Barack Obama puts South China Sea back on agenda at ASEAN Summit

first_imgPresident Barack Obama put the long-simmering dispute in the South China Sea front and center on the agenda at a regional summit on Thursday as it became clear that most of the other leaders gathered in the Laotian capital were going to let China off with a mild rebuke over its territorial expansion in the resource-rich waters.”We will continue to work to ensure that disputes are resolved peacefully including in the South China Sea,” Obama said in his opening remarks at a meeting with leaders of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN.He said an international arbitration ruling on July 12 against China was “binding” and “helped to clarify maritime rights in the region”.ASEAN will hold a separate summit later Thursday with other world powers, including China and the US. The summit is expected to let China off with a muted reprimand over its expansionist activities in South China Sea, according to a draft of their joint statement to be released Thursday.CHINA’S CLOUTThe mild language in the statement, despite growing frustrations in the region over China’s claims, is a reflection of Beijing’s diplomatic, economic and military clout within ASEAN, which forms the core of the East Asia Summit that also includes the US, China, Russia, India, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand.The US has repeatedly expressed concern over Beijing’s actions in the resource-rich sea. Obama brought that up again.Referring to the arbitration panel’s ruling that invalidated China’s claims, Obama said: “I realize this raises tensions but I also look forward to discussing how we can constructively move forward together to lower tensions and promote diplomacy and regional stability.”advertisementChina went to great lengths to block any references in the statement to land reclamation, militarization or loss of trust, lobbying for the document to avoid mention of recent activities or the need to respect legal processes, said a senior Obama administration official.CONCERN OVER DEVELOPMENTSThough Beijing recently announced a 600 million dollar aid package to ally Cambodia, China was unable to get it to block the statement, said the official, who requested anonymity to discuss diplomatic discussions. Instead, Cambodia opposed including an explicit mention of the UN tribunal’s ruling, the official said.”We reaffirmed the importance of maintaining peace, stability and security and freedom of navigation in and over-flight in the South China Sea,” said the draft.”Several Leaders remained seriously concerned over recent developments in the South China Sea … We stressed the importance for the parties concerned to resolve their disputes by peaceful means, in accordance with universally recognized principles of international laws,” it said.The statement also made no reference to the land reclamation activities by China, which has turned shoals and coral reefs into seven man-made islands and built airstrips capable of handling military aircraft on three of them. ASEAN leaders at their earlier summit on Tuesday expressed concern over China’s island-building.The ASEAN leaders had also said that their summit “took note of the concerns expressed by some leaders on the land reclamations and escalation of activities in the area, which have eroded trust and confidence, increased tensions and may undermine peace, security and stability in the region”.The use of the phrase “some leaders” in the two statements underscores the fundamental problem ASEAN and the wider East Asia Summit has in dealing with China not all its members are willing to scold Beijing. Cambodia, for example, remains firmly in China’s camp, as is Laos to a large extent, preventing any robust statement from the consensus-bound ASEAN group.CLAIMS OVER LANDThe issue of ownership of territories in the South China Sea has come to dominate ASEAN summits in recent years. China claims virtually the entire sea as its own, citing historical reasons. That has pitted it against the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei, all members of ASEAN, which have overlapping claims.On Wednesday, the Philippines released what it says are surveillance pictures of Chinese coast guard ships and barges at the disputed Scarborough Shoal, an apparent attempt to publicize its concerns before ASEAN leaders met with Chinese Premier Li Kequiang in Vientiane.The Philippines is concerned that China may plan to turn the shoal into another man-made island.CHINA’S DENIALBut Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said China has not done anything to alter the circumstances surrounding the shoal.”What I can tell you is that the situation in waters near Huangyan Island remains unchanged and China hasn’t made any new moves,” Hua said in Beijing, using the shoal’s Chinese name. “We should be highly alert against the mischief-making intentions of people who spread such groundless information in such situations.”advertisementNew Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has taken a more conciliatory approach to China than his predecessor, and has said he would not raise the dispute in an adversarial manner that might upset Beijing.The US military has also expressed concern over the possibility that China might turn Scarborough into another island, something that would give Beijing’s forces greater control over a swath of the South China Sea used as a passageway to the Taiwan Strait.Also Read:Ahead of summit, Philippines shows images of Chinese boats at disputed shoallast_img read more

1 Last Doubt for Zidane: Creative Isco or Overpowering Bale?

first_imgMADRID (AP) — Zinedine Zidane has one last dilemma to solve before Real Madrid takes on Juventus in the Champions League final on Saturday.Will he go with the overpowering Gareth Bale in attack or keep the creative Francisco “Isco” Alarcon in midfield?“It’s going to be a difficult decision,” Zidane said. “They are two very good players who have been important for us. Bale has played less minutes but he has recovered from his injury. And we already know what kind of player Isco is.”Bale was a regular starter for Zidane until a right ankle injury sidelined the Wales forward for nearly three months earlier this season. Isco successfully took over Bale’s place in the squad and quickly became an important member in Zidane’s team.“Whatever decision (Zidane) makes, that’s final. I completely understand it,” Bale said. “I think Isco has been fantastic. He has been playing very well the last few weeks. He has helped the team.”The 27-year-old Bale has the disadvantage of limited playing time in the latter stages of the season. He missed the second leg of the quarterfinal against Bayern Munich and both semifinal matches against Atletico Madrid because of problems stemming from the ankle injury.On Tuesday, he said he has recovered but still wasn’t at “100 percent.”Zidane said Bale is ready to play, but didn’t give any hints on whether he would include him in the starting lineup or keep him on the bench.Even Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri weighed into the debate, saying the characteristics of the Madrid team change significantly depending on which player is in the lineup.“With Bale, they gain more depth,” Allegri said. “If Isco plays, he is a lot more technical.”Zidane said there was even a chance that both Bale and Isco would make it to the final.“They can play together as well,” Zidane said. “It happened in other 16 matches this season and maybe it can happen again in the final.”If Zidane makes that decision, he would likely take Karim Benzema out of the lineup.If only Bale plays, Madrid would have three men in the attack along with Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo.But if Zidane goes with Isco, the Spanish national would play between the midfielders and the forwards. Isco thrived in that position, becoming one of the team’s best players late in the season.“With the 4-3-3 you can play more from the sides, with two players on the wings in the front,” midfielder Toni Kroos said. “And with the 4-4-2 you have two strikers in the middle, of course it changes the way we play, not only on offense, also defense. The coach will tell us what is best against this team on Saturday.”Bale scored a goal when Madrid defeated city rival Atletico Madrid in the 2014 final. He also was a starter in last season’s final. Isco was a second-half substitute in both finals.TALES AZZONI, AP Sports WriterTweetPinShare0 Shareslast_img read more

Pakistan captain Sarfraz Ahmed apologises after racially abusing South African cricketer

first_imgPakistan captain Sarfraz Ahmed has apologised after his racial abuse directed at South African all-rounder Phehlukwayo. Sarfraz’s comments were heard on the stump microphone during Pakistan’s defeat in the second ODI in Durban in Tuesday.His comments were widely condemned on social media and former Pakistan pacer Shoaib Akhtar asked Sarfraz to apologise.In line to be sanctioned by ICC, Sarfraz tweeted out a long apology but it remains to be seen whether that is enough. The world governing body is already investigating the incident.1/2 – I wish to extend my sincere apologies to any person who may have taken offence from my expression of frustration which was unfortunately caught by the stump mic during yesterday’s game against SA. My words were not directed towards anyone in particular and…Sarfaraz Ahmed (@SarfarazA_54) January 23, 20192/3 – I certainly had no intention of upsetting anyone. I did not even mean for my words to be heard, understood or communicated to the opposing team or the cricket fans. I have in the past and will continue in future to appreciate the camaraderie of my fellow cricketers from…Sarfaraz Ahmed (@SarfarazA_54) January 23, 20193/3 – …across the globe and will always respect and honour them on and off the field.Sarfaraz Ahmed (@SarfarazA_54) January 23, 2019Sarfraz Ahmed was getting frustrated as Phehlukwayo and opener van der Dussen were stitching a match-winning stand for the sixth wicket after Pakistan had South Africa reeling at 80 for 5 in chase of a modest 204-run target.In the 37th over the chase, Sarfraz was caught on the stump mic saying: “Abey kaale, teri ammi aaj kahaan baitheen hain? Kya parwa ke aaye hai aaj?” [Hey black guy, where’s your mother sitting today? What (prayer) have you got her to say for you today?]advertisementSarfraz made the comment even as Phehlukwayo inside edged a Shaheen Afridi delivery to deep fine leg and was running towards the non-striker’s end.Pakistan Cricket Board also released a statement expressing regret over Sarfraz’s comments and asserted that PCB does not support such remarks. PCB was confident that the incident will not affect the spirit with which Pakistan and South Africa have competed so far.”The PCB expresses regret over the remark made by their captain Sarfaraz Ahmed and picked up by the stump mic during the second ODI against South Africa in Durban. The PCB neither endorses nor supports any comments that have the potential to cause offence, and firmly reiterates their zero-tolerance approach towards racist comments made; in whatever context.”This incident has also highlighted the importance and significance of player education and training at all levels. The PCB endeavors to improve their player education programmes to ensure these types of incidents do not happen again.”Sarfaraz is one of the most respected cricketers in the world. However, captaining Pakistan is a massive honour and any hurtful remarks by any cricketer, let alone the captain, are not acceptable to the PCB.”The PCB is confident that this incident will not affect the series, which has been played in great spirit with some excellent performances from both side. The PCB is also hopeful that the crowds will continue to turn up in big numbers for the remaining matches to support cricket,” PCB said in a statement.Notably, the South Africa all-rounder enjoyed a lot of luck as Pakistan had handed him a reprieve only in the previous over via a dropped catch. Phehlukwayo also got an LBW decision against him successfully overturned after using the Decision Review System. Phehlukwayo remained unbeaten on 69 as South Africa gunned down the total with five wickets to spare and levelled the five-match series at 1-1.Also Read | Rassie van der Dussen guides South Africa to series-levelling victory vs PakistanAlso Read | 2nd ODI South Africa vs Pakistan in Durban: Highlightslast_img read more