New China ambassador tries to mend fences with Philippines

Updated 09 April 2014
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New China ambassador tries to mend fences with Philippines

MANILA: China’s new ambassador to the Philippines on Tuesday met President Benigno Aquino to try to mend relations strained by a festering territorial dispute.
Zhao Jianhua, who arrived in the Philippines over a month ago, briefly met Aquino after presenting his credentials, said presidential spokeswoman Abigail Valte.
“It went well,” she told reporters.
Valte said the delay in Aquino receiving the ambassador was due to his busy schedule and was not caused by the two countries’ competing claims to parts of the South China Sea.
She also said the government was hopeful its ties with China could move forward despite the dispute.
Chinese vessels in recent weeks have used water cannon on Filipino fishermen and blocked a ship bringing supplies to Philippine troops manning a disputed South China Sea outpost.
“We’ve always agreed that the relationship with the People’s Republic of China has always been multifaceted, and that the dispute in the West Philippine Sea is just a part or a segment of that relationship, and we see no reason why other segments of that relationship cannot move forward,” Valte said.
The West Philippine Sea is the term the government uses for the South China Sea.
The Chinese embassy said in a statement that “both sides exchanged views on China-Philippines relations and the South China Sea issue” during Zhao’s meeting with Aquino.
While reiterating the Chinese position claiming most of the South China Sea, “he emphasised that China attaches importance to its relations with the Philippines,” the embassy added.
It also called on both sides to “properly handle relevant disputes... and bring the bilateral ties back to the normal track of development.”
The statement cited the Philippines’ bid for UN arbitration of their South China Sea dispute, stressing such things are “not what the Chinese side wishes to see”.
China had previously warned that the Philippines had “seriously damaged” ties by asking the United Nations to rule in their favour in the dispute.
China claims a vast area of the South China Sea, including areas that overlap with claims by other nations.


North Korea faces lowest crop harvest in 5 years, widespread food shortages -UN

Updated 20 September 2019

North Korea faces lowest crop harvest in 5 years, widespread food shortages -UN

  • South Korea has pledged to provide 50,000 tons of rice aid to its northern neighbor through the UN World Food Programme
  • Sporadic famines are common in North Korea, although a severe nationwide famine in the 1990s killed as many as a million people

SEOUL: North Korea’s crop production this year is expected to drop to its lowest level in five years, bringing serious shortages for 40 percent of the population, as a dry spell and poor irrigation hit an economy already reeling from sanctions over its weapons programs, the United Nations said on Thursday.
In its latest quarterly Crop Prospects and Food Situation report, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said the poor harvest of the country’s main crops, rice and maize, means 10.1 million people are in urgent need of assistance.
“Below-average rains and low irrigation availability between mid-April and mid-July, a critical period for crop development, mainly affected the main season rice and maize crops,” the FAO said. The report, which covers cereal supply and demand around the world and identifies countries that need external food aid, didn’t disclose detailed estimates of production by volume.
North Korea has long struggled with food shortages and a dysfunctional state rationing system, and state media has in recent months warned of drought and other “persisting abnormal phenomena.”
The crops shortfall comes as the country bids to contain the spread of African swine fever in its pig herd, following confirmation of a first case in May.
The disease, fatal to pigs though not harmful to humans, has spread into Asia — including South Korea — since first being detected in China last year, resulting in large-scale culls and reduced production of pork, a staple meat across the region including in North Korea.
The FAO report followed earlier UN assessments this year that the isolated country’s food production last year fell to its lowest level in more than a decade amid a prolonged heatwave, typhoon and floods.
South Korea has pledged to provide 50,000 tons of rice aid to its northern neighbor through the UN World Food Programme (WFP). But its delivery has been delayed by Pyongyang’s lukewarm response amid stalled inter-Korean dialogue and denuclearization talks with the United States, Seoul officials said.
In July, the North’s official KCNA news agency said a campaign to mitigate the effects of drought was under way by digging canals and wells, installing pumps, and using people and vehicles to transport water.
But North Korea has told the United Nations to cut the number of its staff it deploys in the country for aid programs. citing the “politicization of UN assistance by hostile forces.”
Sporadic famines are common in North Korea, but observers said a severe nationwide famine in the 1990s killed as many as a million people.