Diplomatic Briefing

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Archive for Asia

Newsline: China claims no ‘clue’ of sonic attack on U.S. consulate

Chinese officials say they’ve probed reports of an American government employee experiencing mysterious sensations from sound and pressure at a U.S. diplomatic facility in China but found nothing to back up the claim. “China has carried out an investigation seriously and given an initial feedback to the U.S.,” said Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang. “We have found no reason or clue for what was reported by the U.S.” Mr. Kang made the comments at a press conference in Beijing after U.S. officials revealed that an employee at the U.S. consulate in Guangzhou, China, had experienced the abnormal sensations. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo raised eyebrows Wednesday, when he told lawmakers in Washington that the sensations reported were “very similar and entirely consistent” with symptoms felt by American diplomats sickened last year in Cuba by what many believe was a sonic or electromagnetic wave attack on the U.S. Embassy there. The incident in Havana has remained a mystery over the past year, with some analysts also speculating the diplomats may have fallen ill from exposure to waves emitting from a malfunctioned foreign listening or spying device.



Newsline: US diplomat in China shows symptoms of ‘mild’ brain injury

A US government employee in southern China has shown signs of a “mild traumatic brain injury” after reporting abnormal sounds and air pressure in a case that recalls the mystery illness that hit American diplomats serving in Cuba. In an emailed notice to American citizens in China on Wednesday, the State Department said it was not currently known what had caused the symptoms in the staff member, who is based in the US consulate in Guangzhou. “A US government employee in China recently reported subtle and vague, but abnormal, sensations of sound and pressure,” the notice said. “The US government is taking these reports seriously and has informed its official staff in China of this event.” Jinnie Lee, a spokeswoman for the US Embassy in Beijing, said that between late 2017 and April 2018, a US government employee assigned to Guangzhou reported a variety of physical symptoms. “The employee was sent to the US for further evaluation,” Lee said. “On May 18, 2018 the embassy learned that the clinical findings of this evaluation matched mild traumatic brain injury. “The US State Department is taking the incident very seriously and working to determine the cause and impact of the incident.


Newsline: Top Philippine diplomat in Hong Kong backs calls to raise minimum wage of city’s domestic helpers

The Philippines’ top diplomat in Hong Kong has called on the city’s government to raise the minimum monthly wage for domestic helpers amid rising costs of living, with workers asking for a pay rise of 25 per cent to HK$5,500 (US$700) to prevent an exodus to mainland China. Their demands were prompted by Manila’s labour minister Silvestre Bello telling Dubai newspaper Gulf News that Beijing wanted Filipino domestic helpers, cooks, carers, musicians and nurses to work in China, with helpers conceding they would jump ship to the mainland if wages were higher than the current HK$4,410 a month. Bello made the remarks after officials from China and the Philippines last month signed a memorandum of understanding on the employment of Filipinos to teach English in China. Philippine consul general in Hong Kong Antonio Morales said: “[The monthly minimum wage] has to be adjusted to reflect the rising costs of living, the higher inflation rate and the like.” He declined to state a specific figure, but added he hoped Hong Kong officials would come up with a “reasonable” level. About half of Hong Kong’s 370,000 foreign domestic helpers are Filipinos and the numbers are likely to rise as the city needs more carers for its ageing population.


Newsline: India court jails ex-diplomat for spying for Pakistan

An Indian diplomat convicted of passing state secrets to Pakistan’s intelligence services has been jailed for three years, her lawyer said on Sunday. Madhuri Gupta was found guilty in a New Delhi court on Friday of “spying and wrongful communication of information” while posted to the Indian embassy in Islamabad. Gupta, 61, was arrested in 2010 for allegedly passing information to the spy agency. The low-level diplomat was detained for alleged breaches of India’s official secrets act and held for two years before being released on bail. Her lawyer, Joginder Dahiya, said Gupta would appeal her sentencing in a higher court.


Newsline: Diplomat to face legal action in US after road accident in Pakistan

The United States has assured Pakistan that it will initiate criminal proceedings against its defense attaché, who was involved in a road accident in which a young Pakistani was killed in the federal capital. Pakistan has allowed Col Joseph Emmanuel Hall to leave the country quietly on Monday, prompting strong reaction from the opposition, which wanted him to be tried in local courts. The Foreign Office for the first time gave Pakistan’s official reaction on the issue. “Let me explain it. It is not that way. Diplomats enjoy immunity while serving in the country of their accreditation. In this context, Col Joseph was allowed to leave the country based on this diplomatic immunity,” Spokesperson Dr Muhammad Faisal told reporters. “The US has assured us that it will initiate criminal/administrative action against Col Joseph in US courts,” he added. Pakistan initially resisted the US demand to allow Col Joseph to leave the country as his name was placed on the ‘black list’, meaning he could not be allowed to travel without seeking prior permission from the local authorities. Islamabad had demanded from Washington to withdraw the diplomatic immunity being enjoyed by the defense attaché so that he could be tried in Pakistan. However, the US turned down the request but agreed to proceed against Col Joseph back in the states. After assurance, Pakistan finally allowed him to leave the country. There were reports that the US embassy also reached some settlement with the victim’s families.


Newsline: US diplomat involved in accident allowed to leave Pakistan

A U.S. diplomat who was allegedly involved in a traffic crash that killed a motorcyclist has left Pakistan, a U.S. State Department spokesman said Monday, two days after the diplomat reportedly was stopped from leaving the South Asian country. “We can confirm that the American diplomat who was involved in a tragic car accident on April 7 in Islamabad has departed Pakistan,” the spokesman said in an email to Reuters. The spokesman did not identify the U.S. diplomat and provided no further details . Pakistani newspapers reported that the American, identified as a military attache, was blocked Saturday from leaving Pakistan, forcing the U.S. military aircraft sent on his behalf to depart without him.


Newsline: Pakistan Prevents US Diplomat From Leaving the Country

The authorities in Pakistan barred an American diplomat involved in a fatal traffic accident from leaving the country on Saturday and briefly detained him for questioning, according to a senior Pakistani intelligence official. A United States military aircraft flown in to bring home Col. Joseph Emanuel Hall, a U.S. military attaché, had to leave without him, the intelligence official said. Pakistan’s Interior Ministry said Mr. Joseph is on a “blacklist” and is not allowed to leave because of the criminal case pending against him. Colonel Hall is accused of involvement in a road accident in which his car ran a red light and killed a motorcyclist named Ateeq Baig in the capital, Islamabad, on April 7. Pakistan officials have demanded the United States waive his diplomatic immunity so that he can face a criminal trial, but American officials have refused.