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'Conflict could break out at any moment' over N Korea: China

BEIJING: A conflict over North Korea could break out “at any moment”, China’s foreign minister Wang Yi said Friday (Apr 14), warning there would be “no winner” in any war as tensions soar with the US.

The sharp language came after President Donald Trump said the North Korea problem “will be taken care of”, as speculation mounts that the reclusive state could be preparing another nuclear or missile test.

“Lately, tensions have risen … and one has the feeling that a conflict could break out at any moment,” Wang said. “If a war occurs, the result is a situation in which everybody loses and there can be no winner.”

Whichever side provoked a conflict “must assume the historic responsibility and pay the corresponding price,” he said in a joint press conference with his French counterpart Jean-Marc Ayrault.

Trump has sent a aircraft carrier-led strike group to the Korean peninsula to press his point, one of a series of signals that indicate his willingness to shake up foreign policy strategy.

The US military on Thursday dropped the biggest non-nuclear bomb it possesses on Afghanistan, targeting a complex used by the Islamic State group.

Trump also flexed his military muscle last week by ordering cruise missile strikes on a Syrian airbase the US believed was the origin of a chemical weapons attack on civilians in a northern Syria town.

The moves are seen as an implicit warning to North Korea that Washington is not afraid to use force.

Trump has repeatedly said he will prevent Pyongyang from its goal of developing a nuclear-tipped ballistic missile capable of reaching the mainland United States.

A White House foreign policy advisor said Friday that the US is assessing military options in response to the North’s weapons programs, saying another provocative test was a question of “when” rather than “if”.

There are reports of activity at a nuclear test site in North Korea ahead of Saturday’s 105th anniversary of the birth of the country’s founder Kim Il-Sung, which have fuelled speculation it could carry out a sixth test.

But Beijing has long opposed dramatic action against Pyongyang, fearing the regime’s collapse would send a flood of refugees across its borders and leave the US military on its doorstep.

“Dialogue is the only possible solution,” Wang said.

Any US strike on North Korea could prompt retaliation against allies or US forces in South Korea or Japan. But there are few good diplomatic or economic options for the Trump administration.

The North is already under multiple sets of United Nations sanctions over its nuclear and ballistic missile programs, and appears to see these programs as insurance against regime change.

Rattled by Trump’s behaviour, Beijing – Pyongyang’s sole major ally and economic lifeline – has adopted a tougher line against its neighbour, including suspending coal imports from the country for the remainder of the year.

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Vietnamese man believes sister held over North Korean murder

HANOI: A Vietnamese man said on Sunday (Feb 19) he believes his sister is one of the suspects arrested in Malaysia in connection with the murder of the half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Kim Jong Nam was assaulted at Kuala Lumpur International Airport with what was thought to be a fast-acting poison. Malaysian police have said that among those arrested was a woman with a Vietnamese travel document.

Vietnamese authorities have said only that they are investigating and are in touch with Malaysia.

Joseph Doan confirmed that his sister’s name was Doan Thi Huong and that she was born in 1988 in Nam Dinh province, southeast of the capital Hanoi. Those details are the same as those released by Malaysian police.

“We only hear on the Internet and everyone else hears on the Internet but judging from the picture it looks like her. I can’t be a 100 per cent certain because we haven’t met her yet,” he said in Nam Dinh.

The rice farmer said his sister appeared to be the woman whose image was captured in a grainy airport CCTV image wearing a white shirt with the acronym ‘LOL’ on it. He said Vietnamese authorities had been in touch and had been supportive.

Doan said his sister had left home when she was 18 and only came home occasionally and without letting anyone know when she would be back. “Whenever she comes home I can only tell her to study and work hard,” he said.

South Korean and US officials have said Kim Jong Nam was assassinated by North Korean agents.

Malaysian police said on Sunday that four North Korean suspects in the murder fled Malaysia on the day of the killing.

Malaysian police arrested a North Korean man on Friday in connection to the murder, while a Vietnamese woman and an Indonesian woman have also been arrested. A Malaysian man is being detained to facilitate the investigation.

(Editing by Michael Perry)

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President Tony Tan, PM Lee offer condolences over Quebec shooting

SINGAPORE: President Tony Tan Keng Yam and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Monday (Jan 30) wrote to Governor General of Canada David Johnston and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau respectively, to convey their condolences on the deadly attack at Quebec’s Islamic Cultural Centre, which occurred on Sunday. 

Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs had on Monday condemned the incident, calling it a “heinous attack”. 

In his letter, Dr Tan said Singapore “strongly condemns” the shooting. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the Canadian people during this challenging period,” he said. 

President Tan’s letter to Governor General Johnston is reproduced below: 

His Excellency the Right Honourable David Lloyd Johnston
Governor General and Commander-in-Chief
Canada

Your Excellency,

I was deeply saddened to learn of the attack at the Islamic Cultural Centre in Quebec City on 29 January 2017. On behalf of the people of Singapore, I offer our deepest condolences and sympathies to the families of the victims.

Singapore strongly condemns the shooting which took place at a sacred place of worship during prayers. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Canadian people during this challenging period.

Yours sincerely,

TONY TAN KENG YAM

In his letter to Mr Trudeau, PM Lee said he was “shocked” by the shooting. “On behalf of the Government of Singapore, I offer our deepest condolences to the bereaved families,” he wrote. 

Mr Lee’s letter is reproduced below: 

Dear Prime Minister Trudeau,

I was shocked by the deadly shooting at the Quebec City Islamic Cultural Centre on 29 January 2017 during evening prayers. Singapore strongly condemns the attack at a sacred place of worship that has resulted in the loss of innocent lives.

On behalf of the Government of Singapore, I offer our deepest condolences to the bereaved families. Our thoughts are with the Canadian people.

Yours sincerely,

LEE HSIEN LOONG

The Right Honourable Justin Trudeau
Prime Minister
Canada

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Last remaining suspect arrested over 2010 Kallang murder

SINGAPORE: The fourth and last remaining suspect in the 2010 Kallang murder has been arrested, police said on Wednesday (Jan 18).

The suspect, a 25-year-old man, will be charged on Friday with murder, which carries the death penalty.

He is suspected to be part of a gang of four Sarawakians who attacked and robbed four separate victims in a seven-hour rampage that started late at night on May 29, 2010.

It resulted in the death of 41-year-old construction worker Shanmuganathan Dillidurai, whose body was found in a field along Kallang Road on the morning of May 30.

Two other Indian nationals and one Singaporean were also badly injured in the attacks.

The other attackers have been dealt with: Micheal Garing, who slashed Mr Dillidurai with a parang, was sentenced to death; and Tony Imba, who knocked the worker off his bike and held him down during the attack, was sentenced to life in jail. Another accomplice, Hairee Landak, was jailed 33 years.

Police said the last remaining suspect was arrested in Malaysia with the help of the Royal Malaysia Police. He was handed over to the Singapore Police Force on Wednesday.

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President Tony Tan, PM Lee offer condolences over Aceh quake

SINGAPORE: President Tony Tan Keng Yam and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Wednesday (Dec 7) sent their condolences to Indonesian President Joko Widodo over the earthquake in Banda Aceh that killed at least 97 people.

The 6.5-magnitude earthquake struck the Pidie Jaya district in Aceh province on Wednesday. It was the second time in just over a decade that tragedy had struck the province’s east coast, following the 2004 tsunami disaster.

The full text of both letters below:

His Excellency Joko Widodo
President
Republic of Indonesia

Your Excellency,

On behalf of the people of Singapore, I offer my deepest condolences to the families of the victims of the earthquake in Pidie Jaya Regency, Aceh on Dec 7, 2016.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the people of Indonesia during this difficult period.

Yours sincerely,

TONY TAN KENG YAM

Dear President Jokowi,

I was saddened by the tragic loss of lives and widespread damage caused by the earthquake in Pidie Jaya Regency, Aceh on 7 December 2016.

On behalf of the government of Singapore, I express my heartfelt condolences to those who have lost their loved ones. Singapore stands ready to assist Indonesia in whatever way we can.

Yours sincerely,

LEE HSIEN LOONG 

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Two Indian sailors die as warship tips over in Mumbai dockyard

MUMBAI: Two Indian sailors died when a warship tipped over while undocking in Mumbai on Monday (Dec 5), an official said, the latest deadly accident to hit the navy in recent years.

Fourteen other personnel received minor injuries and were taken to hospital following the incident, Commander Rahul Sinha, a spokesman for India’s navy, said in a statement.

“At about 1.50pm (0820 GMT) today INS Betwa, a frigate of the Indian navy was in the process of undocking in naval dockyard when she slipped from her dock blocks and tilted,” said Sinha.

“Immediate action was taken to get all personnel to safety. Two sailors however succumbed to injuries post the incident. An inquiry has been ordered,” he added.

Sinha, who said the warship was being undocked for maintenance work, told AFP that one of the deceased had fallen off the frigate during the incident and drowned while the other had been inside the ship when it tipped over.

“A post-mortem examination will be carried out to ascertain how the sailor died,” said Sinha.

India’s navy has been hit by several accidents in recent years. In March last year two Indian navy pilots died when their plane crashed into the sea 25 nautical miles off the holiday state of Goa.

A fire aboard a nuclear submarine killed two officers off the Mumbai coast in February 2014. Eighteen sailors were killed in August 2013 when INS Sindhurakshak, also a submarine, burst into flames in Mumbai harbour.

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Rent not expected to rise with JTC taking over industrial properties: Koh Poh Koon

SINGAPORE: Businesses affected by the planned transfer of Housing & Development Board (HDB) industrial land and properties to JTC are not likely to face higher rents due to the consolidation, Minister of State for National Development Koh Poh Koon said on Friday (Oct 21). 

Dr Koh said HDB and JTC’s rental polices had been “actually quite aligned over the years”, and that he did not expect any changes to these policies as a result of the transfer of the properties to JTC, which is expected to take place in the first quarter of 2018. 

He also reiterated that JTC would honour the existing lease agreements for HDB’s tenants under the same terms. 

The transfer, which will affect about 10,700 industrial units and 540 industrial land leases, was announced by Trade and Industry Minister (Trade) Lim Hng Kiang on Wednesday. 

With the consolidation, small- and medium-size enterprises (SMEs) will only need to approach a single agency for their land and space needs instead of dealing with both organisations for tenancy and land lease matters, Mr Lim had said. 

LONGER LEASES, MORE CHOICE OF FACILITIES POSSIBLE UNDER JTC: KOH

Channel NewsAsia understands that the tenants’ leases with HDB are currently limited to three years. Dr Koh said JTC is always open to exploring more flexible lease terms, extending to five years or slightly longer depending on the circumstances.

“The point is that for industrialists who need to put heavy capital investment, this is where it will help them…we can look at the kind of lease term that will make sense for them financially,” he said. 

Dr Koh also said consolidating all public sector industrial land and properties under JTC would give businesses more opportunities to grow, as tenants previously had a “limited scope and limited selection of industrial space” under HDB. 

Under JTC, businesses – especially SMEs – would have a larger selection of facilities managed by the lead agency for industrial infrastructure, Dr Koh said. 

The operations director of one of the companies affected, Mr Johnson Tay from Sin Mui Heng Food Industries, said he supported the consolidation as his business had been operating close to maximum capacity, and HDB had not been able to provide a solution. He also welcomed the possibility of longer leases, which he said would allow the business to plan for the longer term. 

However, Mr Tay said that despite the assurance that rents would not be raised, there were other concerns among SMEs like his company.

“JTC used to take care of the ‘big boys’. Hopefully they will have resources to take care of us.” 

Most of HDB’s tenants are micro-SMEs with average annual sales of less than S$ 1 million, and about half of these businesses deal with engineering and consumer products.

CONSOLIDATION WILL BENEFIT BUSINESSES: INDUSTRY GROUPS

Industry groups Channel NewsAsia spoke to were positive about the possible impact of the transfer of HDB industrial land and properties to JTC. 

Singapore Food Manufacturers’ Association president Thomas Pek said he did not expect a big impact on companies, but the move was a good one as it would make it easier for business owners to approach a single agency for concerns. 

Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SCCCI) president Thomas Chua also said the group was “glad” that JTC had started to engage affected businesses. 

“Such communication channels are important to facilitate the whole consolidation process and to address the concerns of the affected SMEs,” Mr Chua said. 

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Japan official criticised for piggyback ride over puddle

TOKYO: A senior Japanese politician is under fire after getting a piggyback over a large puddle while inspecting the deadly aftermath of a typhoon – and joking he could get in trouble for doing it.

Shunsuke Mutai, parliamentary vice minister for reconstruction, was visiting the hard-hit northern town of Iwaizumi where 19 people died in devastating Typhoon Lionrock.

Mutai, 60, was shown riding on the back of a younger man over a large puddle of streaming water on September 1 while leading a central government damage assessment team.

Clad in a blue work uniform and black shoes, he was apparently trying to avoid getting his feet wet. Most other accompanying officials wore long rubber boots for protection.

“I’ll be in trouble if this is caught on camera,” Mutai was seen saying on footage aired on private broadcaster TBS after being put down.

Yoshihide Suga, Japan’s top government spokesman, on Monday called Mutai’s conduct “inappropriate” and said he should have brought along a pair of boots given his role as head of the government investigation team.

Iwaizumi, in Iwate prefecture, was the hardest hit area. Among the dead there were nine people buried inside a residence home for the elderly that was overwhelmed by mud and debris that flowed inside from a surging river.

Overall, 22 people died as a result of the typhoon, one of a series that recently struck northern Japan.

Jun Matsumoto, state minister for disaster management, said Tuesday that as Mutai’s supervisor he was “sorry,” and stressed his conduct was “inappropriate as it lacked consideration for people and areas hit by the disaster”.

Mutai, a member of parliament, himself has said that he “deeply regrets” his behaviour.

Just a little over a week earlier in India, a senior politician was intensely mocked after photos showed policemen carrying him through ankle-deep muddy water while inspecting deadly floods.

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6 arrested in Indonesia over plot to hit Singapore’s Marina Bay with rocket: Reports

SINGAPORE: Six terror suspects have been arrested in Indonesia for allegedly planning to fire a rocket from Batam in an attack on Singapore’s Marina Bay, according to Indonesian media reports.

The suspects, aged between 19 and 46, were arrested in several different locations in Batam, the reports said.

“Yes there were indeed plans for the attack. But the plans did not materialise,” Police Division Chief Irjen Boy Rafli Amar was quoted in reports as saying. He said he did not know when the suspects were planning to launch the attack.

Details to follow.

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