HANOI, August 23 -- New allies Vietnam and Australia expressed concern on Friday about China’s activities in the South China Sea, where Vietnamese and Chinese vessels are locked in a tense stand-off in Vietnamese-controlled waters.
Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc discussed the rising tensions with his Australian counterpart, Scott Morrison, during the first visit by an Australian prime minister to Hanoi since the countries formalised their “strategic partnership” earlier this year. New allies Vietnam and Australia expressed concern on Friday about China’s activities in the South China Sea, where Vietnamese and Chinese vessels are locked in a tense stand-off in Vietnamese-controlled waters. “We are deeply concerned about the recent complicated developments in the East Sea and agree to cooperate in maintaining peace, stability, security, safety and freedom of navigation and overflight,” said Phuc alongside Morrison at a joint press conference, using the Vietnamese name for the South China Sea. The comments were Phuc’s first on the stand-off. A Chinese vessel, the Haiyang Dizhi 8, continued to survey Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) on Friday under escort from at least seven Chinese vessels, according to data from Marine Traffic, a website that tracks vessel movements. At least two Vietnamese navy ships, including the Russian-built Quang Trung frigate, have been closely shadowing the Chinese vessels, according to the data.
The United States said on Thursday it was deeply concerned about China’s interference in oil and gas activities in waters claimed by Vietnam, and that the deployment of the vessels was “an escalation by Beijing in its efforts to intimidate other claimants out of developing resources in the South China Sea.” Australian Prime Minister Morrison said the principles of international law should be upheld in the region. “Principles like freedom of navigation, freedom of overflight, to ensure nations can pursue the development opportunities which exist within their EEZ and sea boundaries, and can go about that business in a way which is uninhibited,” said Morrison, who began a three-day visit to Hanoi on Thursday.
SYDNEY, July 13 -- The days unfold at a leisurely pace in Tonga, a South Pacific archipelago with no traffic lights or fast-food chains. Snuffling pigs roam dusty roads that wind through villages dotted with churches.
Yet even in this far-flung island kingdom there are signs that a battle for power and influence is heating up among much larger nations - and Tonga may end up paying the price. In the capital, Nuku'alofa, government officials work in a shiny new office block - an US$11 million (NZ$16 million) gift from China that is rivalled in grandeur only by China's imposing new embassy complex. Dozens of Tongan bureaucrats take all-expenses-paid training trips to Beijing each year, and China has laid out millions of dollars to bring 107 Tongan athletes and coaches to a training camp in China's Sichuan province ahead of this month's Pacific Games in Samoa. "The best facilities. The gym, the track, and a lot of equipment we don't have here in Tonga," said Tevita Fauonuku, the country's head athletic coach. "The accommodation: lovely, beautiful. And the meals. Not only that, but China gave each and everyone some money. A per diem." China also offered low-interest loans after pro-democracy rioters destroyed much of downtown Nuku'alofa in 2006, and analysts say those loans could prove Tonga's undoing. The country of 106,000 people owes some US$108m to China's Export-Import bank, equivalent to about 25 per cent of GDP. The US ambassador to Australia, Arthur Culvahouse Jr, calls China's lending in the Pacific "payday loan diplomacy." "The money looks attractive and easy upfront, but you better read the fine print," he said. China's ambassador to Tonga, Wang Baodong, said China was the only country willing to step up to help Tonga during its time of need. Graeme Smith, a specialist in Chinese investment in the Pacific, is not convinced China tried to trap Tonga in debt, saying its own financial mismanagement is as much to blame. Nonetheless, he said it's worrying that the nation of 171 islands, already vulnerable to costly natural disasters, has little ability to repay.
Why is China pouring money into Tonga? Teisina Fuko, a 69-year-old former parliament member, suspects China finds his country's location useful. "I think Tonga is maybe a window to the Western side," he said. "Because it's easy to get here and look into New Zealand, Australia." "It's a stepping stone," he said.
Author: Linda Lim
Australia - Prime Minister Scott Morrison
OSAKA, June 28 -- Morrison arrives in Japan for the first time for the G-20 summit, having come to office last August and then won in the country's general election on May 18.
His Liberal Party and coalition partner National Party performed better than media predictions in the election to take the country's conservative government into its third-consecutive term. Morrison had campaigned on a policy of fiscally responsible action on climate change, rejecting proposals to increase renewable energy on the grounds it would damage mining exports and drive up electricity prices. The 51-year-old became Australia's seventh prime minister in 11 years after he replaced former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. Well-known for his nickname "ScoMo," Morrison is a graduate of the University of New South Wales.
He is a Protestant and first met his wife Jenny when they were attending church as teenagers.
Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, a Boeing-777 passenger plane traveling from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, was shot down on July 17, 2014, over Ukraine’s eastern region of Donetsk. The crash killed all the 283 passengers, citizens of 10 countries, and 15 crew members. In spite of the active armed conflict on the ground, Kiev didn't close its airspace over the Donbass region to international passenger flights. The Joint Investigation Team (JIT), consisting of representatives from Australia, Belgium, Malaysia, the Netherlands and Ukraine, was set up to investigate the tragedy. In June 2017, the JIT countries made a decision that the hearing will be held in a Dutch court under the Dutch laws. The Netherlands’ prosecution heads the JIT and will be responsible for filing the case and presenting the details. In accordance with the decision of the Dutch Ministry of Justice and Security, the case will be heard at the Schiphol Judicial Complex in the town of Badhoevedorp. In May 2018, Australia and the Netherlands said that they would seek to hold Russia responsible for complicity in the plane crash on the grounds of the provisional report published by the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) claiming that the missile system that was used to down Flight MH17 could have been transferred from Russia and be a part of the Russian 53rd Anti-Aircraft Missile brigade near Kursk. Moscow rejects the JIT accusations. Particularly, the Russian Defense Ministry said that no Russian army missile system had ever crossed the Ukrainian border. Moreover, the defense ministry’s representatives reported that they had identified the missile that was launched to down the Boeing and established that it was transferred over to the Ukrainian troops back in 1986 and had never returned to Russia since.
PORTSMOUTH, June 5 -- World leaders gathered on the coast of southern England on Wednesday (June 5) to mark the 75th anniversary of D-Day, the largest seaborne invasion in history and a feat that helped bring World War Two to an end.
Britain's Queen Elizabeth and Prime Minister Theresa May will be joined for the commemorative events in Portsmouth by veterans and by US President Donald Trump, who is on the final day of a state visit to Britain. French President Emmanuel Macron, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and leaders and senior figures from 10 other countries are also due to attend. "As we unite to pay tribute to those whose bravery and sacrifice on the beaches of Normandy marked a turning point in the Second World War, we will vow never to forget the debt we owe them," Mrs May said. "Their solidarity and determination in the defense of our freedom remains a lesson to us all."
In the early hours of June 6, 1944, more than 150,000 allied troops set off from Portsmouth and the surrounding area to begin the air, sea and land attack on Normandy that ultimately led to the liberation of western Europe from the Nazi regime. By the time of the Normandy landings, Soviet forces had been fighting Germany in the east for almost three years and Kremlin chief Josef Stalin had urged British Prime Minister Winston Churchill to open a second front as far back as August 1942. The invasion, codenamed Operation Overlord and commanded by US General Dwight D. Eisenhower, remains the largest amphibious assault in history and involved almost 7,000 ships and landing craft along a 80km stretch of the French coast.
Shortly after midnight, thousands of paratroopers were dropped. Then came the naval bombardment of German positions overlooking the shore. Then the infantry arrived on the beaches. Mostly American, British and Canadian men, some just boys, waded ashore as German soldiers tried to kill them with machine guns and artillery. Survivors say the sea was red with blood and the air boiling with the thunder of explosions. Thousands were killed on both sides. Line upon line of white crosses honor the dead in cemeteries across northern France. Even the code names of the sectors of the invasion - Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno and Sword - can draw tears from veterans.
SYDNEY, May 5 -- The Immortal Regiment march commemorating World War II heroes has started in Australian cities. The participants in the procession walked along the central streets of Sydney on Sunday.
"The Immortal Regiment event traditionally attracts a great number of fellow countrymen in Australia, though there are not so many Russians here, but nevertheless our column is becoming increasingly crowded each year. Over 100 people have gathered in the city center carrying portraits of their grandfathers and great grandfathers today despite a heavy rainfall, to commemorate the heroes who died during World War II," the coordinator of the march Kseniya Trifonova said. The Immortal Regiment column walked along Sydney’s central streets from Martin Place to the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (Anzac) memorial where the participants laid flowers to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and observed a moment of silence. The people in the column carried not only the portraits of World War II veterans, but also the Russian and Australian flags. According to the coordinator of the procession in Sydney, the Immortal Regiment event has already become a tradition for Australia. "Marches have been held in Sydney since 2013, though initially the column walked well before Victory Day, on April 25, on Anzac Day. However, this is the third year that it takes place as a completely independent event, which we are attempting to hold on the weekend closest to Victory Day for as many fellow countrymen to be able to participate in it as possible, since people like it," Trifonova said.
The Immortal Regiment event is extremely important not only for Russia-and CIS-born marchers as each year it attracts a growing number of Australians interested in the history of World War II and the role of the Soviet people in achieving the victory in it, the participants of the procession said. Earlier the Immortal Regiment walked along the streets of Melbourne, attracting over 100 people. On Monday, May 6, the column will walk along the streets of Brisbane. On May 12, New Zealand’s Auckland will join the Immortal Regiment march. The Immortal Regiment procession is a public event where people carry photos of their relatives who participated in the Great Patriotic War. The first march was held in the Siberian city of Tyumen in 2007, under the name of the Parade of the Victorious. In 2013, the procession was held in 120 cities. In the following year, citizens of 500 cities in seven countries walked along the streets carrying the portraits of veterans. Sydney joined the event in 2013. The Immortal Regiment marches have taken place in Brisbane since 2015, and in Melbourne - since 2017.
BRISBANE, March 25 -- Airline advertisements accused of “making light” of sexual exploitation in Thailand have been removed from all Brisbane City Council buses.
A recent AirAsia advertising campaign ran a slogan saying "Get off in Thailand" in large type above the words "Fly direct from Brisbane to Bangkok". National regulator Ad Standards said while it had not received any complaints about the advertisement on the bus, it had received one complaint about the same advertisement on a billboard. The same ad is still on a billboard at Brisbane Airport, however the airport tweeted on Monday afternoon that it was being removed as a priority. Collective Shout spokeswoman Melinda Liszewski said she was having dinner with friends in West End on Friday night when she spotted the bus parked opposite. Taking a photo, she sent it to her colleagues and they agreed it was a "dog whistle" to people who travelled to Thailand for sex tourism. Ms Liszewski said a research paper had found about 250,000 western men visit Thailand every year for the sole purpose of sexually exploiting women and children.
"It’s appalling that an ad like that would appear on a Brisbane bus," she said. "Looking at the bus advertisement I’m not willing to give them the benefit of the doubt that it was an accident."
AirAsia began a new direct flight route between Brisbane and Bangkok in February this year. An AirAsia spokesman said the campaign had since ended and the last advertisements were being removed around the city. "We take community feedback extremely seriously and sincerely apologise for the concerns raised," the spokesman said. ALP councillor Kara Cook (Morningside) said she had written to public and active transport chair and deputy mayor Adrian Schrinner on Monday calling for any buses still carrying the slogan to be pulled off the road. "This advertisement is completely inappropriate and makes light of the appalling situation facing many women and children who are victims of sexual exploitation in Thailand," Cr Cook said. "We know that Thailand has high rates of human trafficking and sexual exploitation of women and children, this is a serious issue and these buses should be immediately removed from circulation. "Council cannot sit on their hands when it comes to council-owned buses. We have a responsibility." A Brisbane City Council spokeswoman said AirAsia had advised the council the campaign had ended and the advertisements had been removed in a process starting on March 17. "The wraps were installed on buses from 18 February, however, have all since been removed as part of the campaign ending," the spokeswoman said. The council spokeswoman said the council didn't determine the suitability of individual advertisements. "The Advertising Standards Bureau sets advertising guidelines to deem what is acceptable and also deals with complaints about advertising," she said. But Ms Liszewski said that wasn't good enough and said the lesson for all companies was to take responsibility. "They are responsible for what they put on their vehicles, on the front of their businesses and even the owners of the billboards and signs, they also have a responsibility," she said. "There is some advertising which is just blatantly sexist and in this case promoting sex tourism, that’s horrific. How did that get through so many people? "You can’t fob these things off to Ad Standards board."
MELBOURNE, March 17 -- Full race results for the Australian Grand Prix at Albert Park, round one of the 2019 Formula 1 season.
1. Valtteri Bottas FIN Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport 58 laps
2. Lewis Hamilton GBR Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport + 20.886s
3. Max Verstappen NED Aston Martin Red Bull Racing Honda + 22.520s
4. Sebastian Vettel GER Scuderia Ferrari + 57.109s
5. Charles Leclerc MON Scuderia Ferrari + 58.230s
6. Kevin Magnussen DEN Rich Energy Haas F1 Team + 87.156s
7. Nico Hulkenberg GER Renault F1 Team + 1 lap
8. Kimi Raikkonen ITA Alfa Romeo Racing + 1 lap
9. Lance Stroll CAN SportPesa Racing Point F1 Team + 1 lap
10. Daniil Kvyat RUS Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda + 1 lap
11. Pierre Gasly FRA Aston Martin Red Bull Racing Honda + 1 lap
12. Lando Norris GBR McLaren F1 Team + 1 lap
13. Sergio Perez MEX SportPesa Racing Point F1 Team + 1 lap
14. Alexander Albon THA Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda + 1 lap
15. Antonio Giovinazzi ITA Alfa Romeo Racing + 1 lap
16. George Russell GBR ROKiT Williams Racing + 2 laps
17. Robert Kubica POL ROKiT Williams Racing + 3 laps
Ret. Romain Grosjean FRA Rich Energy Haas F1 Team
Ret. Daniel Ricciardo AUS Renault F1 Team
Ret. Carlos Sainz ESP McLaren F1 Team
MELBOURNE, March 16 -- Full results from qualifying for the Australian Grand Prix at Albert Park, round one of the 2019 Formula 1 season.
Formula 1 2019 Australian Grand Prix - Qualifying Results
1. Lewis Hamilton GBR Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport 1m20.486s
2. Valtteri Bottas FIN Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport + 0.112s
3. Sebastian Vettel GER Scuderia Ferrari + 0.704s
4. Max Verstappen NED Aston Martin Red Bull Racing Honda + 0.834s
5. Charles Leclerc MON Scuderia Ferrari + 0.956s
6. Romain Grosjean FRA Rich Energy Haas F1 Team + 1.340s
7. Kevin Magnussen DEN Rich Energy Haas F1 Team + 1.613s
8. Lando Norris GBR McLaren F1 Team + 1.818s
9. Kimi Raikkonen ITA Alfa Romeo Racing + 1.828s
10. Sergio Perez MEX SportPesa Racing Point F1 Team + 2.295s
-- Q2 CUTOFF 1m22.532s --
11. Nico Hulkenberg GER Renault F1 Team 1m22.562s
12. Daniel Ricciardo AUS Renault F1 Team 1m22.570s
13. Alexander Albon THA Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda 1m22.636s
14. Antonio Giovinazzi ITA Alfa Romeo Racing 1m22.714s
15. Daniil Kvyat RUS Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda 1m22.774s
-- Q1 CUTOFF 1m22.966s --
16. Lance Stroll CAN SportPesa Racing Point F1 Team 1m23.017s
17. Pierre Gasly FRA Aston Martin Red Bull Racing Honda 1m23.020s
18. Carlos Sainz ESP McLaren F1 Team 1m23.084s
19. George Russell GBR ROKiT Williams Racing 1m24.360s
20. Robert Kubica POL ROKiT Williams Racing 1m26.067s
CHRISTCHURCH, March 15 -- Gunmen entered two mosques and began shooting in New Zealand's city of Christchurch on Friday killing at least 40 people - an unprecedented attack in the quiet country in the Pacific.
New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told a news conference that 20 others were in serious condition after the "terrorist" attack. Police Commissioner Mike Bush said four suspects were in custody - three men and a woman. Sam Clarke, a reporter with TVNZ, spoke with several people inside the Masjid Al Noor mosque when the shooting began. He told Al Jazeera a man entered with an automatic weapon and began firing.
"A gunman - dressed in black with a helmet carrying a machine gun - came into the back of the mosque and started firing into the people praying there," said Clarke. Police confirmed a second shooting occurred at the Linwood mosque during Friday prayers in the South Island city, but no details were immediately available. Ardern said: "This is, and will be, one of New Zealand's darkest days." Authorities have not described the scale of Friday's shootings but urged people in central Christchurch to stay indoors. New Zealand media reported between nine and 27 people were killed, but the death toll could not be confirmed. Police warned worshippers not to visit mosques "anywhere in New Zealand". A lockdown imposed throughout Christchurch was called off at about 05:00 GMT.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said one of the suspects was an Australian national, calling him an "extremist, right-wing, violent terrorist".
Dressed in black
Witness Len Peneha said he saw a man dressed in black enter the Masjid Al Noor mosque and then heard dozens of shots, followed by people running from the mosque in terror. He said he also saw the gunman flee before emergency services arrived. Peneha - who lives next to the mosque - said he went into the building to try and help. "I saw dead people everywhere." One man in the mosque, with blood stains all over his clothes, said he hid under a bench as the shooting took place. He said about 50 people were inside the building. Clarke said some worshippers managed to escape through windows and doors but "many people had been hit, some as young as 16". About 10 to 15 people were seen outside the mosque, "some alive, some dead", he said. "It was unbelievable. I saw about 20 people, some dead, some screaming," one eyewitness told local television. "I saw on the floor so many bullet shells, hundreds. I saw one guy trying to run out and he was shot dead."
One of the gunmen shared a livestream of the attack on Facebook and posted content on Instagram. Facebook said it has taken down the video and was removing praise for the gunman. "Police are aware there is extremely distressing footage relating to the incident in Christchurch circulating online," a police statement said. "We would strongly urge that the link not be shared. We are working to have any footage removed." There were reports racist literature was left behind at the scene denouncing "invaders". Commissioner Bush said local police officers apprehended the four suspects. "There's been some absolute acts of bravery," he said without elaborating. "I won't assume there aren't others but I don't have any information to that effect," Bush told a press conference. He said a number of bombs were detected and neutralised on the attackers' automobiles. "There were a few reports of IEDs strapped to vehicles which we were able to secure," he said, referring to improved explosive devices.
Asked by reporters whether police considered Friday's carnage a "terrorist attack", Bush said an investigation was under way.