Rabu, 1 Januari 2014

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The Star Online: World Updates

China sacks former aide to retired domestic security chief

Posted: 01 Jan 2014 08:35 PM PST

BEIJING (Reuters) - A former aide to China's retired security tsar Zhou Yongkang has been sacked for suspected corruption, state media said on Thursday, the latest move against people close to Zhou who is himself subject of a graft investigation.

The ruling Communist Party's anti-corruption watchdog said on Sunday that the former aide, Li Chongxi, was being investigated for corruption.

On Thursday, the official Xinhua news agency said Li had been removed from his post as head of an advisory body to the legislature in the southwestern province of Sichuan "for suspected severe violations of discipline", a euphemism for corruption.

"Authorities are investigating his case according to procedure," Xinhua said, citing a statement from the Communist Party's powerful Organisation Department.

It provided no further details and it was not possible to reach Li for comment.

President Xi Jinping has launched a sweeping crackdown on corruption since taking power, warning that the problem is a threat to the Communist Party's very survival and vowing to go after powerful "tigers" as well as lowly "flies".

Zhou, who sources have told Reuters has been put under virtual house arrest, was party boss of Sichuan from 1999-2002, and it became one of his powerbases.

During Zhou's tenure in Sichuan, Li was promoted to a deputy provincial party boss and head of the province's anti-graft body, according to his official biography.

Two other senior Sichuan officials are being investigated, including Li Chuncheng, another former deputy Sichuan party chief.

Several of Zhou's political allies have been taken into custody and questioned for corruption, including former Vice Minister of Public Security Li Dongsheng and Jiang Jiemin, the top regulator of state-owned enterprises for just five months until September.

In a separate case, Xinhua said a senior official in the southern province of Hunan had been sacked and expelled from the party for his role in an election bribery scandal.

More than 500 lawmakers in Hunan's Hengyang city resigned last month after being implicated in the scandal.

Xinhua said Tong Mingqian was fired as deputy head of Hunan's advisory body to parliament "for dereliction of duty which caused major electoral fraud", and will be prosecuted.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Robert Birsel)

Antarctic helicopter rescue of trapped ship passengers delayed due to sea ice

Posted: 01 Jan 2014 08:21 PM PST

SYDNEY (Reuters) - A planned helicopter rescue of 52 passengers on a Russian ship stranded in Antarctic ice since Christmas Eve was delayed on Thursday due to unfavourable sea ice conditions in the area.

The helicopter on the Chinese icebreaker Snow Dragon had planned to lift passengers from the trapped Akademik Shokalskiy on Thursday and then use a barge to transport them to the nearby Aurora Australis, Australia's Antarctic supply ship.

"Current sea ice conditions prevent the barge from Aurora Australis from reaching the Chinese vessel Xue Long (Snow Dragon) and a rescue may not be possible today," the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA), which is coordinating the rescue, said in a statement.

It was not safe for the helicopter to land either on the Aurora Australis or next to the vessel, the agency added.

"It is now likely the rescue will not go ahead today. The preferred option is to wait for conditions that will allow the rescue to be completed in a single operation to reduce unnecessary risk," AMSA said.

The Russian ship left New Zealand on November 28 on a private expedition to commemorate the 100th anniversary of an Antarctic journey led by famed Australian explorer Douglas Mawson.

It became trapped on December 24, 100 nautical miles east of French Antarctic station Dumont D'Urville and about 1,500 nautical miles south of Australia's southern island state of Tasmania.

The Chinese ship got within sight of the Akademik Shokalskiy on Saturday, but turned back after failing to break the ice, which was more than 3 metres (10 feet) deep in places.

Two other vessels, Australia's Aurora Australis and a French flagged ship, also tried to help but failed to reach the ship due to high wind and heavy snow.

China's first aircraft carrier completes South China Sea drills

Posted: 01 Jan 2014 08:20 PM PST

BEIJING (Reuters) - China's first aircraft carrier has successfully finished a series of tests during a training mission in the disputed South China Sea and has returned to port, state media reported.

Last month's drills off the coast of Hainan Island marked not only the first time China has sent a carrier into the South China Sea but the first time it has manoeuvred with the kind of strike group of escort ships U.S. carriers deploy, according to regional military officers and analysts.

After two decades of double-digit increases in the military budget, China's admirals plan to develop a full blue-water navy capable of defending growing economic interests as well as disputed territory in the South and East China Seas.

The aircraft carrier Liaoning carried out more than 100 tests, including of its combat systems, and has now docked at port in the northern city of Qingdao, the official Xinhua news agency said late on Wednesday.

"The aircraft carrier underwent a comprehensive test of its combat system and conducted a formation practice during its 37-day voyage," Xinhua said, citing an unnamed naval source as saying.

The tests "attained the anticipated objectives", the report added. "All tests and training programmes went well as scheduled."

The carrier was escorted by two destroyers and two frigates, and aircraft and submarines also participated in the drills.

The Liaoning - a Soviet-era ship bought from Ukraine in 1998 and re-fitted in a Chinese shipyard - has long been a symbol of China's naval build-up.

Carrier strike groups sit at the core of China's naval ambitions and successfully operating the 60,000-tonne Liaoning is the first step in what state media and some military experts believe will be the deployment of locally built carriers by 2020.

Friction over the South China Sea has surged as China uses its growing naval might to assert a vast claim over the oil-and-gas-rich area, raising fears of a clash between it and other countries in the region, including the Philippines and Vietnam.

The USS Cowpens narrowly avoided colliding with a Chinese warship escorting the Liaoning while operating in international waters on December 5, the U.S. Navy has said.

Xinhua said the Cowpens was "warned" by the carrier task force, adding the U.S. vessel was "intentionally" putting the Liaoning under surveillance.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Michael Perry)

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

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