China wants trade deal with US, but will retaliate if needed, says Xi

Robie de Guzman   •   November 22, 2019   •   184

Chinese President Xi Jinping (R) speaks during a meeting with International Monetary Fund (IMF) Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva (not pictured) as Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi (C) looks on, at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, 22 November 2019. EPA-EFE/JASON LEE

Beijing – China’s president said Friday his country wanted to work out an agreement with the United States to resolve the ongoing trade dispute but warned that he was also willing to take counter-measures if required.

This is the first public statement by Xi Jinping on the possibility of reaching a pact with Washington to end – at least temporarily – the tariff war that the world’s two biggest economies have been involved in since March 2018.

“When necessary, we will fight back. But we have been working actively to try not to have a trade war. We did not initiate this trade war and this is not something we want,” Xi said at an economic forum in Beijing.

“As we always said we don’t want to start the trade war but we are not afraid,” he emphasized.

The Chinese leader said a possible agreement between the two countries should be based on “mutual respect and equality.”

The disputes with the US “may affect the future prospects of the world economy so this is a very important topic to watch”, said Xi. “We always hold positive attitude towards that.”

The remarks came a day after the Ministry of Commerce denied that the partial trade agreement between the two countries, known as phase one, was in jeopardy.

“At the moment, there are no more details to offer on the agreement, but the external rumors are not accurate,” Gao Feng, spokesperson for the Ministry of Commerce, told reporters on Thursday.

The statement seemed to be a response to US President Donald Trump’s recent claim that Beijing was not taking the lead in the talks.

Trump also said that if a trade agreement is not achieved tariffs will rise even more.

Representatives from China and the US spoke on the telephone on Saturday to advance the agreement although no details of the call have been divulged so far.

In early November, the Chinese Commerce Ministry said it had reached an agreement with Washington to phase out the levies both parties have imposed during the trade dispute.

However, days later, Trump dampened hopes that the tariffs on Chinese products would be phased out and lowered expectations a deal could be met.

The two-year trade war has seen a tit-for-tat hike on tariffs in both countries.

Most recently on Sep. 1 by increasing a 10 percent tax on Chinese imports to 15 percent.

The hike would be worth around $112 billion.

It remains to be seen if on Dec. 15 the same increase will be applied to the remaining imports taxed currently at 10 percent.

If Washington does follow through, the tariff increase would be valued at some $300 billion.

Trade tensions between the two largest world economies go beyond bilateral relations and have profound global consequences.

In its latest global growth forecasts, released in July, the International Monetary Fund lowered its projections of global growth to 3.2 percent this year, one-tenth less than in April weighed down by doubts about a possible resolution of this dispute. EFE-EPA

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US accuses Iran of more than 1,000 deaths during protests

Jeck Deocampo   •   December 6, 2019

US Special Representative for Iran and Senior Advisor to the Secretary of State Brian Hook responds to a question from the news media during a press conference at the US State Department in Washington, DC, USA, 4 September 2019. EPA-EFE FILE/SHAWN THEW

Washington DC – The United States government on Thursday held Iran responsible for the death of more than 1,000 people in the recent protests that shook the country.

“It appears the regime could have murdered over 1,000 Iranian citizens since the protests began,” said State Department Special Representative for Iran, Brian Hook.

Hook, however, said he was not certain of that figure because “the regime blocks information.”

According to the US official, in one single protest in the southwestern city of Mahshahr, more than a hundred people died and when it was over, the bodies were loaded in trucks.

“We do not yet know where these bodies were taken, but we are learning more and more about how the Iranian regime treats its own people,” he added.

According to Washington, the number of deaths that occurred during the protests may have been five times the number estimated by Amnesty International, which in its latest report said 208 people lost their lives adding that the number was likely to be more.

Iran, on its part, said that the number reported by AI was not correct and claimed that the actual death toll was lower.

“The numbers and figures that are being given by hostile groups are utter lies and the statistics have serious differences with what they announced,” Iran’s judicial spokesperson Gholamhossein Esmaili said.

Protests broke out in Iran on Nov. 15 over rising oil prices and its rationing and led to criticism of the country’s theocratic system.

US President Donald Trump also mentioned the protests in Iran on Thursday.

The Iranian regime “has killed hundreds and hundreds of people in a very short period of time. They’re killing protesters. They turned down their internet system. People aren’t hearing what’s going,” said the president.

Days earlier, Trump accused Iran of killing “thousands and thousands” of people. EFE-EPA

Morales, Del Rosario insist ICC did not reject communication vs China’s Xi Jinping

Robie de Guzman   •   December 6, 2019

MANILA, Philippines – Former Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales and former Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto del Rosario insisted that the International Criminal Court (ICC) did not reject the communication they filed against Chinese President Xi Jinping for Beijing’s actions in the West Philippine Sea.

This is after the ICC said in its report that it had no jurisdiction over the case.

In a report released Thursday, ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said the tribunal does not have jurisdiction over Morales and Del Rosario’s complaint against China’s alleged crimes against humanity in the West Philippine Sea.

The Court also found it does not have jurisdiction over the complaint as the accused are from China, which is not a state party to the Rome Statute – the treaty which formed the tribunal.

“The crimes referred to in the communication were allegedly committed by Chinese nationals in the territory of the Philippines. China is not a State Party to the Rome Statute. Accordingly, the Court lacks personal jurisdiction,” the report read.

On March 15, 2019, Morales and Del Rosario filed a communication before the ICC against Xi and other Chinese officials over China’s alleged “atrocious actions” in the West Philippine Sea.

They accused the Chinese executives of committing of crimes against humanity for purportedly damaging the resources at the disputed territory through Beijing’s ongoing reclamation activities in the area.

The ICC noted that while the alleged crimes of Xi and other Chinese officials occurred in the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ), it cannot be considered a territory of the state.

“Criminal conduct which takes place in the EEZ and continental shelf is thus in principle outside of the territory of a Coastal State… This circumstance is not altered by the fact that certain rights of the Coastal State are recognised in these areas,” it said.

Del Rosario and Carpio-Morales, however, said in a joint statement that the ICC’s report only strengthened their resolve, adding that the Prosecutor welcomes new facts and evidence to proceed with the case.

“Let them gloat in the meantime. This is just the beginning. Abangan,” Carpio-Morales said.

The ICC report stated that its findings may be reconsidered in light of new facts and evidence, which Del Rosario and Carpio-Morales vowed to provide. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Rosalie Coz)

North Korea says up to US to choose what ‘Christmas gift’ it wants

Robie de Guzman   •   December 3, 2019

A photo released by the official North Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) shows North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un (C) during a ribbon-cutting ceremony to open a Township of Samjiyon County, North Korea, 02 December 2019. North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un attended the ceremony. EPA-EFE/KCNA

Seoul – North Korea on Tuesday said it was up to the United States to chose what “Christmas gift” it wanted as the deadline to resume the stalled denuclearisation talks was drawing closer amid Washington’s continued “dialogue rhetoric”.

“What is left to be done now is the US’ option and it is entirely up to the US what Christmas gift it will select to get,” the North Korean foreign ministry said in a statement published by state news agency KCNA.

The statement quoted Vice Foreign Minister Ri Kil Song saying that Pyongyang had “done its utmost with maximum perseverance not to backtrack from the important steps.”

This refers to North Korea’s self-imposed moratorium on tests of nuclear weapons and medium and intercontinental ballistic missiles.

“Drawing nearer is the year-end time limit the DPRK (North Korea’s official name) set for the US. However, the US is keen on earning the time needed for it, talking about the ‘sustained and substantial dialogue,’ far from acting in response to the measures taken by the DPRK first,” Ri said.

The statement said North Korea had “heard more than enough dialogue rhetoric raised by the US whenever it is driven into a tight corner. So, no one will lend an ear to the US any longer.”

It said the talks touted by Washington was, “in essence, nothing but a foolish trick hatched to keep the DPRK bound to dialogue and use it in favor of the political situation and election in the US”.

Experts believe that if there is no progress in talks in the next few weeks, the North Korean regime could carry out new weapons tests from January, especially of intermediate-range missiles.

Bilateral negotiations have not advanced since a failed summit in February in Hanoi, where Washington refused to lift economic sanctions in return for what Pyongyang dismantling its nuclear assets.

Both parties held a working meeting in early October in Stockholm, Sweden, which ended with North Korea accusing Washington of failing to offer anything new and actively maintaining its “hostile policy”.

North Korean media on Tuesday also showed leader Kim Jong-un inaugurating a real estate project near Mount Paektu, a sacred site for the regime.

Given that important decisions have often followed visits to this area, some experts believe that Pyongyang wants to ramp up the pressure with this gesture.

Last week, North Korea fired two missiles into the Sea of Japan (also known as East Sea in the two Koreas) from a super large multiple-launch rocket system, prompting Pentagon to deploy reconnaissance aircraft over the Korean peninsula.

On Tuesday, the US aircraft flew over the region for the fifth time in less than a week in a gesture that some believe may be a deliberate warning message against threats from the North Korean regime. EFE-EPA

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