Muslim Pakistan says outcry over China detention camps ‘sensationalized’

Fild photo showing Indian Muslims holding placards during a protest against the Chinese government over the detention of Muslim minorities in Xinjiang. (AFP)
Updated 20 December 2018
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Muslim Pakistan says outcry over China detention camps ‘sensationalized’

  • Some section of foreign media are trying to sensationalize the matter by spreading false information

Islamabad: Pakistan on Thursday defended its close ally China against a growing outcry over Muslims who are being detained by Chinese authorities, saying the issue was being “sensationalized” by foreign media.
Numerous extrajudicial detention centers have been set up in China’s vast, troubled Xinjiang region, holding as many as one million ethnic Uighurs and other Muslim minorities, according to estimates cited by a UN panel.
Among them are believed to be dozens of women who married men from neighboring Gilgit-Baltistan region in Pakistan, where people regularly cross the border into China for trade.
“Some section of foreign media are trying to sensationalize the matter by spreading false information,” Mohammad Faisal, spokesman for Pakistan’s ministry of foreign affairs, told reporters at a weekly press briefing in Islamabad on Thursday.
“As per Chinese authorities, out of 44 women, six are already in Pakistan. Four have been convicted on various charges, three are under investigations, eight are under going voluntary training. Twenty-three women are free and living in Xinjiang of their own free will,” he added.
In recent years, Pakistan has heavily pushed its relationship with China, lauding the tens of billions of investment dollars that Beijing is pouring into the country as a “game changer.”
Beijing has also upgraded the treacherous mountain road connecting Gilgit-Baltistan to Xinjiang.
But China has had difficulty reconciling its desire for development with fears that Uighur separatists will import violence from Pakistan.
Chinese authorities have long linked their crackdown on Xinjiang’s Muslims to international counter-terrorism efforts, arguing that separatists are bent on joining foreign extremists like Al-Qaeda.
They describe the camps as “vocational education centers” for people who appear to be drawn toward Islamist extremism and separatism.
But human rights activists say members of China’s Muslim minorities are being held involuntarily for transgressions such as wearing long beards and face veils, and that the region has become a police state.
Faisal said his ministry and Chinese authorities will continue to coordinate on this matter.
“The Chinese authorities have also offered to arrange visits to Xinjiang of the families of the convicted women,” said Faisal.


US-S. Korean military drills go ahead despite North’s threats  

Children perform a dance at a polling station on Sunday during voting for deputies to the Pyongyang City People’s Assembly. (AFP)
Updated 34 min 42 sec ago
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US-S. Korean military drills go ahead despite North’s threats  

  • Joint training exercise may affect denuclearization talks

SEOUL: South Korean and US troops will conduct a scheduled joint training exercise next month but in a low-key manner, a senior presidential security adviser from South Korea has confirmed.
This is despite warnings by North Korea that the exercise may affect the resumption of denuclearization talks between Washington and Pyongyang.
“The nature of the exercise is not offensive … and is for strengthening the alliance,” said Choi Jong-kun, the secretary for peace planning to President Moon Jae-in, during the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado on Saturday.
Choi told reporters that the exercise would largely involve computer simulations and few troops in the field, an apparent move not to intimidate the North, which has routinely condemned military drills by South Korea and the US.
On July 16, North Korea’s Foreign Ministry accused the US of readying for war by holding military drills with South Korea, hinting at the possibility of resuming missile and nuclear tests.
“It is crystal clear that it is an actual drill and a rehearsal of war aimed at militarily occupying our Republic by surprise attack and rapid dispatch of large-scale reinforcements,” the ministry said. “With the US unilaterally reneging on its commitments, we are gradually losing our justifications to follow through on the commitments we made with the US as well.”
The exercise the North has criticized is the “Alliance 19-2” scheduled for Aug. 5 and Aug. 23. Previously, the US-South Korean joint exercise in the latter part of the year was called the Ulchi Freedom Guardian (UFG), a command post operation centered on computer-simulated war games in response to a scenario of all-out war with the North.
The UFG was announced to end in June last year following a summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. Earlier this year, the defense authorities agreed to end their springtime large-scale exercise as part of efforts to help facilitate the denuclearization negotiations.
The nuclear disarmament talks, however, have been stalled since the Trump-Kim summit in Hanoi, Vietnam collapsed over the relief of sanctions against the communist regime. Trump and Kim had a surprise meeting on June 30 at the border village of Panmunjom within the demilitarized zone that divides the two Koreas and agreed to resume working-level denuclearization talks.

FASTFACT

US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un had a surprise meeting on June 30 at the border village of Panmunjom within the demilitarized zone that divides the two Koreas and agreed to resume working-level denuclearization talks.

American diplomatic and military leaders have rejected the North’s objections to the joint drills.
“I think we’re doing exactly what President Trump promised Chairman Kim we would do with respect to those exercises,” US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in an interview with the EWTN Catholic television network, a day after North Korea issued the statement about the exercise.
Adm. Phil Davidson, commander of US Indo-Pacific Command, said that North Korea had no reason to protest about military exercises on the Korean Peninsula.
“I can tell you my orders are to execute that exercise in April,” Davidson said during the Aspen forum on Thursday. “And I’ll say this about North Korean rhetoric: They have neither lowered nor raised their own exercise profile from before this negotiation … so they have little to complain about.”
Officials from Seoul’s Defense Ministry said that the Alliance19-2 is to proceed but the term “alliance” would be dropped in a move not to provoke the North. Instead, the exercise would be called a drill aimed at evaluating the South Korean military’s capability to take over wartime command authority from the US military.
“The exercise is aimed at testing and evaluating the initial operational capability of South Korean generals’ operational control of allied forces during wartime,” a Defense Ministry source told Arab News, asking not to be named.
To that end, a South Korean four-star general will oversee the joint exercise for the first time with the chief of US Forces Korea (USFK) serving as deputy commander.
About 28,500 American soldiers are stationed in South Korea, which remains technically at war with nuclear-armed North Korea.
Currently, the head of USFK is supposed to take operational control of both US and South Korean troops in the case of war. The USFK commander concurrently serves as chief of the Combined Forces Command (CFC) and the United Nations Command (UNC).
In October last year, the defense ministers of the two countries agreed to hand over more responsibility to South Korea for its national defense by 2022.
Both sides agreed to keep the CFC in place after the transfer of operational control, but the command will be under the leadership of a South Korean four-star general, with a US commander assuming a supporting role.