Monthly Archives: October 2019

US to back Philippines in China spat

The United States said Thursday it was ready to provide hardware to modernize the military of the Philippines, which vowed to “stand up to any aggressive action” amid rising tension at sea with China.

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Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario, on a visit to Washington, said the Philippines hoped to lease equipment to upgrade its aged fleet and called for the allies to revamp their relationship in light of the friction with China.

“We are determined and committed to supporting the defense of the Philippines,” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told a joint news conference when asked about the hardware wish-list from the Philippines.

Clinton said the two nations were working “to determine what are the additional assets that the Philippines needs and how we can best provide those.” She said del Rosario would meet Defense Secretary Robert Gates and other Pentagon officials.

Tensions in the strategic and resource-rich South China Sea have escalated in recent weeks, with the Philippines and Vietnam alarmed at what they say are increasingly aggressive actions by Beijing in the disputed waters.

“We are concerned that recent incidents in the South China Sea could undermine peace and stability,” Clinton told reporters, urging “all sides to exercise self-restraint.”

WE WILL STAND UP

Del Rosario, with Clinton at his side, said: “While we are a small country, we are prepared to do what is necessary to stand up to any aggressive action in our backyard.”

The Philippines has announced the deployment in disputed waters of its navy flagship, the Rajah Humabon. One of the world’s oldest warships, the Rajah Humabon was a former US Navy frigate that served during World War II.

The Philippines has historically bought second-hand hardware, but del Rosario said that President Benigno Aquino has allocated 11 billion pesos ($252 million) to upgrade the navy.

Shortly ahead of his talks with Clinton, del Rosario said that the Philippines was asking the United States for “an operational lease so that we can look at fairly new equipment and be able to get our hands on that quickly.”

“We need to have the resources to be able to stand and defend ourselves and, I think, to the extent that we can do that, we become a stronger ally for you,” del Rosario said at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

DEFENSE TREATY

The United States signed a defense treaty with the Philippines in 1951, five years after the archipelago’s independence from US colonial rule. Del Rosario said he believed the treaty — which calls for mutual defense in the event of an attack in “the Pacific area” — covers the South China Sea.

The United States has been providing military aid to the Philippines primarily to fight Islamic militants in the wake the September 11, 2001 attacks.

The United States gave the Philippines $15 million in military assistance in the 2011 fiscal year, with much larger sums devoted to development, according to official US data.

Del Rosario said that Al-Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf has largely been defeated, estimating that only around 200 guerrillas remained.

“The Philippines’ relative success in counter-insurgency coupled with pressures in the regional environment compel a reorientation of focus and resources,” he said.

“A reset in our relations has therefore become an imperative to allow the alliance to continue to meet domestic goals while contributing to global stability,” he said.

China has said that it will not resort to the use of force in the South China Sea but has also warned the United States to stay out of territorial spats.

“I believe some countries now are playing with fire. And I hope the US won’t be burned by this fire,” China’s vice foreign minister Cui Tiankai said.

Cui will meet Saturday in Hawaii with Kurt Campbell, a US assistant secretary of state, for a first dialogue between the two nations to focus specifically on Asia-Pacific affairs.

The United States plans to hold joint exercises with the Philippines next week and the US Navy will visit Vietnam next month, although US officials have described the events as routine.

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Clijster crashes, Sharapova survives

Kim Clijsters crashed out of Roland Garros on Thursday, her worst Grand Slam result in nine years, while Maria Sharapova escaped humiliation at the hands of a fearless 17-year-old French girl.

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Second seed Clijsters let slip a set and a 5-2 lead, and squandered two match points, to slump to a stunning 3-6, 7-5, 6-1 second round defeat to Dutchwoman Arantxa Rus, the world number 114.

Seventh seed Sharapova came back from a set and 1-4 down to win 11 games in succession to defeat world number 188 Caroline Garcia, playing in only her second tour level tournament, 3-6, 6-4, 6-0.

Despite not having played a claycourt match in the run-up to Roland Garros, due to a shoulder problem and then a freak ankle injury suffered while dancing at a cousin’s wedding, Clijsters said she had been ready to compete.

“I’m happy that I gave myself an opportunity. If I had said: ‘It’s better not to come’, that would be the attitude of a real loser,” said the US and Australian Open champion, playing in Paris for the first time since 2006.

“I had practised well. Physically everything was fine. I was definitely ready.”

On a chilly and windswept Philippe Chatrier court, the 27-year-old, the runner-up in 2001 and 2003, committed a total of 65 unforced errors and 10 double faults.

The slender 1.80m Rus, named in honour of Spain’s Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario, the triple Roland Garros champion, said: “It was my biggest win. Kim is my hero. I played fantastic tennis.”

Rus is the first Dutchwoman to make the third round of a Grand Slam since Michaella Kracijek at Wimbledon in 2007 and next faces Russia’s Maria Kirilenko for a place in the last 16.

Sharapova, the former world number one and triple Grand Slam title winner, looked set to follow Clijsters out of the tournament.

But the Russian superstar summoned her famed fighting spirit to set-up a clash against Taiwan’s Chan Yung-Jan for a place in the last 16 after a bruising experience.

“It’s never over until it’s over. No matter what situation you are in, you have to keep fighting,” said Sharapova, who had been scheduled to face Clijsters in the last eight.

“I never really felt comfortable. She was serving well, but I felt her pace went down as the match went on, especially on her serve. And maybe at the start I was focussing too much on the conditions rather than on myself.”

It had been a clincial performance by Garcia, whose 57,000-dollar career earnings pale compared to Sharapova’s on-court riches of almost 15 million as she dominated the first half of the tie.

Garcia, the daughter of a Lyon estate agent, didn’t lack confidence having gone into the match against the sport’s biggest drawcard confidently backing herself to be number one in the world in the not too distant future.

She regularly found the corners and lines of the famous old court with surgical precision, leaving Sharapova heavy-footed and struggling to find her usual clinical, power game.

After wrapping up the first set, she was soon 4-1 ahead in the second and sensing a famous triumph.

But Sharapova, who has never reached a Paris final, was not going quietly and pulled level at 4-4.

Then a crucial over-rule in her favour at 30-30 in the next game swung the tie firmly in her favour and she did not look back as she romped to victory against a visibly tiring Garcia.

“From the second set, she was striking the ball much harder, and the stupid mistakes that she made in the first set she no longer made them,” said Garcia.

Also making the last 32 were fourth seeded Victoria Azarenka of Belarus who eased past France’s Pauline Parmentier 6-0, 6-1 and Chinese sixth seed Li Na who saw off Spanish qualifier Silvia Soler-Espinosa 6-4, 7-5.

Australian runner-up Li will face Sorana Cirstea for a place in the last 16 after the Romanian, a quarter-finalist in 2009, defeated 27th-seeded compatriot Alexandra Dulgheru 6-2, 7-5.

Tournament darkhorse Petra Kvitova, the ninth-seeded Czech, who won the Madrid Masters title earlier this month, beat Zheng Jie 6-4, 6-1.

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Turnout touches hearts of flight 93 families

For the Flight 93 families, the most touching aspect of Saturday’s dedication of a national memorial to their loved ones wasn’t the speechmaking or musical tributes.

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It was the crowd.

Perhaps a thousand ordinary Americans — no one was keeping official count — turned out to join them on the eve of the 10th anniversary of the September 11 attacks and to let them know that they, too, are not forgotten.

With no prompting, they broke into applause as they solemnly departed the 2-1/2 hour ceremony along an elongated black asphalt walkway that sweeps past the daisy-dotted spot where the hijacked Boeing 757 went down.

“It’s an emotional day. It’s overwhelming to see everyone here,” said Gordon Hasenei, whose aunt, retiree Patricia Cushing, boarded the ill-fated United Airlines flight in Boston for a holiday in San Francisco.

“This makes me proud to be an American,” added Reverend Kenneth Mills, uncle of United flight attendant CeeCee Ross Lyles and one of few African-Americans present, with unabashed patriotism.

Organisers sealed off a seated section for the Flight 93 families in front of the shaded dias where former presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton reaffirmed US determination to defeat global terrorism.

The general public — predominantly from this rural corner of Pennsylvania, a traditional American landscape of small farms, tidy villages and sweeping hills — unfolded leisure chairs in the muddy soil around the perimeter.

Many sported patriotic T-shirts and held American flags. Nobody flinched when a giant screen that was supposed to project the goings-on on stage blew a circuit and went blank, sending a puff of smoke into the air.

Some applauded when Bush took to the stage, but Clinton gave the more impassioned speech, saying that by rising up against the hijackers, the passengers and crew of Flight 93 had denied Al-Qaeda “a symbolic victory.”

It is believed the hijackers intended to plow Flight 93 into the Capitol building in Washington, about 20 minutes’ flying time from Shanksville, just as their cohorts did earlier that day at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Alice Hoagland, who lost her PR executive son Mark Bingham, comes to Shanksville every September 11, but this year she opted not to trek across the rain-soaked field to the spot where Flight 93 slammed into the ground.

Instead, for the first time, she touched a tall, finely polished and newly installed granite tablet bearing Bingham’s name — identical to the 39 others lined up along Flight 93’s final flight path as a key part of the memorial.

“It’s a healing process and I expect to go through it through the rest of my life,” Bingham told AFP afterwards.

Several airline pilots in uniform turned out as well, including Chris Clark of Delta Airlines, a friend of Flight 93’s first officer LeRoy Homer from their days together flying cargo planes in the US air force.

Does Clark worry about another 9/11-style hijacking when he steps in the cockpit? No, he replied. “I feel something like this won’t happen again. They” — meaning Al-Qaeda — “have played their card.”

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Gillard cuts Malaysian asylum seeker deal

The federal government has entered into a new asylum seeker deal with Malaysia to tackle people smuggling and irerregular migration in the Asia Pacific region.

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Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced on Saturday that an agreement with Malaysian Prime Minister, Hon. Dato’ Sri Najib Tun Razak means hundreds of boat peope will be sent to Malaysia.

At a press conference, Ms Gillard assured genuine refugees that they need not fear the new arrangrments.

The PM says it will encourage refugee applicants to adhere to an ‘orderly migration program’ in Australia, with the deal also aimed at stopping the ‘dangerous’ people smuggling systems, and protecting our borders.

Ms Gillard has also confirmed she is investigating PNG as a possible location for a regional processing centre saying discussions are continuing.

According to Malaysia’s National News agency, Prime Ministers Najib and Gillard have agreed that core elements of the new bilateral arrangement will include:

* 800 irregular maritime arrivals, who arrive in Australia after the date of effect of the arrangement, will be transferred to Malaysia for refugee status determination.

* in return, over four years, Australia will resettle 4000 refugees already currently residing in Malaysia.

* transferees will not receive any preferential treatment over asylum seekers already in Malaysia.

* transferees will be provided with the opportunity to have their asylum claims considered and those in need of international protection will not be refouled.

* transferees will be treated with dignity and respect and in accordance with human rights standards.

* Australia will fully fund the arrangement.

The announcement comes as a boat of 85 suspected asylum seekers has been intercepted on its way to Australia.

The HMAS Broome, operating under the control of Border Protection Command, intercepted the vessel northeast of Christmas Island on Saturday afternoon, the office of Home Affairs Minister Brendan O’Connor said in a statement.

The group will be transferred to Christmas Island where they will undergo security, identity and health checks and have their reasons for travel established.

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Analysis: Italy ‘can overcome crisis’

Tito Boeri, Professor of Economics at Bocconi University in Milan, believes that Italy can get of its economic crisis by implementing responsible fiscal policy, cutting expenditure and trying to restore growth.

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His comments come after Italy’s cabinet adopted a package of tax hikes and pension reforms worth 24 billion euros ($32 billion) in a rush to ease a crisis that is threatening the Eurozone.

“It is true that Italy is too big to bail out. At the same time, Italy has all the tools to get out of this situation,” Professor Boeri told SBS.

Analysis: What lies ahead for Italy”s economy (mp3)

“I don’t want to even consider the scenario of default. I see the problem of Italy as one of liquidity and not of solvency, and we are taking now taking the right measures.

“I think that most of the work should be done domestically in Italy to fix the problem of the high debt, but there is also actions that have to be taken at the European level.

“The problem of huge debt has to be faced by having more responsible fiscal policy, cutting expenditure and, above all, trying to restore growth,” he said.

Italy has a debt of 2.3 billion euros ($A3.02 billion), 119 per cent of its GDP.

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