G7 chair Japan opts not to sign statement by 5 leaders supporting Israel

G7 chair Japan opts not to sign statement by 5 leaders supporting Israel
Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno. (Reuters)
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Updated 10 October 2023
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G7 chair Japan opts not to sign statement by 5 leaders supporting Israel

G7 chair Japan opts not to sign statement by 5 leaders supporting Israel
  • Japan and Canada abstain from joint statement in support of Israel after deadly attacks by Hamas from Gaza
  • Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno: Japan’s absence from the statement may be attributed to its desire to maintain flexibility in its approach

TOKYO: Five G7 members on Monday issued a joint statement in support of Israel after deadly attacks by Hamas from Gaza — but Japan and Canada were not among them.

The statement was issued by France’s President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, Britain’s Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, and the US President Joe Biden.

The five leaders expressed their “steadfast and united support to the State of Israel” and condemned Hamas’s “appalling acts of terrorism.”

When asked by Arab News why Japan did not sign the document, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said: “Japan, as the chair country of the G7, has been closely collaborating with member nations and engaging in discussions with each country regarding the pursuit of peace. It seems that the joint statement was issued to reflect the diverse perspectives and positions of each G7 member on the matter.

“Japan’s absence from the statement may be attributed to its desire to maintain flexibility in its approach, while actively working behind the scenes to mediate and exert influence on both Palestine and Israel. Japan remains committed to making efforts toward de-escalation and contributing to the peaceful resolution of the situation.”

The five leaders’ statement emphasized that they recognized “the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people” and added: “Hamas does not represent those aspirations.”


North Korea building roads, walls inside Demilitarized Zone: Yonhap

North Korea building roads, walls inside Demilitarized Zone: Yonhap
Updated 8 sec ago
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North Korea building roads, walls inside Demilitarized Zone: Yonhap

North Korea building roads, walls inside Demilitarized Zone: Yonhap
  • Construction activities are taking place north of the Military Demarcation Line that runs through the middle of the DMZ
  • North Korea strictly controls the flow of information inside its borders, and is extremely sensitive about its people gaining access to South Korean content
SEOUL: North Korea’s military has been building roads and walls inside the Demilitarized Zone that separates it from the South, the Yonhap news agency reported Saturday.
The construction activities are taking place north of the Military Demarcation Line (MDL) that runs through the middle of the DMZ, the South Korean agency said, citing an unnamed military source.
The report follows an incident last week when South Korean forces fired warning shots after North Korean soldiers briefly crossed the MDL.
South Korean authorities said it was likely accidental, and Yonhap quoted a military spokesman as saying some of the North Koreans were carrying work tools.
“Recently, the North Korean military has been erecting walls, digging the ground and constructing roads in some areas between the Military Demarcation Line (MDL) and the Northern Limit Line in the DMZ,” the military source said, according to Yonhap on Saturday.
It was not clear what they were building, the source told Yonhap.
When asked about the report, the South Korean military said in a statement that it was “closely tracking and monitoring the activities of the North Korean military,” and that “further analysis is required.”
It said it could not share the South Korean response to these actions “to ensure the safety of the personnel proceeding with an operation,” without offering further details.
South Korea’s spy agency said this week that it had detected signs that North Korea was demolishing sections of a railway line connecting the two countries.
That followed an escalation in the propaganda war between the two Koreas.
North Korea sent more than a thousand balloons carrying trash into the South, describing them as retaliation for the propaganda balloons sent the other way by anti-Pyongyang activists.
Then, South Korea resumed blasting K-pop songs and news broadcasts at the North, using loudspeakers installed at the border.
The resumption of the loudspeaker campaign prompted Kim Yo Jong, the powerful sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, to threaten an unspecified “new countermeasure.”
North Korea strictly controls the flow of information inside its borders, and is extremely sensitive about its people gaining access to South Korean content, especially pop culture.
It has previously threatened artillery strikes against the South Korean loudspeakers — a psychological warfare tactic that dates back to the 1950-53 Korean War.

Chinese Premier Li launches trade-friendly Australia visit

Chinese Premier Li launches trade-friendly Australia visit
Updated 24 min 32 sec ago
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Chinese Premier Li launches trade-friendly Australia visit

Chinese Premier Li launches trade-friendly Australia visit
  • Premier Li Qiang is the second most powerful man in China after President Xi Jinping

SYDNEY: China’s Premier Li Qiang embarked on a four-day trip to Australia on Saturday, dangling the promise of expanded trade even as the two nations compete for influence in the Pacific.
Li – the second most powerful man in China after President Xi Jinping – touched down at Adelaide Airport at the start of his diplomatic mission across the resource-rich continent.


In Ukraine, soldiers and civilians shrug off Zelensky’s summit

In Ukraine, soldiers and civilians shrug off Zelensky’s summit
Updated 15 June 2024
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In Ukraine, soldiers and civilians shrug off Zelensky’s summit

In Ukraine, soldiers and civilians shrug off Zelensky’s summit
  • Military commander: When powerbrokers sit down to really thrash out an end to fighting, it probably won’t be at a plush summit
  • Ukrainian leader has been urging allies to step up arms supplies to counter Russia’s advance and to restore territory

KRAMATORSK, Ukraine: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has lofty ambitions for a summit in Switzerland this weekend, but on the front line and in war-fatigued Kyiv, hopes for any major breakthrough are nearly nil.
The conference convening some 90 countries and global institutions is coming at a perilous moment for exhausted Ukrainians and outgunned soldiers, after more than two years of war.
Sergiy, a deputy commander of a tank brigade deployed to the eastern Donetsk region where fighting is fiercest, said that when powerbrokers sit down to really thrash out an end to fighting, it probably won’t be at a plush summit.
“Politics is politics,” the 36-year-old said, skeptical that the meeting would improve the situation in the Donetsk.
“Good weapons will do something, that’s for sure.”
Danylo, a 23-year-old drone operator also said the gathering would not bring about “drastic” changes.
“It’s probably more of a symbolic event,” he said.
Under-resourced Ukrainian forces have been ceding village after village in the east and north to determined Russian attacks, forcing authorities to announce mandatory civilian evacuations.
The army has launched a mobilization drive that has instilled fear among the population that fathers, husbands and sons will be dispatched to the front.
And Russian strikes have knocked out or hindered electricity supplies for millions of Ukrainians, leaving them in the dark for hours on end.
In the capital, 36-year-old Victoria, who works in the energy industry, said she was “exhausted” by the war and that she wanted to believe the summit would help end it.
But her expectations were tempered.
“I’m a realist in life, so I don’t have high hopes.”
Zelensky has said one of the key points raised at the summit would be the return of Ukrainian prisoners of war.
The issue has deep resonance with 40-year-old Lidia Rybas, who says she has “big expectations” for the talks in Switzerland.
“My own brother is a prisoner of war with the Russians. I am more concerned about this topic,” she said.
Oleksandr, a 22-year-old information security specialist, was blunt.
“I believe that the war will end in a brutal military way,” he said, allowing that the meeting might offer some momentary “hope.”
“But still, the issue of ending the war will be decided on the battlefield,” he added.
That is a worrying prospect for Ukraine, whose forces have been losing ground in the Donetsk region, and also in the border region of Kharkiv.
Zelensky has been urging allies to step up arms supplies — particularly air defense systems — to counter Russia’s advance and restore Ukrainian territory as part of his 10-point plan that will dominate the agenda at the summit.
Back in Donetsk, a region the Kremlin claims is part of Russia, 38-year-old tank company commander Maksym echoed the reservations of other servicemen around the summit.
“I’d like to hope that it will bring some changes in the future. But, as experience shows, nothing comes of it,” he said.
Some servicemen said they would not be following the summit at all.
“We just don’t have time to watch the news. We don’t even have time to just call our families,” said Oleksandr, also in the tank brigade.
On the front, holding back assaults from Russian forces, tired and tunnel-visioned Ukrainian servicemen have a different set of priorities, the 53-year-old said.
“All the guys want to come home alive,” he said.


New China rules allow detention of foreigners in South China Sea

New China rules allow detention of foreigners in South China Sea
Updated 15 June 2024
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New China rules allow detention of foreigners in South China Sea

New China rules allow detention of foreigners in South China Sea
  • China Coast Guard vessels have used water cannon against Philippine boats multiple times in the contested waters
  • Confrontations between China and the Philippines have raised fears of a wider conflict that could involve the US and other allies

SHANGHAI: New Chinese coast guard rules took effect Saturday, under which it can detain foreigners for trespassing in the disputed South China Sea, where neighbors and the G7 have accused Beijing of intimidation and coercion.
Beijing claims almost the entirety of the South China Sea, brushing aside competing claims from several Southeast Asian nations including the Philippines and an international ruling that its stance has no legal basis.
China deploys coast guard and other boats to patrol the waters and has turned several reefs into militarized artificial islands. Chinese and Philippine vessels have had a series of confrontations in disputed areas.
From Saturday, China’s coast guard can detain foreigners “suspected of violating management of border entry and exit,” according to the new regulations published online.
Detention is allowed up to 60 days in “complicated cases,” they say.
“Foreign ships that have illegally entered China’s territorial waters and the adjacent waters may be detained.”
Manila has accused the Chinese coast guard of “barbaric and inhumane behavior” against Philippine vessels, and President Ferdinand Marcos said last month called the new rules a “very worrisome” escalation.
China Coast Guard vessels have used water cannon against Philippine boats multiple times in the contested waters.
There have also been collisions that injured Filipino troops.
Philippine military chief General Romeo Brawner told reporters on Friday that authorities in Manila were “discussing a number of steps to be undertaken in order for us to protect our fishermen.”
Philippine fishermen were told “not to be afraid, but just to go ahead with their normal activities to fish there in our Exclusive Economic Zone,” Brawner said.
The Group of Seven bloc on Friday criticized what it called “dangerous” incursions by China in the waterway.
“We oppose China’s militarization, and coercive and intimidation activities in the South China Sea,” read a G7 statement at the end of a summit on Friday.
The South China Sea is a vital waterway, where Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei also have overlapping claims in some parts.
Most recently, however, confrontations between China and the Philippines have raised fears of a wider conflict over the sea that could involve the United States and other allies.
Trillions of dollars in ship-borne trade passes through the South China Sea annually, and huge unexploited oil and gas deposits are believed to lie under its seabed, though estimates vary greatly.
The sea is also important as a source of fish for growing populations.
China has defended its new coast guard rules. A foreign ministry spokesman said last month that they were intended to “better uphold order at sea.”
And the Chinese defense minister warned this month that there were “limits” to Beijing’s restraint in the South China Sea.
China has also been angered in the past by US and other Western warships sailing through the South China Sea.
The US Navy and others undertake such voyages to assert the freedom of navigation in international waters, but Beijing considers them violations of its sovereignty.
Chinese and US forces have had a series of close encounters in the South China Sea.


California schools hold graduation ceremonies without disruption over Gaza war

California schools hold graduation ceremonies without disruption over Gaza war
Updated 15 June 2024
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California schools hold graduation ceremonies without disruption over Gaza war

California schools hold graduation ceremonies without disruption over Gaza war

The University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), and other institutions in the state conducted graduation ceremonies on Friday without the disruption of protests over Israel’s war on Gaza, with proceedings largely undisturbed.
The United States, Israel’s key ally, has seen months of pro-Palestinian protests ranging from marches in Washington and vigils near the White House to the blocking of bridges and roads near train stations and airports in multiple cities, along with encampments on many college campuses.
UCLA commencement ceremonies were “poignant and simply beautiful,” the school said. UCLA’s commencement celebrations had over 60 events scheduled from Friday to Sunday.
The Los Angeles Times reported a number of graduates wore keffiyeh scarves, which have become a symbol of solidarity with Palestinians, at the Luskin School of Public Affairs. The newspaper also said dozens of graduates peacefully walked out of the Luskin ceremony but overall a festive atmosphere prevailed throughout for tens of thousands of graduates and visitors.
Commencement ceremonies were also scheduled at UC Santa Cruz, UC Davis and UC Irvine.
University protests in recent months have seen occasional violence while police have made arrests on campuses to clear encampments. Pro-Palestinian activists encamped at UCLA were violently attacked by a mob weeks ago.
Student protesters have demanded an end to the war, a halt to US support for Israel and divestment by their schools from companies with ties to Israel.
More than 37,000 Palestinians have been killed in Israel’s eight-month-old assault on the Gaza Strip, say health officials in the Hamas-ruled enclave. The war has also displaced nearly the entire 2.3 million population in Gaza, caused widespread hunger there and led to genocide allegations that Israel denies. The war began when Hamas militants attacked Israel on Oct. 7 , killing 1,200 people and abducting some 250 others, according to Israeli tallies.