No Respect for POTUS in Asia

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The president emerged from a smaller staircase in the belly of the aircraft, and many saw it as a deliberate sign of disrespect by the Chinese.

 reports: On President Obama’s final trip to Asia, his impending lame-duck status is showing.

Mr. Obama, who arrived in Laos late Monday night to become the first U.S. president ever to visit the Southeast Asian country, is encountering more than his usual share of friction and confrontation on his 10th trip to the region.

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It started with his arrival at the airport in China, where Chinese officials failed to provide a portable staircase for Mr. Obama to disembark from the upper door of Air Force One with the typical grandiose visibility befitting a visiting head of state. Instead, the president emerged from a smaller staircase in the belly of the aircraft, and many saw it as a deliberate sign of disrespect by the Chinese.

Republican nominee Donald Trump said he would have refused to meet with Chinese officials if they treated him like they treated Mr. Obama. Read the rest of this entry »


BREAKING: China Has No Historic Rights to South China Sea Resources, Court Says 

The case was brought by the Philippines, arguing that China’s claims don’t comply with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. While the court says the ruling is binding, it lacks a mechanism for enforcement.

David Tweed reports: China’s assertions to more than 80 percent of the disputed South China Sea have been dealt a blow with an international tribunal ruling it has no historic rights to the resources within a 1940s map detailing its claims.

“There was no evidence that China has historically exercised exclusive control over the waters or their resources,” the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague said Tuesday in a statement. “The tribunal concluded that there was no legal basis for China to claim historic rights to resources within the seas falling within the ‘nine-dash line’.”

“There was no evidence that China has historically exercised exclusive control over the waters or their resources. The tribunal concluded that there was no legal basis for China to claim historic rights to resources within the seas falling within the ‘nine-dash line’.”

— Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, in a statement on Tuesday

[Read the full story here, at Bloomberg]

The case was brought by the Philippines, arguing that China’s claims don’t comply with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. While the court says the ruling is binding, it lacks a mechanism for enforcement.

In this Tuesday, Nov. 26, 2013 photo, a crew member of Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) Navy monitors on the deck of the China's aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, sailing on the East China Sea for sea trials. The Liaoning departed for its first-ever sea trials in the South China Sea, a mission likely to draw scrutiny amid Beijing's drive to assert its claims to those waters and their island groups. (AP Photo) CHINA OUT

China’s assertions are based on a 1947 map showing vague dashes — known as the nine-dash line — looping about 1,120 miles (1,800 kilometers) south of China’s Hainan Island and covering about 1.4 million square miles. It contends its claim is grounded in “historic rights” and reclaimed reefs and islands are its indisputable territory. China boycotted the arbitration process and vowed to ignore the result.

“The result of the arbitration is non-binding as far as China is concerned. The Chinese government has already repeatedly made it clear that it will not accept it, will not attend the arbitration, does not acknowledge it and will not implement the result.”

—  Chinese Admiral Sun Jianguo, in June

The ruling risks inflaming tensions in a waterway that hosts about $5 trillion of trade a year and plays a vital link for global energy shipments. China has stepped up its assertions under President Xi Jinping, straining ties with fellow claimants like the Philippines and Vietnam.

[MORE on China’s territorial disputes]

“The result of the arbitration is non-binding as far as China is concerned,” Chinese Admiral Sun Jianguo said in June. “The Chinese government has already repeatedly made it clear that it will not accept it, will not attend the arbitration, does not acknowledge it and will not implement the result.” Read the rest of this entry »


With a Few Words, Japan Escalates Its Standoff With China in the South China Sea

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Japan isn’t the only one pushing back against China’s expansion in the region.

Jennifer Peters reports: Japan has put its foot down — at least in writing — over China’s attempts to assert greater control of the South China Sea.

In an outline of a defense white paper due to be released at the end of July, Japan calls China’s efforts to lay claim to the much-disputed Spratly Islands “high handed.” The diplomatically sharp words come in the wake of China’s reclamation efforts of the islands, which have included laying the foundations of a military base on Fiery Cross Reef at the western edge of a part of the South China Sea fittingly named Dangerous Ground.

“The Chinese take kind of a Leninist approach to these things,” Currie said. “They probe with the bayonet until they hit steel, and then they’ll stop. When they start to see that people are serious about pushing back, then they will back off a bit.”

Over the past year and a half, China has built up seven reefs in the region, adding 800 hectares — about three square miles — to islands and putting an airstrip and the beginnings of the base on Fiery Cross Reef. China has claimed that its structures in the South China Sea are for civilian purposes — or at most for a defensive military role — and would benefit other countries. But Japan’s fight with China over the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea has seemingly left them wary of Beijing’s intentions.

A Japanese patrol plane, pictured in 2011, flying over the disputed islands in the East China Sea.

A Japanese patrol plane flying over the disputed islands in the East China Sea. Japan Pool, via Jiji Press

“The US plays a unique role, because it’s not an Asian nation, as a relatively distant and disinterested outsider there. The interest we have is not territorial, it’s not to benefit ourselves in any way other than maintaining this open trade order that we benefit from economically, but not in any of the traditional ways that usually cause war.”

Japan’s decision to act on this wariness so stridently, however, is a recent phenomenon. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has been pushing for legislation that would allow Japan to participate in collective self-defense for the first time since World War II.

[Related: China Goes on the Offensive in the South China Sea]

“[This is] a shift that’s been coming,” Kelley Currie, a senior fellow with the Project 2049 Institute, told VICE News. “The language is definitely stronger, and the whole effort around reinterpretation to the self-defense constitution has been a response to the multi-year trend of the Chinese being more aggressive and pushing their military advantage in the region.”

Japan's Self-Defense Force honor guards prepare for a welcoming ceremony of new Defence Minister Gen Nakatani in Tokyo on December 25, 2014. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe promised December 24 at the start of his new term to revive Japan's economy so he can pursue "powerful diplomacy", but China's state media warned him to be wary about changing the pacifist constitution.  AFP PHOTO / KAZUHIRO NOGI        (Photo credit should read KAZUHIRO NOGI/AFP/Getty Images)

China’s state media warned Abe to be wary about changing the pacifist constitution. AFP PHOTO / KAZUHIRO NOGI 

“China is actually very worried about Japan and how far Japan might go.”

— Michael Auslin, resident scholar and director of Japan Studies for the American Enterprise Institute

Japan isn’t the only one pushing back against China’s expansion in the region. The Philippines is taking China to court over territorial claims to the South China Sea, with top Filipino officials appearing at The Hague to argue their case before a United Nations arbitral tribunal. China has called it a “political provocation.”

[Read the full text here, at VICE News]

“The Chinese take kind of a Leninist approach to these things,” Currie said. “They probe with the bayonet until they hit steel, and then they’ll stop. When they start to see that people are serious about pushing back, then they will back off a bit.”

Other than the United States, Japan is the only nation that can truly challenge China in the region militarily. Read the rest of this entry »


Freedom of Speech: Just Getting Warmed Up

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BRUSSELS (AP) — The Dutch anti-Islam political leader who was guest of honor at the Prophet Muhammad cartoon show in Garland, Texas, where gunmen opened fire is calling for more such exhibitions as a show of defiance.

“The most important reaction to the attack on freedom of expression was to make sure that everybody sees this.”

Geert Wilders of the Dutch PVV Freedom Party said in a telephone interview on Thursday that he wants to set up a special Prophet Muhammad cartoon show at the Dutch legislature in The Hague and said all parties who back freedom of expression should rally around the idea.

[CBSHouston]


‘Today, Paris is Capital of the World’: France Displays Defiance With Huge Rally

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Historic: World Leaders Gather With Crowd of Millions to Show Solidarity After Terror Attacks

PARIS— Stacy Meichtry reports: World leaders marched arm-in-arm with a massive crowd Sunday in defiance of terrorist attacks that ripped through the French capital in the past week.

A man dressed as the Statue of Liberty holds up the French national flag at the Place de la République. JOEL SAGET/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES

A man dressed as the Statue of Liberty holds up the French national flag at the Place de la République. JOEL SAGET/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES

Hundreds of thousands of people from across France and elsewhere descended on Paris for a rally that drew a host of strange bedfellows from the world stage.

The families and friends of the 17 people killed in the spree of violence walked solemnly at the head of the march. In their wake came a spectrum of leaders, ranging from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to German Chancellor Angela Merkel and U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron .

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The rally was one of the city’s biggest gatherings in decades, and French officials adopted “exceptional” measures to manage the crowd and guarantee the security of foreign leaders. Large swaths of the city were sealed off from traffic and subway lines were shut down.

For a city that had become a backdrop of gunfire and bloodshed in recent days, the rally marked Paris’s return as a stage for symbolic gestures of peace. Ms. Merkel locked arms with Mr. Abbas, and Mr. Netanyahu shook hands with President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita of Mali, which doesn’t have diplomatic relations with Israel.

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emonstrators gather in Place de la République before the start of a march on Sunday in Paris. Hundreds of thousands of people and dozens of world leaders are attending the event in memory of 17 people who were killed in a spree of terror attacks in the French capital. CHRISTOPHER FURLONG/GETTY IMAGES

 Thousands Gather in Paris

World leaders and dignitaries were due to march with a massive crowd in Paris on Sunday in memory of 17 people who were killed in a spree of terrorist attacks in France this past week. Photo: AP

“Today, Paris is the capital of the world. The whole country will stand up.”

— French President François Hollande

France and the rest of Europe have been on high alert since Wednesday, when brothers Chérif and Saïd Kouachi allegedly went on a deadly rampage, stalking through the newsroom of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo with AK-47s. The violence continued when a third gunman, Amedy Coulibaly, allegedly killed a police woman on Thursday and four hostages at a kosher grocery store on Friday.

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Signs with the words “Je Suis Charlie” (I am Charlie), adorn the base of the statue of Marianne at the Place de la République before the start of the march. JOEL SAGET/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES

The Kouachi brothers and Mr. Coulibaly were killed by police in separate and simultaneous raids that brought the crisis to a dramatic climax.

The violence traumatized France, puncturing public confidence in the country’s formidable security forces and sowing tensions in a land that is home to one of Europe’s biggest Muslim populations.

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French doctor Patrice Pelloux, right, takes part in the march with members of the Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine. THOMAS SAMSON/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES

On the sidelines of Sunday’s rally, Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve convened a meeting of senior security officials from both sides of the Atlantic, including U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder , to address terrorist threats in the wake of the attacks.

Mr. Cazeneuve said the group of officials agreed to work together to combat threats from foreign fighters returning from Syria and Iraq and to tighten border controls.

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A black X is put across the mouth on part of the base of the statue of Marianne at the Place de la République before the start of the march. The poster reads in French: “We are all defiantly Charlie,” referring to Charlie Hebdo, the satirical magazine whose Paris offices were attacked by brothers Chérif and Saïd Kouachi. JOEL SAGET/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES

French police faced off with gunmen on two fronts. How did the alleged terrorists end up in these final confrontations? WSJ’s Jason Bellini has #TheShortAnswer.

The government mobilized thousands of police and paramilitary forces to oversee the rally. Special units, officials said, were dedicated to protecting dignitaries and leaders.

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Mr. Hollande welcomes Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas at the Élysée Palace. THIBAULT CAMUS/ASSOCIATED PRESS

Efforts to control the crowd, however, were at times overwhelmed by the sheer size of the gathering.

Crowds began flocking to the city center in the early hours of Sunday amid bright sunshine and crisp blue skies. Several dozen antique cars and tractors, in Paris for an annual procession, this year decked themselves out with “Je suis Charlie,” or “I am Charlie,” stickers in solidarity with the magazine, and drove near the Arc de Triomphe as passersby cheered and clapped.

Notably not present: Alleged world leader U.S. President Barack Obama

Notably not present: Alleged world leader U.S. President Barack Obama

The sea of demonstrators pooling in Place de la Republique—the march’s starting point—quickly overflowed, sending human rivers into Paris’s manicured avenues. Crowds also breached the march’s official routes—toward Place de la Nation, 2 miles away—clogging the city’s cobblestoned byways with foot traffic.

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Mr. Hollande embraces German Chancellor Angela Merkel, left, as she arrives at the Élysée Palace. Mr. Hollande will lead the march and will be joined by world leaders in a sign of unity. Thibault Camus/Associated Press

Meanwhile, world leaders were ferried to the head of the rally in charted buses from the Élysée Palace, where Mr. Hollande had individually welcomed them in the morning. As the leaders arrived at the march, plain-clothed officers fanned out and police marksmen took rooftop positions. Read the rest of this entry »