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PHL prepares to welcome 9 other ASEAN leaders in the 30th ASEAN Summit

by UNTV News   |   Posted on Thursday, April 20th, 2017

MANILA, Philippines — The government is busy preparing for the 30th ASEAN Summit and related meetings in the Philippines from April 26 to 29.

The other nine leaders from member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) will attend this event.

Chief of Presidential Protocol and Director General for operations ASEAN NOC Ambassador Marciano Paynor said, “On 29th April which is the actual summit, we will have all 10 leaders meeting up at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC) and we’ll have a retreat at the Coconut Palace. They will return to PICC for the rest of the meetings. And this will be culminated by a gala dinner hosted by the President.”

Coinciding with the ASEAN Summit are the state visits of Indonesian President Joko Widodo and Brunei Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah to the country.

Ambassador Paynor said the government’s preparation for ASEAN Summit 2017 is much shorter than the APEC Summit in 2015.

Factors which may have affected this are the turnover of the administration and the complicated process under the procurement laws.

However, the official assures that they are beefing up the security measures.

Ambassador Paynor reasoned, “Because of this most recent incident, we are beefing up our security elements.”

President Duterte will be busy next week since he will be hosting for the first time an international engagement.

The event is significant since aside from the Philippines chairmanship, ASEAN will also be celebrating its 50th anniversary.

Amb. Paynor added, “Now that he is hosting, he did say, ‘Oh, hindi lang pala ganoon kadali.’ [ Oh, it’s was really that easy.] So, we are running him through what he needs to do from 10 — in fact, from 9:30 in the morning all the way up to the finish the following day in Davao.”

Meanwhile, Ambassador Paynor confirmed that United States President Donald Trump will be visiting the Philippines in November 2017 for the ASEAN meeting.

“When President Duterte called him up to congratulate him [Trump], had already indicated that he was coming in November. So, at least verbally, he said he is coming,” the official said. — Rosalie Coz, UNTV News & Rescue

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US declaration of Jerusalem sparks protests in the Arab world

by UNTV   |   Posted on Friday, December 8th, 2017

Palestinian authorities had called a general strike in protest at U.S. President Donald Trump’s Jerusalem announcement on Wednesday, which reversed decades of peacemaking policy regarding a city that Palestinians also see as their capital.

“This decision will not pass, not in your dreams. It will not pass, over the dead bodies of Arabs and bodies of Palestinians. We are here in the diaspora, in every location, we will fight this decision. We will fight this decision with iron and fire. We call upon Palestinian leadership to resist,” said Mohammed Salahat, a protester.

In Jordan, hundreds of Jordanians gathered near the U.S. Embassy in capital Amman. King Abdullah’s Hashemite dynasty is the custodian of the Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem, making Amman sensitive to any changes in the status of the city. Many people in Jordan are descendants of Palestinian refugees whose families left after the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948.

“We know that standing here and listening to the young people shouting whatever they want to say don’t bring us nearer to our cause, to our solution, but at least you feel you want to express your anger at the whole world,” said Jihad, a protester.

In Egypt, a makeshift Israeli flag was burned during the demonstration as well as a picture of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and protesters insisted on Jerusalem’s Arabian roots.

“I am here like every other Egyptian and Arab against trump’s decision. I see it as insulting, aggressive, and arrogance that we cannot accept, and we believe in our right of Jerusalem being Arab and Palestine as well,” said Hamdeen Sabahi, a former Egyptian presidential candidate.

In Turkey, hundreds of protesters gathered outside the U.S. embassy in Ankara on Thursday to denounce the declaration. The protest was largely peaceful, although police took security measures and U.S. soldiers were seen on the roof of the embassy building.

Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim added that the United States “pulled the pin on a bomb” in the Middle East with its decision.

“[The United States] has pulled the pin on a bomb ready to blow in the region. First of all, as Turkey, we consider this decision null and void. Secondly, Jerusalem, and particularly the Al-Aqsa mosque, is considered a holy place by three religions. So a decision that changes or questions this status will stir up a big catastrophe,” said the prime minister.

The status of Jerusalem has been one of the thorniest issues in long-running Mideast peace efforts. The international community does not recognize Israeli sovereignty over the whole of Jerusalem, believing its status should be resolved in negotiations. No other country has its embassy in Jerusalem. — Reuters

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Trump recognizes Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, defying allies, foes

by UNTV News   |   Posted on Thursday, December 7th, 2017

With Vice Pence Mike Pence looking on, U.S. President Donald Trump signs an executive order after he announced the U.S. would Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, in the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House in Washington, U.S., December 6, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

WASHINGTON/JERUSALEM (Reuters) – President Donald Trump on Wednesday reversed decades of U.S. policy and recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, imperiling Middle East peace efforts and upsetting Washington’s friends and foes alike.

Trump announced his administration would begin a process of moving the U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a step expected to take years and one that his predecessors opted not to take to avoid inflaming tensions.

The status of Jerusalem – home to sites holy to the Muslim, Jewish and Christian religions – is one of the biggest obstacles to reaching a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hailed Trump’s announcement as a “historic landmark,” but other close Western allies of Washington such as Britain and France were critical.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said the United States abdicated its role as a mediator in peace efforts, and Palestinian secular and Islamist factions called for a general strike and rallies on Thursday to protest.

The international community does not recognize Israeli sovereignty over the entire city, believing its status should be resolved in negotiations. No other country has its embassy in Jerusalem.

Trump’s decision fulfills a campaign promise and will please Republican conservatives and evangelicals who make up a sizeable portion of his domestic support.

“I have determined that it is time to officially recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel,” Trump said in a speech at the White House. “While previous presidents have made this a major campaign promise, they failed to deliver. Today, I am delivering.”

Trump’s decision risks further inflaming a region already grappling with conflict in Syria, Iraq and Yemen.

Protests broke out in areas of Jordan’s capital, Amman, inhabited by Palestinian refugees, and several hundred protesters gathered outside the U.S. consulate in Istanbul.

Youths chanted anti-American slogans in Amman, while in the Baqaa refugee camp on the city’s outskirts, hundreds of protesters roamed the streets denouncing Trump and calling on Jordan’s government to scrap its 1994 peace treaty with Israel. “Down with America. America is the mother of terror,” they chanted.

Israel considers Jerusalem its eternal and indivisible capital and wants all embassies based there. Palestinians want the capital of an independent state of theirs to be in the city’s eastern sector, which Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East war and annexed in a move never recognized internationally.

Netanyahu said any peace deal with Palestinians must include Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. That would be a non-starter for Palestinians in any negotiations if it meant the entire city would be under Israeli control.

PALESTINIANS UPSET

Abbas on Wednesday called the city “the eternal capital of the state of Palestine.” He said Trump’s decision was tantamount to the United States abdicating its peace mediator role. Jordan said Trump’s decision was “legally null.”

“I think it’s pretty catastrophic, frankly,” said Hussein Ibish at the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington, adding that “Trump did not distinguish in any meaningful sense between West Jerusalem and occupied East Jerusalem.”

Palestinian Islamist group Hamas accused Trump of a “flagrant aggression against the Palestinian people.”

Palestinians switched off Christmas lights at Jesus’ traditional birthplace in Bethlehem on Wednesday night to protest Trump’s move.

Trump has tilted U.S. policy toward Israel since taking office in January.

“He cannot expect to side entirely with Israel on the most sensitive and complex issues in the process, and yet expect the Palestinians to see the United States as an honest broker,” said former U.S. Ambassador to Israel Daniel Kurtzer.

Pope Francis called for Jerusalem’s status quo to be respected. China and Russia expressed concern the move could aggravate Middle East hostilities.

A statement from the Saudi Royal Court said the Saudi government had expressed “condemnation and deep regret” about the move.

A spokesman for British Prime Minister Theresa May called the U.S. decision “unhelpful in terms of prospects for peace in the region.”

The United Nations Security Council is likely to meet on Friday over Trump’s decision, diplomats said on Wednesday.

Trump said his move was not intended to tip the scale in favor of Israel and that any deal involving the future of Jerusalem would have to be negotiated by the parties.

He insisted he was not taking a position on “any final status issues, including the specific boundaries of the Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem, or the resolution of contested borders.”

REFUGEES, SETTLEMENTS AMONG DISPUTES

Other key disputes between the two sides include the fate of Palestinian refugees and Jewish settlements built on occupied land. Trump made no mention of settlements.

He said he remained committed to the two-state solution if the parties want one. The president called on the region to take his message calmly.

“There will of course be disagreement and dissent regarding this announcement but we are confident that ultimately, as we work through these disagreements, we will arrive at a place of greater understanding and cooperation,” Trump said.

U.S. Representative Eliot Engel, a pro-Israel Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee who is often critical of Trump’s foreign policy, expressed support for the move.

“This decision is long overdue and helps correct a decades-long indignity,” said Engel.

Trump acted under a 1995 law that requires the United States to move its embassy to Jerusalem. His predecessors, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama, consistently put off that decision.

Trump ordered a delay to any embassy move from Tel Aviv since the United States does not have an embassy in Jerusalem to move into. A senior administration official said it could take three to four years to build one.

The Jerusalem decision has raised doubts about the Trump administration’s ability to follow through on a peace effort that Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, has led for months aimed at reviving long-stalled negotiations. It has so far shown little in the way of progress.

There was no indication Trump asked Netanyahu for anything in return when he notified the Israeli leader of his Jerusalem decision on Tuesday, a person familiar with the matter said.

But Aaron David Miller, a former Middle East negotiator for Republican and Democratic administrations, said Trump, who has long touted himself as a master negotiator, might be setting the stage for seeking Israeli concessions later.

“This might be the case where Trump applies a little honey now to show the Israelis he’s the most pro-Israel president ever, and then applies a little vinegar later,” he said.

Additional reporting by Matt Spetalnick, Arshad Mohammed, Phil Stewart, Patricia Zengerle, Doina Chiacu, David Alexander, Makini Brice, Maria Caspani and Yara Bayoumy in Washington, Ali Sawafta in Ramallah, Ori Lewis in Jerusalem, Suleiman Al-Khalidi in Amman and Michelle Nichols at the United Nations; Editing by Alistair Bell and Peter Cooney

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Trump: China’s North Korea diplomacy appears to have ‘no impact on Little Rocket Man’

by UNTV News   |   Posted on Friday, December 1st, 2017

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un watches the launch of a Hwasong-12 missile, September 16. KCNA via REUTERS

WASHINGTON/MOSCOW (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump dismissed a Chinese diplomatic effort to rein in North Korea’s weapons program as a failure on Thursday, while Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Beijing was doing a lot, but could do more to limit oil supplies to Pyongyang.

In a tweet, Trump delivered another insulting barb against North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, who he called “Little Rocket Man” and a “sick puppy” after North Korea test-fired its most advanced missile to date on Wednesday.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Washington’s approach was dangerously provocative.

Trump’s tweets further inflamed tensions reignited this week after North Korea said it had successfully tested a new intercontinental ballistic missile in a “breakthrough” that put the U.S. mainland within range of its nuclear weapons whose warheads could withstand re-entry to the Earth’s atmosphere.

“The Chinese envoy, who just returned from North Korea, seems to have had no impact on Little Rocket Man,” Trump said on Twitter, a day after speaking with Chinese President Chinese President Xi Jinping and reiterating his call for Beijing to use its leverage against North Korea.

Tillerson on Thursday welcomed Chinese efforts on North Korea, but said Beijing could do more to limit its oil exports to the country.

“The Chinese are doing a lot. We do think they could do more with the oil. We’re really asking them to please restrain more of the oil, not cut it off completely,” Tillerson said at the State Department. China is North Korea’s neighbor and its sole major trading partner.

While Trump has been bellicose at times in rhetoric toward North Korea, Tillerson has persistently held out hopes for a return to dialogue if North Korea shows it is willing to give up its nuclear weapons program.

However, Tillerson may not remain in his job long, with disagreements with Trump over North Korea being one factor. On Thursday, senior Trump administration officials said the White House was considering a plan to replace Tillerson with Mike Pompeo, the director of the Central Intelligence Agency.

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said he still had confidence in diplomatic efforts on North Korea and that the United States would be “unrelenting” in working through the United Nations.

In spite of Trump’s rhetoric and warnings that all options, including military ones, are on the table in dealing with North Korea, his administration has stressed it favors a diplomatic solution to the crisis.

Trump has pledged more sanctions in response to the latest test and, at an emergency U.N. Security Council meeting late Wednesday, the United States warned North Korea’s leadership would be “utterly destroyed” if war were to break out.

“This administration is focused on one big thing when it comes to North Korea, and that’s denuclearization of the Korean peninsula,” White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders told a regular White House briefing.

“Anything beyond that is not the priority at this point,” she said, responding to a question on whether regime change was on the administration’s agenda after Trump’s recent tweets and a speech by U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley.

LAVROV REJECTS U.S. CALL

Lavrov pointed to joint U.S.-South Korean military exercises planned for December and accused the United States of trying to provoke Kim into “flying off the handle” over his missile program to hand Washington a pretext to destroy his country.

He also flatly rejected a U.S. call for Russia to cut ties with Pyongyang over its nuclear and ballistic missile program, calling U.S. policy toward North Korea deeply flawed.

In a call with Trump on Thursday, South Korean President Moon Jae-in said the missile launched this week was North Korea’s most advanced so far, but it was unclear whether Pyongyang had the technology to miniaturize a nuclear warhead and it still needed to prove other things, such as its re-entry technology.

A White House statement said Trump and Moon reiterated their strong commitment to enhancing the deterrence and defense capabilities of the U.S.-South Korea alliance and added: “Both leaders reaffirmed their strong commitment to compelling North Korea to return to the path of denuclearization at any cost.”

North Korea has tested dozens of ballistic missiles under Kim’s leadership and conducted its sixth and largest nuclear bomb test in September.

It has said its weapons programs are a necessary defense against U.S. plans to invade. The United States, which has 28,500 troops in South Korea as a legacy of the 1950-53 Korean War, denies any such intention.

Previous U.S. administrations have failed to stop North Korea from developing nuclear weapons and a sophisticated missile program. Trump, who has previously said the United States would “totally destroy” North Korea if necessary to protect itself and its allies from the nuclear threat, has also struggled to contain Pyongyang since taking office in January.

Additional reporting by Susan Heavey and Doina Chiacu, Phil Stewart, Idrees Ali, Eric Walsh in Washington and Adrea Shalal in Berlin; Writing by David Brunnstrom and Susan Heavey; Editing by Frances Kerry, Jonathan Oatis and Alden Bentley

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