Philippine president warns of countermeasures in response to Chinese aggression at sea

Philippine president warns of countermeasures in response to Chinese aggression at sea
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A Chinese coast guard helicopter hovers as Philippine scientists inspect a cay near the Philippine-held Thitu Island in the disputed South China Sea on March 23, 2024. (PCG/BFAR handout photo via AFP)
Philippine president warns of countermeasures in response to Chinese aggression at sea
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A Chinese Coast Guard ship (L) is shown blocking a Philippine Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources ship (R) on March 23, 2024 on the their way to inspect a cay near the Philippine-held Thitu Island in the disputed South China Sea. (PCG/BFAR handout photo via AFP)
Philippine president warns of countermeasures in response to Chinese aggression at sea
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An aerial view of a cay near the Philippine-held Thitu Island in the disputed South China Sea, which the Chinese coast guard had been trying to prevent Philippine supply vessels from entering. (PCG/BFAR handout photo via AFP)
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Updated 29 March 2024
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Philippine president warns of countermeasures in response to Chinese aggression at sea

Philippine president warns of countermeasures in response to Chinese aggression at sea
  • Marcos said the Philippines "seek no conflict with any nation,” but would not be “cowed into silence”
  • His remark follows repeated aggressive action by Chinese coast guard ships in disputed South China Sea waters

MANILA: The Philippine president said Thursday that his government would take action against what he called dangerous attacks by the Chinese coast guard and suspected militia ships in the disputed South China Sea, saying “Filipinos do not yield.”

Ferdinand Marcos Jr. did not provide details of the actions his government would take in the succeeding weeks but said these would be “proportionate, deliberate and reasonable in the face of the open, unabating, and illegal, coercive, aggressive and dangerous attacks by agents of the China coast guard and Chinese maritime militia.”

“We seek no conflict with any nation, more so nations that purport and claim to be our friends but we will not be cowed into silence, submission, or subservience,” Marcos wrote on X, formerly Twitter.

Marcos’s warning is the latest sign of the escalating disputes between China and the Philippines in the contested waters that have caused minor collisions between the coast guard and other vessels of the rival claimant nations, sparked a war of words and strained relations.
China and the Philippines, along with Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei, have overlapping claims in the resource-rich and busy waterway, where a bulk of the world’s commerce and oil transits.
Chinese officials in Manila or Beijing did not immediately respond to Marcos’s public warning, which he issued during Holy Week — one of the most sacred religious periods in the largely Roman Catholic nation.
China’s defense ministry accused the Philippines of escalating the South China Sea disputes by undertaking provocative moves and spreading “misinformation to mislead the international community.”
“It is straying further down a dangerous path,” Senior Col. Wu Qian, the Chinese defense ministry’s top spokesperson, said in a statement issued Thursday by the Chinese Embassy in Manila.
Both China and the Philippines said they were acting to protect their sovereignty. Wu said China remained “committed to properly managing maritime differences,” while Marcos said he had been in touch with international allies who had offered to help the Philippines.
Marcos said he issued his statement after meeting top Philippine defense and national security officials, who submitted their recommendations. These include the use of faster military vessels instead of chartered civilian boats when the Philippine navy delivers a new batch of personnel and supplies to the disputed Second Thomas Shoal, two Philippine security officials said.
The shoal, the site of frequent hostilities since last year, has been occupied by a small Philippine naval contingent but surrounded by the Chinese coast guard and other vessels in a decades-long territorial standoff.
It’s unclear if Marcos approved that recommendation. The two Philippine officials separately spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because of a lack of authority to discuss the issue publicly.
In the latest hostilities on Saturday, the Chinese coast guard used water cannons that injured several Philippine navy crewmen and heavily damaged their wooden supply boat near the Second Thomas Shoal. The cannon blast was so strong it threw a crewman off the floor but he hit a wall instead of plunging into the sea, Philippine military officials said.
The Philippine government summoned a Chinese embassy diplomat in Manila to convey its “strongest protest” against China. Beijing accused the Philippine vessels of intruding into Chinese territorial waters, warning Manila not to “play with fire” and saying China would continue to take actions to defend its sovereignty.
The United States condemned the actions by the Chinese coast guard. In a telephone call with Philippine defense chief Gilberto Teodoro Jr. Wednesday, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin reiterated a warning that it is obligated to come to the aid of the Philippines under a 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty if Philippine forces, aircraft and ships come under armed attack, including anywhere in the South China Sea, Pentagon Press Secretary Pat Ryder said.
Beijing has warned Washington to stay away from what it says is a purely Asian dispute, but the US has said it would press on with Navy patrols as it has done for more than 70 years in accordance with international law to help safeguard freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea.


German court rules in migration case that there’s no general danger now to all civilians in Syria

German court rules in migration case that there’s no general danger now to all civilians in Syria
Updated 6 sec ago
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German court rules in migration case that there’s no general danger now to all civilians in Syria

German court rules in migration case that there’s no general danger now to all civilians in Syria
  • Germany has been a major destination for Syrians fleeing the country’s 13-year civil war. Attitudes toward migrants have hardened in recent years

BERLIN: A German court has ruled that there is no longer a general danger to all civilians from the long-running conflict in Syria, rejecting a claim to protected status by a Syrian man who had been convicted in Austria for involvement in smuggling people into Europe.
The ruling by the top administrative court of North Rhine-Westphalia state, Germany’s most populous, was announced Monday. Justice Minister Marco Buschmann said Tuesday it was “a decision that one can understand, if one assumes that there are now regions in this country that are very dangerous but also other areas where there isn’t necessary a danger to life.”
It wasn’t immediately clear what consequences if any the ruling would have for German authorities’ practice in handling claims for protection from Syrians, who so far largely have been deemed to face such a threat. It could still be appealed.
The court in the western city of Muenster ruled in the case of a man from Hasaka province in northeastern Syria who arrived in Germany in 2014.
German authorities denied him protected status because he had previously been involved in smuggling people from Turkiye to Europe, an offense for which he was given a several-year sentence in Austria. But a court obliged them to recognize him as a refugee.
The Muenster court reversed that ruling on appeal. The presiding judge said the man didn’t face political persecution in Syria and his previous offenses barred him from being given refugee or other protected status, the court said in a statement.
It also found that he didn’t qualify for a lesser degree of protection in part because there is no longer a “serious individual threat to the life or physical integrity of civilians as a result of arbitrary violence in the context of a domestic conflict in Hasaka province, but also generally in Syria.” The court contended that fighting and attacks in the region no longer reach a level at which civilians face a high probability of being killed and wounded.
A German group that supports asylum-seekers criticized the ruling. Wiebke Judith, a spokesperson for Pro Asyl, argued that it ignores the reality in Syria, German news agency dpa reported.
Germany has been a major destination for Syrians fleeing the country’s 13-year civil war. Attitudes toward migrants have hardened in recent years.
Last month, Chancellor Olaf Scholz vowed to resume deporting criminals from Afghanistan and Syria, though it remains unclear how that would happen.

 


US banks to begin reporting Russian assets for eventual forfeiture under new law

US banks to begin reporting Russian assets for eventual forfeiture under new law
Updated 24 July 2024
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US banks to begin reporting Russian assets for eventual forfeiture under new law

US banks to begin reporting Russian assets for eventual forfeiture under new law
  • If a bank discovers any new Russian assets on their books after the deadline, those assets need to be reported within 10 days, the Treasury Department said

NEW YORK: The Treasury Department ordered the nation’s banking industry to start disclosing its holdings of Russian assets on Tuesday, with the goal of eventually seizing those billions of dollars in assets and selling them to aid the devastated Ukrainian economy.
The disclosure is required under a new law passed by Congress earlier this year known as the REPO Act, which gives the US government the authority to seize Russian state assets held by US banks, with the goal of eventually selling them and giving those funds to Ukraine. While the vast bulk of Russian assets are held in Europe, it is estimated that the US banking system holds as much as $6 billion in Russian assets in trust.
Banks will need to report Russian assets on their books no later than Aug. 2 to the Office of Foreign Assets Control. If a bank discovers any new Russian assets on their books after the deadline, those assets need to be reported within 10 days, the Treasury Department said.
Russia’s war in Ukraine, which began in February 2022, has killed tens of thousands but has also caused significant devastation to Ukraine’s economy and infrastructure. The World Bank estimated in February that Ukraine will need $486 billion for recovery and reconstruction, a figure that has only risen as the war has continued.
The US, Canada, France, Germany Italy, the UK and Japan — commonly known as the G7 — froze roughly $300 billion worth of Russian assets at the start of the war. These assets included hard currency, as well as gold and investments in publicly and privately-held companies. But there has been little conversation until this year about what to do with those frozen assets, until the idea of forfeiture and liquidation was included in the REPO Act.


Demonstrators stage mass protest against Netanyahu visit and US military aid to Israel

Demonstrators stage mass protest against Netanyahu visit and US military aid to Israel
Updated 24 July 2024
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Demonstrators stage mass protest against Netanyahu visit and US military aid to Israel

Demonstrators stage mass protest against Netanyahu visit and US military aid to Israel
  • Netanyahu arrived in Washington Monday for a several-day visit that includes meetings with President Joe Biden and a Wednesday speech before a joint session of Congress

WASHINGTON: Protesters against the Gaza war staged a sit-in at a congressional office building Tuesday ahead of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s address to Congress, with Capitol Police making multiple arrests.
Netanyahu arrived in Washington Monday for a several-day visit that includes meetings with President Joe Biden and a Wednesday speech before a joint session of Congress. Dozens of protesters rallied outside his hotel Monday evening, and on Tuesday afternoon, hundreds of demonstrators took over the rotunda of the Cannon Building, which houses offices of House of Representatives members.
Organized by Jewish Voice for Peace, protesters wearing identical red T-shirts that read “Not In Our Name” took over the Rotunda of the Cannon Building, chanting “Let Gaza Live!”
After about a half-hour of clapping and chanting, officers from the US Capitol Police issued several warnings, then began arresting protesters — binding their hands with zip ties and leading them away one by one.
“I am the daughter of Holocaust survivors and I know what a Holocaust looks like,” said Jane Hirschmann, a native of Saugerties, New York, who drove down for the protest along with her two daughters — both of whom were arrested. “When we say ‘Never Again,’ we mean never for anybody.”
The demonstrators focused much of their ire on the Biden administration, demanding that the president immediately cease all arms shipments to Israel.
“We’re not focusing on Netanyahu. He’s just a symptom,” Hirschmann said. “But how can (Biden) be calling for a ceasefire when he’s sending them bombs and planes?”
It wasn’t immediately clear how many protesters had been arrested.
Mitchell Rivard, chief of staff for Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Michigan, said in a statement that his office called for Capitol Police intervention after the demonstrators “became disruptive, violently beating on the office doors, shouting loudly, and attempting to force entry into the office.”
Netanyahu’s American visit has touched off a wave of protest activity, with some demonstrations condemning Israel and others expressing support but pressuring Netanyahu to strike a ceasefire deal and bring home the hostages still being held by Hamas.
Families of some of the remaining hostages were planning a protest vigil Tuesday night on the National Mall. And multiple overlapping protests are planned for Wednesday, when Netanyahu is slated to address Congress. In anticipation, police have significantly boosted security around the Capitol building and closed multiple roads for the entire week.
Biden and Netanyahu are expected to meet Thursday, according to a US official who spoke on condition of anonymity ahead of the White House announcement. Vice President Kamala Harris will also meet with Netanyahu separately that day.
Harris, as Senate president, would normally sit behind foreign leaders addressing Congress, but she’ll be away Wednesday, on an Indianapolis trip scheduled before Biden withdrew his reelection bid and she became the likely Democratic presidential candidate over the weekend.
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump announced on Truth Social that he would meet with Netanyahu on Friday.


Chad repatriates 157 nationals detained in Libya

Chad repatriates 157 nationals detained in Libya
Updated 24 July 2024
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Chad repatriates 157 nationals detained in Libya

Chad repatriates 157 nationals detained in Libya
  • Chad’s foreign ministry did not say why they had been arrested
  • It added that more repatriation flights would follow in the coming weeks

N’DJAMENA: Chad repatriated 157 of its citizens who had been detained in neighboring Libya on Tuesday, working in partnership with the United Nations’ International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the Libyan state, its foreign ministry said in a statement.

The Chadian nationals were flown back to the Sahel country on a special flight, the statement said.

It did not say why the Chadians had been arrested but added that more repatriation flights would follow in the coming weeks in order to “release and repatriate” all Chadians still detained in the North African country, and said that a “diaspora conference” would be organized in the coming days.

The repatriation flight comes a week after President Mahamat Idriss Deby attended an international forum on trans-Mediterranean migration in Libya.

Deby, who seized power after rebels killed his father in 2021, was sworn in as president in May following a controversial election. 


Macron says Israeli athletes ‘welcome’ for Paris Olympics

Macron says Israeli athletes ‘welcome’ for Paris Olympics
Updated 24 July 2024
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Macron says Israeli athletes ‘welcome’ for Paris Olympics

Macron says Israeli athletes ‘welcome’ for Paris Olympics

PARIS: French President Emmanuel Macron said Tuesday that Israeli athletes were “welcome” for the Paris Olympics, rejecting calls from some left-wing French MPs and the Palestinian Olympic Committee for a boycott.

“Israeli athletes are welcome in our country. They must be able to compete under their colors because the Olympic movement has decided it,” he told France 2 television in an interview, adding that it was “France’s responsibility to provide them with security.”

“I condemn in the strongest possible way all those who create risks for these athletes and implicitly threaten them,” he said.

He added that Israel had “the right to defend itself” but called the continuing bombardment of Gaza — where 39,090 people have died, according to the latest estimate from the Hamas-run health ministry — “unacceptable.”

“France was one of the first countries in Europe to call for a ceasefire,” he added.

Israeli President Isaac Herzog has confirmed he will attend the Olympics opening ceremony on Friday, and Macron said Prime Minister Israeli Benjamin Netanyahu would also be “welcome” but was not expected because he is in the United States.

Discussing the opening ceremony for the Paris Games as helicopters could be heard in the background hovering over the capital, Macron said that “we will all see on Friday night why it was worth the hassle.”

Much of central Paris is off-limits ahead of the ceremony along the river Seine, with 45,000 members of the security forces set to be on duty as well as 10,000 soldiers to prevent any incident that would ruin the show.

“There is a security challenge and it’s true for all capitals which organize the Games,” Macron said. “It’s true for the opening ceremony. It will be true for the whole of the Games.”

“We need to come together as France that is welcoming the world,” added the centrist, who called snap elections in June that have led to political deadlock in parliament.

Asked about the artists set to perform on Friday evening, he said it would be “fantastic news” if Quebec-born singer Celine Dion could take part, but he declined to confirm her presence.

Dion has been spotted in Paris, while video of Lady Gaga in the City of Light has also fueled rumors that she might be one of the top international performers.