NUCLEAR

A cargo train loaded with coal dust, moves past the port area near City Station in Karachi
A cargo train loaded with coal dust, moves past the port area near City Station in Karachi, Pakistan September 24, 2018. Picture taken September 24, 2018. REUTERS/Akhtar Soomro

April 24, 2019

SHANGHAI (Reuters) – People living in countries along China’s new “Silk Road” favor investment in renewable energy over the construction of coal-fired power plants, according to a poll released on Wednesday ahead of a major summit in Beijing.

Environmental group E3G, which commissioned the poll, said the results showed there was little support for investment in coal, despite China’s role as a major funder of new plants.

“China should now work with governments, business and investors at the upcoming forum to make sure these demands are met,” said Nick Mabey, chief executive of E3G.

The survey was released ahead of China’s second international forum on its 2013 Belt and Road initiative, which is designed to build infrastructure and encourage trade and economic cooperation along the old Silk Road route connecting China to Europe and elsewhere.

According to a draft communique seen by Reuters, world leaders attending the summit will call for sustainable financing that promotes green growth.

But concerns have been raised that China is using the program to export substandard polluting technologies, even as it boosts the share of renewable power at home in a bid to cut smog and climate-warming greenhouse gases.

The YouGov poll of more than 6,000 people covered Indonesia, Pakistan, Philippines, South Africa, Turkey and Vietnam, which are among the top 10 locations for the construction of new coal-fired power plants, with many backed by Chinese developers.

Over 85 percent of those surveyed said they favored investment by foreign governments, banks and companies in renewable projects, while less than a third said they favored investments in coal.

More than 90 percent said solar power should be a priority. Coal-fired power was less popular than nuclear in four of the six countries.

In a separate announcement on Wednesday, a coalition of Chinese environmental groups urged Beijing to draw up green guiding principles for investment in Belt and Road countries.

“The host country’s climate objectives and the long-term impact of investment activities on the local environment must be taken into consideration,” said Yang Fuqiang, a senior climate advisor with the Natural Resources Defense Council.

(Reporting by David Stanway; editing by Richard Pullin)

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FILE PHOTO: Japan's Emperor Akihito, accompanied by Empress Michiko, waves to well-wishers before leaving Ujiyamada Station after their visit to Ise Jingu shrine in Ise, Japan
FILE PHOTO: Japan’s Emperor Akihito, accompanied by Empress Michiko, waves to well-wishers before leaving Ujiyamada Station after their visit to Ise Jingu shrine in Ise in the central Japanese prefecture of Mie, April 18, 2019, as he takes part in a series of rituals ahead of his abdication. Kazuhiro Nogi/Pool via REUTERS

April 24, 2019

By Linda Sieg

TOKYO (Reuters) – Japanese Emperor Akihito’s abdication on April 30 will end the three-decade Heisei era that began on Jan. 8, 1989, one day after he inherited the throne upon the death of his father, Hirohito.

Below are key events and changes during his reign.

BURST BUBBLE, LOST DECADES

Japan’s “bubble economy” of soaring asset prices was in its final stages when Akihito ascended the throne. The Nikkei share average hit a record high of 38,957.44 on Dec. 29, 1989, but began to slide in 1990. Land prices followed.

The bursting of the bubble triggered financial failures, including the November 1997 collapse of “Big Four” brokerage Yamaichi Securities. It also ushered in what came to be known as the lost decades of economic stagnation.

Japan, which had been the world’s second-largest economy after the United States, was overtaken by China in 2010.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe took office in December 2012 promising to revive the economy with an “Abenomics” recipe that included a hyper-easy monetary policy, ushering in expansion but leaving doubts about the sustainability of growth.

AGING, SHRINKING POPULATION

Demographers had forecast Japan’s population decline even before Akihito took the throne. That decline became a reality when the population hit a peak of about 128 million in 2010.

The population was 126.4 million in October and the decline would have been bigger without an increase in foreign residents.

Data released in April showed the percentage of those aged 65 and over was 28.1 percent; the working age population fell to just under 60 percent.

A historic labor shortage pushed Japan to enact a new visa system that took effect this month, allowing in more blue-collar workers despite concerns among conservatives about a threat to social stability.

DISASTERS

Japan suffered several disasters – natural and manmade – during the Heisei era.

A magnitude 7.3 earthquake hit central Japan on Jan. 15, 1995, devastating the western port of Kobe and killing more than 6,400 people.

Just over two months later, members of the Aum Shinrikyo cult carried out a sarin nerve agent attack on the Tokyo subway on March 20, 1995, killing 13 people, injuring at least 5,800 and shattering the country’s myth of public safety.

A magnitude 9.0 earthquake hit northeast Japan on March 11, 2011, triggering a tsunami that killed nearly 20,000 people and caused meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. Many people are still in temporary housing.

ELASTIC PACIFISM

In 1991, Japan, constrained by its pacifist post-war constitution, sent cash but no troops for the first Gulf War.

Stung by criticism of the move as “chequebook diplomacy”, governments stretched the limits of the constitution, dispatching troops to Iraq on a reconstruction mission in 2004 and enacting legislation in 2015 that would allow its military to fight abroad for the first time since 1945.

Japan has increased military outlays under Abe to counter a Chinese military buildup, and now spends about what Britain does on defense.

Abe wants to revise the pacifist constitution to clarify the military’s ambiguous status, but the public remains divided.

REVOLVING-DOOR PREMIERS

Japan was bedevilled for much of the era by a string of “revolving door” prime ministers, including Noboru Takeshita, who quit in June 1989 over a shares-for-favors scandal.

Seventeen prime ministers served – including Abe twice – with only maverick Junichiro Koizumi (2001-2006) and Abe in his current term showing staying power.

The long-ruling conservative Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) was briefly ousted in 1993 but returned in an alliance with Socialists the next year.

In 2009, the LDP was toppled again by the Democratic Party of Japan, whose rocky rule under three premiers ended when Abe led the LDP back to power in 2012.

CULTURE

In the 1990s, Japanese pop culture – in the form of anime and manga – swept the wider world with “Dragon Ball Z” and “Pokemon” leading the way. By the end of the Heisei era, many manga were translated into multiple foreign languages.

Among the giants was director Hayao Miyazaki and his Studio Ghibli, whose “Spirited Away” won a 2003 Academy Award.

Foreign fans also joined their Japanese counterparts in “cosplay”, short for “costume play”, dressing up as their favorite anime characters.

(Reporting and writing by Linda Sieg. Editing by Malcolm Foster and Gerry Doyle)

Source: OANN

Vice Admiral Shen Jinlong, commander of the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) Navy, speaks at a welcome reception for the commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the founding of the China's navy in Qingdao
Vice Admiral Shen Jinlong, commander of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy, speaks at a welcome reception for the commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the founding of the China’s navy in Qingdao, Shandong province, China, April 22, 2019. Mark Schiefelbein/Pool via REUTERS

April 24, 2019

By Ben Blanchard

QINGDAO, China (Reuters) – Freedom of navigation should not be used to infringe upon the rights of other countries, China’s navy chief Shen Jinlong said on Wednesday, taking a dig at the United States and its allies who have sailed close to disputed South China Sea islets.

The United States has frequently sent warships near to Chinese-occupied features in the South China Sea, where China has been reclaiming land for runways and ports. Some U.S. allies, including Britain, have followed suit.

China regards the patrols by the United States and its allies as a provocation, as it views almost all of the South China Sea as its territory, although Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan, Brunei and the Philippines all have competing claims.

Speaking at a forum in the eastern city of Qingdao, following a major naval parade marking 70 years since the founding of the Chinese navy, Shen said everyone needed to follow the rules and “safeguard good order”.

“Respect for the rules is the cornerstone of maritime good order,” said Shen, who is close to President Xi Jinping.

“Freedom of navigation is a concept widely recognized by the international community. However it should not be used as an excuse to infringe upon the legitimate rights and interests of littoral states,” he added, without naming the United States directly.

The United States has sent only a low level delegation to the Chinese navy anniversary events. And unlike its close allies Australia, Japan and South Korea, the United States did not send a ship to take part in Tuesday’s naval parade reviewed by Xi himself.

“The U.S. government seeks a bilateral relationship that is results-oriented and focused on risk reduction,” Lt. Col. Dave Eastburn, a Pentagon spokesman, said in comments sent to Reuters, responding to a question on U.S. participation at the event.

“The U.S. Navy will continue to pursue its primary goal of constructive, risk-reduction focused discourse with the PLAN,” he said, referring to the People’s Liberation Army Navy.

Shen said that China was continuing to advance talks on the Code of Conduct for the South China Sea, which Beijing has been having with Southeast Asian states for the past few years.

“We are committed to making the South China Sea a sea of peace, friendship and cooperation,” he added, speaking to an audience of both senior Chinese and foreign navy officers, but without giving details.

The navy has been a key beneficiary of Xi’s ambitious military modernization plan, which has seen China develop aircraft carriers, advanced new warships and nuclear submarines, and stealth jets for the air force.

“We adhere to non-conflict and non-confrontation and strive to be a stabilizer for maritime peace,” Shen said.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)

Source: OANN

Kenji Saito cooks at his ramen noodle shop in Tokyo
Kenji Saito cooks at his ramen noodle shop in Tokyo, Japan April 12, 2019. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-hoon

April 24, 2019

By Linda Sieg and Kwiyeon Ha

TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan’s Heisei era, which began when Emperor Akihito inherited the throne on Jan. 7, 1989, and ends when he abdicates on April 30, saw economic stagnation, disasters and technological change.

Generations of Japanese lived through those decades. Their differing views and experiences will shape the legacy of the Heisei years.

WARTIME EXPERIENCES

For decades, Haruyo Nihei kept her wartime memories locked away: mothers and infants burnt alive by incendiary bombs; herself struggling under corpses of fleeing victims; her sister’s body covered with maggot-infested burns.

But in 2002, almost six decades after World War Two ended and 13 years after Akihito took the throne, she decided to speak out. The trigger: a visit to a new museum about the March 10, 1945, U.S. firebombing that killed an estimated 100,000 people in Tokyo.

Nihei, now 82, still hopes that by recounting her experience as an eight-year-old in the final days of the conflict, she can convey the horrors of war to young Japanese who know only peace.

“Children today … don’t know anything about war and that’s wonderful. But if they don’t know about how Japan fought a war some 70 years ago, we may follow a mistaken path again,” Nihei told Reuters before speaking to students at the museum.

Preventing Japan from forgetting the tragedy of war has been a consistent priority of Akihito, in the name of whose father, Hirohito, Japanese troops fought World War Two.

Nihei said she admired Akihito’s efforts, including trips to overseas battle sites such as Saipan in 2005 to pray for war dead from Japan and other countries.

“When I saw the image of the emperor and empress (bowing at a seaside cliff) on Saipan, I felt they were truly sorry for the sins the Emperor Showa had committed,” she said, referring to Hirohito by his posthumous name. “I was moved.”

But she worries the wartime past has little resonance for today’s Japanese youth.

“I want them to study about the past properly and link that to the future,” she said.

BURST BUBBLE

For Kenji Saito, Heisei was a time of shocking change and liberating opportunity.

Saito, a former computer systems engineer, was on a business trip in November 1997 when he got a phone call.

“Don’t you work for Yamaichi?” a relative asked.

Media had reported Yamaichi Securities, Japan’s oldest and fourth-largest brokerage, was headed for collapse under the weight of losses hidden for years after the “bubble economy” of soaring asset prices burst.

The image of Yamaichi’s then-president Shohei Nozawa apologizing and crying as he begged for jobs for the firm’s nearly 8,000 employees became a symbol of the financial turmoil that ushered in Japan’s “lost decade” of stagnation.

The Heisei era also saw the unraveling of a lifetime employment system that was once a pillar of the country’s post-war rise.

“No one ever thought Yamaichi would collapse,” said Saito, who had joined the firm as a 22-year-old college graduate.

After the brokerage failed, he worked for a computer systems company run by his former boss. By 2005, he’d had enough of the corporate rat race and left to start a ramen shop that has since expanded to 10 restaurants.

The economic stagnation of much of the era has left a gloomy taste for many, but Saito said he felt liberated.

“I think for myself and can act on my own,” he said. “For me, the Heisei years were good.”

Still, he worries too many Japanese lack entrepreneurial spirit. “People want stability. To put it negatively, they lack the spirit to challenge.”

FUTURE ANGST

A massive natural disaster, technological change, and anxiety about the future are what university student Yuri Harada thinks of when she ponders the Heisei era.

Harada was 11 when a massive 9.0-magnitude earthquake and tsunami hit northeast Japan on March 11, 2011, triggering a nuclear meltdown in Fukushima.

“Even in Tokyo, the shaking was strong and students panicked,” said Harada, 19 and a student at Waseda University. She walked three hours to get home because trains had stopped and later saw the devastation on TV. “It was really shocking.”

In elementary school, Harada longed for a smartphone, just beginning to spread in Japan. At first, her parents said it was too costly, but by the time she was in junior high, the devices were ubiquitous.

“I feel as if the advance of technology corresponded with my growing up,” she said.

Japan is in the midst of a historic labor shortage, but Harada recalled the “employment ice age” her elders suffered through after the economic bubble burst. She is concerned a potential downturn could wreck the job market again.

“Frankly … I worry whether this sellers’ market will persist,” she said.

Longer-term, she worries whether Japan’s social stability will crumble.

Japan this month introduced a visa program to let in more blue-collar workers, a big step in the immigration-shy country.

“If we don’t do this properly, we could follow the same path” as Western countries gripped by anger over immigration, said Harada, who has studied abroad and majors in international relations.

Such fears cloud her hopes for the new “Reiwa” imperial era, which begins on May 1.

“I’d like to be optimistic, but I can’t,” she said.

(Writing by Linda Sieg; Editing by Gerry Doyle)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: A combination of file photos North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and Russia's President Vladimir Putin
FILE PHOTO: A combination of file photos shows North Korean leader Kim Jong Un attending a wreath laying ceremony at Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum in Hanoi, Vietnam March 2, 2019 and Russia’s President Vladimir Putin looking during a joint news conference with South African President Jacob Zuma after their meeting at the Bocharov Ruchei residence in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, Krasnodar region, Russia, May 16, 2013. REUTERS/Jorge Silva/Pool/Maxim Shipenkov/Pool/File Photo

April 23, 2019

SEOUL (Reuters) – North Korean leader Kim Jong Un departed for Russia on Wednesday morning by private train, state media Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said on Wednesday.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and Russian President Vladimir Putin will meet on Thursday in the Russian Pacific port of Vladivostok to discuss the international standoff over Pyongyang’s nuclear program, a Kremlin official previously said.

(Reporting by Joyce Lee; Editing by Chris Reese)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: A combination of file photos North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and Russia's President Vladimir Putin
FILE PHOTO: A combination of file photos shows North Korean leader Kim Jong Un attending a wreath laying ceremony at Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum in Hanoi, Vietnam March 2, 2019 and Russia’s President Vladimir Putin looking during a joint news conference with South African President Jacob Zuma after their meeting at the Bocharov Ruchei residence in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, Krasnodar region, Russia, May 16, 2013. REUTERS/Jorge Silva/Pool/Maxim Shipenkov/Pool/File Photo

April 23, 2019

MOSCOW (Reuters) – North Korean leader Kim Jong Un will meet Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Russian eastern city of Vladivostok on Thursday, Kremlin aide Yuri Ushakov told reporters on Tuesday.

The leaders will discuss political and diplomatic efforts to settle the nuclear issue on the Korean peninsula, and Kim’s visit is key in this process, Ushakov said.

He said Russia’s bilateral trade with North Korea fell by more than 56 percent last year because of sanctions against Pyongyang but Moscow thinks it is important that North Korea and the United States are interested in maintaining their contact.

(Reporting by Vladimir Soldatkin; Writing by Maria Tsvetkova; Editing by Peter Graff)

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FILE PHOTO: An oil tanker is being loaded at Saudi Aramco's Ras Tanura oil refinery and oil terminal in Saudi Arabia
FILE PHOTO: An oil tanker is being loaded at Saudi Aramco’s Ras Tanura oil refinery and oil terminal in Saudi Arabia May 21, 2018. REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah/File Photo

April 23, 2019

By Rania El Gamal

DUBAI (Reuters) – Gulf OPEC producers can step in to meet any oil supply shortage following a U.S. decision to end waivers on buyers of Iranian crude, but will first wait to see whether there is actual demand, OPEC and industry sources said.

The United States has decided not to renew exemptions from sanctions against Iran granted last year to buyers of Iranian oil, taking a tougher line than expected.

Eight countries, including China and India, were granted waivers for six months, and several had expected those exemptions to be renewed.

A senior U.S. administration official said Trump was confident Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates would fulfill their pledges to compensate for the shortfall in the oil market.

Gulf oil producers are committed to market stability and have the capacity to raise production, but any decision to boost output has to be a measured one depending on demand, the sources said.

“The question is how fast and by how much will OPEC raise output. This still needs to be done after consultations with other countries,” one source said.

“It needs to be discussed and studied. There is an (OPEC) agreement that must be respected, we will not (raise output) immediately for sure.”

Another OPEC source said any decision to raise output must depend on demand.

“There must be actual impact on the market and a real demand from customers,” this source said, adding that any physical additional barrels by Gulf oil producers to compensate for a supply drop from Iran are unlikely to be seen until June.

Saudi Arabia’s oil exports in May are not expected to be much higher than April, two sources said.

The sources said Saudi Arabia’s May oil output will be higher than April, but still within its production target under the OPEC+ supply-cutting deal of 10.3 million bpd. The rise in Saudi May oil output is not related to Iran sanctions, the sources said.

The kingdom’s exports in April will be below 7 million barrels per day, while production is around 9.8 million bpd, Saudi officials said.

Washington reimposed sanctions in November on Iran’s oil exports after U.S. President Donald Trump pulled out of a 2015 nuclear accord between Iran and six world powers.

Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih said on Monday that his country, the world’s top oil exporter, was monitoring oil market developments after the U.S. statement. He also said Riyadh would coordinate with other oil producers to ensure a balanced market and adequate supply.

A source familiar with Saudi thinking told Reuters on Monday that the country was willing to compensate for any potential loss of crude supply from Iran, but would assess the impact on the market before raising output.

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, Russia and other producers, an alliance known as OPEC+, are reducing output by 1.2 million bpd from Jan. 1 for six months. They meet on June 25-26 to decide whether to extend the pact.

On May 19, a panel of energy ministers from major oil producers, known as the JMMC, is due to discuss the oil market and make recommendations ahead of the June policy meeting, the sources said.

(Reporting by Rania El Gamal. Editing by Dale Hudson and Jane Merriman)

Source: OANN

@DNC blink on immediate #impeachment of @realDonaldTrump & Sanders thinks the #BostonBomber should #Vote #MagaFirstNews w/@PeterBoykin DEMS BLINK ON PURSUING TRUMP IMPEACHMENT — FOR NOW: Leaders of the House Democrats backed off the idea of immediately launching impeachment proceedings against President Trump in an urgent conference call Monday evening amid a growing rift among the party’s rank-and-file members, presidential contenders and committee chairs … Fox News is told by two See More senior sources on the private conference call that even House Financial Services Committee Chair Maxine Waters, an anti-Trump firebrand, told fellow Democrats that while she personally favored going forward with impeachment proceedings, she was not pushing for other members to join her. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and her leadership team were clear there were no immediate plans to move forward with impeachment, Fox News is also told. Pelosi told fellow Democrats she favors more investigations of Trump to “save our democracy.” POST-MUELLER INVESTIGATIONS: If Nancy Pelosi favors more investigations of Trump, she will not be disappointed … House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., on Monday subpoenaed former White House counsel Don McGahn to testify publicly on May 21, following last week’s release of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report on the Russia investigation.Nadler described McGahn, who stepped down as White House counsel in October 2018, as “a critical witness to many of the alleged instances of obstruction of justice and other misconduct described in the Special Counsel’s report.” He has set a May 7 deadline for him to provide documents related to the Mueller investigation. Meanwhile, lawyers for President Trump have sued to block a subpoena issued by members of Congress that sought the business magnate’s financial records. OFFICIALS REPEATEDLY WARNED ABOUT GROUP BEHIND SRI LANKA ATTACKS – The purported leader of an Islamic extremist group blamed for an Easter attack in Sri Lanka that killed over 300 people began posting videos online three years ago calling for non-Muslims to be “eliminated,” faith leaders said Tuesday … Much remained unclear about how a little-known group called National Thowfeek Jamaath carried out six large near-simultaneous suicide bombings striking churches and hotels. However, warnings about growing radicalism in this island nation off the coast of India date to at least 2007, while Muslim leaders say their repeated warnings about the group and its leader drew no visible reaction from officials responsible for public security. – Associated Press BERNIE SAYS BOSTON MARATHON BOMBER SHOULD BE ALLOWED TO VOTE: 2020 presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders on Monday defended his stance for granting voting rights to criminals in prison, including the Boston Marathon bomber and convicted sexual assaulters … During a CNN town hall on Monday night, a student asked Sanders if his position would support “enfranchising people” like Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who she noted is a “convicted terrorist and murderer,” as well as those “convicted of sexual assault,” whose votes could have a “direct impact on women’s rights.” Sanders first responded by saying he wanted a “vibrant democracy” with “higher voter turnout” and blasted “cowardly Republican governors” who he said were “trying to suppress the vote.” The Vermont senator then argued that the Constitution says “everybody can vote” and that “some people in jail can vote.” NORTH KOREA’S KIM, PUTIN TO MEET: North Korean leader Kim Jong Un will soon visit Russia to meet with President Vladimir Putin, the North’s state-run Korean Central News Agency confirmed Tuesday without releasing a set date or location for the meeting … The meeting may give Kim more leeway in future negotiations with President Trump after their February summit in Vietnam broke down due to disagreement over ridding North Korea of its nuclear arsenal. The Kremlin announced last week that North Korea’s supreme leader will visit Russia “in the second half of April,” but did not elaborate further. OLD TWEET HAUNTS ILHAN OMAR: A resurfaced tweet from Rep. Ilhan Omar saw the Minnesota Democrat claim U.S. forces killed “thousands” of Somalis during the 1993 “Black Hawk Down” mission — despite multiple analysts concluding the number was much smaller … In the October 2017 tweet discovered by journalist John Rossomando, Omar was responding to a Twitter user who’d highlighted that more than a dozen U.S. soldiers were killed and another 73 were wounded in the Battle of Mogadishu, saying it was the “worst terrorist attack in Somalia history.” Omar, a Somali refugee who was then a Minnesota state representative, refuted the tweet, insisting that “thousands” of Somalis were killed by American forces. The number of Somali casualties in the Battle of Mogadishu is widely disputed.

FILE PHOTO: A Spanish National Police car is seen outside the North Korea's embassy in Madrid
FILE PHOTO: A Spanish National Police car is seen outside the North Korea’s embassy in Madrid, Spain February 28, 2019. REUTERS/Sergio Perez/File Photo

April 23, 2019

(Reuters) – A former U.S. Marine who is a member of a group accused of raiding the North Korean embassy in Madrid in February and stealing electronics is scheduled to appear in a Los Angeles federal court on Tuesday for a detention hearing.

Christopher Ahn is expected to appear before Central District of California Magistrate Judge Jean Rosenbluth at 2 p.m. (2100 GMT), according to a court calendar posted online.

It is unclear what charges Ahn faces as the case has been sealed. A source familiar with the case told Reuters that the defense requested the case be sealed while prosecutors were willing to allow to have case records unsealed.

Ahn was arrested on Thursday and appeared on Friday in federal court, according to a law enforcement official and a source close to the group.

A U.S. Justice Department spokeswoman declined to comment on the case last week.

Ahn was part of a group of at least 10 people accused of storming into the North Korean embassy in Madrid, where they restrained, beat up some personnel and held them hostage for hours before fleeing on Feb. 22, according to a Spanish court.

A judicial source in Madrid said last month that the group was trying to persuade a North Korean official there to defect, adding a Spanish judge wants the suspects extradited from United States.

Spanish investigators said the intruders, self-professed members of a group that calls itself Cheollima Civil Defense seeking the overthrow of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, removed computers and hard drives from the embassy before fleeing to the United States where they handed over the material to the FBI.

The FBI has returned the material to the Spanish court investigating the raid and a Spanish judicial source said last week that Spanish authorities had returned the material to Pyongyang’s mission.

The anti-Kim group, which also calls itself Free Joseon, said the raid was not an attack. It said had been invited into the embassy.

The incident came at a sensitive time, just days ahead of a second summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un at which the U.S. leader failed to make progress in efforts to persuade North Korea to give up a nuclear weapons program.

North Korea’s foreign ministry denounced the incident as a “grave terrorist attack” and cited rumors that the FBI was partially behind the raid. The U.S. State Department has said Washington had nothing to do with it.

(Writing by Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee; Editing by Sandra Maler)

Source: OANN

Guillermo Giralt, technical director of Cauchari Solar, stands next to solar panels at a solar farm, built on the back of funding and technology from China, in Salar de Cauchari
Guillermo Giralt, technical director of Cauchari Solar, stands next to solar panels at a solar farm, built on the back of funding and technology from China, in Salar de Cauchari, Argentina, April 3, 2019. Picture taken April 3, 2019. REUTERS/Miguel Lobianco

April 23, 2019

By Cassandra Garrison

JUJUY, Argentina (Reuters) – In an arid, lunar-like landscape in the sunny highlands of northern Argentina, South America’s largest solar farm is rising, powered by funding and technology from China.

Local officials said they had sought help at home, the United States and Europe without success. Potential lenders and partners, they said, were spooked by the project’s size and the fiscal woes of Jujuy province, one of the poorest in the country.

The Import-Export Bank of China saw it differently. The state-funded institution financed 85 percent of the project’s nearly $400-million pricetag. At 3 percent annual interest over 15 years, it is “cheap money” for Jujuy, a person familiar with the terms said. The catch: the province had to purchase nearly 80 percent of the materials from Chinese suppliers.

Those companies include Huawei Technologies, the Chinese telecom giant under fire from U.S. President Donald Trump. Some in his administration have concluded, without presenting evidence, that Huawei’s equipment provides the Chinese military with a “backdoor” to spy on users or cripple their networks. In Jujuy, the company is supplying inverters, technology that turns power from solar panels into useable current and serves as a critical gateway to the electrical grid.

The project, known as Cauchari, is a testament to the rising clout of Beijing as a backer of big projects in cash-strapped emerging markets. And it is helping China cement its standing as the world’s leader in clean-energy technology.

At a time when Trump is doubling down on fossil fuels and withdrawing the United States from global partnerships, Chinese President Xi Jinping’s sprawling “Belt and Road” initiative aims to put Chinese companies and innovation at the center of infrastructure development worldwide, including next-generation power sources.

“It is a way of expanding China’s growing global presence and dominant economic force, and it progressively reorients the world from the U.S. and European-centric view of the last fifty years,” said Tim Buckley, director for the U.S-based Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis.

(For a graphic on China’s solar strength, see https://tmsnrt.rs/2IBwZJD)

The trend is rattling Trump administration officials.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, speaking April 12 in Santiago, Chile on a tour of South America, slammed China’s “predatory” lending practices, which critics say leave borrowers beholden to Beijing.

He warned repeatedly that Chinese technology, including equipment made by Huawei, poses a security risk that could affect information sharing by the United States.

“It is not okay to put technology systems in with latent capability to take information from citizens of Chile or any other country and transfer it back to President Xi’s government,” Pompeo said.

But in hardscrabble Jujuy province, home to around 750,000 people, officials are in no mood for a scolding. Argentina has set ambitious renewable energy targets. It is China, they say, not the United States, that is stepping up with money and technology to assist them.

“China…was the one that more generously opened its doors to finance this project,” Carlos Oehler, president of Jujuy’s energy agency JEMSE, told Reuters in an interview in the provincial capital of San Salvador.

Goodwill from the solar deal has led Jujuy to make purchases from other Chinese vendors, including a contract for surveillance equipment. Governor Gerardo Morales told Reuters that Jujuy and the southern Chinese province of Guizhou have established a “brotherhood” relationship that he is optimistic will lead to more tie-ups.

“We have received visits from many Chinese companies,” Morales said.

Huawei, the world’s biggest supplier of solar inverters, has repeatedly denied it poses any security risks. The company said in a statement it would continue to provide its customers with “innovative, trusted and secure solutions.”

POWERED BY CHINA

At more than 4,000 meters above sea level, Cauchari is one of the highest solar farms in the world. Reuters is among the few media outlets ever to see it. Rows of panels stretch toward the horizon, while boxes of still-packed equipment wait to be installed. Visitors check in at an on-site clinic to have their blood pressure and heart rates monitored because of the risk of altitude sickness.

Expected to begin sending current to the grid in August, the facility will generate up to 300 megawatts of electricity, enough to power 120,000 homes. A planned expansion to 500MW would boost that to 260,000 homes and bring the project’s total cost to $551 million, provincial officials said.

On the windy dirt track leading to the construction site, signs in Spanish and Mandarin proclaim the involvement of state-owned PowerChina construction company and equipment manufacturer Shanghai Electric.

It is yet another indicator of Beijing’s rising influence in the region. China is the top buyer of South American soybeans, iron ore and other commodities, while Chinese investors are snapping up stakes in key sectors such as energy.

In Argentina alone, China has financed hydroelectric dams and wind farms, and the government is in talks for a Beijing-bankrolled nuclear power project, potentially using China’s own Hualong One reactor design. China has invested some $5.7 billion in energy projects in Argentina since 2000, according to data compiled by the Global Development Policy Center at Boston University. 

Argentina’s U.S.-educated President Mauricio Macri attended China’s first Belt and Road Forum in Beijing in 2017, a signal of the tightening embrace between the two nations. A number of Latin American officials are expected to be at the second forum later this month in the Chinese capital.

China has spent more than $244 billion on energy projects worldwide since 2000, a quarter of that in Latin America, according to the Global Development Policy Center data. While the vast majority of that capital has flowed to oil, gas and coal assets, China has been the largest investor in clean energy globally for nine straight years, according to the Chinese embassy in Buenos Aires.

China is the world’s largest manufacturer of solar panels and inverters, dominance that has seen European and U.S. producers struggle to compete. The Trump administration last year slapped steep tariffs on imported panels, citing unfair competition. But many renewable energy experts credit falling prices for speeding global adoption of solar.

So has China’s willingness to finance clean-energy projects in the developing world, opening doors for other Chinese firms. In Jujuy province, for example, the local government inked a deal with Chinese tech giant ZTE to supply it with fiber optic telecommunications systems and hundreds of surveillance cameras in the wake of the solar project.

“(Cauchari) paved the way – a highway – for all other projects,” a person familiar with the situation told Reuters.

Jujuy’s pivot to China underscores the challenge for the United States, whose warnings about the pitfalls of Chinese backing are no match for Beijing’s outreach and resources.

Jujuy Governor Morales recently traveled to China to discuss the Cauchari expansion with PowerChina and the Import-Export Bank of China, one of several trips local officials have made to the Asian nation over the past few years.

Jujuy, with its soon-to-be launched clean power and low seismic risk, is trying to position itself as an attractive location for companies to place their data centers. Morales said Chinese universities in Guizhou are helping Jujuy scale the learning curve, attention for which the long-ignored province is grateful.

“Suddenly Jujuy is recognized in China,” Morales said. “We have a path open there.”

(Reporting by Cassandra Garrison; Editing by Adam Jourdan and Marla Dickerson)

Source: OANN


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