Duterte threatens martial law

Author: 
AFP, AP
Mon, 2017-01-16
ID: 
1484509298848651700

MANILA: Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has threatened to impose martial rule to prosecute his deadly war on drugs, three decades after the nation shed dictatorship with a famous “People Power” revolt.
“If I wanted to, and it (the illegal drugs problem) will deteriorate into something really very virulent, I will declare martial law if I wanted to. No one will be able to stop me,” Duterte said in a speech on Saturday night.
The 71-year-old former state prosecutor said the aim would be “to preserve the Filipino people and the youth of this land.”
Duterte won elections in May last year on a pledge to wipe out illegal drugs, promising an unprecedented crackdown to stop the Philippines from becoming what he termed a narco state.
The crackdown has left at least 5,700 people dead in just over six months, raising concerns of a breakdown in the rule of law with security forces and vigilantes carrying out extrajudicial killings.
The Philippines’ longtime ally, the US, has led international criticism of the killings, with outgoing President Barack Obama urging Duterte to prosecute his war “the right way.”
Duterte has reacted furiously to the criticism and vowed to continue his war until illegal drugs are eradicated.
Duterte has raised the prospect of imposing martial law previously.
However Saturday’s comments were the most direct threat.
Martial rule would allow Duterte to use the military to enforce civilian law and detain people at length without charging them.
The Philippines last endured martial law during the 20-year rule of dictator Ferdinand Marcos, who was accused of plundering billions of dollars from state coffers and overseeing widespread human rights abuses.
Marcos declared martial law in 1972, invoking the threats of crime and a communist insurgency, and lifted it in 1981.
His rule ended in 1986, when millions took to the streets in the largely bloodless military-backed “People Power” revolt.
Separately, Duterte said he has ordered his troops to bomb extremists who flee with their captives in a bid to stop a wave of kidnappings at sea, calling the loss of civilian lives in such an attack “collateral damage.”
Duterte has previously stated that he had told his Indonesian and Malaysian counterparts their forces can blast away as they pursue militants who abduct sailors in waters where the three countries converge and bring their kidnap victims to the southern Philippines. He said in a speech late Saturday that he had given the same orders to Filipino forces.
He said he instructed the navy and the coast guard that “if there are kidnappers and they’re trying to escape, bomb them all.”
“They say ‘hostages.’ Sorry, collateral damage,” he said in a speech to business people in Davao, his southern hometown.
He said such an approach would enable the government to get even with the ransom-seeking militants. “You can’t gain mileage for your wrongdoing, I will really have you blasted,” he said.
His advice to potential victims? “So, really, don’t allow yourselves to be kidnapped.”
Duterte’s remarks reflect the alarm and desperation of the Philippines, along with Malaysia and Indonesia, in halting a series of ransom kidnappings primarily by Abu Sayyaf militants and their allies along a busy waterway for regional trade.

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Japan, Indonesia vow deeper ties

Author: 
The Associated Press
Mon, 2017-01-16
ID: 
1484509298738650800

BOGOR, Indonesia: Japan and Indonesia on Sunday affirmed a deepening of economic and political ties during a visit by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who is using a four-nation tour of Asia to underscore his government’s role in countering China’s assertiveness in the South China Sea.
After meeting with Abe, Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo said the increase in Japanese investment in Indonesia, Southeast Asia’s largest economy, has been “very significant,” doubling to $4.5 billion in January-September of last year.
He said the meeting was “warm, open and productive,” and that the countries agreed that their defense and foreign ministers would meet in Indonesia this year under a new forum they established in 2015 to increase maritime cooperation.
Jokowi said there were agreements on development of the Patimban deep-sea port and the Masela gas field in Indonesia, and for preliminary discussions on a Jakarta-Surabaya rail line.
Abe said an Indonesian-Japanese joint venture company would develop Patimban. He also pledged “business opportunities” worth 74 billion yen ($646 million) for coastal development and irrigation in Indonesia.
Abe’s trip is largely aimed at taking a leadership role in promoting regional cooperation to counter Beijing at a time of increased tension between China and the US and uncertainty about the policies of the incoming Donald Trump administration.
With the tour, Tokyo wants to send a message that its respect for a rules-based international system, in contrast to China’s more aggressive behavior in the South China Sea, where it has vast territorial claims, makes it the best partner for Southeast Asian countries.
Abe said he and Jokowi “exchanged views on the development of the regional situation, including the South China Sea issue that has been a concern for the entire international community that will directly affect the peace and stability of the region.”
“We reiterated the importance of enforcing the principle of the rule of law and peaceful settlement,” he said.
Abe’s swing through Asia has included two of America’s main allies in the region, Australia and the Philippines.
Australia and Japan agreed to greater military cooperation, and in the Philippines, Abe pledged $8.7 billion in business opportunities and investment.
Jokowi said that in his meeting with Abe, he asked for Japan to open access for Indonesian agricultural goods, improve access for Indonesian nurses to work in Japan, commence a review of the Indonesia-Japan economic partnership agreement this year, and grant national carrier Garuda rights for a Jakarta-Tokyo-Los Angeles route.

Main category: 

Japan, Indonesia vow deeper ties

Author: 
The Associated Press
Mon, 2017-01-16
ID: 
1484509298738650800

BOGOR, Indonesia: Japan and Indonesia on Sunday affirmed a deepening of economic and political ties during a visit by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who is using a four-nation tour of Asia to underscore his government’s role in countering China’s assertiveness in the South China Sea.
After meeting with Abe, Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo said the increase in Japanese investment in Indonesia, Southeast Asia’s largest economy, has been “very significant,” doubling to $4.5 billion in January-September of last year.
He said the meeting was “warm, open and productive,” and that the countries agreed that their defense and foreign ministers would meet in Indonesia this year under a new forum they established in 2015 to increase maritime cooperation.
Jokowi said there were agreements on development of the Patimban deep-sea port and the Masela gas field in Indonesia, and for preliminary discussions on a Jakarta-Surabaya rail line.
Abe said an Indonesian-Japanese joint venture company would develop Patimban. He also pledged “business opportunities” worth 74 billion yen ($646 million) for coastal development and irrigation in Indonesia.
Abe’s trip is largely aimed at taking a leadership role in promoting regional cooperation to counter Beijing at a time of increased tension between China and the US and uncertainty about the policies of the incoming Donald Trump administration.
With the tour, Tokyo wants to send a message that its respect for a rules-based international system, in contrast to China’s more aggressive behavior in the South China Sea, where it has vast territorial claims, makes it the best partner for Southeast Asian countries.
Abe said he and Jokowi “exchanged views on the development of the regional situation, including the South China Sea issue that has been a concern for the entire international community that will directly affect the peace and stability of the region.”
“We reiterated the importance of enforcing the principle of the rule of law and peaceful settlement,” he said.
Abe’s swing through Asia has included two of America’s main allies in the region, Australia and the Philippines.
Australia and Japan agreed to greater military cooperation, and in the Philippines, Abe pledged $8.7 billion in business opportunities and investment.
Jokowi said that in his meeting with Abe, he asked for Japan to open access for Indonesian agricultural goods, improve access for Indonesian nurses to work in Japan, commence a review of the Indonesia-Japan economic partnership agreement this year, and grant national carrier Garuda rights for a Jakarta-Tokyo-Los Angeles route.

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Bodies of 7 migrants found off Spain’s southern coast

Author: 
REUTERS, AP
Mon, 2017-01-16
ID: 
1484509298808651100

MADRID: Seven migrants have been found dead off the southern Spanish coast this weekend, a Spanish police spokeswoman said on Sunday, after another at least eight were discovered off the coast of Libya on Saturday.
The bodies were discovered on beaches and floating just off the coast of Tarifa late on Friday and through the day on Saturday, though it was not clear where they had traveled from, the spokeswoman said.
“Unless we find a survivor, we really don’t know what happened or even if these people were traveling on the same raft,” she said.
At least eight migrants died when their boat capsized off the coast of Libya on Saturday.
Spanish, Italian and French coast guards work together in rescue missions in the Mediterranean as thousands of migrants attempt the perilous sea crossing into Europe from Northern Africa and the Middle East on flimsy rafts and boats.
Tens of thousands of people seeking better lives are expected to trek across deserts and board unseaworthy boats in Libya this year in a desperate effort to reach European shores by way of Italy.
More than 181,000 people, most so-called “economic migrants” with little chance of being allowed to stay in Europe, attempted to cross the central Mediterranean last year from Libya, Africa’s nearest stretch of coast to Italy. About 4,500 died or disappeared.
Some European leaders are warning of a fresh migration crisis when sea waters warm again and more people choose to put their lives in the hands of smugglers.
“Come next spring, the number of people crossing over the Mediterranean will reach record levels,” Malta Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, whose country holds the EU’s presidency, predicted. “The choice is trying to do something now, or meeting urgently in April, May … and try to do a deal then.”
The 28-nation EU already has a controversial deal to stem the flow of migrants from Turkey, which has agreed to try to stop the number of migrants leaving the country and to take back thousands more in exchange for billions of euros to help Syrian refugees in Turkey, visa-free travel for its citizens and fast-track EU membership talks.

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Bodies of 7 migrants found off Spain’s southern coast

Author: 
REUTERS, AP
Mon, 2017-01-16
ID: 
1484509298808651100

MADRID: Seven migrants have been found dead off the southern Spanish coast this weekend, a Spanish police spokeswoman said on Sunday, after another at least eight were discovered off the coast of Libya on Saturday.
The bodies were discovered on beaches and floating just off the coast of Tarifa late on Friday and through the day on Saturday, though it was not clear where they had traveled from, the spokeswoman said.
“Unless we find a survivor, we really don’t know what happened or even if these people were traveling on the same raft,” she said.
At least eight migrants died when their boat capsized off the coast of Libya on Saturday.
Spanish, Italian and French coast guards work together in rescue missions in the Mediterranean as thousands of migrants attempt the perilous sea crossing into Europe from Northern Africa and the Middle East on flimsy rafts and boats.
Tens of thousands of people seeking better lives are expected to trek across deserts and board unseaworthy boats in Libya this year in a desperate effort to reach European shores by way of Italy.
More than 181,000 people, most so-called “economic migrants” with little chance of being allowed to stay in Europe, attempted to cross the central Mediterranean last year from Libya, Africa’s nearest stretch of coast to Italy. About 4,500 died or disappeared.
Some European leaders are warning of a fresh migration crisis when sea waters warm again and more people choose to put their lives in the hands of smugglers.
“Come next spring, the number of people crossing over the Mediterranean will reach record levels,” Malta Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, whose country holds the EU’s presidency, predicted. “The choice is trying to do something now, or meeting urgently in April, May … and try to do a deal then.”
The 28-nation EU already has a controversial deal to stem the flow of migrants from Turkey, which has agreed to try to stop the number of migrants leaving the country and to take back thousands more in exchange for billions of euros to help Syrian refugees in Turkey, visa-free travel for its citizens and fast-track EU membership talks.

Main category: 

‘Trump has no plans to meet Putin’

Author: 
AFP, REUTERS
Mon, 2017-01-16
ID: 
1484508692438581400

WASHINGTON: US President-elect Donald Trump plans to hold a Summit with Russian leader Vladimir Putin on his first foreign trip shortly after taking office, the Sunday Times reported, though a Trump spokeswoman denied the report as “completely false.”
Trump would seek to “reset” relations with the Kremlin, with Iceland the likely venue, emulating Ronald Reagan’s Reykjavik meeting with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in 1986 during the Cold War, the British newspaper reported, citing unnamed British officials it said had been informed of the plan.
Trump, who will be inaugurated on Friday, would begin work on a deal limiting nuclear weapons as part of his bid to reset relations between the two powers, it said.
Citing unnamed sources, the Sunday Times said Moscow was set to agree to a Trump-Putin Summit.
Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks denied the report, telling AFP it was “completely false.”
Iceland said it was not aware of such plans but was willing to host a Summit to help improve relations between Washington and Moscow.
“The Icelandic government has not received a query with regards to this,” Foreign Minister Gudlaugur Thor Thordarson said in reply to a question from the mbl.is news website.
“If officials in Washington DC make a formal request for the Icelandic government to organize a Summit in Reykjavik we will look at it positively and make this our input to improve relations between the US and Russia, remember the Summit at Hofdi house in 1986,” he said.
Meanwhile, the outgoing CIA Director John Brennan on Sunday issued a stern parting rebuke to Trump days before he assumes the US presidency, advising him not to absolve Russia for its recent actions and warning him to watch what he says.
Brennan’s comments, in an interview on “Fox News Sunday,” laid bare the simmering tensions between the president-elect and the intelligence community he has criticized and is on the verge of commanding.
The CIA director said Trump needs to be mindful about his off-the-cuff remarks once he takes the oath of office on Friday, alluding to his penchant for making broad pronouncements on Twitter.
“Spontaneity is not something that protects national security interests and so therefore when he speaks or when he reacts, just make sure he understands that the implications and impact on the United States could be profound,” Brennan said.
“It’s more than just about Mr. Trump. It’s about the United States of America.”
“What I do find outrageous is equating the intelligence community with Nazi Germany,” Brennan said. “I do take great umbrage at that.”
Brennan also questioned the message it sends to the world if the president-elect broadcasts he does not have confidence in the US’ own intelligence agencies.
For months, Trump had publicly doubted US intelligence conclusions that Russia was behind cybertattacks against Democratic political groups before saying in a news conference on Wednesday that he thinks Russia was behind the hacking.
The US intelligence community concluded in a report presented to President Barack Obama and Trump last week that Russia tried to sway the outcome of the Nov. 8 election by hacking and other means. It did not make an assessment on whether they were successful.

Main category: 

‘Trump has no plans to meet Putin’

Author: 
AFP, REUTERS
Mon, 2017-01-16
ID: 
1484508692438581400

WASHINGTON: US President-elect Donald Trump plans to hold a Summit with Russian leader Vladimir Putin on his first foreign trip shortly after taking office, the Sunday Times reported, though a Trump spokeswoman denied the report as “completely false.”
Trump would seek to “reset” relations with the Kremlin, with Iceland the likely venue, emulating Ronald Reagan’s Reykjavik meeting with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in 1986 during the Cold War, the British newspaper reported, citing unnamed British officials it said had been informed of the plan.
Trump, who will be inaugurated on Friday, would begin work on a deal limiting nuclear weapons as part of his bid to reset relations between the two powers, it said.
Citing unnamed sources, the Sunday Times said Moscow was set to agree to a Trump-Putin Summit.
Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks denied the report, telling AFP it was “completely false.”
Iceland said it was not aware of such plans but was willing to host a Summit to help improve relations between Washington and Moscow.
“The Icelandic government has not received a query with regards to this,” Foreign Minister Gudlaugur Thor Thordarson said in reply to a question from the mbl.is news website.
“If officials in Washington DC make a formal request for the Icelandic government to organize a Summit in Reykjavik we will look at it positively and make this our input to improve relations between the US and Russia, remember the Summit at Hofdi house in 1986,” he said.
Meanwhile, the outgoing CIA Director John Brennan on Sunday issued a stern parting rebuke to Trump days before he assumes the US presidency, advising him not to absolve Russia for its recent actions and warning him to watch what he says.
Brennan’s comments, in an interview on “Fox News Sunday,” laid bare the simmering tensions between the president-elect and the intelligence community he has criticized and is on the verge of commanding.
The CIA director said Trump needs to be mindful about his off-the-cuff remarks once he takes the oath of office on Friday, alluding to his penchant for making broad pronouncements on Twitter.
“Spontaneity is not something that protects national security interests and so therefore when he speaks or when he reacts, just make sure he understands that the implications and impact on the United States could be profound,” Brennan said.
“It’s more than just about Mr. Trump. It’s about the United States of America.”
“What I do find outrageous is equating the intelligence community with Nazi Germany,” Brennan said. “I do take great umbrage at that.”
Brennan also questioned the message it sends to the world if the president-elect broadcasts he does not have confidence in the US’ own intelligence agencies.
For months, Trump had publicly doubted US intelligence conclusions that Russia was behind cybertattacks against Democratic political groups before saying in a news conference on Wednesday that he thinks Russia was behind the hacking.
The US intelligence community concluded in a report presented to President Barack Obama and Trump last week that Russia tried to sway the outcome of the Nov. 8 election by hacking and other means. It did not make an assessment on whether they were successful.

Main category: 

Kerry meets Vietnam War foe

Author: 
AFP
Mon, 2017-01-16
ID: 
1484508692408581000

CA MAU, Vietnam: Viet Cong veteran Vo Ban Tam remembers the first time he crossed paths with John Kerry on the banks on the Bay Hap river, a day that ended in bloodshed.
Almost a half-century later, the now 70-year-old Mekong Delta shrimp farmer locked eyes with the US secretary of state on Saturday and they warmly grasped hands in mutual respect.
Kerry returned to the Vietnam waterway at the end of a visit to the Communist nation, less than a week before he was to leave office, searching for the spot where he won a Silver Star for bravery as a young US Navy lieutenant.
On Feb. 28, 1969, as the skipper of Swift Boat PCF-94, Kerry was patrolling when Vo Ban Tam’s unit launched an ambush.
The plan, the Vietnamese guerilla told his former adversary on Saturday, was to use rifle and grenade fire to lure the heavily-armed American craft into range of a shoulder-held rocket launcher.
This tactic had paid off for the Viet Cong in the past but on this day Kerry made a dramatic decision, deliberately beaching his boat then storming ashore to pursue the operator.
Grabbing an M-16 rifle the then 26-year-old chased down the guerilla and shot him dead, saving his crew from a counterattack.
Vo Ban Tam remembered the dead man, 24-year-old Ba Thanh, as a respected member of the Viet Cong’s main force in Ca Mau province, trained to use the prized launcher.
“He was a good soldier,” he recalled, speaking through an interpreter on the banks of same river, shortly after Kerry re-visited the scene of the ambush for the first time.
Kerry had never before learned the name of the man he shot. During his unsuccessful 2004 White House campaign, opponents tarnished his war record by claiming he killed a teenager.
But US officials preparing for Kerry’s visit tracked down Vo Ban Tam and his account confirmed Kerry’s memory that his slain adversary was an adult.
Vo Ban Tam admitted that thanks to Kerry’s action the Viet Cong had not been victorious that day. But he recalled proudly how his comrades often had the upper hand.
“We were guerrillas, we were never there where you were shooting,” he boasted, telling Kerry they could hear his boat coming that day a kilometer off.
“Well, I’m glad we’re both alive,” Kerry said.
Kerry returned from Vietnam later in 1969. Despite holding Silver and Bronze stars for valour and three Purple Hearts for being wounded in action, he became a prominent anti-war activist.
The tall, young, erudite Yale graduate stood out among veterans and his devastating testimony before a Senate committee in 1971 sealed his celebrity.

Main category: 

Kerry meets Vietnam War foe

Author: 
AFP
Mon, 2017-01-16
ID: 
1484508692408581000

CA MAU, Vietnam: Viet Cong veteran Vo Ban Tam remembers the first time he crossed paths with John Kerry on the banks on the Bay Hap river, a day that ended in bloodshed.
Almost a half-century later, the now 70-year-old Mekong Delta shrimp farmer locked eyes with the US secretary of state on Saturday and they warmly grasped hands in mutual respect.
Kerry returned to the Vietnam waterway at the end of a visit to the Communist nation, less than a week before he was to leave office, searching for the spot where he won a Silver Star for bravery as a young US Navy lieutenant.
On Feb. 28, 1969, as the skipper of Swift Boat PCF-94, Kerry was patrolling when Vo Ban Tam’s unit launched an ambush.
The plan, the Vietnamese guerilla told his former adversary on Saturday, was to use rifle and grenade fire to lure the heavily-armed American craft into range of a shoulder-held rocket launcher.
This tactic had paid off for the Viet Cong in the past but on this day Kerry made a dramatic decision, deliberately beaching his boat then storming ashore to pursue the operator.
Grabbing an M-16 rifle the then 26-year-old chased down the guerilla and shot him dead, saving his crew from a counterattack.
Vo Ban Tam remembered the dead man, 24-year-old Ba Thanh, as a respected member of the Viet Cong’s main force in Ca Mau province, trained to use the prized launcher.
“He was a good soldier,” he recalled, speaking through an interpreter on the banks of same river, shortly after Kerry re-visited the scene of the ambush for the first time.
Kerry had never before learned the name of the man he shot. During his unsuccessful 2004 White House campaign, opponents tarnished his war record by claiming he killed a teenager.
But US officials preparing for Kerry’s visit tracked down Vo Ban Tam and his account confirmed Kerry’s memory that his slain adversary was an adult.
Vo Ban Tam admitted that thanks to Kerry’s action the Viet Cong had not been victorious that day. But he recalled proudly how his comrades often had the upper hand.
“We were guerrillas, we were never there where you were shooting,” he boasted, telling Kerry they could hear his boat coming that day a kilometer off.
“Well, I’m glad we’re both alive,” Kerry said.
Kerry returned from Vietnam later in 1969. Despite holding Silver and Bronze stars for valour and three Purple Hearts for being wounded in action, he became a prominent anti-war activist.
The tall, young, erudite Yale graduate stood out among veterans and his devastating testimony before a Senate committee in 1971 sealed his celebrity.

Main category: 

Serbia warns intervention in Kosovo amid Balkan train row

Author: 
By DUSAN STOJANOVIC | AP
Sun, 2017-01-15
ID: 
1484490226646447200

BELGRADE, Serbia: Fueling tensions in the Balkans, Serbia warned Kosovo on Sunday it will defend “every inch of its territory,” including its former province where Serbs allegedly are under threat from Kosovo Albanians.
Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic issued the warning after a Serbian train, bearing signs reading “Kosovo is Serbian,” was halted Saturday before it entered Kosovo due to reports of a planned attack by ethnic Albanians.
“Yesterday, we were on the verge of clashes,” Nikolic said after a meeting of the country’s top security body and the train’s overnight return to Belgrade. He accused the Kosovo Albanians of “wanting war.”
“We are a country which has to protect its people and its territory,” Nikolic said.
Kosovo leaders saw the train, painted in the colors of the Serbian flag and decorated on the inside with Serbian Orthodox images, as a provocation and a threat to the sovereignty of the former Serbian province.
Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008, but Serbia and its ally Russia do not recognize the split. Serbia has sought to maintain influence in Kosovo’s north, where most of the country’s Serb minority is located.
NATO-led troops have controlled Kosovo’s borders since a three-month air war in 1999 to stop a bloody Serbian crackdown against ethnic Albanian separatists.
Serbia officially is seeking European Union membership, but has been sliding toward the Kremlin and its policies to increase its influence in the Balkans.
Kosovo Prime Minister Isa Mustafa said Saturday he had contacted the United States and the European Union to express his country’s concerns.
Nikolic, who is staunchly pro-Russian, said the EU and the West have never been on Serbia’s side or come to its aid.
“Why were the so-called international community and the Albanians so upset about one train?” Nikolic asked. “Maybe because it had ‘Kosovo is Serbian” written on it, and because it had pictures of our icons inside.”
Tensions between Serbia and Kosovo soared following the recent detention in France of Ramush Haradinaj, a former Kosovo prime minister, on an arrest warrant from Serbia.
Kosovo has called the warrant illegitimate and urged France to ignore it, while Serbia is urging Haradinaj’s quick extradition to face war crimes charges.
___
Associated Press Jovana Gec contributed.

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