China Detains Two South Korean Pastors for Helping North Korea Defectors
Jack Kim, REUTERS
Chinese authorities have arrested two South Korean Christian pastors, accusing them of helping to smuggle North Korean defectors out of China. The arrests come amid tension between South Korea and China over the latter’s vociferous objections to the deployment in South Korea of a US missile defense system that China says will destabilize the balance of security in the region. This year, China expelled 32 South Korean missionaries based in the northeastern Yanji region bordering North Korea, and separately arrested four men, including a South Korean national, last month.
Cuba Tries to Reboot Its Creaky State News Apparatus
Michael Weissenstein, ASSOCIATED PRESS
The Cuban government is trying to reboot its Soviet-style news programming with a high-definition current affairs channel staffed by young journalists. The Caribe channel is starting slowly, with three and a half hours available to a few hundred thousand viewers who have bought high-definition decoder boxes. Producers say they hope to eventually expand to nearly round-the-clock programming. That’s a niche currently occupied only by Telesur, a regional news channel financed by leftist Latin American governments. Caribe channel producers say their program (which premiered Tuesday night) will be less dogmatic and more openly critical than traditional Cuban state television, whose reporting rarely goes beyond repeating communiqués from government ministries.
Taiwan Receives Two US Navy Frigates
Mike Yeo, DEFENSE NEWS
Two decommissioned US Navy frigates reserved for Taiwan were handed over last week. However, analysts say Taiwan needs to put into place an ambitious plan to boost its naval capabilities against China’s increasingly powerful forces. While not exactly cutting edge, the two ships add much needed capability to Taiwan’s navy, which has found itself at the end of a determined effort by China to diplomatically isolate Taiwan. China uses its substantial economic and political clout to restrict the sale of advanced weapons to Taiwan, which it sees as a renegade province.
Dem Senator: Justice Department Should Investigate RT America
Jordain Carney, THE HILL
Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) announced Tuesday that she is introducing legislation to bolster the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) ability to investigate RT America, part of the Kremlin-backed news network RT. “We have good reason to believe that RT News is coordinating with the Russian government to spread misinformation and undermine our democratic process,” Shaheen said in a statement. Shaheen’s legislation would allow the attorney general to request documents from RT America if the DOJ believes the organization, or an individual employee, is violating the Foreign Agents Registration Act.
Trump Trade Nominee Robert Lighthizer Puts a Target on China
William Mauldin and Jacob Schlesinger, WALL STREET JOURNAL
At his confirmation hearing, the trade representative pick said the US should use all existing tools to hold China and other countries to account for unfair trade practices. In his testimony before the Senate Finance Committee, Mr. Lighthizer, a longtime Washington trade lawyer, said he would use a variety of levers to hold China to account for its state-subsidized production flooding world markets and other economic practices weighing on American industry. “We have to start thinking about some new remedies,” Mr. Lighthizer said. “We have to think of more systemic approaches. Some of that may be going to the WTO,” he said, referring to the World Trade Organization, the Geneva-based trade body that includes most economies around the world.
Venezuela Alleges Fraud in $1.3 Billion Oil-Rig Lease
Anatoly Kurmanaev and Bradley Hope, WALL STREET JOURNAL
The Venezuelan government is investigating alleged corruption in a $1.3 billion contract between the state oil company and a private contractor co-founded by a Saudi prince. Venezuela’s Inspector General’s Office on March 6 recommended that the Public Prosecutor’s Office investigate and charge five current and former executives at Petróleos de Venezuela SA, or PdVSA, for allegedly embezzling public funds by paying inflated fees for the lease of an oil rig.
Venezuelan Government Controls More than 500 Businesses—and Most are Losing Money
Jim Wyss, MIAMI HERALD
The nonprofit Transparency International says it has identified at least 511 companies that are either wholly or majority owned by the government of Venezuela—and 70 percent of them are losing money, potentially adding to Venezuela’s economic meltdown. The sheer number of companies under state control seems to put Venezuela in a class of its own, the group said. Brazil, which has about six times the population of Venezuela, has 130 state-run companies, and Argentina, a third larger than Venezuela, has 52. “We started this study because nobody really knows how many companies the state is running,” said Mercedes De Freitas, the director of the Venezuelan branch of Transparency International. “The state has invaded every sector imaginable.”
OAS Chief Urges Suspension of Venezuela’s Membership
Kejal Vyas, WALL STREET JOURNAL
The head of the Organization of American States recommended suspending Venezuela from the 34-nation body unless President Nicolás Maduro’s government moves quickly to hold general elections. In a 75-page letter, OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro urged the Maduro administration to call elections within 30 days, free political prisoners, appoint independent Supreme Court justices and reinstate laws that were passed by the opposition-controlled congress but annulled by his government. “There is a total rupture of the democratic order,” Mr. Almagro said. “And the only democratic solution is that people going back to having in their hands the power to decide their destiny.”