Tag Archives: Asia & Pacific

Lukashenko plans to meet with Medvedev in December, media reports say

 Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko plans to meet with Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, who may come to Minsk for this specific purpose, before the end of the year, the Belarusian leader said on Tuesday at a meeting with the head of his administration Igor Sergeyenko and Chairwoman of the Council of the Republic of the National Assembly Natalya Kochanova, the news agency BelTA reported.

During a conversation with the Russian prime minister, they agreed to meet ahead of the New Year, he said.

“He (Medvedev) was pleased to agree that we’ll meet somewhere and find time for it. He says that he might even come to Minsk. I think we’ll find a place to meet,” Lukashenko said.

The Belarusian leader stated that it is important to synchronize watches on the integration agenda not just with the Russian president but with the prime minister as well. “There are issues which concern our governments. I’d like the conversation with Dmitry [Medvedev] to be held on certain issues,” Lukashenko said.

On December 7, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko held a lengthy meeting in Sochi at which they discussed avenues for further integration between Moscow and Minsk. The heads of state agreed to continue dialogue on this issue on December 20.


House collapse kills 17 in southern India

At least 17 people were killed on Monday in a rain-related incident in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, officials said.

A portion of a 15-foot (4.5-meter) wall fell on the adjoining houses burying alive the inmates, news agency Press Trust of India said.

Efforts are ongoing in Nadur village to pull out those trapped inside, officials said, confirming the death toll.

Rescue workers with the assistance of locals have retrieved bodies from the debris, police said.

Rains have completely drenched several districts of Tamil Nadu in the last 24 hours.

Five people were killed in rain-related incidents in the state on Sunday. 

Schools and colleges have been shut in affected areas.

Meanwhile, the country’s weather services office has predicted heavy rainfall for the next two days in the coastal districts.


China to suspend US Navy visits to Hong Kong over bill

China announced Monday that it will suspend U.S. Navy visits to Hong Kong in retaliation over President Trump’s decision to sign legislation that supported the city’s pro-democracy protesters who have taken to the streets since June.

Beijing took its first step to make good on its promise to employ “countermeasures” against the U.S. in light of the bills that it blasted as “hegemonic” in nature and ignorant of the facts on the ground.

The Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, which was sponsored by Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., requires that the U.S. conducts yearly reviews into Hong Kong’s autonomy from Beijing. If ever found unsatisfactory, the city’s special status for U.S. trading could be tossed.

“I signed these bills out of respect for President Xi, China, and the people of Hong Kong,” Trump said in a statement. “They are being enacted in the hope that Leaders and Representatives of China and Hong Kong will be able to amicably settle their differences leading to long term peace and prosperity for all.”

China also announced on Monday that it sanctioned Human Rights Watch for its support of the violence in the city, ,Hua Chunying, a ministry spokesman, told Reuters.


New Ambassador of Mongolia to Russia named

President of Mongolia Khaltmaagiin Battulga appointed Davaa Dulamsuren as Ambassador of Mongolia to Russia on November 29.

Moreover, he was dismissed from the President’s Defense Policy and Security Advisor this day.

Lieutenant General D.Davaa graduated from Volsk Military Institute of Soviet Union in 1986 and from the Military and Transport Academy of St. Petersburg in 1997. He has served in the defense sector since 1986 , working as Chief of the General Staff of the Mongolian Armed Forces starting from 2015 and also has served as Advisor of Defense Policy and Security to the President of Mongolia until his appointment to the Ambassador.


Sri Lanka’s new president embarks on visit to India

Sri Lanka’s newly elected President Gotabaya Rajapaksa flew to India on Thursday afternoon on a two-day official visit, his first overseas trip since assuming office.

The trip is a clear sign that the new president is comfortably cozying up to its giant neighbor, which may likely displease China, which has heavily invested in the South Asian island due to its strategic interests.

Rajapaksa — who was elected to power in the Nov. 16 presidential election with an overwhelming 52% of the votes — is leading a delegation to New Delhi, following an invitation extended to him by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Dinesh Gunawardena, Sri Lanka’s minister of foreign affairs, told Anadolu Agency the president will meet with Indian leaders on Friday where bilateral issues will be discussed at length.

Rajapaksa will be accorded a grand welcome in India at the Rashtrapati Bhawan, the official residence of the Indian President, in New Delhi, where a special ceremonial reception will be held in honor of the Sri Lankan president.

The visit also came hot on the heels of a statement by Chinese President Xi Jinping, who said he “appreciates” Rajapaksa’s continuous support and contribution to the China-Sri Lanka friendship and cooperation.

Xi said he looks forward to starting a “new chapter” in the China-Sri Lanka Strategic Cooperative Partnership.

Since Sri Lanka’s civil war with the Tamil rebel group LTTE ended in 2009, China has been at the forefront, helping the island nation of 21 million to develop in terms of infrastructure and as a result, China pumped millions of dollars into Sri Lanka during the presidency of Mahinda Rajapaksa, elder brother of the incumbent president.

With Chinese loans, the former president realized numerous infrastructure projects — including highways, a port, airport, convention center and tallest tower in South Asia among others.

However, some of the projects such as the country’s second international airport in Rajapaksa’s hometown Hambantota is considered a white elephant as no commercial airlines fly to it. Some critics termed Sri Lanka’s increasing dependence on China a “debt trap.”

Equal partners for business

Palitha Kohona, Sri Lanka’s former foreign secretary, said the incumbent president has stated categorically that Sri Lanka wants to remain neutral in its foreign relations and stay out of any conflicts among world powers.

“His [Rajapaksa’s] elder brother, who was the president from 2005 to 2015, was committed to non-alignment. But when his efforts to revive the ravaged economy after the terrorist-inspired 27-year conflict ended in 2009 were rebuffed by the World Bank and the West, he was forced to turn to China,” he told Anadolu Agency.

Kohona, a former permanent representative of Sri Lanka to the UN, also said that under the new president, the relationship with India will enjoy priority attention, but all other countries, including China, will be welcomed as economic partners.

“China, with its Belt and Road Initiative, is the economic dynamo of the world, and Sri Lanka is well situated to benefit from the growth of China and other Asian economies,” he said.

Kohona said Rajapaksa’s foreign policy would strike a middle path to court countries as “equal partners for business and investment” and it would avoid “becoming a tool of any power,” either militarily or economically.

Soon after being sworn in to the country’s highest office, Rajapaksa in his maiden speech said: “We hope to work with all countries in a friendly manner, and we want to remain neutral in our foreign relations and stay out of any conflict among the world powers.”

However, Maya Majueran, director of the Belt and Road Sri Lanka think tank, a local group of professionals, said the Chinese investments and Chinese involvement in Sri Lanka cannot be changed due to its geographical location.

“China will always ensure that they have their influence and that they will do whatever they want,” Majueran told Anadolu Agency. 


In 2017, owing to growing debt, the previous coalition government signed a $1.1 billion deal with China, giving control of the southern port in Hambantota on a 99-year lease to convert debt to equity. The port was constructed with loans from China under the Belt and Road Initiative.

In an interview with Indian journalist Nitin Gokhale of Strategic News International, Rajapaksa said that giving away the Hambantota port to China on a 99-year lease was a mistake by the previous government and that the deal must be renegotiated.

Majueran said Rajapaksa’s announcement was more or less his way of showing India and the rest of the world that he is trying to remain neutral.

According to Majueran, Sri Lanka at present does not possess necessary connections to convert the Hambantota Port into a profit-making entity within a short period. “But China has the market power in the shipping industry, so they have the ability to convert the port into a profit-making entity,” he said.

He said that although it is very unlikely for Beijing to renegotiate the lease, but there could be a possibility for the Chinese to take a step back and agree to reduce the lease period just to show Colombo that they are also “flexible”.

George Cooke, deputy director of Bandaranaike Centre for International Studies in Colombo, however believes that whether Sri Lanka decides to sign agreements with India or China in terms of development, it’s important to ensure a “win-win” situation to the country.

“This is where negotiations become critical, because when we sit down at the negotiating table with another country, they come to get the most for their side. So, we too must go in with the objective of getting most out of the situation,” Cooke told Anadolu Agency.

He also cautioned that it’s important to be mindful that countries such as India and China, are not only extremely powerful countries on the world stage, but “one is our immediate neighborhood, and the other has heavily invested in our country.”

“This is where we have a golden opportunity. Obviously, these countries are interested in us, and this is something that we should optimize to our advantage,” he added.


US Green Card: Over 2 lakh Indians waiting for family-sponsored legal permanent residency

More than 2,27,000 Indians are waiting in line for family-sponsored Green Card or legal permanent residency, according to the latest official data.

Currently, there are about four million people waiting in line for family-sponsored Green Cards against a Congressional cap of 226,000 per annum.

The largest number of 1.5 million waitlist is from America’s southern neighbour Mexico, followed by a distant India with 227,000 and China with nearly 180,000.

Majority of those in the family-sponsored Green Card waiting list are siblings of US citizens. Under current law, US citizens can sponsor their family members and blood relatives for Green Cards or permanent legal residency.

President Donald Trump is against such a provision which he calls as chain immigration and wants to abolish this. The opposition Democratic party is vehemently opposed to abolish family-sponsored immigration system.

In addition to four million family-sponsored Green Card applicants, another 827,000, a sizeable number of whom are from India, are waiting in line for permanent legal residency. The waiting line for employment-based green card applicant is painstakingly running into more than a decade for Indian IT professional.

According to DHS, a majority of Indians waiting in line for family-based Green Cards are siblings of US citizens. They number over 181,000. This is followed by 42,000 married children of US citizens and over 2,500 spouses and minor children of permanent residents.


Pakistan Army’s Ex-Media Chief Named First Chairman of Multi-Billion Dollar CPEC Project

New Delhi (Sputnik): The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a pilot project of China’s Belt and Road initiative, is a planned network of connectivity comprising roads and railways linking China’s Xinjiang province with Pakistan’s strategic Gwadar Port.

Pakistan on Wednesday appointed the former head of its military’s media wing Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) as the first chairman of the CPEC Authority – which is tasked with promoting the timely completion of the project.

Lt. Gen (Retd.) Asim Saleem Bajwa will head the CPEC authority responsible for monitoring, evaluating and implementation of the project-related activities.

The authority was set up ahead of Prime Minister Imran Khan’s visit to Beijing in October, where he had assured China of its determination to complete the mega-corridor project.

The CPEC body, set up through a presidential ordinance, saw resistance from ‘sthe joint parliamentary committee on CPEC, which opposed setting up the authority through a presidential decree.

The authority has been conferred with absolute power to ask for any information related to the China-led project and impose penalties for failing to do so, media reports said.

The deployment of the retired army chief as CPEC authority head comes after Pakistani military’s initiative to raise a division headquarters of the 44th Light Infantry in Balochistan Province’s Gwadar to coordinate security initiatives and protect the CPEC.

Meanwhile, the political parties in Pakistan have been divided over the formation of the corridor authority itself.

While Pakistan’s former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was against giving its constitution, another political party of the country, Pakistan Peoples Party, said the formation of authority is a violation of the recommendations of a parliamentary committee.

Sharif, chief of Pakistan’s Muslim League Nawaz, had said it would hinder collaboration between Ministries and departments. Both the parties claimed it would obstruct or hamper the multi-billion dollar project.


North Korea dismisses postponement of joint drills

 The United States must end its joint exercises with Seoul “once and for all” to facilitate dialogue with Pyongyang, North Korea said on Tuesday (Nov 19), just days after the allies postponed planned drills.

The US and South Korea said on Sunday they would delay annual joint aerial exercises slated for this month in an act of “goodwill” after months of deadlocked nuclear talks.

Pyongyang has long protested the joint drills, which it condemns as preparations for invasion, and Seoul and Washington last year cancelled several training sessions in the wake of the Singapore summit between President Donald Trump and the North’s leader Kim Jong Un.

But Kim Yong Chol, a senior North Korean official who formerly led talks with the US, said the weekend postponement was irrelevant.

“We demand that the US quit the drill or stop it once and for all,” Kim said in a statement carried by the KCNA news agency.

“The suspension of the drill does not mean ensuring peace and security on the Korean peninsula and is not helpful to the diplomatic efforts,” he added.

The North had “no intention” to sit down with the “tricky US” and would not return to talks “before the complete and irrevocable withdrawal of its hostile policy”.

“From now on, the DPRK will get due compensation for every administrative achievement the US president has talked too much about for over a year,” Kim added, referring to the North by its official name.

Trump has repeatedly pointed to North Korea’s moratorium on nuclear tests and intercontinental ballistic missile launches as foreign policy successes for him.

But negotiations have been gridlocked since the Hanoi summit in February broke up in disagreement over sanctions relief, while October’s working-level talks rapidly broke down in Sweden.

Tuesday’s statement was the latest in a series of increasingly assertive comments from the North as its end-of-year deadline for the US to come up with a fresh offer approaches, and it has also carried out multiple weapons tests in recent weeks.

Trump hinted at the prospect of a fourth meeting with Kim in a tweet at the weekend, only to be dismissed by the North, which said it had no interest in summits “that bring nothing to us”.


DPRK: Air and Anti-Aircraft Force conducts military drills

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un personally guided a round of military drills by sharpshooters from the Air and Anti-Aircraft Force of the Korean People’s Army (KPA) over the weekend, state media reported Monday.

The military drills, under harsh weather conditions, were conducted at the Kalma airport in Wonsan, according to the Korean Central News Agency (ACNC).

Praising the participants, the DPRK leader was reported to have expressed great satisfaction over the military drill.

Kim Jong-un reaffirmed that ‘victory or defeat in combat does not depend on the specifications of the weapons used, but on the idea and purpose of those who use the weapons and fight.’

The Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) newspaper, Rodong Sinmun, also reported that last weekend, for the second time in less than a month, DPRK President Kim Jong-un toured the so-called Cultural Recreation Zone of Yangdok Resort, to be opened soon.

China attacks Western reporting on Xinjiang as ‘pure fabrication’

China’s ambassador to the United Kingdom on Monday (Nov 18) dismissed reporting by Western media on the Chinese government’s policies in Xinjiang as “pure fabrication” and “fake news”.

Asked in London about a New York Times article based on leaked Chinese government documents the newspaper said revealed details of the clampdown in Xinjiang, Ambassador Liu Xiaoming said: “I can categorically deny there is such a document. It is sheer, pure fabrication.”

United Nations experts and activists say at least 1 million ethnic Uighurs and members of other largely Muslim minority groups have been detained in camps in the western Xinjiang region in a crackdown that has drawn condemnation from the United States and other countries.

Beijing denies any mistreatment of the Uighurs or others in Xinjiang and says it is providing vocational training to help stamp out Islamic extremism and separatism and teach new skills.

A trove of leaked Chinese government documents revealed details of its clampdown on Uighurs and other Muslims in the country’s western Xinjiang region under President Xi Jinping, the New York Times reported on Saturday.

The documents, which the newspaper said were leaked by “a member of the Chinese political establishment”, show how Xi gave a series of internal speeches to officials during and after a 2014 visit to Xinjiang following a stabbing attack by Uighur militants at a train station that killed 31 people.

The report said Xi called for an “all-out ‘struggle against terrorism, infiltration, and separatism’ using the ‘organs of dictatorship,’ and showing ‘absolutely no mercy’.”

The documents show that the Chinese leadership’s fears were heightened by militant attacks in other countries and the US drawdown of troops from Afghanistan.

It was unclear how the documents, totalling 403 pages, were gathered and selected, the newspaper said.

China’s Foreign Ministry did not deny the authenticity of the documents, but said the New York Times report was “a clumsy patchwork of selective interpretation” that was “deaf and blind to the facts.”

“The public in Xinjiang wholeheartedly endorsed China’s measures to maintain stability. China will show no mercy to terrorists and will spare no measures in protecting people’s lives and safety,” said Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang.

“The experience could be borrowed in other countries.”

The state-run Global Times newspaper said in an editorial on Monday that the report “lacks morality” and accused some in the West of being “eager to see Xinjiang engulfed in extreme violence and chaos”.

It said China had taken “decisive measures” in the region to ensure it did not become “another Republic of Chechnya”.

The documents show how officials were given talking points to explain to returning university students that their family members had been taken away for training, and how the programme faced push-back from some local officials, the report said.

They also show that the internment camps expanded quickly after Chen Quanguo was appointed in August 2016 as the party boss of the region, the report said.

Chen had taken a tough line to quell restiveness against Communist Party rule during his previous posting in Tibet.