Bigger thriller in Manila: Asean point man to deal with China


Point man: Asean has designated Manila its ‘leader’ in dealings with China, but can the moody Duterte, here shown bonding with Xi on a visit to Beijing in 2016, clinch a an agreement from China for the regional association? — AP

NOW that the quartet of Asean-related summits is over for the year, so should the niggling criticisms. At least they should – more important matters are at hand.

Over the week Singapore hosted the 2nd RCEP (Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership) Summit, the 13th East Asia Summit, the 21st Asean Plus Three Summit, and – not least – the 33rd Asean Summit.

These summits were held because it was time they were, and Singapore hosted them because it was its turn. But criticisms were not far behind.

US President Donald Trump was a no-show, and so was Chinese President Xi Jinping. Vice-President Mike Pence and Prime Minister Li Keqiang attended instead.

Trump was criticised for his absence, which allegedly “left the region wide open” for Xi’s China to make further inroads here. That complaint was limited only by Xi’s own absence.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte was also criticised for not attending an “informal breakfast summit” between Asean and Australian leaders.

His said it was only an informal event, and it was over breakfast which he did not eat.

A casual observer may be forgiven for sensing that there must be more important developments than these scheduled rounds of handshakes and photo opportunities. There are.

One of these begins in two days: Xi’s state visit to the Philippines, following the scheduled 30th Apec Summit in Papua New Guinea.

Duterte had made three visits to China as President, inviting Xi to visit Manila each time. This will be Xi’s first state visit, coming upon the third invitation to him.

There will be handshakes and photo opportunities too, but the substance and symbolism now may be more than the recent multiple summits in Singapore and Papua New Guinea.

The Philippines has been vocal about rival claims to territory in the South China Sea. The previous The region is generally unsettled by China’s recent occupation and construction of islands, with Vietnam remaining most disturbed. Duterte’s critics have also blamed him for being soft on Beijing.

However, Xi’s visit is expected to be smooth with an emphasis on the positives. These include mutual interests deemed to be larger than interminable disputes over distant rocks and islets.

Last year Chinese Vice-Premier Wang Yang visited Manila for four days amid more audible protests over territory such as Benham Rise. Yet the visit proceeded unhindered.

This time it is President Xi himself, for a state visit of only two days, with no particular complaint against China outstanding. It will also be after one full year of China having become the Philippines’ main trading partner.

For both sides the focus will be quite intense on specific projects backed by Chinese assistance. Duterte left the merrymaking in Papua New Guinea early to return home to prepare for Xi’s arrival.

For China, it would demonstrate to the region how it can cooperate with even a country locked in dispute with it to mutual benefit. This gains added significance when it is the Philippines, historically a US ally.

For the Philippines, there is a host of projects and programmes on Duterte’s wish list requiring Chinese aid. They span his ambitious 9-trillion peso (RM717bil) “Build, Build, Build” infrastructure plan covering all three regions of the Philippines: Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.

These come under the Six-Year Development Program (SYDP) signed last year with China as a framework for the Philippines’ “Golden Age of Infrastructure.” It is to be Duterte’s legacy for his country.

The 75 projects include a water pump and irrigation scheme, a dam, a north-south railway, a highway, bridges, a park and a rehabilitated power plant. Economic growth is projected to outpace debt.

Duterte is clear-minded enough to know that only China is able and willing to provide the assistance needed. No other country or combination of countries is in a position to do so.

There are also plans for more Chinese business investments, as well as a framework agreement for joint oil and gas explorations at sea. The latter are understood to cover some disputed areas, with China agreeing to only a 40% share of recoverable deposits.

Countries in dispute over territory and the reserves found therein tend to shy from joint exploration, as legally this may imply recognition of the other disputing party’s claim.

But since this condition applies equally to both parties, the Philippines may be confident that China would also be obliged to acknowledge the Philippine claim. Can there be a lesson here for other Asean countries with claims to the South China Sea?

To ensure the success of Xi’s visit, there had been a positive build-up of Philippines-China relations in recent months. Xi’s state visit in turn is envisaged to lead to even better bilateral relations.

Last August, joint simulated naval exercises were held in Singapore among Asean countries and China without US participation. Manila defended that decision by saying that the “tabletop” drill was meant only for neighbouring countries in the region.

Now as Xi prepares for his visit, the US Pacific Fleet is reportedly readying a series of naval operations as a “show of force” in the South China Sea and the Taiwan Straits. In response to China’s stated concern, the Philippines said it will have no part in those operations.Xi’s visit is important not just for the Philippines but also Asean, which had designated Manila the “point man” in dealings with China. Can Duterte clinch an agreement from China for Asean?

Manila had said that a legally binding Code of Conduct (CoC) in the South China Sea was on the agenda, but Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said it may take another three years.

If China really wants to prove its goodwill in Manila, Xi could suggest it may happen considerably sooner.

The last Chinese President to make a state visit to the Philippines was Hu Jintao in 2005. That occasion also marked the 30th anniversary of bilateral relations, which is as auspicious a time as any.

This Tuesday’s visit by Xi will be the first Chinese state visit in 13 years. That is an auspicious number in Chinese, but not so in Western culture.

Will it be auspicious for the Philippines, the only Christian-majority country in the region once colonised by Spain and then the US? Duterte’s original style of leadership may yet make the difference.

Bunn Nagara

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

 

 

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Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) CEO Summit 2018: Good reason for China’s rising popularity in South Pacific


Pence’s APEC speech offers nothing new

 

 

Good reason for China’s rising popularity in South Pacific

Chinese President Xi Jinping met with leaders of eight Pacific island countries and officials in the Papua New Guinea (PNG) capital on Friday and all agreed to elevate their relations to a comprehensive strategic partnership based on mutual respect and common development.

On Friday, Xi also attended the hand-over ceremony of the China-assisted Independence Boulevard, as well as an opening ceremony for the Butuka Academy, a public service project funded by China. This is seen as evidence of the enhanced cooperation between China and Pacific island nations.

The US and Australia have mixed feelings about the cooperation between China and Pacific island countries. Their anxieties stem from their long-standing view of geopolitics. Australia has announced a plan to increase investment to Pacific island nations, while the US is also setting up a fund to boost aid in the region to counter China’s perceived influence.

Interestingly, China has entered the Pacific island region with nothing but technology, funds and its friendly willingness to cooperate. Although the region has been regarded as being under Australia’s influence, it was half-abandoned by Canberra. Western countries have become used to poverty in the islands. Now China has come to improve infrastructure, which has not only stimulated regional economies, but also caused the region to reclaim the attention of Western countries, such as Australia and the US.

Pacific Island countries certainly have every reason to welcome China because China’s cooperation has revitalized the region. China’s aid is pragmatic, and not subject to any political conditions. It benefits those countries, without causing harm.

Some have made the analogy that just like some member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) want to see a balance between the US and China in the region, Pacific nations also expect China to weigh in to counter the influence of Australia. However, what makes this case different is that China brings engineering equipment to the Pacific, while in contrast, the US sends warships to the South China Sea. Pacific island countries hope to see more Chinese equipment, but ASEAN is calling on the US to stop its sabre rattling. On Friday, Malaysia’s Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad told the US that it does not wish to see warships in ASEAN waters, but that small patrol boats are fine.

Geopolitics still exist in today’s international arena, but it must not be the dominant issue. It is understandable that Australia and the US have doubts about China’s cooperation with Pacific Island countries. However, everyone should refrain from the “geopolitical reverie,” and fully respect the growing influence of international economics.

China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has gradually formed a tie among some Pacific Island nations, and it is based on economy to economy. If we were to summarize its political significance, it has built up friendships and increased mutual trust among countries. It also highlights new relations between nations in the region.

More than ever before, there has been unprecedented competition in the South Pacific, and more and more funding has been channeled into the region. Pacific Island countries have never enjoyed so many options and for those countries, such competition is a good thing.

On the international stage, competitions introduced by the BRI are always positive. From the Pacific Ocean to the Indian Ocean, such benign competitions are indeed a phenomenon that has not seen before. Although some countries have made inappropriate comments regarding the BRI, they are using funds and technology to participate in the competitive process.

China has been implementing the principle of achieving shared growth through discussion and collaboration under the BRI. The “zero sum” struggle has recurred throughout Western history, which shows that China’s firm pursuit of mutual benefit and win-win requires time.

China is confident and patient about reaching more consensus, but what is important is that Western society must also emancipate their minds of the 21st century international relations and break free from the shackles of the “zero sum” struggle and various historical memories.

There are six countries in the Pacific that have so-called “diplomatic” relations with Taiwan. Economic cooperation between Beijing and Pacific island nations that have established diplomatic relations with Beijing may change the mindset of Taiwan’s allies in the region. Taiwan shall find nobody to blame for the change of the political landscape. As a proverb says, it is common that “man struggles upwards, and water flows downwards.”

Australia and New Zealand are China’s largest partners in the South Pacific region. There is no reason for China and the two countries to get into a duel in the region. Instead, the South Pacific should become a platform where new types of international relations are forged and tested.- Global Times

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Shocking news and curious comments


Why bother to formulate a new law to check fake news when the real stories are already incredible?

There must be better explanations for such incredible reports and the bizarre responses from people in power.’
OVER the past week, the news about Malaysia has been running the range from the outrageous to the absurd.

To use a quirky English phrase, the stories beggar belief. In other words, too surreal to be believed.

With the Government proposing a new law to check the spread of “fake news”, there must be better explanations for such incredible reports and the bizarre responses from people in power.

I am listing three examples. The first is Switzerland’s decision to confiscate the equivalent of RM400mil, purportedly linked to 1Malaysia Develop­ment Bhd (1MDB), which was seized from Swiss banks last year.

The Swiss lawmakers are set to debate a motion to en­­able part of the funds to be sent back to Malaysia, but according to recent reports, there were no claimants for the money. For context, the RM400mil is more than this year’s budget for my home state of Melaka and the surplus of RM26.4mil can pay for the new bridge on the alternative coastal road in Klebang.

Next is the 91m super yacht, Equanimity, impounded off Bali last Wednesday.

Indonesian police seized the vessel sought by the US Department of Justice (DoJ) in response to a Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) request to enforce a court order.

Police spokesman Muhammad Iqbal Abduh said the US$250mil (RM976mil) yacht’s Auto­ma­ted Identification System (AIS) had been switched off in nearby seas before the seizure.

Penang-born businessman Low Taek Jho, who is also known as Jho Low, criticised the DoJ for not proving any offence before acting.

“It is disappointing that, rather than reflecting on the deeply flawed and politically motivated allegations, the DoJ is continuing with its pattern of global overreach – all based on entirely unsupported claims of wrongdoing,” read a statement sent by his unnamed spokesman.

Eyebrows were raised when Attorney-General Tan Sri Mohamed Apandi Ali said the Government would not claim the yacht.

But Communications and Multimedia Minister Datuk Seri Salleh Said Keruak’s peculiar comment that the DoJ had not shown any “tangible proof” of Low’s ownership of the yacht drew ire and scorn.

He said besides allegations in the civil suit, on hold since last August, there was no evidence of Low’s ownership.

As former minister of trade and industry Tan Sri Rafidah Aziz noted, all it takes is a simple search. The “SuperYacthFan” website, which has a directory of the world’s wealthiest yacht owners, states that it belongs to Low and his Hong-Kong-based investment fund, Jynwel Capital.

If Low is innocent, the solution is simple: Just bite the bullet and face the DoJ.

The third curious case involves Criminal Investigation Department (CID) director Comm Datuk Seri Wan Ahmad Najmuddin Mohd’s frozen Australian bank account.

Australian police froze the A$320,000 (RM970,490) account after filing a forfeiture application in the New South Wales Supreme Court in March last year.

Strangely, the senior police officer does not want his almost RM1mil back. His reason? High legal costs.

Australian police noted a “flurry of suspicious cash deposits” into the CID director’s account, which had been dormant since it was first opened in 2011.

The account reportedly grew by nearly A$290,000 (RM879,500) in a month in 2016, mostly in deposits below A$10,000 (RM30,330) – the limit for law enforcement agencies to receive possible money-laundering alerts.

The money came in from branches and ATMs around the country, from the tiny towns in Queensland and in Tasmania to the major cities of Sydney and Melbourne, a week after the officer visited Australia.

In response, Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Mohamad Fuzi Harun said an inquiry found that the account was opened in 2011 to enable the transfer of funds to finance the CID director’s son’s education in Australia.

The IGP said the dormant account was reactivated in 2016 for the officer’s daughter’s master’s degree, adding that Comm Wan Ahmad Najmuddin provided documents to prove the money was from the sale of a RM700,000 house in Shah Alam.

Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission deputy chief commissioner Datuk Seri Azam Baki initially ruled out any further probe as both Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and the IGP had exone­rated the CID director. However, Azam has since been quoted as saying the MACC had begun investigating the matter following a report lodged by an unidentified whistleblower.

Deputy Home Minister Datuk Nur Jazlan Mohamed provided another queer twist to the case by suggesting that Australian authori­ties were using the media to embarrass Malaysia and by asking if they had an axe to grind.

With more doubts continuing to be raised over the case, Dr Ahmad Zahid said Comm Wan Ahmad could have been “a little naïve” about Australia’s legal system.

We can’t blame Malaysians to be sceptical, given the status of the person in question.

Naïve or not, just how costly can it be to hire a good lawyer in Australia to seek justice for the huge amount of money wrongly confiscated?

There have been such cases before and Malaysians have won, most notably former Selangor mentri besar Tan Sri Muhammad Muhammad Taib.

On May 1998, he was acquitted of currency regulation breaches involving more than A$1.2mil (RM2.9mil then).

Muhammad had pleaded not guilty to knowingly making a false currency report when entering the country on Dec 16, 1996, and then failing to declare currency when leaving six days later.

Besides saying that the ex-teacher’s English was not good, his lawyers argued that he didn’t know the country’s money exchange laws and that the funds were for buying land for himself and his three brothers.

How much he paid the lawyers remains a mystery, though.

Veera PandiyanMedia consultant M. Veera Pandiyan likes this quote by Albert Einstein: Whoever is careless with the truth in small matters cannot be trusted with important matters.

Along The Watchtower by M.Veera Pandiyan The Star

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‘Paper cat’ Australia will learn its lesson


3721f-papercat_aussie

Around the announcement of the arbitration tribunal over the South China Sea, Australia was one of the most delirious countries. Canberra immediately supported the arbitration result and claimed China “must” abide by it, and also signed a joint declaration with the US and Japan. Australia has inked a free trade agreement with China, its biggest trading partner, which makes its move of disturbing the South China Sea waters surprising to many.
Australia is a unique country with an inglorious history. It was at first an offshore prison of the UK and then became its colony, a source of raw materials, overseas market and land of investment. This country was established through uncivilized means, in a process filled with the tears of the aboriginals.

Even with a scarce population and vast land, Australia has disputes with other countries over territory. It claims nearly 5.9 million square meters of land in the Antarctic, accounting for 42 percent of the continent. In order to back its territorial claims, Australia even brought up the activities of the British in the Antarctic as evidence.

Since The Antarctic Treaty was signed, all territorial claims over the continent were suspended. Canberra then raised another claims to demand the Antarctic continental shelf. It cited Article 298 of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea to avoid a demand by arbitration by others.

Both historical rights and the exemption of arbitration as ruled in Article 298 of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea were denied by the arbitration tribunal. Australia showed blunt double standards as if no one had a memory of what it did and said over the Antarctic.

Australia calls itself a principled country, while its utilitarianism has been sizzling. It lauds Sino-Australian relations when China’s economic support is needed, but when it needs to please Washington, it demonstrates willingness of doing anything in a show of allegiance.

Analysts say that besides trying to please the US, it also intends to suppress China so as to gain a bargaining chip for economic interests. China must take revenge and let it know it’s wrong. Australia’s power means nothing compared to the security of China. If Australia steps into the South China Sea waters, it will be an ideal target for China to warn and strike.

Australia is not even a “paper tiger,” it’s only a “paper cat” at best. At a time when its former caretaker country the UK is dedicated to developing relations with China, and almost the whole of Europe takes a neutral position, Australia has unexpectedly made itself a pioneer of hurting China’s interest with a fiercer attitude than countries directly involved in the South China Sea dispute. But this paper cat won’t last. – Global Times

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Political issues deserve diplomatic solutions to South China Sea disputes


REFERRING to “Ripples and rumbles in South China Sea” (see below) by K. Thanabalasingam, I wish to share a few more points vital to the issue.

Conventional knowledge is that China’s claim to the islands is arbitrary and violates International Law. But what is left out is an impartial overview of the whole situation based on historical considerations and facts on the ground.

Claims made by Vietnam and China are mostly centred on history. The rest of the claimants are late comers after the 1951 Treaty of San Francisco and 1982 UNCLOS (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea).

To avoid complicating the issue, knowledge of history has to be put in perspective. Since there are no “historical titles” to validate, then whatever historical facts, maps or records have to be considered as evidence. At least it sheds light to validate its case.

China has been consistent in her claims since 1279. Marker stones and light houses were on the islands but most were destroyed by Vietnam and the Philippines. Even early European records affirmed Chinese fishermen took annual sojourns on Spratly islands for part of the year.

One interesting event that happened in 1953 involved a Tomas Cloma, (director of the Maritime Institute of the Philippines) who threw away all the marker stones and made a unilateral claim on some Spratly islands and later in December 1974 was forced to sell to the government for 1 peso only, now known as Kalayaan.

All these facts are buried and often not revealed by the West.

The infamous Treaty of San Francisco, also known as Treaty of Peace with Japan, was drafted by US and Allied Powers to settle post-war issues affecting nations. Whatever the circumstances, China/Taiwan and Korea were not invited to attend the negotiations which deprived them of a fair chance and the right to present their cases. This also breached the Cairo/Potsdam declarations.

After the devastating long war, China got the raw end of the deal with unsettled lands and islands. Scholars and historians viewed this as a deliberate manoeuvre by Western Powers especially the US to create ambiguities to serve their covert interests.

I totally agree with Thanabalasingam on the recent statement by the US and Allies to pre-empt the tribunal’s verdict in favour of the Philippines is an act of prima facie and undermines the whole proceedings of the court. That is why under Article 298 of UNCLOS, China declared that it does not accept compulsory arbitral procedures relating to sea boundary delimitation in 2006. Without guessing, one could easily decipher why the Philippine chose the arbitration court.

On the ground, it doesn’t need a military expert to see what’s happening in the region. It is a tussle between China and US with puppets (the Philippines, Australia, Japan, Vietnam) joining in the fray.

The US’s sole interest is to maintain her status quo and dominance in the region. China, a rising power, is a direct competitor. When Obama announced the pivot to Asia in 2012, tensions started building up day by day with increasing deployment of military assets to frightening level.

More bases have been opened to the US in the Philippines, Japan, Australia, and some Asean nations, creating a “ring of fire” to contain China.

To harness support US raises up the heat and false alarms on China’s threat to “Freedom of Navigation”, etc. Do you expect China to remain docile and silent? Freedom of navigation was not an issue for decades. Deliberately intruding into sovereign territory with frigates, spy planes, etc are direct provocations.

Sad to see nations taking sides just to gain a little leverage to support their claims. As far as I can see, these islands are “bread crumbs” created to inflict tension and even wars among nations. Political issues deserve diplomatic solutions. Don’t allow a Middle East or Ukraine crisis in Asia.

I trust my country will take the path of engagement and diplomacy.

By Ali Saw Kuala Lumpur The Sundaily

Ripples and rumbles in the South China Sea

AFTER the conclusion of the 27th Asean Summit and Related Summits chaired by Malaysia here in late November 2015, I felt optimistic the year 2016 might see a lessening of tensions in the South China Sea and perhaps even witness a Code of Conduct being signed between all the claimant states. I suppose this was hoping too much.

What we have seen instead is a rapid increase in tensions caused by China’s actions in the South China Sea. Understandably, claimant Asean states are anxious and concerned over these latest developments.

Since the start of this year, China has conducted several test flights from its airfield in the Fiery Cross Reef in the Spratly Islands Group. There was also news reports that China had moved an oil rig into disputed waters between China and Vietnam.

This brings to mind the January 1974 Chinese/Vietnamese clash over the Paracel Islands with Vietnam suffering heavy losses and being evicted from the Paracels.

More recently it has been reported and confirmed that China has installed long-range anti-aircraft missiles on Woody Island in the disputed Paracels chain.

This does not auger well for calm and confidence-building between the various Asean claimant states and the Republic of China.

In addition, the occasional reported intrusions of Chinese coastguard vessels into other nations’ territorial waters is cause for concern.

The recent statement by the US and some European nations that China must abide by the decision to be made by the UN Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague, hearing the Philippines request to invalidate China’s claims, is rather premature in my humble opinion.

The US and other western nations’ statement would have been better coming after the tribunal’s verdict expected sometime near the middle of this year, if it turns out to be in Philippines favour. As it is, I feel the statement pre-empts the tribunal’s verdict.

I had written an article on the South China Sea dispute and stated my personal views in June 2015. I am of the firm belief, based on International Law and UNCLOS (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea), that China’s claim to virtually the whole of the South China Sea is arbitrary and unprecedented.

No country has ever claimed such a large expanse of international maritime waters before. There is no provision anywhere that I am aware of for a historical claim, especially when such a claim has never been exercised or enforced until more recent times. China is not only a party to UNCLOS but it has also ratified it. Therefore, China is bound by UNCLOS.

A point to bear in mind is that there are laws and rules to what constitutes an island. Under UNCLOS no shoal or reef can be reclaimed and turned into an island.

A reclaimed land is artificial and not natural. Hence the question of territorial waters or other claims for the artificial island does not arise.

The Code of Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) signed by all members of Asean and the People’s Republic of China on Nov 4, 2002 unfortunately has a number of setbacks. There is also a Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea (CUES). Although this is mainly to avoid any untoward sea incident between US Navy ships and Republic of China Navy (ROCN) ships. I feel that CUES should also be used more by Asean claimant states’ naval ships and the ROCN ships.

Although I am disheartened by the latest developments in the South China Sea, I sincerely hope that these ripples and rumbles do not develop into a full blown hurricane or typhoon.

By Rear Admiral (Rtd) Tan Sri K. Thanabalasingam was the third chief of the Royal Malaysian Navy and the first Malaysian to be appointed to the post.Comments: letters@thesundaily.com

The U.S. should keep away from the South China Sea for regional peace

China is forced to deploy defensive facilities on islands in the South China Sea in response to early militarization action from other parties and to the U.S. close-up reconnaissance in this region, said a China’s professor who specializes in international affairs.

Shen Dingli, a professor specializing in international affairs from Fudan University, wrote in a column that if the U.S. expects fewer disputes in the South China Sea, the country should not choose any side and not support those who infringe upon China’s national interests. The U.S. should make those countries withdraw from the region.

Shen stated that the U.S. should reduce its close-up reconnaissance in the region so that China will not need to spare much time to deploy forces in the region.

According to Shen, statements of spokespersons from China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of National Defense clearly show China’s attitude towards this issue.

First of all, China deploys defensive facilities in order to cope with other countries’ militarization in this area. Secondly, China benefits from freedom of navigation and China is willing to maintain this freedom within the international law in cooperation with ASEAN countries. Thirdly, China urges the U.S. to respect its legitimate interests when it comes to sovereign of artificial islands in the South China Sea.

Shen also said that if the U.S. really cares about China’s deployment of radars and missiles on relevant islands, it should reduce the close-up reconnaissance by its missile destroyers and strategic bombers in this area.  By Yuan Can (People’s Daily Online)

US militarizing South China Sea

Compared with the progress Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and US Secretary of State John Kerry seem to have achieved on sanctions against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, finding common ground to resolve their differences over the South China Sea has proved more difficult.

Just as Wang has stressed, the responsibility for non-militarization of the South China Sea is not China’s alone. The United States should lend an attentive ear to China’s stance.

On Tuesday, at a hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Admiral Harry Harris, head of the US Pacific Command, said China’s deployment of missiles and new radars on its islands and reefs in the South China Sea and its building of airstrips are “changing the operational landscape” in the waters.

The media in the US also hyped up China sending Annihilates-11 fighters to the Xisha Islands. These voices may be a prelude to Washington escalating the flexing of its muscles in the South China Sea.

Yet as a non-regional country, it is irresponsible of the US to intervene in the South China Sea in disregard of the possibility that has emerged that China and the other parties to the disputes in the waters will be able to stabilize the situation rather than let it spiral out of control.

If those in the region were allowed to settle the disputes themselves, the South China Sea would be free from concerns and troubles within the foreseeable future.

It is the US’ direct interventions in the South China Sea that are exacerbating tensions and adding uncertainty.

The US’ provocative signals have seriously increased Chinese people’s sense of urgency to strengthen the country’s military capabilities. When US military vessels and warplanes intruded into the 12-nautical-mile territorial seas around China’s islands and reefs, Chinese people have reasons to believe their country should not remain indifferent even if its military might is still inferior to that of the US.

On issues concerning national sovereignty, the Chinese military will follow the will of its people.- Global Times

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Mara in Aussie property scam


Mara_Aussie

Top Malaysian government officials and a former politician were alleged to spend RM65 million of public funds to purchase an apartment block in Melbourne, Australia, overpaying by RM13.7 million to allow for kickbacks back home.

Australian newspaper The Age, which made the allegations in an exclusive report today, also claimed the involvement of Mara, a government investment agency, which purchased the property in 2013.

The Age’s investigative report said that a group of Malaysian officials, using the Malaysian government’s investment funds, bid up the price for the Melbourne apartment block from A$17.8 million (RM51.5 million) to A$22.5 million (RM65 million).

The extra $4.75 million (RM13.7 million) was then laundered out of Australia and allegedly paid as bribes in Malaysia.

“The Malaysian firms that received the alleged kickbacks are closely linked to a senior figure at the Malaysian government investment agency, Mara.

“Another figure involved is a senior Malaysian official and former politician with close links to a Malaysian cabinet minister,” said the report.

Malaysiakini has e-mailed Rural and Regional Development Minister Mohd Shafie Apdal under whose watch Mara falls, Mara’s director-general Ibrahim Ahmad and its deputy director-general Salmah Hayati Ghazali for their responses to the corruption allegations.

The student hostel apartment bought by Mara was called the Dudley International House apartment block, located at the suburb of Caulfield.

The Age said about 150 Australian creditors, including tradesman and builders, have been left out of pocket or are facing bankruptcy after a company linked to the deal collapsed.


Money-laundering hub

The same group of high-ranking Malaysians were implicated in a deal involving A$80 million (RM231 million) worth of Australian property, including office or apartment blocks in Swanston, Queen and Exhibition streets in Melbourne’s CBD.

The newspaper said this was the first hard evidence of Australian property prices being inflated as real estate is used as a safe haven or money laundering hub by corrupt Malaysian government officials.

In May last year, Bernama reported that several Mara board directors and executives, headed by its chairperson Annuar Musa (photo) were in Melbourne to inspect two properties Mara had acquire, at a cost of about A$60 million, to house its students.

The 12-storey building at 746, Swanston Street, minutes away from the University of Melbourne and RMIT University, has 281 apartments, while the five-storey Dudley International House in the suburb of Caulfield, will accommodate 113 Mara students attending Monash University. The Swanston Street building was formerly a hostel for nurses.

Spokesman for the Mara group, Zainal Zol said Mara had more than 1,000 students in Australia with 309 based in melbourne and more than 500 in Sydney.

He said the visiting Mara leaders were pleased with the agency’s property acquisitions here.

The Bernama report also said executives from UEM Sunrise Berhad, one of Malaysia’s largest property developers and an arm of UEM Group Berhad, which is owned by Khazanah Nasional Berhad, were also in Melbourne to negotiate the development of two prime land parcels it had acquired in Melbourne’s CBD, in LaTrobe Street and MacKenzie Street.

Led by UEM managing director, Izzaddin Idris, they met the Victorian State Planning Minister Matthew Guy, Melbourne Lord Mayor Robert Doyle and Malaysian-born Ken Ong, head of the Melbourne City Council planning committee, to brief them on the projects.

Mohd Rameez said he was confident that both apartment developments will go ahead, thus enhancing Malaysia’s presence in Melbourne.

Malaysiakini has also e-mailed and texted Annuar who is also Umno supreme council member and BN Ketereh MP for his comments.

Sources: Malaysiakini, The Sun Daily, The Star/Asia News Network

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Like father, like daughter: Young Malaysian property developer making her mark in Melbourne


IJM_likefather_adeleneteh
Teh(pic), 27, co-founder of Beulah International, strides proudly in the footsteps of her father, Datuk Teh Kean Ming, chief executive officer/managing director of IJM Corp Bhd, who has been in the construction and property development industry for over 35 years.

MELBOURNE: Adelene Teh, a second-generation Malaysian property developer, is quickly making her mark in the competitive property development market here.

Teh, 27, co-founder of Beulah International, strides proudly in the footsteps of her father, Datuk Teh Kean Ming, chief executive officer/managing director of IJM Corp Bhd, who has been in the construction and property development industry for over 35 years.

Teh, a graduate from the University of Melbourne with a Master’s degree in architecture, was born and raised in Malaysia.

“I fondly remember my father taking me for walk-throughs on project sites and explaining the details. I am proud of what he was doing,” he told Bernama.

She attributed much of her own interest in property sector to her father, whose dedication and passion have influenced her career path.

Teh has collaborated with internationally-renowned global architects, Woods Bagot and multi-award winning landscape architect, Jack Merlo, to offer sophisticated first-class lifestyle in her new project, Gardenhill.

The A$76.5mil 11-storey, 136-unit apartment project offers luxury living in Doncaster, a prestigious eastern suburb here.

The prices range from A$360,000 to A$405,000 for one-bedroom units while two-bedroom units range from A$490,000 to A$745,000.

The estimated yields are between 4% and 6%.

In a recently-published article in The Age newspaper, Andrew Leoncelli, managing director of CBRE Residential Projects, said the location, perched high above Doncaster Hill and just 15km to Melbourne CBD, is a huge draw.

“Being high on the hill means amazing city and park views, while being directly adjacent to such a good shopping centre, with a host of luxury brands makes it an excellent prospect in real estate terms,” Leoncelli said.

Together with her partner, Jiaheng Chan, co-founder of Beulah International, they are the driving force behind the success of Gardenhill.

Malaysians will have the opportunity to attend and select the units at the KL Westin preview this weekend before the public Melbourne launch.

With already 30% of the units sold and scores of registrations before the public launch, Gardenhill is set to be a resounding success.

Like her family heritage, Teh’s property development skills have been well honed.

— Bernama

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