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The Star Online: Metro: South & East

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The Star Online: Metro: South & East

Vietnam PM: China a serious threat to peace

Posted: 21 May 2014 05:48 AM PDT

MANILA: Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung said Wednesday that China's placing of an oil rig in contested South China Sea waters had "seriously threatened peace".

Speaking in Manila after meeting Philippine President Benigno Aquino, Dung said the leaders agreed that China should be condemned by the international community for the oil rig deployment and many other illegal actions in the sea.

"With regard to the situation in the East Sea, the president and I shared the deep concerns over the current extremely dangerous situations caused by China's many actions that violate international law," Dung said, standing alongside Aquino at the presidential palace.

"In particular, China's illegal placement of the oil rig Haiyang 981 and deployment of escorting vessels to protect the rig... have seriously threatened peace, stability, maritime security and safety and freedom of navigation in the East Sea."

Vietnam refers to the South China Sea, which is believed to contain vast deposits of oil and gas, as the East Sea.

China claims nearly all of the sea, even waters approaching the coasts of its neighbours.

Vietnam, the Philippines, Brunei and Malaysia, as well as Taiwan, have competing claims to parts of the sea, and the disputes have for decades made it a potential trigger for conflict.

China gained control of the Paracel islands in 1974 after a battle with South Vietnam that left about 50 Vietnamese military personnel dead.

Dozens more Vietnamese troops were killed in another losing battle with China for control of Johnson Reef in the Spratlys archipelago to the south of the Paracels. 

New tensions flare

Tensions have risen in recent years as Vietnam and the Philippines have accused China of becoming increasingly aggressive in asserting its claims to the waters.

In 2011, Vietnam accused Chinese marine surveillance vessels of cutting an oil survey ship's exploration cables, sparking nationalist protests in Vietnamese cities.

Anti-China rage erupted again last week in Vietnam because of the oil rig deployment, as dozens of Chinese and Vietnamese vessels engaged in repeated skirmishes in the hotspot area.

Four Chinese nationals died in last week's riots, according to China, which has insisted it has indisputable sovereign rights to all of the contested waters.

The Philippines has also faced increasingly tense tussles with China for control of islets and reefs in the sea over recent years.

In one high-profile incident in 2012, the Philippines lost control of a rich fishing ground 220 kilometres (135 miles) off its main island after initially deploying its largest naval ship against Chinese vessels but then withdrawing.

The Philippines lodged an appeal in March with a United Nations tribunal to rule that China's claims to most of the sea are illegal. China has refused to participate in the proceedings.

Dung and Aquino said on Wednesday that their disputes with China had drawn their countries closer in defence and other spheres, as they announced they would start working towards achieving a strategic partnership.

The Philippines has a strategic partnership with just two nations, the United States and Japan, cementing closer ties across all types of relations, including security, economic and cultural.

"We have decided to elevate bilateral ties to a higher plane to allow us to establish a strategic partnership between the two countries in the interests of our people and... peace, cooperation and development," Dung said.

Aquino's comments on Wednesday regarding the territorial disputes with China were less forceful than Dung's, although he also emphasised the importance of the Philippines and Vietnam working together against "common challenges".

"I believe continued cooperation between the Philippines and Vietnam will enable us to better protect our maritime resources," Aquino said.

In Shanghai, Chinese President Xi Jinping told a security forum on Wednesday that China was not a threat to regional peace.

"China stays committed to seeking peaceful settlement of disputes with other countries over territorial sovereignty, and maritime rights and interests," he said. -AFP

Church raided in South Korean ferry disaster probe

Posted: 21 May 2014 05:44 AM PDT

SEOUL: South Korean investigators on Wednesday raided a sprawling religious compound believed to be the hideout of a fugitive billionaire as part of a widening probe into a ferry disaster that killed hundreds.

The raid began shortly before noon as more than 1,000 riot police, backed by 20 firetrucks and ambulances, readied for action outside a 50-acre (20.2 hectare) church and farming complex in Anseong 80 kilometres (50 miles) south of Seoul.

After an eight-hour operation, TV footage showed seven vehicles packed with investigators leaving the compound.

Investigators wanted to detain Yoo Byung-Eun, reclusive patriarch of the family that owns ferry operator Chonghaejin Marine, for questioning over his role in the company, as well as suspected tax evasion and embezzlement.

Bu as of 8:00 pm (1100 GMT), there was no report of Yoo's detention, sparking speculation he had already slipped out of the compound, said cable news network YTN.

Justice Minister Hwang Kyo-Ahn said in parliament he was not sure whether Yoo was still hiding in the compound.

"However, I will do my best so that he can receive a jail sentence as desired by people," he said.

Yoo, 73, has no direct stake in Chonghaejin, but his children and close aides control it through a complex web of holding companies.

Prosecutors suspect Yoo is responsible for unsafe business practices which contributed to the ferry's sinking last month, including overloading the ship and remodelling it to squeeze in more passengers and cargo.

Hundreds of followers of the Evangelical Baptist Church of Korea, a splinter church group founded by one of Yoo's relatives, have been holed up in the church for two weeks.

The church has warned that any police effort to force entry would be regarded as "religious persecution" and lead to a "dangerous" situation.

But they briefly lifted the blockade Wednesday through negotiations with prosecutors to avoid a showdown with police. Journalists were not allowed in.

The church insisted it had no connection with Yoo, but former followers who left the institution described him as its leader who was worshipped as a demi-god.

Prosecutors have said that charges against Yoo will include embezzlement and tax evasion but declined to give a full list of alleged offences until he is officially arrested.

Yoo, who has described himself as an artist and photographer, has a colourful and chequered past. He was once convicted of fraud when a company under his control went bankrupt.

The church has an estimated 20,000 followers and, under a different name, made headlines in 1987 following the mass suicide of 32 members.

Yoo was investigated but cleared of any involvement in that incident.

Prosecutors have already raided Yoo's home and his eldest son, Yoo Dae-Gyun, is also being sought after ignoring an official summons for questioning.

The 6,825-tonne Sewol was carrying 476 people when it capsized and sank on April 16. As of Wednesday, 288 people have been confirmed dead, with 16 still unaccounted for.

The Sewol's captain and three crew members were charged last week with manslaughter through gross negligence. Five Chonghaejin officials have already been arrested for possible criminal negligence. -AFP

Four killed, 21 wounded in Taiwan subway stabbing spree

Posted: 21 May 2014 04:00 AM PDT

TAIPEI, May 21, 2014 (AFP) - A knife-wielding attacker went on a stabbing spree aboard a Taipei subway train Wednesday, killing four people and wounding 21 others, police said.

Cheng Chieh, a 21-year-old college student, was immediately arrested after the incident, the first fatal attack on the city's subway system since it began operations in 1996, police said.

The police, who had earlier put the number of injured at 25, said 22 travellers were wounded and hospitalised. Half of the wounded were in a serious condition, they said.

Three people were initially reported to have died in the attack and a fourth victim, a 62-year-old woman, died later in hospital. The other three victims were a woman and two men.

The stabbing spree happened around 0800 GMT when the student, wearing a red T-shirt, began attacking travellers on a subway train outside Taipei, sending hundreds of people screaming and fleeing for help.

When the train pulled into the next station, Cheng fled and was chased by police before being kicked to the ground by a passenger and overwhelmed by security officials.

Cheng spoke of his motives during police questioning.

"He told the police that he had wanted to do a 'big thing' such as this since his childhood," Chen Kuo-en, chief of the New Taipei City police bureau, told reporters.

"He said he had planned to do this after his graduation, but last week decided to act ahead of his schedule," Chen said, adding that the attacker had no medical record of mental disorder.

The student bought two knives, including a 30-centimetre (12-inch) long knife and a smaller one at a supermarket in Taipei in preparation for the attack, Chen said.

Television images showed pools of blood in the train and passengers who survived the stabbings giving witness accounts.

"He started his attack from the last carriage of the train," a woman said as she gave her tearful account in an interview with the cable news network TVBS.

Another passenger said: "I was terrified when I saw an elderly man covered with lots of blood walking out of a carriage when the train arrived at the Chiangzitsui station and."

After being alerted to the attacks, authorities immediately reinforced police deployment on the busy subway system, which transports around 1.85 million visitors per day.

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

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