A region evolves with rising China


South-East Asia’s complex big power relations demand careful and considered understanding, where frequent complications and familiar gut reactions do not help.

WHEN countries have difficulty relating to a rising China, part of the problem lies in not understanding where China is heading and not knowing what it will become.

The sheer scale of China’s development and the weight of its trajectory mean that the impact of its rise on the rest of Asia and the world is bound to be considerable and profound.

As a frame of reference, the future of today’s China is often seen in the context of its past: a “Middle Kingdom” entity, the heart of an Asian tributary system, a regional superpower with global pretensions whose once closed-door policy is opening to the world.

Yet none of these references fits because modern China’s pace of change is as rapid as it is vast. Not only is it a post-Deng China, it is now into the fourth- and fifth-generation leadership of post-Dengist society.

A sense of a likely future China may then be deduced through elimination, by discarding what it is unlikely to be.

These include a communist superpower, a nation shaped by a distinct ideology, and one led by a powerful charismatic individual. But what of those things, admittedly few, that it will still be?

One of these is rule by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), particularly since single party rule continues to be a central bastion of the status quo. Yet even this requires qualification, if not some revision, and is already subject to much speculation.

The CCP has had to undergo some redefinition as circumstances evolve. The state socialism it championed underwent a social(ist) market phase to emerge as state capitalism.

Ideology continues to be diluted as dogma fritters away. Conservatives and reformists both within and outside China agree the trend is irreversible if not also inevitable.

Just about the only thing that a future China is still certain to be is a unitary state. But even this has to be qualified again.

What is now regarded as Greater China – the People’s Republic of China on the mainland, Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan – are unlikely to be fused into one singularly cohesive whole anytime soon.

Yet they are moving together towards a unitary economy, the basis of the modern nation state. Such a trend is beyond the protestations of democrats and the comprehension of many strategists.

At the same time, provinces are slowly moving towards greater autonomy in economic matters, including in dealings with neighbouring countries. A country as large as China cannot endure too long under strict centralised rule.

And China has endured longer than all others, with the country now into its fifth millennium of continued statehood. These trends and movements take time and may seem imperceptible for other countries, but they are par for the course with China’s enormous timelines.

For decades now, Chinese authorities have also introduced elections at local levels with invited inputs from the Carter Center. Voting has been practised in village and provincial levels, and despite occasional fits and starts the trend is towards a controlled political opening with assured stability.

All of this contributes to the near-incomprehension of today’s China on the part of external observers. A survey of their attitudes, assumptions and responses in any given week attests to this reality.

Questions of whether China (meaning Beijing) can ever govern Taiwan, or even understand Hong Kong, are typical. The real risk of observers not seeing the wood for the trees is ever-present.

A debate of sorts has emerged over China’s likely reaction to a possible win by Taiwan’s Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) in next January’s election. Pessimists who fret over their own cynical pronouncements fail to realise that China is playing for bigger stakes than petty party feuding.

China’s interest in Taipei is Taiwan, not necessarily a Kuomintang (KMT) Taiwan. A lately declining KMT under President Ma Ying-jou has sufficiently energised pragmatists in Beijing to be diplomatic towards the DPP.

Another perennial issue is the presumed rivalry between the US and China. Although competition exists between them, they have more in common than at variance for now and the foreseeable future.

Their shared interests include international security and a single global economy in which both hold the largest stakes. Rivalry in these core areas compromises the interests of both without enlarging opportunities for either.

An understanding of that basic reality is shared between US and Chinese leaders, but apparently not by Japanese ones. The Abe administration is still stuck between old wartime anxieties and proudly snubbing Beijing.

However, China should also not expect anything but Abe’s cancellation of a visit on Sept 3. The occasion, with Western leaders absent, is being presented by some in China as celebrating its victory over Japan.

China: Military parade not aimed at any country

China says its upcoming September 3rd military parade is part of commemorations for the 70th anniversary of its victory in the war of resistance against Japanese aggression, and is not specifically aimed at any country.http://t.cn/RyzoMBy

Nonetheless, the Abe government remains an activist one in provoking competition with China over military issues. Its White Paper released last month inflates China’s maritime military capabilities and even conflicts with US calculations.

Besides the US, Taiwan and Japan, the other barometer of China’s rise as seen through its foreign relations is Asean.

China regards Asean wariness of its territorial assertiveness as limited and negotiable, since not all member countries have rival claims to offshore territory. But Beijing may seriously be underestimating Asean’s sense of solidarity, given not just Asean’s community-building agenda but also its common resolve to develop community cohesiveness.

The established links between China and Asean’s newer CLMV members (Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Vietnam) are both limited and fraying in places. Beijing needs to rebuild trust and good faith within Asean as much as in North-East Asia.

China has thus emphasised multi-level, multi-sectoral joint ventures both bilaterally and collectively. Its proposals for a Maritime Silk Road and a One Belt, One Road link to Europe are backed by the China-Asean Maritime Cooperation Fund, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, the New Development (Brics) Bank and China’s own solvency.

On the ground however, Asean collectively seeks enlarged trade volumes with China. However, China’s currency devaluations and the subsequent jolts to regional currencies compromise these goals.

With Indonesia, China is extending cooperation in fighting drug trafficking as Jakarta favours using the yuan for bilateral trade. With Malaysia, China is building linkages in education and industrial development.

Thailand’s post-coup government is seen as leaning towards China, thanks in part to a US snub. Now Thai-Chinese ties are growing over purchases of stockpiled Thai rice and even the prospect of a Kra Isthmus canal.

China’s relations with Vietnam and more so the Philippines will require more time and work. Ironically, Unctad trade data identifies the Philippine economy as the biggest regional beneficiary of China’s rise.

Beijing’s ties with the other Asean countries may be less complicated but still require attention and constant tending. Its record of fully understanding Asean is not impressive.

Overall, Beijing’s relations with Asean and its member nations are economic, diplomatic and socio-cultural, without political interference in their domestic matters. This contrasts with Washington’s largely military posturing and its political pressures on issues of democracy and human rights.

China’s impact on this region is likely to remain non-political and non-military – differing from US interaction. This asymmetry makes up much of South-East Asia’s strategic status quo.

Whether and how it will endure, and whether it deserves to remain, still have to be seen.

By Bunn Nagara Behind the Headlines

Bunn Nagara is a Senior Fellow at the Institute of Strategic and International Studies (ISIS) Malaysia.

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Sorry is the hardest word for Abe


Abe

The news that the “draft of Abe’s statement contains an ‘apology'” made the headlines all day on Japanese broadcaster NHK on Monday. According to the report, the statement to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Friday will also include key expressions used in the 1995 statement by then-prime minister Tomiichi Murayama, including “apology,” “deep remorse,” “aggression” and “colonial rule.” This is so far the first report released saying that Abe’s speech will cover this positive content.

Yet over the past few days, a number of Japanese media have been quoting a variety of inside information saying that Abe’s remarks will not include terms like “apology.” As the day that marks Japan’s defeat in WWII approaches, how Abe will talk about it has been placed under global public scrutiny.

Abe’s statement will reflect the future path of the country. If he only reflects on the wartime past but tries to blur the nature of the war by refusing to apologize, or avoiding mention of “aggression,” the nation will face serious doubts over whether it is planning to ditch peaceful development, and means to reshape the political and historical pattern that formed after the war.

Abe has always been beating about the bush, trying to lower the world’s anticipation of him echoing the spirit of the Murayama Statement. Not long ago, his cabinet voted through revisions of the country’s security rules, which has triggered quite a few domestic protests. His domestic support rate has tumbled sharply, causing him unprecedented pressure since he assumed office as prime minister for the second time.

Abe might compromise, and add those key words from the 1995 Statement. Yet this is not as certain as a compromise to political pressure, rather than his own moral and political responsibility. His historical revisionism is known by all, and opportunism is universally considered as his main principle to adjust strategies over historical issues. Hence, there is a good chance that he may rewrite his statement draft at the last minute.

Accordingly, instead of the real historical recognition by Abe’s administration, the speech will more likely mirror Abe’s scheming and calculating among all the pros and cons in the power structure of the Asia-Pacific region.

Even so, a statement that can be accepted by the international community is still worth welcoming.

Abe’s political logic is weird. He should realize that the US is Japan’s biggest obstacle on the path toward becoming a “normal state.” But he won’t let go of the rivalry with China. Some suspect that Tokyo is eager to stay in the good graces of Washington, letting its guard down and seeking a chance to get rid of its control. However, Japan is unable to make that work.

Abe will find that his ability falls short of his wishes over his strategy in the Western Pacific. We hope he will make the right choice for his statement, whatever the reasons. And history will judge him fairly.

– Global Times

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MH370 Debris found in Reunion may give clues on when plane part broke


The pilots of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 are Forst Officer Gambar Fariq Abdul Hamid, left, and Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah at right.

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malaysia flight 370 all lives lost mg orig_00010727.jpg

mh370 victim families lklv ripley _00005216.jpg

Video: http://edition.cnn.com/2015/07/30/world/mh370-debris-investigation/  

Saint-Denis, Reunion Island (CNN)When investigators get an in-peA policeman and a gendarme stand next to a piece of debris from an unidentified aircraft found in the coastal area of Saint-Andre de la Reunion, in the east of the French Indian Ocean island of La Reunion, on July 29, 2015. The two-metre-long debris, which appears to be a piece of a wing, was found by employees of an association cleaning the area and handed over to the air transport brigade of the French gendarmerie (BGTA), who have opened an investigation. An air safety expert did not exclude it could be a part of the Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, which went missing in the Indian Ocean on March 8, 2014. AFP PHOTO / YANNICK PITONYANNICK PITON/AFP/Getty Imagesrson view of a wingcomponent that likely came from a Boeing 777, they’ll be looking for not only a serial number but cluesas to why the part broke off the Boeing 777.

Story highlights

  • Independent group says damage appears to indicate flaperon came off while plane was in air
  • Plane debris will be sent to investigators in France on Friday, official in Paris tells CNN
  • Investigators confident debris found on an Indian Ocean island comes from a 777 aircraft
One group of independent observers said Thursday that the damage to the component — a right wing flaperon — should give authorities a good indication that the piece came off while the plane was still in the air.
The group, led by American Mobile Satellite Corp. co-founder Mike Exner, points to the small amount of damage to the front of the flaperon and the ragged horizontal tear across the back.
The rear damage could have been caused if the airliner had its flaperon down as it went into the ocean, some members of Exner’s group wrote in a preliminary assessment after looking at photos and videos of the component.
But the lack of damage to the front makes it more likely the plane was in a high-speed, steep, spiral descent and the part fluttered until it broke off, the group said.
Boeing and Australian officials are confident the debris — found Wednesday off the coast of a remote island in the west Indian Ocean — came from a Boeing 777 — and might be from Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, a 777 that disappeared in March 2014 with 239 people on board.
The plane debris will be transported to France on Friday evening, a spokeswoman for the Paris prosecutor’s office said. Agnes Thibault-Lecuivre said the piece will arrive in Paris on Saturday and will be sent to Toulouse, the site of the nearest office of the BEA, the French authority responsible for civil aviation accident investigations.
Exner’s group — an informal cadre of aviation experts — said that if the flaperon were still on the wing when the plane hit water, the front would have been damaged by hitting the part of the wing to which it was attached. And the rear damage looks like it was caused by stress rather than being bent and broken off when the plane hit the water.
But an aircraft component specialist who spoke to CNN disagreed.
The lack of damage to the front section “tells me that the component could still have likely been back in its original position inside the wing itself,” said Michael Kenney, senior vice president of Universal Asset Management, which provides plane components to airlines.

‘Highly confident’ component from Boeing 777

Boeing investigators are confident that debris found on a remote island in the Indian Ocean comes from a 777 aircraft, according to a source close to the investigation.
Martin Dolan, chief commissioner of the Australian Transport Safety Bureau, agreed.
“We are highly confident but it still needs confirmation that it is a part from a 777 aircraft,” he told CNN’s “Erin Burnett OutFront.” “The only 777 aircraft that we’re aware of in the Indian Ocean that could have led to this part floating is MH370. But as I said, we still need to confirm that through closer study.”

EXPAND IMAGE
People cleaning a beach found the debris Wednesday on Reunion, a French overseas territory in the western Indian Ocean.
The source said Boeing investigators feel confident the piece comes from a 777 because of photos that have been analyzed and a stenciled number that corresponds to a 777 component. A component number is not the same as a part number, which is generally much longer.
Images of the debris also appear to match schematic drawings for the right wing flaperon from a Boeing 777. A flaperon helps the pilot control the aircraft. It is lightweight and has sealed chambers, making it buoyant.
Despite this confidence, no one is saying the part definitely comes from a 777, much less MH370.
Finding the debris is a “significant development” in the search for MH370, Australian Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss said.

More debris

New debris, which washed ashore Thursday and appears to resemble remnants of a suitcase, is also part of the investigation, Reunion Island police officials confirmed to CNN.
The flight vanished March 8, 2014, en route to Beijing. So far, no confirmed trace of it has been found, making it one of history’s biggest aviation mysteries and leaving relatives of passengers and crew members uncertain about the fate of their loved ones.
A preliminary assessment by U.S. intelligence agencies, produced in the wake of the MH370 disaster, suggested it was likely someone in the cockpit deliberately caused the aircraft’s movements before the Malaysian airliner disappeared.
Two U.S. officials briefed on the matter told CNN that the assessment, which was not intended for public release, was prepared months ago and was solely based on available satellite and other evidence.
The U.S. intelligence assessment was largely focused on the multiple course changes the aircraft made after it deviated from its scheduled Kuala Lumpur to Beijing route. Analysts determined that, absent any other evidence, it’s most likely someone in the cockpit deliberately moved the aircraft to specific waypoints, crossing Indonesian territory and eventually toward the south Indian Ocean.
Malaysian investigators haven’t reported finding any evidence that casts suspicion on the pilots.
The airliner’s crew has been the focus of attention since the mysterious disappearance, but no proof has emerged indicating they intended to destroy the plane. Law enforcement and intelligence agencies from numerous countries examined the plane’s manifest of crew and passengers and found no significant information to suggest anyone on board posed an obvious threat.

Missing plate

If it does turn out to be from Flight 370, the development would reassure Australian officials that they are looking for the rest of the plane in the right area, Truss and Dolan said.
Airplane debris found in western Indian Ocean

Airplane debris found in western Indian Ocean 02:27
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“It’s credible that debris from MH370 could have reached the Reunion Islands by now,” Truss said.
Malaysia Airlines is sending a team of investigators to Paris and a second team to Saint-Denis, Reunion, on Friday, an airline official in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, told CNN.
It’s unclear how identification will be made.
Normally identification would be aided by a small serial number plate attached to a flaperon, but the part found on the beach appears to be missing the serial number plate, according to photographs.

Other markings may be found on the part, said Kenney, the executive from Universal Asset Management.

Australia is leading the underwater search for the remains of Flight 370 in the southern Indian Ocean, some 2,300 nautical miles (3,700 kilometers) east of Reunion. But Truss said that French and Malaysian authorities will be responsible for establishing whether the debris found off the island came from the missing jetliner.

Australia has offered its help, he said, including asking marine experts to look at photos of the debris to determine whether barnacles on it are “consistent with something that was floating in the oceans for 16 months or more.”

Video: http://english.cntv.cn/2015/07/31/VIDE1438309202518257.shtml

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South China Sea Conflicts won’t affect Asean Cooperation


http://player.cntv.cn/standard/cntvOutSidePlayer.swf http://english.cntv.cn/2015/07/30/VIDE1438206483278724.shtml

Challenges we face are temporary

TIANJIN: China is confident that the conflicts at the South China Sea will not affect cooperation with Asean, says Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin.

He said China had been insisting on negotiation and consultation with the countries that also claim sovereignty in the disputed waters, and emphasising on working with Asean to uphold safety and freedom of navigation in the South China Sea.

“The challenges we are facing now are only temporary. There are broad prospects in the cooperation between China and Asean,” he said.

Liu was speaking to reporters together with Thai Foreign Ministry deputy permanent secretary Noppadon Theppitak after co-chairing the China-Asean senior officials’ meeting on the implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DoC) here.

China and several countries in South-East Asia, including Malaysia, Brunei, the Philippines and Vietnam, assert overlapping claims on the resource-rich South China Sea.

Disputes have erupted with the claimants blaming each other for building military and civil facilities on the contested reefs.

Anti-China riots broke out in Vietnam last year when China deployed an oil rig in a section of the South China Sea claimed by both countries.

The Philippines has sought international arbitration to resolve the dispute, a move criticised by China as a betrayal to the commitment to solve the issue through dialogue and negotiations.

As tension continued to flare over the disputed waters, China has openly warned Japan and the United States against meddling in the conflicts.

On Tuesday, China carried out a live-fire drill in the South China Sea to “improve its maritime combat ability”, Chinese national news agency Xinhua reported.

Citing navy sources, Xinhua said dozens of missiles and torpedoes, as well as thousands of shells and bombs, were fired during the drill.

Expressing confidence that the conflicts in the South China Sea were “manageable”, Liu said there was no need to worry.

Without naming any countries in particular, he reminded third parties not to intervene and condemn China on the issue.

“The South China Sea is not an issue between China and Asean, but China and some countries in the grouping.

“Over the years, through the formulation of the DoC and the efforts to draw up a Code of Conduct (CoC), China and Asean have worked together to maintain peace and stability as well as to uphold freedom and safety of navigation in the South China Sea.

“China is confident and determined to work with Asean to jointly manage the issue,” he said.

Meanwhile, Noppadon said China and Asean had agreed to begin a new phase of consultations on the CoC and work towards its early conclusion.

He added that Thailand would submit a draft possible outline of the CoC for the consideration of the next joint working group, which would meet in Chengdu, Sichuan province, in October.

The meeting yesterday also witnessed the agreement to establish hotline communications between the Asean and Chinese foreign ministries to respond to emergencies at sea.

Malaysia was represented by Wisma Putra secretary-general Datuk Othman Hashim and three other officers in the meeting.

When approached, Othman said the meeting was peaceful and constructive.

“We discussed extensively on what we have achieved so far, and what has to be done for the future.

“We are working together with other Asean members for the implementation of the DoC and the development of the CoC,” he said.

Malaysia, which is the chair of Asean this year, will host a series of meetings, including the Asean Foreign Ministers’ Meeting and Asean Plus Three Foreign Ministers Meeting, from Aug 1 to 6.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi has confirmed his attendance.

BY THO XIN YI The Star/Asia News Network

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Japan security bills, Abe fans anti-China flames with defense paper


By Li Feng

Abe fans anti-China flames with defense paper

People hold placards during a rally against Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s administration and his security-related legislation in front of the parliament building in Tokyo July 15, 2015. [Photo/Agencies]

The Japanese Cabinet on Tuesday approved its annual defense white paper, in which it accuses China of raising regional tensions in the East China Sea and South China Sea. China’s Ministry of Defense expressed strong dissatisfaction and opposition toward the 429-page document later the same day, saying it “tarnishes the image of China’s military” and deliberately plays up the “China threat” theory. Comments:

By defaming China as a regional security threat in its defense white paper, the Japanese administration led by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is clearly aiming to add necessity and legitimacy to the new security bills, which breach Japan’s pacifist Constitution, and complicate Asia-Pacific security issues such as the South China Sea disputes. It will be unfortunate for both Japan and East Asia if Abe remains adamant on challenging China.

Xinhua News Agency, July 21

Japan’s defense white paper for 2015 is not conducive to safeguarding peace and stability in East Asia. The so-called threat is not from China but Japan itself.

Kamakura Takao, an emeritus professor of Saitama University, Japan, July 21

Two new implications in Japan’s latest defense white paper should be noted. First, the document is in line with the new security bills that Abe is trying to muscle through, offering excuses for the country’s overseas military deployment. Second, as a non-stakeholder in the South China Sea issues, Tokyo may propose to participate in the US patrols in the area to expand its regional presence, and, of course, conduct more overseas military operations. It is a dangerous move that other regional powers should pay close attention to.

Qian Feng, vice-president of Asia Times, July 22

In the past, Japan used to see the Soviet Union and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea as the top threats. Now China has become the No 1 “threat”. Confronted with the “unexpected” opposition to his security bills in Japan, Abe has resorted to the defense white paper to defuse public rage and convince peace-loving Japanese that the bills’ passage is necessary.

Ny Huang Dahui, director of the East Asia Research Center of Renmin University of China, July 21

Source: Asia News Network/China Daily

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1MDB probe gains momentum, a sensitive time for PM and Umno


PETALING JAYA: The probe into claims that funds  were channelled into the personal accounts of Prime Minister Datuk Seri
Najib Tun Razak heated up when the task force investigating the matter froze six bank accounts and said it was looking into 17 others.The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) meanwhile revealed documents that it claimed were the basis of its controversial story.

The freeze on the six accounts was issued on Monday, according to a statement issued jointly by Attorney-General Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail, Bank Negara Malaysia governor Tan Sri Zeti Akhtar Aziz, Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar and Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission chief commissioner Tan Sri Abu Kassim
Mohamed.

“Several documents over the issue of non-compliance with Bank Negara’s rules and procedures have also been seized,” it read.

“As the investigations are still under way, we appeal to all parties to give their fullest cooperation to complete the probe.”

It is learnt that the 17 accounts belonged to various companies and individuals.

While neither the banks involved nor the holders of the accounts were named, several portals claimed they had received confirmation that three of the accounts belonged to Najib.

Hours after the statement was released, WSJ uploaded nine documents on its claim that US$700mil (RM2.6bil) were channelled into three personal accounts of Najib.

The nine documents comprised three flow charts, three remittance forms, two credit transfer notices and a letter of authorisation by Nik Faisal Ariff Kamil, the former chief investment officer of 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB).

However, Najib’s name appeared only in the flow charts. It was not in any of the banking documents in which the last few digits of the account numbers were blanked out.

A banker said it was normal that entire bank account numbers were not made public for fear that the accounts could be hacked.

“What is important is the codes in the documents are correct,” said the banker.

The charts detail funds flowing from SRC International Sdn Bhd, a company that used to be under 1MDB but was subsequently taken over by the Finance Ministry in 2012, into personal accounts supposedly belonging to Najib.

According to the charts, the funds flowed into AmPrivate Banking in AmBank Islamic and the beneficiary, it claimed, was Najib.

Based on one chart, the funds flowed out of SRC International’s account in AmBank Islamic into Gandingan Mentari Sdn Bhd, also in Ambank
Islamic.

Subsequently, the money was transferred to Ihsan Perdana Sdn Bhd, whose account is in Affin Bank. From there, the funds were moved to AmPrivate Banking in AmBank Islamic.

There were three accounts under AmPrivate Banking in AmBank Islamic supposedly belonging to Najib. The last few digits of the accounts were blanked out.

The Prime Minister’s name was not to be found in any remittance transfer forms from Affin Bank to AmBank Islamic.

The total amount transferred from Affin Bank to AmBank Islamic was RM42mil and the transactions were done in three tranches.

There were two transactions on Dec 26, 2014 and one on Feb 9, 2015. The reasons for the transfer of funds by Ihsan Perdana to the AmPrivate Banking account were stated as CSR programmes.

Najib’s name is also not visible in the two credit transfer notices from Wells Fargo Bank in the United States to the AmPrivate Banking account under AmBank Islamic.

But a banker said it was normal for the beneficiary’s name to be left out of remittance forms or credit transfer notices.

“The identity of the beneficiary does not need to appear if it is a familiar name. The banks only need the necessary codes and account numbers,” said the banker.

The funds from Well Fargo amounted to US$681mil and were transferred in two tranches, on March 21 and March 25, 2013, according to the documents.

The transaction order came from Tanore Finance Corp in British Virgin Island. The funds were transferred to AmPrivate Banking account in AmBank                                                Islamic under the Swift Output Code of Single Customer Credit Transfer.

“A Single Customer Credit Transfer means the account is held by an individual,” said the banker. – The Star

Sensitive time for PM and Umno

DATUK Seri Najib Tun Razak has been out and about every day since the start of the fasting month.

He has been seen at a number of Ramadan bazaars, he has been the VIP guest at various buka puasa functions and he has joined the congregation for evening prayers after the breaking of fast.

The fasting month is a test for all Muslims and even more so for the Prime Minister given the issues surrounding him.

The 1MDB issue has snowballed into a political monster for his administration and he is fighting what could be the biggest battle of his political career.

Allegations in The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) that billions of ringgit went into what is believed to be his personal bank account are still reverberating among the financial and political circles.

Najib has responded to the report, calling it wild allegations and insisting that he has never taken funds for personal gain. It was not quite the explanation or answer that people were expecting and it has raised more questions than provided answers.

But many in Umno are prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt even though they are unsure what to make of it.

Najib has a lot of support in his party and up until the recent allegations, he was said to have won over some 75% of the 191 Umno division heads.

They want to rally around him but they need clear answers in order to defend him.

Najib has made it very clear that he intends to sue WSJ and his lawyers are preparing a case to be filed soon against Dow Jones, the publisher of WSJ, in the United States. That is the way to go to clear his name.

The pressure mounted yesterday when four of the country’s top regulators and law enforcers issued a joint statement, saying that the special task force probing 1MDB had frozen six bank accounts related to the case.

The affected bank accounts were not identified but the signatories comprised the Attorney-General, Bank Negara Governor, Inspector-General of Police and the MACC chief.

It was unprecedented and it was a sign that the investigations had become more serious and complicated. The snowball has grown bigger.

Najib’s deputy Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin has added to the pressure. He had asked the authorities to look into the WSJ allegations and Umno vice-president Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal has joined in.

Their move confirms the political divide in the party that the Umno crowd has been talking about.

Umno politicians also noticed that Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has been rather restrained after months of relentless attacks and it could mean two things.

One, he feels that he has achieved his desired objective – he has got Najib up against the wall.

Two, Dr Mahathir might have realised that in his determination to remove the head of the house, the entire house may come down too.

His campaign against Pak Lah contributed to the 2008 political tsunami and his attacks against Najib has damaged Umno even more.

A group of Umno supreme council members met Najib at his official residence on Sunday night. It was very hush-hush and none of those who attended picked up or returned the calls of reporters, let alone spoke about what transpired.

The speculation is that the meeting was probably not about declaring support for the boss, otherwise they would not be so secretive.

The group was there to seek answers about what Najib plans to do and where he intends to go from here. This is a very sensitive time for Umno and especially for Muhyiddin. He played a leading role in Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s exit and he is again in the spotlight.

It is doubly sensitive for Muhyiddin this time around because he is an interested party.

Muhyiddin is being extra cautious because he understands the powers of incumbency and is aware of what the Prime Minister could do to those who are not with him.

Moreover, Najib’s tentacles in the party go back a long way and whoever wants to take him on has to consider the repercussions from his hardcore supporters.


By Joceline  Tan Analysis The Star

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China committed to upholding peace, stability in S. China Sea island-building, rejects US criticism to isolate China in Asia


Admiral Sun Jianguo, deputy chief of staff of China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) addresses the fourth plenary session of the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, May 31, 2015. Sun Jianguo elaborated on China’s foreign and defense policies. (Xinhua/Bao Xuelin)

http://player.cntv.cn/standard/cntvOutSidePlayer.swf

http://english.cntv.cn/2015/06/01/VIDE1433110801945569.shtml

China must insist on island-building

During the just-concluded Shangri-La Dialogue, military representatives from China and the US did not engage in the bitter brawling predicted by the media. Both sides have reaffirmed their own stance. US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter asked all claimants, especially China, to cease island-building in the South China Sea, and by cautiously skirting around the question of how the US will respond if China continues its construction activities, Carter didn’t issue further threats against China.

But the US is still able to launch more provocations in this region, perhaps by sending surveillance planes and warships to the periphery of 12 nautical miles from China-controlled islands.

No matter how disturbing the US can be, China must not stop its construction, which is in line with China’s sovereign integrity. If Beijing backs off due to Washington’s threats and some Western countries’ protests, this will create a horrific precedent, which will embolden US-led forces to set tougher positions against China. China should try its best to inject prosperity into the South China Sea, promoting regional economic development and enhancing its disaster resistance ability. Only in this way will the ongoing quarrels calm down.

If China can play its cards right, these expanded islands will not only prevent the South China Sea situation from becoming intensified, but initiate a new constructive thinking for regional development. China’s construction activities will offer an opportunity to break the vicious circle that has been haunting the South China Sea for decades.

These expanded islands will allow China to acquire more initiative to carry out its South China Sea policies. For now, it is China that values regional peace more than any other state, because the stability of the South China Sea is a prerequisite for China to make use of this important period of strategic opportunities.

As of now, military confrontation is still the last choice for all stakeholders in the South China Sea. However, different desires and expectations have caused the complexity in the South China Sea issues. When China can set a firm foothold in the area, it will bring along more elements that can drive peace and stability.

China needs to make broad plans including countermeasures against more US intrusions. Beijing should be fully prepared, both mentally and physically, for possible military conflicts with the US. China needs to clearly express its unwillingness as well as fearlessness to fight. The more prepared China can be, the lower the possibility of military conflict.

This round of contest in the South China Sea is more like a strategic dialogue, through which China and the US can come up with a set of models and principles under which they can show mutual respect around China’s offshore areas.

If China insists on its island construction, publicizes its peaceful purposes, and avoids making these expanded islands a focal point of Sino-US military competition, we believe it will be eventually accepted by the widest number of parties concerned. – Global Times

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