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Monitor The Strategic Trends

Global Government Introduction:

 

      The move toward a global government received a big boost this summer by the introduction of a proposal for an International Criminal Court. Over U.S. objections, the United Nations Diplomatic Conference voted 120 to 7 in favor of establishing an international criminal court to try individuals accused of genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and the crime of aggression.


[READ THE FULL INTRODUCTION]

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Behold a Black Horse

 Behold a Black

Horse

 

 

Price R 249.00 

 

 

 

Behold a Black Horse:

 Economic Upheaval and Famine

DVD

by Dr. Chuck Missler

 

 

The third of the “Five Horsemen of the Apocalypse” brings inflation and famine on an unprecedented scale.
•What is the real cause of inflation?
•What are the real causes of famine?

Most famines are the direct results of government’s deliberate decisions. Germany sank into the most severe hyperinflationary period in recorded history after printing 1.3 trillion marks: that translates to about 4 trillion in today’s dollars. Ironically, that is almost exactly the same amount of money the United States government has printed since 2008. What are the implications for us today?

How can one use Bayes’ Theorem in “reverse probability”? (Can you form a hypothesis based on experience, common sense and whatever data are available; then test the hypothesis not by what has happened before, but by what comes after?)

The theorem has proved its worth, such as in 2012 when it was used to successfully predict the outcome of the U.S. presidential election in all 50 states before the final vote counts were available.

Join Dr. Chuck Missler in the Executive Briefing Room of the River Lodge, New Zealand, as he explores the identity of the third of the Five Horsemen of Revelation.

This briefing pack contains 2 hours of teaching
 

Available in the following formats

 DVD:

•2 MP3 files

•1 PDF Notes file

 

 

 
 
 

http://www.spacewar.com/Superpowers.xml

 

Obama calls on China to increase pressure on N.Korea

 
‎Yesterday, ‎April ‎25, ‎2016, ‏‎6:42:24 AMGo to full article
Hanover, Germany (AFP) April 24, 2016 - US President Barack Obama on Sunday urged China to increase pressure on North Korea after another "provocative" weapons test.

Speaking after a North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un hailed a submarine-launched ballistic missile test as an "eye-opening success," Obama said: "North Korea continues to engage in continuous provocative behaviour."

He added: "We have cultivated cooperation with the Chinese to put pressure on North Korea. Although it is not where we would completely like it to be."

The test is the latest in a series of nuclear and missile tests by the isolated country.

It was followed just hours later by a North Korean offer to impose a unilateral moratorium on nuclear testing if the United States suspends annual military drills with South Korea.

But Obama said: "We don't take seriously a promise to simply halt until the next time they decide to do a test."

He said progress was only possible if North Korea showed a willingness to mothball its nuclear weapons programme.

The escalating tensions come as North gears up for a rare and much-hyped ruling party congress early next month -- the first in 36 years -- at which Kim is expected to take credit for pushing the country's nuclear and missile weapons programme to new heights.

Analysts and senior South Korean officials have suggested the regime may carry out a fifth nuclear test as a display of defiance and strength ahead of the congress.

 

 

Indonesian navy impounds Chinese trawler for illegal fishing

 
‎Yesterday, ‎April ‎25, ‎2016, ‏‎6:42:24 AMGo to full article
Jakarta (AFP) April 24, 2016 - Indonesian warships have detained a Chinese trawler allegedly operating illegally in Indonesian waters, just weeks after a confrontation between vessels from the two countries caused tensions, the navy said Sunday.

The trawler was intercepted by two navy ships on Friday after receiving information that a ship wanted by Interpol in Argentina had been spotted in Aceh, in the northwest of Sumatra, navy spokesman Edi Sucipto told AFP.

The boat has been taken to a naval base in Belawan, North Sumatra for investigation.

"We are currently questioning the crew to find out more about the case," Sucipto said, adding that one of them had a gunshot wound to his leg.

"It was not our officers who shot him, he was probably shot by the Argentinian authorities," he said.

The Chinese trawler was previously reported to have been fishing illegally in Argentine waters in late February.

Argentine forces in March opened fire on and a sank a Chinese boat illegally fishing in the South Atlantic after it attempted to ram a coast guard vessel.

Indonesia in 2014 launched a tough crackdown on illegal fishing which involves sinking foreign vessels caught fishing without a permit after impounding the boats and removing the crews.

Its foreign minister protested to Beijing after the Chinese coastguard last month stopped an Indonesian patrol boat from detaining a Chinese trawler.

Beijing also voiced concern last year after Indonesia destroyed an impounded Chinese fishing vessel.

 

 

Chinese state media name Xi 'commander in chief'

 
‎Yesterday, ‎April ‎25, ‎2016, ‏‎6:42:24 AMGo to full article
Beijing (AFP) April 21, 2016 - Chinese state media unveiled a new title for President Xi Jinping calling him "commander in chief" of the country's new joint forces battle command centre, as he seeks to consolidate power over the military.

State-run Xinhua news agency and state broadcaster CCTV both carried reports in English and Chinese referring to Xi by the new description for the first time after he visited the command centre on Wednesday.

As well as president, Xi is general secretary of the Communist Party -- the position from which he derives his power -- and also chairman of the Central Military Commission (CMC).

Since taking office Xi has sought to increase his authority over the People's Liberation Army, which is technically the armed force of the Communist Party rather than the Chinese state.

Some of its top officers have been among those who have fallen in his much-publicised anti-corruption drive.

The military should be "absolutely loyal", he said during his visit, the official news agency Xinhua reported.

Under Xi, China has taken a more assertive foreign policy stance, rapidly building up artificial islands in the disputed South China Sea and regularly sailing vessels into waters around Japanese-controlled islands in the East China Sea, raising fears of clashes.

The military should be "resourceful in fighting, efficient in commanding and courageous and capable of winning wars", Xi said.

The joint command system should be efficient and active in both peace and war, Xinhua paraphrased him as adding.

Xi donned fatigues for the visit, although his garb did not carry any rank insignia. He has generally worn a plain black or dark green uniform for formal military occasions such as a giant parade in Beijing last year.

The command centre was established as part of a major reshuffle of China's military structure, which also included the creation of a Rocket Force to operate its missiles.

When the changes were unveiled in January Xi described them as "a major policy decision to realise the Chinese dream of a strong army", state media reported.

The military's four powerful headquarters -- general staff, political, logistics and armaments -- were reorganised into 15 agencies under the CMC, which Xi heads.

New "battle zones" were also established to focus on combat and joint operation command systems, replacing the former "military regions" which had separate command structures and significant administrative responsibilities.

Beijing has been building up its military for years, with regular double-digit increases in its official budget.

It has invested in an expanded fleet of submarines and its first indigenous aircraft carrier, as it seeks to build a navy capable of projecting power abroad.

Xi has announced plans to slash China's troop numbers by 300,000 to roughly two million to craft a more efficient fighting force.

 

 

Pentagon expresses 'displeasure' of Russian fighter incidents

 
‎Yesterday, ‎April ‎25, ‎2016, ‏‎6:42:24 AMGo to full article
Washington (AFP) April 21, 2016 - The Pentagon has expressed its "displeasure" to counterparts in Moscow after Russian warplanes repeatedly buzzed a US destroyer and flew close to an American spyplane, an official said Thursday amid calls for a tougher US response.

Russian aircraft whooshed past the USS Donald Cook last week, including a Russian Su-24 jet that flew 30 feet (nine meters) above the ship in what the Pentagon called a "simulated attack profile."

Sailors aboard the ship captured video of the flybys, bringing international attention to the seemingly dangerous moves.

"I can tell you we have open (military-to-military) channels and our displeasure with their conduct has been relayed to them," Pentagon spokesman Navy Captain Jeff Davis said.

"We are not at war with Russia, we have no reason to think that they are going to be attacking our ships. But that said, (the) commanding officer, with his inherent right of self-defense, has to make a split-second decision. We don't want him to miscalculate based upon their inappropriate behavior."

Also last week, a Russian Su-27 flew less than 50 feet (15 meters) from the wingtip of an RC-135 reconnaissance plane in international airspace over the Baltic Sea, pulling a barrel roll across the top of the aircraft.

Moscow has defended its actions as appropriate given how close US forces were operating to Kaliningrad, a Russian enclave in northern Europe.

"Could anyone possibly suppose that a destroyer fitted out with 2,500-kilometer-range (1,500 miles) cruise missiles, which can carry nuclear warheads, might be cruising in the waters off New York?" Alexander Grushko, Russia's ambassador to NATO, said on Wednesday, according to the Russian news agency TASS.

"This wasn't military activity proper but rather an attempt to exert pressure on Russia."

The incidents ruffled the feathers of US lawmakers, many of whom have piled condemnation on Russia for the maneuvers.

"This may sound a little tough, but should we make an announcement to the Russians that if they place the lives of our men and women on board Navy ships in danger, that we will take appropriate action?" Senator John McCain said Thursday at a nomination hearing for General Curtis Scaparrotti, who is slated to become the next leader of US troops in Europe.

"That should be known, yes," Scaparrotti responded.

Senator Joe Donnelly, who sits with McCain on the Senate Armed Services Committee, voiced similar concerns.

"Is there a point ... where we tell them in advance enough, the next time, it doesn't end well for you?" Donnelly said.

Scaparrotti said it was important to send a clear message and be prepared to back it up.

"We should engage them and make clear what is acceptable," he said. "Once we make that known, then we have to enforce it."

 

 

NATO-Russia talks end in 'profound disagreements'

 
‎Yesterday, ‎April ‎25, ‎2016, ‏‎6:42:24 AMGo to full article
Brussels (AFP) April 20, 2016 - NATO and Russia ran up against "profound disagreements" over Ukraine and other issues as their ambassadors met on Wednesday for the first time since 2014, alliance chief Jens Stoltenberg said.

The two sides agreed to keep communicating following the meeting of the NATO-Russia Council, which has been on ice since the alliance cut practical ties with Moscow to protest the annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in early 2014.

"I think we had a very frank, serious and actually good meeting," Stoltenberg told a news conference after the talks, adding that both sides had "listened to what each other has to say."

But former Norwegian prime minister Stoltenberg stressed that "NATO and Russia have profound and persistent disagreements".

He admitted they were far from any breakthrough on easing tensions over the simmering violence still gripping eastern Ukraine.

"There were profound disagreements related to the crisis with Ukraine," he said. "During the meeting it was reconfirmed we disagree on the facts, the narrative and the repsonsibilties for the crisis in and around Ukraine."

- 'Pressure on Russia' -

Relations have also worsened in recent months over Moscow's air campaign in Syria and tensions have flared in the past week after two incidents involving the US military and Russian planes in the Baltic Sea.

Russia's ambassador to NATO, Alexander Grushko, insisted after the meeting with the 28 NATO ambassadors that it was the US-led alliance that was to blame for increasing military activities on Russia's flank.

"For us it is absolutely clear that without real steps on NATO's side to downgrade the military activity in areas adjacent to the Russian Federation, it will not be possible to engage in any meanifngul dialogue on confidence building measures," he told reporters.

Grushko also said Russian planes had buzzed the American missile destroyer USS Donald Cook in the Baltic Sea last week because it had sailed near Kaliningrad, a Russian enclave in northern Europe.

"This is about not the military activity but attempts to exercise military pressure on Russia," he said, comparing it to a hostile ship sailing close to the US coast or in the Gulf of Mexico.

The United States called the incident a "simulated attack" on the ship.

- 'Not business as usual' -

Stoltenberg said it was important to "keep channels of communication open" in both military and political terms, adding that it was necessary for "risk reduction".

"We all agree that it is in all our interest to keep channels for political dialogue open. It is both necessary and useful, especially in times of tensions as we experience now," the NATO chief added.

"However, this does not mean that we are back to business as usual."

Fears the two sides could become embroiled in violence have grown since Russia started a bombing campaign in Syria, particularly after alliance member Turkey shot down a Russian fighter jet on its border in November.

Russia blames NATO for increasing the risk of conflict by building up its troops in eastern European countries, many of which have been lobbying for more Western support.

Ahead of the talks, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said it was NATO that had frozen relations and that the alliance had "judged it necessary to contact us again".

"But, and we have made them understand this clearly, we cannot act as if it is 'business as usual," Lavrov said after talks with his French counterpart Jean-Marc Ayrault in Moscow on Tuesday.

Ayrault said the talks would "advance the sense of a common interest, which is peace and security".

Stoltenberg said that both NATO and Russia had at least agreed on the importance of the Minsk peace agreements, which were supposed to herald a broader settlement in Ukraine and return control of the eastern border with Russia to Kiev.

The deal has produced a tenuous calm in eastern Ukraine, parts of which are controlled by Moscow-backed rebels, but the truce has been threatened by a recent upsurge in clashes.

Crimea's future remains highly uncertain with Russian President Vladimir Putin insisting it will never be given up and NATO equally insistent it will never recognise its annexation.

 

 

Pentagon describes Russian jet's barrel roll over US spy plane

 
‎Yesterday, ‎April ‎25, ‎2016, ‏‎6:42:24 AMGo to full article
Washington (AFP) April 18, 2016 - The Pentagon on Monday described last week's "unsafe" manoeuver by a Russian fighter that flew close to a US spy plane, saying it had performed a barrel roll.

Pentagon spokesman Navy Captain Jeff Davis said a Russian Su-27 flew less than 50 feet (15 meters) from the wingtip of an RC-135 reconnaissance plane in international airspace over the Baltic Sea last Thursday.

It then "conducted a barrel roll from the left side of the aircraft, going over the top of the aircraft, and ended up on the right side of the aircraft," Davis said.

Thursday's "unsafe and unprofessional" incident came just days after Russian aircraft repeatedly buzzed the USS Donald Cook in a series of incidents decried by the US military.

In one case, a Russian Su-24 flew 30 feet (nine meters) above the war ship in a "simulated attack profile," according to the US military's European Command.

Ties between Russia and the West have plunged to their lowest point since the Cold War over Moscow's 2014 annexation of the Crimean peninsula from Kiev and its support for separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine.

It did not appear that the Russian jets were armed in any of the incidents, the Pentagon said.

 

 

China lands first military plane on disputed reef: state media

 
‎Yesterday, ‎April ‎25, ‎2016, ‏‎6:42:24 AMGo to full article
Beijing (AFP) April 18, 2016 - Beijing landed a military plane on a disputed South China Sea reef it has built up into an artificial island, officials said Monday, in the first confirmation of such a flight.

An air force plane landed on Fiery Cross reef in the Spratlys archipelago on Sunday to evacuate sick workers, a news report posted online by China's defence ministry said.

China claims nearly all of the strategically vital sea, even waters close to its Southeast Asian neighbours, and has created artificial islands in an effort to assert its claims.

It has significantly expanded Fiery Cross, which is also claimed by Vietnam and the Philippines, drawing international criticism.

In 2014, China began work on a 3,000-metre (10,000 foot) runway on the reef, which is around 1,000 kilometres (620 miles) from its island province of Hainan.

Beijing in January carried out several of what it called civilian flights to Fiery Cross, enraging Hanoi.

"On the Chinese territory, this kind of thing is not surprising at all," foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang told a regular briefing.

"It is a good tradition of the People's Liberation Army to provide a necessary assistance to Chinese people in need," he added.

This weekend's flight came just days after US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter Friday visited a warship close to flashpoint waters, after announcing joint naval patrols with the Philippines.

On the day of Carter's trip, Beijing said that one of its top military officials had visited a South China Sea island.

Fan Changlong, vice-chairman of the Central Military Commission, observed building work, the defence ministry said, without giving a precise date or location for the visit.

Washington regularly accuses Beijing of militarising the South China Sea, saying it has built runways and deployed weapons to the islands.

Beijing denies the accusations and says US patrols have ramped up tensions.

As well as China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan have overlapping claims to parts of the sea, which are home to some of the world's most important shipping lanes and believed to sit atop vast oil reserves.

 

 

Russia denies flight of jet that intercepted US Air Force plane 'unsafe'

 
‎Yesterday, ‎April ‎25, ‎2016, ‏‎6:42:24 AMGo to full article
Moscow (AFP) April 17, 2016 - Russia's defence ministry denied Sunday that a Russian jet that intercepted a US Air Force plane earlier this week had acted unsafely, dismissing the Pentagon's criticism.

The Pentagon said Saturday that a Russian SU-27 had flown in an "unsafe and unprofessional" manner while intercepting a US Air Force reconnaissance plane above the Baltic Sea on April 14.

"The entire flight of the Russian plane was conducted in strict compliance with international rules on the use of air space," defence ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said in a statement. "There were no emergency situations."

Moscow said the SU-27 had been dispatched to identify an "aerial target travelling toward the Russian border at high speed."

The aircraft detected by Russia was an American RC-135 plane, which the Pentagon said was conducting a routine flight.

When the RC-135 established visual contact with the Russian jet, the American plane "changed its flight route away from the Russian border," Konashenkov said.

Pentagon spokeswoman Laura Seal said Saturday that the US aircraft had "at no time crossed into Russian territory."

The incident came shortly after Russian aircraft repeatedly buzzed the USS Donald Cook this past week, including an incident Tuesday in which a Russian Su-24 flew 30 feet (nine meters) above the war ship in a "simulated attack profile," according to the US military's European Command.

US Secretary of State John Kerry condemned the warship flyby earlier this week, saying it was "dangerous" and could have lead to a shoot-down.

Russia said that it had observed all safety regulations in its flights.

Ties between Russia and the West have plunged to their post-Cold War nadir over Moscow's 2014 annexation of the Crimean peninsula from Kiev and its support for separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine.

Top Chinese finance official says Trump is 'irrational'
Washington (AFP) April 17, 2016 - Chinese Finance Minister Lou Jiwei called Donald Trump an "irrational type" in an interview published Sunday, slamming the Republican presidential frontrunner's calls for a trade war with the Asian giant.

Lou told The Wall Street Journal that the United States "wouldn't be entitled to world leadership" if Trump's proposal to impose tariffs as high as 45 percent on Chinese imports was realized.

China is a frequent target of the brash New York real estate developer in his campaign for the White House. Trump has accused the world's second largest economy of manipulating its currency and said he would impose high tariffs and renegotiate trade deals to compel Beijing to "behave."

Lou, who was in Washington for International Monetary Fund and World Bank meetings, is known for being an outspoken member of the Chinese leadership.

According to the Journal, almost any across-the-board tariff increase would violate World Trade Organization rules.

In such a situation, Lou was cited as saying, the United States wouldn't be entitled to its position as a world power.

In an election cycle in which both Republicans and Democrats have demonized China, Americans should realize that the two countries "are mutually dependent on each other," with much to lose in a trade war, Lou said.

"Our economic cycles are intertwined," he was quoted as saying. "We have more in common than sets us apart."

Lou is the most senior Chinese official to comment specifically on Trump, the Journal said.

Last month, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang noted that the US election was "lively and caught the eyes of many."

 

 

Russia 'more dangerous than IS' says Poland foreign minister

 
‎Yesterday, ‎April ‎25, ‎2016, ‏‎6:42:24 AMGo to full article
Bratislava (AFP) April 15, 2016 - Russia is more dangerous than the Islamic State group, Poland's Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski told reporters Friday during a visit to Slovakia.

"By all evidence, Russia's activity is a sort of existential threat because this activity can destroy countries," said Waszczykowski, who was speaking in a debate on the future of NATO at the annual Globsec security forum in Bratislava.

"We also have non-existential threats like terrorism, like the great waves of migrants," he added, according to Poland's PAP news agency.

He described the Islamic State group as a very serious threat but added that "it is not an existential threat for Europe".

Waszczykowski also called for NATO to approve the deployment of troops on the alliance's eastern border at its upcoming July summit due to be held in Warsaw.

"This will be a symbol of the determination to defend the eastern flank. We can discuss the scale of this deployment," he said.

Czech Defence Minister Martin Stropnicky said at the conference that strengthening the alliance's collective defence capability would be the main point on the agenda at the summer summit, while warning that Russia "should not be isolated".

He added that Russia was actively "testing the defensive capabilities of NATO in the Baltic region" where a number of countries have come under pressure, the Czech CTK news agency reported.

Russia will use rare talks with NATO next week to protest the alliance's "absolutely unjustified" military buildup in the Baltic states, Moscow's ambassador to Brussels said Friday, adding the alliance was using the Ukraine crisis as a pretext.

The Russian and NATO ambassadors will meet in Brussels on April 20 for their first formal talks in nearly two years to discuss security issues, including the crisis in Ukraine where Moscow is accused of backing pro-Russian rebels against the pro-Western government in Kiev.

Russia to tell NATO Baltic buildup 'absolutely unjustified'
Brussels (AFP) April 15, 2016 - Russia will use rare talks with NATO next week to protest the alliance's "absolutely unjustified" military buildup in the Baltic states, Moscow's ambassador to Brussels said Friday, adding the alliance was using the Ukraine crisis as a pretext.

Russia and NATO ambassadors will meet in Brussels on April 20 for their first formal talks in nearly two years to discuss security issues, including the crisis in Ukraine where Moscow is accused of backing pro-Russian rebels against the pro-Western government in Kiev.

"NATO decided under the pretext of the Ukrainian crisis to change this pattern" of behaviour toward Moscow, Russia's permanent representative to NATO, Alexander Grushko, told reporters in Brussels.

"And today we are having a military buildup in the Baltic area, which from our point of view is absolutely unjustified," Grushko said. "The shape of NATO-Russia relations is very bad."

He said ties have been difficult since NATO suspended any practical cooperation with Moscow to protest its annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in March 2014.

Eastern NATO members including the formerly Soviet-ruled Baltic states and Poland have since lobbied the alliance to increase its presence in the region.

NATO and Russia last met in June 2014 amid mutual recriminations over who was to blame for the crisis in Ukraine, but the meeting next week is seen as a thaw in ties.

NATO envoys and their Russian counterpart had met regularly until the Ukraine crisis threatened what many thought could be a return to the deep freeze stand-off of the Cold War.

"NATO decided to enlarge, moved closer to Russian borders," Grushko said.

"And then starting from 2014 NATO has been deploying additional forces, increasing its military activity on a rotational basis, adding equipment, creating permanent storage sites for military weaponry and equipment," he said.

The alliance has also been "increasing the number and the size of exercises which are taking place in the areas adjacent to the Russian Federation," he added.

"And of course that changes the military situation in the region," even though the Baltic Sea was for years the safest region, he said.

"There were no frozen conflicts, no big problems," Grushko said.

"NATO has to choose what kind of relationships it wants with Russia in the long term," he added.

"I don't see any possibility for a qualitative improvement of relations if NATO continues on its path of deterrence and relevant military planning," said the ambassador.

In response to Russia's intervention in Ukraine, NATO's 28 members have agreed a major military revamp and dispatched troops, plus extra ships and planes to reassure its eastern European allies that they do stand alone.

Russia meanwhile has stepped up air patrols, leading to a sharp increase in NATO interceptions as both sides test out the other.

 

 

Pentagon chief visits warship in South China Sea

 
‎Yesterday, ‎April ‎25, ‎2016, ‏‎6:42:24 AMGo to full article
Aboard The Uss John C. Stennis (AFP) April 15, 2016 - US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter visited a warship close to flashpoint waters of the South China Sea on Friday, as Beijing reacted defiantly to an American military build-up in the area.

Carter's trip to the USS John C. Stennis was the latest effort by the United States to show its commitment to maintaining security in the hotly contested waters, where China has rattled nerves by building artificial islands on islets and reefs claimed by some of its Southeast Asian neighbours.

"It is a message to the region that the US intends to continue to play a role in keeping peace and stability in this region," Carter told reporters aboard the warship, a nuclear-powered carrier that can carry about 75 planes and helicopters.

Before flying from Manila to visit the ship, Carter emphasised the United States would support the Philippines and other allies as they faced "coercion and intimidation".

"We will continue to stand up for our safety and freedoms, for those of our friends and allies, and for the values, principles, and rules-based order that has benefited so many for so long," Carter said at a closing ceremony for annual US-Philippine war games.

The roughly two-hour visit to the Stennis came after Carter announced on Thursday that the United States had launched joint naval patrols with the Philippines in the sea, as he spoke of growing concern about China's "land reclamation" and "militarisation" of the region.

He also said the United States would deploy hundreds of troops, as well as warplanes, to the Philippines.

China claims nearly all of the strategically vital sea, even waters close to its Southeast Asian neighbours, and has in recent years created the islands in an effort to assert what it insists are its sovereign rights.

The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan also have overlapping claims to parts of the sea, which is home to some of the world's most important shipping lanes and is believed to sit atop vast oil reserves.

China has constructed the islands on reefs in the Spratlys archipelago, which are close to the Philippines and Malaysia, as well as airstrips capable of accommodating military aircraft.

China in 2012 also took control of a rich fishing shoal just 220 kilometres (135 miles) from the main Philippine landmass. The shoal is 650 kilometres from China's nearest major landmass.

Carter visited the Stennis after making a short flight to the carrier from a military base on the southwestern Philippine island of Palawan, which is the closest landmass to the Spratlys.

During his time aboard the ship, Carter saw the launching and landing of F/A 18 "Hornet" fighter jets.

Rear Admiral Ron Boxall, commander of the carrier group with responsibility for the Stennis, said one or two Chinese vessels had been following the carrier but there had been no tensions.

"They have been operating very professionally," Boxall said.

- Chinese warning -

In Beijing, China reacted defiantly to Thursday's announcement of the joint patrols and US deployments to the Philippines, with its defence ministry warning the military would protect the nation's territory.

"US-Philippine joint patrols in the South China Sea promote regional militarisation and undermine regional peace and stability," said a Chinese defence ministry statement released late Thursday.

"The Chinese military will pay very close attention to related developments, and firmly safeguard China's territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests".

The 275 US troops and nine aircraft that Carter said would stay in the Philippines following the Balikatan war games are the first major deployments under a bilateral defence pact finalised in January.

The pact allows US forces to rotate soldiers and military hardware through the Philippines, an important part of American efforts to expand its military presence throughout the Asia-Pacific.

US forces will initially have access to five Philippine military bases, including two close to the hotspot areas of the South China Sea.

Philippine Defence Secretary Voltaire Gazmin on Thursday said he hoped the US efforts would "deter uncalled-for action by the Chinese".

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang on Friday blamed the United States' deploying extra forces to the Asia-Pacific for any rise in tensions in the region.

 

 

US Air Force plane intercepted by Russian jet in 'unsafe' manner: Pentagon

 
‎Thursday, ‎April ‎21, ‎2016, ‏‎10:53:45 AMGo to full article
Washington (AFP) April 17, 2016 - A US Air Force reconnaissance plane was intercepted by a Russian SU-27 jet in an "unsafe and unprofessional" manner while in international airspace over the Baltic Sea, the Pentagon said Saturday.

"The US aircraft was operating in international airspace and at no time crossed into Russian territory," Laura Seal, a Pentagon spokeswoman, said of Thursday's incident.

It came shortly after Russian aircraft repeatedly buzzed the USS Donald Cook this past week, including an incident Tuesday in which a Russian Su-24 flew 30 feet (nine meters) above the war ship in a "simulated attack profile," according to the US military's European Command.

Russia has denied the actions were reckless or provocative but they have been seen as exacerbating tensions between the rival powers.

"This unsafe and unprofessional air intercept has the potential to cause serious harm and injury to all aircrews involved," Seal said of the latest incident in a statement.

"More importantly, the unsafe and unprofessional actions of a single pilot have the potential to unnecessarily escalate tensions between countries."

The US aircraft in question was an RC-135 and the Pentagon said it had been flying a routine route.

"There have been repeated incidents over the last year where Russian military aircraft have come close enough to other air and sea traffic to raise serious safety concerns, and we are very concerned with any such behavior," the Pentagon said.

On Thursday, US Secretary of State John Kerry had strong words about the recent warship flyby.

"We condemn this kind of behavior. It is reckless. It is provocative. It is dangerous. And under the rules of engagement that could have been a shoot-down," Kerry told CNN Espanol in Miami.

Kerry added: "People need to understand that this is serious business and the United States is not going to be intimidated on the high seas."

"We are communicating to the Russians how dangerous this is and our hope is that this will never be repeated," he said.

The Russian maneuvers began Monday while the destroyer was located about 70 nautical miles from the Russian base in Kaliningrad, a Russian enclave on the Baltic Sea.

One US defense official called the actions of the Russian planes "more aggressive than anything we've seen in some time."

The destroyer's commanding officer Charles Hampton told journalists in Lithuania that "very low, very fast" flybys were "inconsistent with the professional norms of militaries in international waters or international airspace."

But Russia countered the criticism, insisting it had observed all safety regulations.

The US military's European Command (EUCOM) released video showing warplanes zooming so close past the Cook that one sailor can be heard saying: "He is below the bridge wing," meaning the plane was flying lower than the highest point of the ship.

Ties between Russia and the West have plunged to their lowest point since the Cold War over Moscow's 2014 annexation of the Crimean peninsula from Kiev and its support for separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine.

 

 

Russia denies reckless behaviour in US warship flyby

 
‎Thursday, ‎April ‎21, ‎2016, ‏‎10:53:45 AMGo to full article
Moscow (AFP) April 14, 2016 - Russia denied Thursday its fighter jets were engaged in reckless or provocative behaviour when they flew just metres from a US destroyer in international waters in the Baltic Sea, exacerbating tensions between the rival powers.

The aircraft repeatedly buzzed the USS Donald Cook this week, including an incident on Tuesday when a Russian Su-24 jet flew 30 feet (nine metres) above the ship in a "simulated attack profile," the US military's European Command said.

Ties between Russia and the West have plunged to their lowest point since the Cold War over Moscow's 2014 annexation of the Crimean peninsula from Kiev and its support for separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine.

One US defence official called the actions of the Russian planes "more aggressive than anything we've seen in some time".

The destroyer's commanding officer Charles Hampton told journalists in Lithuania that "very low, very fast" flybys were "inconsistent with the professional norms of militaries in international waters or international airspace".

- 'Sore reaction' -

Russia countered the criticism, insisting it had observed all safety regulations.

Su-24 planes were conducting test flights in the area and "having observed the ship, turned away in observance of all safety measures," Russian defence ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said in a statement on the ministry's Facebook page.

"Frankly speaking, we don't understand such a sore reaction from our US colleagues," the statement added.

"With the US Navy destroyer in operational proximity of the Russian navy's Baltic fleet base, the principle of its free sea navigation does not negate the principle of free air navigation of Russian planes."

The US military's European Command (EUCOM) released video showing warplanes zooming so close past the Cook that one sailor can be heard saying: "He is below the bridge wing," meaning the plane was flying lower than the highest point of the ship.

- Warship 'trolled' -

The manoeuvres began Monday while the destroyer was located about 70 nautical miles from the Russian base in Kaliningrad, a Russian exclave on the Baltic Sea.

A Ka-27 Helix anti-submarine helicopter and Russian Su-24 planes flew around the ship, including a plane that was not visibly armed that made the particularly low approach captured on video.

US sailors tried multiple times to hail the Russian aircraft on international frequencies but got no response, officials said.

A Polish helicopter had been conducting drills on the destroyer and was refuelling during one of the overflights. It suspended flight operations as a safety precaution until the planes left, EUCOM said.

Some pro-Kremlin media on Thursday depicted the incident as the Americans taking fright at the Russian pilots.

A journalist with Komsomolskaya Pravda daily wrote on Twitter that the planes had "trolled" the US warship, which "got fresh" by coming so close to the Russian base.

Argumenty i Fakty newspaper accused the United States of "Russophobia", saying that the ship's crew and the Polish helicopter had been "scared" of the planes.

Hampton said his crew had tracked the warplanes' approach, and confirmed that they posed no danger.

"It's very important to understand that the objection from the US navy about the Russians' military activity and the conduct is not about fear, but about safe and professional behaviour at sea," he said.

Poland, which had helicopter crews training take-offs and landings from the deck of the US warship, and has long been wary of Russia's actions in its neighbourhood, was also furious.

"We cannot consider this anything but a provocation and a new example of aggressive intentions against NATO, the US and Poland by the owner of these planes," its Defence Minister Antoni Macierewicz said.

The Pentagon periodically decries the risky tactics displayed by Russian pilots.

Exactly two years before the latest flyby -- on April 12, 2014 -- a Russian Su-24 made numerous close-range, low-altitude passes near the Cook while it was in the Black Sea, in an incident the Pentagon at the time called a "provocative act".

 

 

US, Philippines launch joint South China Sea patrols

 
‎Thursday, ‎April ‎21, ‎2016, ‏‎10:53:45 AMGo to full article
Manila (AFP) April 14, 2016 - The US said Thursday it has launched joint South China Sea naval patrols with the Philippines, escalating its presence as it accused Beijing of "militarising" a region which is locked in territorial disputes.

In a show of strength, US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter also announced that 275 troops and five A-10 ground attack aircraft currently in the country for annual war games will remain in the country temporarily.

China warned deployments must not damage "regional stability", but Carter said Washington's efforts to strengthen its military role in the region was not done "in order to provoke".

The Pentagon chief said the US was responding to regional anxiety over China's muscular actions in the South China Sea, including building artificial islands over disputed reefs.

"Countries across the Asia-Pacific are voicing concern with China's land reclamation, which stands out in size and scope, as well as its militarisation in the South China Sea," Carter said.

The joint naval patrols, which began last month, "contribute to the safety and security of the region's waters," he said after meeting with Philippines President Benigno Aquino.

Manila has been improving its defence ties with the United States to help boost its ability to defend its territory.

China's foreign ministry reacted coolly to the US deployment.

A statement read: "The military activities of the relevant countries should not be targeted at a third country, and moreover should not support the efforts of some countries to provoke China on issues of sovereignty and security, adding to regional contradictions and damaging regional stability."

China claims most of the South China Sea, even waters and rocks close to the coasts of several neighbours that overlap with their claims.

Beijing has reclaimed several reefs claimed by Manila and built structures on them that the Philippines says are designed for military use -- a charge China denies.

Earlier this month Chinese state media reported China has switched on a lighthouse atop a reconstructed reef in the Spratly chain, which also contains technology to monitor passing ships.

- 'Shoulder to shoulder'

Carter announced that 275 American troops, among about 5,000 military personnel taking part in the annual Balikatan (shoulder to shoulder) war games, are to stay behind after the exercises end on Friday.

Five A-10C Thunderbolt ground attack planes and four other aircraft will also remain until the end of the month.

Some 200 of the US personnel are to train Filipino soldiers, as well as "conduct flight operations in the area, including in the South China Sea", Carter said.

These activities will "lay the foundation for joint air patrols to complement ongoing maritime patrols," he added.

The remainder of the US personnel will be stationed at a Manila military base on an unspecified "rotational" basis to form a "command and control" unit to support increased activities between the two allies, Carter said.

The deployments are part of a deal under which Manila has allowed American forces to rotate through five Philippine bases -- some of them close to the South China Sea.

Philippine Defence Secretary Voltaire Gazmin welcomed the US announcement, adding he hoped the increased presence will "deter uncalled-for action by the Chinese".

The US has campaigned on freedom of navigation in the strategic waterway. To drive home its point it has sent bombers and warships on patrol close to the Chinese construction activity in recent months, angering Beijing.

As part of the Balikatan exercises in the northern Philippines, US forces on Thursday fired missiles at long-distance targets as part of a simulated assault of imaginary enemy-held territory.

"The truth of the matter is we are allies and as allies, we need to work together," Lieutenant-General John Toolan, the US Marine Corps Pacific commander told reporters.

Carter's announcement Thursday came ahead of a decision this year by a United Nations-backed tribunal on a legal challenge by Manila to China's territorial claims.

 

 

US Defence Secretary Carter to visit warship in South China Sea

 
‎Thursday, ‎April ‎21, ‎2016, ‏‎10:53:45 AMGo to full article
Manila (AFP) April 15, 2016 - US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter said he would visit a warship close to flashpoint waters of the South China Sea on Friday, as Beijing reacted defiantly to an American military build-up in the area.

"Later today, I will visit the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis, sailing in the South China Sea, after some of its sailors and Marines participated with you in Balikatan," Carter said in Manila, referring to annual war games with the Philippines that ended Friday.

Carter's trip to the warship is the latest move by the United States to show it is committed to maintaining security in the hotly contested waters, where China has built artificial islands on islets and reefs close to the Philippines.

China claims nearly all of the strategically vital sea, even waters close to its Southeast Asian neighbours, and has in recent years built the islands in an effort to assert what it insists are its sovereign rights.

The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan also have overlapping claims to parts of the sea, which is home to some of the world's most important shipping lanes and is believed to sit atop vast oil reserves.

China has constructed the islands on reefs in the Spratlys archipelago, which are close to the Philippines and Malaysia, as well as airstrips capable of accommodating military aircraft.

China in 2012 also took control of a rich fishing shoal just 220 kilometres (135 miles) from the main Filipino landmass. The shoal is 650 kilometres from China's nearest major landmass.

Carter announced on Thursday that the US had launched joint naval patrols with the Philippines in the South China Sea, as he spoke of growing concern about China's "land reclamation" and "militarisation" of the region.

He also said the US would deploy hundreds of troops, as well as five warplanes, to the Philippines.

- Chinese warning -

China reacted defiantly to the announcement, with its defence ministry warning the military would protect the nation's territory.

"US-Philippine joint patrols in the South China Sea promote regional militarisation and undermine regional peace and stability," said a Chinese defence ministry statement released late Thursday.

"The Chinese military will pay very close attention to related developments, and firmly safeguard China's territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests".

On Friday, Carter emphasised the US would back up the Philippines and other allies in the region.

"At a time of change in this dynamic region, and democratic transitions in the Philippines and the United States, we will continue to stand shoulder-to-shoulder," Carter said at the closing ceremony for the war games, which involved about 9,000 soldiers.

"We will continue to stand up for our safety and freedoms, for those of our friends and allies, and for the values, principles, and rules-based order that has benefited so many for so long."

Carter also highlighted the presence of soldiers from Australia and Japan for the Balikatan war games this year, emphasising that the two key regional players had also expressed concerns over China's expansion in the South China Sea.

"I am pleased to see so many nations interested in working together to promote stability and security in the Asia-Pacific," he said.

Philippine and American officials would not disclose exactly where the Stennis was sailing on Friday.

However Carter was due to make only a short flight to the carrier from a military base on the southwestern Philippine island of Palawan, which is the closest landmass to the Spratlys.

A US official travelling with Carter told AFP the Stennis was in Philippine-claimed waters.

The 275 American troops and nine aircraft that Carter said would stay in the Philippines following the Balikatan war games are the first major deployments under a bilateral defence pact finalised in January.

The pact allows US forces to rotate soldiers and military hardware through the Philippines, an important part of American efforts to expand its military presence throughout the Asia-Pacific.

US forces will initially have access to five Filipino military bases, including two close to the hotspot areas of the South China Sea.

Philippine Defence Secretary Voltaire Gazmin on Thursday said he hoped the US efforts would "deter uncalled-for action by the Chinese".

 

 

US forces to gain access to more Philippine bases: Carter

 
‎Monday, ‎April ‎18, ‎2016, ‏‎5:54:34 PMGo to full article
Manila (AFP) April 13, 2016 - US forces will gain access to more military bases in the Philippines than the five already announced, US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter said Wednesday as he began a visit to the longstanding Asian ally.

Manila announced this year it would allow US forces to use five of its installations, including an air base close to the South China Sea.

The agreement that went in force in January aims to strengthen the Philippines' defensive capabilities amid a tense maritime dispute with China, while helping the Pentagon pivot more of its forces toward Asia.

"They will be more, these are just the five initial sites for rotational presence" of US troops, Carter told reporters on his flight to the Philippine capital from India.

"The agreement provides for more sites in the future," he said.

Short-term rotations of US forces and equipment through these five facilities is "our favourite way of having a presence, for US forces to operate in and out of the Philippines, in support of our allies, of our broader networks of friends and allies in the region."

Carter is in Manila to attend Friday's ceremony marking the end of an annual large-scale joint military exercise between the two allies.

He is scheduled to call on President Benigno Aquino on Thursday.

Carter said he did not know at this time how many more Philippine military bases would be opened to US use.

"This is an evolving thing. We agreed to do these five with an understanding that they could be more and would be more, as we see what else and where else is significant," he added.

The five already approved by Manila include the Antonio Bautista air base on the western Philippine island of Palawan.

The base is just 300 kilometres (186 miles) east of Mischief Reef, an outcrop occupied by China in the 1990s despite angry protests by the Philippines.

China claims virtually all the strategic and resources-rich South China Sea despite conflicting partial claims by Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam, Taiwan and the Philippines.

Beijing has in recent months been asserting its claim by occupying more reefs and outcrops in these waters, and building artificial islands including airstrips on some of them.

The Philippines has warned the Chinese activity could be a prelude to Beijing declaring an air defence zone in the area.

Washington does not take sides in the territorial disputes, but has warned against attempts to disrupt freedom of navigation in international waters.

Under the accord, US forces will also gain access to Basa air base, about 330 kilometres from Scarborough Shoal which was occupied by Chinese vessels after a tense confrontation with Philippine ships in 2012.

The other bases to be used by the US military are a major army training camp with its own airstrip in the north, and two air bases in the central and southern islands of the archipelago.

 

 

Russian jets in repeated 'aggressive' passes of US warship

 
‎Monday, ‎April ‎18, ‎2016, ‏‎5:54:34 PMGo to full article
Washington (AFP) April 13, 2016 - A Russian military jet came within a few feet of a US destroyer in international waters in the Baltic Sea during a series of "aggressive" overflights, US officials said Wednesday.

Russian aircraft repeatedly buzzed the USS Donald Cook this week, including an incident Tuesday in which a Russian Su-24 flew just 30 feet (nine meters) above the ship in a "simulated attack profile," the US military's European Command said.

"We have deep concerns about the unsafe and unprofessional Russian flight maneuvers," EUCOM said in a statement.

"These actions have the potential to unnecessarily escalate tensions between countries and could result in a miscalculation."

The incidents come at a time of friction between Moscow and Washington over Russian involvement in conflicts in eastern Ukraine and in Syria, and in an area of eastern Europe that the Kremlin considers its "backyard."

EUCOM released video showing warplanes zooming so close past the Cook that one sailor can be heard saying: "He is below the bridge wing," meaning the plane was flying lower than the highest point of the ship.

A senior US defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said: "This is more aggressive than anything we've seen in some time."

White House spokesman Josh Earnest called the overflights "entirely inconsistent with the professional norms of militaries operating in proximity to each other in international waters and international airspace."

- Altitude of 100 feet -

The maneuvers began Monday while the destroyer was located about 70 nautical miles from Kaliningrad, a Russian exclave, in international waters.

Two Russian Su-24s flew 20 times past the USS Cook at a distance of less than 1,000 yards (meters) and at an altitude of about 100 feet, the official said.

Then on Tuesday, a Russian Ka-27 Helix anti-submarine helicopter flew seven times around the destroyer, taking photographs as it passed.

Shortly after, two Su-24s roared toward the ship, making 11 close-range and low-altitude passes, including one that was "so low it created wake in the water," the official said.

The plane was "wings clean," meaning it was not visibly armed, he added.

US sailors tried multiple times to hail the Russian craft on international frequencies but got no response.

"The Russian aircraft flew in a simulated attack profile and failed to respond to repeated safety advisories in both English and Russian," EUCOM said.

"USS Donald Cook's commanding officer deemed several of these maneuvers as unsafe and unprofessional."

A Polish helicopter had been conducting drills on the destroyer and was refueling during one of the overflights.

"As a safety precaution, flight operations were suspended until the Su-24s departed the area," EUCOM said.

The Pentagon periodically decries the risky tactics displayed by Russian pilots.

"There have been repeated incidents over the last year where the Russian military, including Russian military aircraft, have come close enough to each other or have come close enough to other air and sea traffic to raise serious safety concerns," Earnest said.

Exactly two years ago -- on April 12, 2014 -- a Russian Su-24 made numerous close-range, low-altitude passes near the USS Donald Cook while it was in the Black Sea, in an incident the Pentagon at the time called a "provocative act."

 

 

NATO to hold first formal talks with Russia since 2014

 
‎Monday, ‎April ‎11, ‎2016, ‏‎5:04:30 AMGo to full article
Brussels (AFP) April 8, 2016 - NATO will soon hold its first formal talks with Russia since 2014, its head said Friday, signalling a thaw in ties deeply strained by the Ukraine crisis.

A meeting of NATO and Russian ambassadors will take place in the next two weeks at the US-led alliance's Brussels headquarters, Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg announced in a statement.

NATO envoys and their Russian counterparts had met regularly until the Ukraine crisis plunged relations with Moscow into a deep freeze reminiscent of the Cold War.

They last convened in June 2014 amid mutual recriminations over who was to blame, with NATO incensed by Moscow's annexation of Crimea in March that year.

Stoltenberg said the meeting would focus on the Ukraine crisis and "the need to fully implement" the Minsk ceasefire accords, which have produced a very tenuous calm in eastern Ukraine where Russia backs pro-Moscow rebels.

The two sides will also look at military activities, "with particular focus on transparency and risk reduction," plus the situation in Afghanistan and "regional terrorist threats," he said.

He said the meeting represented a continuation of a political dialogue as agreed by NATO leaders but warned "there will be no return to business as usual until Russia again respects international law."

Stoltenberg has always insisted the NATO-Russia council remained open as a channel of communication despite the breakdown in relations sparked by Russia's intervention in Ukraine.

A NATO official told AFP that "in difficult times it is good to talk. It shows we are committed to continue the political dialogue."

The official, who asked not to be named, said Stoltenberg had discussed the issue with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov when they met in Munich in February.

There will now be further consultations to fix a date for the meeting, the official added.

- Rivals or partners? -

The Ukraine crisis sparked a major re-think within NATO which was taken by surprise over how quickly events unfolded in early 2014.

More worrying still, Russian President Vladimir Putin appeared to be way ahead of the curve in hybrid warfare, exploiting conventional military and social media assets to destabilise the Ukraine government as the rebels consolidated their position.

In response, NATO leaders agreed what Stoltenberg says is the biggest military revamp since the end of the Cold War to make sure Putin does the get the drop on them again.

That means a commitment to spend a minimum of two percent of annual economic output on defence and putting air, sea and land resources into eastern Europe to reassure newer NATO allies there they will not be left in the lurch.

After the Cold War, most of the 28 NATO members let defence spending fall sharply and it has taken painful political decisions to reverse course.

If a more aggressive Russia is a concern, NATO also recognises Moscow cannot be ignored in many international issues, particularly the terror threat from the Islamic State (IS) group.

In September, Russia launched a massive military campaign to support long-time ally President Bashar al-Assad, enabling him to win back swathes of territory from IS and rebel groups.

Washington and Moscow arranged a ceasefire in February between Assad and the rebels which left them both free to continue attacks on IS.

Stoltenberg had said in January a meeting of the NATO-Russia Council was under consideration, stressing the need to avoid misunderstandings after the November shooting down of a Russian fighter jet by key alliance member Turkey along its border with Syria.

Diplomatic sources said at the time the idea was to hold a series of council meetings in the run-up to NATO's July summit in Warsaw which has led calls for a more forceful response to Russia over Ukraine.

 

 

Sri Lanka PM says Chinese port project 'not a threat'

 
‎Monday, ‎April ‎11, ‎2016, ‏‎5:04:30 AMGo to full article
Hong Kong (AFP) April 9, 2016 - A port project being built in Colombo by the Chinese is not a threat, Sri Lanka's prime minister said Saturday amid concerns Beijing is trying to boost its influence in the Indian Ocean.

The $1.4 billion "Port City" represents the biggest single foreign investment received by the island, adding 233 hectares (575 acres) of real estate in the congested capital.

But it is controversial, as Beijing has been accused of seeking to develop facilities around the region in a "String of Pearls" strategy to counter the rise of rival India and to secure its own economic interests.

"The Port City is not a threat to anyone, it's an opportunity for everyone to make money," Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe told a news conference. "The Chinese have not asked for any military base in Sri Lanka."

Wickremesinghe described Sri Lanka as a "small country" before adding: "Sri Lanka will not allow in any way the security of other countries to be threatened by third parties. Sri Lanka is committed to the freedom of navigation in the Indian Ocean."

The mega project was initiated by Chinese President Xi Jinping in September 2014 and is expected to include real estate, a marina and a Formula One racetrack.

Wickremesinghe made the comments on the final day of his visit to the Asian giant, where he is seeking to restructure some of the cash-strapped island's $8 billion Chinese debt and convert some of its loan burden into stakes in infrastructure projects.

Sri Lanka's president suspended the Port City plan shortly after taking power in January last year, before recommending last month that it be resumed.

Former president Mahinda Rajapakse, who is under investigation over allegations of corruption during his decade in power, relied heavily on China to rebuild the country's infrastructure after the end of the island's decades-long ethnic war in May 2009.

The present administration has accused the previous government of agreeing to unfavourable terms for the loans.

China, the largest single lender to the island, secured contracts to build roads, railways and ports under Rajapakse's regime.

Sri Lanka eyeing Chinese investments with law reforms: PM
Colombo (AFP) April 10, 2016 - Sri Lanka will bring legal reforms to encourage much needed foreign investment, as the cash-strapped island tries to turn its $8 billion Chinese debt into equity, the prime minister said Sunday.

Ranil Wickremesinghe, who returned home Sunday after a three-day visit to China, said streamlined regulations and a free trade agreement would be in place to increase economic ties with Beijing.

"The Chinese are interested (in investing) and are awaiting our (new) laws," Wickremesinghe said, adding that he was hoping to unveil an economic master plan with a regulatory framework by June.

He said the Chinese would be offered equity stakes in loss-making projects -- a second international airport and a deep sea port in the island's south -- commissioned by former strongman president Mahinda Rajapakse.

"We are setting aside an area of 1,000 acres (400 hectares) as a special investment zone for Chinese companies to set up operations in Hambantota," the prime minister said, referring to an area where the white elephant projects are located.

The two ports could be viable for big logistics companies, Wickremesinghe said.

He played down a controversy over a $1.4 billion land reclamation project in Colombo known as Port City, which is being built by a Chinese company.

The state-owned Chinese firm had demanded $125 million as compensation from Colombo for suspending work soon after President Maithripala Sirisena came to power in January last year. Wickremesinghe said the compensation claim was not raised during his visit.

The new government held up work pending the resolution of several issues, including environmental concerns and reports that neighbouring India feared the Port City could lead to China getting a military foothold in its backyard.

However, Wickremesinghe said Port City was not a threat.

"The Port City is not a threat to anyone, it's an opportunity for everyone to make money," he told reporters on Saturday.

The land reclamation represents the biggest single foreign investment received by the island, adding 233 hectares (575 acres) of real estate in the congested capital.

The mega project was initiated by Chinese President Xi Jinping in September 2014 and is expected to include real estate, a marina and a business district.

 

 

China tensions top agenda as Pentagon chief heads to Asia

 
‎Monday, ‎April ‎11, ‎2016, ‏‎5:04:30 AMGo to full article
Washington (AFP) April 9, 2016 - US Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter headed Saturday to India and the Philippines for talks on increasing regional defense cooperation, after calling off a planned trip to China amid tensions over Beijing's expansionist ambitions in the South China Sea.

Carter will fly out of Washington and travel to India and the Philippines for his Asian tour, followed by Middle East stops in the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.

China lays claim to almost all of the contested South China Sea, which is important for international shipping and is believed to hold valuable mineral and energy deposits.

Neighboring countries and Washington fear China could impose military controls over the entire South China Sea, and Beijing has in recent months built massive structures including radar systems and an airstrip over reefs and outcrops.

The Philippines is among several other regional countries that also have claims to the strategic zone.

"Almost all the nations there are asking us to do more with them... bilaterally and multilaterally," Carter told the Council on Foreign Relations think tank in New York on Friday.

"Many of those countries are reaching out anew to the United States to uphold the rules and principles that have allowed the region to thrive."

In India, where Carter will stay through Wednesday, he will discuss new partnerships and modernizing old alliances, according to the Pentagon.

"We are now doing things that could not have been imagined 10 years ago," a senior US defense official said.

- Fighter jets -

The United States and India are cooperating in aircraft carrier design, jet engine technology, and may collaborate on jointly producing jet fighters.

On the military side, India is again participating in the US-led Red Flag advanced aerial combat training exercise, and recently joined US and Japanese forces in an anti-submarine and air defense exercise.

Aside from meeting Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his counterpart Manohar Parrikar, Carter is scheduled to visit the Vikramaditya, one of two Indian aircraft carriers.

The Vikramaditya formerly belonged to the Soviet Union's navy, and entered the Indian navy in 2013.

In the Philippines, Carter will visit the Antonio Batista Air Base on the island of Palawan, which faces the South China Sea and the islands claimed by Beijing.

The Philippine base is part of five that the US army can use to temporarily rotate soldiers, following a military cooperation agreement that came into effect in January.

- No stop in China -

Access to the five bases will "enhance our ability to operate within the Philippines... and in South China Sea -- and of course, reinforce our deterrent message," a senior defense official said.

The agreement marks a return of US military to the Philippines, which was a US colony from 1898 to 1946. Until 1992 the Philippines was also home to Subic Bay naval base and Clark Air Base, two of the largest US military bases abroad.

During the visit Carter is scheduled to meet Philippine President Benigno Aquino and Defense Secretary Voltaire Gasmin.

Carter, however, chose to not stop in China during his Asian tour, even though he had earlier accepted an invitation to visit.

The decision to skip China was made just a few weeks ago, highlighting tensions between Beijing and Washington over the South China Sea.

Carter "did officially accept an invitation to travel to China in spring," said Pentagon spokesman Bill Urban. However, "scheduling problems" prevented that visit from happening.

"We are actively looking" for another date to visit "this year," Urban said.

Carter leaves Asia on Saturday and heads to the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, where among other things he will participate in a Gulf Cooperation Council ministerial meeting ahead of a GCC summit that will include President Barack Obama.

 

 

NATO deflects Trump criticism

 
‎Monday, ‎April ‎11, ‎2016, ‏‎5:04:30 AMGo to full article
Washington (AFP) April 7, 2016 - NATO's secretary general, responding to Donald Trump's criticism of the alliance, recalled Wednesday how it stood behind America after the September 11, 2001 terror attacks.

The first and only time NATO invoked "collective defense goals" was after the suicide plane bombings against New York and Washington, NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said in a speech in Washington.

"Europeans stepped up to help and support our ally, the United states," he added.

NATO then quickly joined the United States in invading Afghanistan on the grounds it was harboring al-Qaeda, blamed for 9/11. And more than 1,000 European and Canadian soldiers lost their lives there, the secretary general said.

Trump, the Republican presidential frontrunner, recently derided NATO as obsolete and said the United States covers an oversized portion of its budget.

President Barack Obama said Monday that NATO remains a cornerstone of US defense policy.

Stoltenberg said European countries are aware they need to boost defense spending and rely less on the United States to defend them.

 

 

Maldives launches $800 mn airport expansion

 
‎Monday, ‎April ‎11, ‎2016, ‏‎5:04:30 AMGo to full article
Male, Maldives (AFP) April 7, 2016 - The Maldives government has kicked off a controversial $800-million expansion of the country's main airport by a Chinese company, a move likely to irritate giant neighbour India.

President Abdulla Yameen inaugurated construction work in a ceremony on Wednesday night in the capital Male of the politically troubled country.

"The president stated that with the expansion, the airport would become the economic backbone of the Maldives and that this would be the main gateway of modern day development," a government statement said on Thursday.

Chinese company Beijing Urban Construction Group was awarded the contract during President Xi Jinping's visit to the strategically located Indian Ocean islands in September 2014.

Two years earlier, the Maldives kicked out Indian infrastructure firm GMR which was given the airport under a privatisation deal and cancelled its lucrative contract to run the airport.

The move sparked fury from New Delhi which threatened to cut off aid to the country, amid concerns the upmarket holiday destination was tilting towards India's rival China.

The expansion comes as Yameen is set to arrive in India on Sunday for an official visit, and will meet with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The Maldives government, which says the airport will not be privatised again, has said the expansion is needed to accomodate increasing tourist numbers to the upmarket honeymoon destination.

The expansion means the Airbus A380 will be able to land at the airport which will also be able to handle 7.5 million passengers a year.

It comes despite ongoing political turmoil in the Maldives which has dented its reputation as a peaceful tourist paradise.

Yameen has faced international criticism over the jailing of dissidents and political opponents including former president and now opposition leader Mohamed Nasheed.

Cash-strapped Sri Lanka looks to restructure $8 bn China debt
Beijing (AFP) April 7, 2016 - Sri Lanka's prime minister will seek to restructure some of the cash-strapped island's $8 billion Chinese debt, Colombo said Thursday, as he met his Chinese counterpart in Beijing.

As it faces a spiralling debt crisis that has forced it to seek a bailout from the IMF, Sri Lanka's government is hoping to convert some of its loan burden into stakes in infrastructure projects.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe also hopes to resolve a dispute over a $1.4 billion Chinese-built "Port City" in the Sri Lankan capital, State Enterprise Development Minister Eran Wickramaratne told reporters in Colombo.

The premier will seek to negotiate a $125 million government compensation claim from a Chinese firm over delays to the massive land reclamation project, Wickramaratne said.

The project represents the biggest single foreign investment received by the island and will add 233 hectares (575 acres) of real estate in the congested capital.

But it has been controversial as Beijing has been accused of seeking to develop facilities around the Indian Ocean in a "string of pearls" strategy to counter the rise of rival India and secure its own economic interests.

Sri Lanka's president suspended the plan shortly after taking power in January last year, before recommending last month that it be resumed.

Chinese foreign ministry official Xiao Qian told reporters after a meeting between Wickremesinghe and China's Premier Li Keqiang that both sides agreed to "speed up" the project.

"On the Chinese side, we hope to see the earliest possible resumption. We believe we won't have to wait too long," he added.

The two also agreed to "give priority" to the construction of an industrial park at Hambantota Port, he said, without giving details.

During his Beijing visit, which ends Saturday, Prime Minister Wickremesinghe will seek investment to revive loss-making white elephant projects commissioned by former strongman president Mahinda Rajapakse.

Rajapakse relied heavily on Chinese financing to rebuild the country's infrastructure after the end of the island's decades-long ethnic war in May 2009.

But the present administration has accused the previous government of agreeing to unfavourable terms for the loans.

President Maithripala Sirisena's government temporarily halted all projects signed off by Rajapakse, who is under investigation over allegations of corruption during his decade in power.

"I believe your trip will give new impetus to relations. I'm willing to exchange views with you on bilateral ties and other issues of mutual concern," Li told Wickremesinghe at the start of a closed-door meeting.

The two oversaw the signing of seven agreements, including an extradition treaty and a loan to extend a highway in southern Sri Lanka.

 

 

Japan PM defends US military alliance in rebuff to Trump

 
‎Monday, ‎April ‎11, ‎2016, ‏‎5:04:30 AMGo to full article
Tokyo (AFP) April 6, 2016 - US military bases remain essential to Japan's security, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said in an interview Wednesday, as he brushed off comments by Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump that Tokyo should be left to defend itself.

Japan's alliance with Washington has been the bedrock of its defence since the end of World War II, and the country still hosts 47,000 US troops.

"I cannot conceive of any situation within the foreseeable future when the US presence wouldn't be necessary," Abe told The Wall Street Journal.

Abe has vowed to boost Japan's military but he sidestepped a question on whether Japan would play a bigger role in its own defence, saying Tokyo would strengthen its relationship with Washington.

"By strengthening the Japan-US alliance, we'll strengthen deterrence and that will contribute to peace and stability in the region, not just Japan," Abe said in the interview with the WSJ, conducted in Tokyo on Tuesday.

Abe also said he wanted to push through a huge trans-Pacific trade deal that has been attacked by both Democratic presidential candidates, Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton.

"This is the birth of an economic zone that has 40 percent of the world's [gross domestic product], one that is protected by free and fair rules,' Abe told the WSJ, referring to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a massive multi-nation deal of which Japan and the US are the key players.

"Through it, the US, Japan and the other countries participating in TPP will achieve great profit and gain chances for growth."

Abe's comments come after Trump said that US alliances with countries such as Japan and South Korea cost too much to maintain and that they should be responsible for their own defence -- unless they bear more of the cost burden.

Trump has also suggested that they could develop their own nuclear weapons, a stance particularly controversial in Japan, which is the only country in the world to be attacked with atomic bombs.

Asked at a press conference last week about comments by Trump, Abe said that the alliance with the US remains strong and will not change after the US presidential election in November, comments he reiterated in the interview.

"No matter who will be the next president, the Japan-US alliance is the cornerstone of Japan's diplomacy," he said.

Japan, which is constitutionally barred from waging offensive war, last year passed new laws that could, under certain circumstances, see its troops fight abroad for the first time since the end of World War II.

Abe says the legislation is necessary because of perceived threats from an increasingly assertive China and unstable North Korea.

Opponents argue they go against both the constitution and the national psyche, and could see Japan dragged into far-flung wars led by treaty ally the US.

Washington has backed the changes, but regional rivals China and South Korea have expressed concern at any expansion of Japan's military.

 

 

Sri Lanka eyeing Chinese investments with law reforms: PM

 
‎Monday, ‎April ‎11, ‎2016, ‏‎5:04:30 AMGo to full article
Colombo (AFP) April 10, 2016 - Sri Lanka will bring legal reforms to encourage much needed foreign investment, as the cash-strapped island tries to turn its $8 billion Chinese debt into equity, the prime minister said Sunday.

Ranil Wickremesinghe, who returned home Sunday after a three-day visit to China, said streamlined regulations and a free trade agreement would be in place to increase economic ties with Beijing.

"The Chinese are interested (in investing) and are awaiting our (new) laws," Wickremesinghe said, adding that he was hoping to unveil an economic master plan with a regulatory framework by June.

He said the Chinese would be offered equity stakes in loss-making projects -- a second international airport and a deep sea port in the island's south -- commissioned by former strongman president Mahinda Rajapakse.

"We are setting aside an area of 1,000 acres (400 hectares) as a special investment zone for Chinese companies to set up operations in Hambantota," the prime minister said, referring to an area where the white elephant projects are located.

The two ports could be viable for big logistics companies, Wickremesinghe said.

He played down a controversy over a $1.4 billion land reclamation project in Colombo known as Port City, which is being built by a Chinese company.

The state-owned Chinese firm had demanded $125 million as compensation from Colombo for suspending work soon after President Maithripala Sirisena came to power in January last year. Wickremesinghe said the compensation claim was not raised during his visit.

The new government held up work pending the resolution of several issues, including environmental concerns and reports that neighbouring India feared the Port City could lead to China getting a military foothold in its backyard.

However, Wickremesinghe said Port City was not a threat.

"The Port City is not a threat to anyone, it's an opportunity for everyone to make money," he told reporters on Saturday.

The land reclamation represents the biggest single foreign investment received by the island, adding 233 hectares (575 acres) of real estate in the congested capital.

The mega project was initiated by Chinese President Xi Jinping in September 2014 and is expected to include real estate, a marina and a business district.

 

 

China opens new lighthouse on contested South China Sea reef

 
‎Monday, ‎April ‎11, ‎2016, ‏‎5:04:30 AMGo to full article
Beijing (AFP) April 6, 2016 - China has expanded its presence in the contested South China Sea by switching on a lighthouse atop a reconstructed reef also claimed by Vietnam and the Philippines, state media said.

The 55-meter-high (180-foot) facility on Subi Reef in the Spratly chain contains technology to monitor passing ships, the official Xinhua news agency reported late Tuesday.

China claims virtually all the South China Sea despite conflicting claims by Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam, Taiwan and the Philippines. It has constructed artificial islands in the area in recent months as it asserts its claims.

China has turned Subi Reef -- known as Zhubi in China -- into an artificial island in the past year, satellite photos have shown, reclaiming nearly 400 hectares (988 acres) of land.

The island-building has been condemned by neighbours and the United States, but Beijing insists it is aimed at helping with maritime search and rescue.

Chinese transport officials held a ceremony on Subi on Tuesday, Xinhua said. Pictures showed men in white shirts beside the towering structure next to a sign reading "Lights-on ceremony".

Washington regularly accuses Beijing -- which says it has built runways and deployed unspecified weapons to the islands -- of militarising the area.

Beijing denies the accusations and says US patrols have ramped up tensions.

Citing an obligation to uphold freedom of navigation, Washington last year sent the USS Lassen to sail past Subi Reef, a move which angered Beijing.

Xinhua reported last year that China would build two 50-metre-tall lighthouses on the Cuarteron and Johnson South reefs in the Spratly islands, which are also claimed by Vietnam and the Philippines.

The state-run China Daily newspaper reported in 2014 that Beijing would build five new lighthouses in the South China Sea's Paracels chain.

 

 

Pentagon chief outlines reforms reflecting new global threats

 
‎Monday, ‎April ‎11, ‎2016, ‏‎5:04:30 AMGo to full article
Washington (AFP) April 5, 2016 - Defense Secretary Ash Carter outlined Tuesday several broad changes he envisions to make the Pentagon more efficient in combating global threats such as the Islamic State group.

Speaking at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank, Carter suggested updates to parts of the Goldwater-Nichols Act, a sweeping 1986 Pentagon reform law that restructured America's vast military.

Borne from lessons learned during the Vietnam War and the botched 1980 Iranian hostage rescue mission, the act sought to soothe rivalries and fix a lack of cooperation between the services.

Observers say the historic reforms need updates to reflect the changed nature of 21st century threats and warfare.

For instance, Carter said he wants to clarify the role of the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, the Pentagon's top officer who serves as the defense secretary's principal adviser.

"More steps (are needed) to strengthen the capability of the chairman and the joint chiefs to support force management, planning, and execution across the combatant commands, particularly in the face of threats that cut across regional and functional combatant command areas of responsibility," Carter said.

Despite the extra influence of the chairman, a position currently held by General Joe Dunford, Carter said the role would remain outside of the Pentagon's direct chain of command, which currently flows from the president to the defense secretary to the relevant commanders.

Carter also called for simpler military acquisition processes and a greater coordination between various combatant commands, such as Africa Command and European Command, to deal with trans-regional threats such as the IS group.

He suggested each command could become more efficient if fewer four-star generals worked at the head of each organization.

"Billets currently filled by four-star generals and admirals will be filled by three-stars in the future," he said.

The Pentagon can execute some of its proposals under its own authority, and will do so in the "coming weeks," Carter said. Other decisions will need congressional approval.

 

 

Myanmar's Suu Kyi meets China counterpart in FM debut

 
‎Monday, ‎April ‎11, ‎2016, ‏‎5:04:30 AMGo to full article
Yangon (AFP) April 5, 2016 - Myanmar's foreign minister Aung San Suu Kyi met her Chinese counterpart Tuesday in the first diplomatic foray of her new pro-democracy government, underscoring the importance of relations with Beijing.

The nation sees its giant neighbour -- and largest trading partner -- as its biggest foreign policy preoccupation, with border wars and controversial China-backed mega-projects topping the agenda.

The new civilian administration, sworn in on March 30, faces a host of economic challenges as it inherits the government of the impoverished nation from the military.

It also faces tensions with the military which ruled for almost half a century.

Suu Kyi, for decades the standard-bearer of the democracy movement and now foreign minister, invited China's Wang Yi for talks in the capital Naypyidaw.

At a press conference afterwards she described relations as "very important politically as well as socially and economically".

Wang said his government was eager to "build more confidence" between the nations and vowed that China would support Myanmar's process of national reconciliation.

"China is a good neighbour to Myanmar. We want to improve the relationship between the two countries," he said through an interpreter.

Beijing was once instrumental in shielding Myanmar's former junta from the full force of international opprobrium while Suu Kyi languished for years under house arrest.

Chinese firms enjoyed a host of juicy business deals with Myanmar's generals and their cronies that were often seen as exploiting the nation's rich natural resources.

But the comfortable relationship was thrown into upheaval under the last quasi-civilian government of Thein Sein.

In 2011 he shocked the international community by suspending the multi-billion dollar China-backed Myitsone hydropower project in war-torn Kachin state.

Fighting in the border region of Kokang last year between the Myanmar army and local rebels with links to China also strained relations.

Analysts say both nations want to rebalance the relationship after Myanmar's historic November elections that saw millions of voters take to the polls to end the military's domination.

"The new government recognises China's importance but will also be keen to recalibrate aspects of the two countries' relations," said Nyantha Maw Lin, of advisory firm Vriens and Partners.

- Huge investor -

With a cumulative total of $15.4 billion of approved investments in Myanmar, China is by far its largest foreign investor, despite reforms in recent years that have seen Western firms surge back.

Its interests range from a huge oil and gas pipeline and special economic zone, to dams and mining. Chinese firms have continued to win major contracts in recent months.

The two countries share a long border, along parts of which ethnic minority rebel groups are fighting Myanmar's government. The frontier also sees huge flows of illicit timber, drugs and jade flood north from Myanmar.

Yun Sun from the Stimson Center's East Asia Program said discussions were likely to focus on China's role in Myanmar's peace process as well as in its economic development.

Suu Kyi, who met President Xi Jinping during a visit to Beijing last June, has shown a pragmatic streak in dealing with Chinese interests.

But in a rare sign of pushback, a top party economic adviser in March said the incoming government could rethink the Myitsone project despite China's eagerness to see it restarted.

The meeting between Suu Kyi and her Chinese counterpart comes amid growing tension between her party and the military.

Suu Kyi is barred from the presidency by the junta-era constitution. But her National League for Democracy party wants to push a bill through parliament that would give her the vaguely defined new role of state special adviser.

Army MPs, who make up a quarter of the legislature, slammed the bill at a dramatic lower house hearing Tuesday that saw the uniformed soldiers refuse to vote. They stood in protest when their attempts at amendments were swatted away by the NLD, which holds a majority.

"It is difficult for the military representatives to continue participating if (the bill) is voted through without review," military MP Brigadier General Maung Maung told the chamber.

The bill needs only one more vote in the combined parliament to pass.

 

 

US, Philippines hold war games as China flexes muscles

 
‎Monday, ‎April ‎4, ‎2016, ‏‎7:56:21 AMGo to full article
Manila (AFP) April 2, 2016 - Thousands of US and Filipino soldiers will on Monday launch annual war games that this year are being seen as a show of strength in the face of China's increasing assertiveness in the region.

The 11-day Balikatan (shoulder-to-shoulder) exercises are expected to show how the Philippines, though severely outgunned, can counter China with the help of the United States, its longest-standing ally.

China has in recent months built massive structures including radar systems and an airstrip over reefs and outcrops in the contested South China Sea, sparking international concern.

Beijing lays claim to almost all of the waters, which are important for international shipping and believed to hold valuable mineral and energy deposits, and neighbouring countries fear China could impose military controls over the entire sea.

The joint manoeuvres come ahead of a decision this year by a United Nations-backed tribunal on a legal challenge by Manila to China's territorial claims.

Adding to the tensions, the Philippines is preparing to host US troops in five bases under a defence pact born out of US President Barack Obama's plan to reassert American influence in the Pacific.

Balikatan has evolved from counter-terrorism manoeuvres against Islamic extremists like the Philippines' Abu Sayyaf, to simulations of retaking and protecting territory as disputes with Beijing have escalated.

However, Filipino and US officials insist the exercises are not explicitly aimed at China.

Balikatan spokesman Captain Celeste Frank Sayson said 55 US aircraft would take part in the drills, while the Philippines will deploy fighter jets it has recently acquired.

While no specific staging areas have been disclosed, the two allies have in recent years held war games at air bases just 230 kilometres (140 miles) from the disputed areas in the South China Sea.

Rene de Castro, an international studies professor at the De La Salle University in Manila, told AFP the drills appeared to have China's expansion in the South China Sea in mind.

"Looking at the features of Balikatan -- the mobile missile-launchers, the fighter planes -- that is an indication that the alliance is being geared for territorial defence," he said.

Richard Javad Heydarian, a political science professor at the De La Salle University in Manila, added that the exercises "aim to enhance interoperability among allies nations and signal their preparedness to confront China if necessary".

- Manila courts US, Japan -

The Philippine military said the US High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS), designed to shoot down aircraft, will be sent to Palawan, the Philippines' westernmost island on the South China Sea, during the war games.

The Philippines operates one airstrip in the South China Sea, on Thitu island, where there are around 350 civilian residents.

It also keeps small military contingents in smaller outcrops, including Second Thomas Shoal, where Marines are stationed on a decaying World War II ship.

The Philippines, which has one of the weakest militaries in the region, has sought to counter China's overwhelming military advantage by improving ties with the United States and Japan.

While it has acquired new fighter jets and surplus US naval ships, the Southeast Asian nation still has far to go, De Castro warned.

China's defence budget dwarfs that of the Philippines and Beijing is this year set to outspend its smaller neighbour by a factor of around 60.

The Philippines is also increasing its military engagements with the US with the Enhanced Defence Cooperation Agreement, which took effect in January.

Under the deal, US troops will rotate through five military camps including two air bases that are strategically positioned near the South China Sea.

"It is very apparent that the thrust of (the agreement) is air power," said former national security adviser Roilo Golez.

Australia, which recently criticised China's assertiveness in the disputed waters, is sending 80 troops to join parachute drills as part of the manoeuvres, Sayson said.

Obama this week confronted Chinese President Xi Jinping over Beijing's actions in the disputed seas.

Tensions have flared between the superpowers since the US sent warships close to disputed islands twice in the past six months.

Indonesia demands 'bully' China hand over fishing boat
Jakarta (AFP) April 1, 2016 - Indonesia called on China Friday to hand over a fishing boat it claims was operating illegally in its waters near the South China Sea, saying big countries should not "bully" smaller ones.

It was the latest salvo in a rare public row between the nations, which began two weeks ago when Indonesian and Chinese vessels clashed near Indonesia's Natuna Islands.

An Indonesian patrol boat had been seeking to detain a Chinese fishing vessel, which they claimed had been operating without a permit. But as they towed it to shore, Chinese coastguards appeared and rammed the captured boat, helping it to go free.

Beijing claims nearly all the South China Sea -- through which a third of the world's oil passes -- despite conflicting claims from the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei.

Indonesia does not have overlapping territorial claims with Beijing in the hotly disputed waters, but it does object to a segmented line China uses to define its claims since this overlaps Indonesia's exclusive economic zone north of the Natunas.

Indonesian Fisheries Minister Susi Pudjiastuti, who has been leading a crackdown on illegal fishing in the archipelago's vast water, on Friday demanded Beijing hand over the Chinese trawler to Indonesian authorities.

"I do believe China is a great country, with good law enforcement, and they do not back illegal fishing, even if it is done by Chinese vessels," she told AFP in an interview.

"I do believe they will honour me, by handing over this (illegal fishing) vessel."

And she added: "I think as a big country you cannot bully small countries."

The campaign against illegal fishing has seen around 200 foreign vessels detained in Indonesian waters and many have been blown up in public displays after their crews were removed.

Before the Chinese coastguards freed the fishing boat, officials succeeded in detaining eight Chinese crew members.

Pudjiastuti said Friday around three would be prosecuted, but the rest would likely be deported back to China. She would not be drawn on whether the boat would be blown up if handed over.

There was no immediate response from the Chinese embassy in Jakarta, but Beijing has said previously the fishing boat was operating in a "traditional Chinese fishing ground".

Pudjiastuti rejected this claim, insisting it was in Indonesia's exclusive economic zone -- an area where a state has rights relating to exploration and use of marine resources.

Indonesia's defence ministry also said Friday that F-16 fighter jets would be deployed to help defend the fish-rich Natunas, in the far northwest fringe of the archipelago, part of an ongoing military build-up around the islands.

 

 

Indonesia demands 'bully' China hand over fishing boat

 
‎Monday, ‎April ‎4, ‎2016, ‏‎7:56:21 AMGo to full article
Jakarta (AFP) April 1, 2016 - Indonesia called on China Friday to hand over a fishing boat it claims was operating illegally in its waters near the South China Sea, saying big countries should not "bully" smaller ones.

It was the latest salvo in a rare public row between the nations, which began two weeks ago when Indonesian and Chinese vessels clashed near Indonesia's Natuna Islands.

An Indonesian patrol boat had been seeking to detain a Chinese fishing vessel, which they claimed had been operating without a permit. But as they towed it to shore, Chinese coastguards appeared and rammed the captured boat, helping it to go free.

Beijing claims nearly all the South China Sea -- through which a third of the world's oil passes -- despite conflicting claims from the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei.

Indonesia does not have overlapping territorial claims with Beijing in the hotly disputed waters, but it does object to a segmented line China uses to define its claims since this overlaps Indonesia's exclusive economic zone north of the Natunas.

Indonesian Fisheries Minister Susi Pudjiastuti, who has been leading a crackdown on illegal fishing in the archipelago's vast water, on Friday demanded Beijing hand over the Chinese trawler to Indonesian authorities.

"I do believe China is a great country, with good law enforcement, and they do not back illegal fishing, even if it is done by Chinese vessels," she told AFP in an interview.

"I do believe they will honour me, by handing over this (illegal fishing) vessel."

And she added: "I think as a big country you cannot bully small countries."

The campaign against illegal fishing has seen around 200 foreign vessels detained in Indonesian waters and many have been blown up in public displays after their crews were removed.

Before the Chinese coastguards freed the fishing boat, officials succeeded in detaining eight Chinese crew members.

Pudjiastuti said Friday around three would be prosecuted, but the rest would likely be deported back to China. She would not be drawn on whether the boat would be blown up if handed over.

There was no immediate response from the Chinese embassy in Jakarta, but Beijing has said previously the fishing boat was operating in a "traditional Chinese fishing ground".

Pudjiastuti rejected this claim, insisting it was in Indonesia's exclusive economic zone -- an area where a state has rights relating to exploration and use of marine resources.

Indonesia's defence ministry also said Friday that F-16 fighter jets would be deployed to help defend the fish-rich Natunas, in the far northwest fringe of the archipelago, part of an ongoing military build-up around the islands.

 

 

Obama promises 'candid' exchange with Xi amid maritime disputes

 
‎Monday, ‎April ‎4, ‎2016, ‏‎7:56:21 AMGo to full article
Washington (AFP) March 31, 2016 - US President Barack Obama opened a meeting with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping with a promise of "candid" discussion over Beijing's suspected military buildup in the South China Sea.

"We will have candid exchanges about areas where we have differences, issues like human rights, cyber and maritime issues," Obama said as he sat across the conference table from his Chinese counterpart.

US officials have expressed concern that China's actions in the South China Sea are not consistent with Xi's pledge at the White House last year not to pursue militarization of the hotly contested and strategically vital waterway.

China claims virtually all the South China Sea despite conflicting claims by Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam, Taiwan and the Philippines, and has built up artificial islands in the area in recent months, including some with airstrips.

"We do continue to be concerned about militarization in the South China Sea," said senior Obama foreign policy aide Ben Rhodes ahead of the meeting with Xi.

"We certainly have seen developments, reports that are not consistent with commitments to avoid and to non-militarize the South China Sea."

"This will be certainly an important topic of conversation between the two presidents."

Washington has since October carried out two high-profile "freedom of navigation" operations in which it sailed warships within 12 nautical miles of islets claimed by China.

Xi spoke of the need to avoid misunderstandings and big disruptions in the "major power relations" between the two countries.

- Keeping up pressure on Pyongyang -

Obama and Xi were also set to discuss pressure on North Korea, which in January detonated a nuclear device and launched a long-range rocket a month later, prompting UN sanctions backed by both Beijing and Washington.

"Of great importance to both of us is North Korea's pursuit of nuclear weapons, which threatens the security and stability of the region," said Obama.

"President Xi and I are both committed to the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula and the full implementation of UN sanctions."

"We are going to discuss how we can discourage actions like nuclear missile tests that escalate tensions and violate international obligations."

The White House wants to keep up pressure on the North Korean regime, increasing the economic and diplomatic cost of ignoring international appeals to mothball its nukes.

US officials have long believed that China could more forcefully wield its influence over Pyongyang, including encouraging its Stalinist neighbor to tone down destabilizing rhetoric.

Tensions are only expected to rise in advance of a major Communist Party Congress in North Korea in May.

The White House has begun talks with South Korea over the deployment of a missile defense system.

But it has struggled to convince China that the move is only in response to Pyongyang's threats.

China fears it may be an effort to deepen US influence in the region.

"It is designed and capable only of responding to the North Korean threat," said Dan Kritenbrink, senior Asian affairs director at the National Security Council.

"It in no way threatens either Chinese or Russian or other security interests in the region and will do nothing to undermine strategic stability between the United States and China."

 

 

China to US: 'Be careful' in South China Sea

 
‎Monday, ‎April ‎4, ‎2016, ‏‎7:56:21 AMGo to full article
Beijing (AFP) March 31, 2016 - Beijing's defence ministry on Thursday warned the US navy to "be careful" in the South China Sea and slammed a newly signed agreement between Washington and the Philippines.

Earlier this month, Manila agreed to give US forces access to five military bases, including some close to the disputed South China Sea, where tensions have risen over Beijing's assertion of its territorial claims.

China claims virtually all the South China Sea despite conflicting claims by Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam, Taiwan and the Philippines, and has built up artificial islands in the area in recent months, including some with airstrips.

Washington has since October carried out two high-profile "freedom of navigation" operations in which it sailed warships within 12 nautical miles of islets claimed by China.

Asked about a recent report on US patrols in the sea, defence ministry spokesman Yang Yujun told a briefing on Thursday: "As for the US ships which came, I can only suggest they be careful".

The agreement between Washington and Manila applies to the Antonio Bautista Air Base on the western island of Palawan, directly on the South China Sea.

Asked about the deal, Yang said: "To strengthen military alliances is a reflection of a Cold War mentality".

"It is in the opposite direction of the trends of the era for peace, development and cooperation," he said, adding bilateral military cooperation "should not "undermine a third party's interests".

Washington regularly accuses Beijing -- which says it has built runways on and deployed unspecified weapons to islands in the South China Sea -- of militarising the area.

Beijing denies the accusations and says US patrols have ramped up tensions.

"Now, the United States has come back, and is reinforcing its military presence in this region and promoting militarisation in the South China Sea," Yang said.

Beijing acknowledges that the facilities on its new islands will have military as well as civilian purposes.

China's comments came as Malaysia accused "a large number" of Chinese fishing trawlers and a coast guard vessel of entering its waters, understood to be last week.

Kuala Lumpur said China's envoy to Malaysia was summoned on Thursday "to seek clarification as well as to register Malaysia's concerns over the matter".

 

 

 

 

 

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The History of the House of Rothschild

by Andrew Hitchcock

 

 

  • Hitchcock also wrote a history for the bankers:

 

 

  • One of our listeners added images and photos and turned this Rothschild document

into a PowerPoint presentation. It is very large; 67 megabytes:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Rothschilds have been in control of the world for a very long time, their tentacles reaching into many aspects of our daily lives, as is documented in the following timeline.  However, before you jump to the timeline, please read this invaluable introduction which will tell you who the Rothschilds are as oppose to who they claim to be.

The Rothschilds claim that they are Jewish, when in fact they are Khazars.  They are from a country called Khazaria, which occupied the land locked between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea which is now predominantly occupied by Georgia.  The reason the Rothschilds claim to be Jewish is that the Khazars under the instruction of the King, converted to the Jewish faith in 740 A.D., but of course that did not include converting their Asiatic Mongolian genes to the genes of the Jewish people.

You will find that approximately 90% of people in the world today who call themselves Jews are actually Khazars, or as they like to be known, Ashkenazi Jews.  These people knowingly lie to the world with their claims that the land of Israel is theirs by birthright, when in actual fact their real homeland is over 800 miles away in Georgia.

So, next time you hear an Israeli Prime Minister bleating about the so-called persecution of the Jews, consider this, every Prime Minister of Israel has been an Ashkenazi Jew.  Therefore when all these Prime Ministers have curried favour with the West for their re-establishment of a Jewish homeland, they have knowingly and deliberately lied to you, as they were never from that region, and they well know it, because it is they who call themselves Ashkenazi Jews.

The Book of Revelation, Chapter 2, Verse 9, states the following which would appear to be about these Ashkenazi Jews:

"I know thy works, and tribulation and poverty, (but thou art rich) and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan."
The most wealthy bloodline in the world bar none and the leader of the Ashkenazi Jews in the world today is the Rothschild family.  As you will see in the timeline, the Rothschilds have obtained this position through lies, manipulation and murder.  Their bloodline also extends into the Royal Families of Europe, and the following family names:  Astor; Bundy; Collins; duPont; Freeman; Kennedy; Morgan; Oppenheimer; Rockefeller; Sassoon; Schiff; Taft; and Van Duyn.

However, these are not the only bloodlines to worry about.  You are probably aware of the centuries old pratice undertaken by many Ashkenazi Jews whereby they would change their name, in order for them to appear part of the dominant race of the country in which they lived, so as they could obtain influential positions in that country, which they would then exploit to serve their real masters elsewhere.  There is plenty of evidence to prove the Rothschilds continue that deceptive tradition.

Furthermore the Rothschilds are known to sire many children secretly that they can put into positions of power when required.  This started with the very first man who took the name Rothschild, who had a secret sixth son.  Finally, remember the world is a diverse place, I could if I wanted change my name to Rothschild, or any of the names listed above, and that would not make me part of this family anymore than converting to Judaism in 740 A.D. will make these Ashkenazis Jewish.

Please, therefore, do not automatically assume someone you see with the name Rothschild or any of the names listed above are part of the Rothschild criminal network.  Furthermore and most importantly, the majority of Ashkenazi Jews are innocent and not part of this network.  Check the facts out for yourself first, this article is designed to inform people who the enemy is, not single out people of a particular race or people with a particular surname, who may have nothing to do with this Rothschild criminal network.
 

1743: Mayer Amschel Bauer, an Ashkenazi Jew, is born in Frankfurt, Germany, the son of Moses Amschel Bauer, a money lender and the proprietor of a counting house.

 

Moses Amschel Bauer places a red sign above the entrance door to his counting house. This sign is a red hexagram (which geometrically and numerically translates into the number 666) which under Rothschild instruction will end up on the Israeli flag some two centuries later.

 

1753: Gutle Schnaper, an Ashkenazi Jew (future wife of Mayer Amschel Bauer), born to respected merchant, Wolf Salomon Schnaper.

1760: During this decade Mayer Amschel Bauer works for a bank owned by the Oppenheimers' in Hanover, Germany.  He is highly successful and becomes a junior partner. Whilst working at the bank he becomes acquainted with General von Estorff.

Following his father's death, Bauer returns to Frankfurt to take over his father's business. Bauer recognises the significance of the red hexagram and changes his name from Bauer to Rothschild, after the red hexagram or sign signifying 666 hanging over the entrance door ("Rot," is German for, "Red," "Schild," is German for, "Sign").

 

Now Mayer Amschel Rothschild, he discovers that General von Estorff is now attached to the court of Prince William IX of Hesse-Hanau, one of the richest royal houses in Europe, which gained its' wealth by the hiring out of Hessian soldiers to foreign countries for vast profits (a practice that continues today in the form of exporting, "peacekeeping," troops throughout the world).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The European Union (flag pictured) is awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for "the advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe".

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South Sudan must sustain efforts to protect human rights, says UN official

Conflict in Darfur
Date 2003–2009 /2010

 

Location Darfur, Sudan
Belligerents
Sudan JEM factions
Bandera Darfur.svg SLM (Minnawi faction)
Sudan LJM
Allegedly supported by:
 Chad
 Eritrea
Sudan Janjaweed
Sudan Sudanese Armed Forces
Sudan Sudanese Police
Foreign Mercenaries
African Union
 
United Nations
Commanders and leaders
Sudan Khalil Ibrahim
Sudan Ahmed Diraige
Bandera Darfur.svg Minni Minnawi
Sudan Abdul Wahid al Nur
Sudan Omar al-Bashir
Sudan Musa Hilal
Sudan Hamid Dawai
Sudan Ali Kushayb
Sudan Ahmed Haroun
Rodolphe Adada
United Nations
Martin Luther Agwai
Strength
NRF/JEM: Unknown N/A 9,065
Casualties and losses
unknown
  • 178,258-461,520 excess deaths
  • 2,850,000 Displaced (UN estimate)
  • 450,000 Displaced (Sudanese estimate)
unknown 51 peacekeepers killed

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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