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Obama says US goal is not to counter or contain China
by Staff Writers
Manila (AFP) April 28, 2014

Japan cabinet minister visits controversial war shrine
Tokyo (AFP) April 28, 2014 - A Japanese cabinet minister known for her outspoken nationalistic views on Monday visited a controversial Tokyo war shrine, in a move certain to aggravate tensions with neighbours China and South Korea.

Tomomi Inada's visit came as a picture emerged on social media purporting to show a man dressed as General Hideki Tojo, the prime minister who ordered the attack on Pearl Harbor, saluting at a weekend conference, sparking outrage online.

The visit by Inada, a state minister in charge of administrative reforms, comes less than a week after nearly 150 Japanese lawmakers paid homage at the site, which honours millions of the nation's war dead, including senior officials who were executed for war crimes.

General Tojo was among those executed for war crimes and later honoured at the Yasukuni shrine.

Last week's mass pilgrimage by parliamentarians came on the eve of a visit by US President Barack Obama, whose administration has tried to discourage visits to Yasukuni, which it views as unnecessary provocation.

China and South Korea see the shrine as a symbol of what they say is Japan's unwillingness to repent for its aggressive warring last century.

Troubled Canadian pop prince Justin Bieber was criticised last week after he posted a snap of himself at the shrine on his Instagram account.

The picture that surfaced on Twitter appeared to show a man dressed in period military garb saluting while standing on a campaign car for Abe's ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) -- sparking a backlash online.

"Does this mean the LDP tolerates this?" @hatsunoji wrote.

Said online user @okchibita: "This is not even a bad joke. I cannot believe this was done by the ruling party."

The picture was believed to have been taken at a weekend conference organised by an Internet broadcaster, which Prime Minister Shinzo Abe -- whose own nationalistic views have annoyed Japan's neighbours -- had briefly attended earlier in the day.

The huge two-day event, attended by more than 120,000 people, had dozens of booths sponsored by a wide variety of organisations including political parties, gaming firms and the country's sumo association.

An LDP spokesman said he was unaware that the unidentified man was dressed to appear like Japan's wartime leader.

"If we had known that he meant to be dressed up like Tojo, we would have had second thoughts about letting him get up there," he told AFP.

A person claiming to be the man in the photo apologised on Twitter Monday and claimed he was simply dressed as a military policeman.

"There was the campaign car which people were allowed to climb on," wrote the person, identified as @vice0079. "I was guided by LDP staff."

President Barack Obama said Monday the US goal in Asia was not to contain or counter China, hours after his administration signed a new defence agreement with the Philippines.

Obama however backed Manila's effort to get its territorial disputes with China adjudicated by international arbitration, during a visit to the Philippines.

"Our goal is not to counter China. Our goal is not to contain China," Obama said at a press conference with Philippine President Benigno Aquino.

Obama's tour of US allies in Asia encompassing Japan, South Korea, Malaysia and the Philippines over the last week has been closely watched in Beijing which is sensitive to any suggestion Washington is trying to prevent China's development as a regional superpower.

"We welcome China's peaceful rise. We have a constructive relationship with China," Obama said.

Washington however argues that Beijing must play by "rules of the road" to make sure that territorial disputes in the South and East China Seas are solved in line with international law, not by intimidation or coercion.

Taiwan air force major jailed for spying for China
Taipei (AFP) April 28, 2014 - A Taiwan air force major was jailed for 20 years Monday for leaking military secrets to China in the latest espionage case to hit the island.

Hau Chih-hsiung, who had served at an air base in the southern county of Pingtung, was charged last month with passing to China confidential information related to the E-2K, an improved version of the Grumman Hawkeye early warning aircraft.

Hau was convicted by the High Court in the southern city of Kaohsiung. It also passed a 15-year prison term on Wan Tsung-lin, the middleman in Hau's dealings with China.

Wan had run a karaoke club near the air base, the state Central News Agency said, adding that the pair had pocketed a total of Tw$1 million ($33,300) for their activities.

After the conviction, Hau was immediately stripped of his military status. He has the right to appeal.

Taiwan and China have spied on each other ever since they split in 1949 at the end of a civil war. Beijing still regards the self-ruled island as part of its territory awaiting reunification, by force if necessary.

Taiwan has been rocked by a spate of spying scandals in recent years, despite warming ties with China under Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou.

In September 2013 a retired vice admiral was jailed for 14 months for collecting confidential military information for China, just months after an former lieutenant general was indicted for leaking secrets to Beijing.

In 2011 an army general and chief of an intelligence unit was sentenced to life imprisonment for spying for China in one of Taiwan's worst espionage scandals.


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Philippines, US to sign defence pact
Manila (AFP) April 27, 2014
The Philippines and the United States announced they would sign an agreement on Monday to allow a greater US military presence on Filipino soil for the next decade. The deal will be signed in Manila a few hours before US President Barack Obama is due to arrive for a two-day visit to the Philippines, one of the United States' most loyal but militarily weakest Asian allies which is embroiled i ... read more

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