Nepal, China Begin First-Ever Joint Military Exercises
SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST
China and Nepal began their first-ever joint military exercises on Sunday, a move likely to rattle India as Beijing boosts its influence in the region. Impoverished Nepal is sandwiched between China and India and has in recent years ping-ponged between the sphere of influence of Delhi and Beijing as the Asian giants jostle for regional supremacy. The 10-day drill in Kathmandu, dubbed “Sagarmatha Friendship 2017,” will focus on counter-terrorism, according to Nepal’s army. “This is in line with our efforts to hold joint exercises with countries that have diplomatic relations with Nepal,” military spokesman Jhankar Bahadur Kadayat said. The drills will likely be watched closely by India, which is often accused of playing “big brother” to its tiny neighbor.
Nervous China Ramps Up Religious Persecution
Doug Bandow, THE JAPAN TIMES
Communist Party Leader Xi Jinping’s China is becoming a more fearful place. The government has cracked down both on dissent and contact with the West. Religious persecution also is rising: the communist god that failed fears competition. A new Freedom House report details how “the authorities have intensified many of their restrictions, resulting in an overall increase in religious persecution” since Xi took power in November 2012. Persecution reveals a leadership which is nervous, even scared. The Chinese Communist Party is filled with ambitious time-servers, people too smart to believe Marxist and Maoist nonsense but too venal to reject the fictions by which China’s rulers justify their power. In recent decades’ reforms have expanded the space for expressions of religious faith. That liberty is not easily retracted.
China Gifts Military Equipment to Laos
Prashanth Parameswaran, THE DIPLOMAT
On April 11, China presented defense equipment to Laos in another sign of the enduring importance of the security relationship between Beijing and the tiny, landlocked Southeast Asian state. Though China and Laos first established diplomatic relations back in 1961, it was only in the post-Cold War era that ties really began to take off. Laos, like other Southeast Asian states, saw a rising China as an important partner to advance its economy, while Beijing viewed Vientiane as a key regional friend from various lenses, whether in tackling transnational security threats or advancing its broader regional ambitions in Southeast Asia.
North Korea Said to Snub Chinese Diplomats as Tensions Mounted
North Korea snubbed senior Chinese diplomats this month as tensions mounted with the US, according to people familiar with the situation, raising questions about the influence Beijing’s leaders have over Kim Jong-un. Pyongyang didn’t respond to requests from China Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Wu Dawei, the country’s top envoy for North Korean nuclear affairs, to meet with their North Korean counterparts, according to the individuals who asked not to be identified because the discussions were private. The overtures came after Chinese Communist Party Leader Xi Jinping met with his US counterpart Donald Trump in Florida, sources said. It’s unclear how often Chinese officials request to visit North Korean counterparts, and how often they don’t get a response. China’s foreign ministry didn’t immediately respond to faxed questions.
North Korea Tensions Have Hawaii Polls Revisting Emergency Attack Plans
Malia Zimmerman, FOX
As tensions with North Korea mount, Hawaii lawmakers anxiously are dusting off the state’s emergency plans in preparation for the possibility—however remote—of an attack on the islands. The plans were last revisited in the 1980s. But the Hawaii House Public Safety Committee on Thursday formally called for the state’s defense agency to repair their hundreds of Cold War-era fallout shelters and restock them with medical supplies, food and water. “They haven’t been updated since 1985,” Rep. Matt LoPresti, a Democrat who serves as vice chair of that committee, told Hawaii News Now. While the bellicose threats and displays of weapons capability in Pyongyang are playing out on the other side of the world for most Americans, Hawaii residents—some old enough to remember the last time their home was at the front lines—see the dispute much differently. Honolulu is roughly 4,600 miles from the North Korean capital of Pyongyang.
China, Russia Chasing US Ship Near Korean Peninsula
China and Russia have launched intelligence-gathering vessels to follow the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier as it travels toward the Korean Peninsula, multiple Japanese government sources told The Yomiuri Shimbun, as reported by The Associated Press. The AP said it appears the two navies are hoping to track the movement of US ships. The nuclear-powered aircraft carrier and its group is believed to be in waters around the East China Sea and heading north toward the Korean Peninsula. Deployment of the intelligence-gathering vessels appears to be aimed at sending a warning signal to the US, the AP reported.
Venezuela Illegally Issued 10,000 Passports to Syrians, Iranians, Report Says
A former director of Venezuela’s Office of Identification, Migration and Foreigners said that during his 17 months in the post, the socialist government gave at least 10,000 Venezuelan passports and other documents to citizens of Syria, Iran and other Middle Eastern countries. In an interview with El Nuevo Herald, Colonel Vladimir Medrano Rengifo said the operation was headed by current Vice President Tareck El Aissami. He said most passports and visas were granted in the Venezuelan Consulate in Damascus, Syria’s capital. “Today we don’t know where these people are, nor what they are doing,” said Medrano, who currently resides in the United States. Colonel Medrano was dismissed in October 2009 by El Aissami, who was then Minister of Interior and Justice. El Aissami, one of the most powerful men in Venezuela, has long been investigated in the United States for his alleged links to drug trafficking and to the Islamist militant group Hezbollah.