AQUINO ARRIVES IN TOKYO TO BEGIN TALKS WITH JAPAN PM

JUNE 24  -President Benigno Aquino III has arrived here in Tokyo for his summit meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. At press time, Mr. Aquino is en route to the Prime Minister’s Office. The two leaders are expected to discuss, among others, China’s increasing aggression in the South and East China Seas. China is claiming a huge swath of the South China Sea, including territories within the West Philippine Sea. It is also claiming the Japanese-administered Senkaku Islands. Japan is one of only two strategic partners of the Philippines, the other being the US. THIS IS THE FULL REPORT.

ALSO: Aquino, Japanese PM begin summit meeting

JUNE 24 --President Benigno Aquino III and Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Tuesday began their fourth summit meeting in the last 12 months by putting emphasis on the two countries’ strategic partnership. Citing their “frequent communication,” Premier Abe told Mr. Aquino, taking note in the development of the two countries’ bilateral relationship. “Both Japan and the Philippines share universal values and between us there is a strategic partnership. So with you, Mr. President, I certainly would like to develop our relationship,” Premier Abe added. In response, President Aquino said the Philippines welcomes the “opportunity to revitalize the strategic partnership between our two countries.” Expected to be on the summit meeting’s agenda is China’s increasing aggressiveness is claiming territories in the South and East China Seas. China is claiming a large swath of the South China Sea, encroaching on Philippine territories in the West Philippine Sea. Japan is embroiled in a territorial dispute with China over the Japanese-administered Senkaku Islands, known as Diaoyutai in China. THIS IS THE FULL REPORT

ALSO: Aquino backs larger Japan military role

JUNE 25  --The leader of the Philippines on Tuesday endorsed Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s ongoing push to expand Japan’s military role. Philippine President Benigno Aquino III, left, and Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pose for photos before their meeting at Abe’s office in Tokyo Tuesday, June 24, 2014. (AP photo/Yuya Shino, Pool) President Benigno Aquino III, after meeting with Abe, expressed his support for Abe’s proposal to reinterpret Japan’s pacifist constitution to allow its military to defend not only Japan but also allies that come under attack. “We believe that nations of goodwill can only benefit if the Japanese government is empowered to assist others and is allowed the wherewithal to come to the aid of those in need, especially in the area of collective self-defense,” he told reporters at a joint news conference. Abe’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party is in the midst of tough negotiations with its coalition partner, the New Komeito, which has so far balked at Abe’s proposal to allow what is known as collective self-defense. Under the current interpretation of the constitution, the Japanese military can use force only to defend Japan. Aquino’s support comes as Japan and the Philippines deepen security ties in the face of China’s military expansion and territorial disputes both they and other Asian nations have with China in the South and East China seas. READ MORE...

ALSO: UN warns El Nino likely by end of year

JUNE 26  --Geneva - The “El Nino” phenomenon, which sparks climate extremes around the globe, is likely to take hold in the Pacific Ocean by the end of the year and could even do so within weeks, the UN said on Thursday. There was an 80 percent likelihood that El Nino could start between October and November and 60 percent that it would do so between now and end of August, said the UN’s weather agency, the World Meterological Organization. The El Nino phenomenon — which can lead to extremes including droughts and heavy rainfall across the globe — occurs every two to seven years, when the prevailing trade winds that circulate over surface waters in the tropical Pacific start to weaken. The phenomenon, which last occurred between June 2009 and May 2010, can play havoc for farmers and global agricultural markets. It leaves countries like India, Indonesia and Australia drier, increasing chances of wildfires and lower crop production, while leading to heavier rainfall in the eastern Pacific and South American nations, raising the spectre of floods and landslides. “El Nino leads to extreme events and has a pronounced warming effect,” said WMO chief Michel Jarraud. El Nino drags precipitation across the Pacific, leaving countries including India and Indonesia drier. India’s monsoon rains have already arrived five days later than normal, and the prospect of a weak rainy season has raised fears of lower crop production and rising food prices. READ MORE...

ALSO: US ends Philippines anti-terror force

JUNE 26  --After more than a decade of helping fight al-Qaeda-linked militants, the United States is disbanding an anti-terror contingent of hundreds of elite American troops in Mindanao where armed groups such as Abu Sayyaf have largely been crippled, officials said Thursday. But special forces from the US Pacific Command, possibly in smaller numbers, will remain after the deactivation of the anti-terror contingent called Joint Special Operations Task Force Philippines, or JSOTF-P, to ensure al-Qaeda offshoots such as Abu Sayyaf and the Indonesia-based Jemaah Islamiyah militant network do not regain lost ground, according to US and Philippine officials. The move marks a new chapter in the long-running battle against an al-Qaeda-inspired movement in the southern Philippines, viewed by the US as a key front in the global effort to keep terrorists at bay. It reflects shifting security strategies and focus in economically vibrant Asia, where new concerns such as multiple territorial conflicts involving China have alarmed Washington’s allies entangled in the disputes. A year after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the US military established the task force in the southern Philippines to help ill-equipped Filipino forces contain a bloody rampage by Abu Sayyaf gunmen, who carried out bombings, terrorized entire towns and kidnapped more than 100 people, including three Americans. Although US forces are barred by the Philippine Constitution from local combat, the advice, training, military equipment and intelligence, including drone surveillance, that they provided helped the underfunded Philippine military beat back the Abu Sayyaf. US-backed Philippine offensives whittled the militants’ ranks from a few thousand fighters — mostly drawn from desperately poor hinterland villages — to about 300 gunmen, who survive on extortion and kidnappings for ransom while dodging military assaults. “Our partnership with the Philippine security forces has been successful in drastically reducing the capabilities of domestic and transnational terrorist groups in the Philippines,” US Embassy Press Attache Kurt Hoyer said in a written response to questions sent by email by The Associated Press. READ MORE...

(ALSO) US: China’s offshore behavior hurts its own int'l standing

JUNE 26 --In this photo taken Sunday, June 8, 2014, and released on Wednesday, June 11, 2014, by the Philippine Navy Public Affairs Office in Manila, Philippines, naval personnel from Vietnam, in striped shirts, and the Philippines, shake hands following a tug of war game at the Vietnamese-occupied Southwest Cay Island in a rare display of camaraderie in the South China Sea, where their territorial rifts with China have flared alarmingly.WASHINGTON — A senior U.S. official says China’s coercive efforts to enforce its territorial claims in disputed waters are not just raising tensions but damaging its international standing.Top diplomat for East Asia, Daniel Russel, was speaking at a congressional hearing Wednesday, two weeks ahead of high-level talks between the two global powers in Beijing.Russel said Washington wanted to build “strategic trust” with Beijing and economic cooperation, but would also push for the release of political prisoners.Russel criticized China’s recent actions in the East and South China Seas which he said had left its neighbors “understandably alarmed.”
China is locked in a standoff with Vietnam after deploying oil rigs in waters claimed by nations, and has running territorial disputes with U.S. treaty allies, Japan and the Philippines.THIS IS THE FULL REPORT

ALSO: Ex-US admiral: 'Equally forceful' Philippines needed in sea row

The Philippines has to stand up to China's gray-zone challenges in the hotly contested South China Sea, instead of only reacting to its behavior. Dennis Blair, retired chief of the United States Pacific Command and former Director of National Intelligence, said the Philippines, Japan and Vietnam "can't just sit there" and watch as China encroaches in what they consider sovereign territories. "Of course, you need to think them through carefully, but if the Chinese want to play a game of 'I'll poke you here, and I'll poke you there,' then you have to respond and say, 'Game on." Blair said in an interview with Asahi Shimbun, a transcript of which was posted Thursday. "Japan, the Philippines and Vietnam need to take initiatives of their own and be equally forceful in that space," the acknowledged Asia expert advised. Blair said China will keep on forcefully asserting its claims through unilateral declarations, but will not step beyond the "upper limit" of heightening tensions to become a major conflict. "On the Chinese side, I think there is a similar sort of a ceiling because China knows that if a major conflict were to occur in the East China Sea or the South China Sea, the effect on China’s economic development would be terrible," Blair said. *READ MORE...


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Aquino arrives in Tokyo, to begin talks with Japan PM


Philippine President Benigno Aquino III (left) and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe greet each other during their meeting in Japan. Nikko Dizon/PHILIPPINE DAILY INQUIRER

TOKYO, JUNE 30, 2014 (INQUIRER) By Nikko Dizon - President Benigno Aquino III has arrived here in Tokyo for his summit meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

At press time, Mr. Aquino is en route to the Prime Minister’s Office.

The two leaders are expected to discuss, among others, China’s increasing aggression in the South and East China Seas.

China is claiming a huge swath of the South China Sea, including territories within the West Philippine Sea.

It is also claiming the Japanese-administered Senkaku Islands.

Japan is one of only two strategic partners of the Philippines, the other being the US.

Aquino, Japanese PM begin summit meeting By Nikko Dizon Philippine Daily Inquirer 12:39 pm | Tuesday, June 24th, 2014


Aquino Shinzo Abe Japan Philippine President Benigno Aquino III, left, talks with Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during their meeting at Abe’s office in Tokyo Tuesday, June 24, 2014. AP

TOKYO—President Benigno Aquino III and Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Tuesday began their fourth summit meeting in the last 12 months by putting emphasis on the two countries’ strategic partnership.

Citing their “frequent communication,” Premier Abe told Mr. Aquino, taking note in the development of the two countries’ bilateral relationship.

“Both Japan and the Philippines share universal values and between us there is a strategic partnership. So with you, Mr. President, I certainly would like to develop our relationship,” Premier Abe added.

In response, President Aquino said the Philippines welcomes the “opportunity to revitalize the strategic partnership between our two countries.”

Expected to be on the summit meeting’s agenda is China’s increasing aggressiveness is claiming territories in the South and East China Seas.

China is claiming a large swath of the South China Sea, encroaching on Philippine territories in the West Philippine Sea.

Japan is embroiled in a territorial dispute with China over the Japanese-administered Senkaku Islands, known as Diaoyutai in China.

FROM THE MANILA BULLETIN

Aquino backs larger Japan military role by AP June 24, 2014



Japan-Philippines, Manila Bulletin

TOKYO (AP) — The leader of the Philippines on Tuesday endorsed Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s ongoing push to expand Japan’s military role.

Philippine President Benigno Aquino III, left, and Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pose for photos before their meeting at Abe’s office in Tokyo Tuesday, June 24, 2014. (AP photo/Yuya Shino, Pool)
President Benigno Aquino III, after meeting with Abe, expressed his support for Abe’s proposal to reinterpret Japan’s pacifist constitution to allow its military to defend not only Japan but also allies that come under attack.

“We believe that nations of goodwill can only benefit if the Japanese government is empowered to assist others and is allowed the wherewithal to come to the aid of those in need, especially in the area of collective self-defense,” he told reporters at a joint news conference.

Abe’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party is in the midst of tough negotiations with its coalition partner, the New Komeito, which has so far balked at Abe’s proposal to allow what is known as collective self-defense. Under the current interpretation of the constitution, the Japanese military can use force only to defend Japan.

Aquino’s support comes as Japan and the Philippines deepen security ties in the face of China’s military expansion and territorial disputes both they and other Asian nations have with China in the South and East China seas.

Neither Aquino nor Abe mentioned China by name, but both referred to the changing security environment. China’s rise is a potential challenge to American dominance in the Pacific, and control of vital shipping routes as well as potential undersea oil and natural gas.

China has criticized Japan’s push for collective self-defense, warning against the return of the Japanese militarism that wreaked havoc across much of Asia before and during World War II.

Aquino acknowledged the devastation the Philippines suffered at Japanese hands, but said his country’s relations with Japan have been marked by trust and unfailing support in the years since.

“We do not view with alarm any proposal to revisit the Japanese constitution if the Japanese people so decide,” he said, “especially if this enhances Japan’s ability to address its international obligations and brings us closer to the attainment of our shared goals.”

UN warns El Nino likely by end of year by AFP June 26, 2014


- Vulnerable to ‘force of nature’ -

Geneva - The “El Nino” phenomenon, which sparks climate extremes around the globe, is likely to take hold in the Pacific Ocean by the end of the year and could even do so within weeks, the UN said on Thursday.

There was an 80 percent likelihood that El Nino could start between October and November and 60 percent that it would do so between now and end of August, said the UN’s weather agency, the World Meterological Organization.

The El Nino phenomenon — which can lead to extremes including droughts and heavy rainfall across the globe — occurs every two to seven years, when the prevailing trade winds that circulate over surface waters in the tropical Pacific start to weaken.

The phenomenon, which last occurred between June 2009 and May 2010, can play havoc for farmers and global agricultural markets.

It leaves countries like India, Indonesia and Australia drier, increasing chances of wildfires and lower crop production, while leading to heavier rainfall in the eastern Pacific and South American nations, raising the spectre of floods and landslides.

“El Nino leads to extreme events and has a pronounced warming effect,” said WMO chief Michel Jarraud.

El Nino drags precipitation across the Pacific, leaving countries including India and Indonesia drier.

India’s monsoon rains have already arrived five days later than normal, and the prospect of a weak rainy season has raised fears of lower crop production and rising food prices.

In Indonesia, there are concerns that dry conditions could fan wildfires caused by slash-and-burn techniques used to clear land quickly and cheaply.

Fires on Indonesia’s western Sumatra island last June already caused the worst haze in Southeast Asia for more than a decade, affecting daily life for millions and sparking a heated diplomatic row with neighbouring Singapore and Malaysia.

Australia also tends to be drier during an El Nino, increasing the risk of bush fires.

El Nino-year winters are generally drier in the north of the United States and Europe.

El Nino also causes heavier-than-normal rainfall in the eastern Pacific and South America — raising the spectre of floods and landslides, as well as shifting nutrient-rich ocean currents that lure fish.

In the past, that has battered local fishing industries and caused diplomatic battles over shifting fishing zones.

The southwest United States and southern Africa, meanwhile, tend to be drier, while east Africa faces heavy rainfall.

The name El Nino is believed to have been coined in the 19th century after Peruvian fisherman observed it around Christmas — the word is Spanish for “boy”, in reference to the infant Jesus Christ.

La Nina, the word for “girl”, was devised later to label the reverse phenomenon, which is characterised by unusually cool ocean surface temperatures in the central and eastern tropical Pacific, the last of which ended in April 2012.

Both are significant markers of global climate fluctuations.

“Our understanding of El Nino and La Nina has increased dramatically in recent years and this knowledge has enabled us to develop very successful climate services for society,” said Jarraud.

“Advance warning has given governments around the world time to make contingency plans for the impact of this year’s expected El Nino on the agriculture, water management, health and other climate-sensitive sectors,” he said.

“We remain vulnerable to this force of nature but we can protect ourselves by being better prepared,” he added.

The two climate patterns are watched carefully by scientists who say that, while they are not caused by climate change, rising ocean temperatures stoked by global warming may affect their intensity and frequency.

“It is too early to assess the precise impact on global temperatures in 2014, but we expect the long-term warming trend to continue as a result of rising greenhouse gas concentrations,” noted Jarraud.

FROM THE INQUIRER

US ends Philippines anti-terror force Associated Press2:58 pm | Thursday, June 26th, 2014


Abu Sayyaf group. AFP FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines — After more than a decade of helping fight al-Qaeda-linked militants, the United States is disbanding an anti-terror contingent of hundreds of elite American troops in Mindanao where armed groups such as Abu Sayyaf have largely been crippled, officials said Thursday.

But special forces from the US Pacific Command, possibly in smaller numbers, will remain after the deactivation of the anti-terror contingent called Joint Special Operations Task Force Philippines, or JSOTF-P, to ensure al-Qaeda offshoots such as Abu Sayyaf and the Indonesia-based Jemaah Islamiyah militant network do not regain lost ground, according to US and Philippine officials.

The move marks a new chapter in the long-running battle against an al-Qaeda-inspired movement in the southern Philippines, viewed by the US as a key front in the global effort to keep terrorists at bay. It reflects shifting security strategies and focus in economically vibrant Asia, where new concerns such as multiple territorial conflicts involving China have alarmed Washington’s allies entangled in the disputes.

A year after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the US military established the task force in the southern Philippines to help ill-equipped Filipino forces contain a bloody rampage by Abu Sayyaf gunmen, who carried out bombings, terrorized entire towns and kidnapped more than 100 people, including three Americans.

Although US forces are barred by the Philippine Constitution from local combat, the advice, training, military equipment and intelligence, including drone surveillance, that they provided helped the underfunded Philippine military beat back the Abu Sayyaf. US-backed Philippine offensives whittled the militants’ ranks from a few thousand fighters — mostly drawn from desperately poor hinterland villages — to about 300 gunmen, who survive on extortion and kidnappings for ransom while dodging military assaults.

“Our partnership with the Philippine security forces has been successful in drastically reducing the capabilities of domestic and transnational terrorist groups in the Philippines,” US Embassy Press Attache Kurt Hoyer said in a written response to questions sent by email by The Associated Press.


In this March 23, 2013 file photo released by the Armed Forces of the Philippines Western Mindanao Command, Australian hostage Warren Richard Rodwell, center, arrives at the Command’s headquarters in Zamboanga city in southern Philippines following his release by Al-Qaida-linked militants after 15 months of jungle captivity. Philippine security forces have captured two Abu Sayyaf militants in a southern city, including one who allegedly was involved in the kidnappings of an American teenage boy and the Australian man, officials said Tuesday, June 17, 2014. AP

The remaining terrorists, he said, “have largely devolved into disorganized groups resorting to criminal undertakings to sustain their activities.”

That success has led US military planners in coordination with their Philippine counterparts “to begin working on a transition plan where the JSOTF-P as a task force will no longer exist,” Hoyer said, adding there were currently about 320 American military personnel left in the south.

There were about 500 to 600 American military personnel in the south before the drawdown.

Hoyer said a still-unspecified number of US military personnel from the Pacific Command would remain under a new unit called the PACOM Augmentation Team to provide Filipino forces with counter-terrorism and combat training and advice, and “ensure that violent extremist organizations don’t regain a foothold in the southern Philippines.”

He suggested the remaining American personnel would move away from training exercises with Filipino combat units in the field, and shift to working with Philippine security forces at unified commands and headquarters units.

The timing of such withdrawals from counterterrorism campaigns from the southern Philippines to Afghanistan has been a dilemma for the US, which must ensure that remaining extremist forces are not able to bounce back.

Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said Philippine officials have been notified of the US move and expressed confidence that Filipino forces could deal with any lingering threat from Muslim extremists in the south, scene of a decades-long Muslim separatist rebellion in the predominantly Roman Catholic nation.

Gazmin said with the scaling down of the US presence in the south, the Americans would renew a presence elsewhere in the country to help address another security worry — China’s increasingly assertive behavior in the disputed South China Sea, where Beijing, Manila and four other governments have been locked in increasingly tense territorial disputes.

The US and the Philippines, which are defense treaty allies, signed a 10-year pact in April that will allow possibly thousands of American forces temporary access to selected Filipino military camps and enable them to preposition fighter jets and ships.

The Philippines’ efforts to protect its territory have dovetailed with Washington’s intention to pivot away from years of heavy military engagement in the Middle East to Asia, partly as a counterweight to China’s rising clout.

US: China’s offshore behavior hurts its standing Associated Press5:52 am | Thursday, June 26th, 2014


In this photo taken Sunday, June 8, 2014, and released on Wednesday, June 11, 2014, by the Philippine Navy Public Affairs Office in Manila, Philippines: naval personnel from Vietnam, in striped shirts, and the Philippines, shake hands following a tug of war game at the Vietnamese-occupied Southwest Cay Island in a rare display of camaraderie in the South China Sea, where their territorial rifts with China have flared alarmingly. AP FILE PHOTO

WASHINGTON — A senior U.S. official says China’s coercive efforts to enforce its territorial claims in disputed waters are not just raising tensions but damaging its international standing.

Top diplomat for East Asia, Daniel Russel, was speaking at a congressional hearing Wednesday, two weeks ahead of high-level talks between the two global powers in Beijing.

Russel said Washington wanted to build “strategic trust” with Beijing and economic cooperation, but would also push for the release of political prisoners.

Russel criticized China’s recent actions in the East and South China Seas which he said had left its neighbors “understandably alarmed.”

China is locked in a standoff with Vietnam after deploying oil rigs in waters claimed by nations, and has running territorial disputes with U.S. treaty allies, Japan and the Philippines.

Ex-US admiral: 'Equally forceful' Philippines needed in sea row By Camille Diola (philstar.com) | Updated June 27, 2014 - 12:16pm


Dennis Blair, then United States Director of National Intelligence, speaks at the World Affairs Council in Philadelphia in November 2009. WACPhiladelphia

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines has to stand up to China's gray-zone challenges in the hotly contested South China Sea, instead of only reacting to its behavior.

Dennis Blair, retired chief of the United States Pacific Command and former Director of National Intelligence, said the Philippines, Japan and Vietnam "can't just sit there" and watch as China encroaches in what they consider sovereign territories.

"Of course, you need to think them through carefully, but if the Chinese want to play a game of 'I'll poke you here, and I'll poke you there,' then you have to respond and say, 'Game on." Blair said in an interview with Asahi Shimbun, a transcript of which was posted Thursday.

"Japan, the Philippines and Vietnam need to take initiatives of their own and be equally forceful in that space," the acknowledged Asia expert advised.

Blair said China will keep on forcefully asserting its claims through unilateral declarations, but will not step beyond the "upper limit" of heightening tensions to become a major conflict.

"On the Chinese side, I think there is a similar sort of a ceiling because China knows that if a major conflict were to occur in the East China Sea or the South China Sea, the effect on China’s economic development would be terrible," Blair said.

*Below that limit, though, the Chinese are sitting around, thinking, “Now, what can I do next? Let's see, I can extend the ADIZ (Air Defense Identification Zone), I can declare a new fishing zone, etcetera," he added.

Neighboring countries should then take advantage of China's self-imposed limit even as it grows in power and believes it can get its way, Blair said.

Blair, who was in the US Navy for 34 years, urged the Philippines and other claimant states to say, "Wait a minute! These are things that matter to us. These are our interests. Together we are stronger than you are."

"These are not things that we hand over to you just because your [gross domestic product] goes up 10 percent a year," Blair said.

The former admiral admitted that Beijing's increasing might has "worried" him for years knowing that it feels entitled to weaker countries' concessions in the decades-long sea row.

He explained that China looks back at its years as a weaker nation and still remembers Japan's invasion in 1931. Now an Asian powerhouse, China is prepared to use its newfound strength to its advantage.

Still, rival claimants "cannot simply make concessions to a country as it grows in power," Blair believes.

"We have to figure out how to counter those actions," he said.

The Philippines has taken a "rules-based approach" in dealing the escalating disputes. It has abandoned seemingly futile direct negotiations with China and resorted to filing an arbitration case before the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

China has rejected the third-party settlement as the Manila invests on new military assets for a "minimum credible defense" amid the regional dustup.


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