Japanese PM Abe to visit China in sign of improved relations

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Head of the Chinese Communist Party's International Department Song Tao talks with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during their meeting at Abe's official residence in Tokyo, Japan October 11, 2018. (Reuters)
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Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (L) shakes hands with China’s President Xi Jinping (R) prior to their bilateral meeting in Vladivostok on September 12, 2018, on the sidelines of the Eastern Economic Forum hosted by Russia. (AFP)
Updated 12 October 2018
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Japanese PM Abe to visit China in sign of improved relations

BEIJING: Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is to travel to China later this month for his first formal visit in seven years, in a further sign of improving relations between the regional rivals.
Bilateral ties nosedived in 2012 after Japan nationalized a group of uninhabited islands in the East China Sea claimed by Beijing, setting off violent protests in China.
Despite close economic ties, many Chinese also resent Japan over its invasion of their country last century. Beijing routinely warms of resurgent Japanese militarism, despite little evidence of that appearing.
Abe’s Oct. 25-27 visit follows a trip to Japan in May by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, the ruling Communist Party’s second-ranking official. President and party leader Xi Jinping is also expected to visit Japan at a future date.
“With joint efforts by the two sides, we maintained the momentum of improving bilateral ties,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang told reporters Friday.
Along with trade and investment, talks between the leaders are expected to touch on North Korea, which both countries have been pressing to abandon its nuclear weapons program.
Japan hopes to “step up cooperation in all areas and elevate Japan-China relations to a higher level,” Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said Friday. “I hope (the leaders) open their hearts and discuss frankly.”


Doubts over Rohingya repatriation as none wants to return

Updated 15 November 2018
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Doubts over Rohingya repatriation as none wants to return

  • ‘None of the 50 families interviewed expressed their willingness to go back under the present circumstances’
  • ‘We cannot force them to go back against their will’

COX’S BAZAR, Bangladesh: Doubts over plans to begin repatriating the hundreds of thousands of Rohingya who fled Myanmar last year escalated Thursday as Bangladesh’s refugee commissioner said none wanted to return and that they would not be forced to go.
Terrified refugees, who arrived in Bangladesh with testimony of murder, rape and arson after they escaped a military crackdown last year, went into hiding as authorities insisted they would proceed despite UN warnings.
But Bangladesh’s refugee commissioner cast doubt on whether the plan to send the first batch of 150, from a preliminary 2,260 slated for return, could go ahead as scheduled Thursday.
“According to the UNHCR voluntariness assessment, none of the 50 families interviewed expressed their willingness to go back under the present circumstances. None feels safe to go back now,” Mohammad Abul Kalam said.
Kalam would not say if the planned repatriations for Thursday were canceled.
But he said: “We cannot force them to go back against their will.”
More than 720,000 mostly Muslim Rohingya sought refuge from a Myanmar military crackdown launched from August last year that UN investigators say amounted to ethnic cleansing, joining some 300,000 already in Bangladesh.
Rohingya refugees currently reside in vast camps in southeastern Bangladesh, including a massive settlement in the border district of Cox’s Bazar, where community leaders said most of those marked for repatriation had headed to the hills.
“Ninety-eight percent of the families (on the list) have fled,” community leader Nur Islam said Thursday.
He and other community leaders said that an increase in the number of Bangladeshi soldiers at the camps in recent days had stoked anxiety.
“Everyone is tense, the situation is very bad,” Abdur Rahim, another leader, said in Cox’s Bazar. “There are a lot of army and police inside the camps. They are checking the ID cards of Rohingya.”
A local police chief, Abul Khaer, played down reports of additional security, saying nothing in terms of personnel had changed in recent months.
The UN refugee agency has publicly cautioned against the repatriation going ahead and, in an internal briefing paper seen by AFP, laid out stringent conditions under which it would offer humanitarian assistance to anyone who ends up returning.
In the confidential document dated November 2018, UNHCR said it would only provide aid if returnees were allowed back to the villages they had left or to other locations chosen by them.
Bangladesh authorities have insisted only those who volunteer will be returned but UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said Tuesday that many refugees are panicking at the prospect of being sent back against their will.
“With an almost complete lack of accountability – indeed with ongoing violations – returning Rohingya refugees to Myanmar at this point effectively means throwing them back into the cycle of human rights violations that this community has been suffering for decades,” Bachelet said.
She said that the violations against the Rohingya “amount to the worst atrocities, including crimes against humanity and possibly even genocide.”
Amnesty International on Wednesday called on Bangladesh and Myanmar authorities to “immediately halt” their plans, saying it was a “reckless move which puts lives at risk.”
“These women, men and children would be sent back into the Myanmar military’s grasp with no protection guarantees, to live alongside those who torched their homes and whose bullets they fled,” said Amnesty’s Nicholas Bequelin.
Human Rights Watch echoed the concern on Thursday, asking Bangladesh to “immediately halt” the planned repatriation.
“The Bangladesh government will be stunned to see how quickly international opinion turns against it if it starts sending unwilling Rohingya refugees back into harm’s way in Myanmar,” said Bill Frelick, HRW refugee rights director.
US Vice President Mike Pence told Aung San Suu Kyi on Wednesday that the violence against the Rohingya was “without excuse,” adding pressure to Myanmar’s civilian leader.