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China’s Ambassador to Burma Meets Aung San Suu Kyi December 16, 2011

A Chinese official has held a rare meeting with Burmese opposition leader and Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi. 

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin says Aung San Suu Kyi has asked several times to meet with Chinese officials.

Liu says the Chinese ambassador met her in response to her request, and listened to her opinions.

When asked when the meeting actually took place, the Chinese spokesman said the date is not important.

In Burma, officials with Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy Party said the two met on December 8. They did not release details of the talks, but indicated it was a friendly meeting that did not include much discussion about politics.

China, which has been criticized by Western countries for its own harsh treatment of outspoken Chinese dissidents, has been one of the Burmese government’s closest diplomatic allies. It also strongly backed the military regime that kept Aung San Suu Kyi under house arrest for a total of nearly 15 years.

On Thursday, Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu indicated Beijing is ready to talk to people from all levels of Burmese society.

He says China will engage in contact with all sectors of Burmese society, under the principles of non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries. He adds that for Beijing to talk to people committed to China-Burma friendship would be beneficial to people of both countries.

Since she was released from house arrest more than one year ago, Aung San Suu Kyi has publicly said she does not consider Beijing an enemy.

Meanwhile, the Chinese spokesman says China’s top diplomat, State Councilor Dai Bingguo will travel to Burma next week (December 19) for a meeting of Mekong River countries.

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China imposes tariff on US car imports December 15, 2011

The tension between America and China over international trade escalated on Wednesday when Beijing imposed additional duties on cars imported from the United States.

China‘s commerce ministry accused America’s car industry of “dumping and subsidising”, thereby causing substantial damage to China’s domestic car industry. From Thursday, levies will be charged on larger-engined cars from several manufacturers, some being European firms with factories in the US.

General Motors faces the greatest impact, almost 22% extra on some sports utility vehicles (SUVs) and other cars with engine capacities above 2.5 litres. Chrysler faces a 15% penalty, while a 2% levy will be imposed on BMW, whose US plants make many of the cars it exports to China.

Existing taxes and duties already push up the cost of US imports by 25%, and the new levies make it even more expensive for Chinese consumers to buy American. The move was swiftly attacked in the US. Carl Levin, the Democratic senator for Michigan (which includes the motor city of Detroit), called it an “unjustified” attempt to circumvent international trade laws. “Instead of ending its unlawful trade practices, China is choosing to take further steps that are unauthorised by world trade rules,” he claimed.”The livelihoods of American families and the integrity of global trade law are at stake.”

GM says the levies will have little immediate impact, as it mostly exports lower-power cars to China. Analysts, though, said the decision underlined China’s determination to protect its car industry.

“The move shows that China is always capable of intervening politically in its markets,” Juergen Pieper of Bankhaus Metzler, the German investment bank, told Bloomberg. Georges Dieng, a Paris-based analyst with Natixis Securities, said the levies had been set to “inflict pain on the Americans, above all”. Shares in General Motors fell by over 3%, while BMW’s shares slipped 5%.

China and the US have peppered each other with legal actions and tariffs over the past few years.

Earlier this month, the US International Trade Commission ruled against China’s solar-power industry after an anti-dumping and anti-subsidy investigation. Last week, the US pledged to take China’s anti-dumping measures against American poultry imports to the World Trade Organisation.

Debbie Stabenow, the junior senator for Michigan, urged the US government to take China’s car levies to the WTO as well. “China relentlessly breaks international trade rules, and seeks to gain an anti-competitive advantage over our companies and workers. America must be equally relentless in fighting back,” she said.

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China ‘Regrets’ S. Korean Coast Guard Death December 14, 2011

The Chinese government said Tuesday it regrets the death of a South Korean coast guard officer allegedly stabbed to death by a Chinese fisherman.

The statement from China’s Foreign Ministry comes amid rising public anger in South Korea over the incident, which happened Monday during an operation to stop a Chinese vessel illegally fishing off the Korean peninsula.

More than 100 South Korean military veterans and activists protested in front of the Chinese embassy in Seoul on Tuesday to denounce Beijing for the killing. During the demonstration, a South Korean protester slammed his car several times into a police vehicle guarding the Chinese embassy.

Earlier Tuesday, South Korean President Lee Myung-bak promised “strong countermeasures” to protect coast guard officers who are cracking down on increasingly bold incursions by Chinese fishermen.

South Korea’s foreign ministry on Monday summoned the Chinese ambassador in protest over the incident.

South Korean officials said the Chinese vessel was halted Monday morning in the Yellow Sea for fishing illegally in South Korea’s exclusive economic zone, but outside its territorial waters.

The officials said the captain of the boat used an undetermined weapon to stab two of the four coast guard officers who had boarded his vessel, killing a 41-year-old corporal and wounding a second officer.

South Korean officials say the captain has denied stabbing the officers. The Chinese vessel has been seized and its crew of nine is now in custody.

China’s Foreign Ministry said Beijing will cooperate with Seoul in investigating the incident, but urged South Korea to respect the “legitimate rights and interests of Chinese fishermen.”

This is the first such fatal encounter between South Korean authorities and a Chinese crew at sea since 2008, when Chinese fishermen killed a coast guard officer and injured six others.

South Korea’s coast guard says incursions by Chinese boats have been growing. It says it has cited over 470 Chinese ships this year for illegal fishing, compared to 370 last year.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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China: Canada’s Kyoto Protocol Withdrawal ‘Regrettable’

China is calling Canada’s decision to withdraw from the Kyoto Protocol “regrettable” and says it goes against the efforts of the international community. Canada’s move comes days after climate-change negotiators met to hammer-out a global deal in Durban, South Africa.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin expressed China’s dismay at the news that Canada had pulled out of the Kyoto Protocol.

He says the timing is particularly bad, because negotiators at the just-concluded Durban conference made what he described as important progress on the issue of the Kyoto Protocol’s second commitment period.

Liu says Canada’s move goes against the efforts of the international community and is regrettable. He says Beijing hopes Canada will face up to its obligations, honor its commitments and actively participate in international efforts to fight climate change.

Canada Monday announced that it is pulling out of the Kyoto Protocol, a treaty hammered out in 1997 that calls for major industrialized nations to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.

The United States never ratified the Kyoto Protocol. The accord recognizes China as a developing country and so does not impose mandated emissions reduction targets on Beijing.

China and the United States are the world’s two biggest emitters of carbon gases that many scientists say exacerbate global warming.

Liu indicated that Ottawa’s decision will not affect Beijing’s actions.

He says China has been actively participating in the international effort against climate change and made what he describes as “utmost efforts” for the Durban meeting’s success. He says this will continue in the future.

The Chinese negotiator at Durban, Xie Zhenhua, says he is concerned that developed nations are reluctant to reduce their own greenhouse gas emissions, which many scientists say exacerbate global warming. He also called on developed countries to provide financial and technical aid to help developing nations fight against and cope with the effects of climate change.

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Iran Shows Footage of Purported US Drone December 9, 2011

Iranian state television on Thursday released the first images of what it said was a U.S. unmanned reconnaissance drone downed on Sunday along Iran’s eastern border after it made a brief incursion into its airspace.  

The footage shows Iranian military officials inspecting an aerial vehicle resembling a high-tech RQ-170 Sentinel drone.  The vehicle appears to be in good shape and with no visible damage.

The chief of the aerospace division of Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guards, General Ami Ali Hajizadeh, said Iranian forces brought the drone down through a “cyber attack.”  He said the drone “fell into the trap of electronic warfare unit” who then managed to land it with minimum damage.

Also Thursday, Iran’s Foreign Ministry summoned the Swiss Ambassador to Tehran, Livia Leu Agosti, to protest the drone incident.  The U.S. and Iran do not have diplomatic relations, and Switzerland handles American interests in Iran.  The state television said that the ministry demanded an explanation and compensation from Washington.

U.S. officials have acknowledged the drone’s loss and described the incident as a major setback to the stealth drone program.  They said there are real fears that the Iranians will share the drone technology with China or some other country, but also expressed doubts the Iranians have the expertise to recover any surveillance data from the aircraft.

The drone incident came at a time of heightened political tension over Iran’s controversial nuclear program the West suspects is aimed at developing atomic weapons.  The United States and Israel said they were considering “all options” on Tehran, if diplomacy fails to resolve the dispute.  

During a news conference in Washington Thursday, U.S. President Barack Obama said Iran has a clear choice, to end its pursuit of atomic weapons in favor of a peaceful nuclear program or continue to resist global pressure and face increased isolation.  

Mr. Obama said “Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons is contrary to U.S. security interests, as well as to the national interests of U.S. allies, including Israel, and Washington will work with the world community to prevent that.”

Tehran insists its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.

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