China says US warship violated sovereignty near Scarborough

In this Tuesday, April 21, 2015, file photo, US Navy’s amphibious assault vehicles with Philippine and US troops on board maneuver in the waters during a combined assault exercise facing the contested Scarborough Shoal in waters off of the Philippines. (AP)
Updated 20 January 2018
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China says US warship violated sovereignty near Scarborough

BEIJING: The Chinese government on Saturday accused the US of trespassing in its territorial waters when a US guided missile destroyer sailed near a disputed shoal in the South China Sea.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said China would take “necessary measures” to protect its sovereignty after the USS Hopper sailed within 12 nautical miles of Scarborough Shoal on Wednesday evening without China’s permission.
Scarborough is a tiny, uninhabited reef that China seized from the Philippines in 2012. Known in Chinese as Huangyan Island, it lies about 200 kilometers (120 miles) west of the main Philippine island of Luzon, and about 600 kilometers (370 miles) southeast of China.
Defense Ministry spokesman Wu Qian said a Chinese missile frigate moved to identify and verify the US vessel and warned it to leave the area.
“We hope that the US respects China’s sovereignty, respects the efforts by regional countries and do not make trouble out of nothing,” Wu said in a statement on the ministry’s website.
The South China Sea has crucial shipping lanes, rich fishing grounds and potential oil, gas and other mineral deposits.
China claims virtually the entire South China Sea and has carried out extensive land reclamation work on many of the islands and reefs it claims, equipping some with air strips and military installations.
The United States does not claim territory in the South China Sea but has declared it has a national interest in ensuring that the territorial disputes there are resolved peacefully in accordance with international law.
The Navy regularly sails through the area to assert freedom of navigation.


Europe lawmakers expelled as aid showdown intensifies

A dentist at a medical camp set up by volunteers in Caracas on Sunday. (Reuters)
Updated 14 min 10 sec ago
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Europe lawmakers expelled as aid showdown intensifies

  • Volunteer groups have begun meeting in ‘humanitarian camps’

CARACAS: Venezuela has expelled five visiting European lawmakers, an act opposition leader Juan Guaido branded “irrational” as his showdown with President Nicolas Maduro over the arrival of international aid intensifies.
The members of the European Parliament were being tossed out with no explanation, said Spanish MEP Esteban Gonzalez Pons, who led the group.
“We are being expelled from Venezuela. Our passports have been seized. They have not informed us of the reason for the expulsion,” Pons said.
The incident on Sunday is the latest point of tension between the international community and Maduro, who is in the grip of a power struggle with Guaido, the head of the National Assembly who proclaimed himself interim president last month.
Guaido has the backing of more than 50 countries including 30 in Europe.
Pons’ fellow Spaniards Jose Ignacio Salafranca and Gabriel Mato Adrover, as well as Esther de Lange of the Netherlands and Paulo Rangel of Portugal, were also expelled. All are members of the conservative European People’s Party (PPE).
Writing on Twitter, Guaido said the MEPs were being “deported by an isolated and increasingly irrational regime.”
Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza said the Europeans had “conspiratorial aims” and were sent back from the country’s main Maiquetia airport.
Earlier Sunday, Guaido set a goal of enlisting a million volunteers within a week to confront a government blockade that has kept tons of humanitarian aid, most of it from the US, from flowing into the country where residents can’t get enough food and say they are dying because of a shortage of medicines.
Guaido has given next Saturday — one month to the day after he proclaimed himself acting president — as the date for a showdown with Maduro over the aid.
Food supplies, hygiene kits and nutritional supplements have been stockpiled near the Venezuelan border in Cucuta, Colombia.
Additional storage centers are supposed to open this week in Brazil and Curacao, a Dutch island off Venezuela’s northern Caribbean coast.
“Our principal task is to reach a million volunteers by February 23,” Guaido said in a message to the 600,000 supporters who have signed up so far for the push to bring aid in.
Caravans of buses are being planned to carry volunteers to border entry points to meet and transport arriving cargo. Guaido has kept to himself how he plans to overcome the border barriers put up by the Venezuelan military, on Maduro’s orders.
Volunteer groups have begun meeting in “humanitarian camps” in several Venezuelan states to organize and prepare for the aid arrival.
They have started to identify the most vulnerable and have begun caring for the needy in accordance with Guaido’s promises.
Sometimes working under awnings or tents, doctors, nurses, dentists and pediatricians have attended to local residents who can receive donated medications.
Patients arrive with respiratory, skin or other ailments, and suffering from malnutrition.
An imploding economy has driven an estimated 2.3 million Venezuelans to migrate from the oil-rich country. Those who remain have been punished by hyperinflation that has put scarce food and medicine out of reach for many.
Andrea Hernandez, a physical therapy student whose mother is a pediatric nurse, is among those offering her help. Hernandez said her mother often “cried from seeing her patients die from lack of medicine.”
Yorger Maita, a helper from the aid group Rescate Venezuela, said that if foreign aid does not enter “other people will continue to die.”
Maduro, who denies the existence of a humanitarian crisis, dismisses the opposition moves as a “political show” and a cover for a US invasion.
US Senator Marco Rubio arrived Sunday in Cucuta for a first-hand look at the aid operations.
“Whoever prevents the entry of humanitarian aid is condemned to spend the rest of their lives fleeing international justice, because that is an international crime,” Rubio said in Spanish.
Three US military cargo planes delivered several dozen more tons of food assistance to Cucuta on Saturday.
Another US aircraft is due in Curacao from Miami on Tuesday, and a collection center for Brazilian aid will open Monday on the border, Guaido’s team said.
Venezuelans based in Miami held their own drive, putting together 1,000 crates of food to send to their homeland.
On Friday, Maduro instructed his army to prepare a “special deployment plan” for the 2,200-kilometer (1,370-mile) border with Colombia.
Guaido appealed for the military to let the aid pass.
Maduro has dismissed the humanitarian assistance as “crumbs” and “rotten and contaminated food” while blaming shortages of food and medicine on US sanctions.