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
  1-7.3.2014, No. 514  
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Table of contents

DPRK and South Korea


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Foreign Policy

China, Britain hold strategic dialogue in London (Xinhua)
Visiting Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi on Friday met with British Foreign Secretary William Hague in London in a formal strategic dialogue between the two countries. The history of China-Britain relations has proven that political trust constitutes the cornerstone and prerequisite for the smooth development of bilateral cooperation and exchanges, Yang said. In the face of a complex, volatile international situation and various uncertainties in global economic recovery, China and Britain should promote mutual trust and cooperation to a higher level on the basis of mutual respect, thus making new contributions to China-Europe relations and world peace and prosperity, he said. The Chinese State Councilor said China is willing to conduct high-level dialogues and exchanges at all levels with Britain, deepen mutually beneficial cooperation, enhance communication on China-Europe relations, and bolster the comprehensive strategic partnership between the two countries. The two sides should intensify cooperation in international affairs and jointly safeguard the post-WWII international order, thus contributing to world peace and development, Yang said. For his part, Hague said China has made great progress in its development and played a significant role in world peace, stability and development. Britain and China have a lot to offer to each other, and the two countries' joint efforts have brought about deepening bilateral relations and effective cooperation in various fields, he said. Hague said Britain hopes to further the two countries' comprehensive strategic partnership, adding that his country would like to strengthen high-level exchanges and strategic communication with China, and expand pragmatic cooperation between the two countries. Britain also looks to increase coordination and collaboration with China in the UN and G20 mechanisms, thus making joint efforts to resolve global and regional hot-spot issues, he said. The two leaders also exchanged views on issues of climate change, African development, Syria, Iran nuclear issue, nuclear issue on the Korean peninsular, and the situation in South Sudan. This year marks the 10th founding anniversary of China-Britain comprehensive strategic partnership. ^ top ^

Chinese defense minister meets Pakistani president on ties (Xinhua)
China is ready to deepen pragmatic military cooperation with Pakistan and make new contributions to the comprehensive development of bilateral ties, Chinese State Councilor and Defense Minister Chang Wanquan said here Friday. During a meeting with Pakistani President Mamnoon Hussain, Chang said Beijing has always viewed its ties with Pakistan a priority in China's relations with its neighbors. His visit, said Chang, is aimed to implement the important consensus of the two countries' leaders on intensifying defense and military relations between the two countries. During Hussain's recent visit to China, the two countries' leaders have reached consensus on accelerating the building of the economic corridor and deepening all-round bilateral cooperation, Chang added. For his part, Hussain said, Pakistan will staunchly support China on issues concerning its core interests and stand ready to work with China to bring bilateral ties, including cooperation in defense and security, to a new level. His latest visit to China carried great significance, said the Pakistani president, as he and the Chinese leaders have agreed to speed up their planned economic corridor project, making it a new milestone in bilateral relations in this century to benefit the two peoples and other countries in the region. Chang arrived here early Thursday for an official visit. ^ top ^

Abe loses credibility with Chinese govt, people: spokesman (Global Times)
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has lost credibility with the Chinese government and the Chinese people as well, a spokesman of the Chinese political advisory body said Sunday. Calling Abe a "regional troublemaker... playing a double game," Lü Xinhua, spokesman for the second session of the 12th National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), told a press conference that Abe's visit to the war-linked Yasukuni Shrine has seriously undermined the political foundation for Sino-Japanese relations. The Yasukuni Shrine honors 14 convicted Class-A war criminals and other war-dead during the World War II. Lü said the Japanese leader on one hand talked about having a face-to-face dialogue with Chinese leaders. "On the other hand, in total disregard of China-Japan relationship and regional stability, he has compromised the interest of Japan's neighbors, and hurt the feelings of the people of Asian countries victimized in the WWII," he said. Abe has also repeatedly created military tensions by expanding advanced weaponry and equipment, Lü said. "He has lost his credibility with the Chinese government and the Chinese people," he said. Lü said dialogues with China will only be possible after Abe corrects his mistake with credible actions, and puts an immediate end to all words and deeds that might jeopardize China-Japan relations and create regional tensions. Noting an ongoing movement toward the Right in Japan's politics, he said future developments in Japan are a cause for concern. "The Japanese people don't want to see Japan repeat its past mistakes and the international community will not allow Japan to turn back the wheels of history," Lü said. ^ top ^

Int'l community continues to slam terrorist attack in Kunming (Xinhua)
Some countries and international organizations continued to condemn the deadly terrorist attack in Kunming, capital of China's southwestern Yunnan province, and expressed condolences to the victims' families. The UN Security Council on Sunday issued a chairman statement, condemning in the strongest terms Saturday's terrorist attack at Kunming train station and extending sympathy and condolences to the victims and their families as well as to the people and the government of China. The Security Council reaffirmed that terrorism in all its forms and manifestations constitutes a serious threat to international peace and security, and that any acts of terrorism are criminal and unjustifiable regardless of their motivation, wherever and whenever and by whomsoever committed, said the statement. The Security Council reiterated their determination to combat all forms of terrorism, stressed the need to bring perpetrators, organizers, financiers and sponsors of this terrorist attack to justice, and urged all countries to cooperate actively with the governments of relevant countries in fighting terrorism. Afghan President Hamid Karzai, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, Tajik President Emomali Rakhmon, Kyrgyz President Almaz Atambayev, Cuban leader Raul Castro also sent separate messages to Chinese President Xi Jinping, strongly condemning the terrorist attack and expressing their firm support to China's efforts to combat terrorism. Antigua and Barbuda's Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer sent a message to Chinese Premier Li Keqiang. In addition, Germany, Britain, Spain, Australia, South Korea, Pakistan, India, Nepal, Vietnam, Iran, Syria, Qatar, Grenada, Equatorial Guinea and the European Union condemned the terrorist attack and expressed sympathy and condolences to the victims and their families as well as to the people and the government of China. ^ top ^

Chinese envoy urges political solution to Ukraine crisis (Global Times)
A Chinese envoy here on Monday called on all parties involved in the tense situation in Ukraine to seek a political solution to their disputes through dialogue and negotiations. "China is deeply concerned about the current situation in Ukraine," Liu Jieyi, the Chinese permanent representative to the United Nations, said at the third emergency Security Council meeting in four days on Ukraine. "We condemn the recent extreme and violent acts there and have been urging the relevant parties in Ukraine to resolve their internal disputes peacefully within the legal framework so as to safeguard the lawful rights and interests of all ethnic communities in Ukraine and restore normal social order at an early date," he said. Liu emphasized that China consistently stands for the principle of non-interference in any country's internal affairs and respects the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine. "There are reasons for why the situation in Ukraine is what it is today," he noted, adding that China will follow the development of the situation closely. China calls on relevant parties to "seek a political resolution of their differences through dialogue and negotiation based on respect for international law and norms governing international relations in order to uphold regional peace and stability," Liu said. ^ top ^

Michelle Obama's visit to China a chance for some gentle diplomacy (SCMP)
US first lady Michelle Obama's visit to China - where she will meet her counterpart Peng Liyuan - later this month may help smooth strains between the two countries. Obama will visit Beijing, Xi'an and Chengdu with her daughters from March 19-26. Divisions between the US and Russia over Moscow's military intervention in Ukraine may partly explain why the White House chose this time to use "first lady diplomacy", said Jin Canrong, of Renmin University's School of International Relations. Hillary Clinton, then first lady, went to Beijing in 1995 to attend a United Nations conference on women and Laura Bush went there with then president George W. Bush in 2002. "Mrs Clinton's trip was for a multilateral event, not a formal visit, so Mrs Obama's visit will be the first of its kind in recent decades," Jin said. The first lady, accompanied by her mother and two daughters, is scheduled to visit Beijing from March 20-23, Xi'an on March 24 and Chengdu from March 25-26. Among her stops in Beijing and Chengdu will be a university and high schools. Sun Zhe, a professor of international relations at Tsinghua University, called the visit an "innovation in diplomacy" and an "extension of Sino-US relations". He said both Michelle Obama and Peng promoted education so their meeting could inspire reforms or innovation in the Chinese system. Shi Yinhong, an international relations professor at Renmin University, said the trip might at least slightly help improve Sino-US ties. China's relations with the US have been strained over disputes over territory in the South China Sea and Barack Obama's meeting with the Dalai Lama at the White House last month. Jin said the US was also keen to get diplomatic backing over Ukraine. "The US and Russia are unhappy with each other due to the Ukraine crisis. Both want China's support," he said. Michelle Obama missed meeting Peng last June when she and President Xi Jinping travelled to southern California. Xi's meeting with Barack Obama was around the time of one of the Obama daughter's birthdays and the White House said Michelle had wanted to be with her. Another possible reason for the first lady's trip could be to reduce media speculation over her husband's visit next month to Japan and three other Asian nations, Jin said. "There might be some talk in the media about why China is not on the list of stopovers. So the first lady's trip may help reduce concerns over that," he said. Barack Obama is expected to visit Beijing for the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation summit in the autumn. ^ top ^

Beijing denies Xi planned to visit Holocaust Memorial during trip to Europe (SCMP)
Ambassador to Berlin denies Beijing sought controversial tour, but said he had discussed with Germans how they handled wartime past - China's ambassador to Germany has denied that Beijing proposed a visit by President Xi Jinping to a second world war memorial in Berlin during his tour of Europe later this month. Reuters had reported, citing unnamed diplomatic sources, that Beijing proposed having Xi visit the Holocaust memorial in the German capital to highlight the nation's atonement for its wartime past. The aim was to contrast Germany's record with Japan's, the report said. Ambassador Shi Mingde told reporters on the sidelines of a Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference meeting yesterday in Beijing the government had never discussed with Germany Xi visiting the Holocaust memorial. The president's itinerary was still being finalised, he said. "We have never raised such an idea," Shi said. "Such reports are not in line with the facts." Shi said Xi and German leaders would discuss "international and regional issues of mutual concern", without giving specific details. The Reuters report said Germany rejected the idea of a visit to the memorial because it did not want to be dragged into a dispute between China and Japan. Beijing's already tense relations with Tokyo have increasingly worsened since December, when Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited the Yasukuni Shrine dedicated to Japan's war dead, including top war criminals. Beijing denounced the visit, saying Abe was pushing Japan towards militarism and it has called on Japan to learn from Germany, which has frequently apologised for the suffering of the Holocaust and its wartime aggression. Japanese politicians have apologised for Japan's record during the second world war, but Beijing says the shrine visits cast doubts on the sincerity of the Japanese government. Shi said he had discussed with German officials how Berlin and Tokyo handled their wartime past and they had shown understanding of China's position. "We agreed on how the Germans face their history, which is the basis for their reconciliation with other nations, such as France," he said. "The Germans understand us and have never said they don't want to discuss historical issues with us." Xi will also visit France, the Netherlands and Brussels later this month. Shi said Xi would discuss China's reforms, the country's stance on major international issues and develop closer ties with Europe during his trip. ^ top ^

China provides military aid to Cambodia (China Daily)
China on Friday delivered 26 military trucks and 30,000 sets of military uniforms to Cambodia in order to help relieve the difficulties of the Cambodian army. At a handover ceremony held at the Trucking Battalion No. 99 on the outskirts of the capital Phnom Penh, Chinese Ambassador to Cambodia Bu Jianguo said the trucks and uniforms were the aid from the Chinese People's Liberation Army to the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces. "China hopes that the aid will help ease the difficulties of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces, and will further promote ties and cooperation between the armies and peoples of the two countries," she said. Moeung Samphan, Secretary of State at the Cambodian Ministry of Defense, extended gratitude to the Chinese government and the Chinese People's Liberation Army for continuous supports to Cambodia. "The aid is timely as Cambodia is facing shortage of military materials," he said. "This truly reflects China's attention to assist Cambodia and it will create closer friendship relations and solidarity between the armies of the two countries." ^ top ^


Domestic Policy

Chinese official drops first hint that Zhou Yongkang will be probed for corruption (SCMP)
A senior official suggested publicly for the first time yesterday that Beijing may soon formally announce it is investigating retired security tsar Zhou Yongkang for corruption. The hint, the strongest so far that the leadership will soon make the case public, was dropped after the South China Morning Post asked Lü Xinhua, spokesman for the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), whether Zhou was being investigated. At a press conference ahead of the annual session starting today, Lü sidestepped the question but stressed that "anyone who violates the party's discipline and the state law will be seriously investigated and punished, no matter who he is or how high ranking he is". He added: "Since last year, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection and the Ministry of Supervision have conducted investigations or announced punishment for 31 top officials, including some at ministerial level. "Our serious investigation and punishment of party members and cadres, including some senior officials, indicates that what we stated was not empty words. I can only say so much so far. You know what I'm saying." It is the first time the Communist Party has openly commented on rumours surrounding Zhou. The Post revealed in August that party leaders had privately agreed to open a corruption investigation into the former member of the powerful Politburo Standing Committee. State media had remained tight-lipped but now some articles have started to link him and his son Zhou Bin - currently the subject of a graft probe. The announcement would mark the end of the party's unwritten rule that members of the Politburo Standing Committee, including retirees, can be exempted from investigation for economic crimes. ^ top ^

Nation mourns Kunming victims (Global Times)
Hundreds of mourners gathered on Sunday outside Kunming Railway Station, scene of a brutal terror attack that left at least 29 dead and more than 130 injured on Saturday evening. While much of the scene had been cleaned up by Sunday, people started to gather around 9 pm outside the station in Yunnan Province, lighting candles and laying flowers. Chinese law enforcers, who have laid the blame for the bloody attack on separatists from Northwest China's restive Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, are tracking suspects who stormed the station armed with knives at 9:20 pm Saturday, stabbing and slashing people at random outside the station and in the booking hall and the waiting rooms. Witnesses talked of around 10 masked people dressed in black wielding long knives and stabbing indiscriminately. "People were crying and running out of the station, many with bloody faces and hands, some falling down to the ground," Wu Bo, a young man who was walking by the station, told the Global Times. He helped some of the victims to nearby hospitals, including two children. He was at the square on Sunday night again joining the mourners. Other heroic acts of people risking their lives to aid the victims have been reported. When a man and woman wearing masks chased Qi Wen, who was at the station seeing his family off to Anyang, Henan Province, a cellphone store owner let him and a dozen other people into his store, locking them inside. The terrorists pointed their knives at them, then left, Qi told the Beijing News. The mother of a friend of Qi, who was also at the station, was stabbed in the back, he said. At least four attackers were shot at the scene, and one woman was arrested. Police are seeking at least five more suspects who fled. The attack, just two days before the country's annual parliamentary meeting, or two sessions, in Beijing, was apparently aimed at causing as much publicity and panic as possible, a senior anti-terrorism official from Beijing told the Global Times. Yunnan Provincial No.3 People's Hospital, the closest to the station, received 29 of the most seriously wounded, most having been stabbed multiple times to the chest or stomach. A woman, who is six months pregnant, was stabbed in the chest and was unconscious when sent to the hospital. Her condition is serious, but the baby seems unharmed, doctors told the Global Times. Three people are in "very serious" condition, including one police officer, the hospital said. A nurse surnamed Wu told the Global Times that he saw five victims had already died by the time they arrived at the hospital on Saturday, including one police officer and two auxiliary officers. ^ top ^

Kunming terrorist attack suspects captured (Xinhua)
Chinese police said Monday three suspects involved in the terrorist attack in the southwestern city of Kunming had been captured. The Ministry of Public Security said in a statement that the terrorist gang led by Abdurehim Kurban was responsible for the attack. Police shot and killed four of them and captured an injured female attacker at the scene on Saturday night, the statement said. The knife-wielding attackers slashed frantically at crowds at a railway station in Kunming in southwest China's Yunnan Province on Saturday, killing 29 people and injuring 143. The health authority said 20 of the 143 injured in Kunming are still in critical condition. Soon after the terrorist attack, Chinese President Xi Jinping ordered law enforcement agencies to strike out with full forces and bring those accountable to justice as soon as possible. Xi urged the greatest efforts to treat the injured and help those who have lost their loved ones. Chinese Premier Li Keqiang ordered police forces nationwide to beef up security, particulary at public places of big crowds. Senior Chinese security official Meng Jianzhu arrived in Kunming at 5:30 a.m. Sunday to oversee the situation. Order was restored in Kunming on Sunday, with train arrivals resumed after three trains with 3,000 passengers were affected on Saturday night. About 60,000 passengers left the station on Sunday, higher than the 59,000 on Saturday. All local middle and primary schools opened as normal on Monday, with enhanced security. Chinese leaders and political advisors Monday paid silent tribute to the victims of the terrorist attack at the opening of the annual session of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC). Du Qinglin, vice chairman of the CPPCC National Committee, condemned the terrorists behind the attack and conveyed condolences to the victims. "The violent terrorist attack in Kunming on March 1 has caused great losses to people's lives and property," said Du. The carnage has shocked and outraged the international community. United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon condemned the terror attack. "Terrorist attacks cannot be justified under any circumstances and under any reasons," stressed Ban. "This was unacceptable. The perpetrators must be brought to justice." Ban conveyed his "most sincere condolences and sympathies to those families of the victims" and wished those injured a speedy recovery. "The international community has suffered too much, [and] too long by these terrorist attacks here and there. We must be united to fight against terrorism," Ban said. Germany strongly condemned the mass stabbing at the train station soon after the bloody attack. "We condemn the brutal attack on innocent civilians at a train station in Kunming in southwest China in the strongest terms," a German foreign ministry spokesman said in a statement. "This act cannot be justified." Other countries, including France, Russia, the United States, Britain, Australia, and Afghanistan, all expressed condemnation of the brutal violence that caused heavy casualties. ^ top ^

Xinjiang chairman blames overseas forces for separatist activities (Xinhua)
A top government official from far west China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region blamed the separatist activities in the ethnic area on overseas forces Thursday, saying that they will never achieve their purpose. "We will be on high alert against those instigators. They are dreaming of splitting Xinjiang from our great motherland everyday," Nur Bekri, chairman of the regional government, told reporters while attending the annual session of the country's top legislature in Beijing. He vowed a resolute crackdown on separatism, terrorism and extremism in Xinjiang with an "iron fist." "Terrorists do not stand for any ethnic group or any religion," he said, noting that people of all ethnic groups in Xinjiang strongly condemn any form of violence and terrorism. Nur Bekri said that violent terrorist activities is becoming active in Xinjiang and the region enters a critical period in combating separatism. His remarks came days after knife-wielding assailants killed 29 civilians and injured another 143 at a railway station in the southwestern Chinese city of Kunming. Evidences pointed the attack to terrorists from Xinjiang. Nur Bekri also defended China's ethnic policy, calling it the best in the world. "Some people are always pointing their fingers at China's ethnic policy. They must have ulterior motives," he said. ^ top ^

No leniency for terrorists: Xinjiang Party chief (Xinhua)
Xinjiang's top official of the Communist Party of China (CPC) on Thursday pledged a harsh and lasting crackdown on terrorists. "The terrorists are the common enemies of all ethnic groups in Xinjiang and we cannot treat them with leniency," Zhang Chunxian, secretary of the CPC Xinjiang Autonomous Regional Committee who is attending an annual session of the country's top legislature in Beijing, told reporters after a panel discussion. "The crackdown targets the terrorists, rather than the majority of people or any specific (ethnic) group," he said. Of terrorist activities in the ethnic region, 90 percent resulted from the influence of overseas online footage, according to the official. Zhang's remarks came days after knife-wielding assailants killed 29 civilians and injured another 143 at a railway station in the southwestern Chinese city of Kunming. Evidence linked the attack to terrorists from Xinjiang. "The terrorists who committed the crime are totally inhumane," Zhang said. "They are indeed against humanity, society and civilization. "He said that legislation of anti-terrorism laws and regulations should begin. "We should do everything possible to improve people's livelihood and let them enjoy the benefits of reform," Zhang said. ^ top ^

Li wins applause with 'inspiring' speech (China Daily)
The moment the clock showed 9 am, the hubbub in the Great Hall of the People suddenly died away, the sounds of greetings, footsteps and camera shutters fading out. The auditorium, packed with about 3,000 deputies and hundreds of media reporters, paused for a moment. At the center of the rostrum, Premier Li Keqiang stood up, walked toward the microphone, bowed to his colleagues and the assembled lawmakers, and then started his speech on the work of the government. It was the first time that Li had delivered such a report since becoming premier. In a speech that lasted 100 minutes, the man who is famous for his toughness during economic difficulties summarized the work of his government in 2013 and mapped out the missions and challenges ahead. "Last year, we met with more difficulties but we delivered a better performance than expected," he said. As Li summed up how the government has coped with the downward pressure in the economy and managed to deliver a good performance, the audience broke into a big round of applause. It was just one of more than 50 points in the speech that prompted such applause from the audience. "It's not an easy task to keep the audience focused on the report, because it's so long, but he did it," said Hu Lingyun, a member of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference. Hu, who is also the Party chief of Beihang University in Beijing, said the premier's words were "clear, simple and logical". "I took notes at places that I thought were inspiring. The premier has set out targets for next year and for the longer term," Hu said. To the surprise of many in the audience, when Li came to the section on national security and anti-terrorism efforts, he departed from the text. Looking up at the audience, he said in a steady tone: "Just now, we mourned in this hall for the victims who died in the terrorist attack in Kunming. The Chinese government will firmly fight against terrorism, which has blasphemed against the dignity of laws and challenged the bottom line of human civilization. We will ensure the security of people's lives and assets, and build a peaceful China." Yang Ming, a deputy to the National People's Congress from Yunnan province, said he was deeply moved by the premier's comments on the Kunming incident, a topic that was not included in the printed text of the work report. "He clarified the stance of our government and revealed his true sentiments. His words gave me a sense of warmth at such a time," Yang said. ^ top ^

The nine major tasks 2014 (China Daily)
As the nation's legislators set the agenda for the coming year at the National People's Congress, China Daily takes a look at some of the Chinese government's key policy objectives for 2014. Deeper reforms - Reform is the top buzzword for China in 2014. China will deepen reforms in a number of fields. Reform will be carried out in the administrative system, such as further streamlining administration and delegating more power to lower-level governments. China will attach great importance to reform of the fiscal and tax systems, including instituting a comprehensive, well-regulated, open and transparent budget system, increasing the proportion of general transfer payments, and speeding up ways to adjust power and spending responsibilities between central and local governments. Reforms will also be advanced in the financial sector, including further liberalizing interest rates by granting financial institutions more power to set rates, promoting the establishment of small and medium-sized banks and other financial institutions, and the healthy development of Internet banking. China will also enhance the vitality of economic entities under all forms of ownership, upholding and improving the basic economic system. It will improve the distribution and structure of the State-owned sector of the economy and deepen the development of mixed-ownership economic entities. Wider opening - China will conduct wider and deeper opening in all fields, with regard to achieving high performance. China will foster a new open-economy system and advance a new round of opening-up to embrace the global market. It will strive to make moves to remain a top choice for foreign investment. China will make full use of the China (Shanghai) Pilot Free Trade Zone and further open the nation's inland and border areas, and turn these areas into hotspots for opening-up. China will also give priority to upgrading exports and promoting balanced growth in foreign trade. It will increase its competitiveness by expanding its overseas business presence. A host of measures will be taken in the management of outbound investment, and boosting the export of products, project contracting and labor services. The nation will also engage in bilateral, multilateral and regional opening-up and cooperation in a coordinated way. It will actively participate in developing high-standard free trade areas; continue negotiations on investment agreements with the United States and the European Union; and accelerate free trade area negotiations with South Korea, Australia and the Gulf Cooperation Council. Domestic demand - Boosting domestic demand is both a major force driving economic growth and an important structural adjustment. China needs to fully leverage the basic role of consumption and the key role of investment, stimulate both supply and demand, and establish a permanent mechanism for increasing domestic demand. In working to increase domestic demand, China will focus on boosting consumption. China will enhance people's ability to consume by increasing their incomes, improve consumption policies, foster new areas of consumption and increase consumption of services. It will deepen reform of distribution channels; remove all barriers to a nationwide unified market; cut distribution costs; and encourage the development of logistics, delivery and online shopping. Regarding investment as the key to maintaining stable economic growth, China will accelerate reform of the investment and financing system, and encourage more parties to invest. The central government's budgetary investment will rise to 457.6 billion yuan ($74 billion). Rural development - Agriculture is a sector vital to ensuring China's stability and maintaining the people's well-being. China must attach the utmost importance to doing a good job in work related to agriculture, rural areas, and farmers in all the government's endeavors and accelerate agricultural modernization in order to ensure China's food security and increase farmers' incomes. China will ensure that cultivated land area does not fall below the red line of 120 million hectares and improve the quality of cultivated land, increase overall agricultural production capacity, and guarantee our basic self-sufficiency in terms of cereal grains and absolute grain security. It will strengthen policies to support and protect agriculture. It will raise the minimum purchase prices of wheat and rice, increase agricultural subsidies and strengthen the foundation of agricultural and rural development. The government will give high priority to resolving problems facing children, women and elderly people who are left behind in rural villages by rural migrant workers working in cities, and adhere to and improve the basic rural management system and grant farmers more property rights. Urbanization - China will implement a people-centered urbanization program that integrates the development of industrialization, IT application and agricultural modernization. Priority is attached to granting urban residency to rural migrant workers in cities. The household registration - hukou - system will be reformed to help them to obtain urban residency, and their children will be entitled to go to school where they actually live. The government will diversify investment and financing to share the costs associated with such reform. Rebuilding rundown city areas and urban villages is another focus, so that Chinese cities will take on a new look through measures such as using urban construction land more efficiently, giving more emphasis to public transport development, historical sites, sites of cultural interest and protection of the natural landscape. Urbanization in central and western regions will also be stepped up, with the government helping to foster new industry clusters, and speeding up infrastructure construction such as water conservancy, energy and municipal services in those regions, to help rural migrant workers find employment in nearby urban areas. Economic reform - China will reform its science and technology management system to encourage businesses to play a more active role in technological innovation. A trial reform policy will include more science parks in the national innovation demonstration zone, in which equity-based incentives are provided for making innovations. Government spending will be increased on cutting-edge and key technologies, as well as improving public science and technology service platforms and mechanisms. China will also implement a talent development plan to strengthen the protection of intellectual property rights and link researchers' pay with the market value of their research. Industrial structural adjustment will rely on supporting growth in developing production-oriented service industries, and encouraging business startups. China will also promote the full integration of IT application with industrialization, equipment depreciation and make traditional industries more competitive. This year, China will strive to make irreversible cuts to outdated production capacity, while strengthening environmental protection and energy consumption standards. Egalitarian society - The government will dedicate itself to the building of an egalitarian society, by taking active measures to coordinate the country's socioeconomic development. Quality education will be accessible to school-age children in the country's less-developed central and western regions, areas that have been plagued by the lack of good teachers and sound infrastructure. The country's higher education institutions will be required to further open their doors to underprivileged students from poorer regions. Meanwhile, universities will also be given more say on core matters such as enrollment. Vocational education will be further developed and the establishment of private schools encouraged. Medical reform will remain a priority for the government, which aims to consolidate the national basic medical insurance system by integrating the one for rural residents with that for non-working urban residents. Government subsidies will be increased, and the capacity to prevent and treat major communicable diseases will be strengthened. In terms of social governance, decision-making at the village and community level will be made more transparent, with government at a higher level exerting effective monitoring. Pepple's well-being - Fully realizing that people's well-being is the foundation of social stability and prosperity, the government will work toward a more harmonious society. Topping its agenda is increasing employment opportunities and the provision of adequate housing to those badly in need. Business startups will be given incentives, bearing in mind the expected growth in the number of college graduates. Efforts will also be made to provide employment to laid-off workers and migrant workers from rural areas. Reform of the income distribution system will be deepened, with collective wage bargaining encouraged. Performance-based salary reform will also be undertaken within government bodies and public institutions, and the gap between urban and rural incomes is expected to be narrowed. Reform will also extend to China's social security system, to help society's most vulnerable feel more secure. Rural residents, elderly people, the disabled and people working in hazardous conditions will be given full consideration. More government-subsidized housing will be built, and demand for housing based on speculation and investment will be curbed. Environmental protection - Smog is affecting larger parts of China and environmental pollution has become a major problem, which is nature's red-light warning against the model of inefficient and blind development. The government will fight pollution by focusing on the following key areas: improving the industrial structure, raising energy efficiency, reducing vehicle exhaust emissions, and preventing and monitoring wind-borne dust. The plans will start by reducing PM10 and PM2.5 emissions, and a clean water action plan will also be implemented. In order to strengthen energy conservation and emission reduction and impose a ceiling on total energy consumption, the government will continue to raise the proportion of electricity generated by non-fossil fuel, develop smart grids and promote the balanced distribution of energy resources, encourage the development of wind and solar power, and start construction of a number of hydropower and nuclear power projects. The government will also implement major ecological projects to return grazing land to grassland, protect natural forests, prevent and control sandstorms, conserve water and soil and prevent and reverse the expansion of stony deserts. ^ top ^

Xi hammers green action with delegates (Global Times)
President Xi Jinping continued to pressure provincial officials with questions over pollution at the recent meetings of China's top legislative body, signaling growing concerns over the social and political consequences of environmental pollution. Xi on Thursday attended a panel discussion with delegates to the National People's Congress (NPC) from South China's Guangdong Province. Within 30 minutes of the meeting, Xi asked three questions regarding the local environment, the Xinhua News Agency reported. "What is the PM2.5 reading of the Pearl River Delta? Has Guangzhou's government put a restrictive order on vehicle purchase and the use of cars? What is the water quality of the Dongjiang River?" Xi asked. He also asked about the environment when he met with Shanghai lawmakers on Wednesday. Xi was concerned about the status of Shanghai's environmental protection, especially air pollution and the emission reduction from coal-fueled furnaces. "President Xi said environmental protection is not about finishing a designated job but knowing the urgency of the problem and taking the initiative to make a change," Zhang Quan, director of the Shanghai Environmental Protection Bureau, was quoted as saying by the Shanghai-based Jiefang Daily. Environmental protection is an inevitable task in the current phase of development, said Xi, as he urged officials to tackle the problem as a matter of urgency. He said the public has grown increasingly aware of pollution, which is driving the government to face up to the problem. Xi was not the only top leader that spoke of the gravity of curbing pollution. In his first government work report as premier, Premier Li Keqiang on Wednesday declared a "war on pollution" and pledged to shift China's growth-oriented economy model to a more balanced one. "China has underestimated the severity of pollution and sacrificed the environment in pursuit of faster growth. Our government must take major responsibility for this underestimation. However, the government's role in curbing pollution is limited. With the amount of coal consumed every day for winter heating and the volume of traffic, everyone is a polluter," Niu Fengrui, director of the Institute for Urban and Environmental Studies under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times on Thursday. In February, heavy smog covering roughly 13 percent of China's territory lingered for six consecutive days, with PM2.5 readings spiking to more than 400 in big cities, some 20 times higher than World Health Organization's standards. Although the exact cause of the smog is yet to be decided, it is widely believed that vehicles and emissions from burning coal are two major contributing factors. In response, the Beijing government decided to restrict traffic flow and close down local factories when a smog alert is flagged. "People complain about the smog but at the same time are reluctant to give up all the conveniences in life that cause pollution," said Niu. "Our government is caught in a dilemma here. On one side people's dissatisfaction over pollution has grown to the point that it has become a social or even political appeal. On the other side, curbing pollution will inevitably take its toll on economic growth, an important factor in maintaining stability." Zhou Shengxian, minister of environmental protection, told the media on Wednesday that smog levels in northern China had improved this year but the public has yet to feel it. Zhou said the government plans to wage a long-term war against pollution and asked for patience. "People's environmental pleas are not just based on dissatisfaction over pollution and ecological degradation. It's also geared toward social inequality as the pursuit of profit of those who control the wealth has not only damaged the economic benefit of the workers, the farmers and a vast majority of the middle class but also sacrificed their resources, environment and health," Xie Fusheng, a professor with the Renmin University of China, told the Global Times on Thursday. ^ top ^



Smog shrouds Beijing again (China Daily)
Smog shrouded Beijing again on Monday, three days after the city lifted its orange alert for heavy air pollution. At 8 a.m., the city's PM2.5 reading exceeded 150 micrograms per cubic meters, according to the Beijing Municipal Environmental Monitoring Center. The air quality index (AQI) at 27 stations out of 35 in urban Beijing reached Level 5, or heavily polluted, according to the center. Smog will remain until Tuesday morning, when strong winds are forecasted to clear the sky. ^ top ^

Beijing seeks to curb floating population (Global Times)
Beijing will strive to eliminate businesses that attract too many members of the floating population in order to curb explosive population growth, which is taking place too fast and without order, according to the municipality's Party chief. Guo Jinlong made the announcement at a plenary meeting of the municipal committee of the Communist Party of China, which focused on the strategic positioning of Beijing, China News Service reported. The aim of the move is to limit the population growth and construction of the downtown area, and attempt to channel the population into new towns, small towns and nearby areas, said Guo. Comprehensive measures will be adopted, such as "controlling the population by controlling business categories," "cracking down on illegal suburban house construction," strengthening regulations over rental houses, especially underground rooms and rooms shared by group residents, and launching a new residence permit as soon as possible. Experts said the government will relocate restricted industries outside the city, such as the production of furniture, building materials, garment and small commodity wholesale markets. Beijing's population reached 21.15 million at the end of last year, far exceeding the previously planned target of 18 million by 2020, the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Statistics announced in January, the Xinhua News Agency reported. In December, Beijing Mayor Wang Anshun said, "Resolutely controlling the population's excessive growth is the key to solving multiple problems, such as traffic and environmental problems." In 2013, the city's roads were clogged for one hour and 55 minutes on average every work day, an increase of 25 minutes from 2012, the Beijing Times reported. Beijing has about 190 cubic meters per capita in water resources, far lower than the international level of 500 cubic meters, said Yin Deting, deputy head of the Beijing Population Research Institute, reported. Xia Xueluan, a sociologist from Peking University, supports the policy. "The policy aims to resolve the population problem at the root by moving out industries which the migrant population follows," Xia told the Global Times. However, other sociologists expressed doubts. Lu Jiehua, a fellow professor of sociology at Peking University, believes the authorities should decide on the industrial layout and let the market determine which jobs become available. Lu worries that this new round of population control will once again have the greatest impact on low-income groups. "Even the so-called high-end population needs services from middle and low-end laborers, while the latter also require the basic needs of shelter and food for themselves," Lu said. He added that the Beijing government had mostly relied on strict limits on housing and residency permits in an attempt to push out temporary migrant workers. According to the Economy & Nation Weekly, nearly 5 million migrants, about 70 percent of the total migrant population, live in Beijing's rural areas, which are not well planned or managed. ^ top ^

Disturbance and smoke in Tiananmen Square amid tight security for NPC meeting (SCMP)
White smoke and foam left by fire extinguishers were the only signs of a confrontation in Beijing's Tiananmen Square Wednesday morning, amid tight security for the National People's Congress. Five eyewitnesses close to the scene told the South China Morning Post how a commotion erupted near Tiananmen Gate, the main entrance to the Forbidden City, at around 11am. Shortly afterwards smoke could be seen rising from the square. “I had a glance that four, five men trying to put out a fire,” said a woman from Jilin province at the scene. “It all happened so quickly. I heard it was a woman around 40 who burned herself,” she said. “She was alive when they took her away.“ A number of unverified and undated photos shared online showed police rushing to extinguish a fire near the northern end of the square. Witnesses said police quickly moved to check bystanders' phones, ordering visitors to delete photos and emails of the scene. The eyewitness accounts come amid tight security on the first day of the annual session of the National People's Congress at the Great Hall of the People on the western side of Tiananmen Square. Five people were killed and 38 injured when a jeep rammed through barricades in front of Tiananmen Square's gate tower and burst into flames in October last year. Three people inside the vehicle died, along with two tourists. The incident happened just ahead of the Communist Party's third plenum. ^ top ^



Guangdong gets tough on sex trade (China Daily)
A senior Party leader from Guangdong province vowed on Wednesday to take tougher action against prostitution and crimes linked to the sex trade as the southern economic powerhouse continues its three-month crackdown on prostitution. "We will continue our investigation into the prostitution industry and strengthen our efforts to tackle the problem," said Hu Chunhua, Party chief of Guangdong. Hu made the remarks at a panel discussion during the annual session of the National People's Congress, which convened in Beijing on Wednesday. The sweeping crackdown came a day after a China Central Television report on Feb 9 exposed rampant prostitution in massage parlors and hotels in Dongguan, about 100 km from Hong Kong. As of Feb 28, more than 3,100 entertainment venues across the province have been shut down for their alleged involvement in prostitution. Among the shuttered venues, 2,147 are located in Dongguan, a city known for its large manufacturing and trade sectors but also for its underground casino resorts, bathhouses, massage parlors and backstreet brothels. "We had already planned a move to crack down on prostitution this year - like the way we fought against drugs last year. The CCTV reports of Dongguan's rampant sex trade forced us to launch the campaign earlier," Hu said. Hu said police have made 363 arrests across the province and are investigating 30 officials in Dongguan. "The government was partly responsible for the development of the sex trade in Dongguan so we introduced an accountability system to punish officials who provided protection to illegal sex activities," Hu said. Yan Xiaokang, Dongguan's deputy mayor and police chief, has been sacked and several police officers in city townships have been punished, Hu said. "Offenders, including organizers, operators and those who gained from the sex trade, will be particularly targeted in the crackdown," Hu added. Yuan Baocheng, mayor of Dongguan, declined to say on Monday how the crackdown would affect the city's economy. At last year's NPC session, Yuan said the city would not rely on the sex trade, gambling and drugs for its economic growth. "I have to say that some social problems, such as underground prostitution, the drug trade and gambling, have emerged in Dongguan along with other cities in Guangdong, following decades of rapid economic development," he said. Media reports have estimated that the sex industry has contributed about one-tenth of the city's revenue. Dongguan's economy grew by 9.8 percent year-on-year to 550 billion yuan ($90.7 billion) in 2013. Media reports have also estimated that at least 300,000 people work in the sex industry in Dongguan. China Daily could not confirm the number. "But we will never rely on such negative factors to drive economic development," Yuan said. ^ top ^



What Premier Li Keqiang DIDN'T say about Hong Kong: key 'autonomy' phrases missing from report (SCPM)
Premier Li Keqiang's maiden work report raised questions about Hong Kong's promised "high degree of autonomy". This phrase and another key phrase in Beijing's post-handover mantra, "the people of Hong Kong governing Hong Kong", were left out for the first time since the last work report of then premier Zhu Rongji in 2003. In his final work report last year, Li's predecessor, Wen Jiabao, included both phrases. The omission was played down by several Beijing officials. Speaking later in Beijing, Qiao Xiaoyang, chairman of the National People's Congress Law Committee, and Chen Zuoer, chairman of the National Association of Study on Hong Kong and Macau and a former deputy head of the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, emphasised that Li's report did not indicate any change in policy on Hong Kong or Macau. In his address to the opening of the annual NPC session, Li's mention of Hong Kong and Macau focused on the promise to "unswervingly" implement the principles of "one country, two systems" and "fully and faithfully carry out the Basic Laws" of the two special administrative regions, while maintaining their prosperity and stability. Zhu also referred only to "one country, two systems" in 2003. After a closed-door meeting, local NPC deputy Michael Tien Puk-sun quoted a Beijing official as playing down the importance of Li's omission. "He said [the phrases] were left out because 'the people of Hong Kong governing Hong Kong' and 'a high degree of autonomy' are part of the principles of 'one country, two systems'," Tien said. Those at this meeting included Minister of Human Resources and Social Security Yin Weimin, and Hong Kong liaison office chief Zhang Xiaoming. Li's omission fuelled speculation in some quarters because it came a day after Zhang Dejiang, speaking in his capacity as head of the Communist Party's leading group on Hong Kong and Macau affairs, said Hong Kong enjoyed a high degree of autonomy, but not full autonomy. Zhang is also NPC chairman. Speaking separately, Elsie Leung Oi-sie, vice-chairwoman of the national legislature's Basic Law Committee and a former Hong Hong secretary for justice, echoed the stance of the Beijing official quoted by Tien. "It isn't necessary to mention the phrase every year … or include all principles of the Basic Law in the report," she said. Asked whether the omission could be related to Zhang's comment on Tuesday, Leung said the "high autonomy" principle had been mentioned repeatedly and "reporters shouldn't be overly sensitive about it". In his report yesterday, Li promised to "support the chief executives and governments of the two regions in governing in accordance with the law, energetically developing the economy, improving people's wellbeing, advancing democracy in accordance with the law and maintaining social harmony". He also pledged to further increase co-operation between the mainland and the cities. The promises looked like a boost for Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, who attended the session with 200 Hong Kong NPC deputies and delegates to the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference. ^ top ^



Macao int'l airport records 7 pct passenger growth in February (Xinhua)
Macao International Airport (MIA) handled 420,000 passengers in February, up seven percent year-on- year, according to figures released Thursday by the airport. MIA achieved continuous growth on passenger traffic volume and aircraft movement in February, due to the Chinese Spring Festival vacation. Passenger volume surpassed 420,000 and the average daily passenger volume of February was over 15,000. For the whole February, MIA also recorded over 3,900 aircraft movements, an eight percent increases compared to the same period last year. Moreover, passengers of the Chinese mainland and Taiwan increased 18 percent and 1.3 percent respectively year-on-year, while passengers of the Southeast Asia market presented slightly decline caused by the unstable factor of political situation. MIA also released that, Jetstar Pacific Airlines will be launching Da Nang and Hanoi service starting on the March 28th, providing 21 air services per week between Da Nang to Macao and Hanoi to Macao. ^ top ^



China becomes world's largest goods trader: WTO (Global Times)
China was the largest goods trading nation in 2013, a Ministry of Commerce statement said on Saturday, citing data from the World Trade Organization (WTO). China's goods trade topped $4.16 trillion last year, including 2.21 trillion dollars in exports and 1.95 trillion dollars in imports, the statement said. This is a milestone in foreign trade for China as a developing country and a great achievement, said Yao Jian, ministry spokesman. The country's exports and imports have leapfrogged in 35 years of reforms and opening-up, especially after China's entry into the WTO, he said. China now is the largest trade partner for over 120 countries and regions and imported nearly 2 trillion US dollars of goods annually, providing lots of jobs and investment opportunities for global trade partners, Yao said. Though it is the largest trading nation, China still has a long way to go before becoming a strong trading country because its exports are of relatively low added value, it has relatively few independent brands, the marketing network is not sound enough, and its products are of relatively low quality, he stressed. Facing new challenges, China should actively promote models of growth, restructure the economy and step up cooperation with trade partners to achieve mutual benefit, Yao said. ^ top ^

China's to set 7.5pc economic growth target, as defence budget set to rise 12.2pc (SCMP)
China aims to grow its economy by about 7.5 per cent this year and to keep consumer inflation at about 3.5 per cent for the year, Premier Li Keqiang is due to say on Wednesday at the country's annual meeting of parliament, the National People's Congress. Meanwhile, the finance ministry will increase the country's official defence budget by 12.2 per cent, to 808.23 billion yuan, marking yet another double-digit increase in military spending. The annual GDP growth target was expected to remain the same as for last year at 7.5 per cent – as predicted by most analysts - according to a copy of the government work report, seen by the South China Morning Post. The government will keep annual growth in broad M2 money supply at about 13 per cent, Li will say in his first work report since taking office a year ago. Li was also expected to reveal that China will have a fiscal deficit this year of 1.35 trillion yuan (HK$1.71 trillion), or 2.1 per cent of gross domestic product. The premier's report promises fiscal reforms this year including allowing financial institutions more flexibility to decide on interest rates, setting up a deposit insurance system, and setting up a local government financing system. The yuan would also be allowed to float within a widened two-way range. Meanwhile, the country's top economic planning agency will say that China will target 17.5 per cent annual growth in fixed-asset investment and 14.5 per cent in retail sales growth this year. In a report due to be unveiled at the NPC meeting, the National Development and Reform Commission also said it has set a target of 7.5 per cent growth in total trade this year. It said it will also ensure that property market controls are properly implemented. China's fixed-asset investment - a main growth driver - grew an annual 19.6 percent in 2013, while retail sales rose 11.3 percent. The world's second-largest economy grew 7.7 per cent last year, steady from the previous year and fractionally above market expectations of 7.6 per cent, which would have been the slowest since 1999. ^ top ^

China expands easier customs policy (Xinhua)
China's easier customs policy has benefited about 330,000 enterprises since March 1 this year, the country's General Administration of Customs (GAC) announced Thursday. The policy was expanded from A-level or above to cover B-level businesses, the GAC said. China's custom regulations divided foreign trade businesses into five levels, namely AA, A, B, C and D, considering their compliance with customs laws and regulations, trade volume and management. The policy means qualified enterprises can declare cargos to local customs where they were registered before port entry or departure. Zhang Guangzhi, the GAC spokesman, said that increasing domestic businesses will become more competitive with convenient logistics channels and easier custom policies. The GAC started policy reforms on Nov. 1 in 2013, and the easier customs policy helped increase monthly freight volume by 5.77 percent to 19.14 million tonnes, Zhang said. ^ top ^


DPRK and South Korea

DPRK launches two short-range missiles (Xinhua)
The Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) on Monday launched two short-range missiles on its east coast, local media reported. The DPRK fired off two short-range ballistic missiles, believed to be of Scud-C type, for 10 minutes from 6:19 a.m. local time Monday at Gitaeryeong and Wonsan areas in the DPRK's southeast coast. The missiles were believed to be of Scud-C type as they flew more than 500 km. On Feb. 27, the DPRK fired four short-range missiles, allegedly of Scud-type missiles, from the same area. From there the DPRK launched two Scud-C type missiles, which flew around 220 km at an altitude of 60-70 km. At that time, South Korea's Defense Ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok said that the launch was seen as "intended provocation" as the incident came after annual war games between Seoul and Washington began. South Korea and the United States began their annual joint war games as scheduled despite DPRK's demand for the delay or cancellation of the drills. The "Key Resolve" command post exercise and the "Foal Eagle" field training exercise started on Feb. 24, with participation of 12,700 U.S. soldiers, including more than 6,000 forces from overseas bases. A DPRK patrol ship intruded into the disputed inter-Korean maritime border at night on Feb. 24, local media reported. ^ top ^

North Korea fires rockets from multiple launchers in show of force (SCMP)
North Korea fired a volley of rockets from multiple launchers into the sea on Tuesday, in an apparent show of force to coincide with South Korea-US joint military exercises, South Korean officials said.Three rockets were fired in the morning from a multiple launch rocket system, the South's defence ministry said.The projectiles were launched from the North's eastern port of Wonsan and flew 55 kilometres into the Sea of Japan (East Sea), it said. The North fired four more in the afternoon that travelled about 155 kilometres, the ministry said, adding it was believed to have been testing two different types of launcher. “North Korea is displaying a show of force openly against our joint exercises,” said ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok. South Korea regards the North's mobile multiple rocket launchers as a dangerous because they can strike strategic facilities far south of the border. Its troops have increased vigilance following a series of North Korean missile test-launches that drew condemnation from South Korea and the United States. The North test-fired four short-range Scud missiles off its east coast last week, followed by two more missiles on Monday. South Korea called the missile launches a “reckless provocation” while the United States demanded the North show restraint and abide by UN Security Council resolutions. The Scuds are at the longer edge of the short-range spectrum, with an estimated reach of 300-800 kilometres – capable of striking any target in the South. It is not unusual for North Korea to carry out such tests, which often go unreported by South Korea. But Washington said the latest missile tests breached UN resolutions that require Pyongyang to abandon its ballistic missile programme. The missile tests coincide with annual South Korea-US military exercises that started a week ago and run until mid-April. Pyongyang routinely condemns such joint exercises as rehearsals for an invasion, while Seoul and Washington say they are purely defensive. Last year the drills coincided with a sharp and unusually protracted surge in military tensions that saw the North issuing apocalyptic threats of pre-emptive nuclear strikes. By contrast, this year's drills began as cross-border relations were enjoying something of a thaw. They overlapped with the end of the first reunion for more than three years of families divided by the Korean war – an event that raised hopes of greater cross-border cooperation. Pyongyang had initially insisted that the joint exercises be postponed until after the reunions finished. But Seoul refused and – in a rare concession – the North allowed the family gatherings on its territory to go ahead as scheduled. Analysts believe the missile tests reflect Pyongyang's need to flex its muscles in the wake of the compromise over the reunions. Last week also saw an incursion by a North Korean patrol boat across the disputed Yellow Sea border, the scene of bloody naval clashes in the past. From Monday South Korea launched a two-day live-fire exercise involving artillery, naval ships and jet fighters to test readiness against any North Korean incursion off the east coast. ^ top ^

South Korea threatens sanctions over North Korean firing of Scud missiles (SCMP)
North Korea yesterday fired short-range missiles into the sea off its eastern coast, prompting a warning from South Korea over "reckless provocation".The missile tests, the second in a week, were timed to coincide with annual South Korea-United States military exercises which kicked off a week ago and run until mid-April. Two missiles were fired yesterday, both flying 500km into the Sea of Japan, which Koreans call the East Sea, according to South Korea's defence ministry. Four Scud missiles were fired in similar fashion on Thursday. Both tests were condemned by Seoul, which urged the North to cease all testing immediately and warned it would consider calling for sanctions. "The North is taking a double-faced stance by making conciliatory gestures on one hand and pushing ahead with reckless provocation on the other," spokesman Kim Min-seok said. The Scuds are at the longer edge of the short-range spectrum, with an estimated reach of between 300km and 800km, making them capable of striking any target in the South. It is not unusual for North Korea to carry out such tests, which often go unreported by South Korea. But Kim said the recent Scud firings were of particular concern. "We believe that the North is testing various ballistic missiles with various ranges as a show of force to threaten us," he said. Washington initially played down Thursday's firings, but later suggested they violated UN sanctions imposed on the North's missile programme. UN Security Council resolutions prohibit North Korea "from launching any ballistic missile, and this includes any Scud missile", Pentagon spokesman Colonel Steven Warren said on Friday. Pyongyang routinely condemns the South-US joint exercises as rehearsals for invasion. Last year they coincided with a sharp and unusually protracted surge in military tensions that saw North Korea issuing threats of pre-emptive nuclear strikes. By contrast, this year's drills began as relations between Seoul and Pyongyang were enjoying somewhat of a thaw. They overlapped with the end of the first reunion for more than three years of families divided by the Korean War, an event that raised hopes of greater cross-border co-operation. Pyongyang initially had insisted that the joint exercises be postponed until after the reunions finished. Seoul refused and in a rare concession the North allowed the family gatherings on its territory to go ahead as scheduled. Analysts believe the missile tests reflect Pyongyang's need to flex its muscles after the reunion compromise. Last week also saw an incursion by a North Korean patrol boat across the disputed Yellow Sea border that has been the scene of brief but bloody naval clashes in the past. No shots were fired and the vessel retreated to its side of the boundary after repeated warnings from the South Korean navy. North Korea has hundreds of short-range missiles and has developed and tested several intermediate-range weapons, with limited success. Its claims to have a working intercontinental ballistic missile have been treated with scepticism by experts, but there is no doubt that it is pushing ahead with an ambitious missile development programme. ^ top ^

China urges Korean Peninsula parties to stop provocation (Xinhua)
China on Wednesday urged parties involved in the Korean Peninsula to improve relations and create an atmosphere for an early resumption of six-party talks. Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang made the remarks at a daily news briefing when asked to comment on reports that the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) fired seven more short-range projectiles on Tuesday on its east coast. "As the DPRK's neighbor, we are concerned about the Korean Peninsula situation and are delighted with the recent improvement of inter-Korean relations," Qin said. He cited the recent increase in interactions between the DPRK and the Republic of Korea (ROK), including family reunions and high-level talks last month. China has made great efforts to promote talks and ease tensions on the Peninsula as Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin has visited the DPRK and ROK, Qin said. China urges parties concerned to be discreet in speech and action to prevent the situation from escalating, the spokesman said. The current situation on the Korean Peninsula is stable, and parties concerned should continue to improve relations and avoid provoking each other, Qin said. The recent series of missile launches, which started on Feb. 21, overlap with ROK-U.S. annual military drills that began last week. The DPRK said on Wednesday the short-range missile launches were "successful normal training within its own territory," the official KCNA news agency reported. The six-party talks between the DPRK, the ROK, the United States, China, Japan and Russia have been suspended since late 2008. ^ top ^

China chides North Korea over missile's near-miss with passenger jet (SCPM)
Beijing publicly expressed its displeasure yesterday amid reports that Tuesday's rocket test launch by North Korea had crossed the path of a Chinese passenger flight. Asked if Beijing had raised with Pyongyang the reported incident, foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang said China was concerned and attached great importance to civil aviation safety. "When the relevant country holds any military training or exercise, it should take necessary measures in accordance with international practice, so as to ensure the safety of civilian planes and vessels in the [affected] airspace and sea." "China would certainly verify the situation with the relevant party and convey our concern," Qin said. China Southern Airlines flight CZ268 from Japan to Shenyang in the northeastern Liaoning province crossed the trajectory of a rocket launched seven minutes earlier by North Korea, Bloomberg reported on Wednesday, citing South Korean defence ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok. The jet was flying over international waters at an altitude of 10,000 metres at 4.24pm when it crossed the trajectory of the missile, which reached a height of 20,000 metres, the report said. Foreign relations expert Jia Qingguo from Peking University said Qin's comment marked a change in the way China was dealing with North Korea. "In the past China would prefer not to take a stand in public and keep bilateral dialogue private. This time China made it very clear that [North Korea] must not let similar incidents happen in the future," said Jia. According to Kim, North Korea had not given any warning before it launched the rocket. "The rocket could have hit the plane on its way down. It was an unexpected and immoral act that goes against international norms," he said. Qin said yesterday the flight did not detect any "special situation" when flying past North Korea and related airspace. Jia said the overlap was probably a coincidence, although it posed a real danger to the flight. ^ top ^



Asian Ministers to hold conference against famine (
The 32nd Session of the FAO Regional Conference for Asia and the Pacific (APRC) will be organized in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia between 10th and 14th March. Ministers of Food and Agriculture from over 40 landlocked countries and high ranking officials will have discussions and debate on ways to end famine and provide food security. Participants of the 32nd Session of FAO Regional Conference for Asia and the Pacific will focus on the completion rate of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), appeals to end world hunger, end famine by 2025 and UN based campaigns. The key agenda of the 32nd Session will be how to restore pasture and forest, popularize green agriculture that will be beneficial to household agronomy in the region and seek ways to improve food security in Asia Pacific countries. The 32nd Session will also approach several key subjects that the agricultural industry in the most populated regions are now finding challenging and how to stabilize development. The Millennium Development Goal target of reducing hunger in the Asia and Pacific Region by 2015 is proceeding; however 60 percent of the population in Asia and the Pacific are still in a state of hunger. In particular there are millions of children still who are starving across the region. ^ top ^

Mining Minister on official visit to Canada (
The Minister of Mining D.Gankhuyag is on an official visit to Canada until March 6th. For the visit Mining Minister D.Gankhuyag will meet the Minister of International Trade of Canada, Ed Fast and will participate in the “PDAC 2014”, the biggest gathering of mining investors, as the head of representatives from the Mongolian government. The Mining Minister of Mongolia will deliver a presentation relating to the issues of policy of the government on the mining industry, the investment environment, competitiveness in the legal environment and building stability. Earlier in the visit, Mining Minister D.Gankhuyag met the Minister of Natural Resources of Canada, Joe Oliver. The Minister of Natural Resources of Canada, Joe Oliver mentioned the legal environment in Mongolia is becoming more stable and noted that Mongolia and Canada have been co-operating in the mining sector. The Minister added that Canada is willing to support the training in human resources in the mining industry of Mongolia and offered the possibility of retraining in Canada. Mining Minister D.Gankhuyag emphasized that in the 1990s, Canadian geologists arrived in Mongolia just after the Democratic revolution. There are currently over 40 Canadian mining companies with businesses in Mongolia. He went on to say that Mongolia is the country where the tax is the lowest in Asia, in particular, it has less tax pressure than in other mining countries. In the past 15 years, Canadian mining companies have funded the investment of a total of 1.5 billion US dollars for mining exploration and prospect. Since the first Canadian mining company “Mongolian Gold Resources” opened in Mongolia in 1993, Canadian invested mining companies operate in Oyutolgoi, Boroo Gold, Zuun mod and Khotgor deposits. ^ top ^


Mrs. Lauranne Peman
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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