Taiwan's goodwill toward China has its limits: MAC chief

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TAIPEI, (CNA).- Taiwan will continue to show goodwill toward mainland China, but that does not mean the government will do so "without limit," Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) Minister Chen Ming-tong (陳明通) said on Thursday.

"Should Taiwan's security and social stability be threatened, we will do whatever is necessary to deal with various contingencies," Chen said during an informal meeting with reporters.

"Although China has yet to respond to Taiwan's goodwill and has even stepped-up its saber-rattling in a bid to force Taiwan to accept its political preconditions, Taiwan has its own strategy and will not yield to pressure," he said.

Stressing that "the government will not take the old path of confrontation," Chen hailed President Tsai Ing-wen's (蔡英文) efforts to maintain the status-quo across the Taiwan Strait.

He voiced hope that the two sides can sit down and work to resolve differences based on the principle of reciprocity with no political preconditions.

Chen made the comment in response to remarks made on Wednesday by Liu Jieyi (劉結一), head of the Taiwan Affairs Office under China's State Council, that Taiwan should support the "1992 consensus" -- a tacit agreement reached between Taiwan and the mainland in 1992 that there is only "one China" and each side is free to interpret what it means.

Beijing insists the consensus serve as the political foundation for cross-strait exchange, but Tsai, who assumed office in May, 2016, and the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) that she leads refuse to accept it, stalling cross-strait ties.

"Given that Taiwan has had heated debate over the term for many years, it is not pragmatic to conduct cross-strait exchanges based on a controversial term," Chen said, stressing that "it is better to promote bilateral interactions based on terms contained in the Republic of China Constitution and the Act Governing Relations Between the People of the Taiwan Area and the Mainland Area.

(By Miao Zong-han and Flor Wang)

http://focustaiwan.tw/news/acs/201805170024.aspx

Tags: Taiwán Minister Chen Ming-tong

US Senate Votes to Restore Net Neutrality

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CAPITOL HILL, (VOANEWS).- The U.S. Senate voted 52-47 to overturn the FCC's 2017 repeal of Obama-era net neutrality rules, with all Democrats and three Republicans voting in favor of the measure.

The Senate approved a Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolution that would undo the Federal Communications Commission's vote to deregulate the broadband industry. If the CRA is approved by the House and signed by President Donald Trump, internet service providers would have to continue following rules that prohibit blocking, throttling and paid prioritization.

The Republican-controlled FCC voted in December to repeal the rules, which require internet service providers to give equal footing to all web traffic.

Democrats argued that scrapping the rules would give ISPs free rein to suppress certain content or promote sites that pay them.

Republicans insist they, too, believe in net neutrality, but want to safeguard it by crafting forward-looking legislation rather than reimposing an outdated regulatory structure.

​'Political points'

"Democrats have decided to take the issue of net neutrality and make it partisan," Republican Senator John Thune of South Dakota said. "Instead of working with Republicans to develop permanent net neutrality legislation, they've decided to try to score political points with a partisan resolution that would do nothing to permanently secure net neutrality."

Before the vote, Senator Ed Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat, urged fellow senators to disregard the "armies of lobbyists marching the halls of Congress on behalf of big internet service providers."

Lobbyists tried to convince senators that net neutrality rules aren't needed "because ISPs will self-regulate," and that blocking, throttling and paid prioritization are just hypothetical harms, Markey said.

Lobby groups representing all the major cable companies, telecoms and mobile carriers urged senators to reject the attempt to restore net neutrality rules.

The resolution still faces tough odds in the House. It requires 218 votes to force a vote there, and only 160 House Democrats back the measure for now. The legislation would also require the signature of Trump, who has criticized the net neutrality rules.

While Democrats recognize they are unlikely to reverse the FCC's rule, they see the issue as a key policy desire that energizes their base voters, a top priority ahead of the midterm elections.

https://www.voanews.com/a/us-senate-votes-to-restore-net-neutrality/4397075.html

Tags: Us Senate Net

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Washington – Today, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) designated Hizballah financier Mohammad Ibrahim Bazzi and Hizballah’s representative to Iran Abdallah Safi-Al-Din as Specially Designated Global Terrorists (SDGTs) pursuant to Executive Order (E.O.) 13224, which targets terrorists and those providing support to terrorists or acts of terrorism. Also designated today as SDGTs are five companies located in Europe, West Africa, and the Middle East for being owned or controlled by Mohammad Bazzi and another SDGT. Specifically, OFAC designated Belgian energy services conglomerate, Global Trading Group NV; a Gambia-based petroleum and petroleum products company, Euro African Group LTD; and Lebanon-based Africa Middle East Investment Holding SAL, Premier Investment Group SAL Offshore; and Car Escort Services S.A.L. Off Shore (CES), an import/export company based in Lebanon. This is the third action in the past week in which OFAC has designated terrorists with a connection to the Central Bank of Iran.

“This action highlights the duplicity and disgraceful conduct of Hizballah and its Iranian backers. Despite Nasrallah’s claims, Hizballah uses financiers like Bazzi who are tied to drug dealers, and who launder money to fund terrorism,” said Secretary of the Treasury Steven T. Mnuchin. “The savage and depraved acts of one of Hizballah’s most prominent financiers cannot be tolerated. This Administration will expose and disrupt Hizballah and Iranian terror networks at every turn, including those with ties to the Central Bank of Iran.”

As a result of today’s action, all property and interests in property of these persons that are in the United States or in the possession or control of U.S. persons must be blocked and reported to OFAC. OFAC’s regulations generally prohibit all dealings by U.S. persons or within (or transiting) the United States that involve any property or interests in property of blocked or designated persons.
Today’s actions show the convergence of Iran’s support for terrorism with many facets of illicit criminal activity, including narcotics trafficking. In addition to providing millions of dollars to Hizballah, Mohammad Bazzi is a close associate of Yahya Jammeh, the corrupt former leader of The Gambia who, in addition to ordering targeted assassinations, plundered The Gambia’s state coffers for his personal gain. In addition, Bazzi has business ties to the Ayman Joumaa Drug Trafficking and Money Laundering Organization. As Hizballah’s chief benefactor, Iran is complicit in the despicable behavior of Bazzi. Specifically, Abdallah Safi-Al-Din, Hizballah’s representative to Iran and cousin of Hasan Nasrallah, Hizballah’s Secretary General, worked with Bazzi to reestablish a political relationship between The Gambia and Iran. Moreover, Bazzi and Safi-Al-Din previously worked with the Central Bank of Iran, which OFAC recently identified as being complicit in facilitating the IRGC-QF’s access to hundreds of millions of dollars in U.S. currency, to expand banking access between Iran and Lebanon.

BepiColombo teamwork

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ESA.- The Flight Control and Software Support Teams at ESA's Space Operations Centre in Germany are ensuring that the vital elements are ready for a simulation campaign ahead of the launch of BepiColombo, the ESA-JAXA mission to Mercury in October 2018.

The Flight Control Team rehearsed the post-launch deployment of the Medium Gain Antenna, switching on and checking out the MTM Electric Propulsion System and configuring the spacecraft for cruise mode.

Engineers also checked the Mission Control System, spacecraft simulator, flight control procedures and Operations Control Centre facilities.
 
The full-scale simulations start on 28 May 2018 and will involve the complete Mission Control Team, including Flight Dynamics colleagues, Project and Industry Support teams and experts from the Estrack network of ground stations.

N. Korea Escalates Threat to Pull Out of Summit with US

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CoreadelNorte11SEOUL, (BRIAN PADDEN-VOANEWS).- North Korea’s sudden threat to pull out of the upcoming summit with the U.S. raises new doubts of whether a denuclearization deal is possible.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un agreed to meet with U.S President Donald Trump in Singapore on June 12 to work out an agreement to end the North’s nuclear program in exchange for security guarantees and an end to punishing international sanctions.

But on Wednesday North Korea’s Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye Kwan released a statement through the state-run KCNA news agency that criticized “unbridled remarks” made specifically by the U.S. president’s National Security Adviser John Bolton demanding that Pyongyang completely decommission its entire nuclear arsenal, along with its ballistic missile program and chemical weapons stockpile, before receiving any compensation or concessions.

He expressed “indignation” at the U.S uncompromising position and said North Korea might pull out of the Trump-Kim summit, unless the Trump administration acts with “sincerity” to improve relations through dialogue.

“If the United States is trying to drive us into a corner to force our unilateral nuclear abandonment, we will no longer be interested in such dialogue and cannot but reconsider our proceeding to the North Korea-U.S. summit,” the statement said.

The vice foreign minister also said it was “absolutely absurd” that Bolton would compare Libya’s experience dismantling its relatively rudimentary nuclear program as a model for dealing with the North’s more advanced and expansive capabilities.

He also denounced the Trump administration for “miscalculating the magnanimity” of Kim Jong Un’s decision to suspend further nuclear and missile tests, and his willingness to engage in nuclear talks, as “signs of weakness,” that were the result of what the U.S. administration has dubbed its “maximum pressure” campaign that led international efforts to impose punishing sanctions banning 90% of North Korean trade.

​The vice minister’s remarks came shortly after the North abruptly canceled inter-Korean talks planned for Wednesday, citing ongoing joint military drills between South Korea and the U.S.

Last week American and South Korea forces began their two-week Max Thunder exercise that involves 100 aircraft, including eight F-22 radar-evading jets, as well as F-15 and F-16 fighter jets. The North derided the drills as a rehearsal for invasion that undermines improving inter-Korean ties.

Cautious reactions

The U.S. and South Korea reacted with caution to North Korea’s more confrontational posture.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo conferred with South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha on Wednesday and said the U.S. would continue planning for the upcoming Trump-Kim summit but continue to monitor the situation.

Pompeo, who recently met with the North Korean leader in Pyongyang to prepare for the summit, said on Sunday that the U.S. would lift sanctions on North Korea if it agreed to completely dismantle its nuclear weapons program.

However, Kim Kye Gwan's statement appeared to reject such an arrangement, saying North Korea would never give up its nuclear program in exchange for economic trade with the United States.

Wednesday’s denouncement of the joint drills also seemed to contradict what the North Korean leader reportedly said earlier this year. A South Korean diplomatic envoy that met with Kim in Pyongyang this year, said the North Korean leader had dropped his objection to U.S., South Korea military exercises as a barrier to developing a peace agreement.

The South Korean Unification Ministry said it was “regrettable” that the North unilaterally postponed ministerial-level inter-Korean talks, and the North’s cancelation of talks was not in line with the “spirit of the recent Panmunjom Declaration” calling for increased cross border cooperation that was signed by Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in at the inter-Korean summit.

"The South Korean government has a firm willingness to faithfully implement the Panmunjom Declaration and is urging the North to respond quickly to the talks for peace and prosperity on the Korean Peninsula," said Baik Tae-Hyun, South Korea's Unification Ministry spokesperson.

Bargaining positions

It is unclear if the North’s threat to pull out of the summit with the U.S. reflects a change in policy or a negotiating tactic to exploit Trump’s repeated claims that he may achieve a historic diplomatic breakthrough with North Korea that has eluded past presidents.

“If you signal you are desperate for some kind of deal, then your counterpart can sense that you are willing to make concessions, and they can drive a hard bargain, and this could be a reflection of that,” said Daniel Pinkston, a North Korea analyst with Troy University in Seoul.

The more aggressive stance taken by the North may also reflect growing pressure from conservative elements within the military or Communist Party that are worried the U.S. seems to be unilaterally dictating the terms for a nuclear deal.

“It is true that North Korea is anxious about the situation where it needs to back down on everything to the U.S.,” said Ahn Chan-il, a North Korean defector and analyst with the World Institute of North Korea Studies in Seoul.

John Delury, a North Korea analyst with Yonsei University in Seoul suggested on Twitter that the U.S. and South Korea address the North’s sudden threat to withdraw from talks by making a small but meaningful good-will gesture, given that the Kim government has already made a number of concessions, including releasing three American prisoners, and suspending missile and nuclear tests.

However North Korea skeptics say the Kim government should not be rewarded for merely meeting its minimum obligations by suspending nuclear and missile tests that violate U.N. restrictions or for releasing prisoners that were unjustly apprehended by the repressive state.

Lee Yoon-jee contributed to this report.

https://www.voanews.com/a/us-north-korea-summitin-in-danger-of-cancellation/4396062.html

Tags: South Korea The United Sates, North Korea