China Targets Canada Goose, Maker of Posh Parkas

Canada Goose, the Canadian maker of parkas it claims are designed to keep wearers toasty warm in the “the coldest places on Earth,” is the latest foreign brand targeted by Chinese regulators.China’s state-controlled CCTV revealed that authorities fined the company’s affiliated operation in Shanghai about $70,000 (450,000 RMB) for “falsely advertising goods or services, deceiving and misleading consumers.”The Shanghai Huangpu District Market Supervision and Administration Department acted against the local outlet of Canada Goose Holdings Inc. of Toronto in June, a move CCTV made public on Sept. 2.The National Enterprise Credit Information Publicity System (Shanghai) announced that Shanghai district regulators found that Canada Goose, which was marketing its products as filled with goose down, was using mostly duck to stuff its garments.The regulators said the company advertised that it uses “Hutterite down,” claiming it is the warmest down available. The Hutterites, a religious group in Canada similar to the Amish and Mennonites in the United States, enjoy a reputation for raising high-quality geese and ducks.And while the Canada Goose marketing stresses the warming quality of the down it uses, Shanghai regulators said the place of origin has nothing to do with down’s warmth.On Sept. 8, other state-affiliated media outlets in China began criticizing the expensive parkas that as The New Yorker suggested, broadcast, “I earned the money, and then I spent the money. And now, here I am, warmer than you are.”The Economic Daily published a commentary titled Catching the Lying Canada Goose on Sept. 8, suggesting that Canada Goose had violated China’s law regarding advertising standards. It continued to accuse the company of failing to credit Chinese buyers as savvy consumers who are capable of market research.Calling on Chinese consumers to purchase goods from Chinese brands, the Economic Daily urged Chinese companies to seize the opportunity to expand market share.The newspaper also said Xiji (Shanghai) Trading Co., operator of the Canada Goose Official Flagship Store on China’s online retailer Tmall, had sales of $25.9 million (167 million yuan) in 2020. On the company’s U.S. website, the most expensive Canada Goose parka, the Polar Bear International, costs $1,545. The same coat on the company’s Chinese website costs $1,616 (10,400 yuan).Canada Goose told Canada’s CBC News on Sept. 8 that a technical error on a partner website caused confusion about the down.”Earlier this year, a misalignment of text was found on a partner site, Tmall, in our (Asia-Pacific) region. The error was corrected immediately,” the email to CBC said.The company told CBC that it uses both goose and duck down, depending on the garment. Although Canada Goose is best known for its parkas, it makes other down and non-down products.VOA Mandarin contacted Canada Goose but did not receive a response.Consumer nationalismCanada Goose is not the only company targeted by China’s regulators. Earlier this month, Chinese regulators fined H&M, the Swedish multinational retailer, $51,000, claiming the company misrepresented that some of its products were sold exclusively in China.This came after Chinese netizens attacked H&M in April for a statement expressing concern about allegations of Uyghur forced labor in cotton production in Xinjiang, a stronghold of the Muslim minority.Major e-commerce websites removed H&M products, and dozens of Chinese celebrities ended their endorsement contracts with the company. Brands such as Nike and Adidas, which had expressed similar concerns about the situation in Xinjiang, saw China sales plummet.Experts say that the surge in China’s nationalist sentiment since the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, coupled with Beijing’s official policy of supporting domestic brands, could lead to consumer nationalism.According to its official website, Canada Goose currently has 21 stores in China, making it one of the fastest expanding brands in the Chinese market. The company has nine stores in Canada.”The campaign fits in with ‘equality’ themes recently emphasized by President Xi. Foreign brands are something like private schools — patronized by higher income Chinese households,” Gary Hufbauer, an economist at Peterson Institute for International Economics, told VOA in an email. ”Domestic brands are seen as the preference of ordinary people.”Analysts believe that as tensions increase between China and the West, Chinese nationalists are equating the purchase of Western brands to approval of Western values. To reject foreign brands is to resist foreign influence, according to the nationalists.Amid the nationalists’ push, Beijing is actively promoting domestic brands and promoting patriotism in the shopping decisions among Chinese consumers.In July, Chinese sports brand Erke became famous overnight after donating about $7.6 million (50 million RMB) to the flood-stricken central Henan province. Chinese netizens heralded the move, and Erke experienced its biggest single-day sales jump.”Foreign companies are facing a less receptive environment in China,” Hufbauer added. ”Official statements are often hostile to the United States, with the result that buying foreign brands, especially U.S. brands, seems unpatriotic to ordinary Chinese.”Caught in the middleCanada Goose entered the Chinese market in 2018 when the relationship between Ottawa and Beijing began to fray. Canada detained Huawei Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou on a U.S. extradition request for fraud in December 2018, and China subsequently took custody of two Canadians — Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor — over espionage charges. Spavor was sentenced to 11 years in prison last month.The Chinese Consulate General in Montreal said Sept. 11 that the current Canada Goose action is related only to market regulations and disputed any “political interpretation of the case.”Wang Qing, a professor of marketing and innovation at Warwick Business School in London, told VOA via email that the Chinese government has emphasized the importance of building strong Chinese brands for several years. “We have seen real improvement of domestic brands in terms of quality and brand image,” she said.Yet she argued that currently, the competitive edge between Chinese and Western brands are different.”In the short term, there is no real threat to high-end foreign brands, as most Chinese brands are value for money. They do not compete directly with foreign brands,” she added.Reuters contributed additional reporting. 

US Backs Lithuania in Row With China Over Taiwan

The United States is backing Lithuania in the face of what American officials describe as China’s “coercive behavior” after Vilnius recently became the first European country since 2003 to allow Taiwan to open a representative office.On Wednesday, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis met for talks at the State Department. The meeting followed a call on August 21 in which Blinken “underscored ironclad U.S. solidarity” with Lithuania in the face of China’s “coercive behavior.”“Lithuania and the United States are very strong partners in NATO. We stand together for collective defense and security. We stand against economic coercion, including that being exerted by China,” Blinken said Wednesday.Wednesday was the United Nations’ International Day of Democracy. Landsbergis said it’s “truly symbolic” that the NATO allies “reaffirm our commitment to defend democracy, liberty, human rights across the globe.”On this International Day of Democracy, we celebrate a system that responds to the will of the people, respects human rights, and benefits the many, not the few. We look forward to the upcoming #SummitforDemocracy to demonstrate #DemocracyDelivers.— Secretary Antony Blinken (@SecBlinken) September 15, 2021Members of Congress have also expressed support for Lithuania’s position on Taiwan. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez in a tweet praised “Lithuania’s courageous efforts to stand up for Taiwan, as well as democracy activists in Belarus, Russia and Cuba.” Menendez met with Landsbergis on Tuesday.Honored to meet my friend @glandsbergis and discuss Lithuania’s courageous efforts to stand up for Taiwan, as well as democracy activists in Belarus, Russia and Cuba.— Senate Foreign Relations Committee (@SFRCdems) September 14, 2021China has long had a policy of urging countries not to develop closer ties with Taiwan, and this week a spokesperson in Beijing pushed back against American officials’ characterization of Beijing’s tactics.“The label of coercion can never be pinned on China,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said during a Tuesday briefing.“The U.S. should immediately stop ganging up with others to wantonly smear China and stop provoking confrontation and disputes. Such tricks wouldn’t work on China,” Zhao said.In July, Lithuania became the first European country to allow Taiwan, a self-governed democracy, to open an office in Vilnius with the name of “Taiwanese Representative Office in Lithuania.” Other nations often designate such offices with the name “Taipei Representative Office” or “Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office” to avoid offending China, which claims Taiwan as part of its territory.The Taiwanese Representative Office in Lithuania is set to open this fall, marking the first time in 18 years that Taiwan has opened a new representative office in Europe. The last time Taiwan established a representative office in Europe was in 2003, with the name of “Taipei Representative Office in Bratislava, Slovakia.”Lithuania’s move has already led to repercussions and economic retaliation from China. In August, China’s government asked Lithuania to withdraw its ambassador to Beijing while recalling its own envoy to Vilnius. In a statement, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs urged “the Lithuanian side to immediately rectify its wrong decision, take concrete measures to undo the damage, and not to move further down the wrong path.”The Baltic Timesreported on August 22 that Beijing had stopped approving new permits for Lithuanian food exports to China. The report cited a Lithuanian official saying the country’s talks with China on export permits for feed, non-animal products and edible offal had stopped.China has also reportedly halted direct freight trains to Lithuania.A Lithuanian Railways spokesperson, Gintaras Liubinas, told Newsweek: “We have received information through our customers that several freight trains from China will not arrive in Lithuania at the end of August and in the first half of September. Meanwhile, transit trains pass through Lithuania in the usual way.”On September 3, Lithuania recalled its ambassador to China. The Lithuanian Foreign Ministry expressed regret over China’s actions, but said the Baltic country is ready to develop mutually beneficial ties with Taiwan. The top EU diplomats in China also met to show solidarity with Lithuania Ambassador Diana Mickevičienė as she departed Beijing.@SecBlinken is meeting with Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis @GLandsbergis Wednesday. In their 8/21 call, Blinken “underscored ironclad U.S. solidarity” with #Lithuania “in the face of the People’s Republic of #China’s coercive behavior,” per @StateDept#立陶宛— VOA Nike Ching 张蓉湘 (@rongxiang) September 15, 2021The meeting between the top diplomats of the United States and Lithuania follows Monday’s call between U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan and Prime Minister Ingrida Šimonytė of Lithuania.Sullivan reaffirmed strong U.S. support for Lithuania as it faces attempted coercion from the People’s Republic of China, according to the White House.In another move to show solidarity with Lithuania, Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Jansa has urged the EU to stand with Lithuania against Chinese pressure. Slovenia holds the six-month EU presidency.Jansa said in a letter, dated Monday, that China’s decision to withdraw its ambassador to Lithuania over a dispute about Taiwan was “reprehensible” and would hurt EU-China ties, according to Reuters report.

Report Points to Success in Global Campaign Against Cluster Bombs

Authors of theCluster Munition Monitor 2021report say great progress toward the elimination of these lethal weapons has been made since the Cluster Ban Treaty came into force in 2010.The Monitor finds there has been no new use of cluster munitions by any of the 110 states that has joined the treaty, nor by the 13 states that have signed but not yet ratified it.  The report says the remaining problems lie with countries that remain outside the convention.The most notable use of cluster munitions last year was by non-member states Armenia and Azerbaijan during their war over the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh. The Monitor records 107 casualties from cluster munition attacks in Azerbaijan, the most in any country last year.  Syria has continuously used cluster munitions since 2012.  Human Rights Watch arms advocacy director Mary Wareham says use of the weapons in 2020 was greatly reduced compared to previous years.She says another visible example of the treaty’s success is in the destruction of stockpiles.”We know that at least 1.5 million cluster munitions and more than 178 million submunitions have been destroyed from stocks today,” said Wareham. “That goes to show that this convention is truly lifesaving because every single one of those explosive submunitions could take a life or a limb.”   Globally, the monitor has recorded at least 360 new cluster munition casualties in 2020, caused either from attacks or explosive remnants. The editor of the Monitor, Loren Persi, says children are the main victims of these weapons, which kill and maim civilians indiscriminately.”Almost half of all casualties, 44 percent are children. About a quarter of casualties were women and girls,” said Persi. “But what we found in 2020 was that women and girls were far less likely to survive their incident with cluster munitions. This is something of concern that we will have to look into as more data becomes available.”   The report says many of the 16 countries outside the convention reserve the right to keep making cluster munitions, even though they currently are not doing so.Authors of the report say they are concerned that China and Russia are actively researching, testing, and developing new types of cluster munitions.  China, Russia and the United States have not joined the convention. The three countries are among the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council.

Hong Kong Security Chief Demands List of Press Group Members

Hong Kong’s security chief called on Wednesday for the city’s main press association to disclose to the public who its members work for and how many of them are students, a day after he accused the group of infiltrating schools. 
The comments by Secretary for Security Chris Tang are likely to deepen concern over a crackdown on civil society in the Asian financial hub after Beijing imposed a sweeping national security law on the former British colony last year. 
Tang, in an interview with the pro-Beijing newspaper Ta Kung Pao published on Tuesday, said the Hong Kong Journalists’ Association (HKJA), was infiltrating schools to recruit students as journalists. 
The HKJA, responding to Tang, did not specifically mention the infiltration accusation but said that as of Wednesday it had 486 members and 56 of them were students. It does not disclose who its members work for. 
Tang defended his comments on Wednesday saying he was conveying “doubts held by many in society” about the press association. 
“I believe if they openly let the public know the information, it will clear their name,” Tang told reporters outside the city’s Legislative Council, referring to details about who the HKJA members work for. 
The media industry has seen profound changes since Beijing imposed the security law last year. 
Media tycoon Jimmy Lai, a staunch critic of Beijing, is in jail and awaiting trial on national security charges. His pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily closed following police raids and the arrest of executives including its chief editor. 
Scores of civic groups and opposition parties have disbanded or scaled back operations over the past year, while some of their members have been arrested and jailed. 
The Professional Teachers’ Union, Hong Kong’s largest, disbanded this month after it was criticized by Chinese state media for “politicizing” education. 
The security law, imposed after months of at times violent pro-democracy protests, punishes what Beijing broadly refers to as subversion, secession, collusion with foreign forces and terrorism with up to life in jail. 
The Hong Kong government has repeatedly said the law is only aimed at a tiny group of “troublemakers” and all law enforcement actions against individuals or groups “have nothing to do with their political stance or background.” 
Hong Kong’s once-thriving media sector and vibrant civil society have long been features of the city that returned to Chinese rule in 1997 with a promise of wide-ranging freedoms not guaranteed on the mainland.  

China, US Tug-of-War Tightens as Both Try to Cement Friendships around Asia

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s Asia tour this month following visits to the same region by two U.S. officials will intensify a superpower tug-of-war. Analysts say smaller countries can get a bounty of assistance from both China and the United States as long as they avoid offending Beijing.Countries in Asia stand to get military equipment and training from Washington along with economic aid from Beijing, which is already building core infrastructure in much of Eurasia. Both nations are passing out COVID-19 vaccinations. Smaller, sometimes impoverished nations stand to be rewarded by both sides unless they get too cozy with Washington, scholars believe.“This soft power competition between the U.S. and China has some benefits to the smaller countries where they can be an object of courting in the soft power competition, but at the same time the room for maneuver for them is also increasingly narrowed,” said Alexander Vuving, professor at the Daniel K. Inouye Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies in Hawaii, a U.S. Department of Defense institute.Wang on Friday reached Vietnam, his first of four stops, to discuss trade, economic ties and political trust. Vietnam said it is taking “its relations with China as a top priority in its foreign policy.” This may cause tension with the U.S. which, since 2017, has pushed for a stronger partnership with Hanoi.Vietnamese Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi walk into meeting room in Hanoi, Vietnam, Sep.11, 2021.The Chinese foreign minister’s visit coincided with a deal Vietnam signed with Japan to allow for exports of Japanese defense equipment and technology. Vietnam’s acquisition of these goods appears to be in response to China’s growing aggressiveness and influence in the region.The United States looks to Asia for allies in checking the expansion of China, though analysts say it is not known for punishing smaller countries that hew toward Beijing.Vaccine diplomacyWang pledged 3 million COVID-19 vaccine doses after the U.S. government offered 1 million new doses in August. The U.S. also agreed to set up a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention regional office in Hanoi. Vietnam’s case shows “a competitive flavor” between superpowers, said Yun Sun, co-director of the East Asia program at the Stimson Center in Washington.Over the weekend Wang took another 3 million doses to Cambodia, which also accepted a $270 million grant from China, the VOA Khmer service reported. Cambodia already leans strongly toward China over the United States, Vuving said, and Wang hopes to lock in that preference.The Balancing actIn Singapore on Monday, Wang said on his ministry’s website that China hopes to “deepen practical cooperation.” Both China and the United States see Singapore as a neutral, sometimes analytical force in Asia, with China particularly happy when the city-state calls for calm, Sun said.Vietnam and Singapore have achieved a “balancing act” between superpowers, Vuving said. Earlier this month, China deepened bonds with the Philippines through an aid pledge after the Southeast Asian state agreed to restore a Visiting Forces Agreement with the U.S. government, an analyst told VOA. Why China Would Give More Aid, Investment to Leery PhilippinesManila vies with Beijing over access to disputed South China Sea and has warmed this year toward United States, Chinese Cold War rivalU.S. forces have helped train Filipino counterparts for any potential operations in the South China Sea, parts of which Manila and Beijing dispute.Consequences of US tiesSouth Korea, which Wang visited Tuesday and Wednesday, shows what China can do when a country veers too close to the United States, said Stephen Nagy, senior associate professor of politics and international studies at International Christian University in Tokyo.After Seoul agreed with Washington to install a missile detection system that might see into China as well as its archrival North Korea, in March 2017, Beijing banned package tours to South Korea and caused a double-digit percentage decline in Chinese visits.China also has “engaged in economic coercion” against Australia and Taiwan when once friendly ties became strained, Nagy added.This month South Korea became one of the world’s few countries with the capability to fire ballistic missiles from “extremely quiet” submarines. This is part of a “strategic arsenal” that will cause concern in China given Seoul’s longstanding alliance with Washington, said Steven Kim, a visiting research fellow with the Jeju Peace Institute in South Korea.Wang will probably talk to Korean counterparts about health and economic cooperation “with stern implicit comment” that it should value its economic ties with China, Nagy forecast.“I think that the overall diplomacy is one that would be characterized by trying to produce constructive engagement, but of course, telling states that Wang Yi will be visiting that they need to proceed carefully in terms of the kind of relationships they’re building with the United States,” he said.Experts: China Renewing Effort to Squelch US Influence in Southeast AsiaChinese defense head Wei Fenghe visited peers in Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines last week. He suggested that maritime disputes be settled among Asian leadersBack-to-back diplomacyWang’s visit follows trips by U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin in July to Singapore, Vietnam and the Philippines  as well as U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris’s trip to Vietnam and Singapore last month. US Vice President Raises Rights Issues During Visit to VietnamVietnam has been the target of global criticism for limiting free speech, a free press and clamping down on those it considers political dissidentsU.S. and Chinese officials have done back-to-back diplomacy in the past, including the Chinese defense minister’s whirlwind Asia tour a year ago this month following anti-China statements by then-U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo.The recent flurry of visits shows a growing Sino-U.S. “rivalry,” Sun said. For smaller countries “to maximize the benefits and minimize the risks, that’s going to be hard because with great power competition in mind, neither Beijing nor Washington is leaving stones unturned to push for their own agenda,” she said.  

N. Korea Tests Ballistic Missiles; Second Launch in Days

North Korea test-fired two ballistic missiles Wednesday, its second launch in less than a week and latest apparent attempt to increase diplomatic pressure on the United States. The missiles were launched from a central inland area in North Korea and splashed into the sea off the country’s east coast, according to a text message from South Korea’s military.   Few other details were immediately available, including what kind of missiles were launched or how far they flew. Japan’s defense ministry said the projectiles did not enter Japanese territory and fell outside Japan’s exclusive economic zone. In a statement, the U.S. military said it is aware of the launch and has assessed it does not pose an immediate threat to U.S. personnel, territory, or allies. However, the launch “highlights the destabilizing impact” of North Korea’s illicit weapons program, the statement issued by the Indo-Pacific Command said.  The launch comes two days after North Korea claimed to have test-fired a new long-range cruise missile. It was Pyongyang’s first known missile test in about six months.N. Korea Tests Long Range Cruise Missile Designed to Evade Defenses It’s the first North Korean missile test in six months Late last month, United Nation’s International Atomic Energy Agency said North Korea appears to have recently restarted a plutonium-producing nuclear reactor at its Yongbyon nuclear site. The moves suggest North Korea is trying to increase its bargaining leverage with the United States, amid stalled nuclear talks, some analysts say. The North has often engaged in diplomacy after raising tensions via verbal threats or weapons tests.  The North’s latest launch coincided with a visit to Tokyo by Sung Kim, the U.S. special envoy to North Korea, who is meeting with his counterparts from South Korea and Japan.  On Tuesday, the U.S. envoy repeated Washington’s offer to restart talks without preconditions, saying the United States is ready to work with North Korea on humanitarian issues “regardless of progress on denuclearization.”  While U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration has expressed a willingness to resume talks with North Korea, much of its focus has been elsewhere, such as the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan and efforts to fight COVID-19. “North Korea is expressing its discontent toward the Biden administration which has remained in a very passive policy toward North Korea in the name of a cautious and collaborative North Korea policy,” said Bong Young-shik, a research fellow at Yonsei University’s Institute for North Korean Studies in Seoul.  Another possible factor, Bong says, is South Korea’s upcoming presidential election. So far, the campaign has featured very little discussion about North Korea; instead, candidates have focused on the economy and COVID-19 policy. “North Korean leadership must have decided to increase the levels of the provocations as a way of getting more attention from all the relevant parties,” he added. In June, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said his country is preparing for “both dialogue and confrontation” with the United States.  A few months later, North Korea briefly reopened several lines of communication with the South, raising hopes that Pyongyang would enter a new phase of diplomacy. But the North cut the hotlines just days later, after South Korea and the United States went ahead with joint military drills that Pyongyang sees as a provocation. For most of this year, North Korea has focused on domestic problems, including natural disasters, pandemic prevention, and a food shortage. Because those crises still exist, some analysts expect North Korea may refrain from major provocations that would risk bringing further economic and diplomatic isolation.  

Macau Kicks Off Public Gaming Consultation Ahead of Casino Rebidding

Macau’s government is due to begin a 45-day public gaming consultation starting Wednesday as it tries to gauge public consensus ahead of a closely watched rebidding of its multibillion-dollar casinos next year.   Lei Wai Nong, secretary for economy and finance in the world’s biggest gambling hub, said the government would further promote the “sustained and healthy development” of Macau’s gambling industry as there were still some deficiencies in industry supervision.   At a press briefing on Tuesday, Lei detailed nine areas for the consultation, including the number of licenses to be given, increased regulation and protecting employee welfare, as well as introducing government representatives to supervise day-to-day operations at the casinos. A Chinese special administrative region, Macau has tightened scrutiny of casinos in recent years, with authorities clamping down on illicit capital flows from mainland China and targeting underground lending and illegal cash transfers. Beijing has also intensified a war on cross-border flows of funds for gambling, affecting the financing channels of Macau’s junket operators and their VIP casino customers.   In June this year, Macau more than doubled the number of gaming inspectors and restructured several departments to ramp up supervision. Macau casino operators Sands China, Wynn Macau, Galaxy Entertainment, SJM Holdings, Melco Entertainment and MGM China are all required to rebid for their casino licenses when they expire in June 2022. D.S. Kim, an analyst at J.P. Morgan in Hong Kong, said all Macau gaming names were being downgraded from “overweight” to “neutral” or “underweight” following the briefing because of heightened scrutiny of capital management and daily operations ahead of the license renewal. “We admit it’s only a ‘directional’ signal, while the level of actual regulation/execution still remains a moot point,” he said, adding that the announcement would have already planted a seed of doubt in investors’ minds.   George Choi, an analyst at Citigroup in Hong Kong, said that while the public consultation document offered limited details, the suggested revisions enhance long-term sustainable growth for the industry, with “positive implications on the six casino operators.”  He cautioned, however, that “we will not be surprised if the market focuses only on the potentially negative implications, given the weak investor sentiment.”   Shares in U.S. casinos with operations in Macau fell heavily on Tuesday, with Las Vegas Sands and Wynn Resorts down more than 12% on concerns over tighter regulations. 

US, Japan, South Korea Hold Talks in Tokyo on North Korea Nukes

Special envoys from the United States and South Korea met with their Japanese counterpart Tuesday in Tokyo for talks on North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, following tests conducted by the rogue state Saturday and Sunday.Sung Kim, U.S. special representative for North Korea, and Noh Kyu-duk, South Korea’s special representative for Korean Peninsula peace and security affairs, joined Japan’s director-general for Asian and Oceanian affairs, Takehiro Funakoshi, for a meeting on how to address this latest development with North Korea.North Korea state media confirmed the nation tested “newly developed long-range cruise missiles” Saturday and Sunday. Cruise missiles fly at relatively low altitudes and can be guided in-flight. That allows them to fly under or around missile defense radars.Analysts say the missiles appeared visually similar to the U.S. Tomahawk, a nuclear-capable cruise missile with a range of about 1,600 kilometers. North Korea hinted the missile is nuclear-capable, though it’s not clear the North yet has a nuclear warhead small enough to fit on it.Regardless, the missiles represent another lethal component in North Korea’s arsenal, which has significantly expanded since 2019 when it resumed major weapons tests.As the three envoys addressed reporters before their talks, Kim said the recent events in North Korea are a reminder of the importance of close communication and cooperation among Japan, North Korea and the U.S.Noh agreed, saying it was good the three representatives can have a candid discussion on how to “engage with North Korea based on our shared understanding of the urgency of denuclearization.”In recent comments, Kim has indicated Washington remained open to diplomacy to deal with North Korean issues.Pyongyang has so far rejected those overtures, saying nothing has changed from the U.S., citing issues such as ongoing sanctions and joint military drills with South Korea.Some information for this report came from  the Associated Press, Reuters, and Agence France-Presse. 

Singapore News Site Suspended, Critics Fear Censorship

A Singaporean news website often critical of authorities had its license suspended Tuesday for failing to declare funding sources, regulators said, with a rights group slamming the move as “unacceptable censorship.” 
Critics frequently accuse the tightly regulated city-state of curbing media freedoms, and The Online Citizen (TOC) had long been in the government’s crosshairs. 
One of Singapore’s few alternative news sources, it often ran stories more critical of the authorities than those in the pro-government mainstream media.  
The city-state’s media regulator said it had suspended the company’s license to operate its websites and social media channels as it had not fully met obligations to declare funding.  
Sites such as TOC “are required to be transparent about their sources of funding”, the Infocomm Media Development Authority said in a statement. 
“This is to prevent such sites from being controlled by foreign actors or coming under the influence of foreign entities or funding.” 
TOC was ordered to disable its websites and social media accounts by Thursday. If it fails to provide enough further information, then its license to operate may be cancelled entirely, the regulator warned.  
But chief editor Terry Xu told AFP that the site “has never received any foreign funding, nor would it in the future”, and the company was considering its options. 
Earlier this month, Xu and one TOC writer were ordered to pay substantial damages after losing a defamation suit against Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.  
Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director for Human Rights Watch, said the license suspension was “outrageous and unacceptable censorship, disguised as government regulatory action.” 
“The reality is the Singaporean government has been looking to shut down TOC by hook or by crook, because they simply don’t like their independence or their critical reporting.” 
Singapore ranks 160th out of 180 countries and territories in Reporters Without Borders’ World Press Freedom Index, where number one indicates the country with the greatest media freedoms.  

Australian Nanolaser Breakthrough Promises Medical Applications  

Researchers in Australia have developed new microscopic lasers that have a range of potential medical, surgical, industrial and military uses.   Researchers at the Australian National University (ANU) say “nanolasers” promise to be even more powerful than conventional technology. The technology uses laser light instead of electronics and is an approach called photonics. Nanolasers, they say, need only a small amount of energy to start shining. Instead of using mirrors that reflect light, the team has created a device that traps energy and prevents it from escaping. That power is harnessed and builds into a “strong, well-shaped” beam. Researchers say this overcomes a well-known challenge of nanolasers — “energy leakage.”   The project is a collaboration with academics at Korea University, and is published in the journal Nature Communications. The lead researcher is professor Yuri Kivshar, who says the beams would act like a torch, or flashlight, to guide a surgeon.   “Why do we need [it] smaller? Imagine you are doing [a] kind of operation inside of body [sic] and you are using optical fiber. So, optical fibers introduced inside of body will see only light, which inside there is basically nothing, so you need a kind of torch. This torch will lighten the place which you need to work on and that will be a kind of real torch effect,”  he said.Academics have said that while their nanolasers are not the smallest ever developed, they are among the most efficient and powerful.   According to the ANU study, the energy threshold at which the laser starts to work is about 50 times lower than any previously documented nanolaser.    The physicists believe the technology could have a range of applications in small devices, including hair removal, laser printing, night-time surveillance and the illumination of delicate surgery inside the body.   

Chinese Students Hit by US Visa Rejections Amid Tension

After a semester online, Wang Ziwei looked forward to meeting classmates who are returning to campus at Washington University in St. Louis. But the 23-year-old finance student said the U.S. revoked his student visa on security grounds. Wang is among at least 500 students the Chinese government says have been rejected under a policy issued by then-President Donald Trump to block Beijing from obtaining U.S. technology with possible military uses. Students argue it is applied too broadly and fume at what they say is an accusation they are spies. “The whole thing is nonsense,” Wang said. “What do we finance students have to do with the military?” The students join companies and individuals whose plans have been disrupted by U.S.-Chinese tension over technology and security, Beijing’s military buildup, the origins of the coronavirus, human rights and conflicting claims to the South China Sea and other territory. The policy blocks visas for people who are affiliated with the ruling Communist Party’s military wing, the People’s Liberation Army, or universities deemed by Washington to be part of military modernization efforts. U.S. officials say they believe thousands of Chinese students and researchers participate in programs that encourage them to transfer medical, computer and other sensitive information to China. Washington cites Beijing’s strategy of “civil-military fusion,” which it says treats private companies and universities as assets to develop Chinese military technology. “Joint research institutions, academia and private firms are all being exploited to build the PLA’s future military systems — often without their knowledge or consent,” the State Department said in a 2020 report. Trump’s successor, Joe Biden, has given no indication of what he might do. Chinese officials appealed to U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman to drop the visa restrictions when she visited in July, according to The Paper, a Shanghai online news outlet.A security guard stands guard behind fences around the U.S. embassy near a sign board directing visa applicants in Beijing on Sept. 6, 2021.The policy is necessary to “protect U.S. national security interests,” the U.S. Embassy in Beijing said in a statement. It said the policy is a response to “some abuses of the visa process” and is “narrowly targeted.” More than 85,000 visas for Chinese students have been approved over the past four months, according to the embassy. “The numbers show clearly that the United States stands ready to issue visas to all those who are qualified — including Chinese students and scholars,” it said. China is the biggest source of foreign students in the United States, according to U.S. government data. The number fell 20% in 2020 from the previous year but at 380,000 was nearly double that of second-ranked India. An engineer at a state-owned aircraft manufacturer said he was turned down for a visa to accompany his wife, a visiting scholar in California studying pediatric cancer. The engineer, who would give only his surname, Huang, has undergraduate and graduate degrees from the Harbin Institute of Technology in China’s northeast. It is one of seven schools Chinese news reports say are associated with visa rejections because they are affiliated with the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology. “I was insulted,” Huang said. “That I graduated from this school means I am a spy? What’s the difference between this and racism?” Huang said his wife’s fellowship was two to three years, but she will cut that to one, “sacrificing her career” to avoid being away from their two children for too long. “It’s a pretty big impact on individuals when one country fights with another,” Huang said. Rejection letters received by several students cited Trump’s order but gave no details of the decision. However, some students said they received rejections immediately after being asked which university they attended. Wang, the finance student, said he obtained a visa, but the U.S. Embassy called later and said it was revoked. Wang graduated from the Beijing Institute of Technology, another university associated with visa rejections due to its connection with the industry ministry. Others include Beijing Aerospace University, Nanjing University of Science and Technology, Nanjing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Harbin Engineering University and Northwestern Polytechnical University. Graduates of the Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications also say they have been rejected. Five Chinese scientists at universities in California and Indiana were charged last year with lying about possible military connections on visa applications. Those charges were dropped in July after the Justice Department said an FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) report indicated such offenses often had no connection to technology theft. The Chinese government complained in August that three students who had visas were refused entry into the United States at the Houston airport after military training photos were found in their phones. Beijing “strongly deplores and rejects” the policy and appealed to the U.S. government to make changes, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said. A group that says it represents more than 2,000 students and scholars has announced plans for a lawsuit asking a court to throw out or narrow the restrictions. At Washington University in St. Louis, a “handful of student visas” were affected, according to Kurt Dirks, vice chancellor for international affairs. Students can start the semester online or wait until next year, Dirks said in an email. “Should they continue to face challenges, the university will work with them so they can complete their program online,” Dirks said. Monica Ma, 23, said she was turned down for a U.S. visa to complete a master’s degree in information management at Carnegie Mellon University. The graduate of the Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications said after spending a year in Australia working on her degree, she needs to attend classes in person at Carnegie Mellon in Pittsburgh because they no longer are taught online. Ma said she has a job offer from an internet company that requires her to complete her degree. She has postponed her attendance for classes until next year in hopes she can obtain a visa by then. “I cannot change it through my efforts. That’s the saddest part,” Ma said. Li Quanyi, an electrical engineering student from the southern city of Guiyang, said he was accepted by Columbia University but failed to obtain a visa. Li graduated from the Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications. Carnegie Mellon and Columbia didn’t respond to questions sent by email. Li has moved to Hong Kong and said he is happy there. “I am not going, even if the rule changes,” Li said. “The United States rejected me, and I am not going.” 

China’s Global Network of Shipping Ports Reveal Beijing’s Strategy

A powerhouse in global trade, China has more shipping ports at home than any other country. Key investments add about another 100 ports in at least 60 nations. And Beijing is looking for more. Earlier this month, operations at Israel’s port of Haifa, one of the largest maritime transport hubs in Mediterranean, were handed over to China’s state-run Shanghai International Port Group to run for the next 25 years. Another gigantic Chinese shipping company, COSCO Shipping, is poised to expand its footprint in Europe by taking a stake in the port of Hamburg. Negotiations have been reportedly going well, and a deal is expected soon. If COSCO succeeds, it would be the company’s eighth port investment in Europe.   The state-owned company’s previous investment involves the acquisition of Greece’s Port of Piraeus, one of the world’s most important shipping centers located at the crossroads of Europe, Asia, and Africa. COSCO bought 51% of the port’s operating company in 2016. After a Greek court gave the go-ahead last month, COSCO now can raise its stake in Piraeus to 67%.   The Chinese government does not have an official platform summarizing the overall data for China’s overseas port projects, but publicly available information shows that Beijing now has a foothold in at least 100 ports in 63 countries. According to data published on the COSCO official website, as of June this year, the group has operated and managed 357 terminals in 36 ports around the world. Its port portfolio has stretched from Southeast Asia to the Middle East, Europe and the Mediterranean. In addition, China Merchants Group, another major port developer and operator in China, says on its website that the company completed “equity acquisition of eight high-quality ports in Europe, the Middle East and the Caribbean last year alone, expanding the group’s global port layout to 27 countries, 68 ports.” China’s global port expansion means Beijing now has investments in more than 100 ports in 63 countries.In a recent opinion piece published by the Daily Mail, former British Defense and International Trade Secretary Dr Liam Fox and former U.S. National Security Adviser Robert McFarlane noted that China now owns 96 ports around the world. Some of these are at key locations for maritime trade, “giving Beijing strategic dominance without having to deploy a single soldier, ship or weapon.” In 2013, China for the first time surpassed the United States to become the world’s largest trading nation. That same year, Chinese president Xi Jinping proposed a strategic framework of what has been dubbed the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road (MSR) – the sea route part of the broader Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).  The specific trade route of MSR connects China to Southeast Asia, Africa, and even Europe by sea. Chinese companies are now owners of all of the major ports along the route. Dr. Sam Beatson, of King’s College London, says it makes sense for China to be engaging in these deals given the volume of containers China continues to deliver at accelerating rates of growth. “China’s ports, shipping and maritime trade industry is strategic in part because of its massive size and global role, not only the huge numbers it employs and its role as a national industry that has championed the growth of many of China’s largest coastal cities,” he told VOA.Key Chinese shipping routes along the country’s new maritime “silk road”The most Mahanian country Over a century ago Captain Alfred Thayer Mahan, one of the most influential American writers of his day, designated seaports as one of three pillars of sea power. His writing argued that Britain’s control of the seas was critical for its emergence as a dominant global power. The view heavily influenced American policymakers. “Since the Cold War, China has bought into the Mahanian construct wholesale,”  James R. Holmes, the J.C. Wylie Chair of Maritime Strategy at the U.S. Naval War College told VOA. “It is safe to say he’s more popular in China today than anywhere else in the world.” Reports by official Chinese media in recent years show that since 2013, Chinese president Xi Jinping has visited a port almost every year, including the visit to the port of Piraeus in 2019, where China’s MSR and BRI connect and a project that Xi personally pushed for with Greek leaders multiple times, according to China’s official Xinhua News Agency. China experts believe that establishing ports in geo-strategically important countries, including those that are located near maritime chokepoints, are central to Beijing’s global strategy. “These port linkages allow Beijing to exert political influence not only in the country hosting the port, but in many cases the surrounding countries as well,” Craig Singleton, a China expert at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told VOA. Holmes, a former U.S. Navy officer, noted prosperity is the top priority for any government. And Beijing’s port investments mean it can hold a large portion of a country’s prosperity hostage, compelling its leadership to take political stances agreeable to the Chinese Communist Party. “So, seaports are a critical enabler for China’s bid for commercial, diplomatic, and military influence.” King’s College’s Beatson, who lecturers on China-related business and finance, pointed out that among all the deals, “neither governments nor companies within countries seem to want to block control of their ports by companies from China – I highlighted this in 2017 I think when pointing out the role of China Merchant Group in ownership of Houston and Miami ports through the joint venture with France’s Terminal Links.”Beijing either controls or has major investments in all 15 of the world’s top 15 ports ranked by container volume.As commercial ports could be used for military purposes, analysts have long been concerned about the security implications of ports controlled by Beijing. China’s first overseas military base was established at the port of Djibouti situated at the entrance to the Red Sea and the Suez Canal. “China’s militarization of its port project in Djibouti serves as a warning vis-à-vis Beijing’s port interests in other countries, such as Tanzania, the United Arab Emirates, Pakistan, and Burma, among others,” said Singleton.  One of the thorniest issues between the U.S. and Israel in recent years has been the Chinese takeover of Haifa Port, place where the Sixth Fleet of the US Navy docks. Washington feared that the port would provide an opportunity for Chinese surveillance. Dr. Eyal Pinko, a former Israeli intelligence officer pointed out that the port can easily be used to collect naval intelligence. “You can track the whereabouts of ships and communications. Once you own and operate the port site, these are very easy to do. You can do whatever you want. You are the landlord there,” he told VOA in a telephone interview. 

Vietnam Speeds Up Hanoi Vaccine Drive; 1M Jabs Over Weekend

Vietnam is speeding up its vaccination program in an effort to loosen coronavirus lockdown restrictions in major cities by the end of the month, the government said Monday.
Health workers administered vaccines throughout the night in the capital, Hanoi, which has been under lockdown since July.  
More than a million vaccine shots were given over the weekend in Hanoi, out of around 5.5 million administered there since vaccinations started in March, the Health Ministry said.
“We have to speed up the vaccination program so we can make a plan to reopen the city,” Hanoi mayor Chu Ngoc Anh said Sunday. More than half of the country’s 98 million population is also under lockdown.
About 80% of the city’s 5.7 million adults have received at least one shot, with authorities aiming for 100% by the end of this week.
However, the country’s overall vaccination rate remains low at about 28%, and only 4% have been fully vaccinated with both jabs.
Vietnam managed to keep its infection rate relatively low up until April this year, with only 35 deaths. Last year it was praised for keeping the virus under control, an accomplishment generally attributed to the discipline of being a single-party communist state with tight controls at all levels.
But vaccine shortages forced Vietnam to slow down its vaccination program in recent months, even as the delta variant of the virus infected over 600,000 people and killed more than 15,000 in just four months.
In Ho Chi Minh City, the nation’s business hub and most hard-hit by the surge, over 95% of adults have received the first vaccine, but many who need to come in for the second dose aren’t able to get it due to low supplies.
Among measures to cope with the shortage, Vietnam’s health authority has allowed combinations of different two-dose COVID-19 vaccines to speed up the vaccination campaign. Experts say this tactic is likely safe and effective, but researchers are still gathering data to be sure.
Vietnam is currently using AstraZeneca, Pfizer, Moderna and Sinopharm, a Chinese-made vaccine.

New Malaysian Prime Minister, Opposition Leader to Sign Cooperation Deal 

Malaysian Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob will sign a cooperation deal with the main opposition bloc Monday aimed at ensuring the stability of his new government.Under the accord between Prime Minister Ismail and veteran opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, Ismail has agreed to a set of reforms including new laws to prevent party defections, limiting the prime minister’s term to 10 years, and lowering the voting age from 21 to 18.The agreement also ensures bipartisan agreement on every bill that is introduced in parliament, input from the opposition on a national recovery council, and an assurance that the opposition leader receives the same pay and privileges as a Cabinet minister.Ismail became Malaysia’s third prime minister in three years when he was appointed prime minister by King Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah last month to succeed Muhyiddin Yassin. Muhyiddin resigned after conceding he had lost the majority of lawmakers. Ismail served as deputy prime minister under Muhyiddin.The king selected Muhyiddin as prime minister in March 2020 after then-Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad’s ruling coalition had collapsed a month earlier. But Muhyiddin was beset by constant challenges to his leadership within his fragile coalition and rising anger over his government’s poor response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The country of 32 million is suffering the highest rate of new daily COVID-19 cases per 1 million people in Southeast Asia, with 1.9 million total infections and 20,711 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.Muhyiddin’s tenuous grip on power began unraveling when a group of lawmakers with the United Malays National Organization, the largest party in the coalition, withdrew their support. UMNO, once Malaysia’s long-serving ruling party dating back to the country’s independence in 1957, has a handful of politicians facing corruption charges, including former Prime Minister Najib Razak.Muhyiddin’s 17-month tenure as prime minister is the shortest in Malaysian history.(Some information for this report came from the Associated Press and Reuters.)  

Shanghai Suspends Schools, Flights as Typhoon Approaches China

Authorities in Shanghai and neighboring coastal regions canceled flights, and suspended schools, subways and trains as Typhoon Chanthu approached China after drenching Taiwan though causing little damage there. The storm, with winds of more than 170 kilometers per hour near its eye, had been downgraded from a super typhoon to a strong typhoon on Sunday evening and was expected to gradually weaken, Shanghai city authorities said in a post on their official WeChat account. But it was still expected to bring strong winds and heavy rain to coastal regions. The province of Zhejiang near Shanghai raised its emergency response to the highest level on Sunday, closing schools and suspending flights and rail services in some cities, the official Xinhua news service reported. Zhejiang also issued red alerts for flash floods in nine districts. Ningbo port, China’s second-biggest container transporting hub after Shanghai, had suspended operations since Sunday noon. The port just resumed from a weeks-long port congestion, following typhoon In-Fa in late-July and a COVID-19-related terminal closure in mid-August. In Shanghai, home to about 26 million people, all flights at the city’s larger Pudong International Airport were to be canceled from 11 a.m. local time (0300 GMT), while flights from the smaller Hongqiao airport in the west of the city were to be canceled from 3 p.m., the Shanghai government announced on WeChat. Port terminals in Shanghai regions suspended containers import and export services from Monday till further notice. The city also suspended subway services on some lines serving the city’s southern districts, and said parks, outdoor tourist attractions and playgrounds would be closed on Monday and Tuesday. Classes were also due to be suspended on Monday afternoon and Tuesday. Official forecasts called for rainfall of 250-280 millimeters in some areas of southeastern Jiangsu province, Shanghai and northeastern Zhejiang. The typhoon passed by Taiwan’s east coast over the weekend, disrupting transport and causing some power outages, but otherwise little damage.  

N. Korea Tests Long Range Cruise Missile Designed to Evade Defenses

North Korea has conducted its first missile test in about six months. The long-range cruise missile being tested could give Pyongyang another way to evade its neighbors’ missile defenses, say analysts.  The “newly-developed long-range cruise missiles” flew 1,500 kilometers over North Korean territory before successfully hitting their targets, North Korean state media reported Monday.  The reports did not say how many missiles were tested, but said the tests occurred Saturday and Sunday. Pictures posted in North Korean state media showed one of the cruise missiles being fired from a five-canister, road-mobile launcher that appeared to be parked on a highway.  Several analysts said the missile appeared visually similar to the U.S. Tomahawk, a nuclear-capable cruise missile with a range of about 1,600 kilometers.  The cruise missile test appears to be less provocative than a long-range or intercontinental ballistic missile launch, which would involve technology that could target the mainland United States. But the launch will still serve as a test for U.S. President Joe Biden, who has said he is open to both diplomacy and additional economic pressure on North Korea. Designed to evade U.S. and South Korean officials, who usually detect and report North Korean missile tests shortly after they occur, did not publish statements until after the North Korean state media announcement.  In a statement, the U.S. military said it was aware of the reported launches and is monitoring and consulting closely with its allies and partners. “This activity highlights DPRK’s continuing focus on developing its military program and the threats that poses to its neighbors and the international community,” the statement read.  In a statement to VOA, South Korea’s military confirmed the launch, saying it is conducting a “detailed analysis in close coordination with South Korean and U.S. intelligence agencies.” It is North Korea’s first known missile launch since March, when it also appeared to test cruise missile technology. That test was only confirmed by U.S. officials after the first reports of the test appeared in The Washington Post.North Korea Conducts First Launch of 2021 Test is routine, US officials insist Cruise missiles are harder to detect than the ballistic missiles typically launched by North Korea, since they fly at a relatively low altitude and can be controlled in-flight. “This is another system that is designed to fly under missile defense radars or around them,” Jeffrey Lewis, an expert in nuclear nonproliferation with the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, said on Twitter. Nuclear-capable? North Korean state media referred to the cruise missiles as “strategic,” implying a nuclear capability. Some defense experts are not sure whether that statement reflects current or eventual capabilities. “While you could say the missile will be nuclear capable, there is no known North Korean warhead for it yet,” said Melissa Hanham, an affiliate with the Stanford Center for International Security and Cooperation. Hanham stressed that she has not yet conducted analysis to estimate the size of the missile, but it does not appear North Korea has a nuclear warhead small enough to fit on it.  “They are certainly claiming to have a new cruise missile with a range and look similar to the U.S. Tomahawk,” Hanham said.  A range of 1,500 kilometers would mean that the new North Korean cruise missiles could reach all of South Korea and most of Japan. Latest test The missile represents another lethal component in North Korea’s missile arsenal, which has significantly expanded since 2019, when Pyongyang resumed major weapons tests.  Since then, North Korea appears to have test-fired at least five types of new missiles — mostly short-range ballistic missiles also designed to evade its neighbor’s defenses.  North Korea has not conducted an intercontinental ballistic missile or nuclear test since 2017, though Pyongyang has at times hinted it may do so. In January 2020, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un announced he no longer felt bound by his self-imposed moratorium on long-range ballistic missile and nuclear tests.  That moratorium was put in place during the diplomacy between Kim and former U.S. President Donald Trump.  Trump repeatedly downplayed North Korea’s short-range launches. Biden, too, in March, shrugged off North Korea’s cruise missile test, calling it “business as usual.”  Biden has not yet responded to the North’s latest test.  Under United Nations Security Council resolutions, North Korea is prohibited from any ballistic missile activity. Although those resolutions do not mention cruise missile technology, some analysts say the latest tests could still receive a tough U.S. response, given the missiles’ possible nuclear capability.  “If that is the case, then the test is deserving of an international effort to strengthen sanctions,” said Leif-Eric Easley, a professor at Ewha University in Seoul.  Stalled talks Negotiations between the U.S. and North Korea broke down in 2019 over disagreements on how to pace sanctions relief with steps to dismantle North Korea’s nuclear program.  The Biden administration has repeatedly said it is open to resuming talks with North Korea, but for now North Korea’s focus appears elsewhere. For the past year and a half, North Korea has imposed a strict pandemic lockdown, sealing its borders, cutting imports, and restricting domestic travel. 

North Korea Test-fires Long-range Cruise Missile, State Media Says

North Korea carried out successful tests of a new long-range cruise missile over the weekend, its state media, KCNA, said on Monday, amid a protracted standoff with the United States over denuclearization.The missiles flew 1,500 km (930 miles) before hitting their targets and falling into the country’s territorial waters during the tests held on Saturday and Sunday, KCNA said.It was seen as the North’s first missile launch after it tested a new tactical short-range ballistic missile in March. North Korea also conducted a cruise missile test just hours after U.S. President Joe Biden took office in late January.The latest test highlighted steady progress in Pyongyang’s weapons program amid gridlock over talks aimed at dismantling the North’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs in return for U.S. sanctions relief. The talks have stalled since 2019.Rodong Sinmun, the ruling Workers’ Party’s official newspaper, ran photos of the new long-range cruise missile flying and being fired from a launcher.North Korea tested a “newly developed long-range cruise missile,” according to its Rodong Sinmun newspaper. Tests allegedly happened Saturday and Sunday, but we never heard about them from US or South Korean authorities.— William Gallo (@GalloVOA) September 12, 2021The missile is a strategic weapon that has been developed over the past two years and is a key element of a five-year plan outlined in January to advance defense science and arsenals, KCNA said.The test provides “strategic significance of possessing another effective deterrence means for more reliably guaranteeing the security of our state and strongly containing the military maneuvers of the hostile forces,” KCNA said.”In this course, detailed tests of missile parts, scores of engine ground thrust tests, various flight tests, control and guidance tests, warhead power tests etc. were conducted with success,” KCNA added.North Korean leader Kim Jong Un did not appear to have attended the test, with KCNA saying Pak Jong Chon, a member of the Workers’ Party’s powerful politburo and a secretary of its central committee, oversaw it.The reclusive North has long accused the United States and South Korea of a “hostile policy” toward Pyongyang.The unveiling of the test came just a day before chief nuclear negotiators from the United States, South Korea and Japan meet in Tokyo to explore ways to break the standoff with North Korea.China’s foreign minister, Wang Yi, is also scheduled to visit Seoul on Tuesday for talks with his counterpart, Chung Eui-yong.Biden’s administration has said it is open to diplomacy to achieve North Korea’s denuclearization but has shown no willingness to ease sanctions.Sung Kim, the U.S. envoy for North Korea, said in August in Seoul that he was ready to meet with North Korean officials “anywhere, at any time.”A reactivation of inter-Korean hotlines in July raised hopes for a restart of the negotiations, but the North stopped answering calls as annual South Korea-U.S. military exercises began last month, which Pyongyang had warned could trigger a security crisis.

Why China Would Give More Aid, Investment to Leery Philippines

The Philippines will get more aid and investment from China, Chinese officials say, as analysts believe assistance given so far has failed to meet Filipinos’ expectations and Beijing doesn’t want the Southeast Asian country to depend too much on the United States, China’s rival.“China is willing to work with the Philippines to implement more cooperation projects and allow the people in both countries to benefit more from bilateral cooperation,” the Chinese Foreign Affairs Ministry said in an August 27 statement issued after a tele-summit between Chinese President Xi Jinping and Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte.According to the statement, Xi added that his country’s cooperation with the Philippines would “make more contributions to regional peace and prosperity.”  After Duterte and Xi met in Beijing in 2016, auguring a new Sino-Philippine friendship, China pledged $24 billion in aid that was expected to speed infrastructure renewal work in the relatively poor Southeast Asian country. China was already known for building infrastructure across Eurasia as a way to open trade routes.China has offered several billion dollars’ worth of investment in Philippine railways among other projects, helped the country explore for undersea oil, sent COVID-19 vaccines and donated arms to fight Muslim rebels who periodically attack government positions in the archipelago’s southernmost islands.Many Filipinos, though, believe this support has fallen short of Beijing’s original pledge, especially against the backdrop of a festering South China Sea maritime sovereignty dispute that exploded in March when 220 Chinese fishing vessels moored at a contested islet, analysts in Manila say.Chinese ‘Flotilla’ in Contested Waters Further Sours Once-Upbeat RelationsManila concerned over presence of 220 finishing boats near a reef in the Spratly Islands, demands their removal“It’s kind of like maybe the Chinese side really wanting to make sure that the bilateral relations will remain stable and maintain the current momentum going forward – avoid disruptions,” said Aaron Rabena, research fellow at the Asia-Pacific Pathways to Progress Foundation in Metro Manila.Xi discussed aid with Duterte the tele-summit and pledged on the call to help further with infrastructure projects and COVID-19 relief.Duterte said in a statement that day he looks forward to China’s “continued support for landmark projects,” including flood control work, a railway north of Manila and two key bridges.Some earlier Chinese-funded projects are still in the pipeline or may be stalled by Philippine bureaucracy, Rabena said.Aid as pledged in 2016 was seen then as part of China’s bid for friendship with the Philippines, a historic U.S. ally. Duterte pushed back against Washington in the early part of his six-year presidential term as he pursued a multicountry foreign policy but pivoted back this year by lifting an order to cancel the U.S.-Philippine Visiting Forces Agreement of 1999.Philippines Says US Visiting Forces Agreement to Remain in EffectDuterte retracts termination letter sent last yearDuterte’s renewed support for that agreement probably worries China, Rabena said.“You could say that the relationship between the two countries[China and the Philippines] [is] not as quiet and rosy as they were in the past five years,” said Jay Batongbacal, international maritime affairs professor at the University of the Philippines in Quezon City.U.S. forces regularly train their Philippine counterparts to fight in the South China Sea, if needed, and the Visiting Forces Agreement gives U.S. troops easy access to the Philippines.Beijing claims about 90% of the 3.5 million-square-kilometer sea, overlapping waters the Philippines and four other governments also claim.Chinese officials point to documents dating back more than 1,000 years as support for their maritime claim. Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam cite a United Nations convention to back their own. Taiwan claims most of the sea as well. Claimant governments prize the sea for fisheries, fossil fuel reserves and marine shipping lanes.Most Filipinos questioned Duterte’s overtures to China that began in 2016, according to a poll two years later by the Quezon City-based research organization Social Weather Stations.“Assuming Beijing even follows through on any of its supposed aid pledges, the Filipino public and military are strongly pro-American and would most likely resent Xi Jinping trying to buy them off,” said Sean King, vice president of the Park Strategies political consultancy in New York.Duterte, who must step down in mid-2022 due to term limits, wants China to keep its aid pledges partly to give him the “political capital” to endorse a successor in next year’s election, Rabena said. 

Country Violators to be Scrutinized by UN Human Rights Council 

The human rights records of more than 40 countries will come under scrutiny by the 47-member United Nations Human Rights Council during its upcoming four-week session.  
The session promises to be extremely busy.  Nearly 90 reports on a wide range of thematic issues will be presented.  They include torture, enforced disappearances, the right to development, slavery, the rights of people of African descent and racism. As in previous years, the council’s laser-lens focus on the way governments treat their people is expected to garner a lot of attention.  Reported abuses, some amounting to crimes against humanity, will be examined in countries such as Myanmar, Belarus, Syria, Eritrea, Burundi, Nicaragua, and Venezuela. U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michele Bachelet will present an oral update on the situation in Afghanistan Monday as a follow-up to the council’s August 24 special session on that country. The European Union, Mexico and Britain along with human rights activists have criticized the resolution that was adopted for failing to establish a robust independent mechanism to monitor violations by the Taliban. Council President Fiji Ambassador Nazhat Shameem Khan says discussion on Afghanistan has not ended with the special session. “And, really, it is a matter for states to decide whether they want to take the outcome of the special session further and achieve another result,” she said. “But I do want to note that the Security Council on the 30th of August adopted a resolution on safe passage.  It addressed human rights concerns particularly as it relates to women and children.”   Human Rights Watch executive director Kenneth Roth says he is dismayed at the council’s reluctance to take on powerful countries such as Russia and China.  He says he fears the Kremlin will not be held to account for its unprecedented crackdown on opposition parties in advance of this month’s parliamentary elections. “Ideally, we would like to have a resolution.  At minimum, there should be a joint statement.  But, again, this is a situation that just because a government is relatively powerful, should not mean that it escapes scrutiny.  And this is again a bit of a test of the council’s credibility,”  he said.Roth says the same dynamics are playing out regarding China’s abusive treatment of more than a million Uyghurs in internment camps in Xinjiang province. “China has always escaped formal scrutiny by the council.  There has never been a resolution on China.  It is time to end that, given the severity and the atrocities, the crimes against humanity being committed in Xinjiang,”  he said.China maintains the Uyghurs are being held in reeducation camps and that the vocational training they are receiving is necessary to counter terrorism and alleviate poverty.   Roth is calling on Bachelet to present a report describing the inhumane conditions under which the Uyghurs are being incarcerated and to call for the Chinese government to be held accountable. 

Australian Court Rules Media Companies Responsible for Comments on their Facebook Pages

Some of Australia’s biggest media companies have lost a legal battle with a former youth detainee over allegedly defamatory comments posted about him on their Facebook pages. The high court has found the media groups are legally responsible as “publishers” for third parties’ comments on their Facebook pages.Dylan Voller was held in youth detention in Australia’s Northern Territory.  His treatment  was the focus of a 2016 television documentary, which led to a wide-ranging inquiry into the mistreatment of inmates.  Images of him shackled to a chair wearing a spit hood sparked outrage. They also prompted some Facebook users to make allegedly defamatory remarks about him on the media companies’ pages online.As a result, Voller wants to sue several Australian media companies.The case has been held up by a separate legal dispute over whether the outlets were the publishers of users’ comments.The High Court, Australia’s highest court, Wednesday found they were because in setting up a public Facebook page and posting content, the media groups had allowed and encouraged comments from the platform’s users.The judges said it did not matter that the companies deleted the messages after becoming aware of them.A spokesperson for Australia’s Nine Network, which is one of the companies involved, said, “we are obviously disappointed with the outcome as it will have ramifications for what we can post on social media in the future.” Voller’s lawyer, Peter O’Brien, told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. Voller is relieved the long legal fight, or “stoush,” in Australian parlance, is over.“I spoke to Dylan this morning.  He is obviously elated at the decision.  It has been a long legal stoush.  People who might be vulnerable to social media mob attacks – they  are protected.”The High Court decision clears the way for Voller to continue his legal action against high-profile newspapers – The Sydney Morning Herald and The Australian – and others, including broadcaster Sky News.The defamation case will continue later in the New South Wales state Supreme Court.  A trial there will decide whether the Facebook comments did, in fact, defame the former youth detention inmate. 

China’s FM Wang Visiting Cambodia to Discuss Virus, Trade

China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi is visiting Cambodia, where’s he expected to meet with Prime Minister Hun Sen and other officials to discuss COVID-19 and other regional issues.Cambodia’s foreign ministry said Wang’s meetings on Sunday and Monday would include discussions of trade and security as well.Wrapping up a visit to neighboring Vietnam on Saturday, Wang said China planned to donate 3 million vaccine doses to that country, which is under a lockdown to contain a COVID-19 surge.China is Cambodia’s biggest investor and closest political partner. Beijing’s support allows Cambodia to disregard Western concerns about its poor record in human and political rights, and in turn Cambodia generally supports Beijing’s geopolitical positions on issues such as its territorial claims in the South China Sea.In recent months, the United States has expressed concern about their ties and urged Cambodia’s leaders to maintain an independent and balanced foreign policy that would be in its people’s best interests.The concerns partly have focused on China’s construction of new facilities at Ream Naval Base in Cambodia and the potential for its military to have future basing rights there.Ream faces the Gulf of Thailand that lies adjacent to the South China Sea, and holding basing rights in Cambodia would extend Beijing’s strategic military profile considerably. 

Japan Says Suspected Chinese Submarine Seen Near Territorial Waters

Japan’s defense ministry said on Sunday that a submarine believed to be from China was spotted in waters near its southern islands, as maritime tensions persist in the Pacific.Japan’s navy on Friday morning identified a submerged vessel sailing northwest just outside territorial waters near Amami Oshima island, part of Kagoshima prefecture, the ministry said in a statement. A Chinese destroyer was also spotted in the vicinity.Tokyo has complained of numerous intrusions by Chinese vessels of its territorial waters and near disputed islands in recent years. China has often reacted angrily to U.S. ships sailing through disputed areas of the South China Sea in what Washington calls displays of freedom of navigation.Senior Chinese diplomat Wang Yi, visiting Vietnam during a Southeast Asia trip, said those two countries should refrain from unilateral actions regarding the South China Sea that could complicate and magnify disputes.Saturday’s announcement said Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Force identified the vessels in a contiguous zone, which is outside territorial waters where vessels are required to identify themselves. Still, Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi instructed his staff “gather information and maintain vigilant surveillance with a sense of urgency,” the statement said.Officials at the Chinese Embassy could not immediately be reached for comment on Sunday.The submarine continued underwater westward in the ocean near Yokoate Island, the ministry said. 

Myanmar Faces COVID Vaccination Woes as Health System Under Threat

Myanmar’s COVID-19 battle is facing further complications amid the fallout from February’s military coup.
This week, the opposition National Unity Government declared a “defensive war” against the ruling junta government. Next week, the United Nations will hold its 76th General Assembly, and will decide whether the junta or the civilian government will be recognized for a U.N seat.
The country is still fighting a third COVID-19 wave at a time of increasing political tensions. According to World Health Organization data, more than 400,000 people have been infected with COVID-19 in Myanmar, with more than 16,000 dead  
There are concerns, though, that those figures are much higher.
Sasa, a medical doctor from Chin State and the NUG’s minister of international cooperation who only goes by one name, told VOA thousands more may have died than officially recorded.
“We are calculating the number from 40,000 to 400,000 could have died. … It’s impossible for us to understand the level of death. Half the population, 35 to 37 million in Myanmar could be infected by COVID-19 … [it is] a real scale of things,” he told VOA via video call.  
“So many people died, we cannot even, and there is no way for us to, count the deaths. The line on the oxygen, and the line to the cemetery, those are the … lines for queue in the last few months,” he added.FILE – This screengrab taken from a broadcast by Myanmar Radio and Television (MRTV) in Myanmar, April 1, 2021 show footage from March of Buddhist monks waiting to be inoculated with a COVID vaccine in Naypyidaw.Britain’s U.N. ambassador, Barbara Woodward, said in July that that half of Myanmar’s 54 million population could quickly be infected with the virus.
Dr. Sasa, who is on the run and wanted by the military, blames the junta for turning plans to vaccinate the population “upside-down.”
“If there was no military coup in Myanmar, at least 30% of our population would have been vaccinated already. I was a part of the leadership in February, I was there in Naypyitaw [Myanmar’s capital] … our plan was to get vaccinations, at least 30 million dosages of Indian [vaccines].  We have paid the money for that, we have ordered for that, and starting to vaccinate,” he added.  
Background, medical workers targeted
The country has been in crisis since the coup. A mass uprising opposed the takeover, with thousands protesting in the streets. The Civil Disobedience Movement, a nationwide campaign that has seen Myanmar’s essential workers go on strike, aiming to stifle the military-controlled economy, has spearheaded the demonstrations.
Medical workers led the anti-military campaign, but that has not prevented the military from targeting the leaders. According to the monitoring group Insecurity Insight, 252 incidents have been reported against medical personnel and facilities in Myanmar, with at least 25 killed.
Myanmar’s only has 3% of the population fully vaccinated, even though the junta has received millions of donated vaccine doses from India, China and Russia. Junta leader Min Aung Hlaing aims to vaccinate 50 million of the total population by the end of the year.Junta Faces Difficulties on Myanmar Vaccination ProgramMyanmar’s coup leader is aiming for 50% of country’s population to be vaccinated against COVID-19 by the end of this yearSasa said many people distrust the military to administer the vaccines.
“The people of Myanmar will not go to them to get a vaccination,” he said.
He added that the NUG cabinet is working with international organizations about opening vaccination clinics in Myanmar. The Irrawaddy, a Myanmar news site, reported 6 million vaccine doses are on the way from the COVAX global vaccine-sharing initiative.
Sasa said getting people safely vaccinated is easier said than done.
“The question is how do we do the vaccination rollout program. We have all the programs, strategies in place, tasked with all these global partners, but the most concern is about security. We are asking simply military junta to stop attacking hospitals, medical facilities and medical personnel. … Doctors and nurses are the key to deliver the vaccinations for the people,” he said.  
 Myanmar emergency
An assistant surgeon in a medical center in Kayin state who did not want her name used, said Myanmar is going through a health emergency, with a shortage of hospital beds as a common issue.FILE – Volunteers in protective suits prepare to cremate the body of a monk suspected of having died from COVID-19, at a crematorium in the Taungoo district in Myanmar’s Bago region, some 220 km from Yangon, Aug. 6, 2021.“There are so many people treating COVID-19 infection at home or some [medical] centers. Some patients were lost due to an oxygen shortage. It’s too sorry to say. According to one of my patients, the hospital didn’t let them in and ordered them to go back home although the patient is severely ill and dyspneic,” he told VOA, using a medical term for difficulty breathing.
The surgeon added that medical workers who had joined the CDM movement are too afraid to return to hospitals to assist with patients.
“Myanmar is in emergency, and we need urgent help from the world,” the doctor added.

Beijing Blasts ‘Uyghur Tribunal’ Investigating Human Rights in Xinjiang 

China is criticizing a process called the “Uyghur Tribunal,” a quasi-judicial effort by opponents of the Chinese government’s treatment of Uyghurs and other Muslim ethnic minorities designed to publicize evidence of alleged human rights abuses. At a September 9 news conference in Beijing, China’s FILE – Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian takes a question at the daily media briefing in Beijing on April 8, 2020.“It has nothing to do with law, justice or truth, and is just another farce staged to smear and attack Xinjiang,” Zhao told the press, calling the tribunal members clowns.  The “tribunal” heard from 38 witnesses in its first round of hearings in June in Church House, London. That event focused on alleged rights abuses in China’s northwest region of Xinjiang. The second set of hearings is scheduled from September 10 to 13, according to the organizers.  Led by Sir Geoffrey Nice, a prominent lawyer and expert in international criminal law, the nine “jurors” include academics, medical and business practitioners, diplomats and lawyers, according to Nick Vetch, vice chair of the tribunal.  A six-member team of lawyers is helping to collect and present evidence. They are British, French, German, Iranian and Maltese nationals. By year’s end, the jurors plan to issue a “verdict” regarding China’s actions in Xinjiang. “[It’s] not possible for the allegations made against the PRC [People’s Republic of China] to be considered in a formal court such as the International Court of Justice, and it has not been dealt with by states, and therefore it is left to the citizens to seek and answer these questions of such gravity,” Vetch told VOA.  Some countries such as the U.S. as well as rights organizations like Amnesty International accuse China of genocide and crimes against humanity targeting Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities.  FILE – Chair of the panel Geoffrey Nice gives the opening address on the first day of hearings at the “Uyghur Tribunal”, a panel of UK-based lawyers and rights experts investigating alleged abuses against Uyghurs in China’s  Xinjiang region, in London, June 4, 2021.Among other things, they point to arbitrary detentions of an estimated 1 million people and to reports of forced labor and involuntary sterilization.    China denies abusing Uyghurs, saying they are being given vocational training and language skills. Beijing says people in Xinjiang are free to choose their work.  In December 2020, the FILE – Police officers stand at the outer entrance of the Urumqi No. 3 Detention Center in Dabancheng in western China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, April 23, 2021.According to Hamid Sabi, the head of the six-member team of lawyers, the body was set up at the request of Dolkun Isa, WUC president.  China was invited on numerous occasions to take part in the process but organizers received no response.  “We do not present a case for or against China,” Sabi told VOA. “The tribunal members and the counsel team are the same as the June hearing.”   Foreign Ministry’s Zhao called WUC a separatist organization and Isa a terrorist listed by the Chinese government. “These so-called ‘chair’, ‘experts’ and ‘witnesses’ have deplorable track records and are habitual liars,” Zhao charged, “who have become a laughingstock in the international community long time ago.”   Isa, a witness during the first round, confirmed to VOA Mandarin that the tribunal had been established following his request but maintained that it is independent.  “The tribunal acts wholly independently, although the WUC closely supports the hearings by arranging Uyghur witnesses and translation, among other things,” Isa said.  Teng Biao, a Chinese human right lawyer in the U.S. and an expert witness at the tribunal’s second hearings, said the Chinese Communist Party always tries to discredit the witnesses and survivors to cover up truth. The Uyghur Tribunal, he said, “plays a very significant role to at least disclose the truth and the nature of the crime.”