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BEIJING, August 18, 2018 (News Wires) - China on Saturday rejected what it called an "irresponsible" Pentagon report claiming Beijing's bombers are likely training for strikes against US and allied targets in the Pacific.

The Thursday report said China was leveraging its growing military, economic and diplomatic clout to rapidly establish regional dominance, while its bombers were developing capabilities to hit targets as far from the Chinese mainland as possible.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said the report was "presumptuous and irresponsible", stating it was "in total disregard of facts" in a Saturday statement.

Beijing's military development was defensive in nature and intended to safeguard its territorial integrity, he added.

"We urge the US side to abandon the outdated cold-war and zero-sum mentality... (and) stop issuing such irresponsible reports year after year," he said.

China is engaged in a decades-long build-up and modernisation of its once-backward armed forces, and military leaders have set a goal of fielding a world-class force by 2050.

Last year, six Chinese H-6K bombers flew through the Miyako Strait in the southwest of the Japanese islands, and then for the first time turned north to fly east of Okinawa, where 47,000 US troops are based.

The PLA may demonstrate the "capability to strike US and allied forces and military bases in the western Pacific Ocean, including Guam," said the Pentagon report.

KUALA LUMPUR, August 18, 2018 (News Wires) - Proton Holdings Bhd and Zhejiang Geely Holding Group Saturday signed a Heads of Agreement to set up a joint venture that will pave the way for Proton to assemble and market their cars in China.

Both companies will take up equal equity in the yet-to-be-named joint-venture (JV) company and target to incorporate the JV within the first half of 2019, subject to obtaining all regulatory approvals.

In a statement today, DRB-Hicom Bhd (DRB-Hicom) said the venture includes the setting up of a production facility in China to assemble vehicles, and the development of a network of dealers to market the Proton range in China.

The portfolio of cars for China would primarily come from existing Geely platforms, although the external design of the vehicles will be undertaken by Proton.

The agreement also provides for existing Proton platforms to be developed into models for the Chinese market.

DRB-Hicom Group Managing Director Datuk Seri Syed Faisal Albar said Geely’s entry as a strategic partner to Proton has paved an easier route for Proton’s entry into the lucrative Chinese market.

“Clearly with Geely on board, Proton’s route into China has become more tenable. Part of Geely’s role is to secure the manufacturing licences and regulatory approvals required for such a venture under China’s regulations.

“Geely will also identify a suitable location where the manufacturing facility is to be based,” Syed Faisal said.

He added that existing Proton component vendors that have quality and a competitive edge would be considered as suppliers for the JV company.

“This should sit well with the Government of Malaysia that has often prodded Malaysian component makers to venture into the Chinese market.

“Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad had lamented previously the lack of Malaysian car exports into regional markets, despite Japanese, Korean and Chinese brands making their way onto Malaysian shores,” he said.

WELLINGTON, August 16, 2018 (Reuters) - Pacific island nations are holding talks which could lead to a coordinated request that China forgive mounting debts in the region amid concerns Beijing may start seizing strategic assets, Tonga's Prime Minister 'Akilisi Pohiva said on Thursday.

Tonga, one of eight island nations in the South Pacific carrying significant debt to China, is due to start repaying loans next month after borrowing heavily in the aftermath of deadly riots in 2006 that destroyed large parts of its capital.

China's possession of a Sri Lankan port as Colombo struggled with a spiralling debt crisis meant asset seizures could not be ruled out, Pohiva told Reuters in a phone interview from Tonga.

"If it happens in Sri Lanka, it can happen in the Pacific - so it is entirely an option for China to consider," said Pohiva, who did not identify any specific assets at risk of being seized.

"If we fail to meet the requirements and conditions set out in the agreement ... we have to pay the cost for our failure to meet the conditions."

China's Foreign Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Thursday. It has previously said there was no evidence China was responsible for creating unsustainable debt and that it retained good relations with Tonga.

In April, media reports suggested China wanted to establish a military base in the Pacific island nation of Vanuatu after funding a wharf big enough to handle warships. Both China and Vanuatu denied the reports.

Pohiva, who came to power after the bulk of Tonga's $115 million debt to China was accumulated, said the region should negotiate as one.

"It is no longer an issue for individual countries because there are small countries who borrowed from China and we have problems with that and the option is to collectively work together to find a way out."

Regional leaders are due to gather at a Pacific Islands Forum early next month in the island nation of Nauru where Pohiva said they will progress plans to ask for their debt to be forgiven.

China, which has a status as a 'dialogue partner' in the grouping, has sent an envoy to the event since 2007.

BEIJING, August 14, 2018 (AP) — China blamed “anti-China forces” on Tuesday for the growing criticism of Beijing’s policies in a far western region where large groups of ethnic Uighurs are being detained in internment camps.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said anti-China forces had made “false accusations against China for political purposes” after a U.N. human rights committee raised concern over reported mass detentions of ethnic Uighurs. He also said a few foreign media outlets misrepresented the committee’s discussions and were smearing China’s anti-terror and crime-fighting measures in Xinjiang.

In Xinjiang, authorities responding to sporadic violent attacks by Muslim separatists have imposed a heavy security crackdown and detained an estimated hundreds of thousands of members of the Uighur and Kazakh Muslim minorities in indoctrination camps. Former detainees have provided The Associated Press among the first accounts of life inside these camps in which they were forced to denounce Islam and profess loyalty to the party .

In recent weeks, China has come under pressure from some Western governments and rights groups to release people held in such centres or account for the whereabouts of people whose overseas relatives say have gone missing.

A U.N. committee member last week cited estimates that over 1 million people in China from the country’s Uighur and other Muslim minorities are being held in “counter-extremism centres” and another 2 million have been forced into “re-education camps.”

China’s delegation told the U.N. panel on Monday that “there is no arbitrary detention … there are no such things as re-education centres.” It said authorities in Xinjiang have cracked down on “violent terrorist activities,” while convicted criminals are provided with skills to reintegrate themselves into society at “vocational education and employment training centres.”

“The argument that 1 million Uighurs are detained in re-education centres is completely untrue,” Chinese delegate Hu Lianhe said through an interpreter. It was a rare public comment by a Chinese official about the camps.

He added “there is no suppression of ethnic minorities or violations of their freedom of religious belief in the name of counter-terrorism.” But he also said “those who are deceived by religious extremism … shall be assisted through resettlement and education.”

Xinjiang has been enveloped in a suffocating blanket of security for years, especially since a deadly anti-government riot broke out in the regional capital of Urumqi in 2009.

Gay McDougall, the committee vice-chairwoman who raised the detentions last week, said she wasn’t convinced by China’s “flat denial” of the detention figures. She said China “didn’t quite deny” that re-education programs are taking place.

“You said that was false, the 1 million. Well, how many were there? Please tell me,” she said. “And what were the laws on which they were detained, the specific provisions?”

There was no direct response to that in Monday’s session, which addressed a broad range of issues that went well beyond the Uighurs.

But delegation leader Yu Jianhua said some panel members had treated “some of the unsubstantiated materials as credible information.” He contended that some of that information came from groups which “seek to split China” and have links to terrorist organizations.

BEIJING, August 11, 2018 (News Wires) - China’s business and energy ties with Iran do not harm the interests of any other country, the country’s Foreign Ministry said, after US President Donald Trump said companies doing business with Iran would be barred from the United States.

China has already defended its commercial relations with Iran as open and transparent as US sanctions on Iran took effect despite pleas from Washington’s allies.

In a statement released late Friday, China’s foreign ministry reiterated its opposition to unilateral sanctions and “long-armed jurisdiction”.

“For a long time, China and Iran have had open, transparent and normal commercial cooperation in the fields of business, trade and energy, which is reasonable, fair and lawful,” it said.

“This does not violate United Nations Security Council resolutions or China’s promised international obligations, nor does it harm the interests of any other country, and should be respected and protected,” the ministry added.

Using sanctions at the slightest pretext or to threaten anyone won’t resolve the problem, it said.

“Only dialogue and negotiations are the true path to resolving the issue,” the ministry added.

China, Iran’s top oil customer, buys roughly 650,000 barrels a day of crude oil from Tehran, or 7 per cent of China’s total crude oil imports. At current market rates, the imports are worth some $15 billion a year.

State energy firms CNPC and Sinopec have invested billions of dollars in key Iranian oil fields such as Yadavaran and North Azadegan and have been sending oil to China.

European countries, hoping to persuade Tehran to continue to respect the nuclear deal, have promised to try to lessen the blow of sanctions and to urge their firms not to pull out.

But that has proven difficult, and European companies have quit Iran, arguing that they cannot risk their US business.

Few American companies do much business in Iran so the impact of sanctions mainly stems from Washington’s ability to block European and Asian firms from trading there.

SHANGHAI, August 11, 2018 (News Wires) - The internationalization of the renminbi has made progress, Zhou Xiaochuan, former governor of China's central bank, said on Saturday.

"The internationalization of the renminbi is not a linear progress. It will move faster when there are opportunities to do so. Sometimes, it will move more slowly. But in the longer view, the internationalization of the renminbi is still promising," Zhou said at a financial forum in Shanghai.

Zhou said that the development of financial sanctions would have some impact on the US dollar's use as an international reserve currency and as an international means of payment. Diversification was important for reserve currencies, and the renminbi and other currencies would begin to be considered internationally, he said.

Zhou stepped down in March after 15 years at the helm of the People's Bank of China.

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