Mattis heads to Asia to draw a contrast with assertive China

US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis began a one-week trip to Asia, hoping to strengthen defense cooperation with Indonesia and Vietnam. (AFP)
Updated 22 January 2018
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Mattis heads to Asia to draw a contrast with assertive China

WASHINGTON: US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis on Sunday began a one-week trip to Asia, hoping to strengthen defense cooperation with Indonesia and Vietnam as regional Chinese military power looms ever larger.
“We share the Pacific — it’s an ocean named for peace — we would like to see it remain peaceful, so all the nations that use it and live here are prosperous,” Mattis told reporters accompanying him on a military plane headed to the region.
In Jakarta, where he is to arrive Monday evening, Mattis is to meet on Tuesday with President Joko Widodo and Defense Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu for talks on maritime cooperation.
The vast Indonesian archipelago reaches from the Indian Ocean to the Pacific.
In Vietnam, Mattis and his counterparts are set to discuss freedom of movement in the South China Sea, a region over which Beijing has extended its dominance in recent years, militarizing several small, disputed islands.
Washington hopes to draw a contrast between its own approach and those of China — seen as aggressively modernizing its military capacities — and Russia, which has annexed parts of Georgia and Ukraine.
“The point I want to make is, we respect Asia’s sovereign nations with a sovereign voice and sovereign decisions, and we don’t think anyone else should have a veto authority over their economic, their diplomatic or their security decisions,” Mattis said.
“We respect these countries.”


Indian court gives life sentence to guru, 14 followers

Updated 57 min 22 sec ago
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Indian court gives life sentence to guru, 14 followers

  • Sant Rampal was arrested in 2014 following a days-long standoff between law enforcers and his supporters
  • The court is expected to announce sentences in the death of a fifth woman on Wednesday
HISAR, India: A court in northern India sentenced a Hindu guru and 14 followers to life imprisonment on Tuesday in the deaths of four women and a child at his sprawling ashram.
The court ordered the penalty for Sant Rampal in Hisar city in Haryana state, where authorities deployed hundreds of riot police in anticipation of violence by the guru’s thousands of disciples in response to his sentencing.
Rampal, 67, was arrested in 2014 following a days-long standoff between law enforcers and his supporters in which six people died and hundreds were injured. At the time, Rampal was wanted for questioning in a 2006 murder case and had repeatedly ignored orders to appear in court.
Rampal and the 14 followers were accused by police of holding the four women and child captive inside the ashram, resulting in their deaths from a lack of food and medicine as the fierce standoff continued.
The court is expected to announce sentences in the death of a fifth woman on Wednesday.
Hindu gurus and holy men are immensely popular in India, with millions of followers. People often consult gurus before making important personal decisions. But the enormous power wielded by some has led to scandals in which they have been accused of exploiting devotees.