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China says Japan defence paper ‘irresponsible’

BEIJING: China has hit out at rival Japan over a Japanese defence paper that criticised Beijing’s military build-up, branding the accusations “irresponsible”.

Japan voiced concern in its annual defence report, released this week, over China’s growing assertiveness in the South China Sea and Pacific Ocean, and what it called the “opaqueness” of Beijing’s military budget.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu said his country’s drive to modernise its defence forces was “entirely for safeguarding its national sovereignty” and was “not targeting any other country”.

“The Japanese 2011 defence white paper made irresponsible comments on China’s national defence construction. China expresses its strong dissatisfaction,” he said in a statement published late Wednesday.

“China’s development is offering significant opportunities to all countries – including Japan – and China has not, and never will be a threat to any other country.”

China broke off all high-level contact with Tokyo last September after Japan detained a Chinese fishing boat captain whose vessel collided with Japanese coast guard patrol ships in waters claimed by both sides.

The row between Asia’s two biggest economies was their worst in years and undermined painstaking recent efforts to improve relations marked by decades of mistrust stemming from Japan’s brutal 1930s invasion of China.

The Chinese skipper was released after more than two weeks and the two countries, which have deep trade ties, have been trying to mend fences.

Japan’s defence report used a Japanese word that can be translated as “overbearing” or as “assertive” to describe China’s stance over its “conflicting interests with neighbouring countries, including Japan”.

The paper also said China’s defence spending was not transparent, saying that the defence budget publicly announced by China “is widely seen as only part of what Beijing actually spends for military purposes.”

Opaqueness in its defence policies and military movements are concerns for the region, including Japan, and for the international community, and we need to carefully analyse them,” it said.

Earlier this year, China announced military spending would rise 12.7 per cent to 601.1 billion yuan (dollar 91.7 billion) in 2011 after funding slowed last year.

Beijing has repeatedly sought to alleviate fears over its pursuit of sophisticated missiles, satellites, cyber-weapons and fighter jets, stressing that the nation’s defence policy is “defensive in nature.”

However, China has become increasingly assertive in its claims over the East China Sea and South China Sea, most of which it views as its maritime territory, but where several other Asian nations have competing claims.

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Dhaka minister accuses Economist of smear campaign

DHAKA: The foreign minister of Bangladesh has accused The Economist of running a smear campaign against the country after the magazine said India had funded the ruling party’s 2008 election victory.

The latest issue of the magazine ran a story titled “India and Bangladesh: Embraceable You” that said ties had improved since “bags of Indian cash and advice” helped the current Awami League government to power.

“The report is disgraceful,” Dipu Moni told local website bdnews24.

The Economist has previously made “baseless” criticism of Bangladesh’s International Crimes Tribunal, set up last year to try people suspected of atrocities during the independence campaign from Pakistan, Moni said.

“It seems to me there is a smear campaign going on against Bangladesh,” she said, adding that the magazine was trying “to undermine a democratically elected government of a country.”

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Indian govt to introduce new anti-corruption bill

NEW DELHI: The Indian government prepared Thursday to introduce an anti-corruption bill in parliament, which activists have panned for exempting the prime minister from the scrutiny of a powerful new ombudsman.

The much-hyped “Lokpal Bill” would allow citizens to approach a newly-created anti-corruption watchdog with complaints about officials, including federal ministers and senior bureaucrats who are shielded under India’s current laws.

The ombudsman will be picked from the highest levels of the judiciary and supported by 10 other officials who would be from the judiciary or people of “impeccable integrity”.

The scheduled version of the bill has been strongly criticised by civil society activists, who were allowed to participate in the drafting process but complained that their views were marginalised.

In particular, they attacked the decision to remove sitting prime ministers and the higher judiciary from the ombudsman’s purview.

The conduct of MPs inside parliament is also exempt.

India has a dismal record of bringing corrupt senior public officials to justice.

In six decades only one senior politician, Rao Shiv Bahadur Singh, has been convicted of graft and served a jail term — for taking a bribe of 25,000 rupees in 1949.

Current laws require the government’s approval before any sitting bureaucrat or minister can be prosecuted.

Civil society efforts to strengthen the bill were spearheaded by a veteran Indian activist, Anna Hazare, who won concessions from the government in April with a 98-hour hunger strike that gained widespread national support.

Arguing that the final draft of the bill reveals the government’s “empty promises”, Hazare, 78, has urged all MPs to reject the legislation and threatened a new fast.

Hunger strikes, a traditional Indian protest, have become a focus of resentment over the corruption that plagues all levels of life in India, from massive government contracts to small daily bribes.

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US Congress leaders agree on path to trade deals

Congressional leaders said on Wednesday they have agreed upon a path to approve three long-delayed free trade agreements and a program to help US workers who lose their jobs because of foreign competition.

“My staff and (Senate Republican Leader Mitch) McConnell’s staff have been in discussions for weeks over the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) program and the three outstanding FTAs,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said in a statement.

“We believe those discussions have provided a path forward in the Senate after we return for passage of the bipartisan compromise on the Trade Adjustment Assistance program, followed by passage of the three FTAs,” Reid said.

US Trade Representative Ron Kirk also said he was “very pleased Senators Reid and McConnell have agreed on a path forward” for the trade deals with South Korea, Colombia and Panama and the TAA.

In a separate statement, House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner welcomed the deal reached by Reid and McConnell.

“I look forward to the House passing the FTAs, in tandem with separate consideration of TAA legislation, as soon as possible,” Boehner said in a statement.

“The Administration looks forward to working with leaders of the Senate and House after Congress returns in September to secure approval of these important initiatives for America’s working families,” Kirk added.

A Republican aide said the White House had insisted on passage of the TAA in exchange for sending the free trade agreements to Congress for votes.

The deal between Reid and McConnell shows there are votes to pass the pacts and the retraining program, the aide said.

Senate Republicans will be able to offer amendments to TAA, but the expectation is they will be defeated, the aide added.

Each of the three pacts was signed more than four years ago and the White House had hoped to win their approval before Congress left on its August break.

Boost to Exports/Jobs

But the bitter fight over raising the debt ceiling, as well as a disagreement over the TAA program, prevented action on the pacts, which together are expected to boost US exports by about $13 billion and help create or maintain 70,000 jobs.

Meanwhile, a rival deal between the European Union and South Korea went into force on July 1 and another pact between Canada and Colombia takes effect later this month.

Leaders of key House and Senate committees responsible for moving the trade deals said they were prepared to act quickly.

“Working together to enact this package into law needs to be a top priority when we return in September,” said Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, a Democrat.

“Washington must act and act now; we cannot afford to let these trade agreements languish any longer,” said House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp, a Republican.

Many Republicans question the cost and effectiveness of TAA, while Democrats see it as a vital part of the US social safety net to help workers disadvantaged by trade.

The deal reached by McConnell and Reid calls for separate consideration of TAA, but Reid made clear he did not support movement of the trade deals until TAA is approved.

“I agree with the Majority Leader that we have a path forward on TAA and the Free Trade Agreements,” McConnell said in a joint statement with Reid.

“I have long supported passage of the long-delayed FTAs, and I know that I speak for many on my side of the aisle that we are eager to get moving and finally pass them. Although I do not personally support TAA, I know there is bipartisan support for this program,” McConnell said.

Senator Orrin Hatch, the top Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, also welcomed the agreement and urged President Barack Obama to send the trade deals to Congress for approval “as soon as possible.”

“Every day that passes puts American exporters at an international competitive disadvantage and delays the creation of tens of thousands of jobs for American workers,” he said.

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Bomb kills north Afghan city intelligence official

KUNDUZ: A car bomb killed an intelligence official from Afghanistan’s northern Kunduz city on Thursday morning, two days after suicide attackers killed four security guards at a guesthouse in the city used by foreigners, a police spokesman said.

Three children were also wounded by the blast from the bomb planted in the car of Payenda Khan, head of a National Directorate of Security district in Kunduz city, said Sayed Sarwar Husaini, spokesman for the provincial policeman.

Husaini had earlier said Khan was head of the National Directorate of Security in Kunduz province, but later said he was given incorrect information by officials at the bomb site.

The killing comes after three suicide bombers on Tuesday attacked a guesthouse in Kunduz, killing four Afghan security guards employed by a German company.

The once peaceful north of the country has seen a series of high profile attacks and assassinations in recent years, as insurgents seek to demonstrate their reach beyond their traditional southern heartland around Kandahar city.

Violence is at its worst in Afghanistan since US-backed Afghan forces toppled the Taliban government in late 2001, with high levels of foreign troop deaths, and record civilian casualties.

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sc rejects Hamid Saeed Kazmi’s bail application

Former minister Hamid Saeed Kazmi.

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected the bail application of former minister Hamid Saeed Kazmi in the Haj corruption case, DawnNews reported.

A two-judge bench of the apex court headed by Justice Jawwad Khwaja heard the plea requesting bail for the former minister.

The bench rejected the application after hearing the arguments.

During the proceedings, Additional Attorney General K K Agha said that evidence had been found of the involvement of Mr Kazmi, MNA Shagufta Jumani and Joint Secretary Raja Aftab Islam in the corruption.

Mr Agha further stated that the government would not protect the corrupt in its ranks.

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