South Korea’s Moon pledges action against Japan’s ‘unfair’ trade move

Robie de Guzman   •   August 3, 2019   •   821

Courtesy: Reuters

South Korea fired back at Japan over a deepening trade dispute on Friday (August 2), pledging it would not be “defeated again” by its neighbour, laying bare decades-old animosity at the root of a row over fast-track export status.

Addressing his ministers during a rare live television broadcast of his cabinet, South Korean President Moon Jae-in threatened countermeasures after Japan’s cabinet approved the removal of South Korea’s fast-track export status from Aug.28.

“If Japan attempts to harm our economy, the Korean Government also has countermeasures with which to respond.,” he said.

“Even at this moment, the Korean Government does not want a vicious cycle of tit-for-tat. There is only one way to stop this. The Japanese Government must withdraw its unilateral and unwarranted measures as soon as possible and take a path toward dialogue,” he added.

Cutting South Korea from a so-called “white list” of favoured export destinations could require Japanese exporters to obtain permits, potentially slowing down exports of a wide range of goods that could be used to produce weapons.

“What we take even more seriously is the fact that these moves by the Japanese Government carry the clear intention to attack and hurt our economy by impeding our future economic growth,” Moon said.

Relations between the two U.S. allies began to deteriorate late last year following a row over compensation for wartime forced labourers during Japan’s occupation, but the language used by President Moon was the starkest yet. (REUTERS)

(Production: Heejung Jung)

South Korean military says North Korea fired two projectiles

Robie de Guzman   •   September 10, 2019

Chief of Public Affairs in Joint Chief of Staff (JCS), Kim Joon-Rak

North Korea fired two unidentified projectiles on Tuesday (September 10) morning, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said, hours after a senior diplomat announced Pyongyang would be willing to resume negotiations with the United States later in September.

The “short-range projectiles” were launched from around Kaechon in South Pyongan province at around 7:00 a.m. KST (2200 GMT Monday) towards the east and flew about 330 km (205 miles), according to the JCS.

Tuesday’s launch was the eighth by North Korea since U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un met at the heavily militarized border between the two Koreas in June.

The launches came after North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui said on Monday (September 9) Pyongyang was willing to have “comprehensive discussions” with the United States in late September at a time and place to be agreed. (Reuters)

(Production: Dogyun Kim, Minwoo Park)

Japan may have to dump radioactive water into the sea, minister says

Robie de Guzman   •   September 10, 2019

Japan’s Tokyo Electric Power will have to dump radioactive water from its destroyed Fukushima nuclear power plant into the Pacific Ocean as it runs out of room to store it, the environment minister Yoshiaki Harada said on Tuesday (September 10).

Tokyo Electric, or Tepco, has collected more than 1 million tonnes of contaminated water from the cooling pipes used to keep fuel cores from melting since the plant was crippled by an earthquake and tsunami in 2011.

But Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, in a separate press briefing, described Harada’s comments as “his personal opinion”.

The government is awaiting a report from an expert panel before making a final decision on how to dispose of the radioactive water.

Any green light from the government to dump the waste into the sea would anger neighbors such as South Korea, which summoned a senior Japanese embassy official last month to explain how the Fukushima water would be dealt with.

South Korea’s foreign ministry said in a statement that it had asked Japan “to take a wise and prudent decision on the issue.” (Reuters)

(Production: Kwiyeon Ha)

Hong Kong leader says she would ‘quit’ if she could; fears her ability to resolve crisis now ‘very limited’

Robie de Guzman   •   September 3, 2019

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam

Embattled Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said she has caused “unforgivable havoc” by igniting the political crisis engulfing the city and would quit if she had a choice, according to an audio recording of remarks she made last week to a group of business people.

At the closed-door meeting, Lam told the group that she now has “very limited” room to resolve the crisis because the unrest has become a national security and sovereignty issue for China amid rising tensions with the United States.

“If I have a choice,” she said, speaking in English, “the first thing is to quit, having made a deep apology.”

Lam’s dramatic and at times anguished remarks offer the clearest view yet into the thinking of the Chinese leadership as it navigates the unrest in Hong Kong, the biggest political crisis to grip the country since the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989.

Hong Kong has been convulsed by sometimes violent protests and mass demonstrations since June, in response to a proposed law by Lam’s administration that would allow people suspected of crimes on the mainland to be extradited to face trial in Chinese courts.

The law has been shelved, but Lam has been unable to end the upheaval. Protesters have expanded their demands to include complete withdrawal of the proposal, a concession her administration has so far refused. Large demonstrations wracked the city again over the weekend.

Lam suggested that Beijing had not yet reached a turning point. She said Beijing had not imposed any deadline for ending the crisis ahead of National Day celebrations scheduled for October 1.

And she said China had “absolutely no plan” to deploy People’s Liberation Army troops on Hong Kong streets.

World leaders have been closely watching whether China will send in the military to quell the protests, as it did a generation ago in the bloody Tiananmen crackdown in Beijing.

Lam noted, however, that she had few options once an issue had been elevated “to a national level,” a reference to the leadership in Beijing, “to a sort of sovereignty and security level, let alone in the midst of this sort of unprecedented tension between the two big economies in the world.”

In such a situation, she added, “the room, the political room for the chief executive who, unfortunately, has to serve two masters by constitution, that is the central people’s government and the people of Hong Kong, that political room for maneuvering is very, very, very limited.”

Three people who attended the meeting confirmed that Lam had made the comments in a talk that lasted about half an hour. A 24-minute recording of her remarks was reviewed by Reuters.

The meeting was one of a number of “closed-door sessions” that Lam said she has been doing “with people from all walks of life” in Hong Kong.

China’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, a high-level agency under China’s cabinet, the State Council, did not respond to questions submitted by Reuters. China’s State Council Information Office did not immediately respond to questions from Reuters. (Reuters)

(Production: Hyunyoung Yi)

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