Joe Biden to consult with Japan’s Kishida ahead of G7 summit

US President Joe Biden landed in Japan Thursday to attend the G7 summit in Hiroshima, skipping previously planned stops in Papua New Guinea and Australia. (Reuters)
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Updated 18 May 2023
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Joe Biden to consult with Japan’s Kishida ahead of G7 summit

  • Japanese leader’s home city of Hiroshima will play host to the gathering of major industrialized nations

HIROSHIMA: President Joe Biden arrived in Japan Thursday with plans to meet privately with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida ahead of the larger Group of Seven summit — a sign of how the economic and national security alliance between the two countries has strengthened.

Kishida’s home city of Hiroshima will play host to the gathering of major industrialized nations. The setting of Hiroshima, where the US dropped the first nuclear bomb in 1945 during World War II, carries newfound resonance as the US, Japan and their allies strategize on dealing with Russia’s ongoing war in Ukraine.

Jake Sullivan, the White House national security adviser, said the Russian invasion looms large, and would be a significant conversation during the summit.

“There will be discussions about the battlefield,” Sullivan said aboard Air Force One, stressing that the G-7 leaders would work to seal off any loopholes in sanctions so their effect can be maximized.

“There’ll be discussions about the state of play on sanctions and the steps that the G-7 will collectively commit to on enforcement in particular.”

Sullivan said the alliance between the US and Japan was at a “genuine high-water mark.”

He said Biden and Kishida, in their meeting, will aim to advance a relationship that’s progressed over the course of the last two years “in every dimension, whether it’s the military dimension of the alliance, the economic dimension, the recently concluded agreement on clean energy, the work we’re doing together on economic security.”

Last year, Biden came to Tokyo to discuss Indo-Pacific strategy and launch a new trade framework for the region, with the US president and Kishida engaging in an 85-minute tea ceremony and seafood dinner.

Kishida was quick to call out the risks of nuclear-power Russia invading Ukraine in 2022, saying then, “Ukraine today could be East Asia tomorrow.”

China has declared a limitless friendship with Russia, increasing trade in ways that blunted the ability of financial sanctions to constrain the war. But the US and its allies say China has yet to ship military equipment to Russia, a sign that the friendship might have some boundaries.

Biden and Kishida also have economic matters to consider. The US and Japan have begun to redefine global trade with an eye toward supply chain resilience and national security. They recently signed an agreement on critical mineral supply chains. They’re also cooperating on the development of renewable energy sources and partnering on efforts to limit China’s access to advanced computer chips.

Kishida hopes to discuss further strengthening of deterrence and response capability with Biden in the face of China’s assertiveness in the Indo-Pacific region, as well as confirming the importance of the Taiwan Strait for global peace and stability. China has asserted that self-governing Taiwan should come under its rule. US officials have been briefed on the possible economic damage caused by a war over Taiwan, which would disrupt the supply of advanced computer chips.

Japan is also keen to discuss ways to reinforce its three-way partnership with the US and Seoul following an April agreement between the United States and South Korea to strengthen their tools to deter the risk of a nuclear attack by North Korea.

Kishida and Biden will hold a trilateral summit with South Korea’s Yoon Suk Yeol on the sidelines of the G-7 summit. But Kishida is in a complicated position by discussing efforts to respond to nuclear threats by North Korea with Japan’s history of also calling for a world free from nuclear arms, said Kan Kimura, a Kobe University professor and an expert on South Korea.

In the wake of World War II, Japan embraced pacifism. The atomic bomb scorched Hiroshima, killing 140,000 people and destroying most of the river delta city’s buildings. But current conditions are testing Japan’s pacifism and anti-nuclear weapon tradition.

“Kishida is from Hiroshima, believes deeply in the disarmament agenda,” said Christopher Johnstone, a senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank. “Of course, Kishida is walking a fine line. He recognizes the need for the nuclear umbrella, Japan’s dependence on US extended deterrence — that that’s more vital than ever, frankly, in the current security environment.”

There are outstanding issues between the US and China. During a January meeting with Kishida, Biden brought up the case of Lt. Ridge Alkonis, a US Navy officer deployed to Japan who last year was sentenced to three years in prison after pleading guilty to the negligent driving deaths of two Japanese citizens in May 2021, according to a senior administration official. Alkonis also agreed to pay the victims $1.65 million in restitution. His family is seeking his release, saying he was detained until he confessed.

As much as Biden believes he has improved relations with US allies, he still faces political turmoil at home. The president on Wednesday curtailed part of his trip across the Pacific Ocean. He will skip Papua New Guinea and Australia in order to return to Washington in hopes of finalizing a deal to raise the federal government’s debt limit.

“The work that we need to do bilaterally with Australia and with the Pacific Islands is work that can be done at a later date, whereas the final stretch of negotiations over the debt limit or the budget cannot be done at a later date,” Sullivan said Wednesday.


1 dead, others injured after London-Singapore flight hit severe turbulence, Singapore Airlines says

Updated 3 min 37 sec ago
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1 dead, others injured after London-Singapore flight hit severe turbulence, Singapore Airlines says

  • The airline said the aircraft was a Boeing 777-300ER with a total of 211 passengers and 18 crew on board

BANGKOK: Singapore Airlines says a person has died aboard and others were injured when a London-Singapore flight encountered severe turbulence.
Singapore’s Flight SQ321 from Heathrow was diverted to Bangkok and landed at 3:45 p.m. local time at Suvarnabhumi Airport, the airline announced in its Facebook page. The airline said the aircraft was a Boeing 777-300ER with a total of 211 passengers and 18 crew on board.
Local emergency crews from Samitivej Srinakarin Hospital were on site to transfer injured people off the runway for treatment. Videos posted on the LINE messaging platform by Suvarnabhumi Airport showed a line of ambulances streaming to the scene.


Britain’s new protest laws unlawful, London court rules in rights group’s challenge

Updated 28 min 48 sec ago
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Britain’s new protest laws unlawful, London court rules in rights group’s challenge

  • Civil rights group Liberty took the government to court over changes to public order laws made last year
  • Judge rules new regulations gave the police almost unlimited powers to shut down protests

LONDON: Britain unlawfully gave police wider powers to impose conditions on peaceful protests which cause “more than minor” disruption to the public, London’s High Court ruled on Tuesday.
Civil rights group Liberty took the government to court over changes to public order laws made last year, which it says gave the police almost unlimited powers to shut down protests.
The case was heard in February amid a wider crackdown on protest movements in Britain and across Europe, as environmental activists have used direct action protests to demand urgent government action against climate change.
Judges David Bean and Timothy Kerr ruled in the group’s favor on Tuesday, finding that the regulations granting the new powers were unlawful.
The High Court granted the government permission to appeal and suspended its decision that the new powers should be quashed pending the outcome of the appeal.
Liberty’s legal action focused on the Public Order Act, under which the police can impose conditions on a protest if it could cause “serious disruption to the life of the community.”
The law was amended last year, so police could impose conditions in cases where a protest could cause “more than minor” disruption, which Liberty said was unlawful.
Government lawyers argued that ministers were given express powers to amend the law on what amounted to serious disruption.
But the High Court ruled that the government exceeded its powers, which “did not extend to lowering the threshold for police intervention.”


Thai minister quits over legal complaint seeking PM’s dismissal

Updated 21 May 2024
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Thai minister quits over legal complaint seeking PM’s dismissal

  • Pichit Chuenban says his resignation would allow the country ‘to move ahead and not impact the administrative work of the prime minister that needs continuity’

BANGKOK: A Thai minister at the center of a pending legal complaint seeking the dismissal of Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin resigned on Tuesday, in an effort to insulate the premier from possible repercussions.
A group of 40 senators lodged a complaint to the Constitutional Court last week against Pichit Chuenban, 65, saying his appointment last month as minister to the prime minister’s office breached the constitution, as he has a criminal record.
The court was due on Thursday to decide whether or not to accept the case, which could lead to Srettha’s suspension.
“Even though I have been vetted and honestly believe that I am qualified by law, this matter is linked to the prime minister,” Pichit said in his resignation letter, shared with media by Srettha’s office.
He said his resignation would allow the country “to move ahead and not impact the administrative work of the prime minister that needs continuity.”
It was not immediately clear whether the resignation would have any impact on the complaint submitted to the court.
Pichit was jailed for six months in 2008 for contempt of court after an alleged attempt to bribe court officials with 2 million baht ($55,000) hidden in a paper grocery bag.
His law license was suspended for five years by the Lawyers Council of Thailand after the incident. The government has said it carefully vetted Pichit’s qualifications and was confident it could defend his appointment before the court.
Pichit becomes the third minister to quit Srettha’s cabinet, after his foreign minister and deputy finance minister resigned following a cabinet reshuffle last month.
The senators, whose term has ended, are currently lawmakers in a caretaker capacity pending the selection of a new chamber. They have accused Pichit of lacking integrity and ethical standards to hold a ministerial post.
Government critics say Pichit was appointed due to his close relationship with a client, ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra, who returned to Thailand last year after 15 years in exile. Thaksin, an ally of Srettha, still wields considerable political influence, despite officially being retired.
The government has insisted Pichit was appointed due to his capabilities.


Arab Americans reject Biden, Trump reelection: Survey

Updated 21 May 2024
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Arab Americans reject Biden, Trump reelection: Survey

  • President gets 7%, predecessor 2% support because of Gaza ‘genocide’
  • Much higher backing for third-party candidates Jill Stein, Cornell West

CHICAGO: A national survey of Arab Americans released on Monday shows that most respondents overwhelmingly reject the reelection of both President Joe Biden and his predecessor Donald Trump.

Conducted by the Arab American Anti-Discrimination Committee and the Truth Project on May 17 and 18, the survey shows support for Biden at 7 percent and Trump at 2 percent.

Arab and Muslim voters played a significant role in helping Biden defeat Trump in several key swing states in the November 2020 presidential election.

After taking office in January 2021, Biden responded by unveiling “A Plan for Partnership” with the Arab-American community that was to help strengthen ties with his administration.

But Biden’s unequivocal backing of Israel, including helping to approve more than $40 billion in military aid for the country’s alleged genocide in Gaza — which has taken more than 35,000 Palestinian lives — has all but erased that support and his edge over Trump in key swing states, according to the survey organizers.

“Since the start of the genocide many have speculated about who Arab Americans would vote for — Biden or Trump. The answer is neither, with third-party candidates getting substantial support,” ADC National Executive Director Abed Ayoub said in a statement to Arab News.

Third-party candidates Dr. Jill Stein and Dr. Cornell West received much higher support among Arab Americans.

Stein, who is Jewish and with the Green Party, received 25 percent support while West, who is African American, received 20 percent.

Not mentioned in the survey was leading third-party candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. His views have varied from calling for peace and recognition of Palestine to rejecting accusations that Israel’s actions in Gaza constitute genocide. Kennedy has declined repeated requests from Arab News for interviews.

Five national polls released in March and April from Quinnipiac University, Fox News, Marquette Law School, NBC News and Marist College showed Kennedy with 13 percent support for his independent presidential bid. Stein and West received only 3 percent each in the national polls.

As the presidential election approaches, “it is evident that Arab-American and allied voters are supporting candidates that are listening to our concerns and demands,” ADC said.

In its survey, 19 percent of Arab Americans said they were “undecided” and 3 percent said they would not vote in November.

ADC said support for Stein and West is based on the two running on an anti-genocide platform.

Stein has been a “strong and vocal supporter of Palestine” throughout her career, ADC noted, adding that West has also adopted this stance.

Arab, Muslim and other voters have shown significant opposition to Biden’s reelection in more than 30 state primaries, including five key swing states where he won by slim margins over Trump.

The primary election campaigns have been led by the #AbandonBiden movement, which told Arab News that it is considering hosting its own “Presidential Convention” in the autumn to galvanize Arab, Muslim and “progressive” voters to consider alternatives to Biden.

The ADC / Truth Project survey is based on outreach to 36,139 Arab Americans and “allied voters” who were asked one question: “Who are you voting for in November?”

Over the two days, 2,196 (6 percent) responded. ADC said this was “a high level of enthusiasm” in the presidential election race.

The Truth Project is a social welfare body committed to uniting a diverse coalition of Americans and organizations who support justice and equality in Palestine.

ADC has a large national grassroots membership base, and was founded in the 1980s to fight for civil and Arab-American rights.


North Korea’s Kim was ‘sincere’ in Trump talks: Seoul’s former president Moon

Updated 21 May 2024
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North Korea’s Kim was ‘sincere’ in Trump talks: Seoul’s former president Moon

  • Former South Korean president Moon Jae-in was instrumental in brokering two high-profile summit meetings between Kim Jong Un and then-US president Donald Trump
SEOUL: North Korean leader Kim Jong Un offered to give up his nuclear arsenal if America guaranteed his regime would survive, former South Korean president Moon Jae-in said in a recently released memoir.
Moon, who led South Korea for five years from 2017, was instrumental in brokering two high-profile summit meetings between Kim and then-United States president Donald Trump, aimed at securing Pyongyang’s denuclearization in return for sanctions relief.
But after the second summit collapsed in 2019, diplomatic outreach was abandoned, with relations between the two Koreas now at one of their worst points in years, as Kim doubles down on weapons production and draws closer to ally Moscow.
In the memoir released Friday, titled “From the Periphery to the Center,” former president Moon outlined in great detail his interactions with the North Korean leader.
“Kim said he would forsake nuclear weapons if there was a guarantee of regime survival,” Moon said in the book, adding that he felt the young North Korean leader was “very honest.”
According to Moon, Kim’s reasoning was: “I have a daughter and I do not wish her generation to live with nuclear weapons... Why would we continue to live in difficulty, under sanctions, with nuclear weapons if our security can be guaranteed?“
But the North Korean leader was “well aware of mistrust from the international community and the (belief from the) US that the North had been lying” about its commitments to denuclearization, Moon said.
Kim specifically asked him how the North could manage to “make Washington believe in our sincerity” to disarm.
In five years since the Hanoi summit, Pyongyang has declared itself an “irreversible” nuclear weapons power, accelerated weapons development, branded Seoul its “principal enemy” and threatened war over “even 0.001 mm” of territorial infringement.
It has also moved closer to Moscow, purportedly supplying it with arms in exchange for space technologies, something which would violate rafts of United Nations sanctions on both countries.
Despite how things have played out, Moon said in his memoir that he still believed Kim was sincere in his plans to denuclearize, but that it was strongly contingent on “corresponding measures” from the US.
Kim and Trump failed to strike a deal because Washington demanded complete denuclearization before it would consider providing sanctions relief, Moon wrote.
“In retrospect, I regret that (South Korea) did not mediate more effectively by listening to the North’s demands and relaying them to Washington if deemed reasonable,” he said.
“Though there are negative views about Trump, he was a very good fit for me as a counterpart in alliance diplomacy,” he said.
“While there are assessments that he is rude and harsh, I liked him for his honesty. A person who has a smiling face but acts differently and thus can’t be read is more difficult to deal with,” he added.
Trump was both apologetic and regretful that the Hanoi summit ended without a deal, Moon wrote.
Trump was “willing to accept (the North Koreans’ terms) but then-Security Adviser John Bolton fervently opposed it,” Moon wrote.
When Trump asked then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for a second opinion, he agreed with Bolton, leaving Trump no option but to walk away, Moon wrote.
It is impossible to take Kim’s words at face value now, Hong Min a senior analyst at the Korea Institute for National Unification in Seoul, said.
What was clear “is that Kim tried to change the status quo by expressing his intention to denuclearize,” he said.
The only way to know if Kim was serious, would have been to strike a deal in Hanoi and “gauge how far the North would go toward denuclearization,” he added.
Moon was succeeded by conservative Yoon Suk Yeol, who has taken a significantly more hawkish stance on North Korea.
Yoon has not commented on the memoir but his minister for unification Kim Yung-ho said on Monday that taking Kim’s words at face value could have lead to a security-related “miscalculation.”
“While ignoring North Korea’s (nuclear) capability, if we only focus on the North’s intentions, this could result in a miscalculation of the security situation,” he said, according to the Yonhap news agency.