India, China hold 1st border consultation mechanism meet after Dokalam standoff

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A News by PTI
Published by ptinews.com
18.11.2017

Beijing, Nov 17 (PTI) India and China today held their first meeting on the border consultation and coordination mechanism here after the Dokalam standoff and reviewed the situation in all the sectors of their border and exchanged views on enhancing CBMs and military contacts.

The 10th round of the Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination on India-China Border Affairs (WMCC) was held in Beijing, a press release from the Indian Embassy here said.

The WMCC was established in 2012 as an institutional mechanism for consultation and coordination for the maintenance of peace and tranquillity in the India-China border areas.

It was established to deal with the tensions over recurring border incursions as well as to exchange views on strengthening communication and cooperation, including between the border security personnel.

The India-China border dispute covers the 3,488 km long Line of Actual Control (LAC). While China claims Arunachal Pradesh as Southern Tibet, India asserts that the dispute covered Aksai Chin area which was occupied by China during the 1962 war.

Today’s talks were held in a constructive and forward- looking manner, the release said.

Both sides reviewed the situation in all sectors of India-China border and agreed that maintenance of peace and tranquillity in the border areas is an important prerequisite for sustained growth of bilateral relations, it said.

The two sides also exchanged views on further confidence building measures (CBMs) and strengthening of military-to- military contacts, it said.

The talks between the delegations headed by Pranay Verma, Joint Secretary (East Asia), Ministry of External Affairs and Xiao Qian, Director General, Department of Asian Affairs, were the first such dialogue between the two countries after the 72-day-long standoff at Dokalam in the Sikkim section.

The standoff which began in mid-June ended on August 28 after Chinese troops stopped building a key road close to India’s Chicken Neck corridor. India objected to the construction highlighting its security concerns. The road was being built by the Chinese troops in the area also claimed by Bhutan.

This is the first round of talks between the two countries after Chinese President Xi Jinping began his second five-year term as the chief of the ruling Communist Party of China last month.

Today’s talks took place ahead of Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s planned to visit to India to take part in the Russia, India and China (RIC) Foreign Ministers meeting expected to be held in New Delhi next month.

Chinese officials earlier said Wang is expected to meet his Indian counterpart Sushma Swaraj as well as top Indian leaders.

The contentious issues bedevilling both the countries, including the USD 50 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) as well as Bejing’s veto blocking UN listing of JeM leader Masood Azhar as a global terrorist are expected to be discussed during Wang’s talks with Indian leaders.

Ahead of the talks, Chinese officials have expressed optimism that differences over the listing of Azhar by China in the 1267 Committee of the UN Security Council may be resolved soon. China has blocked India’s application last year and vetoed a similar resolution sponsored by the US, the UK and France twice this year.

Modi only world statesman to stand up to China on BRI: Pillsbury

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A News by PTI
Published by ptinews.com
17.11.2017

Washington, Nov 17 (PTI) Prime Minister Narendra Modi is the only world statesman to have stood up to China’s Belt and Road Initiative even though the US has been silent on the ambitious project till recently, a top American expert on China said today.

During a Congressional hearing, Michael Pillsbury, Director of Center on Chinese Strategy at the prestigious think-tank Hudson Institute, told lawmakers that Modi and his team have been quite outspoken against Chinese President Xi Jinping’s ambitious project.

“The only statesman in the world who stood up to it yet, is Prime Minister Modi. He and his team have been quite outspoken, partly because the Belt and Road Initiative includes violation of Indian sovereign claims, Pillsbury said.

“But the US government, until now and this is a five- year-old initiative if you count the early part of it, has been silent, he said.

Praising the Trump administration for its new Indo- Pacific strategy, the former Pentagon official said in recent days people have heard more than 50 times by members of the Trump administration including the president himself mentioning “free and open” Indo-Pacific region.

“The Chinese have already attacked this. They don’t like it, said Pillsbury, who is considered an authority on China- related issues.

“The Indians, fairly recently, were joking about we want to make the Indian Ocean the Indian Ocean, by which they meant the purchase of several billion dollars worth of American PA aircraft, which have weapon systems in the back that can sink ships, frankly, and other improvements including maritime situational awareness and a big new center in Delhi where the Indians can keep track of both blue holes and grey holes going through the Indian Ocean, he said.

“Chinese are very angry about this. They have criticised the Obama administration for its effort to, as they say, boost India, to a higher rank order in comprehensive power than the Chinese believe India deserves, the top American expert on China said in response to a question.

Senator Ed Markey said China’s signature Belt and Road Initiative that aims to position China as the uncontested leading power in Asia “may further coerce” its neighbours through loans they cannot repay.

The BRI aimed at building a vast network of infrastructure projects expanding China’s expertise and capital to different parts of the world includes USD 50 billion China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) over which India has protested as it traversed through Pakistan- occupied-Kashmir (PoK).

India boycotted the Belt and Road Forum (BRF) organised by China in May this year to highlight its concerns over Beijing pushing projects through the the PoK.

He said the US companies face the threat of intellectual property theft with reports that China has been stealing cutting-edge research as well as sensitive trade secrets from the US.

And that includes companies working in the clean energy sector who cannot compete with state-backed firms, he alleged.

Trump promises to ‘figure it out’ with S Korea’s Moon

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A News by PTI
Published by ptinews.com
07.11.2017

Seoul, Nov 7 (AFP) US President Donald Trump arrived in Seoul today vowing to “figure it all out” with his South Korean counterpart Moon Jae-In, despite the two allies’ differences on how to deal with the nuclear-armed North.

As tensions over Pyongyang’s weapons programme have soared, the US president has traded personal insults and threats of war with North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un, but the South’s capital and its 10 million inhabitants would be on the front line of any conflict.

“Getting ready to leave for South Korea and meetings with President Moon, a fine gentleman,” Trump tweeted early today from Japan, the first stop on his Asian tour, adding: “We will figure it all out!”

The tone was in marked contrast to a previous Trump tweet in which he accused Moon – who has backed engagement with the North to bring it to the negotiating table – of “appeasement”.

Trump walked down the steps of Air Force One at Osan air base outside Seoul accompanied by the First Lady, and was welcomed by South Korean foreign minister Kang Kyung-Wha.

The US president flew in from Japan after securing Tokyo’s full support for Washington’s stance that “all options are on the table” regarding Pyongyang, and declaring its nuclear ambitions “a threat to the civilised world and international peace and stability”.

He enjoyed three days of near-bromance with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, calling him “wonderful” after a round of golf and describing US-Japan ties as “really extraordinary”.

Trump’s relationship with Moon, a former human rights lawyer, is noticeably cooler, stoking concerns about the decades-old alliance and fears in Seoul that it could be sidelined by the US in favour of Tokyo.

South Korea is rolling out the red carpet for Trump as it seeks messages of assurance about the alliance and US resolve.

At the same time, while Trump has threatened Pyongyang with “fire and fury”, Moon is mindful that much of Seoul is within range of the North’s artillery and in an address to parliament last week demanded: “There should be no military action on the peninsula without our prior consent.”

In an editorial today ahead of Trump’s arrival, the Korea Times said of the US president: “His ‘rhetorical bombs’ say it all.”

“However calm Koreans are reported to be about the Trump-Kim war of words, we cherish our lives as much as Americans do theirs and feel scared by the outlook of war,” it added.

Kim Hyun-Wook, a professor at the Korea National Diplomatic Academy, told AFP that the two allies have “subtle differences in their positions” and underlying suspicions about each other.

Citizens views are mixed, with both “No Trump” and “Welcome President Trump” demonstrations taking place in downtown Seoul since the weekend, sometimes only a few blocks apart.

Trump, first lady welcome ghosts, goblins on Halloween eve

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A News by PTI
Published by ptinews.com
31.10.2017

Washington, Oct 31 (AP) President Donald Trump dressed up as himself, complete with his trademark red tie, for his first Halloween in the White House.

Trump and first lady Melania Trump greeted some of the 6,000 children and adults who were invited for trick-or- treating at the White House on Halloween eve.

Children from more than 20 schools in the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia attended the festivities on the South Lawn, along with military families and members of unspecified community organisations.

Spooky music played over loudspeakers. Machines cranked out fog. Pumpkins carved with the likenesses of past presidents decorated the south entrance of the White House.

Black spiders hung from webs spun between the portico’s columns. A sign over an awning proclaimed “Halloween at the White House 2017.”

Trump and the first lady, who wore a calf-length coat in the crisp air, welcomed dinosaurs, athletes, police officers, skeletons and more. Trick-or-treaters took home individual gift bags containing presidential M&Ms, a home-baked cookie and other candies.

Trump and his wife chatted with their guests, with the president at times going in for a high-five or posing for photos, including with White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders and her family, as well as a skeleton accompanied by a kid sporting one of Trump’s “Make America Great Again” caps. Mrs Trump wished the trick-or-treaters “Happy Halloween.”

Several members of the Cabinet came out for the fun, including Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, dressed as Ms.

Frizzle from “The Magic School Bus,” and Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin, sporting a make-believe knife through the head.

The president held a brief, pre-Halloween celebration in the Oval Office last Friday with the children of White House reporters.

He congratulated the journalists for doing a good job raising children, if not for their coverage of his presidency, and handed out small boxes of White House Hershey’s Kisses.

“I cannot believe the media produced such beautiful kids.

How the media did this, I don’t know,” Trump exclaimed as the youngsters crowded around his historic desk.

Halloween has been celebrated at the White House since the mid-20th century, with each administration putting its spin on the holiday, according to the White House Historical Association.

First lady Mamie Eisenhower decorated the White House for Halloween for the first time. She invited staff members’ wives to an Oct. 30, 1958, lunch in the State Dining Room, which had been decorated with hanging skeletons and jack-o’-lanterns.

Modi congratulates Xi, hopes to promote India-China ties

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A News by PTI
Published by ptinews.com
26.10.2017

Beijing, Oct 26 (PTI) Prime Minister Narendra Modi today congratulated Chinese President Xi Jinping for securing a second term as the head of the ruling Communist Party, saying he looks forward to further promote India-China ties together.

“Congratulations to President Xi on getting re-elected as CPC General Secretary. Look forward to further promote India- China ties together,” Modi said in his message on popular Chinese microblog Weibo which is akin to Twitter.

Modi’s message was posted both in English and Mandarin.

Xi was formally handed a second term in power and his doctrine was written into the party constitution, elevating him on par with modern China’s founder Chairman Mao Zedong and his successor Deng Xiaoping.

Modi’s message comes amid diplomatic efforts by the two sides to overcome the bitterness caused by the 73-day face-off between their troops in the Dokalam area of the Sikkim sector.

The Chinese and the Indian troops were engaged in a standoff since June 16 after the Indian side stopped the construction of a road by the Chinese Army.

Last month, Modi and Xi met on the sidelines of the 9th BRICS Summit in Chinese port city Xiamen and held their first substantive bilateral meeting after the Dokalam standoff and agreed to move forward in their ties.

Trump to skip key East Asia Summit while in Asia

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A News by PTI
Published by ptinews.com
25.10.2017

New York, Oct 25 (AP) President Donald Trump will skip a key Asia summit at the end of his trip to the region next month.

The White House said yesterday that Trump will be returning to the United States on Nov 14, which is the same day as the East Asia Summit (EAS) in the Philippines. Trump is slated to attend the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit, which is also in the Philippines, the day before but he will not stay the extra day.

Another US delegation that will attend the EAS, which will include more than a dozen Asian nations as well as Australia, New Zealand and Russia. The White House did not give a reason as to Trump’s absence.

The Philippines will be the final stop of Trump’s 12-day, five-nation trip his first to Asia. The trip is expected to be dominated by Trump demanding that American allies in the region increase pressure on North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons ambitions.

But for all of President Trump’s overheated talk about North Korea’s Kim Jung Un and the country’s nuclear program, Trump will likely not make the customary presidential visit to the heavily fortified border between North and South Korea known as the Demilitarised Zone.

Trump has derided Kim as “Little Rocket Man” and threatened to unleash “fire and fury” on Pyongyang if its leaders do not abandon the weapons program.

If Trump doesn’t go while in South Korea, he would be breaking from recent presidential custom. All presidents but one since Ronald Reagan have visited the DMZ, which has separated the North and South for 64 years.

He will also advocate American economic interests during his trip, which include stops in Japan and China before travelling to Vietnam for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meetings.

Trump to promote free and open Indo-Pacific region during Asia trip: WH

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A News by PTI
Published by ptinews.com
24.10.2017

Washington, Oct 24 (PTI) President Donald Trump would reaffirm the American leadership in promoting a free and open Indo-Pacific region during his maiden trip to Asia next month, the White House has said.

Ten months into the world’s most powerful executive office, the US president would embark on a two-week-long trip to Asia.

“The president’s travel is going to underscore his commitment to longstanding United States alliances and partnerships and reaffirm the United States leadership in promoting a free and open Indo-Pacific,” a senior administration official told reporters in a preview of the trip.

Trump himself told reporters in a joint media appearance with the visiting Prime Minister of Singapore that he is looking forward to his trip to Asia from November 3 to 14.

“This trip will be the president’s longest to date, underscoring the importance that he places on the Indo-Pacific region,” the senior administration official said.

While his visits to Japan, South Korea and China, are bilateral one, during his stops in Vietnam and the Philippines, Trump will be participating in the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit and the US ASEAN Summit.

In Vietnam and Philippines, Trump also plans to hold bilateral and tri-lateral meetings with other world leaders, details of which are still being worked out.

Trump would embark on his Indo-Pacific sojourn on November 3 via Hawaii wherein he will receive a briefing from the US Pacific Command.

He will also visit Pearl Harbor and the USS Arizona Memorial.

The president will officially commence his visit to Asia beginning with Japan on November 5.

In Japan, “he is going to affirm the US-Japan Alliance as the cornerstone for regional peace and security,” the official said adding that he will focus on ways for the US and Japan to work together to promote a free and open Indo-Pacific Region.

During his state visit to South Korea on November 7, Trump will participate in bilateral meetings with President Moon Jae-in and also visit American and South Korean service members.

The next day, he will speak at the National Assembly in Korea, where he will celebrate the enduring alliance and friendship between the United States and the Republic of Korea and call on the international community to join together in maximising pressure on North Korea.

Trump is likely to highlight the enduring strength of the US-South Korea alliance, which is stronger than ever in the face of North Korean aggression, the official said.

Trump would fly to Beijing the next day for a series of bilateral, commercial and cultural events including meetings with President Xi Jinping.

“I anticipate that the president will seek to secure China’s commitments to exert more pressure on North Korea and to rebalance our economic relations.

The visit will send a clear message that for bilateral economic relations to be sustainable over the long term, China must provide fair and reciprocal treatment to US firms and cease predatory trade and investment practices,” the official said.

Swaraj opens India’s new chancery complex in Dhaka

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A News by PTI
Published by ptinews.com
23.10.2017
Dhaka, Oct 23 (PTI) External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj opened the new chancery complex of the Indian High Commission in Dhaka today on the last day of her Bangladesh visit.

Swaraj lit a candle to mark the opening of the huge complex at Dhaka’s Baridhara diplomatic enclave while the High Commission was previously operating from a house in Gulshan area of the city.

During the ceremony, she also inaugurated 15 development projects of Bangladesh being funded by India.

Bangladesh Foreign Minister A H Mahmood Ali, Health Minister Mohamad Nasim, and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s political affairs adviser H T Imam among others joined the ceremony.

Swaraj will return to New Delhi later today wrapping up her Dhaka visit, the second since assuming office in 2014.

Trump says predecessors didn’t honour fallen; response heated

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A News by PTI
Published by ptinews.com
17.10.2017

Washington, Oct 17 (AP) For US presidents, meeting the families of military personnel killed in war is about as wrenching as the presidency gets.

President Donald Trump’s suggestion yesterday that his predecessors fell short in that duty brought a visceral reaction from those who witnessed those grieving encounters.

“He’s a deranged animal,” Alyssa Mastromonaco, a former deputy chief of staff to President Barack Obama, tweeted about Trump. With an expletive, she called Trump’s statement in the Rose Garden a lie.

Trump said in a news conference he had written letters to the families of four soldiers killed in an Oct. 4 ambush in Niger and planned to call them, crediting himself with taking extra steps in honoring the dead properly. “Most of them didn’t make calls,” he said of his predecessors. He said it’s possible that Obama “did sometimes” but “other presidents did not call.”

The record is plain that presidents reached out to families of the dead and to the wounded, often with their presence as well as by letter and phone. The path to Walter Reed and other military hospitals, as well as to the Dover, Delaware, Air Force Base where the remains of fallen soldiers are often brought, is a familiar one to Obama, George W. Bush and others.

Bush, even at the height of two wars, “wrote all the families of the fallen,” said Freddy Ford, spokesman for the ex-president. Ford said Bush also called or met “hundreds, if not thousands” of family members of the war dead.

Obama’s official photographer, Pete Souza, tweeted that he photographed Obama “meeting with hundreds of wounded soldiers, and family members of those killed in action.” Others recalled his frequent visits with Gold Star families, and travels to Walter Reed, Dover and other venues with families of the dead and with the wounded.

Trump addressed the matter when asked why he had not spoken about the four soldiers killed in Niger. They died when militants thought to be affiliated with the Islamic State group ambushed them while they were patrolling in unarmored trucks with Nigerien troops.

“I actually wrote letters individually to the soldiers we’re talking about, and they’re going to be going out either today or tomorrow,” he said, meaning he wrote to the families of the fallen soldiers. He did not explain why letters had not been sent yet, more than a week after the attack.

“If you look at President Obama and other presidents, most of them didn’t make calls,” Trump said.

Planet Nine does exist in solar system: NASA

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A News by PTI
Published by ptinews.com
16.10.2017

11:37 HRS IST
Washington, Oct 16 (PTI) The elusive ‘Planet Nine’ does exist, and may be 10 times the mass of the Earth and 20 times away from the Sun than Neptune, NASA scientists say.

Planet Nine could turn out to be our solar system’s missing ‘super Earth’ – a planet with a mass higher than the Earth’s, but substantially lower than the masses of ice giants Uranus and Neptune.

The signs so far are indirect, mainly its gravitational footprints, but that adds up to a compelling case, they said.

“There are now five different lines of observational evidence pointing to the existence of Planet Nine,” said Konstantin Batygin, a planetary astrophysicist at California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in the US.

“If you were to remove this explanation and imagine Planet Nine does not exist, then you generate more problems than you solve. All of a sudden, you have five different puzzles, and you must come up with five different theories to explain them,” said Batygin.

Six known objects in the distant Kuiper Belt, a region of icy bodies stretching from Neptune outward towards interstellar space, all have elliptical orbits pointing in the same direction, researchers said.

However, these orbits also are tilted the same way, about 30 degrees “downward” compared to the pancake-like plane within which the planets orbit the Sun, they said.

Computer simulations of the solar system with Planet Nine included show there should be more objects tilted with respect to the solar plane.

The tilt would be on the order of 90 degrees, as if the plane of the solar system and these objects formed an “X” when viewed edge-on.

Caltech graduate student, Elizabeth Bailey, showed that Planet Nine could have tilted the planets of our solar system during the last 4.5 billion years.

In the study published in the Astronomical Journal, researchers wondered why the plane in which the planets orbit is tilted about 6 degrees compared to the Sun’s equator.

“Over long periods of time, Planet Nine will make the entire solar-system plane precess or wobble, just like a top on a table,” Batygin said.

The last telltale sign of Planet Nine’s presence involves the solar system’s contrarians: objects from the Kuiper Belt that orbit in the opposite direction from everything else in the solar system, researchers said.

Planet Nine’s orbital influence would explain why these bodies from the distant Kuiper Belt end up “polluting” the inner Kuiper Belt, they said.

“No other model can explain the weirdness of these high- inclination orbits,” Batygin said.