

Abe’s chief cabinet secretary, Yoshihide Suga, is also poised to announce his candidacy as early as Tuesday or Wednesday, making him the likely frontrunner.

Candidates will be required to register their run next Tuesday, September 8, with campaigning to start immediately afterwards.

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A leadership contest would usually include ruling party lawmakers and LDP members nationwide.

But the LDP has opted for a constrained format, polling only its MPs and three representatives from each of the country’s 47 prefectures.

The decision has provoked some criticism, but party officials said it would take as long as two months to organise a broader vote, affecting discussions on the budget and coronavirus-related policy-making amid a health crisis that is also weighing down on the economy.

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“The prime minister is sick, his illness has re-emerged. He is working hard under very difficult conditions,” Shunichi Suzuki, chairman of the party’s general council, told reporters on Tuesday.

Suga as frontrunner
Several candidates have already emerged for the race.

Suga, 71, has held the powerful post of chief cabinet secretary for years – coordinating policy among ministries and agencies, and serving as the effective face of the government as its chief spokesman.

Abe’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga Yoshihide, right, is likely to be a frontrunner in the race for the prime minister’s office [File: Eugene Hoshiko/EPA]

Considered a pragmatist without strong ideological positions, Suga is seen as being close to Abe. He encouraged Abe to run again after his disastrous first term as prime minister ended after just a year in 2007.

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According to national broadcaster NHK, support for Suga is increasing among party members, with the largest faction, led by former Chief Cabinet Secretary Hosoda Hiroyuki, expressing its support for him.

The second-largest faction, led by Finance Minister Taro Aso, and the fourth-largest, headed by LDP Secretary-General Toshihiro Nikai, have also confirmed that they will endorse Suga, NHK added.

Other candidates are expected to include former Minister of Defense Shigeru Ishiba, who polls well with the general public but is less popular among party members.

A military expert, Ishiba once left the LDP, spending time as both an independent and briefly joining another party.

Many within the LDP have not forgiven him.

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Abe – Kishida
LDP policy chief Fumio Kishida, a former foreign minister, is also expected to stand.

LDP policy chief Fumio Kishida [right], a former foreign minister who is often described as Abe’s [left] favoured successor, is also expected to stand in the race [File: Steven Senne/AP]

He is often described as Abe’s favoured successor, but his limited public profile and low-key persona are likely to pose obstacles.

Abe announced his shock decision to step down on August 28, explaining he was suffering a recurrence of ulcerative colitis, a chronic condition that has plagued him for years.

He is Japan’s longest-serving prime minister, but has seen his government’s approval ratings sink in recent months with the public unimpressed by his handling of the coronavirus outbreak.


#Newsworthy…

China pressure: United States raise support for Taiwan.

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Washington declassifies six Reagan-era security assurances given to Taiwan, vows new economic dialogue with Taipei.


The United States said on Monday that it was establishing a new bilateral economic dialogue with Taiwan, an initiative it said was aimed at strengthening ties with Taipei and supporting it in the face of increasing pressure from Beijing.

Washington also said it had declassified six security assurances given to Taiwan during the era of US President Ronald Reagan – a move analysts said appeared intended to show further support for Taipei.

The US Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, David Stilwell, made the announcements on Monday, amid a continued deterioration in relations between Washington and Beijing and increasing pressure from China on democratically-ruled Taiwan, which it considers part of its territory.

Stilwell said the US is intensifying support to the island because of the “increasing threat posed by Beijing to peace and stability in the region” and its “deepening ties of friendship, trade, and productivity” with Taiwan.

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Taiwan flexes military might amid China tensions
Washington broke off formal diplomatic ties with Taipei in 1979 in favour of Beijing, but the US is bound by law to help Taiwan defend itself and is the main arms supplier to the island.

The administration of current US President Donald Trump has made strengthening its support for the island a priority, and has also boosted weapons and equipment sales.

Trump is campaigning for re-election in November with a tough approach to China among his key foreign policy platforms, accusing his rival, Democrat Joe Biden, of being weak on China.

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In August, Trump also dispatched his health secretary, Alex Azar, to Taipei – the highest-ranking US official to travel to the island in years – angering Beijing.

Among the security assurances to Taiwan that the United States declassified on Monday is that Washington, DC has not agreed to prior consultation with Beijing on arms sales to Taiwan [File: Wally Santana/AP]

‘Significant adjustments’
Stilwell told a virtual forum hosted by the conservative Heritage Foundation that the latest US moves were not a policy shift, but part of a set of “significant adjustments” within Washington’s long-standing “one-China” policy.

“We will continue to help Taipei resist the Chinese Communist Party’s campaign to pressure, intimidate, and marginalise Taiwan,” Stilwell said.

“With a population of 23 million, Taiwan continues to punch above its weight in economics as well as governance, thereby making the world a better place.”

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Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry expressed thanks for the show of support at a time when it said China was using military intimidation to damage peace and stability near Taiwan, and said it would continue to strengthen its defence capabilities.

US Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar’s recent visit to Taiwan and meeting with Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen angered China, which considers the island as part of its territory [Taiwan Presidential Office/Handout via Reuters]

Earlier on Monday, Beijing said that the anti-China pronouncements by certain US politicians are destined to fail, after another Trump official, National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien, said on Friday that the US should use its alliance in the region to cope with “challenges” posed by China.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said at a press briefing on Monday that some officials in the US were “driven by their zero-sum game mindset” and “Cold War mentality and personal gains.”

‘Six Assurances’
U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar and Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen, both wearing face masks, pose for photos during their meeting at the presidential office, in Taipei

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Daniel Russel, a predecessor of Stilwell until early in the Trump administration, said the “Six Assurances” made to Taipei by the Reagan administration in 1982 had been a “loosely kept secret” at best.

He said the decision to publish them looked like a compromise response to pressure from administration hawks to abandon “strategic ambiguity” – a long-standing policy of withholding a clear-cut US commitment to defend Taiwan while still showing sufficient support to deter any Chinese military adventurism.

Among the assurances made in 1982, but never formally made public, are statements that the US has not set a date for ending arms sales to Taiwan, nor agreed to prior consultation with Beijing on such sales, or to revise the Taiwan Relations Act that underpins US policy towards the island.

The assurances, Stilwell said, “endure today”.


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#Newsworthy…

Tibet president says China to step up efforts to combat splittism.

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Chinese leader tells senior Communist Party officials that Beijing must plant ‘seeds of loving China’ among Tibetans.


China must build an “impregnable fortress” to maintain stability in Tibet, protect national unity and educate the masses in the struggle against “splittism”, President Xi Jinping told senior leaders, according to state media.

China seized control over Tibet in 1950 in what it describes as a “peaceful liberation” that helped the remote Himalayan region throw off its “feudalist” past. But critics, led by exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, say Beijing’s rule amounts to “cultural genocide”.

At a senior Communist Party meeting on Tibet’s future governance, Xi lauded achievements made and praised front-line officials but said more efforts were needed to enrich, rejuvenate and strengthen unity in the region.

Political and ideological education needed to be strengthened in Tibet’s schools in order to “plant the seeds of loving China in the depths of the hearts of every youth”, Xi said in remarks published by state news agency Xinhua on Saturday.

Pledging to build a “united, prosperous, civilised, harmonious and beautiful new, modern, socialist Tibet”, Xi said China needed to strengthen the role of the Communist Party in the territory and better integrate its ethnic groups.

Tibetan Buddhism also needed to adapt to socialism and Chinese conditions, he added.

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Advocacy group the International Campaign for Tibet (ICT) said Xi’s remarks showed Chinese rule still needed to be imposed with an “iron fist”.

In emailed comments, its president, Matteo Mecacci, said, “If Tibetans really benefitted as much from Chinese leadership as Xi and other officials claim, then China wouldn’t have to fear separatism and wouldn’t need to subject Tibetans to political re-education.”

China seized control over Tibet in 1950 in what critics, led by exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, say amounts to ‘cultural genocide’ [File: Roman Pilipey/EPA]

China’s policies towards Tibet have come under the spotlight again this year amid worsening ties with the United States.

In July, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the US would restrict visas for some Chinese officials involved in blocking diplomatic access to Tibet and engaging in “human rights abuses”, adding that Washington supported “meaningful autonomy” for Tibet.


#Newsworthy…