- China, Japan engage in new invective over disputed isles
- Dozens missing as Bangladesh ferry sinks
- New England to bear brunt of powerful blizzard
Posted: 07 Feb 2013 10:32 PM PST
BEIJING (Reuters) - China and Japan engaged on Friday in a fresh round of invective over military movements near a disputed group of uninhabited islands, fuelling tension that for months has bedevilled relations between the Asian powers.
An increasingly muscular China has been repeatedly at odds with others in the region over rival claims to small clusters of islands, most recently with fellow economic giant Japan which accused a Chinese navy vessel of locking radar normally used to aim weapons on a Japanese naval ship in the East China Sea.
China's Defence Ministry rejected Japan's complaint about the radar, its first comment on the January 30 incident. It said Japan's intrusive tracking of Chinese vessels was the "root cause" of the renewed tension.
A Japanese official dismissed the Chinese explanation for incident saying China's actions could be dangerous in the waters around the islets, known as Diaoyu in China and Senkaku in Japan, believed to be rich in oil and gas.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe led his conservative party to a landslide election victory in December, promising to beef up the military and stand tough in territorial disputes.
On Thursday, another border problem was brought into focus when Japan said two Russian fighter jets briefly entered its air space near long-disputed northern islands, prompting Japan to scramble combat fighters. Russia denied the accusation.
The commander of U.S. forces in the Asia-Pacific said the squabble between Japan and China underlined the pressing need for rules to prevent such incidents turning into serious conflict.
"What we need in the South China Sea is a mechanism that prevents us turning our diplomacy over to young majors and young (naval) commanders ... to make decisions at sea that cause a problem (that escalates) into a military conflict that we might not be able to control," Admiral Samuel Locklear told a conference in the Indonesian capital.
China is in dispute with several Southeast Asian countries including the Philippines and Vietnam over parts of the South China Sea, which is potentially rich in natural resources.
Locklear said governments and their leaders had to understand the potential for things to get out of hand.
"In this case, I think that point has been made pretty clear," he said in reference to international reaction to the dispute between China and Japan.
China's Defence Ministry, in a faxed statement late on Thursday, said Japan's complaints did not "match the facts". The Chinese ship's radar, it said, had maintained regular alerting operations and the ship "did not use fire control radar".
The ministry said the Chinese ship was tracked by a Japanese destroyer during routine training exercises. Fire control radar pinpoints the location of a target for missiles or shells and its use can be considered a step short of actual firing.
Japan, the ministry said, had "made irresponsible remarks that hyped up a so-called China threat, recklessly created tension and misled international public opinion".
"Japanese warships and airplanes have often conducted long periods of close-range tracking and surveillance of China's naval ships and airplanes," the Chinese Defence Ministry said.
"This is the root cause of air and maritime security issues between China and Japan."
In Tokyo, Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a news conference Japan could not accept China's explanation and Japan's accusation came after careful analysis.
"We urge China to take sincere measures to prevent dangerous actions which could cause a contingency situation," Suga said.
Japanese Defence Minister Itsunori Onodera said this week that the radar incident could have become very dangerous very quickly, and it could have been seen as a threat of military force under U.N. rules.
Hopes had been rising recently for an easing of the tension, which was sparked, in part, by Japan's nationalisation of three of the privately owned islets last September.
Fears that encounters between aircraft and ships could bring an unintended clash have given impetus to efforts to improve links, including a possible summit between Abe and Chinese leader Xi Jinping, who takes over as head of state in March.
(Additional reporting by Linda Sieg in TOKYO, Joathan Thatcher in JAKARTA; Editing by Ron Popeski and Robert Birsel)
Copyright © 2013 Reuters
Posted: 07 Feb 2013 10:03 PM PST
DHAKA (Reuters) - A ferry carrying more than 50 people sank on Bangladesh's giant Meghna River on Friday after colliding with a sand barge and dozens were missing, officials said.
About half the passengers managed to swim ashore and a search had been launched, said Mohammad Saiful Hassan Badal, administrator of Munshiganj district, where the accident happened.
The Meghna River is one of three rivers that form the Ganges Delta.
Survivors said the ferry was carrying around 100 people. District officials said it was not overloaded.
Unregulated and overcrowded ferries often run in to trouble on low-lying Bangladesh's extensive network of rivers. Hundreds of people are killed in accidents every year despite government vows to crack down on unlicensed operators.
(Reporting by Ruma Paul; Editing by Nick Macfie)
Copyright © 2013 Reuters
Posted: 07 Feb 2013 09:25 PM PST
BOSTON (Reuters) - New England braced on Thursday for a possibly record-setting winter storm, with forecasts of up to 2 feet (60 cm) of snow already causing airlines to cancel thousands of flights and utilities to prepare for power outages.
The storm was blowing in from the Midwest where it began dropping snow on the Chicago area on Thursday afternoon. It was due to bring light snow to the Northeastern United States on Friday morning before ramping up to blizzard conditions by afternoon.
In Boston, which was expected to see some of the heaviest snowfall, Mayor Thomas Menino ordered the city's schools to close on Friday and urged businesses to consider allowing staff to stay home, to reduce the risk of commuters getting stranded.
"We are hardy New Englanders, let me tell you, and used to these types of storms. But I also want to remind everyone to use common sense and stay off the streets of our city. Basically, stay home," Menino told reporters. "Stay put after noontime tomorrow."
City officials up and down the northeastern United States were bracing for the storm, readying fleets of plows and salt trucks to keep streets clear, while airport officials advised travellers to try to reschedule flights ahead of the storm.
The National Weather Service said Boston could get 18 to 24 inches of snow (45 to 60 cm) on Friday and Saturday, its first heavy snowfall in two years. Light snow is expected to begin falling around 7 a.m. EST (1200 GMT) on Friday, with heavier snow and winds gusting as high as 60 to 75 miles per hour (95 to 120 km per hour) as the day progresses.
"It's the afternoon rush-hour time frame into the evening and overnight when the height of the storm will be," said Kim Buttrick, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Taunton, Massachusetts.
Cities from Hartford, Connecticut, to Portland, Maine, expected to see at least a foot of snow.
Airlines have already cancelled more than 2,200 flights planned for Friday, according to the website FlightAware.com, with the largest number of cancellations at airports in Newark, New York, Chicago and Boston.
Nearly 500 flights have been cancelled for Saturday, according to the flight-tracking site.
Officials at airports across the region warned travellers to expect more delays and cancellations on Friday.
Shelves at many stores were picked clean of food and storm-related supplies such as shovels and snowblowers as residents scrambled to prepare.
Jackie Hooper, a florist from Brighton, Massachusetts, said she had a hard time finding salt to melt ice from the sidewalk outside her home.
Hooper said she had been hired to provide flowers for a wedding on Saturday, but that the storm may derail those plans.
"We've stocked up on flowers, but we don't know what's going to happen with the reception â— they may cancel it, they may not," she said. "How sad is that?"
By Thursday afternoon the storm had begun to make its way through the Midwest, with the first traces of snow falling in Chicago.
In New York, forecasts called for 4 to 6 inches (10 to 15 cm) of snow. Mayor Michael Bloomberg told reporters he hoped that he hoped the forecasters were "exaggerating," but noted that the city would nonetheless have snow removal crews ready to act.
Peter Judge, a spokesman for the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency, said power outages were a top worry.
"It being winter, folks losing their power means they're also losing their heat, and if you lose heat during the middle of the storm, you're not going to be able to go out to get to a shelter," he said.
(Additional reporting by Daniel Lovering and Tim McLaughlin in Boston, and Colleen Jenkins in North Carolina; Editing by Paul Thomasch, Leslie Gevirtz, Bob Burgdorfer and Lisa Shumaker)
Copyright © 2013 Reuters
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