SCHWEIZER BOTSCHAFT IN BEIJING
EMBASSY OF SWITZERLAND IN BEIJING
AMBASSADE DE SUISSE EN CHINE

Der wöchentliche Presserückblick der Schweizer Botschaft in der VR China
The Weekly Press Review of the Swiss Embassy in the People's Republic of China
La revue de presse hebdomadaire de l'Ambassade de Suisse en RP de Chine
  10-14.6.13, No. 479  
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Table of contents

DPRK and South Korea

Mongolia

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Foreign Policy

Commentary: Xi-Obama summit opens new chapter in China-U.S. relations (Xinhua)
2013-06-09
Although Chinese President Xi Jinping returned home Sunday, political pundits across the world are still trying to decipher the significance of his unprecedented informal summit with U.S. President Barack Obama over the weekend. During the two-day summit, staged in the picturesque Sunnylands estate in California, the two leaders spent more than eight hours together, talking with phenomenal depth and breadth about bilateral, regional and global issues of common concern. The get-together, unparalleled in China-U.S. interaction, has produced a rich harvest of fruits, with the most striking one being the joint commitment to building the bilateral relationship into a new type of great power relations based on mutual respect and win-win cooperation. The world has suffered too much pain in the seemingly doomed confrontations and wars between existing and emerging powers. It is high time that the vicious cycle should be put to an end. Thus Beijing and Washington's shared vision of a new model of great power relations, which will serve as a lighthouse to guide the development of bilateral relations, accords with the interests of not only the two countries themselves but the world at large. Confidence is no longer a barrier. Given the rapid pace of economic globalization and the growing need for global stakeholders to pull together, China and the United States should and can avert the so-called tragedy of great power politics and blaze a new path in international relations. After years of cooperation, the Chinese and U.S. national interests have become increasingly interlocked, and a strong interdependence has taken root between the pair, which are the largest two economies in the world. And respectively as the world's largest developing and developed country, China and the United States have too much to gain from cooperation to opt for confrontation. Steering bilateral cooperation forward is a firm political will the two sides have fostered over decades of interaction. Undergirding it are a multi-tier network of dialogue and consultation mechanisms between them and a solid base of public support in both countries. The trends of the times, such as political multipolarization and economic globalization, have also provided a favorable environment for the two countries to realize their vision of a new model of great power relations. It is undeniable that gaps, differences and disputes still exist between China and the United States, making the trans-Pacific relationship highly complicated. However, over the past more than 40 years, the two countries have managed to steer their relations steadily forward. Should history be any indication, the trans-Pacific relationship will forge ahead along the course Xi and Obama have just charted and cast a long-running positive influence upon the peace and development of the whole world. ^ top ^

Xi and Obama remain divided despite 'successful' summit (SCMP)
2013-06-10
President Xi Jinping and his US counterpart Barack Obama ended their two-day desert summit yesterday, managing to forge policy understandings in strategic issues of North Korea and climate change. Officials from both sides said the leaders had discussed a wide range of issues at the Sunnylands Estate in an effort to build "a new model" of relations, but the two nations remained divided over cybersecurity and territorial disputes between China and its neighbours. The leaders spent eight hours together in their first encounter since Xi became president in March, during which Xi discussed how the Cultural Revolution impacted his perspectives. […] State Councillor Yang Jiechi, summarising the summit for reporters, said that the two presidents had "an unprecedented" interaction and "did not shy away from differences". US National Security Adviser Tom Donilon said in another briefing that the talks were "successful in achieving the goals that we set forth for this meeting". Both officials said neither country will accept North Korea as a nuclear-armed state, with Yang stressing the issue should be resolved through dialogue. The two presidents agreed to make joint efforts to reduce emissions of hydrofluorocarbons, commonly used in refrigerators and air conditioners. The greenhouse gas drive was the only tangible outcome from the two-day informal summit. On other high-stakes issues, especially cybersecurity, little seemed to have been agreed. Donilon said that Xi "acknowledged" how important the issue was to Washington as Obama warned that hacking was a theft of US property and "was going to be a very difficult problem in the economic relationship". Yang said Xi opposed all forms of cyberspying, but claimed no responsibility for attacks against the US. [...] Concerns over the US "pivot to Asia" were also unresolved. Xi told Obama that China would resolutely protect its national sovereignty and territorial integrity, while Obama urged Xi to de-escalate the dispute with Japan over islets in the East China Sea. Xi called on the US to end arms sales to Taiwan and remove restrictions on hi-tech exports to China. And he told Obama that Beijing's control of the yuan was not the root cause of imbalanced trade between the nations. […]. ^ top ^

Ready to open a new chapter (China Daily)
2013-06-10
The just-concluded two-day summit between President Xi Jinping and his US counterpart Barack Obama will have an important and positive impact on the future growth of China-US relations as well as peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region, said a senior Chinese government official on Saturday. Yang Jiechi, China's State Councilor and former foreign minister, told reporters that the two leaders, who spent about eight hours talking on a host of issues, pursued an "in-depth and candid dialogue". "Unprecedented in terms of length, quality, depth and breadth, their interactions and exchanges reflected the high importance both sides attach to China-US relations. They responded to the need of growing China-US relations in the new era and demonstrated the strategic importance and global influence of this bilateral relationship," said Yang. During their meetings, both presidents agreed that the two countries are ready to open a new chapter in trans-Pacific cooperation between China and the US, and emphasized the importance of improving and developing military-to-military relations. China's navy will join a US-led joint exercise for the first time next summer, which US officials hope will help build confidence between the two navies at a time when both are boosting their military presence in the Asia-Pacific region. Stephanie Kleine-Ahlbrandt, northeast Asia project director and China adviser for International Crisis Group, described China's participation in the world's largest naval exercises as "good news", since strengthened communication could help reduce the risks of maritime conflicts. Yang said the two presidents share the view that China and the US have more "shared interests and close interactions in the Asia-Pacific than anyone else in the world and that the two countries have more common interests than differences in this region". Zhou Wenzhong, former Chinese ambassador to the US, said it is urgent for Beijing and Washington to explore more shared interests as a foundation for mutual trust in the next several years, since they may see increasing competition in the economy and regional affairs. They agreed to enhance cooperation on climate change and establish a working group on cybersecurity that will meet for the first time in July and have regular talks on the issue. Zhu Zhiqun, a political science professor at Bucknell University in Pennsylvania and author of US-China Relations in the 21st Century, said most Western media played up the cybersecurity issue before the summit "without a proper understanding of the complex relationship between the two great powers". "Cybersecurity is hardly a major issue between the two countries," said Zhu. "It is encouraging that the two leaders agreed to establish a joint working group to lay out basic cyber protocol and tackle the challenge together." Pieter Bottelier, a professor of China Studies at the School of Advanced and International Studies at Johns Hopkins University, believes the summit was held when the world's two superpowers should and need to enhance understanding and trust. "At the root of the negative slide in bilateral relations in recent years lies mutual mistrust," said Bottelier. Zhu called the summit a success but cautioned that the China-US relationship will continue to be marked by competition and cooperation. "The real challenge is how to turn healthy competition into opportunities for both countries and how to promote cooperation in all aspects of the relationship, especially in military and security spheres," said Zhu. ^ top ^

China to attend RIMPAC 2014: state councilor (Xinhua)
2013-06-09
Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi announced Saturday that China, at the invitation of the United States, will attend the Rim of the Pacific exercises (RIMPAC) in 2014. Yang made the announcement after the June 7-8 summit between Chinese President Xi Jinping and his U.S. counterpart Barack Obama at the Sunnylands estate in Rancho Mirage, California. During the talks, both Xi and Obama stressed the significance to improve and develop bilateral military relations, vowing to build a new type of military relations between China and the United States, said the Chinese state councilor. […] He also said the two leaders will make jointly efforts for achieving pragmatic outcomes at the next meetings of the China-U.S. Strategic and Economic Dialogue as well as the high-level China-U.S. Consultation on People-to-People Exchange scheduled for this summer. Chinese foreign and defense ministers will visit the United States at the invitations of the U.S. side at appropriate times, according to Yang. ^ top ^

US whistle-blower Edward Snowden may put new Obama-Xi relations to the test (SCMP)
2013-06-11
US cyber surveillance whistle-blower Edward Snowden's escape to Hong Kong presents an early test of the personal relationship established by the Chinese and American presidents at their informal, two-day summit at the weekend. [...] It is not known how deep a relationship they forged, with neither side commenting on the talks in that much detail, but both sides will seek to handle Snowden's case delicately to showcase their ability to resolve sensitive issues in a sophisticated manner. "The two nations will do anything at this moment to avoid another confrontation or a symbolically sensitive case like this one," said Jonathan Holslag, the head of research at the Brussels Institute of Contemporary China Studies. "Beijing's main interest is to avoid letting this issue [Snowden's case] be perceived as a divisive event between the US and China." Professor Jia Qingguo, a Peking University international relations specialist, said that with both sides focused on forging rapport and understanding, they would not let the case jeopardise the atmosphere created by the presidents' close personal connection at the summit - which seemed to be one of the few major impacts of the talks - and would handle the latest incident just as they had resolved previous embarrassing cases. Ties between the two nations became more awkward in February last year when former Chongqing police chief Wang Lijun went to the US consulate in Chengdu, reportedly seeking asylum and holding material implicating his former boss, disgraced Chongqing party chief Bo Xilai, in various offences. Wang eventually left the consulate voluntarily and was handed over to state security officials. He was later jailed for 15 years on charges including bribery and attempted defection. Less than two months after Wang's defection bid, the two nations were embroiled in another crisis that threatened to derail a high-level bilateral strategic and economic dialogue when blind Shandong activist Chen Guangcheng fled house arrest and went to the US embassy in Beijing. The two nations first struck a deal that would have seen Chen remain in China to pursue legal studies. But the embarrassment and tensions rose further when Chen said he had been intimidated into accepting the deal and wanted to go to the US. The high-level dialogue proceeded as planned and Chen was put on a plane to the US a month later. Clayton Dube, executive director of the University of Southern California's US-China Institute, said the Snowden case could put Washington, Beijing and Hong Kong in awkward positions - depending on the demands the US made on China. But both nations also had the option of using the case to show co-operation on cybersecurity, he said. "It might mean that the Hong Kong authorities, with the support of the Chinese government, will facilitate American access to this individual," he said. "It is unlikely that any single incident is going to have a profound impact on the relationship." [...]. ^ top ^

China launches first 'routine service mission' into space (SCMP)
2013-06-11
The "first routine service flight in China's manned space programme" has entered its final countdown, with three astronauts, one of them a woman, preparing for lift-off today. Wu Ping, deputy director of the programme's administrative office, said the nine previous Shenzhou space flights had been experimental and burdened with untested technology or equipment, such as life support and manual docking systems. But the Shenzhou X mission, scheduled to blast off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre in Inner Mongolia at 5.38pm, would transport cargo and astronauts to the Tiangong 1 space module and bring them back within 15 days, similar to routine flights to the International Space Station (ISS), Wu said. The end of experimental phase and the start of service flights meant China had acquired nearly all the essential technology and equipment to start construction of its space laboratory and space station next year. A highlight of the Shenzhou X mission will be a lesson for primary and high school pupils taught by female astronaut Major Wang Yaping. Wang, who will travel into space with Major General Nie Haisheng and Senior Colonel Zhang Xiaoguang, will be China's second female astronaut and its first teacher in space. With live video and audio feeds, Zhang will conduct experiments to demonstrate principles of physics such as Newton's laws of motion. [...] China's space programme has long been criticised for its lack of transparency and the stern face it presents to ordinary people. But space authorities hope the space classes will kindle public interest and support for the national space endeavours. The Shenzhou X astronauts will also play another unprecedented role - that of repairmen. During previous flights, some features of the orbiting Tiangong I module were found to be inconvenient for everyday working and living. [...] However, the maintenance work on Tiangong I will be of little lasting benefit. After the Shenzhou X crew leave, the space module will have completed its historic two-year mission and eventually plummet back to earth as discarded space junk, with half likely burn up in the atmosphere and rest likely to plunge into the ocean. China' ambitious manned space programme includes building a twin-module space lab next year and a full-scale space station by 2020, the year the ISS retires. That would make China the only nation to run a human outpost in space. But Chinese space authorities admit that they still lag far behind the United States and Russia. Last month, Russia's Soyuz conducted a short rendezvous mission that took only six hours to reach the ISS, while Shenzhou X's approach to Tiangong I will take about two days. ^ top ^

Edward Snowden: US government has been hacking Hong Kong and China for years (SCMP)
2013-06-13
US whistle-blower Edward Snowden yesterday emerged from hiding in Hong Kong and revealed to the South China Morning Post that he will stay in the city to fight likely attempts by his government to have him extradited for leaking state secrets. In an exclusive interview carried out from a secret location in the city, the former Central Intelligence Agency analyst also made explosive claims that the US government had been hacking into computers in Hong Kong and on the mainland for years. [...] Snowden said that according to unverified documents seen by the Post, the NSA had been hacking computers in Hong Kong and on the mainland since 2009. None of the documents revealed any information about Chinese military systems, he said. One of the targets in the SAR, according to Snowden, was Chinese University and public officials, businesses and students in the city. The documents also point to hacking activity by the NSA against mainland targets. Snowden believed there had been more than 61,000 NSA hacking operations globally, with hundreds of targets in Hong Kong and on the mainland. “We hack network backbones – like huge internet routers, basically – that give us access to the communications of hundreds of thousands of computers without having to hack every single one,” he said. [...] Snowden said he was releasing the information to demonstrate “the hypocrisy of the US government when it claims that it does not target civilian infrastructure, unlike its adversaries”. “Not only does it do so, but it is so afraid of this being known that it is willing to use any means, such as diplomatic intimidation, to prevent this information from becoming public.” [...] Snowden's revelations threaten to test new attempts to build US-Sino bridges after a weekend summit in California between the nations' presidents, Barack Obama and Xi Jinping. If true, Snowden's allegations lend credence to China's longstanding position that it is as much a victim of hacking as a perpetrator, after Obama pressed Xi to rein in cyber-espionage by the Chinese military. [...]. ^ top ^

China's EU wine probe sparks worries (China Daily)
2013-06-13
France has been pushed to the forefront of the trade dispute between China and the European Union, as friction deepened after Beijing announced it has launched an investigation into EU wine imports. Beijing's move on Wednesday has sparked concern and anxiety among government officials and wine exporters in France, Europe's largest wine exporter to China. French President Francois Hollande expressed alarm at the latest development in Sino-EU trade friction and called for a special meeting of EU member states to create a cohesive and united position in trade negotiations with China. China's announcement came after the European Commission's decision to levy punitive tariffs on the country's solar panel products. France is one of only four EU nations that voted in favor of the anti-dumping taxes of 11.8 percent, which will be in effect from now until August, after which they will be extended to 47.6 percent for another four months. The other three countries that voted for the taxes were Italy, Portugal and Lithuania. The Ministry of Commerce in Beijing said that the wine investigation is not a retaliatory measure, but experts believe that France likely will be hurt the most if Beijing implements tough rules on EU wine imports. French wine exporters said that they have already started to see order delays from Chinese importers. Some speculate that French wines priced between 1 to 3 euros ($1.33 to $3.98) might be taxed. [...] China is the third-largest market for French wines, with an estimated value of 800 million euros. The value of the Chinese market accounts for nearly 30 percent of Bordeaux's total wine exports. Experts said that a compromise and collaborative agreement between China and the EU are necessary to resolve the dispute. "In the solar panel case and the wine case, we are at the first steps of investigations on both sides. Thus, a mutually acceptable compromise will be negotiated more or less rapidly because a trade war would be too damaging to both sides," said Jean-Paul Larcon, a professor at French business school Ecole des Hautes Etudes Commerciales de Paris. Larcon said the French position in favor of the penalty on Chinese solar exports can be explained by the country's internal debate on its energy policy and the need to diversify energy sources. "French companies have a strong competitive advantage in the nuclear energy sector, but they are quite week in the solar energy sector. So the French position aims to protect French companies in this area," he said. [...] Some are concerned that the trade dispute may put fragile Sino-French relations at risk even though Hollande visited China less than two months ago in hopes of strengthening ties with the Chinese new leadership. [...]. ^ top ^

Space dream on course after launch (China Daily)
2013-06-13
China is pursuing its space dream unswervingly, President Xi Jinping said following the successful launch of the Shenzhou X spacecraft on Tuesday. The Long March 2F carrier rocket with three astronauts — commander Nie Haisheng, astronaut Zhang Xiaoguang and the second Chinese woman in space Wang Yaping — blasted off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in Gansu province at 5:38 pm on Tuesday. Xi met with representatives from organizations taking part in the mission at the center in the remote Gobi desert on Tuesday evening, and extended his congratulations and greetings. "The Shenzhou X spacecraft has been successfully launched and precisely put into orbit, which means that our country's fifth manned space mission has succeeded in the first phase," he said. "At this very moment, I am sharing the same feeling with everyone," he said. "I am very happy and excited." Xi said China is pursuing its space dream continuously by developing the space industry and turning the country into a space power. The Shenzhou X mission is of great significance for the country's efforts to consolidate and improve the rendezvous and docking technology and promote the development of a space lab and space station, he said. Xi spoke highly of those involved in the manned space program, praising them for their hard work, and urged them to exert persistent efforts and carry out all subsequent work carefully. On Wednesday, the three astronauts celebrated the Dragon Boat Festival in orbit, eating traditional sticky rice dumplings known as zongzi that were prepared specially for them. It was the first time Chinese astronauts had eaten zongzi in space, according to a source with the manned space program. [...] In a video clip shown on national TV on Wednesday, Wang played with a zongzi leaf in the microgravity environment aboard the spacecraft. The astronauts also sent greetings from space at 1 pm on Wednesday, wishing a happy Dragon Boat Festival to Chinese around the world. Zhang said they were all feeling well after spending nearly a day in space. In coming days, the Shenzhou X crew will conduct two space dockings with the unmanned Tiangong-1 space module, one automatic and one manual. As they orbit the Earth, the crew will educate young people about science. Wang, the main lecturer, will teach them about motion in a microgravity environment and about the surface tension of liquids. She will also help students understand the concepts of weight and mass and Newton's Laws, giving demonstrations and interacting with students and teachers on Earth. ^ top ^

China to properly handle steel tube dispute with EU (Xinhua)
2013-06-13
China's Ministry of Commerce (MOC) said Thursday that it has received, and will properly handle, a request from the European Union (EU) regarding consultations on Chinese duties imposed on steel tube imports from the EU. China will properly handle the issue within the dispute settlement mechanism of the World Trade Organization (WTO), said an official with the Department of Treaty and Law of the MOC. The EU said Thursday that it has lodged a complaint with the WTO against Chinese duties imposed on imports of steel tubes from the EU and requested consultations with China in the WTO. In November, the MOC decided to impose five-year anti-dumping duties on high-performance stainless steel seamless tubes (HP-SSST) from the EU and Japan, after it found that the two economies had been dumping the products in the Chinese market and substantially harming Chinese producers. ^ top ^

Editorial: China deserves explanation of PRISM (Global Times)
2013-06-14
Edward Snowden, the man who blew the whistle on the American National Security Agency's PRISM project, has claimed that the US has been hacking servers in the Chinese mainland and Hong Kong for years. The Chinese diplomatic department should explicitly demand a reasonable explanation from the US government. Snowden has turned out to be a hot potato, posing a challenge for Beijing. Whether the Chinese government agrees to extradite Snowden back to the US will directly impact their bilateral relationship, which has seen a good start after the Xi-Obama meeting. But a positive relationship should not prevent Beijing from being dynamic and fact-oriented when dealing with specific conflicts. Snowden's revelation about US cyber attacks on Hong Kong and mainland networks is closely related to Chinese national interests. The Chinese government should acquire more solid information from Snowden if he has it, and use it as evidence to negotiate with the US. Such acts will not harm the Sino-American relationship, as one can assume that the US would do the same to China. This proves the flexibility of their bilateral relationship. Snowden is a political offender against the US, but what he is doing benefits the world. His actions test, rather than disturb, the bilateral ties. Public opinion will turn against China's central government and the Hong Kong SAR government if they choose to send him back. Snowden's exposure has upgraded our understanding of cyberspace, especially cyber attacks from the US, which is probably a much sharper weapon than its traditional military force. This weapon has demonstrated the US' hypocrisy and arrogance. Besides Snowden's disclosure, it is still unknown what else the US, a country which once condemned China for cyber attacks, has done to China. The US is accumulating all the advanced powers of the Internet to forge a state-level "fist" in order to launch cyber attacks on other countries. The unparalleled power of this "fist" is beyond our imagination, which should be an alarm bell for us to catch up with the development of the Internet. Our focus should be fixed on grasping the core technology of the Internet industry in the future. Snowden is a "card" that China never expected. But China is neither adept at nor used to playing it. China should make sure that Hong Kong is not the last place where other "Snowdens" want to go. At the very least, Hong Kong should be an acceptable destination for them. China is a rising power, and it deserves corresponding respect from the US. Such respect will allow Sino-American relations to be more healthy and reciprocal. ^ top ^

 

Domestic Policy

Former railways minister seeks leniency on corruption charges (SCMP)
2013-06-10
The man once responsible for overseeing the mainland's notorious railways ministry went on trial in Beijing yesterday seeking a lenient verdict on charges of corruption and abuse of power. The trial marks one of the country's biggest graft cases in years and also the first high-profile corruption case since Xi Jinping became president in March. Liu Zhijun, 60, appeared haggard when court security officers, standing on either side of him and holding his arms, brought him before the Beijing No 2 Intermediate People's Court at 8.30am for a hearing broadcast on state-run TV. The former railways minister is accused of taking bribes and other gifts worth 64.6 million yuan (HK$81 million), from 1986 to 2011. He is also charged with abusing his position to help 11 people get promoted, and in the awarding of contracts for projects related to high-speed railways. The court said Liu made "no objection" to the charges, and a verdict will be given at a later date. According to the mainland's criminal law, Liu could face the death penalty or life imprisonment if found guilty. However, Liu's defence lawyer, Qian Lieyang, said that prosecutors had suggested a more lenient sentence because Liu had confessed to all of his crimes during his detention and had helped recover most of the ill-gotten gains. […] Qian added that Liu burst into tears in the courtroom when making his closing statement, and told the judges he regretted his actions. Qian also said Liu should get credit for his role in leading the railways ministry during its development of the high-speed-railway network. That expansion also left massive debts and was tarnished by a high-speed train crash in Wenzhou in 2011 in which 40 people died. […] There was some criticism in the handling of Liu's case. "I'm fairly disappointed, as it was a fake trial as usual," said Pu Zhiqiang, a prominent human rights lawyer in Beijing. "There is little doubt that the court and the prosecutors received an endorsement [from the party's disciplinary authorities] and will announce the verdict based on the will of the leaders but not the law." Pu added: "The new leadership has been talking about giving more authority to the court, but this entire trial showed that the leaders haven't changed their view on the rule of law.". ^ top ^

Relative of imprisoned Nobel winner gets 11 years (SCMP)
2013-06-10
A court sentenced the brother-in-law of imprisoned Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo, to 11 years in prison yesterday - an unusually harsh punishment for a business dispute that the activist's wife immediately decried as a warning to the whole family. The court in suburban Beijing issued the sentence in a brief hearing after finding Liu Hui guilty of fraud in a real estate dispute, said lawyer Shang Baojun. "This is damaging to my whole family," said Liu's sister and the wife of the imprisoned Nobel laureate, Liu Xia, who was allowed to leave the Beijing apartment where she has been confined to attend the hearing. Weeping, she criticised the authorities for being unscrupulous in persecuting the family. "How can they give an 11-year sentence? I do not know. That does not stand. Perhaps this country has gone mad, or do they hate us so much?" she said. Family members and their supporters have said the prosecution of Liu Hui is meant as further punishment of the Nobel laureate's family and is intended to intimidate other political activists. The 11-year sentence for a business dispute is harsh even by mainland standards and matches the 11 years Liu Xiaobo is currently serving for authoring a programmatic call for democracy. Fraud is usually punishable by up to 10 years in jail, although judges - who answer to the ruling Communist Party - have discretion to issue longer terms for cases. The prosecution of Liu Hui is the latest measure against the family. Liu Xiaobo was arrested in 2008 and soon after he was awarded the Nobel in 2010 for his campaigning for peaceful democratic change. His wife, Liu Xia, a poet and activist, was placed under house arrest. In the two-and-a-half years since, she has rarely been allowed out in public, being restricted to an apartment without phone or Internet connections to prevent her from becoming a rallying point for other activists. Liu said she has seen no improvements in China's human rights situation under the new leadership of Xi Jinping, who took over as party leader last autumn. "Judging from what has happened to my family and the type of life I have lived in the past two years, I cannot say I have seen any improvements, I cannot see any hope," she said. The arrest of her brother, Liu Hui, in February was seen as retaliation against Liu Xia after she twice spoke out - once to reporters for the Associated Press and once to other activists who managed to sneak past security and visit her apartment. Lawyers for the brother said he and another business partner were accused of pocketing 3 million yuan (HK$3.8 million) that was claimed by another party to the transaction. According to the lawyers, the money has since been returned, and police - after first investigating the case last autumn - dropped it, but then revived the charges early this year. Speaking after the hearing yesterday, Liu Xia, said her brother had lost a lot of weight in detention. ^ top ^

China auditor warns local gov't debt risks (Xinhua)
2013-06-10
China's National Audit Office (NAO) on Monday warned of the risks relating to some local governments' fast debt growth and the pressure to repay existing arrears. A four-month audit, by the office found liabilities of 3.85 trillion yuan (624.61 billion U.S. dollars) owed by 36 local governments, including Shanghai, Tianjin and Chongqing municipalities as well as Jiangsu, Guangdong and Shandong provinces, by the end of 2012. The debt amount was 12.94 percent higher compared with the end of 2010, the NAO said. It attributed some local governments' fast debt growth to declining revenues from land sales, a major source of the authorities' fiscal revenues, and exemption of road tolls in some regions. The NAO said this was a follow-up audit after a nationwide one in 2011, which found that local governments' debt levels hit 10.7 trillion yuan at the end of 2010. Combined debt of the 36 local governments accounted for 31.79 percent of the 10.7 trillion yuan back then. Of the 36 local governments, 24 saw their debt levels rise at the end of 2012 compared with two years ago while 12 saw their debt swell more than 20 percent during the period. Results of the follow-up audit, intend to help assess the situation of local government debt. However, the audit cannot be simply used to calculate local government debt levels nationwide as the situation varies by region, the NAO said. Escalating growth in local government debt has raised concerns that hidden debt problems could trigger instability in China's banking system,leading to the Chinese government being vigilant against financial risks. Despite the risks relating to rising debt levels, the NAO also warned the problem of lax budget controls and poor management in some regions, which make the situation worse. ^ top ^

Seized assets much more than case against disgraced rail boss Liu Zhijun (SCMP)
2013-06-11
Investigations into disgraced rail minister Liu Zhijun and other "related cases" have resulted in the recovery of almost 350 flats and more than 900 million yuan (HK$110.2 million), according to a Beijing newspaper affiliated with Xinhua. Citing indictments in Liu's corruption trial, the Beijing Times said law-enforcement officers had recovered the assets during their investigations. Yesterday's report did not mention further details of the related cases. The total amount of assets recovered is much larger than the amount of bribes that prosecutors in Liu's graft case have accuse him of taking. On trial at Beijing No. 2 Intermediate People's Court on Sunday, Liu was accused of using his position of influence to help business associates win promotions and project contracts, and of accepting 64.6 million yuan in unspecified bribes between 1986 and 2011, according to an indictment reported by the official Xinhua News Agency. But the Times reported yesterday that in other cases related to Liu's abuse of his official power alone, officials had seized 795.5 million yuan, HK$85 million, US$235,000 and 2.2 million euro (HK$22.5 million) in cash. Also recovered were other assets, such as shares, vehicles, flats and other valuables. The report did not explain why those assets were not included in the charges against Liu. Liu, who has admitted the charges, could the face the death penalty or life in jail if found guilty. However, Liu's defence lawyer, Qian Lieyang, has said that prosecutors had suggested a more lenient sentence because Liu had confessed during his detention to all of his crimes and had helped recover most of the ill-gotten gains. ^ top ^

Groups decry blitz on mainland Chinese anti-graft activists (SCMP)
2013-06-11
More than a dozen anti-corruption activists in Beijing and Jiangxi province have been detained in the past two months after participating in or organising demonstrations calling for government officials to publicly disclose their assets, a number of human rights groups said in a joint statement issued yesterday. The China Human Rights Lawyers Concern Group, Committee to Support Chinese Lawyers, Front Line Defenders, Human Rights Watch and Independent Chinese PEN called on the central government to release the detainees and drop all charges against them. They said the detentions cast doubt on President Xi Jinping's commitment to cracking down on government corruption. Since May 7, 10 of the 15 activists detained had been formally arrested, indicating they were likely to be prosecuted and convicted, the right groups said. The charges against the 15 include illegal assembly, inciting subversion of state power, disturbing social order and extortion. The crime of inciting subversion carries a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison, while the other crimes have maximum penalties of five years in prison. Nine activists in Beijing and one in Jiangxi have been formally arrested. Four other activists in Jiangxi remain in custody but have yet to be charged and one activist in Beijing is out on bail. "When President Xi Jinping calls for a tough response to corruption, it's hailed as innovative policy, but when ordinary people say the same in public, his government regards it as subversion," Sophie Richardson, China director at Human Rights Watch, said. Xi's elevation to Communist Party general secretary in November had raised hopes for political reform, spurring many activists across the mainland to push officials to disclose their wealth. More than 7,000 mainland activists, scholars, lawyers and businessmen have signed a petition calling for such disclosure launched late last year. [...]. ^ top ^

Political advisory body to hold session next week (Xinhua)
2013-06-13
The Standing Committee of the 12th National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), China's political advisory body, plans to convene its second session starting on June 17. In preparation for next week's session, a meeting of the CPPCC National Committee chairman and vice chairpersons was held here on Thursday. Thursday's meeting was presided over by Yu Zhengsheng, chairman of the CPPCC National Committee. ^ top ^

 

 

Tibet

Dalai Lama cautions against self-immolations (SCMP)
2013-06-14
Tibetans setting themselves on fire to protest against Chinese rule are having little effect on Beijing's policies, exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama said yesterday, while urging China to look harder at the reasons behind the incidents. About 120 Tibetans have set themselves alight in protest against Chinese rule since 2009, mostly in heavily Tibetan areas of Sichuan, Gansu and Qinghai provinces rather than in what China terms the Tibet Autonomous Region. Most have died. "It's a sad thing that happens. Of course it's very very sad. In the meantime, I express I doubt how much effect [there is] from such drastic actions," the Dalai Lama told reporters during a visit to Australia. A Tibetan nun who set fire to herself in protest at Chinese rule on Tuesday appeared to have survived the self-immolation attempt, a rights group and a media outlet said. The woman set herself ablaze near Nyitso monastery - the scene of similar protests - in Daofu county, an area with many ethnic Tibetans in Sichuan, Radio Free Asia said. A Chinese official in March accused the Dalai Lama of providing money to encourage people to set themselves on fire, and said there was evidence to prove the Nobel Peace Prize laureate was orchestrating self-immolations. The Dalai Lama, 77, has called the acts "understandable," but says he does not encourage them. Several Tibet scholars have criticised his stance, saying his reluctance to tell his people to stop has strengthened their resolve to continue the protests. Beijing considers the Dalai Lama, who fled from China in 1959 after an abortive uprising against Chinese rule, a violent separatist. ^ top ^

 

Hongkong

NSA surveillance whistle-blower Edward Snowden hiding in Hong Kong (SCMP)
2013-06-10
One of America's most consequential whistleblowers, Edward Snowden, has come out of hiding in Hong Kong on Monday. The 29-year-old employee of defence contractor Booz Allen Hamilton has revealed his identity and location to The Guardian in a series of interviews published today. "I have no intention of hiding who I am because I know I have done nothing wrong," he told the British daily. On May 20, he left his home in Hawaii for Hong Kong, where has been staying at an unnamed "plush hotel" ever since, running up high bills and leaving the room "maybe a total of three times". He chose the city, because Hong Kong had "a spirit commitment to free speech and the right of political dissent," he told the Guardian. "I think it is really tragic that an American has to move to a place that has a reputation for less freedom," he said. "Still, Hong Kong has a reputation for freedom in spite of the People's Republic of China." Snowden feared that he would be taken away by the Chinese government for questioning over his extensive expertise in US intelligence gathering technology or "rendered" to the CIA or third-party partners. US government sources have told the Reuters news agency last week that they are likely to initiate a criminal investigation into the leak. To prevent being spied on, Snowden reportedly stuffs pillows against the doors and “puts a large red hood over his head and laptop when entering his passwords. Information leaked by Snowden was reported by the Guardian and the Washington Post last week. He had singlehandedly exposed a massive US intelligence programme called Prism, under which the US government secretly collected information online from private user accounts operated by Facebook, Google, Apple and other companies. Snowden said he hoped the Hong Kong government would not deport him. "My predisposition is to seek asylum in a country with shared values. The nation that most encompasses this is Iceland. They stood up for people over internet freedom. I have no idea what my future is going to be," he told the Guardian. ^ top ^

 

Taiwan

Taiwan report into fisherman's shooting death ready for release (SCMP)
2013-06-13
Taiwan is ready to announce the results of its investigation into the fatal shooting of a Taiwanese fisherman by the Philippine coastguard last month, a senior official said yesterday. The Pingtung District Prosecutors Office will publish its findings in the next few days, Taiwan's Deputy Justice Minister, Chen Ming-tong, said in Taipei. "According to my understanding, the Philippine side has already submitted its investigative results to the Philippine Justice Department," Chen said, adding that the island's authorities had been able to follow the progress of the investigation in the Philippines through Taiwan's representative in Manila. Hung Shih-cheng, 65, was shot dead on May 9 when the fishing boat he and three crew mates were on sailed into waters where the 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zones (EEZs) of Taiwan and the Philippines overlap. Taipei and Manila do not have diplomatic ties and ignore each other's EEZ claims. Taipei demanded a formal apology from Manila, but Manila insisted the shooting was "unintended." Taiwan then retaliated with 11 measures, including a freeze on the hiring of Filipino workers and the imposition of barriers to tourism. The two sides later agreed to launch the parallel probes. Chen declined to reveal details of the Taiwanese report. But the Central News Agency in Taipei quoted unnamed Taiwanese investigators as saying that the findings showed the shooting was intentional and the personnel held responsible for the fatal shot would be charged with murder by the Pingtung District Prosecutors Office. The Philippine Daily Inquirer reported yesterday that the Philippines' National Bureau of Investigation - which had submitted its investigation report to Justice Secretary Leila de Lima - had recommended the filing of criminal charges against the Philippine coastguard personnel involved in the shooting. It quoted an unnamed source as saying that there was a debate on whether to bring murder charges against the coastguard officer who fired the fatal shot. Legal experts in Taiwan said that in the absence of an extradition agreement, it was unlikely Manila would agree to send the suspect to Taiwan for trial. ^ top ^

Beijing and Taipei set to agree on service trade pact (SCMP)
2013-06-13
Taiwan and the mainland are expected to sign a service trade pact during a new round of talks later this month, which could help spur mainland investment on the island. "Senior negotiators from the two sides will discuss, in a preparatory meeting in Taipei on Friday, details concerning the 9th cross-strait talks," a spokesman for Taiwan's Straits Exchange Foundation said. The 9th round talks would see SEF chairman Lin Join-sane negotiate with mainland counterpart Chen Deming, the head of the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait, for the first time since he succeeded Chiang Pin-kung in September and Chen Deming succeeded Chen Yunlin in April, he said. SEF and Arats, set up in early 1990s, represent their respective governments in talks in the absence of formal ties. But the two bodies were only able to achieve results in their talks after Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou took office in 2008 and adopted a policy of engagement with Beijing, which has led to the holding of eight rounds of talks and the signing of 18 non-political agreements. The official said Arats deputy chairman Zheng Lizhong would lead a delegation to Taipei on Friday for discussions with Taiwanese counterpart Kao Koong-lian in preparation for the ninth round of talks. Zheng was scheduled to return to Beijing on Saturday, he added. The official said talks would be held before the end of this month, but he stopped short of revealing the likely venue and exact date. Taiwanese media, quoting unnamed government sources, said it would be held in Shanghai or Nanjing in the third or fourth week of June. "The focus this time will be on the signing of the service trade agreement, which the two sides have been negotiating through more than 10 meetings since February 2011," the spokesman said. He said Zheng and Kao would discuss the text of the proposed agreement, which would be signed by Lin and Chen Deming "if things all go smoothly". He said negotiators would touch on the issue of establishing representative offices on opposite sides of the strait, but no agreement would be reached in the talks. The proposed service trade pact is a major follow-up to the landmark Economic Co-operation Framework Agreement - a semi-free-trade pact - signed by the two sides in 2010. Wang Yu-chi, chairman of the Mainland Affairs Council, Taiwan's top cross-strait policy planning body, told a news conference on May 27 the agreement would also help Taiwan send a strong message to the world that it was committed to pursuing further trade liberalisation. ^ top ^

KMT officials begin three-day visit to mainland (China Daily)
2013-06-13
A delegation led by Honorary Kuomintang Chairman Wu Po-hsiung arrived in Beijing on Wednesday for a three-day visit, a development that mainland authorities called "an important activity" among the high-level exchanges between the mainland and Taiwan. Xi Jinping, general secretary of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, is scheduled to meet with the delegation on Thursday afternoon. It is the sixth time that Wu has been to Beijing with visiting delegations, but the first time since Xi became the Party chief in November. "I hope that we can maintain the peaceful cross-Straits relationship and move forward steadily, rather than move backward," Wu said at the airport in Taoyuan on Wednesday morning before boarding his plane. "I believe that mainland authorities will also express similar views," Wu added. Ma Ying-jeou, Taiwan's leader and KMT chairman, met with some of the delegation members on Monday, Wu said. Ma "has been instructing me in a serious and conscientious manner on cross-Straits issues in the past days," he said, adding that he will submit Ma's opinions to mainland authorities. Zhang Zhijun, minister of the State Council's Taiwan Affairs Office, provided a welcoming dinner for the visiting delegation on Wednesday evening. The delegation is scheduled to meet with Guo Jinlong, Party secretary of Beijing, on Thursday morning, and with Yu Zhengsheng, chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, on Thursday evening, the China Review News reported. Fan Liqing, spokeswoman for the State Council's Taiwan Affairs Office, said at a news conference on Sunday that Xi will exchange views with Wu on issues such as relations between the CPC and KMT as well as mainland-Taiwan ties. The meeting will be "an important activity" in the high-level exchanges between the two parties under new circumstances, she said. KMT authorities praised the upcoming meeting as a "new beginning", which both sides view as important, according to a news release on the KMT official website on Sunday. The meeting is expected to be a "constructive dialogue" that reflects the two parties' emphasis on the KMT-CPC platform and their commitment to maintaining and advancing the peaceful development of cross-Straits ties, the KMT news release said. No further detailed information about the meeting had been released through official channels as of Wednesday evening. The topics of the meeting include establishing agencies in each other's regions; widening trade and economic exchanges; and enhancing education communication, the Hong Kong-based Phoenix TV quoted an anonymous source as saying. Ma expressed his wish on Tuesday to set up Taiwan's offices in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou to provide better services to Taiwan investors and make it more convenient for people to travel across the Straits, Xinhua News Agency reported. There are 616 flights across the Straits every week and more than 50 mainland cities have flights to Taiwan, Ma said at a seminar on Tuesday. Since Taiwan allowed individual tourists from mainland cities in June 2011, the number of such mainland residents traveling to Taiwan stood at 385,800 by the end of May, the State Council's Taiwan Affairs Office said on Sunday. Ni Yongjie, deputy director of the Shanghai Institute of Taiwan Studies, said the meeting between Xi and Wu is in line with the dialogue mechanism that the two sides have used since 2005. "The meeting will be looking to the past, summing up experiences, and planning for the future," he said. Li Yihu, head of Peking University's Taiwan Institute, said that three KMT vice-chairmen are in the visiting delegation, and the high ranking of the visiting officials reflects the importance of the meeting. "The delegation visited Beijing on Wednesday, the Duanwu Festival," or Dragon Boat Festival, Li said. "The timing contains such meaning as ‘We are from the same family'.". ^ top ^

Taiwanese leader 'open to dialogue' with Beijing (SCMP)
2013-06-14
An honorary chairman of Taiwan's Kuomintang, Wu Poh-hsiung, told Communist Party General Secretary Xi Jinping in Beijing yesterday that the island's leader, Ma Ying-jeou, was open to cross-strait political dialogue through non-official channels, in what was seen as a goodwill gesture from Taipei. Wu also expressed the island's desire to join Asia's Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership and enjoy "meaningful participation" in global activities, which he said could "help facilitate peaceful development of cross-strait relations", the KMT said in a press release. He said it was the Ma government's policy to deal with cross-strait issues on a step-by-step basis, doing the easy part first before the difficult, and dealing with economic matters before political issues. "But undeniably … there are always some issues hard to divide," Wu said, adding that as long as it benefited cross-strait communication and understanding, the Ma government was open to having non-official political dialogue across the Taiwan Strait. "Chairman Ma has already stated that there have never been any restrictions on political dialogue through the private sector," Wu said. Xi and other mainland leaders have repeatedly called on Taiwan to start non-official political dialogue to pave the way for future official talks on the thorny issue since coming to power early this year. Such appeals have, however, often been met with a cold shoulder from Ma, who has said the time is not ripe and there would be no talks during his final term, which ends in May 2016. Analysts said that with Wu acting as Ma's proxy, his comment represented an olive branch extended by Ma to Xi. Taiwanese President Ma, who is also the KMT's chairman, said on Monday that he had authorised Wu to represent him in the meeting with Xi. It was Xi's first meeting with Wu since he became president in March. In the absence of consensus on the true government of China, the two sides met as representatives of their respective political parties. Xi called on the two sides yesterday to seize the opportunity of warming ties, based on the overall interests of the Chinese race. "To increase mutual trust, the core is to reach a clearer consensus on how to strengthen and maintain the framework of 'One China'," Xinhua quoted Xi as saying. Wu told a news conference after the meeting that Xi had said the mainland was willing to address the issue of Taiwan's meaningful participation in international activities "through cross-strait negotiations on an equal footing". ^ top ^

Philippines possibly to charge against coast guard (Xinhua)
2013-06-14
Philippine Justice Secretary Leila de Lima confirmed on Thursday the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) had recommended the filing of criminal and administrative cases against members of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) involved in the killing of a Taiwan fisherman last month. […] De Lima said the report has already been submitted to President Benigno Aquino III, who has the prerogative to either adopt it as it is, or subject it to another layer of review by his own legal team. "I'm confirming that the NBI already submitted the report. I forwarded the report (to Aquino) before I left for Madrid. The NBI recommended the filing of criminal and administrative charges (but) I cannot disclose yet what exactly the charges had been recommended until it is disclosed by the president. So let's not preempt the reaction of the president," she said in a phone interview with reporters. She also declined to comment on whether she agreed with the supposed NBI finding of a security lapse, unnecessary use of excessive force and violation of the rules of engagement on the part of the PCG. […] De Lima however hinted that the NBI would make use of the murder complaint filed by the victim's daughter, Hung Tzu Chien, before the Pingtung prosecutor's office in Taiwan. […] A source at the bureau who requested anonymity said that NBI probers were able to establish at least one of the six elements of murder under Article 248 of the Revised Penal Code, specifically the fact that the Taiwan fishermen were unarmed at the time the coast guard fired at their vessel. Investigators also claimed that the coast guard team might have violated the rules of engagement in allegedly using excessive force to drive away the supposed intruding fishermen, resulting in the death of Hung Shih-Cheng. On May 9, PCG officers shot and killed 65-year-old Hung at sea 164 nautical miles southeast of Taiwan. The Philippine coast guard admitted later firing at the Taiwan fishing vessel. Investigation teams respectively organized by Taiwan and the Philippines have completed "parallel investigations" on the incident. ^ top ^

 

Economy

Lowering CPI means weaker economy (China Daily)
2013-06-10
China's annual consumer inflation slowed in May, according to the latest data released on Sunday, suggesting that the world's second-largest economy could be weaker than expected. The National Bureau of Statistics said China's consumer inflation surged 2.1 percent, 0.3 percentage points lower than one month ago or the lowest in three months, while producer prices fell 2.9 percent from a year earlier, the lowest since September. Grain prices soared 5.1 percent, meat and relevant product prices went up 1.6 percent and vegetable prices were down 1.9 percent. Compared with last month, consumer prices fell 0.6 percent in May. Of them, vegetable prices went down 13.8 percent. The bureau said more than 80 percent of the monthly decline in the CPI was accounted for by a drop in vegetable prices when supplies climbed due to warm weather. Vegetable prices fell 13.8 percent in May from April, dragging down the month-on-month headline CPI by 0.5 percentage points. Chief China economist at HSBC Qu Hongbin said overall inflation continues to weaken and it is unlikely that the monetary authority would further implement expansionary monetary policies. China's new yuan-denominated lending fell to 667.4 billion yuan ($107.6 billion) in May, down from 792.9 billion yuan in April and 1.06 trillion yuan in March, according to data released by the central bank on Sunday. The figure was 125.8 billion yuan less than the same period last year, the People's Bank of China said in a statement on its website. The country's social financing, a measure of funds raised by entities in the real economy, amounted to 1.19 trillion yuan last month, shrinking 576.3 billion yuan compared with April. The broad M2 money supply rose 15.8 percent in May from a year earlier, to 104 trillion yuan, up 0.3 percentage points month-on-month. "The inflation data showed China's economic growth continued to slow down. Q2 growth is probably even slower than Q1. In particular, the PPI data showed very weak demand," said Jianguang Shen, chief China economist at Mizuho Securities Asia in Hong Kong. The subdued inflation will enable China to keep an easy monetary stance and some see the possibility that the People's Bank of China could cut rates later this year to reduce financing costs for struggling Chinese firms, provided that housing inflation does not flare up, Reuters reported. "China has rising room and the possibility to cut interest rates in the second half of this year," Shen added. "The financing cost for companies is very high now and the central bank should further pursue interest rate liberalization. China's fiscal policy in the second half needs to protect consumption growth and support investment.". ^ top ^

Chinese solar panel makers tap into Africa (Xinhua)
2013-06-12
Chinese solar panel makers may bulk up in Afria after China finishes building one of the biggest solar power stations on the continent. Chinese solar panel makers will supply most of the $140 million needed to build a solar power station in Garissa, Kenya, according to State-owned China Jiangxi Corporation for International Economic and Technical Cooperation, the deal's coordinator. The coordinating company said Wednesday that the project will serve as the base for China's biggest solar panel makers to expand their presence in Africa. The solar power station can generate 76 million kilowatt hours of electricity annually and provide power for about 350,000 people, or half of Garissa's population. The deal was inked as the European Union slapped anti-dumping tariffs on solar panels made in China. Chinese solar companies, mired in debt and overcapacity, are in great need to find alternative markets, as their biggest importer will probably buy less due to the duties. ^ top ^

 

DPRK and South Korea

North and South Korea agree to ministerial talks (SCMP)
2013-06-10
North and South Korea agreed to hold minister-level talks in Seoul later this week, Yonhap News Agency said, as the two sides seek limited reconciliation following heightened rhetoric over the North's nuclear programme earlier this year. The two governments are working on a draft agreement for the meeting, which may last more than a day, Yonhap reported, citing an unidentified South Korean government official. The delegates were still talking more than 12 hours after the meeting began at the border "truce village" of Panmunjom. But South Korean officials seemed confident they would reach an agreement for the ministerial talks. It was unclear when the meeting would end or if a new round would also be held today. The intense media interest in what was essentially a meeting of bureaucrats to iron out technical details is an indication of how bad ties between the Koreas have been. Before leaving for the border, Chun Hae-sung, the chief South Korean delegate, said the North and South could move towards greater economic co-operation and political reconciliation when they "start building trust on small things first". The North Korean delegation was led by Kim Song-hye, a senior official at the North's Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea. A spokesman for the South's Unification Ministry said the two sides discussed technical issues for the ministerial meeting. "The atmosphere of today's meeting, as both South and North Korea have come to the meeting table after some time... was such that the talks have gone smoothly without any argument," ministry spokesman Kim Hyung-suk said in Seoul. There was no immediate comment on the talks from the North. Before the talks got under way, officials said they would focus on normalising commercial projects, including the Kaesong industrial zone just inside North Korea, closed in early April, and reuniting families still separated 60 years after the war. North Korea's overture to hold discussions reversed months of bellicose rhetoric after the United Nations imposed toughened sanctions against the North in response to its third nuclear test in February. The North also reopened a Red Cross hotline with South Korea last week. Government officials from the two Koreas last met in Panmunjom in 2000 to work on logistics of the historic inter-Korean summit meeting that year. President Park Geun-hye, who took office in February with a promise of greater engagement with Pyongyang, has welcomed the initiative. But she remains adamant that the North must show a tangible commitment to abandoning nuclear weapons. ^ top ^

North Korea calls off high-level talks with South after row over delegates (SCMP)
2013-06-12
High-level talks between North and South Korea planned for today after a six-year hiatus and threats of war have been scrapped, officials in Seoul said, following a seemingly minor disagreement over the diplomatic ranks of chief delegates. North Korea's offer to hold the talks came after weeks of threats in March and April to attack the South and the United States. The offer came as the North apparently sought to reopen lucrative business deals and the South was trying to mend ties with its volatile, heavily armed neighbour. Kim Hyung-suk, a spokesman for the South Korean Unification Ministry, said yesterday Pyongyang had told Seoul that the South's choice for its chief delegate for the talks, the deputy unification minister, was not appropriate and a "grave provocation". Seoul had hoped Pyongyang would send a senior ruling Workers' Party secretary known to be a close adviser to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un as an indication that it was serious about the meeting. But North Korea sent notice that it would be a relatively unknown bureaucrat who would be leading the delegation, the ministry spokesman said. The decision was "abnormal" and the person chosen not fit to be a genuine representative of North Korea's leadership, he said, adding: "Our government regrets North Korea's position." The disagreement was reminiscent of seemingly minor details that derailed or delayed progress in previous meetings. It was not clear if North Korea was withdrawing its offer of talks altogether and returning to hostile tactics, but the South said it remained open for dialogue when the North was ready. North Korea may also have been prodded into the offer to hold talks by China, its sole major diplomatic ally and economic backer. Pyongyang's overture came as US President Barack Obama met President Xi Jinping for talks in California. The inter-Korea talks would have been the first high-level meeting between the two countries in nearly six years. The South had hoped the talks would lead to the reopening of the Kaesong industrial zone and a suspended tours programme to Mount Kumgang, a scenic area near the border, just inside North Korea. The North closed its money-spinning Kaesong venture with South Korean companies - that earned US$90 million a year in foreign exchange - in April, amid spiralling tension on the Korean peninsula. The Mount Kumgang tourist zone was closed in 2008 when a North Korean guard shot a South Korean tourist and then refused to apologise. ^ top ^

North Korea blames South's 'arrogance' for talks failure (SCMP)
2013-06-14
North Korea yesterday blamed South Korean arrogance and deceit for the collapse of this week's planned talks and warned that prospects for any future dialogue had been severely damaged. [...] Even the one positive development - the restoration of an inter-government hotline - seemed in doubt, with the North refusing to answer calls from the South since Wednesday morning. "The South side had no intent to hold dialogue from the beginning," said a spokesman for the North's Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea, the state body that handles inter-Korean issues. "It only sought to create an obstacle to the talks, delay and then torpedo them," he said, accusing the South of "arrogant obstructions and deliberate disturbance". "This impolite and immoral provocative behaviour made us think once again whether it will be possible to properly discuss matters or improve relations even if official talks are opened in the future." The agreement to meet in Seoul had looked vulnerable from the outset - requiring 17 hours of talks on Sunday that ended with no real consensus on the agenda and other issues. The final nail in the coffin was a dispute over who would represent each side, with the North arguing that the South's nomination of a vice-minister as its chief delegate was an insult. When Seoul refused to upgrade to a cabinet minister, the North cancelled its delegation. South Korea insisted its vice-minister was commensurate in rank to the North's chief delegate and said Pyongyang had to accept diplomatic norms. The South's Unification Minister, Ryoo Kihl-jae, suggested the whole protocol rift was an inevitable "growing pain" as the new administration of President Park Geun-hye seeks to define a new relationship with Pyongyang. Park, who took office in February, has pushed a "trust-building" policy with the North, which offers engagement but no concessions without reciprocity. The talks in Seoul were to have focused on re-opening two suspended commercial projects -- the Kaesong joint industrial zone and South Korea tours to the North's Mount Kumgang resort. ^ top ^

 

Mongolia

Tyrannosaurus Bataar seen by 10 thousand people in one day (news.mn)
2013-06-10
A temporary dinosaur museum at Sukhbaatar Square was opened on Saturday June 8th. The public event “I am home” is now being held on the Square to display the smuggled and auctioned Tyrannosaurus Bataar fossil. At the opening ceremony of the temporary dinosaur museum, the Minister of Culture, Sport and Tourism, Ts.Oyungerel, the head of the Office of the President of Mongolia, P.Tsagaan and a representative of the Ambassador from the US to Mongolia cut the ribbon. It is estimated that 10,556 visitors saw Tyrannosaurus Bataar on the first day of the show. Officials said that the temporary museum will remain open until September 15th. The showpiece is available free of charge for children between 0 and 6 years old and elder people. ^ top ^

Observers of 32 countries get rights (Montsame)
2013-06-11
The General Election Commission (GEC) reported Tuesday that some 300 observers from 32 countries have taken a right to observe the Presidential election which is scheduled June 26. The certified observers from Australia, United Kingdom, USA, Germany, Denmark, Italy, Canada and France and so on are getting acquainted with activities of the election sub-commissions in provinces and in the city, how ballot papers are printed, and the software of automatic systems for taking votes is dealt with. The GEC emphasized that the election process is attracting a great interest of foreign observers. They want to witness how the electoral democracy is being realized here, how the new legal environment for election is set up and the automatic system is introduced. Moreover, they are analyzing a course of the preparation, will watch a participation of the candidates and political parties and a election campaign by media, and activeness of voters. ^ top ^

Construction of new airport starts (Montsame)
2013-06-12
A construction of a new international airport launched Wednesday in a valley of Khoshig in Sergelen soum, Tov province. The airport is supposed to be completed in 2016. it will receive three million passengers a year. The Japanese Mitsubishi-Chiyoda Alliance has been selected as the executor of this work. The valley is about 54 km south from Ulaanbaatar. The very first object to be erected is the flight security provision building. A construction is also expected of a high speed motorway connecting Ulaanbaatar to the airport, of relay station and railway, a factory, technological park, cargo terminal and a huge complex. Some 12,084.9 hectares for the airport were issued June 2 of 2012 by Mongolian Government's resolution, and the airport's foundation stone was laid that time. The new airport will have capacity to serve 1 million 650 thousand passengers a year and to receive 6 airplane at the same time. To ensure a normal environment for the airport staffers, a new town for 100 thousand residents will be erected. The new airport will have 30 structures and two runaways. Its annual capacity of goods freight will be 11,900 tons. ^ top ^

Former MIAT directors sentenced (news.mn)
2013-06-12
The results of the trial for the former directors of MIAT, which lasted for two days, were delivered today on June 12th at detention center 461. The suspects heard the charges for fraud involving large sums of money and the laundering of money under the false cover of a War Risk Insurance. The judge panel discussed the case of the MIAT money laundering and sentenced the suspects for fraud involving a great amount of money under the cover of a War Risk Insurance and using a false offshore insurance bank account and money laundering. The former director of MIAT B.Erdenebileg was sentenced to 14 years and one month, B.Bat-Erdene to 12 years and two months, Ts.Orkhon to 11 years, former vice director Ch.Khorolsuren to 13 years and one month, Ch,Khorolsuren`s brother, former director of Mongolian Airlines Group, Ch.Suuritogtokh to 10 years and one month and former director of branch 6 of Golomt bank, G.Saranchimeg to 11 years and one month. The Judge panel sentenced six of seven suspects believed to be involved in the money laundering case but separated the file for the former accountant of MIAT, N.Gantumur, from the case. The attorney of N.Gantumur failed to appear at the trial because of personal reasons so the judge panel will conduct the hearing separately. Besides D.Sugar, former Chairman of the State Property Committee, a member of the Constitutional Court, S.Batkhishig and former civil servant of the Committee, N.Galt who allegedly established the false insurance company in Japan are under investigation regarding the case. ^ top ^

Ipotek loans to be issued from June 17th (news.mn)
2013-06-12
The matter regarding how to formulate the regulation of the allocating of mortgage loans to civilians at an annual interest rate of 8 /±1/ via commercial banks was re-discussed during Tuesday`s cabinet meeting at Government House. The Government of Mongolia approved the main regulation of housing Ipotek loans and delivered it to commercial banks. The Central Bank of Mongolia formulated the specific regulation of the Ipotek loans. During the discussion, Prime Minister N.Altankhuyag confirmed that the loans, at an annual interest rate of 8 /±1/ with terms of up to 20 years, will be issued to civilians who want to purchase an apartment in the new or old town from Monday June 17th. But credit for apartments will only be issued via commercial banks which meet the requirements of the Central Bank of Mongolia under the term of not exceeding 80 square meters in a new or old apartment. According to the regulation, a civilian must have paid 10-30 percent in an advance fee for that apartment. The former Government of Mongolia launched a program to provide civilians with interests as low as 6 % annually in February 2012, but after the new Government was formed the loans were haltd and banks stopped issuing loans in order to continue the loans under new regulations. Civilians who were issued apartment loans previously can also transfer the loan into the 8 /±1/ % loans. ^ top ^

 

Andrin Eichin
Embassy of Switzerland
 

The Press review is a random selection of political and social related news gathered from various media and news services located in the PRC, edited or translated by the Embassy of Switzerland in Beijing and distributed among Swiss Government Offices. The Embassy does not accept responsibility for accuracy of quotes or truthfulness of content. Additionally the contents of the selected news mustn't correspond to the opinion of the Embassy.
 
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