Myanmar’s Suu Kyi welcomed to Australia amid protests

Myanmar’s leader Aung San Suu Kyi, left, is welcomed to Parliament House by Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull during her state visit in Canberra on Monday, March 19. (AAP Image via AP)
Updated 19 March 2018
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Myanmar’s Suu Kyi welcomed to Australia amid protests

CANBERRA, Australia: Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi was feted in Australia with a military honor guard and 19-gun salute Monday as part of a state visit that has provoked protests over her response to her country’s violent campaign against Rohingya Muslims.
Suu Kyi arrived in Sydney over the weekend for a summit of Southeast Asian leaders and her state visit officially began Monday, when she was welcomed to Parliament House in Canberra. Her visit comes as she faces international criticism over what has become Asia’s worst refugee crisis in decades.
More than 700,000 Rohingya have fled from Buddhist-majority Myanmar to neighboring Bangladesh since August, when the military responded to insurgent attacks on police with a clearance operation that the United Nations has described as ethnic cleansing. The campaign has included the burning of Rohingya villages, systematic rape, shootings and other rights violations.
There was no press conference with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull or any public comment from Suu Kyi during her brief visit to the capital on Monday. She had meetings with the prime minister and opposition leader.
Turnbull said Sunday that Suu Kyi had used the weekend summit to seek humanitarian help from her fellow members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and Australia to deal with the crisis.
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak told the summit that the refugee crisis was no longer solely a domestic issue for Myanmar, as fleeing Rohingya could be prime targets for terrorist radicalization.
Myanmar staunchly denies that its security forces have targeted Rohingya civilians and Suu Kyi has bristled at the international criticism.
But Myanmar’s denials have appeared increasingly tenuous as horrific accounts from refugees have accumulated and satellite imagery and other evidence of destroyed Rohingya villages have been assembled.
The Associated Press last month documented through video and witness accounts at least five mass graves of Rohingya civilians. Witnesses said the military used acid to erase the identity of victims. The government denied it, maintaining that only “terrorists” were killed and then “carefully buried.”
Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace laureate, was a longtime political prisoner of Myanmar’s former junta and frequently called for international intervention in her country during her almost 15 years under house arrest. She was released in 2010 and last visited Canberra in 2013 on an Australian tour, before she was allowed to stand for an election that her party eventually won in a landslide.
Then-Prime Minister Tony Abbott described her as an “icon of democracy” as he stood by her side at a joint press conference. Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said Suu Kyi had inspired her to enter politics.
Suu Kyi’s global image has since taken a battering. She has seen several international honors she was given in the past revoked. Several fellow Peace Prize winners have publicly condemned her.
Though Suu Kyi has been the de facto head of Myanmar’s civilian government since her party took power, she is limited in her control of the country by a constitution written by the outgoing junta. The military has effective veto power over all legislation and controls key ministries including those overseeing security and defense.
The military is in charge of operations involving the Rohingya and ending them is not up to Suu Kyi.
Yet even when Suu Kyi has spoken on the issue, she has drawn criticism. In a September speech, her first public comments on the crisis, she asked for patience from the international community and suggested the refugees were partly responsible.
Suu Kyi faces a potential domestic backlash if she speaks on behalf of the Rohingya, who have been the target of anti-Muslim rhetoric. Many people agree with the official government stance that there is no such ethnicity as Rohingya and that those in the country have illegally migrated from Bangladesh.
Myanmar’s backers globally have also had to tread carefully, not wanting to undermine Suu Kyi’s weak civilian government at a time when the country is just emerging from decades of authoritarian rule.
Unlike the United Nations, United States and Britain, Australia has not accused Myanmar of “ethnic cleansing” or “crimes against humanity.”
But Australia did support a UN resolution in December condemning the “very likely commission of crimes against humanity” by Myanmar security forces against Rohingya.
Human rights groups have criticized Australia for maintaining its limited military engagement with Myanmar. Australia provides English-language lessons and training courses to Myanmar officers to “promote professionalism and adherence to international laws,” according to the defense department.
But Australia maintains a long-standing arms embargo with Myanmar.


Japan to buy more US-made stealth jets, radar to counter China, Russia

A Marine Corps pilot prepares for a vertical landing of Lockheed Martin F-35B stealth fighter aboard the USS Wasp amphibious assault carrier during their operation in the waters off Japan's southernmost island of Okinawa March 23, 2018. (REUTERS
Updated 19 December 2018
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Japan to buy more US-made stealth jets, radar to counter China, Russia

  • “The budget is increasing and there has been an acceleration to deploy capability as soon as possible,” Robert Morrissey, head of Raytheon Co’s unit in Japan, said this month

TOKYO: Japan will accelerate spending on advanced stealth fighters, long-range missiles and other equipment over the next five years to support US forces facing China’s military in the Western Pacific, two new government defense papers said.
The plans are the clearest indication yet of Japan’s ambition to become a regional power as a military build-up by China and a resurgent Russia puts pressure on its US ally.
“The United States remains the world’s most powerful nation, but national rivalries are surfacing and we recognize the importance of the strategic competition with both China and Russia as they challenge the regional order,” said a 10-year defense program outline approved by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government on Tuesday.
The United States, followed by China, North Korea and Russia, are the countries that most influenced Japan’s latest military thinking, the paper said.
China, the world’s second biggest economy, is deploying more ships and aircraft to patrol waters near Japan, while North Korea has yet to fulfil a pledge to dismantle its nuclear and missile programs.
In Beijing, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said Japan was “singing the same old tune” and making “thoughtless remarks” about China’s normal defense activities.
“What Japan is doing here is neither conducive to improving and developing China-Japan relations, nor to the broader picture of regional peace and stability,” Hua told a news briefing.
“China expresses strong dissatisfaction and opposition at this and has already lodged stern representations with Japan,” she added.
Russia, which continues to probe Japan’s air defenses, said on Monday it built new barracks for its troops on islands seized from Japan at the end of World War Two.
MORE STEALTH FIGHTERS
Japan plans to buy 45 Lockheed Martin Corp. F-35 stealth fighters, worth about $4 billion, in addition to the 42 jets already on order, according to a separate five-year procurement plan approved on Tuesday.
The new planes will include 18 short take off and vertical landing (STOVL) B variants of the F-35 that planners want to deploy on Japanese islands along the edge of the East China Sea.
The islands are part of a chain stretching past Taiwan and down to the Philippines that has marked the limit of Chinese military dominance east of the disputed South China Sea.
“Japan’s decision to acquire more F-35s is a testament to the aircraft’s transformational capability and its increasing role in promoting regional stability and enhancing the US-Japan security alliance,” Lockheed Martin said in a statement.
The navy’s two large helicopter carriers, the Izumo and Kaga, will be modified for F-35B operations, the paper said.
The 248-meter (814 ft) long Izumo-class ships are as big as any of Japan’s aircraft carriers in World War Two. They will need reinforced decks to withstand the heat blast from F-35 engines and could be fitted with ramps to aid short take-offs, two defense ministry officials told Reuters.

TRADE WAR THREAT
The new F-35 order may also help Japan avert a trade war with the United States.
US President Donald Trump, who has threatened to impose tariffs on Japanese car imports, thanked Abe for buying the F-35s when the two met at a summit in Argentina this month.
Other US-made equipment on Japan’s shopping list includes two land-based Aegis Ashore air defense radars to defend against North Korean missiles, four Boeing Co. KC-46 Pegasus refueling planes to extend the range of Japanese aircraft, and nine Northrop Grumman E-2 Hawkeye early-warning planes.
Japan plans to spend 25.5 trillion yen ($224.7 billion) on military equipment over the next five years, 6.4 percent higher than the previous five-year plan. Cost-cutting will free up another 2 trillion yen for purchases, the procurement paper said.
Japan only spends about 1 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP) on defense, but the size of its economy means it already has one of the world’s largest militaries.
“The budget is increasing and there has been an acceleration to deploy capability as soon as possible,” Robert Morrissey, head of Raytheon Co’s unit in Japan, said this month.
Wary of North Korean promises to abandon ballistic missile development, Japan’s military is buying longer-range Raytheon SM-3 interceptor missiles able to strike enemy warheads in space.
The defense papers assessed non-traditional military threats as well. A new joint-forces cyber unit will bolster Japan’s defenses against cyberattacks.
More electronic warfare capabilities are planned, and the air force will get its first space unit to help keep tabs on potential adversaries high above the Earth’s atmosphere. ($1 = 113.4800 yen)