Diplomatic Briefing

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Archive for Asia

Newsline: Thai consulate in Los Angeles warns of protests over failure to retrieve students’ bodies

US authorities could face protests if they do not expedite the retrieval of the bodies of two Thai postgraduate students believed to have died in a car crash almost two weeks ago in California, the Thai Consulate in Los Angeles has said. Protests are planned in Fresno county, the scene of the accident, and Los Angeles, as frustration mounts with the slow progress of the operation. The consulate said on Facebook that protests would proceed if the rescue and recovery operation were not launched. Thiwadee Saengsuriyarit, 24, and Bhakapon Chairattanasongporn, 28, were driving on a highway on July 26 to Kings Canyon National Park when their rental car plunged off a 150-metre cliff and came to rest partially submerged in a river. Fresno county officials have been blaming bad weather, strong currents and high water from melting snow for the slow pace of the operation. Hopes that the pair survived the accident were dashed when Consulate General Tanee Sangrat said this week that the bodies of the students had been found in the car. In Bangkok, Ekkachai Taidecha, uncle of Bhakapon, applied yesterday for entry visas for a Thai rescue team, saying Thais should take over if US authorities continued to fail to act. “If this accident happened in Thailand, Thai rescuers would be able to get the bodies within 12 hours, no matter how bad the weather was. They would not have to use a helicopter,” he said. In response to Ekkachai’s symbolic protest, the US Embassy issued a statement. “We are closely following the situation and express our heartfelt condolences to the families and friends of the two Thai students involved in this tragic accident in California.”

http://www.nationmultimedia.com/detail/national/30323468

Newsline: Canadian pastor freed from North Korean prison after efforts from Swedish embassy

Relatives of a Canadian pastor released this week after more than two years in a North Korean prison say he is “on his way home” and they are anxious to be reunited with him. The Korean Central News Agency reported that North Korea’s central court had decided to free Hyeong Soo Lim, who was serving a life sentence for anti-state activities. The pastor’s release was described as “sick bail,” but no other details were given. In a statement Thursday, a spokeswoman for his family said “there is a long way to go” in terms of Lim’s healing and stressed the need for privacy as he receives unspecified medical attention. Lisa Pak also said the family is grateful to the Canadian government and the Swedish embassy in North Korea for working behind the scenes to secure the pastor’s freedom. She did not say when he was scheduled to arrive in Canada.

Canadian pastor freed from North Korean prison after efforts from Swedish embassy: family

Newsline: Belgian prince has his £280k state allowance cut after embarrassing diplomatic incident at Chinese embassy

Prince Laurent of Belgium has caused a royal scandal after revealing he attended celebrations to mark the founding of the Chinese army. The prince, who is the younger brother of King Philippe, posted photos of himself attending the event online despite being banned by Prime Minister Charles Michel. Mr Michel issued a decree last December barring Prince Laurent from attending any talks with senior foreign officials without informing the government after a series of controversial meetings, including with the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka. The Prime Minister warned Prince Laurent at the time that his €308,000-per-year (£280,000) salary was at risk, and is now thought to be mulling a fine of up to €30,000 (£28,000). The celebration marking the founding of the People’s Liberation Army was held at the Chinese embassy in Brussels on 19th July, but it was not known at the time that the prince had attended. Controversy began this week after the prince, who is married to British-born Princess Claire, a former surveyor, a posted images of the event on Twitter.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4770960/Belgian-prince-causes-stir-visit-Chinese-embassy.html

Newsline: A Rare Round of Diplomacy From North Korea’s Top Diplomat

A Southeast Asian diplomatic meeting quietly turned into the first real multiparty bargaining session in eight years to tackle North Korea’s nuclear program, as the country’s top diplomat held a rare round of talks with his counterparts from China, South Korea and Russia. The United States and Japan were the only members of the so-called six-party talks on the North’s nuclear ambitions, which ended in failure in 2009, whose diplomats did not meet this week with Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho of North Korea. But Rex W. Tillerson, the American secretary of state, kept the door open for talks, saying at a news conference on Monday that he had no specific preconditions for negotiating with Pyongyang. “Well, the best signal that North Korea could give us that they are prepared to talk would be to stop these missile launches,” Mr. Tillerson said. But when asked how long such a pause would have to last before talks could go forward, Mr. Tillerson demurred. “We’ll know it when we see it,” he said. “We are not going to give someone a specific number of days or weeks. This is really about the spirit of these talks.”

Newsline: US embassy in Manila urges countries to ‘downgrade’ North Korea ties

The U.S. embassy in the Philippines issued a statement urging countries in the Asia-Pacific to downgrade relations with North Korea. The statement comes ahead of a regional security meeting in Manila and addresses “all countries including ASEAN members” to “downgrade diplomatic engagements or exchanges,” Southeast Asia-based BenarNews reported. The ASEAN Regional Forum provides opportunities for top diplomats to hold talks on the sidelines. North Korea’s foreign minister and U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson are expected to be in attendance, but it is unlikely the two representatives will meet to address the nuclear issue. Susan Thornton, the acting assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, had said Tillerson does not plan to meet with North Korea’s foreign minister, and expressed support for penalizing Pyongyang.

https://www.upi.com/Top_News/World-News/2017/08/04/US-embassy-in-Manila-urges-countries-to-downgrade-North-Korea-ties/4441501845092/

Newsline: Germany expels Vietnamese diplomat as Berlin accuses Hanoi of kidnapping

Germany accused Vietnam of kidnapping a Vietnamese asylum seeker in Berlin and ordered a Vietnamese intelligence officer to leave the country within 48 hours. German Foreign Ministry said in a statement that the abduction of Vietnamese citizen Trinh Xuan Thanh on German territory is “an unprecedented and blatant violation of German and international law.” An incident of this kind has the potential to affect relations between Germany and Vietnam in a very adverse way. It is also an extreme breach of trust, the statement said. The Vietnamese ambassador had been summoned on Tuesday afternoon, and Markus Ederer, state secretary of German Foreign Ministry, expressed the German government’s views on this in no uncertain terms. Germany demands that Trinh Xuan Thanh be allowed to travel back to Germany immediately so that the application for extradition and the asylum application can be examined in due process. The official representative of the Vietnamese intelligence agencies at the Vietnamese Embassy in Berlin has been declared persona non grata and given 48 hours to leave Germany. The 51-year-old Thanh was former head of the state-owned Petro Vietnam Construction Corporation, and was accused of causing about 150 million U.S. dollars in losses. The Vietnamese government issued an international arrest warrant for him in September. German media said the asylum seeker kidnapped by armed men in the center of Berlin resurfaced on Monday in Vietnam, where state-owned newspapers reported that he had turned himself into authorities. So far, Vietnam has not responded to Germany’s expulsion of its diplomat.

http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2017-08/03/c_136494693.htm

Newsline: Man opens fire at LA Chinese consulate, kills himself

A man opened fire at the Chinese consulate in Los Angeles, then took his own life in his nearby car, police said. There were no other injuries in the shooting, which took place at about 6 a.m. before the consulate was open for the day, said Officer Michael Lopez of the Los Angeles Police Department. “Numerous rounds impacted the Chinese consulate,” Lopez said. Lopez said the man was discovered in his car dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. The Chinese consulate, in a short statement, said it was extremely concerned about the incident and had asked the United States to take all necessary measures to protect the security of the building and diplomats working there. China’s state-run Xinhua news agency reported that the gunman was in his 60s and possibly of Asian appearance, according to consulate officials who cited police. The report also cited consulate security staff as saying the gunman fired his weapon at least 17 times, leaving bullet holes in the windows and facade of the consulate building. In 2011 a naturalized U.S. citizen originally from China was arrested after police said he opened fire at the same building with a handgun. There were no injuries in that incident.

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-losangeles-consulate-shooting-idUSKBN1AI030