Top Diplomats’ Talks Fail to Ease US-China Tensions


According to SCMP’s report “Hong Kong and other disagreements dominate US-China Hawaii meeting” yesterday, US Secretary of State Pompeo’s 7-hour meeting with Chinese Politburo member Yang Jiechi has failed to ease the growing tensions between the US and China.

The report quotes Xinhua as saying “Both sides have fully expressed their stance and believe this is a constructive dialogue” but it is obvious no agreement on any issues of disputes has been reached.

The statement of the US State Department makes that even clearer. It says, the US “stressed important American interests and the need for fully reciprocal dealings between the two nations across commercial, security, and diplomatic interactions”.

It means that the US stressed its important interests and wants fully reciprocal dealings from China but gets nothing.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian made that also very clear as quoted by the report as saying “Yang told Pompeo that China was committed to building a non-confrontational and mutually respectful relationship with the US, but China would also resolutely defend its territory, security and development interests.”

Comment by Chan Kai Yee on SCMP’s report, full text of which can be found at https://www.scmp.com/news/china/diplomacy/article/3089516/us-china-talks-between-pompeo-and-yang-jiechi-hawaii?utm_medium=email&utm_source=mailchimp&utm_campaign=enlz-scmp_international&utm_content=20200618&MCUID=480db96a00&MCCampaignID=6e72140214&MCAccountID=3775521f5f542047246d9c827&tc=7.


US backs down from Pompeo’s Belt and Road remarks


By Benjamin Preiss

May 24, 2020 — 9.40pm

The US embassy in Australia has gone into damage control over controversial comments by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that America would “simply disconnect” if Victoria’s decision to join China’s Belt and Road plan impacted telecommunications.

On Sunday morning Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the state government should never have signed the memorandum of understanding with China.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said all Belt and Road projects needed to be carefully scrutinised. Credit: AP

Earlier, Premier Daniel Andrews said he agreed with the comments of his Treasurer, Tim Pallas, who was critical of federal government rhetoric that could be interpreted as vilification by China.

There were also calls from members of the Victorian Liberals for Opposition Leader Michael O’Brien to commit to scrapping the agreement between Victoria and China if the party won government.

Hours after Mr Pompeo appeared in an interview warning against Victoria’s involvement in China’s backing of foreign infrastructure projects, the US government sought to clarify the remarks and insisted it had confidence in Australia’s ability to protect the security of its telecommunications.

On Sunday Mr Pompeo was asked on Sky News about whether Victoria joining the Belt and Road Initiative raised concerns about Australia and if it exposed Victorians to any threats.

Mr Pompeo said all Australians should know that “every one of those Belt and Road projects needs to be looked at incredibly closely”.

US ambassador Arthur Culvahouse.
Credit: Dom Lorrimer

Mr Pompeo said the US would not take any risks regarding its telecommunications infrastructure or national security with regards to its “five eyes” security partners. Australia is one of those partners.

I don’t know the nature of those projects precisely but to the extent they have an adverse impact on our ability to protect telecommunications from our private citizens or security networks for our defence and intelligence communities we will simply disconnect,” he said.

But several hours later US ambassador to Australia Arthur Culvahouse, issued a statement saying Mr Pompeo had been asked to “address a hypothetical” and he was unfamiliar with Victoria’s Belt and Road discussions.

We are not aware that Victoria has engaged in any concrete projects under BRI, let alone projects impinging on telecommunications networks, which we understand are a federal matter,” Mr Culvahouse said.

A Victorian government spokeswoman said the Belt and Road Initiative was about creating opportunities for Victorian businesses and local jobs.

Telecommunications regulation is the responsibility of the Commonwealth government,” she said. “Victoria has not, and will not in the future, agree to telecommunications projects under the BRI.”

Mr Andrews restated his commitment to the employment benefits of a partnership with China, which he said was in “everybody’s interests”.

Mr Morrison, however, remained critical of the arrangement.

We didn’t support that decision at the time they made it,” he said. “And national interest issues on foreign affairs are determined by the federal government. I respect their jurisdiction when it comes to the issues they’re responsible for and it’s always been the usual practice for states to respect and recognise the role of the federal government in setting foreign policy.”

Victorian Liberal members have told The Age they want Opposition Leader Michael O’Brien to reject the deal. Despite being critical of the arrangement, Mr O’Brien refused to say whether the Victorian Coalition would ditch the deal if in power.

One senior Liberal said there was widespread opposition to Belt and Road within the party.

Everybody wants to scrap it,” the figure said.

Mr O’Brien said the opposition would scrutinise the deal from an economics, security, employment and sovereignty point of view.

But I can tell you everything is on the table because when it comes to protecting Victorian jobs and Victorian sovereignty I will be somebody who puts Victoria first.”

He called on the state government to explain how Victorians benefited from the Belt and Road Initiative.

It was supposed to be about increasing agricultural trade between Victoria and China,” he said. “Instead we’ve seen our barley farmers whacked with an 80 per cent tariff.”

Source: The Age “US backs down from Pompeo’s Belt and Road remarks”

Note: This is The Age’s article I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the article’s views.


No US Leadership Even in the West


According to Reuters’ report “’The West is winning,’ U.S. tells China; France wary” US Secretary of State claims that there is no crisis in Western leadership at the annual Munich Security Conference in Germany on February 15, 2020 despite the troubles caused to Europeans by U.S. President Donald Trump’s “America first”, ambivalence over the NATO military alliance and tariffs on European goods.

French President Emmanuel Macron said at the conference of international leaders, lawmakers and diplomats “We cannot be the United States’ junior partner” i.e. Europeans do not regard the US as their leader. In addition, he said that while he supported NATO, Europe needed to be able to tackle threats in its neighborhood and at times act independently of Washington.

In fact US President Trump’s decision to pull out of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal and the Paris climate accord have undermined European priorities. His recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital have weakened European diplomacy.

Europe differs from the US on so many major issues so that it is impossible for Europe to regard the US as its leader.

Macron would not even follow the US’s defiance against Russia but advocates dialogue with Russia.

The report says “Macron said the West’s policy of defiance toward Russia in recent years had failed and, as nobody wanted to confront Moscow directly, the only option was to have a closer dialogue to resolve differences.”

U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper spoke immediately after Pompeo and focused his remarks on accusing China through his lies about China’s telecommunications firm Huawei.

However, Britain has said that it would allow Huawei a limited role in building its 5G network while the EU would not ban Huawei. Pompeo and Esper’s speeches merely proved that there is no US leadership even in the West, let alone world leadership.

Comment by Chan Kai Yee on Reuters’ report, full text of which can be viewed at https://www.reuters.com/article/us-germany-security/the-west-is-winning-u-s-tells-china-france-wary-idUSKBN20908M.


Global Companies, Brands Dare Not Support HK Protests


In its report “Factbox: Global firms take action after China criticism over Hong Kong protests” today Reuters gives a list of major global companies and brands that have taken actions to avoid hurting Chinese Mainlanders’ feelings over Hong Kong protests, including Apple, Nike, Vans, Tiffany, Activision Blizzard Inc. and Givenchy.

US Secretary of State Pompeo says in an interview ““I think American businesses are waking up to the risks inherent in compliance with the Chinese government’s rules”

However, the fact is that it has nothing to do with Chinese government’s rules. It concerns Chinese Mainlanders’ attitude towards Hong Kong protesters’ xenophobia against Chinese Mainlanders. Mainlanders in Hong Kong have been beaten up by the protesters indiscriminatedly simply because they have spoken Mandarin.

Protesters’ hatred of Mainlanders have grown now to the extent of smashing Mainland banks and companies including private ones.

Mainland Chinese media have not shown on TV what Hongkong people have seen on TV screen of protesters beating up Mainlanders and smashing Mainland firms. I think that Mainland government is good in avoiding doing so to upset Mainland Chinese people. Otherwise you may probably see Mainlanders smashing the firms whether Chinese or foreign ones that support Hong Kong protesters.

Hong Kong protesters’ hatred may have been provoked by some people who want to sow discord between Hongkongers and Mainlanders. That is not a big issue as Hong Kong is but small compared with the vast size and huge population of Mainland China. Pompeo, however, has obviously been trying to sow discord between Chinese and American peoples in distorting the Hong Kong issue and putting groundless accusation on Chinese government. He probably forgets that Chinese and American are the two largest and most powerful peoples in the world. Enmity between them may give rise to lots of trouble and even wars between them.

What does he want? Does he want to turn the peoples of the two countries into dead enemies?

Comment by Chan Kai Yee on Reuters’ report, full text of which can be viewed at https://www.reuters.com/article/us-hongkong-protests-factbox/factbox-global-firms-take-action-after-china-criticism-over-hong-kong-protests-idUSKBN1WP2EW.


Failure of Pompeo’s Intervention with South China Sea Disputes


China’s survey ship Haiyang Dizhi 8 conducted geological survey in July in the disputed waters in the South China Sea that claimed by both China and Vietnam. Vietnam protested but China simply ignored that. I described it in my post “ Vietnam Merely Watched China’s Survey in Disputed Waters” on July 15.

On August 1, Reuters says in its report “Pompeo blasts Chinese ‘coercion’ in South China Sea”, “U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Thursday criticized Chinese ‘coercion’ in the disputed South China Sea, highlighting a divide with Beijing at a meeting of Southeast Asian nations with world powers. “

China’s survey ship left the disputed area on August 7 and gave the impresion that Pompeo’s intervention worked.

However, Reuters says in its report “Vietnam demands Chinese ship leaves its exclusive economic zone” on August 16 that the survey ship has returned to the disputed area.

Pompeo’s intervention has simply been ignored.

Comment by Chan Kai Yee on Reuters reports full text of which can be viewed at https://www.reuters.com/article/us-asean-thailand-pompeo/pompeo-blasts-chinese-coercion-in-south-china-sea-idUSKCN1UR4D2 and https://www.reuters.com/article/us-vietnam-china-southchinasea/vietnam-demands-chinese-ship-leaves-its-exclusive-economic-zone-idUSKCN1V61CO


Nearly 100 scholars, religious leaders in Xinjiang refute Pompeo with joint letter


Source:Tianshannet Published: 2019/7/19 23:11:02

Editor’s Note:

Nearly 100 Xinjiang scholars and representatives from religious groups in Northwest China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region released a signed letter on Friday to express their anger over US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s recent criticism of China’s policies in the region.

People who signed the letter include writers, professors and representatives of religious groups. Among them was Abudurekfu Tumunyzi, head of the Xinjiang Islamic Association.

They signed the letter in standard Chinese and the language of their ethnic groups.

Residents and visitors dance happily in China’s Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. Photo: Cui Meng/GT

Screenshot of the joint letter by nearly 100 Xinjiang scholars and religious leaders to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo

Mr. Mike Pompeo,

Recently, we have noted that you have made a number of remarks about China, including false accusations against the ethnic, religious and human rights situations in Xinjiang. As scholars and religious personnel in Xinjiang, we deeply deplore your irresponsible and erroneous remarks.

For a period of time in the past, the rampant spread of extremism and frequent outbreak of terrorist attacks in Xinjiang had caused severe damages to the safety and property of people of all ethnic groups there. At the time, just like what happened after the 911 terrorist attacks in 2001 in Manhattan, New York, people in Xinjiang were living in stress and terror everyday. In response to the strong calls of people of all ethnic groups for combating violent terrorist crimes, Xinjiang has combined crackdown on terrorism with preventive measures. Vigorous efforts have been made to fight violent terrorist crimes in accordance with the law. At the same time, to address the problem at its source, vocational education and training centers have been established in accordance with the law to educate and rehabilitate law-breakers and those who have committed minor crimes, so as to eliminate the influence of terrorism and extremism on them and nip terrorist activities in the bud. Now, Xinjiang enjoys social stability. No violent terrorist attacks have occurred in the past three years, and people have a much greater sense of security, fulfillment and happiness. In 2018 alone, the number of tourists to Xinjiang exceeded 150 million, among which 2.4 million were inbound tourists. Tourists from home and abroad speak highly of Xinjiang’s economic and social achievements, saying that Xinjiang is not only beautiful but also safe and secure.

Your claim that the persecution camps in Xinjiang detain more than one million Muslim minorities is incomprehensible. We have made multiple visits to several centers. We saw with our own eyes the trainees learning the country’s common language and legal knowledge and taking various vocational training courses on skills such as clothes processing, food processing and hairdressing in bright and spacious teaching building. Besides, they are served with rich dishes in clean and tidy canteens, living in dormitory quarters equipped with TV, air conditioning and shower facilities, and enjoying colorful cultural lives on the sport courts or in the libraries. The trainees can have home visits each week and also can ask for leave to attend to private affairs. Their personal freedom is fully guaranteed. Many of them are now aware of the true nature and harm of the extremist religious thoughts. They hate the atrocities committed by the “three forces”, appreciate the education and redemption measures taken by the Party and government and feel fortunate for not falling victim to the violent terrorist activities. Many of them have found suitable jobs, putting the vocational skills they acquired in the training centers into good use. They get paid and can provide a good life for their family.

You said that Xinjiang is butchering systematically the Uyghur culture, but where is your evidence? The constitution of the People’s Republic of China stipulates that the state protects the lawful rights and interests of every ethnic group, and helps ethnic minority regions achieve a faster pace of economic and cultural development. Xinjiang has put a lot of efforts into the protection, inheritance and promotion of each ethnic minority’s culture. Courses on ethnic minority languages are provided by all the schools under the compulsory education system. Roza and Qurban are designated as statutory festivals, and Meshrep, Twelve Muqams, and Qumuz Sing & Instrumental play have been widely disseminated. Xinjiang Radio and Television Station broadcasts in five languages, namely Mandarin, Uyghur, Kazak, Qirghiz and Mongolian, Xinjiang Daily is published in four languages of Mandarin, Uyghur, Kazak and Mongolian, and the numbers of newspapers and journals published in ethnic minority languages across Xinjiang have reached 51 and 116 respectively. The ever increasing cultural needs of people of all ethnic groups have been met.

Your claims that Xinjiang is terminating Islamic beliefs and that Chinese government severely persecutes believers of various religions are not based on facts at all. It is a longstanding basic policy of the Chinese government to respect and protect the freedom of religious belief. Xinjiang has never associated the crackdown on terrorism and extremism with any specific ethnic group or religion. The local government of Xinjiang protects the normal religious activities and fulfills the reasonable religious demands of believers in accordance with the law. In Xinjiang, there are 24,400 mosques and 29,000 religious clerics. There are 10 religious colleges including the Xinjiang Islamic Institute, enrolling more than 1,300 students annually. In Xinjiang, for every 530 Muslims there is one mosque, a figure that exceeds many Muslim countries. In recent years, the local government in Xinjiang has greatly improved the basic conditions of the mosques, which now come with water, electricity, access to roads, natural gas, telecommunications, radio, television, library and pre-worship cleansing facilities. Those efforts have been praised by religious personnel and Muslims.

Your claim that China has stepped up mass surveillance in Xinjiang is even more absurd. Installing surveillance facilities in public areas is a common practice adopted by countries around the world to maintain public security. In the US, surveillance cameras are installed in both big and small cities, and in its 20 big airports, travelers are even asked to pass through facial recognition scanners. So why are the surveillance devices in Xinjiang regarded as “surveillance”? This is utterly double standards!

We urge the US to view the ethnic, religious and human rights situations in Xinjiang in an unbiased and objective way, immediately stop fabricating lies and slanders about Xinjiang, and immediately stop using Xinjiang-related issues to interfere in China’s internal affairs.

Source: Global Times “ Nearly 100 scholars, religious leaders in Xinjiang refute Pompeo with joint letter”

Note: This is Global Times’ report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.


Pompeo’s scare-mongering falls flat


By Zhang Zhouxiang |China Daily |Updated: 2019-06-12 07:36

At a news conference on Sunday, Geng Shuang, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, criticized US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for making false claims about Chinese telecommunications enterprise Huawei. China Daily writer Zhang Zhouxiang comments:

One remark by Geng in particular created a buzz online. He said that Huawei had obtained 46 commercial contracts for 5G networks in 30 countries worldwide by June 6, and some of the countries are allies of the United States, despite Pompeo working hard to persuade them not to use Huawei products.

Anybody with a normal mind will find it hard to understand why the world’s only superpower is so afraid of a private enterprise from China that it is intent on persuading its allies to cut all business ties with the company.

Business is business, and in business there should only be commercial factors to consider. When any country, be it in Europe or anywhere else in this world, needs 5G services, all it wants are good products, good services and good prices.

Huawei offers all these. According to a report by IPlytics, a patent big data company based in Berlin, four Chinese companies own 36 percent of the world’s patents necessary for 5G standards; Huawei alone has 1,554 of them.

If European countries blindly exclude Huawei from their purchasing lists as the US requires, they would have to spend an extra 428.7 billion yuan ($61.9 billion) building their 5G networks.

Therefore, it is natural for European countries to choose Chinese companies for the construction of their 5G networks. Actually, Huawei is popular among US companies and US consumers, too. Just as Nicholas Negroponte, founder of MIT Media Lab, said in an open letter in May, by banning Huawei, US authorities will force US consumers to choose not-so-good services with higher prices.

Especially, many small telecom companies use Huawei devices in their 5G networks, and if Huawei is banned, they might not be able to benefit from the new technology. US farmers need 5G networks to analyze data of their crops, while US small businesses need them to analyze and decide their purchasing lists.

It is time the US authorities reconsidered their choice: Will they choose being connected, or being out of date simply because of their prejudice against a Chinese company?

Source: China Daily “Pompeo’s scare-mongering falls flat”

Note: This is China Daily’s article I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the article’s views.


US sanctions threaten to sink China at sea


Bipartisan bill if passed will severely sanction a long list of Chinese entities and individuals involved in Beijing’s expansion and militarization in the South China Sea

By Richard Javad Heydarian, Manila

While the US Navy ramps up patrols near China’s claimed features in the contested South China Sea, American legislators are upping the ante with proposed sanctions on Chinese entities involved in Beijing’s expansionist militarization of the contested maritime area.

In a rare bipartisan move, US Republican Senators Marco Rubio and Tom Cotton along with Democratic Senator Ben Cardin last week formally re-introduced the South China Sea and East China Sea Sanctions Act, a punitive measure that aims to target Chinese individuals and companies.

The bill’s provocative language, which refers to China’s “illegitimate activities” to “aggressively assert its expansive” claims in the hotly contested sea, is certain to provoke a response from Beijing at a time bilateral tensions are already on a boil. It could also escalate trade tensions if top Chinese companies are targeted with South China Sea-related sanctions.

Significantly, the sanctions bill takes the legal high ground, saying that the US “opposes actions by the government of any country to interfere in the free use of waters and airspace in the South China Sea or East China Sea” while saying China should stop pursuing “illegitimate claims and to militarize an area that is essential to global security”

It also calls on the US government broadly to “expand freedom of navigation operations and overflights and respond to Chinese provocations with commensurate actions.” Many in the region believe that China is on the verge of declaring an Aerial Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ), a move that would give it de facto control over the sea.

The US aims to forestall any move in that direction. Earlier this month, a US Navy guided-missile destroyer deployed near the Scarborough Shoal, a sea feature occupied by China since 2012 but claimed by the Philippines as part of its exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

The freedom of navigation operation came against the backdrop of joint US-Philippine coast guard exercises held earlier this month near the shoal, representing the two sides’ first ever search-and-rescue exercise near the China-controlled feature.

China claims nearly 90% of the South China Sea through its so-called “nine-dash line” map and has consistently maintained that America’s freedom of navigation operations in the area are illegal and a violation of its sovereignty.

China has territorial disputes with the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan, Vietnam and Indonesia in the highly trafficked waterway.

First mooted in early 2017, the revived sanctions bill “requires the President to impose entry and US-based property sanctions” on “any Chinese person that contributes to construction or development projects” or “engaged in actions or policies that threaten peace and stability” in the South China Sea.

Given China’s holistic approach to the South China Sea disputes, whereby all relevant government and military as well as para-military agencies are involved in pushing its ever-expanding claims, the sanctions could extend beyond state-owned and influenced companies to target the People’s Liberation Army as well as local government units.

The bill includes an initial list of 25 Chinese companies that could be sanctioned under its provisions. They include CCCC Dredging Group, a subsidiary of the state-owned China Communications Construction Company that has been instrumental in artificial island-building in contested areas of the sea.

Other major Chinese companies mentioned include China Petroleum Group (Sinopec), China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC), China Mobile, China Telecom, and China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation (CASIC). If sanctioned, they would all be barred from US-based or owned financial institutions, a potential blow major blow for the globally oriented firms.

Moreover, the sanctions could ultimately target no less than Chinese President Xi Jinping, who has personally overseen the country’s massive reclamation and militarization activities in the South China Sea. Some analysts see the bill as a potential diplomatic “nuclear option” against China as trade negotiations falter.

If passed, which seems increasingly possible as bipartisan support for confronting China coalesces, the sanctions will for the first time put America’s military might behind the claims of regional allies and strategic partners pitted against China in the sea.

The sanctions would also effectively nix America’s longstanding formal “neutrality” on the status of the disputed territories and resources in China’s adjacent waters, particularly in the South China Sea.

The Trump administration’s hardening stance in trade talks has gone hand-in-hand with a lesser noticed tougher defense policy against China, a strategic shift that could likewise soon require regional countries to take sides between the two superpowers.

This week, US Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan is expected to announce a new Indo-Pacific Strategy at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, the world’s premiere gathering of defense officials and experts.

The new strategy is expected to contain new military, diplomatic and economic measures to deter and punish China’s maritime expansionism in adjacent waters.

It will also likely call on regional allies and likeminded partners to conduct more FONOPS and related operations in the area; step up defense aid to China’s rival claimant states such as the Philippines and Taiwan; and encourage expanded and increasingly coordinated naval exercises and other military cooperation in China’s adjacent waters.

The sanctions bill, some suggest, could be designed specifically to complement that soon-to-be-unveiled Asian security strategy. At the very least, Trump’s China hawks can dangle the possibility of sanctions to press Beijing into more acquiescence in the South China Sea.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who would be charged with reporting to Congress on which entities should be targeted under the sanctions, has expressed confidence in the utility of a maximum pressure strategy against China .

“I haven’t met anyone in Asia that believes there was a pivot from the previous administration,” Pompeo said in reference to Barack Obama’s “pivot” to Asia policy, which committed to deploy 60% of America’s naval assets to the theater, in a late May interview.

“But today they can see we are more engaged. We’re there. We’re not only attending meetings but we’re acting. We’re active. Our military is active,” America’s top diplomat said.

Source: Asia Times “US sanctions threaten to sink China at sea”

Note: This is Asia Times’ report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.


Explainer: Venezuela crisis puts Trump policy to the test


Matt Spetalnick May 2, 2019

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Trump administration faces a critical test of its Venezuela policy as opposition leader Juan Guaido, bolstered by vocal U.S. support, pressures the country’s military to abandon socialist President Nicolas Maduro and mounts mass protests to force him out.

In its biggest political and diplomatic intervention in Latin America in years, the U.S. government has rolled out waves of punitive measures against Venezuela, including several rounds of sanctions on its leadership, vital oil sector and banks.

With fewer levers left to pull and protests apparently petering out on Wednesday, President Donald Trump could suffer a setback if Guaido’s latest push fails to ignite a broader uprising against Maduro. Here are Trump’s challenges and remaining options:

GETTING THE MILITARY TO TURN

U.S. officials appeared to have been overly optimistic about quickly sparking a military revolt against Maduro after Washington recognized Guaido as interim president in January. Maduro seems to have retained the loyalty of most officers.

Hawkish national security adviser John Bolton and other Trump aides chafed on Tuesday over what they said was the failure of three senior Maduro loyalists who purportedly had negotiated with the opposition to change sides but then reneged.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Maduro had been expected to flee the country on Tuesday but Russia convinced him to stay. The Kremlin denied this.

Strong doubts remain whether Guaido’s offer of amnesty and U.S. promises to lift sanctions will be enough to spur the military to abandon Maduro in large numbers.

TIGHTENING FINANCIAL NOOSE

The Trump administration has relied more than anything else on sanctions to put bite in its anti-Maduro policy. The sanctions are aimed at choking off cash flow to his government – and more measures are coming, say U.S. officials.

While some of the toughest steps have already been taken, the administration could add to its list of blacklisted Venezuelan banks, companies and individuals – though it is unclear whether this will have significant impact.

It could also act against remaining foreign partners of state oil company PDVSA, using “secondary” sanctions of the type Washington has threatened against foreign companies doing business with Iran.

Potential targets are Spanish oil company Repsol, Russian state oil major Rosneft and India’s Reliance Industries. Such moves, however, would anger their governments.

U.S. MILITARY OPTIONS

Trump and his aides have repeatedly said military options are on the table. But there is deep skepticism whether the president, who is trying to extract the United States from Syria and Afghanistan, is ready for a new foreign conflict.

The Pentagon on Wednesday appeared to downplay any active preparations for military action in Venezuela, but acknowledged detailed contingency planning. Just hours earlier, Pompeo said the United States was prepared to act militarily “if that’s what’s required.”

But U.S. officials continued to emphasize diplomatic and economic pressure as the best way to help oust Maduro.

PRESSURING RUSSIA AND CUBA

The Trump administration has become increasingly critical of Russia and Cuba, accusing them of propping up their staunch ally Maduro. But neither Moscow nor Havana are heeding U.S. warnings.

Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido, who many nations have recognised as the country’s rightful interim ruler, speaks to supporters during a rally against the government of Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro and to commemorate May Day in Caracas Venezuela, May 1, 2019. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

Pompeo, in a phone call with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Tuesday, said intervention by Russia is “destabilizing” for U.S.-Russia relations.

Lavrov told Pompeo further “aggressive steps” in Venezuela would be fraught with the gravest consequences, the Russian foreign ministry said.

Russia, which has supplied Venezuela with weapons and loans and recently sent in about a hundred military personnel, says the United States is trying to encourage a coup.

Trump on Tuesday threatened a “full and complete embargo” on Cuba if its Communist leadership did not withdraw security backing for Maduro.

U.S. officials have said Cuba has 20,000 to 25,000 military and intelligence personnel in Venezuela. Cuba has repeatedly denied it has troops in the country.

LOOKING TO 2020 ELECTION

Trump’s handling of Venezuela is one of the few foreign policy initiatives that has won bipartisan support, and what happens in coming months could also have implications for his 2020 re-election bid.

His toughened stance on Cuba and Venezuela has gone down well among Cuban Americans in south Florida, an important voting bloc in a political swing state seen as crucial to his chances of retaining the White House.

However, if Maduro is still firmly in power, it will be hard for Trump to tout Venezuela as a foreign policy success.

Reporting by Matt Spetalnick, Roberta Rampton, Phil Stewart, Idrees Ali, Lesley Wroughton; Writing by Matt Spetalnick; Editing by Mary Milliken and Rosalba O’Brien

Source: Reuters “Explainer: Venezuela crisis puts Trump policy to the test”

Note: This is Reuters’ article I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the article’s views


New Silk Road: US is pushing a false narrative


By George Koo

Mike Pompeo, America’s globetrotting secretary of state, has been meeting with leaders in Africa and Latin America to warn them of China’s Silk Road-styled Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Watch out for predatory financing and debt traps, he tells them.

Close to 40 heads of state attended the just-concluded second Belt and Road Forum. As Asia Times reported, the “BRI is now supported by no less than 126 states and territories, plus a host of international organizations (including the World Bank and the IMF) – way bigger, diversified and more representative than the G20.”

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan gave the keynote address at the forum. He spoke of Pakistan’s longstanding friendship with China and the benefits of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). He said he was proud that the CPEC, the economic impact of which is already proving to be a “blessing” for Pakistan, was one of the first major BRI projects.

Khan noted that China has lifted more than 800 million people out of poverty and can help Pakistan do the same. With young people making up half of Pakistan’s population, Khan looked forward to Pakistani people learning and benefiting from China’s technological advances so as to maximize his country’s potential.

Khan concluded his remarks by proposing five initiatives: plant billions of trees to combat climate change, develop tourism to promote people to people exchanges and cultural understanding, establish an office dedicated to combatting corruption, learn from China how to fight poverty, and move to further liberalize world trade.

He pledged that Pakistan will work with China and fellow members of the BRI for a common future full of hope and happiness. The BRI is obviously no mirage to Khan, nor is it to President Vladimir Putin of Russia and Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, among other leaders that also attended the Forum.

In contrast to Khan’s vision of a common future, what could Pompeo possibly have said to convince heads of state in the developing world that their future lies with the US and not with the BRI?

World’s loan shark?

Professor Deborah Braütigam of Johns Hopkins published a timely op-ed, Is China the World’s Loan Shark?, in The New York Times to coincide with the Belt Road Forum in Beijing. She is a leading authority on and monitor of China’s investments in Africa.

Despite the provocative title, her analysis did not identify debt traps in Africa. She found that China’s financing in Africa was within IMF debt-ceiling guidelines for those countries. In fact, she concluded that “the idea that the Chinese government is doling out debt strategically, for its benefit, isn’t supported by the facts.”

Sri Lanka’s Hambantota port development, frequently cited by western media as the epitome of China’s capricious design to exploit the developing world, was specifically examined by Braütigam and she dismissed the accusation.

Sri Lanka’s Hambantota port development, frequently cited by western media as the epitome of China’s capricious design to exploit the developing world, was specifically examined by Braütigam and she dismissed the accusation

Because of its strategic geographical location, Hambantota has long been regarded by many international experts as having the potential to become another Singapore by providing services to shipping traffic from the Middle East to Asia. Therefore, there has always been an economic justification for the project.

Sri Lanka asked for international assistance but only China agreed to help. After the port was built, revenue failed to materialize to service the debt due to internal political infighting that prevented the full implementation of a working harbor.

China had to take possession to relieve the debt load. Even so, the debt owed to China amounted to only 10% of Sri Lanka’s total national debt – hardly enough to qualify as a debt trap.

The major gap in US-China relations is the difference between the reality on the ground and the distortion and fabrication by western media and political leaders. Secretary Pompeo is an example of a progenitor of such a gap.

Pompeo’s glorious experiment

On Pompeo’s return from Latin America, the former CIA director stopped to talk to students at Texas A&M. Boasting about his time with the intelligence agency, he said, “We lie, we cheat, we steal.” He said its entire training course “reminds you of the glory of the American experiment.”

No wonder North Korea’s Kim Jong-un does not want anything to do with this American diplomat.

Lying, cheating Pompeo is simply an extension of his boss, President Donald Trump. Trump considers veracity a sucker’s play, truth inconvenient and facts just another version of fake news.

Thus, all of American’s positions on China, whether on Huawei, 5G, artificial intelligence, IP theft, cyber hacking or any other accusations, appear suspect upon close examination. No one can tell fact from fiction when it is coming from Washington.

Gradually and steadily, the rest of the world, even America’s closest allies, are wary of Trump’s single-minded “America first” and to hell with everything else style of international diplomacy. Unlike collaboration for mutual benefit from the BRI, dealing with the US is all one way for Trump’s benefit.

The 21 Democratic presidential hopefuls that aim to replace Trump must recognize that continuing to treat China as the next great adversary does nothing to enhance US national security.

Someone with wisdom and courage needs to step forward and admit that former US president Barack Obama made a mistake when he kept his country from joining the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and that we are continuing to multiply our mistake by not being part of the BRI.

The winning Democratic nominee should listen to former US president Jimmy Carter, who said, “We have wasted $3 trillion on defense spending. If we divert $1 trillion into infrastructure, we’d have a high-speed railroad, we’d have bridges that aren’t collapsing and we’d have roads maintained properly and our education system would be as good as that of, say, South Korea and Hong Kong.”

America desperately needs a leader to define and seek a win-win solution in relations with China and reverse the trend toward a disastrous outcome where everyone loses.

Source: Asia Times “New Silk Road: US is pushing a false narrative”

Note: This is Asia Times’ article I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.