Up to US, North Korea to ease tensions: China

China has become increasingly frustrated with American and Japanese criticism that it should do more to rein in Pyongyang.

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China is North Korea’s closest ally, but Beijing, too, is angry with its continued nuclear and missile tests.

North Korea said on Saturday it had conducted another successful test of an intercontinental ballistic missile that proved its ability to strike the US mainland, drawing a sharp warning from Trump and a rebuke from China.

Video of the latest missile test appears to show it breaking up before landing, indicating Pyongyang may not yet have mastered re-entry technology needed for an operational nuclear-tipped missile, a think tank reported on Monday.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe spoke with Trump on Monday and agreed on the need for more action on North Korea just hours after the US Ambassador to the United Nations said Washington is “done talking about North Korea”.

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A White House statement after the phone call said the two leaders “agreed that North Korea poses a grave and growing direct threat to the United States, Japan, the Republic of Korea, and other countries near and far”.

It said Trump “reaffirmed our ironclad commitment” to defend Japan and South Korea from any attack, “using the full range of United States capabilities”.

Trump tweeted on Saturday after the missile test that he was “very disappointed” in China and that Beijing profits from US trade but had done “nothing” for the United States with regards to North Korea, something he would not allow to continue.

Asked by a reporter on Monday how he plans to deal with Pyongyang, Trump said at the start of a Cabinet meeting: “We’ll handle North Korea… It will be handled.”

0:00 Trump won’t allow China to ‘do nothing’ on North Korea Share Trump won’t allow China to ‘do nothing’ on North Korea

China’s Foreign Ministry, in a statement sent to Reuters responding to Trump’s earlier tweets, said the North Korean nuclear issue did not arise because of China and that everyone needed to work together to seek a resolution.

Russia said on Monday the United States and other countries were trying “to shift responsibility for the situation to Russia and China” following the most recent missile test.

“We view as groundless attempts undertaken by the US and a number of other countries to shift responsibility to Russia and China, almost blaming Moscow and Beijing for indulging the missile and nuclear ambitions of the DPRK (North Korea),” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

At the United Nations in New York, China’s UN ambassador said on Monday it is primarily up to the United States and North Korea, not Beijing, to reduce tensions and work toward resuming talks to end Pyongyang’s nuclear weapon and missile programs.

The United States and North Korea “hold the primary responsibility to keep things moving, to start moving in the right direction, not China,” China’s UN Ambassador Liu Jieyi told a news conference to mark the end of Beijing’s presidency of the UN Security Council in July.

“No matter how capable China is, China’s efforts will not yield practical results because it depends on the two principal parties,” Liu said.

Chinese Vice Commerce Minister Qian Keming told a news conference there was no link between the North Korea issue and China-US trade.

“We think the North Korea nuclear issue and China-US trade are issues that are in two completely different domains. They aren’t related. They should not be discussed together,” Qian said.

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China, with which North Korea does most of its trade, has repeatedly said it strictly follows UN resolutions on North Korea and has denounced unilateral US sanctions as unhelpful.

Nikki Haley, US Ambassador to the United Nations, said in a statement China must decide if it is willing to back imposing stronger UN sanctions on North Korea over Friday night’s long-range missile test, the North’s second this month.

Any new UN Security Council resolution “that does not significantly increase the international pressure on North Korea is of no value”, Haley said, adding that Japan and South Korea also needed to do more.

Abe told reporters after his conversation with Trump that repeated efforts by the international community to find a peaceful solution to the North Korean issue had yet to bear fruit in the face of Pyongyang’s unilateral “escalation”.

“International society, including Russia and China, need to take this seriously and increase pressure,” Abe said. He added Japan and the United States would take steps towards concrete action but did not give details.

Abe and Trump did not discuss military action against North Korea, nor what would constitute the crossing of a “red line” by Pyongyang, Deputy Chief Cabinet spokesman Koichi Hagiuda told reporters.

“Pyongyang is determined to develop its nuclear and missile program and does not care about military threats from the US and South Korea,” state-run Chinese tabloid the Global Times said on Monday.

“How could Chinese sanctions change the situation?” said the paper, which is published by the ruling Communist Party’s official People’s Daily.

China wants both balanced trade with the United States and lasting peace on the Korean peninsula, its official Xinhua news agency added in a commentary.

“However, to realize these goals, Beijing needs a more cooperative partner in the White House, not one who piles blame on China for the United States’ failures,” it added.

The United States flew two supersonic B-1B bombers over the Korean peninsula in a show of force on Sunday in response to the missile test and the July 3 launch of the “Hwasong-14” rocket, the Pentagon said. The bombers took off from a US air base in Guam and were joined by Japanese and South Korean fighter jets during the exercise.

“North Korea remains the most urgent threat to regional stability,” Pacific Air Forces commander General Terrence J. O’Shaughnessy said in a statement.

“If called upon, we are ready to respond with rapid, lethal, and overwhelming force at a time and place of our choosing.”

US begins Russia drawdown

The United States has begun removing furniture and equipment from a diplomatic property in Moscow in the first sign of compliance with a Kremlin order to slash its presence in Russia as retaliation for new US sanctions.

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President Vladimir Putin has ordered the United States to cut 60 per cent of its diplomatic staff in Russia by September 1 and says Moscow will seize two US diplomatic properties in response to sanctions approved by Congress last week.

The White House has said US President Donald Trump will sign the sanctions bill, meant as a response to alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election and to further punish Moscow for its 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine.

On Tuesday, removalists began dismantling play equipment and barbecues at a US-owned dacha on the outskirts of Moscow, after being refused access the day before, according to a Reuters journalist at the scene.

The dacha, which is being confiscated along with a US warehouse in the south of the Russian capital, was used by US diplomatic staff at weekends and to host parties for students, journalists and other diplomats.

The removalalists said they arrived about 7 am and were seen packing beds and lamps into three white vans before leaving the property three hours later.

Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said US staff had to leave the dacha and warehouse by midday Tuesday, TASS news agency reported.

Ryabkov and the Kremlin said no one had obstructed US employees trying to access the property.

Putin said on Sunday Russia had ordered the United States to cut 755 of its 1200 diplomatic staff in its embassy and consular operations, though many will be Russian citizens, with the United States allowed to choose who leaves.

The ultimatum issued by the Russian leader is a display to voters at home that he is prepared to stand up to Washington but is also carefully calibrated to avoid affecting the US investment he needs or burning bridges with Trump.

Yingluck says she’s a ‘victim of a political game’ as verdict looms

Supporters at the Supreme Court, many with banners reading “We love Yingluck” and “We’re by your side”, mobbed the former prime minister, whose personal appeal in her heartland has surged as her legal travails have deepened.

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Yingluck’s government was toppled by the army in 2014 and she was then retroactively impeached.

She faces a criminal charge of negligence over a flagship policy to pay farmers nearly twice the market rate for their crops.

The scheme poured billions of dollars into her rural voter base but also allegedly caused massive graft as brokers sold sub-par rice or declared inflated inventories to scoop up the subsidy.

It left Thailand with huge stockpiles of unsold rice.

The court will issue a verdict on August 25, a ruling that could see Thailand’s first female prime minister jailed for up to 10 years.

In an impassioned hour-long speech to the court, Yingluck said she implemented the scheme in good faith to boost the incomes of Thailand’s poorest.

A woman holds a sign, “Yingluck Prime Minister in My Heart,” as former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra arrives at the Supreme Court on Aug. 1, 2017.AAP

Calling for the charge to be dismissed she denied turning a blind eye to graft, saying the case was a politically motivated attack led by junta leader Prayut Chan-O-Cha.

“I hope I can rely on the court to consider the case based on the facts and (political) environment when I was prime minister and not on the current environment,” she said reading a 17-page defence.

“I am a victim of a subtle political game… I was not involved in corruption and I did not consent to corruption. I have done nothing wrong,” she added.

Her trial over the outcome of a government policy is unprecedented in Thailand, a febrile kingdom where legal claims and counter claims swirl around most key political players.

A guilty verdict also incurs an automatic lifetime ban from politics — a potential gut punch to the Shinawatra clan whose candidates have won every Thai general election since 2001.

The Shinawatras are hated by the arch-royalist army and their supporters among Bangkok’s elite, who for a decade have turned to coups and the courts to regain power after losing elections.

Checkmate?

The ruling will be a test of the kingdom’s stability after a decade defined by coups and bloody street protests.

It is also a bellwether of the resolve of Yingluck’s supporters in the face of a junta which has comfortably corralled them since seizing power in 2014.

“The trial is an injustice,” said 77-year-old farmer Perm Duangchan, who travelled several hours to greet the ex-PM at court.

“I want her to win the case so she can come back and help the country.”

In a sign of government concern over potential unrest hundreds of police were at the court on Tuesday as the 18-month trial neared its end.

Yingluck has the right to appeal any conviction.

But she is entangled in several other legal cases including a civil case seeking $1 billion compensation for losses over the rice policy.

The verdict could mean checkmate for the close-knit Shinawatra family, whose political networks spread across the north and northeast of the kingdom.

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On Wednesday the Supreme Court is due to rule whether Somchai Wongsawat, who was briefly premier in late 2008 and is the brother-in-law of Thaksin Shinawatra, is guilty over a deadly crackdown on a protest.

He also faces jail if convicted.

Thaksin, the billionaire family patriarch, sits at the core of Thailand’s festering divide.

He was overthrown as prime minister in a military coup in September 2006 and currently lives in self-imposed exile to avoid jail for graft convictions in Thailand.

Manus Island asylum seekers protest power cuts, PNG resettlement

Dozens of men held at the centre marched around the compound on Tuesday chanting “bring power back” and “we don’t want PNG”, a video shared by advocates from inside the compound shows.

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We support #ManusProtest #BringThePowerBack pic.twitter苏州美甲培训学校按摩论坛,/udKfn5cDvd

— RRAN WA (@rranwa) August 1, 2017

With the Australian-run centre due to shut in October, the remaining 800 men on Manus are being urged to relocate to a temporary transit centre in the main town of Lorengau.

Water and power supplies were cut off at the centre’s largest compound on Monday, Reuters has reported.

PNG Prime Minister Peter O’Neill has said those deemed legitimate refugees would be resettled in the US under the deal brokered by the Turnbull government with the Obama administration, while others would be returned back to their country of origin.

#manusprotest Hundreds of refugees are gathering in Mike compound to tell Australian gov to stop pressuring people to live in PNG pic.twitter苏州美甲培训学校按摩论坛,/SaeZeEoFLG

— Behrouz Boochani (@BehrouzBoochani) August 1, 2017

The “last remaining” people have been offered resettlement in PNG, he said.

The Tuesday protests were peaceful to send a message to the Australian government to “stop pressuring people to live in PNG,” Iranian Kurdish journalist inside the compound Behrouz Boochani said on Twitter.

#Manusprotes Hundreds of refugees are gathering in Mike compound to tell Australian gov to stop pressuring people to live in PNG pic.twitter苏州美甲培训学校按摩论坛,/pOG0R6foLh

— Behrouz Boochani (@BehrouzBoochani) August 1, 2017

Asylum seekers fear PNG is not safe for permanent settlement.

There were also reports that three refugees were attacked and robbed in separate events on Manus Island at the weekend, including a Sudanese asylum seeker who suffered leg wounds after being attacked with a machete, an Iranian who was injured in an armed hold up and another man robbed while walking.

The Department of Immigration and Border Protection has been contacted for comment.

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Pakistan’s parliament elects ex-oil minister Abbasi as new PM

Abbasi is seen by the ruling party as a placeholder for Sharif’s designated successor, his younger brother Shahbaz, who must first secure election to the 342-member National Assembly.

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Abbasi, nominated by Sharif’s ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), secured 221 votes, Speaker Sardar Ayaz Sadiq announced on live television. He will be sworn in later Tuesday.

“I give the floor to the new prime minister of Pakistan,” Sadiq said as Abbasi took his place in the premier’s seat.

“I am thankful to all those who took part in this democratic process,” Abbasi said. “Those who were in favour, those who opposed me. This is the procedure in democracy. And I am also thankful to PML-N who nominated me for this post. Of all these, I am most thankful to Nawaz Sharif.”

Shabhaz Sharif, currently chief minister of Punjab province, plans to enter parliament by contesting the seat left vacant by his elder sibling before eventually taking over the premiership.

The constitution requires a candidate for prime minister to win a majority from the National Assembly, the lower house of parliament.

Three opposition candidates also submitted nomination papers to take part in the vote.

But Abbasi, a long-time Sharif loyalist, won easily as the PML-N commands a majority in parliament.

Nawaz Sharif was the 15th prime minister in Pakistan’s 70-year history — roughly half of which was spent under military rule — to be ousted before completing a full term.

The top court sacked him Friday after an investigation into corruption allegations against him and his family, bringing his historic third term in power to an unceremonious end and briefly plunging the nuclear-armed nation into political instability.

Abbasi is the former federal minister for petroleum and natural resources, and a businessman who launched the country’s most successful private airline, Air Blue.

Educated in the US at George Washington University, he worked in the US and Saudi Arabia as an electrical engineer before joining politics and being elected to the National Assembly six times.

He was arrested after the 1999 military coup led by General Pervez Musharraf which ended Nawaz Sharif’s second term as PM, and imprisoned for two years before being released.

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Shahbaz Sharif went into exile in Saudi Arabia along with Nawaz after Musharraf’s coup.

He returned to Pakistan in 2007 and was elected chief minister in the family’s power base of Punjab in 2008, becoming the longest serving top official in the province.

A tough administrator with a reputation for passionate outbursts, he is known for using revolutionary poetry in speeches and public meetings and considered by some to be a workaholic.

His scandalous relationships fuelled headlines in the past, but his marriage to the author Tehmina Durrani, who is his fifth wife, in 2003 has since dampened the media frenzy.

Shahbaz Sharif has been so far largely unscathed by the claims about the lavish lifestyles and luxury London property portfolio of the Sharif dynasty which have played out for months in the raucous news media.

It was an investigation into the claims, which first erupted with the Panama Papers leak last year, that eventually saw the Supreme Court oust Nawaz Sharif. He and his family have denied the accusations.

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