China not trying to ‘replace America’: Foreign minister

China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi speaks to the media after a news conference during the National People's Congress (NPC), China's parliamentary body, in Beijing on Thursday. (Reuters)
Updated 09 March 2018
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China not trying to ‘replace America’: Foreign minister

BEIJING: China’s foreign minister sought Thursday to downplay concerns about Beijing’s global ambitions, while also hinting at consequences for countries that do not fall in line on issues like Taiwan.
Pledging that China had no desire to “replace America” on the global stage, Wang Yi said the Asian nation’s path “is totally different than the one that has already been taken by traditional major powers.”
“The more China develops, the more it can contribute to the world,” Wang said in a wide-ranging press conference.
Wang spoke as 3,000 members of China’s mostly ceremonial national legislature have gathered for their annual meeting in Beijing, where they are set to grant President Xi Jinping a nearly limitless mandate to realize his vision of a resurgent China.
Xi’s ambitions are not limited to home: He has clearly articulated his vision of putting China at the center of world affairs, a position reflecting its Chinese name: “the Middle Kingdom.”
The departure from the country’s long-held stance of keeping a low profile had raised fears abroad of spreading Chinese influence.
On Thursday, Wang tried to strike a balance between reassurance and assertiveness, as Beijing deals with pressure from countries like the US to change its behavior.
Here are some of the main takeaways:
As US President Donald Trump threatens a trade war with China, Wang warned that Beijing is ready to take an “appropriate and necessary response.” He said: “China’s development and rejuvenation can’t be stopped. Some Americans think that therefore China wants to replace the US’s international role, but that is a fundamental strategic misjudgment.” China and the US “don’t need to be rivals, they should be partners.”
Nevertheless, China will not give an inch in the South China Sea, where it has built an archipelago of artificial islands hosting military facilities that the US and other nations say threaten freedom of navigation through the strategically vital waterway.
Beijing’s “resolve to protect the peace and the stability of the South China Sea cannot be shaken,” Wang said about the region, where it has overlapping territorial claims with the Philippines, Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei. The problems in the region are due to “foreign forces” which “have sent fully armed warships and fighters to the South China Sea to flaunt their military might,” he said, referring to operations by the US, Australia and Britain to assert their right to sail through the region.
Although China does not recognize the self-ruled island as an independent nation, Wang took questions about Beijing’s relationship with Taipei, warning that the Taiwanese government must come around to China’s way of thinking if it hopes to enjoy “peaceful development.” The relationship between Beijing and Taipei has soured since the election of President Tsai Ying-wen, who has refused to acknowledge the so-called “1992 consensus,” which agrees that there is only one China without specifying whether Beijing or Taipei is its rightful representative.
“The person who locked the door should open it,” Wang said.
Only by taking the “correct path” of recognizing the consensus can “cross-strait relations restart building a promising prospect for peaceful development.”
Japanese Prime Minister Abe is expected to make a visit to China after years of tense relations set off by a territorial dispute and festering disagreements over the legacy of the Second World War. After mocking a Japanese reporter’s Chinese language skills, Wang said that China “wants the Japanese side to speak credibly in its politics, to behave properly in its actions.”
Wang cautiously welcomed the apparent breakthrough over the North Korea nuclear issue as an “important step in the right direction.” He urged the US and North Korea to hold talks as soon as possible after Seoul said that Pyongyang was ready to discuss denuclearization with Washington in return for security guarantees. “Now is the crucial moment to test the sincerity of the parties to solve the nuclear issue,” he said.


Brazilian police arrest fugitive linked to Hezbollah

Updated 1 min 27 sec ago
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Brazilian police arrest fugitive linked to Hezbollah

  • Police took Assad Ahmad Barakat into custody in the border city of Foz do Iguacu
  • In 2004, the US Treasury Department accused Barakat of serving as a treasurer for Hezbollah

SAO PAULO: Brazilian police on Friday arrested a fugitive sought in Paraguay who is accused by US officials of belonging to Lebanon's Hezbollah militia and of being a key financier of terrorism.
Police took Assad Ahmad Barakat into custody in the border city of Foz do Iguacu, which is home to the famous Iguazu Falls and sits where Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay meet.
Authorities in Paraguay are seeking Barakat on allegations of false representation, police said, and Brazil's Supreme Court authorized his arrest earlier this month. The Brazilian federal prosecutor's office said in a statement that Barakat's case meets the requirements for an arrest with a view to extradition.
In Paraguay, Barakat is accused of presenting a declaration of incorrect nationality and omitting information about the loss of nationality, the prosecutors' statement said. Barakat was born in Lebanon but has lived in South America for years.
Prosecutors said they had information that Barakat applied for refugee status in Brazil when he learned of Paraguay's arrest warrant, but that only the recognition of refugee status would prevent his extradition, which was not the case here.
In 2004, the US Treasury Department accused Barakat of serving as a treasurer for Hezbollah, which it considers a terrorist organization, and ordered American banks to freeze any of his assets found in the United States. At the time, Barakat was serving time in a Paraguayan prison for tax evasion. Two years later it added several of his associates to its watchlist, on which Barakat remains.
Brazilian police said Argentine authorities have accused associates of Barakat of laundering $10 million in a scheme in casinos, and they have frozen the group's assets.
Barakat was extradited from Brazil to Paraguay in 2003 and was convicted of tax evasion. He returned to live in Brazil in 2008 after he was released from prison, police said.

 

SAO PAULO: Brazilian police on Friday arrested a fugitive whom US authorities have accused of serving as Hezbollah's financier and who has repeatedly been accused of illegal activity in a lawless border area where three South American nations meet.
Police took Assad Ahmad Barakat into custody in the Brazilian city of Foz do Iguacu, which is home to the famous Iguazu Falls and sits where Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay converge. The Tri-Border Area, as it is known, has long been a haven for smugglers, traffickers and counterfeiters, and US authorities and others have alleged it is also a redoubt for terrorism support and financing.
Authorities in Paraguay are seeking Barakat on allegations of false representation, police said, and Brazil's Supreme Court authorized his arrest earlier this month.
The Brazilian federal prosecutor's office said Barakat's case met the requirements for an arrest with a view to extradition — but it was not clear when or if that would happen.
In 2004, the US Treasury Department said Barakat was one of the most influential members of Lebanon's Hezbollah militia, which the US considers a terrorist organization. It accused him of using his businesses in the Tri-Border Area as a front for fundraising for Hezbollah as well as coercing local shopkeepers into giving money to the organization.
A Treasury official at the time said he had used "every financial crime in the book" to fund Hezbollah and "underwrite terror," and the department ordered his assets frozen in the United States. Barakat was then serving a prison sentence for tax evasion in Paraguay.
Two years later it added several of his associates to a list of people whose US assets can be frozen and whom Americans and U.S. companies are prohibited from dealing with. Barakat remains on that list.
In a 2001 interview with The Associated Press, Barakat acknowledged that he was a "sympathizer" of Hezbollah but said that did not mean that he supported terrorism.
Attempts to reach Barakat's lawyer were unsuccessful.
The Simon Wiesenthal Center, which researches and advocates against anti-Semitism, hate and terrorism, praised the arrest.
"We have monitored international terrorist activity in the lawless contiguous Triple Frontier region for some 20 years," Shimon Samuels, the center's director for international relations, said in a statement. He added that he hopes the arrest was "a sign that the three countries will begin to drive Hezbollah out of Latin America."
Beyond the longstanding accusations of his involvement with terrorism, Barakat has faced other legal troubles over the years and was even extradited from Brazil to Paraguay once before, according to police. They said he returned to Brazil in 2008 after serving his sentence.
In Paraguay, Barakat is currently accused of presenting a declaration of incorrect nationality and omitting information about the loss of nationality, Brazilian prosecutors said Friday. Barakat was born in Lebanon but has lived in South America for years.
Prosecutors said they had information that Barakat applied for refugee status in Brazil when he learned of Paraguay's arrest warrant, but that only the recognition of refugee status would prevent his extradition, which was not the case here.
Brazilian police also said Argentine authorities have accused associates of Barakat of laundering $10 million in a scheme in casinos, and they have frozen the group's assets.