Thursday, 30 May 2013


Commentary: Chinese president's trip to further boost China-LatAm ties

"China and the regional countries hold the same or similar positions on issues related to economic globalization, maintaining global stability, a more just and fairer world economic and financial order, and the fight against terrorism."


China's ties with Latin American and Caribbean countries have been constantly strengthened in the past decade, and Chinese President Xi Jinping's upcoming trip to the region will give that relationship a further boost.

China-Latin America cooperation has been drawing more attentions from global media and scholars in recent years, and that has much to do with China's strong economic performance, the fast growth of the emerging economies such as Mexico and Brazil, and the increasingly close cooperation between China and the emerging economies in the region.

According to China's official policy paper toward Latin America and the Caribbean, Beijing believes the two sides are at a similar stage of development, face the same development task, and share a common aspiration to enhance mutual understanding and cooperation.

China and the regional countries hold the same or similar positions on issues related to economic globalization, maintaining global stability, a more just and fairer world economic and financial order, and the fight against terrorism.

In the 21st century, frequent high-level visits have given leaders of both sides chances to compare notes on global issues of common interests, supporting and coordinating with one another in the world affairs.

Political trust between the two sides has helped promote cooperation in economy, trade, science and technology, culture and education, opening up a new prospect for the development of bilateral ties in an all-round manner.

Two-way trade between China and Latin America doubled over the past decade, and last year saw the trade volume reach 261.2 billion U.S. dollars.

The rapid trade growth has benefited the economic development of both sides. Some economists said it was the large amount of Latin American exports to China in recent years that has protected the region from the heavy blow of the worldwide economic crisis.

Meanwhile, the two sides also seek to promote mutual investment.

Expanding investment in Latin America is consistent with Chinese enterprises' "going-out" strategy, and also meets the needs for domestic economic and social development of Latin American countries.

At present, China's non-financial investment in Latin America amounts to more than 54 billion dollars, mainly in the fields of mining and energy.

Mexico, one of the three countries in the region President Xi will visit, is an important emerging market with which China has a strategic partnership.

Ulises Granados, a Mexican expert on China, said China-Mexico relations have experienced some ups and downs during the rule of previous Mexican governments, but the new president, Enrique Pena Nieto, attaches great importance to developing relations with China.

He believes Xi's visit will open up new prospects for bilateral ties, with Mexico hoping to expand cooperation with China in agriculture and animal husbandry, energy and tourism.

Costa Rica, also a destination on Xi's forthcoming trip, is the only Central American nation that has diplomatic ties with China. It has maintained close cooperative relations with China while China has invested heavily in Costa Rica, including a refinery project.

According to local media reports, Costa Rica hopes to expand exchange and cooperation with China in such fields as energy, trade, environment, infrastructure, education and culture.

Xi's visit to Trinidad and Tobago will mark the first time that a Chinese president visited the English-speaking Caribbean nation.

The Foreign Ministry of Trinidad and Tobago issued a communique emphasizing the contributions made by the Chinese in the country to local economic and cultural development.

With high expectations as such for the visit, the trip will undoubtedly push the bilateral relations to a new level.


China Building Beachhead in Europe With $5 Billion Belarus City


China is building an entire city in the forests near the Belarusian capital Minsk to create a manufacturing springboard between the European Union and Russia.

Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko allotted an area 40 percent larger than Manhattan around Minsk’s international airport for the $5 billion development, which will include enough housing to accommodate 155,000 people, according to Chinese and Belarusian officials.

Lukashenko, who’s led his former Soviet state of 9.5 million for two decades, is turning to China to help revive a $60 billion economy that’s needed $6.5 billion of bailouts from the International Monetary Fund and Russia since 2009. The hub will put Chinese exporters within 170 miles of EU members Poland and Lithuania and give them tax-free entry into Russia and Kazakhstan, which share a customs union. It will also let them draw from a workforce that’s 99.6 percent literate and makes $560 a month on average, half the Polish wage.

“This is a unique project,” Gong Jianwei, China’s ambassador to Belarus, said on state television May 17, after the project won regulatory approval. “Nobody will be able to build anything like this industrial park anywhere else in Europe anymore. The infrastructure is so powerful.”

The “modern city on the Eurasian continent,” as it’s called in marketing documents, will be built around the M1 highway that links Moscow and Berlin via Belarus and Poland. A speed-rail network will tie the airport to the center of the city, which will be powered by a $10 billion nuclear plant, Belarus’s first, which Russia agreed to finance and build by 2018. The first stage of the park is scheduled to be completed by 2020, with the second stage taking another 10 years.


‘Highly Advantageous’

China, which signed a $3 billion currency swap deal with Belarus in 2009 to boost trade, agreed to finance the venture with low-interest loans as long as half the money is spent on Chinese materials, technology or labor, according to Kirill Koroteev, the former Economy Ministry official tapped by Lukashenko to manage the Belarus side of the project. Koroteev is deputy head of Industrial Park Development Co., which is 60 percent owned by a unit of China National Machinery Industry Corp. and 40 percent owned by Belarus’s government.

“The loan conditions are highly advantageous,” Koroteev said in an interview in his office in Minsk, leaning back from a desk cluttered with documents in Russian, English and Chinese. “It doesn’t make sense for us to even consider financing from other banks.”

Export-Import Bank of China and China Development Bank Corp. are among Chinese lenders that have already agreed to fund the project, Liu Xuesong, councilor at the Chinese Embassy in Minsk, said by e-mail. The press office at China Development Bank in Beijing didn’t respond to an e-mail request for comment and Liu Yang, a publicity officer at Export-Import Bank, didn’t answer calls to his office phone.

Tax Breaks

It’s not just Chinese companies that are eligible for the tax breaks at the future park. Any enterprise that pledges to invest at least $5 million and work in an “advanced sphere” such as biomedicine or electronics can receive the 10-year waiver on profit and property taxes, according to the project’s website. Taxes will be halved for companies in the second 10 years after their investment.

More than 10 companies have already shown interest, including drug makers Sinopharm Group (1099), based in Hong Kong, and Latvia’s Grindeks, Koroteev said. Sinopharm didn’t respond to e-mailed questions and Grindeks declined to comment immediately.

“We aim to turn this place into an international business springboard,” Koroteev said. “We don’t want to build a dead city.”

Chinese leaders have been seeking to establish a manufacturing base for their exporters within the EU for years. Talks with Bulgaria on establishing a park similar to the one Belarus has approved, though much smaller, started in 2010 only to stall after a change in leadership in both countries, Valery Andreev, who heads the company overseeing Bulgaria’s industrial zones, said by phone from Sofia.

‘China’s Bulwark’

“It would make sense for Chinese companies to build factories here, where the market is, but we are not in a position to wait for Chinese investors only,” Andreev said.

Then-Premier Wen Jiabao led a meeting with officials from several eastern and central European countries in Warsaw, Poland, last April during which he identified 12 steps they could take to improve relations with China -- one of which was to have China develop an economic zone in each of the countries, according to Andreev.

“Belarusian authorities want, a bit naively, to turn their country into China’s bulwark in Europe,” Alexei Pikulik, head of the Belarusian Institute for Strategic Studies, an independent research group based in Vilnius, Lithuania ["independent"? Sounds like a pro-imperialist organisation - Sukant Chandan, Sons of Malcolm].

“This goal will be complicated while Belarus has strained relations with the West,” Pikulik said by phone from Minsk on May 23. “While Belarus borrows, China makes money.”



Algeria cancels $902 mn of African countries' debts 


North African gas-rich state Ageria has cancelled some $902 million in debts owed by 14 countries members of the African Union, minister of foreign affairs Amar Blani stated on Wednesday.

Blani added that the debt relief is a part of the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the founding of the continental organisation and solidarity with their neighbors.

On Sunday, Brazil announced restructure almost $900 million in debt owed by African countries as part of a plan to increase future funding to the continent.



Venezuela to create new 'Bolivarian militia of Workers'


Venezuela's president has ordered the creation of a new workers' militia to defend the country's "Bolivarian revolution" at a time when the government faces economic problems and political turmoil.

President Nicolas Maduro gave few details about the militia, including how many members it would consist of, but said it would be part of the Bolivarian Militia created by late President Hugo Chavez, which consists of roughly 120,000 volunteers. Analysts have said only about one-fourth of that force is combat ready.

Maduro's announcement in a speech in Caracas late Wednesday got little attention in the Venezuelan media.

The president said he had ordered military leaders to "move forward as fast as possible in the establishment and organization of the Bolivarian Militias of Workers."

He urged the crowd to imagine the respect the working class would command if it had "300,000, 500,000, 1 million, 2 million uniformed workers, armed, prepared to defend the sovereignty of the homeland."

Critics have warned such militias could be used to cement the socialist government's hold on power.

Chavez, a former paratrooper who died in March, sought to incorporate the military into his political efforts to turn Venezuela into a socialist state. During his 14-year rule, he warned repeatedly of potential threats to the government, including what he alleged were conspiracies in the United States and Venezuela's opposition, which they denied.

Maduro, whom Chavez anointed as his successor, echoed those allegations as he announced the creation of the new militia.

"In this world where there still are empires who fight to control territory, riches and people, there is no respect for the weak," Maduro said. "Respect is given to those who have morale, to those who make themselves respected."

Maduro narrowly beat opposition leader Henrique Capriles in an April 14 election that Capriles has refused to accept, alleging Maduro stole the vote through fraud, voter intimidation and abuse of public resources.

The president also is under pressure to preserve unity within his own ranks, amid reports of an internal power struggle in the Chavista movement. Adding to his woes, the economy is faltering despite having vast oil resources, with soaring inflation and shortages of food and basic necessities, including toilet paper, testing the patience of citizens.

Wednesday, 29 May 2013


Ding-ding! Second bout with AlMuhajiroun/Islam4UK (the guys who brain washed the woolwich attackers) leader & founder in nearly as many weeks on Press TV. He seemed to duck out within minutes and seems to refuse to come back on the show with me. *shrugs* Hope to face him in debate again, and looking forward to the showdown with Anjem Choudhury sometime too, time to totally ideologically smash-up his use and abuse of Islam and our peoples resistance, ethics and struggles. Below is the first debate I had with Mr Omar Bakri. I hope he does return and continues debating with me. - Sukant Chandan, Sons of Malcolm


How China is educating Africa – and what it means for the west

In an extract from a new book, China's aspirational approach to education and investment in Africa is distinguished from the west's focus on basic needs
The da xue (Mandarin: the big study, or the big reading) or dai ho(k) (Cantonese: the big learning) are Chinese terms for a university. In the romance of the "old days", learning was the only way to bypass the class system. China's annual imperial exams allowed even the poorest subject to step outside his poverty and feudal status to become an official. When, later, learning became concentrated in universities, the institutions became prestigious and symbolic. They were the portals of escape.

  1. The Morality of China in Africa: The Middle Kingdom and the Dark Continent
  2. by Stephen Chan
  1. Tell us what you think:Star-rate and review this book
With this in mind, it is amazing that Chinese aid to Africa has not seized earlier upon the building of universities. The addition of universities was unremarked in the original Chinese proposal for the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) in 2008. China pledged a $9bn loan, $3bn of which was to develop mines, over which China entered a 68/32% joint venture involving Sinohydro Corporation and DRC's previously almost defunct Gecamines; and $6bn was for infrastructure, with China Railway Engineering Corporation playing a major role.
The Chinese expected to gain 6.8m tonnes of copper and 620,000 tonnes of cobalt over a 25-year period. However, China would also build huge expanses of road and railway and, along those transport routes, a large number of clinics, schools and universities. It was an unheard-of proposal; it would have transformed development in the south of DRC, with provision for a huge increase in the national pool of trained personnel; and it thoroughly alarmed the west, which saw an exponential increase of Chinese influence in central Africa.
Using the IMF as a battering ram, and insisting upon the priority of its own development assistance programme, the west succeeded in reducing the Chinese package to $6bn. At the time of writing, it is unclear how many elements of infrastructure have been sacrificed in this reduction. But it still means 2,400 miles of road, 2,000 miles of railway, 32 hospitals, 145 health centres and two universities. On this occasion, there was a keen symmetry between Chinese and African aspiration – and this included both the benefits and the prestige of higher education.
Western assistance has always prioritised primary schooling, but the Chinese approach in this instance recognised something beyond foundational competencies. It recognised the need for educational foundations for international competitiveness – albeit in a distant future. In the meantime, it recognised the psychological foundation a university degree confers in situations of underdevelopment. The graduate is credentialised as having escaped the structural constraints of poverty upon his or her capacity to understand and interrogate the world. In the backwaters of southern DRC, this has the psychological impact of a huge achievement.
To an extent, the west has returned to the "basic needs" template – that the emphasis should be on clean water, housing and the like. "Assured subsistence" might be another coinage. The current emphasis on millennium development goals is a sophisticated development of this template, and gender equality is really the only key addition and difference. The goals are not only a set of targets; they constitute a ceiling. The aim is very much to ensure a level of development that prevents slippage into underdevelopment; it is not to take any part of Africa into a millennium in which, like China, it challenges the west.
The west is not providing aid to develop a competitor. Nor are the Chinese. But the image of China, precisely as a competitor to the west, is a deeply attractive one. So China as a developed economic and technological power is an aspirational model. What this aspiration envisages in Africa is the right to manufacture, to the industrialisation of products, to beneficiation. By and large, the Chinese are not providing this, just as the west did not.
However, in so far as joint ventures might be possible between such African industrial concerns that exist and Chinese ones, the outlook for co-operation in automotive manufacture in South Africa is, while hardly consolidated, a prospective one. So that when the west looks upon current Sino–African relations with alarm, it should be mindful that, perhaps, it is alarmed by a stage one, and might be even more alarmed by the possibility of a stage two. This stage could not provide competition with China, but it could in certain sectors provide competition with the west. The processing of coffee and cocoa, for instance, would not compete with Chinese concerns but would destabilise processing plants in Europe.
The upward spiral of this moves on to petroleum refineries across all African oil producers, but also local build of pipes for pipelines. Chinese assistance with steel plants is a key outlook for the future. But these would be best suited to joint ventures, and this would require the upgrade of local capacities as well as local investment. It would also require, as co-operation became more sophisticated, shared senior management. A working joint Sino–African company board of a major enterprise would have to become more than a rare event.


The competition between the world’s two biggest economies for influence in Latin America is on display this week as U.S. Vice President Joe Biden visits Rio de Janeiro today near the end of a three-nation tour of the region with Chinese President Xi Jinping close behind.
The dueling visits -- Biden departs Brazil May 31, the same day Xi arrives in Trinidad & Tobagoto begin his first tour of the region since China’s political transition ended in March -- underscore how Latin America’s natural resources and rising middle class are making it an increasingly attractive trade partner for the world’s top two economies.

Competing with China’s checkbook isn’t easy for the U.S. Seeking South American soy, copper and iron ore, China boosted imports from Latin America 20-fold, to $86 billion in 2011 from $3.9 billion in 2000, according to calculations by theInter-American Development Bank. By contrast, the U.S. policy of pursuing free-trade accords has been controversial, said Kevin Gallagher, a Boston University economist.
“If I’m a Latin American leader, I’m very happy because I now have more chips to play with,” said Gallagher, author of the 2010 book “The Dragon in the Room,” about China’s inroads in the region. “The onus is on the U.S. to come up with a more flexible, attractive offer but that’s not so easy because it doesn’t have the deep pockets like it used to.”
The Latin America visits come as the International Monetary Fund forecasts the region’s economies will expand 3.4 percent this year, almost three times the pace of growth in the developed world.

U.S. Outreach

Biden’s tour, which began May 26 in Colombia, included a “frank” and at times “brutal” discussion about trade, economic growth and security with 15 Caribbean leaders in Trinidad yesterday, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar said, without giving more details. The leaders signed an accord to boost investment and economic cooperation.
“Our country is deeply invested and wants to be more deeply invested in the region,” Biden saidin Port of Spain. Yesterday’s accord “will give us all a vehicle to overcome special, specific, practical barriers to trade and investment. Our goal is not simply growth, but growth that reaches everyone.”
In Colombia, Biden said a one-year-old free-trade agreement between the two countries is “just the beginning,” citing a doubling of the period for which entry visas are valid and efforts to expand trade ties further.

State Visit

The outreach follows President Barack Obama’s visits in May to Mexico and Costa Rica and precedes talks at the White House in June with the leaders of Chile and Peru. In October, Obama will host Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff to a state dinner at the White House.
U.S. business with the region is brisk even in the absence of a region-wide free-trade agreement that the U.S. pursued for more than a decade and that anti-U.S. allies of the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez helped bury in 2005.
Buoyed by bilateral agreements signed since then with Peru, Panama and Colombia, U.S. exports to Latin America have more than doubled since 2000 to a record $400 billion last year. The region last year bought 26 percent of U.S. exports, an increase from 22 percent in 2000.

Brazil Surplus

In Rio, Biden will tour a research facility operated by state-run oil company Petroleo Brasileiro SA. U.S. exports of capital goods are helping Brazil develop the biggest oil discoveries in the Americas since 1976 and are one reason why the U.S. in 2009 began posting a trade surpluswith Brazil, the region’s biggest economy, for the first time in a decade.
Trade with Brazil could rise to $500 billion from about $100 billion currently, Biden said today, citing biofuels, aviation and energy.
“We see greater Brazilian investment in the United States,” Biden said. “We welcome it, we need it. We want you investing.”
For Xi, his week-long tour of Trinidad, Costa Rica and Mexico precedes a visit to California for his first face-to-face talks with Obama since taking office.
The trip to Latin America and the Caribbean, coming so early in Xi’s presidency, reflects the rising confidence of the Chinese leadership as it pursues its strategic interests with little concern for U.S. reaction, said Evan Ellis, a professor at the National Defense University inWashington. China in recent years has ousted the U.S. to become the top trade partner for Brazil and Chile.

‘Washington’s Backyard’

“In the past Chinese presidents were very deferential to the U.S., always making reference to Washington’s backyard,” said Ellis, the author of dozens of papers and a book about China’s penetration of Latin America. “You don’t hear any of that from Xi’s team, though you don’t find any threatening rhetoric either.”
Trinidad, the largest supplier of energy in the Caribbean and the one stop on both delegations’ itineraries, may be the best example of China’s newfound boldness, said Ellis.
While in Trinidad and Tobago, Xi will also meet with leaders from other countries in the region, including the Bahamas, Jamaica, Suriname and Antigua and Barbuda, Assistant Foreign Minister Zhang Kunsheng told reporters today in Beijing.
Any loan or investment announced by Xi has the potential to surpass the $200 million the U.S. spends annually on the entire region through the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative.

Highway Loan

Biden yesterday said the U.S. will seek to increase assistance through the security initiative, without giving more details.
“If the Chinese decide to unroll one of their little packages in Trinidad, they’ll win the entire Caribbean over,” said Gallagher.
Xi will bring a $400 million loan to help expand and modernize a highway in Costa Rica, newspaper La Nacion reported today, citing an interview with the country’s ambassador to China.
As China asserts itself more, the region’s leaders have also grown more wary.
The decade-long export surge has concentrated on a few raw materials, making South America more vulnerable to a slowdown in China. Driven by Chinese demand, stronger dollar inflows used to buy exports have also fueled the region’s currencies, making imports cheaper and hurting local manufacturers.

Currency Gains

Rousseff in 2011 increased by 30 percentage points a tax on foreign cars after automakers complained about threats from competitors including Wuhu-based Chery Automobile Co. Colombia’s peso, Brazil’s real and Chile’s peso were three of the top four best performers over the past decade among 31 major currencies tracked by Bloomberg, each surging more than 40 percent.
In Mexico, Xi visits a nation that competes directly with China for sales to the U.S. market. China more than doubled its market share in the U.S. since joining the World Trade Organization in 2001, accounting for 19 percent of goods sold last year, up from 8 percent in 2000, according to the U.S. Commerce Department. That compares with Mexico’s 12 percent share, barely changed from 2000.

April Visit

Still, Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto, who visited Beijing in April, is looking to expand trade and investment with China, if only to diversify away from the U.S., buyer of 80 percent of the country’s exports.
Both the U.S. and China deny they’re competing with one another. The two countries “can play to their respective advantages” and contribute to the region’s development, Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said May 21 in Beijing.
In the case of the U.S., those advantages include its role as a purchaser of the region’s high-value manufacturing goods, an administration official said in a May 22 conference call with reporters.
Case in point: Brazil’s Embraer SA this month announced a $4 billion deal to sell regional jets to United Continental Holdings Inc. partner SkyWest Inc. after winning a U.S. contract in February to provide 20 Super Tucano turboprops to the Afghan military. At the same time, almost 90 percent of the $41 billion Brazil sold to China last year was derived from commodities.
Earlier this month, Brazil was the focus of a U.S. trade mission for 20 companies including Morgan Stanley, Textron Inc.’s Cessna Aircraft Co. and OSI Systems Inc.’s Rapiscan, which makes airport screening devices. The delegation also visited Colombia and Panama.
“The Chinese still come with a lot of money and that’s tough to say no to,” said Eric Farnsworth, head of the Washington office of the Council of the Americas, a group representing U.S. businesses. “But increasingly these countries have a better understanding of who has what to offer and on what conditions. For the first time questions are being raised about whether the region pushed the U.S. too far away.”


Brazil to cancel or restructure almost $900m of African debt


Brazil will cancel or restructure almost $900m in debt owed by African countries, a Brazilian official said, as part of a plan to increase future funding to the continent.

Latin America’s economic powerhouse is expanding its economic ties with Africa, a sign of how crises in richer countries are pushing faster-growing emerging economies to trade and invest among themselves, economists say.

Brazilian officials said President Dilma Rousseff, visiting Addis Ababa to mark the African Union’s 50th anniversary, was set to announce a development agency alongside the cancellation that will offer assistance to African countries.

“Almost all (aid) is cancellation,” Thomas Traumann, spokesman of Brazil’s presidency, told reporters in the Ethiopian capital.

Under Brazilian law, Brasília cannot offer new loans and long-term financial assistance to countries with outstanding debts. Mr Traumann said most of Brazil’s future assistance would target infrastructure, agriculture and social programmes.

Among the 12 countries set to benefit areTanzania, which owes Brazil $237m, along with oil-producing Republic of Congo and copper-rich Zambia.

Most of the debt was accumulated in the 1970s and had been renegotiated previously, Traumann added.

“Brazil has great expertise in what we call tropicalising European crops. We have that technology,” he said. “The idea is how to transfer that technology from Brazil to other African countries.”

In a sign of Brazil’s quest for deeper ties with Africa, Ms Rousseff was making her third visit to the continent in as many months, Mr Traumann added.


Confidential report lists U.S. weapons system designs compromised by Chinese cyberspies


Designs for many of the nation’s most sensitive advanced weapons systems have been compromised by Chinese hackers, according to a report prepared for the Pentagon and to officials from government and the defense industry.

Among more than two dozen major weapons systems whose designs were breached were programs critical to U.S. missile defenses and combat aircraft and ships, according to a previously undisclosed section of a confidential report prepared for Pentagon leaders by the Defense Science Board.

Experts warn that the electronic intrusions gave China access to advanced technology that could accelerate the development of its weapons systems and weaken the U.S. military advantage in a future conflict.

The Defense Science Board, a senior advisory group made up of government and civilian experts, did not accuse the Chinese of stealing the designs. But senior military and industry officials with knowledge of the breaches said the vast majority were part of a widening Chinese campaign of espionage against U.S. defense contractors and government agencies.

The significance and extent of the targets help explain why the Obama administration has escalated its warnings to the Chinese government to stop what Washington sees as rampant cyber­theft.

In January, the advisory panel warned in the public version of its report that the Pentagon is unprepared to counter a full-scale cyber-conflict. The list of compromised weapons designs is contained in a confidential version, and it was provided to The Washington Post.

Some of the weapons form the backbone of the Pentagon’s regional missile defense for Asia, Europe and the Persian Gulf. The designs included those for the advanced Patriot missile system, known as PAC-3; an Army system for shooting down ballistic missiles, known as the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD; and the Navy’s Aegis ballistic-missile defense system.

Also identified in the report are vital combat aircraft and ships, including the F/A-18 fighter jet, the V-22 Osprey, the Black Hawk helicopter and the Navy’s new Littoral Combat Ship, which is designed to patrol waters close to shore.

Also on the list is the most expensive weapons system ever built — the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, which is on track to cost about $1.4 trillion. The 2007 hack of that project was reported previously.

China, which is pursuing a comprehensive long-term strategy to modernize its military, is investing in ways to overcome the U.S. military advantage — and cyber-espionage is seen as a key tool in that effort, the Pentagon noted this month in a report to Congress on China. For the first time, the Pentagon specifically named the Chinese government and military as the culprit behind intrusions into government and other computer systems.

As the threat from Chinese cyber-espionage has grown, the administration has become more public with its concerns. In a speech in March, Thomas Donilon, the national security adviser to President Obama, urged China to control its cyber-activity. In its public criticism, the administration has avoided identifying the specific targets of hacking.

But U.S. officials said several examples were raised privately with senior Chinese government representatives in a four-hour meeting a year ago. The officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe a closed meeting, said senior U.S. defense and diplomatic officials presented the Chinese with case studies detailing the evidence of major intrusions into U.S. companies, including defense contractors.

In addition, a recent classified National Intelligence Estimate on economic cyber-espionage concluded that China was by far the most active country in stealing intellectual property from U.S. companies.

The Chinese government insists that it does not conduct ­cyber-espionage on U.S. agencies or companies, and government spokesmen often complain that Beijing is a victim of U.S. cyberattacks.

Obama is expected to raise the issue when he meets with Chinese President Xi Jinping next month in California.

A spokesman for the Pentagon declined to discuss the list from the science board’s report. But the spokesman, who was not authorized to speak on the record, said in an e-mail, “The Department of Defense has growing concerns about the global threat to economic and national security from persistent cyber-intrusions aimed at the theft of intellectual property, trade secrets and commercial data, which threatens the competitive edge of U.S. businesses like those in the Defense Industrial Base.”

The confidential list of compromised weapons system designs and technologies represents the clearest look at what the Chinese are suspected of targeting. When the list was read to independent defense experts, they said they were shocked by the extent of the cyber-espionage and the potential for compromising U.S. defenses.

“That’s staggering,” said Mark Stokes, executive director of the Project 2049 Institute, a think tank that focuses on Asia security issues. “These are all very critical weapons systems, critical to our national security. When I hear this in totality, it’s breathtaking.”

The experts said the cybertheft creates three major problems. First, access to advanced U.S. designs gives China an immediate operational edge that could be exploited in a conflict. Second, it accelerates China’s acquisition of advanced military technology and saves billions in development costs. And third, the U.S. designs can be used to benefit China’s own defense industry. There are long-standing suspicions that China’s theft of designs for the F-35 fighter allowed Beijing to develop its version much faster.

“You’ve seen significant improvements in Chinese military capabilities through their willingness to spend, their acquisitions of advanced Russian weapons, and from their cyber-espionage campaign,” said James A. Lewis, a cyber-policy expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “Ten years ago, I used to call the PLA [People’s Liberation Army] the world’s largest open-air military museum. I can’t say that now.”

The public version of the science board report noted that such cyber-espionage and cyber-sabotage could impose “severe consequences for U.S. forces engaged in combat.” Those consequences could include severed communication links critical to the operation of U.S. forces. Data corruption could misdirect U.S. operations. Weapons could fail to operate as intended. Planes, satellites or drones could crash, the report said.

In other words, Stokes said, “if they have a better sense of a THAAD design or PAC-3 design, then that increases the potential of their ballistic missiles being able to penetrate our or our allies’ missile defenses.”

Winslow T. Wheeler, director of the Straus Military Reform Project at the Project on Government Oversight, made a similar point. “If they got into the combat systems, it enables them to understand it to be able to jam it or otherwise disable it,” he said. “If they’ve got into the basic algorithms for the missile and how they behave, somebody better get out a clean piece of paper and start to design all over again.”

The list did not describe the extent or timing of the penetrations. Nor did it say whether the theft occurred through the computer networks of the U.S. government, defense contractors or subcontractors.

Privately, U.S. officials say that senior Pentagon officials are frustrated by the scale of cybertheft from defense contractors, who routinely handle sensitive classified data. The officials said concerns have been expressed by Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Adm. James A. Winnefeld Jr., the vice chairman, as well as Gen. Keith Alexander, director of the National Security Agency.

“In many cases, they don’t know they’ve been hacked until the FBI comes knocking on their door,” said a senior military official who was not authorized to speak on the record. “This is billions of dollars of combat advantage for China. They’ve just saved themselves 25 years of research and development. It’s nuts.”

In an attempt to combat the problem, the Pentagon launched a pilot program two years ago to help the defense industry shore up its computer defenses, allowing the companies to use classified threat data from the National Security Agency to screen their networks for malware. The Chinese began to focus on subcontractors, and now the government is in the process of expanding the sharing of threat data to more defense contractors and other industries.

An effort to change defense contracting rules to require companies to secure their networks or risk losing Pentagon business stalled last year. But the 2013 Defense Authorization Act has a provision that requires defense contractors holding classified clearances to report intrusions into their networks and allow access to government investigators to analyze the breach.

The systems on the science board’s list are built by a variety of top defense contractors, including Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon and Northrop Grumman. None of the companies would comment about whether their systems have been breached.

But Northrop Grumman spokes­man Randy Belote acknowledged the company “is experiencing greater numbers of attempts to penetrate its computer networks” and said the firm is “vigilant” about protecting its networks.

A Lockheed Martin official said the firm is “spending more time helping deal with attacks on the supply chain” of partners, subcontractors and suppliers than dealing with attacks directly against the company. “For now, our defenses are strong enough to counter the threat, and many attackers know that, so they go after suppliers. But of course they are always trying to develop new ways to attack.”

The Defense Science Board report also listed broad technologies that have been compromised, such as drone video systems, nanotechnology, tactical data links and electronic warfare systems — all areas where the Pentagon and Chinese military are investing heavily.

“Put all that together — the design compromises and the technology theft — and it’s pretty significant,” Stokes said.


North Korea Reiterates Commitment to Building Nuclear Weapons


North Korea's state media on Sunday reiterated Pyongyang's commitment to building nuclear weapons, dousing limited hopes that the isolated state might engage in talks about its nuclear program under pressure from China.

North Korea's highest policy-making body also directed a harsh verbal attack on South Korean President Park Geun-hye, suggesting prospects for inter-Korean rapprochement remain grim despite a reported agreement from a senior North Korean official to resolve diplomatic standoffs through talks.

That official, Vice Marshal Choe Ryong Hae, returned to Pyongyang late Friday after handing a letter from Mr. Kim to Chinese President Xi Jinping. North Korea's account of the letter and conversation between Messrs. Choe and Xi, carried in its state media, referred only to building friendship between the nations and hopes for the success of the two nations under their respective leaders.

In contrast, Chinese media accounts noted Mr. Xi's desire for denuclearization on the Korean peninsula and dialogue to ease a standoff between North Korea and its rivals. Chinese state media also reported that Mr. Choe agreed to unspecified dialogue and the possible resumption of six-party talks, which were used until 2008 to seek North Korea's reversal of its nuclear program.

The reported comments by Mr. Choe contrast with the unequivocal stance of North Korea in recent months that it won't negotiate over its nuclear development. On Sunday, its state media carried a number of reports that emphasized North Korea's commitment to nuclear weapons.

North Korea's "measures for bolstering up [our] nuclear deterrent are an exercise of the legitimate right to defend the sovereignty of the country and the security of the nation," said Rodong Shinmun, the nation's main newspaper and mouthpiece of the Worker's Party, the Korean Central News Agency reported.

Analysts said the contradictory reports about North Korea's stance on its nuclear program reflect the tension in the relationship between Beijing and Pyongyang. While North Korea is desperate to maintain the support of its only major benefactor, it is also determined to gain general acceptance as a nuclear power.

Although China is unlikely to withdraw its support for the North Korean regime, Beijing remains troubled by the North's buildup of its weapons program and the response from South Korea and the U.S. in bolstering their own firepower in the region, analysts said.

"The North Koreans might be willing to make small concessions [to the Chinese] and even agree to remain calm for a while. But the nuclear issue is not negotiable. They are a nuclear power, and will remain as such," said Andrei Lankov, a North Korea expert at Kookmin University in Seoul.

In order to keep China's all-important aid and energy assistance flowing, North Korea could be open to some sort of bilateral dialogue, but that is likely to have little significance, said Yoo Ho-yeol, a North Korea specialist at Korea University in Seoul.

While the U.S. says it will only talk to North Korea if the North first shows it is prepared to meet previous commitments to denuclearize, South Korea's new leader, Ms. Park, has been seeking dialogue with the North for weeks to restart a jointly run industrial park and to coax the North into a gradual process of building better relations.

Those efforts have been met with firm rejection from the North, which frequently depicts a general conspiracy in the South to undermine its own leadership.

On Sunday, North Korean state media reported commentary from a spokesman for Pyongyang's top decision-making entity, the National Defense Commission, that represented some of the most aggressive criticism of Ms. Park from the North since she took office in February.

Ms. Park "has kicked up confrontation hysteria…through a spate of malignant invectives and sheer sophism since she was busy with a shameful presidential campaign," the report said.

"We will closely follow the future behavior of the present ruling quarters of south Korea, including Park Geun-hye," the report said, using a lowercase "s" in South because North Korea doesn't acknowledge South Korea as an independent country.


AU chief accuses International Criminal Court of chasing Africans


The African Union assembly chairman has accused the International Criminal Court of pursuing cases against Africans on the basis of their race, in the latest high-profile rebuke of a court that has been dogged by accusations that it is ineffective.

Hailemariam Desalegn, who is also prime minister of Ethiopia, said the ICC had “degenerated into some kind of racehunting”. “I think the ICC has to see to it that it shouldn’t chase Africans,” said Mr Hailemariam at the African Union meeting in Addis Ababa. “Out of those people who [have] been indicted by ICC, 99 per cent are Africans so this shows that something is flawed within the system of ICC and we reject that,” he said.

Fatou Bensouda, the ICC’s chief prosecutor, is from Gambia and many senior ICC officials are African. The ICC has previously dismissed claims of racism, by pointing to the fact that the referrals come from Africans themselves. The acquittal last year of a Congolese warlord raised doubts about the court’s ability to prosecute cases of crimes against humanity.

Mr Hailemariam’s comments come just days after the African Union backed a Kenyan request for charges against Uhuru Kenyatta, its president, to be heard under the laws of the east African country, not in The Hague.

Mr Kenyatta and William Ruto, his deputy, are indicted for crimes against humanity for their alleged role in brutal ethnic violence that followed elections five years ago. The attacks killed more than 1,100 and displaced close to 700,000. The new president and his deputy argue their election following March polls this year shows they have widespread support, pitting democracy against justice.

In 2007 Mr Kenyatta and Mr Ruto, who are members of the Kikuyu and Kalenjin ethnic groups respectively, campaigned on opposite sides but came together in a 2013 election pact detractors labelled “a coalition of the accused”.

“If you take the example in Kenya the indictment has come because of the clashes between the two tribes the Kalenjin and the Kikuyu but these two clans they came together and ...100 per cent almost elected the two president and the vice-president,” said Mr Hailemariam. “[So] ... then the chasing [by] the ICC of these presidents is not clear to the African leaders.”

However, the violence targeted several other ethnic groups including Luo and Luhya, and many were killed by police.

Ramtane Lamamra, the AU’s peace and security commissioner, said the request to refer the high-profile Kenya cases was “discussed and strongly supported at the level of heads of state and government”. Some delegates said that they supported the Kenyan request purely for reasons of regional diplomacy. The ICC has no legal obligation to heed the AU’s request.

Mr Lamamra described as unfair the fact that the three of the five UN Security Council members who regularly refer cases to the ICC have not themselves ratified the Treaty of Rome that established the court, a reference to Russia, China and the US.

“For the ICC I think to continue to enjoy [support] among the large segment of the AU membership I think they have to listen to this legitimate criticism, the same for the UN Security Council,” he said.


Progress seen in Farc peace talks


Colombia’s government and rebel leaders of the Farc announced on Sunday they have agreed on the first point of the peace agenda, sparking hopes that one of the longest running armed conflicts might finally be drawing to a close.

“Today, we have a real opportunity to reach peace through dialogue,” Humberto de la Calle, the government’s chief negotiator, said in Havana where since November government and rebel emissaries have been seeking common ground on a pre-agreed five-point agenda.

During the past five months negotiations have been focused, in large part, on the contentious issue of rural development and agrarian reform. All past peace attempts with the Farc have failed, and this is the first time both parties have agreed to discuss the underlying cause of the insurgency.

“The agreement reached would allow for a radical transformation of Colombia’s rural reality. This goes beyond a traditional agrarian reform,” Mr de la Calle said, labelling the accord as “historic”.

In 1964, under the banner of social justice, Pedro Antonio Marín, popularly known as Manuel “Sureshot” Marulanda, organised his peasant followers into the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or Farc. Ever since, the leftwing fighters have engaged in running warfare against the state. Tens of thousands have been killed and millions displaced as the army, Farc rebels and rightwing paramilitary groups battled it out.

While peace talks are under way in Cuba, both sides keep fighting in Colombia’s interior. Last week, over a dozen military men were killed in clashes with the Farc and the ELN, the second-largest guerrilla group. Despite these casualties, in recent years, the government has landed some blows on the Farc and key commanders have been killed or died, including a week ago Ernesto Hurtado Peñaloza, also known as El Negro Eliécer.

Diminished, the estimated 8,000 guerrillas left are scattered around remote rural areas, lobbing mortar shells and sowing makeshift landmines. The ELN is smaller than the Farc with a force of between 3,000 and 1,500 insurgents. Although it is not at the table, it also appears to be seeking peace talks.

Experts and government officials claim the two rebel factions have survived this long by financing themselves over the years through illegal activities such as kidnapping for ransom, extortion, drug-trafficking, informal gold mining, and arms smuggling. Both groups deny this.

Last week, Farc rejected accusations they were to blame for the abduction of two Spanish tourists in the northeast, after kidnappers allegedly identified themselves as members of the rebel group.

While peace talks with Farc guerrillas are sometimes a halting process, these are the most concrete efforts in almost 50 years.

According to the government a final deal could be inked in months not years. The agenda includes drug trafficking; the rights of victims; the end of the armed conflict, and guarantees for political participation, which is the next point to be discussed. Negotiations, notwithstanding, are being held under the premise that “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.”

Critics have accused Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos, who recently hinted he would run for a second term next year, of negotiating behind the country’s back. Many argue that he is poised to make unilateral concessions to the rebels in order to seal an agreement. However, from Havana, Mr de la Calle stressed that any accord would go to a national referendum.

Colombia has held successful peace talks before but not with the Farc. The M-19 urban guerrilla group laid down its weapons in 1990, and more than 30,000 paramilitaries demobilised between 2004 and 2006, even though many consider it a flawed process.


Sons of Malcolm are here to assist in any way we can to our brothers and sisters in Greece fighting to defend themselves. - Sukant Chandan, Sons of Malcolm

Black Panthers to Golden Dawn: 'Don't mess with black people'
Self-defence group set up night-time patrols to protect against attacks


Fed up of being the target of Golden Dawn gangs, a group of Athens residents has decided to take on the extremists by setting up night-time patrols in their neighbourhoods.

Nicknamed the Black Panthers, the self-defence brigade wants to protect themselves from racists who are targeting people who are not ethnic Greeks. The group uses mobile phones and social media to alert each other of attacks and mount a rapid response.

A member of the group who has lived most of his 28 years in Greece after coming from Kenya as a baby told Britain's Channel 4 in a report broadcast on Tuesday evening: "I am a member of the Black Panthers and everybody knows that. So I am giving them (Golden Dawn) a straight warning - don't mess with black people, anyhow. And I mean it."

"I'm not afraid of this neo-Nazi, stupid, idiotic group," Michael Chege told Channel 4 reporter Jamal Osman. "In world war two, they were crushed. In world war three, we will exterminate them out of the face of the earth.

"They want to do what Hitler did. Try it. They will have the same fate and even worse," he continued.

Born in Kenya, Chege moved to Greece with his family when he was eight months' old. Now aged 28, he says he is treated the same as a newly arrived immigrant. He has experienced numerous police ID controls, so he has to carry a bag full of documents to prove that he is legal in the country.

"I don't know if people know how it feels to be a stranger in your own land," said Chege, who as the only black child in his school, is used to having to fight to "get respect" from others. His training in martial arts has come in useful when attacked by Golden Dawn.

"I have encountered them ten times in a real fight, in a battle in kill or be killed," he said. In a recent encounter, two men got onto a bus he was travelling in and ordered him to "leave, run or get down".

Refusing to submit to their threats, he took on the men on and emerged with only minor injuries.

Chege's mother Ann says she now wants to return to Kenya because "there is nothing left for us here".

"No matter how the situation is, I love Greece. I feel it is my home. I cannot condemn Greece. I have enjoyed Greece. Those days. But now, it has changed 180 degrees. When I walk at night, I'm scared. If I raise enough money, I want to go to Kenya [for good] at Christmas time. By God's grace."



A "true friend" of the Chinese people, Dwarkanath Shantaram Kotnis is also remembered as a "freedom fighter" in China — this is how Chinese Premier Li Keqiang described the doctor when he met his family members here on Tuesday.

Dr Kotnis was part of a five-member Indian medical mission that was sent to China during the Japanese invasion in the late 1930s.

"It was a proud moment for us and a great experience. He enquired about my health like a family member," said 92-year-old Manorama, Dr Kotnis's sister and the only survivor among three brothers and five sisters.

Five members of the family met the Chinese Premier at a south Mumbai hotel. They included Manorama, Dr Sanika Jain (granddaughter of Dr Kotnis's elder brother), Dr Abhay Jain (Sanika's husband), Dr Shalmali Borkar (Sanika's younger sister) and Dr Kishore Khot (grandson of Dr Kotnis's younger sister). Keqiang presented the family with several souvenirs and gifts, including two Chinese panda soft-toys for Khot's son and a music player for Manorama.

"He spoke with us for over half-an-hour about my grandfather and his devotion towards China. He said that Dr Kotnis is a true symbol of India-China friendship and being an Indian, what he did for the people of China was more than a Chinese could probably do. The Premier said that Dr Kotnis helped the Chinese at a time when they were in distress and crisis, establishing the fact that he is a true friend. It was most touching that the Premier said he is remembered as China's freedom fighter," said Sanika.

"He said that everyone in China knows him as there is a chapter on Dr Kotnis's life in the school curriculum. Hearing such words from the Premier in person about our grandfather was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and an absolute honour," said Jain.

The Premier has invited the family to visit China.

"I told him that the younger generation has been listening to stories about various memorials and hospitals set up in his honour, but has never had the opportunity to visit China and see it for themselves. The Premier said that whenever they wished to go, they would be his guest," said Manorama.

Selected pictures which the Premier had brought with him included Dr Kotnis performing surgery on a wounded soldier and one with Mao Tse-Tung. "He sat beside my grandmother (Manorama) and thanked us for Dr Kotnis's contribution in those trying times," said Shalmali.

- See more at:


Back from China, impressed and inspired


Four days before his recent visit to India, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang briefly met a delegation of youngsters from India who were in that country as part of a student exchange programme — a regular feature between the two neighbours since 2005. City-based Yashwant Mankhedkar of Nehru Yuva Kendra was one of coordinators of the 100-member delegation that returned on May 22 with impressions about China and glimpses of a communist set-up that it encountered on various instances. The tour that began with a surprise visit by the Chinese Premier went on to create long lasting imprints on the young minds.

"The Premier's visit was not included in our initial itinerary. When we reached the Indian embassy in Beijing on May 13, we were told that we might have the rare chance of meeting the Premier. It sent a wave of excitement among the delegates — many of whom had not even seen any Indian minister before that," says Mankhedkar.

Li's meeting with the delegation was widely reported by the Indian as well as Chinese media, many hailing it as a sign of the unaffected Sino-Indian ties despite the border standoff over Chinese incursion at Daulat Baig Oldie in Ladakh. But more than the big, diplomatic issues, it was rather certain simple aspects that moved the group.

"The Premier arrived exactly at the time that he had promised us. This was quite a surprise to all of us given that politicians and abiding time commitments are an inverse proportion in India. All of us expecting a convoy of cars and a fleet of security personnel were shocked to see Li Keqiang get down from a car that silently dropped him in the absence of any paraphernalia," recalls Mankhedkar, quickly adding another aspect that made the visit surprisingly shorter: "There was no security check. We were picked up from the hotel and taken right to the Premier's house. Can you imagine this in India?"

The delegation's visit that concluded on May 21 was interestingly woven to give the Indian youngsters a glimpse of the communist nation. The Great Wall of China, the SEZs and incubators of the southern city of Shenzen, the Wuhan Sports University that systematically nurtures young talent to convert them into Olympic medallists, the Capital Museum en route Beijing- Wuhan and the superfast Chinese train that covered 350 km in an hour — Mankhedkar is back with memories, and more than that, lessons from which he feels "we have a scope to learn".

"We visited the Palace Museum in central Beijing on May 14. It is a grand display of Chinese culture, values, traditions and rituals. Where in India can we see such a pride display of our values, when, in reality, our values and rituals are probably more in numbers and vary for every state?" Mankhedkar asks, adding that it is appreciable that a Chinese citizen puts country first before anything else. "We, in India, are so much used to seeing duplicate Chinese goods... (but) inside China, everything is original. The country knows what it wants," he adds.