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Newsline: Chinese embassy in Paris finds woman who ‘cheated’ Coronavirus checks

The Chinese embassy in Paris has tracked down a woman from Wuhan who said she took tablets to pass airport health checks. The woman boasted on social media that she had been suffering from a fever, but managed to reduce her symptoms with medicine. She later posted pictures showing herself dining at what she claimed was a Michelin-starred restaurant in Lyon. (https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-51231593) The embassy has now confirmed that her symptoms are under control. The woman left Wuhan – where the new coronavirus emerged late last year – before flights were suspended, but when thermal scanning was in place.

Newsline: Sweden summons Chinese ambassador over criticism of country and media

Sweden’s foreign ministry has summoned the Chinese ambassador for talks over his repeated criticism of the Scandinavian nation and alleged intimidation of the Swedish media. Relations between Sweden and China have been strained for several years over Beijing’s detention of Chinese-born Swedish citizen Gui Minhai, who published gossipy titles about Chinese political leaders out of a Hong Kong book shop. A foreign ministry spokeswoman on Tuesday refused to disclose the specific issues that would be raised. Chinese ambassador Gui Congyou in November threatened “counter-measures” after the culture minister awarded a Swedish rights prize to Gui Minhai. Two business delegations to Stockholm were subsequently cancelled. In an interview at the weekend on Swedish television SVT, he said of Sweden’s critical media coverage of China: “It’s like a 48-kilo lightweight boxer picking a fight with an 86-kilo heavyweight boxer, and the 86-kilo boxer out of courtesy and goodwill tells the 48-kilo boxer to mind his own business.” (https://www.hongkongfp.com/2020/01/22/sweden-summons-chinese-ambassador-criticism-country-media/) “But the lightweight boxer doesn’t listen, he continues to provoke and forces himself into the heavyweight boxer’s home. What choice does then this 86-kilo boxer have?” Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde told SVT the ambassador’s remarks were “an unacceptable threat”.

Newsline: North Korea’s Kim taps tough-talking military veteran as foreign minister

North Korea’s new foreign minister is a former defense commander with little diplomatic experience, spotlighting leader Kim Jong Un’s reliance on party and military loyalists at a sensitive time amid stalled U.S. talks, analysts in Seoul said on Monday. (https://www.reuters.com/article/us-northkorea-politics/north-koreas-kim-taps-tough-talking-military-veteran-as-foreign-minister-idUSKBN1ZJ0RE) Last week, North Korea told countries with embassies in Pyongyang that Ri Son Gwon, a senior military officer and official of the ruling Workers’ Party, had been appointed foreign minister, a diplomatic source in Seoul told Reuters. He replaces Ri Yong Ho, a career diplomat with years of experience negotiating with Washington, but who often took a backseat to other officials during the last two years of diplomacy.

Newsline: Albania, host of Iranian dissident camp, expels two Iranian diplomats

Albania, which hosts a camp for thousands of members of an exiled Iranian dissident group, expelled two Iranian diplomats , more than a year after kicking out the Iranian ambassador. Acting Foreign Minister Gent Cakaj identified the diplomats in a statement on social media as Mohammad Ali Arz Peimanemati and Seyed Ahmad Hosseini Alast. They were expelled for activity incompatible with their diplomatic status, a phrase often used in cases of spying. “The two representatives of the Islamic Republic of Iran have been asked to depart immediately from the territory of the Republic of Albania,” Cakaj said. (https://www.reuters.com/article/us-albania-iran-expulsion/albania-host-of-iranian-dissident-camp-expels-two-iranian-diplomats-idUSKBN1ZE27X) In December 2018, Albania expelled Iran’s ambassador and another diplomat for “damaging its national security”. Iran said at the time Albania had acted under pressure from Israel and the United States.

Newsline: South Koreans are flipping out over US ambassador’s mustache

It might just be the most bizarre criticism of a US ambassador in recent memory. Harry Harris, Washington’s envoy to South Korea, has been subjected to heated vitriol on social media and by anonymous netizens for his mustache. That small piece of facial hair has, as Harris put it, “for some reason become a point of some fascination here in the media.” “If you watch social media it’s all out there,” Harris, the former head of US Pacific Forces, told reporters.(https://edition.cnn.com/2020/01/17/asia/harry-harris-mustache-intl-hnk/index.html) On the surface, the critiques border on ridiculousness. It’s just a small patch of hair. But Harris’ ‘stache has sparked discussions on topics much bigger than the ambassador himself: the still-raw emotions among many Koreans about the legacy of Japanese occupation; the prevalence of racism in such a homogenous society; and cracks appearing in the future of the decades-old alliance between Seoul and Washington as the two sides attempt to reach a deal on how to cover the cost of US troops stationed in South Korea, amid reports that President Donald Trump demanded a 400% pay increase. The gist of the criticism is that with the mustache, Harris resembles the reviled Japanese leaders who ruled the Korean Peninsula with an iron fist during the Japanese occupation. Some of Japan’s most prominent wartime leaders — like Hideki Tojo, the Prime Minister who was later executed by a postwar tribunal, and Emperor Hirohito — had mustaches. Under Japanese rule, many Koreans were brutalized, murdered and enslaved. It’s still living memory for elderly Koreans and remains a highly emotive subject in both North and South Korea.

Newsline: North Korean foreign minister replaced

North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho has been replaced, Seoul-based NK News reported on Saturday. Ri’s replacement has not been identified but Pyongyang is set to reveal his successor about next Thursday, the report said, citing unnamed sources. From 2003 to 2007, he was North Korea’s ambassador in London and served as vice foreign minister, representing North Korea at six-party talks on North Korea’s nuclear program. (https://www.reuters.com/article/us-northkorea-foreign-minister/north-korean-foreign-minister-replaced-report-idUSKBN1ZH0B3) Ri did not attend the annual gathering of world leaders at the United Nations in September. He had attended the high-level meeting in New York for three years from 2016 to 2018.

Newsline: EU’s former ambassador to South Korea suspect in China spy probe

Gerhard Sabathil, the European Union’s former ambassador to South Korea, has been identified as the subject of a German probe into alleged spying activities for China’s Ministry of State Security, according to three European sources. (https://www.scmp.com/news/china/diplomacy/article/3046484/eus-former-ambassador-south-korea-suspect-china-spy-probe) The investigation, which has sent shock waves through Beijing, Berlin and Brussels, came to light after German authorities raided the flats and offices of Sabathil and two other individuals. German police have made no arrests. Sabathil could not immediately be reached for comment. A dual citizen of Germany and Hungary, Sabathil left diplomacy in 2017 to join the European lobbying firm Eutop. Eutop’s lawyer, Christian Schertz, said in an emailed response to the South China Morning Post’s questions: “Given that the circumstances described by you do not concern the activities of our client, we see no reason for our client to comment.”