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Archive for Asia

Newsline: South African’s ex-ambassador to Iran arrested

Pretoria’s former ambassador to Iran has been arrested in South Africa on charges he took a bribe to help telecoms company MTN win a $31.6 billion license to operate in Iran. Yusuf Saloojee, now retired, was arrested on Thursday, police said on Friday, in the latest legal blow for MTN, which has faced a host of such problems in recent years. It denies the latest allegations (https://www.reuters.com/article/us-mtn-iran-arrests/south-africans-ex-ambassador-to-iran-arrested-in-mtn-investigation-idUSKCN1Q41PK). Police said Saloojee was given 1.4 million rand ($100,000) to help MTN win the 15-year contract to operate in Iran, worth $31.6 billion, from Turkish mobile operator Turkcell. He used the money to buy a house in Pretoria, police said.


Newsline: Swedish foreign ministry investigates ambassador to China

Sweden’s ambassador to China is under internal investigation, the embassy said Thursday, after she set up meetings between the daughter of a detained Swedish publisher and two businessmen that appeared to have gone awry. Ambassador Anna Lindstedt returned to Stockholm on Wednesday to meet with officials from the foreign affairs ministry, the Swedish Embassy in Beijing said by phone. Lindstedt is not under criminal investigation. The embassy declined to give further details, but the ministry confirmed that Lindstedt’s departure was related to meetings she arranged between Angela Gui, the daughter of detained Swedish book publisher Gui Minhai, and the two businessmen. “The ambassador has acted incorrectly in the sense that the foreign ministry had no knowledge that the meetings took place,” spokeswoman Catherine Johnsson told The Associated Press (https://www.kentucky.com/news/business/article226252170.html). She said the internal investigation was aimed at getting “an overall picture of what has happened,” and that “as far as the action of the ambassador is concerned, we must wait for what the inquiry will come up with.”

Newsline: Embassy urges Omanis to wear masks in Bangkok

The Embassy of Oman in Thailand has asked its citizens travelling to the capital city Bangkok, to wear protective masks (https://menafn.com/1098100342/Embassy-urges-Omanis-to-wear-masks-in-Bangkok). In a tweet, the embassy stated that it is a precautionary measure to protect against air pollution and high particles of fine dust in Bangkok and its surroundings. The Omani embassy added that authorities in Thailand have though announced that the atmosphere has gradually improved in most areas, but it is advisable to take precautions for the elderly, children and patients with respiratory diseases. However, most people travelling from Oman are oblivious to the development and travel agents have not found any change in the booking pattern of tourists to Thailand.

Newsline: Australian embassy visa office in Iran shut down amid warning of possible corruption

The Government has shut down its visa processing operations in Iran after it was warned some migration agents were boasting of corruptly obtaining visas through a contact in the Australian embassy in Tehran. The ABC understands the allegations, outlined in a letter sent to the embassy in January 2017, were then referred to Australia’s peak corruption watchdog, the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity (ACLEI), for investigation (https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-01-31/australian-embassy-in-iran-shuts-down-visa-processing-office/10761994). The visa processing section at the embassy was shut down in July last year. The ABC has been told that investigators — believed to be from ACLEI’s Visa Integrity Task Force — have questioned several Iranians in Australia about the circumstances in which they obtained their visas.

Newsline: Backchannels to Beijing close as detentions raise fears among old China hands

Some of the West’s most experienced “China hands” plan to steer clear of the country as the detention of two Canadians in December raises concerns among former envoys about their safety. China’s detention of Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor in December – following Canada’s arrest of Sabrina Meng Wanzhou, Chinese tech giant Huawei’s chief financial officer – has been condemned by diplomats, especially US allies who speak of retaliation by Beijing. Despite Beijing’s denial that the arrests of Kovrig and Spavor were revenge, a Beijing-based Western diplomat said the detentions worried officials who were now reluctant to return to China and engage in informal diplomacy after postings when sometimes years-long professional relationships were built up with Chinese counterparts. “I would probably not want to come back to Beijing after my post,” said the diplomat, who did not want to be identified. For years, exchanges between businesses and former diplomats were often used as a backchannel to improve relations. With these avenues closed, policymaking that shapes ties between the two sides could become much tougher. Last week 116 scholars and 27 former diplomats from 19 countries released an open letter calling for the release of the two Canadians. The letter said the detention of Kovrig, a former diplomat, and Spavor, a businessman, prompted the signatories to “be more cautious about travelling and working in China and engaging our Chinese counterparts”. Some Western former diplomats are ready to suspend informal contacts with China.


Newsline: China’s embassy mocks US over Lon Nol claims

The Chinese Embassy in Cambodia issued a statement singling out the US’ Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), not the US government itself, as the culprit in the 1970 Lon Nol coup d’etat, apparently mocking last week’s denial by the US Embassy in Cambodia of its country’s involvement. “Recently the embassy of a world superpower claimed publicly that its government had nothing to do with the Lon Nol-led coup d’etat in the early 1970s.” “Of course, the coup that led Cambodia to suffer from a long civil war was not caused by the ‘US’, but the CIA,” the statement said, accompanied with photos of newspaper clippings from the time and pictures of US bombs being dropped on the Kingdom (https://www.phnompenhpost.com/national-politics/chinas-embassy-mocks-us-over-lon-nol-claims). The Chinese Embassy’s statement comes in response to a US Embassy statement denying its country’s involvement in the 1970 Lon Nol-led coup d’etat that overthrew Prince Norodom Sihanouk. The coup indirectly resulted in the rise of the Khmer Rouge regime and a decade of turmoil in Cambodia. The US’ statement also implicated the Chinese government in supporting the Khmer Rouge, accompanying its message with a series of photos, one of which depicts Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot and the then Vice Chairman of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, Wang Dongxing, together.

Newsline: Turkey summons Japanese ambassador over ‘visa disappointment’

Turkey has voiced its disappointment after Japan decided to not hire Turkish workers as part of its new foreign worker policy. Within the framework of the new law that regulates residence permits for foreign workers in Japan that will take effect in April, Japan has listed Turkey in the draft published regarding the countries from which foreign workers will not be accepted. Hami Aksoy emphasized that this situation does not reflect the spirit of the strategic partnership and deep-rooted, friendly relations between the two countries, saying that Turkey believes that the decision will be reviewed and corrected as soon as possible. “By summoning Japan’s ambassador to Ankara to our ministry, we conveyed our inconvenience to him,” Aksoy said in a statement. The number of foreigners working in Japan reached a record high of 1.46 million, rising twofold over the past five years as the country grapples with a labor shortage, government data showed recently. The figure as of October 2018 represented a 14 percent increase from the previous year and the sixth consecutive annual gain, according to The Nikkei newspaper, citing data from the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare.