Asia-Pacific Premium Politics News (Page 2)

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Palau, Pacific Islands

Pacific islands that were key World War II battlegrounds but largely neglected for the past 30 years are now back in the spotlight as China challenges traditional US supremacy in the region. Palau, the Federated States of Micronesia and the Marshall Islands, whose territories stretch thousands of kilometres across the Pacific, have been the recipients of largesse by Washington, Tokyo and other allied powers, but otherwise mostly ignored in recent decades. However, increasing competition between China and the US has dramatically altered the landscape, elevating the island nations beyond even their Cold War visibility when they were the site of strategic outposts and 1950s atom bomb tests. In recent years Washington’s attention was focused elsewhere and US funding grants to the three nations were slated to end in 2023. China was quick to spot the opportunity to woo new diplomatic allies and look for strategic advantage in the vast region, analysts said. “Reductions in development assistance, and redirections as to where that assistance is given have created a vacuum which China has been able to fill, particularly in addressing stated needs of Pacific island countries in relation to infrastructure,” said Pacific politics specialist Tess Newton Cain, a visiting fellow at the Australian National University. Washington and its allies have only recently woken up to the challenge, with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Japan’s Foreign Minister Taro Kono making unprecedented visits to the region, taking their cheque books with them. “Recognition of the strategic value of the three northContinue reading

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Hong Kong Crisis Takes Center Stage Across Australian Universities

Tensions in Hong Kong have rippled across Australian universities, as supporters of the pro-democracy protests have been targeted and harassed by “patriotic” mainland students — with the tacit backing of Beijing. Public rallies and other acts of solidarity have been staged at several campuses during the Asian financial hub’s two months of civil unrest, including the emergence of “Lennon walls” plastered with sticky notes extolling the virtues of free speech and democracy. But that has angered some mainland Chinese students, who have physically confronted protestors, torn down message boards and demanded universities provide a “pure study environment” free of political messages that “insult” their homeland. Video from a small pro-democracy rally at Monash University on Tuesday shows a man aggressively shouting at students and manhandling someone who tried to step in, while a companion films the confrontation. “We wear masks because we know they will take photos and put it online on their social network sites and they try to find who (we) are,” said 23-year-old student James, who witnessed the skirmish. He said several students who participated had their details published online and at least one had been the target of harassment, including anonymous phone calls. Nationalist activists listed a pro-Hong Kong demonstrator’s home address in Melbourne on the popular messaging app WeChat, and discussed reporting mainland-born Chinese who supported the students to Beijing authorities for “welfare” when they get home. At the University of Queensland in Brisbane, a handful of hard-hatted students held its latest demonstration on FridayContinue reading

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Indian-Controlled Kashmir

A strict curfew keeping residents of Indian-controlled Kashmir in their homes for a fifth day was eased for Friday prayers, the police chief said. The mostly Muslim region has been under an unprecedented security lockdown and near-total communications blackout to prevent unrest as India’s Hindu nationalist-led government announced it was revoking Kashmir’s special constitutional status and downgrading its statehood. “People will be allowed to go to the area-specific mosques for the prayers in most parts of Srinagar city,” the region’s police chief, Dilbagh Singh, told The Associated Press on Friday. The relaxing of the curfew in Kashmir’s main city was temporary but a precise timeframe wasn’t given. Friday prayers started at 12:37 p.m. in Srinagar and lasted for about 20 minutes. Television images showed small groups of people offering prayers in local mosques. “We see a sense of calm and normalcy (in Kashmir). There has been no incident of violence,” External Affairs Ministry spokesman Raveesh Kumar told reporters in New Delhi. The Press Trust of India news agency earlier said authorities would allow people to offer prayers in small local mosques, but there would be no Friday congregation at the historic Jama Masjid where thousands of Muslim normally pray every week. Jama Masjid has been a center of regular anti-India protests after Friday prayers. Authorities will be closely watching for any anti-India protests, which are expected to determine a further easing of restrictions for the Muslim festival of Eid al-Adha to be celebrated Monday. Prime Minister Narendra Modi in anContinue reading

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Narendra Modi - India Politics News Headlines

Indian security forces have arrested more than 500 people since New Delhi imposed a communications blackout and security clampdown in divided Kashmir, where people remained holed up in their homes for a fourth day. Pakistan, which claims the divided Himalayan region together with India, on Thursday suspended a key train service with India over change in Kashmir’s special status by New Delhi, as tensions between the rivals soared. India’s government this week revoked the special status of Jammu and Kashmir and downgraded the region from statehood to a territory. Rebels in Muslim-majority Kashmir have been fighting Indian rule in the portion it administers for decades. State-run All India Radio, which reported on the arrests without details, also said that cross-border firing by Indian and Pakistani troops hit the Rajouri sector of the Indian-controlled Kashmir late Wednesday. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to address the nation on Thursday to discuss Kashmir. His national security adviser, Ajit Doval, visited the region on Wednesday to assess the law and order situation. Activist Ali Mohammed told the New Delhi Television news channel that he has been organizing ambulances to carry sick poor people to hospitals in Srinagar, the main city in India’s portion of Kashmir, as local residents can’t even use phones to ask for medical help. “It’s hell,” a patient told the television channel. In New Delhi, opposition Congress party activist Tehseen Poonawalla said he expected the Supreme Court to hear his petition on Thursday seeking immediate lifting of curfew and otherContinue reading

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India Parliament

India’s move to strip Kashmir of special rights is likely to face legal challenges, constitutional experts and Supreme Court lawyers said, with some questioning the legality of the route used to make the change. New Delhi’s action also provoked condemnation in Pakistan, which has disputed sovereignty over Kashmir with India for decades. India’s revocation of the Himalayan territory’s special status is a bid to fully integrate its only Muslim-majority state with the rest of the country. Indian home minister Amit Shah said the government would scrap the constitution’s Article 370, which grants special status to Jammu and Kashmir state and allows permanent residents rights to property, state government jobs and college places. To do so, it used a provision under Article 370 of the constitution that allows the law to be tweaked by a presidential order — provided there is consensus in the constituent assembly of Jammu and Kashmir. One problem, though, is that the constituent assembly was dissolved in 1956. The government has tweaked another constitutional article so that a reference in Article 370 to “constituent assembly of the state” becomes “legislative assembly of the state.” The legality of that move, the lawyers said, could be questioned in court. Furthermore, New Delhi said all the changes were agreed to by the state government. And that, some lawyers say, could be another issue for the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi as there currently is no government in Jammu and Kashmir. For the past year the state has been underContinue reading

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Protesters Took Control of Hong Kong Parliament

China warned Tuesday that it will be “only a matter of time” before it punishes those behind two months of pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong that have increasingly devolved into violent clashes with law enforcement. The comments by Yang Guang, spokesman for the Chinese Cabinet’s Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office, are a further indication that Beijing will take a hard line against the demonstrators and has no plans to negotiate over their demands for political reforms. “We would like to make it clear to the very small group of unscrupulous and violent criminals and the dirty forces behind them: Those who play with fire will perish by it,” Yang said. “Don’t ever misjudge the situation and mistake our restraint for weakness.” Singling out “brazen, violent and criminal actors” and the “meddling hands behind the scenes” as the focus law enforcement efforts, Yang said, “As for their punishment, it’s only a matter of time.” China so far has not visibly intervened in the situation, though it has published a series of strongly worded editorials in state media condemning “violent radicals” and “foreign forces” allegedly inflaming them. Speculation has grown that the Communist Party-led central government will deploy the military to quell demonstrators after Chinese officials pointed to an article in Hong Kong law that allows troops already stationed in the city to help with “public order maintenance” at the Hong Kong government’s request. While Hong Kong authorities have said they don’t anticipate any need to bring in troops or policeContinue reading

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Narendra Modi - India Politics News Headline

India’s government revoked disputed Kashmir’s special status with a presidential order Monday as thousands of newly deployed troops arrived and internet and phone services were cut in the restive Himalayan region where most people oppose Indian rule. Home Minister Amit Shah announced the revocation amid an uproar in India’s Parliament and while Kashmir was under a security lockdown that kept thousands of people inside their homes. The decree needs the approval of the ruling party-controlled Parliament, which was debating it on Monday. The order revokes Article 370 of India’s Constitution, eliminating the state of Jammu and Kashmir’s right to its own constitution and decision-making process for all matters except defense, communications and foreign affairs. The government’s action would also strip Kashmir of its protection from Indians from outside the state permanently settling, buying land, holding local government jobs and securing educational scholarships. Critics of India’s Hindu nationalist-led government see the move as an attempt to dilute the demographics of Muslim-majority Kashmir with Hindu settlers. The announcement came after Prime Minister Narendra Modi convened a Cabinet meeting and the government’s top-decision making body on security matters, the Cabinet Committee on Security, which he heads. Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan and both claim the region in its entirety. Two of the three wars India and Pakistan have fought since their independence from British rule were over Kashmir. Pakistan’s foreign minister, Shah Mahmood Qureshi, told a Pakistani TV station on Monday from Saudi Arabia, where he is on a pilgrimage toContinue reading

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Vladimir Putin - Russian News Politics - Russia Story Today

The Russian opposition vowed to stage another mass rally Saturday despite increasing pressure from authorities, who arrested nearly 1,400 people at a protest last week and have launched a criminal probe into the movement. The march along Moscow’s leafy boulevards will be the latest in a series of demonstrations after officials refused to let popular opposition candidates run in next month’s city parliament elections. The local issue has boiled over into one of the worst political conflicts of recent years, with rallies of up to 22,000 people and police violence against demonstrators. Over 6,000 people said on Facebook they would take part in the march along Moscow’s so-called Boulevard Ring on Saturday to “bring back the right to elections”. Officials say candidates were disqualified because they forged the necessary signatures. But candidates, including allies of top Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, insist their signatures were thrown out arbitrarily, and the whole vetting process was skewed against them. Many Muscovites said their signatures in support of the opposition were declared invalid with no reason. Right to choose Some turned up at previous protests brandishing banners with slogans such as “I have a right to choose”. In the polls in September, the opposition hopes to end the monopoly of Kremlin loyalists in Moscow’s parliament. The body decides over the city’s multi-billion-dollar budget but lacks political independence from mayor Sergei Sobyanin, an ally of Putin. Putin has yet to comment on the political crisis in Moscow. Navalny and other protest leaders argue corruption isContinue reading

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Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces, Mikhail Gorbachev and Ronald Reagan - Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) - Russia - US News

The United States plans to test a new missile in coming weeks that would have been prohibited under a landmark, 32-year-old arms control treaty that the U.S. and Russia ripped up on Friday. Washington and Moscow walked out of the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces treaty that President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev signed in 1987, raising fears of a new arms race. The U.S. blamed Moscow for the death of the treaty. It said that for years Moscow has been developing and fielding weapons that violate the treaty and threaten the United States and its allies, particularly in Europe. “There still were some hopes pinned on our partners, that, unfortunately, did not materialize. I think, now we all can see that a blow has been dealt to strategic security. This US move will cause uncertainty and chaotic development of international politics.” Mikhail Gorbachev said. Gorbachev has firsthand knowledge of the particulars of the treaty, having signed it in 1987 together with then-US-president Ronald Reagan. The agreement banned the development, production, or deployment of land-based and cruise missiles with ranges between 500km and 5,500km. “Russia is solely responsible for the treaty’s demise,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement released on Friday. But the U.S. also sees an upside to exiting the treaty. Washington has complained for years that the arms control playing field was unfair. U.S. officials argued that not only was Russia violating the treaty and developing prohibited weapons, but that China also was making similarContinue reading

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72-Year-Old South Korean Set Himself Ablaze to Protest Japan

A 72-year-old South Korean man was in critical condition after setting himself ablaze in downtown Seoul on Thursday, apparently to express his anger toward Japan amid worsening tensions between countries over trade and wartime history, a police official said. An official from Seoul’s Jongno Police Station said the man was being treated at a Seoul hospital for burns over his entire body. The incident came a day before the Japanese government was widely expected to remove South Korea from a 27-country “whitelist” receiving preferential treatment in trade, which if carried out is likely to aggravate the dispute that sank bilateral relations to its lowest point in decades. Police at the scene found a bag that likely belonged to the man and contained a memo and leaflet criticizing Japan over its decision to tighten controls on high-tech exports to South Korea and vowing to fight Tokyo until Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe apologizes. Also inside the bag was a book about the late Kim Bok-dong, who was one of the first victims to speak out and break decades of silence over the Japanese military’s sexual slavery during World War II, according to the police official, who didn’t want to be named, citing office rules. The incident came weeks after a 78-year-old South Korean man died after self-immolating near the Japanese Embassy in Seoul. Police last month said the man had phoned an acquaintance earlier to say he planned to set himself on fire to express his antipathy toward Japan. The disputeContinue reading

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Hong Kong protesters take their cause to airport arrivals

More than 40 people appeared in a Hong Kong court on Wednesday charged with rioting for their role in a recent protest that turned violent when thousands of activists clashed with police near Beijing’s main representative office in the city. A wave of protests that began in late April have plunged the former British colony into its biggest political crisis since its return to Chinese rule in 1997, but this is the first time that the authorities in the financial hub have resorted to using the rioting charge. The 44 charged had been arrested after a peaceful gathering on Sunday in a park in the city’s central business district rapidly morphed into running battles between thousands of black-clad demonstrators and police, who fired rubber bullets and tear gas. The use of the anti-riot law could infuriate activists who have been demanding that the government avoid using the term “riot” to refer to the demonstrations. Under Hong Kong law, rioting is defined as an unlawful assembly of three or more people where any person “commits a breach of the peace”, and a conviction can carry a 10-year prison sentence. Most of the defendants were released on bail of HK$1,000 (US$128). The court also imposed a curfew from midnight to 6 am on most of them, and many were ordered to remain in Hong Kong. Those charged included 13 students, seven clerks, a pilot from the city’s main airline, Cathay Pacific (0293.HK), teachers, nurses, workers and salesmen. All were released on bailContinue reading

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Afghanistan Elections - Afghan Politics News Today

Candidates jockeying to become Afghanistan’s next president lashed out at the incumbent Ashraf Ghani on Monday after deadly violence cast a shadow over the first official day of campaigning. At least 20 people — most of them civilians — were killed and 50 others wounded Sunday when a suicide attacker and gunmen targeted the Kabul office of Ghani’s running mate, Amrullah Saleh. Later in the day, NATO announced two US soldiers were killed in the country, without giving details. The violence served as a grim reminder of Afghanistan’s woeful security situation and the sort of mayhem and murder that have beset previous polls, even as Washington seeks a way out of what has become the United States’s longest war. “The government has not paid attention to the candidates’ security,” said Qadir Shah, the spokesman for Hanif Atmar, one of the top contenders looking to stop Ghani from securing a second term in September 28 elections. Shah told AFP that he and 12 other candidates had delayed plans to launch their campaigns, primarily over security concerns but also because they see Ghani as using his office for an unfair advantage. Mohammad Hakim Torsan, considered a long-shot candidate, said his supporters worry about a repeat of the kind of violence that marred previous polls, when insurgents launched frequent attacks. “Most of the candidates are worried about the security, but they still have to campaign. The government must provide security for us and the people,” Torsan said. Interior ministry spokesman Nasrat Rahimi saidContinue reading

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Why Are Hong Kong Protesters Still Going Back to Bygone Colonial Era

China blamed Western forces and defended police conduct in remarks Monday about Hong Kong after the city endured another weekend of violent clashes between protesters and police. Yang Guang, spokesman for the Chinese Cabinet’s Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office, said at a news briefing that some “irresponsible people” in the West have applied “strange logic” that prompted them to be sympathetic and tolerant to “violent crimes” while criticizing the police force’s “due diligence.” “At the end of the day, their intention is to create trouble in Hong Kong, make Hong Kong a problem to China, in order to contain China’s development,” Yang said, without mentioning any specific individuals or countries. He added that such attempts will come to nothing because Beijing will tolerate no outside interference in the affairs of the semi-autonomous Chinese territory. The protests in Hong Kong began in early June as a call to withdraw an extradition bill that would have allowed people in the former British colony to be sent to stand trial in mainland China, where critics say their legal rights would be threatened. Since the government indefinitely suspended the legislation, demonstrators have broadened their scope to demand greater democracy and government accountability. Police on Sunday repeatedly fired tear gas and rubber bullets to drive back protesters blocking Hong Kong streets with road signs and umbrellas. The protesters have demanded an independent inquiry into police conduct at the protests, which they say has been abusive. At least one woman was knocked down when policeContinue reading

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Aleksandar Vucic and Vladimir Putin - Russia News - Serbia Story

Serbia’s leader on Monday praised Russian President Vladimir Putin for boosting the Balkan nation’s military with battle tanks and armored vehicles, amid Western fears that the arms buildup could threaten fragile peace in the region. President Aleksandar Vucic inspected the delivery of 10 recently arrived Russian armored patrol vehicles at a Serbian army military base, part of the promised supply of 30 secondhand T-72 tanks and 30 BRDM-2 reconnaissance vehicles. The vehicles have been delivered despite neighboring Romania’s refusal to let them transit via the Danube River because of international sanctions in place against Moscow over its actions in Ukraine. Romania is a NATO member while Serbia claims military neutrality despite close ties with Moscow. Media reports say Russia flew the 10 armored vehicles to Serbia last week on its transport planes using Hungarian airspace. “The most important thing for us is that we managed to transport the vehicles to Serbia,” Aleksandar Vucic said. “How and which way they came, that is our business.” Russia has been helping its ally Serbia beef up its military, raising concerns in the war-scarred Balkan region. During the bloody breakup of the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s, Serbia was at war with neighbors Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo. Serbia, the only remaining Russian ally in the region despite its proclaimed goal of joining the European Union, has already received six MiG-29 fighter jets from Russia and expects the delivery of additional attack and transport helicopters by the end of this year. Vucic thanked Putin forContinue reading

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Taliban - Afghanistan - Afghan News

America’s longest war has come full circle. The United States began bombing Afghanistan after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, to root out al-Qaida fighters harbored by the Taliban. Now, more than 18 years later, preventing Afghanistan from being a launching pad for more attacks on America is at the heart of ongoing U.S. talks with the Taliban. President Donald Trump’s envoy at the negotiating table says he’s satisfied with the Taliban’s commitment to prevent international terrorist organizations from using Afghanistan as a base to plot global attacks. There’s even talk that a negotiated settlement might result in the Taliban joining the U.S. to fight Islamic State militants, rivals whose footprint is growing in mountainous northern Afghanistan. “The world needs to be sure that Afghanistan will not be a threat to the international community,” said the envoy, Zalmay Khalilzad, who was born in Afghanistan and is a former U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan. “We are satisfied with the commitment that we have received (from the Taliban) on counterterrorism.” Not everyone is convinced. Some Afghans worry that Trump’s desire to pull American troops from Afghanistan will override doubts about the Taliban’s sincerity. Early in the talks, Hamdullah Mohib, national security adviser to Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, said counting on the Taliban to control other militants could be like “having cats guard the milk.” Rep. Michael Waltz, who did multiple combat tours in Afghanistan as a U.S. special forces officer, said he’s happy to see the Taliban are negotiating but does not seeContinue reading

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Kim Jong-un - North Korea Politics

North Korea’s test of a new missile is meant as a “solemn warning” over rival South Korea’s weapons development and plans to hold military drills with the United States, Pyongyang said Friday as it continued its pressure campaign ahead of potential nuclear talks. South Korea’s military later said that the flight data of the weapon launched Thursday showed similarities to the Russian-made Iskander, a short-range, nuclear-capable missile. A North Korean version could likely reach all of South Korea — and the 28,500 U.S. forces stationed there — and would be extremely hard to intercept. The North Korean statement was carried in state media and directed at “South Korean military warmongers.” It appears to be part of broader efforts during recent weeks to make sure Pyongyang gets what it wants as U.S. and North Korean officials struggle to set up working-level talks after a recent meeting on the Korean border between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, who supervised Thursday’s test launch, and President Donald Trump seemed to provide a step forward in stalled nuclear negotiations. Although the North had harsh words for South Korea, the statement stayed away from the kind of belligerent attacks on the United States that have marked past announcements, a possible signal that it’s interested in keeping diplomacy alive. It made clear, however, that North Korea is infuriated over Seoul’s purchase of U.S.-made high-tech fighter jets and U.S.-South Korean plans to hold military drills this summer that the North says are rehearsals for an invasion andContinue reading

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North Korea Missiles

North Korea fired two short-range missiles into the sea Thursday in its first weapons launches in more than two months and an apparent effort to pressure Washington as the two sides struggle to restart nuclear negotiations. The South’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said the missiles were fired from near the eastern coastal town of Wonsan and flew about 430 kilometers (270 miles) and 690 kilometers (430 miles) respectively before landing off the country’s east coast. South Korea’s military earlier said both missiles flew 430 kilometers but the trajectory for one was revised based on a joint South Korean-U.S. analysis. South Korean officials said the missiles were both short-range. A South Korean defense official, requesting anonymity because of department rules, said that an initial analysis showed both missiles were fired from mobile launchers and flew at a maximum altitude of 50 kilometers (30 miles). He said South Korea’s military believes a second missile that flew 690 kilometers is a new type of missile but more analysis is necessary. The North Korea is unhappy over planned U.S.-South Korean military drills that it says are preparation for an invasion. The missile tests may be meant as a warning to Washington. They came as many in the United States were focused on testimony before Congress by Robert Mueller, the former special counsel, about his two-year probe into Russian election interference. A day earlier, U.S. national security adviser John Bolton left Seoul after agreeing with South Korean officials to work closely to achieve North Korea’sContinue reading

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