Contains selective news articles I select

Posts tagged ‘Poilace Vivid’

Suspect identified in China kindergarten explosion; 8 killed

June 16, 2017

BEIJING (AP) — Police have identified a suspect in an explosion at the front gate of a kindergarten in eastern China that killed eight and struck as relatives gathered to pick up their children at the end of the day, local authorities said Friday.

Police were investigating the explosion as a criminal act and said they had “targeted” a suspect, according to a statement issued by authorities in the city of Xuzhou and the official Xinhua News Agency. It was unclear if the suspect was apprehended and no potential motive was provided. A witness cited by state media said a gas cylinder at a roadside food stall had caused the blast.

Two people died at the scene and six died after being taken to a hospital following the explosion at 4:50 p.m. Thursday at the Chuangxin Kindergarten in Fengxian. Initial reports said 59 were injured, but Xinhua and other media reported Friday that 65 were injured including eight who remained in critical condition.

The blast occurred before school had let out for the day and no students or teachers from the kindergarten were injured, according to a statement from local authorities. However, videos purportedly from the scene showed children — possibly relatives of the kindergartners or passers-by — among the casualties.

The videos posted by the state-run People’s Daily showed a chaotic scene outside the entrance to the school, with children and adults lying on the ground, some of them motionless and others struggling to get up off the ground. Clothing, shoes and other items were strewn on the ground beside pools of blood.

The videos showed ambulances arriving, medics wheeling people into an emergency room and medical personnel treating what appeared to be a child. Kindergartens in China have been attacked before by suspects authorities have said were mentally ill or bore grudges against their neighbors and society.

A witness identified only by the surname Shi told the state-run Global Times in the hours after the explosion that a gas cylinder at a roadside food stall had caused the blast. The force of the blast sent people flying several meters (yards) into the air, Shi was quoted as saying.

In 2010, nearly 20 children were killed in attacks on schools, prompting a response from top government officials and leading many schools to beef up security by posting guards and installing gates and other barriers. Last year, a knife-wielding assailant injured seven students outside a primary school in a northern city.

China maintains tight control over firearms and most attacks are carried out using knives, axes or homemade explosives.

Panama switches diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to China

June 13, 2017

BEIJING (AP) — Panama switched diplomatic relations from Taiwan to China on Tuesday, dealing a major success to Beijing in its drive to isolate the self-governing island it claims as its own territory.

Taiwan warned that the move would further alienate the island of 23 million from the 1.37 billion Chinese living across the Taiwan Strait. In Panama, President Juan Carlos Varela announced the change, which entails breaking off formal relations with Taiwan, saying in a televised address that it represents the “correct path for our country.”

A joint statement released on Monday evening in Panama said Panama and China were recognizing each other and establishing ambassadorial-level relations the same day. “The Government of the Republic of Panama recognizes that there is but one China in the world, that the Government of the People’s Republic of China is the sole legal government representing the whole of China, and that Taiwan is an inalienable part of China’s territory,” the statement read.

In Taiwan, officials including President Tsai Ing-wen denounced the move as a betrayal and vowed to maintain the island’s sovereignty and international presence. “Oppression and threats are not going to help in cross-strait relations. It will on the contrary increase the discrepancy between the people” of Taiwan and China, Tsai said at a news conference.

“We will not compromise and yield under threat,” the president said. Panama had been among the largest economies to have maintained diplomatic relations with Taiwan. The island now has just 20 formal diplomatic partners, 11 of which are in Latin America and the Caribbean. The island is also excluded from the United Nations and many other multinational bodies at China’s insistence.

At the Diaoyutai state guesthouse in Beijing on Tuesday, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Panamanian Vice President and Foreign Minister Isabel de Saint Malo signed a joint communique establishing diplomatic relations, followed by a champagne toast.

Wang said he was sure relations between the two countries would have a “bright future.” Saint Malo said she hoped the new relationship would lead to trade, investment and tourism opportunities, in particular “exporting more goods from Panama to China.”

China and Taiwan split amid civil war in 1949 and Beijing has vowed to take control of the island by force if necessary. While the sides had maintained an undeclared diplomatic truce for much of the past decade, relations have deteriorated under Tsai, who took over Taiwan’s presidency more than a year ago but has declined to endorse China’s view that Taiwan and the mainland are part of a single Chinese nation.

The past year has seen China ratcheting up the diplomatic pressure on Taiwan, barring its representatives from attending the World Health Organization’s annual conference and other international gatherings.

Beijing cut off contacts with Taiwanese government bodies a year ago, and in recent months has also sailed an aircraft carrier strike force aground the island in a display of its growing military power.

Panama may be the first of several Taiwanese diplomatic allies to switch to China as Beijing steps up pressure on Tsai to recognize its “one China” principle, said Tang Yonghong, director of the Taiwan Economic Research Center at Xiamen University in southeastern China.

“Many Latin American countries want to have stronger ties with China for their national interests,” Tang said. Although China refused to form such ties during the previous administration of China-friendly Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou, it no longer has any such qualms, Tang said.

“Now this trend could continue for a while,” Tang said. Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement that in breaking ties, President Varela had ignored the friendship between their countries and the efforts that Taiwan had made to help Panama’s overall development. Panama had “submitted to the Beijing authorities for economic benefits” and “lied” to the government of Taiwan, the statement said.

Taiwan will immediately cut ties, cease all bilateral cooperation projects and pull its diplomatic staff and technical advisers out of the country, the ministry said, adding that it will not “engage in competition for money diplomacy with the Beijing authorities.”

“We express our strong protest and condemnation over the Beijing authorities luring Panama into breaking ties with us, oppressing our diplomatic space to maneuver and harming the feelings of the Taiwanese people,” the statement said.

Beijing and Taipei have long competed with each other to win diplomatic recognition, at times enticing small or poor countries to switch with the promise of millions of dollars for public works projects.

Varela had suggested the possibility of switching diplomatic recognition during his presidential campaign in 2014, for historic, economic and strategic reasons. “Both nations are betting on a more interconnected world,” Varela said in a possible allusion to Chinese economic involvement in the Panama Canal. He mentioned that it was a massive Chinese vessel that was the first to pass through the canal’s expanded locks when they opened in June 2016.

China is the second-biggest client of the Panama Canal and the leading provider of merchandise to a free-commerce zone in the Panamanian city of Colon, on the country’s Caribbean coast. The loss of Panama is intended to show Tsai that continued defiance of Beijing will harm Taiwan’s overall interests, said Zhang Baohui, director of Center for Asian Pacific Studies at Lingnan University in Hong Kong.

“Panama was one of the more significant countries that still maintained diplomatic relations with Taiwan,” Zhang said. “By taking away Panama, it once again teaches Tsai’s government the lesson that if she doesn’t accept the ‘one China’ principle … there will be consequences.

Zamorano reported from Panama City. Associated Press journalists Johnson Lai in Taipei, Taiwan, and Gerry Shih in Beijing contributed to this report.

S. Korea’s new president willing to visit rival North

May 10, 2017

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — New South Korean President Moon Jae-in said Wednesday he was open to visiting rival North Korea under the right conditions to talk about Pyongyang’s aggressive pursuit of nuclear-tipped missiles.

Moon’s softer stance on North Korea could create friction with Washington, which has swung from threats of military action to hints of dialogue as it seeks to formulate a policy under President Donald Trump.

Moon, speaking during his oath of office as the first liberal leader in a decade, also said he’ll “sincerely negotiate” with the United States, Seoul’s top ally, and China, South Korea’s top trading partner, over the contentious deployment of an advanced U.S. missile-defense system in southern South Korea. The system has angered Beijing, which says its powerful radars allow Washington to spy on its own military operations.

In a speech at the National Assembly hours after being declared the winner of Tuesday’s election, Moon pledged to work for peace on the Korean Peninsula amid growing worry over the North’s expanding nuclear weapons and missiles program.

“I will quickly move to solve the crisis in national security. I am willing to go anywhere for the peace of the Korean Peninsula — if needed, I will fly immediately to Washington. I will go to Beijing and I will go to Tokyo. If the conditions shape up, I will go to Pyongyang,” Moon said.

Moon, whose victory capped one of the most turbulent political stretches in the nation’s recent history, assumed presidential duties early in the morning after the National Election Commission finished counting and declared him winner of the special election necessitated by the ousting of conservative Park Geun-hye.

He is also expected to nominate a prime minister, the country’s No. 2 job that requires approval from lawmakers, and name his presidential chief of staff later Wednesday. Moon thanked the millions of people who staged peaceful protests for months calling for the ouster of Park, who was impeached and arrested in March over a corruption scandal. He also offered a message of unity to his political rivals — Moon’s Democratic Party has only 120 out of 300 seats in the National Assembly, so he may need broader support while pushing his key policies.

“Politics were turbulent (in the past several months), but our people showed greatness,” Moon said. “In face of the impeachment and arrest of an incumbent president, our people opened the path toward the future for the Republic of Korea,” said Moon, referring to South Korea’s formal name. To his rivals, Moon said, “We are partners who must lead a new Republic of Korea. We must put the days of fierce competition behind and hold hands marching forward.”

Taking up his role as the new commander in chief, Moon began his duties earlier in the day by receiving a call from Army Gen. Lee Sun-jin, chairman of South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, who briefed him on the military’s preparedness against North Korea.

He then left his private residence in an emotional send-off from hundreds of people and visited a national cemetery in Seoul. After bowing to the former presidents, independence fighters and war heroes, Moon wrote in a visitor book: “A country worth being proud of; a strong and reliable president!”

He also visited the offices of opposition parties, seeking support in governing the country split along ideological lines and regional loyalties. The leaders of China and Japan sent their congratulations. South Korea’s relations with Japan are strained by the Japanese military’s sexual exploitation of South Korean women during World War II, and relations with China have been irritated over the deployment of the THAAD missile-defense system. Moon made a campaign vow to reconsider THAAD.

The son of refugees who fled North Korea during the war, Moon will lead a nation shaken by the scandal that felled Park, whose criminal trial is scheduled to start later this month. Taking office without the usual two-month transition, Moon initially will have to depend on Park’s Cabinet ministers and aides, but he was expected to move quickly to replace them. He will serve the typical single five-year term.

Moon was chief of staff for the last liberal president, the late Roh Moo-hyun, who sought closer ties with North Korea by setting up large-scale aid shipments and working on now-stalled joint economic projects.

Winning 41 percent of the votes, he comfortably edged conservative Hong Joon-pyo and centrist Ahn Cheol-soo, who had 24 percent and 21 percent, respectively. The conservative Hong had pitched himself as a “strongman,” described the election as a war between ideologies and questioned Moon’s patriotism.

Park’s trial on bribery, extortion and other corruption charges could send her to jail for life if she is convicted. Dozens of high-profile figures, including Park’s longtime confidante, Choi Soon-sil, and Samsung’s de-facto leader, Lee Jae-yong, have been indicted along with Park.

Moon frequently appeared at anti-Park rallies and the corruption scandal boosted his push to re-establish liberal rule. He called for reforms to reduce social inequalities, excessive presidential power and corrupt ties between politicians and business leaders. Many of those legacies dated to the dictatorship of Park’s father, Park Chung-hee, whose 18-year rule was marked by both rapid economic rise and severe civil rights abuse.

Many analysts say Moon likely won’t pursue drastic rapprochement policies because North Korea’s nuclear program has progressed significantly since he was in the Roh government a decade ago. A big challenge will be Trump, who has proven himself unconventional in his approach to North Korea, swinging between intense pressure and threats and offers to talk.

“South Koreans are more concerned that Trump, rather than North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, will make a rash military move, because of his outrageous tweets, threats of force and unpredictability,” Duyeon Kim, a visiting fellow at the Korean Peninsula Future Forum in Seoul, wrote recently in Foreign Affairs magazine.

Associated Press writer Foster Klug contributed to this report.

Japan holds evacuation drill amid tension from N. Korea

June 04, 2017

TOKYO (AP) — A Japanese town conducted an evacuation drill Sunday amid rising fear that a North Korean ballistic missile could hit Japanese soil. More than 280 residents and schoolchildren from Abu, a small town with a population of just over 3,400 on Japan’s western coast, rushed to designated school buildings to seek shelter after sirens from loudspeakers warned them of a possible missile flight and debris falling on them.

The drill follows three consecutive weeks of North Korean missile tests. Last week, a missile splashed into the sea inside Japan’s 200-mile exclusive economic zone off the country’s western coast. It was the second such drill since March, when Tokyo instructed local governments to review their contingency plans and conduct evacuation exercises.

A similar drill was conducted Sunday in the neighboring prefecture of Fukuoka in southern Japan, and others are planned over the next few months.

This story has been corrected to show Abu town is on Japan’s western coast.

Japan public split on idea to cite military in constitution

May 29, 2017

TOKYO (AP) — Poll results released Monday show that about half of Japan’s population supports a constitutional revision that would clarify the legality of the country’s military, a new approach Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is proposing as his party struggles to gain public support for a change.

Abe proposed recently that Japan in some way indicate the existence of the Self-Defense Forces, which is not spelled out in Article 9 of the constitution. The article renounces war and the use of force to settle international disputes.

He made the proposal this month in what was seen as a compromise, but opponents see it as a step to justify expanding Japan’s military capabilities, which currently have to be kept to a minimum. In the Nikkei newspaper poll, 51 percent of 1,595 respondents supported including a reference to the Self-Defense Forces in Article 9. Thirty-six percent were opposed.

Recent polls by other major media outlets also showed mixed results. Japan decided it had the right under the 1947 constitution to have a military for self-defense, but some legal experts have questioned that, though fewer people do so now.

Abe and his party have maintained the constitutionality of the Self-Defense Forces, saying every nation has the right of self-defense as allowed under the United Nations charter. Citing his party’s position, opponents have grown skeptical over Abe’s latest proposal and intention of bringing up the Self-Defense Force legality issue.

Experts say Abe’s proposal could lower a hurdle for public support and may be good enough for a symbolic first change to the constitution, which Abe said he wants enacted by 2020. Japan’s 70-year-old constitution has never been revised.

Japan’s ruling party has long advocated a more drastic revision, but the public generally supports the war-renouncing article. The party and its nationalistic supporters view the country’s postwar constitution as the legacy of Japan’s defeat in World War II and an imposition of the victor’s world order and values weighing too much on individuals’ rights.

The party-proposed revisions to the constitution released in 2012 called for upgrading the Self-Defense Forces to a full armed forces and establishing a military court.

Hong Kong shoebox, coffin homes a challenge for new leader

May 10, 2017

HONG KONG (AP) — Li Suet-wen’s dream home would have a bedroom and living room where her two children could play and study. The reality is a one-room “shoebox” cubicle, one of five partitioned out of a small apartment in an aging walkup in a working class Hong Kong neighborhood.

Into the 120-square-foot room are crammed a bunk bed, small couch, fridge, washing machine and tiny table. On one side of the door is a combined toilet and shower stall, on the other a narrow counter with a hotplate and sink. Clothes drying overhead dim light from a bare fluorescent tube. It feels like a storage unit, not a home.

Li’s 6-year-old son and 8-year-old daughter often ask, “Why do we always have to live in such small flats? Why can’t we live in a bigger place?” Li said. “I say it’s because mommy doesn’t have any money,” said Li, a single mom whose HK$4,500 ($580) a month in rent and utilities eats up almost half the HK$10,000 ($1,290) she earns at a bakery decorating cakes.

Housing costs are among this wealthy Asian financial center’s biggest problems. Some 200,000 of Hong Kong’s 7.3 million residents live in “subdivided units .” That’s up 18 percent from four years ago and includes 35,500 children 15 and under, government figures show. The figure doesn’t include many thousands more living in other “inadequate housing” such as rooftop shacks, metal cages resembling rabbit hutches and “coffin homes” made of stacked wooden bunks.

It’s a universe away from the lifestyles enjoyed by the rich living in lavish mountaintop mansions and luxury penthouses, or even those with middle-class accommodation in this former British colony. Hong Kong regularly tops global property price surveys. Rents and home prices have steadily risen and are now at or near all-time highs.

The U.S.-based consultancy Demographia has ranked it the world’s least affordable housing market for seven straight years, beating Sydney, Vancouver and 400 other cities. Median house prices are 19 times the median income.

Beijing-backed Carrie Lam, who was chosen in March to be Hong Kong’s next chief executive, has vowed to tackle the housing crisis she is inheriting from her predecessor Leung Chun-ying. Lam says that after she takes office in July she will help middle-class families afford starter homes and expand the amount of land the government makes available for development.

“As everyone knows, for some time housing has been a troubling problem for Hong Kong,” she said in her victory speech. “I have pledged to assist Hong Kongers to attain home ownership and improve their living conditions. To do so we need more usable land. The key is to reach a consensus on how to increase the supply.”

Prices have soared despite multiple rounds of government cooling measures, as money floods in from mainland China. Widening inequality helped drive mass pro-democracy protests in 2014. Young people despair of ever owning homes of their own. They lack space even to have sex, one activist lawmaker said last fall, using a coarse Cantonese slang term that caused a stir.

“If we cannot solve the housing problem, there will be more social problems,” said Sze Lai-shan, an organizer with social welfare group Society for Community Organization. “Social tensions will increase and people are (going to be) getting more annoyed with the government’s policies.”

Li says her children bicker nonstop. “They fight over this and fight over that. If there’s a day off (from school), the two of them will argue,” she said. “The bigger they get, the more crowded it gets. Sometimes there’s not even any space to step,” she said. “They don’t even have space to do their homework.”

Public housing is the best hope for most living on modest incomes. High-rise public housing estates house about 30 percent of Hong Kong’s 7 million people. If homes bought with government subsidies are included, the number rises to nearly half.

Li applied two years ago, but with 282,300 people on the waiting list the average wait is 4.7 years. Wong Tat-ming, 63, has occupied an even smaller “coffin home” for four years. He pays HK$2,400 ($310) a month for a 3-foot by 6-foot (1-meter by 2-meter) compartment crammed with his meager possessions, including a sleeping bag, small color TV and electric fan.

His bunk sits beside grimy toilets and a single sink shared by two dozen residents, including a few single women. On a per square foot basis, “it’s not cheap here either,” Wong jokes. “Would you say it’s more expensive than living in a mansion?”

Leg pain from sclerosis forced Wong to stop driving a taxi 10 years ago. He gets by on about $5,300 ($680) a month from welfare. Wong is skeptical Lam can help. “So she says she’s going to take care of these problems, but that will take at least seven to eight years,” he said.

Chan Geng-kau, who works here and there as a janitor, and his wife worry about being forced out of their hut in one of the city’s “slums in the sky” atop a terrace of a Kowloon tenement bristling with TV antennas and crisscrossed by coverhead wires.

The government plans to demolish the illegal concrete and corrugated metal huts. “If they come to clear us out, my income isn’t high, I don’t earn very much and the apartments out there are very expensive so I can’t afford it,” said Chan, 58. With his unstable income, he’s barely able to pay his HK$2,000 ($260) a month rent. “If I pay those rents, I can’t afford to eat.”

US, Japan, France, UK practice amphibious landings on Guam

May 11, 2017

HAGATNA, Guam (AP) — The U.S., the U.K. and Japan are joining a French-led amphibious exercise at remote U.S. islands in the Pacific over the next week. Participants say they are showing support for the free passage of vessels in international waters, an issue that’s come to the fore amid fears China could restrict movement in the South China Sea.

The drills around Guam and Tinian may also get the attention of nearby North Korea. Tensions between the U.S. and North Korea spiked last month after Pyongyang launched a ballistic missile and the U.S. sent an aircraft carrier strike group to the region.

The drills, which are led by France and include the United Kingdom, will practice amphibious landings, delivering forces by helicopter and urban patrols. Two ships from France are participating, both of which are in the middle of a four-month deployment to the Indian and Pacific oceans. Joining are U.K. helicopters and 70 U.K. troops deployed with the French amphibious assault ship FS Mistral. Parts of the exercise will feature British helicopters taking U.S. Marines ashore from a French ship.

“The message we want to send is that we’re always ready to train and we’re always ready for the next crisis and humanitarian disaster wherever that may be,” said U.S. Marine Corps Lt. Col Kemper Jones, the commander of the 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment. About 100 Marines from Jones’ unit will be part of the drills slated for this weekend and next week.

China claims virtually the entire South China Sea and has aggressively tried to fortify its foothold in recent years by transforming seven mostly submerged reefs into island outposts, some with runways and radars and — more recently — weapons systems. This has prompted criticism from other nations, who also claim the atolls, and from the United States, which insists on freedom of navigation in international waters.

Critics fear China’s actions could restrict movement in a key waterway for world trade and rich fishing grounds. China says its island construction is mainly for civilian purposes, particularly to increase safety for ships. It has said it won’t interfere with freedom of navigation or overflight, although questions remain on whether that includes military ships and aircraft.

Mira Rapp-Hooper of the Center for New American Security, a Washington think tank, said the exercises will send a strong message in support of a “rules-based order in Asia” at a time when China’s actions have raised questions about this.

“A reminder in this exercise is that lots of other countries besides the United States have an interest in that international order,” said Rapp-Hooper, who is a senior fellow with the center’s Asia-Pacific Security Program.

The exercises come amid modestly growing European interest in the South China Sea, said David Santoro, a senior fellow for nuclear policy at Pacific Forum CSIS, a Honolulu think tank. “What I’m hearing from the French and to some degree the British, is an increased interest in what’s going on in Asia and how they can help,” Santoro said. As for North Korea, Santoro said Pyongyang would likely be watching but he didn’t think the exercises were intended to send any signal to the country.

Japan, which is sending 50 soldiers and 160 sailors and landing craft, has been investing in amphibious training so it can defend its own islands. Tokyo is particularly concerned China might attempt to take over rocky, uninhabited outcrops in the East China Sea that it controls but Beijing claims. Japan calls the islands Senkaku while China calls them Diaoyu. Japan has also expressed an interest in vessels being able to freely transit the South China Sea.

Guam and Tinian are about 1,500 miles (2,414 kilometers) south of Tokyo. They’re about the same distance to the east from Manila, Philippines.

McAvoy reported from Honolulu.

Tag Cloud