British warship to sail through disputed South China Sea

This handout photo taken on December 14, 2012 by satellite imagery provider DigitalGlobe and released to AFP on August 11, 2017 by the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI) department at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) think tank shows an overview satellite image of Tree Island in the disputed Paracels island chain in the South China Sea. (AFP)
Updated 13 February 2018
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British warship to sail through disputed South China Sea

SYDNEY: A British warship will sail from Australia through the disputed South China Sea next month to assert freedom of navigation rights, a senior official said Tuesday in a move likely to irk Beijing.
China claims nearly all of the resource-rich waterway and has been turning reefs and islets into islands and installing military facilities such as runways and equipment on them.
British Defense Secretary Gavin Williamson said HMS Sutherland, an anti-submarine frigate, would arrive in Australia later this week.
“She’ll be sailing through the South China Sea (on the way home) and making it clear our navy has a right to do that,” he told The Australian newspaper after a two-day visit to Sydney and Canberra.
He would not say whether the frigate would sail within 12 nautical miles of a disputed territory or artificial island built by the Chinese, as US ships have done.
But he said: “We absolutely support the US approach on this, we very much support what the US has been doing.”
In January, Beijing said it had dispatched a warship to drive away a US missile destroyer which had “violated” its sovereignty by sailing close to a shoal in the sea.
Williamson said it was important that US allies such as Britain and Australia “assert our values” in the South China Sea, which is believed to hold vast oil and gas deposits and through which $5.0 trillion in trade passes annually.
“World dynamics are shifting so greatly. The US can only concentrate on so many things at once,” he said.
“The US is looking for other countries to do more. This is a great opportunity for the UK and Australia to do more, to exercise leadership.”
China in December defended its construction on disputed islands, which are also claimed by Southeast Asian neighbors, as “normal” after a US think tank released new satellite images showing the deployment of radar and other equipment.
In a separate interview with broadcaster ABC, Williamson warned of the need for vigilance to “any form of malign intent” from China, as it seeks to become a global superpower.
“Australia and Britain see China as a country of great opportunities, but we shouldn’t be blind to the ambition that China has and we’ve got to defend our national security interests,” he said.
“We’ve got to ensure that any form of malign intent is countered and we see increasing challenges — it’s not just from China, it’s from Russia, it’s from Iran — and we’ve got to be constantly making sure that our security measures, our critical national infrastructure is protected.”
Australia has been ratcheting up the rhetoric against China in recent months, with ties tested in December when parliament singled out Beijing as a focus of concern when it proposed laws on foreign interference.


Seoul taxi-drivers rally against plans for carpool service

Updated 16 min 21 sec ago
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Seoul taxi-drivers rally against plans for carpool service

  • It is the latest challenge to ride-sharing services in South Korea
  • The Asian country has one of the world’s highest smartphone penetration rates

SEOUL: Tens of thousands of South Korean taxi-drivers held a rally on Thursday in Seoul, the capital, saying a carpooling service planned by the operator of the country’s top chat app would threaten their livelihoods and jobs.
It was the latest challenge to ride-sharing services in South Korea, which has one of the world’s highest smartphone penetration rates, with nearly half its population of about 51 million living in the Seoul metropolitan area.
Backlash from taxi-drivers and government regulations in Asia’s fourth-biggest economy have hampered new transport services launched by US-based Uber Technologies and domestic startups.
Protesters wearing red headbands chanted slogans, waved flags and held up placards with slogans such as, “Let’s crush the carpooling industry which ignores the taxi industry,” and “Illegal business carpool app out.”
A carpooling service would put his job at risk, said one driver, Lee Sun-joo, who has 30 years of experience but works 12-hour days to earn just 2 million won ($1,762) every month.
“The taxi industry will be long gone at the end,” he added.
On Tuesday, Kakao Mobility, a unit of chat app operator Kakao Corp, started recruiting drivers for its service, after having acquired domestic carpool startup Luxi from Hyundai Motor and other investors in February.
Kakao, which wants to use its dominant position to jumpstart the service matching up drivers with people seeking a ride in the same direction, said it would run the service only during commuting hours to offset a shortage of taxis.
Transport law bans the use of personal vehicles for commercial purposes, but allows carpooling during “commuting hours.”
Kakao, which previously said it planned to launch the service by year-end, on Thursday said the timing had not been decided.
“We will continue discussions with the taxi industry, related organizations and users before the service launch,” it said in a statement.
The taxi drivers’ protest worsens the dilemma of South Korea’s labor-friendly government, grappling with unemployment that hit an eight-year high in August. South Korea had about 270,000 taxi drivers on June 30.
As the economy loses steam, the government has also pledged to promote new industries to cut reliance on big conglomerates, such as Hyundai and Samsung.
“The government is in a bind,” said Ko Tae-bong, research head at Hi Investment & Securities. “If they keep dragging their feet over regulatory changes, South Korea will be left behind the global ride-sharing market.”
In 2015, San Francisco-based Uber had to halt Uber X, a ride-hailing service using private cars in South Korea, in the face of opposition from taxi drivers and a lawsuit.
Last year, the Seoul city government demanded a police inquiry into whether Poolus, the country’s top carpool startup, violated the transport law.