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Philippines' Duterte to visit China
by Staff Writers
Manila (AFP) Oct 11, 2016


S. Korea vows armed crackdown on Chinese fishing ships
Seoul (AFP) Oct 11, 2016 - South Korea's coastguard warned Tuesday of a "more aggressive" firearms policy towards Chinese fishing boats illegally operating in its waters, following a clash that sank one of its vessels.

Disputes over illegal fishing have dogged relations between South Korea and China for years, and there have been numerous skirmishes between the coastguard and Chinese crew members.

In the latest incident on Sunday a coastguard vessel capsized and sank after being rammed by a Chinese trawler that then sailed away.

There were no casualties but the South Korean foreign ministry on Tuesday summoned the Chinese ambassador in Seoul to lodge a stern protest and demand "swift action to investigate, arrest and punish those responsible."

Meanwhile, the coastguard called a press conference to condemn the incident and warn of eased restrictions on the use of weapons -- ranging from ship's cannon to crew sidearms -- during such altercations.

"So far we have been very cautious using such crew service weapons but now... we will take a more aggressive stance in using them when our officers are in danger," senior coastguard official Lee Chun-Jae told reporters.

The current rules on the use of firearms have "a very limited scope," Lee said, adding they would be revised as soon as possible to allow officers more freedom.

"We plan to use any firearm, whether crew service weapon or individual weapon, to enforce our laws on those who violently protest," Lee said.

The South has been asking China to take a tougher stand on Chinese vessels that have been entering its waters in increasing numbers to satisfy growing demand at home for fresh seafood.

Small wooden Chinese ships were once tolerated in an area where the top priority has always been guarding against potential incursions from North Korea.

But in recent years, the small boats have given way to larger steel trawlers which engage in bottom trawling -- dragging a large weighted net across the seabed that sweeps up everything in its path.

South Korea says many fishing vessel crew members arm themselves with steel pipes and knives to threaten officers trying to board their ships.

Dozens of officers have been injured and one was stabbed to death by a Chinese sailor in 2011, an incident which sparked fury in the South and soured ties for months.

Russia to hold military drills in Egypt in October
Moscow (AFP) Oct 11, 2016 - Russia and Egypt will hold joint military drills involving airborne troops on Egyptian soil for the first time this month, the Russian defence ministry said Tuesday.

"The joint Russian-Egyptian drills will happen in mid-October 2016 on the territory of Egypt," it said, without specifying their start date.

The drills, called "Protectors of Friendship-2016", will include 500 troops, 15 planes and helicopters and 10 military hardware units, the ministry said, describing the exercises as "anti-terrorist".

"The airborne delivery by parachute of several Russian airborne troops' combat vehicles to the desert climate of Egypt will occur for the first time in history," the ministry said.

Last year Russia and Egypt held their first-ever joint naval exercises in the Mediterranean, which included the Black Sea fleet's flagship Moskva missile cruiser.

Russia has been waging an aerial bombing campaign in Syria for the past year in support of the Syrian government, part of the multi-front war that has claimed some 300,000 lives and has seen Moscow further estranged from the West.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said Tuesday he would soon visit China and hoped also to travel to Russia, as he again criticised longtime ally the United States for "arrogance".

The mission to China will be Duterte's first outside of Southeast Asia since assuming the presidency on June 30, in a symbolic move highlighting the importance he places on improving ties with Beijing that soured over competing claims to the South China Sea.

"China has repeatedly invited me. I have accepted the offer," Duterte said in a speech at the presidential palace.

He gave no specific dates for the visit, but said it would take place before he went to Japan from October 25 to 27.

Duterte said he had originally planned to visit Japan, the Philippines' biggest source of foreign aid, ahead of China.

However he explained that Japan offered a "definite" date, then China told Duterte there was a "vacancy" earlier and so he accepted.

Duterte also said that, after Japan, "probably I will go to Russia".

Duterte has looked to build closer ties with China and Russia, while launching repeated tirades against the United States, the Philippines' former colonial ruler and defence ally.

His tirades have been largely in response to US criticism of Duterte's war on crime, which has claimed more than 3,300 lives and raised fears about extrajudicial killings.

Duterte has cancelled joint patrols with the United States in the South China Sea, said he may scrap a defence pact that allows thousands of US troops to rotate through the Philippines, and threatened to eventually cut ties completely.

Duterte has also branded US President Barack Obama a "son of a whore" for expressing concern about human rights in the drug war.

In contrast, he has described Chinese leader Xi Jinping as "a great president", and praised China and Russia for showing respect in not criticising his crime crackdown.

- 'Arrogant' allies -

Duterte on Tuesday gave another lengthy critique of the United States, branding the nation as "arrogant" and powerless to stop Russia's seizure of Crimea from Ukraine.

He also said the Philippines gained nothing from holding military exercises with the United States, which have been a mainstay of the defence relationship.

"What's the point? They are the only ones benefiting. We are not," he said, as the allies wrapped up a week of war games involving about 2,000 troops in the Philippines.

Duterte had said they were to be the last of his six-year term, putting on ice the 28 exercises they hold annually.

The Philippines had long been regarded as one of Washington's most loyal allies in Asia, with the two nations bound by a mutual defence pact signed in 1951.

Duterte's predecessor Benigno Aquino sought to draw the United States even closer in a bid to counter Chinese efforts to take control of the South China Sea.

China claims nearly all of the sea, even waters close to the Philippines and other Southeast Asian nations, and has in recent years built artificial islands capable of hosting military bases in disputed areas.

The 2014 defence agreement and the joint patrols were key to Aquino's strategy to contain China.

Aquino further angered China by filing a case with a UN-backed tribunal in 2013 against Beijing's claims to most of the sea.

In July, shortly after Duterte took office, the tribunal ruled in favour of the Philippines, saying China's claims had no legal basis and its construction of artificial islands in disputed waters was illegal.

But Duterte vowed not to "taunt or flaunt" the verdict and to seek a "soft landing" with China on the issue.

He has launched negotiations with China over the dispute, a tactic rejected by Aquino.

China has welcomed Duterte's overtures.

"The clouds are fading away. The sun is rising over the horizon and will shine beautifully on the new chapter of bilateral relations," Chinese ambassador to Manila Zhao Jianhua said this month.


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