UK opposition leader refuses to attend Balfour dinner

Jeremy Corbyn
Updated 31 October 2017
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UK opposition leader refuses to attend Balfour dinner

LONDON: The UK’s pro-Palestinian opposition leader has refused to attend a dinner to mark the centenary of the Balfour Declaration, according to reports.
The event is due to be attended by Prime Minister Theresa May and her Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu.
Jeremy Corbyn rejected an invitation to attend the dinner, which is being held to mark 100 years since the declaration that helped paved the way for the creation of a Jewish state.
Corbyn has asked Emily Thornberry, the shadow foreign secretary, to attend the dinner in his place, The Sunday Times reported.
A spokesman for Corbyn confirmed to Arab News that he would not attend but that Thornberry would go in his place.
The Balfour Declaration, signed on Nov. 2, 1917, pledged the UK government’s support for a Jewish “national home” in Palestine. 
Mark Regev, Israel’s ambassador to London, told The Sunday Times that those who oppose the declaration are “extremists” who reject Israel’s right to exist and could be viewed on a par with terrorist groups such as Hamas.
Regev said a “vocal minority” of British students and academics are intent upon the destruction of Israel.
Yet an Arab News/YouGov poll conducted in August found that only a minority of Brits believe the Balfour Declaration is something to be proud of, with the majority in favor of the UK recognizing Palestine as a state.  
The UK government has refused to apologize for the Balfour Declaration, reaffirming instead that it was “proud of its role” in creating the State of Israel.
The Palestinian ambassador to the UK vehemently disagrees with that stance, telling Arab News this month that “the displacement of the Palestinians is a result of that document.”
Chris Doyle, director of the Council for Arab-British Understanding, questioned why government ministers are celebrating Balfour but “are doing nothing to acknowledge the devastating impact it has had on Palestinians.”
He told Arab News that the celebrations over the declaration will “inflame and anger.” 
Doyle added: “Jeremy Corbyn is missing the Balfour event but he should be clear about why and not be silent. It should be a strong message that Balfour cannot be celebrated until Palestinian aspirations and rights are met as well.”


US defense chief Mattis to visit China amid Korea talks

Updated 16 min 11 sec ago
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US defense chief Mattis to visit China amid Korea talks

EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE: US Secretary of Defense James Mattis will make his first visit to China this week amid rising tensions between the two countries but also a deep need for Beijing’s support in nuclear talks with North Korea.
Mattis told reporters Sunday he wants to “take measure” of China’s strategic ambitions after it positioned weaponry on disputed islets in the South China Sea and is seeking to project its military power deep into the Pacific.
But in a four-day trip that will also include South Korea and Japan, the Pentagon chief also hopes to confirm China’s commitment to pressuring North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons, after historic talks between President Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un in Singapore.
The United States, China, Japan and South Korea “have a common goal: the complete, irreversible and verifiable denuclearization of the Korean peninsula,” Mattis said.
In Beijing From Tuesday to Thursday, Mattis will meet with senior Chinese defense officials.
Then he will travel to Seoul for talks with his South Korean counterpart Song Young-moo, followed by a stop Friday in Japan to see defense chief Itsunori Onodera.
Those meetings are aimed at reassuring both allies that Washington’s regional defense commitment remains unchanged after Trump unexpectedly announced on June 12 that the US would suspend a major joint military exercise in South Korea following his meeting with Kim.
The visit to China comes amid bilateral strains that cross multiple sectors. The Trump administration is challenging China on trade, theft of industrial secrets, and cyberthreats.
In the defense sector, China’s decision to position military hardware in built-up atolls in the South China Sea has sparked new security concerns throughout Southeast Asia.
Signaling Washington’s displeasure, in May the Pentagon disinvited China from the 2018 Rim of the Pacific Exercise, in which some two dozen navies train together for mostly civilian missions.
Weeks later at the Shangri-la Dialogue security conference in Singapore, Mattis slammed China for showing contempt of other nations’ interests in the South China Sea.
“Despite China’s claims to the contrary, the placement of these weapon systems is tied directly to military use for the purposes of intimidation and coercion,” Mattis said.
The Chinese, who say the weaponry is only defensive in nature, retorted that Mattis had made “irresponsible comments” that “cannot be accepted.”
Mattis has visited Asia seven times in his 17 months since becoming defense secretary, but not China. He has yet to meet the new Chinese defense minister, Wei Fenghe.
He said the talks in Beijing seek to scope out China’s long-term strategic intentions and determine possible areas of military-to-military cooperation.
He declined to characterize the relationship, saying that could “poison the well” before he meets his counterparts.
“I’m going there to get what I consider to be straight from them what they see for a strategic relationship,” he said. “I’m going there to have a conversation.”
But speaking separately a senior Pentagon official called the United States and China “strategic competitors” and suggested that Washington needs to keep up the pressure over the South China Sea buildup.
The Rimpac disinvite could be “just a first step,” the official said.
Chinese defense ministry spokesman Ren Guoqiang said Mattis was visiting Beijing at Wei’s invitation.
“It is in the common interests of both China and the United States to develop a healthy and stable bilateral military relationship,” Ren said in a statement.
Beijing “hopes that the United States and China will walk toward each other and work together to make the bilateral military relationship an important stabilizing factor in the relationship between the two countries.”
Mattis will also be adding his voice to North Korea talks, urging China to hold firm on commercial pressure on Pyongyang.
He said he has had daily discussions on the talks with the lead US negotiator, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
The senior US defense official said they are hoping to see a concrete outcome, including a timeline for commitments by Pyongyang, “soon.”
Mattis tied the suspension of exercises to the getting concrete results.
“We’ll see if they continuing negotiations keep them that way.”
Mattis meanwhile confirmed that US officials are awaiting the imminent release by Pyongyang of the remains of US servicemen who died in the Korean war in the early 1950s.
Preparations to receive the remains have been made, he said, and “We’re optimistic that it will begin.”