- China not disputing Japan sovereignty over Okinawa
- Cyber hacking to overshadow summit between Obama and China's Xi
- As Qusair fight continues, U.N. issues warning
Posted: 01 Jun 2013 08:29 PM PDT
SINGAPORE (Reuters) - China does not dispute Japanese sovereignty over Okinawa and recent comments in Chinese newspapers merely reflects the views of some academics, a senior Chinese military leader said on Sunday.
"China's position has not changed... Scholars can put forth any idea they want and they do not represent the views of the Chinese government," the deputy chief of general staff of the Chinese People's Liberation Army, Lieutenant General Qi Jianguo, told delegates at a security conference in Singapore.
China's state-owned People's Daily last month published an article by two academics that said Okinawa was part of an island chain that used to be a vassal of imperial Chinese dynasties before it was annexed by Japan in the 19th century, implicitly asserting Chinese claims over the island.
Okinawa, host to the bulk of up to 50,000 U.S. military personnel in Japan, is the largest island in the Ryukyu chain, which extends south towards Taiwan.
China is already involved in a tense dispute with Japan over the latter's move last year to nationalise the nearby Senkaku islets, which the Chinese call Diaoyu, which sits astride key shipping lanes and undersea energy resources.
That row has escalated in recent months to the point where both sides have scrambled fighter jets while patrol ships shadow each other in nearby seas, raising worry that an unintended collision or other incident could lead to a broader clash.
(Reporting by Kevin Lim; Editing by Michael Perry)
Copyright © 2013 Reuters
Posted: 01 Jun 2013 07:37 PM PDT
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A shirt-sleeves summit between the world's two top economic powers is shaping up as anything but relaxing, with an assertive new Chinese leadership seeking a bigger place at the global table and the United States pushing back, especially in the battle over cyberspace.
U.S. President Barack Obama and newly installed Chinese President Xi Jinping will meet on Friday in Southern California at a relatively informal retreat aimed at allowing the pair to get to know each other away from the spotlight of Washington.
High-level U.S.-Chinese encounters of recent decades have been unable to match President Richard Nixon's groundbreaking visit to Communist China in 1972 that ended decades of estrangement between Washington and Beijing.
But China experts say if Obama and Xi can develop personal rapport - something lacking between U.S. presidents and Xi's notoriously wooden predecessor, Hu Jintao - and make at least a little progress on substantive issues, the summit could gain some historic significance.
Any feel-good vibe at the luxury resort in the desert near Palm Springs could be soured by Obama taking a hard line with Xi over Chinese cyber-hacking of U.S. secrets.
While China worries the United States is trying to encircle it militarily with its strategic "pivot to Asia," the cyber dispute is the most pressing issue for Obama.
"The president wants to be able to have, behind closed doors, a tough and straight conversation with Xi Jinping about our specific concerns," a senior U.S. official said of the cyber-security issue. "Problems and activities emanating from China have a deleterious effect on our companies, on our interests and on our relationship."
The official said Obama would not shy away from pointing out U.S. concerns about hacking, nor would he accept China's "pro-forma protestation" that it too is a victim of cyber intrusions from abroad.
In a sign of an easing of tension over hacking, an Obama administration official said on Saturday a previously agreed high-level working group on cyber security would convene for its first talks in July and meet regularly after that. The official said the panel would focus not only on hacking but on "developing rules of the road for operating in cyberspace."
"Obviously the competitive nature of the relationship will always be there, but there's also a play-by-the-rules aspect to it," another senior Obama administration official said of the cyber-security disagreements with China.
Obama has been under strong pressure to persuade Xi to take U.S. hacking worries seriously, and complaints in Congress about cyber security are growing.
"There has got to be red lines drawn. If the activity continues, there need to be some sanctions," said Shawn Henry, who fought cyber thievery as an FBI assistant director and is now president of the security firm, CrossStrike Services. "They need to understand what the risks are."
The Washington Post reported this week that China had used cyber attacks to access data from nearly 40 Pentagon weapons programs, including the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. China dismissed the report, saying it needed no outside help for its military development.
In the two-day meeting with Xi, Obama will also likely bring up differences over North Korea, world trade and China's territorial disputes in the South and East China Seas.
The talks are an opportunity for Obama to score a foreign policy success at a time when the lack of U.S. action on Syria weighs heavily on his record. He can also turn away from controversies at home that have gotten his second term off to a rocky start.
U.S. PIVOT TO ASIA
Xi is eager to be seen on an even footing with the American leader and to show China's ruling echelon and public that he can promote their interests on the world stage as Beijing seeks what it calls a new "big-power" relationship with Washington that takes into account China's rise.
It is his first U.S. trip since taking over the presidency in March in China's once-in-a-generation leadership transition.
He is likely to express Beijing's unease about a U.S. reorientation of foreign policy and a shift of American military resources toward the Asia-Pacific region as the war in Afghanistan winds down.
The strategy is seen widely as a way of reassuring allies like Japan and South Korea of the U.S. commitment to counter China's power.
Shen Dingli, vice dean of the Institute of International Affairs at Shanghai's Fudan University, said the U.S. "return" to Asia and the security issues it raised was the biggest issue from the Chinese perspective.
"The U.S. goal is stability, but it has really created instability," Shen said.
Beijing has increasingly used its growing economic clout internationally and exercised its military muscle regionally.
Yet China feels hemmed in by the U.S. "pivot to Asia," which Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel said on Saturday would involve prioritizing deployments of the most advanced U.S. weapons systems to the Pacific, including the radar-evading F-22 Raptor jet fighter, the F-35 and Virginia-class fast-attack submarine.
"China is going down the path to peaceful development, and other countries must follow suit, for only if this happens can there be peaceful coexistence between nations," the Communist Party's official People's Daily wrote in a front-page commentary about the Xi-Obama talks.
'NOT A SLEEPOVER'
U.S. officials play down the prospects for any big breakthroughs or even major concrete agreements during the California summit.
Xi, 59, will have the kind of face time with the U.S. president that few foreign leaders have been afforded.
The chances are decent that he and Obama, 51, will be able to find the personal chemistry that eluded their predecessors for decades.
Xi - who as president-in-waiting met Obama in Washington in February of last year - is a Communist Party "princeling," the son of a revolutionary leader. But he is also fond of Hollywood movie war dramas.
He has shown himself less stiff in public than his predecessor, and his willingness to forgo the pomp of a White House visit may signal a fresh approach.
The informality of the talks at Sunnylands, a complex where philanthropist Walter Annenberg once hosted U.S. presidents like Ronald Reagan, is unprecedented for U.S.-China relations.
"You've got the ability to really deepen a strategic dialogue and to build trust into the relationship in ways that really haven't been done in a very, very long time," said former U.S. Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman.
Although touted as an informal meeting, summits like this one are highly choreographed. Both sides were still negotiating whether the two leaders would hold a joint news conference, an event that is standard procedure when the U.S. president meets a foreign leader on home soil.
One U.S. official helping to organize the agenda made clear that the summit at the estate, which has its own golf course and hiking paths, would be mostly work and little play.
"This is not a sleepover," the official said. "We're not inviting President Xi to have a casual weekend in Palm Springs. This is for real."
(Additional reporting by Ben Blanchard in Beijing and John Ruwitch in Shanghai; Editing by Alistair Bell and Peter Cooney)
Copyright © 2013 Reuters
Posted: 01 Jun 2013 07:14 PM PDT
BEIRUT (Reuters) - Syrian troops and Hezbollah guerrillas besieging the border town of Qusair fought with rebels on Saturday as the United Nations warned all sides they would be held accountable for the suffering of trapped civilians.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said fighting was taking place inside Qusair and in villages around it, largely controlled by President Bashar al-Assad's forces who have cut off access to the town.
Rebels have pleaded for military help and medical aid for the hundreds of people wounded in the onslaught by government forces, who are also fighting back fiercely around the capital Damascus and the south and centre of the country.
The battle for Qusair is happening as the United States and Russia seek to overcome deep differences over Syria and bring the two sides to the negotiating table for a political solution to the civil war in which 80,000 people have been killed.
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was monitoring the battle for Qusair "with the gravest concern" and called on both sides to allow civilians to escape the town, usually home to 30,000 people.
"The eyes of the world are upon them, and ... they will be held accountable for any acts of atrocity carried out against the civilian population of Qusair," a U.N. statement said.
U.N. emergency relief coordinator Valerie Amos and High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said they were alarmed that thousands of civilians may be trapped in Qusair.
"We understand there may also be as many as 1,500 wounded people in urgent need of immediate evacuation for emergency medical treatment, and that the general situation in Qusair is desperate," they said in a joint statement.
The Observatory, an anti-Assad network that monitors the violence in Syria through medical and security sources on the ground, said at least one person was killed during fighting inside Qusair and that Assad's troops were being reinforced ahead of a possible assault on the remaining rebel-held areas.
Rebels also tried to attack the nearby Daba military air base, seized by the army on Wednesday, and fought Assad's troops around Daba village, it said.
The two-week battle for Qusair is aimed at securing supply routes near the Syrian-Lebanese frontier, which both sides accuse the other of using to bolster their forces inside Syria.
For Assad, seizing Qusair would also allow him to cement control of a belt of territory between the capital Damascus and his stronghold on the Mediterranean coast.
The prominent role of guerrillas from Lebanon's Shi'ite group Hezbollah has angered rebels, who have threatened to take the battle into Lebanon unless Hezbollah withdraws.
Early on Saturday at least seven rockets were fired into Lebanon's eastern Bekaa Valley from rebel-controlled Syrian territory, security sources said.
Most of the rockets landed in empty fields. No one was hurt but some buildings were hit by shrapnel.
It was the first time the area, about 60 km (35 miles) east of Beirut, had been struck by rockets.
Several barrages have fallen in the northern Bekaa Valley and on Sunday two rockets were fired at the Hezbollah stronghold of southern Beirut after Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah vowed his fighters would battle in Syria to victory whatever the cost.
(Editing by Robin Pomeroy and Crispian Balmer)Leading Sunni Muslim cleric calls for "jihad" in Syria
Copyright © 2013 Reuters
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