From The Alpha and the Omega - Chapter Eight
by Jim A. Cornwell, Copyright © 1995, all rights reserved
"KING OF THE EAST 2019 NOVEMBER-DECEMBER"

    This file is attached to http://www.mazzaroth.com/ChapterEight/BeastThatCameOutOfTheSea.htm from “Beast That Came Out Of The Sea” - Chapter Eight by Jim A. Cornwell, Copyright © 1995, all rights reserved.
    This link will take you back to King Of The East 2019 September-October

KING OF THE EAST 2019 NOVEMBER-DECEMBER




2019 NOVEMBER-DECEMBER

11/1/2019 Hong Kong protesters plan huge march after gatecrashing Halloween by Felix Tam and Donny Kwok
An anti-government protester wearing a Halloween mask runs as riot policemen advance to disperse
protesters during Halloween in Hong Kong, China October 31, 2019. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon
    HONG KONG (Reuters) – Hong Kong protesters planned flash mob demonstrations in shopping malls on Friday after a night of clashes in a central bar district as prominent pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong called for 100,000 people to take to the streets on Saturday.
    Black-clad anti-government protesters, wearing now banned face masks, mingled with fancy-dress Halloween revelers in the narrow, sloping streets of Lan Kwai Fong on Thursday, the first time the district had been targeted.
    Police fired tear gas to break up the crowds down the hill in the Central business district and were heckled by revelers complaining they were ruining the party spirit.
    Anti-government protesters have taken to the streets for five months of sometimes violent unrest, angry at perceived Chinese meddling with the freedoms guaranteed to the city when it returned from British to Chinese rule in 1997.
    Wong was disqualified on Tuesday from standing in upcoming district elections, a move he said was “clearly politically driven.”
    “We just let the international community realize how the election in Hong Kong is manipulated by Beijing,” Wong told reporters on Friday.    “If more and more people, not only a few thousand but if more than 100,000 Hong Kongers take to the streets tomorrow, it can let the world know how Hong Kong people fight for a free election.”
    The bespectacled Wong was a prominent leader of the student-led pro-democracy street protests of 2014 that brought parts of the city to a halt for 79 days, but he has not been in the forefront of the current unrest.
    Protesters are seeking universal suffrage for Hong Kong, whose chief executive is chosen by 1,200 largely establishment figures from a list of Beijing-approved candidates.    China will “perfect” the way the leader is appointed and replaced, a senior Chinese official said on Friday, without giving details.
CHINA DENIES MEDDLING
    The unrest represents the biggest popular challenge to President Xi Jinping’s government since he took over the leadership in late 2012.    On Thursday, the Communist Party vowed to ensure Hong Kong’s stability.
    Saturday’s march is planned from Victoria Park beside the shopping district of Causeway Bay to Central.    It has been banned by police due to safety concerns, but two other pro-democracy rallies to be held in Central in the evening have received permits. Bans have not stopped people from marching before.
    Hong Kong returned to China under a “one country, two systems” formula which enshrines freedoms not enjoyed on the mainland, including an independent legal system.
    China denies interfering with the city’s freedoms and has accused foreign governments including the United States and Britain of stirring up trouble.
    On Thursday, Hong Kong’s High Court issued a temporary injunction banning people from posting or spreading messages online which “incite the use or threat of violence
    The measure is the first time authorities have tried to curb the publishing of comments online, a move critics say sets a dangerous precedent for controlling the internet.
    The ban, effective until Nov. 15, applies to any internet platform and specifically names the popular online forum LIHKG and messaging app Telegram that protesters use to communicate.
    Government data on Thursday confirmed that Hong Kong slid into recession in the third quarter for the first time since the global financial crisis of 2008.
    While the Sino-U.S. trade war has hurt the city’s economy, the protests have dealt a further blow, crippling the retail and tourism sectors.    Retail sales fell 18.3% in value in September from a year earlier, an eighth consecutive month of decline.    August’s drop was a revised 22.9%.
(Reporting by Felix Tam, Donny Kwok and Twinnie Siu; Writing by Farah Master and Nick Macfie; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

11/1/2019 North Korea, emboldened by Trump peril and Chinese allies, tries harder line by Josh Smith and Hyonhee Shin
FILE PHOTO: People watch a TV broadcast showing a file footage for a news report on North Korea firing two projectiles, possibly
missiles, into the sea between the Korean peninsula and Japan, in Seoul, South Korea, October 31, 2019. REUTERS/Heo Ran/File Photo
    SEOUL (Reuters) – Successful sanctions evasion, economic lifelines from China and U.S. President Donald Trump’s impeachment woes may be among the factors that have emboldened North Korea in nuclear negotiations, analysts and officials say.
    Both Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un continue to play up the personal rapport they say they developed during three face-to-face meetings.    But North Korea has said in recent days that it is losing patience, giving the United States until the end of the year to change its negotiating stance.
    North Korea has tested the limits of engagement with a string of missile launches, including two fired on Thursday, and experts warn that the lack of a concrete arms control agreement has allowed the country to continue producing nuclear weapons.
    The missile tests have practical value for the North Korean military’s efforts to modernize its arsenal.    But they also underscore Pyongyang’s increasingly belligerent position in the face of what it sees as an inflexible and hostile United States.
    In a best-case scenario, Thursday’s launch was an attempt to make the December deadline feel more urgent to the U.S., said Andray Abrahamian, a visiting scholar with George Mason University Korea.
    “Still, I think that Pyongyang has concluded they can do without a deal if they must,” he said.    “The sad thing is I think that will lock in the current state of affairs, with its downsides for all stakeholders, for years to come.”
‘NOT SO PROMISING’
    Trump’s reelection battle and the impeachment inquiry against him may have led Kim to overestimate North Korea’s leverage, said one diplomat in Seoul, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the negotiations.
    “It looks like Kim has a serious delusion that he is capable of helping or ruining Trump’s reelection, but no one in Pyongyang can stand up to the unerring leader and say he’s mistaken – you don’t want to be dead,” the diplomat told Reuters.    “And Trump is all Kim has.    In order to denuclearize, Kim needs confidence that Trump will be reelected.”
    The Americans, meanwhile, came into working-level talks on Oct. 5 in Stockholm with the position that North Korea must completely and irreversibly dismantle its nuclear program, and pushed for a moratorium on weapons tests as part of a first step, the diplomat said.
    Although some media reports said the United States planned to propose temporarily lifting sanctions on coal and textile exports, the diplomat said the talks in Stockholm did not get into details.
    “The U.S. can’t take the risk of easing sanctions first, having already given a lot of gifts to Kim without substantial progress on denuclearization, including summits,” the diplomat said.    “Sanctions are basically all they have to press North Korea.”
    When American negotiators tried to set a time for another round of talks, North Korean officials were uncooperative, the diplomat said.
    “The prospects are not so promising,” the diplomat added.
ECONOMIC LIFELINES
    Although United Nations sanctions remain in place, some trade with China appears to have increased, and political relations between Beijing and Pyongyang have improved dramatically.
    Kim and China’s president, Xi Jinping, have met several times, and the two countries exchange delegations of government officials.
    A huge influx of Chinese tourists over the past year appears to be a major source of cash for the North Korean government, according to research by Korea Risk Group, which monitors North Korea.
    Korea Risk Group chief executive Chad O’Carroll estimates as many as 350,000 Chinese tourists have visited this year, potentially netting the North Korean authorities up to $175 million.
    That’s more than North Korea was making from the Kaesong Industrial Complex – jointly operated with South Korea before it was shuttered in 2016 – and is almost certainly part of why Kim is showing less interest in U.S. proposals, O’Carroll said.
    The United States and South Korea suggested tourism, rather than resuming the Kaesong operation, as a potential concession to the North after the failed second summit between Trump and Kim in Hanoi in February, the Seoul-based diplomat said.
    “That’s based on the consensus that any sanctions relief should be immediately reversible, but once the 120-plus factories are put back in, it’s difficult to shut it down and pull them out again,” the diplomat said.
    The United Nations, meanwhile, has reported that North Korea is successfully evading many of the sanctions, and that the government may have stolen as much as $2 billion through cyber attacks.
    “Stockholm suggests Pyongyang is also fine with their ‘Chinese backstop’, i.e. whatever agreement they have on lax sanctions enforcement,” Abrahamian said.    “I worry that instead of trying to get a deal, they think Trump will be more desperate for a win than he actually is and will miss the window.”
INTERNAL DEBATE
    Trump and Kim’s second meeting abruptly fell apart when both sides refused to budge, with North Korea demanding wide-ranging sanctions relief and the Americans insisting on concrete disarmament steps.
    “It’s very clear that the failure of Hanoi triggered a debate inside North Korea about whether Kim’s path – moving down the road to denuclearization – was the right way to go,” said Joel Wit, a senior fellow at the Stimson Center in Washington.
    For now, North Korea seems inclined to avoid engaging further with the United States or South Korea until they make more concessions, Wit said.
    Other analysts are skeptical that Kim will ever give up his hard-won nuclear weapons, but say the opportunity for even a limited arms control deal may be slipping away.
    “North Korea appears to be interested only in a deal under its terms to the exact letter,” said Duyeon Kim, with the Washington-based Center for a New American Security.
    “Pyongyang is able to demand more, be tougher, and raise the bar because its confidence comes from qualitative and quantitative advancements in its nuclear weapons,” Kim said.
(Reporting by Josh Smith. Editing by Gerry Doyle)

11/1/2019 Security tight in Thai capital ahead of Southeast Asia summit
Police officers are seen outside the venue for the upcoming the 35th ASEAN Summit
in Bangkok, Thailand, November 1, 2019. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha
    BANGKOK (Reuters) – Thailand mobilized more than 17,000 security officers on Friday ahead of a three-day summit of Southeast Asian and other international leaders in Bangkok, guarding against attacks after a dozen explosions marred another regional meeting in August.
    Several roads surrounding the main meeting venue for leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the East Asia Summit (EAS) in Nonthaburi, north of Bangkok, have been cordoned off since Thursday.
    Some 5,000 officers are assigned to the main venue alone, the assistant national police chief, Damrongsak Kittiprapas, told Reuters.
    Security is a major concern for Thai authorities after a series of bomb attacks in Bangkok in August as the city hosted a meeting of Southeast Asian foreign ministers.    That meeting was also attended by top diplomats from the United States, China and other world powers.
    No one was killed in August, but four people were wounded from the attacks that police said were linked to domestic politics.    Suspects arrested or wanted by the police in relation to the attacks have ties to the insurgency in Thailand’s Muslim-majority south that has killed nearly 7,000 since 2004.
    “We will not allow a repeat of the bomb attacks that took place during the previous international meeting,” Damrongsak said.
    “We are monitoring all risky areas and are intensifying intelligence gathering,” he said.    “So far, there is no sign of any untoward activities or any threatening movements.”
    Leaders of the 10 member countries of ASEAN will meet on Saturday and Sunday, and then attend the East Asia Summit on Monday that includes officials from Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea, the United States and Russia.
    Chinese Premier Li Keqiang is confirmed for the East Asia meeting, while the United States has downgraded its participation in the summit by sending Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and White House National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien, who will represent President Donald Trump.
    International trade and issues like the South China Sea dispute and the plight of ethnic Rohingya fleeing Myanmar are some of the issues expected to be discussed at the summits.
(Reporting by Panu Wongcha-um and Panarat Thepgumpanat; Editing by Tom Hogue)

11/1/2019 U.S.-China tensions hang over Southeast Asian summit by Panu Wongcha-um and Patpicha Tanakasempipat
A police officer stands guard outside the venue for the upcoming the 35th ASEAN Summit
in Bangkok, Thailand, November 1, 2019. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha
    BANGKOK (Reuters) – Southeast Asian leaders are expected to voice concern at rising trade tensions during a regional summit starting on Saturday in the shadow of the U.S.-China trade war and amid worries at U.S. disengagement from the region.
    The 10 countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) will meet in Bangkok, where they will also hold talks with representatives of world powers and have discussions on a regional trade agreement backed by Beijing.
    A draft final summit statement seen by Reuters said the leaders would express “deep concern over the rising trade tensions and on-going protectionist and anti-globalization sentiments.”
    Trade would be the main topic, diplomats said, with little discussion expected on perennial regional problems such as maritime disputes with China over the South China Sea and the plight of Rohingya refugees driven from Myanmar.
    Southeast Asian states are at the sharp end of the trade war, with growth expected to slow to its lowest in five years this year.    They are also worried at increasing Chinese influence in a region whose population of 620 million is less than half of China’s.
    The United States, an important trade partner, is sending a delegation to the meetings.    But the downgrading of its delegation compared to those in previous years and to those of other countries has concerned those who saw Washington as a security counterweight to Beijing.
    Instead of President Donald Trump or Vice President Mike Pence, the United States will be represented by Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and White House national security adviser Robert O’Brien.    China is sending its premier, Li Keqiang.
    “The U.S. is signaling that the ASEAN Summit and related meetings are not as important as other countries are considering them to be,” Kantathi Suphamongkhon, former Thai foreign minister told Reuters.    “This signals that the U.S. is a lesser player in our area.”
WORLD’S BIGGEST TRADE AREA
    Southeast Asian states hope to make progress on what could become the world’s biggest free-trade area – the China-backed Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) – comprising 16 countries that account for a third of global gross domestic product and nearly half the world’s population.
    Discussions on the agreement have continued since 2012 and have accelerated during the trade war, but tough issues remain – including Indian apprehension over giving China greater market access.
    The Thai hosts of the summit have said they hope talks on the agreement will be concluded this year, but a news conference on progress among RCEP ministers was canceled late on Friday without explanation.
    “The finalization of the RCEP negotiation has become a key test for ASEAN’s capacity to deliver on its often-cited centrality,” Marty Natalegawa, a former Indonesian foreign minister, told Reuters.
    Human rights groups said they did not expect the Southeast Asian countries would do much to address problems such as the Rohingya refugees or discuss questions such as the growing authoritarianism in some member states.
    “The human rights and democracy battleground is being lost in ASEAN and it’s consequential because it will play into the hands of the more authoritarian China … especially when you have the US under Trump non-committal, not showing up,” Thitinan Pongsudhirak, a scholar at Bangkok’s Chulalongkorn University, told Reuters.
(Editing by Matthew Tostevin and Timothy Heritage)

11/1/2019 U.S., allies working to offset loss of Iranian oil: Mnuchin by Manoj Kumar and Nidhi Verma
U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin speaks during a joint news conference with India's Finance Minister
Nirmala Sitharaman in New Delhi, India, November 1, 2019. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi
    NEW DELHI (Reuters) – The United States is working with allies to ensure adequate global oil supplies after its sanctions barred nations from buying Iranian crude, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Friday.
    Mnuchin spoke to reporters during a trip to India – which was one of the main importers of Iranian oil until New Delhi stopped the shipments this May in the aftermath of the U.S. sanctions.
    “We are working with our allies to make sure that there is significant supply in the market of oil to offset sanctions,” said Mnuchin, who is on a regional tour to try to build up support against Iran.
    “We are sensitive to the fact that India has tremendous energy needs.    Therefore we look forward to work with India on LNG (liquefied natural gas) … we had productive discussions,” he added.
    Companies in the United States see India as a key buyer of super cooled gas after exports to China were hit by Washington’s escalating trade dispute with Beijing.
    Tensions have been rising between longtime foes Tehran and Washington since last year when U.S. President Donald Trump quit an international nuclear pact with Iran and imposed sanctions that had been lifted under the agreement.
    India, which used to be Tehran’s top oil client after China, halted Iranian oil imports from May after Washington withdrew exemptions that had protected some buyers of Iranian crude.
    India, the world’s third biggest oil consumer, had to scout for alternatives including increasing purchases from the United States to make up for the shortfall.
India’s finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman met Mnuchin and said she had told him about India’s role in developing Chabahar port in Iran. (Editing by Andrew Heavens)

11/1/2019 Iran’s Zarif calls on U.S. to return to 2015 nuclear deal
FILE PHOTO: Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif attends a news conference, a day ahead of the first meeting of the new
Syrian Constitutional Committee at the Untied Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, October 29, 2019. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse/File Photo
    DUBAI (Reuters) – The United States should return to a 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and major powers, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Friday, saying the new U.S. sanctions imposed on Tehran showed failure of Washington’s policy.
    “Rather than dig itself deeper, US should abandon failed policies & return to #JCPOA (the 2015 nuclear deal),” Zarif tweeted.
    The U.S.-Iranian confrontation has intensified since last year, when U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew from Iran’s agreement with world powers and reimposed sanctions that have crippled Iran’s economy to force Tehran to renegotiate the pact.
    Washington on Thursday imposed sanctions on the Iranian construction sector and trade in four materials used in its military or nuclear programs.
    “Subjecting construction workers to #EconomicTerrorism only manifests maximum failure of 'maximum pressure.'    US can sanction every man, woman & child but Iranians will never submit to bullying” Zarif tweeted.
    Iran refuses to hold any talks with its longtime foe the United States unless Washington lifts sanctions on Tehran.
    In retaliation for Washington’s “maximum pressure” policy, Iran has gradually scaled back its nuclear commitments since May and has said it will take further steps if European parties to the deal fail to shield its economy from U.S. penalties.
(Writing by Parisa Hafezi; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Angus MacSwan)

11/1/2019 China signals Phase One deal complete by OAN Newsroom
FILE – In this June 29, 2019, file photo, U.S. President Donald Trump, left, shakes hands with Chinese President Xi Jinping
during a meeting on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in Osaka, western Japan. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)
    It appears the Phase One trade deal between the U.S. and China may be complete.    Beijing’s Commerce Ministry said the two sides reached “a consensus on principle” after Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin spoke with Chinese officials by phone.
    This comes after White House Economic Adviser Larry Kudlow told reporters the deal was “nearly complete” on Friday morning. During a press conference, he said this phase will cover agriculture, financial services and currency protections.    Forced technology transfers will reportedly be addressed in Phase Two.
White House chief economic adviser Larry Kudlow talks with reporters outside the
White House, Friday, Nov. 1, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
    “One of the indicators that I use is what the official ministries are saying in China,” stated Kudlow.    “Their comments have been extremely constructive and positive, which reflects what we know on the ground regarding these talks.”
    The adviser went on to say the U.S. and China are planning to sign the deal after they locate a venue.    This comes after Chile’s president cancelled next month’s APEC Summit, which was where the leaders sought to sign the agreement.    Kudlow said the two countries are still hoping to stick to the original timeline of mid-November.

11/2/2019 Hong Kong police fire tear gas in feverish start to 22nd weekend of protests by by Jessie Pang and John Geddie
Riot police officers walk during a Halloween march in Hong Kong, China October 31, 2019. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton/File Photo
    HONG KONG (Reuters) – Hong Kong police fired volley after volley of tear gas to break up thousands of anti-government protesters, most dressed in black and wearing face masks, in Victoria Park, a traditional venue for rallies and vigils, and surrounding streets.
    It was an early, feverish response to nip in the bud a rally billed as an “emergency call” for autonomy for the former British colony that was promised its freedoms when it returned to Chinese rule in 1997.
    The fast-moving crowds headed to the park through the Causeway Bay shopping district, some pulling up metal fencing and using a football goal to build barricades, their actions masked by others holding umbrellas. Activists threw at least one petrol bomb.
    Many sang the British and U.S. national anthems, waving multi-national flags and a few calling for independence, a red line for Communist Party leaders in Beijing who have vowed to “crush the bones” of anyone pursuing such a move.
    Police using loud-hailers warned them to disperse, saying they would be prosecuted for holding an illegal assembly on the 22nd straight weekend of protest.
    The protesters took off in all directions, many throwing bricks as they charged towards Central, building makeshift barricades on the way.
    Their route was taking them through the Wan Chai bar district where many rugby fans were gathered in bars pouring out on to the streets for the World Cup final in Japan.
    Police fired more tear gas near police headquarters on Hennessy Road, the main artery to Central.
    Protesters have taken to the streets for five months of sometimes violent unrest, angry at perceived Chinese meddling with Hong Kong’s freedoms, including its legal system.    China denies the charge.
‘DOESN’T MAKE SENSE’
    Activists have attacked police with petrol bombs, set street fires and trashed government buildings and businesses seen as pro-Beijing.    One policeman was slashed in the neck with a knife last month.
    Police have responded with tear gas, pepper spray, water cannon, rubber bullets and occasional live rounds.    Several people have been wounded.
    Saturday’s rally was not given official police permission, as is required, but that has not stopped people gathering in the past.    Face masks were banned under a resuscitated colonial-era emergency law.
    “It does not make sense (for this assembly to be unauthorised),” said one protester, 55, who only gave her name as Lulu.    “This is our human right… The global support is very important.    We are not only in Hong Kong.    The whole world supports Hong Kong.”
    Simon Tse, 84, came with his two daughters.
    “I haven’t joined a protest on the street since the Oct. 1 march which became quite violent,” he told Reuters.    “But today I am joining because we are calling for international support, urging help from 15 countries.    This is the last chance for Hong Kong people.”
    Government data on Thursday confirmed that Hong Kong slid into recession in the third quarter for the first time since the global financial crisis of 2008.
    Hong Kong is a semi-autonomous “special administrative region” of China according to the “one country, two systems” formula under which it returned to Chinese rule.
(Reporting by Greg Torode, Clare Jim, Jessie Pang, John Geddie, Farah Master and Donny Kwok; Writing by Nick Macfie; Editing by Jacqueline Wong & Simon Cameron-Moore)

11/2/2019 Pakistan army says supports elected government amid major protest
Supporters of religious and political party Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazal (JUI-F) wave flags and chant slogans
during what participants call Azadi March (Freedom March) to protest the government of Prime Minister Imran Khan
in Islamabad, Pakistan November 1, 2019. REUTERS/Akhtar Soomro
    ISLAMABAD (Reuters) – Pakistan’s powerful military said it supported the country’s elected government and the constitution, as tens of thousands of opposition protesters gathered in the capital demanding that Prime Minister Imran Khan’s year-old government quits by Sunday.
    “We believe in the law and the constitution and our support is with the democratically elected government, not with any party,” military spokesman Major General Asif Ghafoor said in comments to a television news channel late on Friday.
    Earlier on Friday, the opposition had demanded that cricket star-turned-politician Khan and his administration resign within two days, raising the stakes in a protest campaign that the government has denounced as a threat to democracy.
    The opposition says Khan’s government is illegitimate and is being propped up by the military, which has ruled Pakistan for about half of its history and sets security and foreign policy.
    The military denies meddling in politics and Khan has dismissed the calls to step down.
    The leader of the protest, religious party chief Fazl-ur-Rehman, told a rally of tens of thousands of supporters that he did not want a “collision with institutions,” a thinly veiled reference to the military, and called on them to be impartial.
    Ghafoor said Rehman should know the military was impartial and it should not be dragged into politics.
    Rehman, leader of the conservative Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl party, is a veteran politician who can mobilize significant support in religious schools across the country.
    He was joined at the Friday rally, which police estimated was attended by 35,000 people, by leaders of the two main opposition parties.
    Protesters were camped out at the rally site on Saturday, cooking food and resting.
    Rehman had earlier warned of chaos if the government did not step down, but on Friday he told the crowd they would decide what action to take if their two-day sit-in at the rally site failed.
    Security is tight in Islamabad with the government and diplomatic sector – just a few kilometres from the rally – sealed off, with shipping containers used to block roads.
    Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa on Friday urged the government to handle the protest peacefully.
    The government, struggling to get the economy on track, has denounced the protests as a threat to the constitution and to democracy and has said it will not be allowed to paralyze the capital.
(Reporting by Syed Raza Hassan; Writing by Robert Birsel; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)

11/2/2019 Hong Kong protesters trash Xinhua agency office in night of violence by Clare Jim and Donny Kwok
Riot police officers walk during a Halloween march in Hong Kong, China October 31, 2019. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton/File Photo
    HONG KONG (Reuters) – Police fired tear gas at black-clad protesters across Hong Kong on Saturday after they set fire to metro stations and vandalized buildings including China’s official Xinhua news agency in some of the worst violence to hit the city in weeks.
    Earlier, police had also used tear gas in a downtown park where thousands of protesters – many angry at what they say has been a heavy-handed police response over five months of anti-government demonstrations – had gathered on a sunny afternoon.
    Small groups of masked protesters then fled to the Central business district, through streets lined with banks and top-end jewelry and fashion stores, setting light to ramshackle street barricades and hurling petrol bombs as riot police and water cannon trucks closed in.
    Protesters are angry at perceived Chinese meddling with Hong Kong’s freedoms, including its legal system, since the city returned from British to Chinese rule in 1997.    China denies the charge.
    Just as a crowd of largely peaceful demonstrators finished making origami paper cranes in Chater Garden, a cricket pitch in colonial days, activists began throwing petrol bombs on the streets outside, in front of the headquarters of HSBC and the Hong Kong base for the Bank of China.
    Police again responded with tear gas on what was the 22nd straight weekend of protests.
    Protesters later set fire to entrances of metro stations — often targeted as services close down to stop people gathering — and hauled two telephone booths out of the ground to erect one of many flaming barricades.    Cat-and-mouse clashes continued into the night as protesters retreated to the Causeway Bay area and across the water to the northern Kowloon side.
    Some shops and businesses were also vandalized including an outlet of American coffee chain Starbucks and the offices of China’s Xinhua news agency.
    “The practice of the black rioters once again shows that ‘stopping the violence and restoring order’ is Hong Kong’s most important and urgent task at present,” a spokesperson for Xinhua said in a Facebook post, adding that its doors had been smashed and fire and paint bombs thrown into the lobby.
    Hong Kong media associations also condemned the vandalism at Xinhua, one of the mainland’s key symbols of presence in Hong Kong, calling for a halt to violence and urging police to handle the matter seriously.
    Starbucks is owned locally by Maxim’s Caterers and has been repeatedly targeted after the daughter of the Hong Kong company’s founder condemned the protesters at the United Nations human rights council in Geneva.
    Some protesters gathered across the harbor in the hotel and shopping district of Tsim Sha Tsui, at the tip of the Kowloon peninsula, with scores of passengers on the Star Ferry chanting “Hong Kong people resist.”
    Police said a group of masked protesters in that area had blocked roads with barricades, hurled petrol bombs and were “recklessly damaging facilities” as they proceeded up the shopping artery of Nathan Road towards the gritty Mong Kok district.    In one incident, faeces was thrown at officers, police said.
    The early use of tear gas in Victoria Park was an attempt to nip in the bud a rally billed as an “emergency call” for autonomy for Hong Kong that was promised its freedoms when it returned to Chinese rule under a “one country, two systems” formula.
    Activists, many wearing now-banned face masks, pulled up metal fencing and used a football goal to build barricades near the park, a traditional venue for rallies and vigils for decades, their actions masked by others holding umbrellas.
    “Hong Kong people, resist,” they shouted.    “Revolution of our time.”
    Many sang the British and U.S. national anthems, waving multi-national flags and a few called for independence, a red line for Communist Party leaders in Beijing who have vowed to “crush the bones” of anyone pursuing such a move.
DOESN’T MAKE SENSE
    Activists have attacked police with petrol bombs, set street fires and trashed government buildings and businesses seen as pro-Beijing over recent weeks.    One policeman was slashed in the neck with a knife last month.
    Police have responded with tear gas, pepper spray, water cannon, rubber bullets and occasional live rounds.    Several people have been wounded.
    Saturday’s rally in the park was not given official police permission, as is required, but that has not stopped people gathering in the past.    Face masks were banned under a revived colonial-era emergency law.
    “It doesn’t make sense (for this assembly to be unauthorized),” said one protester, 55, who only gave her name as Lulu.    “This is our human right … The global support is very important. We are not only in Hong Kong.    The whole world supports Hong Kong.”
    Government data on Thursday confirmed that Hong Kong slid into recession in the third quarter for the first time since the global financial crisis of 2008.
(Reporting by Greg Torode, Clare Jim, Jessie Pang, John Geddie, Farah Master, Tom Westbrook, Sarah Wu, David Lague and Donny Kwok; Writing by Nick Macfie and John Geddie; Editing by Alison Williams and Clelia Oziel)

11/3/2019 Hong Kong’s Lam on mission to help people move to mainland China to work by Donny Kwok and Jessie Pang
People wait inside a Lego store as shoppers and anti-government protesters gather at
New Town Plaza in Sha Tin, Hong Kong, China November 3, 2019. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton
    HONG KONG (Reuters) – Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam will fly to China this week to discuss how to make it easier for people in the Chinese-ruled city, rocked by violent anti-China protests overnight, to live and work on the mainland, her office said on Sunday.
    Lam, despised by pro-democracy protesters in the former British colony, will arrive in Beijing on Tuesday for a meeting the next day of the “leading group” for developing the Greater Bay Area of southern China.
    The group has already met twice, “endorsing a number of measures to facilitate Hong Kong people to develop, work and reside in the mainland cities of the Greater Bay Area, as well as strengthen the convenient flow of people and goods,” her office said.
    The idea was to attract “high-end talent” from Hong Kong with tax breaks and encourage “innovation and entrepreneurship” from young people in Hong Kong and Macau.
    Lam has promoted the Greater Bay Area as a way to provide jobs for people in Hong Kong and ease social tension.
    “…After everything has been settled (in Hong Kong), the country (China) will be there to help with maybe positive measures, especially in the Greater Bay Area,” Lam told businesspeople in Hong Kong in August.
    The megalopolis of the Greater Bay Area is made up of nine mainland cities, including Guangzhou, Zhuhai and Shenzhen, and the two special administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macau, a former Portuguese-run enclave that returned to China in 1999.
    An increasing number of Hong Kong people are already moving outside the densely populated financial hub – one of the world’s most expensive cities – to the mainland.
    Anti-government protesters in Hong Kong, which returned to Chinese rule in 1997, turned parts of the main island into battlegrounds on Saturday, furious at Communist Party leaders in Beijing and perceived Chinese meddling with Hong Kong’s freedoms, a charge China denies.
    They have trashed Hong Kong businesses seen as being pro-China and in July daubed China’s Liaison Office, the key symbol of Chinese sovereignty, with graffiti.
    Cleaners swept up broken glass at the Hong Kong office of China’s official news agency Xinhua on Sunday, one of the buildings vandalised on the 22nd straight weekend of protests when activists hurled petrol bombs and set fire to metro stations.
    Xinhua condemned the attack by what it said were “barbaric thugs” who broke doors and security systems and threw fire and paint bombs into the lobby.
    “The practice of the black rioters once again shows that ‘stopping the violence and restoring order’ is Hong Kong’s most important and urgent task at present,” a spokesperson for Xinhua said in a Facebook post.
    Police fired tear gas, rubber bullets and a water cannon at protesters during Saturday and early Sunday, as the violence spilled from Hong Kong island across the harbour to Kowloon.    One of the protesters’ key demands is an independent probe into perceived police brutality.
    There were scuffles in shopping malls in the New Territories towns of Tai Po, Tuen Mun and Sha Tin, where police fired pepper spray as protesters hurled abuse, but nothing on the scale of Saturday’s clashes. A few adults and teenagers were taken away for questioning in Sha Tin.
    Hong Kong returned to China under a “one country, two systems” formula which guarantees its freedoms for 50 years.    China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has a garrison in Hong Kong but troops have remained in barracks since the protests began.
    Protesters last month targeted a PLA barracks with lasers prompting troops to hoist a banner warning they could be arrested.    Senior PLA officers have said violence will not be tolerated.
(Reporting by Joyce Zhou, Farah Master, Donny Kwok, Twinnie Siu and Jessie Pang; Writing by John Geddie and Nick Macfie; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)

11/3/2019 Iran’s Khamenei renews ban on talks with U.S
Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei delivers a speech during a ceremony marking the death anniversary of the
founder of the Islamic Republic Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, in Tehran, Iran, June 4, 2017. TIMA via REUTERS/File Photo
    Dubai (Reuters) – Iran will maintain its ban on talks with the United States, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Sunday, describing the two countries as implacable foes a day before the 40th anniversary of the seizure of the U.S. embassy in Tehran.
    “One way to block America’s political infiltration is to ban any talks with America.    It means Iran will not yield to America’s pressure.     Those who believe that negotiations with the enemy will solve our problems are 100% wrong,” Khamenei, who is Iran’s top authority, was quoted by state TV as saying.
    Relations between the two foes have reached a crisis over the past year after U.S. President Donald Trump abandoned a 2015 nuclear pact between Iran and world powers under which Tehran accepted curbs to its nuclear program in return for lifting sanctions.
    Washington has reimposed sanctions aimed at halting all Iranian oil exports, saying it seeks to force Iran to negotiate to reach a wider deal.    Khamenei has banned Iranian officials from holding such talks unless the United States returns to the nuclear deal and lifts all sanctions.
    The anniversary of the seizure of the U.S. embassy shortly after Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution is marked in Iran with demonstrations of crowds chanting “Death to America” across the country.
    The embassy capture cemented the hostility between the two countries which has remained a central fact in Middle East geopolitics and an important part of Iran’s national ideology.    Iran, which accused the United States of supporting brutal policies of its ousted Shah, held 52 Americans for 444 days at the embassy, which it called the Den of Spies.
    “The U.S. has not changed since decades ago … it continues the same aggressive, vicious behavior and the same international dictatorship,” Khamenei said.
    “America has always borne hostility toward Iran.”
(Writing by Parisa Hafezi; Editing by Peter Graff)

11/3/2019 China says ready to work with ASEAN for South China Sea peace
Thailand's Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha attends the ASEAN-China Summit with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang
on the sidelines of the 35th ASEAN Summit in Bangkok, Thailand November 3, 2019. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun
    BANGKOK (Reuters) – China is ready to work with Southeast Asian countries for long term peace and stability in the South China Sea, Chinese premier Li Keqiang said on Sunday after meeting leaders from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
    China’s sweeping maritime claims in the South China Sea are rejected by several members of ASEAN, which have competing claims in the busy waterway.
    At the summit in Bangkok, Li cited progress on a long-awaited South China Sea code of conduct, due for completion within three years.
    “We are willing to work with ASEAN, under the consensus that had been reached, to sustain long term peace and stability in the South China Sea, according to the timetable set for three years,” Li said in a statement.
    A legally binding code has long been a goal for ASEAN members sparring over what they see as China’s disregard of sovereign rights and its obstruction of their energy exploration and fishing.
(Reporting by Liz Lee; Writing by Matthew Tostevin; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)

11/3/2019 Khamenei scorns Macron for trying to arrange U.S.: Iranian talks
Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei meets with a group of school and university
students in Tehran, Iran, November 3, 2019. Official Khamenei website/Handout via REUTERS
    DUBAI (Reuters) – Iran’s supreme leader poured scorn on French President Emmanuel Macron on Sunday for trying to promote talks between the United States and Iran.
    “The French president, who says a meeting will end all the problems between Tehran and America, is either naive or complicit with America,” Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said in remarks reported by state television.     Macron tried to arrange a failed meeting between Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and U.S. President Donald Trump on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly in September.
(Writing by Parisa Hafezi; Editing by Peter Graff)

11/3/2019 In China, Macron wants to take Beijing ‘at its word’ on free trade by Marine Pennetier and Michel Rose
French President Emmanuel Macron delivers a speech during the Global Forum on Artificial Intelligence for Humanity (GFAIH)
at the Institut de France in Paris, France October 30, 2019. Ludovic Marin/Pool via REUTERS
    SHANGHAI/PARIS (Reuters) – French President Emmanuel Macron will seek to make China deliver on promises to grant more access to foreign companies, eyeing agribusiness and finance, advisers said ahead of his arrival in Shanghai for a giant import fair.
    Macron, who will attend the fair along with other European officials including incoming EU trade commissioner Phil Hogan, would take China “at its word” that it aims to open itself up to trade, a presidential adviser said ahead of the Nov. 4-6 trip.
    “Since this fair is supposed to demonstrate China’s openness, well, let’s prove it with access to its agrobusiness market and progress on the EU-China deals,” the adviser added.
    Macron will travel with a business delegation of 30 companies ranging from blue chips to small firms.    He will seek greater access in the fields of finance and aerospace as well as fewer export restrictions for French poultry.
    China has long been dogged by Western allegations of unfair trade practices, from forced tech transfers to protectionist market entry policy.
    That has led to disputes with the United States in particular, which has slapped tariffs on Chinese exports.    The French adviser said Washington was right to push for better behavior from the Chinese, even if France does not necessarily support President Donald Trump’s trade moves.
    “The United States ask the right questions, but don’t necessarily have the right answers,” the French adviser said.
    The French president will be visiting China for the second time since he took office.    During his last trip last year, he said Beijing’s flagship “Belt and Road” project to develop global trade infrastructure should not be “one-way” https://www.reuters.com/article/us-china-france/chinas-new-silk-road-cannot-be-one-way-frances-macron-says-idUSKBN1EX0FU.
    Macron has been keen for EU countries, which negotiate trade deals as a bloc, to show a united political front towards Beijing.    When President Xi Jinping came to Paris in March, Macron invited German Chancellor Angela Merkel and EU Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker to the Elysee palace.
    Germany’s exports to China account for nearly half the EU total and more than four times as much as those of France.     Demonstrating unity is “important, because we know how Europeans have moved to China without any co-ordination in the past, letting China think we were divided,” the adviser said.
(Reporting by Marine Pennetier in Shanghai and Michel Rose in Paris; Editing by Peter Graff)

11/3/2019 Trade talks in balance at Southeast Asian leaders summit by Patpicha Tanakasempipat and Panu Wongcha-um
Thailand's Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha delivers a speech during the opening ceremony of ASEAN Business and Investment
Summit 2019 (ABIS 2019) in Bangkok, Thailand, November 2, 2019. Thailand Government House/Handout via REUTERS
    BANGKOK (Reuters) – Plans to finalise an Asia-wide trade deal at a summit in Bangkok this weekend were uncertain after new demands raised by India in the negotiations to create the world’s largest trading bloc.
    Southeast Asian leaders meeting in Thailand hope to make progress on the China-backed Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) – which would comprise 16 countries that account for a third of global gross domestic product and nearly half the world’s population.
    Talks are expected to continue on the sidelines of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit in Bangkok after a press conference was cancelled on Friday, raising questions whether ministers could reach agreement in their last formal negotiations ahead of a summit on the regional partnership on Monday.
    Host Thailand has been pushing for a preliminary deal by the end of the year, keen to push ahead at a time when U.S.-China tensions threaten to slow growth in the region.
    A major sticking point has been demands from India, which is worried about a potential flood of Chinese imports.
    “It’s a fact India has put new demands which are difficult to meet,” said a person with knowledge about New Delhi’s negotiations.
    Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi told the Bangkok Post in an interview he is committed to ongoing RCEP negotiations but added “opening the vast Indian market must be matched by openings in some areas where our businesses can also benefit.”
    Another person with knowledge of the talks said the Thai commerce minister had cancelled the press briefing in order to continue the marathon negotiations late into Friday night.
TRADE WAR
    Any breakthrough on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership would boost confidence in export-reliant Southeast Asia that has been weighed down by U.S.-China trade war, with growth expected to slow to its lowest in five years.
    “The finalisation of the RCEP negotiation has become a key test for ASEAN’s capacity to deliver on its often-cited centrality,” Marty Natalegawa, a former Indonesian foreign minister, told Reuters.
    A draft final statement for the ASEAN summit seen by Reuters said the leaders would express “deep concern over the rising trade tensions and on-going protectionist and anti-globalisation sentiments.”
    Diplomats expected little discussion on perennial regional problems such as maritime disputes with China over the South China Sea and the plight of Rohingya refugees driven from Myanmar.
    The United States, an important trade partner, downgraded its delegation compared to those in previous years.
    Instead of President Donald Trump or Vice President Mike Pence, the United States will be represented by Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and White House national security adviser Robert O’Brien.    China is sending its premier, Li Keqiang.
(Corrects title to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in paragraph 7)
(Additional reporting by Neha Dasgupta in New Delhi. Writing by Kay Johnson; Editing by Christina Fincher)

11/3/2019 China will promote globalization of Shanghai’s financial markets: Xi
FILE PHOTO: Chinese President Xi Jinping attends a welcome ceremony outside the Great Hall
of the People in Beijing, China, October 25, 2019. REUTERS/Florence Lo/File Photo
    BEIJING (Reuters) – China’s President Xi Jinping said on Sunday that the country will promote the globalization of Shanghai’s financial markets through the Belt and Road Initiative, and the city should strive to master the core links of the industry chains.
    The financial hub should courageously jump into the ocean of the world’s economy and fight the storms to build strong tendons and strengthen the bones, Xi said on a tour in Shanghai ahead of an import fair next week.
    The newly expanded free trade zone (FTZ) in the city will serve as a hub to develop the onshore and offshore businesses in a coordinated way and a springboard for corporate overseas ambitions, Xi said.
(Reporting by Stella Qiu, Roxanne Liu and Ryan Woo; editing by Jason Neely)

11/3/2019 Iran’s Ayatollah Khamenei marks 40th anniversary of U.S. Embassy takeover, rejects by OAN Newsroom
In this picture released by the official website of the office of the Iranian supreme leader, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei
attends a meeting with thousands of students in Tehran, Iran, Sunday, Nov. 3, 2019. (Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader via AP)
    Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is celebrating the anniversary of a violent takeover of the U.S. embassy in Tehran.    On Sunday, the leader reiterated that Iran will never engage in talks with the U.S. and will not yield to the “maximum pressure campaign.”    He also praised Islamic radicals in Iran and accused the U.S. of “aggressive, vicious behavior.”
    Khamenei’s remarks come on the 40th anniversary of the seizure of the American Embassy in 1979.    The leader claimed America is a natural enemy of Iran.
    “Banning negotiations with the U.S. is also one of the tools to block the American infiltration,” stated Khamenei.    “There is no doubt that if Iranian officials were naive and negotiated with the U.S., they would achieve nothing.”
    The Iranian leader also said the U.S. hasn’t lifted sanctions on North Korea, despite the ongoing talks.
    The State Department has said Iran is “still the world’s worst state sponsor of terrorism.”    A Friday report said Tehran spends nearly one billion dollars a year to support terrorist groups that serve as its proxies.    Iran is said to support Hezbollah, Hamas, and the Palestinian Islamic jihad.    The country allegedly planned terrorist acts in Belgium, France and Germany earlier this year.
In this picture released by the official website of the office of the Iranian supreme leader,
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei waves to thousands of students as they chant slogan during their
meeting in Tehran, Iran, Sunday, Nov. 3, 2019. (Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader via AP)

11/3/2019 Pompeo seeks faster progress with North Korea after recent rocket launch by OAN Newsroom
This Thursday, Oct. 31, 2019, photo provided by the North Korean government, shows what it says a test firing of a super-large
rocket launcher by the Academy of Defense Science in North Korea. (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP)
    In an apparent resumption of weapons testing, North Korea recently fired two projectiles into its eastern sea.    This is their 13th weapons test this year and the first since the Trump administration’s latest attempts to restart negotiations stalled.    The South Korean military said the projectiles flew 230 miles into North Korea’s eastern sea.
    Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has downplayed the launches, saying they were consistent with Pyongyang’s previous moves.    He said progress has been “far too slow” and added he hopes to reach a good outcome in the months ahead.
    “It has, for an awfully long time, told its people that those nuclear weapons were the thing that kept them secure,” stated Pompeo.    “They now need to shift to the narrative, which is: those are the things that put them at risk.”
FILE- In this June 30, 2019, file photo, U.S. President Donald Trump, left, meets with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at
the North Korean side of the border at the village of Panmunjom in Demilitarized Zone. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)
    President Trump has met three times with Kim Jong Un in hopes of sealing a potentially historic denuclearization deal. He continues to express optimism about brokering an agreement.
    “Kim Jong Un has been pretty straight with me, I think,” stated the president.    “He likes testing missiles, but we never restricted short range missiles.”
    Kim has set an end-of-year deadline for reaching an agreement, which North Korean officials said would be a mistake to ignore.

11/4/2019 Scores injured in chaotic weekend of Hong Kong protests by by Twinnie Siu and Jessie Pang
FILE PHOTO: An anti-government protester reacts as police fire tear gas during a march billed as a
global "emergency call" for autonomy, in Hong Kong, China November 2, 2019. REUTERS/Thomas Peter
    HONG KONG (Reuters) – Scores of people were injured in Hong Kong during a chaotic weekend of anti-government protests, authorities said on Monday, as China called for a tougher stance to end months of unrest in the Asian financial hub.
    Riot police stormed several shopping malls packed with families and children on Sunday, following one of the worst days of violence in weeks as police fired tear gas, rubber bullets and a water cannon at crowds of black-clad demonstrators across the island on Saturday.
    In one bloody incident in Cityplaza, in the eastern suburb of Taikoo Shing on Sunday, a man with a knife slashed several people and bit off part of a politician’s ear.
    The wounded included a man believed to be the knife-wielder, whom protesters had beaten with sticks. Police said they arrested three men involved in the incident, including the suspected 48-year old assailant.
    The city’s Hospital Authority told Reuters one person was in a critical condition, with two others serious, among a total of 30 injuries from Sunday.
    Twelve police officers were also injured during weekend clashes, with more than 300 people arrested between Friday and Sunday, ranging from 14 to 54 years of age, police said.
    While the Chinese-controlled city and its many businesses function normally during the week, many protests have sprung up spontaneously at weekends over the past five months.
    Pro-democracy protesters are campaigning against what they see as Chinese meddling with Hong Kong’s promised freedoms.    China denies doing so and has blamed Western countries for stirring up trouble.
    Chinese state media called on Monday for a tougher line against the protesters who vandalized the local offices of state-run Xinhua news agency and other buildings, saying the violence damaged the city’s rule of law.
    More demonstrations are planned this week as the protesters keep up pressure for demands that include an independent inquiry into police behavior and universal suffrage.
    “We really see that people are very heavy-hearted.    They don’t know what is going to happen tonight or maybe the next weekend.    And there is a lot of worry,” pro-democracy lawmaker Charles Mok told Reuters.
‘V FOR VENDETTA’
    Protesters have circulated plans on social media to mark Guy Fawkes Day on Tuesday by putting on now-banned face masks in areas around Hong Kong.
    Many people taking to the streets in recent weeks have worn the white, smiling Guy Fawkes masks made popular by anti-establishment hackers and by the film “V for Vendetta.”
    The masks have also become common at protests globally, including in Britain and across the United States.
    Hong Kong’s embattled leader Carrie Lam invoked colonial-era emergency powers last month for the first time in more than 50 years, banning face masks in a move to quell the protests.
    Protesters have largely ignored the ruling and worn masks.
    The protests have divided Hong Kong and undermined its economy, with the police coming in for particular scrutiny.
    “Civil servants are ashamed of the crimes committed by the Hong Kong police force and the dictatorship of the Hong Kong government,” said the Citizens’ Press Conference, a pro-democracy group that plans a discussion on the clashes later on Monday.
    Police canceled a planned press conference on Monday after several journalists from the public broadcaster and other local media turned up wearing helmets with signs that said “investigate police brutality” and “stop police lies,” and then refused to leave when asked by officials.
    “We are not protesting…We are just using our clothes…to urge the police to change and stop the violence against the journalists,” said Ronson Chan of online news site The Stand News.
    Local media associations have condemned what they describe as a heavy-handed approach by the police towards journalists, while officers have said they are responding to an escalating cycle of violence in five months of protests.
    Protesters smashed doors and windows and threw petrol bombs at Xinhua’s office on Saturday in some of the worst violence in weeks.    They also set fire to metro stations and vandalized buildings, including an outlet of U.S. coffee chain Starbucks.
    The city’s Foreign Correspondents’ Club expressed grave concern at the attack on Xinhua, stating that news organizations and journalists must be able to work in Hong Kong free from fear of attack and intimidation.
    Mainland businesses, including banks or companies seen as supportive of China’s ruling Communist Party, have been targeted by protesters angered by China’s perceived meddling since Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule in 1997.
    Police condemned the “rioters’ violent and vandalistic acts” and vowed measures to uphold public safety.
    Tear gas accidentally aimed at a fire truck on Saturday had been intended to disperse rioters, police said.
    “There was misunderstanding in the verbal communication between both sides,” they said on Monday.    “The matter was tackled and resolved at the scene.”
(Reporting by Donny Kwok, Twinnie Siu, Joyce Zhou, Jiraporn Kuhakan, Jessie Pang and Anne Marie Roantree; Writing by Farah Master and John Geddie; Editing by Paul Tait, Himani Sarkar and Alex Richardson)

11/4/2019 Iran scales back nuclear pact compliance with new centrifuges move
FILE PHOTO: An Iranian flag flutters in front of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)
headquarters in Vienna, Austria September 9, 2019. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger/File Photo
    DUBAI (Reuters) – Iran is launching a new array of 30 advanced IR-6 centrifuges on Monday, the country’s nuclear chief Ali Akbar Salehi told state television, scaling back Tehran’s commitments under a nuclear agreement with major powers.
    “Today, we are witnessing the launch of the array of 30 IR-6 centrifuges,” Salehi, the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, said.    He added that the move would show Iran’s “capacity and determination
    The United States last year withdrew from Iran’s 2015 nuclear accord with world powers and reimposed sanctions.    Iran responded by gradually scaling back its commitments under the agreement and has said it could take further steps in November.
(Reporting by Dubai newsroom; Editing by Jon Boyle)

11/4/2019 North Korea, U.S. could resume talks in mid-November: South Korean MP by Hyonhee Shin
FILE PHOTO: Residents hold US and North Korean flags while they wait for motorcade of North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un en
route to the Metropole Hotel for the second US- North Korea summit in Hanoi, Vietnam February 28, 2019. REUTERS/Kham
    SEOUL (Reuters) – North Korea and the United States could hold another round of working-level talks as soon as mid-November to expedite progress before a year-end deadline set by the North, a member of South Korea’s parliament said on Monday.
    North Korean and U.S. officials met last month in Stockholm, for the first time since U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un agreed in June to reopen denuclearization talks that stalled after a failed summit in Vietnam in February.
    But the talks in Sweden broke off with the North’s envoy saying the United States failed to show flexibility.
    Both sides are expected to meet again no later than early December to get the negotiations going before a year-end deadline set by Kim, South Korean lawmaker Lee Eun-jae said after attending a briefing by the National Intelligence Service (NIS).
    There was no immediate response from the U.S. Embassy in Seoul to a request for comment.
    “The NIS expected the talks would resume this month or early December at the latest,” Lee told reporters.
    “It’s time for them to enter negotiations in earnest after checking each other’s stance in Stockholm, and there’s a deadline given by Chairman Kim.”
    Kim is eyeing another summit with Trump in December, and could possibly visit China before that, Lee said.
    Kim first set the deadline in April, when talks were stalled after the failed summit in Vietnam.
    He said in a speech he would wait until the end of the year for the United States to decide to be more flexible, and suggested the deadlock had made him question his moratorium on testing nuclear weapons and long-range ballistic missiles.
    Kim and Trump still play up the personal rapport they say they developed during three face-to-face meetings.
    But North Korea has said in recent days it is losing patience and won’t hold talks for the sake of talks.
    U.S. negotiators tried to set a time for another round of working-level talks when they met in Stockholm, but North Korean officials were uncooperative, a Seoul-based diplomat told Reuters.
    A spokeswoman for Sweden’s foreign ministry said it hoped the talks would be restarted soon and offered to host another meeting.
    “We believe that the confidence that both parties have in us supports our ability to provide a platform for talks and we encourage them to avail themselves of the opportunity,” the Swedish spokeswoman said.
(Reporting by Hyonhee Shin and Sangmi Cha; Additional reporting by Josh Smith in Seoul and Simon Johnson in Stockholm; Editing by Catherine Evans, Robert Birsel)

11/4/2019 Asia-wide trade pact on course despite India, Thailand says by Panu Wongcha-um, Patpicha Tanakasempipat and Panarat Thepgumpanat
U.S. National Security Advisor Robert C. O’Brien and ASEAN foreign ministers and Thailand's Prime Minister Prayuth
Chan-ocha attend 7th ASEAN-United States Summit in Bangkok, Thailand, November 4, 2019. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun
    BANGKOK (Reuters) – Asian countries held conclusive talks on what could be the world’s biggest trade pact and there will be an announcement of success at a summit in Bangkok, despite doubts raised by India, the Thai hosts said on Monday.
    But China, a champion of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), said 15 members had agreed to move ahead without India, while leaving the door open for it to join a deal that has been given new impetus by the United States-China trade war.
    Despite a message of support from U.S. President Donald Trump to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), regional countries noted that Washington had downgraded its delegation for the annual Asian gathering.
    Southeast Asian countries hoped to announce at least provisional agreement on the 16-nation trade bloc, which would account for a third of global gross domestic product and nearly half the world’s population.
    But demands raised recently by India meant negotiations among ministers went late into the night.    The bloc includes the 10 ASEAN members plus China, South Korea, Japan, India, Australia and New Zealand.
    Thai Commerce Minister Jurin Laksanawisit told reporters that the 16 countries had reached agreement and would make a statement later on Monday – while acknowledging that some details still needed to be sorted out.
    He said the plan was to sign the deal next year, under Vietnam’s chairmanship of ASEAN.
    But Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Le Yucheng said 15 countries had decided to move ahead first.
    “The text based negotiations have been completed and issues of market access have been essentially concluded,” he said.    “Whenever India is ready they are welcome to come on board.”
    An Indian official with close knowledge of talks said not everything had been resolved and discussions were still going on.
TRADE WAR IMPETUS
    New impetus to complete the deal has come from the trade war, which has knocked regional growth, but India fears a potential flood of Chinese imports and officials with knowledge of the negotiations said India had raised late demands.
    One advantage for Southeast Asian countries of including relative heavyweight India in the trade pact would be less domination by China.
    Diplomatic and security calculations in Southeast Asia have shifted under the Trump administration.
    And the U.S. decision to send a lower level delegation to the back-to-back East Asian Summit and U.S.-ASEAN Summit this year has raised regional concerns that it can no longer be relied on as a counterweight to China’s increasing might.
    Because of the downgrade in the U.S. delegation, officials from only three of the 10 regional countries joined the usual U.S.-ASEAN meeting.
    U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross told a business meeting on the sidelines of the summit that the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump was “extremely engaged and fully committed” to the region.
    White House national security adviser Robert O’Brien brought a personal message from Trump offering to host a meeting of Southeast Asian leaders in the United States.
    He also condemned Chinese “intimidation” in the South China Sea, where several regional states reject China’s sweeping maritime claims and complain that Beijing is illegally stopping them from exploiting their energy resources and fishing grounds.
    But diplomats and analysts said the message from Washington was clear.
    “Doubts have been raised in a more serious way about the Trump administration engaging and this may also play into the hands of other superpowers in pushing their own agendas,” said Panitan Wattanayagorn, a former Thai national security adviser.
(Additional reporting by Gayatri Suroyo in Jakarta, Liz Lee in Bangkok, Neha Dasgupta in Delhi, Colin Packham in Sydney; Writing by Matthew Tostevin; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan, Kim Coghill and Alex Richardson)

11/4/2019 One dead, 34 injured in grenade attack in Kashmir’s Srinagar: sources
Kashmiri residents run at the site of a grenade blast in Srinagar, November 4, 2019. REUTERS/Danish Ismail
    SRINAGAR (Reuters) – One person died and at least 34 were injured on Monday in a grenade attack in Indian-administered Kashmir’s main city of Srinagar, Indian officials said, in the bloodiest incident since New Delhi stripped the region of special status on Aug. 5.
    The injured, including three Indian paramilitary police, have been admitted to one of three hospitals after the blast on Hari Singh High Street in the center of the city, said the officials, who declined to be named. One person is in a critical condition, they said.
    Earlier VK Birdi, one of Srinagar’s top police officials, said in a statement one person had died and at least 14 were injured.
    The Muslim-majority Kashmir valley claimed by both India and Pakistan has been in turmoil since New Delhi announced it would strip the territory of its long-held autonomy and statehood.
    India shut down the internet and arrested thousands in a historic crackdown it said was aimed at preventing unrest, while militant groups fighting its rule have attacked migrant workers from elsewhere in the country.
(Reporting by Fayaz Bukhari in Srinagar, Writing by Alasdair Pal, Editing by Catherine Evans)

11/4/2019 Iranians chant ‘Death to America’ to mark U.S. embassy seizure
An Iranian student chants slogan as she carries an effigy during an anti U.S. demonstration, marking the 40th anniversary of the U.S.
embassy takeover, near the old U.S. embassy in Tehran, Iran November 4, 2019. Nazanin Tabatabaee/WANA (West Asia News Agency) via REUTERS
    DUBAI (Reuters) – Thousands of Iranians chanted “Death to America” near the old U.S. embassy on Monday, the 40th anniversary on the seizure of the mission, with the country’s army chief comparing the United States with a poisonous scorpion intent on harming Iran.
    State television showed crowds packing the streets around the former mission, dubbed the “den of spies” after Iran’s 1979 Islamic revolution.    Marches and rallies were being held in some 1,000 communities across the country, state media said.
    Hardline Islamist students stormed the embassy soon after the fall of the U.S.-backed shah, and 52 Americans were held hostage there for 444 days.    The two countries have been enemies ever since.
    “Our fight with America is over our independence, over not submitting to bullying, over values, beliefs and our religion,” army chief Major General Abdolrahim Mousavi said in a speech at the rally outside the former embassy.
    “They (Americans) will continue their hostilities, like the proverbial poisonous scorpion whose nature it is to sting and cannot be stopped unless it is crushed,” Mousavi said in remarks carried by state TV.
    On Sunday, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei renewed a ban on talks with the United States, describing the two countries as implacable foes.
    “Those who believe that negotiations with the enemy will solve our problems are 100% wrong,” he said.
    Meanwhile, Iran’s parliament gave initial approval to a measure requiring schoolbooks to inform students about “America’s crimes.”    Lawmakers also chanted “Death to America.”
    Relations between the two countries have reached a crisis over the past year since U.S. President Donald Trump abandoned a 2015 pact between Iran and world powers under which it accepted curbs to its nuclear program in return for lifting sanctions.
    The United States has reimposed sanctions aimed at halting all Iranian oil exports, saying it seeks to force it to negotiate to reach a wider deal.
    Khamenei has banned Iranian officials from holding talks unless the United States returns to the nuclear deal and lifts all sanctions.
(Reporting by Dubai newsroom; Editing by Robert Birsel, William Maclean)

11/4/2019 Chinese state media urge ‘tougher line’ in Hong Kong after Xinhua targeted
Riot police use pepper spray to disperse anti-government protesters at a shopping mall
in Taikoo Shing, Hong Kong, China November 3, 2019. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu
    SHANGHAI (Reuters) – Chinese state media on Monday urged authorities to take a “tougher line” against protesters in Hong Kong who vandalized state-run Xinhua news agency and other buildings at the weekend, saying the violence damaged the city’s rule of law.
    In an editorial, state-backed China Daily newspaper criticized the “wanton” attacks by “naive” demonstrators, adding, “They are doomed to fail simply because their violence will encounter the full weight of the law.”
    Police fired tear gas at black-clad protesters on Saturday in some of the worst violence in the Asian financial hub in weeks, with metro stations set ablaze and buildings vandalized, including an outlet of U.S. coffee chain Starbucks.
    The past five months of anti-government protests in the former British colony represent the biggest popular challenge to President Xi Jinping’s government since he took over China’s leadership in late 2012.
    Protesters are angry at China’s perceived meddling with Hong Kong’s freedoms, including its legal system, since the Asian financial hub returned to Chinese rule in 1997. China denies the accusation.
    The widely-read Global Times tabloid on Sunday condemned the protesters’ actions targeting Xinhua and called for action by Hong Kong’s enforcement agencies.
    “Due to the symbolic image of Xinhua, the vandalizing of its branch is not only a provocation to the rule of law in Hong Kong, but also to the central government and the Chinese mainland, which is the rioters’ main purpose,” it said.
    On Friday, after a meeting of China’s top leadership, a senior Chinese official said it would not tolerate separatism or threats to national security in Hong Kong and would “perfect” the way it appointed the city’s leader.
(Reporting by Brenda Goh; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

11/4/2019 Journalists stage silent protest, shutting down police briefing by OAN Newsroom
Officials persuade journalists wearing messages on their helmets reading; “Stop police brutality” to leave
during a police press conference in Hong Kong, Monday, Nov. 4, 2019. A number of journalists staged the silent
protest at the police briefing accusing them of improper treatment and using violence against the media in recent
pro-democracy rallies. The signs on the helmet read “Stop police brutality.” (AP Photo/Dita Alangkara)
    A group of Hong Kong journalists staged a silent protest during an afternoon police press briefing, which resulted in its cancellation.    During Monday’s press briefing, six journalists took seats in the front row and donned safety helmets with signs that read “stop police violence, stop police lies.”
    The police who were live-streaming the event cut the online feed after just two minutes, and officially ended the briefing after 20 minutes.
    “I’ve urged these six journalists in the room several times that you guys should respect your profession.    The individual’s irresponsible behaviors are unfair to other professional media here.    However, the situation now hasn’t changed. Without any other choice, I have to cancel today’s news conference.” — Ko Chun Pong, Superintendent – Hong Kong Police Public Relations Branch
    The conference came after another weekend of violent protests where videos surfaced of police using water canons, rubber bullets, and tear gas against demonstrators.    The police briefing was rescheduled an hour later and was apparently delivered online only with no press present.

11/4/2019 U.S. condemns Chinese ‘intimidation’ in South China Sea by OAN Newsroom
FILE – An airstrip, structures and buildings on China’s man-made Subi Reef in the
South China Sea are seen from a Philippine Air Force plane. (AP Photo)
    The U.S. is condemning China for intimidating other nations in the South China Sea. While attending the annual ASEAN summit in Thailand Monday, National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien accused China of militarizing the region to bully smaller Southeast Asian countries.
    O’Brien went on to say the region has no interest in a new imperial era:
    “We think those disputes ought to be handled peacefully.    We don’t think they should be handled through intimidation or through maritime militias or by ramming ships or by surrounding islands.    And that’s just not how things should be done in the 21st Century.    Those are things that happened hundreds of years ago, and it shouldn’t happen between neighbors in Southeast Asia.”
    The Chinese premier said the country is willing to draft a code of conduct for the South China Sea, and is ready to work with ASEAN countries to strive for new progress.
U.S. National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien speaks during a press conference on the sidelines of the 35th Association of
Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit in Nonthaburi, Thailand, Monday, Nov. 4, 2019. Seven Southeast Asian
leaders skipped an important meeting with the United States on Monday after President Donald Trump decided
not to attend their regional summit in Thailand. (AP Photo/Aijaz Rahi)

11/4/2019 EU, China to sign an agreement on geographic indications: France’s Macron
FILE PHOTO: French President Emmanuel Macron reacts as he delivers a speech during the Global Forum on Artificial Intelligence
for Humanity (GFAIH) at the Institut de France in Paris, France October 30, 2019. Ludovic Marin/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo
    SHANGHAI (Reuters) – The European Union and China will sign in Beijing an agreement about protected geographic indications, French President Emmanuel Macron said on Monday in Shanghai.
    Macron was speaking at a meeting with French and German companies in Shangahi.
    Geographic indications are locally made products protected by EU’s law.
(Reporting by Marine Pennetier; Writing by Matthieu Protard; Editing by Catherine Evans)

11/4/2019 U.S. envoy decries Chinese ‘intimidation’ in South China Sea by Patpicha Tanakasempipat and Liz Lee
U.S. National Security advisor Robert O'Brien shakes hands with China's Premier Li Keqiang, during a bilateral meeting on the
sidelines of the 35th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit in Bangkok, Thailand November 4, 2019. Romeo Gacad/Pool via REUTERS
    BANGKOK (Reuters) – A U.S. envoy denounced Chinese “intimidation” in the South China Sea at a summit of Southeast Asian leaders on Monday and said they should not be bullied into giving up their resources by what he compared to a conquest.
    The raised rhetoric from White House National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) meeting in Bangkok drew a rebuke from China, which lays claim to most of the busy waterway.
    “Beijing has used intimidation to try to stop ASEAN nations from exploiting the off-shore resources, blocking access to 2.5 trillion dollars of oil and gas reserves alone,” O’Brien told the ASEAN-U.S. summit in a speech.
    Disputes should be handled peacefully, he said later.
    “We don’t think they should be handled by intimidation or through maritime militias or by random ships or by surrounding islands … That’s just not how things should be done in the 21st Century.    That’s conquest.”
    Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Le Yucheng, also in Bangkok for the meetings, said it was unacceptable for countries from outside the region to come “to make waves, escalate disputes and create tensions.”
    He emphasized progress on the code of conduct for the South China Sea which China is discussing with ASEAN countries.
    O’Brien delivered an invitation from Trump to the ASEAN leaders to a special summit at some point in the first quarter of 2020.
    At this year’s summit, U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross was the highest-ranking delegation official, prompting the 10-member ASEAN to downgrade its participation at the meeting to only leaders from Thailand, Vietnam and Laos.
    China was represented at meetings in Bangkok by its premier, Le Keqiang.
    Despite the South China Sea accusations, O’Brien said Washington sought a “great relationship” with China and that the two sides were close to a “phase one” agreement to begin to roll back a 16-month trade war.
(Writing by Kay Johnson and Matthew Tostevin; Editing by Alison Williams)

11/4/2019 U.S. envoy says Beijing’s South China Sea actions like ‘conquest’
U.S. National Security Advisor Robert C. O’Brien attends 7th ASEAN-United States Summit
in Bangkok, Thailand, November 4, 2019. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun
    BANGKOK (Reuters) – A U.S. envoy to a leaders’ summit in Southeast Asia criticized China’s actions in the disputed South China Sea as akin to “conquest.”
    White House National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien said the disputes over territorial waters claimed by China and several Southeast Asian countries should be handled peacefully.
    “We don’t think they should be handled by intimidation or through maritime militias or by random ships or by surrounding islands,” O’Brien said.    “That’s just not how things should be done in the 21st century.    That’s conquest.”
    Nevertheless, O’Brien said Washington sought a “great relationship” with China, saying the two sides were close to a “phase one” agreement to begin to roll back a 16-month trade war between the world’s two largest economies.
(Reporting by Patpicha Tanakasempipat. Writing by Kay Johnson; Editing by Jon Boyle)

11/5/2019 China says it will ‘perfect’ system for choosing Hong Kong leader by Sharon Tam and Jessie Pang
A woman tries to hear the police's warning message, at a shopping mall in
Tai Po in Hong Kong, China November 3, 2019. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon
    HONG KONG (Reuters) – The Chinese Communist Party said it would “perfect” the system for choosing the leader of Hong Kong after months of street protests demanding democracy and denouncing what critics see as Chinese meddling in the former British colony.
    The party said in a statement it would support its “special administrative region” of Hong Kong, which was handed back to China in 1997, and not tolerate any “separatist behavior” either there or in neighboring Macau, an ex-Portuguese colony that returned to Chinese rule in 1999.
    Some protesters in Hong Kong have called for independence in sometimes violent unrest, a red line for Beijing. China denies meddling.
    At the same time, Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said she had a short meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Shanghai.
    “He expressed care and concern about Hong Kong, especially given the social disturbances that we have seen in the last five months and he expressed support for the various action taken by Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government,” she told reporters.
    Referring to the foundation of the 1997 deal under which Hong Kong reverted to Chinese rule, Lam said: “…In strict accordance with the principle of ‘one country, two systems’ (we will continue) upholding the rule of law and trying to put an end to the violence.”
    She denied widely reported rumors that the Hong Kong government was considering an amnesty for protesters charged with offences.
BONFIRE NIGHT PROTESTS
    After gatecrashing fancy-dress Halloween festivities on Oct. 31, protesters have circulated plans on social media to mark Guy Fawkes Day on Tuesday by wearing the white, smiling Guy Fawkes masks made popular by anti-establishment hackers, the film “V for Vendetta” and protesters globally.
    Guy Fawkes Day, also called Bonfire Night, is celebrated with fireworks and bonfires every Nov. 5 in Britain, when effigies of “guys” are burnt, marking the night in 1605 when Fawkes was arrested for a “gunpowder plot” to blow up parliament.
    Lam banned face masks last month, invoking colonial-era emergency powers for the first time in more than 50 years, but protesters have largely ignored the ruling.
CHINA TO IMPROVE HK’S NATIONAL SECURITY
    China’s Communist Party, in a lengthy statement about decisions reached at a key leadership meeting known as a plenum last week, said it would improve the national security system in Hong Kong, as well as in Macau, though it gave no details.
    The party decided to “establish a robust legal system and enforcement mechanism to safeguard national security in the special administrative regions and support them to strengthen law enforcement.”
    The party will “perfect” the appointment and dismissal mechanisms for the leaders and senior officials of the two territories, it added, reiterating comments from a Chinese parliament official last week.    Again, no details were given.
    It will also “perfect” the system under which the party has full jurisdictional power over Hong Kong, in accordance with the constitution, Xinhua said.
    In a nod to some of the economic causes of the unrest, the party said it would support Hong Kong’s economic development with a focus on resolving “deep-rooted” problems that affect social stability.
    There will also be a focus on improving the “patriotic spirit” of young people and civil servants, the party said.
    The demonstrations in Hong Kong began over a since-scrapped extradition bill and escalated in mid-June against perceived Chinese meddling.    Protesters have kept up their calls for universal suffrage and an independent inquiry into alleged police brutality, among other demands.
    The protests, which pose the gravest challenge to Xi since he came to power in 2012, have received broad support.
    The number of people who take part in the mostly weekend rallies has dwindled from the millions who participated in June, but violence and vandalism have escalated.    Authorities have refused permits for many recent protests, making them illegal from the outset and activists liable to be arrested.
    There have been many injuries in the protests, but no deaths.    A 22-year-old student at a Hong Kong university who fell during protests at the weekend was in critical condition on Tuesday, hospital authorities said.
    A man stabbed at least two people on Sunday and bit off part of a politician’s ear before being beaten by protesters.    A 48-year-old suspect has been charged with wounding.
(Reporting by Donny Kwok, Farah Master, Sharon Lam and James Pomfret in Hong Kong, Ben Blanchard in Beijing; Writing by Anne Marie Roantree and Nick Macfie; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

11/5/2019 China says will ‘fully respect’ Taiwan’s way of life
FILE PHOTO: Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen visits an exhibition of Taiwanese products
in Port-au-Prince, Haiti July 13, 2019. REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares/File Photo
    BEIJING/TAIPEI (Reuters) – China will “fully respect” Taiwan’s way of life and social system once it has been “peacefully reunified,” as long as national security is protected, the ruling Communist Party said on Tuesday, in another overture to the self-ruled island.
    China claims democratic Taiwan as its own and has stepped up pressure on the strategically located island since President Tsai Ing-wen assumed office in 2016, fearing she wishes to push for its formal independence, a red line for Beijing.
    Taiwan, which holds presidential elections in January, has shown no interest in being run by autocratic China.
    In a statement on the decisions reached at a key meeting of the party’s leadership last week known as a plenum, the party said it would firmly push for the country’s “peaceful reunification” and “promote institutional arrangements for peaceful development.”
    “Under the premise of ensuring national sovereignty, security, and development interests, after peaceful reunification, the social system and way of life of Taiwan compatriots will be fully respected,” it said.
    “Private property, religious beliefs, and legitimate rights and interests of Taiwan compatriots will be fully protected.”
    China has not explained how Taiwan’s democracy may be allowed to continue if it takes control of the island.
    On Monday, China unveiled measures to further open its markets to firms from self-ruled Taiwan, including raising capital, and to make life easier for people from Taiwan both in China and abroad, including offering them consular protection.
    Taiwan responded by warning its people not to be taken in by China’s efforts at “enticement” ahead of the election.
    Tsai said earlier on Tuesday that China was trying to influence the election and force it to accept “one country, two systems.” referring to the high degree of autonomy China says it grants unrest-racked Hong Kong and wants Taiwan to eventually accept.
    “There is only one answer to this – impossible,” Tsai said.
    Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry also weighed in.
    “Taiwan is a sovereign nation.    The consular affairs we offer our citizens do not concern the PRC and we do not require them to act in our stead,” it said on its Facebook page, referring to China’s official name, the People’s Republic of China.
    China translates the word “tong yi” as “reunification,” but it can also be translated as “unification,” a term in English preferred by supporters of Taiwan independence who point out that Beijing’s Communist government has never ruled Taiwan and so it cannot be “reunified.”
(Reporting by Ben Blanchard and Yimou Lee, Editing by William Maclean)

11/5/2019 Iran says it will inject gas into centrifuges at Fordow on Wednesday
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani speaks during press conference in Tehran, Iran,
October 14, 2019. Official Presidential website/Handout via REUTERS
    GENEVA (Reuters) – Iran will take a new step in reducing commitments to a landmark 2015 nuclear deal on Wednesday by injecting gas into 1,044 centrifuges at its Fordow plant, President Hassan Rouhani said on Tuesday in a speech broadcast live on state TV.
    All of the steps Iran has taken to reduce its commitments to the nuclear deal are reversible and Iran will uphold all of its commitments under the deal when the remaining signatories – France, Britain, Germany, Russia and China – do the same, Rouhani said.
    “We know their sensitivity with regard to Fordow.    With regard to these centrifuges, we know.    But at the same time when they uphold their commitments we will cut off the gas again…So it is possible to reverse this step,” Rouhani said.    “We can’t unilaterally accept that we completely fulfill our commitments and they don’t follow up on their commitments.”
    Under the terms of the deal the Islamic Republic is allowed to spin the centrifuges at Fordow without injecting gas, Rouhani said.
    Iran said on Monday it had launched a new batch of advanced centrifuges to accelerate uranium enrichment, further reducing compliance with the deal following the withdrawal of its arch-foe the United States.
    Iran has gradually shed commitments made under the deal with world powers since being hit with renewed U.S. sanctions last year that have crippled its oil exports.
    Iran’s reduction of its commitments further complicates the chances of saving the accord for the European signatories, who have criticized U.S. President Donald Trump for exiting it.
    Tehran, however, has left room for diplomacy by saying that talks are possible if Washington lifts all the sanctions and itself returns to the nuclear deal.
    Iran needs to be able to sell its oil and use its banking system without restrictions, Rouhani said.
(Reporting by Babak Dehghanpisheh; Editing by Peter Graff and Alex Richardson)

11/5/2019 North Korea criticizes ‘hostile policy’ as U.S. diplomat visits South Korea
FILE PHOTO: Residents hold US and North Korean flags while they wait for motorcade of North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un
en route to the Metropole Hotel for the second US- North Korea summit in Hanoi, Vietnam February 28, 2019. REUTERS/Kham
    SEOUL (Reuters) – A U.S. report calling North Korea a sponsor of terrorism shows a “hostile policy” that prevents progress in denuclearization talks, the isolated nation said on Tuesday, as a senior U.S. diplomat was set to arrive in the neighboring South.
    North Korea accused the United States of failing to show flexibility after a breakdown last month in the first talks between their officials since President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un agreed in June to reopen negotiations.
    “The channel of dialogue between the DPRK and the U.S. is more and more narrowing due to such attitude,” North Korean state news agency KCNA said, citing a Foreign Ministry official, and using the country’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK).
    It said a U.S. State Department report on terrorism “proves once again” that U.S. rejection of North Korea indicated “a hostile policy.”
    The agency was referring to “Country Reports on Terrorism 2018,” issued last week, which reaffirmed North Korea’s re-designation as a state sponsor of terrorism.
    Tuesday’s statement came ahead of a visit to Seoul by U.S. Assistant Secretary of State David Stilwell, who is expected to discuss the stalled talks with North Korea, as well as the South’s decision to end an intelligence-sharing pact with Japan.
    “I look forward to productive meetings with your government so we can reaffirm the security alliance as the cornerstone of the peace and security here in the region,” Stilwell told reporters late on Tuesday upon arrival at Incheon airport.
    U.S. officials did not describe Stilwell’s agenda in detail, but said he would discuss the strength of the U.S.-South Korea alliance and cooperation across foreign policies.
    Washington has urged South Korea to rethink a decision to end an intelligence-sharing agreement scrapped in an escalating political and economic dispute with Japan.
    On Tuesday, Kim In-chul, a spokesman for South Korea’s Foreign Ministry, said there was no change in its stance not to renew the intelligence-sharing pact, however.
    The top U.S. negotiator in defense cost-sharing talks with South Korea, James DeHart, was also set to arrive in Seoul on Tuesday, a South Korean Foreign Ministry official said.
    In April, North Korean leader Kim said the country would give Washington until the end of the year to be “more flexible” in denuclearization talks, but state media have since given only vague warnings about what will happen if the deadline expires.
    The United States and North Korea could hold another round of working-level talks as soon as mid-November, South Korean lawmaker Lee Eun-jae said on Monday after a briefing by Seoul’s National Intelligence Service.
(Reporting by Joyce Lee; additional reporting by Daewoung Kim and Chaeyoun Won; Editing by Rosalba O’Brien, Clarence Fernandez and Alison Williams)

11/5/2019 Macron says Europe-China climate cooperation ‘decisive’ by Marine Pennetier
FILE PHOTO: French President Emmanuel Macron and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping hold a news conference
with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker at the
Elysee presidential palace in Paris, France, March 26, 2019. Thibault Camus/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo
    SHANGHAI (Reuters) – Cooperation between Europe and China on reducing climate-warming emissions will be “decisive,” French President Emmanuel Macron said on Tuesday, after the Trump administration filed paperwork to withdraw the United States from the Paris Agreement.
    The U.S. move is the first formal step in a one-year process to exit the global pact to fight climate change, part of a broader strategy by President Donald Trump to reduce red tape on American industry.
    But it comes at a time scientists and many world governments are urging rapid action to avoid the worst impacts of global warming.
    China and France pledged at this year’s G20 summit to “update” their contributions against climate change beyond their current ones to reflect “their highest possible ambition.”
    The 2015 Paris climate agreement encourages countries to make stronger pledges if they are able to do so.
    Speaking in Shanghai at a major trade fair, just after a keynote address by Chinese President Xi Jinping, Macron said commitments will need to be enhanced.
    “If we want to be in compliance with the Paris agreement, we will need next year to enhance our commitments to reduce emissions, and we must confirm new commitments for 2030 and 2050,” he said.
    “The cooperation between China and the European Union in this respect is decisive,” Macron added.    “Next year, we need, in the agenda of enhancement, to be collectively up to the task.”
    Speaking to reporters earlier, a French presidential office official expressed regret at the U.S. move, and said Macron and Xi will reaffirm their commitment to the Paris agreement.
    “We regret this and this only makes the Franco-Chinese partnership on the climate and biodiversity more necessary,” the official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said.
    “The text that will be signed tomorrow includes a paragraph on the irreversibility of the Paris agreement.”
    Macron and Xi are due to hold a formal meeting in Beijing on Wednesday.
    China aims to bring emissions to a peak by “around 2030” and raise the share of non-fossil fuels in its total energy mix to 20% by the end of the next decade, up from 15% in 2020.
    The United States is the first country to say it will withdraw from the deal, but 10 other countries have failed to ratify it, including Turkey, Iran and Iraq.
    Speaking in Beijing at a daily news briefing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang expressed regret at the U.S. decision, and said climate change was a common challenge faced by all of humankind.
    “All members of the international community should join hands to cooperate, each doing their best according to their ability, to jointly deal with it,” he said.
(Reporting by Marine Pennetier; Writing and additional reporting by Ben Blanchard in Beijing; Editing by Christopher Cushing, Lincoln Feast and Raju Gopalakrishnan)

11/5/2019 Iran further distances itself from 2015 deal by fuelling Fordow centrifuges
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani speaks during press conference in Tehran, Iran,
October 14, 2019. Official Presidential website/Handout via REUTERS
    DUBAI/GENEVA (Reuters) – Iran will start injecting uranium gas into centrifuges at its underground Fordow enrichment facility, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Tuesday, a highly symbolic breach that will complicate European efforts to salvage Tehran’s nuclear deal.
    Under the 2015 agreement between Iran and world powers, Iran agreed to turn Fordow into a “nuclear, physics and technology center” where 1,044 centrifuges are used for purposes other than enrichment, such as producing stable isotopes, which have a variety of civil uses.
    Iran has gradually scaled back its commitments to the deal, under which it curbed its nuclear program in exchange for the removal of most international sanctions, after the United States reneged on the agreement and reimposed sanctions.
    The pact allows Iran only to spin the centrifuges at Fordow, located inside a mountain near the holy city of Qom, without injecting gas.    Uranium gas injection could allow production of enriched uranium, banned at the site under the pact.
    “Starting from Wednesday, gas will be injected into centrifuges at Fordow as part of part of our fourth step to reduce our nuclear commitments to the deal,” Rouhani said in a televised speech.
    Kazem Gharibabadi, Iran’s ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said Iran had informed the agency over “the start of injecting UF6 (uranium hexafluoride) into centrifuges at Fordow on Wednesday.”
    The deal bans nuclear material from Fordow and by injecting UF6 into centrifuges, the facility will become an active nuclear site rather than a research plant as permitted under the pact.
    “The IAEA was requested to send its inspectors to monitor the process,” Gharibabadi said, quoted by state television.    The IAEA monitors Tehran’s compliance with the deal.
ENRICHMENT WORK
    Meanwhile, Iran’s nuclear chief Ali Akbar Salehi said Iran will enrich uranium to 5% at Fordow on Wednesday.    Tehran could also enrich uranium to the 20% level if needed, he said, “but right now there is no need for that.”
    The deal capped the level of purity to which Iran can enrich uranium at 3.67 percent – suitable for civilian power generation and far below the 90% threshold of nuclear weapons grade.    Iran denies ever having aimed to develop a nuclear bomb.
    U.N. nuclear inspectors reported in July that Iran had cranked up enrichment to 4.5% purity as its first step to decrease its nuclear commitments.
    These measures will further complicate the chances of saving the accord, which European powers, Russia and the European Union have called on Iran to respect.
    The U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called on all parties to abide fully by their commitments under the pact.
    Iran said on Monday it had accelerated enrichment by doubling the number of advanced IR-6 centrifuges in operation, adding that it was working on “a prototype called the IR-9, which works 50-times faster than the IR-1 centrifuges.”
    Rouhani gave another two-month deadline to Britain, France and Germany to salvage the deal by protecting Iran’s economy from crippling U.S. sanctions reimposed in May after Washington’s withdrawal from the deal.
    “We can’t unilaterally accept that we completely fulfill our commitments and they don’t follow up on their commitments,” Rouhani said.    Tehran says talks are possible if Washington lifts sanctions and returns to the deal.
    “All these measures are reversible if other parties fulfill their commitments … We should be able to sell our oil and to transfer its money into the country,” Rouhani said, referring to U.S. sanctions on Iran’s oil and banking sectors.
(Additional reporting by John Irish in France, Francois Murphy in Vienna, Babak Dehghanpisheh in Geneva, Michelle Nichols at U.N., Writing by Parisa Hafezi, Editing by Angus MacSwan)

11/5/2019 Effort in U.S. Congress to rein in China on Hong Kong protests faces obstacles by Patricia Zengerle, Matt Spetalnick and David Brunnstrom
FILE PHOTO: A riot police officer fires a tear gas canister toward anti-government protesters during a demonstration in the
Tseung Kwan O residential area in Kowloon, Hong Kong, China, October 7, 2019. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha/File Photo
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A push in the U.S. Congress for legislation to support pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong and pressure China to refrain from a violent crackdown faces an array of obstacles, raising questions about the prospect it will ever become law.
    The fate of the legislation could depend in part on whether lawmakers who represent states with companies heavily invested in the Chinese market can overcome concerns about Beijing’s retaliation against U.S. businesses.
    The outlook is further clouded by a cautious response on Hong Kong by the Trump administration at a crucial juncture for U.S.-China trade talks and uncertainty over whether congressional leaders will make the issue a priority on a crowded end-of-year agenda.
    The House of Representatives unanimously passed Hong Kong human rights legislation in mid-October, including a bill that would place Hong Kong’s special treatment by the United States under tighter scrutiny, drawing accusations from Beijing that the lawmakers had “sinister intentions.” [nL2N27100M]
    A Senate committee approved a similar measure in September, but it has not been scheduled for a vote by the full body, which is required before legislation can be sent to President Donald Trump.    The White House has yet to say whether he would sign or veto it.
    Even as Hong Kong activists have set their hearts on stronger U.S. action, which they see as vital to a movement that has drawn millions to the streets, the issue remains largely up in the air in Washington.
    The bill’s delay – against a backdrop of increasingly dangerous clashes between protesters and police – has been a source of frustration for lawmakers whose overwhelming support for the legislation cuts across party lines.
    “Your guess is as good as mine as to why something that enjoys that broad, bipartisan support – and on an issue that’s acute and happening now – has not reached the floor of the U.S. Senate,” Republican Senator Marco Rubio, a leading China hawk and the bill’s chief co-sponsor, told Reuters.
TRUMP GOES SILENT ON HONG KONG
    Looming over the Hong Kong crisis is the bitter trade war between the world’s two biggest economies.    Trump has said he and Chinese President Xi Jinping will soon sign a “Phase One” trade deal, his administration’s top priority with Beijing.
    At an Oct. 11 meeting in the Oval Office, Trump told Chinese Vice Premier Liu He he would keep quiet on the Hong Kong protests as long as progress was being made on trade, according to two people briefed on the discussions.
    The White House did not respond to a question on whether Trump made such a promise or if the administration was concerned the Hong Kong situation could complicate trade talks.
    While Trump has since avoided publicly criticizing China over Hong Kong, Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have spoken out against Beijing’s human rights record in Hong Kong and elsewhere, including its treatment of Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang. [L2N27L0TM]
    The legislation reflects an increasingly hard-line sentiment among some of Trump’s fellow Republicans and many Democrats over what they see as Beijing’s tightening grip on Hong Kong.
    Protesters are campaigning against what they see as Chinese meddling with the freedoms promised under the “one country-two systems” formula when Britain returned Hong Kong to Chinese rule in 1997. China denies doing so, and has blamed Western countries for stirring up trouble.
    The U.S. bills would amend existing law to require annual certification from the State Department that Hong Kong remains sufficiently autonomous from Beijing to justify the unique treatment by Washington that has helped it to develop into a major financial center.
    China has threatened unspecified countermeasures, prompting the American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong to warn of “counterproductive consequences” of the legislation that could hurt U.S. businesses.
    That has given rise to speculation that some senators, especially those in agricultural states or with major China-dependent businesses, would prefer a go-slow approach and might even work behind the scenes to block the legislation.
    Mark Simon, a Hong Kong-based executive for Next Media, a media group funded by pro-democracy businessman Jimmy Lai, is pessimistic about the Senate bill’s near-term prospects after a recent round of meetings with members of Congress in Washington.
    Simon expressed concern that as many as nine senators might have objections to the bill – though none has said so publicly.    “The U.S. Senate, by refusing to stand up for Hong Kong, is editing our political process in order to sell some grain, pork, and planes,” he told Reuters.
    Rubio said he had not heard objections from fellow senators, but noted it could be “somehow wrapped up in the broader trade issues and fear that it could unravel that.”
‘FOREIGN BLACK HAND’
    Despite activists’ clamoring for U.S. action, some experts say it could be counterproductive.
    Steve Tsang, director of the China Institute at the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies, said the legislation “would play into Beijing’s hands by claiming it as evidence of the existence of a ‘foreign black hand’ behind the protests in Hong Kong.”
    Bills similar to the current legislation have been introduced and gone nowhere in the past three Congresses, but the protracted crisis in Hong Kong has helped the measures advance further than previously.
    The White House did not respond to requests for comment.    But a U.S. official speaking on condition of anonymity said the administration was prepared to let the congressional process run its course.
    It is unclear whether Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will set a vote on a bill during an already jammed schedule in the final weeks of the 2019 session, including the threat of a federal government shutdown and looming impeachment proceedings against Trump.
    One way to get around those obstacles, congressional aides say, would be to attach the Hong Kong legislation to a broader Senate bill on defense or the budget.
(Additional reporting by Heather Timmons, Diane Bartz and David Shepardson; Editing by Mary Milliken and Dan Grebler)

11/5/2019 China to ‘perfect’ HK system as water cannon breaks up Guy Fawkes protest by John Geddie and Kate Lamb
Hong Kong's Chief Executive Carrie Lam attends a news conference ahead of a Hong Kong
Chamber of Commerce dinner in Shanghai, China November 5, 2019. REUTERS/Aly Song/Pool
    HONG KONG (Reuters) – The Chinese Communist Party said on Tuesday it would “perfect” the system for choosing the leader of Hong Kong after months of anti-government protests, as police in the ex-British colony fired water cannon to break up a Guy Fawkes-themed march.
    The party said in a statement it would support its “special administrative region” of Hong Kong, which returned to China in 1997, and not tolerate any “separatist behavior” either there or in neighboring Macau, an ex-Portuguese colony that was handed back to Chinese rule two years later.
    Some protesters in Hong Kong, angry at perceived Chinese meddling in its freedoms, have called for independence in sometimes violent unrest, a red line for Beijing.    China denies interference.
    As the party statement was released by Xinhua news agency, Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said she had held a short meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Shanghai.
    “He expressed care and concern about Hong Kong, especially given the social disturbances that we have seen in the last five months and he expressed support for the various action taken by Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government,” she told reporters.
    Referring to the foundation of the 1997 deal under which Hong Kong reverted to Chinese rule, Lam said: “…In strict accordance with the principle of ‘one country, two systems’ (we will continue) upholding the rule of law and trying to put an end to the violence.”
    The “one country, two systems” formula guarantees Hong Kong’s freedoms, including an independent judicial system, for 50 years.
    Lam denied widely reported rumors that her government was considering an amnesty for protesters charged with offences, one of the demands of the protesters.    “In simple terms, it will not happen,” she said.
BONFIRE NIGHT PROTESTS
    After gatecrashing fancy-dress Halloween festivities on Oct. 31, hundreds of Hong Kong protesters marked Guy Fawkes Day on Tuesday in the Tsim Sha Tsui tourist district of Kowloon by wearing the white, smiling Guy Fawkes masks made popular by anti-establishment hackers, the film “V for Vendetta” and protesters globally.
    Some protesters vandalized traffic lights and a restaurant perceived as being pro-Beijing, prompting police to move in with the water cannon, near the science museum, as they have done on many nights during five months of demonstrations.    Some protesters were detained while others ran off.
    Guy Fawkes Day, also called Bonfire Night, is celebrated with fireworks and bonfires every Nov. 5 in Britain.    Effigies of “guys” are burnt, marking the night in 1605 when Fawkes was arrested for a “gunpowder plot” to blow up parliament.
    “We are here to tell the government that we are not afraid of them and that they should be afraid of us,” masked protester Pete, 27, said in front of the huge, harborfront neon Christmas decorations.
    Lam banned face masks last month, invoking colonial-era emergency powers for the first time in more than 50 years, but protesters have largely ignored the ruling.
    China’s Communist Party, in a lengthy statement about decisions reached at a key leadership meeting known as a plenum last week, said it would improve the national security system in Hong Kong, as well as in Macau, though it gave no details.
    The party decided to “establish a robust legal system and enforcement mechanism to safeguard national security in the special administrative regions and support them to strengthen law enforcement.”
    The party will “perfect” the appointment and dismissal mechanisms for the leaders and senior officials of the two territories, it added, reiterating comments from a Chinese parliament official last week.    Again, no details were given.
    It will also perfect the system under which the party has full jurisdictional power over Hong Kong, in accordance with the constitution, Xinhua said.
    The demonstrations in Hong Kong began over a since-scrapped extradition bill and escalated in mid-June against China.    Protesters have kept up their calls for universal suffrage and an independent inquiry into alleged police brutality, among other demands.
    The protests, which pose the gravest challenge to Xi since he came to power in 2012, have received broad support.
    The number of people who take part in the mostly weekend rallies has dwindled from the millions who participated in June, but violence and vandalism have escalated.    Authorities have refused permits for many recent protests, making them illegal from the outset and activists liable to be arrested.
    There have been many injuries in the protests, but no deaths.    A 22-year-old student at a Hong Kong university who fell during protests at the weekend was in critical condition on Tuesday, hospital authorities said.
    A man stabbed at least two people on Sunday and bit off part of a politician’s ear before being beaten by protesters. A 48-year-old suspect has been charged with wounding.
    Lam expressed her sympathies for the wounded, singling out the 22-year-old student.
(Reporting by Twinnie Siu, Donny Kwok, Farah Master, Sharon Lam, Sarah Wu, Kate Lamb and John Geddie in Hong Kong and Ben Blanchard in Beijing; Writing by Anne Marie Roantree and Nick Macfie; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

11/6/2019 Iran moves further from nuclear deal, alarming Russia, France by Parisa Hafezi
FILE PHOTO: Iran's national flags are seen on a square in Tehran February 10, 2012,
a day before the anniversary of the Islamic Revolution. REUTERS/Morteza Nikoubazl
    DUBAI (Reuters) – Iran has stepped up work at its underground Fordow nuclear facility, state TV reported on Wednesday, a move France said showed for the first time that Tehran explicitly planned to quit a deal with world powers that curbed its atomic work.
    Russia also voiced alarm at Iran’s decision to start injecting uranium gas into centrifuges at Fordow, a move that further distances Iran from the accord.    A central aim of the agreement was to extend the time Iran would need to build a nuclear weapon, if it chose to, to a year from about 2-3 months.
    “With the presence of inspectors from International Atomic Energy Agency, Iran started injecting (uranium) gas into centrifuges in Fordow,” TV reported.
    The deal bans nuclear material from Fordow, and with the gas entering its centrifuges the facility will move from a permitted status of research plant to being an active nuclear site.
    A spokesman for Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, Behrouz Kamalvandi, however told state TV later that the injection of uranium gas would start at midnight (2030 GMT).
    “We have put the 2,800 kg cylinder including 2000 kg uranium hexafluoride (UF6) that has been put in Fordow … The centrifuges there will enrich uranium up to 4.5% level,” Kamalvandi said.
    President Hassan Rouhani, architect of the deal, blamed the Washington for Iran’s rolling back of its nuclear commitments, saying Fordow would soon fully resume uranium enrichment work.
    “Iran’s 4th step in reducing its commitments under the JCPOA (the 2015 nuclear deal) by injecting gas to 1,044 centrifuges begins today. Thanks to U.S. policy and its allies, Fordow will soon be back to full operation,” Rouhani tweeted.
PROFOUND SHIFT
    Speaking on a visit to China, French President Emmanuel Macron called Iran’s move “grave,” saying it explicitly signaled Iran’s intent for the first time to quit the deal.
    “I think that for the first time, Iran has decided in an explicit and blunt manner to leave the JCPOA (nuclear) agreement, which marks a profound shift,” said Macron, who has been at the forefront of European efforts to salvage the deal after the United States withdrew from the agreement.
    In Moscow, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said events unfolding around the nuclear deal were extremely alarming and called on Iran to fulfill the terms of the deal.
    But he added that Moscow understood why Tehran was cutting back on its commitments, and blamed the situation on the U.S. decision to pull out of the pact.
    Iran agreed in 2015 to turn Fordow into a “nuclear, physics and technology center” where 1,044 centrifuges are used for purposes other than enrichment, such as producing stable isotopes, which have a variety of civil uses.
    Last year, U.S. President Donald Trump exited the deal and said it was flawed in Iran’s favor.    Washington has since renewed and intensified its sanctions, slashing Iran’s economically vital crude oil sales by more than 80%.
    Responding to Washington’s “maximum pressure” policy, Iran has bypassed the restrictions of the deal step-by-step – including by breaching both its cap on stockpiled enriched uranium and on the level of enrichment.
    “Iran has taken its fourth step to decrease its nuclear commitments to the deal in reaction to the increased U.S. pressure and inactivity of European parties to the deal to save it,” state TV added.
SPEEDING UP ENRICHMENT
    In Vienna, the IAEA, the U.N. nuclear watchdog, said its inspectors are on the ground in Iran and will report back on relevant activities.
    Iranian authorities also said on Tuesday that Tehran will enrich uranium to 5% at Fordow, which will further complicate the chances of saving the accord, which European powers, Russia and the European Union have urged Iran to respect.
    The agreement capped the level of purity to which Iran can enrich uranium at 3.67 percent – suitable for civilian power generation and far below the 90% threshold of nuclear weapons grade.    Iran denies ever having aimed to develop a nuclear bomb.
    Iran said on Monday it had accelerated enrichment by doubling the number of advanced IR-6 centrifuges in operation, adding that it was working on “a prototype called the IR-9, which works 50-times faster than the IR-1 centrifuges.”
    The deal, under which international sanctions against Iran were lifted, was tailored to extend the time Iran would need to gather enough fissile material for a nuclear bomb – sometimes called the “breakout time” – to about a year from 2-3 months.
    Iran has given another two-month deadline to Britain, France and Germany to salvage the deal.    Leaving room for diplomacy, Tehran says talks are possible if Washington lifts all the sanctions and itself returns to the nuclear deal.
(Writing by Parisa Hafezi; Additional reporting by Benoit van Overstraeten and Maria Kiselyova, editing by John Stonestreet, William Maclean)

11/6/2019 China backs bolder action to counter roots of Hong Kong unrest: official by Jessie Pang and Kate Lamb
A student from the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology holds up a sign during a forum
on fellow injured student Chow in Hong Kong, China, November 6, 2019. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton
    HONG KONG (Reuters) – Beijing supports bolder action to tackle the roots of unrest that has rocked Hong Kong for months, a senior Chinese official said on Wednesday, just hours after a knife-wielding man attacked a pro-Beijing lawmaker in the Chinese-ruled city.
    Han Zheng, a vice premier, said at a meeting with Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam in Beijing the anti-government protests were damaging the “one country, two systems” formula under which the former British colony has been governed since its handover to China in 1997.
    “We firmly support the special administrative region government to adopt more proactive and more effective measures to solve the social problems,” said Han, speaking at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in the Chinese capital.
    Han said the social problems included unaffordable housing in the city, which is classified as a “special administrative region” of China.
    Lam announced housing and land reforms last month in an effort to regain support in one of the world’s most expensive housing markets.    She also defended her administration’s response to the protests, which have included reviving colonial-era emergency laws.
    What started as agitation against a now-scrapped extradition bill, which would have allowed people to be sent to mainland China for trial, has widened into calls for full democracy and an end to perceived Chinese meddling.
    Beijing denies interfering and blames foreign governments for fuelling the unrest.
    Five months of often violent unrest have plunged Hong Kong into its biggest political crisis in decades and pose one of the gravest challenges to Chinese President Xi Jinping since he came to power in 2012.
    China’s Communist Party said on Tuesday it would not tolerate any “separatist behavior” after some protesters called for independence.    Han said the violence had exceeded the “bottom line” of the rule of law and of morality.
ATTACKS ON CANDIDATES
    Han was meeting Lam after a man lunged at lawmaker Junius Ho with a knife on Wednesday, the latest attack on candidates running in the city’s Nov. 24 district council elections.     A suspect was subdued and arrested. Ho said in an online statement he had suffered a knife wound to the upper left part of his chest but that his life was not at risk.    Two of his colleagues were also hurt, he said.     The attacker’s motive was not known, but Ho gained notoriety among anti-government protesters in July when he was filmed laughing and shaking hands with suspected triad gang members who assaulted young demonstrators.     An online video showed a man handing Ho yellow flowers before taking a knife out of his bag and stabbing him before being tackled to the ground by Ho’s aides.     Lam strongly condemned the attack when she met reporters in Beijing.     Jimmy Sham, a leader of Hong Kong’s Civil Human Rights Front, was beaten by several men with hammers in October after his group organized mass rallies against the extradition bill.     Pro-democracy district councilor Andrew Chiu had part of his ear bitten off by a knife-wielding man outside a mall on Sunday.
STUDENT PROTEST
    Hundreds of black-clad students, meanwhile, protested against perceived police brutality and called for an investigation into injuries suffered by a student from the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology fighting for his life after falling one floor in a car park.
    The student fell from the third to the second floor of the parking lot in Tseung Kwan O, in the east of the Kowloon peninsula, during crowd dispersal operations at the weekend and was in critical condition, hospital authorities said.
    University president Wei Shyy said he had visited the 22-year-old student and his parents.
    “I personally feel the mood of our citizens, by and large, has worsened because of frustration, disagreement and because many feel despair,” he told angry students demanding to know what had happened.
    He said the university had sent a letter to the police, asking for guidelines of how they use tear gas.
    There have been conflicting accounts of how the student fell.    Some have also accused police of blocking an ambulance trying to reach him.
    Police said they were not firing tear gas at the estimated time of his fall but did not rule out that he could have been trying to flee tear gas.    They denied blocking an ambulance.
    “I have known him for one year,” said student James, 22. “…He’s a quiet person.    We play basketball together.    I am worried about him.    I hope he can wake up.”
(Reporting by Donny Kwok, Clare Jim, Kate Lamb, Twinnie Siu and Jessie Pang; Writing by Farah Master and Nick Macfie; Editing by Alex Richardson)

11/6/2019 China and France sign deals worth $15 billion during Macron’s visit
French President Emmanuel Macron attends a welcome ceremony with Chinese President Xi Jinping outside
the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China November 6, 2019. REUTERS/Florence Lo
    BEIJING (Reuters) – China and France signed contracts totaling $15 billion during a visit by President Emmanuel Macron, a Chinese government official told a news briefing on Wednesday.
    Deals were struck in the fields of aeronautics, energy and agriculture, including approval for 20 French companies to export poultry, beef and pork to China.
    They also agreed to expand a protocol for poultry exports reached this year to include duck and geese as well as foie gras, and to work on a protocol allowing France to export pig semen to China, said a statement from Macron’s office.
    Macron arrived in China on Monday and was due to leave later on Wednesday.
    Energy deals included a memorandum of understanding between Beijing Gas Group and French utility Engie to collaborate on a liquefied natural gas terminal and storage in the northern city of Tianjin.
    An executive with Beijing Gas Group told Reuters that the cooperation with Engie would include the French firm supplying membrane technology, used for gas leak prevention, in the massive gas storage projects that China is embarking on.
    Among other deals, France’s Total will set up a joint venture with China’s Shenergy Group to distribute LNG by truck in the Yangtze River Delta.br>     The two countries also agreed to reach an agreement by the end of January on the cost and location of a nuclear fuel reprocessing facility to be built by Orano, formerly known as Areva.
    Previous plans to build the plant in Lianyungang in eastern China’s Jiangsu province were canceled after protests.
    Separately, Chinese state news agency Xinhua said China would support its firms’ purchases of Airbus aircraft.
    Xinhua said the two countries agreed to work together to push forward the completion and delivery center program of the European planemaker’s A350 model, as well as step up investment by Airbus in China.
    China and France hope to boost cooperation, particularly in the helicopter sector as well as on aircraft engines and pilot training, it said.
    Airbus, in a separate press release, said its Tianjin completion and delivery center in northern China was expected to deliver the first A350 widebody jet by 2021.
(Reporting by Marine Pennetier; Additional reporting by Aizhu Chen in Singapore; Writing by Dominique Patton; Editing by Robert Birsel and Gareth Jones)

11/6/2019 Vietnam mulls legal action over South China Sea dispute by James Pearson and Khanh Vu
FILE PHOTO: A ship (top) of the Chinese Coast Guard is seen near a ship of the Vietnam Marine Guard in the South China Sea,
about 210 km (130 miles) off shore of Vietnam May 14, 2014. REUTERS/Nguyen Minh/File Photo/File Photo
    HANOI (Reuters) – Vietnam could explore legal action among various options in its territorial dispute with powerful neighbor China in the South China Sea, a senior government official said on Wednesday.
    Frictions have grown between the two communist-run nations since Beijing in July sent a ship for a months-long seismic survey to an area internationally designated as Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) but also claimed by China.
    Speaking at a conference in Hanoi, deputy foreign minister Le Hoai Trung said Vietnam preferred negotiations but did have other options for the disputed waterway.
    “We know that these measures include fact-finding, mediation, conciliation, negotiation, arbitration and litigation measures,” Trung said.
    “The UN Charter and UNCLOS 1982 have sufficient mechanisms for us to apply those measures,” he added, referring to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), an international treaty defining maritime territorial rights.
    China claims almost all the energy-rich waters of the South China Sea where it has established military outposts on artificial islands, but Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also have claims.
    In 2016, the Philippines won a ruling from The Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague that invalidated China’s claim over most of the waters following a 2013 case filed by Manila.
    But Vietnam’s government, which aims for a measured approach toward its largest trading partner China, had not spoken recently of potentially following suit.
    In 2014, former Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung said Vietnam was considering legal action following the deployment of a Chinese oil rig to waters claimed by Hanoi – a dispute that triggered anti-Chinese riots and a marine standoff.
    In the new spat, Vietnam has made repeated statements regarding its claims and demanded that China remove the survey vessel and its escorts from the area, but had not mentioned possible legal action publicly until Wednesday.
    “It would have major political ramifications for the Vietnam-China relationship, but maybe that’s the only thing left for Vietnam,” said Bill Hayton, a South China Sea expert at the Chatham House think tank.
    “This whole event seems to be about that question,” he added, referring to the government-organized conference.
China refused to recognize the international court ruling which clarified Philippine rights to energy reserves within its EEZ.
    Some legal experts involved in that case were present at the conference, including former International Tribunal for Law of the Sea (ITLOS) judge Rudiger Wolfrum.    Current ITLOS president Paik Jin-hyun also attended, although neither jurist mentioned any plans for Vietnamese legal action.
(Editing by Matthew Tostevin and Andrew Cawthorne)

11/6/2019 EU, China agree to protect 100 of each other’s regional foods
(L-R) EU Trade Commissioner-designate Phil Hogan, French President Emmanuel Macron, Chinese President Xi Jinping and Chinese Commerce
Minister Zhong Shan pose at a signing ceremony inside the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China November 6, 2019. REUTERS/Jason Lee
    BEIJING (Reuters) – The European Union and China have agreed to protect 100 European regional food designations, known as geographical indications (GI), in China and 100 Chinese geographical indications in the EU, the EU Commission said on Wednesday.
    The deal will protect the names of such products as cava, Irish whiskey, feta and prosciutto di Parma, as well as China’s Pixian bean paste, Anji white tea and Panjin rice.
    The deal significantly expands the number of foods protected by GIs from the 10 products on both sides that were agreed in 2012 and should help boost trade in higher-value goods.
    “It is a win for both parties, strengthening our trading relationship, benefiting our agricultural and food sectors, and consumers on both sides,” said Agriculture and Rural Development Commissioner Phil Hogan, who is currently visiting China.
    Consumers are willing to pay more for GI products, he said, trusting the origin and authenticity of the goods.
    But the agreement needs to be accompanied in China by updated laws and stronger enforcement, the European Union Chamber of Commerce in China said in a statement.
    Government agencies often fail to help protect GIs because they are not defined as intellectual property rights under any specific Chinese law, leading to losses for EU companies, the statement said.
    In addition, some of the cheese products mentioned in the deal cannot be exported to China anyway at present, it added.
    The agreement still needs to be approved by the European Parliament and European Council, which represents the national governments of the EU, but is expected to enter into force before the end of 2020, the Commission statement said.
    It will be expanded to cover an additional 175 GI names from both sides four years after the current agreement.
    EU agri-food exports to China were worth 12.8 billion euros in the 12 months from September 2018 to August 2019.
(Reporting by Dominique Patton; Additional reporting by Gabriel Crossley; Editing by Kim Coghill and Gareth Jones)

11/7/2019 Masked Hong Kong students chant at graduation amid fears for elections by Sarah Wu and Jessie Pang
Police use a water cannon during an anti-government demonstration in Hong Kong, China, November 5, 2019. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton
    HONG KONG (Reuters) – Hong Kong students, many wearing banned black masks, chanted slogans at their graduation at the Chinese University on Thursday, with some holding up banners urging “Free Hong Kong, Revolution Now.”
    The students defied a ban on masks that the government imposed last month in a bid to curb sometimes violent unrest that has rocked the Chinese-ruled city for more than five months.
    Dressed in formal graduation gowns, many of about 1,000 students chanted as they walked to the hill-top ceremony, near the New Territories town of Sha Tin, calling for the government to respond to protesters’ “five demands, not one less” that include universal suffrage in choosing the city’s leader.
    A man singing the Chinese national anthem and holding a knife during the graduation ceremony was taken away by security officers.
    The protests started over a now-scrapped extradition bill that would have allowed people to be sent to mainland China for trial but have evolved into calls for democracy, an end to Chinese meddling in the city’s promised freedoms and an independent inquiry into perceived police brutality, among other things.
    “Even though we are all exhausted, we should not give up,” said Kelvin, a 22-year-old information engineering graduate.
    The university said it cut the ceremony short after the degrees were handed out.
    The months of protests have plunged the former British colony into its biggest crisis in decades, with no sign the demonstrators plan to give up.br>     Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule in 1997 under a “one country, two systems” formula, allowing it colonial freedoms not enjoyed on the mainland, including an independent judiciary and right to protest.
    China denies interfering in Hong Kong has blamed Western countries for stirring up trouble.
    About 100 people, including candidates running in Nov. 24 district council elections, the lowest tier of voting, marched against violence on Thursday. SAFE AND FAIR?
    A man stabbed and wounded pro-Beijing lawmaker Junius Ho on Wednesday.    Jimmy Sham, a leader of Hong Kong’s Civil Human Rights Front, was beaten by men with hammers in October after his group organized mass rallies against the extradition bill.
    Pro-democracy district councilor Andrew Chiu had part of his ear bitten off by a knife-wielding man on Sunday.
    District council candidate Clement Woo, who joined the march, said members of the pro-establishment camp had experienced violence and intimidation.
    “How can the election be a fair one if the atmosphere is like this?” Woo told Reuters.    “We support democracy in Hong Kong, but democracy is incomplete without safety and fairness.”
    Executive Councilor Ip Kwok-him, speaking on RTHK radio, expressed doubts as to whether election campaigning could continue in a fair and peaceful manner.    He suggested the government decide by Nov. 17 if the elections should go ahead.
    China has offered the “” formula for self-ruled Taiwan, an island Beijing considers a breakaway province.
    The unrest in Hong Kong had provided a lesson for Taiwan, its foreign minister, Joseph Wu, told Reuters in Taipei.
    “People here understand that there’s something wrong (with)the way the ‘one country, two systems’ model is run in Hong Kong … Taiwan people don’t like to be in the same situation,” Wu said.
    The unrest has helped push Hong Kong’s economy into recession for the first time in a decade.    Retail and tourism sectors have been hit particularly hard as tourists stay away.
    UNICEF Hong Kong called off its annual Run for Every Child charity road run on Nov. 24 “due to a range of ongoing and uncertain factors.”
(Reporting by Jessie Pang, Sarah Wu, Jiraporn Kuhakan and Twinnie Siu in Hong Kong and Yimou Lee and Fabian Hamacher in Taipei; Writing by Farah Master and Nick Macfie; Editing by Robert Birsel)

11/7/2019 Iran holding IAEA inspector was ‘outrageous provocation’: U.S. by Francois Murphy
U.S. Ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Jackie Wolcott waits for the start of a board of
governors meeting at the IAEA headquarters in Vienna, Austria, November 7, 2019. REUTERS/Lisi Niesner
    VIENNA (Reuters) – The European Union and United States expressed concern on Thursday at Iran’s holding of an inspector from the U.N. nuclear watchdog last week, with the U.S. envoy to the agency calling it an “outrageous provocation” that must have consequences.
    Reuters first reported on Wednesday that Iran had held the inspector and seized her travel documents in what appears to be the first incident of its kind since Iran’s nuclear deal with major powers was struck in 2015.
    Iran confirmed that it prevented the inspector from gaining access to its main uranium-enrichment facility at Natanz.    Its envoy to the     International Atomic Energy Agency told reporters that it was because she tested positive for traces of explosives but then no longer did after going to the toilet while waiting for a further search, which prompted further investigation.
    “The detention of an IAEA inspector in Iran is an outrageous provocation,” the U.S. ambassador to the IAEA, Jackie Wolcott, said in a statement https://vienna.usmission.gov/iaea-board-of-governors-u-s-statement-on-safeguards-matters-in-iran to an emergency meeting of the IAEA’s 35-nation Board of Governors.
    “All Board members need to make clear now and going forward that such actions are completely unacceptable, will not be tolerated, and must have consequences.”
    The European Union said it was “deeply concerned” by what happened.    Iran’s ambassador to the IAEA said the inspector was repatriated and Tehran had asked that she be removed from the list of designated inspectors.    The IAEA declined to comment.
    “We understand that the incident was resolved and call upon Iran to ensure that no such incidents occur in the future,” an EU statement said.
    Acting IAEA chief Cornel Feruta, who will be succeeded by Argentina’s Rafael Grossi next month, called Thursday’s board meeting to discuss the incident and Iran’s failure to give a convincing explanation for uranium traces found at a site in Tehran.
    Feruta told Iran in September that “time is of the essence” in addressing the IAEA’s questions on how it found the traces on samples taken in February at the undeclared site, which Iran has said was a carpet-cleaning facility.
    The EU and United States called on Iran to cooperate with the IAEA in explaining the traces of uranium that was processed but not enriched.    A U.S. official said there were also signs of “activities consistent with sanitization” by Iran there.
    “Time was of the essence in September; now that time is up,” Wolcott, the U.S. envoy, said in her statement.
(Reporting by Francois Murphy; Editing by Alex Richardson and Giles Elgood)

11/7/2019 In joint case with U.S., China jails nine fentanyl smugglers by Huizhong Wu
FILE PHOTO: Plastic bags of fentanyl are displayed in the U.S. Customs and Border Protection area of the International
Mail Facility at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago, Illinois, U.S. November 29, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Lott
    XINGTAI, China (Reuters) – A Chinese court on Thursday imprisoned nine people, one of whom received a suspended death sentence, on charges of smuggling fentanyl into the United States, in the first such case the two countries have worked on together.
    China has faced U.S. criticism for not doing enough to prevent the flow of fentanyl into the United States, and the issue has become another irritant in bilateral ties, already strained by a bruising trade war the two are now working to end.
    The joint announcement of the successful action against smugglers, in front of a group of Chinese and foreign reporters invited by the Chinese government, comes as the two countries are expected to be close to signing an interim trade deal.
    Fentanyl is a highly addictive synthetic opioid, 50 times more potent than heroin.
    It is often used to make counterfeit narcotics because of its relatively cheap price, and it has played an increasingly central role in an opioid crisis in the United States.
    Yu Haibin, a senior official with China’s National Narcotics Control Commission, told reporters in the northern city of Xingtai, where the court case was heard, that Chinese and U.S. law enforcement had worked together to break up the ring.    Members were accused of smuggling fentanyl and other opioids to the United States via courier.
    The case originated in 2017 from the Department of Homeland Security’s New Orleans office, which acted on a tip from an informant who provided contact information for a Chinese seller using the pseudonym “Diana,” Austin Moore, a regional attache with the department, told reporters.     One of the people sentenced by the court was given a suspended death sentence – which in practice is normally commuted to life in jail – and two got life sentences, Yu said.
    He said the case should not be connected to politics or the trade war, and the timing of the sentencing was the result of the legal process.    There are two other joint fentanyl cases ongoing, he said.
    “This should not be linked to trade, or other policy-related matters, because there’s nothing more important than a human life,” he said.
    Jim Carroll, head of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, said the arrests were a “positive step.”
    “We look forward to further cooperation to stop the flow of these deadly substances into the United States,” Carroll said in a statement.
    More than 28,000 synthetic opioid-related overdose deaths, mostly from fentanyl-related substances, were recorded in the United States in 2017, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
    U.S. drug enforcement officials have pointed to China as the source of much of the fentanyl and related supplies.    China denies that most of the illicit fentanyl entering the United States originates in China, and says the United States must do more to reduce demand.
    Yu said that the issue of fentanyl was not something any one country could resolve.
    “If illegal demand cannot be effectively reduced, it is very difficult to fundamentally tackle the fentanyl issue,” Yu said.
    In August, U.S. President Donald Trump accused Chinese President Xi Jinping of not fulfilling a promise to crack down on fentanyl and its analogues.
    Yu said China was willing to work with U.S. law enforcement authorities and all other international colleagues to fight narcotics and “continue to contribute China’s wisdom and power for the global management of narcotics.”
(Reporting by Huizhong Wu; Additional reporting by Makini Brice in Washington; Writing by Ben Blanchard and Tony Munroe; Editing by Kim Coghill, Robert Birsel, Gerry Doyle and Bernadette Baum)

11/8/2019 Death of Hong Kong student likely to add fuel to unrest by Sarah Wu and Kate Lamb
Medical staff walk outside the intensive care unit at Queen Elizabeth Hospital that treated the university
student who fell during a protest in Hong Kong, China November 8, 2019. REUTERS/Thomas Peter
    HONG KONG (Reuters) – A student at a Hong Kong university who fell one floor in a parking lot during pro-democracy protests at the weekend died on Friday, the first student death in months of demonstrations in the Chinese-ruled city and a likely trigger for fresh unrest.
    Chow Tsz-lok, 22, an undergraduate at the University of Science and Technology (UST), died of injuries he suffered in the early hours of Monday, when he fell from the third to the second floor of a parking lot during a police dispersal operation.
    Chow’s death, on graduation day for many students, is expected to fuel anger at police, who are already under pressure amid accusations of excessive force as the city grapples with its worst political crisis in decades.
    UST students trashed a campus branch of Starbucks, part of a franchise perceived to be pro-Beijing, and rallies are expected across the territory in the evening, when violence traditionally picks up.
    “Condemn police brutality,” they wrote on the restaurant’s glass wall.
    Demonstrators had thronged the hospital this week to pray for Chow, leaving flowers and hundreds of get-well messages on walls. Students also staged rallies at universities across the former British colony.
    “He was a nice person.    He was sporty.    He liked playing netball and basketball,” friend and fellow UST student Ben, 25, told Reuters in tears.    “We played netball together for a year.    I hope he can rest in peace.    I really miss him.”
    Students and young people have been at the forefront of the hundreds of thousands who have taken to the streets since June to press for greater democracy, among other demands, and rally against perceived Chinese meddling in the Asian financial hub.
    The protests, ignited by a now-scrapped extradition bill allowing people to be sent to mainland China for trial, have evolved into wider calls for democracy, posing one of the biggest challenges for Chinese President Xi Jinping since he took charge in 2012.
    Two pro-Beijing newspapers ran full-page ads, commissioned by “a group of Hong Kong people,” calling for a postponement of the lowest-tier district council elections set for Nov.24, a move which would infuriate those calling for democracy.
    Protesters have thrown petrol bombs and vandalized banks, stores and metro stations, while police have fired rubber bullets, tear gas, water cannons and, in some cases, live ammunition in scenes of chaos.
    In June, Marco Leung, 35, fell to his death from construction scaffolding after unfurling banners against the extradition bill.    Several young people who have taken their own lives in recent months have been linked to the protests.
GRADUATION DAY
    Chow had been pursuing a two-year undergraduate degree in computer science.    His death came on graduation day for many students at his university, located in the picturesque Clear Water Bay district on the Kowloon side of the harbor.
    Hundreds of students, some in their black graduation gowns and many wearing now-banned face masks, chanted “Stand with Hong Kong” and spray-painted Chow’s name and pinned photos and signs of him on nearby walls.
    The university called for an independent investigation.
    “We saw footage of (an) ambulance being blocked by police cars and that ambulance officers needed to walk to the scene, causing a delay of 20 minutes in the rescue operation of our student,” UST president Wei Shyy said in a statement.
    “We demand clarifications from all parties – especially from the police, regarding the cause of the delay in those most critical moments that might have saved a young life.”
    The government expressed “great sorrow and regret.”    A police spokeswoman, tears in her eyes, said officers would find out the truth as soon as possible.
    “We will spend every effort to investigate the cause,” she told reporters, urging the public to be “calm and rational.”
    Police have denied blocking an ambulance.
    The car park said it would release CCTV footage as soon as possible. It did not say what the footage might contain.
    Protests scheduled over the weekend include rallies in shopping malls, some of which have previously descended into chaos as riot police stormed areas crowded with families and children.    Protesters have called for a general strike on Monday morning and for people to block public transport.    Such calls have come to nothing in the past.
    Last weekend, anti-government protesters crowded a shopping mall in running clashes with police that saw a man slash people with a knife and bite off part of the ear of a local politician.
    Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule in 1997 under a “one country, two systems” formula, allowing it colonial freedoms not enjoyed on the mainland, including an independent judiciary and the right to protest.
    China denies interfering in Hong Kong and has blamed Western countries for stirring up trouble.
(Reporting by Jessie Pang, Kate Lamb, Sarah Wu, Clare Jim, Felix Tam, Anne Marie Roantree and Twinnie Siu; Writing by Farah Master and Nick Macfie; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)

11/8/2019 China renews attack on Pompeo, says Communist Party criticism ‘dangerous’
FILE PHOTO: U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo delivers statements at the
State Department in Washington, U.S., October 9, 2019.REUTERS/Erin Scott
    BEIJING (Reuters) – China’s Foreign Ministry launched a renewed attack on U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Friday, saying that his recent criticism of the Chinese Communist Party was “extremely dangerous” and exposed his “sinister intentions.”
    Last month, Pompeo stepped up U.S. rhetoric against China’s ruling Communist Party, saying Beijing was focused on international domination and needed to be confronted.    China at the time called it a “vicious attack.”
    China has been consistently irritated by Pompeo, whether over his remarks on China’s Belt and Road infrastructure project or allegations of Chinese rights abuses in the far western region of Xinjiang, and in many other areas.
    Speaking at a daily news briefing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said Pompeo’s attacks on China’s political system and calling China a threat were “full of ideological prejudice” that China strongly opposed.
    “Pompeo is splitting apart and setting in antagonism against each other the Chinese people and the Chinese Communist Party in an attempt to provoke their relationship,” Geng said.b     The party has always represented and safeguarded the interests of the Chinese people and has won their deep trust and loyal support, he added.
    “Attempts to separate the Chinese people and the Chinese Communist Party is a provocation against the entire Chinese people and is doomed to fail,” Geng said.
    “It must be pointed out that Pompeo’s comments are extremely dangerous and seriously inconsistent with his position as U.S. Secretary of State,” he added.
    “>They fully expose his sinister intentions of fishing for political capital by being anti-China.”
    He should stop “jabbering on” with his unwarranted criticisms of China, Geng said.
    China’s stepping up of rhetoric against Pompeo comes as China and the United States seek a truce in their trade war by signing a “phase one” trade deal.
    The world’s two largest economies have other serious areas of disagreement, including the disputed South China Sea, U.S. support for Chinese-claimed Taiwan and human rights, especially in heavily Muslim Xinjiang.
(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Alex Richardson)

11/8/2019 Anger on campus: Behind the student protests that have rocked Indonesia by Stanley Widianto and Gayatri Suroyo
FILE PHOTO: University students take part in a protest outside the Indonesian parliament
building in Jakarta, Indonesia, September 24, 2019. REUTERS/Willy Kurniawan/File Photo
    JAKARTA (Reuters) – He was once a boy scout and member of a patriotic flag-raising team in high school.
    But with student protests sweeping Jakarta and other cities in recent months in some of the worst civil unrest to hit Indonesia in decades, Manik Marganamahendra has emerged as an anti-establishment icon.
    “Today we stand on Indonesian land, on land seized and corrupted by the oligarchy,” he bellowed through a sound system on a recent afternoon, standing on the bed of a pickup truck.
    Thousands of chanting students, clad in the yellow, red and green jackets of their universities, swirled in front of him, watched closely by a line of riot police standing behind large coils of barbed wire.
    “If elite politicians are able to make a coalition, why can’t the people?” he cried.
    Draped from the truck was a banner bearing the slogan that has been the rallying cry for the student-led protests that erupted in September: “reform corrupted.”
    The trigger for the protests was a government move to strip the country’s anti-corruption agency of some of its powers and pass a new criminal code that critics saw as a reversal of hard-won social and political reforms that followed the fall of the authoritarian Suharto government in the late 1990s.
    But the protests have also attracted a broader swathe of activists pressing for a host of other causes that highlight a growing sentiment in Indonesia that a political and business elite is becoming increasingly beholden to special interests and less accountable to the people.
    Workers are pressing for better conditions.    Environmentalists want palm oil and timber companies to be more accountable for the forest fires that regularly blanket the region in smoke.    Feminists are calling for the passage of an anti-sexual violence bill that has been blocked by politicians fearing a backlash from conservative Muslims.
    Rattled by the increasingly violent protests, the authorities have delayed the passage of the criminal code, which would have banned pre-marital sex and penalized insults against the president.
    However, President Joko Widodo has said that there are no plans to reverse changes to laws governing the Corruption Eradication Commission, which has prosecuted hundreds of politicians, officials and businessmen since its formation in 2002, saying the agency needed better governance.
    The new law placed restrictions on the agency using independent wiretaps, among other measures.
    Hundreds of people have been injured in clashes with the police.    Five people have died during protests.    Police have announced the arrest of an officer over the deaths of two students, including one who died of gunshot wounds. But it is still unclear how the others died.
    Under pressure from families and human rights groups, Widodo has ordered an investigation into the deaths.
    While the protests have lost some intensity in recent weeks, the students have vowed to keep up their campaign and are planning a demonstration on Sunday – national Heroes Day.
    The movement will not run out of steam, Marganamahendra told Reuters.    “We want the future to be better than today.”
UNLIKELY LEADER
    Students like Marganamahendra have been a critical force in the protests, helping to forge a loose network with the disparate groups involved.
    “We want to show that a college student movement – any student movement – and a labor movement can unite,” he told Reuters at a rally last month near the presidential palace, dressed in the yellow jacket of the University of Indonesia.
    Quietly spoken and with a slight frame, the 22-year-old public health student is an unlikely figure to emerge as a leader of the protest movement.    He comes from a modest background in the city of Bogor, south of Jakarta; his father is a motorcycle taxi driver, and his mother is unemployed.
    But Marganamahendra has emerged as a powerful speaker and charismatic presence in front of the protest crowds, able to rally and organize the students.    He has also become something of a celebrity in Indonesia, with local media running stories on everything from his favorite pastime (debating, reportedly) to his love life.    On campus, other students ask him to pose for selfies with them.
    He has also found himself targeted by trolls on social media who have questioned his motives and say the protests have been hijacked by people hoping to overthrow Widodo’s presidency.
    “I feel a certain pressure psychologically,” he said.
ANGRY STUDENTS
    Marganamahendra’s life today is a far cry from what it was in mid September when he and a handful of University of Indonesia students joined one of the first protests.
    There, he met students from other universities and discussed coordinating activities. Soon, students from his university were meeting with a broad range of people with grievances against the government – farmers, union activists, feminists and others.
    The media-savvy students and activists created punchy online hashtags to raise awareness of their campaign, and used crowd-funding sites like Kitabisa.com to raise cash for renting trucks and loudspeakers, and buying medical supplies and food.    They communicated with each other using WhatsApp.
    By the end of September, the rallies had grown into some of the largest seen in the country since the 1998 protests that helped bring down Suharto, with the size of the crowds put at over 52,000 at their height by news magazine Tempo, citing the National Police Intelligence and Security Agency.
    “Many students on campus were angry, not just the type who get involved in student organizations,” said Marganamahendra.
    Nailendra, a student from Yogyakarta’s Gadjah Mada University in Java, said there was a feeling of “having to do something” after heated discussions broke out at her campus canteen about the government bills, which she called “very unreasonable.”
    “We started with our small circle and then we used social media and brought in other groups and people to join the alliance,” said Nailendra, who uses one name and is a spokeswoman for the People’s Movement Alliance.    “Now our group is very diverse.”
LIST OF DEMANDS
    The demonstrators have also drawn inspiration from the protests that have rocked Hong Kong this year, Marganamahendra said.
    Like their Hong Kong counterparts they have drawn up a list of key demands, with the Indonesians focusing on the anti-graft agency and the criminal code, as well as the removal of the military and police from government, making companies accountable for the forest fires, and freeing political prisoners in the restive region of Papua.
    “The Hong Kong movement is really cool,” Marganamahendra said.
    The organized opposition and simmering discontent suggested by the protests could pose a challenge to Widodo as he starts a second five-year term, even though he is backed by parties controlling 74% of seats in parliament, analysts say.    The criminal code, which is championed by conservatives that Widodo has been reluctant to confront, is expected to eventually make a return.
    “Depending on how the government proceeds with legal and political reform, there is a risk authorities could trigger a much wider protest movement,” said Donald Greenlees, senior advisor to Asialink, a think-tank affiliated with the University of Melbourne.
(Additional reporting by Fanny Potkin, Agustinus Beo Da Costa, Maikel Jefriando and Ed Davies; Editing by Philip McClellan)

11/8/2019 China reshapes global meat markets as swine fever rages by Nigel Hunt
FILE PHOTO: Pork for sale is seen at a Walmart in Beijing, China September 23, 2019. REUTERS/Tingshu WanG
    LONDON/BEIJING (Reuters) – China is scouring the world for meat to replace the millions of pigs killed by African swine fever (ASF), boosting prices, business and profits for European and South American meatpackers as it re-shapes global markets for pork, beef and chicken.
    The European Union, the world’s second largest pork producer after China, has ramped up sales to the Asian giant although it can only fill part of the shortfall caused by ASF.    Argentina and Brazil have approved new export plants to meet demand and are selling beef and chickens, as well as pork, to fill the gap.    U.S. producers, however, have been hampered due to tariffs imposed by Beijing.
    Other Asian countries are also ready to step up imports as they, too, deal with outbreaks of ASF.    Vietnam, the Philippines, North and South Korea, Laos, Myanmar and Cambodia are all struggling to contain outbreaks of the disease, which is deadly to pigs although not harmful to humans.
    “It is very good news for those involved in processing and have licenses for exports to China,” said Justin Sherrard, global strategist, animal protein at Rabobank.
    Major EU pork processors include Danish Crown, Tonnies Group and Vion Food Group although the market is fragmented with many small- and medium-size players.
    Shortages in the world’s top pork consumer have been exacerbated by the upcoming Lunar New Year celebrations in late January, when pork, and pork dumplings in particular, play a central role in the food on offer.
    One of the biggest European players Danish Crown said there had been a very clear jump in demand from China in the run-up to the Lunar New Year and it was bullish on the outlook for 2020.
    China’s state-owned agriculture conglomerate COFCO said this week it had agreed to buy $100 million of pork from Danish Crown in 2020 to help ease the domestic shortage.
NEW PLANTS APPROVED IN SOUTH AMERICA
    Rabobank estimates that China’s hog herd, the world’s largest, fell by half in the first eight months of 2019 and will likely shrink by 55 percent by the end of the year.
    Many more meat plants in Argentina and Brazil have recently been approved to export to China including beef and chicken as well as pork.
    Nicholas Lafontaine, a cattle rancher from the town of Azul, 300 kilometers (186 miles) southwest of Buenos Aires, said China had traditionally taken cheap cuts with premium steaks destined for the EU.
    China is now taking the whole carcass, reducing the amount of meat sold on the local market for Argentina peso, a currency which has lost around a third of its value this year.
    As processing margins have improved, plants have reopened.
    “The other benefit that comes from growing Chinese demand is the reopening of beef plants," he said, adding that when a factory opens its doors it is thinking about China.
    Neighboring Brazil has also benefited.
    According to Brazilian meat trade groups, in one go Beijing authorized Brazil to more than double the number of beef plants with permits to sell directly to mainland China — to 33.
    Brazil exported 1.64 million tonnes of beef in 2018 with China buying 19.3% of the volume, trailing only Hong Kong.    The South American country’s exports have been forecast to rise to 1.8 million tonnes this year.
    “China is the market paying the highest premiums for Brazilian meatpackers,” Luciano Pascon, chief executive of privately-owned meatpacker Frigol, told Reuters in an interview.
TRADE WAR HITS U.S. PRODUCERS
    Hefty tariffs on American pork imposed by China as part of the ongoing trade conflict are likely to mean that the U.S. industry will benefit less than its rivals.
    U.S.-based meat packers such as Smithfield Foods have, however, been able to secure some direct sales.    Tyson Foods expects to benefit from African swine fever by increasing sales to China or other countries as the outbreak redirects global meat trading.
    Tyson Foods share price has risen about 50 percent so far this year.
    Trent Thiele, a farmer who raises about 60,000 hogs a year in Elma, Iowa, said, however, the trade war is hurting American hog producers.    Thiele said he would prefer selling U.S. pork to Chinese buyers than picking up residual business elsewhere in the world because China is a main buyer of products such as pigs’ feet and organ meat that other countries have little appetite for.    “A lot of our other competitor countries are obtaining the market share that naturally would have been ours if we didn’t have the retaliatory tariffs,” said Thiele, president of the Iowa Pork Producers Association.
ASTRONOMICAL
    Imported pork ribs currently cost around 40,000 yuan ($5,680) per tonne, compared with 17,600 yuan in spring 2019, traders said, while prices for other cuts such as pig front leg and rib meat have roughly doubled in that period.
    “Right now, prices are astronomical, and the risk is very high,” said a Beijing-based beef importer, who was struggling to gauge the right volumes to meet demand and avoid being left with expensive stock at the end of the holiday period.
    The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization’s Meat Price Index is up 12.5% so far this year and is at the highest level since January 2015.
    The pork component has risen by more than 20%.
    Graphic: Global meat prices climb sharply, https://fingfx.thomsonreuters.com/gfx/editorcharts/GLOBAL-MEAT-ASF/0H001QXH499F/eikon.png
    The high global pork prices are even sparking interest in pig farming in predominately Muslim Kazahkstan.
    “Not a week goes by without someone visiting us who wants to get into pig farming,” said Maksut Baktibayev, chairman of Kazakhstan’s Meat Union, an industry lobby group.
(Reporting Dominique Patton in Beijing, Ana Mano in Sao Paulo, Maximillian Heath in Buenos Aires, Jacob Gronholt-Pedersen in Copenhagen, Michael Hogan in Hamburg, Olzhas Auyezov in Almaty, Mukhammadsharif Mamatkulov in Tashkent and Tom Polansek in Chicago; Editing by Veronica Brown and David Evans)

11/8/2019 China conducts military drills in Tibet by OAN Newsroom
Chinese military personnel march during the parade to commemorate the 70th anniversary
of the founding of Communist China on Tuesday Oct. 1, 2019, (Ng Han Guan / AP Photo)
    Chinese President Xi Jinping has called on his country’s air force to build itself into a world class military force.    The call comes as Chinese media released undated footage of high-altitude military exercises in Tibet.    According to local media, two stealth fighters were involved in the exercises, which use precision guidance systems to attack remote targets.
    This comes as President Xi celebrated the 70th anniversary of the air force, and asked its officers to focus on building a strong military for the new era.
    “I ask you comrades to implement into depth the Party’s thought on building a strong army in the new era, implement the military strategy and principles in the new era, firmly remember the original aspiration and mission, carry forward the glorious traditions and dare to innovate and overtake, striving to make the PLA Air Force the top-notch air force in the world,” stated the Chinese president.
FILE – In this Oct. 1, 2019, file photo, participants cheer beneath a large portrait of Chinese President Xi Jinping during a
parade to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the founding of Communist China in Beijing. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein, File)
    Chinese leaders reportedly laid out a plan to build what they have called the world’s best armed forces no later than 2049.    Earlier this week, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said the U.S. military needs help from private companies if it wants to keep up its artificial intelligence race against China.

11/8/2019 Hong Kong mourning for student spirals into street violence by Clare Jim and Jessie Pang
People gather near a makeshift memorial, paying tribute to Chow Tsz-lok, 22, a university student who died
after he fell during a protest in Hong Kong, China, November 8, 2019. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton
    HONG KONG (Reuters) – Candlelight Hong Kong vigils mourning a student who died on Friday after a high fall during a pro-democracy rally quickly spiraled into street fires, bursts of tear gas and cat-and-mouse clashes between pro-democracy protesters and police.
    The center of violence was on Nathan Road, in the Kowloon district of Mong Kok, one of the most densely populated locations in the world, where activists built barricades and trashed an entrance to the metro station.
    Police used a robot to detonate a suspected explosive device on a side street after at least three blasts in the area amid a standoff with petrol-bomb throwing protesters lasting hours.
    Police fired tear gas there and in Tseung Kwan O, to the east of the Kowloon peninsula, where the student, Chow Tsz-lok, fell from the third to the second floor of a parking lot in the early hours of Monday.
    Chow, 22, who studied at the University of Science and Technology (UST), fell as protesters were being dispersed by police.
    He died on Friday – graduation day for many UST students.    His death is likely to fuel anger at police, who are under pressure over accusations of excessive force as the former British colony grapples with its worst political crisis in decades.
    UST students trashed a campus branch of Starbucks, part of a franchise perceived to be pro-Beijing, and rallies are expected across the territory over the weekend.
    “Condemn police brutality,” they wrote on the restaurant’s glass wall.
    Hundreds of students, most in masks and carrying candles, then lined up in silence at UST to lay white flowers in tribute.
    Thousands also left flowers at the spot where he fell at the car park, occasionally singing hymns.
    In the shopping district of Causeway Bay, hundreds lined the streets in silence, with the eerie hum of the city in the background.
    Then the mood changed.
    People started shouting abuse at “black police,” referring to perceived brutality, and blocked streets in Causeway Bay.
    In Mong Kok, dozens of activists barricaded off Nathan Road, which leads to the harbor to the south.    They vandalized a closed metro entrance, throwing in bricks and pouring oil through the metal grill, and destroyed a phone booth in a small explosion.    There were clashes and fires in the New Territories town of Sha Tin.
    In Tseung Kwan O, where people had been leaving flowers and silently crying for hours, people screamed encouragement and abuse after a traffic light was set on fire.
    Chow’s friend and fellow UST student, Ben, 25, said the computer science undergraduate liked playing netball and basketball.
    “We played netball together for a year,” he told Reuters in tears.    “I hope he can rest in peace.    I really miss him.”
SPIRAL OF VIOLENCE
    Students and young people have been at the forefront of the hundreds of thousands who have taken to the streets since June to seek greater democracy, among other demands, and rally against perceived Chinese meddling in the Asian financial hub.
    Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule in 1997 under a “one country, two systems” formula, allowing it colonial freedoms not enjoyed on the mainland, including an independent judiciary and the right to protest.
    China denies interfering in Hong Kong and has blamed Western countries for stirring up trouble.
    The protests were ignited by a now-scrapped extradition bill allowing people to be sent to mainland China for trial, but have evolved into wider calls for democracy.    They pose one of the biggest challenges for Chinese President Xi Jinping since he took charge in 2012.
    Two pro-Beijing newspapers ran full-page ads, commissioned by “a group of Hong Kong people,” calling for a postponement of the lowest-tier district council elections set for Nov. 24, a move that would infuriate those calling for democracy.
    Since June, protesters have thrown petrol bombs and vandalized banks, stores and metro stations.    Police have fired rubber bullets, tear gas, water cannons and, in some cases, live ammunition.
    In June, Marco Leung, 35, fell to his death from construction scaffolding after unfurling banners against the extradition bill.    Several young people who have taken their own lives have been linked to the protests.    Chow was the first person to die during crowd dispersal operations.
    The university called for an independent investigation into Chow’s death, saying an ambulance was blocked by police cars and ambulance officers had to walk to the scene, causing a delay of 20 minutes.
    The government expressed “great sorrow and regret.”    A police spokeswoman, tears in her eyes, said officers would find out the truth as soon as possible and urged the public to be “calm and rational.”
    Police have denied blocking an ambulance.    The car park said it would release CCTV footage as soon as possible.
    Protests scheduled over the weekend include rallies in shopping malls, some of which have previously descended into chaos as riot police stormed areas crowded with families and children.    Protesters have called for a general strike on Monday morning and for people to block public transport.    Such calls have come to nothing in the past.
    Last weekend, anti-government protesters crowded a shopping mall in running clashes with police that saw a man slash people with a knife and bite off part of the ear of a local politician.
(This story clarifies that Chow was the first person to die during crowd dispersal operations, paragraph 24)
(Reporting by Jessie Pang, Kate Lamb, Sarah Wu, Clare Jim, Felix Tam, Josh Smith, Anne Marie Roantree and Twinnie Siu; Writing by Farah Master and Nick Macfie, Editing by Timothy Heritage)

11/8/2019 India tightens security ahead of verdict on contested religious site by Rupam Jain
Muslims pray for peace ahead of verdict on a disputed religious site in Ayodhya, inside
a mosque premises in Ahmedabad, India, November 8, 2019. REUTERS/Amit Dave
    MUMBAI, India (Reuters) – India deployed more than 5,000 troops and police in the northern town of Ayodhya and Prime Minister Narendra Modi called for calm, ahead of an expected court ruling on Saturday over control of a religious site violently disputed by Hindus and Muslims.
    Authorities fear mass unrest when the Supreme Court issues its ruling over who controls the site where hardline Hindus tore down a mosque in 1992 triggering nationwide religious riots in which 2,000 people, mostly Muslims, were killed.
    The Babri Mosque had stood for centuries at a site Hindus believe is the birthplace of Lord Ram, a physical incarnation of the god Vishnu.    In the decades since it was razed, religious groups have fought in the courts over who should control it.
    Modi’s Hindu nationalist party has campaigned on promises to build a Hindu temple there.
    Thousands of Hindu monks and devotees have been arriving in Ayodhya in anticipation of the judgment of a five-judge bench of the Supreme Court, headed by the chief justice.
    “Whatever decision the Supreme Court arrives at on Ayodhya, it will not be a victory or defeat of anyone,” Modi tweeted on Friday.    “I appeal to the countrymen that all of us prioritize that this decision should further strengthen India’s great traditions of peace, unity and goodwill.”
    Police and home ministry officials said government agencies were making preparations to thwart any violence.
    “Each and every security officer is committed to prevent minor skirmishes or large-scale riots after the court delivers its verdict,” said a senior home ministry official in New Delhi.
    “State governments have identified several schools to set up temporary jails if the need arises,” said the official, who declined to be identified.
    Hindu groups say a temple existed on the site before the mosque was built around 400 years ago by a Muslim ruler, and should rightfully be restored.    Muslims and secularists say the destruction of the mosque was a dangerous step towards empowering a violent nationalist mob.
    Ayodhya is in densely populated Uttar Pradesh state, home to more than 5% of India’s 200 million Muslims.
    Provincial police chief Om Prakash Singh told Reuters that precautionary measures were in place and social media platforms were being monitored to track inflammatory posts ahead of the verdict.
    “We will not tolerate Hindus or Muslims publicly displaying their reaction to the court verdict,” Singh said.
    Muslim clerics in the western states of Gujarat and Maharashtra called for peace meetings with Hindu leaders in communally sensitive areas ahead of Friday prayers.
    Navaid Hamid, president of the All India Muslim Majlis-e-Mushawarat, the top forum for Islamic organizations, said thousands of Muslim religious leaders had vowed to maintain peace and harmony after the court verdict.
    “The land can belong to Hindus or Muslims, but there will be no repeat of the 1992 communal violence,” said Hamid.
(Additional reporting by Mayank Bhardwaj in New Delhi, Saurabh Sharma in Lucknow and Abhirup Roy in Mumbai; Editing by Euan Rocha, Robert Birsel)

11/9/2019 Hong Kong faces 24th weekend of protest day after student’s death
An electricity switch box explodes as it was set on fire by protesters, after Chow Tsz-lok, 22, a university student,
died after he fell during a protest, at Tseung Kwan O, Hong Kong, China November 8, 2019. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu
    HONG KONG (Reuters) – Hong Kong protesters are planning a 24th straight weekend of pro-democracy rallies, including inside shopping malls across the Chinese-ruled city on Sunday, some of which have started peacefully in recent weeks and descended into violent chaos.     Protesters have also called for a general strike on Monday and for people to block public transport, calls that have come to nothing in the past.
    A rally originally planned for Saturday to mark the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall was postponed.    A “support martyrs” assembly is expected in the evening, likely focusing on protesters’ demands for universal suffrage for the former British colony.
Police granted permission for the gathering at Tamar park, in front of central government offices, one of the rare approvals for a protest in recent weeks.
    Candlelight vigils mourning a student who died after a high fall during a rally in the early hours of Monday quickly spiralled into street fires and clashes between protesters and police on Friday.
    Police fired one round of live ammunition to warn what they called “a large group of rioters armed with offensive weapons” who threw bricks at officers trying to clear street barricades in the Kowloon area on Friday night, police said in a statement.
    “The lives of the officers were under serious threat,” said the statement, which was released early on Saturday.
    The death of the student at a hospital on Friday is likely to fuel anger with the police, who are under pressure over accusations of excessive force as the territory grapples with its worst political crisis in decades.
    Chow Tsz-lok, 22, fell from the third to the second floor of a parking lot as protesters were being dispersed by police.
    Students and young people have been at the forefront of the hundreds of thousands who have taken to the streets to seek greater democracy, among other demands, and rally against perceived Chinese meddling in the Asian financial hub.
    Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule in 1997 under a “one country, two systems” formula, allowing it colonial freedoms not enjoyed on the mainland, including an independent judiciary and the right to protest.
    China denies interfering in Hong Kong and has blamed Western countries for stirring up trouble.
    Since June, protesters have thrown petrol bombs and vandalised banks, stores and metro stations.    Police have fired rubber bullets, tear gas, water cannons and, in some cases, live ammunition.
    Last weekend, anti-government protesters crowded a shopping mall in running clashes with police that saw a man slash people with a knife and bite off part of the ear of a politician.
(Writing by Nick Macfie and Josh Smith; Editing by Christian Schmolinger)

11/9/2019 Indian court gives disputed religious site to Hindus by Nigam Prusty, Suchitra Mohanty and Mayank Bhardwaj
FILE PHOTO: A general view of Ayodhya city, India, October 22, 2019. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui/File Photo
    NEW DELHI/AYODHYA, India (Reuters) – India’s Supreme Court ruled on Saturday in favour of a Hindu group in a long-running battle over a centuries-old religious site also claimed by Muslims, in a verdict that could raise tension between the two communities.
    The ruling paves the way for the construction of a Hindu temple on the site in the northern town of Ayodhya, a proposal long supported by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling Hindu-nationalist party.
    The five-judge bench, headed by the Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, delivered a unanimous judgement, opting to hand over the plot of just 2.77 acres (1.1 hectares) of land – about the size of a football field – to one of the Hindu groups that had staked claim to it.
    The judge said a temple should be built on the disputed by forming a trust under the control of the central government.
    The verdict will be seen as a political victory for Modi, who won a second term in a landslide general election win this year.
    For more than seven decades, right-wing Hindu campaigners have been pushing to build a temple on the site, which they believe was the birthplace of Lord Ram, a physical incarnation of the Hindu god Vishnu.
    They say the site was holy for Hindus long before the Muslim Mughals, India’s most prominent Islamic rulers, built what was known as the Babri mosque there in 1528.
    The mosque was razed by a Hindu mob in 1992.
    The destruction of the mosque triggered religious riots in which about 2,000 people, most of them Muslim, were killed across the country and led to a series of court battles with various groups staking claim to the site.
    The Supreme Court directed that an alternate land parcel be provided to a Muslim group that had staked claim to the disputed site.     The site has been heavily protected since the 1992 religious clashes.     Ahead of the ruling, security was tightened in Ayodhya and across India, especially in cities that have suffered communal violence in the past.
    In some regions, restrictions were placed on gatherings and police were monitoring social media to curb rumours that could fan tension between the communities.
    In some towns, internet services were also suspended to stop the spread of rumours.
    The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh – parent organisation of Modi’s party – has decided against celebratory processions if the verdict goes in favour of the Hindus, to avoid provoking sectarian violence.
    Muslim organisations have appealed for calm to prevent communal flare-ups.
(Additional reporting Sankalp Phartiyal in New Delhi by Saurabh Sharma in Lucknow, Rajendra Jadhav in Mumbai; Writing by Rupam Jain and Alexandra Ulmer; Editing by Euan Rocha, Robert Birsel)

11/9/2019 Indian court hands disputed site to Hindus; Muslim group unhappy
Devotees look at a model of the proposed Ram temple that Hindu groups want to build at a disputed religious
site in Ayodhya, India, October 22, 2019. Picture taken October 22, 2019. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui
    NEW DELHI (Reuters) – India’s Supreme Court on Saturday awarded a Hindu group the ownership of a centuries-old religious site also claimed by Muslims in a case that has caused deep divisions and deadly riots between the two communities.
    Following is a timeline of the events that have shaped the case.
1528 – The mosque in Ayodhya, in what is now India’s biggest state of Uttar Pradesh, was built by Mughal emperor Babur, according to documents produced by Muslim groups in court.
1949 – Muslim groups accuse government officials of conniving with Hindu monks to place an idol of an infant Lord Ram in the grounds of the mosque.
1950 – A first suit is filed in a court near Ayodhya, seeking permission to worship the idol of Lord Ram.
1986 – A court orders locks to be opened at the disputed site and that Hindus be allowed to pray there.
1992 – Thousands of Hindu activists, led by politicians of the Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) tear down the mosque.
1992-93 – Hindu-Muslim riots erupt across northern and western India.    Rights group estimate more than 2,000 people were killed.
2010 – A three-judge bench of the Allahabad high court in Uttar Pradesh ruled that the site of the mosque should be divided into three parts between the three main parties in the case.
2011 – The Supreme Court stays the high court’s order.
2019 – A five-judge bench of the Supreme Court of India begins day-to-day hearings to resolve the case.
    Nov. 9, 2019 – The Supreme Court gives a Hindu group control over the disputed plot and Muslims an alternate parcel of land.
(Reporting by Shilpa Jamkhandikar; Editing by Rupam Jain, Sanjeev Miglani)

11/9/2019 Iran able to enrich uranium up to 60%, says atomic energy agency spokesman
FILE PHOTO: Behrouz Kamalvandi, spokesman for the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran speaks
during news conference in Tehran, Iran September 7, 2019. WANA (West Asia News Agency) via REUTERS
    (Reuters) – Iran has the capacity to enrich uranium up to 60%, a spokesman for the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) said on Saturday, far more than is required for most civilian uses but short of the 90% needed to make nuclear bomb fuel.
    “The organization has the possibility to produce 5%, 20% and 60%, and has this capacity,” AEOI spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi said during a news conference at the underground Fordow nuclear plant, the official IRIB news agency reported.
    “At the moment, the need is for 5%,” he added.
    Iran’s highest political authority, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said last month that the Islamic Republic had never pursued the building or use of nuclear weapons, which its religion forbids.
    Iran said on Thursday it had resumed uranium enrichment at Fordow, stepping further away from its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers after the United States pulled out of it.
    The pact bans production of nuclear material at Fordow, a highly sensitive site that Iran hid from U.N. non-proliferation inspectors until its exposure in 2009.
    Inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will visit Fordow on Sunday, Kamalvandi said.
    Since May, Iran has begun to exceed limits on its nuclear capacity set by the pact in retaliation for U.S. pressure on Tehran to negotiate restrictions on its ballistic missile program and support for proxy forces around the Middle East.
    Iran says its measures are reversible if European signatories to the accord manage to restore its access to foreign trade promised under the nuclear deal but blocked by the reimposition of U.S. sanctions.
(Reporting by Babak Dehghanpisheh in Geneva; Editing by Helen Popper)

11/10/2019 Violence spills across Hong Kong New Territories on 24th weekend of unrest by Jessie Pang and Twinnie Siu
Protesters are detained by riot police officers during an anti-government
demonstration in Hong Kong, China, November 10, 2019. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu
    HONG KONG (Reuters) – Hong Kong police fired tear gas to break up rallies as black-clad activists blocked roads and trashed shopping malls across the New Territories on Sunday on the 24th straight weekend of anti-government protests.
    Pro-democracy protesters vandalized a train station in the central new town of Sha Tin and smashed up a restaurant perceived as being pro-Beijing, overturning banqueting tables and smashing glass panels, two weeks before district council elections in the Chinese-ruled city.
    Violence spilled out onto the streets of Tuen Mun outside the “V city” mall, with running battles between riot police and protesters.
    Now TV showed pictures of a circular, red welt and bruise on the upper arm of one of its reporters who said she had been hit by a tear gas canister in Tsuen Wan, to the west of the New Territories.
    The rail station was closed in Sha Tin, amid scuffles between police and protesters young and old, on a day of planned shopping mall protests throughout the territory.    Shopping districts across the harbor on the main island were quiet.
    “Radical protesters have been gathering in multiple locations across the territories,” police said in a statement.
    “They have been loitering in several malls and vandalizing shops and facilities therein, neglecting the safety of members of the public.”
    Protesters daubed graffiti and damaged shops at Festival Walk in Kowloon Tong and “stormed” shops in Tsuen Wan, police said.    They made several arrests at Festival Walk where fistfights broke out and people hit each other with sticks.
    The protesters are angry about what they see as police brutality and meddling by Beijing in the former British colony’s freedoms, guaranteed by the “one country, two systems” formula in place since the territory returned to Chinese rule in 1997.
    China denies interfering and has blamed Western countries for stirring up trouble.
CALL FOR REVENGE
    Thousands of people gathered on a Saturday night vigil for “martyrs,” after a student died in hospital this week following a high fall during a protest.    Many called for revenge.
Seven pro-democracy city lawmakers have been detained or face arrest and are due to appear in court on Monday on charges of obstructing a May meeting of the local assembly, according to police and several of the lawmakers.
    “We believe that the government together with the police, as well as the pro-establishment camp, they are trying to escalate the anger of Hong Kong people in order to cancel or even to postpone the upcoming district council election,” Tanya Chan, a pro-democracy lawmaker, told reporters on Saturday.
    One of the arrested lawmakers, Gary Fan, said the detentions were the result of “political prosecutions and judicial crackdowns” by Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam.
    The elections are due on Nov. 24
    Protesters have also called for a general strike on Monday and for people to block public transport, although such calls in the past have often come to nothing.
    The colony of Hong Kong island and the Kowloon peninsula, acquired after two “opium wars” with China, was expanded to include the much larger, rural New Territories on a 99-year lease in 1898.    Britain returned all the land to China when that lease expired in 1997.
    Protesters have thrown petrol bombs and rocks at police who have responded with tear gas, pepper spray, water cannon, rubber bullets and several rounds of live ammunition.    They deny using excessive force.
    Protesters have demanded an independent inquiry into police tactics, something Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam has refused.
    A five-member international Independent Expert Panel said that an analysis of the Hong Kong police watchdog, the Independent Police Complaints Council, indicated a shortfall in its powers and “independent investigative capability” to look into policing during the protests.
(Additional reporting by Aleksander Solum, Josh Smith, Kate Lamb, Joyce Zhou; Writing by Josh Smith and Nick Macfie; Editing by Robert Birsel and Andrew Heavens)

11/10/2019 United States ‘very actively’ asking North Korea to return to talks: South Korear
Residents hold US and North Korean flags while they wait for motorcade of North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un en route to the
Metropole Hotel for the second US- North Korea summit in Hanoi, Vietnam February 28, 2019. REUTERS/Kham/File Photo
    SEOUL (Reuters) – The United States is “very actively” trying to persuade North Korea to come back to negotiations, South Korea’s national security adviser said on Sunday, as a year-end North Korean deadline for U.S. flexibility approaches.
    South Korea was taking North Korea’s deadline “very seriously,” the adviser, Chung Eui-yong, told reporters, at a time when efforts to improve inter-Korean relations have stalled.
    North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in April gave the United States a year-end deadline to show more flexibility in their denuclearisation talks, and North Korean officials have warned the United States not to ignore that date.
    The window of opportunity for progress in dialogue with the United States was getting smaller, a senior North Korean diplomat said on Friday, adding that Pyongyang expects reciprocal steps from Washington by the end of the year.
    U.S.-North Korea nuclear negotiations have been deadlocked with working-level talks in October ending fruitlessly.
    South Korea has set up various contingency plans if the deadline passes without any positive outcome, Chung said, without elaborating.
    “Only if talks between high-rank officials happen and lead to substantial progress, will the third North Korea-United States summit be possible,” Chung told a news conference to mark the half-way point of President Moon Jae-in’s five-year term.
    “As you know, the North side has shown the year-end deadline, considering that position of the North Korean side, we are closely coordinating with the U.S. side.”
    As the talks between the United States and North Korea have stalled, so have efforts to improve ties between the two Koreas, despite efforts by the South Koreans to nudge them forward.
    In the latest sign of strained ties on the peninsula, the North Korea leader Kim ordered the removal of “shabby,” “capitalist” facilities the South built in the North’s Mount Kumgang resort.
    North Korea has also rejected a South Korean offer of talks, proposing that communication be limited to exchanges of documents.
    South Korean President Moon also faces diplomatic tension with Japan.
    Relations between the important U.S. allies have sunk to their worst state in decades after South Korea’s top court ordered Japanese firms to compensate wartime forced labourers.
    Japan imposed export curbs on high-tech materials bound for South Korea.
    In response, South Korea decided not to renew an intelligence-sharing pact with Japan, due to expire later this month.
    Chung said South Korea would be willing to reconsider its decision to walk away from the pact if ties with Japan were normalised.    But he blamed Japan for the worsening relations. (Reporting by Joyce Lee; Writing by Ju-min Park; Editing by Robert Birsel & Shri Navaratnam)

11/10/2019 Iran rejects reports of IAEA finding traces of uranium at unnamed site
FILE PHOTO: An Iranian flag flutters in front of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)
headquarters in Vienna, Austria September 9, 2019. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger/File Photo
    DUBAI (Reuters) – Iran’s Foreign Ministry on Sunday rejected as a “trap” reports that the International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog, found traces of uranium at an Iranian site that Israel called a “secret atomic warehouse.”
    Two months after Reuters first reported that samples taken at the site had shown traces of uranium, the IAEA on Wednesday told member states at a closed-door briefing that it had found uranium traces at a site in Iran it did not name, but diplomats at the meeting said it was clearly the same place.
    “The Zionist regime and Israel are attempting to re-open … this file,” Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said in remarks carried on state television.
    “We have announced that this is a trap,” Mousavi said.
    “Hopefully the IAEA will maintain its vigilance.”
    The IAEA confirmed to member states that the traces from samples taken in February were of uranium that was processed but not enriched, and that the explanations provided by Iran so far did not hold water, diplomats said.
    In 2018, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who vehemently opposed Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, called on the IAEA to visit the site immediately, saying it had housed 15 kg (33 lb) of unspecified radioactive material that had since been removed.
(Reporting by Dubai newsroom; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

11/10/2019 Protests expected at Hong Kong shopping malls one week after violent clash
A woman holds flowers at Tamar Park, outside the Legislative Council (Legco) building, during a
prayer and remembrance ceremony in Hong Kong, China, November 9, 2019. REUTERS/Ahmad Masood
    HONG KONG (Reuters) – Hong Kong protesters suggested they could hold rallies at a several major shopping malls on Sunday, a week after similar gatherings resulted in violent clashes with police.
    Last weekend, anti-government protesters crowded into a shopping mall when a man slashed people with a knife and bit off part of the ear of a politician.
    Several other gatherings are planned for elsewhere in the city, to protest against police behavior and perceived meddling by Beijing in the politics of the Asian financial hub.
    China denies interfering in Hong Kong, but the protests have become the worst political crisis in the former British colony since it returned to Chinese rule in 1997.
    Thousands of people gathered on Saturday night at a vigil for “martyrs,” after a student died in hospital this week following a high fall.
    Though the vigil ended peacefully, many attendees called for revenge after the student’s death from injuries sustained during a protest.
    Protesters have also called for a general strike on Monday and for people to block public transport, although when such calls have been made in the past they have come to nothing.
    As they departed Saturday’s vigil, a number of people shouted “strike on Monday” and “see you on Monday.”
    Scattered vigils on Friday night descended into chaos as some protesters vandalized metro stations and blocked streets.
    Riot police responded with tear gas, pepper spray, and at least one round of live ammunition fired as a warning shot to protesters who had barricaded a street.
(Writing by Josh Smith; Editing by Robert Birsel)

11/10/2019 Afghan poll results may be delayed again as candidates spar over recount: officials by Hamid Shalizi and Orooj Hakimi
Afghanistan's presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah attends a gathering with
his supporters in Kabul, Afghanistan November 10, 2019. REUTERS/Omar Sobhani
    KABUL (Reuters) – The result of the Afghan presidential election may be further delayed, two officials said, after the main challenger to incumbent Ashraf Ghani said on Sunday he would not agree to the addition of hundreds of thousands of what he called suspicious votes to a planned recount.
    The Afghanistan Independent Election Commission (IEC) said on Saturday that it would recount ballots from more than 8,000 polling stations – almost a third of the total – due to what it called discrepancies in their system.
    But Abdullah Abdullah, who currently shares power with Ghani in a unity government, said Ghani’s side was pushing to include some 300,000 additional votes which did not come through biometric devices used in polling and which must be nullified.
    “The recounting process should stop, and if the election commission continue with recounting process without our observers, we will act,” Abdullah told a cheering crowd of supporters in Kabul, accusing Ghani’s camp of fraud, which Ghani denies.
    “Abdullah’s camp is afraid of the recount because they would lose,” Daoud Sultanzoy, a senior Ghani campaign leader, told Reuters.
    The standoff is likely to deepen the political crisis in Afghanistan after the Sept. 28 presidential election, which was marred by allegations of fraud.
    Preliminary results scheduled for later this week might be delayed again, according to two officials at the election commission who declined to be named as they are not authorized to speak publicly about the count.
    The result was originally due out on Oct. 19, but slow work on data entry and tackling extensive voter fraud delayed the announcement.
    Eighty-five civilians were killed and more than 370 wounded in militant attacks and violence on the day of the election, the United Nations said last month.
    Ghani and Abdullah had both claimed victory before the ballots were tallied.
(Reporting by Hamid Shalizi and Orooj Hakimi in Kabul; Editing by Alasdair Pal and Hugh Lawson)

11/10/2019 Iran starts construction of second nuclear reactor at Bushehr plant by OAN Newsroom
In this photo by the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, concrete is poured for the base of the second nuclear power reactor at Bushehr plant,
some 440 miles (700 kilometers) south of the capital Tehran, Iran, Sunday, Nov. 10, 2019. (Atomic Energy Organization of Iran via AP)
    The Islamic Republic of Iran has started construction of a second nuclear reactor at its power plant in Bushehr. Sunday reports said Iranian workers started pouring concrete into the base of the reactor some 440 miles south of Tehran.
    The new reactor is being built with help from Russia, which also assisted Iran in launching the Bushehr power plant back in 2011.    It is expected to add one thousand megawatts to the Iranian energy system.
    “The nuclear industry can potentially be a source of power — it might be one of the main reasons that we are facing a serious challenge with the enemies of our revolution,” stated Ali Akbar Salehi, the director of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization.    “They want to take this source of power away from us.”
    Iranian officials say the new reactor will boost the nation’s energy independence and help it offset the negative effects of international sanctions.    Its construction began after Iran boosted nuclear enrichment beyond levels agreed to under the 2015 nuclear deal.
In this photo by the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, Ali Akbar Salehi, head of the organization, orders
pouring concrete for the base of the second nuclear power reactor at Bushehr plant, some 440 miles (700 kilometers)
south of the capital Tehran, Iran, Sunday, Nov. 10, 2019. (Atomic Energy Organization of Iran via AP)
    This comes days after Russia called on Iran to return to compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal.    Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Wednesday that the country’s latest deployments of nuclear centrifuges are “understandable,” yet “extremely alarming.”    He said Russia remains in compliance with the Iran nuclear deal even though Iran does not.
    “We will continue to seek the observance of the obligations of the nuclear deal by all — we continue to comply with our obligations,” stated Lavrov.    “We are addressing this call to action to Iran, although we are well aware why Tehran is cutting back on its commitments.”

11/10/2019 South Korea says U.S. working ‘very actively’ to restart talks with North Korea by OAN Newsroom
U.S. President Donald Trump reaches to shake hands with North Korea leader Kim Jong Un at the
Capella resort on Sentosa Island Tuesday, June 12, 2018 in Singapore. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
    South Korean officials are saying the U.S. is working ‘very actively’ in an effort to restart denuclearization talks with the Korean peninsula.
    South Korea’s National Security Advisor Chung Eui-yong said Sunday that North Korea is reportedly taking the one-year negotiating deadline with the Trump administration very seriously.
    The adviser went on to say that a third summit will only be possible if substantial progress is made during talks with high-ranking officials.
    “Only if talks between high-rank officials happen and lead to substantial progress, will the third North Korea-United States summit be possible,” stated Chung Eui-yong.    “As you know, the North side has shown the year-end deadline — considering that position of the North Korean side, we are closely coordinating with the U.S. side.”
    This comes after North Korean leader Kim Jong Un imposed a year-end deadline back in April for the U.S. to demonstrate flexibility on negotiations.    North Korean officials said the deadline would be a mistake to ignore.
President Donald Trump meets with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on Sentosa Island, Tuesday, June 12, 2018, in Singapore. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
    Just last week, North Korea fired two projectiles into its eastern sea.    This was their 13th weapons test this year and the first since the Trump administration’s latest attempts to restart negotiations stalled.
    Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has downplayed the launches, saying they were consistent with Pyongyang’s previous moves. He said progress has been “far too slow” and added he hopes to reach a good outcome in the months ahead.
    “It has, for an awfully long time, told its people that those nuclear weapons were the thing that kept them secure,” stated Pompeo.    “They now need to shift to the narrative, which is: those are the things that put them at risk.”
    President Trump has met three times with Kim Jong Un in hopes of sealing a potentially historic denuclearization deal. He continues to express optimism about brokering an agreement.
    “Kim Jong Un has been pretty straight with me, I think,” stated the president.    “He likes testing missiles, but we never restricted short range missiles.”

11/10/2019 National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien on Turkey missile purchase, South China Sea tensions by OAN Newsroom
U.S. National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien speaks at a press conference on the sidelines of the 35th Association of
Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit in Nonthaburi, Thailand, Monday, Nov. 4, 2019. (AP Photo/Aijaz Rahi)
    The president’s National Security Adviser is saying Turkey’s purchase of Russian missiles will be addressed when President Tayyip Erdogan visits the White House this week.
    During a Sunday interview, Robert O’Brien said the Trump administration was “very upset” after Turkey bought a Russian made missile defense system. He then proceeded to slam the notion a NATO ally would purchase weapons from Moscow, adding the Russian system is not compatible with NATO.
    “If Turkey doesn’t get rid of the S-400s, there will likely be sanctions,” stated O’Brien.    “There’s no place in NATO for the S-400 (or) significant Russian military purchases – that’s a message the president will deliver to him very clearly when he’s here in Washington.”
    Erdogan’s visit to Washington comes as tensions escalate over Turkey’s alleged war crimes against Syrian Kurds following the U.S. troop removal from Northern Syria.
FILE – In this Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2019 file photo, Turkish soldiers, right, and Turkey-backed opposition fighters
stand atop a building next to their flags in Ras al Ayn, northeastern Syria. (Ugur Can/DHA via AP, File)
    O’Brien also announced that the U.S. will continue to stand up to China in the South China Sea despite a possible trade deal.    The adviser said Beijing must not be allowed to take over the entire South China Sea simply because its bigger than its neighbors.    He said the U.S. Navy will continue its operations to ensure freedom of navigation in the disputed region.     O’Brien went on to say America’s allies in Southeast Asia should maintain access to oil, gas and fisheries in the South China Sea.     “Just because one country’s big and other countries are small in the region, the bigger countries shouldn’t bully the smaller countries and take their resources — whether they’re fishery resources or oil and gas resources,” he said.     O’Brien also criticized the Obama administration for not sending lethal military aid to Ukraine, adding that it was President Trump who boosted America’s support for that country.
FILE – In this May 31, 2007, file photo, a Filipino fisherman sails past the USS Harpers Ferry, the U.S. Navy’s amphibious warship, as
it anchors off the waters of Zamboanga city in southern Philippines. Forces from the U.S. and Brunei, whose South China Sea claims overlap
with those of China, are holding joint exercises simulating the securing of a beach head and conducting jungle warfare and combat medical training inland.

11/11/2019 ‘Pam! Pam! Pam!’: Shooting of protester marks escalation in Hong Kong violence by Jessie Pang and James Pomfret
A protester stands on the divider as protesters block roads in Wong Tai Sin district, as they
call for a general strike, in Hong Kong, China November 11, 2019. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton
    HONG KONG (Reuters) – Hong Kong police shot and critically wounded a protester and a man was doused with petrol and set on fire on Monday as the Chinese-ruled territory spiralled into rare working-day violence in its 24th week of pro-democracy unrest.
    Protesters also threw petrol bombs at police on university campuses after a weekend of clashes at shopping malls across the territory, marking a dramatic escalation in tension as Chinese troops remained billeted in barracks.
    Police fired tear gas in the narrow streets of the Central business district where some protesters, crouching behind umbrellas, blocked streets as office workers crowded the pavements and hurled anti-government abuse.
    Some passersby took cover inside the Landmark mall, one of the oldest and most expensive, as volley after volley of tear gas rained down.
    There have been almost daily protests in Hong Kong, sometimes with no notice, but it was rare for tear gas to be fired during working hours in Central, lined with bank headquarters and top-brand shops at the foot of Victoria Peak.    Some offices closed early and workers headed home.
    Police fired live rounds at close range at protesters in Sai Wan Ho on the eastern side of Hong Kong island and one 21-year-old protester was wounded.    Police said the victim was in critical condition.
    Anson Yip, 36, said protesters were building a road block when police ran to the scene.
    “They didn’t fight and the police ran and directly shot. There were three sounds, like ‘pam, pam, pam’,” Yip said.
    Video footage showed polystyrene boxes and other debris littering a cross-section and blocking traffic.    A protester wearing a white hoodie and mask walks towards a policeman, as if to challenge him.    The officer draws his gun and points it at him at close range and grabs him round the neck.
    As the officer holds the man with his left hand, he shoots another approaching masked protester at close range with his right hand.    Three shots ring out and the man falls to the ground.
    The fallen man is pinned to the ground by an officer holding a gun to his head.    The man in white escapes.
    A friend visited the wounded man in hospital.
    “My friend didn’t actually attack the police or do anything,” Rigan, 19, said.    “They just shot him.    My friend is optimistic, friendly and willing to help others.”
    The man fell just a couple of metres from a large makeshift memorial to a student who died from a fall in a car park last week, the blood staining the street next to candles, flowers, and anti-government posters.
    “The live rounds fired by police are clear evidence of reckless use of force,” Amnesty International Hong Kong said in a statement, demanding an investigation. “Another policeman was seen driving at high speed into a group of protesters on a motorbike.
These are not policing measures – these are officers out of control with a mindset of retaliation.”
    Police said the motorcycling officer had been suspended.
    Video images circulating online also showed a man squirting petrol on another and setting him on fire, apparently outside Ma On Shan Plaza in the New Territories.    Though engulfed in flames, the man was able to rip off his shirt and douse the blaze.
    Police said the footage was genuine, adding the man was in critical condition.
    The unrest also spread to Mong Kok, one of the most densely populated areas on earth, on the Kowloon peninsula and often the site of street clashes.    Police used water cannon to break up protesters.
    Police said more than 120 places has been either vandalised or blocked on Monday.    Some 266 people had been arrested since last Monday.
RED LINE
    Protesters are angry about what they see as police brutality and meddling by Beijing in the freedoms guaranteed to the former British colony by the “one country, two systems” formula put in place when the territory returned to Chinese rule in 1997.
    Some have called for independence, a red line for Communist Party leaders in Beijing.    China denies interfering and has blamed Western countries for stirring up trouble.
    The violence comes after student Chow Tsz-lok, 22, died in hospital last week following a fall as protesters were being dispersed by police.
    Police fired tear gas at Chinese University, across the river from Ma On Shan, where students hurled petrol bombs and barricaded the campus like a fortress. There were at least four arrests.
    “I feel a strong sense of helplessness,” said one Chinese University student who gave his name as Chan.    “Who wouldn’t want to attend class if they could? The government still isn’t listening to us.”
    He was guarding a back gate of the university on the old, rural Tai Po Road that snakes uphill from Sha Tin and often features in 1960s black and white Cantonese romance movies. The road was barricaded with fencing, wooden boards, bamboo, poles, bins and other debris.
    The university said it would again suspend classes on Tuesday.
    Protesters set fire to debris and threw petrol bombs at police at the Polytechnic University on the Kowloon side of Victoria Harbour after they briefly blocked the nearby entrance to the harbour tunnel.    Petrol bombs were also thrown at Hong Kong University on the main island.
    Hong Kong’s stock market <.HSI>, which has been fairly resilient in recent weeks, closed down 2.6%, outpacing losses in other parts of the region. <.MIAPJ0000PUS>     China has a garrison of up to 12,000 troops in Hong Kong who have kept to barracks throughout the unrest, but it has vowed to crush any attempts at independence.
    The editor in chief of China’s Global Times tabloid, published by the People’s Daily, said Hong Kong police had nothing to be scared of.
    “You have the backing of not only Hong Kong and Chinese people, but also Chinese soldiers and People’s Liberation Army in Hong Kong,” Hu Xijin wrote on his blog.    “They can go into Hong Kong to provide support any time.”
(Reporting by Kate Lamb, Jessie Pang, Clare Jim, Sarah Wu, Donny Kwok, James Pomfret, Twinnie Siu, Anne Marie Roantree and Josh Smith; Writing by Nick Macfie; Editing by Clarence Fernandez and Toby Chopra)

11/11/2019 With Indian court ruling, Modi’s Hindu-first agenda barrels forward by Mayank Bhardwaj and Alexandra Ulmer
A Hindu priest leaves after performing prayers on the banks of Sarayu river after Supreme Court's verdict
on a disputed religious site, in Ayodhya, India, November 11, 2019. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui
    AYODHYA/MUMBAI (Reuters) – Just six months after sweeping to re-election, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has delivered on two major promises of his Hindu-first agenda, electrifying his base but sowing unease among liberals and the nation’s Muslim minority.
    The latest boost for Modi came on Saturday, when the Supreme Court handed Hindu groups control of a contested site where a 16th-century mosque was razed over two decades ago, paving the way for the construction of a temple there that has long been an election promise of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
    That followed New Delhi’s move in August to strip Muslim-majority Jammu and Kashmir of its special status as a state in what Modi’s government said was a bid to integrate the restive region with the rest of predominantly-Hindu India.
    Now, the BJP may move towards delivering on its third traditional plank: Creating a uniform civil code that does away with the independence of religious communities.
    “After just a few months of Modi 2.0, they’ve accomplished two out of three (main cultural objectives).    It’s quite possible that they will accomplish all three by next year,” said Milan Vaishnav, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington D.C.
    “It’s striking that the government has moved with a clarity of purpose on its social agenda that’s completely absent when it comes to economic matters,” added Vaishnav in reference to the slowing of the country’s once red-hot economic growth.
    Many Muslims have watched with a mix of fear and resignation as the BJP has morphed into the officially secular country’s near-undisputed political force.
    The controversial site in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh has been one of the most explosive issues in the nation of 1.3 billion, where Muslims constitute about 14% of the population.
    In 1992, a rally led by the BJP and affiliate organizations spiraled out of control and a Hindu mob destroyed the Babri Masjid or mosque in the city of Ayodhya.    That triggered riots in which about 2,000 people, most of them Muslims, were killed across the country.
    In its verdict on Saturday, the Supreme Court called the mosque’s demolition illegal but handed the plot of land to Hindus, who believe the site is the birthplace of Lord Ram, a much venerated god-king.    The court directed that another plot in Ayodhya be provided to a Muslim group that contested the case.
    In over a dozen interviews, Muslim community leaders, businessmen, and students said they respected the verdict but it exacerbated their sense of alienation.
    “Why did the court then give a ruling which is completely one-sided? Was the court under pressure?    We don’t know.    We can’t trust anyone now.    No door is open for us,” said local Muslim community leader Azam Quadri during evening prayers in Ayodhya.
BEST TO BE NUMB
    While Modi himself has said the court verdict should not be seen as a “win or loss” for anyone, many Muslims Reuters spoke to expressed resignation after the ruling.
    Some were bitter that a probe into the demolition has inconclusively dragged on for three decades and that many of the politicians accused of conspiring to take down the mosque are prominent BJP members.    Those people have said the demolition was spontaneous and not planned.
    “I feel humiliated by the Supreme Court verdict,” said one affluent Mumbai-based Muslim businessman, who declined to give his name.
    “Others don’t care.    They have become numb.    It’s best to be numb in Modi’s India.”
    Some people believe that Hindu nationalists, galvanized by the Ayodhya triumph, could turn their attention to two other Uttar Pradesh mosques they believe Mughal conquerors built over the remains of Hindu temples centuries ago.
    “This (verdict) seems to generate incentives for Hindus to take down mosques and resettle,” said Neelanjan Sircar, an assistant professor at Ashoka University near New Delhi.
    Another likely move is the uniform civil code.
    New Delhi has already taken steps toward creating such a code, with the BJP-led parliament in July outlawing the centuries-old right of a Muslim man to instantly divorce his wife.    While many activists thought the Muslim custom was wrong, some Muslim groups said Modi was targeting them while turning a blind eye to discrimination in Hindu society.
    Despite the focus on social issues, political analysts predict the government and the BJP will have to shift attention quickly to a sagging economy and surging unemployment or risk losing popular support.
    India, long touted as the world’s fastest-growing large economy, has seen economic expansion wither to six-year lows.
    Two college students – one Hindu, one Muslim – in Uttar Pradesh’s capital Lucknow separately said after the court verdict that they hoped the government would now focus on economic issues.
    “This case has gone on for so long… Now that it’s done with altogether, maybe more economic issues can come forward,” said Rajat Mishra, a business student.
    “Attention can now move beyond topics of religion,” said medical student Irfan, 22, who declined to give his surname.
(Additional reporting by Rupam Jain and Abhirup Roy in Mumbai, Kanishka Singh in Lucknow, Saurabh Sharma in Ayodhya and Nigam Prusty in New Delhi; Writing by Alexandra Ulmer)

11/11/2019 U.S. condemns latest Hong Kong violence, urges both sides to de-escalate
Office workers run away from tear gas as they attend a flash mob anti-government protest at the
financial Central district in Hong Kong, China, November 11, 2019. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States on Monday condemned “unjustified use of deadly force” in the latest Hong Kong violence and urged police and civilians alike to de-escalate the situation, a senior Trump administration official said.
    The U.S. statement came after Hong Kong police shot and critically wounded a protester and a man was set on fire in violence that prompted leader Carrie Lam to denounce “enemies of the people.”
    “Hong Kong police and civilians alike have a responsibility to de-escalate and avoid violent confrontations,” the U.S. administration official said, speaking on condition of anonymity, after a weekend of stepped-up clashes in pro-democracy protests across the Chinese-ruled territory, a former British colony.
(Reporting by Matt Spetalnick; Editing by Sandra Maler)

11/11/2019 Iran adds to breaches of nuclear deal with enrichment push: IAEA report by Francois Murphy
FILE PHOTO: An Iranian flag flutters in front of the International Atomic Energy Agency
(IAEA) headquarters in Vienna, Austria September 9, 2019. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger
    VIENNA (Reuters) – Iran is enriching uranium at its underground Fordow site and rapidly accelerating enrichment more broadly, a report by the U.N. atomic watchdog showed on Monday, outlining Tehran’s latest breaches of its 2015 nuclear deal with major powers.
    Iran is overstepping the deal’s limits on its nuclear activities one after the other in response to the United States’ withdrawal from the accord last year and its reimposition of sanctions that have crippled Iran’s oil trade.    Tehran says it can quickly undo those breaches if those sanctions are removed.
    In perhaps its most symbolic breach yet, Iran said last week it had begun refining uranium at Fordow, a site built inside a mountain apparently to protect it from any aerial bombardment, and one that Tehran concealed from U.N. inspectors until 2009.
    The 2015 deal banned enrichment and nuclear materials there but allowed some centrifuges for research purposes.
    “Since 9 November 2019, Iran has been conducting uranium enrichment at the plant,” said a quarterly report by the International Atomic Energy Agency, which is policing the deal, sent to its member states and obtained by Reuters.
    Washington says its “maximum pressure” campaign will force Iran to negotiate a more sweeping deal, covering its ballistic missile program and its role in Middle Eastern conflicts.    Iran says it will not negotiate until sanctions are lifted. Other parties to the deal are trying to prevent its total collapse.
    Since early July, Iran has also violated the deal’s caps on its stock of enriched uranium and the level to which it refines uranium, as well as a ban on enriching with anything other than its most basic centrifuge, the IR-1.
    Iran has continued to increase the number of various types of advanced centrifuge with which it is enriching at the one site where enrichment is allowed under the deal, Natanz.
    In the past two weeks it has begun enriching with two large, 164-machine cascades – which were removed under the deal – of the more advanced IR-2m and IR-4 centrifuges. Another cascade with the IR-6 is planned.
ACCELERATION
    The rate at which Iran is producing enriched uranium has also increased, from 70-80 kg a month to around 100 kg a month currently and still accelerating, a senior diplomat said.
    “I would expect that this 100 kilos per month becomes much higher.    I don’t know whether it will become 150, 170 or 200.    We don’t know that,” the senior diplomat said.
    The report’s latest snapshot of Iran’s stock of enriched uranium was 372.3 kg, well above the deal’s 202.8 kg cap.
    The deal as a whole is designed to keep Iran a year away from producing enough fissile material for a bomb if it chose to.    So far that time has only shrunk slightly but it will take time for the effect of the latest changes to become clear.
    In what appears to be a new breach of the deal, Iran has also installed small numbers of centrifuges not even mentioned in the accord, including single models of the IR-8s, IR-8B, IR-9 and IR-s, the report showed.
    These moves raise pressure on the remaining parties to the deal – particularly France, Britain and Germany, which say they still hope to save the accord – to respond.
    German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said on Monday the so-called E3 powers – Germany, Britain and France – must be ready to react, and that could mean reimposing international sanctions on Tehran.
    At the same time, Iran has not gone full speed ahead on all fronts.    The maximum fissile purity to which it has enriched so far remains 4.5%, above the deal’s 3.67% cap but still well below the 20% Iran has achieved before and the 90% required for the core of a nuclear bomb.
    Iran has long said it wants enriched uranium only for civilian energy applications.
(Editing by Mark Heinrich)

11/11/2019 Iran sees lifting of U.N. arms embargo in 2020 as ‘huge political goal’
FILE PHOTO: Iranian President Hassan Rouhani is seen during press conference in
Tehran, Iran, October 14, 2019. Official Presidential website/Handout via REUTERS
    DUBAI (Reuters) – President Hassan Rouhani said on Monday Iran would regain access to the international arms market later next year if it stuck to its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers and this would prove “a huge political success.”
    However, while a United Nations-imposed arms embargo on Iran is supposed to be lifted in October 2020, five years after the nuclear deal took effect, it is questionable whether that will transpire given the recent unraveling of the accord.
    The United States withdrew from the deal in 2018, arguing it was flawed to Iran’s advantage, and has reimposed sanctions crippling Tehran’s oil exports, prompting to retaliate by breaching the deal’s limits on its nuclear capacity.
    Iran has said its steps to reactivate uranium enrichment, a pathway to developing nuclear bombs, could be reversed if Washington rescinded sanctions and returned to the deal.
    Rouhani held out the prospect of the deal being saved despite its rapid erosion and said a major dividend for Iran would be an end to the arms embargo next year.
    “When the embargo…is lifted next year we can easily buy and sell weapons…This is one of those important impacts of this (nuclear) agreement,” Rouhani said, according to state TV.
    “By remaining in the deal, we would reach a huge political, defensive and security goal (in 2020) … It would be a huge political success.”
    But U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration has warned that a lifting of the arms embargo would let Iran acquire weapons that could fuel conflicts in the Middle East, where Tehran has been involved in proxy wars for decades.
    “@HassanRouhani’s best pitch for IRAN staying in the disastrous Iran deal is that it lets the Islamic kleptocrats that lead that country buy and sell drones, missiles, tanks, jets, and more,” U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeted on Monday.    “He will get his wish, unless UNSC extends the arms embargo before it expires 10/18/20.”
    But with the nuclear deal crumbling, prospects for a removal of the arms embargo appear to have dimmed, and the United States would wield a veto on any decision by the Security Council.
    The U.N. nuclear watchdog reported on Monday that Iran was enriching uranium at its underground Fordow site and rapidly accelerating enrichment more broadly, outlining Tehran’s latest breaches of the 2015 nuclear deal.
    Germany said on Monday it along with Britain and France should be ready to consider starting moves to reinstate full United Nations sanctions on Iran over its breaches.
(Reporting by Parisa Hafezi and Babak Dehghanpisheh; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

11/12/2019 Violence brings Hong Kong to ‘brink of total breakdown’: police by Clare Jim and Jessie Pang
A protester sits amid a road block outside City University in Kowloon Tong, Hong Kong, China November 12, 2019. REUTERS/Thomas Peter
    HONG KONG (Reuters) – Hong Kong police fired tear gas on Tuesday in the heart of the Central financial district and at two university campuses to break up pro-democracy protests which they said were bringing the Chinese-ruled city to the “brink of total breakdown.”
    The clashes came a day after police shot a protester at close range and a man was doused with petrol and set on fire in some of the worst violence in the former British colony in decades.
    A flash mob of more than 1,000 protesters, many wearing office clothes and face masks, rallied in Central for a second day during lunch hour, blocking roads below some of the city’s tallest skyscrapers and most expensive real estate.
    After they had dispersed, police fired tear gas at the remaining protesters on old, narrow Pedder Street.    Police made more than a dozen arrests, many pinned up on the pavement against the wall of luxury jeweller Tiffany & Co.
    Police later sealed off Pedder Street which was calm as office workers started leaving for home.
    “Our society has been pushed to the brink of a total breakdown,” a police spokesman told a briefing, referring to the last two days of violence.
    He said masked “rioters” had committed “insane” acts, such as throwing trash, bicycles and other debris onto metro tracks and overhead power lines, paralysing the transport system.
    He said the man set on fire on Monday was still in critical condition and appealed for information on who was responsible.
    Police on Monday fired volley after volley of tear gas in Central, where some protesters blocked streets lined with banks and jewellery shops.    Most had their shutters down on Tuesday.
    Police also fired tear gas at City University in Kowloon Tong, beneath the Lion Rock, and at Chinese University on the other side of the mountain, where protesters threw petrol bombs and bricks at police.
    Protesters at City University have stockpiled bricks and petrol bombs on the bridges and other approaches and were making small devices with nails, apparently to puncture tyres.
    Streets inside and outside the Chinese University campus entrance were littered with bricks, other debris and small street fires as police tackled some protesters to the ground.
    A van used as part of a street barricade was set ablaze.
IT’S OUR SCHOOL
    The university said some people had broken into a storeroom and taken bows, arrows and javelins that were later retrieved.
    “It’s crazy that police have been firing tear gas for more than 20 minutes.    If they didn’t come in, we wouldn’t clash with them.    It’s our school.    We need to protect our home,” Candy, 20, a student, told Reuters.
    Several people were wounded, including a student reporter hit in the eye, apparently by a brick, who was sitting in tears as friends offered comfort.
    Police also fired tear gas in the nearby new town of Tai Po, where protesters took shelter on the street behind umbrellas.
    Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said protesters were being extremely selfish and hoped that universities and schools would urge students not to take part in the demonstrations.
    More than 260 people were arrested on Monday, police said, bringing the total number to more than 3,000 since the protests escalated in June.
    Protesters are angry about what they see as police brutality and meddling by Beijing in the freedoms guaranteed under the “one country, two systems” formula put in place when the territory returned to China from British rule in 1997.
    China denies interfering and has blamed Western countries including Britain and the United States for stirring up trouble.
    The United States on Monday condemned “unjustified use of deadly force” in Hong Kong and urged police and civilians alike to de-escalate the situation.
    Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang urged Britain and the United States not to intrude, saying: “Hong Kong affairs are purely China’s internal affairs that allow no foreign interference. We urge the United States, United Kingdom and other countries to earnestly respect China’s sovereignty.”
    China has a garrison of up to 12,000 troops in Hong Kong who have kept to barracks since 1997 but it has vowed to crush any attempts at independence, a demand for a very small minority of protesters.
    Geng also told a briefing in Beijing that China’s government firmly supports Lam’s administration and the Hong Kong police “in law enforcement, maintaining social order and protecting the safety of citizens.”
    Following Tuesday’s violence, the Hong Kong Jockey Club said all off-course betting centres would be closed ahead of Wednesday’s racing at Happy Valley, “to ensure the safety of our employees and customers.”
    The “Mark Six” lottery draw, originally scheduled for Tuesday night, was postponed until Thursday.
(Reporting by Donny Kwok, Clare Jim, Marius Zaharia, Twinnie Siu, Clare Jim, Josh Smith, Kate Lamb, Jessie Pang and Farah Master in Hong Kong and Cate Cadell in Beijing; Writing by Anne Marie Roantree and Nick Macfie; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore, Gerry Doyle and Catherine Evans)

11/12/2019 Afghanistan to swap Taliban militants for American, Australian captives by Hamid Shalizi
Afghanistan's President Ashraf Ghani speaks about the release of two senior Taliban commanders and a leader
of the Haqqani militant group in exchange for an American and an Australian professor who were
kidnapped in 2016, in Kabul, Afghanistan November 12, 2019. Afghan Presidential Palace /Handout via REUTERS
    KABUL (Reuters) – Afghanistan will release two senior Taliban commanders and a leader of the Haqqani militant group in exchange for an American and an Australian professor who were kidnapped in 2016, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said on Tuesday.
    The government’s decision to free Anas Haqqani and two other Taliban commanders in a prisoner swap was taken in the hope of securing direct talks with the Taliban, which has hitherto refused to engage with what it calls an illegitimate “puppet” regime in Kabul.
    “In order to pave the way for a face-to-face negotiations with the Taliban, the government has decided to free Taliban prisoners in exchange for two university professors,” Ghani said in a televised speech.
    Ghani said Anas Haqqani and Taliban commanders Haji Mali Khan and Hafiz Rashid were being released.    All three were captured in 2014.
    The prisoner exchange comes at a time when efforts were being made to revamp peace talks between the United States and the Taliban.
    The Haqqani network has in recent years carried large-scale militant attack on civilians.    It is believed to be based in Pakistan and is part of the Taliban in Afghanistan.
    Anas Haqqani is the younger brother of Sirajuddin Haqqani, who is second-in-command in the Afghan Taliban hierarchy and leads the Haqqani network, considered to the deadliest faction of the Afghan Taliban.
    A Taliban spokesman earlier this year said that the movement was determined to obtain Anas Haqqani’s release and named him as a member of a negotiating team that would hold talks with U.S. officials.
    The Taliban had kidnapped U.S. citizen Kevin King and an Australian Timothy Weeks, both professors, in August 2016 from the American University of Afghanistan in Kabul.
    Ghani said authorities had been unable to discover where the Taliban were holding the two captive.
    “Information suggests that their health while being held by the terrorists has deteriorated,” he said.
    Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan during a three-day visit to Washington in July that he would do his best to help release the American University professors.
    A Pakistani delegation, including the chief of the powerful Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) spy agency was in Kabul to meet Afghan authorities on Monday.    A senior Pakistani official in Islamabad said the exchange of prisoners was discussed by the delegation.
    According to Afghan officials, the next round of talks between the Taliban and Afghan representatives is slated for this month in Beijing.
(Writing by Rupam Jain, Editing by Lincoln Feast & Simon Cameron-Moore)

11/12/2019 ‘YOU?    Really?’: Iran’s Zarif scorns EU warning over nuclear deal
FILE PHOTO: Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif attends a news conference, a day ahead of the first meeting of the new
Syrian Constitutional Committee at the Untied Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, October 29, 2019. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse/File Photo
    DUBAI (Reuters) – Europeans have failed to fulfill their own commitments to Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted on Tuesday, in response to a warning by the EU that urged Tehran to stick to the pact or face consequences.
    European countries have been trying to persuade Tehran to stick to the deal, under which it agreed to curbs on its nuclear program in return for the lifting of sanctions, despite a decision last year by U.S. President Donald Trump to abandon it.
    Iran has long blamed the Europeans for failing to provide the economic benefits it was meant to receive under the deal, known as the JCPOA, and has begun steps to reduce commitments, including producing more enriched uranium than allowed.
    Last week Iran resumed enrichment at its underground Fordow nuclear facility, banned under the deal.
    EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini and European parties to the deal – Britain, France and Germany – issued a statement on Monday urging Tehran to comply with the accord or face action which could include sanctions.
    “To my EU/E3 Colleagues: 1. ‘Fully upheld commitments under JCPOA’ YOU?    Really?    Just show ONE that you’ve upheld in the last 18 months.    2. Iran triggered-& exhausted-dispute resolution mechanism while you were procrastinating.    We’re now using para36 remedies,” Zarif tweeted.
    Iran says paragraph 36 of the deal allows it to reduce its commitments because other signatories are not complying. The Europeans dispute this.
    Some Iranian officials have warned that reimposition of EU and U.N. sanctions would be a red line that would cause the deal to collapse.
    The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reported on Monday that Iran is enriching uranium at the Fordow site and rapidly accelerating enrichment more broadly.
    Iran says it will further overstep the deal’s limits in January if Britain, France and Germany fail to shield its economy from U.S. penalties that have reduced its oil exports by more than 80% since a year ago.
    Washington says it wants to negotiate a more sweeping deal aimed at further curbing Iran’s nuclear work, halting its ballistic missile program and limiting its meddling in other countries in the Middle East.
    Iran has rejected any negotiations as long as the United States is not complying with the deal.
(Writing by Parisa Hafezi; Editing by Peter Graff)

11/12/2019 Hong Kong violence prompts reminder that China troops close at hand by James Pomfret and Clare Jim
A protester stands on the divider as protesters block roads in Wong Tai Sin district, as they call
for a general strike, in Hong Kong, China November 11, 2019. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton
    HONG KONG (Reuters) – Hong Kong police shot and critically wounded a protester and a man was set on fire on Monday in violence that prompted leader Carrie Lam to denounce “enemies of the people” and drew a chilling warning from a senior Chinese newspaper editor.
    Protesters threw petrol bombs at police after a weekend of clashes across the Chinese-ruled territory, marking a dramatic escalation in more than five months of often violent pro-democracy unrest.
    “The violence has far exceeded the call for democracy and the demonstrators are now the people’s enemy,” Hong Kong chief executive Lam said in a defiant televised address.
    “If there’s still any wishful thinking that by escalating violence, the Hong Kong … government will yield to pressure, to satisfy the so-called political demands, I’m making this statement clear and loud here: that will not happen.”
    Police fired tear gas in the narrow streets of the Central business district where some protesters, crouching behind umbrellas, blocked streets as office workers crowded the pavements and hurled anti-government abuse.
    Some passersby took cover inside the Landmark mall, one of the oldest and most expensive, as volleys of tear gas rained down.
    There have been almost daily protests in Hong Kong, but it was rare for tear gas to be fired during working hours in Central, lined with bank headquarters and top-brand shops.    Some offices closed early.
    China has a garrison of up to 12,000 troops in Hong Kong who have kept to barracks throughout the unrest, but it has vowed to crush any attempts at independence, a demand for a very small minority of protesters.
    The editor in chief of China’s Global Times tabloid, published by the state-owned People’s Daily, said Hong Kong police had nothing to be scared of.
    “You have the backing of not only Hong Kong and Chinese people, but also Chinese soldiers and People’s Liberation Army in Hong Kong,” Hu Xijin wrote on his blog.    “They can go into Hong Kong to provide support at any time.”
SHOOTING CAUGHT ON VIDEO
    Police fired live rounds at close range at protesters in Sai Wan Ho on the eastern side of Hong Kong island and one 21-year-old protester was wounded. Police said the victim was in critical condition.
    Resident Anson Yip, 36, said protesters were building a road block when police ran to the scene.
    “They didn’t fight and the police ran and directly shot.    There were three sounds, like ‘pam, pam, pam’,” Yip said.
    Video footage showed polystyrene boxes and other debris littering a crossing and blocking traffic.    A protester wearing a white hoodie and mask walks towards a policeman, as if to challenge him.    The officer draws his gun and points it at him at close range and grabs him round the neck.
    As the officer holds the man with his left hand, he shoots another approaching masked protester at close range with his right hand.    Three shots ring out and the man falls to the ground.
    The fallen man is pinned to the ground by an officer holding a gun to his head.    The man in white escapes.
    A friend visited the wounded man in hospital.
    “My friend didn’t actually attack the police or do anything,” Rigan, 19, said.    “They just shot him.    My friend is optimistic, friendly and willing to help others.”
    The man fell just a couple of metres from a large makeshift memorial to a student who died from a fall in a car park last week, the blood staining the street next to candles, flowers, and anti-government posters.
    “The live rounds fired by police are clear evidence of reckless use of force,” Amnesty International Hong Kong said in a statement.    “Another policeman was seen driving at high speed into a group of protesters on a motorbike.    These are not policing measures – these are officers out of control with a mindset of retaliation.”
    Police said the motorcycling officer had been suspended.
    Video images online also showed a man dousing petrol on another and setting him on fire outside Ma On Shan Plaza in the New Territories.    Engulfed in flames, the man was able to rip off his shirt and douse the blaze.    Police said he was in critical condition.
    More than 60 people were wounded on Monday, Lam said in her address.
CAMPUS CHAOS
    The unrest also spread to densely populated Mong Kok on the Kowloon peninsula, often the site of street clashes. Police used water cannon and tear gas to try to break up protesters who regrouped, digging up bricks to throw at police and blocking Nathan Road, a major artery.     A taxi driver who drove close to the crowds was beaten.     The clashes looked set to last into the night as they have done many times before.     Police said more than 120 places has been either vandalised or blocked on Monday.    Some 266 people had been arrested since last Monday.
    Protesters are angry about what they see as police brutality and meddling by Beijing in the freedoms guaranteed to the former British colony by the “one country, two systems” formula put in place when the territory returned to Chinese rule in 1997.
    China denies interfering and has blamed Western countries for stirring up trouble.
    The violence comes after student Chow Tsz-lok, 22, died in hospital last week following a fall as protesters were being dispersed by police.
    Police fired tear gas at Chinese University, where students hurled petrol bombs and barricaded the campus like a fortress.    There were at least four arrests.
    “I feel a strong sense of helplessness,” said one Chinese University student who gave his name as Chan.    “Who wouldn’t want to attend class if they could?    The government still isn’t listening to us.”
    The university said it would again suspend classes on Tuesday.
    Protesters threw petrol bombs at police at the Polytechnic University on the Kowloon side of Victoria Harbour.    Petrol bombs were also thrown at Hong Kong University on the main island.
.     Hong Kong’s stock market <.HSI>, closed down 2.6%, outpacing losses in other parts of the region.
(Reporting by Jessie Pang, Clare Jim, Kate Lamb, Josh Smith, Sarah Wu, Donny Kwok, Twinnie Siu, Anne Marie Roantree; Writing by Nick Macfie; Editing by Giles Elgood)

11/12/2019 BRICS summit marks recovery of China-Brazil relations by Jake Spring and Anthony Boadle
FILE PHOTO: China's President Xi Jinping revives a gift from Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro at the end of the signing
ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China October 25, 2019. Yukie Nishizawa/Pool via REUTERS/
    BRASILIA (Reuters) – Jair Bolsonaro’s repeated bashing of China on the campaign trail last year left diplomats on both sides worried he might take a wrecking ball to one of the world’s biggest trading partnerships.     But 11 months into Bolsonaro’s presidency, the visit this week of his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, for the BRICS summit looks set to complete a repair of the relationship.
    Presidents of the group of major emerging economies – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – will meet in Brazil’s capital on Wednesday and Thursday for what are widely expected to be low-key, technical discussions.     The five leaders will focus on stimulating investment in their countries amid a slowing world economy, while patching up disagreements on issues such as Venezuela and Bolivia, diplomats said.
    Before the summit, Xi and Bolsonaro will hold bilateral meetings on Wednesday morning.
    “It’s going to be the endpoint of a process of making up after what was the worst crisis of the relationship between Brazil and China of the past decades,” said Oliver Stuenkel, an international relations professor at the Getulio Vargas Foundation, a Brazilian university.
    China will likely seek to signal that it is an “all-weather friend” to Brazil, Stuenkel said.
    China, which is Brazil’s largest trading partner with $98.7 billion in two-way trade last year, buys vast quantities of commodities from South America’s largest country.    Chinese demand has surged for soy and other farm products amid China’s trade war with the United States.
    In the lead-up to the last year’s election, things looked very different.    “The Chinese are not buying in Brazil.    They are buying Brazil,” Bolsonaro said on repeated occasions.
    But the far-right former army captain has struck a more conciliatory tone since taking power.    There have been high-level meetings and friendly gestures.
    China has authorized exports from 45 Brazilian meat plants, helped by visits earlier in the year by Vice President Hamilton Mourao and Agriculture Minister Tereza Cristina Dias.
    Chinese state oil companies CNOOC <0883.HK> and CNODC were the only bidders other than Brazil’s own state-run Petroleo Brasileiro SA in a massive oil auction last week, following an invitation made by Bolsonaro during his visit to the Asian nation.
    Senior Chinese officials told reporters last week they hope the summit will help “inject confidence into a worried international community” and “uphold multilateralism in the face of unprecedented challenges and rising protectionism.”
AGREE TO DISAGREE
    Most notable perhaps will be a desire to avoid confrontation over Venezuela, a key point on which Brazil disagrees with Russia and China.    It will be discussed, though not publicly.
    “Venezuela is not off the table, but it will not be mentioned in the joint declaration,” a diplomat from one BRICS nation said, asking not to be named due to the sensitivity of the issue.
    The resignation of Bolivian President Evo Morales on Sunday brought another division within BRICS, as Brazil welcomed his departure as opening the way to fair elections and Russia called it a coup.
    Last week, diplomats at Brazil’s Foreign Ministry laid out the BRICS agenda including beefing up cooperation in fighting terrorism and corruption.
    The main thrust will, however, be to get the group’s New Development Bank to lend more for infrastructure and other projects to boost growth.    Created in 2014, the bank has taken time to get going, leading to impatience among member countries.
    Even though it has now approved projects valued at a not-negligible $12 billion, there is a need for BRICS to move beyond speeches and speed up action in financing development, diplomats said.
    Bank executives, business leaders and officials are expected to discuss an expansion of the bank to include new members.
(Reporting by Jake Spring and Anthony Boadle; Additional reporting by Cate Cadell in Beijing; editing by Stephen Eisenhammer and Steve Orlofsky)

11/13/2019 Protesters blockade universities, business district as chaos grips Hong Kong by Kate Lamb and Jessie Pang
Anti-government protesters gather at the Central District in Hong Kong, China, November 13, 2019. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha
    HONG KONG (Reuters) – Hong Kong anti-government protesters paralysed parts of the Asian financial hub for a third day on Wednesday, with some transport links, schools and many businesses closing as police warned of a rise in violence to a deadly level.
    About 1,000 protesters blocked roads in the heart of the city’s Central business district at lunchtime.    Wearing now-banned face masks and dressed in office wear, they marched and hurled bricks onto roads lined with some of the world’s most expensive real estate and luxury flagship stores.
    “It’s now 1989 4th June,” was scrawled on the windows of fashion store Georgio Armani, a reference to the crackdown by Chinese troops on pro-democracy protesters in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square.
    Scores of riot police tried to disperse the crowds near the stock exchange, wrestling some people to the ground and beating others with batons.
    Protesters and police had battled through Tuesday night at university campuses only hours after a senior police officer said the Chinese-ruled city had been pushed to the “brink of a total breakdown.”
    Protesters are angry about what they see as police brutality and meddling by Beijing in the freedoms guaranteed under the “one country, two systems” formula put in place when the former British colony returned to Chinese rule in 1997.    China denies interfering and has blamed Western countries, including Britain and the United States, for stirring up trouble.
    Many campuses remained tense on Wednesday with students setting up barricades.    Some perched on bridges to keep guard while others checked people coming in.Rows of riot police, some in trucks, watched the students but did not try to break through. The protests typically get more violent as night falls.
    “The youngsters are really the future of Hong Kong so even though I’m worried about being checked by the police I still want to come and support them,” said Cheung, a 30-year-old alumni bringing supplies including food to one campus.
    Hong Kong’s Education Bureau said all schools would shut on Thursday.    Several universities said they would be introducing online learning and other assessment methods for the remaining weeks of the term.
    On Tuesday, there were chaotic scenes through the night at the prestigious Chinese University, with explosions, plumes of smoke, yelling and sustained firing of tear gas and rubber bullets during which scores were injured.
    Police said they helped a group of mainland students flee Chinese University’s campus by boat on Wednesday after they expressed concern about their safety.
    Elsewhere, activists blocked roads, torched several vehicles, hurled petrol bombs at a police station and smashed part of a major shopping mall.
‘DANGEROUS, DEADLY’
    The flare-ups came after police shot a protester at close range on Monday and police said “rioters” doused a man with petrol and set him on fire in some of the worst violence since protests picked up in June.    Police are investigating.
    “Rioters’ violence reached a very dangerous and even deadly level,” senior police office Tse Chun-chung told a media briefing.
    He said some university campuses were being used to make petrol bombs and to shelter “rioters and criminals.”
    “Nowhere in Hong Kong is a lawless land.”
    The turmoil caused delays for thousands of commuters who queued at metro stations across the city early on Wednesday after some railway services were suspended and roads closed.
    Police said 142 people had been arrested since Tuesday, bringing the total number of arrests to more than 4,000.
    Hong Kong’s Hospital Authority said 81 people had been injured since Monday, with two in serious condition.    The youngest was 10 months old but the cause of the infant’s injuries was not known.
    Several train lines, stations and bus routes were shut because of damaged facilities, operator MTR Corp, said, adding that its whole train network would shut by 10 p.m. (1400 GMT), more than two hours early.
    “It is very painful to watch my city turn into this.    Look at everyone, how angry they are,” said Alexandra, a 42-year-old insurance executive who had been trying to get to work.
    “We all want to return to normal, but how can the government do that if they don’t listen to what Hong Kongers have been asking for,” she said.
    Many banks and shops in bustling commercial areas shut on Wednesday, while Hong Kong’s Jockey Club cancelled its evening races.
    Hong Kong’s stock market dropped 2% to a three-week low in early trade, outpacing falls elsewhere in Asia.    The drop came after the city’s embattled leader, Carrie Lam, said protesters trying to paralyse the city were being “extremely selfish.”
    Chinese state media condemned the violence, with the China Daily newspaper saying young protesters were revelling in a “hormone-fuelled ‘rebellion'
    “It is foolish and naive to believe that Hong Kong would be better off by eliminating all mainland factors. Particularly, since the mainland is the main source of fresh water, electricity and the largest supplier of food to the city,” it said.
(Reporting by Marius Zaharia, Sarah Wu, Josh Smith, Jessie Pang, Sumeet Chatterjee, Donny Kwok, Twinnie Siu, Clare Jim, Felix Tam, Ryan Chang, Scott Murdoch and James Pomfret in Hong Kong; John Ruwitch in Shanghai and Tom Westbrook in Singapore; Writing by Farah Master; Editing by Paul Tait and Robert Birsel)

11/13/2019 Car bomb explosion kills seven in Afghan capital Kabul by Orooj Hakimi and Abdul Qadir Sediqi
A member of the Afghan security forces inspects the site of a suicide blast
in Kabul, Afghanistan November 13, 2019. REUTERS/Omar Sobhani
    KABUL (Reuters) – At least seven people were killed and 10 others, including four foreign nationals, were wounded in Kabul on Wednesday, when a van packed with explosive targeted a vehicle belonging to a foreign security company, Afghan security officials said.
    There was no immediate claim of responsibility in the rush-hour attack, that comes a day after the Afghan government agreed on a prisoner exchange with the Taliban insurgents in the hopes of reviving peace talks.
    Nasrat Rahimi, a spokesman for the interior ministry, said a suicide bomber driving a van targeted an armoured vehicle that belonged to GardaWorld, a Canadian security company that saw four of its staff wounded in the attack.
    “Seven Afghan civilians were killed in the explosion and 10 people, including four foreign nationals, were wounded,” Rahimi said.
    He did not disclose the nationalities of the four wounded, but a senior Afghan security official said they were either Indian or Nepalese nationals and Kabul police were currently working to identify the injured.
    GardaWorld and officials in the foreign ministries of India and Nepal did not respond to requests for comment.
    Two Taliban commanders and a leader of the Haqqani militant group were released in exchange for two professors, an American and an Australian, in a development some analysts had hoped could pave the way for stalled peace talks in Afghanistan.
    The Taliban has so far refused to engage with the foreign-backed Afghan government, which the insurgent group calls a “puppet” regime.
    One of the freed men, Anas Haqqani, is the younger brother of Sirajuddin Haqqani, the second-in-command in the Afghan Taliban hierarchy and leader of the Haqqani network, considered the deadliest faction of the Taliban and which has carried out some of the most brazen attacks in Kabul.
    Wednesday’s attack came during a relative lull in violence after September’s presidential election.    During polling there was a surge in attacks by the Taliban that killed 85 people in ballot-related violence across the country.
    Nearly 4,000 civilians were killed or wounded in the first half of this year, including a sharp increase in the number of casualties caused by government and foreign forces, according to the United Nations.
(Reporting by Orooj Hakimi and Abdul Qadir Sediqi in Kabul, Additional reporting by Devjyot Ghoshal in New Delhi and Gopal Sharma in Kathmandu; Writing by Hamid Shalizi; Editing by Alasdair Pal and Jacqueline Wong)

11/13/2019 A $5 billion bill and Japan tensions in focus as U.S. defense heads visit South Korea by Hyonhee Shin
FILE PHOTO: Flanked by Secretary of Defense Mark Esper (L) and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Army Gen. Mark Milley,
U.S. President Donald Trump meets with senior military leaders at the White House in Washington, U.S., October 7, 2019./File Photo
    SEOUL (Reuters) – A $5 billion demand to meet the cost of hosting American troops, and tensions between Seoul and Tokyo that threaten to undercut regional cooperation are set to top the agenda when senior U.S. defense officials visit South Korea this week.
    U.S. President Donald Trump’s insistence Seoul take on a greater share of the cost of American military presence as deterrence against North Korea has tested South Korea’s confidence in the security alliance with Washington.
    Trump has floated the idea of pulling U.S. troops from the Korean peninsula, which remains in a technical state of war under a truce that suspended the 1950-53 Korean War.
    A South Korean lawmaker said last week that U.S. officials demanded up to $5 billion a year, more than five times what Seoul agreed to pay this year under a one-year deal, for stationing the 28,500 U.S. troops.
    U.S. officials have not publicly confirmed the number, but Trump has previously said the U.S. military presence in and around South Korea was “$5 billion worth of protection
    Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the U.S. Joints Chief of Staff, said the American public needed an explanation why “very rich and wealthy” South Korea and Japan cannot defend themselves and why U.S. soldiers were deployed there.
    Milley, who was speaking to reporters en route to Tokyo on Sunday, arrives in Seoul on Wednesday for the annual Military Committee Meeting.
    Secretary of Defense Mark Esper will visit from Thursday for the Security Consultative Meeting with South Korean Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo.
‘UNACCEPTABLE, DISAPPOINTING’
    Randall Schriver, assistant defense secretary and Esper’s top Asia policy advisor, said the secretary did not intend to negotiate burden sharing, a job for diplomats, but he would emphasize U.S. interests.
    “They have to be willing to pick up a larger share of the burden, as the president has emphasized globally, not just related to South Korea,” Schriver told a small group of reporters ahead of the trip.
    Trump has similarly accused allies including Japan, Germany and NATO of not shouldering their fair share of defense costs.    Separate negotiations for new defense cost-sharing deals between the United States and all three are set to start next year.
    South Korean lawmakers have criticized what they called “unacceptable, disappointing” U.S. demands.
    Some progressive groups in South Korea have called for a fundamental shift in the 70-year alliance with the United States, including a withdrawal or drastic reduction of U.S. troops.
    A survey by the government-affiliated Korea Institute for National Unification released last week showed 96% of South Koreans were against paying more for the U.S. military presence.
    “U.S. demands would get more reasonable as negotiations progress, after raising alarm with extremely high numbers,” said Shin Beom-chul, a senior fellow at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies in Seoul.
    “But there’s real pressure from Trump, and even if it goes down from $5 billion to $2 billion, it’s still a tremendous burden on the South Korean administration.”
INTELLIGENCE SHARING WITH JAPAN
    Esper and Milley are also expected to step up pressure on South Korea to reverse its decision to end an intelligence-sharing agreement with Japan amid a spiraling diplomatic and trade feud.
    The pact, called GSOMIA, or the General Security of Military Information Agreement, is set to expire next week after Seoul decided not to renew it following Tokyo’s imposition of export controls on South Korea.
    Washington has criticized the move, seeing the deal as vital to three-way cooperation in fending off North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats.
    A spokesman at South Korea’s foreign ministry reiterated Seoul is willing to reconsider the decision if Japan withdraws its trade regulations.
    Milley said Seoul and Tokyo should “get past some of these friction points” as those only benefit North Korea and China.
(Reporting by Hyonhee Shin; Additional reporting by Phil Stewart in Washington; Editing by Jack Kim and Lincoln Feast)

11/13/2019 China says Taiwan scaremongering with attack talk
FILE PHOTO: Taiwan's Foreign Affairs Minister Joseph Wu speaks during an interview
in Taipei, Taiwan November 6, 2019. REUTERS/Fabian Hamacher
    BEIJING (Reuters) – China said on Wednesday Taiwan was scaremongering with talk of a possible Chinese attack, after Taiwan’s foreign minister said Beijing could resort to military conflict to divert domestic pressure if an economic slowdown bites.
    As Taiwan’s presidential elections approach in January, China has stepped up a campaign to “reunify” with what it considers a wayward province, wooing away the island’s few diplomatic allies and flying regular bomber patrols around it.
    And President Xi Jinping said in January that China reserves the right to use force to bring Taiwan under its control but will strive to achieve peaceful “reunification.”
    Taiwan Foreign Minister Joseph Wu told Reuters last week that China could attack the democratic and self-ruled island if any threat to China’s ruling Communist Party arises from social pressures that could result from any slowdown in the world’s second largest economy amid a trade war with the United States.
    Ma Xiaoguang, spokesman for China’s Taiwan Affairs Office, told a regular news conference in Beijing that Wu’s comments were “complete nonsense and absolute rubbish.”
    “Recently, in order to seek benefit for the elections, they have been weaving various lies to intimidate, threaten and mislead the people of Taiwan,” he added.
    “I think compatriots on both sides of the Taiwan Strait must be highly vigilant and not easily misled.”
    China’s economy is fine, Ma said.
    “Under the current complicated economic situation, the mainland’s economic development landscape is still good, and this is not something the likes of Joseph Wu can talk down.”
    China’s economic growth is expected to slow to a near 30-year low this year, putting the onus on Beijing to step up stimulus needed to sustain growth.
    Ma said China wants “peaceful reunification,” while Taiwan’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party is the real greatest threat to peace, pushing independence and inciting enmity.
    Taiwan was trying to “cover up” the island’s own economic problems, Ma added.
    Taiwan’s economy grew at its fastest pace in more than a year in the third quarter, as a rebound in demand for tech products for the year-end peak season boosted manufacturers and “offset” the impact of trade disputes.
    Ma separately confirmed that three people from Taiwan who had been reported missing in China were being investigated on suspicion of harming national security. He gave no details.
(Reporting by Ben Blanchard and Gao Liangping; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)

11/13/2019 Abe’s mission unaccomplished: pushing to revise Japan’s pacifist charter by Linda Sieg
FILE PHOTO: File picture of Japanese helicopter carrier Kaga taking part in a joint naval drill with Japanese destroyer Inazuma
and British frigate HMS Argyll (not in the picture) in the Indian Ocean, September 26, 2018. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon/File Photo
    TOKYO (Reuters) – Prime Minister Shinzo Abe surged back to power seven years ago, pledging to bolster Japan’s defenses in response to a growing threat from China and aiming to amend the pacifist constitution.
    Now on track to become Japan’s longest serving premier, Abe has kept his first promise.    The second remains elusive.
    That means Japan, which U.S. President Donald Trump has criticized over what he called an “unfair” security alliance, still faces limits on acting as a full-fledged American ally.
    Trump has even suggested changing the two-way security pact that underpins the alliance, at a time when China is flexing its military muscle in the region and North Korea is pursuing nuclear and missile programs.
    During Abe’s watch, Japan has boosted defense spending by 10% after years of decline, expanding the military’s ability to project power abroad.    In a historic shift in 2014, his government reinterpreted the constitution to allow Japanese troops to fight overseas for the first time since World War Two.
    But the conservative leader’s inability to cement his legacy by revising the charter’s pacifist Article 9 symbolizes persistent public wariness about putting troops in harm’s way far from home and a fear of entanglement in U.S.-led wars.
    “For the Japanese people, Article 9 is a kind of Bible,” Hajime Funada, a ruling Liberal Democratic Party lawmaker and former head of a panel on revising the charter, told Reuters.
    Japan’s U.S.-drafted constitution is seen by conservatives as a humiliating symbol of defeat but by others as a brake on entanglement in foreign conflicts.
    For both sides, a revision would be hugely symbolic.
    According to a survey by NHK TV this week, voters gave the highest marks to Abe’s security and diplomacy policies.    But an Asahi newspaper survey earlier this year showed 64% opposed revising Article 9 while 28% favored amendment.
    Any constitutional amendment requires approval by two-thirds of both houses of parliament and a majority in a national referendum.
    Abe, who quit in 2007 after a troubled one-year term, returned to office in December 2012.    On Nov. 20, he will exceed the record 2,886 days in office set by Taro Katsura in the early 20th century.
    Abe’s term as LDP leader ends in September 2021 and unless party rules are revised, that would spell the end of his tenure.
POWER PROJECTION, PUBLIC OPINION
    A five-year defense program unveiled last year allocates 25.5 trillion yen ($233.7 billion) in spending, a 6.4% rise over the previous five years, and includes refitting two warships as Japan’s first aircraft carriers since World War Two, a step toward a full-fledged blue-water navy.
    A year after the cabinet reinterpreted the constitution, parliament enacted laws that ended a ban on exercising the right of collective self-defense, or defending a friendly country under attack, if Japan’s survival is threatened.
    Such steps have further pushed the limits of Article 9, which, if taken literally, bans the maintenance of a standing military but has been stretched by previous administrations to allow armed forces for self-defense.
    “There is not much left of the post-war constraints,” said Richard Samuels, director of the Center for International Studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
    “It was under his (Abe’s) administration where the fastest progress was achieved to get more distance from Article 9.”
    Nonetheless, Abe has been forced by public opinion and the LDP’s less hawkish coalition partner, the Komeito party, to compromise.
    “Theoretically, Abe has laid the groundwork for Japan to take one step closer to … supporting the U.S. in combat for collective interests,” said Ellis Krauss, professor emeritus at the University of California, San Diego.
    “But I don’t think Japan is near actually doing it.”
PERSONAL MISSION
    Last month, Japan proposed a mission by its navy in Middle East waterways, not as part of a U.S.-led coalition to protect merchant ships but separately under a Japanese law allowing research and intelligence gathering.
    Even that sparked calls for caution from liberal media.
    For Abe, revising the constitution is a personal mission – one that eluded his grandfather, Nobusuke Kishi, who quit as premier in 1960 due to a furor over a U.S.-Japan security pact.
    “It’s not only who he is, it’s who his grandfather was and it’s his base,” Samuels said.    “It’s the view that says that … we are a different Japan, no longer bound and constrained by the defeat of World War Two.”
    Abe has proposed writing the existence of Japan’s Self-Defense Forces, as the military is known, into Article 9, far short of more drastic changes proposed previously by the LDP.
    Critics in his own party say that would be a waste of political capital for little gain, although experts note an amendment could open the door to future bolder changes.
    Abe appears unlikely to abandon the cause.
    “Abe’s fundamental philosophy is nationalism and without a change in Article 9, there can be no independence from the (U.S.) Occupation regime,” said Yoshihide Soeya, a political science professor at Keio University.    “I think he’ll never give it up.”
(Reporting by Linda Sieg; editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)

11/13/2019 North Korea warns of retaliation against U.S-South Korea military drills
FILE PHOTO - A North Korean flag flies on a mast at the Permanent Mission of
North Korea in Geneva October 2, 2014. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse/File Picture
    SEOUL (Reuters) – North Korea threatened on Wednesday to retaliate if the United States goes ahead with scheduled military drills with South Korea, ramping up pressure on Washington to change course as a year-end North Korean deadline for U.S. flexibility approaches.
    The statement came even though Washington said last week that the joint aerial exercise planned for next month would be reduced in scope from previous drills.
    “It is self-defense rights” to retaliate against any move which threatens its sovereignty and security, according to a statement from the State Affairs Commission, without elaborating.
    It is rare for the commission, the supreme governing body chaired by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, to release a statement.
    Last week, a senior North Korean diplomat also blamed the U.S. joint aerial drill for “throwing cold water” over talks with Washington.    Pyongyang opposes U.S.-South Korean joint military exercises, viewing them as a rehearsal for invasion.
    In its latest statement, Pyongyang said it had taken measures to calm Washington’s concerns but that the United States had failed to reciprocate, leaving it with a “feeling of betrayal.”
    Asked to comment on the North Korea statement, the U.S. State Department made no reference to the military exercises, but a spokeswoman referred to an agreement reached between Kim Jong Un and President Donald Trump at their first summit in Singapore in June 2018.
    “President Trump remains committed to making progress toward the Singapore commitments of transformed relations, building lasting peace, and complete denuclearization,” she said.
    Immediately following his first meeting with Kim, Trump made a surprise announcement that the United States would suspend military drills with South Korea.    Since then, major exercises have been halted or scaled back.
    Kim in April gave the United States a year-end deadline to show more flexibility in stalled denuclearization talks.
    This statement followed the collapse of his second summit with Trump in Hanoi in February, and has raised concerns that North Korea could return to nuclear bomb and long-range missile testing suspended since 2017.
    North Korea has tested the limits of engagement with a string of short-range missile launches, and analysts say it appears to have been emboldened to toughen its approach by the impeachment inquiry into Trump in Washington.
    Senior Democratic and Republican lawmakers presented dueling narratives on Wednesday as the congressional impeachment inquiry threatening Trump’s presidency entered a crucial new phase with the first televised public hearing.
(Reporting by Hyunjoo Jin in Seoul and David Brunnstrom in Washington; Editing by Gareth Jones and Jonathan Oatis)

11/13/2019 Pentagon chief open to military adjustments to support North Korea diplomacy by Phil Stewart
FILE PHOTO: U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper speaks during an event at the Concert Noble
in Brussels, Belgium October 24, 2019. Francisco Seco/Pool via REUTERS
    JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Washington (Reuters) – U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper said on Wednesday he was open to new alterations in U.S. military activity on the Korean Peninsula if it helped enable diplomats, who are trying to jump-start stalled peace efforts with North Korea.
    Esper did not predict whether he might end up “dialing up or dialing down” such activity, as he spoke to a small group of reporters at Joint Base Lewis-McChord on his way to South Korea after North Korea threatened to retaliate if the United States goes ahead with scheduled military drills with South Korea.
    Tensions are growing on the peninsula ahead of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s year-end deadline for Washington to show more flexibility in denuclearization talks.
    Esper declined to detail what kinds of activity could be altered but did not rule out a further reduction in U.S. military exercises with South Korea, which President Donald Trump ordered scaled back last year.
    The North brands such U.S.-South Korean exercises as hostile and still strongly objects to them, even in their current form.
    “I think we have to be open to all those things that empower and enable our diplomats to sit down with the North Koreans, alongside with our South Korean partners, and move the ball forward to a negotiated settlement of the issues that we put on the table,” Esper said, declining to detail what specific kinds of options he might consider.
    Asked whether he took Kim’s year-end deadline seriously, Esper said: “I think that when any foreign country, foreign leader, says something, I take it seriously.”
    Still, Esper stressed the need to maintain the readiness of the 28,500 U.S. troops deployed to South Korea.    Pentagon officials say they have been able to preserve sufficient capabilities of U.S. and South Korean forces, despite scaling back the military drills.
    Esper said such decisions are made in consultation with Seoul.
    “As we consider adjusting – either dialing up or dialing down exercises and training … we want to do that in close collaboration with our Korean partners.    Not as a concession to North Korea, or anything, but, again, as a means to keep the door open to diplomacy,” Esper said, without explicitly saying whether that was currently being considered.
U.S. WANTS ‘SIGNIFICANT’ HIKE IN FUNDS
    Trump is pressing South Korea to take on a greater share of the cost of American military forces deployed there.    A South Korean lawmaker said last week that U.S. officials demanded up to $5 billion a year, more than five times what Seoul agreed to pay this year under a one-year deal.
    Asked if Washington was requesting a fivefold increase, Esper declined to comment but acknowledged the request was significant.
    “I’m not going to speak to the number. Again, I don’t want to get in front of the State Department on this.    But we have asked for a significant increase in the cost sharing for our deployed troops,” Esper said, noting increased cost sharing was something the United States was seeking globally.
    A survey by the government-affiliated Korea Institute for National Unification released last week showed 96% of South Koreans were against paying more for the U.S. military presence.
(Additional reporting by Hyonhee Shin in Seoul; Editing by Mary Milliken, Chizu Nomiyama and Jonathan Oatis)

11/13/2019 Pentagon chief open to military alteration in Korean Peninsula by OAN Newsroom
FILE – In this Nov. 6, 2019, file photo, U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper talks to the media with Qatar Deputy
Prime Minister and Minister of Defense Khalid Al Attiyah at the Pentagon in Washington. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen, File)
    Defense Secretary Mark Esper said he is prepared to adopt a new approach to U.S. military activity on the Korean peninsula. Before departing for South Korea on Wednesday, Esper discussed ongoing diplomatic efforts to bring peace to North Korea.
    Esper is embarking on a tour of Asia to discuss several pressing issues, including an intelligence sharing pact between South Korea and Japan that’s set to expire soon.
    This comes as both nations — as well as the U.S. — continue to seek an end to North Korea’s nuclear ambitions.    The rogue regime threatened to retaliate if the U.S. goes ahead with scheduled joint military drills with South Korea, which the U.S. wants to avoid.
    “I think we have to be open to all those things that empower and enable our diplomats to sit down with the North Koreans — alongside with our South Korean partners — and move the ball forward to a negotiated settlement of the issues that we put on the table,” stated Esper.
    The Defense Secretary went on to say the U.S. takes threats from North Korea very seriously, but at the same time wants to avoid overreacting and risk closing the door on diplomacy.
President Donald Trump meets with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on Sentosa Island,
Tuesday, June 12, 2018, in Singapore. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
    President Trump has met three times with Kim Jong Un in hopes of sealing a potentially historic denuclearization deal.    He continues to express optimism about brokering an agreement.
    “Kim Jong Un has been pretty straight with me, I think,” stated the president.    “He likes testing missiles, but we never restricted short range missiles.”

11/13/2019 Report: China hacked U.S. manufacturing company by OAN Newsroom
In this Nov. 7, 2012 photo, U.S. and Chinese national flags are hung outside a hotel during the U.S.
Presidential election event, organized by the U.S. embassy in Beijing. (AP Photo/Andy Wong, File)
    As trade negotiations between Washington and Beijing continue, new reports said China was behind a recent cyber attack on a prominent U.S. manufacturing group.    A cybersecurity firm reportedly determined the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) was breached by Chinese hackers over the summer.
    “We recently identified suspicious activity relating to certain company systems, took swift action to secure our networks and quickly investigated the incident,” NAM spokeswoman Erin Sheeter said in a statement.    “We have a number of robust security systems in place to defend and protect our networks.”
    Sources said the number of cyber attacks on the company jumped around the same time President Trump met with NAM’s president.    While officials know a data breach took place, they say it is not clear what data was stolen.
FILE – In this June 29, 2019, file photo, U.S. President Donald Trump, left, shakes hands with Chinese President Xi Jinping
during a meeting on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in Osaka, western Japan. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)
    This comes as the U.S. and China attempt to solidify a trade deal.    Last week, President Trump announced that talks with China were “moving along very nicely,” but added he will only make a deal if it is right for the U.S.
    “I’d like to make a deal, but it’s got to be the right deal,” stated President Trump.
    The president also said there had been false reports about how much the U.S. was ready to roll back tariffs on China.
    “China very much wants to make a deal,…perhaps they have to make a deal — I don’t know,” he said.    “But the reports were incorrect.”
    The president’s comments came after Chinese officials and Washington negotiators agreed to remove additional duties on each other’s products.    The move has been getting pushback from White House officials, who said removing tariffs could reduce America’s leverage in ongoing trade talks.
    This follows the recent announcement that the Phase One trade deal was “nearly complete.”    Beijing’s Commerce Ministry said the two countries reached “a consensus on principle” after Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin spoke with Chinese officials by phone.    White House Economic Adviser Larry Kudlow said this phase will cover agriculture, financial services and currency protections.    Forced technology transfers will reportedly be addressed in Phase Two.
    The adviser went on to say the U.S. and China are planning to sign the deal after they locate a venue.    This comes after Chile’s president cancelled November’s APEC Summit, which was where the leaders sought to sign the agreement.    Kudlow said the two countries are still hoping to stick to the original timeline of mid-November.

11/14/2019 Hong Kong students arm themselves for showdown as police take breather by Kate Lamb and Jessie Pang
Anti-government demonstrators gather to protest in Central, Hong Kong, China November 14, 2019. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha
    HONG KONG (Reuters) – Pro-democracy protesters paralyzed parts of Hong Kong for a fourth day on Thursday, forcing schools to close and blocking highways as students built barricades and stockpiled makeshift weapons, setting the stage for campus showdowns.
    China’s Global Times tabloid, owned by the state-run People’s Daily, the mouthpiece of the Communist Party, said on Twitter that the Hong Kong government was expected to announce a weekend curfew after some of the worst violence in decades in the Chinese-ruled city.
    It deleted the post after a short time.    Its editor said there was “not sufficient” information to back it up.
    Thousands of students hunkered down on several campuses, surrounded by piles of food, bricks, petrol bombs, arrows with heads wrapped in cladding, catapults and other homemade weapons.
    Police said the Chinese University, in the New Territories, had become a “weapons factory and an arsenal” with bows and arrows and catapults.
    “Their acts are another step closer to terrorism,” Chief Superintendent (Public Relations) Tse Chun-chung told a briefing, referring to protests on all campuses.
    He also said police would temporarily avoid directly clashing with “high-spirited rioters” to give themselves a breather and avoid injuries.
    Protesters have torched vehicles and buildings, hurled petrol bombs at police stations and trains, dropped debris from bridges on to traffic below and vandalized shopping malls and campuses, raising questions about how and when more than five months of unrest can be brought to an end.
    Police said arrows were fired at officers from Hong Kong Polytechnic University in the morning.
    Several universities announced there would be no classes on campuses for the rest of the year.br>     Baptist University, next to a People’s Liberation Army base in Kowloon Tong, issued an “urgent appeal,” telling students to stay away from campus.
    “Your safety is so dear to our hearts and to your parents’ and friends’ hearts,” it said.    “Please stay away from harm’s way.”
    The Global Times’ short-lived announcement about a curfew cited unnamed sources.    It did not elaborate but, but online rumors about a curfew have swirled.
    “We think it will happen sooner or later,” Polytechnic University student Alex, 19, told Reuters.    “We think it will be twinned with the postponement of the district council elections.”
    The elections are due on Nov. 24.
BOMBS AND BRICKS
    Hundreds of protesters occupied roads in the city’s business district, home to some of the world’s most expensive real estate, in the middle of the day.
    Across the harbor, black-clad protesters and students maintained their blockades of major roads, including the entrance to the Cross-Harbour Tunnel that links Hong Kong island to the Kowloon area, and a highway between Kowloon and the rural New Territories.
    Police fired tear gas near the tunnel early on Thursday to try to clear the protesters.    Roads were strewn with bricks and other debris, causing widespread traffic jams.
    At the Polytechnic University, near the Kowloon entrance of the Cross Harbour tunnel, hundreds of students wearing gas masks readied for confrontation.
    Boxes of petrol bombs were placed at vantage points overlooking roads, including the tunnel, which has been blocked since Wednesday evening.
    Students also poured cooking oil on the ground in an attempt to thwart police should they try to enter.
    Violence has escalated in recent days, with police shooting and wounding one protester at close range and one man described as a “rioter” dousing a man with petrol before setting him on fire.
    The man who was shot was in stable condition.    The man who was lit on fire suffered burns to his torso and head, and was in critical condition.
    There was also a tense standoff between chanting protesters and police in the New Territories town of Sheung Shui.
    The demonstrations were initially spurred by what many residents see as the stifling by Beijing of freedoms guaranteed under the “one country, two systems” formula put in place when the former British colony returned to Chinese rule in 1997.
    Anger grew over perceived police brutality as the protests intensified. Police deny being heavy handed and say they have shown restraint in the face of potentially deadly attacks.
    Police said they would appoint 100 Correctional Services Department staff, who look after prisons, to reinforce the streets.
    “I cannot see how adding 100 special police will help much,” democratic lawmaker Tanya Chan told Reuters.    “I don’t know why the government doesn’t adopt measures that can soften the tension rather than intensify conflict.”
    China denies interfering in Hong Kong and has blamed Western countries, including Britain and the United States, for stirring up trouble.
(Reporting by Sarah Wu, Kate Lamb, Jessie Pang, Donny Kwok, Twinnie Siu, Anne Marie Roantree, Clare Jim and Felix Tam; Writing by Farah Master and Nick Macfie; Editing by Gerry Doyle, Robert Birsel)

11/14/2019 Flaming arrows and petrol bombs: Inside Hong Kong protesters’ ‘weapons factories’ by Josh Smith and Kate Lamb
FILE PHOTO: An anti-government protester holds a bow as he stands at a makeshift gate during a standoff with riot police
at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, China November 14, 2019. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu/File Photo
    HONG KONG (Reuters) – Under a November full moon, hundreds of young people dressed in black set about turning several of Hong Kong’s top universities into fortresses, well stocked with improvised weapons.
    At City University, protesters used ping pong tables, potted plants, furniture, sports equipment, and bamboo to form a network of barricades to block roads and fortify the entrances to the student residence complex.
    Hundreds of protesters wearing gas masks and helmets tore up piles of paving bricks and ceramic tiles to hurl at police, while others stockpiled dozens of petrol bombs, distributing them to their forward positions.
    Small groups sat chatting as they fashioned garden hose and nails into spikes to puncture car tires.
    The scene this week was repeated at nearly half a dozen campuses across Hong Kong, where demonstrators say they have been forced into taking a harder line by the government.
    Until now, the anti-government protesters have used fast-moving, hit-and-run tactics to “be like water” and avoid arrest in clashes with police.
    But now with protesters beginning to wield bows and arrows and occupying improvised breastworks, the tactics threaten to take the pro-democracy campaign to a new level of risk for all sides.
    The protesters say their non-violent efforts have been met by brutal police tactics, and their weapons are needed to protect themselves.
    Police have shot and wounded at least three protesters.
    “It has never been a fair war zone,” said 23-year-old Josh, as he watched protesters practice shooting arrows at Baptist University (BU).
    “We have nothing, only masks and the police have guns.    We’re only trying to defend ourselves.”
    Another protester said he had begun to throw bricks after seeing police attack demonstrators.
    “We try every peaceful means but we fail,” said Chris, 19, a student from the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.
    “We would probably throw petrol bombs and bricks because we don’t want our friends to be injured,” he said, breaking into tears as he described police crackdowns.
    “I’m willing to die for Hong Kong.”
    The protesters seem increasingly intent on forcing a showdown, as small raiding parties vandalize shops and block roads, tunnels, and rail lines in widening areas around their campuses.
    Authorities said protesters had turned the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) into a “weapons factory,” prompting a crackdown on Tuesday that left many people injured in fiery clashes.
    Students accused police of turning the campus into a war zone and said they have no choice but to defend themselves.
    Protesters have fortified parts of the campuses of Polytechnic University and University of Hong Kong (HKU), in addition to CUHK, BU, and City University.
    Graphic: Escalating violence in Hong – https://graphics.reuters.com/HONGKONG-PROTESTS-VIOLENCE/0100B2LM1ZX/hong-kong-violence.jpg
‘RIOTOUS ACTS’
    For the first time, protesters have been arming themselves with bows and arrows looted from university sports offices.    Police said flaming arrows, a signal flare, and even electric saws had been wielded against officers.
    On Thursday, police said protesters dropped flower pots and fired several arrows at officers near Polytechnic University.    There were no casualties.
    Protesters could be jailed for two years for assaulting a police officer, while “wounding with intent” could mean life, police said.
    The city education secretary chided university authorities over “riotous acts” on campuses.    HKU President Xiang Zhang called on students not to provoke the police into entering the campus.
    “If there are any who are planning to do anything with serious consequences, such as actions likely to injure people, I appeal to them NOT to,” he said.
    Demonstrators are angry about what they see as police brutality and meddling by Beijing in the freedoms guaranteed under a “one country, two systems” formula introduced when the territory returned to Chinese rule in 1997.
    China denies interfering and has blamed Western countries for stirring up trouble.
    Police deny using excessive force but have unleashed unprecedented amounts of tear gas, pepper spray, rubber bullets, and water cannons.
    In a possible preview of tactics to come, police used an armored truck with officers firing less-than-lethal rounds to break up a barricade in the business district on Wednesday.
    CUHK had become a “battlefield for criminals and rioters,” a police spokesman said.
    “Where did all these petrol bombs and weapons come from?” spokesman Tse Chun-chung asked reporters.    “We have strong suspicion that the school was used as a weapon factory.”
‘GOOD SHOW’
    At City University, the dorm buildings echoed to the sound of protesters pulling up and heaping paving bricks to use as projectiles.
    They knocked back cases of drinks then filled the bottles with a mixture of oil and petrol.
    Protesters with less experience used plastic bottles to practice throwing.
    At one point, the operation got more organized as supplies of food, water and medical equipment were carried in.
    “There are a lot of petrol bombs,” said one 16-year-old school student who felt compelled to join the fray.
    “It’s set to be a good show.”
    A sense of purposeful anarchy reigned.    Some protesters picked up litter, sorting it for recycling, while here and there a couple waded through the crowd, masked and in black, holding hands.
    University officials were nowhere to be seen, except for the residence guards who sat at their desks as protesters appropriated everything in reach.
    Occasionally, lookouts would sound the alarm, sparking a flurry of activity and shouts as black-clad figures crouched behind barricades, umbrellas and homemade shields at the ready.
    Some anxious international students scurried past, suitcases in hand.    Others took photos.
    Volunteer medics set a up a first-aid station in a hall.
    “I’m not afraid to get hurt, but I’m afraid of being arrested, because it means a loss of freedom,” said 19-year-old student named Thomas, as he strapped on plastic guards on his forearms and shins.
    “And freedom is why I’m here.”
(Reporting by Kate Lamb and Josh Smith; Additional reporting by Jessie Pang; Writing by Josh Smith; Editing by Robert Birsel)

11/14/2019 U.S. ready to use ‘full range’ capabilities to defend South Korea by Joyce Lee and Hyonhee Shin
FILE PHOTO: U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Joint Chiefs Chairman General Mark Milley address reporters during
a media briefing at the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, U.S., October 11, 2019. REUTERS/Erin Scott/File Photo
    SEOUL (Reuters) – A top U.S. military officer reaffirmed on Thursday that the United States is ready to use the “full range” of its capabilities to defend South Korea from any attack, a joint statement after a meeting with officials in Seoul said.
    Senior U.S. defense officials are gathering in Seoul for annual meetings as the two countries face intensifying threats from North Korea to stop joint military drills and for the United States to change its approach in denuclearization talks.
    The United States is also seeking a greater financial contribution from South Korea for hosting American troops, while urging Seoul to revoke its decision to scrap an intelligence-sharing pact with Japan known as GSOMIA, which Washington fears would undermine trilateral cooperation.
    General Mark Milley, the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman, met his South Korean counterpart General Park Han-ki for the annual Military Committee Meeting (MCM) on Thursday.
    Both sides discussed ways to maintain solid defense posture and a planned transfer of wartime operational control to South Korea, the joint statement said, even as they have scaled back joint exercises to expedite negotiations with North Korea.
    Milley reiterated the “continued commitment to providing extended deterrence,” the statement said.
    “He affirmed that the United States remains prepared to respond to any attack on the Korean Peninsula, using the full range of U.S. military capabilities.”
DENUCLEARIZATION TALKS
    U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper visits Seoul later on Thursday, ahead of a meeting with South Korean Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo for the annual Security Consultative Meeting (SCM) on Friday.
    Esper said on Wednesday he was open to changes in U.S. military activity in South Korea if it helped diplomats trying to jump-start stalled talks with North Korea.
    Pyongyang has derided the U.S.-South Korea exercises as hostile, even in the current reduced form.    On Wednesday, it threatened to retaliate if the allies go ahead with scheduled drills in a rare statement from the State Affairs Commission, a top governing body chaired by leader Kim Jong Un.
    Cheong Seong-chang, a senior fellow at South Korea’s Sejong Institute think-tank, said the North’s statement appeared to be aimed at justifying future North Korean military actions.
TRILATERAL COOPERATION
    Milley has hinted at raising the troop cost sharing and Japan issues, though the joint statement did not address them directly.
    “Chairman Milley is expected to focus on South Korea increasing its contribution for defense costs and extending GSOMIA,” a South Korean military source said.
    U.S. President Donald Trump’s insistence Seoul take on a greater share of the cost of 28,500-strong American military presence as deterrence against North Korea has rattled South Korea.    It could also set a precedent for upcoming U.S. negotiations on defense cost-sharing with other allies.
    A South Korean lawmaker said last week that U.S. officials demanded up to $5 billion a year, more than five times what Seoul agreed to pay this year under a one-year deal.
    Washington has also been pressing Seoul to reconsider its decision to scrap the GSOMIA intelligence-sharing pact with Japan.    The pact, which South Korea decided not to renew, expires on Nov. 23.
    Esper said on Wednesday that GSOMIA “must be maintained” for cooperation between the United States, South Korea and Japan against any “North Korean bad behavior,” adding the dispute was only benefiting North Korea and China.
    Seoul’s Defense Ministry spokeswoman Choi Hyun-soo said on Thursday it would reexamine GSOMIA “if Japan withdraws its unjust retaliatory measures and friendly relations between the two countries recover.”
    Relations have plunged after South Korea’s top court last year ordered Japanese firms to compensate some wartime forced laborers, and Japan curbed exports of key industrial materials to South Korea in July.
(Reporting by Joyce Lee and Hyonhee Shin; Editing by Lincoln Feast and Alex Richardson)

11/14/2019 Iranian council member says Iran should end commitments of nuclear deal by OAN Newsroom
FILE – In this Sept. 10, 2016 file photo, released by official website of the office of the Iranian Senior Vice-President,
the head of Russia’s federal atomic agency Sergey Kiriyenko breaks ground in a ceremony to begin building Iran’s second nuclear
power plant, in the southern port city of Bushehr, Iran. (Iranian Senior Vice-President’s Office via AP, File )
    A member of an influential Iranian council says Tehran should end its commitments to the 2015 nuclear deal.    The comments point to a shift by the country’s leadership to pressure western powers under a threat to fully withdraw from the deal.
    The suggestion came from a member of the country’s Guardian Council, who approves all political candidates and must agree to all legislation before it becomes law.    The council member said when one party withdraws from the deal, it’s natural that the other party no longer honor its commitments.    The Guardian Council approved the Obama-era deal back in 2015.

In this Nov. 9, 2019, photo, Abbas Ali Kadkhodaei, a prominent member of Iran’s powerful Guardian Council, speaks in an interview with
The Associated Press, in Tehran, Iran. A prominent member of Iran’s powerful Guardian Council has told The Associated Press that the
Islamic Republic should stop honoring the terms of its collapsing 2015 nuclear deal with world powers amid tensions with the U.S. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)
    “I think that if something is to be done, those who have disrupted the game should go back to the starting point and they should be punished too since it was them who harmed others and their interests,” said Iran Guardian Council member Abbas Ali Kadkhodaei.
    This comes after Iran announced last week it was building a second nuclear reactor, and released footage showing it has doubled the number of centrifuges allowed under the agreement.

11/14/2019 BRICS leaders avoid discussion of Venezuela divisions by Jake Spring and Anthony Boadle
South Africa's President Cyril Ramaphosa, China's President Xi Jinping, India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi,
Russia's President Vladimir Putin and Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro pose for a photo
at the BRICS summit in Brasilia, Brazil November 14, 2019. Pavel Golovkin/Pool via REUTERS
    BRASILIA (Reuters) – Leaders of the BRICS major emerging economies made no mention of Venezuela during a two-day summit in Brazil’s capital, according to diplomats, putting aside a rift over the fate of the chaotic South American country to focus on global economic issues instead.
    Among BRICS members at the summit that ended on Thursday, Russia and China back Venezuela’s leftist President Nicolas Maduro. But under right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro, host country Brazil supports opposition leader Juan Guaido as Venezuela’s legitimate leader.
    An economic meltdown and political turmoil in Venezuela have sent 4 million refugees flooding across its borders into Brazil and other neighboring countries in a humanitarian crisis that is considered one of Latin America’s top regional security issues.
    Yet the final joint declaration approved at the summit of the BRICS countries, which include India and South Africa, did not address Venezuela.
    India’s government under Prime Minister Narendra Modi has also stood by Maduro.
    “Venezuela is not on the agenda, it is not a topic for this summit,” said Wang Xiaolong, special envoy on BRICS issues for China’s foreign ministry, told reporters following the approval of the declaration.
    “As far as I recall it wasn’t discussed by the leaders either during the closed door session or the open keynote.”
    Two Brazilian and a South African diplomatic source, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed that Venezuela was not raised in the leaders’ meetings.
    A high-profile standoff between Maduro and Guaido supporters across town at the Venezuelan embassy failed to force the issue.
    Guaido supporters invaded the embassy, where they held out for 11 hours before the Brazilian government asked them to leave and turn it back over to diplomats loyal to Maduro.
    Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Thursday the embassy invasion was a “provocation” timed to coincide with a major international event in Brasilia, TASS news agency reported.
    In the lead up to the summit, Brazil considered raising the Venezuela issue but ultimately gave up on the idea as there would be no chance of an agreement because of “ideological differences,” one of the Brazilian diplomats said.
    The BRICS summit largely focused on common ground on economic and trade issues, with leaders vowing to support free exchange and stand against rising protectionism globally.
    Political crises that erupted in recent months in Chile and Bolivia were also not mentioned in the final summit statement, even though it mentioned conflicts in Syria, Yemen, Libya and elsewhere.
    Bolivia is another point of contention within BRICS.    Russia said the departure of President Evo Morales was a coup, while Brazil welcomed his resignation as a democratic step toward clean elections.
    Russia said on Thursday it was ready to work with Bolivia’s new interim leader, Senate Vice President Jeanine Anez, but noted she had come to power without having a full quorum to back her in parliament.
(Reporting by Jake Spring, Anthony Boadle and Lisandra Paraguassu; Editing by Tom Brown)

11/14/2019 Iran’s Rouhani accuses U.S. of inspiring protests in Iraq as death toll climbs by OAN Newsroom
In this photo released by the official website of the office of the Iranian Presidency, President Hassan Rouhani speaks at a public
gathering in the city of Rafsanjan in Iran’s southwest Kerman province, Monday, Nov. 11, 2019. (Office of the Iranian Presidency via AP)
    Iranian President Hassan Rouhani is accusing the U.S. of encouraging violent riots across the Middle East.
    Speaking at the International Islamic Unity Conference in Tehran Thursday, Rouhani said the ongoing protests in Iraq and Lebanon were inspired by the U.S.    He claimed the U.S. is seeking to sow discord and division to reduce Iran’s influence in those countries.
    Over the past few weeks, protesters in Iraq and Lebanon have come out against the Shia government in Baghdad, as well as the terror group Hezbollah.    Thursday reports said at least four people were killed and 62 others were injured in Iraq as anti-government protests continue to grip the country.    The casualties took place near Tahrir Square in Baghdad on Thursday as hundreds took to the streets.    Citizens have been holding weeks-long demonstrations against corruption, a lack of job opportunities and poor basic services in the country.
    Iran’s president claimed the U.S. and Israel are trying to maintain their influence in the Middle East.
    “America today is no longer as powerful as it was yesterday, and our power today as Muslims is not smaller than yesterday,” stated Rouhani.    “Today’s Zionist regime power is not as powerful as yesterday — however, every day they commit more crimes than the day before.”
    Rouhani went on to say Iran will continue to export its Islamic revolution to Iraq, Yemen and Syria to secure what he calls its legitimate interests in the region.
In this photo released by the official website of the office of the Iranian Presidency,
President Hassan Rouhani speaks at a public gathering in the city of Rafsanjan in Iran’s
southwest Kerman province, Monday, Nov. 11, 2019. (Office of the Iranian Presidency via AP)

11/15/2019 University tells non-students to go now as Hong Kong campus showdowns loom by Donny Kwok and Felix Tam
Hong Kong Justice Secretary Teresa Cheng falls after protesters surrounded her in London, Britain
November 14, 2019, in this still image from video obtained via social media. Chloe Leung via REUTERS
    HONG KONG (Reuters) – The president of Hong Kong’s Chinese University, which anti-government protesters have turned into a fortress stockpiled with petrol bombs and bows and arrows, threatened on Friday to call in “assistance” unless all non-students leave.
    The hilly campus was the scene of violent clashes this week, with pro-democracy protesters hurling petrol bombs at police and on to a highway linking the largely rural New Territories with the Kowloon peninsula to the south and Hong Kong island beyond.
    The Tolo highway has been partially reopened, but the Cross-Harbour Tunnel, outside the barricaded Polytechnic University where protesters have been practicing their skills with bows and arrows and petrol bombs in a half-empty swimming pool, remained closed.
    Students and protesters have barricaded at least five campuses after four days of some of the worst violence in the former British colony for decades.
    Chinese University president Rocky Tuan said in an open letter that all outsiders must leave.
    “Universities are places to study, not to resolve political disputes, or even a battlefield to create weapons and use force,” he said.
    “If the university cannot continue to fulfill its basic mission and tasks, we must seek the assistance of relevant government departments to lift the current crisis.”
    Protesters paralyzed parts of Hong Kong for a fifth day on Friday, forcing schools to close and disrupting transport.
    The week has also seen a marked intensification of the violence.
    A 70-year-old street cleaner, who had been hit in the head by one of several bricks thrown by “masked rioters,” died on Thursday.    On Monday, police blamed a “rioter” for dousing a man in petrol and setting him on fire.    The victim is in critical condition.
    On the same day, police shot a protester in the abdomen. He is in stable condition.
    Police said the Chinese University had been “taken hostage.”
    “Rioters’ violence has infiltrated into almost every corner of society and now turned the Chinese University of Hong Kong into a powder keg,” police spokesman Chief Superintendent Tse Chun-chung told a briefing.
    Protesters are angry at perceived Chinese meddling in the city since it returned to Beijing rule in 1997 under a “one country, two systems” formula guaranteeing its colonial-era freedoms.
    China denies interfering and has blamed Western countries for stirring up trouble.
    Police have kept their distance from the campuses for more than two days, saying both sides should cool off, but many observers are afraid of what will happen if and when they move in.
LONDON ALTERCATION
    China and Hong Kong both condemned an attack in London on Thursday by a “violent mob” on Hong Kong’s justice secretary, the first direct altercation between demonstrators and a government minister.
    Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng, who was in London to promote Hong Kong as a dispute resolution and deal-making hub, was targeted by a group of protesters who shouted “murderer” and “shameful.”
    The Hong Kong government said Cheng suffered “serious bodily harm” but gave no details.
    The Chinese Embassy in Britain said Cheng was “besieged and attacked by dozens of anti-China and pro-independence activists.”
    The protests escalated in June over a now-scrapped extradition bill that would have allowed people to be sent to mainland China for trial.
    They have since evolved into anti-China calls for greater democracy, among other demands. A few want independence.
    The unrest has plunged Hong Kong into its biggest political crisis in decades and pose the gravest popular challenge to Chinese President Xi Jinping since he came to power in 2012. Xi said in Brazil on Thursday stopping violence was the most urgent task for Hong Kong.
    The demonstrations have battered the retail and tourism sectors, with widespread disruptions across the financial center and no end in sight to the violence and vandalism.
    Hong Kong sank into recession for the first time in a decade in the third quarter, government data confirmed on Friday, with its economy shrinking by 3.2% from the previous quarter on a seasonally adjusted basis.
    Video footage obtained by Reuters of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army garrison headquarters near Hong Kong’s Central business district showed more than a dozen troops conducting what appeared to be anti-riot drills against people pretending to be protesters carrying black umbrellas.
    The PLA has stayed in the barracks since 1997 but China has warned that any attempt at independence will be crushed.
(Reporting by Donny Kwok, Felix Tam, Twinnie Siu, Anne Marie Roantree and Marius Zaharia; Writing by Anne Marie Roantree and Nick Macfie; Editing by Robert Birsel)

11/15/2019 Khamenei: Iran not calling for elimination of Jews, wants non-sectarian Israel
FILE PHOTO: Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei meets with a group of school and university students
in Tehran, Iran, November 3, 2019. Official Khamenei website/Handout via REUTERS/File Photo
    DUBAI (Reuters) – Iran is not calling for the elimination of the Jewish people, but believes people of all religions should decide Israel’s future, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Friday.
    Since its Islamic Revolution in 1979, Iran has refused to recognize Israel and has backed militant Palestinian groups.    Israel has long accused Iran of seeking its destruction and regards Tehran as its main enemy in the Middle East.
    “Calling for the elimination of the state of Israel does not mean the elimination of the Jewish people,” Khamenei told officials and participants at an Islamic conference in Tehran, according to his official website.
    “It means that the people of Palestine – be they Muslim, Christian or Jewish – should choose their own government.”

    The Shi’ite Muslim Khamenei, the ultimate authority on Iranian domestic and foreign policy, also criticized Western powers for pressuring Tehran over its nuclear program.
    “All nations need peaceful nuclear energy, but Western monopolists seek to keep this energy in monopoly…,” Khamenei said.    “Westerners know that we are not seeking nuclear weapons because of our principles and (religious) beliefs.”
    Iran has repeatedly denied ever having sought to build a nuclear bomb, referring to a religious decree issued in the early 2000s by Khamenei that bans the development or use of nuclear weapons.
    U.S. intelligence agencies and the U.N. nuclear watchdog believe Iran had a covert atomic bomb program for a number of years that it subsequently halted.
    France, Britain and Germany said this week they were extremely concerned by Iran’s decision to resume uranium enrichment at an underground plant, though they stopped short of directly urging new sanctions.
    Iran’s move was the latest in a series of steps through which Tehran has overstepped the limits of its 2015 nuclear pact with world powers, in response to the United States withdrawing from the accord last year and reimposing sanctions.
(Reporting by Dubai newsroom; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

11/15/2019 North Korea calls U.S. candidate Biden a ‘rabid dog’ nearing death
FILE PHOTO: Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden delivers a speech during the
Women's Leadership Forum in Washington, U.S. October 17, 2019. REUTERS/Carlos Jasso/File Photo
    SEOUL (Reuters) – North Korea’s state media on Friday stepped up a personal attack on former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden for slandering its leader, calling the Democratic presidential candidate “a rabid dog” that needed to be put down.
    The official KCNA news agency did not say how Biden had insulted the North’s leader, Kim Jong Un, but the 2020 presidential hopeful has been critical of U.S. President Donald Trump’s policy, saying he was coddling a murderous dictator.
    Misspelling Biden’s name, KCNA said the former vice president was showing signs of “the final stage of dementia,” and the “time has come for him to depart his life.”
    In a commentary, it said, “Such a guy had the temerity to dare slander the dignity of the supreme leadership of the DPRK,” using the North’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
    “It was the last-ditch efforts of the rabid dog expediting his death,” KCNA said.    “Rabid dogs like Baiden [sic] can hurt lots of people if they are allowed to run about.    They must be beaten to death with a stick, before it is too late.”
    In contrast, the North has credited a “close personal relationship” between Kim and Trump for saving ties between their countries from a destructive pattern of hostility.
    The leaders have met three times to discuss improving ties and ending the North’s nuclear weapons program.
    Trump backed a previous personal attack on Biden by the North and dismissed criticism that he was siding with a foreign dictator over a fellow American.
    In May, North Korea had called Biden “an imbecile” for criticizing its leader.
(Reporting by Jack Kim; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

11/15/2019 Hong Kong confirms economy fell into recession amid protests, trade war
FILE PHOTO: A woman crosses a street in the Central business district in
Hong Kong, China August 22, 2019. REUTERS/Thomas Peter/File Photo
    HONG KONG (Reuters) – Hong Kong sank into recession for the first time in a decade in the third quarter, government data confirmed on Friday, weighed down by increasingly violent anti-government protests and the escalating U.S.-China trade war.
    The economy shrank by 3.2% in July-September from the previous quarter on a seasonally adjusted basis, revised government data showed, in line with a preliminary reading.
    Gross domestic product (GDP) contracted for the second consecutive quarter, meeting the technical definition of a recession.
    With no end to the protests in sight, analysts warn the financial and trading center potentially faces a longer and deeper slump than during the global financial crisis in 2008/2009 and the SARS epidemic in 2003.
    From a year earlier, the economy contracted 2.9%, also in line with the preliminary reading.    The readings were the weakest since the global crisis.
    “Domestic demand worsened significantly in the third quarter, as the local social incidents took a heavy toll on consumption-related activities and subdued economic prospects weighed on consumption and investment sentiment,” the government said in a statement.
    It revised down its forecast for full-year growth to a contraction of 1.3% versus an earlier estimate of 0-1% growth. That would mark the first annual decline since 2009.
    “Ending violence and restoring calm are pivotal to the recovery of the economy.    The government will continue to closely monitor the situation and introduce measures as necessary to support enterprises and safeguard,” the government said.br>     More than five months of political protests have plunged the city into its worst crisis since it reverted from British to Chinese rule in 1997.
    Tourists are cancelling bookings, retailers are reeling from a sharp drop in sales and the stock market is faltering, adding to pressure the city is feeling from China’s economic slowdown and the prolonged Sino-U.S. trade dispute.
    August retail sales were the worst on record – down 23% from a year earlier – while September’s plunged 18.3%.
    Parts of the city were paralyzed for a fifth day on Friday.    Transportation disruptions have become common and some shopping malls and other businesses are shuttering early as the unrest escalates.
BUSINESS GATEWAY TO CHINA
    Hong Kong is one of the world’s most important financial hubs with total banking, fund and wealth management assets worth more than $6 trillion.
    Many businesses with ambitions to expand in China still consider it as a gateway into the mainland, while Chinese firms use it to access international capital, as well as a testing ground and springboard for their global ambitions.
    Business activity in the private sector fell to its weakest in 21 years in October, according to IHS Markit, while demand from mainland China declined at the sharpest pace in the survey’s history – which started in July 1998.
    The government has rolled out stimulus measures since August, but since it is forced to keep a high level of reserves to back the Hong Kong dollar peg to the U.S. dollar, the packages have been relatively small.
    Analysts also doubt the effectiveness of handouts, since the uncertainty prevents businesses and consumers from spending and investing, and store closures will lead to job losses.
(Reporting by Twinnie Siu, Anne Marie Roantree, Marius Zaharia and Donny Kwok; Editing by Marius Zaharia & Kim Coghill)

11/15/2019 Hong Kong students hunker down as government dismisses curfew rumors by Kate Lamb and Jessie Pang
Anti-government demonstrators gather to protest in Central, Hong Kong, China November 14, 2019. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha
    HONG KONG (Reuters) – Hong Kong pro-democracy protesters paralyzed parts of the city for a fourth successive day on Thursday, forcing schools to close and blocking highways, as students built campus barricades and the government dismissed rumors of a curfew.
    Protesters have torched vehicles and buildings, hurled petrol bombs at police stations and trains, dropped debris from bridges on to traffic below and vandalized shopping malls and campuses, raising questions about how and when more than five months of unrest can be brought to an end.
    A 70-year-old street cleaner who was believed to have been hit in the head by a brick on Wednesday died on Thursday, the hospital said.     Police said he was believed to have been hit by “hard objects hurled by masked rioters” during his lunch break.
    Chinese President Xi Jinping, speaking in Brazil, said stopping violence was the most urgent task right now for Hong Kong, China’s state CCTV television reported.
    He said China continued to firmly support Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam.    China has a garrison of up to 12,000 troops in Hong Kong who have kept to barracks, but it has vowed to crush any attempts at independence, a demand from a very small minority of protesters.
    The unrest was triggered by what many see as the stifling by China of freedoms guaranteed under the “one country, two systems” formula put in place when Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule in 1997.
    China denies interfering in Hong Kong and has blamed Western countries, including Britain and the United States, for stirring up trouble.
    Anger grew over perceived police brutality as the protests intensified.    Police deny being heavy handed and say they have shown restraint in the face of potentially deadly attacks.
HIGH-SPIRITED RIOTERS
    Thousands of students hunkered down at several universities on Thursday, surrounded by piles of food, bricks, petrol bombs, catapults and other homemade weapons.
    Police said the Chinese University, in the New Territories, had become a “weapons factory and an arsenal” with bows and arrows and catapults.
    “Their acts are another step closer to terrorism,” Chief Superintendent (Public Relations) Tse Chun-chung told a briefing, referring to protests on campuses across the Chinese-ruled city.
    He also said police would temporarily avoid directly clashing with “high-spirited rioters” to give themselves a breather and avoid injuries.
    Police said arrows were fired at officers from Hong Kong Polytechnic University in the morning.    Several Hong Kong universities announced there would be no classes on campuses for the rest of the year.
    During the apparent lull in police action, thousands were milling about on Nathan Road, the main artery leading south through the center of Kowloon to the harbor, building a wall from bricks.    Police had fired tear gas earlier on the street earlier in the evening.
    Baptist University, next to a People’s Liberation Army base in Kowloon Tong, issued an “urgent appeal,” telling students to stay away from campus.
    “Your safety is so dear to our hearts and to your parents’ and friends’ hearts,” it said.    “Please stay away from harm’s way.”
    China’s Global Times tabloid, owned by the official newspaper of the ruling Communist Party, the People’s Daily, said on Twitter that the Hong Kong government was expected to announce a weekend curfew after some of the worst violence in decades in the former British colony.
    It deleted the post after a short time.    The Hong Kong government said the rumors were “totally unfounded.”
PETROL BOMBS AND BRICKS
    Hundreds of protesters occupied roads in the city’s business district, home to some of the world’s most expensive real estate, in the middle of the day.
    Across the harbor, black-clad protesters and students maintained their blockade of major roads, including the entrance to the Cross-Harbour Tunnel that links Hong Kong island to the Kowloon area, and a highway between Kowloon and the rural New Territories.
    Police fired tear gas near the tunnel early on Thursday to try to clear the protesters.    Protesters threw petrol bombs at the Kowloon-side tunnel turnstiles late in the evening and the tunnel remained closed.
    At the Polytechnic University, near the same tunnel entrance, hundreds of students wearing gas masks readied for confrontation.    They were practising throwing petrol bombs and archery in a half-empty swimming pool.
    Boxes of petrol bombs were placed at vantage points overlooking roads.
    Violence has escalated in recent days, with police shooting and wounding one protester at close range and one man described as a “rioter” dousing a man with petrol before setting him on fire. Several others have been wounded.
    The man who was shot was in stable condition.    The man who was lit on fire suffered burns to his torso and head, and was in critical condition.
(Reporting by Sarah Wu, Kate Lamb, Jessie Pang, Donny Kwok, Twinnie Siu, Anne Marie Roantree, Clare Jim, Ryan Chang and Felix Tam; Writing by Farah Master and Nick Macfie; Editing by Gerry Doyle, Robert Birsel and Alex Richardson)

11/15/2019 Suspend Hong Kong status in event of China crackdown: U.S. commission by David Brunnstrom
FILE PHOTO: Demonstrators stand with shields and umbrellas during an anti-government protest at the Chinese University
of Hong Kong in Sha Tin, Hong Kong, China November 12, 2019. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton/File Photo
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Congress should enact legislation that would suspend the special economic status Hong Kong enjoys under U.S. law should China deploy forces to crush protests in the territory, a congressional advisory body said on Thursday.
    The U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission (USCC), which is tasked with monitoring the national security implications of U.S. relations with Beijing, issued the call in its annual report among a series of tough proposals reflecting a “markedly more confrontational” relationship.
    It said that, with Beijing seeking to build a “world class” military and warning of its willingness to take military action to defend its interests, Washington “must plan for worst-case scenarios, while trying to achieve the best ones.”
    A push in the U.S. Congress for legislation to support pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong and pressure China to refrain from a violent crackdown has faced obstacles, raising questions about whether it will ever become law.
    The House of Representatives unanimously passed Hong Kong human rights legislation last month, including a bill that would place Hong Kong’s special treatment under tighter scrutiny.
    A Senate committee approved a similar measure in September but it has yet to be scheduled for a vote by the full body and the White House has not said whether President Donald Trump would sign or veto such a bill.
    The commission’s recommendations go further, calling for legislation to suspend Hong Kong’s special status if China “deploys People’s Liberation Army or People’s Armed Police forces to engage in armed intervention in Hong Kong.”
    It also urged Congress to direct the State Department to develop specific benchmarks to measure the “high degree of autonomy” the territory is meant to enjoy from Beijing.
    Two senior senators began a process on Thursday aimed at quickly passing the Senate bill, amid a surge in violence following months of protests in Hong Kong.
    Jim Risch, the Republican chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Marco Rubio, another Republican who is a senior member of the panel, want to pass the bill by unanimous voice vote, but it remains unclear when that might happen.
    On Taiwan, which Beijing views as a renegade province but which Washington is bound to help defend, the USCC called for a Pentagon study to form the basis of a 15-year plan of action to deter any attempt by Beijing to absorb the island by force.
    It also called for legislation to direct the administration to increase military exchanges and training with Taiwan.
    “Just as nations sought freedom from the iron grip of the Soviet system, we are bearing witness to aspirations in both Hong Kong and Taiwan which require our reconsideration of the commitments we made under the one-country, two-systems model,” USCC vice chair, Robin Cleveland, said in introducing the report.
    The commission highlighted deepening ties between China and Russia, and said Congress should seek an intelligence assessment of the effect this could have on the United States and its allies and on how to respond.
    USCC recommendations are non-binding but have become increasingly influential with policy makers.    Its prescriptions are routinely denounced by Beijing.
    Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said the USCC was always “full of prejudice” when it came to China and its reports generally lacked any basis in fact.
    “I have no interest in commenting here on the report’s contents,” he told a daily news briefing in Beijing.
    The report focused closely on Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s bid to tighten his and the Communist Party’s grip on power and argued he should be referred to as “general secretary” of that party, rather than by the “unearned title of ‘President.'
    The USCC said U.S.-China relations had deteriorated “significantly” in the past year, during which time both sides imposed retaliatory tariffs in a damaging trade war and Beijing stepped up efforts to promote itself as a global leader able to project military power beyond the Indo-Pacific, as well as into space.
(Reporting by David Brunnstrom; Addtional reporting by Patricia Zengerle, and Ben Blanchard in Beijing; Editing by Paul Tait and Jonathan Oatis)

11/15/2019 Hong Kong third-quarter GDP shrinks 3.2%, confirms depth of recession
Riot police stand in the middle of a street in Central district in Hong Kong, China, November 15, 2019. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi
    HONG KONG (Reuters) – Hong Kong confirmed on Friday its economy plunged into its first recession in a decade in the third quarter, weighed down by increasingly violent anti-government protests and the escalating U.S.-China trade war.
    The economy shrank by a seasonally adjusted 3.2% in July-September from the previous quarter, in line with a preliminary reading, revised government data showed. Gross domestic product (GDP) contracted for the second consecutive quarter, meeting the technical definition of a recession.
    From a year earlier, the economy contracted 2.9%, the same as the preliminary drop.    The readings were the weakest since the global financial crisis in 2008/2009.
    Months of confrontation between police and protesters have plunged the financial and trading hub into its worst crisis since it reverted from British to Chinese rule in 1997.
    Tourists are cancelling bookings, retailers are reeling from a sharp drop in sales and the stock market is faltering, adding to pressure the city is feeling from China’s economic slowdown and the prolonged Sino-U.S. trade dispute.
(Reporting by Twinnie Siu, Donny Kwok, Anne Marie Roantree; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)

11/15/2019 Highway blockade reveals splits in Hong Kong protest movement by Jessie Pang and Kate Lamb
Hong Kong Justice Secretary Teresa Cheng falls after protesters surrounded her in London, Britain
November 14, 2019, in this still image from video obtained via social media. Chloe Leung via REUTERS
    HONG KONG (Reuters) – Hong Kong pro-democracy protesters partially unblocked a key highway on Friday and then blocked it again during the evening rush hour, exposing splits in a movement that has been largely leaderless in months of often violent unrest.
    Activists closed the Tolo highway this week, clashing with police and throwing debris and petrol bombs on the road linking the largely rural New Territories with the Kowloon peninsula to the south.
    They turned the Chinese University campus next door and several other universities into fortresses, stockpiled with petrol bombs and bows and arrows, amid some of the worst violence in the former British colony in decades.
    But many protesters left the Chinese University after some allowed the partial reopening of the highway on Friday, taking others by surprise.
I am disappointed about the decision to reopen the Tolo highway and it’s not our consensus,” one student who gave his name as Cheung, 18, told Reuters.
    “I was asleep when they had closed-door meetings.    I was worried and scared after I realized what had happened and most protesters had left.    I was worried the police might storm in again because so few people are left. Some protesters from the outside have gone too far.”
    Most protesters had left by late evening but the road remained closed.
    The Cross-Harbour Tunnel, outside the barricaded Polytechnic University where protesters have practised firing bows and arrows and throwing petrol bombs in a half-empty swimming pool, remained shut.
    Students and protesters have barricaded at least five campuses in the Chinese-ruled city.    Police have kept their distance from the campuses for more than two days, saying both sides should cool off, but many observers are afraid of what will happen if and when they move in.
    Activists also littered Nathan Road in the Kowloon district of Mong Kok, a frequent venue for protests, with bricks and set a street barricade on fire.
NO LONGER SAFE
    The week has seen a marked intensification of the violence.
    A 70-year-old street cleaner died on Thursday after being hit on the head by one of several bricks police said had been thrown by “masked rioters.”    On Monday, police blamed a “rioter” for dousing a man in petrol and setting him on fire.    The victim is in critical condition.
    On the same day, police shot a protester in the abdomen.    He was in stable condition.
    “We can no longer can say Hong Kong is a safe city,” Chief Secretary for Administration Matthew Cheung told a briefing.
    Protesters are angry at perceived Chinese meddling in the city since it returned to Beijing rule in 1997 under a “one country, two systems” formula guaranteeing its colonial-era freedoms. Their demands include full democracy and an independent investigation into perceived police brutality.
    China denies interfering and has blamed Western countries for stirring up trouble.    Police say they are acting with restraint in the face of potentially deadly attacks.
    China and Hong Kong both condemned an attack in London on Thursday by a “violent mob” on Hong Kong’s justice secretary, the first direct altercation between demonstrators and a government minister.
    Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng, who was in London to promote Hong Kong as a “dispute resolution and deal-making hub,” was targeted by a group of protesters who shouted “murderer” and “shameful.”
    The British police said a woman had been taken to hospital with an injury to her arm and that they were investigating but no arrests had been made.
    Hong Kong sank into recession for the first time in a decade in the third quarter, government data confirmed on Friday, with its economy shrinking by 3.2% from the previous quarter on a seasonally adjusted basis.
    Organizers of the annual Clockenflap music and arts festival, due to take place from Nov. 22-24, said it had been canceled because of the unrest.
    Video footage obtained by Reuters of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army garrison headquarters near Hong Kong’s Central business district showed more than a dozen troops conducting what appeared to be anti-riot drills against people pretending to be protesters carrying black umbrellas.
    The PLA has stayed in the barracks since 1997 but China has warned that any attempt at independence will be crushed.
(Reporting by Donny Kwok, Felix Tam, Twinnie Siu, Jessie Pang, Anne Marie Roantree and Marius Zaharia; Writing by Anne Marie Roantree and Nick Macfie; Editing by Robert Birsel and Philippa Fletcher)

11/15/2019 China buys U.S. soybeans, pork amid uncertainty about trade war settlement by Mark Weinraub
FILE PHOTO: Soybeans sit in a truck as they are loaded at the Ruff Brothers Grain
elevator in Leonore, Illinois, U.S., July 6, 2018. REUTERS/Daniel Acker
    CHICAGO (Reuters) – China continued to buy U.S. farm products in early November, even as uncertainty about a potential settlement to the trade war between the world’s two largest economies roiled the markets, U.S. government data showed on Friday.
    The U.S. Agriculture Department’s weekly report on export sales showed that Chinese buyers booked deals to purchase 760,527 tonnes of soybeans in the week ended Nov. 7. U.S. exporters also shipped out 693,527 tonnes of the oilseed China.
    China was the top buyer of U.S. soybeans during the week, accounting for 61 percent of the weekly total of 1.256 million tonnes.    The United States is typically the top exporter of soybeans to China during the fall, with supplies abundant as farmers harvest their crop.
    U.S.-China trade talks are set to continue with a telephone call on Friday as both sides seek to hammer out a phase one trade pact, U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said, adding that progress was being made on the agreement’s details.
    Since the start of the marketing year on Sept. 1, Chinese buyers have committed to buying 8.036 million tonnes of U.S. soybeans, including 129,000 tonnes in a deal the government announced on Thursday.    Of that total, 3.153 million tonnes have been shipped so far.
    At this time last year, 647,990 tonnes in soybean sales had been booked by Chinese buyers and 339,003 tonnes had been shipped.    Two years ago, before the trade war began, soybean export sales to China totaled 18.647 million tonnes, with 13.268 million tonnes shipped, by mid-November.
    Pork export sales to China totaled 5,549 tonnes during the week, the biggest in a month.    The USDA said that 10,933 tonnes of U.S. pork were shipped to China during the reporting period, in line with recent weeks.
    China has boosted its purchases of pork as an outbreak of the deadly African swine fever has devastated its hog herds in recent months, leading to an unprecedented shortage of meat in the country.
(Reporting by Mark Weinraub; editing by Jonathan Oatis)

11/16/2019 China’s PLA soldiers help clean up Hong Kong streets as protests rumble on by James Pomfret
Anti-government demonstrators rest in a sports hall during protests at the
Polytechnic University in Hong Kong, China, November 16, 2019. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi
    HONG KONG (Reuters) – China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) soldiers in shorts and t-shirts made a surprising appearance in some Hong Kong streets on Saturday, briefly helping residents clean up debris and barricades after anti-government protests blocked roads.
    The presence of PLA troops on the streets, even to help clean up roads near their base, could enrage protesters and stoke further controversy over the Chinese-ruled territory’s autonomous status.
    The former British colony has been rocked by more than five months of demonstrations, with pro-democracy protesters angry at perceived Communist Party meddling in a city guaranteed its freedoms when it returned to Chinese rule in 1997.
    Clashes between protesters and police have become increasingly violent, and China has warned that any attempt at independence for Hong Kong will be crushed, but the military have remained inside their base.
    By late afternoon, the soldiers had left the streets outside Baptist University, which neighbours their barracks in the leafy district of Kowloon Tong.
Chinese troops have appeared on local streets only once since the 1997 handover, to help with cleanup operations after a typhoon in late 2018.    It was not immediately clear how many were involved on Saturday.
    Hundreds of residents moved in to help clear barricaded roads near several universities that were occupied and fortified by protesters this week.
    In some cases the two sides clashed, before the dwindling number of anti-government protesters at the campuses retreated.
    Anti-China students and activists have barricaded at least five campuses in the last week, stockpiling petrol bombs, catapults, bows and arrows and other weapons.
    In October, Chinese soldiers issued a warning to Hong Kong protesters who shone lasers at their barracks in the city, in the first direct interaction between mainland military forces and protesters.
    In August, Beijing moved thousands of troops across the border into Hong Kong in an operation state news agency Xinhua described at the time as a routine “rotation.”
    Up to 12,000 troops are now believed to be based across Hong Kong – more than double the usual number garrison number, foreign envoys and security analysts estimate.
    China denies interfering in Hong Kong’s affairs and has blamed Western countries for stirring up trouble.    President Xi Jinping has repeatedly said he has confidence in the Hong Kong government restoring order.
    Police say they are acting with restraint in the face of potentially deadly attacks.
    Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule under a “one country, two systems” formula guaranteeing its colonial-era freedoms.    Protesters’ demands include full democracy and an independent investigation into perceived police brutality.
(Additional reporting by Greg Torode, Jessie Pang, Kate Lamb, Anne Marie Roantree.; Writing by Josh Smith; Editing by Kim Coghill)

11/16/2019 Trump asks Japan to hike payments for U.S. troops to $8 billion: Foreign Policy by Sam Nussey
FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump departs for campaign travel to Louisiana from the South Lawn
of the White House in Washington, U.S., November 14, 2019. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
    TOKYO (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump has asked Japan to quadruple annual payments for U.S. forces stationed there to around $8 billion, Foreign Policy reported, part of Washington’s efforts to press its allies to increase their defense spending.     The current agreement that covers the 54,000 U.S. troops stationed in Japan expires in March 2021.
    The demand was made to Japanese officials during a trip to the region in July by John Bolton, at that time Trump’s national security adviser, and Matt Pottinger, who was then the Asia director for the National Security Council, the U.S. global affairs magazine said, citing unidentified former U.S. officials.
    A Japanese foreign ministry spokesman said the report was incorrect and no U.S.-Japan negotiations on a new agreement have taken place.
    According to Kyodo news agency, Japanese officials told Bolton the increase is “unrealistic,” saying Japan already pays a greater share of stationing costs than other allies.
    A U.S. State Department spokesman said in an emailed statement: “The President has made clear that allies and partners should contribute more to their shared defense.”
    Negotiations to renew the agreement will start in the first half of next year, the spokesman said, adding that the U.S. commitment to Japan’s defense was “unwavering.”
    Japan hosts the U.S. Navy’s Seventh Fleet, including the only permanently forward deployed carrier strike group, as well as the Third Marine Expeditionary Force.
    In addition to defending Japan, those units use the archipelago as a base for operations in the wider Asia-Pacific region where U.S. military power acts as a counterbalance to China’s growing influence.
    Trump has also insisted Seoul shoulder more of the cost of the U.S. military presence in South Korea, where it serves as deterrence against North Korea, and has floated the idea of pulling U.S. troops from the peninsula.
(Reporting by Sam Nussey; Additional reporting by Tim Kelly; Editing by Jacqueline Wong and Edwina Gibbs)

11/16/2019 Hong Kong protesters unleash stash of petrol bombs; Chinese soldiers clear roads by Jessie Pang and Kate Lamb
Protesters clash with police at the Polytechnic University of Hong Kong
in Hong Kong, China November 16, 2019. REUTERS/Laurel Chor
    HONG KONG (Reuters) – Fires blazed on the doorstep of a Hong Kong university into the early hours of Sunday as protesters hurled petrol bombs and police fired volleys of tear gas in some of the most dramatic scenes in more than five months of escalating violence.
    Hours earlier, squads of Chinese soldiers dressed in shorts and T-shirts, some carrying red plastic buckets or brooms, emerged from their barracks to help clear debris that has blocked some key roads in the city for days.
    The presence of China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) soldiers on the streets, even to help clean up, could stoke further controversy over Hong Kong’s autonomous status at a time many fear Beijing is tightening its grip on the city.
    Hong Kong did not request assistance from the PLA and the military initiated the operation as a “voluntary community activity,” a spokesman for the city’s government said.
    The Asian financial hub has been rocked by months of demonstrations, with many people angry at perceived Communist Party meddling in the former British colony, which was guaranteed its freedoms when it returned to Chinese rule in 1997.
    Beijing denies interfering and has blamed the unrest on foreign influences.
    Huge fires lit up the night sky at Hong Kong Polytechnic University in Kowloon district as protesters hurled scores of petrol bombs, some by catapult, and police fired round after round of tear gas before pushing the protesters up onto the podium of the red-brick campus.
    It had the feel of a fortress, with barricades and black-clad protesters manning the ramparts with improvised weapons like bricks, crates of fire bombs, and bows and arrows at the ready.
    Clashes between protesters and police have become increasingly violent in the Chinese-ruled city, which is grappling with its biggest political crisis in decades.
    The demonstrations pose the gravest popular challenge to Chinese President Xi Jinping since he came to power in 2012.
    Xi has said he is confident the Hong Kong government can resolve the crisis and until Saturday Chinese troops in the city had remained inside their base during the protests. [nL3N26L1GC]
    Chinese state media repeatedly broadcast comments made on Thursday by President Xi, in which he denounced the unrest and said “stopping violence and controlling chaos while restoring order is currently Hong Kong’s most urgent task.”
    Efforts on Saturday to clear roads that have been blocked for days, causing massive disruption, followed some of the worst violence seen this year after a police operation against protesters at the Chinese University of Hong Kong on Tuesday.
    The authorities have since largely stayed away from at least five university campuses that had been barricaded by thousands of students and activists stockpiling makeshift weapons.
    Many protesters appeared to have left the campuses by late Saturday but Hong Kong’s Cross-Harbour Tunnel was still blocked by protesters occupying Polytechnic University.
    “We don’t want to attack the police, we just want to safeguard our campus,” said Chan, a 20-year-old Polytechnic student.    “We want citizens to join the mass strike and protect Hong Kong.”
    Earlier, hundreds of pro-China demonstrators gathered by the city’s legislature and police headquarters, waving Chinese and Hong Kong flags.
    Some held up posters reading “Police we stand with you,” while others chanted “Support the police.”    Pro-China protests have so far attracted much smaller numbers than those angry at Beijing.
RARE TROOP PRESENCE
    By late afternoon on Saturday, PLA soldiers had left the streets outside Baptist University beside their barracks in Kowloon Tong.
    Chinese troops have appeared on streets only once since the 1997 handover, to help clear up after a typhoon in 2018.    It was not clear how many were involved on Saturday.
    The PLA garrison in Hong Kong said that when residents began cleaning, some troops “helped clear the road in front of the garrison gate.”
    Demosisto, a pro-democracy organization, said Saturday’s clean-up operation could set a “grave precedent” if the city’s government invites the military to deal with internal problems.
    In August, Beijing moved thousands of troops across the border into Hong Kong in what state news agency Xinhua described as a routine rotation.
    Standing beside a black flag with the slogan “Liberate Hong Kong, Revolution of our Times,” James Wong, 23, was among protesters manning a bridge at Baptist University.
    “We didn’t want to confront the people and the PLA troops directly,” he told Reuters.    “We are not directly against the PLA, but rather the government.    But the PLA should not leave their base because this is Hong Kong territory.”
    Hundreds of residents moved in to help clear barricaded roads near several universities.
    Earlier clashes on Saturday saw at least one petrol bomb thrown before anti-government protesters at the campuses retreated.    No soldiers appeared to have been involved in the confrontations.
    “We just want our lives to continue,” said one resident who was helping clear streets near Hong Kong University.
    “There are many elderly who need to go to the hospital and children who need to go to school.    I am very sad to see what is happening in my community.”
(This story corrects dateline.)
(Additional reporting by Sarah Wu, James Pomfret, Greg Torode, Joyce Zhou, Kate Lamb, Jessie Pang, Tom Lasseter and Anne Marie Roantree; Writing by Josh Smith and Anne Marie Roantree; Editing by Angus MacSwan and Jan Harvey)

11/16/2019 Iran’s protests against gasoline price hike turn political: media by Parisa Hafezi
People protest against increased gas price, on a highway in Tehran, Iran
November 16, 2019. Nazanin Tabatabaee/WANA (West Asia News Agency) via REUTERS
    DUBAI (Reuters) – Riot police and security forces clashed with demonstrators in Tehran and dozens of cities across Iran on Saturday, Iranian news agencies and social media said, as protests against a rise in gasoline prices turned political.
    The reports said demonstrators chanted anti-government slogans around the country, a day after the government increased the price of regular gasoline to 15,000 rials ($0.13) a liter from 10,000 rials and rationed it.
    State television said police clashed with what it called rioters in some cities and fired teargas to disperse them.     One person was killed and several were wounded in the city of Sirjan in Kerman province on Friday, the ISNA news agency quoted a local official as saying on Saturday.
    “People attacked a fuel storage warehouse in Sirjan and tried to set fire to it,” the state news agency IRNA said.
    Iranian Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli told state TV that security forces “have so far shown restraint” but will act to restore calm if the demonstrators “damaged public properties
    Videos posted on social media from inside Iran showed protesters setting fire to buildings and clashing with riot police.    In other videos protesters blocked roads and set fires in the streets in Tehran and some other cities.    Some chanted slogans against top officials.
    The videos and other images on social media could not be verified by Reuters.
    “People are very angry here in Shiraz (city).    I heard gun shots. Hundreds of people are in the streets.    They burned a police car this morning,” a witness, who asked not to be named, told Reuters by telephone.
    Protests spread to least 40 cities and towns on Saturday, Iranian media said. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo supported the demonstrators, writing on Twitter, “As I said to the people of Iran almost a year and a half ago: The United States is with you.”
    Videos on social media showed riot police firing teargas and using clubs to disperse protesters in several cities.    A video shared on Twitter showed protesters setting fire to a bank.
    State-run TV accused “hostile media” of trying to exaggerate the size of demonstrations by “using fake news and videos on social media.”
    General Prosecutor Mohammad Jafar Montazeri told state TV that demonstrators who blocked roads and clashed with security forces “certainly have roots outside the country.”
FURTHER SQUEEZE ON LIVING COSTS
    Protesters were seeing slower internet speeds and limited access, social media reports said, an apparent effort by the authorities to limit communication between demonstrators.
    Many people in oil-producing Iran see cheap gasoline as a national right and the price hike sparked worries about a further squeeze on living costs, despite assurances from the Iranian authorities that the revenue raised would be used to help needy families.
    People’s struggle to make ends meet has worsened since last year, when the United States pulled out of Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with six powers and reimposed sanctions on the country.
    Combined with rising inflation, growing unemployment, a slump in the rial and state corruption, Washington’s policy of “maximum pressure” has further crippled the economy.
    Iran’s clerical rulers are anxious to prevent any repeat of unrest in late 2017, when people staged protests in 80 cities and towns over poor living standards, some calling on Shi’ite Muslim clerical leaders to step down.    Iranian officials said 22 people died in those protests.
    Lawmakers will debate the price hike decision on Sunday, Iranian media reported.    They said some were preparing a motion aimed at forcing a revision of the decision.
    Iranians mainly rely on cars or taxis for access around cities and towns.    The government said the cost of using taxis and public transport will not change, according to media reports.
    The gasoline price increase is expected to raise around $2.55 billion a year for additional subsidies for 18 million families, or about 60 million Iranians on lower incomes, the government said.
(Writing by Parisa Hafezi; Editing by Frances Kerry, Daniel Wallis and Grant McCool)

11/17/2019 Hong Kong campus protesters fire arrows as unrest spreads across Kowloon by Scott Murdoch and Kate Lamb
Protesters are sprayed by water cannon during clashes with police outside Hong Kong
Polytechnic University (PolyU) in Hong Kong, China November 17, 2019. REUTERS/Thomas Peter
    HONG KONG (Reuters) – Hong Kong protesters shot bows and arrows and hurled petrol bombs from a barricaded university on Sunday and police fired volleys of tear gas and blue liquid from water cannon as unrest spread across the Kowloon peninsula.
    Several protesters fired arrows from rooftops at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University amid some of the most dramatic scenes in over five months of anti-government demonstrations in the Chinese-ruled city.
    Police said a media liaison officer was hit in the leg by an arrow.    He was taken to hospital for treatment.    A metal ball bit another officer in the visor, but he was not wounded.
    Protesters sprayed with the blue liquid stripped down to their underwear and hosed one another down to wash it off, not knowing what it contained.
    Police also fired tear gas to try to break up protesters on the artery of Nathan Road in the central Kowloon district of Mong Kok, which is strewn with loose bricks, and to the south in Yau Ma Tei, where successive volleys of tear gas cleared the streets.    There were also clashes in East Kowloon.
    Huge fires had lit up the sky at the university in the heart of Kowloon district overnight as protesters hurled petrol bombs, some by catapult, and police fired volleys of tear gas to draw them on to the open podium of the red-brick campus.
    Later, protesters on campus called for “fire magicians” to make Molotov cocktails, and people came running to help.
    “Rioters continue to launch hard objects and petrol bombs with large catapults at police officers,” police said in a statement.    “The shooting range of such large catapults can reach up to 40 meters … Police warn that the violent activities in the Hong Kong Polytechnic University have escalated to rioting.”
    In the university courtyard, civil engineer Joris, 23, said those shooting arrows were protecting themselves.
    “The police violence has been over the top,” he told Reuters.    “The protesters have been reacting to the police.    We haven’t fought back as much as we could.    I would be prepared for jail.    We are fighting for Hong Kong.”
    The clashes spread into Sunday evening, with protesters greeting each water cannon charge with petrol bombs.
    The campus is the last of five universities to remain occupied, with activists using it as a base to block the Cross-Harbour tunnel.
    Police were trying to clear the bridge above the tunnel, where protesters took cover behind umbrellas and set fire to debris, in turn setting off a series of small explosions, forcing many to flee.    The fire brigade moved in after about half an hour to douse the flames.
    A police truck was forced to retreat in reverse after being hit by a petrol bomb.
    Reuters correspondents heard a high-pitched wailing coming from at least one police vehicle, suggesting a new tactic to try to clear the crowds.    Police confirmed use of a “Long Range Acoustic Device.”
    Chinese soldiers in a base close to the university were seen monitoring developments with binoculars, some dressed in riot gear with canisters on their chests.
CRATES OF BOMBS
    Chinese soldiers dressed in shorts and T-shirts, some carrying red plastic buckets or brooms, emerged from their barracks on Saturday in a rare public appearance to help residents clear debris blocking key roads.
    Parts of the Hong Kong Polytechnic University campus looked more like a fortress with barricades and black-clad protesters manning the ramparts with improvised weapons-like bricks, crates of fire bombs, and bows and arrows at the ready.
    “We are not afraid,” said a year-three student Ah Long, who chose not to disclose his full name.    “If we don’t persist, we will fail.    So why not (go) all in,” he said.
    The presence of China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) soldiers on the streets, even to help clean up, could stoke further controversy over Hong Kong’s autonomous status at a time many fear Beijing is tightening its grip on the city.
    The protesters are angry at perceived Communist Party meddling in the former British colony, which was guaranteed its freedoms when it returned to Chinese rule in 1997.
    Beijing denies interfering and has blamed the unrest on foreign influences.
    Clashes have become increasingly violent, posing the gravest popular challenge to Chinese President Xi Jinping since he came to power in 2012.
    Xi has said he is confident the Hong Kong government can resolve the crisis.    Chinese troops have appeared on Hong Kong’s streets only once since 1997, to help clear up after a typhoon last year.
(Additional reporting by James Pomfret, Jessie Pang, Joyce Zhou, Kate Lamb and Tom Lasseter; Writing by Greg Torode and Nick Macfie; Editing by Philippa Fletcher)

11/17/2019 Khamenei backs Iran gasoline price hike, blames enemies for ‘sabotage’
FILE PHOTO: Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei speaks live on television after casting his ballot
in the Iranian presidential election in Tehran June 12, 2009. REUTERS/Caren Firouz//File Photo
    DUBAI (Reuters) – Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Sunday backed gasoline price increases that have sparked protests across Iran, blaming opponents of the Islamic Republic and foreign enemies for “sabotage,” state television reported.
    “Some people are no doubt worried by this decision … but sabotage and arson is done by hooligans not our people.    The counter-revolution and Iran’s enemies have always supported sabotage and breaches of security and continue to do so,” Ayatollah Khamenei said, according to state TV.
    Riot police and security forces clashed with demonstrators on Saturday in Tehran and dozens of cities across the country, Iranian news agencies and social media said, a day after the government increased the price of gasoline.
    Officials said on Saturday that one person was killed in the southeastern city of Sirjan, while social media reports referred to several other deaths as protests turned political.
    Internet access in Iran was curbed after the protests at the order of a state security council, the semi-official news agency ISNA reported.
    “Unfortunately some problems were caused, a number of people lost their lives and some centers were destroyed,” Khamenei said.
    Khamenei said the increase in gasoline prices was based on expert opinion and should be implemented, but he called on officials to prevent hikes in prices of other goods.
    The price of regular gasoline was raised to 15,000 rials ($0.13) a liter from 10,000 rials and rationed. Additional purchases would cost 30,000 rials per liter.
U.S. CRITICISM
    Iran often accuses exiled opponents as well as the United States, Tehran’s arch-enemy Israel and its regional rival Saudi Arabia of trying to destabilize the Islamic Republic through online propaganda campaigns.
    U.S. State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus tweeted: “We condemn the attempted shutdown of the internet.    Let them speak!
    Internet blockage observatory NetBlocks said on Twitter late on Saturday: “#Iran is now in the midst of a near-total national internet shutdown; realtime network data show connectivity at 7% of ordinary levels after 12 hours of progressive network disconnections as public protests continue.”
    Iran’s Intelligence Ministry said protest leaders had been identified.
    “The main elements behind the disturbances of the past two days have been identified and appropriate action is being taken,” the semi-official Tasnim news agency quoted the ministry as saying in a statement.
    A local prosecutor said on Sunday that 40 people were arrested in the protests in the central city of Yazd, most of whom were not local residents, ISNA reported.
    Many shops in Tehran’s bazaar closed on Sunday, after “disruptions” by people from outside the trading center, ISNA reported, Businesses were expected to re-open after police reinforcements arrived, it said.
    Videos on social media showed riot police firing teargas and using clubs on Saturday to disperse protesters in several cities.    A video on Twitter showed protesters torching a bank.
    Videos posted on social media from inside Iran on Saturday showed protesters setting fire to buildings and clashing with riot police.    In other videos protesters blocked roads and set fires in the streets in Tehran and some other cities. Some chanted slogans against top officials.
    The videos and other images on social media could not be verified by Reuters.
    Iran’s clerical rulers are anxious to prevent any repeat of unrest in late 2017, when people staged protests in 80 cities and towns over poor living standards, some calling on Shi’ite Muslim clerical leaders to step down.    Iranian officials said 22 people died in those protests.
    The gasoline price increase is expected to raise around $2.55 billion a year for additional subsidies for 18 million families, or about 60 million Iranians on lower incomes, the government said.
(Reporting by Dubai newsroom; Editing by Kim Coghill and Susan Fenton)

11/17/2019 Indian Muslims to pursue review of Hindu temple site ruling
FILE PHOTO: A general view of Ayodhya city, India, October 22, 2019. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui/File Photo
    MUMBAI (Reuters) – An Indian Muslim group said on Sunday it would file a petition in the Supreme Court asking for a review of a ruling that awarded a disputed site in Uttar Pradesh to Hindus, allowing them to build a temple there.
    The All India Muslim Personal Law Board, an umbrella body of intellectuals and organizations, said it would seek a review of the judgment, which rejected Muslim claims over the land.
    India’s Supreme Court ruled on Nov. 9 that a 2.77 acre (1.1 hectare) plot of land should be awarded to Hindus, who believe it is the birthplace of Lord Ram, a physical incarnation of the Hindu god Vishnu.
    “There are apparent errors in the Supreme Court judgment, and we felt that it would be prudent to file a review petition,” Syed Qasim Ilyas, a member of the group, told a press briefing.
    The main Muslim litigant in the case, the Sunni Wakf Board, has declined to file a review, saying it respected the verdict.
    The site, where in 1528 a mosque was built by an associate of the Mughal emperor Babur, has been the center of a bitter dispute between India’s majority Hindus and Muslims, who make up about 14% of the population, since Indian independence.
In 1992, a Hindu mob razed the mosque to the ground, leading to riots in several parts of India.
(Reporting by Shilpa Jamkhandikar; Editing by Alexander Smith)

11/17/2019 China sails carrier group through Taiwan Strait as election campaign picks up pace by Ben Blanchard and Yimou Lee
FILE PHOTO: Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen visits an exhibition of Taiwanese products
in Port-au-Prince, Haiti July 13, 2019. REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares/File Photo
    TAIPEI (Reuters) – China has sailed a carrier group into the sensitive Taiwan Strait led by its first domestically build aircraft carrier as election campaigning kicked into high gear on the self-ruled island on Sunday.
    Taiwan’s foreign minister, Joseph Wu, said they would not be intimidated.
    Democratic Taiwan is claimed by China as a wayward province and is the Communist Party’s most sensitive and important territorial issue.    China has threatened to attack if Taiwan moves toward independence.
    Taiwan’s defense ministry announced the sailing in the strait just hours after President Tsai Ing-wen named as her running mate for 2020 elections a former premier who angered Beijing so badly last year with his support for Taiwan’s formal independence that a major Chinese paper called for his arrest.
    The Chinese carrier group had sailed in a southerly direction through the Taiwan Strait, trailed by U.S. and Japanese ships, Taiwan’s defense ministry said in its short statement without giving details on exactly when it happened.
    The island scrambled ships and aircraft to monitor the group and “ensure national security and safeguarding of regional peace and stability,” it added.
    China’s Defence Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
    The still-unnamed carrier was launched last year, but Chinese military experts have told state media it is not expected to enter service until 2020, once it has been fully kitted out and armed.
    A Japan Self Defence Forces spokesman said he had no information about the movement of the Chinese carrier or any Japanese ships nearby.
    Speaking earlier in the day in Bangkok, U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper slammed China’s behavior broadly during defense talks with his Japanese and South Korean counterparts.
    “Beijing is increasingly resorting to coercion and intimidation to advance its strategic objectives, at the expense of other nations,” Esper said, without mentioning the Chinese carrier passage.
NO TO CHINA
    Taiwan’s Wu said China was intending to intervene in their elections, just as Tsai had named her running mate and “the campaign shifts into high gear
    “Voters won’t be intimidated!    They’ll say NO to China at the ballot box,” he tweeted.
    Tsai had begun the day by announcing her vice-president candidate, William Lai, premier until January when he stepped down to take responsibility for a defeat in regional elections last November for the ruling Democratic Progressive Party.
    In April last year, while still premier, Lai told parliament he was a “Taiwan independence worker” and that his position was that Taiwan was a sovereign, independent country.
    China’s influential Global Times tabloid responded by saying China should issue an international arrest warrant for him to face prosecution under the country’s 2005 Anti-Secession Law.
    Accepting Tsai’s nomination, Lai made no mention of independence, but said the island had to stand up to pressure from an encroaching China and “show the way” for Chinese-ruled Hong Kong, which has seen months of anti-government protests.
    “In the face of a China which is closing in at every stage and warning signs from Hong Kong, what can the Democratic Progressive Party in next year’s critical election battle give the people of Taiwan?    Isn’t our most important mission to unite and defend Taiwan?” Lai said.
    “I have decided to accept President Tsai’s invitation, to be her deputy, to team up to fight the election, and at this darkest time to unite and defend Taiwan, to continue to show the ray of light of democracy, show the way for Hong Kong and illuminate the world.”
    Taiwan’s main opposition party, the China-friendly Kuomintang, said Tsai was seeking to gather “extremist” votes by trying to cosy up to “Taiwan independence forces” with her choice of Lai as running mate.
    China has stepped up its pressure on Taiwan ahead of the elections.    President Xi Jinping said in January that China reserves the right to use force to bring Taiwan under its control but will strive to achieve peaceful “reunification.”
    While the Democratic Progressive Party is pro-independence, Tsai has said she wants to maintain the status quo with China, though will defend Taiwan’s security and democracy.
(Reporting by Ben Blanchard and Yimou Lee; Additional reporting by Zhang Min in Beijing, Tim Kelly in Tokyo and Phil Stewart in Bangkok; Editing by Himani Sarkar)

11/17/2019 Hong Kong riot police fire tear gas near university campus
Protesters clash with police at the Polytechnic University of Hong Kong
in Hong Kong, China November 16, 2019. REUTERS/Laurel Chor
    HONG KONG (Reuters) – Hong Kong riot police fired volleys of tear gas at protesters emerging from a university campus on Sunday, according to a Reuters witness, as overnight violence restarted.
    Hours earlier, police tear gas forced hundreds of protesters, some lobbing petrol bombs, to retreat behind make-shift fortifications at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University in some of the most dramatic scenes since protests began more than five months ago.
(Reporting By Greg Torode and Scott Murdoch; Editing by Sam Holmes)

11/17/2019 Hong Kong police seal off university amid fears of crackdown by Josh Smith and Marius Zaharia
Police fires a water cannon during clashes with anti-government protesters, outside Hong Kong
Polytechnic University (PolyU) in Hong Kong, China, November 17, 2019. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha
    HONG KONG (Reuters) – Hong Kong police on Monday trapped hundreds of protesters inside a major university, sealing off roads in the area after almost two straight days of standoffs that have raised fears of a bloody showdown with both sides refusing to back down.
    Hundreds of defiant protesters inside Hong Kong’s Polytechnic University faced off against a police water cannon and armored vehicles in raging battles that lasted an entire day and into the night.
    A police officer was shot in the calf by an arrow as anti-government protesters, many of them students, responded to police with salvos of petrol bombs and bricks hurled by homemade catapults.
    Police threatened to fire live bullets if “rioters” did not stop using lethal weapons in the latest flare-up in anti-government protests that have convulsed the Chinese-ruled city for five months.
    Scores of protesters were injured, some with scalding burns from chemicals in the jets fired from the water cannon.
    The protesters at Polytechnic University had blocked one of Hong Kong’s major highways, the Cross Harbour Tunnel linking Hong Kong island to the Kowloon peninsula for much of the past week, with authorities desperate to restore the link yet encountering tenacious resistance from the trapped activists.
    Thousands of residents and protesters flocked to various districts around the university including Tsim Sha Tsui, Jordan and Yau Ma Tei, to try to penetrate the riot-police lines to rescue the trapped students.
    “If we can only hold on till dawn, more might come,” said one young activist in the university who was close to exhaustion.
    The violence in the Asian financial hub has posed the gravest popular challenge to Chinese President Xi Jinping since he came to power in 2012.    Xi has said he is confident Hong Kong’s government can resolve the crisis.
    In Monday’s statement, police warned people whom they described as rioters to stop using lethal weapons to attack officers and to halt other acts of violence, saying officers would respond with force and possibly live bullets if necessary.
    Demonstrators, angry at what they see as Chinese meddling in the former British colony that has had autonomous status since returning to Chinese rule in 1997, have said they are responding to excessive use of force by police.
    “The protesters have been reacting to the police,” said Joris, 23, a civil engineer who like others did not give his full name.    “We haven’t fought back as much as we could.    I would be prepared for jail.    We are fighting for Hong Kong.”
    Beijing denies interfering in Hong Kong’s affairs and has blamed foreign influences for the unrest.
‘TRAPPED HERE’
    Many others trapped on the sprawling red-brick campus close to the city’s harbor, said they would never surrender.
    “We’ve been trapped here, that’s why we need to fight until the end.    If we don’t fight, Hong Kong will be over,” said Ah Lung, a 19-year-old protester.
    Many protesters wore gas masks or tied handkerchiefs over their mouths and noses to protect themselves from clouds of tear gas.    Some stripped down to their underwear, after earlier dousings from water cannon that witnesses said contained an irritant.
    An armored police vehicle that was set ablaze by petrol bombs in Sunday’s violence was towed away early on Monday.     The specter of a bloodier standoff has caused some international concern.
    Former British Foreign Secretary Malcolm Rifkind said in a statement: “Hong Kong’s Chief Executive has the responsibility to do everything possible to prevent a massacre.    She must order the police to use restraint.”
    Several blocks from the university, black-clad protesters gathered in Nathan Road, another major thoroughfare, digging up pavement and using bricks to block roads.    The demonstrators shouted: “Liberate HK, revolution of our time.”
    Police had said on Sunday that police had fired a bullet, but did not give details about the latest use of live ammunition.    Police shot and critically wounded a protester on Nov. 11.
    Chinese soldiers in a base close to the university were seen on Sunday monitoring developments with binoculars, some dressed in riot gear.
    Chinese troops in shorts and T-shirts, some carrying red plastic buckets or brooms, emerged from their barracks on Saturday in a rare public appearance to help clean up debris.
    The presence on the streets of soldiers from China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA), even to clean up, risks stoking the controversy about Hong Kong’s status as an autonomous area.
    Chinese troops have appeared on Hong Kong’s streets only once since 1997, to help clear up after a typhoon last year.
(Reporting by Simon Gardner, Marius Zaharia, James Pomfret, Josh Smith, Jessie Pang, Joyce Zhou, Kate Lamb and Tom Lasseter; Writing by Nick Macfie; Editing by Edmund Blair and Peter Cooney)

11/17/2019 Hundreds of ISIS-K militants surrender to Afghan Government by OAN Newsroom
Image courtesy of Afghanistan’s Ministry of Defense.
    The Islamic State is suffering another major blow to its global operations after 241 ISIS fighters surrendered to Afghan security forces in the province of Nangarhar.    The group known as ISIS-K saw more than 600 if its members and their families surrender over the past few days.
    Afghan officials said the majority of detained militants come from Pakistan, a country that faced accusations of harboring Islamic terrorists for years.
    “In the name of ISIS, these foreigners came to our country — they committed gruesome acts, as you know,” Commander Nazar Ali Wahidi.    “They have executed tribal elders with bombs — they destroyed all houses in Shinwar.”
    However, this latest defeat of ISIS is hardly good news for the U.S. and the world.    Reports on the ground claimed ISIS militants decided to surrender due to mounting pressure by another terror group — the Taliban — which saw a major resurgence in Nangarhar over the past few months.
    Now that ISIS-K is severely decimated in that province, the Taliban may take over — which could increase their bargaining power in the ongoing peace talks with Kabul and Washington.
    “We want Taliban to feel comfortable living in Afghanistan, but we don’t want them to come and impose their views on us,” stated Afghanistan’s First Lady Rula Ghani.
FILE – This file frame grab from video posted online March 18, 2019, by the Aamaq News Agency,
a media arm of the Islamic State group, shows an IS fighter firing his weapon during clashes with
the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) fighters, in Baghouz, Syria. (Aamaq News Agency via AP, File)
    Afghan officials said the group has been emboldened by America’s push to reach a political solution to its 18 year war on terror in Afghanistan.    The surrender of ISIS-K in a remote eastern province would hardly help advance the stalling negotiations, but it may boost the morale of Afghan security forces in the face of looming U.S. withdrawal from the country.
    “Our president ordered the security forces to destroy all the terrorist groups,” said Wahidi.    “Today is the last day of ISIS in Nangarhar — some of them who are still fighting will surrender soon.”
    The captured ISIS-K militants said they joined the terror group due to poor living conditions and a perpetual tribal war tearing up the country.    Very few of them cited ideological motives or the appeal of radical Islam.    They said membership in ISIS would put food on their table and provide security — something the Afghan government has failed to do for almost two decades.
    “There’s still a lot of violence, and we’re sort of stuck at a level where we haven’t really managed to see momentum shift in favor of the government,” explained foreign policy official Michael O’Hanlon.    “In fact, momentum has gradually eked away from the government.”
    Talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government have stumbled upon disagreements over a proposed exchange in prisoners, who reportedly may return to the battlefield to restore the rule of terror in the country.
    Amid this complex stalemate, Afghanistan’s future remains uncertain.

11/17/2019 U.S., South Korea delay joint military drills by OAN Newsroom
U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper attends a joint press conference with South Korean Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo, after the
51st Security Consultative Meeting (SCM) at the Defense Ministry in Seoul Friday, Nov. 15, 2019. (Jung Yeon-je/Pool Photo via AP)
    The U.S. and South Korea are postponing joint military drills in what they say is an act of goodwill toward North Korea.    Defense Secretary Mark Esper made the announcement at a conference of Asian defense ministers in Bangkok on Sunday.
    Following Esper’s announcement, North Korea issued a statement saying it has no plans to negotiate its nuclear program until the U.S. withdraws its “hostile” policies against Pyongyang.
    Esper recently said he is prepared to adopt a new approach to U.S. military activity on the Korean peninsula.    Before departing for South Korea on Wednesday, he discussed ongoing diplomatic efforts to bring peace to North Korea.
    “I think we have to be open to all those things that empower and enable our diplomats to sit down with the North Koreans — alongside with our South Korean partners — and move the ball forward to a negotiated settlement of the issues that we put on the table,” stated Esper.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in, right, shakes hands with U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper, left, before a meeting
at the presidential Blue House in Seoul, South Korea, Friday, Nov. 15, 2019. (Lee Jin-wook/Yonhap via AP)
    The Defense Secretary went on to say the U.S. takes threats from North Korea very seriously, but at the same time wants to avoid overreacting and risk closing the door on diplomacy.
    This comes as both nations continue to seek an end to North Korea’s nuclear ambitions.    The rogue regime threatened to retaliate if the U.S. goes ahead with scheduled joint military drills with South Korea, which the U.S. wanted to avoid.

11/18/2019 China calls on U.S. to ‘stop flexing muscles’ in South China Sea by Phil Stewart
FILE PHOTO: China's Defense Minister General Wei Fenghe looks on during a meeting with Brazil's Defence Minister
Fernando Azevedo e Silva (not pictured) in Brasilia, Brazil September, 2018. REUTERS/Adriano Machado/File Photo
    BANGKOK (Reuters) – China on Monday called on the U.S. military to stop flexing its muscles in the South China Sea and to avoid adding “new uncertainties” over Taiwan, during high-level talks that underscored tension between the world’s two largest economies.
    The remarks by Chinese Defence Minister Wei Fenghe to U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper, recounted by a Chinese spokesman, came just two weeks after a top White House official denounced Chinese “intimidation” in the busy waterway.
    It also came a day after Esper publicly accused Beijing of “increasingly resorting to coercion and intimidation to advance its strategic objectives” in the region.
    During closed-door talks on the sidelines of a gathering of defence ministers in Bangkok, Wei urged Esper to “stop flexing muscles in the South China Sea and to not provoke and escalate tensions in the South China Sea,” the spokesman, Wu Qian, said.
    China claims almost all the energy-rich waters of the South China Sea, where it has established military outposts on artificial islands.    However, Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also have claims to parts of the sea.
    The United States accuses China of militarising the South China Sea and trying to intimidate Asian neighbours who might want to exploit its extensive oil and gas reserves.
    The U.S. Navy regularly vexes China by conducting what it calls “freedom of navigation” operations by ships close to some of the islands China occupies, asserting freedom of access to international waterways.
    Asked specifically what Wei sought for the United States to do differently, and whether that included halting such freedom of navigation operations, Wu said: “We (call on) the U.S. side to stop intervening in the South China Sea and stop military provocation in the South China Sea.”
    In a statement, Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said Esper, in his meeting with Wei, noted China’s “perpetual reluctance” to adhere to international norms.
    “Secretary Esper pointedly reiterated that the United States will fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows – and we will encourage and protect the rights of other sovereign nations to do the same,” Hoffman said.
CHINESE CARRIER TRANSIT
    Despite warm words exchanged in front of reporters, Wei and Esper also discussed thorny issues, including Chinese-ruled Hong Kong, which has seen months of anti-government protests.
    They also talked about democratic Taiwan, which is claimed by China as a wayward province and is the Communist Party’s most sensitive and important territorial issue.
    Fenghe underscored to Esper China’s position that it would “not tolerate any Taiwan independence incident,” Wu said, adding that it opposed any official or military contact with Taiwan.
    China has in the past threatened to attack if Taiwan, set to hold a presidential election next year, moves towards independence.
    “The Chinese side also requires the U.S. side to carefully handle the Taiwan related-issue and to not add new uncertainties to the Strait,” Wu said.
    The exchange came a day after news that China sailed a carrier group into the sensitive Taiwan Strait, led by its first domestically built aircraft carrier.
(Reporting by Phil Stewart; Editing by Gerry Doyle, Robert Birsel)

11/18/2019 Iran’s Guards warn protesters of ‘decisive’ action if unrest continues
FILE PHOTO: People stop their cars in a highway to show their protest for increased gas price
in Tehran, Iran November 16, 2019. Nazanin Tabatabaee/WANA (West Asia News Agency) via REUTERS
    DUBAI (Reuters) – Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guards warned anti-government protesters of “decisive” action if unrest over gasoline price hikes do not cease, state television reported on Monday.
    The warning appeared to hint at a looming crackdown on protests that flared nationwide in response to an official announcement on Friday of gasoline rationing and price hikes of at least 50 percent.
    “If necessary we will take decisive and revolutionary action against any continued moves to disturb the people’s peace and security,” the Guards said in a statement carried by state media.
(Writing by Parisa Hafezi; Editing by Mark Heinrich)
[THE IRANIAN PEOPLE ARE FINALLY OR HAVE ALREADY BEEN REALIZING THAT THE TRUMP SANCTIONS ON OIL ARE TO STOP THE MULLAHS FROM DEVELOPING NUCLEAR WEAPONS WHILE THEIR LEADERS ARE STARVING AND SUFFERING THEM TO PAY FOR MILITANTS TO ATTACK MIDEAST COUNTRIES AND THEY HAVE BEEN RIOTING FOR AWHILE BUT THEY WERE STIFLING THE NEWS OUTLETS ABOUT IT AS THIS IS THE FIRST VIEW OF THAT SITUATION THAT HAS MADE IT TO THE WORLD MEDIA.    I HOPE TO SEE AN UPRISING AND TAKEOVER OF THIS REGIME BY THE PEOPLE OF IRAN.].

11/18/2019 U.S., South Korea resume defense cost-sharing talks amid protests of ‘robbery’ by Joyce Lee
FILE PHOTO: U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper and South Korean Defence Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo hold a joint press conference after the
51st Security Consultative Meeting (SCM) at the Defence Ministry in Seoul on November 15, 2019. Jung Yeon-je/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo
    SEOUL (Reuters) – South Korean and U.S. officials resumed talks on Monday to narrow a $4 billion gap in how much they want Seoul to pay for the cost of hosting the American military amid public protests of “highway robbery” against sharply increased U.S. demands.
    U.S. President Donald Trump’s demand that Seoul take on a greater share of the cost of stationing 28,500 U.S. troops as deterrence against North Korea has tested South Korea’s confidence in the security alliance with Washington.
    Reports of Trump’s $5 billion demand earlier this month were greeted with shock in Seoul and on Monday, progressive groups protested at the negotiation venue against what they said was “highway robbery” by “greedy” Americans.
    South Korea’s negotiating team is led by a former top financial regulator with experience in tough bargaining at times of crisis for Asia’s fourth-largest economy, unprecedented in fronting a non-military expert in nearly 30 years of talks for the cost-sharing deals.
    James DeHart, the chief U.S. negotiator, said there was a lot of work to do but sounded a note of optimism as he arrived in South Korea on Sunday.
    “I’m very confident that we will reach an agreement that is mutually acceptable, that both sides can support, and that will ultimately strengthen our great alliance,” he told reporters.
    Monday’s meeting marked the third round of talks for him and the second for South Korea’s Jeong Eun-bo, who was named to the job after the first round in September.    He was previously vice chairman of the Financial Services Commission and a deputy finance minister.
    “His metier is budget, payment.    I think the (South Korean) government decided that was the expertise needed this time,” said a person who had worked with Jeong, declining to be identified because of the sensitivity of the ongoing talks.
    Jeong was involved in South Korea’s debt negotiations with international financial agencies during the 1998 Asian financial crisis, and currency swap deals during the 2008 global financial crisis, the person said.
    A South Korean lawmaker said earlier this month that U.S. officials had demanded up to $5 billion a year, more than five times the 1.04 trillion won ($896 million) Seoul agreed to pay this year.
    South Korea “is a wealthy country and could and should pay more,” U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said after his meeting with South Korea’s Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo last week.
    Trump has long railed against what he says are inadequate contributions from allies towards defense costs.    The United States is due to begin separate negotiations for new defense cost-sharing deals with Japan, Germany and NATO next year.
    Trump has floated the idea of pulling U.S. troops from the Korean peninsula, which remains in a technical state of war under a truce that suspended the 1950-53 Korean War.
    South Korea’s Defense Ministry denied reports on some South Korean YouTube channels that U.S. troops would be withdrawn or reduced.
    Esper “reaffirmed the commitment to maintain the current level of U.S. forces in Korea and to improve their combat readiness” last week, the Defense Ministry press office said on its Twitter feed.
(Reporting by Joyce Lee; Additional reporting by Ju-min Park; Editing by Jack Kim and Lincoln Feast.)

11/18/2019 U.S. condemns ‘unjustified use of force’ in Hong Kong: senior official
Police fire tear gas towards protesters at Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU)
in Hong Kong, China November 18, 2019. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States condemned the “unjustified use of force” in Hong Kong and called on Beijing to protect Hong Kong’s freedom, a senior official in President Donald Trump’s administration said Sunday, as protesters battled Hong Kong police who had trapped them inside a major university.
    “We condemn the unjustified use of force and urge all sides to refrain from violence and engage in constructive dialogue,” the senior U.S. official said.
    “As the President has said, the United States expects Beijing to honor its commitments under the Sino-British joint Declaration and to protect Hong Kong’s freedom, legal system and democratic way of life,” the official said.
    Hong Kong police sealed off the Polytechnic University and demonstrators rampaged through a tourist district, after almost two straight days of standoffs that have raised fears of a bloody showdown.
(Reporting by Susan Cornwell; Editing by Shri Navaratnam)

11/18/2019 Japan hosts first fully-fledged arms show looking for an edge in tech by Tim Kelly
A real-size mock of F-35 fighter jet is displayed at Japan International
Aerospace Exhibition in Tokyo, Japan November 28, 2018. REUTERS/Tim Kelly
    TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan’s first ever fully fledged arms show opened on Monday, creating a forum that Japan’s government hopes will help it tap technology it needs to counter threats posed by China and North Korean.
    Some 200 protesters gathered near the entrance of the convention centre near Tokyo, calling for the government-backed DSEI Japan exhibition to be shut down as they regarded it as an affront to the nation’s pacifist constitution.
    Worried by increased Chinese military activity in the East China Sea and North Korea’s ballistic missile advances,     Japan has increased defence spending over the past seven years to around $50 billion annually, purchasing advanced U.S. stealth fighters, missile defence interceptors and radar systems.
    “Technology is advancing quickly and our equipment can’t cope against things such as hypersonic warheads and drones,” Gen Nakatani, a former defense minister and senior ruling Liberal Democratic Party lawmaker told Reuters at the arms show.
    “Innovation is happening around the world and through an exchange of that Japan will be able to keep up,” he added.
    China spends more than three times as much as Japan on defence, while recent North Korean advances threaten to make Japan’s new missile defences obsolete before they are deployed.
    Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government in 2014 abolished a decades-long ban on foreign military exports in a bid to cut procurement costs by allowing Japanese companies such as Mitsubishi Heavy Industries <7011.T> to widen their production base.
    Yet in the more than five years since that ban ended Japan has largely failed to make inroads overseas, hobbled both by a lack of experience and concern that the reputational risk of selling arms could hurt other more profitable businesses.
    There is still abiding foreign interest in tapping Japanese technology for military use, with companies such as Lockheed Martin Corp , Raytheon Co and BAE Systems PLC all looking for new partnerships in Japan.     “There is a great deal of interest internationally in seeing what Japan has to offer the world,” said Alex Soar, International Development Director at Clarion Events which organized the show covering land, air and naval equipment.
    Abe’s government faces opposition at home to policies that some Japanese people fear could erode the pacifist constitution and herald a return to the militarism that devastated the country in World War Two.
    “Producing more weapons is not going to make us safer.    Japan has to rely on diplomacy,” said one of the protesters, who only gave her first name Takako.
(Reporting by Tim Kelly; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)

11/18/2019 U.S. to no longer waive sanctions on Iranian nuclear site, watching Iran’s protests: Pompeo
FILE PHOTO: U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks at an event in Berlin, Germany
November 8, 2019. REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke/File Photo
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Monday that the United States is terminating its sanctions waiver related to Iran’s Fordow nuclear plant, adding that it is closely monitoring protests in Iran and is deeply concerned by reports of several fatalities.
    “The right amount of uranium enrichment for the world’s largest state sponsor of terror is zero … There is no legitimate reason for Iran to resume enrichment at this previously clandestine site,” Pompeo said at a press briefing about the Fordow site, where the U.N. atomic watchdog says Iran has been enriching uranium.
    He added the waiver will be ended Dec. 15.
    Pompeo went on to say that Iran was making “another clear attempt at nuclear extortion” that would lead to further economic and political isolation from the world.
    Protests have spread across the Islamic Republic since Friday, with Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guards warning on Monday of taking action if unrest over gasoline price hikes does not cease.    At least 100 banks and dozens of buildings and cars have been torched, state media reported.
    “We condemn strongly any acts of violence committed by this regime against the Iranian people and are deeply concerned by reports of several fatalities,” Pompeo said.    “The Islamic Republic must cease violence against its own people and should immediately restore the ability of all Iranians to access a free and open Internet.    The world’s watching.”

(Reporting by Doina Chiacu, Matt Spetalnick and Humeyra Pamuk; Writing by Lisa Lambert; editing by Grant McCool)

11/18/2019 Hong Kong to stop enforcing mask by OAN Newsroom
Protesters hold British and American flags and a sign reading “Save Us” as they stand near Hong Kong Polytechnic University after
police gave protestors an ultimatum to leave the campus in Hong Kong, early Monday, Nov. 18, 2019. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)
    Hong Kong’s high court ruled its controversial mask ban is unconstitutional as violent protests continue to escalate.    The court made the ruling Monday, saying the rule infringed on citizen’s fundamental rights.
    This comes after the city implemented the ban last month, so protesters who broke the law could be easily identified.    City officials say they plan to abide by the new rules to the best of its ability.
    “The court had some opinion on this (anti-mask) law, so we as the department that enforce the law, as the right way forward, we are going to stop enforcing the anti-mask law until further development.    We will decide what we are going to do then.” — Li Kwai-Wah, Police Superintendent – Hong Kong
    The court said it’s not against a mask ban of any kind in its ruling, but also said the previous law was too strict to be enforced reasonably.    This comes amidst Hong Kong police cornering protesters at a university, while continuing to shrug off concerns from the international community.

Police in riot gear move through a cloud of smoke as they detain a protester at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University
in Hong Kong, Monday, Nov. 18, 2019. Hong Kong police fought off protesters with tear gas and batons Monday as they tried to
break through a police cordon that is trapping hundreds of them on a university campus. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

11/18/2019 Iran exceeds heavy water limit in latest nuclear deal breach: IAEA by Francois Murphy
FILE PHOTO: The Iranian flag flutters in front the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)
headquarters in Vienna, Austria March 4, 2019. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger/File Photo
    VIENNA (Reuters) – Iran has breached another limit in its nuclear deal with major powers by accumulating slightly more than 130 tonnes of heavy water, a substance used in a type of reactor it is developing, a U.N. nuclear watchdog report showed on Monday.
    The restriction is the latest Iran has exceeded in protest at the United States for withdrawing from the deal last year and imposing punishing economic sanctions on Tehran.
    Washington says its “maximum pressure” will force Iran to negotiate a broader deal that will also include its role in Middle Eastern conflicts.    Tehran says it will not negotiate until sanctions are lifted.
    As the deal is eroded, France, Britain and Germany are torn between trying to save it and responding to Iran’s breaches.
    Heavy water is not as sensitive as uranium, which Iran is enriching in a quantity and to a level of purity beyond limits set by the pact.    But the 2015 agreement says Iran should not have more heavy water than it needs, an amount the deal estimates to be 130 metric tonnes.
    The International Atomic Energy Agency said in a report to member states, obtained by Reuters, that it had been informed by Iran on Nov. 16 that “its stock of heavy water had exceeded 130 metric tonnes.”
    The IAEA said that on Nov. 17 the agency had “verified that the Heavy Water Production Plant (HWPP) was in operation and that Iran’s stock of heavy water was 131.5 metric tonnes.”
    After the Reuters report, the IAEA issued a statement confirming the findings.
    Heavy water is, among other things, used as a moderator to slow down reactions in the core of nuclear reactors like one Iran has been developing at Arak.
    Since that reactor could eventually have produced plutonium, which can also be used in atom bombs, the deal required Iran to remove its core and fill it with concrete.    The reactor is now being redesigned with a view to reducing the proliferation risk.
    Iran has breached the heavy water cap before.    It first exceeded the limit in 2016 https://www.reuters.com/article/us-iran-nuclear/iran-once-again-exceeds-a-nuclear-deal-limit-iaea-report-idUSKBN1342T1, soon after the deal went into force and well before the U.S. withdrawal in 2018.    Major powers then agreed Iran could store its excess heavy water outside the country while it sought a buyer.
    Since July, the IAEA has confirmed that Iran has surpassed the deal’s limits on its stock of enriched uranium and the purity to which it enriches uranium, as well as breaching its bans on enriching at sites other than its main plant at Natanz.    It is also using models of centrifuges for enrichment that were not approved for that purpose in the nuclear pact.
(Reporting by Francois Murphy; Editing by Catherine Evans and Edmund Blair)

11/18/2019 Leaked Chinese government documents show details of Xinjiang clampdown: NYT
FILE PHOTO: A security camera is placed in a renovated section of the Old City in
Kashgar, Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, China September 6, 2018. REUTERS/Thomas Peter
    BEIJING (Reuters) – A trove of leaked Chinese government documents reveals details of its clampdown on Uighurs and other Muslims in the country’s western Xinjiang region under President Xi Jinping, the New York Times reported.
    United Nations experts and activists say at least 1 million Uighurs and members of other largely Muslim minority groups have been detained in camps in Xinjiang in a crackdown that has drawn condemnation from the United States and other countries.
    The documents, which the newspaper on Saturday said were leaked by “a member of the Chinese political establishment,” show how Xi gave a series of internal speeches to officials during and after a 2014 visit to Xinjiang following a stabbing attack by Uighur militants at a train station that killed 31 people.
    The report said Xi called for an “all-out ‘struggle against terrorism, infiltration, and separatism’ using the ‘organs of dictatorship,’ and showing ‘absolutely no mercy’.”
    The documents show that the Chinese leadership’s fears were heightened by militant attacks in other countries and the U.S. drawdown of troops from Afghanistan.
    It was unclear how the documents, totalling 403 pages, were gathered and selected, the newspaper said.
    Beijing denies any mistreatment of the Uighurs or others in Xinjiang, saying it is providing vocational training to help stamp out Islamic extremism and separatism and teach new skills.
    China’s Foreign Ministry did not deny the authenticity of the documents, but said the New York Times report was “a clumsy patchwork of selective interpretation” that was “deaf and blind to the facts.”
    “The public in Xinjiang wholeheartedly endorsed China’s measures to maintain stability.    China will show no mercy to terrorists and will spare no measures in protecting people’s lives and safety,” said Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang.
    “The experience could be borrowed in other countries.”
    The state-run Global Times newspaper said in an editorial on Monday that the report “lacks morality” and accused some in the West of being “eager to see Xinjiang engulfed in extreme violence and chaos.”
    It said China had taken “decisive measures” in the region to ensure it did not become “another Republic of Chechnya.”
    The documents show how officials were given talking points to explain to returning university students that their family members had been taken away for training, and how the programme faced pushback from some local officials, the report said.
    They also show that the internment camps expanded quickly after Chen Quanguo was appointed in August 2016 as the party boss of the region, the report said.    Chen had taken a tough line to quell restiveness against Communist Party rule during his previous posting in Tibet.
(Reporting by Tony Munroe; Additional reporting by David Stanway in Shanghai and Cate Cadell in Beijing; Editing by Kim Coghill and Sam Holmes)

11/19/2019 Student protesters hold out as Hong Kong leader urges peaceful resolution by Marius Zaharia and Donny Kwok
A man carries his son outside the Hong Kong Polytechnic University campus as they wait for an
ambulance during protests in Hong Kong, China, November 19, 2019. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi
    HONG KONG (Reuters) – Hong Kong’s embattled leader Carrie Lam said on Tuesday she hoped a standoff between police and a hold-out group of anti-government protesters at a university could be resolved and she had told police to handle it humanely.
    About 100 defiant protesters remained in the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, which has been surrounded by police, after more than two days of clashes in which more than 200 people have been injured.
    Lam spoke shortly after the city’s new police chief urged the support of all citizens to end more than five months of unrest that was triggered by fears that China’s central government is stifling the city’s special autonomy and freedoms.
    In what many will see as an illustration of Beijing’s tightening grip, China’s legislature questioned the legality of a Monday Hong Kong court ruling that a ban on face masks worn by protesters was unlawful.
    The National People’s Congress (NPC) said Hong Kong courts had no power to rule on the constitutionality of city legislation, the official Xinhua news agency reported.
    Lam said her government was very much on the “reactive side” in dealing with the protests but she did not rule out more violence even as she urged peace.
    “If the protesters are coming out in a peaceful manner … then there is no situation when that sort of violence would happen,” she said.
    However, police would have to take “necessary action” if the situation changed, she said.    Lam said she had been shocked that campuses had been turned into “weapons factories.”
    On the sprawling Polytechnic campus in the Kowloon district, a sense of despair prevailed amid the shriek of fire alarms on Tuesday afternoon.
    “I feel I’m in trouble, I feel a little bit terrible,” said a 22-year-old who gave his name as Marcus.
    He and two friends sat in the campus canteen at a table piled with dirty dishes and plastic cups, debating their options.
    “We keep trying to think how to escape, but every time we pick a spot we see many police nearby,” Marcus said.
    “But if we give up, we’re finished.”
THWARTED SEWER ESCAPE
    The university is the last of five that protesters occupied to use as bases from which to disrupt the city, blocking the central cross-harbour tunnel and main roads and forcing the closure of businesses including shopping centers, in order, they said, to put the government under economic pressure.
    Lam said 600 protesters had left the Polytechnic campus, including 200 below the age of 18.
    Hundreds of them fled from the university or surrendered overnight amid running battles on nearby streets as police fired tear gas, water cannon and rubber bullets and protesters lobbed petrol bombs and bricks.
    At one stage, dozens of protesters staged a dramatic escape by shimmying down plastic hosing from a bridge and fleeing on waiting motorbikes as police fired projectiles.
    Later on Tuesday, about a dozen protesters tried to flee through the university’s sewerage system.    A Reuters witness who saw them lower themselves into a tunnel wearing gas masks and plastic sheets to cover their bodies.
    They were not able to escape and had to retreat back onto the campus.
‘COME HOME SAFELY’
    Many protesters say they fear more bloodshed in a standoff that has seen some of the most intense violence in what has become the worst crisis since Hong Kong’s return from British to Chinese rule in 1997.
    One woman said her son was inside the campus with his girlfriend and they would come out but for the fear of facing charges of rioting, which can carry a 10-year sentence.
    “I know the young people see there are many unrighteous things in society, they want to do something to change it,” said the woman, who gave her name as Chan, 50.
    “But as parents, we only have one wish.    We only want all of them to come home safely.”
    Protesters were initially angered by a now-withdrawn bill that could have sent people to mainland China for trial but their campaign has broadened into calls for full democracy and an end to what many see as meddling by Beijing in China’s freest city.
    China says it is committed to the “one country, two systems” formula granting Hong Kong autonomy and has accused foreign countries, including Britain and the United States, of inciting trouble.
    Dennis Kwok, a lawmaker with the pro-democracy Civic party, denounced the NPC statement on the court ruling as “shocking.”
    “This is not the time to burn down your own house or to destroy the rule of law in Hong Kong. Respect the courts in Hong Kong, respect our system – this is the essence of ‘one country two systems’,” he said.
    Hundreds of people, many office workers wearing masks, gathered in the business district on Tuesday afternoon.    Police hemmed them in and the protest was largely peaceful.
    Such “flash mob” protests in the heart of the city have happened on a daily basis over the past week, but the number of people demonstrating has fallen.
    However, the violence has worsened since last week, when police shot a protester, a man was set on fire and the financial district was filled with tear gas in the middle of the workday.
    The city’s Cross Harbour Tunnel linking Hong Kong island to Kowloon remained shut on Tuesday due to extensive damage, while some train services and many roads were closed.
    All schools were shut again.
    The unrest poses the gravest popular challenge to Chinese President Xi Jinping since he came to power in 2012.
(Reporting by Twinnie Siu, Donny Kwok, Clare Jim, Greg Torode, Sharon Tam, Jessie Pang, James Pomfret, Adnan Abidi, Nick Macfie and David Lague; Writing by Farah Master and Tony Munroe; Editing by Paul Tait and Robert Birsel)

11/19/2019 U.S. breaks off defense cost talks amid South Korea backlash over $5 billion demand by Joyce Lee and Sangmi Cha
James DeHart, U.S. Department of State’s a senior advisor for security negotiations and agreements bureau of political-military
affairs, speaks after a meeting with South Korean counterpart on the Special Measures Agreement (SMA) at the public affairs
section of the U.S. Embassy in Seoul, South Korea November 19, 2019. Lee Jin-man/Pool via REUTERS
    SEOUL (Reuters) – The United States on Tuesday broke off talks on increasing South Korea’s share of the cost of hosting a U.S. military contingent after the two sides failed to narrow differences in a row that has raised questions about the U.S. deployment.
    The breakdown in talks was a rare public disagreement in their 66-year alliance, with each side blaming the other for being unprepared to compromise on sharing the cost of keeping 28,500 U.S. troops in South Korea as a deterrent to North Korea.
    “It is true that there is a substantial difference between the U.S. side’s overall proposal and the principles we pursue,” South Korean negotiator Jeong Eun-bo told a news conference.
    “The talks could not proceed as planned as the U.S. side left first.”
    U.S. President Donald Trump has insisted that South Korea pay more for the U.S. troops – he has also suggested pulling them out altogether – testing an alliance that has for decades formed a buffer against North Korean aggression.
    The two Koreas remain in a technical state of war under a truce, not a peace treaty, that ended the 1950-53 Korean War.
    South Korean lawmakers have said the United States is seeking up to $5 billion a year, more than five times the 1.04 trillion won ($890.54 million) South Korea agreed to pay this year.
    Neither side has publicly confirmed the numbers, but Trump has said the U.S. military presence in and around South Korea was “$5 billion worth of protection.”
    Jeong said the United States had demanded a sharp increase in South Korea’s contribution, while South Korea was seeking a “mutually acceptable” sharing of the burden.
    Their meeting in Seoul ended early, after about an hour.
    U.S. negotiator James DeHart said the Americans broke off the talks to give the South Korean side “time to reconsider.”
    “Unfortunately, the proposals that were put forward by the Korean negotiating team were not responsive to our request for fair and equitable burden sharing,” DeHart said.
    “We look forward to resuming our negotiations when the Korean side is ready to work on the basis of partnership on the basis of mutual trust.”
‘WEALTHY COUNTRY’
    The dispute has stirred debate in South Korea about the U.S. presence with some activist groups calling for a big reduction or even a withdrawal of the force.
    A group of 47 South Korean members of parliament last week accused the United States of threatening to pull its troops out.
    “U.S. forces are here also for their own interests, as an outpost aimed at keeping China and Russia in check,” the group said.    “They can’t just pull out with a surprise tweet from Trump.”
    Jeong said the United States had not raised the issue of a reduction or withdrawal of its troops.
    Trump has long railed against what he says are inadequate contributions from allies towards defense costs.    The United States is due to begin separate negotiations for new defense cost-sharing deals with Japan, Germany and NATO next year.
    U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper, asked if he was willing to withdraw any forces if an agreement with South Korea was not reached, declined to say what the United States might do, noting the State Department was leading the negotiations.
    “South Korea is a wealthy country.    They can and should contribute more,” Esper said during a trip to the Philippines.
    Jeong declined to go into details of the negotiations but the Yonhap news agency reported the United States wanted South Korea to pay for more categories of expenses.
    In the past, South Korea has only paid for three categories, including the cost of South Korean workers hired by the U.S. military.
    The negotiations are taking place as U.S. efforts to reach an agreement with North Korea over its nuclear and missile programs appear stalled.
    Under South Korean law, the military cost-sharing deal must be approved by parliament.    Ruling party lawmakers said this week they would refuse to ratify an “excessive outcome.”
(Reporting by Joyce Lee and Sangmi Cha and Hyonhee Shin, Phil Stewart in Manila; Editing by Jack Kim, Robert Birsel)

11/19/2019 Iran says calm has been restored after fuel price hike unrest
FILE PHOTO: General view of the highway, after fuel price increased in Tehran, Iran
November 15, 2019. Nazanin Tabatabaee/WANA (West Asia News Agency) via REUTERS/File Photo
    DUBAI (Reuters) – Protests in Iran triggered by petrol price hikes last week have subsided, an Iranian judiciary spokesman said on Tuesday, a day after the elite Revolutionary Guards warned of “decisive” action if anti-government protests do not cease.
    Social media videos posted in defiance of an Internet block showed protests continued in several cities on Monday night, however, and a heavy presence of security forces in streets.    The images posted on social media could not be verified by Reuters.
    “Calm has been restored in the country,” Iran’s judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Esmaili told a news conference.
    Several people, including members of the security forces and police, have been killed in the protests that began on Friday after fuel price rises of at least 50 percent were announced, and around 1,000 “rioters” arrested, authorities said.
    Three members of the security forces were stabbed to death near Tehran, ISNA news agency reported late on Monday.
    Hundreds of young and working-class Iranians expressed their anger at squeezed living standards, state corruption and a deepening gap between rich and poor.    Social media footage showed protesters burning pictures of top officials and calling on clerical rulers to step down, as well as violent clashes between security forces and protesters.
    State TV said funerals will be held for security guards killed in the protests, adding that “thousands of Iranians have staged rallies in several cities to condemn the unrest.”

    A curb on Internet access imposed at the weekend was still in place, suggesting the clerical rulers are uneasy about possible further protests.
    Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Sunday blamed the turmoil on Iran’s foreign foes, including the United States, and denounced protesters as “thugs.”
    On Monday, the powerful Revolutionary Guards warned of “decisive” action if the protests continues, state media reported. The Guards and their affiliated Basij militia quelled unrest in late 2017 in which at least 22 people were killed.
    The United States, which quit an international nuclear deal with Iran last year and reimposed sanctions, has condemned Tehran for using “lethal force” and curbing the internet.
    Frustration has grown over a sharp currency devaluation and spikes in prices of bread, rice and other staples since Washington began to apply “maximum pressure” on Iran to make nuclear and security concessions.
    The government said the price rises were intended to raise around $2.55 billion a year for extra subsidies to 18 million families struggling on low incomes.
    State news agency IRNA said handouts to the poor, the most consistent supporters of the clerical establishment, had started on Tuesday.
(Writing by Parisa Hafezi; Editing by Catherine Evans)

11/19/2019 Taiwan president says China interfering in election ‘every day’
Supporters of Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen wait for her arrival to formally register her
candidacy for the election, in Taipei, Taiwan November 19, 2019. REUTERS/Ben Blanchard
    TAIPEI (Reuters) – China is interfering in Taiwan’s elections “every day” as it seeks to damage the island’s democracy, Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen said on Tuesday, after China sailed an aircraft carrier group near the self-ruled island on the weekend.
    The election campaign, which is also for Taiwan’s legislature, has kicked into high gear, and is being closely watched by Taiwan’s giant neighbour China, which claims Taiwan as sacred Chinese territory, to be brought under its control by force if needed.
    China on Sunday sailed an aircraft carrier group through the sensitive Taiwan Strait, the same day Tsai announced her running mate, former premier William Lai, who has angered Beijing with his pro-independence comments.    Taiwan denounced the carrier sailing as attempt to intimidate voters.
    China fears Tsai and her Democratic Progressive Party will push for Taiwan’s formal independence, a red line for Beijing which in 2005 enacted an “anti-secession law” that allows it to use force on Taiwan in extreme cases.
    Tsai, speaking after formally registering to run for re-election in the Jan. 11 vote, said the vote was happening at a crucial time, as     China’s pressure grows and against the backdrop of anti-government protests in Chinese-run Hong Kong.
    “Our Republic of China, Taiwan, is a country, a sovereign, independent country.    Our people have the right to choose their own president,” she told reporters, referring to Taiwan by its official name.
    Asked whether she supported Taiwan independence, Tsai said the island already had sovereignty.
    “We have sovereignty, we have a government, we have a democratic free system, we defend ourself, we have diplomatic relations.    This is the Republic of China, Taiwan, that I’m talking about,” she said.
    China’s attempts to involve itself in Taiwan’s election are “clear and easy to see” as they seek to damage the island’s democracy, Tsai added, when asked about the Chinese carrier group in the Taiwan Strait.
    “As a large country, internationally and regionally they have to have a responsibility to maintain regional peace and stability,” she said.
    Tsai declined direct comment on the Chinese carrier which she called an “individual case.”
    “China intervening in Taiwan’s election is happening, and it’s happening every day.”
    China described the carrier sailing as routine and not aimed at anyone in particular, dismissing Taiwan’s complaints.
    China’s President Xi Jinping said in January that China reserved the right to use force to bring Taiwan under its control but will strive to achieve peaceful “reunification.”
    Tsai is leading in the polls over her main opponent Han Kuo-yu of the China-friendly Kuomintang party.
(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Robert Birsel)

11/19/2019 Sermons with saline: Hong Kong pastor offers protesters aid, prayers
Pastor Alan Keung covers his face with a gas mask after riot police fired rounds of tear gas during
an anti-government protest in Hong Kong, China November 2, 2019. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon
    HONG KONG (Reuters) – Wearing cross and clerical collar, Hong Kong pastor Alan Keung says he brings God’s love to the masses in a different way these days, using saline to wash away tear gas fired at crowds of protesters on tumultuous streets, or helping injured police.
    Five months of anti-government demonstrations have pulled Hong Kong residents from all walks of life into the often-violent protests.    Keung is among other clergy offering care and prayer to all who need it.
(Click https://reut.rs/37glOiN to see a picture package of Keung.)
    Wearing a black helmet emblazoned with the word “Pastor” in English and Chinese, the 28-year-old is one of a group of volunteer medics helping people scrub from their faces the traces of gas, and bringing relief from its sting.
    “My mission is to bring God’s love to the crowd,” he said.    “To let them know that there’s a pastor who is willing to be together with all of them.”
    Amid volleys of tear gas, Keung ran up a pavement in the Chinese-ruled city, offering pedestrians and protesters squirts of saline solution from a large plastic bottle.
    “Sometimes we will even help injured police officers who need our assistance,” he said.    In July, his group surrounded police officers to shield them from angry passengers after an attack by white-shirted men at a train station.
    Protesters are angry about what they see as police brutality and meddling by Beijing in the freedoms guaranteed under the “one country, two systems” formula adopted when the former British colony returned to Chinese rule in 1997.
    Keung has been a pastor for seven years and his congregation of about 30 consists mostly of young people at his Christianity Mission, in a neighborhood in the northwest of the territory.
    Floppy hair swept across his forehead and round-framed glasses give Keung a boyish appearance, but he is resolute in offering support at the demonstrations, where he takes hold of protesters’ hands to say a short prayer.
    “I am not someone who merely stays in the church and talks about humanity, justice and morality, and ignores what’s going on at the frontline,” he said.
    “This is not what I want to do.    I want to show my companionship at the frontline and to be in the crowd when I’m needed.”
    Keung said he had woven into his preaching some lessons he learnt from the protests.
    “Don’t feel like you’re not part of this,” he told a recent church gathering, as uniformed children listened wide-eyed.    “Every one of you is the future of Hong Kong and the world. Every one of you is involved.”
(Writing by Karishma Singh; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

11/19/2019 At Hong Kong university, a daring escape but fears of bloodshed by James Pomfret and Jessie Pang
Police detain protesters attempting to leave the campus of Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU)
during clashes with police in Hong Kong, China November 18, 2019. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi
    HONG KONG (Reuters) – Dozens of Hong Kong protesters staged a dramatic escape from a university campus sealed off by police on Monday by shimmying down plastic hosing from a bridge and fleeing on waiting motorbikes as the police fired projectiles.
    Many more anti-government protesters remained trapped inside the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, and two prominent figures were allowed by police onto the campus late on Monday to mediate, a sign that there is a growing risk of bloodshed.
    “The situation is getting more and more dangerous,” Jasper Tsang, a pro-Beijing politician who is the former head of Hong Kong’s Legislative Council, told Reuters soon after he arrived at the campus.
    As he spoke, big explosions were heard and flames flared up at a distant part of the campus.    In streets nearby, protesters rained down petrol bombs, burning parked cars and the front of a Standard Chartered Bank branch.
    Polytechnic University in Hong Kong’s Kowloon district is at the center of a standoff in the past week that has seen the most intense violence in five months of anti-government demonstrations.
    Some of the protesters who escaped on Monday lowered themselves several meters from a bridge they had occupied on the campus to a flyover below.    They then sped off on the back of motorcycles that were already waiting or arrived quickly.
    A number of them appeared subsequently to have been arrested, a Reuters witness said.
    Other protesters, hurling petrol bombs, tried repeatedly to break into the campus but police fired tear gas and water cannon to push them back.
    The United States expressed concern about the situation but China’s ambassador to London accused Western countries of interfering.
FEARS OF BLOODSHED
    The size of demonstrations has dwindled in recent weeks, but clashes have worsened since early last week, when police shot a protester, a man was set on fire and the city’s financial district was filled with tear gas in the middle of the workday.
    The city’s hospital authority reported 116 injuries on Monday, including one female in serious condition.
    Earlier on Monday, police prevented dozens of people breaking out of the university through police lines.    Officers had been deployed “on the periphery” of the campus for a week, appealing to “rioters” to leave, police said.
    Tsang said there could be bloodshed if the police enter the campus by force and meet strong resistance, adding: “This is something that we want to avoid.”
    Tsang, who with legal scholar Eric Cheung was the first prominent mediator let onto the campus by police, said it was priority to ensure children trapped inside get out first.
    Early on Tuesday, about 20 students accompanied by Tsang left the campus voluntarily, broadcaster RTHK reported on its livestream.
    Witnesses estimated there were more than 300 people still on the campus as of late Monday.
CHALLENGE FOR PRESIDENT XI
    Demonstrators are angry at what they see as Chinese meddling in Hong Kong’s promised freedoms when the then British colony returned to Chinese rule in 1997.    They say they are responding to excessive use of force by police.
    China says it is committed to the “one country, two systems” formula granting Hong Kong autonomy.    The city’s police deny accusations of brutality and say they show restraint.
    The unrest poses the gravest popular challenge to Chinese President Xi Jinping since he came to power in 2012.
    In Washington, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told reporters the United States was “gravely concerned” about the unrest and violence and said the Hong Kong government bore primary responsibility for ensuring a return to calm.
    “Unrest and violence cannot be resolved by law enforcement efforts alone,” he said, calling for an independent investigation into protest-related incidents and for the ruling Chinese Communist Party to honor promises of freedom and liberties for the Hong Kong people.
    Earlier on Monday, China’s ambassador to London accused foreign countries including the United States and Britain of interfering in Chinese internal affairs through their reactions.
    “Some Western countries have publicly supported extreme violent offenders,” Ambassador Liu Xiaoming told a news conference at which he criticized Western reporting on Hong Kong as “misleading” and not giving enough prominence to violence perpetrated by the protesters.
(Reporting by Marius Zaharia, James Pomfret, Josh Smith, Jessie Pang, Joyce Zhou, Donny Kwok, Anne Marie Roantree, Twinnie Siu, Greg Torode, Kate Lamb, Farah Master, David Lague, Jennifer Hughes and Tom Lasseter in Hong Kong, Phil Stewart in Bangkok and Humeyra Pamuk and David Brunnstrom in Washington; Writing by Greg Torode and Tony Munroe; Editing by Stephen Coates, Robert Birsel and Timothy Heritage)

11/19/2019 U.S. to no longer waive sanctions on Iranian nuclear site by Daphne Psaledakis
FILE PHOTO: U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks at an event in
Berlin, Germany November 8, 2019. REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke/File Photo
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States said on Monday it will no longer waive sanctions related to Iran’s Fordow nuclear plant after Tehran resumed uranium enrichment at the underground site.
    “The right amount of uranium enrichment for the world’s largest state sponsor of terror is zero … There is no legitimate reason for Iran to resume enrichment at this previously clandestine site,” U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told reporters.
    The U.N. atomic watchdog and Iran itself said this month Tehran is again enriching uranium at the sensitive site, which Iran hid from U.N. non-proliferation inspectors until its exposure in 2009.
    While European countries have tried to salvage the 2015 nuclear nonproliferation agreement, Iran has increasingly distanced itself from the accord since the United States withdrew last year.
    The pact requires Iran to restrain its enrichment program in exchange for the removal of most international sanctions, and it called for Fordow to be converted into a nuclear, physics and technology center.
    Despite its withdrawal, the Trump administration has granted sanctions waivers that allowed foreign firms to do work in Iran that advanced non-proliferation. Those included Russia’s Rosatom at Fordow.
    Pompeo said the waivers will end on Dec. 15.    The State Department had said last month that it renewed waivers for 90 days.
    Republican Senators Ted Cruz, Lindsey Graham and Liz Cheney praised the decision and called on the Trump administration to also end the waiver for the Arak heavy water reactor, where Chinese state-owned China National Nuclear Corp has operated.
    “There is no justification for extending that waiver in light of recent confirmation that Iran is violating its heavy water obligations, let alone for letting Iran continue to build up its program – not at Fordow, and not at Arak,” the senators said in a statement.
    Kelsey Davenport, director of the Arms Control Association, said Monday’s decision could further jeopardize the nuclear accord, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
    “This step further risks collapsing the JCPOA because it removes a tangible benefit to Iran under the deal,” Davenport said.
Pompeo also called on Iran to end violence against protesters, as demonstrations have spread across the Islamic Republic since Friday.    Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guards warned on Monday of action if unrest over gasoline price hikes does not cease.    At least 100 banks and dozens of buildings and cars have been torched, state media reported.
    “We condemn strongly any acts of violence committed by this regime against the Iranian people and are deeply concerned by reports of several fatalities,” Pompeo said.
(Additional reporting by Doina Chiacu, Matt Spetalnick, Humeyra Pamuk; Editing by Grant McCool and Cynthia Osterman)

11/19/2019 South Korean proposals fail to fulfill requests from the U.S. by OAN Newsroom
South Korea’s chief negotiator Jeong Eun Bo answers a reporter’s question after a meeting with U.S. counterpart
James DeHart at Foreign Ministry in Seoul, South Korea, Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2019. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)
    The U.S. is postponing discussions with South Korea after teams from both sides failed to agree on costs for keeping U.S. military presence in the region.    On Tuesday, U.S. senior security adviser James DeHart abruptly ended negotiations over increasing Seoul’s financial contribution to the U.S. troops who are stationed there.    There are nearly 2,900 U.S. troops stationed in South Korea and President Trump has mentioned the cost of those troops is over $4 billion.    This is more than South Korea has currently agreed to pay. South Korean officials agreed there is a substantial difference from U.S. proposals and those of South Korea.    The U.S. has given no indication they will end their military presence in South Korea if requests are not met, however, they have indicated discussions may resume.
James DeHart, U.S. Department of State’s a senior advisor for security negotiations and agreements bureau of
political-military affairs, speaks after a meeting with South Korean counterpart on the Special Measures Agreement (SMA) at the
public affairs section of the U.S. Embassy in Seoul, South Korea, Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2019. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man, Pool)
    “The proposals that were put forward by the Korean negotiating team were not responsive to our requests,” said DeHart.    “I hope to put forward new proposals.”
    President Trump has long rallied against inadequate defense contributions from many international allies.    Meanwhile, the U.S. is scheduled to begin separate negotiations with Japan, Germany, and NATO next year.

11/19/2019 More than 100 protestors killed in Iran during unrest: Amnesty International
FILE PHOTO: General view of the highway, after fuel price increased in Tehran, Iran
November 15, 2019. Nazanin Tabatabaee/WANA (West Asia News Agency) via REUTERS/File Photo
    DUBAI (Reuters) – Amnesty International said on Tuesday that more than 100 protestors had been killed in 21 cities in Iran during unrest that broke out over a rise in fuel prices last week.
    Snipers have shot into crowds of protestors from rooftops and, in one case, from a helicopter, Amnesty said.
    The anti-government protests began on Friday after fuel price rises of at least 50 percent were announced.
    An Iranian official said they had subsided on Tuesday, a day after the Revolutionary Guards warned of “decisive” action if they did not cease.
    The London-based Amnesty International said that at least 106 protesters in 21 cities had been killed, according to credible reports from witnesses, verified videos and information from human rights activists.
    “The organization believes that the real death toll may be much higher, with some reports suggesting as many as 200 have been killed,” Amnesty said in a statement.
    The reports “reveal a harrowing pattern of unlawful killings by Iranian security forces, which have used excessive and lethal force to crush largely peaceful protests,” it said.
    Intelligence and security forces did not return the bodies to their families and forced others to bury bodies quickly without an independent autopsy, Amnesty said.
    Iran’s judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Esmaili told a news conference that calm had been restored.
    But social media videos posted in defiance of an internet block showed protests continued in several cities on Monday night and a heavy presence of security forces in streets.    The images posted on social media could not be verified by Reuters.
    About 1,000 demonstrators have been arrested, authorities said.
    Members of the security forces and police have also been killed in the protests.    Three were stabbed to death near Tehran, the semi-official ISNA news agency reported on Monday.
    Hundreds of young and working-class Iranians have expressed their anger at squeezed living standards, state corruption and a deepening gap between rich and poor.
    Social media footage has shown protesters burning pictures of senior officials and calling on clerical rulers to step down, as well as clashes between security forces and protesters.
    State television said funerals will be held for security guards killed in the protests, adding that thousands of Iranians had rallied in several cities to condemn the unrest.
    The U.N. human rights office said it had received reports that dozens of people had been killed.    It voiced concern about the security forces’ use of live ammunition and urged authorities to rein in its use of force to disperse protests.
    “It is clearly very significant, a very alarming situation and widespread across the country,” U.N. human rights spokesman Rupert Colville said in Geneva.
    Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Sunday blamed the turmoil on Iran’s foreign foes, including the United States, and denounced protesters as “thugs.”
    On Monday, the powerful Revolutionary Guards warned of “decisive” action if the protests went on. The Guards and their affiliated Basij militia quelled unrest in late 2017 in which at least 22 people were killed.
    Frustration has grown over a sharp currency devaluation and rises in prices of bread, rice and other staples since Washington began to apply pressure on Iran to make nuclear and security concessions.
    The government said the price rises were intended to raise around $2.55 billion a year for extra subsidies to 18 million families struggling on low incomes.
(Writing by Parisa Hafezi; Additional reporting by Stephanie Nebehay and Babak Dehghanpisheh in Geneva; Editing by Catherine Evans and Angus MacSwan)

11/19/2019 At least 106 protestors killed in Iran during unrest: Amnesty International
FILE PHOTO: Riot police tries to disperse people as they protest on a highway against increased gas price
in Tehran, Iran November 16, 2019. Nazanin Tabatabaee/WANA (West Asia News Agency) via REUTERS
    GENEVA (Reuters) – At least 106 protestors have been killed in 21 cities in Iran during unrest that broke out over fuel prices rises last week, Amnesty International said on Tuesday.
    “The organization believes that the real death toll may be much higher, with some reports suggesting as many as 200 have been killed,” Amnesty said in a statement.
(Reporting By Babak Dehghanpisheh; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

11/19/2019 U.S. aircraft carrier strike group sails through Strait of Hormuz by Idrees Ali
FILE PHOTO: F/A-18F aircrafts are seen on the deck of USS Abraham Lincoln in the Gulf of Oman near the
Strait of Hormuz July 15, 2019. Picture taken July 15, 2019. REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah/File Photo
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. aircraft carrier strike group Abraham Lincoln sailed through the vital Strait of Hormuz on Tuesday, U.S. officials told Reuters, amid simmering tensions between Iran and the United States.
    Tensions in the Gulf have risen since attacks on oil tankers this summer, including off the coast of the United Arab Emirates, and a major assault on energy facilities in Saudi Arabia.    Washington has blamed Iran, which has denied being behind the attacks on global energy infrastructure.
    The commander overseeing U.S. naval forces in the Middle East told Reuters in May that he would send an aircraft carrier through the Strait of Hormuz if needed.
    In a statement on Tuesday, the Navy said the Lincoln transited through the Strait into the Gulf.
    About a fifth of the world’s oil passes through the Strait of Hormuz.
    The United States has deployed thousands of additional military forces in the Middle East, including bombers and air defense personnel, to act as a deterrent against what Washington says is provocative Iranian behavior.
    The latest move comes as protests, sparked by gasoline price hikes, have spread across Iran since Friday, with demonstrators demanding that clerical leaders step down.
WAITING TO BUY FIGHTER JETS
    Also on Tuesday, the U.S. military released a report that said Iran is likely to buy fighter jets and battle tanks from Russia and China when a United Nations-imposed arms embargo on Tehran — under the 2015 nuclear deal with major powers — is lifted next year.
    While the U.N. arms embargo on Iran is supposed to be lifted in October 2020, five years after the nuclear deal took effect, it is questionable whether that will transpire given the recent unraveling of the accord.
    The report said that Iran was already in discussions with Russia, and China to a lesser extent, to buy military hardware.
    Earlier this month, President Hassan Rouhani said Iran would regain access to the international arms market later next year if it stuck to the 2015 nuclear deal and this would prove “a huge political success.”
    The nearly 120-page report by the Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency detailed Iranian military strategy and capabilities.
    According to the report, Iran will deploy increasing numbers of more accurate and lethal ballistic missiles in the future and field new land-attack cruise missiles.    And over the next decade, Iran’s military could consider taking part in multilateral peace-keeping missions and building permanent bases in allied countries, the report said.
(Reporting by Idrees Ali; Editing by Dan Grebler and Leslie Adler)

11/19/2019 Afghanistan’s president claims victory over Islamic State by Ahmad Sultan and Rafiq Sherzad
FILE PHOTO: Afghan presidential candidate Ashraf Ghani arrives to cast his vote in the presidential
election in Kabul, Afghanistan September 28, 2019. REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail
    JALALABAD, Afghanistan (Reuters) – Security forces have “obliterated” Islamic State (IS) militants in Afghanistan, President Ashraf Ghani said on Tuesday, hours after a prisoner swap with Taliban insurgents raised hopes of a lull in violence in the country.
    More than 600 fighters from IS, locally known as Daesh, have surrendered with their families to the Afghan government in past weeks.     Officials say air strikes by Afghan and coalition forces, lack of funds and low morale have forced the group to give up.
    “No one believed one year ago that we would stand up and today be saying we have obliterated Daesh,” Ghani told a gathering of elders and officials in Jalalabad, the main city of eastern Nangarhar province that saw a wave of suicide attacks in past years claimed by the jihadists.
    “Now that Daesh militants have surrendered, I ask authorities to treat their families humanely,” Ghani added.
    The government says among fighters in its custody are foreign nationals from Pakistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Iran, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and the Maldives.
    However, the Afghan Taliban, which has been battling IS and the government for control of the country, disputed that.
    Zabihullah Mujahid, the Taliban’s official spokesman, described Ghani’s announcement as “absurd.”
    “Kabul admin had 0% role in defeat of Daesh and the proud people of Nangarhar are witnesses,” he tweeted.
    The Taliban controls more territory than at any point since the U.S. invasion in 2001, including sections of Nangarhar province.
    Nangarhar, which shares a long and porous border with neighboring Pakistan, has long served as the main stronghold of IS, from where militants planned and staged bombings around the country, especially the capital Kabul.
    Their attacks, targeting foreign nationals and the minority Shi’ite community, have killed hundreds.
    Corroborating the government’s claims on defeating IS is difficult given the province’s remote and mountainous terrain, with diverse bands of fighters that often switch sides between militant groups and sometimes pro-government forces.
    Last month, Washington announced that IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi killed himself during a raid by elite U.S. special operations forces in Syria.
    The Taliban on Tuesday freed two Western professors in exchange for three of its senior leaders held by the government, in a rare act of cooperation between the warring sides.
(Reporting by Ahmad Sultan and Rafiq Sherzad in Jalalabad; Writing by Hamid Shalizi; Editing by Alasdair Pal and Andrew Cawthorne)

11/19/2019 ‘Fire magicians’ and medieval weaponry: a Hong Kong university under siege by Kate O’Donnell-Lamb, Jessie Pang and Tom Lasseter
FILE PHOTO: A protester looks at fire at Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) during an anti-government
protest in Hong Kong, China November 18, 2019. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha
    HONG KONG (Reuters) – For three days last week, anti-government protesters camped out at Hong Kong’s sprawling Polytechnic University prepared for what they feared might be a bloody, even deadly, battle with police.
    In the university’s heart, littered with smashed glass and covered in revolutionary graffiti spray-painted on the walls, the black-clad demonstrators in gas masks sawed metal poles into batons and practiced firing rocks from a makeshift catapult. Nearby, others ferried around crates of petrol bombs and wrapped arrows in cloth to set aflame.
    On Saturday, the battle began as police moved in to clear the campus and the protesters responded with barrages of rocks and petrol bombs, leaving parts of the university in flames.
    After more than five months of protests calling for greater democratic freedoms amid growing anxiety over Chinese influence in Hong Kong, the demonstrations have taken a sudden and dangerous turn, engulfing the city’s universities for the first time.
    On five campuses in the Chinese-ruled territory, students armed with medieval-type weaponry turned their universities into rebel fortresses, amid a growing sense by many that sustained peaceful protests were futile.    On the other side of the barricades and beyond the flames of burning debris were lines of riot police, armed with batons, tear gas and rubber bullets.
    Most of the universities were cleared of demonstrators by the weekend.    But the showdown between police and demonstrators at Polytechnic University was grinding on Tuesday, as officers maintained a siege around the campus, where about 100 protesters were still holed up.
    During the past week, Reuters journalists have covered the violent confrontations at four Hong Kong universities, including the Polytechnic, as an increasingly militant protest movement suddenly shifted tactics.
‘FIRE MAGICIANS’ AND CATAPULTS
    Toward the end of last week, as many as a thousand students occupied the Polytechnic campus.    But the numbers dwindled over the next two days, as protesters feared police would lay siege to the campus.
    The preparations, though, did not abate. In the cafeteria, tables were laden with supplies – mountains of bottled water, energy drinks, chocolate, torches, toothbrushes and power banks.    Outside, a team produced petrol bombs, while the university’s archery team gave impromptu lessons on how to draw a bow.
    Teams of “fire magicians,” tasked with lobbing petrol bombs at police on the frontlines, practiced by throwing empty bottles into the university’s drained swimming pool.
    The campus is located in a strategic spot next to the Cross Harbour Tunnel, a major artery linking the Kowloon peninsula to Hong Kong island that had been barricaded by protesters.    One aim of the Polytechnic occupation was keeping the tunnel shut, protesters said.
    Demonstrators who streamed into the university last week encountered what had become a small on-campus village. Hot food was served in the cafeteria, where signs were posted asking media not to take photographs so that weary young men and women could shed their masks to eat and chat.    Nearby, others napped on yoga mats spread across a basketball court.
    Among the protesters, there was also a growing sense of foreboding about the looming battle with police.
    “Once you come out, you know that anything can happen, especially when you are on the frontline, even real bullets,” said Chen, a 21-year-old student and one of the “fire magicians.”    Preparing for the worst, Chen, who only provided his surname, said he had recently penned a will.
    The campus occupations began on Nov. 11 after police shot an anti-government protester during a demonstration.
    Widespread street protests in Hong Kong escalated in June after an eruption of public anger over perceived encroachments on Hong Kong’s autonomy by the Chinese government.    The trigger was a bill introduced by Hong Kong’s government that would have allowed the extradition of suspects to the mainland for trial.
    The bill has since been withdrawn, but anger has only grown over the government’s perceived indifference to the demands of the protesters, which include an independent investigation into alleged police brutality and an amnesty for arrested protesters.
    Hong Kong’s leader, Carrie Lam, has said she would not be swayed by violence to yield to the demands of protesters.    On Tuesday, she said she hoped the university standoff would end soon and that she was shocked that campuses had transformed into “weapons factories.”
    In response to questions from Reuters, Lam’s office said: “The Chief Executive has made it clear on various occasions that violence is not a solution to any problem.”
    The Hong Kong Police Force did not respond to questions from Reuters.
CHANGED TACTICS
    Fears that police were preparing to enter universities and arrest students involved in protests sparked an online appeal to protect campuses, attracting an influx of young protesters.    Once on campus, they began preparing weapons and fire bombs, and blocking key adjacent roads that prevented people from getting to work in an effort to engineer a general strike.
    And they dug in.
    That marked a significant tactical shift for the protesters, whose motto has been “be like water,” a philosophy about being flexible that has underpinned the leaderless wildcat protests.    The protesters had utilized Hong Kong’s topography to their advantage, gathering on busy urban streets with plenty of escape routes, making it difficult for the police to arrest more than a few at a time.
    The Polytechnic occupiers set up barricades and walls of brick and cement of their own making.    But hunkering down meant they would be trapped on campus, with police standing by ready to make arrests on charges carrying heavy prison sentences: rioting, trespassing and theft of public property.
    Police began their siege of the Polytechnic on Saturday.    By Tuesday, they said that they had “arrested and registered” about 1,100 people in and around the university. Some people tried slipping out past the police cordons in dramatic fashion: through the sewers, or abseiling down a rope hanging from a bridge.
    But a hard core of about 100 remained, according to Reuters estimates.
AN APPETITE FOR VIOLENCE
    On Tuesday, Hong Kong’s new police chief, Chris Tang, called for support from all citizens to help end the unrest by condemning acts of violence.
    Many of the protesters interviewed at university campuses over the past week expressed a sense of futility, saying non-violent opposition was not proving effective.
    “We are not destroying things for nothing,” said Yip, a 21-year-old Polytechnic student, standing amid the protest debris on campus.    She only gave her surname.    “This is the only way we can fight for freedom.”
    Others said they were frustrated by the fact that nothing had happened after the “Umbrella Protest” of 2014, when protesters occupied city streets for 11 weeks.    The call for greater democracy had been followed by an erosion of freedoms in the city, they said.
    Most said their tactics were justified in the face of what they see as brutal force used by the police to quell the protests.
    “We are just doing this to protect ourselves,” said Chen, the “fire magician.”    “I don’t think we are using violence, we are just policing the police.”
    Lee, a 20-year-old nursing student, joined the protests in June, taking to the streets to peacefully demonstrate against the extradition bill.
    On Saturday afternoon, she sat on a terrace at the Polytechnic where young men and women hurled petrol bombs at the police on the street below.    Unlike the protesters around her, Lee’s face, under a pair of pigtails, was not covered – she’d taken off her mask to sip a juice box.
    Asked about the violence, she said of the police that, “they are not following the rules – every time we try to be peaceful, they create new problems.”
    “There has to be someone here to defend the things we deserve,” she said.
    Later that evening, four young men with metal-tipped arrows rushed out to the same spot, drew back the strings of their bows and sent the missiles hurtling into the darkness toward the police beyond the barricades.
TENSE WAIT AT POLYTECHNIC
    The campus occupation movement began at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, located beyond the mountains that loom over Kowloon in the New Territories.    On Nov. 11, hundreds of protesters there began constructing barricades on campus and blocked off a nearby highway with bricks and branches.
    After a standoff of several days, the police moved in, breaking up barricades and unleashing tear gas.    Protesters let loose a hail of petrol bombs, setting fire to a bridge that crossed the highway.
    From the Chinese University, the protests spread rapidly to other campuses, including Hong Kong Polytechnic.
    Over the course of last week, police managed to mostly clear protesters from the universities – except from the Polytechnic.
    For several days, protesters at the Polytechnic waited for the onslaught from police.    Then, on Saturday the police finally made a move, blocking streets and firing volleys of tear gas.    Next came water cannons that sprayed the university grounds with streams of blue dye that contains an irritant that makes the skin itch.    Protesters who’d been soaked stripped to their underwear as their comrades hosed them down.
    About 100 demonstrators wielding umbrellas and petrol bombs led a charge against the police lines, backed by the deployment of their makeshift weapons behind them, as local residents gathered on street corners to watch.
    One police officer was rushed to hospital after being shot in the leg with an arrow.
    On Sunday, as a government helicopter circled the campus, the police adopted a new strategy, sealing off surrounding roads to prevent protesters escaping. Officers warned they were ready to use live bullets if protesters used lethal weapons.
    Thirty-eight people were injured in the siege, amid barrages of tear gas, water cannons and petrol bombs. A police van and the university entrance were set ablaze.
    By Tuesday, there appeared to be only about 100 protesters left at the university.
    One of them, a man who gave his name as Sun, said he wasn’t planning to leave.    “There are people out there who have been beaten till their heads were bloodied, it’s not fair to them,” he said.    “Those who are staying here, we’ve got to hold out.”
(Reporting by Kate O’Donnell Lamb, Jessie Pang and Tom Lasseter in Hong Kong; additional reporting contributed by Sarah Wu. Editing by Philip McClellan)

11/19/2019 U.S. provides ways for Iranians to communicate during internet ban by OAN Newsroom
U.S. special representative on Iran Brian Hook appears on stage with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo as he speaks
at a news conference at the State Department in Washington, Monday, Nov. 18, 2019. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
    The U.S. is helping the people of Iran regain internet access amid the regime’s attempts at censorship.    On Monday, U.S. Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook said he has been working alongside private sector tech companies and using circumvention tools to get around the communication blackout.    The regime cut off access to the internet over the weekend in an effort to hinder further protests.
    “They have shut down the internet in Iran,” said Hook.    “At the same time the supreme leader, the president and the foreign minister continue to use social media and they use the internet to get out their message, but they don’t let the Iranian people get out the truth.”
The demonstrations were motivated by a rise in fuel prices and have resulted in at least 100 deaths and thousands of arrests.    Kook says the U.S. “work arounds” will allow some Iranians to connect to the internet to continue publishing videos of the protests.

11/20/2019 Iran’s Rouhani claims victory over unrest and blames foreigners
FILE PHOTO: Iranian President Hassan Rouhani speaks at a news conference on the sidelines of the United Nations
General Assembly in New York, U.S., September 26, 2019. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo
    DUBAI (Reuters) – Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Wednesday claimed victory over unrest he blamed on foreign enemies, according to state media, after protests over fuel price rises rocked the nation and left scores reported dead.
    “The Iranian people have again succeeded in an historic test and shown they will not let enemies benefit from the situation, even though they might have complaints about the country’s management,” Rouhani said in remarks carried by state broadcaster IRIB on its website.
    Thousands of Iranians joined pro-government rallies in several cities on Wednesday, state media said, after Amnesty International said more than 100 protesters died in the unrest.
    State television showed rallies in Rasht, Gorgan and Ardabil in the north, Hamadan in the west, and Shahryar, south of the capital Tehran, where a member of the security forces was also killed in the turmoil.
    “The spontaneous (pro-government) demonstrations which you see are the greatest sign of the power of the Iranian people,” Rouhani added.
    State media carried pictures of Ali Shamkhani, secretary of Iran’s top security body, marching in Shahryar behind a banner that read “Death to America and Israel’s deception!
    Iran has blamed “thugs” linked to exiles and foreign enemies – the United States, Israel and Saudi Arabia – for the protests.    The unrest began on Friday after gasoline prices were raised at least 50% and rationing imposed.    They quickly turned political.
    Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Tuesday the protests had been a security matter, not a popular movement, and had been dealt with successfully.
    Government spokesman Ali Rabiei said a plot to bomb Iran’s major gas production installations in Assalouyeh on the Gulf had been thwarted, blaming it on protesters, the semi-official news agency Mehr reported.
    Amnesty International said at least 106 protesters in 21 cities had been killed, according to witness reports, verified videos and information from human rights activists.    Iran’s mission to the United Nations called Amnesty’s report “baseless allegations and fabricated figures.”
    Iran has restricted access to the internet, making it nearly impossible for protesters to post social media videos of demonstrations.
    About 1,000 protesters have been arrested, officials said.
    The U.N. human rights office said it had received reports that dozens of people had been killed.    It urged authorities to rein in its use of force to disperse protests.
    Frustration has grown over a weakening currency and rising prices for bread, rice and other staples since the United States withdrew from Iran’s 2015 nuclear agreement and re-imposed sanctions.
    The government said the price rises were intended to raise around $2.55 billion a year for extra subsidies to 18 million families struggling on low incomes.
(Reporting by Dubai newsroom; Editing by Catherine Evans, Larry King and Andrew Cawthorne)

11/20/2019 Hong Kong students’ sewer escape thwarted as rows with UK, U.S. grow by Marius Zaharia and Jessie Pang
A protester is transported past barricades by medical personnel after leaving the campus of the besieged
Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) in Hong Kong, China, November 20, 2019. REUTERS/Thomas Peter
    HONG KONG (Reuters) – Some anti-government protesters trapped inside a Hong Kong university on Wednesday tried to flee through the sewers, where one student said she saw snakes, but fireman prevented further escape bids by blocking a metal manhole into the system.
    Reuters witnesses said fewer than 100 protesters remained inside the Polytechnic University, ring-fenced 24 hours a day by riot police and barricades, after more than 1,000 were arrested from late on Monday.
    Some surrendered while others were grabbed in escape attempts that included trying to clamber down ropes to waiting motorbikes.
    Some protesters, wearing waterproof boots and carrying torches, resurfaced inside the campus after unsuccessfully probing the sewers – where fast-rising water levels are also a hazard – for a way out during the night.
    Police said six people were arrested on Wednesday – four people removing a manhole cover outside the campus and two climbing out.
    Firefighters, whom the students let on to the campus, were in place to stop any further such attempts to flee, blocking the only feasible entrance into the sewer system in an underground car park on the campus.
    “The sewer was very smelly, with many cockroaches, many snakes. Every step was very, very painful,” said Bowie, 21, a student at Hong Kong University who was forced to turn back.
    “I’d never thought that one day I would need to hide in a sewer or escape through sewers to survive … The most unforgettable feeling is the fear when I was inside.”
    She said she and friends were in the dirty water for about an hour, only to find they were no closer to escape.
    “When we reached the end, we found we were still in the poly,” she said.
    Police searched for any escapees during the night with spotlights, without resorting to the tear gas and rubber bullets that marked clashes in recent days.
‘FAIR AND HUMANE’
    Police said nearly 800 people had left the campus peacefully by late on Tuesday and they would be investigated, including nearly 300 under the age of 18.     Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam has called for a humane end to a siege that saw the most intense clashes since the protests escalated more than five months ago.
    Police said they had no plans to storm the campus.
    “We are hopeful that this incident will come to a peaceful end in the near future,” university president Teng Jin-guang told reporters.
    Police tightened security in the streets around the university, making them safe enough for a late Tuesday visit by the force’s new commissioner, Chris Tang, at the end of his first day on the job.
    Tang is under pressure to restore police morale as well as public confidence in a force that has come in for widespread criticism for increasingly violent tactics.    Police deny accusations of using excessive force.
    Police have made more than 5,000 arrests in connection with the protests since June.
    The number of criminal damage cases reported between June and September was up 29.6% on the same period last year, Commerce Secretary Edward Yau said in a written statement.    Arson cases were up 57.4%.
    Tang earlier urged the support of all citizens to end the unrest triggered by fears that Beijing is stifling the former British colony’s freedoms and extensive autonomy guaranteed in its handover to Chinese rule in 1997.
    Chinese leaders say they are committed to Hong Kong’s “one country, two systems” formula for autonomy and have accused foreign countries, including Britain and the United States, of stirring up trouble.
    Ties between China and those two countries came under strain over Hong Kong on Wednesday.
    British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab condemned China’s treatment of Simon Cheng, a former employee of Britain’s Hong Kong consulate, who said secret police beat him seeking information about the protest movement.
‘TORTURE’ IN CHINA
    “We were shocked and appalled by the mistreatment he suffered while in Chinese detention, which amounts to torture,” Raab said, according to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
    A Chinese foreign ministry spokesman said Cheng had been detained for 15 days and had admitted fully to his offences.    All of his legal rights were safeguarded, the spokesman said.
    The U.S. Senate unanimously passed the “Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act.” which would require the secretary of state to certify at least once a year that Hong Kong retains enough autonomy to qualify for special U.S. trading consideration and would impose sanctions against officials responsible for rights violations.
    The bill must be reconciled with similar legislation approved by the House of Representatives.
    China summoned a representative of the U.S. embassy in Beijing over the legislation and demanded that the United States stop meddling, the foreign ministry said.
    The Hong Kong government expressed “deep regret” over the bill.
    The unrest marks the most serious popular challenge to Chinese President Xi Jinping since he came to power in 2012.
    Protesters on the campus still have vast stocks of petrol bombs, bows and arrows and other makeshift weapons after a weekend of fiery clashes.
    The university on the Kowloon peninsula is the last of five that protesters had occupied to use as bases from which to disrupt the city over the past 10 days, blocking the central Cross-Harbour Tunnel outside and other arteries.
    The Hong Kong Open golf tournament, scheduled for Nov. 28 to Dec. 1, has been postponed, the Asian Tour and European Tour said.
    Hong Kong-based employees at two units of Chinese brokerage Haitong Securities – Haitong Capital Investment and Haitong International – joined a clean-up of roads in a Kowloon district, two people with knowledge of the matter said.
Haitong Capital said employees who helped with the clean-up could go home afterwards.    The company offered rubber gloves, one said.
(Reporting by Marius Zaharia, Jessie Pang, Aleks Solum, Joseph Campbell, Twinnie Siu and Julioe Zhu; Writing by Tony Munroe and Nick Macfie; Editing by Robert Birsel)

11/20/2019 China tortured me over Hong Kong, says former British consulate employee by Guy Faulconbridge
FILE PHOTO: A demonstrator holds a poster of Simon Cheng, a staff member at the consulate who went missing
on August 9 after visiting the neighbouring mainland city of Shenzhen, as he and others shout slogans during a
protest outside the British Consulate-general office in Hong Kong, China, August 21, 2019. REUTERS/Willy Kurniawan/File Photo
    LONDON (Reuters) – A former employee of Britain’s consulate in Hong Kong said Chinese secret police beat him, deprived him of sleep and shackled him in an attempt to force him to give information about activists leading pro-democracy protests.
    Hong Kong, which was returned to China by Britain in 1997, has been convulsed by sometimes violent protests and mass demonstrations, the biggest political crisis for Beijing since the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989.
    Simon Cheng, a Hong Kong citizen who worked for the British government for almost two years, said he was tortured while detained for 15 days as he returned from a trip to mainland China in August.
    “I was hung (handcuffed and shackled) on a steep X-Cross doing a spread-eagled pose for hours after hours,” Cheng said in a post on Facebook.
    “Sometimes, they ordered me to do the ‘stress tests’, which includes extreme strength exercise such as ‘squat’ and ‘chair pose’ for countless hours.    They beat me every time I failed to do so using something like sharpened batons.”
    Britain said Cheng’s treatment amounted to torture and summoned China ambassador to express outrage.    China did not immediately comment on Cheng.    Reuters was unable to verify Cheng’s account.
    In an 8,000 word description of his experiences, Cheng relates a nightmare of repeated physical abuse, threats and questioning about Britain’s alleged meddling in the protests.
    At one point in the interrogation by secret police, he was given a bizarre lecture about astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus whose unpopularity in the 16th Century was used to justify the argument that China was not ready for democracy.
    Cheng was accused of being a British spy and questioned at length about protest leaders and their links to the London School of Economics.    Eventually, it was proposed, he should work for the Chinese “motherland.”
    “I was suspected of being a mastermind and British proxy to incite and organize the protests in Hong Kong,” Cheng said.
TORTURE IN CHINA
    Britain said Cheng had been treated disgracefully.
    “Simon Cheng was a valued member of our team. We were shocked and appalled by the mistreatment he suffered while in Chinese detention, which amounts to torture,” Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said.
    “I summoned the Chinese Ambassador to express our outrage at the brutal and disgraceful treatment of Simon in violation of China’s international obligations,” Raab said.
    Cheng, who said he supported the Hong Kong pro-democracy movement, said he would not seek judicial redress as he had no faith in the Chinese legal system.
    Hong Kong was handed over to China by the colony’s former ruler Britain in 1997 but enjoys a degree of autonomy under the so-called “one country, two systems” formula.
    China’s ambassador to London on Monday accused foreign countries including the United States and Britain of interfering in Chinese internal affairs through their reactions to the violent clashes taking place in Hong Kong.
    Ambassador Liu Xiaoming said Western countries were meddling in Hong Kong’s affairs.
    Cheng was forced to give a written confession for betraying the motherland, a statement of apology and a confession for “soliciting prostitution.”    He was instructed to sing the Chinese national anthem and recorded singing.
    He was told that if he spoke about his experiences he would be spirited out of Hong Kong back to mainland China.
    “I won’t give up the fight for human rights, peace, freedom and democracy for the rest of my life, no matter the danger, discrimination and retaliation I will face, and no matter how my reputation will be stained, and no matter whether my future would be blacklisted, labeled, and ruined,” Cheng said.
(Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge; Editing by Giles Elgood)

11/20/2019 Open homes, free rides: the people helping Hong Kong’s protesters by Sarah Wu
Ricky prepares a bed for anti-government protesters at his apartment in Hong Kong on November 1, 2019.
Picture taken November 1, 2019. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu To match Insight HONGKONG-PROTESTS/SHELTER
    HONG KONG (Reuters) – Mak’s children ran to her when they awoke to find a young man sleeping on an inflatable mattress in the middle of their toy room surrounded by a miniature play kitchen, blocks, trains, cars and drums.
    The legal professional had invited the man, a 21-year-old protester, to stay after he quit his job to devote more time to anti-government demonstrations in Hong Kong and then didn’t have enough money to pay rent.
    “There are people living in the same city who are in need and we can offer,” Mak told her 6-year-old daughter and 3-year-old son when they first asked about the stranger living in their home.
    “I’d been thinking about what I can contribute,” said Mak, who asked to be identified by her surname.    “I was aware of youngsters in the movement not having enough money or shelter or a place to take a rest.    This is the minimum we can do.”
    Mak is one of thousands of Hong Kongers who support activists away from the front lines.    They might be scared to participate themselves in largely unsanctioned, and increasingly violent protests, but they want to do their part for the movement.    The protests erupted in early June over a bill that would have allowed extraditions from Hong Kong to mainland China and that has since been scrapped.
    Reuters spoke to more than a dozen of them, all of whom wished to remain anonymous or share only snippets of personal details, wary of scrutiny by police who have arrested more than 5,000 protesters in more than five months of unrest.
    In this distinctly Hong Kong take on the sharing economy, one driven by altruism rather than profit, the support they offer ranges from shelter to car rides after rallies that often block roads and force railway stations to close – acting, in the process, as free twists on Airbnb and Uber.
    Their stories reveal the breadth of support for the movement, the toll the protests have taken on families and the community spirit kindled in the chaos.
CRAMPED APARTMENTS
    In a city with some of the most expensive property per square foot in the world, many Hong Kongers, like Katrina, live in tiny, crowded apartments.
    But the 34-year-old church worker, who shares a dining-cum-kitchen-cum-living room, a bedroom and a small office with her husband and tabby cat, has opened her doors to seven protesters since July.
    “It’s not a great environment, but if they really need shelter, it’s better than out on the streets,” said Katrina, holding out a blue sheet she uses to partition her living room when multiple protesters stay.    To make more room, she threw out six dining chairs and on one particularly fraught night played host to four demonstrators, she said.
    Katrina and Mak are among nearly 90 people offering their homes to young protesters on one Facebook group, and there are at least two dozen more groups with thousands of members on the messaging app Telegram offering legal assistance, mass-transit travel cards, food vouchers and protective gear to protesters.
    There is no definitive measure of how many Hong Kongers support the protest movement, which has morphed into opposition to perceived Chinese meddling with freedoms promised to the former British colony. China denies such meddling.
    But more than 80% of respondents to a telephone poll of 750 people by the Chinese University of Hong Kong last month said they supported the protesters’ demand for universal suffrage, up from 74% the previous month.
    A separate October poll showed that the city’s embattled leader, Carrie Lam, had the lowest popularity rating of any post-colonial Hong Kong leader.
    Lam has acknowledged widespread discontent with her government but condemned escalating violence that in recent days has seen protesters locked in battle with police at a besieged university.    Scores have been injured in the latest exchanges, amid barrages of tear gas, water cannons and petrol bombs.
    Katrina says she objects to violence but doesn’t ask her lodgers what they do at protests.
    She said the bigger question for the government is why protesters feel they must resort to violence.
    “Carrie Lam says she is a mum and she treats Hong Kong youth as her kids.    But you know why children do attention-seeking actions?” she said of Lam, who had no comment on how she was characterized.    “Because you ignore them.”
    Just under 60% of respondents to a Chinese University of Hong Kong poll last month said violent tactics are justified when the government fails to respond to large, peaceful protests.    Recent escalations – in which people have been beaten, knifed and even set on fire during protests – could affect this support but, for now, do not appear to have affected offers to help activists in online groups.
    “Because they actually support the demands and they are angry about the government’s responsiveness, it is hard for the public to condemn the protesters’ violence,” said Francis Lee, a journalism professor who conducted the poll.
DIVIDED FAMILIES
    Sun remembers the night her mother kicked her out after learning she had been at a protest earlier that day.    “I left without anything, not even my shoes,” said Sun, one of many young protesters who have left or been barred from their homes after disputes with their parents over their participation in the movement.
    “I felt hopeless.    I didn’t know what to do, except I knew I still needed to go to protests,” she said.    Months of protest have driven deep divisions in some families, with parents warning their children against taking part in the demonstrations, fearful that they will be arrested or ruin career prospects.
    Many young protesters say they now dread dinnertime, a cornerstone of family life in Hong Kong, because it usually degenerates into arguments over the demonstrations.
    Stress and trauma over the turmoil have created a mental health problem that medical and welfare services are not equipped to deal with.     Several suicides have been linked to the protests, and this summer Lam pointed to “fundamental deep-seated problems in Hong Kong society.”
    Nam, a 45-year-old worker at a teen outreach nonprofit, is in regular contact with more than 200 young, mainly working-class protesters whose parents have locked them out of their homes, cut allowances or refused to pay school fees.
    To raise awareness, Nam started sharing their stories on Facebook posts that quickly went viral.    She said she has since received more than 10,000 messages from people wishing to help.
    “Some of the kids think it’s all coming from me, but I say there’s a lot of people behind me.    They break into tears,” Nam said.    “It’s not just about the basic needs, but it’s also about the love and care from a stranger.”
GETAWAY DRIVERS
    Cheung, 27, works in a hostel in the Kowloon shopping district of Tsim Sha Tsui – an area repeatedly hit by protests.    The owner told staff to allow protesters to stay for free or store gear such as helmets, masks and shields to avoid detection from police, Cheung said.
    “I thought Hong Kongers were self-interested,” she said.    “Now I can see that we’re motivated by public interest.    There’s no me or you.    It’s for everyone.”
    Getting activists safely home from protest sites is the aim of many online chat groups that coordinate drivers from across class lines to ferry protesters in sleek luxury cars and rusty sedans alike.
    One such group, which they call Uber Ambulance and isn’t connected to the company, has more than 32,000 members and uses code in its requests: Protesters are commonly referred to as students, protests as school, cars as school buses, drivers as parents and protest gear as stationery.
    One post seeks “parents who can pick up students after school,” for example.
    Eric, 34, a chauffeur by day who drives protesters after work, told Reuters he feared going to the front lines but wanted to help.
    One evening, three teenage boys he was driving from a downtown protest to the New Territories area of Hong Kong started talking excitedly about girls, he recalled.
    But the banter stopped abruptly when they received a message that some of their peers had been arrested.
    “They’re evacuating from the protests, the police are at their back, but they have time to talk about girls,” Eric said.    “Of course, they’re teenagers."
    “Frankly, I’m very worried about the future.    But the one thing that’s for sure is that I will drive at every protest.”
(Reporting by Sarah Wu; Writing by John Geddie; Editing by Kari Howard)

11/20/2019 U.S. Senate passes HK rights bill backing protesters, angers Beijing by Richard Cowan and Patricia Zengerle
Protesters are seen after leaving the campus of the Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU),
in Hong Kong, China November 19, 2019. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Senate unanimously passed legislation on Tuesday aimed at protecting human rights in Hong Kong amid a crackdown on a pro-democracy protest movement, drawing condemnation from Beijing.
    Following the voice vote, the “Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act” will go to the House of Representatives, which approved its own version last month.    The two chambers will have to work out their differences before any legislation can be sent to President Donald Trump for his consideration.
    “The people of Hong Kong see what’s coming – they see the steady effort to erode the autonomy and their freedoms,” Republican Senator Marco Rubio said at the start of the brief Senate debate, accusing Beijing of being behind the “violence and repression” in the Asian financial hub.
    The Senate passed a second bill, also unanimously, that would ban the export of certain crowd-control munitions to Hong Kong police forces.    It bans the export of items such as tear gas, pepper spray, rubber bullets and stun guns.
    Under the first Senate bill, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo would have to certify at least once a year that Hong Kong retains enough autonomy to qualify for special U.S. trading consideration that bolsters its status as a world financial center.    It also would provide for sanctions against officials responsible for human rights violations in Hong Kong.
    There was no immediate response from the White House, which has yet to say whether Trump would approve the Hong Kong Human Rights bill.    A U.S. official said recently that no decision had been made, but the unanimous Senate vote could make a veto more difficult for the Republican president.
    The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said if the measure got to Trump’s desk there would probably be an intense debate between Trump aides worried it could undermine trade talks with China and those who believe it is time to take a stand against China on human rights and Hong Kong’s status.
    In Beijing on Wednesday, China condemned the passage of the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, and vowed strong counter-measures to safeguard its sovereignty and security.
    “This act neglects facts and truth, applies double standards and blatantly interferes in Hong Kong affairs and China’s other internal affairs,” foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said in a statement.
    “It is in serious violation of international law and basic norms governing international relations.    China condemns and firmly opposes it.”
    The United States must immediately stop interfering in Hong Kong affairs and China’s other internal affairs, or “the negative consequences will boomerang on itself,” Geng added.
    Pompeo said on Monday the United States was gravely concerned about Hong Kong’s deepening unrest and violence, urging the city’s government to tackle public concerns and China to honor the promises it made to maintain liberties after taking back the territory from British rule in 1997.
    Pompeo addressed the issue again on Tuesday before leaving the United States for a NATO meeting in Brussels.
    “We continue to urge everyone to do this peacefully,” he told reporters.    “There is a political resolution of this that is achievable, we hope that’ll be the path forward.”
    Demonstrators are angry at what they see as Chinese meddling in the freedoms promised to Hong Kong when Britain handed it back to China.
    Senate aides said they expected the legislation eventually would move forward as an amendment to a massive defense bill, the National Defense Authorization Act, expected to pass Congress later this year.
    Demonstrators in Hong Kong have been protesting in the streets amid increasing violence and fears that Beijing will ratchet up its response to stop the civil disobedience.
    Following passage of the bill, Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said, “We have sent a message to President Xi (Jinping): Your suppression of freedom, whether in Hong Kong, in northwest China or in anywhere else, will not stand."
    “You cannot be a great leader – and you cannot be a great country – when you oppose freedom, when you are so brutal to the people of Hong Kong, young and old, who are protesting.”
    Xinjiang, in northwest China, is home to many mostly Muslim Uighurs, large numbers of whom have been detained in what China says are vocational training centers, but which some U.S. officials have called “concentration camps.”
    This month the foreign ministry said China had lodged “stern representations” with the United States about the legislation and urged that it not be passed into law.
    China would “inevitably take vigorous measures to firmly respond, to staunchly safeguard our sovereignty, security and development interests,” the ministry added.
    Trump prompted questions about his commitment to protecting freedoms in Hong Kong when he referred in August to the mass street protests as “riots” that were a matter for China to deal with.
    Trump has since urged China to handle the issue humanely, warning that anything bad that happened in Hong Kong could hurt talks to end a trade war between the world’s two largest economies.
    In a post on Twitter on Wednesday, China’s embassy in the United States said, “The democracy and human rights held so dearly by the American people are once again abused by some American politicians to justify violence and disorder.”
    It added, “Do they want to side with the rioters?    SAD!
(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle and Richard Cowan; Additional reporting by David Brunnstrom, Daphne Psaledakis Matt Spetalnick and Humeyra Pamuk, and Ryan Woo and Se Young Lee in Beijing; Editing by Leslie Adler and Clarence Fernandez)

11/20/2019 U.S. to provide ship to Vietnam to boost South China Sea patrols by Phil Stewart and James Pearson
U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper reviews the guard of honour with Vietnam's
Defence Minister General Ngo Xuan Lich in Hanoi, Vietnam November 20, 2019. REUTERS/Kham
    HANOI (Reuters) – The United States announced on Wednesday it will provide Vietnam with another coast guard cutter for its growing fleet of ships, boosting Hanoi’s ability to patrol the South China Sea amid tensions with China.
    U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper disclosed the decision during an address in Vietnam, which has emerged as the most vocal opponent in Asia of China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea.
    In his speech, Esper took aim at China, which he accused of “bullying” neighbors, like Vietnam.
    “China’s unilateral efforts to assert illegitimate maritime claims threaten other nations’ access to vital natural resources, undermine the stability of regional energy markets, and increase the risk of conflict,” Esper told students at the Diplomatic Academy of Vietnam.
    The vessel will be Vietnam’s second cutter from the U.S. Coast Guard, which just two years ago transferred a Hamilton-class cutter to Vietnam.    By providing the ships, the U.S. hopes to enable Vietnam to assert its sovereignty and deter China.
    More than four decades after the Vietnam War ended, ties between the United States and Vietnam are increasingly focused on shared concerns over Chinese expansion.
    China claims 90% of the potentially energy-rich South China Sea, but Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also lay claim to parts of it, through which about $3 trillion of trade passes each year.
    Beijing in July sent a ship for a months-long seismic survey to an area internationally designated as Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) but also claimed by China.
    Vietnam said earlier this month it could explore legal action in the dispute, a move previously taken by the Philippines – where Esper visited earlier this week.
    In 2016, the Philippines won a ruling from the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague that invalidated China’s claim over most of the South China Sea.
    Speaking earlier at Vietnam’s defense ministry, Esper said the international rules-based order “has come under duress.”
    “Collectively, we must stand up against coercion and intimidation, protect the rights of all nations, big and small,” Esper said.
    The United States accuses China of militarizing the South China Sea and trying to intimidate Asian neighbors who might want to exploit its extensive oil and gas reserves.
    In April, the United States delivered six patrol boats worth $12 million to Vietnam’s Coast Guard.    Those vessels were in addition to another twelve “Metal Shark” patrol boats it provided to Vietnam in the last two years.
(Reporting by Phil Stewart; Editing by Andrew Heavens and Christian Schmollinger)

11/20/2019 China calls U.S. Senate act for Hong Kong protesters an interference by OAN Newsroom
A protester holds an American flag during a demonstration in the financial district in Hong Kong,
Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2019. Hong Kong schools reopened Wednesday after a six-day shutdown but students and commuters
faced transit disruptions as the last protesters remained holed up on a university campus. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)
    China has strongly condemned the U.S. Senate’s legislation supporting human rights for Hong Kong protesters.    In a statement Wednesday, Beijing’s foreign ministry stated China “resolutely opposes” the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act.    The Chinese ministry called it a blatant interference in China’s internal affairs.
    Beijing officials went on to stress that Hong Kong is under Chinese rule and that U.S. lawmakers have no right to “violate international law and the basic norms governing international relations.” Meanwhile, Chinese analysts have stated the legislation will worsen the chaos in Hong Kong.
    “The U.S. has been bolstering the violent rioters in the city. The bill will encourage the extremists and violent radicals to commit further acts plaguing Hong Kong, which is by no means conducive to resolving the Hong Kong issue.” — Jia Qingguo, dean – School of International Studies, Peking University
    The Senate unanimously passed the measure Tuesday in an effort to crack down on the violent tactics used by security forces against pro-democracy protesters.

Riot police pass as workers clear the road in front of the Polytechnic University in Hong Kong
on Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2019. A small group of protesters refused to leave Hong Kong Polytechnic University,
the remnants of hundreds who took over the campus for several days. They won’t leave because they would face arrest.
Police have set up a cordon around the area to prevent anyone from escaping. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)
RELATED: Global Shares Slide On U.S.-China Spat Over Hong Kong, Dollar Gains

11/20/2019 U.S. House passes Hong Kong human rights bills by Patricia Zengerle and Richard Cowan
A protester is escorted by medical staff out of the Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU)
in Hong Kong, China, November 20, 2019. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday passed two bills intended to support protesters in Hong Kong and send a warning to China about human rights, sending them to the White House for President Donald Trump to sign or veto amid delicate trade talks with Beijing.
    The House voted 417 to 1 for the “Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act,” which had passed the Senate unanimously on Tuesday. Strong support for the measure had been expected, as House members passed a similar bill last month.
    The legislation, which has angered Beijing, would require the State Department to certify at least once per year that the Chinese-ruled city retains enough autonomy to qualify for the special U.S. trading consideration that helped it become a world financial center.
    It also would provide for sanctions against officials responsible for human rights violations in Hong Kong.
    Demonstrators in Hong Kong have been protesting in the streets amid increasing violence and fears that Beijing will ratchet up its response to stop the civil disobedience.    The protesters are angry at what they see as Chinese meddling in the freedoms promised to Hong Kong when Britain handed it back to China.
    Republican Senator Marco Rubio was a main sponsor of the Senate-passed bill, which was co-sponsored by Republican Senator Jim Risch and Democratic Senators Bob Menendez and Ben Cardin.
    The House passed by 417 to 0 a second bill, which the Senate also approved unanimously on Tuesday, to ban the export of certain crowd-control munitions to Hong Kong police forces.    That measure bans the export of items such as tear gas, pepper spray, rubber bullets and stun guns.
    The White House declined to comment on whether the president intended to sign or veto the legislation.    But vetoes would be difficult to sustain given that the measures passed both the Republican-controlled Senate and Democratic-controlled House with almost no objections.
    A two-thirds majority would be required in both the Senate and House to override a veto.
    In Beijing on Wednesday, China condemned the legislation’s passage, and vowed strong countermeasures to safeguard its sovereignty and security.
    China’s Foreign Ministry said this month that China had lodged “stern representations” with the United States about the legislation and urged that it not be passed into law, saying it would not only harm Chinese interests and China-U.S. relations, but the United States’ own interests too.
    It said China would “inevitably take vigorous measures to firmly respond, to staunchly safeguard our sovereignty, security and development interests.”
    Trump prompted questions about his commitment to protecting freedoms in Hong Kong when he referred in August to its mass street protests as “riots” that were a matter for China to deal with.
    Trump has since called on China to handle the issue humanely, while warning that if anything bad happened in Hong Kong, it could be bad for talks to end a trade war between the world’s two largest economies.
(Reporting by Richard Cowan and Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Richard Chang and Jonathan Oatis)

11/20/2019 Trump considering withdrawing up to 4,000 U.S. troops from South Korea: report
U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a tour of Apple's Mac Pro manufacturing plant
in Austin, Texas, U.S., November 20, 2019. REUTERS/Tom Brenner
    SEOUL (Reuters) – The United States is considering withdrawing an armed forces brigade from South Korea if Seoul does not agree to a U.S. demand to contribute more to the cost of stationing troops in the country, a South Korean newspaper reported on Thursday.
    The United States broke off talks with South Korea on Tuesday after demanding Seoul raise its annual contribution for U.S. troop costs to $5 billion, over five times what it is currently paying, according to South Korean lawmakers.
    U.S. President Donald Trump has insisted that South Korea pay more – and has also suggested pulling the troops out altogether.
    “I understand that the U.S. is preparing to withdraw one brigade in case negotiations with South Korea do not go as well as President Trump wants,” a diplomatic source in Washington with knowledge of the negotiations was cited as saying by South Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo.
    There are about 28,500 U.S. troops in South Korea. A brigade is about 3,000-4,000 troops, Chosun said, and a potential reduction would be within the bounds of the National Defence Authorization Act for fiscal year 2019, passed by the U.S. Congress.
    None of the funds authorized by the act may be used to reduce the total number of U.S. military in South Korea below 22,000 unless the Secretary of Defense certifies the necessity to Congress committees.
    U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun said on Wednesday he believed the United States should continue to station troops in South Korea, when asked if he would continue to advocate for the presence of U.S. military personnel in the country if he is confirmed as Deputy Secretary of State.
    “South Korea is among our most important alliance partners.    That doesn’t mean anybody gets a free ride.    We have a tough burden-sharing negotiation that we’re in the middle of with the South Koreans,” Biegun said.
(Reporting by Joyce Lee; Additional reporting by David Brunnstrom and Daphne Psaledakis in Washington; Editing by Rosalba O’Brien)

11/21/2019 Protesters stay holed up on Hong Kong campus, surrounded by riot police by Donny Kwok and Clare Baldwin
Helmets of protesters are left behind in Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU)
in Hong Kong, China November 21, 2019. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi
    HONG KONG (Reuters) – Fewer than 100 protesters remained holed up in a Hong Kong university on Thursday as riot police encircled the campus, with some activists desperately searching for ways to escape while others hid.
    Some protesters told Reuters they were holding out not for a showdown with police, but because they were innocent and looking for an escape route.
    “I won’t consider surrendering. Surrendering is for people who are guilty.    None of us inside are guilty,” Michelle, a 20-year-old student, said on the campus of Polytechnic University on the Kowloon peninsula.
    Rubbish has piled up around the campus, with trash and debris from homemade petrol bombs strewn across the grounds.    Many protesters have abandoned their equipment, including gas masks and umbrellas.
    Much of the campus is damaged, with rooms vandalized and windows shattered.    Electricity and water are still functioning.
    The Asian financial hub has had a brief respite from months of often violent demonstrations, with relative calm across the city for the past two days and nights ahead of District Council elections set for Sunday.
    The government said late on Wednesday it was closely monitoring the situation to see whether the elections could be held safely.
    The university, in the center of the bustling Kowloon peninsula, is the last campus still occupied by activists during a week that saw the most intense violence since the anti-government demonstrations escalated more than five months ago.
    Demonstrators are angry at what they see as Chinese meddling in freedoms promised to Hong Kong when the British colony returned to Chinese rule in 1997.
    Beijing has said it is committed to the “one country, two systems” formula granting Hong Kong autonomy.
    The unrest marks the most serious popular challenge to Chinese President Xi Jinping since he came to power in 2012.
    Some protesters have surrendered while others were held during escape attempts that included clambering down from a bridge to waiting motorbikes and fleeing through the sewers.
TRAIL OF DAMAGE
    Graffiti sprayed on campus buildings read: “I have nothing to lose.    I have no stake in society,” summing up the mood felt by many of the protesters on Thursday morning.
    Some looked for breakfast in one of the university canteens, which remained stocked with food, including noodles and tomatoes.
    One protester, dressed in black clothes with gloves, elbow and knee pads, had about a dozen colorful lighters strapped to his chest, apparently to light petrol bombs.    He told Reuters the hold-outs were discussing what to do next.
    In the past two weeks, protesters have torched buildings and infrastructure, including a footbridge, mass transit stations and toll booths at the city’s Cross Harbor Tunnel linking Hong Kong island to the Kowloon peninsula.
    The protesters say that they are angry at the way the MTR, Hong Kong’s public rail network, has helped riot police, and that shutting down key infrastructure forces the government to listen to their demands for universal suffrage and an independent inquiry into police violence, among other things.
    The Cross Harbor Tunnel remained shut because of extensive damage, authorities said.
    Some train services remained shut, the city’s metro operator MTR Corp said, while the rural Yuen Long station in New Territories would shut by 2 p.m., to pre-empt demonstrations marking four months since suspected triad gang members attacked protesters and commuters there.
    As of the end of October, passenger volume on the metro system was down nearly 26 percent year on year, according to the latest MTR data.    Volume on the express train from the city’s airport plunged by more than 43 percent over the same period.
‘ERRONEOUS SIGNAL’
    China has accused the United States and Britain of stirring up trouble in Hong Kong and it has criticized the U.S. House of Representatives over its passing of two bills aimed at supporting the protesters and sending a warning to China about human rights.
    China resolutely opposed the bills and would never allow anyone to undermine the “one country two systems” principle, or to destroy Hong Kong’s prosperity and stability, senior Chinese diplomat Wang Yi said.
    China’s state Xinhua news agency said a top Chinese official in Hong Kong, Xie Feng, had summoned the U.S. consul-general to denounce the legislation as gross interference and a violation of international law.
    The Hong Kong government also expressed its strong opposition to the bills, which it says would harm Hong Kong’s relations with the United States.
    “The two acts will … also send an erroneous signal to the violent protesters, which would not be conducive to de-escalating the situation,” the city government said in a statement.
    The anger over the U.S. legislation, which has been sent to President Donald Trump, who is expected to sign the bills, comes as the two countries are locked in delicate trade talks.
(Reporting by Donny Kwok and Clare Baldwin; Writing by Farah Master and Josh Smith; Editing by Anne Marie Roantree, Robert Birsel)

11/21/2019 North Korea says ‘pointless’ for Kim to attend South Korea ASEAN summit by Hyonhee Shin
FILE PHOTO: South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un walk during a luncheon, in this photo
released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on September 21, 2018. KCNA via REUTERS/File Photo
    SEOUL (Reuters) – North Korea rejected an invitation for leader Kim Jong Un to attend a planned summit in South Korea next week with Southeast Asian nations, saying it would be “pointless” due to strained ties with Seoul, North Korean state media reported on Thursday.
    South Korean President Moon Jae-in sent a letter of invitation to Kim on Nov. 5, with an offer for an envoy to attend if he was unable to participate, the official KCNA news agency said.
    Moon has said Kim might join when he hosts leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in the South Korean port city of Busan next week to celebrate the 30th anniversary of their partnership.
    Moon’s office said it was “very regretful” Kim would miss the event, and the invitation was meant to rally international support for the two leaders’ joint efforts to foster peace.
    While thanking Seoul for the invitation, North Korea requested the South’s “understanding that we failed to find out the proper reason” for Kim to participate, KCNA said.
    The statement accused South Korea of failing to implement agreements from past summits between Kim and Moon by depending on the United States.
    “As nothing was achieved in implementing the agreements … the north-south summit for the mere form’s sake would be pointless,” KCNA said.
    “Not content with sustaining losses from dependence on the United States, the south side made an offer for discussing the north-south relations in the theatre of multi-lateral co-operation. This makes us only dubious.”
    The two Koreas undertook a flurry of diplomacy including three summits last year, during which Moon and Kim agreed to improve ties and restart stalled business initiatives.
    But there has been no significant progress amid tightening sanctions aimed at the North’s nuclear and missile programmes, and stalled denuclearisation talks after Kim’s failed second summit with U.S. President Donald Trump.
    Pyongyang has stepped up criticism against Seoul and Washington in recent months for their joint military drills and the South’s purchase of U.S. weapons designed to fend off North Korean threats.
    “North Korea now considers summits without payment for co-operation as empty diplomacy that merely helps Moon and Trump raise domestic political support,” said Leif-Eric Easley, who teaches international studies at Ewha Womans University in Seoul.
(Reporting by Hyonhee Shin; editing by Richard Pullin and Alex Richardson)

11/21/2019 Pentagon denies U.S. is considering pulling troops from South Korea
FILE PHOTO: U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper holds hands with South Korean Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo
before their meeting on November 15, 2019 in Seoul, South Korea. Kim Min-hee/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo
    OSAN AIR BASE, South Korea (Reuters) – The Pentagon on Thursday denied a South Korean news report saying that the United States was considering a significant cut to its troop numbers in South Korea if Seoul does not contribute more to the costs of the deployment.
    “There is absolutely no truth to the Chosun Ilbo report that the U.S. Department of Defense is currently considering removing any troops from the Korean Peninsula,” Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said in a statement, referring to Secretary Mark Esper, who earlier on Thursday had said he was unaware of any such planning.
    “Secretary Esper was in South Korea this past week where he repeatedly reiterated our ironclad commitment to (South Korea) and its people.    News stories such as this expose the dangerous and irresponsible flaws of single anonymous source reporting.    We are demanding the Chosun Ilbo immediately retract their story.”
(Reporting by Phil Stewart; Editing by Kim Coghill)

11/21/2019 U.N. nuclear watchdog calls on Iran to clear up origin of uranium traces
Elected Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Rafael Mariano Grossi waits for the start of
a board of governors meeting at the IAEA headquarters in Vienna, Austria November 21, 2019. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger
    VIENNA (Reuters) – The U.N. nuclear watchdog and Iran will discuss the discovery of uranium traces at an undeclared site in Tehran next week, the agency’s acting chief said on Thursday, adding that Iran had not provided any more information about the origin of the particles.
    Reuters first reported in September that the International Atomic Energy Agency found the uranium traces at the site that Israeli     Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu drew attention to in a speech last year, calling it a “secret atomic warehouse.”    Tehran has said the site is a carpet-cleaning facility.
    Having long declined to comment on the specifics, two weeks ago the IAEA confirmed to member states that environmental samples taken at the site had shown traces of natural uranium that was processed by human activity but had not been enriched.
    “We have continued our interactions with Iran since then, but have not received any additional information and the matter remains unresolved,” IAEA acting chief Cornel Feruta told a quarterly meeting of his agency’s 35-nation Board of Governors.     Feruta told Iran in September that “time is of the essence” in clearing up the origin of the traces.    The IAEA has found that the explanations given by Iran so far have not held water.
    “A meeting between the Agency and Iran is scheduled next week in Tehran to discuss it further,” Feruta said.    “It is essential that Iran works with the Agency to resolve this matter promptly.”
    The United States, which like Israel opposes Iran’s nuclear deal with major powers, has said the case “can only be seen as an indication of possible undeclared nuclear material in Iran.”
    The ambassador to the IAEA of Tehran’s ally Russia has described it as “aspects of nuclear activities in Iran about 20-30 years ago,” adding that the issue “doesn’t constitute any proliferation concern.”
    The United States’ intelligence agencies and the IAEA believe Iran had a nuclear weapons programme that it ended long ago.    The 2015 deal involved drawing a line under that past, though Tehran still denies ever having pursued nuclear weapons.
    Feruta, who took over as acting IAEA chief after the death in office of Director General Yukiya Amano, will be succeeded on Dec. 3 by Argentina’s Rafael Grossi, who was elected as head of the agency.
(Reporting by Francois Murphy, Editing by William Maclean)

11/21/2019 ‘Too scared to escape’: Isolated protesters hold out on trashed Hong Kong campus by Donny Kwok, Clare Baldwin and Alun John
Protesters sit outside a closed shop during an anti-government protest at Yoho Mall in
Yuen Long, Hong Kong, China November 21, 2019. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi
    HONG KONG (Reuters) – Inside the increasingly empty and trashed campus of a Hong Kong university only a handful of activists held out on Thursday as they desperately searched for ways to escape or hide while squads of police encircled the grounds.
    Hong Kong’s Polytechnic University is the last campus still occupied after a week that has seen the most intense violence since anti-government protests escalated more than five months ago.
    Demonstrators are angry at what they see as Chinese meddling in freedoms promised to Hong Kong when the former British colony returned to Chinese rule in 1997.    Beijing has said it is committed to the “one country, two systems” formula granting Hong Kong autonomy.
    For more than a week-and-a-half, hundreds of protesters had fortified Polytechnic University’s Kowloon peninsula campus and often fought fiery street battles with riot police.
    But now the number of protesters has dwindled to fewer than 100, turning the grounds that normally teem with 33,000 students and staff into an eerily empty compound scattered with debris and defaced with political slogans.
    “I am by myself, all my peers have left, but I am too scared to escape,” said Yan, a man in his 30s who said he had been helping in the canteen used by the protesters during the siege.
    Unshaven and shoeless, Yan said he was avoiding contact with the handful of others still on the campus because he feared running into undercover police.
    He had been hiding in a building for the past two days, and when he heard the sound of Reuters journalists approaching tried to take cover in a stationery cupboard.
    “I don’t dare to walk around, I don’t talk to people,” he told Reuters.    “I feel scared and helpless. I am stuck.”
    Another young protester clad in makeshift body armor was patrolling the grounds armed with an axe, saying he was on the lookout for a dozen undercover officers he suspected had infiltrated the campus. UNEASY CALM
    Hong Kong has had a brief respite from months of often violent demonstrations, with relative calm across the city for the past two days and nights ahead of a district council election set for Sunday.    The government says it is monitoring the situation to see whether the election can be held safely.     Police said they were committed to a peaceful solution and “flexible approach” to ending the university stand-off, and called on the remaining protesters to leave in an orderly manner, promising they would be guaranteed fair treatment.     Some protesters have surrendered while others were held during escape attempts that included clambering down from a bridge to waiting motorbikes and fleeing through the sewers. More than 1,000 have been arrested or registered by police.     Much of the campus is damaged, with rooms vandalized and windows shattered, though electricity and water are still functioning. In a library, most books were untouched but makeshift petrol bombs were left on desks.     Some protesters told Reuters they were holding out not for a showdown with police, but because they were innocent and looking for an escape route.
    “I won’t consider surrendering. Surrendering is for people who are guilty.    None of us inside are guilty,” said Michelle, a 20-year-old student.
    Graffiti sprayed on campus buildings read: “I have nothing to lose. I have no stake in society.”
    One protester, dressed in black with gloves, elbow and knee pads, had about a dozen colorful lighters strapped to his chest, apparently to light petrol bombs.    He told Reuters the hold-outs were discussing what to do next.
    In the past two weeks, protesters have torched buildings, a footbridge, mass transit stations and toll booths at the city’s Cross Harbour Tunnel linking Hong Kong island to Kowloon.
    The protesters say that they are angry at the way the MTR, Hong Kong’s public rail network, has helped riot police, and shutting down key infrastructure forces the government to listen to their demands for universal suffrage and an independent inquiry into police violence, among other things.
    The Cross Harbour Tunnel remained shut because of extensive damage, authorities said.
‘ERRONEOUS SIGNAL’
    China has accused the United States and Britain of stirring up trouble in Hong Kong and criticized the U.S. House of Representatives for passing two bills aimed at supporting the protesters and sending a warning to China about human rights.
    China opposed the bills and would never allow anyone to undermine the “one country, two systems” principle, or to destroy Hong Kong’s prosperity and stability, senior Chinese diplomat Wang Yi said.
    China’s state Xinhua news agency said a top Chinese official in Hong Kong, Xie Feng, had summoned the U.S. consul-general to denounce the legislation as gross interference and a violation of international law.
    The Hong Kong government said the bills would harm Hong Kong’s relations with the United States.
    “The two acts will … also send an erroneous signal to the violent protesters, which would not be conducive to de-escalating the situation,” the city government said.
    Anger over the U.S. legislation, which President Donald Trump is expected to sign, comes as the two countries are locked in delicate trade talks.
(Reporting by Donny Kwok, Clare Baldwin, Clare Jim, and Alun John; Additional reporting by Tom Lasseter; Writing by Farah Master and Josh Smith; Editing by Anne Marie Roantree, Robert Birsel, Giles Elgood and Alex Richardson)

11/21/2019 Iran begins reconnecting internet after shutdown over protests
FILE PHOTO: Riot police tries to disperse people as they protest on a highway against increased gas price
in Tehran, Iran November 16, 2019. Nazanin Tabatabaee/WANA (West Asia News Agency) via REUTERS
    DUBAI (Reuters) – Iran on Thursday began restoring internet access in the capital Tehran and a number of provinces, local news agencies and residents said, after a days-long nationwide shutdown meant to help stifle unrest over fuel price hikes.
    The Revolutionary Guards said calm had returned across Iran, state TV reported, after protests in which Amnesty International said over 100 demonstrators had been killed by security forces, a figure rejected as “speculative” by the government.
    “The internet is being gradually restored in the country,” the semi-official news agency Fars said, quoting unidentified informed sources.
    Fars quoted the sources as saying the National Security Council that had ordered the shutdown approved reactivating the internet in “some areas and, according to reports so far, fixed line internet has been restored in Hormozgan, Kermanshah, Arak, Mashhad, Qom, Tabriz, Hamadan and Bushehr provinces, and parts of Tehran.”
    “We again have internet as of an hour ago,” a retired engineer, who declined to be named, said by telephone from Tehran.
    The internet blockage made it difficult for protesters to post videos on social media to generate support and also to obtain reliable reports on the extent of the unrest.
    Internet blockage observatory NetBlocks said the restoration of connectivity in Iran was only partial so far, covering about 10% of the country.
    Local news agencies and residents said only fixed line internet, not mobile internet, was partially restored after the five-day shutdown.
    The unrest erupted on Nov. 15 after the government announced gasoline price hikes of at least 50%. Protests began in several provincial towns before spreading to some 100 cities and towns across the Islamic Republic.    They quickly turned political with protesters demanding top officials to step down.
    In Washington, the International Monetary Fund said it regretted the violence and loss of life during the protests and had not discussed the gasoline price hike with Iran.
    IMF spokeswoman Camilla Andersen added: “In general, the IMF continues to advise oil-producing countries in the Middle East and Central Asia region to reduce fuel subsidies … while compensating the poor with targeted cash transfers, which we understand is the approach Iran has taken.”
    On Thursday, state TV showed thousands marching in pro-government rallies in a dozen cities, carrying national flags and signs with slogans including “Rioting is not protesting.”
    Amnesty International said it had documented at least 106 protesters killed by security forces, which would make it the worst street unrest in Iran in at least a decade and possibly since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
    Iran’s U.N. mission on Wednesday dismissed the casualty report as “speculative, not reliable.”
    Iranian authorities said several people, including members of the security forces and policemen, were killed in street violence, which Tehran blamed on “foreign foes.”
(Writing by Parisa Hafezi; additional reporting by Dubai newsroom and Andrea Shalal in Washington; Editing by Mark Heinrich and Giles Elgood)

11/21/2019 President Trump lashes out at Iranian regime over internet shutdown by OAN Newsroom
Smoke rises during a protest after authorities raised gasoline prices, in the
central city of Isfahan, Iran, Saturday, Nov. 16, 2019. (AP Photo)
    President Trump is calling out the Iranian regime over its ongoing internet ban.    On Thursday, the president said the Iranian government is restricting citizens from using the internet, which bars them from broadcasting the violence in their country.
    The country’s government pulled the plug on the internet over the weekend due to protests in the region.    Iranian officials claimed the internet should be back on within the next two days.
    “Rest assured that as soon as the conditions are right, the disruptions will be removed and we will resume our previous status,” said Cyberspace Council Secretary Abolhassan Firouzabadi.
    Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is asking Iranian protesters to expose abuses of human rights by the Ayatollah regime.    In a Thursday tweet, Pompeo called on protesters to send over videos, photos and any other related information documenting the regime’s attempts to silence demonstrations.
    The secretary said the U.S. will slap sanctions on all regime official involved in the ongoing violence.    Pompeo pledged America’s full support for the Iranian people.
    Iran has not disclosed the number of people killed in the unrest, but human rights groups estimated at least 106 have died.    Protests continue despite the Ayatollah regime’s claims of victory over demonstrators.    Recent hikes in fuel prices and poor economic conditions prompted anti-clerical sentiments and violent clashes.

11/22/2019 U.S. warships sail in disputed South China Sea, angering China by Idrees Ali
FILE PHOTO: An aerial photo taken though a glass window of a Philippine military plane shows the alleged
on-going land reclamation by China on mischief reef in the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea,
west of Palawan, Philippines, May 11, 2015. REUTERS/Ritchie B. Tongo/Pool
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Navy warships twice sailed near islands claimed by China in the South China Sea in the past few days, the U.S. military told Reuters on Thursday, at a time of heightened tension between the world’s two largest economies.
    The busy waterway is one of a number of flashpoints in the U.S.-China relationship, which include a trade war, U.S. sanctions, Hong Kong and Taiwan.
    Earlier this week during high-level talks, China called on the U.S. military to stop flexing its muscles in the South China Sea and adding “new uncertainties” over democratic Taiwan, which is claimed by China as a wayward province.
    The U.S. Navy regularly angers China by conducting what it calls “freedom of navigation” operations by ships close to some of the islands China occupies, asserting freedom of access to international waterways.
    The littoral combat ship Gabrielle Giffords traveled within 12 nautical miles of Mischief Reef on Wednesday, Commander Reann Mommsen, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Navy’s Seventh Fleet, told Reuters.
    The destroyer Wayne E. Meyer challenged restrictions on innocent passage in the Paracel islands on Thursday, Mommsen said.
    “These missions are based in the rule of law and demonstrate our commitment to upholding the rights, freedoms, and lawful uses of the sea and airspace guaranteed to all nations,” she said.
    China’s military confirmed on Friday that the two U.S. warships had sailed through the contentious waterways and said it tracked the passage of the American ships.
    “We urge (the United States) to stop these provocative actions to avoid any unforeseeable accidents,” the spokesman for China’s Southern Theatre Command said in a statement.    “China has indisputable sovereignty over the South China Sea islands and its surrounding area.”
    China claims almost all the energy-rich waters of the South China Sea, where it has established military outposts on artificial islands. However, Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also have claims to parts of the sea.
    China’s Foreign Ministry also voiced anger, saying it had lodged strong representations with the U.S. over the warships movements.
    “The U.S. actions severely damage China’s sovereignty and safety, destroy the peace and stability in the South China Sea, and we express our resolute opposition,” said ministry spokesman Geng Shuang at a daily press briefing on Friday.
    The United States accuses China of militarizing the South China Sea and trying to intimidate Asian neighbors who might want to exploit its extensive oil and gas reserves.
    U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper met Chinese Defense Minister Wei Fenghe earlier this week for closed-door talks on the sidelines of a gathering of defense ministers in Bangkok.
    Wei urged Esper to “stop flexing muscles in the South China Sea and to not provoke and escalate tensions in the South China Sea,” a Chinese spokesman said.
    Esper has accused Beijing of “increasingly resorting to coercion and intimidation to advance its strategic objectives” in the region.
(Reporting by Idrees Ali; Additional reporting by Huizhong Wu in Beijing; Editing by Sandra Maler, Rosalba O’Brien and Paul Tait)

11/22/2019 Hong Kong hospitals find themselves on protest frontlines by Farah Master
FILE PHOTO: A patient is wheeled past as healthcare staff hold posters and participate in a human chain
to protest against what they say is police brutality during the anti-extradition bill protests, at
Queen Mary Hospital, in Hong Kong, China, September 2, 2019. REUTERS/Anushree Fadnavis/File Photo
    HONG KONG(Reuters) – Hong Kong’s public hospitals, long known for professionalism, have become a new front in the anti-government protests that have engulfed the city for more than five months.
    An incident in which riot police armed with shields and batons interrogated a pregnant woman at her bedside in a hospital labor ward has become a rallying cry for medical professionals who fear that patient confidentiality and high standards of treatment are under threat.
    The two officers ignored requests by medical staff to not enter the room of the pregnant woman, a 19-year-old arrested on suspicion of taking part in an illegal protest.    The Oct. 7 incident was corroborated by medical staff, the city’s government-funded Hospital Authority and police.
    Police rarely entered areas like labor or emergency wards before the protests escalated in June, according to Arisina Ma, president of the Hong Kong Public Doctors’ Association (HKPDA), which represents public hospital staff, and six other doctors and nurses who requested anonymity.
    Now, arrests and interrogations of suspects in public hospital rooms have become commonplace, they said.    That has raised concerns that protesters requiring medical care might avoid the public hospital system for fear of arrest.
    On a Facebook post that was widely shared, the HKPDA questioned why police had entered the pregnancy ward, and stressed the “need to protect the rights of the patient.”
    “Armed riot police are coming to public hospitals with full gear, which is scary,” said one nurse who gave his name only as Cheng.    “The reputation of the hospitals is being ruined not only by Hong Kong police but also the administrative managers of the Hospital Authority who try and suppress freedom of speech among health care professionals.”
    The Hospital Authority has instructed staff not to take part in public assemblies and express opinions on the protests as they say it affects hospital operations.
    Ma of the HKPDA said the Hospital Authority’s management had been under “intense pressure” from the mainland and local governments, and supporters of the police, which made it hard for them to support their colleagues.
    The Hospital Authority declined to comment.    The police have defended their actions, calling them necessary to combat protests that have become increasingly violent.
    “Police respect personal privacy.    When conducting investigations or operations at hospitals, police will not interfere with the hospital operation and patient services,” police said in a statement to Reuters.
TREATMENT AND PRIVACY FEARS
    The protests were triggered by government plans to introduce a bill that would have allowed suspects to be extradited from Hong Kong to the mainland.
    The plan has since been withdrawn, but the protests have continued amid widespread public anger that the government has refused to set up an independent inquiry into alleged police brutality and amnesty arrested demonstrators.
    More than 2,100 people injured in protests have been admitted to public hospitals since June, the Hospital Authority says.    Police are also treated in public hospitals, but some are later transferred to private facilities, the HKDA’s Ma said.
    The city’s medical sector employs around 100,000 people.    Hundreds of healthcare staff have worked as first-aid volunteers on the frontlines of demonstrations in their own time, tending to protesters injured during clashes with police.
    Many have also staged protests against what they see as police brutality against demonstrators.
    Hospital staff have been accused by Chinese state media and officials of failing to take a harder line against the protests.    An October incident in which a public hospital expressed support for a doctor arrested near a protest was condemned by state media like Xinhua and the People’s Daily.
    Many say that those seen as sympathetic to the protests have also been targeted by Beijing supporters and pro-police lobbies via online trolling or verbal complaints.
    China’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office in Beijing did not respond to a Reuters request for comment.
    The HKPDA said its website had been inundated with thousands of critical messages posted by “supporters of the People’s Republic of China” after the doctors’ group condemned the shooting of a protester by police.
    “Even if you don’t participate in anything, but you don’t stand out to condemn the protests, you will be the one doing something wrong,” said Ma.
    Many protesters say they are too scared to seek treatment in public hospitals, preferring the pop-up clinics manned by volunteers that have sprung up across the city.
    “It’s a very critical time because our medical system has linkages with the police force,” said a 30-year-old protester seeking treatment in a clinic who identified himself only as Ben.    “People are scared to go to hospital.”
    The group running the clinic said it also gave free treatment to patients on the streets.    Fung, a 24-year-old medical student volunteer, said the clinic had helped thousands of patients, using social media applications like Telegram to communicate, helping minimize official scrutiny.
    At the public hospitals, staff say they are walking a tightrope.
    “We feel scared,” said one 26-year-old nurse at a public hospital who gave his name as Stephen.
    Staff wearing black clothes, the color worn by many protesters, are routinely checked by police officers before entering the hospital, he said.
    “For health workers it is hard to voice our views because we cannot just put down our jobs.    We have to take care of our patients.”
(Additional reporting by Sarah Wu and Juarawee Kittisilpa; Editing by Anne Marie Roantree and Philip McClellan)

11/22/2019 South Korea suspends move to end intelligence pact with Japan by Joyce Lee and Kiyoshi Takenaka
FILE PHOTO: A police officer stands guard near Japan and South Korea national flags at a hotel, where the
South Korean embassy in Japan is holding the reception to mark the 50th anniversary of the normalisation of
ties between Seoul and Tokyo, in Tokyo June 22, 2015. REUTERS/Toru Hanai/File Photo
    SEOUL/NAGOYA, Japan (Reuters) – South Korea suspended a decision to end an intelligence-sharing pact with Japan on Friday, just hours before it was due to go into effect, providing the first signs of compromise after several months of feuding over trade and historical grievances.
    The late change of heart announced by the presidential Blue House should be greeted with relief by South Korea and Japan’s mutual ally, the United States.
    U.S. officials have been pressuring the neighbours to set aside their differences over history to maintain the General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA), seen as an important element of trilateral security cooperation in Asia.
    “This government has decided to suspend our notice of Aug. 23 on the Korea-Japan intelligence agreement on the condition the agreement can be terminated at any time,” said Kim You-geun, deputy director of South Korea’s national security office.
    “Japan has expressed its understanding,” Kim said in a briefing.
    South Korea had given Japan notice in August that it would stop sharing intelligence after Japan imposed restrictions on the export to South Korea of materials necessary for its semiconductor and display industries.
    Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said South Korea had made a “strategic decision” in sticking with the intelligence-sharing pact and that bilateral relations were vital.
    Japan’s trade ministry said it hoped to hold talks with South Korea on export controls but it would not immediately put South Korea back on the trade “white list” that fast-tracks exports to the neighbouring country.
    Speaking in Nagoya, where a G20 ministerial meeting was underway, Japan’s Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi said security cooperation between the two countries was crucial.
    “My understanding is that the South Korean government took this strategic decision, given the current security environment,” Motegi told reporters.
    While the two U.S. allies are both concerned by China’s increasing assertiveness in the region and the potential threat from North Korea, their relations remain troubled by grievances stemming from Japan’s 1910-45 colonisation of the Korean peninsula.
    South Korea, which has said Japan must lift its trade restrictions, and Japan, which called for the security pact to be maintained, announced the developments hours before the pact was set to expire at midnight on Friday.
GSOMIA was sealed in 2016 after a years-long U.S. push for a better joint response to North Korea’s growing military threat.
(Reporting by Hyonhee Shin, Joyce Lee and Sangmi Cha in Seoul, Elaine Lies in Tokyo and Kiyoshi Takenaka in Nagoya; Editing by Jack Kim & Simon Cameron-Moore)

11/22/2019 Dispute between Japan and South Korea overshadows G20 meetings by Ju-min Park
Banners promoting safety about radiation from the Fukushima nuclear plant are displayed at a press center
of G20 Foreign Ministers meeting in Nagoya, Japan, November 22, 2019. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon/Pool
    NAGOYA, Japan (Reuters) – Japan seized the last event of its G20 presidency on Friday to reject a South Korean warning about radiation from the ruined Fukushima nuclear plant as a dispute between the neighbors threatened to overshadow the meetings.
    Foreign ministers from the Group of 20 (G20) nations gathered in the central Japanese city of Nagoya for two days of talks, just as an intelligence-sharing pact between Japan and South Korea is set to expire.
    In a sign of the discord, South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha had yet to officially confirm whether she would attend, although a diplomatic source told Reuters she would be arriving in Nagoya later on Friday.
    Relations between Japan and South Korea, both U.S. allies, have been upended by a dispute over history that has spilled into trade and other areas.
    South Korea has voiced concern about radioactive contamination from Japan’s Fukushima plant, devastated by a 2011 earthquake and tsunami, but Japan dismissed the worry.
    “Go tell your Korean friends it is not true,” one Japanese government official said as she handed out a Korean-language brochure entitled “To Eliminate Groundless Rumours,” which said fish and agricultural produce from Fukushima were safe.
    South Korea is set to let an intelligence-sharing pact with Japan lapse on Saturday over their feud, defying U.S. pressure to maintain an important element of trilateral security cooperation in Asia.
    A senior South Korean presidential adviser said on Thursday talks were being held with Japan to reach a last-minute resolution.
    The dispute has its roots in a decades-old disagreement over compensation for South Korean laborers forced to work at Japanese firms during World War Two.    It deepened this year when Japan restricted exports of chipmaking materials to South Korea, threatening to disrupt the global tech supply chain.
    South Korea has fired back by raising concern about contamination from the Fukushima nuclear plant, on Japan’s east coast.
    The head of South Korea’s nuclear safety agency has said Japan’s reluctance to disclose information about the release of radioactive water from Fukushima has hampered efforts to control the impact.
    Japan has responded by having its embassy in South Korea post data on its website to show there was little difference in radiation levels between the two countries.
(Reporting by Ju-Min Park in Nagoya and Hyonhee Shin in Seoul; Writing by David Dolan; Editing by Paul Tait, Robert Birsel)

11/22/2019 U.S. voices concern over China’s attempts to sway Taiwan election by Ben Blanchard
Brent Christensen, director of the American Institute in Taiwan, speaks in Taipei, Taiwan November 22, 2019. REUTERS/Fabian Hamacher
    TAIPEI (Reuters) – The United States is concerned about China’s attempts to influence Taiwan’s presidential and parliamentary elections, the top U.S. official in Taiwan said on Friday, as China stepped up pressure on the self-ruled island ahead of the vote in January.
    The comment came days after Taiwan denounced China for trying to interfere in its democratic process ahead of the Jan. 11 polls, including sailing an aircraft carrier group through the Taiwan Strait on Sunday.
    “We are aware that China is attempting to apply pressure through various means on Taiwan.    Certainly, these attempts to influence Taiwan’s democratic process are of concern,” said Brent Christensen, the de facto U.S. ambassador to Taiwan.
    “We believe that malign actors are using disinformation campaigns to make people lose faith in democratic institutions,” he told reporters in Taipei.
    Beijing has in recent months stepped up efforts to “reunify” what it considers a wayward province, flying regular bomber patrols around it and seeking to isolate it diplomatically.
    The United States, like most countries, has no diplomatic relations with Taiwan, but is bound by law to help provide the island with the means to defend itself.    It is democratic Taiwan’s strongest backer on the international stage.
    Christensen said any effort to determine the future of Taiwan by other than peaceful means, including boycotts or embargoes, was of “grave concern” to the United States.
    Taiwan and the United States have very close ties, he added, noting this year’s $10 billion in U.S. arms sales to the island.
    “We have, I believe, a strong relationship in security matters that we anticipate will only grow stronger.”
    Speaking later in the day, Taiwan Foreign Minister Joseph Wu said China’s military threat was growing.
    “China’s military preparation against Taiwan has not been slowing down.    In fact, it’s been intensifying,” he told reporters.
    President Tsai Ing-wen of the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party is leading in the polls, ahead of her main rival, Han Kuo-yu of the China-friendly Kuomintang party.
    Tsai’s government has repeatedly warned of Beijing’s campaign to influence the vote, including snatching more of Taiwan’s few remaining diplomatic allies and a “warfare” of disinformation to mislead voters.
    Chinese President Xi Jinping said in January that China reserved the right to use force to bring Taiwan under its control but would strive to achieve peaceful “reunification.” [nL3N1Z20JT]
    Beijing suspects Tsai of pushing for the island’s formal independence, which Xi has warned would lead to a “grave disaster.”
    China described the carrier sailing as routine and not aimed at anyone in particular, dismissing Taiwan’s complaints.
    Taiwan has lost seven diplomatic allies to China since Tsai took office in 2016, leaving 15 nations that recognize the island.
    China has sent about 2,000 bomber patrols a year to the narrow Taiwan Strait separating the two sides, the island’s defense minister, Yen Teh-fa, told parliament last week.
(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; additional reporting by Yimou Lee; Editing by Gerry Doyle and Simon Cameron-Moore)

11/22/2019 Hong Kong holds its breath ahead of polls amid lull in violence by Felix Tam
FILE PHOTO: A police officer guards the area after an anti-government protest at Yoho Mall
in Yuen Long, Hong Kong, China November 21, 2019. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi/File Photo
    HONG KONG (Reuters) – Hong Kong is holding its breath ahead of elections on Sunday, which carry added significance after brutal attacks on candidates and months of unrest by protesters seeking the freedom to choose their own leader.
    Police appealed on Friday to protesters in the China-ruled city not to disrupt the lowest-tier, district council elections, held every four years, pointing to nearly six months of protests and street clashes that officials say have brought the city to the “brink of total breakdown.”
    “We have to ensure voter safety and let them vote without any interference,” Police Commissioner Tang Ping-keung said at a briefing on Friday after a two-day lull in violence.
    He said police would “deploy high-profile patrols” near polling stations.    There have been no publicised threats against voters or polling stations.
    The protests started over a now-withdrawn bill that would have allowed people to be sent to China for trial, but which soon evolved into calls for full democracy, posing the biggest challenge to Chinese President Xi Jinping since he came to power in 2012.
    A man stabbed and wounded pro-Beijing lawmaker Junius Ho this month. Jimmy Sham, a leader of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy Civil Human Rights Front, was beaten by men with hammers in October after his group organised mass rallies against the extradition bill.
    A knife-wielding man bit off part of pro-democracy district councillor Andrew Chiu’s ear at the beginning of November.
    District council candidate Clement Woo said members of his pro-establishment camp had experienced violence and intimidation.
    “How can the election be a fair one if the atmosphere is like this?” Woo told Reuters.
    Veteran democratic politician Emily Lau said there was a “real concern that the campaign could get violent and nasty, with candidates and offices from both camps getting injured and vandalised.”
    “This is happening already and could get worse,” she told Reuters.
    The government urged protesters not to disrupt the vote.
    “We do not want to see the postponement or adjournment of the polling unless absolutely necessary,” said Patrick Nip, Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs.
NURTURING GROUND
    A record 1,104 people are running for 452 district seats and a record 4.1 million Hong Kong people have enrolled to vote for district councillors, who control some local spending, and whose daily decisionmaking spans a range of neighbourhood issues including recycling, transport and public healthcare.
    Some of the seats that were once uncontested, and dominated by pro-Beijing candidates, are now being fought for by young pro-democracy activists.
    Although most nominations were approved, authorities barred prominent activist Joshua Wong from running.
    The district councils are sometimes seen as a nurturing ground for young political talent.    Five district councillors can also run for five seats in the city’s Legislative Council, or mini-parliament, in September 2020.
    Hong Kong returned from British to Chinese rule in 1997 with the promised protection of many of its colonial freedoms under a “one country, two systems” for at least 50 years.
    Candidates for the chief executive of Hong Kong are chosen by a 1,200-strong election committee dominated by pro-Beijing loyalists, and which also includes district councillors.    No opposition candidate has ever been elected Hong Kong’s leader, though several have managed to get on the ballot.
    Peaceful street protests calling for universal suffrage, that paralysed the city for 79 days in 2014, failed to wrest concessions from Beijing.
    Joshua Wong, a leader of those protests when just 17, was disqualified from running in Sunday’s elections because of his links to a political group promoting independence for Hong Kong, a red line for Communist Party rulers in Beijing.
    Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam has the power to cancel the elections up to 24 yours before they begin.
(Refiles to correct spelling in “one country”, paragraph 18)
(Writing by Nick Macfie; Editing by James Pomfret and Gerry Doyle)

11/22/2019 Few protesters left on trashed HK campus as siege nears end by Kate Lamb and Jessie Pang
A protester looks at a floor plan of a building during a search for fellow protesters who might be hiding, at the
Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) in Hong Kong, China November 22, 2019. REUTERS/Thomas Peter
    HONG KONG (Reuters) – At least eight protesters who had been holding out at a trashed Hong Kong university surrendered on Friday, while others searched for escape routes past riot police who surrounded the campus but said there was no deadline for ending the standoff.
    The siege at the Polytechnic University on the Kowloon peninsula appeared to be nearing an end with the number of protesters dwindling to a handful, days after some of the worst violence since anti-government demonstrations escalated in June.
    Police chief Chris Tang, who took up the post this week, urged those remaining inside to come out.
    “I believe people inside the campus do not want their parents, friends … to worry about them,” Tang told reporters.
    Those who remain say they want to avoid being arrested for rioting or on other charges, so hope to find some way to slip past the police or hide.
    The campus was so quiet on Friday you could hear the chants of Chinese People’s Liberation Army soldiers exercising on their nearby base.
    Many levels of the buildings look like abandoned rebel hideouts strewn with remains — rucksucks, masks, water bottles, cigarette butts, with security cameras smashed throughout.    Lockers were stuffed with gas masks and black clothes.
    “We are feeling a little tired.    All of us feel tired but we will not give up trying to get out,” said a 23-year-old demonstrator who gave his name as Shiba as he ate noodles in the protesters’ canteen.
    A Reuters reporter saw six black-clad protesters holding hands walk towards police lines, while a first aid worker said two more surrendered later.
    The protests snowballed from June after years of resentment over what many residents see as Chinese meddling in freedoms promised to Hong Kong when the former British colony returned to Chinese rule in 1997.
    Protesters, who have thrown fire bombs and rocks and fired bows and arrows at police, are calling for full democracy and an independent inquiry into perceived police brutality, among other demands.
    Police have responded to the attacks with rubber bullets, tear gas, water cannon and occasional live rounds but say they have acted with restraint in life-threatening situations.
    Beijing has said it is committed to the “one country, two systems” formula under which Hong Kong is governed.    It denies meddling in its affairs and accuses foreign governments, including Britain and the United States, of stirring up trouble.
    One older protester, who estimated only about 30 demonstrators remained, said some had given up looking for escape routes and were now making new weapons to protect themselves in case police stormed the campus.
    The city has enjoyed two days and nights of relative calm ahead of district council elections that are due to take place on Sunday.
    Tang said police would adopt a “high-profile” presence on Sunday and he appealed to protesters to refrain from violence so people feel safe to vote.
(Reporting Clare Jim, Alun John, Kate Lamb, Jessie Pang and Felix Tam; Writing by By Anne Marie Roantree, Marius Zaharia; Editing by Paul Tait, Robert Birsel)

11/22/2019 Secretary Pompeo urges Iran protesters to send videos to help expose Ayatollah regime officials by OAN Newsroom
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo talks to journalists during a news conference during a NATO Foreign Ministers
meeting at the NATO headquarters in Brussels, Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2019. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)
    Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is asking Iranian protesters to expose abuses of human rights by the Ayatollah regime.    In a tweet     Thursday, Pompeo called on protesters to send over videos, photos and any other related information documenting the regime’s attempts to silence demonstrations.
    The secretary went on to say the U.S. will slap sanctions on all regime officials involved in the ongoing violence.    Human rights groups say Iranian security forces killed hundreds of protesters over the past few days and the violence continues.
    “We hope conditions will improve soon, so that this unwanted measure is stopped and everyone can have access to the internet again,” said Abolhassan Firouzabadi, Secretary of the Iranian Supreme Cyberspace Council.    “I hope the decision will be made at the Supreme Cyberspace Council, I think it will happen within the next two days.”
    Secretary Pompeo pledged America’s full support for the Iranian people. Meanwhile, anti-government protesters are denouncing the Ayatollah regime’s confrontation with the U.S. and EU.    They are calling for better relations with the world.
    Iran’s Ayatollah regime rallied its own supporters amid the massive protests in the country. Hundreds of people took to the streets across Iran on Thursday, where they could be heard chanting anti-American and anti-Israeli slogans while touting their loyalty to the regime.    Over the past few days, hikes in fuel prices and poor economic conditions prompted anti-clerical sentiments and violent clashes.    According to Iranian officials, internet access remains cut-off due to the protests.
FILE – In this Nov. 20, 2019, file photo, a gas station that was attacked during protests over rises in government-set gasoline prices
is reflected in a puddle, in Tehran, Iran. Internet connectivity is trickling back in Iran after the government shut down access to the
rest of the world for more than four days in response to unrest apparently triggered by a gasoline price hike. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi, File)

11/22/2019 Iran’s Revolutionary Guards arrest about 100 protest leaders: Iranian judiciary
People walk near a burnt bank, after protests against increased fuel prices, in Tehran, Iran
November 20, 2019. Nazanin Tabatabaee/WANA (West Asia News Agency) via REUTERS
    GENEVA (Reuters) – Iran’s Revolutionary Guards have arrested about 100 leaders of protests that erupted last week over gasoline price rises, Gholamhossein Esmaili, spokesman for Iran’s judiciary, said on Friday according to the official IRNA news agency.
    “Approximately 100 leaders, heads and main figures of the recent unrest were identified and arrested in various parts of the country by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps,” Esmaili said.
    Iranian authorities have said about 1,000 demonstrators have been arrested.
    Anyone who created insecurity or damaged public property will face “severe punishment,” the head the judiciary, Ebrahimi Raisi, said on Friday, according to Mizan, the news site of the judiciary.
    A large number of people arrested who had taken part in the protests but did not take part in causing damage or setting fires have been released, judiciary spokesman Esmaili said, according to Mizan.
    The Guards said calm had returned across Iran on Thursday, state TV reported.    Amnesty International said more than 100 demonstrators had been killed by the security forces, a figure rejected as “speculative” by the government.
    Protests began on Nov. 15 in several towns after the government announced gasoline price hikes of at least 50%.    They spread to 100 cities and towns and quickly turned political with protesters demanding top officials step down.
    State TV showed thousands marching in pro-government rallies in about half a dozen cities on Friday.
(Reporting by Babak Dehghanpisheh; Editing by David Clarke and Giles Elgood)

11/22/2019 U.S. Treasury announces sanctions on Iran’s foreign information minister by OAN Newsroom
FILE – In this Sunday, July 7, 2019 photo, Iran’s telecommunications Minister Mohammad-Javad Azari Jahromi
is interviewed by The Associated Press at his office in Tehran, Iran. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi, File)
    The U.S. Treasury Department has announced a new round of sanctions on Iran’s Minister of Information and Communications Technology.    Officials announced the sanctions against Mohammad-Javad Azari Jahromi on Friday, which will freeze financial assets he has in U.S. jurisdictions and keep him from making business deals with American companies.
    In a statement, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the Iranian official was sanctioned for restricting internet access during the country’s fuel protests.
    “Iran’s leaders know that a free and open internet exposes their illegitimacy, so they seek to censor internet access to quell anti-regime protests,” stated Mnuchin.    “We are sanctioning Iran’s Minister of Information and Communications Technology for restricting internet access, including popular messaging applications that help tens of millions of Iranians stay connected to each other and the outside world.”
    President Trump expressed a similar viewpoint on Thursday, saying the internet shutdown reflects the regime’s desire for “zero transparency.”
    Iranian officials have said the internet should be back on within the next few days.
    “Rest assured that as soon as the conditions are right, the disruptions will be removed and we will resume our previous status,” said Cyberspace Council Secretary Abolhassan Firouzabadi.
    Meanwhile, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is asking Iranian protesters to expose abuses of human rights by the Ayatollah regime.    In a Thursday tweet, Pompeo called on protesters to send over videos, photos and any other related information that documents the regime’s attempts to silence demonstrations.
    Protests erupted a week ago and have become increasingly violent. Iran has not disclosed the number of people killed in the unrest, but human rights groups estimated at least 106 have died.    Recent hikes in fuel prices and poor economic conditions prompted anti-clerical sentiments and violent clashes.

11/23/2019 Campus siege nears end as Hong Kong gears up for election by James Pomfret and Jessie Pang
A view of two open umbrellas among rubble at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU),
in Hong Kong, China November 22, 2019. REUTERS/Leah Millis
    HONG KONG (Reuters) – A Hong Kong university campus under siege for more than a week was a deserted wasteland on Saturday, with a handful of protesters holed up in hidden refuges across the trashed grounds, as the city’s focus turned to local elections.
    The siege neared its end as some protesters at Polytechnic University on the Kowloon peninsula desperately sought a way out and others vowed not to surrender, days after some of the worst violence since anti-government demonstrations escalated in June.
    “If they storm in, there are a lot of places for us to hide,” said Sam, a 21-year-old student, who was eating two-minute noodles in the cafeteria, while plotting his escape.
    Another protester, Ah Chung, clad in a face mask and a red Polytechnic University track suit, said he was prepared to stay for the duration.
    “I’ll continue to stay here, but hopefully not forever,” he said with a touch of humor.
    The handful of protesters still visible on the campus were outnumbered by media and people seeking to provide assistance.
    A social worker who would only give his name as Sendon said he had crossed paths with four protesters on Saturday and was concerned about their mental state.
    “They’ve been in this highly stressful environment for so long, over 120 hours, and they have no easy way to release this stress,” he said.    “We’re trying to urge them to come out in a gentle manner.”br>     Many of the remaining protesters were in hiding, fearful of possible arrest and wary of those urging surrender, said Woo Kwok Wang, the 22-year-old acting president of the university’s student union.
    “They are afraid of contact with other people because they will think that maybe social workers or lawyers are going to persuade them to surrender,” he said.
    Woo said he had been on the campus since Wednesday to provide support for the students, and would only leave when he felt his help was no longer needed.
    About 1,000 people have been arrested or registered by police in the siege in the Chinese-ruled city, about 300 of them younger than 18.
    Police have set up high plastic barricades and a fence on the perimeter of the campus.    Toward midday, officers appeared at ease, allowing citizens to mill about the edges of the cordon as neighborhood shops opened for business. Some roads next to the campus had reopened by Saturday afternoon.
    Rotting rubbish and boxes of unused petrol bombs littered the campus.    On the edge of a dry fountain at its entrance lay a Pepe the frog stuffed toy, a mascot protesters have embraced as a symbol of their movement.
    Scores of construction workers worked at the mouth of the Cross-Harbour Tunnel, closed for more than a week after it was first blockaded, to repair toll booths smashed by protesters and clear debris from approach roads.
LOOMING ELECTION
    The repairs got underway as a record 1,104 people gear up to run for 452 district council seats in elections on Sunday.
    A record 4.1 million Hong Kong people, from a population of 7.4 million, have enrolled to vote, spurred in part by registration campaigns during months of protests.
    Young pro-democracy activists are now running in some of the seats that were once uncontested and dominated by pro-Beijing candidates.
    The protests snowballed from June after years of resentment over what many residents see as Chinese meddling in freedoms promised to Hong Kong when the former British colony returned to Chinese rule in 1997.
    Beijing has said it is committed to the “one country, two systems” formula by which Hong Kong is governed.    It denies meddling in the affairs of the Asian financial hub and accuses foreign governments of stirring up trouble.
    However, Australia’s Age newspaper reported on Saturday that an apparent Chinese intelligence service agent is seeking asylum in Australia after claiming to have details on Beijing’s political interference in Hong Kong, Taiwan and Australia.
    The defector, identified as Wang “William” Liqiang by Nine network newspapers, is reported to have provided the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, or ASIO, with the identities of China’s senior military intelligence officers in Hong Kong, the paper said.
    In an interview with Fox News Channel on Friday, U.S. President Donald Trump said he had told Chinese President Xi Jinping that crushing the Hong Kong protests would have “a tremendous negative impact” on efforts to end the two countries’ 16-month-long trade war.
    “If it weren’t for me Hong Kong would have been obliterated in 14 minutes,” Trump said, without offering any evidence.
    “He’s got a million soldiers standing outside of Hong Kong that aren’t going in only because I ask him, ‘Please don’t do it, you’ll be making a big mistake, it’s going to have a tremendous negative impact on the trade deal,’ and he wants to make a trade deal.”
(Reporting by Kate Lamb, James Pomfret, Jessie Pang, Xihao Jiang and Athit Perawongmetha; Writing by Anne Marie Roantree, Jamie Freed, and Josh Smith; Editing by Clarence Fernandez and Muralikumar Anantharaman)

11/23/2019 Iran says army and Guards helped quell unrest, blames ‘U.S. agents’
FILE PHOTO - People walk near a burnt bank, after protests against increased fuel prices, in Tehran, Iran
November 20, 2019. Picture taken November 20, 2019. Nazanin Tabatabaee/WANA (West Asia News Agency) via REUTERS
    DUBAI (Reuters) – Iranian troops and members of the elite Revolutionary Guards helped police quell violent unrest in Kermanshah province this week, Iranian officials said on Saturday, accusing “U.S. agents” of being among the armed protesters.
    Rights group Amnesty International said at least 30 people were killed in the western province, making it the worst-hit by days of protests over gasoline prices rises in which more than 100 people were killed nationwide.    Iran rejected the death toll figures as “speculative.”
    The unrest appears to be the worst violence at least since Iran stamped out a “Green Revolution” in 2009, when dozens of protesters were killed over several months.
    “All the forces of the Revolutionary Guards, the (paramilitary) Basij, the Intelligence Ministry, police, and the army took part actively in controlling the situation,” Parviz Tavassolizadeh, the head of the judiciary in Kermanshah, was quoted as saying by the semi-official Fars news agency.
    “Tavassolizadeh said the rioters were armed,” Fars reported.    “They confronted agents … and burned public property.”
    Bahman Reyhani, the Revolutionary Guards commander in Kermanshah, said “the rioters belonged to anti-revolutionary (exiled opposition) groups and America’s intelligence services,” the semi-official Tasnim news agency reported.
    Reyhani did not name the groups.    Armed Iranian Kurdish militants have long operated near the province’s border with Iraq.
    Officials have previously blamed “thugs” linked to exiles and foreign foes – the United States, Israel and Saudi Arabia – for stirring up the unrest, which led to the detention of about 1,000 demonstrators.
    The Guards said calm had returned across Iran on Thursday.
    Guards spokesman Brigadier General Ramezan Sharif said the protests had been initiated by royalists seeking the return of the Pahlavi dynasty toppled by the 1979 revolution, and the exiled Mujahideen Khalq armed opposition group, Tasnim reported.
    He said “secessionist” groups were also involved, apparently referring to ethnic Arab and the Kurdish militants.
    Sharif also said the United States, Saudi Arabia and Israel “and their intelligence services helped stoke these events to cause insecurity in the country,” Tasnim reported.
    Protests began in several areas on Nov. 15 after the government announced gasoline price hikes of at least 50% and imposed rationing, spreading to 100 towns and cities as demonstrators demanded senior officials step down.     State television showed thousands marching in pro-government rallies in several cities on Saturday.
(Reporting by Dubai newsroom; Editing by Helen Popper)

11/23/2019 In bid to repair ties, Japan and South Korea agree to summit next month by Ju-min Park and Kiyoshi Takenaka
Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi gestures after talking to reporters about GSOMIA pact with South Korea
during G20 Foreign Ministers meeting in Nagoya, Japan, November 22, 2019. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon
    NAGOYA, Japan (Reuters) – Japan and South Korea agreed on Saturday to hold formal talks next month, taking a step towards improving relations strained by decades of bitterness over their wartime past and now exacerbated by a simmering trade dispute.
    The decision to return to the table came a day after Seoul made a last-minute decision to stick to an intelligence-sharing deal with Japan.    Seoul on Saturday hailed its own move as a “breakthrough” after months of worsening relations.
    Yet neither side gave any sign of a fundamental shift in stance, meaning that their feud will likely remain as intractable as it has been for the half century since the two U.S. allies normalized ties.
    The feud is rooted in a decades-old disagreement over compensation for South Korean laborers forced to work at Japanese firms during World War Two.    It deepened this year after Japan curbed exports of materials used to make the semiconductors critical to South Korean industry.
    “We bought time for intense discussions, but there’s not much time left for us,” South Korea’s foreign minister, Kang Kyung-wha, told reporters.
    She was speaking after meeting her Japanese counterpart, Toshimitsu Motegi, at a gathering of the Group of 20 (G20) foreign ministers in the central Japanese city of Nagoya.
    Motegi had earlier said that he wanted to discuss the issue frankly.
    “I aim to hold a candid exchange of views on the matter of laborers from the Korean peninsula, which is the core problem, and other bilateral issues,” Motegi told reporters in Nagoya.
‘BIG GAP’
    Tokyo has been frustrated by what it calls a lack of action by Seoul after a top South Korean court ordered Japanese company Nippon Steel to compensate former forced laborers.    Japan says the issue of forced labor was fully settled in 1965 when the two countries restored diplomatic ties.
    South Korea’s Kang acknowledged that “the gap was very big” between the two countries over the issue of forced labor.
    In her meeting with Motegi, Kang also repeatedly stressed the need for Japan to withdraw the export curbs.    South Korea’s chip industry is heavily reliant on specialized chemicals produced by Japan and now impacted by tighter trade restrictions.
    South Korea made a last-minute decision on Friday to stick with its General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA) intelligence-sharing pact with Japan.    The agreement was set to expire at midnight on Friday and South Korea had earlier indicated it would let it lapse.
    The decision was welcomed by Washington, which had pressured its two allies to set aside their feud and maintain the pact, seen as linchpin of trilateral security cooperation.
    It was not immediately clear how much of a role Washington played in bringing the sides together.
    When asked if Washington had helped push South Korea toward its last-minute reversal on the intelligence-sharing pact, a senior official at South Korea’s foreign ministry told Reuters that it was a result of the three countries’ close discussions, without elaborating further.
    At a bilateral meeting with U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan on Saturday, South Korea’s Kang asked Washington to play a “constructive role” in resolving issues with Japan, according to the South Korean foreign ministry.
(Reporting by Ju-min Park and Kiyoshi Takenaka; Writing by David Dolan; Editing by Neil Fullick, Muralikumar Anantharaman and Ros Russell)

11/23/2019 China attacks U.S. at G20 as the world’s biggest source of instability
FILE PHOTO - China’s top diplomat State Councillor Wang Yi speaks during a meeting with Russia's
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Moscow, Russia April 5, 2018. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin
    BEIJING (Reuters) – The United States is the world’s biggest source of instability and its politicians are going around the world baselessly smearing China, the Chinese government’s top diplomat said on Saturday in a stinging attack at a G20 meeting in Japan.
    Relations between the world’s two largest economies have nose-dived amid a bitter trade war – which they are trying to resolve – and arguments over human rights, Hong Kong and U.S. support for Chinese-claimed Taiwan.
    Meeting Dutch Foreign Minister Stef Blok on the sidelines of a G20 foreign ministers meeting in the Japanese city of Nagoya, Chinese State Councillor Wang Yi did not hold back in his criticism of the United States.
    “The United States is broadly engaged in unilateralism and protectionism, and is damaging multilateralism and the multilateral trading system.    It has already become the world’s biggest destabilizing factor,” China’s Foreign Ministry cited Wang as saying.
    The United States has, for political purposes, used the machine of state to suppress legitimate Chinese businesses and has groundlessly laid charges against them, which is an act of bullying, he added.
    “Certain U.S. politicians have smeared China everywhere in the world, but have not produced any evidence.”
    The United States has also used its domestic law to “crudely interfere” in China’s internal affairs, trying to damage “one country, two systems” and Hong Kong’s stability and prosperity, he added.
    China was incensed this week after the U.S. House of Representatives passed two bills to back protesters in Hong Kong and send a warning to China about human rights, with President Donald Trump expected to sign them into law, despite delicate trade talks with Beijing.
    China runs Hong Kong under a “one country, two systems” model whereby the territory enjoys freedoms not enjoyed in mainland China like a free press, though many people in Hong Kong fear Beijing is eroding this.    The government denies that.
    Wang said that China’s development and growth was an inevitable trend of history that no force could stop.
    “There is no way out for the zero-sum games of the United States.    Only win-win cooperation between China and the United States is the right path.”
(Reporting by Cate Cadell; Writing by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Ros Russell)

11/24/2019 Record numbers vote in Hong Kong amid angry calls for democracy by Jessie Pang and Sharon Tam
A woman campaigns for a candidate outside a polling station during local
elections in Hong Kong, China November 24, 2019. REUTERS/Marko Djurica
    HONG KONG (Reuters) – Record numbers of Hong Kong people voted on Sunday in district elections viewed as a barometer of support for city leader Carrie Lam, a turnout apparently triggered by six months of often violent pro-democracy protests.
    Brutal attacks on election candidates in recent weeks have thrust the lowest tier of government in the Chinese-ruled city into the world spotlight as Lam struggles to quash angry demands for universal suffrage.
    Government data showed more than 1.9 million people had voted by 3.30 p.m., or a turnout rate of 47%, with seven hours left until polling stations closed, surpassing the 1.47 million who voted in the last district elections four years ago.    Police presence was thin.
    First results should start trickling in before midnight.
    Ming Lee, 26, who works in event production, said she hoped the higher turnout would benefit the pro-democracy camp that is battling some seats that were once uncontested and dominated by pro-Beijing candidates.
    “I hope this vote can counter the voice of the pro-establishment, so as to bring in more voices from the democrats,” she said.    “The social problems encouraged people to vote and to focus on political issues.”
    The voter numbers showed people’s determination, said Tsz, 30, who works in the service industry.
    “The high turnout rate … definitely reflects Hong Kong people’s hope for genuine universal suffrage,” he said.
    Jimmy Sham, a candidate for the Civil Human Rights Front, which organized some of the mass anti-government rallies of recent months, was beaten by men with hammers in October.
    “We can see Hongkongers are longing for a chance to express their he said."    “We don’t know yet, at the end of the day, if the democrats can win a majority.    But I hope our Hong Kong citizens can vote for the future of Hong Kong.”
    Beijing-backed Lam cast her ballot in front of television cameras and pledged that her government, widely seen as out of touch, would listen “more intensively” to the views of district councils.
    “I hope this kind of stability and calm is not only for today’s election, but to show that everyone does not want Hong Kong to fall into a chaotic situation again,” Lam said.
    The anti-China protests have at times forced the closure of government, businesses and schools in the city’s worst political crisis in decades, as police used tear gas, rubber bullets and water cannon in response to petrol bombs, rocks and occasionally bows and arrows.
    A record 1,104 candidates were vying for 452 seats and a record 4.1 million people have enrolled to vote for district councillors who control some spending and decide issues such as recycling and public health.
‘FREEDOM OF SPEECH IS LOST’
    If the pro-democracy campaigners gain control, they could secure six seats on Hong Kong’s Legislative Council, or parliament, and 117 seats on the 1,200-member panel that selects its chief executive.
    Restaurant manager Jeremy Chan saw the elections in the Asian financial hub as offering Beijing supporters a chance to share their opinions.
    “They believe they are fighting for democracy, fighting for Hong Kong, but the rioters only listen to what they want to hear,” said the 55-year-old, citing vandalism of businesses seen as pro-Beijing.    “Freedom of speech is lost.”
    The protests started over a now-withdrawn extradition bill that would have allowed people to be sent to mainland China for trial but rapidly evolved into calls for full democracy, posing the biggest popular challenge to Chinese President Xi Jinping since he came to power in 2012.
    Sunday was the seventh day of a stand-off at Polytechnic University, its campus surrounded by police as some protesters hid out on the sprawling grounds.
    “The district council election is almost like a referendum on recent months of social activity,” said a protester clad in a red university tracksuit, his face covered by a red mask, unable to escape without being caught.
    “…My personal liberty to vote has been violated,” he added.
    Demonstrators are angry at what they see as Chinese meddling in the freedoms promised to the former British colony when it returned to Chinese rule in 1997.    They say they are also responding to perceived police brutality.
    China denies interfering and says it is committed to the “one country, two systems” formula for the autonomy of Hong Kong. Police say they have shown restraint in the face of potentially deadly attacks.
(Reporting by Greg Torode, Sharon Tam, Sarah Wu, Scott Murdoch, Poppy McPherson, Clare Jim, Joyce Zhou, Jessie Pang, Twinnie Siu, Jessie Pang, Athit Perawongmetha and Aleksander Solum; Writing by Jamie Freed, Anne Marie Roantree and Nick Macfie; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

11/24/2019 Iran’s Guards call for ‘maximum punishment’ of fuel unrest leaders
Destroyed petrol pumps are pictured at a gas station, after protests against increased fuel prices,
in Tehran, Iran November 20, 2019. Nazanin Tabatabaee/WANA (West Asia News Agency) via REUTERS
    GENEVA (Reuters) – A senior commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards has urged the country’s judiciary to mete out harsh sentences to what he described as “mercenaries” involved in protests against a fuel price hike last week, the judiciary’s Mizan news site reported.
    “We caught all the mercenaries who openly confessed they were doing mercenary work for America and, God willing, the judicial system of the country will give them maximum punishments,” Rear Admiral Ali Fadavi, a deputy Guards commander, was quoted as saying.
    Iran’s clerical rulers have blamed “thugs” linked to exiles and foreign foes – the United States, Israel and Saudi Arabia – for stirring up unrest which has led to some of the worst violence in the country in a decade.
    Fadavi said several people were killed during the protests after being shot at with a handgun from a close distance behind themselves, which he said indicated the shooters were among the crowds.
    Rights group Amnesty International said in a release earlier this week that security forces shot into crowds of protesters from rooftops and, in one case, from a helicopter.
    Amnesty said at least 115 people have died in the unrest.    Iran has rejected death toll figures as “speculative.”
    Iranian authorities have said about 1,000 demonstrators have been arrested.
    The Center for Human Rights in Iran, a New York-based advocacy group, said on its website that a tally based on official figures and credible reports suggested that “a minimum of 2,755 people have been arrested with the actual minimum number likely being closer to 4,000?.
    With tensions over the gasoline price increases remaining high, some 50 lawmakers have submitted a proposal to parliament that could ultimately lead to the impeachment of Iran’s Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh.
    “Parliament’s presiding board has received the censure motion against Zanganeh over various issues including … gasoline price hikes,” said a member of the presiding board Ahmad Amirabadi Farahani, the website of Iran’s Young Journalists Club reported.
    It was not immediately clear whether the lawmakers would go through with the motion or eventually withdraw it as has happened in some previous cases.
    Protests began on Nov. 15 in several towns after the government announced gasoline price hikes of at least 50%.    They spread to 100 cities and towns and quickly turned political with protesters demanding top officials step down.
(Additional Reporting by Parisa Hafezi in Dubai; Reporting By Babak Dehghanpisheh; Editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise, Kirsten Donovan)

11/24/2019 U.S. Navy conducts drills in Arabian Sea amid latest threats by Iran by OAN Newsroom
In this Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2019, photo made available by U.S. Navy, Master-At-Arms Seaman Khang Ho, right,
and Seaman Shane Mitchell stand guard on the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln as it
transits the Strait of Hormuz. (Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Zachary Pearson/U.S. Navy via AP)
    The U.S. Navy is conducting drills in the Arabian Sea in the face Iran’s latest threats.    The USS Lincoln aircraft carrier group started the exercise Saturday, which will help maintain preparedness and test its strike capabilities off the coast of Iran.
    Officials said they’ve encountered Iranian warships during the drills, but emphasized that all interactions were safe and professional.
    “It was not unusual, a pretty standard Strait of Hormuz transit,” stated Rear Admiral Michael Boyle.    “We did see Iranian Navy — that came out to ensure they understood where we were and what our movements were — but that’s normal of any navy around the world.”
    The Ayatollah regime has blamed the U.S. and Israel for the latest anti-government protests in the country.    The drills came after Israeli officials warned of a possible Iranian-backed attack against the U.S. and its allies in the region.
In this Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2019, photo made available by U.S. Navy, a helicopter lifts off of the aircraft carrier USS Abraham
Lincoln as it transits the Strait of Hormuz. (Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Stephanie Contreras/U.S. Navy via AP)

11/24/2019 Documents detail inhumane conditions in China’s ‘reeducation’ labor camps by OAN Newsroom
A sample of classified Chinese government documents leaked to a consortium of news organizations,
is displayed for a picture in New York, Friday, Nov. 22, 2019. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)
    Several international journalists recently released documents from Mainland China, which detail the country’s system of forced labor camps.    The documents revealed Beijing is holding more than one million people in such camps for the purposes of ideological indoctrination and cheap labor.
    The majority of detainees are ethnic and religious minorities, including the Kazakh and Uighur people.
    “It’s a cultural genocide, and it’s a coercive social re-engineering,” stated Senior Fellow Adrian Zenz.
    “The Chinese state’s present attempt to eradicate independent and free expressions of the distinct ethnic and religious identities in Xinjiang is nothing less than a systematic campaign of cultural genocide and should be treated as such.”
    Testimonies from former detainees revealed harsh conditions in the camps.
    “We slept on the floor in a cell with cement walls and steel doors,” said former detainee Gulbakhar Jalilova.    “You wouldn’t imagine a human being could be treated this way.”
    China has rejected accusations of running a system of labor camps.    Chinese officials are claiming these facilities are vocational schools that help deter Islamic terror and regional separatism.
    “Since the measures have been taken, there’s no single terrorist incident in the past three years,” read a statement from the U.K.’s Chinese Embassy.    “The so-called leaked documents are fabrication and fake news.”
FILE – In this Sep. 17, 2018, file satellite image provided by Planet Labs, buildings are seen around the
Kunshan Industrial Park in Artux in western China’s Xinjiang region. (Planet Labs via AP, File)

11/25/2019 Hong Kong democrats romp to local election landslide after months of protests by Josh Smith
Winning candidate Kelvin Lam and activist Joshua Wong greet people and thank them for their support, outside of South Horizons
Station, in Hong Kong, China, November 25, 2019, the morning after Lam won in district council elections. REUTERS/Leah Millis
    HONG KONG (Reuters) – Hong Kong’s democrats romped to a landslide and symbolic majority in district council elections after residents turned out in record numbers on Sunday to vote following six months of anti-government protests in the embattled city.
    In a rare weekend lull in the unrest that has rocked the financial hub, democratic candidates across the city of 7.4 million people secured more than half of the 452 district council seats for the first time against a strongly resourced and mobilized pro-establishment opposition.
    When the results began trickling in after midnight, including upset wins for democrats against heavyweight pro-Beijing opponents, some voting centers erupted in loud cheers and chants of “Liberate Hong Kong. Revolution Now” – a slogan used by many protesters on the streets over the past six months.
    Some winning candidates said the result was akin to a vote of support for the demonstrators and could raise the heat on Hong Kong’s pro-Beijing chief executive, Carrie Lam, amid the city’s worst political crisis in decades.
    “This is the power of democracy. This is a democratic tsunami,” said Tommy Cheung, a former student protest leader who won a seat in the Yuen Long district close to China’s border.
    The voting ended with no major disruptions in a day that saw massive, though orderly, queues form outside voting centers.
    Pro-democracy candidates had secured a clear majority by 8.00 a.m. (midnight GMT Sunday) with 333 of 452 seats, compared with 52 for the pro-establishment camp, according to media estimates. Democrats only secured around 100 seats at the previous polls four years ago.
    Almost three million people voted, a record turnout of more than 71% that appeared to have been spurred by the turmoil, almost double the number last time.
    Hong Kong’s district councils control some spending and decide a range of livelihood issues such as transport.    They also serve as an important grassroots platform to radiate political influence in the China-ruled city.
PATH OF STRUGGLE
    “I believe this result is because there are a lot of voters who hope to use this election and their vote to show their support for the (protest) movement, and their five demands, and their dissatisfaction with the Hong Kong government,” said former student leader Lester Shum, who won a seat.
    The protesters’ demands include full democracy, as well as an independent inquiry into perceived police brutality.
    “The district council is just one very important path of struggle. In future, we must find other paths of struggle to keep fighting,” Shum said.
    The state-run China Daily newspaper said in an editorial on Monday the election “will hopefully have served as an opportunity to return the city to normal
    “The relative tranquility the city enjoyed since several days before the election suggests all stakeholders regarded it as an opportunity to air their views.”
    Demonstrators are angry at what they see as Chinese meddling in the freedoms promised to the former British colony when it returned to Chinese rule in 1997.    They say they are also responding to perceived police brutality.
    China denies interfering and says it is committed to the “one country, two systems” formula for the autonomy of Hong Kong put in place in 1997.    Police say they have shown restraint in the face of potentially deadly attacks.
    Jimmy Sham, a leader of the Civil Human Rights Front, which organized some of the anti-government rallies, won his electoral contest, as did Kelvin Lam, who stood in after prominent activist Joshua Wong was barred from running.
    A number of pro-Beijing heavyweights including Junius Ho, whose abrasive public comments have made him a hate-figure among many protesters, lost to pro-democracy challengers.    He described it on Facebook as “an exceptional election, and an unusual result
    The protests started over a now-withdrawn extradition bill that would have allowed people to be sent to mainland China for trial but rapidly evolved into calls for full democracy, posing the biggest populist challenge to Chinese President Xi Jinping since he came to power in 2012.
(Reporting by Clare Jim, Felix Tam and Josh Smith; Writing by James Pomfret; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Paul Tait)

11/25/2019 Special report: ‘Time to take out our swords’ – Inside Iran’s plot to attack Saudi Arabia by Reuters staff
FILE PHOTO: Smoke is seen following a fire at Aramco facility in the eastern city
of Abqaiq, Saudi Arabia, September 14, 2019. REUTERS/Stringer/
    (Reuters) – Four months before a swarm of drones and missiles crippled the world’s biggest oil processing facility in Saudi Arabia, Iranian security officials gathered at a heavily fortified compound in Tehran.
    The group included the top echelons of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, an elite branch of the Iranian military whose portfolio includes missile development and covert operations.
    The main topic that day in May: How to punish the United States for pulling out of a landmark nuclear treaty and re-imposing economic sanctions on Iran, moves that have hit the Islamic Republic hard.
    With Major General Hossein Salami, leader of the Revolutionary Guards, looking on, a senior commander took the floor.
    “It is time to take out our swords and teach them a lesson,” the commander said, according to four people familiar with the meeting.
    Hard-liners in the meeting talked of attacking high-value targets, including American military bases.
    Yet, what ultimately emerged was a plan that stopped short of direct confrontation that could trigger a devastating U.S. response.     Iran opted instead to target oil installations of America’s ally, Saudi Arabia, a proposal discussed by top Iranian military officials in that May meeting and at least four that followed.
    This account, described to Reuters by three officials familiar with the meetings and a fourth close to Iran’s decision making, is the first to describe the role of Iran’s leaders in plotting the Sept. 14 attack on Saudi Aramco, Saudi Arabia’s state-controlled oil company.
    These people said Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei approved the operation, but with strict conditions: Iranian forces must avoid hitting any civilians or Americans.
    Reuters was unable to confirm their version of events with Iran’s leadership.    A Revolutionary Guards spokesman declined to comment.    Tehran has steadfastly denied involvement.
    Alireza Miryousefi, spokesman for the Iranian Mission to the United Nations in New York, rejected the version of events the four people described to Reuters. He said Iran played no part in the strikes, that no meetings of senior security officials took place to discuss such an operation, and that Khamenei did not authorize any attack.
    “No, no, no, no, no, and no,” Miryousefi said to detailed questions from Reuters on the alleged gatherings and Khamenei’s purported role.
    The Saudi government communications office did not respond to a request for comment.
    The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency and Pentagon declined to comment.    A senior Trump administration official did not directly comment on Reuters’ findings but said Tehran’s “behavior and its decades-long history of destructive attacks and support for terrorism are why Iran’s economy is in shambles.”
    Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthi rebels, at the center of a civil war against Saudi-backed forces, claimed responsibility for the assault on Saudi oil facilities.    That declaration was rebuffed by U.S. and Saudi officials, who said the sophistication of the offensive pointed to Iran.
    Saudi Arabia was a strategic target.
    The kingdom is Iran’s principal regional rival and a petroleum giant whose production is crucial to the world economy.    It is an important U.S. security partner.    But its war on Yemen, which has killed thousands of civilians, and the brutal murder of Washington-based journalist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi agents last year, have strained its relations with U.S. lawmakers.    There was no groundswell of support in Congress for military intervention to aid the Saudis after the attack.
    The 17-minute strike on two Aramco installations by 18 drones and three low-flying missiles revealed the vulnerability of the Saudi oil company, despite billions spent by the kingdom on security.    Fires erupted at the company’s Khurais oil installation and at the Abqaiq oil processing facility, the world’s largest.
    The attack temporarily halved Saudi Arabia’s oil production and knocked out 5% of the world’s oil supply. Global crude prices spiked.
    The assault prompted U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to accuse Iran of an “act of war.”    In the aftermath, Tehran was hit with additional U.S. sanctions.    The United States also launched cyber attacks against Iran, U.S. officials told Reuters.
SCOURING TARGETS
    The plan by Iranian military leaders to strike Saudi oil installations developed over several months, according to the official close to Iran’s decision making.
    “Details were discussed thoroughly in at least five meetings and the final go ahead was given” by early September, the official said.
    All of those meetings took place at a secure location inside the southern Tehran compound, three of the officials told Reuters.    They said Khamenei, the supreme leader, attended one of the gatherings at his residence, which is also inside that complex.
    Other attendees at some of those meetings included Khamenei’s top military advisor, Yahya Rahim-Safavi, and a deputy of Qasem Soleimani, who heads the Revolutionary Guards’ foreign military and clandestine operations, the three officials said. Rahim-Safavi could not be reached for comment.
    Among the possible targets initially discussed were a seaport in Saudi Arabia, an airport and U.S. military bases, the official close to Iran’s decision making said. The person would not provide additional details.
    Those ideas were ultimately dismissed over concerns about mass casualties that could provoke fierce retaliation by the United States and embolden Israel, potentially pushing the region into war, the four people said.
    The official close to Iran’s decision making said the group settled on the plan to attack Saudi Arabia’s oil installations because it could grab big headlines, inflict economic pain on an adversary and still deliver a strong message to Washington.
    “Agreement on Aramco was almost reached unanimously,” the official said.    “The idea was to display Iran’s deep access and military capabilities.”
    The attack was the worst on Middle East oil facilities since Saddam Hussein, the late Iraqi strongman, torched Kuwait’s oil fields during the 1991 Gulf crisis.
    U.S. Senator Martha McSally, an Air Force combat veteran and Republican lawmaker who was briefed by U.S. and Saudi officials, and who visited Aramco’s Abqaiq facility days after the attack, said the perpetrators knew precisely where to strike to create as much damage as possible.
    “It showed somebody who had a sophisticated understanding of facility operations like theirs, instead of just hitting things off of satellite photos,” she told Reuters.    The drones and missiles, she added, “came from Iranian soil, from an Iranian base.”
    A Middle East source, who was briefed by a country investigating the attack, said the launch site was the Ahvaz air base in southwest Iran.    That account matched those of three U.S. officials and two other people who spoke to Reuters: a Western intelligence official and a Western source based in the Middle East.
    Rather than fly directly from Iran to Saudi Arabia over the Gulf, the missiles and drones took different, circuitous paths to the oil installations, part of Iran’s effort to mask its involvement, the people said.
    Some of the craft flew over Iraq and Kuwait before landing in Saudi Arabia, according to the Western intelligence source, who said that trajectory provided Iran with plausible deniability.
    “That wouldn’t have been the case if missiles and drones had been seen or heard flying into Saudi Arabia over the Gulf from a south flight path” from Iran, the person said.
    Revolutionary Guards commanders briefed the supreme leader on the successful operation hours after the attack, according to the official close to the country’s decision making.
    Images of fires raging at the Saudi facilities were broadcast worldwide.    The country’s stock market swooned.    Global oil prices initially surged 20%.    Officials at Saudi Aramco gathered in what was referred to internally as the “emergency management room” at the company’s headquarters.
    One of the officials who spoke with Reuters said Tehran was delighted with the outcome of the operation: Iran had landed a painful blow on Saudi Arabia and thumbed its nose at the United States.
SIZING UP TRUMP
    The Revolutionary Guards and other branches of the Iranian military all ultimately report to Khamenei.    The supreme leader has been defiant in response to Trump’s abandonment last year of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, commonly called the Iran nuclear deal.
    That 2015 accord with five permanent members of the U.S. Security Council – the United States, Russia, France, China and the United Kingdom – as well as Germany, removed billions of dollars’ worth of sanctions on Iran in exchange for Tehran’s curbing its nuclear program.
    Trump’s demand for a better deal has seen Iran launch a two-pronged strategy to win relief from sweeping sanctions reimposed by the United States, penalties that have crippled its oil exports and all but shut it out of the international banking system.
    Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has signaled a willingness to meet with American officials on condition that all sanctions be lifted.     Simultaneously, Iran is flaunting its military and technical prowess.
    In recent months, Iran has shot down a U.S. surveillance drone and seized a British oil tanker in the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow channel through which about a fifth of the world’s oil moves. And it has announced it has amassed stockpiles of enriched uranium in violation of the U.N agreement, part of its vow to restart its nuclear weapons program.
    The Aramco attacks were an escalation that came as Trump had been pursuing his long-stated goal of extricating American forces from the Middle East.    Just days after announcing an abrupt pullout of U.S. troops in northern Syria, the Trump administration on Oct. 11 said it would send fighter jets, missile-defense weaponry and 2,800 more troops to Saudi Arabia to bolster the kingdom’s defenses.
    “Do not strike another sovereign state, do not threaten American interests, American forces, or we will respond,” U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper warned Tehran during a press briefing.
    Still, Iran appears to have calculated that the Trump administration would not risk an all-out assault that could destabilize the region in the service of protecting Saudi oil, said Ali Vaez, director of the Iran Project at the International Crisis Group, a nonprofit working to end global conflict.
    In Iran, “hard-liners have come to believe that Trump is a Twitter tiger,” Vaez said.    “As such there is little diplomatic or military cost associated with pushing back.”
    The senior Trump administration official disputed the suggestion that Iran’s operation has strengthened its hand in working out a deal for sanctions relief from the United States.
    “Iran knows exactly what it needs to do to see sanctions lifted,” the official said.
    The administration has said Iran must end support for terrorist groups in the Middle East and submit to tougher terms that would permanently snuff its nuclear ambitions.    Iran has said it has no ties to terrorist groups.
    Whether Tehran accedes to U.S. demands remains to be seen.
    In one of the final meetings held ahead of the Saudi oil attack, another Revolutionary Guards commander was already looking ahead, according to the official close to Iran’s decision making who was briefed on that gathering.
    “Rest assured Allah almighty will be with us,” the commander told senior security officials.    “Start planning for the next one.”
(Writing by Michael Georgy; Editing by Marla Dickerson)

11/25/2019 Iran says pro-government rally to show the ‘real’ Iranians
FILE PHOTO: Destroyed petrol pumps are pictured at a gas station, after protests against increased fuel prices,
in Tehran, Iran November 20, 2019. Nazanin Tabatabaee/WANA (West Asia News Agency) via REUTERS/File Photo
    DUBAI (Reuters) – A pro-government rally in Tehran on Monday will show the world who “real” Iranians are, Iran’s Foreign Ministry said, expressing surprise at foreign statements of support for a wave of protests against the authorities over a fuel price rise.
    The protests grew into anti-government unrest that saw at least 100 banks and dozens of buildings torched in the worst violence at least since Iran put down a “Green Revolution” in 2009, when dozens were killed over several months.
    Iran has blamed “thugs” linked to exiles and foreign foes – the United States, Israel and Saudi Arabia – for stirring up the street unrest.
    After days of state-sponsored marches in dozens of cities to condemn the unrest, Iran is holding a pro-government rally in the capital to be addressed by the commander of the elite Revolutionary Guards, which helped quell the unrest.
    “I recommend they (foreign countries) look at the marches today, to see who the real people in Iran are and what they are saying,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said in remarks carried by state television.
    “We are surprised that the foreign minister of a certain country has stooped so low as to ask for videos of bank-burnings … be sent to them,” Mousavi said.
    “We recognise the right to peaceful assembly…But the situation is different for rioters … and groups which take direction (from abroad) and are armed.”
    U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo asked Iranian protesters on Twitter last week to send the United States any photos or videos of the crackdown of protests.    “The United States will publicize and condemn the persecution of protesters,” he said.
    The French government said on Wednesday it was deeply concerned by reports of many deaths during protests in Iran and called on Tehran to respect its international human rights duties.
    Rights group Amnesty International said last week that security forces shot into crowds of protesters from rooftops and, in one case, from a helicopter.
    Amnesty said at least 115 people were killed in the unrest.    Iran has rejected death toll figures as “speculative.”
    Authorities have said about 1,000 demonstrators have been arrested.    The Center for Human Rights in Iran, a New York-based advocacy group, said the numbers was likely closer to 4,000.
    In response to the unrest, authorities shut the Internet for a week, making it difficult for protesters to post videos on social media to report events and generate support.
    The move was done for security, Mousavi said, comparing it to “turning off gas pipes if there is a city-wide fire.”
    Residents said on Monday fixed-line internet was restored and mobile internet was partially back to normal.
    The United States imposed sanctions on Iran’s information minister last week for his role in “widescale internet censorship,” a reference to the shutdown.
    Protests began on Nov. 15 in several towns after the government announced gasoline price hikes of at least 50%.    They spread to 100 cities and towns and quickly turned political with protesters demanding top officials step down.
(Reporting by Dubai newsroom, Editing by William Maclean)

11/25/2019 Fresh headache for China after Hong Kong democrats rout pro-Beijing candidates by James Pomfret
Leaders of the Civic Party attend a news conference after the local district council
election in Hong Kong, China, November 25, 2019. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha
    HONG KONG (Reuters) – After months of sometimes-violent unrest in Hong Kong, an election with record turnout handed a big victory to pro-democracy local district council candidates, posing a new conundrum for Beijing and adding pressure on the city’s leader.
    In the run-up to the citywide elections on Sunday, extreme clashes had broken out between riot police and anti-government protesters who had barricaded themselves in several universities.
    The standoffs were stoked in part by the death of a protester after a fall, and the shooting of another by a policeman at point-blank range.
    Yet on Sunday, amid a rare lull, nearly three million people – about three-quarters of eligible voters – queued on a crisp, cerulean autumn day to exercise their democratic rights, with pro-democracy candidates ultimately winning nearly 400 of the 452 seats.
    In the last election, four years ago, they won just 100.
    “Most people think the extra one million voters came out to send a political message to the government, that they still support the protesters and they’re dissatisfied with the government,” said Chinese University political scientist Ma Ngok.
    “The government and the pro-Beijing camp have always claimed they have public support,” Ma added.    “But now … this is a big slap in the face because the public has showed their real position in record numbers.”
    Hong Kong’s leader Carrie Lam said in a statement she respected the result and that her government “will listen to the views of the public with an open mind and with serious reflection,” without offering specifics.
    “The HKSAR Government will listen to the opinions of members of the public humbly and seriously reflect,” the statement said, referring to the city’s formal name, the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.
    District councillors lack political heft and deal largely with livelihood issues.    But taken as a bloc across Hong Kong, with their own offices, funding and networks, some say they provide the democrats with an extra lever with which to influence policies, even as the protests rumble on.
‘VOTE OF NO-CONFIDENCE
    Lo Kin-hei, a pro-democracy district councilor who was re-elected, said the vote was in effect a “vote of no-confidence” in the political establishment, including Hong Kong’s leader, Carrie Lam, and key Chinese officials such as Zhang Xiaoming, head of the State Council’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office.
    Lo says that district councillors, with around HK$1 million ($127,797) in funding each year, could provide resources to help the “protest movement’s momentum to be sustained.”
    In the pro-Beijing camp, there were soul-searching and bows of apology from leaders of the main DAB political party, with leader Starry Lee offering to resign.
    Stanley Ng Chau-pei, a Hong Kong delegate to China’s National People’s Congress, whose trade union members ran as candidates, told reporters it had been an “unfair” election.
    Ng called on the government to respond with effective policies to “address the deep splits in society,” and for effective measures to end the violence.
    Lam’s room to maneuver, however, remains “very limited,” according to a voice recording obtained by Reuters this summer, though she has stressed a need to first end the violence and halt the chaos.
    Some observers said she would now face more pressure to respond to the protesters’ demands, which include democratic reforms and an independent inquiry into allegations of police brutality.
    Police tactics in dealing with the protests have been widely seen as one of the major drivers for the clashes.    But the government has so far said existing police oversight mechanisms are sufficient to handle complaints.
    Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule in 1997 amid the promise of a high degree of autonomy, though the erosion of freedoms by China have stoked broader resentment and fueled the current political crisis.
    The likelihood of Beijing offering any new concessions in the short term remains slim, observers say, given the tough line taken so far.
    Of the protesters’ key demands, the government has so far only responded to one: In September, it formally withdrew the extradition bill that sparked the first protests.
    China’s top legislature said last week that Hong Kong courts have no power to rule on the constitutionality of legislation under the city’s Basic Law, a day after Hong Kong’s High Court had ruled a controversial ban on wearing face masks was unconstitutional.
    Many council districts long dominated by pro-Beijing forces supported by China’s United Front struggled against an unprecedented voter turnout of over 70 percent.
    The vote underscores a deep pool of support for the protest movement, despite occasional violence by protesters.
    Many voters said they wanted to punish the pro-Beijing camp for backing the extradition bill despite a mass airing of public concerns.
    Although some pro-Beijing heavyweights were toppled by relative newcomers, the DAB’s Lee says her party will regroup for key legislative council elections next September.
    But some observers say Beijing may see an advantage in replacing Lam before then so she does not become an electoral liability.
(Reporting by James Pomfret; Editing by Gerry Doyle)

11/25/2019 More secrets of China’s Xinjiang camps leaked to foreign media
FILE PHOTO: The Chinese national flag flies outside the mosque at the Xinjiang International Grand Bazar during a government
organised trip in Urumqi, Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, China, January 3, 2019. REUTERS/Ben Blanchard/File Photo
    SHANGHAI (Reuters) – Classified Chinese government documents made public by an international group of journalists describe the repressive inner workings of detention camps in Xinjiang, in a second rare leak in days of secret files concerning the troubled western region.
    The publication on Sunday of the documents by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) follows a New York Times report on Nov. 16 based on a cache of secret papers revealing details of China’s clamp-down on ethnic Uighurs and other Muslims in the region.
    United Nations experts and activists say at least 1 million Uighurs and members of other largely Muslim minority groups have been detained in camps in Xinjiang.
    The ICIJ https://www.icij.org/investigations/china-cables/exposed-chinas-operating-manuals-for-mass-internment-and-arrest-by-algorithm says it obtained a 2017 list of guidelines “that effectively serves as a manual for operating the camps,” with instructions on how to prevent escapes, maintain secrecy about the camps’ existence, indoctrinate internees and “when to let detainees see relatives or even use the toilet.”
    Other documents it obtained include “intelligence briefings” showing how police have been “guided by a massive data collection and analysis system that uses artificial intelligence to select entire categories of Xinjiang residents for detention.”
    Foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told a news conference on Monday that Xinjiang affairs were an internal matter of China’s, and that a stable and prosperous Xinjiang was the best response to what he said amounted to slander.
    The Guardian newspaper, an ICIJ affiliate, reported the Chinese embassy in London as saying “the so called leaked documents are pure fabrication and fake news.”
    Reuters was unable to independently verify the authenticity of the documents.
    The leaks come amid a rising international outcry over China’s broader human rights record in Xinjiang.    The United States has led more than 30 countries in condemning what it called a “horrific campaign of repression.”
    Beijing denies any mistreatment of Uighurs or others in Xinjiang, saying it is providing vocational training to help stamp out Islamist extremism and separatism and to teach new skills.
(Reporting by John Ruwitch in Shanghai and Gabriel Crossley in Beijing; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)

11/25/2019 Australia probes ‘deeply disturbing’ allegations of Chinese political interference by Sonali Paul
FILE PHOTO: Tourists walk around the forecourt of Australia's Parliament House in
Canberra, Australia, October 16, 2017. REUTERS/David Gray/File Photo
    MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Australia’s domestic spy agency is investigating whether China tried to install an agent in federal parliament in what Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Monday called “deeply disturbing” allegations.
    The Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) said it had launched an investigation before the alleged plot was reported by Australia’s “60 Minutes” program and affiliated newspapers on Sunday.
    The reports said a suspected Chinese espionage ring had offered “a seven figure sum” to pay for a Melbourne luxury car dealer, Bo “Nick” Zhao, to run for a seat in Australia’s federal parliament.
    “The reporting on Nine’s ’60 Minutes’ contains allegations that ASIO takes seriously,” ASIO Director-General of Security Mike Burgess said in the statement on Sunday.
    “Australians can be reassured that ASIO was previously aware of matters that have been reported today, and has been actively investigating them.”
    Officials at China’s embassy in Canberra were not immediately available for comment.
    “I find the allegations deeply disturbing and troubling,” Morrison told reporters in Canberra, adding the government had beefed up Australia’s laws and security agencies to counter foreign interference.
    “Australia is not naive to the threats that it faces more broadly,” he added, without commenting on the specific allegations.
    Resource-rich Australia’s ties with its most important trading partner China have deteriorated in recent years, amid accusations that Beijing is meddling in domestic affairs.
    The government has set up a counter-foreign interference coordinator and given the intelligence and security agencies additional resources to protect Australians and the nation’s institutions, a government spokesman said.
    Car dealer Zhao told ASIO about the alleged approach from another Melbourne businessman about a year ago, the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper said in the joint report with “60 Minutes” and The Age newspaper, citing Zhao’s associates and Western security sources.
    Zhao was found dead in March in a Melbourne motel room and police have been unable to conclude how he died, the newspaper said.
    ASIO’s Burgess said he would not comment further and the death was subject to a coronial inquiry.
    “Hostile foreign intelligence activity continues to pose a real threat to our nation and its security.    ASIO will continue to confront and counter foreign interference and espionage in Australia,” he said.
    The latest allegations came a day after media reported that a Chinese defector, who said he was an intelligence operative, told ASIO how China had funded and conducted political interference in Taiwan, Australia and Hong Kong.
    The man, Wang Liqiang, is seeking asylum in Australia with his wife and young son.
    Morrison said his asylum claim would be assessed on its merits, based on any “reasonable fear of persecution in their home country.”
    Responding to the media reports, Chinese police said the “so-called China spy” was a 26-year-old convicted fraudster from the eastern province of Fujian.
    Wang’s account sparked an angry reaction in the influential state-owned tabloid Global Times on Monday, which said: “Chinese people would intuitively know that Wang sounds like an opportunistic liar, probably a swindler.”
    The newspaper said someone of Wang’s age would have been “in a training or intern programme” if they were in the national security department.    It added that it was very rare for a person in China’s national security establishment to have a child at such a young age.
    “If Australia’s intelligence agency really believed Wang, it would have taken secret counter-espionage actions instead of letting the media expose it,” the Global Times said.
    ASIO has not commented on any counter-espionage actions it may have taken in response to Wang’s claims.
(Reporting by Sonali Paul; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Stephen Coates)

11/25/2019 Taiwan ruling party says China ‘enemy of democracy’ after meddling allegations by Yimou Lee and Ben Blanchard
FILE PHOTO: Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen speaks to members of the American Chamber of Commerce at their
annual general meeting in Taipei, Taiwan November 19, 2019. REUTERS/Fabian Hamacher/File Photo
    TAIPEI (Reuters) – Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen’s ruling party denounced China as an “enemy of democracy” on Monday following fresh claims of Chinese interference in the island’s politics ahead of presidential and legislative elections on Jan. 11.
    The allegations, reported by Australian media, were made by a Chinese asylum seeker in Australia who said he was a Chinese spy. China, which claims Taiwan as its sacred territory, to be brought under Beijing’s control by force if necessary, has branded the asylum seeker a fraud.
    The Chinese man, Wang Liqiang, also provided details of Chinese efforts to infiltrate universities and media in the Chinese territory of Hong Kong, which has been rocked by months of anti-government protests.
    Cho Jung-tai, chairman of Tsai’s Democratic Progressive Party, which favors Taiwan’s formal independence, said there needed to be further investigations, noting that a lot of fake news came from China.
    “The enemy of democracy is China.    At present Taiwan’s most ambitious opponent, competitor, is also China,” Cho told a news conference in Taipei.
    Taiwan’s presidential office cited Tsai as saying on Monday that the allegations were being probed, and that people should not reach conclusions before a complete investigation was done.
    Among several allegations leveled, the would-be defector said he had helped guide positive media attention toward certain Taiwanese politicians, including President Tsai’s main opponent, Han Kuo-yu of the China-friendly Kuomintang party.
    The Kuomintang’s Han said he would drop out of the election if he has taken any money from the Chinese Communist Party.
    Speaking at a separate news conference, Kuomintang’s spokeswoman Wang Hong-wei said the issue was one of “blundering Communist espionage” that should be investigated immediately, and accused the government of seeking to use the matter to “manipulate elections.”
DOUBTS
    China’s state-backed Global Times tabloid said in a Monday opinion piece that Wang Liqiang sounded like an “opportunistic liar, probably a swindler.”
    Three Taipei-based diplomatic and security sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters they also doubted whether Wang was who he claimed to be, though his allegations were plausible.
    “Our assessment is he is most likely not who is says he is,” said one of the sources.
    Separately, Taiwan is investigating two directors of a Hong Kong-listed company which was named in the Australian reports as being involved in Communist Party infiltration of Hong Kong universities and media, the Justice Ministry’s Investigation Bureau said on Monday, without giving details.
    Wang said he was part of an intelligence operation working within Hong Kong-listed China Innovation Investment Limited to infiltrate Hong Kong universities and media with pro-Communist Party operatives to counter the territory’s democracy movement.
    In a statement to the Hong Kong Stock Exchange earlier on Monday, the company said the reports were “all fictitious and forged” and that Wang had never worked there.
    The company said that it had received notification from Executive Director Xiang Xin and alternate Director Kung Ching that they had been about to leave Taipei Taoyuan Airport when Taiwanese investigators requested their cooperation in an “investigation on the matter of the news reports.”
    “In fact, Mr. Xiang and Mrs. Kung knew nothing about the issues exposed in the news reports,” the statement said.    It said both directors had engaged Taiwan lawyers to provide assistance.
    It was not immediately clear who their lawyers were.
    The company declined to provide further details beyond what was in the statement.
(Reporting by Ben Blanchard and Yimou Lee; editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)

11/25/2019 Going whole hog: U.S. tells exporters to report pig carcass sales as China buying soars by Tom Polansek
FILE PHOTO: Pigs are seen on a farm at a village in Changtu county, Liaoning
province, China, January 17, 2019. REUTERS/Ryan Woo/File Photo
    CHICAGO (Reuters) – The U.S. Department of Agriculture said on Monday that commodity exporters must disclose sales of hog carcasses, giving officials and traders more insight into a surge of Chinese pork buying that has roiled global meat markets.
    China’s pork imports have nearly doubled this year as a fatal pig disease has decimated its herd and pushed prices of the country’s favorite meat to record highs. Its imports of beef and chicken have also climbed as China is scouring the world for meat to replace millions of pigs killed by African swine fever.
    The USDA published a rule to specify that exporters must report sales of pork and beef carcasses effective immediately, after its Foreign Agricultural Service received informal inquiries about what must be disclosed.
    Previously, exporters had to report sales of “muscle cuts.”    Traders and analysts said it was unclear whether that included different types of carcasses.
    China, the world’s largest pork consumer, is buying U.S. hog carcasses from companies like WH Group Ltd’s <0288.HK> Smithfield Foods because Chinese meat processors need the entire animal, according to analysts.
    “Timely reporting and publishing of agricultural export sales data is key to effectively functioning markets,” the USDA said in a statement.
    The USDA publishes commodity export sales data each week that can swing agricultural futures prices.
    The agency’s data had previously been incomplete because it was unclear whether shippers had to alert the USDA to carcass sales, said Dennis Smith, commodity broker for Archer Financial Services in Chicago.
    Now, exporters know they must report sales of whole carcasses, carcasses that are divided, and those that are boxed.
    “The rule is pretty clear now,” Smith said.
    “It’ll give us a better perspective on the carnage in China – how much pork they actually need.    It’ll give clarification on actual exports that are headed for the country.”
    U.S. carcass shipments to China began in June after Smithfield Foods, the world’s biggest pork processor, retooled a processing plant in Virginia to slice hogs in thirds for export to China in boxes.    Shipments reached a total of 78,390 tonnes by the end of September, according to USDA data, topping 676 tonnes shipped in 2017.
    Smithfield did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
    U.S. processors face a disadvantage for sales to China, compared with other suppliers, because Beijing imposed steep tariffs on U.S. pork as part of the countries’ trade war. Still, Chinese prices are so high that importers are willing to pay the tariff, affecting the U.S. market.
(Reporting by Tom Polansek in Chicago; Editing by Matthew Lewis)

11/26/2019 Exclusive: China sets up Hong Kong crisis center in mainland, considers
replacing chief liaison by Keith Zhai, James Pomfret and David Kirton
FILE PHOTO: Hong Kong's Chief Executive Carrie Lam arrives for the Second Hongqiao International Economic Forum during the
second China International Import Expo (CIIE) in Shanghai, China November 5, 2019. Wu Hong/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo
    HONG KONG/SHENZHEN, China (Reuters) – Tightening control over efforts to manage the upheaval in Hong Kong, the Chinese leadership has set up a crisis command center on the mainland side of the border and is considering replacing its official liaison to the restive semi-autonomous city, people familiar with the matter said.
    As violent protests roil Hong Kong, top Chinese leaders in recent months have been managing their response from a villa on the outskirts of Shenzhen, bypassing the formal bureaucracy through which Beijing has supervised the financial hub for two decades.
    Ordinarily, communications between Beijing and Hong Kong are conducted through a Chinese government body: the Liaison Office of the Central People’s Government in Hong Kong.    The Liaison Office is housed in a Hong Kong skyscraper stacked with surveillance cameras, ringed by steel barricades and topped by a reinforced glass globe.
    In a sign of dissatisfaction with the Liaison Office’s handling of the crisis, Beijing is considering potential replacements for the body’s director, Wang Zhimin, two people familiar with the situation said.    Wang is the most senior mainland political official stationed in Hong Kong.
    The office has come in for criticism in Hong Kong and China for misjudging the situation in the city.    “The Liaison Office has been mingling with the rich people and mainland elites in the city and isolated itself from the people,” a Chinese official said.    “This needs to be changed.”
    The Liaison Office may face increased pressure after city voters delivered a resounding defeat to pro-Beijing parties in local district elections on Sunday.    Pro-democracy candidates won almost 90 percent of the seats, securing their first ever majority after running a campaign against Beijing’s perceived encroachments on Hong Kong’s liberties.
    The Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Office in Hong Kong called the report “false,” without elaborating, in a statement posted on its website Tuesday.    “No matter how the situation in Hong Kong changes, the Chinese government’s determination to safeguard national sovereignty, security, and development interests is unwavering,” it said.
    The statement said China was committed to the “one country, two systems” policy that governs Hong Kong’s affairs, and was opposed to “external forces” interfering in the city’s affairs.
    The State Council’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office and the Liaison Office in Hong Kong did not reply to faxed requests for comment.    The office of Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam declined to comment for this story.
BAUHINIA VILLA
    The crisis center is located at the secluded Bauhinia Villa, a property owned by the Hong Kong Liaison Office, according to sources and official media, and named after the orchid that adorns the Hong Kong flag and currency.    The villa, located just across Hong Kong’s border with the mainland, has served as a crisis center before: Senior Chinese officials stayed at the resort during the pro-democracy “Occupy Central” protests that rocked Hong Kong in 2014.     Top mainland officials have been gathering at the leafy compound to plot strategy and issue instructions aimed at defusing the crisis, according to six people familiar with the matter.    Beijing authorities have been summoning key Hong Kong officials to meet at the villa during the five months of the increasingly violent anti-government protests, the sources said.
    Among those who have attended, two of the people said, is embattled city leader Carrie Lam, who in September dramatically scrapped the controversial extradition bill that had ignited the protests, with approval by China’s top leadership.    Hong Kong police officials, business leaders and local pro-Beijing politicians have been summoned to the villa as well.
    In an indication of the operation’s importance, Chinese President Xi Jinping is receiving daily written briefings from Bauhinia Villa, said two officials and another person familiar with the operation.
    The mainland Chinese and Hong Kong officials interviewed for this article spoke on condition of anonymity, citing the sensitivity of the matter.
    A Shenzhen businessman with close ties to Chinese officials described the villa complex as a “frontline command center” that authorities are using as a base for coordinating and monitoring the Hong Kong situation in a secure environment. The complex is “packed with people,” the businessman said.
    The establishment of the Shenzhen villa as a crisis center with a channel to top leader Xi points to the gravity and delicacy of the situation in Hong Kong, diplomats said.
    Mass protests erupted in June over an extradition bill that would have allowed individuals to be sent for trial to the mainland, where justice is controlled by the ruling Communist Party. Beijing wants to restore order in the city, but without being seen to be calling the shots.
    Though the extradition bill has been killed, the protests have grown angrier, powered by a broad perception that Beijing is meddling improperly in city affairs and by complaints of police brutality.    Hong Kong is governed under a charter which grants British-style rule of law until 2047, and its high degree of autonomy is widely seen as key to its prosperity as an international financial hub.
    City and mainland officials say the police response has been measured and that any violence has been initiated by extreme protesters.
    The lakeside setting of the villa, in a wooded neighborhood, enables Beijing and Hong Kong officials to meet away from the glare of the Hong Kong media and the chaos of the city’s protest-clogged streets.
‘PARALLEL HEADQUARTERS’
    The use of Bauhinia Villa to manage the crisis sets up a supplementary channel to the system Beijing put in place to oversee Hong Kong after China regained control of the city from Britain in 1997.
    The Liaison Office, which reports to China’s State Council, has long served as the platform for Beijing to radiate its influence in the city.    The office fosters relationships with the Hong Kong government as well as establishment figures and an array of pro-Beijing and youth groups, including business and clan associations from Chinese provinces and regions.
    “The Hong Kong situation has increasingly made Beijing authorities uncomfortable,” said Sonny Lo, a veteran Hong Kong political commentator.    Their desire for security and discretion, he said, is “the reason they select Shenzhen rather than Hong Kong as a kind of parallel headquarters in dealing with the Hong Kong crisis.”
    Senior Chinese officials initially tried to find a middle ground between not capitulating to the demands of the protesters, while trying to avoid a bloody crackdown that could damage the city’s stature as a business center, according to three of the people familiar with the Bauhinia operation.    Beijing sought to give the impression it wasn’t intervening in Hong Kong even after a million people took to the streets on June 9, the people said.
    Shortly after that show of mass defiance, however, the senior-most Chinese leader in charge of Hong Kong affairs took action.    That official, Vice Premier Han Zheng, authorized Lam to communicate directly with his office, rather than going through the Liaison Office, according to a person briefed on the matter, effectively establishing a hotline.
    Subsequently, vice minister-level officials with China’s Ministry of Public Security, Ministry of State Security, the Cyberspace Administration of China and other departments all visited the villa, three of the sources said, an indication of just how seriously Beijing took the situation.
    The two most senior Chinese leaders overseeing Hong Kong have been using Bauhinia Villa to deal more closely with the local leaders of the restive city, while remaining behind the scenes.
    One is Zhang Xiaoming, the head of the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, which sits under China’s top policy making body, the State Council.    He has been a regular presence at the villa during the crisis, according to two sources who met with him there.    A third person who met Zhang at Bauhinia Villa said Zhang spoke in detail about the now-shelved extradition bill and its importance, as well as subsequent attempts by Beijing to quell the unrest.
    The other is Vice Premier Han himself. A day after Hong Kong protesters blocked access to the city’s legislature on June 12, Han arrived at Bauhinia Villa and summoned Lam for a meeting, according to a person briefed on their discussions.    Gathered at Bauhinia was a multi-departmental team of Chinese public security, cyber security and intelligence officers, as well as advisers on Hong Kong affairs, three sources said.
    When Lam proposed a suspension of the bill at that meeting, Han agreed after talking with other leaders in Beijing, the person briefed on the meeting said.    Lam then announced the suspension of the bill on June 15.
    The Liaison Office and senior pro-Beijing politicians in the city “didn’t know about the withdrawal until close to the decision,” a senior Hong Kong official said.
BANYAN TREES AND BARBED WIRE
    The concession didn’t placate the protesters, who demanded a full and formal scrapping of the bill.
    As the protests have persisted, Beijing has taken a more visible role in Hong Kong: Chinese aviation authorities called for Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific Airways to suspend staff who supported or participated in the demonstrations, mainland paramilitary forces conducted exercises openly just across the border in Shenzhen, and China last week criticized a Hong Kong court ruling that overturned the city’s ban on face masks used by protesters, rare interference in the territory’s judiciary.
    Bauhinia Villa has long been an outpost for mainland China’s dealings with semi-autonomous Hong Kong.
    In addition to serving as a crisis center during the 2014 protests, the villa has been used as a low-key venue for Chinese officials to meet with city figures, with lodging facilities and ample space for conferences and events.    Bauhinia Villa also has hosted delegations from the Hong Kong pro-establishment and pro-Beijing camps for training sessions and preparatory meetings before annual legislative sessions in Beijing.    Another government-owned resort that hosts official functions, Kylin Villa, sits nearby.
    Xi himself stayed in Bauhinia Villa before he took power in 2012 and planted a tree inside the lake-side resort.
    Security is tight, with checkpoints, spiked fences topped with barbed wire and numerous surveillance cameras.    At the back is a steep tree-covered hill ringed with fencing, while on another side lies a conference center.    A Reuters journalist was turned away recently when he approached the property.
(Additional reporting by Greg Torode; Editing by Tony Munroe and Mike Williams)

11/26/2019 Humiliated at polls, Hong Kong’s Lam acknowledges discontent with government by Sharon Tam and Clare Jim
Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam speaks to the media in a weekly news briefing
after local elections in Hong Kong, China, November 26, 2019. REUTERS/Marko Djurica
    HONG KONG (Reuters) – Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam acknowledged on Tuesday that the record turnout in local elections won by pro-democracy candidates highlighted dissatisfaction with her administration, while appealing for an end to violent protests.
    Appearing tired and drawn, Lam spoke a day after results showed democratic candidates secured almost 90% of 452 district council seats in Sunday’s elections, a landslide victory in polls that were widely seen as a barometer of the opposition to the Beijing-backed politician following months of unrest.
    China, which has blamed foreign forces for fomenting unrest in the city, has not directly commented on the results, and major news outlets among China’s tightly controlled media largely avoided detailed reporting of how Hong Kongers voted.
    On Tuesday, top diplomat Yang Jiechi condemned the passing of U.S legislation supporting protesters, saying China had “expressed our severe position the American side,” according to state news agency Xinhua.
    A day earlier, the foreign ministry summoned U.S. Ambassador Terry Branstad to protest the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, which it said amounted to interference in an internal Chinese matter.
    Lam, Hong Kong’s most unpopular post-colonial leader, acknowledged voters in the city wanted to express their views on many issues, including “deficiencies in governance.”
    Speaking in measured tones, she thanked residents for voting peacefully and hoped the calm weekend was not just for the elections but a signal that residents want an end to unrest that has rocked the Chinese-ruled city for six months.
    “Everybody wants to go back to their normal life and this requires the concerted efforts of every one of us,” Lam said during her weekly address at the government’s headquarters.
    “So, as I have said repeatedly, resorting to violence will not give us that way forward.    So please, please help us to maintain the relative calm and peace … and provide a good basis for Hong Kong to move forward.”
LULL IN VIOLENCE
    The Asian financial center has enjoyed a rare lull in violence for nearly a week, breaking from six months of often violent anti-government unrest that has plunged the city into its biggest political crisis in decades, creating the greatest internal challenge yet faced by China’s President Xi Jinping.
    The Chinese leadership has set up a crisis command center on the mainland side of the border and is considering replacing its official liaison to the restive semi-autonomous city, people familiar with the matter said.
    Protests have sprung up on an almost daily basis since June, with flash mobs often gathering with little or no notice, at times forcing the government, businesses, schools and even the city’s international airport to close.
    The violence had escalated up to last week, with protesters hurling petrol bombs and firing arrows at police who responded with tear gas and rubber bullets.
    Demonstrators are angry at what they see as Chinese meddling in the freedoms promised to the former British colony when it returned to Chinese rule in 1997.
    China denies interfering and says it is committed to the “one country, two systems” formula put in place at that time.    Police say they have shown restraint in the face of potentially deadly attacks.
UNIVERSITY STANDOFF
    While calm has descended across most of the city, a small group of protesters remain holed up in Polytechnic University, surrounded by police following extreme clashes at the campus on Kowloon peninsula in the run-up to elections.
    In her speech Lam urged them to leave peacefully as soon as possible.
    On Tuesday, university staff combed the sprawling campus looking for holdouts, finding one female protester, Professor Ping-kong Alexander Wai told reporters.
    The Cross-Harbor Tunnel, a major artery linking Hong Kong island to the Kowloon peninsula which closed after protesters occupied the campus nearby, will re-open at 5.am on Wednesday (2100 GMT), chief secretary Matthew Cheung said.
    Government staff and contractors spent days cleaning the area, which he said was left looking like a “war-zone,” with fire hydrants and toll booths destroyed.
    The anti-government demonstrations bolstered support for democrats in Sunday’s elections, with a record three million people casting their vote.
    The pro-democracy parties overwhelming victory poses a conundrum for Beijing and piles pressure on Lam, who is facing renewed calls to step down.    The democrats took control of 17 out of 18 district councils.
    Some observers say Lam, who came to power in 2017 on a platform to heal social divisions, is out of touch with the population and won’t say anything concrete unless Beijing gives her the green light.
    “There’s no content in her talk, which is usual,” said Ma Ngok, political scientist at Chinese University of Hong Kong.
    “The majority of the people still support the (pro-democracy) movement so it is up to them (Beijing) to respond.    If they don’t respond with any kind of concessions, I think the protests would go on for some time.”
(Story corrects time of tunnel opening from 0900 to 2100 GMT)
(Reporting By Clare Jim, Jessie Pang, Sharon Tam, Marius Zaharia and Noah Sin; Writing by Anne Marie Roantree & Poppy McPherson; Editing by Paul Tait & Simon Cameron-Moore)

11/26/2019 Taiwan presidential challenger’s wife skips Singapore after being told no campaigning
FILE PHOTO: Opposition Nationalist Kuomintang Party (KMT) Kaohsiung mayoral candidate Han Kuo-yu and his wife
celebrates after he won in local elections, in Kaohsiung, Taiwan November 24, 2018. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu/File Photo
    TAIPEI (Reuters) – The wife of Taiwan’s main opposition candidate in a presidential election has canceled a campaigning trip to Singapore after the government said it did not permit “foreign political activities.”
    Singapore, like most countries, has no formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan, which China claims as its own territory and simply a province with no right to foreign relations.
    But Singapore does have close informal ties with Taiwan, including militarily, and was the site in 2015 for a landmark meeting between China’s President Xi Jinping and Taiwan’s then-president, Ma Ying-jeou.
    Lee Chia-fen, the wife of Han Kuo-yu from Taiwan’s Kuomintang party, which favors close ties with China, had been due in Singapore this week to stump for support for her husband from Taiwanese electors in the island state.    Media in Singapore estimate there are around 50,000 Taiwanese living there.
    The Kuomintang said on Tuesday that her trip had been called off altogether, having already said on Monday that it had canceled what would have been a rare high-profile overseas election event after Singapore’s government had expressed concern about security.
    Singapore’s Foreign Ministry, responding to what it called questions “regarding reports on the cancellation of a visit to Singapore by the spouse of a politician from Taiwan,” said foreign political activities were not allowed.
    “The government does not permit the conduct of foreign political activities, including campaigning and fund raising, in Singapore.    We have consistently maintained the same policy for all parties,” it said in a statement.
    “We expect all residents and visitors to respect and abide by our laws.”
    However, other countries in the region which also have large Taiwanese business communities have welcomed Lee, including Cambodia, a close Chinese ally that does not even permit Taiwan to have a representative office there.
    Lee has also been to Vietnam and Japan to drum up support, and is now in Malaysia.    Her husband is far behind in opinion polls.
    The Kuomintang, which used to rule China until it was forced to flee to Taiwan in 1949 after losing a civil war with the Communists, says it wants to improve relations with Beijing.
    Han this month called for a return to a consensus with Beijing that there is only one China, but rejected China’s formula for Hong Kong-style “one nation, two systems” unification.
    China has also previously allowed the Kuomintang to conduct low-key campaigning amongst the large Taiwanese business community in China, hoping they will go home to vote and usher in a government more well disposed toward Beijing.
    China is deeply suspicious of Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen and her ruling Democratic Progressive Party, fearing it wishes to push for the island’s formal independence, crossing a red line for Beijing.
(Reporting by Ben Blanchard and Yimou Lee; Additional reporting by John Geddie in Singapore; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)

11/26/2019 Pakistan’s top court suspends extension for army chief by Alasdair Pal
FILE PHOTO: Pakistan's Army Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Qamar Javed Bajwa arrives to attend
the Pakistan Day military parade in Islamabad, Pakistan, March 23, 2017. REUTERS/Faisal Mahmood
    ISLAMABAD (Reuters) – Pakistan’s Supreme Court on Tuesday suspended an extension of the term of office for the country’s army chief, putting it on a possible collision course with the powerful military.     General Qamar Javed Bajwa was handed a three-year extension on Aug. 19, with the office of Prime Minister Imran Khan citing tension with neighboring India over the disputed territory of Kashmir.
    Khan’s government has enjoyed good relations with the military, in contrast to the tensions between the civilian government and army under the party of his predecessor and rival Nawaz Sharif.
    During Bajwa’s tenure the military has been accused by opposition politicians of electoral manipulation that helped Khan to power last year.
    The military, which has ruled Pakistan for nearly half its 72-year history and takes the lead in setting security and foreign policy, has always denied interfering in politics.
    In a hearing to validate Bajwa’s extension on Tuesday, Pakistan’s Chief Justice Asif Saeed Khosa said the court was suspending the decision until the army produced detailed arguments on its reasoning.
    “If the (regional security) situation is so then the army as a whole body can deal with the situation, not the individual,” Khosa said.    “If this criteria is allowed than every individual in the army can demand an extension on the same grounds.”
    Under Pakistan’s constitution, the army chief of staff usually serves a three-year term.    Since the role was established in 1972, only one general has had his term extended by a civilian government.
    If the extension is blocked by the court, Bajwa’s term will end on Friday.    Khosa issued notice for a representative of the military to appear in court on Wednesday.
    A military spokesman declined to comment.
(Reporting by Alasdair Pal; Editing by Alex Richardson)

11/26/2019 China summons U.S. ambassador in protest over Hong Kong rights bill
Newly appointed U.S. Ambassador to China Terry Branstad speaks to the media in
front of his residence in Beijing, China June 28, 2017. REUTERS/Thomas Peter
    SHANGHAI (Reuters) – China’s foreign ministry summoned U.S. Ambassador Terry Branstad on Monday to protest against the passing in the U.S. Congress of the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, saying it amounted to interference in an internal Chinese matter.
    The ministry said in a notice posted on its website Vice Foreign Minister Zheng Zeguang pressed the United States “to correct its errors and stop meddling in Hong Kong affairs and interfering in China’s internal matters.”
    Anti-government demonstrators have protested in the streets of Hong Kong for six months amid increasing violence and fears that China will ratchet up its response to stop the civil disobedience.
    The protesters are angry at what they see as Chinese meddling in the freedoms promised to Hong Kong when Britain handed it back to China in 1997.
    The U.S. House of Representatives sent two Hong Kong-related bills to the White House on Wednesday after voting almost unanimously in favor of them.    The Senate had unanimously passed the day before.
    U.S. President Donald Trump is expected to sign the bills into law, despite delicate trade talks with Beijing.
    Zheng said the passage of the Human Rights and Democracy Act was a form of encouragement of the violence and constituted a serious violation of international law and basic norms of international relations.
    “China expresses its strong resentment and resolute opposition,” he was quoted as saying.
    A U.S. embassy spokesman said Branstad told Zheng the United States was watching events in Hong Kong “with grave concern.”
    “?He conveyed that we condemn all forms of violence and intimidation.    The ambassador added that the United States believes that societies are best served when diverse political views can be represented in genuinely free and fair elections.”
    A U.S. State Department spokeswoman said earlier Hong Kong’s autonomy, its adherence to the rule of law and its commitment to protecting civil liberties were “key to preserving its special status under U.S. law.”
    “As the United States Government has said repeatedly, the Chinese Communist Party must honor its promises to the Hong Kong people, who only want the freedoms and liberties that they have been promised in the Sino-British Joint Declaration, a U.N.-filed treaty,” the spokeswoman said.
    The Joint Declaration is the 1984 agreement of the terms under which Britain would return Hong Kong to China on July 1, 1997, and included the promise of a “high degree of autonomy” for Hong Kong for 50 years from that date.
(Reporting by John Ruwitch in Shanghai, David Brunnstrom in Washington and Tony Munroe in Beijing; Editing by Paul Tait)

11/26/2019 Secretary Pompeo condemns Iran’s aggression towards protesters by OAN Newsroom
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo listens to a question as he speaks with reporters at the
State Department, Tuesday, Nov. 26, 2019 in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
    Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the U.S. will keep punishing Iran as long as it continues to use violence on protesters.    During a press briefing at the State Department Tuesday, Pompeo said he and President Trump have been following the anti-government demonstrations in the Islamic Republic.
    The U.S. secretary went on to say the people are taking to the streets as a result of the regime’s poor economic management, adding, the government is responding to their concerns with violence.    Pompeo also revealed the U.S. asked demonstrators to send videos of the government’s abuses, so the U.S. can expose their violence.
    “We have received to date nearly 20,000 messages, videos, pictures, notes of the regime’s abuses through telegram messaging services…I hope they they will continue to be sent to us,” he stated.    “We will continue to sanction Iranian officials who are responsible for these human rights abuses.”
    The protests have been ongoing for several weeks after the country imposed a sharp increase to oil prices.    So far, at least 115 people have been killed as a result of those demonstrations.

11/27/2019 Hong Kong university siege winds down as hunt for protesters comes up empty by Jessie Pang
Cars drive past the toll booth area of the re-opened Cross-Harbor Tunnel in Hong Kong, China November 27, 2019. REUTERS/Leah Millis
    HONG KONG (Reuters) – As the final searches for any pro-democracy protesters still hiding in Hong Kong’s Polytechnic University came up empty on Wednesday, academic authorities prepared for the clean up following a near two-week siege of the campus by riot police.
    Police still guarded the perimeter as a security team prepared to scour the maze of buildings for a second day.    Polytechnic University Executive Vice President Dr Miranda Lou said no-one had been found so far.
    “We hope we can re-open the school soon to start our renovation work and reduce the impact on our students and our research projects,” said Lou.
    The red-brick university on Kowloon peninsula was turned into a battleground in mid-November when protesters barricaded themselves inside and clashed with riot police in a hail of petrol bombs, water cannon and tear gas.    About 1,100 people were arrested last week, some while trying to escape.
    The campus was the last of five that protesters had occupied to use as bases from which to disrupt the city, blocking the nearby Cross-Harbour Tunnel linking Kowloon to Hong Kong Island and other arteries.
    The protesters had blocked the tunnel’s mouth, smashed toll booths, lit fires, and cemented bricks to the road, but it was reopened early on Wednesday, and Hong Kong television showed a steady flow of vehicles surging through.
    Hong Kong authorities hope that a lull in clashes over the weekend during local elections, where pro-democracy candidates scored a landslide victory, can translate into more calm after nearly six months of turmoil.
    Chinese authorities reiterated a need “to stop the violence and restore order” after the election.
    Reuters also reported that China’s leaders had set up a crisis command center in the Chinese tech hub of Shenzhen, just across the border from Hong Kong, to deal with protests that have become the biggest populist challenge since China’s leader Xi Jinping came to power in 2012.
    The Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Office in Hong Kong called the report “false,” without elaborating, in a statement posted on its website Tuesday.    “No matter how the situation in Hong Kong changes, the Chinese government’s determination to safeguard national sovereignty, security, and development interests is unwavering,” it said.
    Despite the euphoria among protesters over the electoral victory, in which democracy advocates swept around 86 percent of the 452 district council seats, fresh demonstrations were planned for the weekend, including a march to protest the use of teargas on “children.”
    The city-wide elections drew a record turnout and were seen as a vote of no-confidence against Hong Kong’s Beijing-backed leader Carrie Lam over her handling of the financial hub’s worst crisis in decades.
    One Hong Kong newspaper, Sing Pao, published a front-page spread for the second successive day calling for Lam’s resignation.    “Hong Kong people had enough, Carrie Lam quit,” it read.
    Demonstrators are angry at what they see as Chinese meddling in the freedoms promised to the former British colony when it returned to Chinese rule in 1997.
    China denies interfering and says it is committed to the “one country, two systems” formula put in place at that time.
(Reporting by Jessie Pang, Clare Jim, and James Pomfret; Writing by Anne Marie Roantree; Editing by Paul Tait & Simon Cameron-Moore)

11/27/2019 Iran foreign minister meets senior Taliban official in Tehran
FILE PHOTO: Iran's Foreign Minister Javad Zarif reacts during a news conference with Russia's Foreign Minister
Sergei Lavrov (not pictured) after their meeting in Moscow, Russia, September 2, 2019. REUTERS/Evgenia Novozhenina/File Photo
    GENEVA (Reuters) – Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif held talks in Tehran with a Taliban delegation led by Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, one of the group’s founders, the official IRNA news agency reported on Wednesday.
    Zarif expressed Iran’s willingness to support dialogue between all Afghan parties with the participation of the Afghan government, according to IRNA.
    The Taliban have refused to talk to Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s government, denouncing it as a U.S. puppet.
    Last week, the Taliban released American and Australian university professors held hostage for more than three years, completing a delayed prisoner swap and raising hopes for a revival of peace talks.
    Iran also held talks with a delegation from Afghanistan’s Taliban in September, a week after peace talks between the United States and the Islamist insurgents collapsed.
    Iran said in December it had been meeting with Taliban representatives with the knowledge of the Afghan government, after reports of U.S.-Taliban talks about a ceasefire and a possible withdrawal of foreign troops.
(Reporting By Babak Dehghanpisheh; Editing by Catherine Evans)

11/27/2019 Special Report: How Hong Kong’s greatest tycoon went from friend of China to punching bag by Tom Lasseter, Farah Master, Clare Jim and Keith Zhai
FILE PHOTO: Police pass a burning barricade to break up thousands of anti-government protesters during a march billed as a global "emergency call"
for autonomy, in Hong Kong, China November 2, 2019. REUTERS/Thomas Peter/File Photo To match Special Report HONGKONG-PROTESTS/TYCOONS
    HONG KONG (Reuters) – In January of 1993, an ambitious Chinese Communist Party boss, a 39-year-old official with chubby cheeks and a mop of black hair, visited Hong Kong. He was seeking out the city’s rich among the shimmering skyscrapers, hoping to secure investment in Fuzhou, the second-tier city he ran in mainland China. His name was Xi Jinping.
    That August, Xi received a guest back home.    Hong Kong’s most famous tycoon, Li Ka-shing, known locally as “superman” for his business acumen, had come to town.    A photograph from the event shows Xi grinning as he walked beside Li, who held a bouquet of flowers in his hand.    In the background, a long banner hung with the message to “warmly welcome” Li Ka-shing.
    During those days, in the aftermath of the 1989 Tiananmen crackdown, Beijing was desperate to fire up a languishing economy.    National leaders and provincial potentates were courting Li for his cash and the star power his name brought to development projects on the mainland.    That time has passed.
    Xi is now the strongman leader of a rich and rising power that controls Hong Kong. Instead of feting the 91-year-old businessman, Beijing has harangued him for failing to deliver in the rebellious city.    When the Party was looking for a chorus of influential voices to counter the protests that began this summer, Li offered only even-handed pleas for restraint.    In an online video of comments he made at a monastery, Li asked that the leadership show “humanity” when dealing with young protesters.
    The response was brutal.    The Party’s central legal affairs commission in Beijing publicly accused Li of “harboring criminality” and “watching Hong Kong slip into the abyss.”    A pro-Beijing trade union leader in Hong Kong posted a Facebook item mocking him as the “king of cockroaches” with an image that pasted Li’s head atop a picture of a fat insect.
    “In the world of social media, some people are hard at work in sowing toxic doubts and disinformation to undermine trust,” Li said in a written response to questions from Reuters.    “It is hard not to be drawn into controversies [in] these times.”
    As the Beijing-backed government of Hong Kong cracks down on the demonstrators in the streets, there is another tightening of the leash happening, mostly behind the scenes: China’s efforts to throttle the power of Hong Kong’s tycoons.
    Li and other tycoons have long held dominion over Hong Kong, tracing its post-World War II economic rise through manufacturing, real estate and finance.    But the ascent of Xi Jinping, who became General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party in 2012, has fundamentally altered the status quo.
    Xi is a leader who “thinks that he is like the emperor,” said Willy Lam Wo-lap, a veteran observer of elite Beijing politics at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.    “So, he thinks that Hong Kong business people should definitely profess undying loyalty to the emperor, to Xi Jinping.”
    The vilification of the city’s preeminent capitalist was a rare public display of the new power dynamic, businessmen and analysts say.    It sent a clear message that Li and his fellow Hong Kong tycoons must toe the line and unequivocally condemn the protests, which present the most serious challenge to Communist Party rule since Tiananmen.
    The now-scrapped legislation that sparked the recent unrest would have allowed for extraditions from Hong Kong to mainland China.    It also provided an avenue for the seizure of assets, according to a statement by the Hong Kong Bar Association.    That could have exposed the city’s tycoons to the same fate as wealthy mainlanders who have been stripped of assets in Xi’s anti-corruption drive.
    Shortly after protests over the bill escalated in early June, some wealthy Hong Kongers began moving money outside of the region or setting up accounts that would allow them to do so, according to six private bankers whose institutions collectively handle hundreds of billions of dollars in assets.
    Reuters spoke with half a dozen people, including current Li executives, who have had personal relationships with the property mogul or worked alongside him over his career.    Li stepped down last year and was succeeded by his eldest son as chairman of his two main companies but remains the biggest shareholder.
    China’s foreign ministry declined to answer questions from Reuters.    The Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office did not respond to a request for comment.
RISK OF OFFENDING
    For all the vitriol aimed at Li in recent months, this was not a sudden split.    Before protests convulsed Hong Kong, he was already loosening his economic ties to China.
    At the start of this century, his flagship Hutchison Whampoa Ltd got much of its money from Hong Kong and the mainland: 56% of earnings before interest and taxes. Last year that figure at his current flagship firm was 14%.    Since 2015, Li’s corporate empire has been involved with more than $70 billion in acquisitions globally.    Less than $1 billion of that was in Hong Kong and mainland China, according to a Reuters analysis of Li’s deals worth $500 million or more.
    Asked about those numbers, a spokesperson for Li said that as Hutchison Whampoa sought large acquisitions overseas in the late 1990s and early 2000s, “the diversification changed the geographical proportions, but we are nevertheless growing in the mainland and in Hong Kong.”    In addition, the spokesperson said, a 2015 reorganization of the group brought down the proportion of earnings from the region for the current flagship.
    Shifting large business interests out of China’s immediate orbit carries the risk of offending mainland officials, especially as Beijing exerts greater control of Hong Kong, said Simon Murray, a former managing director at Li’s sprawling corporate operation who has known the billionaire for decades.
    “Everybody who is anybody at all in Hong Kong has got one eye on how the mainland sees that,” he said.    “And you’ve got to build your bridges with them, otherwise they could confiscate.”
    For Li, a billionaire in his autumnal years, the tensions with Beijing mark a dramatic turn. For decades, he enjoyed a position of eminence under Deng Xiaoping and then Jiang Zemin – the two men who led China from the late 1970s to the early 2000s.    Li was on committees that drafted Hong Kong’s Basic Law, the mini-constitution governing the city since it was handed to Beijing by the British, and on a body that selected its first government.
    Li’s entire life has been framed by the swings of history in Hong Kong and, looming on its edge, mainland China.    He was born in 1928 in the river city of Chaozhou, a place known for its local Chinese opera and embroidery work.    When he was a child, the southern Chinese city was a target for Japanese bombing runs.    He quit school as a 12-year-old boy and his family fled south down the coast to Hong Kong, then a British colony.     Hong Kong fell to the Japanese in 1941. During that occupation, there were food shortages, malnutrition and disease.    Li’s father died from tuberculosis not long after they arrived.    His company biography describes what came next: “Before he was 15, Mr. Li had to shoulder the responsibility of providing for his family and found a job in a plastics trading company where he labored 16 hours a day.”
    During a 1998 interview with public broadcaster Radio Television Hong Kong, Li spoke of his mixed feelings when he went back to the mainland in 1978 for the first time in decades.    He’d made a fortune in Hong Kong building his way from manufacturing to real estate to finance.    The next year, he became the first Hong Kong Chinese investor to take control of one of the British “hongs,” the great trading houses that accompanied colonial rule from the 19th century.
    But looking at his motherland, newly emerged from the chaos of Mao Zedong’s rule, Li said he hesitated to invest.    “I was afraid that people might say Li had come to exploit,” he said in the interview.
    Li’s doubts about mainland control of Hong Kong appear to be longstanding.    Britain’s conversation with China about the future handover of Hong Kong began heating up in the 1980s.    Even back then, Murray said, Li discussed his anxiety about the financial future of his corporate empire.
    Murray said that Li asked him to “go over to the UK and find a nice company for us to put some money in.”
    That led to Li buying up a stake of more than 4% in Pearson Plc, a British conglomerate, in an early foray into Western markets that brought wider attention.    Murray recalled: “It was on the front page of every bloody newspaper.”
    Asked about the tycoon’s concerns at the time, Li’s spokesperson said: “Anyone, especially if one is leading a company with other shareholders, has to have a degree of paranoia as it is part of responsible leadership.    The Chinese [have] a traditional saying: , ‘strive in hard times, perish in contentment.’    A certain degree of paranoia prevents the reverse case happening.”
‘LIKE A BUDDHA’
    After Xi Jinping’s visit to Hong Kong in 1993, Li was given the celebrity welcome in Fuzhou, the provincial city Xi then oversaw.    The billionaire, who was involved in a redevelopment project there, attended a groundbreaking ceremony with Xi where they laid a foundation stone, according to local media reports.
    “It was like a Buddha came to town to build a temple,” said Ruan Yisan, an architecture professor in Shanghai acclaimed for his historical preservation projects who opposed the development.    “Officials thought he could do magic here and change the city in a dramatic way.”
    At the time, Li had outsized impact in China.    In September of 1997, about two months after the handover of Hong Kong, China was on the verge of its largest-ever stock offering, a state-owned telecommunications company preparing to list on the Hong Kong and New York exchanges.    At the last minute, a group of Hong Kong tycoons backing the listing of China Telecom got spooked by a financial crisis roiling the region.    They said they wanted to renegotiate an agreement that required them to hold their stakes for a year, or drop out completely.    It was just weeks before the listing went to market.
    Li beckoned a group of Chinese bureaucrats and bankers to his Hong Kong office.    He told them that he had signed a contract and would abide by it, according to a banker who was in the room.    Then, the Chinese banker said, the billionaire went one step further: He offered to buy a larger stake if necessary.    Li helped salvage the deal, which became a template for a flood of state-owned Chinese companies raising billions of dollars through public listings.    It was the sort of moment that made Li, with his trademark large black-framed glasses, Hong Kong’s most fabled businessman.
    “Mr Li is not a man to break an agreement easily,” the spokesperson for the billionaire said.
    Inside China, though, even Li found that the opaque nature of doing business could mean problems, according to those who have worked with him and his own public remarks.
    In the public broadcaster interview, Li detailed his frustrations with building Oriental Plaza.    A sprawling development in the heart of Beijing, the project faced political wrangling and loud public disagreement about its size as it went up in the 1990s.    His Chinese partners, he said, gained a 40% share of the project, up from an initial 10% or so. Li said he had learned a lesson.
    “In a political and cultural center like Beijing, one has to put business and economics in a lesser position,” he said.    “Although I’ve run into all sorts of trouble, I now have a better understanding of China.”
XI’S MESSAGE
    After Xi took power, Beijing adopted a harder line toward Hong Kong.    In a 2014 white paper, Beijing said the autonomy the city enjoys was not a given but, instead, contingent on the permission of the central leadership.    And Li himself began facing criticism from Chinese state media.
    During late 2014 and early 2015, Li folded his Hong Kong-registered Hutchison Whampoa and another company into firms incorporated in the Cayman Islands.    Li’s team says the changes were part of a “streamlining and succession plan.”
    In September 2015, in the wake of reports of those moves, Li was excoriated by mainland media outlets as insufficiently patriotic.    The People’s Daily, the main mouthpiece of the Communist Party, posted a commentary on social media saying that Li was happy to “enjoy the benefits when things are good” but couldn’t be counted on in tough times.
    Li released a statement affirming his support of Beijing’s leadership, adding: “The Company, as always, will continue to look for investment opportunities around the world, including mainland China.”
    In that period, though, companies under Li’s control were plowing billions of dollars into stakes of firms abroad while pulling back in Hong Kong and on the mainland.    That trend hasn’t slowed.
    Since 2015, Li’s companies have been involved in acquisitions abroad worth more than $70 billion, in places like Canada, Italy and Australia.    In that same period, he participated in just one acquisition in mainland China and Hong Kong worth $500 million or more – an $848 million stake in a Hong Kong-based shipping firm that he purchased with two other investors.
    And in those same years, Li divested from four companies in Hong Kong and the mainland, totaling more than $11 billion.    Reuters calculated these tallies using figures from Dealogic, a financial data provider, involving deals by Li’s companies worth $500 million or more, including debt.
    “We have many projects in China,” Li’s spokesperson said, without disputing the deal figures.    Among Hong Kong companies, he added, Li’s group “is the largest investor in the mainland and is thriving in numerous industries.”
    Beyond investments, the Communist Party has other demands of Hong Kong’s tycoons.    Xi Jinping’s directive was unambiguous at a 2017 meeting between the Chinese leader and the city’s elite, said a senior executive at a major Chinese state-owned enterprise in Hong Kong.    Li was in attendance.
    “Xi’s message was very clear – that the business community and the tycoons need to uphold social responsibility, and to help the central government maintain the social stability of Hong Kong,” said the executive.
‘VERBAL AND TEXT PUNCHES’
    That expectation grew more urgent as the protests shook Hong Kong.
    Chinese officials have come to think the city’s concentration of wealth is a major source of the discontent, said Allan Zeman, a prominent businessman and economic adviser to Hong Kong’s Beijing-backed leader, Carrie Lam.    A system of land auctions, which extend back to British rule, allowed a small set of people to corner the market, Zeman said, pushing prices up to a point where no one else could bid.    That dynamic leaves housing so expensive that families are crammed into tiny dwellings and upward mobility is limited.
    “It made ‘five families’ very, very rich,” said Zeman, referring to the city’s biggest developers.
    The developers, Zeman said, now understand.    He noted that in September a Hong Kong company, New World Development Co Ltd, announced it was setting aside three million square feet of its land holdings for low-income housing.    Asked whether the decision was the result of pressure from Beijing, New World said it hoped “to inspire more people to generate creative approaches to solve Hong Kong’s housing challenge.”
    Meanwhile, in early September, China’s State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission (SASAC) gathered executives from the nation’s largest state-owned firms in the nearby mainland city of Shenzhen.    According to an executive familiar with the meeting, SASAC officials gave clear marching orders to the Chinese managers: take more control of Hong Kong firms and seek decision-making power within them. SASAC did not respond to questions from Reuters.     When Britain returned Hong Kong to China in 1997, the two sides agreed the city would enjoy a high degree of autonomy under its own governing charter, for half a century.    Businesspeople here say that until very recently, 2047 – the date China is set to impose full control – seemed distant.     To be sure, said the head of a private banking operation in the city, most of Hong Kong’s prominent families have been diversifying their personal wealth overseas for many years.    The executive works at one of the five largest private banks in the Asia-Pacific region, which handles more than $200 billion in assets.     “For some of these tycoons, 2047 was not a very major consideration,” he said.
    That changed as Beijing began to flex its muscles.    One event that caught the tycoons’ attention, he said, was the 2017 disappearance of China-born billionaire Xiao Jianhua.    Xiao was last seen leaving a luxury Hong Kong hotel in a wheelchair with his head covered, accompanied by unknown men.    In its annual human rights report, the U.S. State Department said that “multiple press reports stated he was likely abducted by state security agents from the mainland.”
    Xiao’s whereabouts are unknown.    No Hong Kong billionaire has suffered a similar fate.    China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs declined to answer questions about Xiao.
    Private bankers say the extradition bill dealt a fresh shock.    One financial adviser told Reuters he was involved in a transaction in which a Hong Kong tycoon shifted assets of more than $100 million, between June and August, from a local Citibank account to one in Singapore.
    “The extradition bill was the spark, but the fears are much more deeper and broader than that,” the financial adviser said.    “I think what we’ve seen is a structural shift away from Hong Kong as a place of relative safety.”
    Today, interviews with people who know Li well point to a man anxious about Hong Kong’s future under tighter mainland Chinese rule.
    “His attitude to China is one of fear: These guys can take everything I’ve got,” said Murray, his longtime corporate lieutenant, who left the Li group in 2017.
    “Simon has his own interpretations but they are not necessarily Mr Li’s,” the billionaire’s spokesperson said, responding to Murray’s remarks.    “The central government has reiterated many times that it is committed to openness and reforms.”
    Still, as the pressure from Beijing mounts, Li has not humbled himself before the Communist Party.
    “When you are my age, you will know how to cut through the noise,” Li said in his letter to Reuters.    “I don’t know if it is a concerted effort, but I am getting used to all the unfounded verbal and text punches.”
(Reporting by Tom Lasseter, Farah Master, Clare Jim and Keith Zhai. Additional reporting by Sumeet Chatterjee, Greg Torode and Anne Marie Roantree in Hong Kong. Editing by Peter Hirschberg.)

11/27/2019 Protester emerges to urge Hong Kong police not to enter university by Jessie Pang and Twinnie Siu
Cars drive past the toll booth area of the re-opened Cross-Harbor Tunnel in Hong Kong, China November 27, 2019. REUTERS/Leah Millis
    HONG KONG (Reuters) – Hong Kong police said they would enter Polytechnic University on Thursday after a two-week siege drove most protesters out, but just before midnight, a masked man emerged and asked them to halt their plan.
    Security teams from the university had scoured the maze of buildings at the campus, a focal point in recent weeks of the citywide protests that first erupted in June, finding no one.
    Yet the protester, who appeared in a black mask, said about 20 people were still hiding.    “If the police retreat, we would leave,” he told reporters.
    Earlier in the day, District Commander Ho Yun-sing said police planned to enter the campus to “process dangerous items and collect evidence” and that any remaining protesters would be given medical treatment.
    The university on Kowloon peninsula was turned into a battleground in mid-November, when protesters barricaded themselves in and clashed with riot police in a hail of petrol bombs, water cannon and tear gas. About 1,100 people were arrested last week, some while trying to escape.
    Riot police sealed off the campus, setting up high plastic barricades and a fence on the perimeter.
    The Polytechnic University campus was the last of five that protesters had occupied to use as bases from which to disrupt the city, blocking the nearby Cross-Harbour Tunnel linking Kowloon to Hong Kong Island and other arteries.
    The protesters had blocked the tunnel’s mouth, smashed toll booths, lit fires and cemented bricks to the road, but it was reopened early on Wednesday, and Hong Kong television showed a steady flow of vehicles passing through.
    Demonstrators are angry at what they see as Beijing’s meddling in the freedoms promised to the former British colony when it returned to Chinese rule in 1997.
    China denies interfering and says it is committed to the “one country, two systems” formula put in place at that time.
CALL FOR HUMANE APPROACH
    The university on Wednesday asked government departments for help removing “dangerous materials” from the site, which is littered with rotting waste and detritus of the siege, requesting authorities take a “humane” approach.
    The number of protesters inside had dwindled dramatically, with some managing to flee and others brought out in what rescuers said was vulnerable state.
    The city’s largest pro-establishment party, the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, said the government should send medics to the site to take any remaining protesters to hospital.
    Hong Kong authorities hope that a lull in clashes over the weekend during local elections, where pro-democracy candidates scored a landslide victory, can translate into more calm after nearly six months of turmoil.
    But a “Thanksgiving” protest, in appreciation of the U.S Congress passing legislation supporting protesters, is scheduled for Thursday, the date of the U.S. holiday, and others were planned for the weekend, including against the use of tear gas.
    Secretary for Security John Lee said on Wednesday police had arrested more than 5,800 people since June, the numbers increasing exponentially in October and November, and had charged 923.
    Smaller scale protests continued on Wednesday, as crowds in the central business district took to the streets around noon.
    The city-wide elections drew a record turnout and were seen as a vote of no-confidence in Hong Kong’s Beijing-backed leader, Carrie Lam, over her handling of the financial hub’s worst crisis in decades.    Lam called for calm and said she would seriously reflect on the results.
    One Hong Kong newspaper, Sing Pao, published a front-page spread for the second successive day calling for Lam’s resignation.    “Hong Kong people had enough, Carrie Lam quit,” it read.
(Reporting by Jessie Pang, Clare Jim, Noah Sin and James Pomfret; Writing by Anne Marie Roantree and Poppy McPherson; Editing by Paul Tait, Simon Cameron-Moore, Alex Richardson and Philippa Fletcher)

11/27/2019 Exclusive: In face of criticism, Hong Kong tycoon Li Ka-shing says he’s getting used to ‘punches’ by Tom Lasseter, Farah Master, Clare Jim and Keith Zhai
FILE PHOTO: Hong Kong tycoon Li Ka-shing announces his retirement in Hong Kong, China March 16, 2018. REUTERS/Bobby Yip
    HONG KONG (Reuters) – Li Ka-shing, the city’s most prominent tycoon, said he is getting used to “the unfounded verbal and text punches” thrown at him in recent years.
    Li has faced withering attacks from mainland China and pro-Beijing forces in Hong Kong, including during the protests that have engulfed the city since early June. After the 91-year-old billionaire in September called on both the authorities and protesters to exercise restraint, he was accused of “harboring criminality” by the Chinese Communist Party’s central legal affairs commission in Beijing.    A pro-Beijing trade union leader in Hong Kong posted a Facebook item mocking him as the “king of cockroaches.”
    “In the world of social media, some people are hard at work in sowing toxic doubts and disinformation to undermine trust,” Li told Reuters in a statement.    “It is hard not to be drawn into controversies [in] these times.”
    Li was responding, in writing, to questions from Reuters for a special report on how Beijing’s attitude toward Hong Kong’s tycoons has hardened under President Xi Jinping. While the city’s rich were courted by China’s leaders for many years, Xi has made it clear he expects them to play their part in helping the central government maintain stability in the city.
    To read the full special report, click: https://reut.rs/2qFXLcN.
    The Chinese president delivered that message to Hong Kong’s tycoons during a 2017 meeting in the city.    Asked what he thought Xi expected from the city’s wealthiest people, Li pointed to his charitable works.
    “I founded a philanthropic foundation in 1980 and have given my utmost support to education, medical research and services,” Li said.     “At the time, I have already committed a third of my personal wealth.    Around 80% of my foundation’s projects are in the Greater China area.    The total contributions have already exceeded HKD 26 billion ($3.3 billion).”
    The protests in Hong Kong, which have become increasingly violent, erupted over a bill proposed by Carrie Lam, the city’s leader, that would have allowed for people to be extradited to mainland China.    Private wealth managers have told Reuters that the bill, which was scrapped in early September, concerned some of their clients.
    “The bill has been withdrawn, there is no point doing forensics on it,” a spokesperson for Li said in response to a question about how the tycoon viewed the extradition bill and whether he saw it as being targeted at Hong Kong’s wealthy.
China’s foreign ministry declined to answer questions for the story.    The Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office did not respond to questions from Reuters.
    The protests have also been driven by what many in Hong Kong see as increased meddling by Beijing in the affairs of the city, which enjoys a high degree of autonomy under an arrangement in place since the 1997 handover from Britain.
    Li was asked for his thoughts about the view that mainland control of Hong Kong is growing.
    “There are many differing opinions on ‘one country, two systems’ but the road we are on is fine,” Li’s spokesperson said.    “It requires a tangible commitment from both sides, calls for institutional innovation and not a merger.”
    In 2015, Li faced criticism from the mainland after he folded his Hong Kong-registered Hutchison Whampoa Ltd and another company into firms incorporated in the Cayman Islands.    At the time, the main mouthpiece of the Communist Party, the People’s Daily, said in a commentary posted on social media that Li was happy to “enjoy the benefits when things are good” but couldn’t be counted on in tough times.
    Asked about that criticism, Li told Reuters: “When you are my age, you will know how to cut through the noise.    I don’t know if it is a concerted effort, but I am getting used to all the unfounded verbal and text punches.”
    Since 2015, Li’s companies have been involved in acquisitions globally worth more than $70 billion.    Less than $1 billion of that was in Hong Kong or mainland China, according to a Reuters analysis of Li’s deals worth $500 million or more.
    In that same period, Li divested from four companies in the Hong Kong-China region, totaling more than $11 billion.    Reuters calculated these tallies using figures from Dealogic, a financial data provider, involving deals by Li’s companies worth $500 million or more, including debt.
    Asked about those numbers, the spokesperson for Li said that among Hong Kong companies, his group remains the largest investor in the mainland.
    “We have many projects in China,” the spokesperson said.    “We are always keen to pursue great investment opportunities all over the world.”
(Reporting by Tom Lasseter, Farah Master, Clare Jim and Keith Zhai. Additional reporting by Sumeet Chatterjee, Greg Torode and Anne Marie Roantree in Hong Kong. Editing by Peter Hirschberg.)

11/27/2019 Chances of successful Afghanistan peace talks higher than before: U.S. general by Idrees Ali
FILE PHOTO: U.S. Joint Chiefs Chairman General Mark Milley addresses reporters during a media briefing
at the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, U.S., October 11, 2019. REUTERS/Erin Scott/File Photo
    KABUL (Reuters) – The top U.S. general said on Wednesday that the chances of a successful outcome from peace talks on ending the 18-year war in Afghanistan were higher than before and could happen in the “near term.”
    Earlier this month the Afghan Taliban released American and Australian university professors held hostage for more than three years, raising hopes for a revival of peace talks.
    The chances of successful peace talks are complicated by the Taliban’s refusal to engage with what they call an “illegitimate” U.S.-backed government in Kabul.
    A messy political situation in Afghanistan and continued violence only make the situation more difficult.
    Army General Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, arrived in Afghanistan on Wednesday, his first trip to the country since taking the top job in September.
    “I think the chances of a positive outcome through negotiations is higher than I have seen, and I’ve been deeply involved in Afghanistan for 18 years,” Milley told reporters.
    “With a bit of luck, we’ll have successful negotiations in the near term, not too distant future,” Milley said.
    He added that work remained to actually see a positive outcome.
    “A lot of time in situations like this, two steps forward one step back,” he said.
    Over the past 18 years, senior American military leaders and diplomats have routinely talked about their optimism and how the war has turned a corner, but the Taliban continue to control large parts of the country.
    Talks between the Taliban and the United States aimed at ending the war collapsed in September after President Donald Trump called off what he described as a planned meeting at the U.S. Camp David presidential retreat.
    Before the talks were broken off, both sides had said they were close to a deal.
    Two Taliban leaders told Reuters that the group had again been holding meetings with senior U.S. officials in Doha since this weekend, saying they could soon resume the peace process.
    “Our leaders started unofficial meetings with senior U.S. officials in Doha and working on a plan how to resume the peace process,” one of the Taliban leaders said.
    Milley said negotiations were “ongoing.”
    Last month the U.S. military said that it had quietly reduced the number of troops by about 2,000, to bring the total number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan to between 12,000 and 13,000.
    The Pentagon has said it can go down to 8,600 troops and still carry out a counter-terrorism mission.
    Milley said no decisions had been made on troop reductions and there were several options, including going down to 8,600.
(Reporting by Idrees Ali in Kabul; Additional reporting by Jibran Ahmad in Peshawar, Pakistan; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)

11/27/2019 France warns Iran over nuclear deal dispute mechanism
FILE PHOTO: French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian leaves the Elysee Palace following
the weekly cabinet meeting in Paris, France, October 21, 2019. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier
    PARIS (Reuters) – France’s foreign minister said the question as to whether to trigger a dispute mechanism enshrined in the Iran nuclear deal that could lead to U.N. sanctions was seriously under consideration given Tehran was repeatedly breaching the accord.
    Speaking at a parliamentary hearing, Jean-Yves Le Drian also said the way Iran’s supreme leader and president had dealt with protests in the country had done nothing to encourage the United States to reduce its maximum pressure campaign on Iran.
(Reporting by John Irish; editing by Jonathan Oatis)

11/27/2019 No excuse for silence on China’s camps for Uighurs: exiled leader by Stephanie Nebehay
FILE PHOTO: Dolkun Isa, president of the World Uighur Congress, attends an event concerning China ahead of the
Human Rights Council review in Geneva, Switzerland, November 2, 2018. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse/File Photo
    GENEVA (Reuters) – The exiled leader of China’s minority Muslim Uighurs is pressing countries to cut trade links with Beijing, saying the time for business as usual is over.
    Dolkun Isa, president of the Munich-based group the World Uighur Congress, was speaking after two leaked troves of classified Chinese government documents provided evidence of mass detention camps for Uighurs in its western Xinjiang region.
    Beijing denies any mistreatment of the Uighurs or others in Xinjiang, saying it is providing vocational training to help stamp out militancy and separatism and teach new skills.
    Isa is due to meet Swiss Foreign Ministry officials on Thursday to lobby the neutral country, which has a free trade agreement with China, where major Swiss banks and companies are active.
    “These documents were leaked, there is no longer any excuse for silence.    The documents show everything very clearly.    The documents bring more international attention, more international pressure to the Chinese government,” Isa told Reuters on Wednesday.
    “It is not time for business as usual,” he said.    “So that’s why we express to the Swiss government to stop free trade cooperation with China and also it is not the right time that Swiss companies continue their business with China.”
    U.N. experts and activists say at least 1 million Uighurs and members of other largely Muslim minority groups have been detained in camps in Xinjiang in a crackdown begun in 2017 that has been condemned by the United States and other countries.
    Isa said some camps had expanded and may hold 3 million people in all.    German scholar Adrien Zenz this week put the figure interned so far at up to 1.8 million.
    The New York Times published the details of the first set of leaked Chinese government documents on the details its clampdown on Uighurs and other Muslims in Xinjiang.
    The government of Xinjiang condemned the 403 pages of documents as “fabricated” and prompted by “hostile foreign forces.”
    The second leak of documents, published last Sunday by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, describe the inner workings of detention camps.
    U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Tuesday the leaked documents confirmed China was committing “very significant” human rights abuses against Uighurs and other minorities.
    Isa and fellow Uighurs have lobbied governments in Europe, Asia and North America for support.
    “These countries should be changing their mind.    Because all the time they have been asking for evidence.    We knew what was going on for the Uighurs but it is difficult for us to bring some evidence,” he said.
(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Alison Williams)

11/27/2019 President Trump signs bills protecting Hong Kong protesters by OAN Newsroom
Hongkongers hold up their hands to represent their five demands and a United States flag as they chant “Pass the bill,
save Hong Kong
” at the IFC mall in Hong Kong Thursday, Nov. 21, 2019. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)
    President Trump has signed a pair of bipartisan bills aimed at protecting Hong Kong protesters.
    The Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act cleared the House and Senate last week with overwhelming support.
    It will empower the Trump administration to impose sanctions on officials from China or Hong Kong for violating human rights.    A separate piece of legislation will ban the export of tear gas, rubber bullets and other crowd control items.
    Mainland China condemned the move and has threatened to retaliate. According to a statement by the Chinese Foreign Ministry, Beijing “will take strong opposing measures” and the U.S. will “bear all the consequences.”
    This comes as President Trump tries to strike a trade deal with Beijing.    He has been pushing for a deal that would force China to purchase $50 billion of U.S. agricultural goods in the next two years.    An initial trade deal could also roll back tariffs on roughly $360 billion worth of Chinese goods.
    Reports revealed the deal is also expected to open China’s financial sector and implement new intellectual property protections.    Senior administration officials are reportedly very close to a preliminary trade deal.

11/28/2019 China warns U.S. of consequences over HK law, mum on steps planned by Jessie Pang and Cate Cadell
Member of a safety team established by police and local authorities inspects around a statue of Dr Sun Yat-sen, as they assess
and clear unsafe items at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) in Hong Kong, China November 28, 2019. REUTERS/Leah Millis
    HONG KONG/BEIJING (Reuters) – China warned the United States on Thursday that it would take “firm counter measures” in response to U.S. legislation backing anti-government protesters in Hong Kong, and said attempts to interfere in the Chinese-ruled city were doomed to fail.
    U.S. President Donald Trump on Wednesday signed into law congressional legislation which supported the protesters, despite angry objections from Beijing, with which he is seeking a deal to end a damaging trade war.
    The law requires the State Department to certify, at least annually, that Hong Kong is autonomous enough to justify favorable U.S. trading terms that have helped it become a world financial center.
    It also threatens sanctions for human rights violations.
    Beijing warned that the United States would shoulder the consequences of China’s countermeasures if it continued to “act arbitrarily” in regards to Hong Kong, the foreign ministry said in a statement.
    Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Le Yucheng also summoned U.S. Ambassador Terry Branstad on Thursday and demanded that Washington immediately stop interfering in China’s domestic affairs and halt further damage to ties.
    Hong Kong’s Beijing-backed government said the legislation sent the wrong signal to demonstrators and “clearly interfered” with the city’s internal affairs.
    Anti-government protests have roiled the former British colony for six months, at times forcing businesses, government, schools and even the international airport to close.
    Hong Kong has enjoyed a rare lull in violence over the past week, with local elections on Sunday delivering a landslide victory to pro-democracy candidates.
    Hong Kong police entered the Polytechnic University on Thursday at the end of a nearly two-week siege that saw some of the worst clashes between protesters and security forces.
    It was unclear whether any protesters remained at the sprawling campus as a team of about 100 plainclothes police moved in to collect evidence and remove dangerous items such as petrol bombs.    Police said any protesters found would receive medical treatment and arrests were not a priority.
    The university became a battleground in mid-November, when protesters barricaded themselves in and clashed with riot police in a hail of petrol bombs, water cannon and tear gas.    About 1,100 people were arrested last week, some while trying to escape.
    Reuters witnesses at the university said garbage and abandoned gear, including sleeping bags, helmets and gas masks were strewn everywhere, but no protesters could be seen.
SINISTER INTENTIONS
    More than 5,800 people have been arrested since the unrest broke out in June over a proposal to allow extraditions to mainland China, the numbers increasing exponentially in October and November as violence escalated.
    Demonstrators are angry at police violence and what they see as Chinese meddling in the freedoms promised to the former British colony when it returned to Chinese rule in 1997, such as an independent judiciary.
    China says it is committed to the “one country, two systems” formula put in place at the handover, and has blamed foreign forces for fomenting the unrest, an allegation repeated on Thursday in response to the U.S. law.
    “This so-called legislation will only strengthen the resolve of the Chinese people, including the Hong Kong people, and raise awareness of the sinister intentions and hegemonic nature of the U.S.,” the foreign ministry said in its statement.
    “The U.S. plot is doomed.”
    Foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang, pressed on specifics of countermeasures planned by Beijing , declined to comment on a timeline or any measures.
    “You better stay tuned, and follow up on this,” he told reporters during a daily briefing on Thursday.    “What will come will come.”
    Gao Feng, a spokesman for China’s commerce ministry, did not comment directly on whether the Hong Kong law would affect two-way trade talks.    He told a weekly news briefing there were no new details of their progress to disclose.    Some analysts say any move to end Hong Kong’s special treatment could prove self-defeating for the United States, which has benefited from the business-friendly conditions in the territory of 7.4 million.
    Trade between Hong Kong and the United States was estimated to be worth $67.3 billion in 2018, with the United States running a $33.8 billion surplus, its biggest with any country or territory, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative says.
    Li Ka-shing, the city’s most prominent tycoon, told Reuters he was getting used to “the unfounded verbal and text punches” thrown at him from either side of Hong Kong’s political divide.
    Li and his fellow Hong Kong tycoons are under mounting pressure from Beijing to speak out against the protests, which present the most serious challenge to Communist Party rule since the Tiananmen protests of 1989.
(Reporting by Jessie Pang, Twinnie Siu, Clare Jim and Anne Marie Roantree in Hong Kong and Catherine Cadell, Huizhong Wu, Stella Qiu and Judy Hua in Beijing; Writing by Farah Master and Se Young Lee; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore and Clarence Fernandez)

11/28/2019 Iran: Invoking nuclear deal’s dispute resolution mechanism impossible – TV
FILE PHOTO: An Iranian flag flutters in front of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)
headquarters in Vienna, Austria September 9, 2019. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger/File Photo
    DUBAI (Reuters) – Iran rejected as “irresponsible” France’s comments that Paris was seriously considering triggering a mechanism within the Iran nuclear deal that could lead to U.N. sanctions, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said on Thursday, state TV reported.
    “Iran’s scaling back of its nuclear commitments was implementation of its legal rights to react to America’s illegal and unilateral exit of the deal and the European parties’ failure to fulfill their obligations,” Mousavi said.
    “Under these circumstances, the deal does not allow triggering of the mechanism by the European parties to the deal … such remarks by the French official are irresponsible and not constructive.”
(Writing by Parisa Hafezi; Editing by Alex Richardson)

11/28/2019 Trump approves legislation backing Hong Kong protesters by David Brunnstrom
FILE PHOTO: An anti-government protester holds a tear gas canister during a protest
in Hong Kong, China October 20, 2019. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu/File Photo
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump on Wednesday signed into law congressional legislation backing protesters in Hong Kong despite angry objections from Beijing, with which he is seeking a deal to end a damaging trade war.
    The legislation, approved unanimously by the U.S. Senate and by all but one lawmaker in the House of Representatives last week, requires the State Department to certify, at least annually, that Hong Kong retains enough autonomy to justify favorable U.S. trading terms that have helped it maintain its position as a world financial center.
    The law also threatens sanctions for human rights violations.
    Congress passed a second bill, which Trump also signed, banning the export to the Hong Kong police of crowd-control munitions, such as teargas, pepper spray, rubber bullets and stun guns.
    “I signed these bills out of respect for President Xi (Jinping), China, and the people of Hong Kong. They are being enacted in the hope that Leaders and Representatives of China and Hong Kong will be able to amicably settle their differences leading to long term peace and prosperity for all,” Trump said in a statement.
    At the heart of matter is Beijing’s promise to allow Hong Kong a “high degree of autonomy” for 50 years when it regained sovereignty over the city in 1997, a pledge that has formed the basis of the territory’s special status under U.S. law. Protesters say freedoms have been steadily eroded.
    Trump had been vague about whether he would sign or veto the legislation, while trying to strike a deal with China on trade that he has made a top priority ahead of his 2020 re-election bid.
    After Congress passed the bill, Trump’s aides debated whether the president’s endorsement could undermine efforts to reach an interim trade deal with China, and most of them ultimately recommended the signing to show support for the protesters, a person familiar with the matter said.
    The decision was also influenced by the overwhelming majorities in the Senate and House in favor of the legislation, which was widely seen as making the bills veto-proof, as well as the landslide election victory in Hong Kong earlier this week of critics of Chinese rule, the person said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
    If Trump had opted to use his veto, it could have been overridden by two-thirds votes in both the Senate and the House.    The legislation would have automatically become law on Dec. 3 if Trump had opted to do nothing.
    China has denounced the legislation as gross interference in its affairs and a violation of international law.
    After the Senate passed the legislation, Beijing vowed counter-measures to safeguard its sovereignty and security.
TRADE TALKS
    Last week, Trump boasted that he alone had prevented Beijing from crushing the demonstrations with a million soldiers, while adding that he had told President Xi that doing so would have “a tremendous negative impact” on trade talks.
    Trump prompted questions about his commitment to protecting Hong Kong freedoms when he referred in August to its mass street protests as “riots” that were a matter for China to deal with.
    Trump again referred to “riots” last week, but has also called on China to handle the issue humanely.
    Trump’s statement on the bill signing indicated that he was doing so with reservations about portions of the legislation, saying “certain provisions of the Act would interfere with the exercise of the president’s constitutional authority to state the foreign policy of the United States.”
    Presidents often push back against such congressional measures, especially when they seek to mandate the imposition of sanctions, and use their signing statements to reinforce that they have the executive power to act at their discretion on foreign policy matters.
    The person familiar with the matter said by publicly expressing such reservations Trump could be trying to assure the Chinese that he will not act to implement the toughest measures unless they sharply intensify their crackdown in Hong Kong.
    Many see the U.S. legislation as symbolic, but the bills’ provisions have the potential, if implemented, to upend relations between the United States and Hong Kong and change the territory’s status to that of any other Chinese city.
    Analysts say any move to end Hong Kong’s special treatment could prove self-defeating for the United States, which has benefited from the business-friendly conditions in the territory.    If Hong Kong becomes just another Chinese port, companies that rely on the territory’s role as a middleman or for trans-shipping would likely take their business elsewhere.
    That said, the bills contain strong waivers that would allow the president to block their provisions on national-security and national-interest grounds.
    According to the State Department, 85,000 U.S. citizens lived in Hong Kong in 2018 and more than 1,300 U.S. companies operate there, including nearly every major U.S. financial firm.
    Trade between Hong Kong and the United States was estimated to be worth $67.3 billion in 2018, with the United States running a $33.8 billion surplus – its biggest with any country or territory, according to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative.
(Reporting by David Brunnstrom; Additional reporting by Patricia Zengerle and Matt Spetalnick; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall and Stephen Coates)

11/28/2019 China holds out carrot ahead of Taiwan election, but few convinced by Ben Blanchard
Zhu Fenglian, the new spokesperson for China's Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council,
speaks at a news conference in Beijing, China November 27, 2019. REUTERS/Stringer
    TAIPEI (Reuters) – China is stepping up efforts to be nice to Taiwan ahead of key elections on Jan. 11, offering better treatment to Taiwanese in China and urging the democratic island to “come home”, but many there only see Beijing wielding a threatening stick.
    China denies interfering in elections in Taiwan, which Beijing claims as sacred territory, but it traditionally tries various means to influence their result, hoping politicians with a more positive view on China ties get into office.
    These can range from military intimidation – China fired missiles into the Taiwan Strait before the 1996 election – to what Taiwan’s government calls Beijing’s manipulation of China-friendly Taiwanese media.
    China also wants to ensure that Taiwan’s huge business community in China is happy, hoping they will go home to vote for China-friendly politicians.
    This month, China unveiled 26 measures to further open its economy to investors from Taiwan, and said Taiwanese abroad could turn to Chinese embassies for consular help.
    Dovetailing with those steps has been an unusual Chinese effort at soft power to speak directly to people in Taiwan, a gentler approach after some hostile moves this year, such as a threat of force by President Xi Jinping in January.
    Commenting on the 26 measures, Hai Xia, one of the highest-profile news presenters on Chinese state television, appealed for Taiwan to return “home.”
    “Taiwan’s fate is connected with the motherland. Wan Wan, come home,” she said on air, employing a diminutive to refer to Taiwan and project a friendly message.
    China has not only been using Mandarin, the official tongue on both sides of the Taiwan Strait, but has also deployed Hokkien and Hakka, two languages spoken on the island but whose formal use is not encouraged in China.
    On Wednesday, it introduced Zhu Fenglian, a new spokeswoman for its policy-making Taiwan Affairs Office, who voiced warm greetings in both languages at her first news conference.
    “I am a Hakka from Guangdong, I’d like first here to say hello to folks in Taiwan,” she said, referring to the southern Chinese province while speaking in Hokkien, generally known in Taiwan as Taiwanese.
    Many politicians in Taiwan, a rambunctious democracy, have responded vigorously to China’s gestures.
    Beijing should focus on “giving its own people a bit more freedom,” Taiwan Foreign Minister Joseph Wu said on Twitter in response to China’s 26 measures, writing in the simplified Chinese characters used in China and not Taiwan.
    The Chinese state television comment on “coming home” also triggered a backlash.
    “Thank you for your concern; the people of Taiwan are already in their own home,” legislator Hung Tzu-yung, of the New Power Party, wrote on her Facebook page.
    China was the “enemy of democracy,” Cho Jung-tai, chairman of the ruling pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), which has repeatedly warned of the threat China poses, said this week.
    Even Taiwan’s main opposition party, the Kuomintang, which favors closer ties, has been cautious of being too closely associated with Beijing in an election year.
    Commenting on the new measures for Taiwanese in China, the Kuomintang welcomed their beneficial content.
    “But if any of these actions belittle the sovereignty of the Republic of China, it must be firmly opposed,” it warned, using Taiwan’s official name.
    “The Kuomintang hopes both sides of the Taiwan Strait will give priority to each other’s livelihoods and not hurt the rights and interests of the people on both sides for momentary election considerations.”
(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Additional reporting by Yimou Lee; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

11/28/2019 Protesters celebrate passage of controversial Hong Kong bill by OAN Newsroom
Protestors wave U.S. flags during a demonstration in Hong Kong, Thursday, Nov. 28, 2019. (AP Photo/Vincent Thian)
    Hong Kong protesters are praising President Trump for passing a bill to support their months-long demonstrations.    Protesters held a pro-U.S. rally on Thursday to celebrate the measure.
    Pro-democracy activists are calling the move a “timely Thanksgiving present.”
    “For the U.S. President to sign on the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, that’s the remarkable achievement of all Hong Kongers,” stated activist Joshua Wong.    “It just encourages world leaders around the world and politicians (to be) aware that it’s time for them to stand with Hong Kong.”
Protester holds U.S. flags during a demonstration in Hong Kong, Thursday, Nov. 28, 2019. (AP Photo/Vincent Thian)
    President Trump signed the legislation on Wednesday after the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act cleared the House and Senate with overwhelming support.    It will empower the Trump administration to impose sanctions on officials from China or Hong Kong for violating human rights.    A separate piece of legislation will ban the export of tear gas, rubber bullets and other crowd control items.
    Chinese officials have condemned the legislation, warning that it will result in “firm counter measures.”    President Trump previously expressed concerns the legislation could hurt ongoing trade talks with Beijing.    However, he signed the bill in hopes that China and Hong Kong will settle their differences in a peaceful manner.
    In his official statement, the president said he signed the bill out of respect for both pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong and for mainland China.

11/28/2019 North Korea conducts suspected missile test off Korean Peninsula by OAN Newsroom
In this undated photo provided on Monday, Nov. 25, 2019, by the North Korean government, North Korean leader
Kim Jong Un, center, inspects a military unit on Changrin Islet in North Korea. The content of this image is as provided
and cannot be independently verified. Korean language watermark on image as provided by source reads: “KCNA” which
is the abbreviation for Korean Central News Agency. (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP)
    North Korea fired two unidentified projectiles off the Korean Peninsula on Thursday, which authorities believed to be missiles.    South Korea’s Defense Ministry confirmed the projectiles were fired and crash-landed in the East Sea, which is between North Korea and Japan.
    Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe spoke out against the incident, calling it a threat to the international community.
    “Multiple ballistic missile launches by North Korea are a threat to Japan and the international community,” stated Abe.    “We will continue to be in close contact with the U.S., South Korea and the international community to monitor the situation.”
    The suspected weapons test comes amid an approaching end-of-year deadline for U.S.-North Korea negotiations.    The country’s leader Kim Jong Un set the deadline earlier this year and North Korean officials have said it would be a mistake to ignore.
People watch a TV showing a file image of an unspecified North Korea’s missile launch during a news program at the
Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea, Thursday, Oct. 31, 2019. South Korea’s military said North Korea on Thursday
fired two projectiles toward its eastern sea, an apparent resumption of weapons tests aimed at ramping up pressure on
Washington over a stalemate in nuclear negotiations. The sign reads: “North Korea fired two projectiles.” (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
    This came after South Korea fired warning shots at a North Korean ship for allegedly crossing into the south seas boundary.    On Wednesday, Seoul officials said the merchant ship violated the sea border laws after experiencing engine trouble.    This is the second time the country has fired warning shots to push back an encroaching North Korean vessel since 2017.
    Tensions on the Korean Peninsula continue to rise amid stalled denuclearization talks between Pyongyang and Washington.    President     Trump has met three times with Kim Jong Un in hopes of sealing a potentially historic denuclearization deal.    He has previously expressed optimism about brokering an agreement.
    “Kim Jong Un has been pretty straight with me, I think,” stated the president.    “He likes testing missiles, but we never restricted short range missiles.”
This Thursday, Oct. 31, 2019, photo provided by the North Korean government, shows what it says a test firing of a
super-large rocket launcher by the Academy of Defense Science in North Korea. Independent journalists were not given access
to cover the event depicted in this image distributed by the North Korean government. The content of this image is as provided
and cannot be independently verified. Korean language watermark on image as provided by source reads: “KCNA
which is the abbreviation for Korean Central News Agency. (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP)

11/28/2019 Trump makes surprise Afghanistan trip, voices hope for ceasefire by Humeyra Pamuk and Idrees Ali
U.S. President Donald Trump eats dinner with U.S. troops at a Thanksgiving dinner event during
a surprise visit at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan, November 28, 2019. REUTERS/Tom Brenner
    BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan (Reuters) – President Donald Trump made a surprise Thanksgiving visit to U.S. troops in Afghanistan on Thursday and said he believed Taliban insurgents would agree to a ceasefire in America’s longest war.
    Trump’s visit was his first to Afghanistan since becoming president and came a week after a prisoner swap between Washington and Kabul that has raised hopes for a long elusive peace deal.
    “The Taliban wants to make a deal and we are meeting with them,” Trump told reporters after arriving in Afghanistan after an overnight flight from the United States, kept secret for security reasons.
    “We say it has to be a ceasefire and they didn’t want to do a ceasefire and now they want to do a ceasefire, I believe.    It will probably work out that way.”
    Taliban leaders have told Reuters that the group has again been holding meetings with senior U.S. officials in Doha since last weekend, adding they could soon resume formal peace talks.
    The Air Force One presidential plane touched down at Bagram Airfield late in the evening on Thursday, with White House national security adviser Robert O’Brien, a small group of aides and Secret Service agents.    Two surveillance blimps flew overhead.
    Trump met with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and served turkey to some U.S. troops before sitting down to eat Thanksgiving dinner with them.    He chatted and had his picture taken with some of the U.S. forces deployed there.
    “What a great job you do.    It’s an honor to be here,” he said.
RARE WAR ZONE VISIT
    It was only the second trip to a war zone by a U.S. president who never served in the military and has often derided U.S. engagement in foreign conflicts as costly blunders.    He traveled to Iraq in 2018 for a Christmas holiday visit with troops.
    Trump was greeted upon his arrival by U.S. Army General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.    Milley said on Wednesday that a successful outcome from peace talks on ending the 18-year war in Afghanistan could happen in the “near term.”
    Trump has wanted to end U.S. involvement in Afghanistan since his days as a presidential candidate.
    But talks between the Taliban and the United States collapsed in September after Trump called off a planned meeting with Taliban leaders at the U.S. Camp David presidential retreat, citing a surge in Taliban violence.
    The U.S. military says it has ramped up strikes and raids on the Taliban since then, in a bid to pressure the insurgents back to the negotiating table.
    Hopes for peace rose earlier this month, when the Taliban released American and Australian hostages.
    But Ghani underscored the need for a halt in the fighting, saying on Twitter after meeting Trump: “If the Taliban are sincere in their commitment to reaching a peace deal, they must accept a ceasefire.”
TRUMP EYES DEAL ‘OR TOTAL VICTORY’
    There are currently about 13,000 U.S. forces as well as thousands of other NATO troops in Afghanistan, 18 years after an invasion by a U.S.-led coalition following the Sept. 11, 2001, al Qaeda attacks on the United States.
    About 2,400 U.S. service members have been killed in the course of the Afghan conflict.
    A draft accord agreed in September would have thousands of American troops withdrawn in exchange for guarantees that Afghanistan would not be used as a base for militant attacks on the United States or its allies.
    Still, many U.S. officials doubt the Taliban could be relied upon to prevent al Qaeda from again plotting attacks against the United States from Afghan soil.
    The U.S. military has said it can go down to 8,600 troops and still carry out an essential counter-terrorism mission in a country where both al Qaeda and Islamic State fighters would continue to pose a threat even after any Taliban peace deal.
    Trump acknowledged U.S. troop levels were “substantially” coming down but did not provide a specific number.
    At the same time, however, Trump suggested he was willing to have U.S. forces stay in Afghanistan for the long-term, if needed.
    “We’re going to stay until such time as we have a deal or we have total victory.    And they want to make a deal very badly,” Trump said.
(Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk and Idrees Ali; Writing by Phil Stewart; Editing by Alistair Bell and Daniel Wallis)

11/29/2019 Hong Kong gears up for weekend protests after rare lull in violence
Police officers examine forensic evidence at the campus of the Polytechnic University
(PolyU) in Hong Kong, China, November 28, 2019. REUTERS/Thomas Peter
    HONG KONG (Reuters) – Hong Kong braced for a fresh round of protests over the weekend as police said they would withdraw from a university on Friday that has been the site of some of the worst clashes between protesters and security forces in nearly six months of unrest.
    The protests, announced by demonstrators on social media, are planned from Friday, through the weekend and into next week. A big test of support for the movement is expected on December 8 with a rally planned by Civil Human Rights Front, the group that organized million-strong marches in June.
    The Asian financial hub has seen a week of relative calm since local elections on Sunday delivered an overwhelming victory to pro-democracy candidates.
    Anti-government protests have rocked the former British colony since June, at times forcing businesses, government, schools and even the international airport to close.
    Hundreds of police officers entered the ruined campus of Polytechnic University on Thursday to collect evidence, removing dangerous items including thousands of petrol bombs, arrows and chemicals which had been strewn around the site.
Chow Yat-ming, a senior police officer said on Thursday night that the police would be able to finish their investigations by Friday.    All officers would leave the site thereafter, enabling people to freely enter and exit the campus.
    Polytechnic University, located on Kowloon peninsula was turned into a battleground in mid-November, when protesters barricaded themselves in and clashed with riot police in a hail of petrol bombs, water cannon and tear gas.    About 1,100 people were arrested last week, some while trying to escape.
    Police said they found more than 3,000 Molotov cocktails and hundreds of bottles of corrosive liquids on the campus.
    It was unclear whether any protesters remained at the university on Friday but police have said arrests are not a priority and anyone found would first be given medical treatment.
    Demonstrators in Hong Kong are angry at what they see as Chinese meddling in the freedoms promised to the former British colony when it returned to Chinese rule in 1997.
    China denies interfering and says it is committed to the “one country, two systems” formula put in place at that time and has blamed foreign forces for fomenting unrest.
    China warned the United States on Thursday that it would take “firm counter measures” in response to U.S. legislation backing anti-government protesters in Hong Kong, and said attempts to interfere in the Chinese-ruled city were doomed to fail.
(Writing by Farah Master; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)

11/29/2019 After Trump’s Kabul visit, Taliban says ready to resume peace talks
FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump delivers remarks to U.S. troops in an unannounced visit
to Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan, November 28, 2019. REUTERS/Tom Brenner/File Photo
    KABUL (Reuters) – The Taliban said on Friday they were ready to restart peace talks with the United States, a day after President Donald Trump made a surprise visit to U.S. troops in Afghanistan and said he believed the radical group would agree to a ceasefire.
    Trump’s Thanksgiving Day visit was his first to Afghanistan since becoming president and came a week after a prisoner swap between Washington and Kabul that has raised hopes for a long elusive peace deal to end the 18-year-long war.
    “The Taliban wants to make a deal and we are meeting with them,” Trump told reporters after arriving in Afghanistan on Thursday.
    “We say it has to be a ceasefire and they didn’t want to do a ceasefire and now they want to do a ceasefire, I believe.    It will probably work out that way.”
    Taliban leaders have told Reuters that the group has been holding meetings with senior U.S. officials in Doha since last weekend, adding they could soon resume formal peace talks.
    On Friday, Zabihullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the hardline Islamist insurgent group, said they were “ready to restart the talks” that collapsed after Trump had called them off earlier this year.
    “Our stance is still the same.    If peace talks start, it will be resumed from the stage where it had stopped,” Mujahid told Reuters.
    Trump canceled peace negotiations in September after the militant group claimed responsibility for an attack in Kabul that killed 12 people, including an American soldier.
    “We are hoping that Trump’s visit to Afghanistan will prove that he is serious to start talks again.    We don’t think he has not much of a choice,” said a senior Taliban commander on conditions of anonymity.
    There are currently about 13,000 U.S. forces as well as thousands of other NATO troops in Afghanistan, 18 years after an invasion by a U.S.-led coalition following the Sept. 11, 2001, al Qaeda attacks on the United States.
    About 2,400 U.S. service members have been killed in the course of the Afghan conflict.
    A draft accord agreed in September would have thousands of American troops withdrawn in exchange for guarantees that Afghanistan would not be used as a base for militant attacks on the United States or its allies.
    Still, many U.S. officials doubt the Taliban could be relied upon to prevent al Qaeda from again plotting attacks against the United States from Afghan soil.
(Reporting by Abdul Qadir Sediqi, Humeyra Pamuk and Idrees Ali; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)

11/29/2019 North Korea’s Thanksgiving Day test shows improving speed for missile crews by Hyonhee Shin and Josh Smith
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un oversees a super-large multiple launch rocket system test in this undated
picture released by North Korea's Central News Agency (KCNA) on November 28, 2019. KCNA via REUTERS
    SEOUL (Reuters) – North Korean leader Kim Jong Un expressed “great satisfaction” over the latest test of a large multiple-rocket launcher, state media said on Friday, a launch that experts said showcased improving performance by the system and its crews.
    North Korea fired two short-range projectiles into the sea off its east coast on Thursday in a fourth test of its new “super-large multiple-rocket launcher,” South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said told a briefing.
    The latest test of the so-called KN-25 missile came as a Thanksgiving Day reminder to the United States of a year-end deadline Kim has set for Washington to show flexibility in their stalled denuclearization talks.
    The series of tests since the KN-25 was first unveiled in August show the North Koreans steadily improving their ability to quickly fire multiple rockets from their mobile launch vehicles.
    That capability makes it more likely that in case of a war, North Korean rocket crews could speedily deploy, fire and move before being targeted by South Korean or American forces, experts said.
    “The faster it fires, the quicker it can (get) out of dodge before counter-fire arrives,” Jeffrey Lewis, a missile researcher at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies (CNS), said on Twitter.
READY FOR DEPLOYMENT
    In the first two KN-25 tests in August and September missiles were fired 17 minutes and 19 minutes apart, respectively, the JCS said.
    By the end of October crews had narrowed that interval to three minutes, while on Thursday the gap between the two missiles was only about 30 seconds.
    “The volley test-fire aimed to finally examine the combat application of the super-large multiple-launch rocket system proved the military and technical superiority of the weapon system and its firm reliability,” KCNA said.
    Photos released by KCNA showed missiles being fired from a transporter-erector-launcher equipped with four launcher tubes.
    The new short-range missiles pose a direct threat to South Korea and U.S. forces stationed there, experts said.
    The missiles traveled up to 380 km (236 miles) and reached an altitude of 97 km, according to the JCS, putting nearly all of South Korea within range.
    “North Korea is trying to selectively modernize conventional forces in a low-cost, high-efficiency way to focus on the economy and reassure the military while nuclear talks are under way, and the rocket launcher is a product of that effort,” said Kim Dong-yub, a former South Korean Navy officer who teaches at Kyungnam University in Seoul.
    “The latest test indicated that the system was ready for mass production and deployment.”
COUNTDOWN TO A DEADLINE
    A spokesman at Seoul’s Unification Ministry in charge of inter-Korean affairs on Friday urged the North to cease acts that may heighten military tension and return to dialogue.
    Kim has set an end-year deadline to re-start the talks with the United States which remain stalemated after a working-level meeting last month broke down.
    While undertaking negotiations with Washington, North Korea has demonstrated progress in conventional weapons development.
    South Korean lawmakers said on Friday an intelligence agency reported increased movement in vehicles and equipment at the Tongchangri missile launch site that Pyongyang said it had demolished last year.
    Early this year, it tested new missiles with similar features to Russia’s SS-26 Iskander which are relatively small yet easier to hide, launch and maneuver in flight.
    North Korea has demanded biting sanctions be lifted and warned it could take a “new path,” raising concerns it may resume nuclear and long-range missile testing suspended since 2017.
    U.S. top nuclear negotiator Stephen Biegun said last week the year-end deadline was an artificial one, but could mean a return to “provocative” steps that preceded the past two years of diplomacy.
(Reporting by Hyonhee Shin and Josh Smith; Editing by Sandra Maler and Stephen Coates)

11/29/2019 Papua New Guinea faces cash crunch as China repayment schedule ramps up by Jonathan Barrett and Charlotte Greenfield
FILE PHOTO: A Chinese national flag flies in front of a Chinese-built main road, before a welcome ceremony for China's
President Xi Jinping ahead of the APEC Summit in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea November 16, 2018. REUTERS/David Gray/File Photo
    SYDNEY/WELLINGTON (Reuters) – Papua New Guinea’s annual debt repayments to China are forecast to increase 25% by 2023, new budget figures show, at the same time as the Pacific nation falls to its largest ever deficit.
    The resource-rich archipelago, which is at the center of a diplomatic tussle between China and the United States, has blamed extravagant spending by the previous administration for its souring finances, which will require the government to borrow even more to pay the bills.
    Balancing its books has been made more difficult by recalculations to the country’s outstanding debt.    It has soared 10 percentage points since the last annual budget to 42% of gross domestic product (GDP), above the legal limit of 35%.
    “You have some of those loans clicking in; the repayments are going to be a problem,” said Paul Barker, executive director of Port Moresby-based think tank the Institute of National Affairs.
    Formerly administered by U.S. ally Australia, PNG has in recent years turned increasingly to China for financing as Beijing becomes a bigger player in the region.
    The U.S. has repeatedly warned that China was using “predatory economics” to destabilize the Indo-Pacific; a charge strongly denied by Beijing.
    Although the total debt owed to Beijing was not disclosed in PNG’s budget documents released on Thursday, repayment schedules show     China is by far the biggest bilateral creditor, with annual repayments to the Asian giant projected to increase 25% to about $67 million by 2023.
    Treasurer Ian Ling-Stuckey said that past excesses, including extravagant spending linked to hosting the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum last year, were emblematic of the financial problems that had been building up.
    “At that time, we were in the midst of the APEC extravaganza with our new APEC Haus, red carpet, fancy new roads all focused in Port Moresby, and Maseratis,” he said in a speech delivered to parliament on Thursday.
    “Now, we have a new prime minister that travels economy class.”
    The purchase of a luxury fleet of cars during the forum, that included 40 slick Maserati Quattroporte sedans, sparked public protests at the time, given the country is beset by poverty.
    Prime Minister James Marape took over as leader in late May after Peter O’Neill lost the support of the parliament following almost eight years in power.
    Adding to the fiscal strain, income from the country’s natural gas sector has also repeatedly come in below forecasts.
    PNG’s total expenditure in the 2020 budget is forecast to reach a record 18.7 billion kina ($5.36 billion), against an anticipated 14.1 billion kina ($4.04 billion) in revenue, creating the largest deficit it has ever faced, according to budget documents.
    Interactive Graphic: Papua New Guinesa faces cash crunch – https://fingfx.thomsonreuters.com/gfx/editorcharts/PAPUA-CHINA-DEBT/0H001QXMK9PM/index.html
(Reporting by Jonathan Barrett in Sydney and Charlotte Greenfield in Wellington; Editing by Kim Coghill)
[If Trump had not got elected the United States might be like Papua New Guinea from the 8 years of the Obama-Biden policies of giving away our democracy of the Globalists and Trump is now reversing that process and pushing and promoting many ASEAN countries to avoid that game that China is in process of trying to do to them.].

11/29/2019 Authorities re-open university of Hong Kong after 12 day blockade by OAN Newsroom
In this Monday, Nov. 18, 2019, file photo, protesters stand on the steps of the
Hong Kong Polytechnic University in Hong Kong. (AP Photo/Achmad Ibrahim, File)
    The University of Hong Kong is set to reopen after a 12 day blockade.    During a briefing Friday, authorities said they arrested more than 1,300 people who they say were a part of anti-government protests.
    Nearly 4,000 gasoline bombs, 1,400 other explosive items, and more than 500 weapons were reportedly seized from the campus.    Authorities also said two students were arrested on weapons charges.
    “Police officers responded to the report, arrested two students for possession of explosive, and removed them safely,” said Kwok Ka-chuen, chief superintendent for the Hong Kong Police.    “One of the arrested students even had an empty cartridge in his possession.”
    Authorities say they consider the possession of explosives and other dangerous items an alarming issue for Hong Kong.
In this Monday, Nov. 18, 2019, file photo, riot police detain protesters at Hong Kong
Polytechnic University in Hong Kong. About 100 anti-government protesters remained holed up at the
university Tuesday as a police siege of the campus entered its third day. (AP Photo/Achmad Ibrahim, File)

11/29/2019 China mixing military and science in Arctic push: Denmark
FILE PHOTO: Snow covered mountains rise above the harbour and town of
Tasiilaq, Greenland, June 15, 2018. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson/File Photo
    COPENHAGEN (Reuters) – China’s military is increasingly using scientific research in the Arctic as a way into the region, a Danish intelligence service said on Friday, as it warned of intensifying geopolitical rivalry in the Earth’s freezing North.
    Disputes in the Arctic over global warming and access to minerals broke into the open in May when U.S. Secretary Mike Pompeo accused Russia of aggressive behaviour in the polar region and said China’s actions must be watched closely.
    “A great power play is shaping up between Russia, the United States and China, which is increasing the level of tension in the (Arctic) region,” the Defence Intelligence Service said in its annual risk assessment report.
    China, which defines itself as a ‘near-Arctic state,’ has an ambition to gain greater access to untapped resources and faster trade through the Northern Sea Route.
    In 2017, Beijing included Arctic sea routes in its so-called Belt and Road Initiative, which seeks to strengthen China’s ties to the rest of the world through infrastructure projects and research.
    China has in recent years invested heavily in Arctic research.    But Danish Defence Intelligence Service chief Lars Findsen said on Friday that Chinese research expeditions in the Arctic are not just a matter of science but serve a “dual purpose.”
    “We have looked at Chinese research activities in the Arctic, and see that the Chinese military is showing an increasing interest in being part of that,” he said.
    Findsen declined to name specific research expeditions involving the Chinese military, but said examples in recent years signalled a “new development
    “It is likely that a part of China’s build-up of knowledge about the Arctic and capacity to operate in the Arctic will take place in a collaboration between civilian and military actors,” the report said.
    Denmark has made it a priority to maintain the Arctic as an area of international cooperation and resolve any potential issues through political negotiations between countries with Arctic territory.    Greenland, a vast island straddling the North Atlantic and Arctic oceans, is a self-ruling part of Denmark.
    But Denmark’s goal has become harder to achieve as Russia in particular is strengthening its military capabilities there, the intelligence report said.
    “This is an essential driving force for several other Arctic coastal states starting to strengthen their (own) regional military capabilities,” it said.
    The report also said a new U.S. Arctic strategy published in June this year combined with public comments from high level government and defence officials, have also contributed to heightened tension in the region.
    Increased U.S. interest in the Arctic became apparent in August when President Donald Trump suggested buying Greenland from Denmark, an idea quickly dismissed by the Danish and regional Greenland governments.
(Reporting by Nikolaj Skydsgaard and Jacob Gronholt-Pedersen; additional reporting by Stine Jacobsen; Editing by Mark Heinrich and Gareth Jones)

11/29/2019 After Trump’s Afghan visit, Taliban say they are ready to resume peace talks
FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump delivers remarks to U.S. troops in an unannounced visit
to Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan, November 28, 2019. REUTERS/Tom Brenner/File Photo
    KABUL (Reuters) – The Taliban said on Friday they were ready to restart peace talks with the United States, a day after President Donald Trump visited U.S. troops in Afghanistan and said he believed the radical group would agree to a ceasefire.
    Trump’s surprise Thanksgiving Day visit was his first to Afghanistan since becoming president and came a week after a prisoner swap between Washington and Kabul that raised hopes for a long elusive peace deal to end the 18-year war.
    “The Taliban wants to make a deal and we are meeting with them,” Trump told reporters after arriving in Afghanistan on Thursday.
    “We say it has to be a ceasefire and they didn’t want to do a ceasefire and now they want to do a ceasefire, I believe.    It will probably work out that way,” he said.
    Trump canceled peace negotiations in September after the militant group claimed responsibility for an attack in Kabul that killed 12 people, including an American soldier.
    Zabihullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the hardline Islamist insurgent group, said on Friday they were “ready to restart the talks.”
    “Our stance is still the same. If peace talks start, it will be resumed from the stage where it had stopped,” Mujahid told Reuters.
    Taliban leaders have told Reuters that the group has been holding meetings with senior U.S. officials in Doha since last weekend, adding they could soon resume formal peace talks.
    “We are hoping that Trump’s visit to Afghanistan will prove that he is serious to start talks again.    We don’t think he has not much of a choice,” said a senior Taliban commander on conditions of anonymity.
    Trump did not answer reporters’ questions when he returned on Friday morning to Florida, where he is spending the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday weekend away from Washington.
    There are currently about 13,000 U.S. forces as well as thousands of other NATO troops in Afghanistan, 18 years after a U.S.-led coalition invaded the country following the Sept. 11, 2001, al Qaeda attacks on the United States.
    About 2,400 U.S. service members have been killed in the course of the Afghan conflict.
    A draft accord agreed in September would have thousands of American troops withdrawn in exchange for guarantees that Afghanistan would not be used as a base for militant attacks on the United States or its allies.
    Still, many U.S. officials doubt the Taliban could be relied upon to prevent al Qaeda from again plotting attacks against the United States from Afghan soil.
(Reporting by Abdul Qadir Sediqi, Humeyra Pamuk and Idrees Ali; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan and Susan Heavey)

11/30/2019 Hong Kong seniors take to streets to back students as activists decry police by Kate O’Donnell-Lamb and Felix Tam
People raise their hands as they sing the protest anthem "Glory to Hong Kong" during an anti-government
protest in the Central district of Hong Kong, China, November 30, 2019. REUTERS/Thomas Peter
    HONG KONG (Reuters) – Secondary-school students and retirees joined forces to protest in Hong Kong on Saturday, the first of several weekend rallies planned across the city, as pro-democracy activists vowed to battle what they say are police brutality and unlawful arrests.
    A top Hong Kong official said the government was looking into setting up an independent committee to review the handling of the crisis, which has seen increasingly violent demonstrations since starting more than five months ago.
    Hong Kong has seen relative calm since local elections last week delivered an overwhelming victory to pro-democracy candidates.    Still, activists appear keen to maintain the momentum of their movement.
    “I came out for the peaceful protest in June when there was more than one million people, but the government did not listen to our demands,” said a 71-year-old woman in Hong Kong’s Central district, who only gave her name as Ponn.
    She brought her own plastic stool to join a cross-generational protest of a few hundred people at the city’s Chater Garden.    Elderly     Hong Kongers, some with visors and canes, stood not far from young, black-clad protesters.    All listened to pro-democracy speakers in a gathering marked by a festive mood.
    “I have seen so much police brutality and unlawful arrests.    This is not the Hong Kong I know.    I came today because I want the government to know that we are not happy with what they have done to our generation,” said Ponn, who attended with her daughter and son-in-law.
FOREIGN ARRESTS
    Demonstrators are angered by what they see as Chinese interference in freedoms promised when Britain returned Hong Kong to Beijing in 1997.
    But China denies interfering, and says it is committed to the “one country, two systems” formula put in place at that time.    It has blamed foreign forces for fomenting unrest.
    On Saturday, citing authorities, the Communist party newspaper of the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou said police had arrested a Belizean citizen for allegedly colluding with people in the United States to meddle in Hong Kong affairs.
    Separately, the newspaper said a Taiwanese man, Lee Meng-Chu, was arrested by police in nearby Shenzhen on Oct. 31, for allegedly stealing state secrets for foreign forces after he made a trip to Hong Kong in August to support “anti-China” activities.
    In Hong Kong, the city government is looking into setting up an independent committee to review the handling of the crisis, Matthew Cheung, Chief Secretary for Administration, told reporters when asked about an independent review committee.
    “We are looking for relevant candidates and we have already started preparatory work, so we hope we will make some progress in the short term,” Cheung said.
    Cheung’s comment came in response to a question that did not specify police or government handling, but one of the protesters’ demands is for an independent inquiry into allegations of police brutality.    Some critics on social media have said that such a committee would fall short of the independent investigation they have been demanding.
    In an opinion piece in the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post newspaper on Saturday, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, also called for an investigation into allegations of excessive police force.
    “I appeal the government to take important confidence-building measures, including a proper independent and impartial judge-led investigation into reports of excessive use of force by the police,” Bachelet wrote.
‘GLORY TO HONG KONG’
    In Saturday’s first rally, at one point the crowd in the park rose to sing “Glory to Hong Kong,” which has become the unofficial anthem of protests.    Many of them put their hands in the air with five fingers outstretched, a symbol of the pro-democracy movement.
    “My mum asked me to come and protect her.    So I came with my husband.    It has been quiet after the district elections and that is unexpected,” senior citizen protester Ponn’s 26-year-old daughter told Reuters.
    “We should not stop there, I came today because we have to keep fighting.”
    Some of the young protesters waved American flags, a sign of appreciation after U.S. President Donald Trump this week signed into law bills that back the protesters and threaten China with possible sanctions on human rights.
    A 70-year-old retiree in a blue aviator sunglasses and a grey tracksuit, who gave his name as Ko, said seniors could offer guidance to the younger protesters.
    “Starting from day one I have been involved in this movement and there is no reason to stop now,” said Ko.
    “Today is a cross-age group meeting and there are a lot of middle school students … We are here to give them advice and moral support.    I think they need it.”
(Reporting by Kate O’Donnell-Lamb and Felix Tam; Additional reporting by Yawen Chen in Beijing; Writing by David Dolan; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan and Kenneth Maxwell)

11/30/2019 Iranian opposition leader compares Supreme Leader to toppled Shah
FILE PHOTO: Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei speaks during Friday prayers
in Tehran, September 14, 2007. REUTERS/Morteza Nikoubazl//File Photo
    GENEVA (Reuters) – Iranian opposition leader Mirhossein Mousavi has compared Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to the Shah, the monarch deposed in a 1979 revolution, following the government’s crackdown on protests this month.
    The unrest began on Nov. 15 after the government of the Islamic Republic, one of OPEC’s biggest oil producers, announced gasoline price hikes.    But the protests quickly turned political, with demonstrators demanding the removal of top leaders.
    Khamenei has described the violence as the work of a “very dangerous conspiracy.”    The Tehran government has blamed “thugs” linked to its opponents in exile and the country’s main foreign foes, namely the United States, Israel and Saudi Arabia.
    Iran has given no official death toll, but Amnesty International has said that at least 161 people have been killed.    Tehran has rejected this figure.
    Mousavi’s comments about Khamenei, the highest authority in the Islamic Republic, were posted in a statement on the opposition Kaleme website.    He made a reference to an infamous 1978 massacre which rallied public support and led to the toppling of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi.
    “The killers of the year 1978 were the representatives of a non-religious regime and the agents and shooters of November 2019 are the representatives of a religious government,” he said.    “Then the commander in chief was the Shah and today, here, the Supreme Leader with absolute authority.”
    He called on the government to “pay attention to the repercussions of the Jaleh square killings” of 1978.
    Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi ran in a presidential election in June 2009 but lost out to hardliner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.    The two men became figureheads for Iranians who staged mass protests after the vote, which they said was rigged.
    Karroubi, Mousavi and Mousavi’s wife Zahra Rahnavard have been under house arrest in Tehran since 2011 after the opposition leaders called on supporters to rally in solidarity with pro-democracy uprisings in Arab countries.
(Reporting By Babak Dehghanpisheh; Editing by Pravin Char)

12/1/2019 Hong Kong police fire tear gas as thousands take to the streets in fresh wave of protests by Poppy McPherson and Kate O’Donnell-Lamb
A protester wearing a U.S. flag over his face attends a "March of Gratitude to the US"
event in Hong Kong, China December 1, 2019. REUTERS/Thomas Peter
    HONG KONG (Reuters) – Police fired tear gas to disperse thousands of anti-government protesters in Hong Kong on Sunday, after a rare lull in violence, as residents took to the streets chanting “revolution of our time” and “liberate Hong Kong
    The protest in the bustling shopping district of Tsim Tsa Tsui came after hundreds of people had marched to the U.S. consulate to show “gratitude” for U.S. support for the demonstrations that have roiled the China-ruled financial hub for six months.
    Shops and businesses in the area shuttered early as police sprayed volleys of tear gas at protesters, including some elderly residents and others with their pets, as they marched past the city’s Kowloon waterfront, home to luxury hotels and shopping malls.
    Police made several arrests as the tear gas sent hundreds fleeing toward the harbor.
    Hong Kong had enjoyed relative calm for the past week since local elections last Sunday delivered an overwhelming victory to pro-democracy candidates.
    Activists pledged, however, to maintain the momentum of the anti-government movement that has seen protests roil the former British colony since June, at times forcing government offices, businesses, schools and even the international airport to shut.
    Waving posters that read “Never forget why you started” and black flags with the logo “Revolution now,” protesters occupied several main roads on Sunday, with young residents and families with children filling the nearby streets.
    “We had demonstrations, peaceful protests, lobbying inside the council, a lot of things we have done but they all failed,” said Felix, a 25 year old university graduate.
    “There are still five demands,” he said, referring to protesters’ calls that include an independent inquiry into police behavior and the implementation of universal suffrage.
    Some protesters, equipped with gas masks, built barricades and blocked roads near luxury stores, including Armani, while others headed toward Hung Hom, a district near the ruined campus of Hong Kong Polytechnic University.
    The campus turned into a battleground in mid-November when protesters barricaded themselves in and faced off riot police in violent clashes of petrol bombs, water cannon and tear gas.
    About 1,100 people were arrested last week, some while trying to escape.
    On Friday, police withdrew from the university after collecting evidence and removing dangerous items including thousands of petrol bombs, arrows and chemicals that had been strewn around the site.
THANK YOU TRUMP
    Earlier in the day, hundreds of protesters waved American flags, with some donning Donald Trump logo hats and t-shirts, as they unfurled a banner depicting the U.S. president standing astride a tank with a U.S. flag behind him.
    Another banner read: “President Trump, please liberate Hong Kong.”
    Trump this week signed into law congressional legislation that supported protesters in the China-ruled city, despite angry objections from Beijing.
    “Thank you President Trump for your big gift to Hong Kong and God bless America,” shouted a speaker holding a microphone as he addressed a crowd at the start of the march.
    In the morning, hundreds of protesters marched in protest against police use of tear gas.
    Carrying yellow balloons and waving banners that read “No tear gas, save our children,” the protesters streamed through the city’s central business district toward government headquarters on the main Hong Kong island.
    “We want the police to stop using tear gas,” said a woman surnamed Wong, who marched with her husband and 5-year-old son.
    “It’s not a good way to solve the problem.    The government needs to listen to the people.    It is ridiculous.”
    Police have fired around 10,000 rounds of tear gas since June, the city’s Secretary for Security, John Lee, said this week.
FURTHER PROTESTS
    Sunday’s marches came as a top Hong Kong official said the government was looking into setting up an independent committee to review the handling of the crisis, in which demonstrations have become increasingly violent.
    The protesters are angry at what they see as Chinese meddling in the freedoms promised to the former British colony when it returned to Chinese rule in 1997.
    China denies interfering and says it is committed to the “one country, two systems” formula put in place at that time and has blamed foreign forces for fomenting unrest.
    Over 1,000 police officers in the southern Chinese city of Zhuhai, located across the border from Hong Kong, conducted anti-terror drills on Friday, state media reported, adding that netizens in the mainland said the exercises served as a warning to “rioters”.     On Saturday, secondary school students and retirees joined forces to protest against what they called police brutality and unlawful arrests.
    While Saturday’s rallies were mostly peaceful, public broadcaster RTHK reported that police fired tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse protesters after a vigil outside the Prince Edward metro station.    Some residents believe that some protesters were killed by police there three months ago.    Police have denied that account.
    Further protests are planned through the week.    A big test of support for the anti-government campaign is expected on Dec. 8 in a rally planned by Civil Human Rights Front, the group that organized million-strong marches in June.
(Reporting by Kate O’Donnell-Lamb, David Dolan, Sarah Wu, Poppy McPherson and Martin Pollard; Writing by Farah Master; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan, Anne Marie Roantree and Tom Hogue)

12/1/2019 China wants U.S. tariffs rolled back in phase one trade deal: Global Times
FILE PHOTO: A Chinese woman adjusts a Chinese national flag next to U.S. national flags before
a Strategic Dialogue expanded meeting, part of the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue (S&ED)
held at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing, July 10, 2014. REUTERS/Ng Han Guan/Pool
    BEIJING (Reuters) – Beijing is insisting U.S. tariffs must be rolled back as part of any phase one trade deal with Washington, China’s Global Times newspaper said on Sunday citing unnamed sources, amid continued uncertainty on whether the two sides can strike a deal.
    “A US pledge to scrap tariffs scheduled for December 15 cannot replace the rollbacks of tariffs,” the newspaper said in a tweet, referring to an additional round of tariffs on Chinese imports to be implemented in the absence of a trade deal.
    The Global Times is published by the People’s Daily, the official newspaper of China’s ruling Communist Party.
    On Tuesday, U.S. President Donald Trump said Washington was in the “final throes” of a deal aimed at defusing a 16-month trade war with China, a few days after Chinese President Xi Jinping had expressed his desire for a trade agreement.    Top trade negotiators for both countries also spoke again and agreed to continue working on the remaining issues.
    Trade experts and people close to the White House told Reuters last month, however, that signing of a phase one agreement may not take place until the new year as China pressed for more extensive rollbacks of tariffs.    An agreement was initially expected to be completed by the end of November.
    U.S. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley told reporters on Tuesday that Beijing invited U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin for in-person talks in Beijing.
    Grassley said Lighthizer and Mnuchin were willing to go if they saw “a real chance of getting a final agreement.”
    A source familiar with the trade talks also told Reuters that U.S. officials could travel to China after Thursday’s Thanksgiving holiday in the United States.
(Reporting by Se Young Lee and Lusha Zhang; Editing by Christian Schmollinger and Tom Hogue)

12/1/2019 Hong Kong announces new commission to address ongoing protests by OAN Newsroom
Pro-democracy protesters wave a flag reading “Liberate Hong Kong, the Revolution of Our Times” as they march against
the Central district scenic during a rally at the Water Front in Hong Kong, Sunday, Dec. 1, 2019. (AP Photo/Vincent Thian)
    The Hong Kong government is planning to set up an independent commission to address the country’s ongoing protests.    On Saturday, Hong Kong’s chief secretary said officials will not investigate police brutality, but they will develop a commission to restore the region’s peace and order.
    This came as a rejection to protesters, who have been calling for an official investigation into police brutality in the region.    The chief secretary shot down these demands and said they will instead launch a commission to look at the broad social issues behind the ongoing demonstrations.
    “This commission focuses on the bigger picture, the reason behind the social unrest,” stated Hong Kong Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung.    “It’s not directed solely at police or a particular group, it is to find the root cause of the conflict.”
    Reports said nearly 6,000 people in Hong Kong have been arrested since the beginning of the protests, which started in March.    Over 900 of those arrested are under the age of 18.
A pro-democracy protester shouts after being detained by policemen during a
rally in Hong Kong, Sunday, Dec. 1, 2019. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)
    This came days after President Trump signed several new bills into law, which will support protesters’ months-long demonstrations.    The Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act will empower the Trump administration to impose sanctions on officials from China or Hong Kong for violating human rights.    A separate piece of legislation will ban the export of tear gas, rubber bullets and other crowd control items.
    Hong Kong protesters have thanked the president and the U.S. for their support.    Demonstrators carried American flags and marched to the U.S. consulate on Sunday to thank America for approving the legislation.
    “Thank you Trump, thank you all in USA, to pass the act and support Hong Kong,” said one demonstrator. “Just stay with Hong Kong, free Hong Kong and please boycott China.”
    Protesters said they hope other countries will add their voices in support.
    “For the U.S. President to sign on the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, that’s the remarkable achievement of all Hong Kongers,” stated activist Joshua Wong.    “It just encourages world leaders around the world and politicians (to be) aware that it’s time for them to stand with Hong Kong.”
Protesters wave American flags during a rally outside the U.S. Consulate in Hong Kong, Sunday, Dec. 1, 2019. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)
    However, some protests turned violent, marking a break in the relatively peaceful demonstrations leading up to the election.    Police fired tear gas after 16,000 people showed up for a rally in the southern part of the city.
    Protesters barricaded roads and vandalized shops linked to China.

12/2/2019 Hong Kong office workers begin week of lunchtime protests by Sarah Wu
Riot police officers patrol after the "Lest We Forget" rally in Hong Kong, China December 1, 2019. REUTERS/Marko Djurica
    HONG KONG (Reuters) – Hundreds of office workers in Hong Kong’s business district gathered on Monday for the first in a week of lunchtime protests backing the pro-democracy movement after its resounding victory in district polls last month in the Chinese-ruled city.
    A day earlier police again fired tear gas to disperse thousands of protesters as they marched past the city’s Kowloon waterfront, after first going to the U.S. consulate on Hong Kong island to show gratitude for Washington’s support.
    There was no such confrontation at the two-hour rally in the central business district on Monday, as some people went back to their offices after their demonstration of solidarity.    Others said they would be striking for the full five days.
    The gathering in Chater Garden probably drew Hong Kong’s best-dressed protesters, and organizers have called on them to come out every day this week.
    Protests over the last six months have drawn a wide swathe of Hong Kong society – from students to pensioners.    Even white-collar professionals, like those in Chater park, have sometimes blocked roads in recent weeks, leading to face-offs with police.
    Monday’s rally appeared aimed specifically at bringing in more workers from advertising agencies to help build publicity.
    Fred, a 24-year-old advertising professional, said he and his colleagues had helped create promotional materials in their own time for the so-called “yellow economy,” the businesses seen as supporting the pro-democracy movement.
    Many pro-democracy protesters have adopted the color yellow and yellow balloons have been seen at rallies.
    “From the advertising perspective, we can help promote the brands that speak out for Hong Kong,” said Fred.
    Another protester in the park said his advertising agency had closed for the week in solidarity, and hoped other agencies would do likewise.
    “We are trying to come out and be the first industry to come out and stop working for five days,” said 28-year-old Ryan.
    “We are just stopping work for companies.    But the advertising talent will keep advertising for the movement, designing posters and leaflets.”
TEAR GAS
    During Sunday’s protest police fired tear gas to disperse thousands of anti-government protesters, some of whom chanted “revolution of our time” and “liberate Hong Kong.”    That followed a period of relative calm after Nov. 24 district elections delivered an overwhelming victory to pro-democracy candidates.
    Police on Sunday used tear gas after protesters threw bricks and glass bottles, and ignored warnings, Kwok Ka-chuen, a senior police official, told a news conference.
    Fity-eight people were arrested over the weekend, bring the total number of arrests since early June to 5,947, police said.
    The protest in the busy shopping district of Tsim Sha Tsui followed a “Thanksgiving” march by hundreds to the U.S. consulate.
    The protesters’ demands include an end to Beijing’s alleged meddling in the freedoms promised to the former British colony when it returned to Chinese rule in 1997, universal suffrage and an inquiry into police use of force.
    The unrest since June has at times forced the closure of government offices, businesses, schools and the international airport, helping drive the city into recession for the first time in a decade in the third quarter.
(Reporting by Sarah Wu and Twinnie Siu; Writing by Kate Lamb and David Dolan; Editing by Stephen Coates, Simon Cameron-Moore and Giles Elgood)

12/2/2019 China suspends U.S. military visits to Hong Kong, sanctions U.S.-based NGOs
Anti-government protesters raise their hands as they attend the "Lest We Forget"
rally in Hong Kong, China December 1, 2019. REUTERS/Thomas Peter
    BEIJING (Reuters) – China said on Monday U.S. military ships and aircraft won’t be allowed to visit Hong Kong, and also announced sanctions against several U.S. non-government organizations for encouraging protesters to “engage in extremist, violent and criminal acts.”
    The measures were announced by China’s Foreign Ministry in response to U.S. legislation passed last week supporting anti-government protesters.    It said it had suspended taking requests for U.S. military visits indefinitely, and warned of further action to come.
    “We urge the U.S. to correct the mistakes and stop interfering in our internal affairs.    China will take further steps if necessary to uphold Hong Kong’s stability and prosperity and China’s sovereignty,” said ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said at a daily news briefing in Beijing.
    China last week promised it would issue “firm counter measures” after U.S. President Donald Trump signed into law the “Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act,” which supports anti-government protesters in Hong Kong and threatens China with potential sanctions.
    There are fears that the row over Hong Kong could impact efforts by Beijing and Washington to reach preliminary deal that could de-escalate a prolonged trade war between the two countries.
    The U.S.-headquartered NGOs targeted by Beijing include the National Endowment for Democracy, the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs, the International Republican Institute, Human Rights Watch, and Freedom House.
    “They shoulder some responsibility for the chaos in Hong Kong and they should be sanctioned and pay the price,” said Hua.
    In more normal times, several U.S. naval ships visit Hong Kong annually, a rest-and-recreation tradition that dates back to the pre-1997 colonial era which Beijing allowed to continue after the handover from British to Chinese rule.
    Visits have at times been refused amid broader tensions and two U.S. ships were denied access in August.
    The USS Blue Ridge, the command ship of the Japanese-based Seventh Fleet, stopped in Hong Kong in April – the last ship to visit before mass protests broke out in June.
    Foreign NGOs are already heavily restricted in China, and have previously received sharp rebukes for reporting on rights issues in the country including the mass detention of Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang.
(Reporting by Cate Cadell and Beijing Monitoring Desk; Editing by Tom Hogue & Simon Cameron-Moore)

12/2/2019 Iran says it continues to sell oil despite U.S. sanctions: TV
FILE PHOTO: Iranian Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri speaks during a news conference after a meeting with Iraq's top Shi'ite
cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani in Najaf, south of Baghdad, February 18, 2015. REUTERS/Alaa Al-Marjani/File Photo
    DUBAI (Reuters) – Iran continues to sell its oil despite U.S. sanctions on Tehran’s oil exports, the country’s Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri was quoted on Monday as saying by state TV, adding that Washington’s “maximum pressure” on Tehran had failed.
    “Despite America’s pressure … and its imposed sanctions on our oil exports, we still continue to sell our oil by using other means … when even friendly countries have stopped purchasing our crude fearing America’s penalties,” Jahangiri said.
(Writing by Parisa Hafezi; Editing by Alison Williams)
[It does not matter if you are selling your oil to China and Russia because Trump is keeping the price of oil so low in the low $50 range that you cannot make that much money per barrel maybe $20 per barrel to pay the IRG, Hezbollah, Hamas, and Houthi to do their infractions and to function in Iran as your Iranian people are starting to rebel against you as the sanctions are affecting them and it is obvious that you are scum in that you would kill people that you have suppressed, and I hope to see them rise up and hang all the Mullahs in the near future.].

12/2/2019 In face of China threat, Taiwan to invite U.S. experts to bolster defenses
FILE PHOTO: Flags of Taiwan and U.S. are placed for a meeting between U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce
speaks and with Su Chia-chyuan, President of the Legislative Yuan in Taipei, Taiwan March 27, 2018. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu
    TAIPEI (Reuters) – Taiwan plans to invite U.S. military experts to visit to provide advice on bolstering the island’s defenses, the defense ministry said on Monday, in the face of what Taipei views as a growing threat from its giant neighbor China.
    Democratic Taiwan is claimed by China as part of its territory.
    China has never renounced the use of force to bring the island under its control, and has stepped up military activity around the island, including sailing an aircraft carrier group through the Taiwan Strait last month.
    Like most countries, the United States has no formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan, but is bound by law to provide the island with the means to defend itself and is its most important arms supplier.
    In a brief statement, Taiwan’s Defense Ministry said it plans to use the “arms purchase contract model to invite a U.S. expert group to come to Taiwan.”
    The ministry “hopes to use the U.S. military’s practical experience to provide a reference for the national armed forces’ construction and war preparations.”
    “This case is a Taiwan-U.S. military exchange and cooperation plan, which will help consolidate and deepen the security partnership between the two sides and further ensure peace and stability in the region,” it said.
    The ministry gave no other details, and did not specifically mention China, though the country is Taiwan’s only real military threat.
    The Trump administration has been stepping up its support for Taiwan, including approving $10 billion in arms sales this year, despite strong Chinese opposition.
    China, already locked in a trade war with the United States, regularly calls Taiwan the most sensitive and important issue in the Sino-U.S. relationship.
    Brent Christensen, the de facto U.S. ambassador to Taiwan, said last month that strengthening security ties was one of his priorities.
    While Taiwan’s military is well armed and well trained, China’s armed forces have long since gained the upper hand, with new missiles, stealth fighters, aircraft carriers and submarines coming into service at a steady rate.
    Most military experts believe Taiwan would only last a few days in a war with China, unless the United States came quickly to its aid, mobilizing its substantial forces in nearby Japan and maybe also South Korea.
(Reporting by Ben Blanchard, editing by Ed Osmond)

12/3/2019 Hong Kong leader warns U.S. law will hurt business confidence, promises economic relief by Noah Sin and Clare Jim
FILE PHOTO: Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam is seen before signing a memorandum of understanding on strengthening
of economics relations at government house in Bangkok, Thailand November 29, 2019. REUTERS/Jorge Silva
    HONG KONG (Reuters) – Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said on Tuesday U.S. legislation supporting protesters may damage business confidence in the financial hub, as she announced a fourth round of relief measures to boost the city’s battered economy.
    Lam told reporters the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act signed into U.S. law last week was “wholly unnecessary”, as the former British colony grapples with its first recession in a decade.
    The act requires the U.S. State Department to certify at least annually that Hong Kong retains enough autonomy to justify favorable U.S. trading terms, and threatens sanctions for human rights violations.
    “The impact currently is on confidence … because corporates will be worried about the actions the U.S. government may take in the future after they review this legislation,” Lam said.
    Lam did not specify what additional measures would be taken to boost economic activity, saying details would be announced in the near-term.    The government has previously offered relief of about HK$21 billion ($2.7 billion) to support the economy, particularly the transport, tourism and retail sectors.
    The unrest has hammered retail sales which fell by their steepest on record in October as protests scared off tourists and hit spending.
    In more bad news for the economy, China on Monday banned U.S. military ships and aircraft from visiting Hong Kong – a rest and recreation stop for the U.S. Seventh Fleet – in retaliation for the U.S. legislation.
    Lam said approvals for such port visits were a matter for China’s Foreign Ministry.
    Hong Kong has been rocked by six months of sometimes violent unrest in the biggest challenge to Chinese stability since the bloody crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in and around Beijing’s Tiananmen Square in 1989.
    The protesters’ demands include universal suffrage, an investigation into alleged police brutality and an end to Beijing’s perceived efforts to undermine democratic freedoms promised when the former British colony was handed back to China in 1997.
    China denies interfering in Hong Kong’s affairs and says it is committed to the “one country, two systems” formula enshrined at the handover and guaranteeing the territory a high degree of autonomy.    Beijing blames foreign countries including the United States for inciting unrest.
    Activists have pledged to hold lunch-time rallies throughout the week after a mass demonstration over the weekend when police fired tear gas to disperse crowds of protesters.
    Hundreds of office workers gathered in Hong Kong’s business district on Monday in support of the pro-democracy movement after it scored a resounding victory in district polls last month.
    Lam has renewed her appeals for peace but her administration has failed to offer any concessions to the protest movement despite the election results.
(Reporting by Anne Marie Roantree, Clare Jim, Noah Sin, James Pomfret, Greg Torode and Sharon Tam; writing by Farah Master; Editing by Tom Hogue and Stephen Coates)
[FREEDOM FROM TYRANNY IS ALWAYS MORE VALUABLE THAN SELLING YOUR SOUL TO SUPPRESION.].

12/3/2019 North Korea says up to U.S. to decide what ‘Christmas gift’ it wants: KCNA by Josh Smith and Sangmi Cha
FILE PHOTO: A person walks past a banner showing North Korean and U.S. flags ahead of the
North Korea-U.S. summit in Hanoi, Vietnam, February 25, 2019. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon
    SEOUL (Reuters) – North Korea said on Tuesday the United States was trying to drag out denuclearization talks ahead of the U.S. presidential election next year and issued a veiled threat to Washington to soften its demands, state media reported.
    Ri Thae Song, North Korea’s vice foreign minister in charge of U.S. affairs, accused Washington of being “keen on earning time” instead of making concessions.
    “The dialogue touted by the U.S. is, in essence, nothing but a foolish trick hatched to keep the DPRK bound to dialogue and use it in favor of the political situation and election in the U.S.,” Ri said in a statement on state news agency KCNA, referring to the initials of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the country’s official name.
    “What is left to be done now is the U.S. option and it is entirely up to the U.S. what Christmas gift it will select to get.”
    Ri singled out a U.S. State Department statement calling for “sustained and substantial dialogue” after North Korea’s test of its new multiple rocket launchers on Thursday.
    Negotiations between North Korea and the United States have hit a stalemate after a day-long working-level meeting in October in Stockholm broke down.
    Kim has set an end-year deadline for Washington to show flexibility in its position, but U.S. officials have described the deadline as artificial.
(Reporting by Josh Smith and Sangmi Cha; Additional reporting by Hyonhee Shin; Editing by Kim Coghill and Sam Holmes)

12/3/2019 North Korea’s Kim celebrates completion of ‘modern mountainous city’ by Hyonhee Shin
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un attends a ceremony at the township of Samjiyon County, North Korea, in this undated
picture released by North Korea's Central News Agency (KCNA) on December 2, 2019. KCNA via REUTERS
    SEOUL (Reuters) – North Korea has celebrated the completion of leader Kim Jong Un’s signature construction project, a new city near the sacred mountain where his family claims its roots, with state media on Tuesday calling it the “epitome of modern civilisation.”
    A massive celebration involving fireworks was held at the city near Mount Paektu on Monday, the official KCNA news agency said.
    The Rodong Sinmun, a ruling party mouthpiece, ran photos of Kim smiling as he cut a ribbon at the ceremony attended by thousands of people, while state television showed beige, green and purple buildings covered in snow.
    The city named Samjiyon is envisaged as what North Korea calls a “socialist utopia” with new apartments, hotels, a ski resort and commercial, cultural and medical facilities.
    The town “has turned into an example of a mountainous modern city under socialism, an epitome of modern civilization,” KCNA said.
    KCNA said it could accommodate 4,000 families and has 380 blocks of public and industrial buildings in “hundreds of hectares
    The city is one of the largest economic initiatives Kim has launched as part of his drive for a “self-reliant economy," as Pyongyang calls for Washington to lift economic sanctions in their denuclearization talks.
    But its construction was delayed chiefly due to shortages in construction materials and labor as a result of sanctions imposed to curb Pyongyang’s nuclear program.
    The delays prompted Pyongyang to mobilize youth labor brigades, which defectors and human rights activists likened to “slave labor” as they get no pay, poor food and are forced to work more than 12 hours a day for up to 10 years in return for better chances to enter a university or join the all powerful Workers’ Party.
    State media has also reported over the past year on factories, families and individuals who sent winter jackets, tools, shoes, blankets and biscuits to Samjiyon, which the defectors said was part of the cash-strapped regime’s campaign to source supplies from the public.
    The project was completed despite “the worst trials” and “ordeals and difficulties,” KCNA said, without elaborating.
(Reporting by Hyonhee Shin; Editing by Michael Perry)

12/3/2019 Trump says Iran is killing thousands for protesting
FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump speaks to reporters at the White House before departing
to Fayetteville, North Carolina in Washington, U.S. September 9, 2019. REUTERS/Erin Scott
    LONDON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump said on Tuesday that Iran was killing thousands of people for protesting and urged the world to take more notice.
    Disturbances in Iran began in mid-November over gasoline price hikes but quickly turned political, with demonstrators demanding the removal of the top leaders of the country in the bloodiest anti-government protests since the 1979 Islamic revolution.
    “Iran is killing perhaps thousands and thousands of people right now as we speak, that it why they cut off the internet so people can’t see what is going on,” Trump said during a visit to London for a NATO Summit.
    “Not just small numbers which are bad, big numbers which are really bad, and really big numbers … It is a terrible thing and the world has to be watching.”
(Reporting by Steve Holland, Writing by Kylie MacLellan; editing by Guy Faulconbridge)

12/3/2019 Trump says North Korea’s Kim ‘likes sending rockets up’
FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump meets with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at the demilitarized zone
separating the two Koreas, in Panmunjom, South Korea, June 30, 2019. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque/File Photo
    LONDON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump said on Tuesday he still had confidence in North Korean leader Kim Jong Un but noted that Kim “likes sending rockets up, doesn’t he?
    “That’s why I call him Rocket Man,” Trump told reporters during a meeting with the head of NATO in London He said he hoped Kim would denuclearize, but added: “we’ll find out.”
    North Korea fired two short-range projectiles into the sea off its eastern coast last week in the latest test of its large multiple-rocket launcher.    It was seen as an effort to remind the United States of a year-end deadline Kim has set for Washington to show flexibility in stalled denuclearization talks.
    The United Nations Security Council is due to meet behind closed doors on Wednesday – at the request of France, Britain and Germany – to discuss the latest missile launches by Pyongyang, diplomats said.    The 15-member Security Council banned North Korea’s use of ballistic missiles in 2006.
    North Korea earlier on Tuesday accused the United States of trying to drag out denuclearization talks ahead of the U.S. presidential election next year.
    Trump said he was also pressing ahead with negotiations with allies South Korea and Japan to shoulder more of the cost of stationing U.S. troops in those countries.
    He said South Korea last year agreed to pay nearly $500 million a year more for U.S. “protection,” and added the United States now wanted additional commitments.
    Asked if it was in the U.S. national security interest to have U.S. forces stationed on the Korean peninsula, Trump said: “It can be debated.    I can go either way.    I can make arguments both ways.”
    “But I do think this, I think if we’re going to do it, they should burden-share more fairly,” Trump said.
(Reporting by Steve Holland, Guy Faulconbridge and Phil Stewart in London and Michelle Nichols at the United Nations; Writing by Phil Stewart; Editing by Peter Graff and Grant McCool)

12/3/2019 China signs on for ‘gigantic’ investment in El Salvador infrastructure by Nelson Renteria
FILE PHOTO: President of El Salvador Nayib Bukele speaks during a news conference about the homicide drop
in the last month in San Salvador, El Salvador November 1, 2019. REUTERS/Jose Cabezas
    SAN SALVADOR (Reuters) – China will help build several major infrastructure projects in El Salvador including a stadium and water treatment plant, the two countries said on Tuesday, signaling China’s growing role in the region after El Salvador cut ties with Taiwan.
    Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele, who met with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping in China this week, said the investment represented a “gigantic, non-refundable cooperation” for the small Central American nation.
    He did not disclose the planned investment amount.
    Under the agreement, China will help build a large sports stadium, multi-story library and water treatment plant.
    China, the world’s second biggest economy, will also assist at coastal tourist sites, including building streets, parks and a water system along the beaches known as Surf City, and restaurants and shops on the Puerto de la Libertad pier.
    The projects offer the strongest signal yet of El Salvador’s embrace of close relations with China.
    El Salvador “adheres to the principle of one China, categorically rejects any act that goes against this principle and any form of ‘independence of Taiwan,'” El Salvador and China said in a joint statement.
    El Salvador broke off diplomatic relations with Taiwan in August last year, following the Dominican Republic and Panama in switching sides to China.
(This story corrects last paragraph to show El Salvador broke ties with Taiwan in August last year)
(Reporting by Nelson Renteria, Writing by Daina Beth Solomon; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)

12/3/2019 Iran proposes Rouhani’s visit to Japan amid nuclear impasse: Kyodo
FILE PHOTO: Iranian President Hassan Rouhani speaks at a news conference on the sidelines of the United Nations
General Assembly in New York, U.S., September 26, 2019. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo
    DUBAI (Reuters) – Iran has proposed President Hassan Rouhani visit Japan, a U.S. ally which also has close relations with Tehran, to try to resolve Iran’s nuclear impasse with Washington, Kyodo news agency reported on Tuesday.
    Citing a senior diplomatic source, Kyodo said Iran’s deputy foreign minister for political affairs Abbas Araqchi had relayed the proposal to Japan during a two-day visit to Tokyo as a special envoy of Rouhani.
    “Iran is seen as hoping to realize such a visit at an early date while Japan is expected to examine it carefully,” it said.
    Japan maintains friendly ties with both the United States and Iran and has previously tried to ease tension between the two countries, which severed diplomatic relations shortly after Iran’s 1979 Islamic revolution that toppled the U.S.-backed Shah.
    In Tokyo, a Japanese Foreign Ministry spokesman said he had no information regarding any possible trip to Japan by the Iranian president.
    Tensions have heightened between Tehran and Washington since last year when President Donald Trump pulled out the U.S. from Tehran’s 2015 nuclear deal with six powers and reimposed sanctions on the country that have crippled its economy.
    Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who has forged warm relations with Trump, traveled to Iran in June to persuade Iran and the United     States to resume direct talks and dial down tension.    Iran has ruled out talks with Washington unless it returns to the nuclear deal and lifts all sanctions on Iran.
    In response to Washington’s “maximum pressure,” Iran has gradually scaled back its commitments under the deal, which curbed Tehran’s nuclear program in exchange for lifting most international sanctions.
    Japan, which has stopped buying oil from Iran because of U.S. sanctions, is keen to see stability in the Middle East, where the bulk of its oil imports come from.
    In October Japan said it planned to send a naval force to Middle East waters to guard ships supplying Japan, but declined to join any U.S. coalition to protect merchant vessels.
    Iran has criticized the U.S. efforts to build an alliance to protect shipping in the Gulf, saying countries in the region can protect waterways used by oil tankers.
(Writing by Parisa Hafezi, Additional reporting by Timothy Kelly in Tokyo, Editing by William Maclean)

12/3/2019 Hong Kong’s Lam to visit China and meet Xi on December 16: Cable TV
FILE PHOTO: Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam speaks to the media in a weekly news briefing
after local elections in Hong Kong, China, November 26, 2019. REUTERS/Marko Djurica
    HONG KONG (Reuters) – Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam will visit Beijing on Dec. 16 and meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping, Hong Kong broadcaster Cable TV said on Tuesday, citing sources.
    The visit would come as relations between China and the United States have been strained by Washington’s support of pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong.
    The United States last week signed into law legislation supporting the protesters.    Beijing responded by barring U.S. military vessels and aircraft from visiting Hong Kong and imposed sanctions on several U.S. non-government organizations.
(Reporting by Noah Sin and Meg Shen; Writing by David Dolan; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

12/4/2019 Iran’s Rouhani calls for release of innocent, unarmed protesters
FILE PHOTO: Iranian President Hassan Rouhani speaks at a news conference on the sidelines of the
United Nations General Assembly in New York, U.S., September 26, 2019. REUTERS/Brendan Mcdermid/File Photo
    DUBAI (Reuters) – Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani called on Wednesday for the release of any unarmed and innocent people who were detained during protests against gasoline price hikes, after two weeks of violent clashes.
    The unrest, which began on Nov. 15 after the government abruptly raised fuel prices by as much as 300%, spread to more than 100 cities and towns and turned political as young and working-class protesters demanded clerical leaders step down.
    “Religious and Islamic clemency should be shown and those innocent people who protested against petrol price hikes and were not armed … should be released,” Rouhani said in a televised speech.
    Iran’s clerical rulers have blamed “thugs” linked to its opponents in exile and the country’s main foreign foes – the United States, Israel and Saudi Arabia.
    “The aim of our enemies was to endanger the existence of the Islamic republic by igniting riots in Iran … But America and the Zionist regime (Israel) lack political wisdom about Iran and Iranians,” said chief commander of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards Hossein Salami in a televised speech.
    Tehran has given no official death toll, but Amnesty International said on Monday it had documented the deaths of at least 208 protesters, making the disturbances the bloodiest since the 1979 uprising that swept Shi’ite clerics to power.
    A lawmaker said last week that about 7,000 protesters had been arrested. The judiciary has rejected the figures.
    The Intelligence Ministry said last week that at least eight people linked to the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) had been arrested during the unrest, which was snuffed out last week by a security crackdown.
    The struggle of ordinary Iranians to make ends meet has become harder since last year when U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from Tehran’s nuclear deal with six world powers and reimposed sanctions that have further crippled Iran’s oil-based economy.
    “If America lifts the sanctions, we are ready to talk and negotiate, even at the level of heads of the 5+1 countries (major powers),” Rouhani said.
    In reaction to Washington’s “maximum pressure,” Iran has gradually scaled back its nuclear commitments and has warned of further distancing from the pact if Europeans fail to shield Tehran’s economy from U.S. penalties.
    Washington has ruled out lifting sanctions unless Iran further curbs its nuclear work, ends its ballistic missile programme and its regional proxy wars.
(Writing by Parisa Hafezi; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

12/4/2019 U.S. peace envoy in Kabul for revival of talks: sources
FILE PHOTO: U.S. envoy for peace in Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad speaks during a debate at Tolo TV channel
in Kabul, Afghanistan April 28, 2019. REUTERS/Omar Sobhani - RC199FE7AB70/File Photo
    KABUL (Reuters) – U.S. special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad arrived in Kabul on Wednesday to meet Afghanistan’s president to discuss ways of resuming peace talks, Afghan government officials said, after negotiations with the Taliban collapsed in September.
    U.S. President Donald Trump made a surprise Thanksgiving visit to U.S. forces at Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan last week and met President Ashraf Ghani, raising hopes of progress toward an elusive peace deal with the Taliban, who have been waging an insurgency against the Kabul administration since being toppled from power in 2001.
    However, the chances of successful negotiations are still in doubt given the Taliban’s refusal to engage with what they call Ghani’s “illegitimate puppet regime.”
    The Afghan government says it is ready for the revival of the talks, but only if it is given a seat at the table and the Taliban agrees to a ceasefire.
    “The U.S. and Afghan presidents agreed on the resumption of peace negotiations but with close participation and coordination with the Afghan government,” a senior Afghan official said.
    “Our precondition is a reduction of violence leading to a ceasefire, and that is what U.S. want too.”
    Talks between the Taliban and the United States collapsed in September, after Trump called off what he described as a planned meeting at his Camp David presidential retreat.
    Both sides had said they were close to a deal that would have withdrawn thousands of American troops in exchange for guarantees from the Taliban that Afghanistan would not be used as a base for attacks on the United States or its allies.
    If talks are resumed, Ghani’s officials say Khalilzad’s format of holding separate negotiations with the Taliban as a preliminary step to later talks between Afghan participants in the conflict cannot be repeated.
    Instead they are pressing for a sequence that would see a ceasefire, direct talks with the Taliban and a security guarantee, and only then U.S. troop withdrawals – a sequence that Taliban leaders strongly reject.
    “We will not announce any ceasefire before a deal with the U.S., and secondly we will not agree to hold any meetings with the Afghan government before that,” a senior Taliban official told Reuters.
    A spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Kabul did not respond to a request for comment.
(Reporting by Hamid Shalizi in Kabul; Additional reporting by Jibran Ahmad in Peshawar; Editing by Alasdair Pal and Alex Richardson)

12/4/2019 North Korea’s Kim signals more confrontational stance with new horse ride, rare party meeting by Josh Smith
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un rides a horse as he visits battle sites in areas of Mt Paektu, Ryanggang, North Korea,
in this undated picture released by North Korea's Central News Agency (KCNA) on December 4, 2019. KCNA via REUTERS
    SEOUL (Reuters) – Kim Jong Un mounted a white horse again as North Korea announced on Wednesday it will soon convene a rare meeting of the ruling party’s leaders, steps analysts say may signal preparations for a more confrontational stance with the international community.
    For the second time in two months, Kim visited North Korea’s sacred Mt Paektu on horseback, this time accompanied by senior military officers, aimed at instilling a “revolutionary spirit” in the people, state news agency KCNA reported.
    Kim has warned the United States it has until the end of the year to offer more concessions to restart stalled denuclearization talks or North Korea will pursue an unspecified “new path.”    Analysts believe that may include a resumption of intercontinental ballistic missile launches or nuclear tests.
    The United States has called for North Korea to give up significant portions of its nuclear arsenal before punishing international sanctions are eased, while Pyongyang has accused the United States of “gangster-like” demands for unilateral disarmament.
    Speaking in Washington on Tuesday, U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun said the United States would not give up on talks with Pyongyang.
    Biegun has previously downplayed the year-end deadline, calling it “artificial” and warning that it would be a “huge mistake and a missed opportunity” for North Korea to take any provocative steps.
    But North Korean state media have carried a steady chorus of statements in recent weeks, saying Washington should not ignore the warning and dismissing U.S. calls for talks as a stalling tactic.
    The announcement that a Plenary Meeting of the Central Committee of the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea would meet sometime in late December underscores how North Korea is serious about making a major decision, analysts said.
    Such meetings have often been when North Korea has announced major policy shifts.
    KCNA said the plenum would discuss and decide on “crucial issues” in light of the “changed situation at home and abroad.”
    The timing of this plenum is unusual because it comes before the year-end deadline, as well as before Kim’s expected New Year’s address, said Rachel Minyoung Lee, an analyst with NK News, a website that monitors North Korea.
    “That Pyongyang is opting to hold this meeting before the end of the year indicates its strong resolve,” she said.    “Taking the party plenum announcement and the Mount Paektu visit together, the ‘resolve’ seems to be that North Korea will not cave in to the U.S., and that it will keep charging on despite the difficulties.”
‘PREPARE FOR HARSHNESS’
    KCNA reported Kim was joined by top military aides as he rode a white horse in a tour of historic battlefields near Mount Paektu.
    Kim has often visited the sacred mountain around the time of major developments in North Korea, including missile launches, and his horseback visit in October sparked speculation of a change in North Korea’s nuclear negotiation strategy.
    State media photos on Wednesday showed the saddle and harness on Kim’s horse adorned with more intricate gold-colored fittings and government emblems.
    The ride was aimed at instilling in North Koreans the mountain’s “indefatigable revolutionary spirit” in the face of “unprecedented blockade and pressure imposed by the imperialists,” KCNA reported.
    Kim said there was a need to prepare for “the harshness and protracted character of our revolution,” according to KCNA.
    While Kim’s plans are still unclear, the signals suggest the window for diplomacy is closing fast, if not already shut, said John Delury of Seoul’s Yonsei University.
    “The message is buckle up, it’s going to be a big year for us next year,” he said.    “And not a year of diplomacy and summitry, but rather of national strength.”
    The ride is full of symbolism for North Koreans and sending strident messages to domestic audiences more fully commits Kim to following through on his declarations, Delury said.
    Lee noted the fact Kim was accompanied by senior army officers rather than party officials, combined with other recent military-related announcements by state media, suggests North Korea “will likely transition to a more militaristic line.”
    The plenum meeting would mark the first time such a gathering has occurred twice in one year under Kim Jong Un, Delury said.
    “This is not a standard meeting,” he said.    “How many details will actually come out of that meeting is anyone’s guess.    But it signals that diplomacy could be off and they are really going to act on this.”
(Reporting by Josh Smith. Editing by Lincoln Feast.)

12/4/2019 Hong Kong government tops up stimulus with extra HK$4 billion by Clare Jim and Noah Sin
FILE PHOTO: A police officer holds a weapon during the "Lest We Forget" anti-government
rally in Kowloon in Hong Kong, China December 1, 2019. REUTERS/Laurel Chor
    HONG KONG (Reuters) – Hong Kong’s government pledged HK$4 billion ($511 million) on Wednesday in new relief measures to help bolster an economy battered by months of protests that have eroded business confidence in the Asian financial hub.     The latest boost brings the government’s total pledged amount of relief to HK$25 billion ($3.2 billion).    It remains to be seen whether that will be enough to help the economy, reeling from a drop-off in tourism and a record decline in retail sales.
    The International Monetary Fund on Wednesday urged the government to deliver “significantly” more fiscal stimulus to address the downturn and longer-term structural issues such as insufficient housing and income inequality.
    “During an economic downturn, supporting employment is the number one priority of the government,” Financial Secretary Paul Chan said as he announced the package.
    Chan described the measures as mainly aimed at helping small and medium-sized businesses, in order to safeguard jobs.    He told reporters that the anti-Beijing demonstrations had hurt international investor confidence in the China-ruled city.
    Business activity in Hong Kong contracted at the fastest pace in 21 years in November, dragged down by the protests and softening global demand, an IHS Markit survey showed on Wednesday.
    Asia’s largest distributor of luxury brands, the Blubell group, has appealed to Hong Kong landlords to scrap the base rent in shopping malls, saying a slump in tourist spending will push even more retailers out of business.
    Hong Kong recorded its largest-ever retail collapse in October, with sales dropping 24.3 percent to HK$30.1 billion, the government said Monday.
    Sparked by a controversial and since-withdrawn extradition bill, the protests have swelled into broader calls for greater democratic freedoms.
    Those who have joined the pro-democracy demonstrations accuse China of increasingly interfering in freedoms promised to the former British colony when it was returned to Chinese rule in 1997.
(Writing by Kate Lamb and David Dolan; Editing by Gerry Doyle & Simon Cameron-Moore)

12/4/2019 Gunmen kill head of Japan aid agency, five others in Afghanistan by Ahmad Sultan and Abdul Qadir Sediqi
A broken window of the vehicle that was carrying Japanese doctor Tetsu Nakamura during
the attack is seen in Jalalabad, Afghanistan December 4, 2019.REUTERS/Parwiz
    KABUL/NANGARHAR, Afghanistan (Reuters) – Gunmen killed six people, including the head of a Japanese aid agency, on Wednesday in an attack on their vehicle in Jalalabad in eastern Afghanistan, officials said.
    The ambush comes a week after a grenade attack on a United Nations vehicle in Kabul heightened fears for those doing humanitarian work amid one of the world’s longest-running conflicts.
    Tetsu Nakamura, head of Peace Japan Medical Services, had been involved in rebuilding Afghan irrigation and agriculture and had recently been granted honorary Afghan citizenship for decades of humanitarian work in the east of the country.
    “I am shocked that he had to die in this way,” Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told a news conference in Tokyo.
    “He risked his life in a dangerous environment to do various work, and the people of Afghanistan were very grateful to him,” Abe added.
    The gunmen fled the scene and police have launched a search operation to arrest them, Sohrab Qaderi, a member of the governing council in the province of Nangarhar told Reuters, adding he believed Nakamura had been targeted for his work.
    “Dr. Nakamura has been doing great work in the reconstruction of Afghanistan, especially in irrigation and agriculture,” he said.
    No group has yet claimed responsibility for the attack, but Zabihullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the Afghan Taliban, said the militant group was not involved in the shooting.
    “The Afghan government strongly condemns the heinous and cowardly attack on Afghans’ greatest friend, Dr. Nakamura,” said Sediq Sediqqi, a spokesman for Afghan president Ashraf Ghani.
    “(He) has dedicated all his life to change the lives of Afghans.”
(Reporting by Ahmad Sultan in Nangarhar, Abdul Qadir Sediqi in Kabul and Junko Fujita in Tokyo; Writing by Alasdair Pal; Editing by Gareth Jones)

12/4/2019 Chinese diplomat visits South Korea to re-set ties by Sangmi Cha
FILE PHOTO: Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi (C) is surrounded by journalists after talks with Japanese Prime Minister
Shinzo Abe at the latter's official residence in Tokyo, Japan, November 25, 2019. Kimimasa Mayama/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo
    SEOUL (Reuters) – South Korea said it would seek China’s help to denuclearize the Korean peninsula as one of Beijing’s most senior diplomats arrived in Seoul on Wednesday to repair ties that soured over the deployment of U.S. anti-missile systems in 2017.
    Making his first visit to the South Korean capital in more than four years China’s State Councillor Wang Yi, who also serves as foreign minister, met South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha and was set to meet with President Moon Jae-in on Thursday.
    South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reported that the agenda for meetings was likely to include plans for a trilateral summit with Japan to be held in China later in December, a possible visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping, as well as the stalled denuclearization talks with North Korea.
    Calling the two countries “,” China’s Wang said they should work together to keep “regional peace and stability,” according to the Yonhap report.
    Kang said she looked forward to exchanging ideas to promote economic, environmental, and cultural cooperation, as well as “ways to work together to establish denuclearization and peace on the Korean peninsula.”
    South Korea sees China as instrumental in reviving stalled denuclearization talks between the United States and North Korea, a longtime ally of Beijing.
    Negotiations between North Korea and the United States hit a stalemate after a day-long working-level meeting in October in Stockholm broke down.
    North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has set an end-year deadline for Washington to reconsider its approach to talks.    U.S. officials have downplayed the deadline, calling it artificial.
    Wang last visited the South Korean capital for a trilateral meeting, also attended by Japan, in 2015.
    A year later a row blew up over the planned siting in South Korea of the U.S. Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system, designed to intercept ballistic missiles.
    Beijing said it upset the regional security balance as the system’s powerful radar could penetrate into Chinese territory.
    South Korea and the United States went ahead regardless, installing the anti-missile system in 2017, saying it was warranted because of North Korea’s provocations.
    North Korea has test fired dozens of missiles since, most recently on the U.S Thanksgiving holiday last week.
    South Korea is also seeking to open additional military hotlines with China after their defense ministers discussed the issue on the sidelines of an international conference in Bangkok last month.
    The Global Times, a tabloid published by China’s ruling Communist Party’s official newspaper, quoted a Chinese academic saying relations with South Korea had begun to thaw, despite remaining problems of the THAAD deployment.
    “The ice is melting between the two countries but spring has not yet arrived,” Renmin University of China associate professor Cheng Xiaohe said.
(Reporting by Sangmi Cha; Writing by Josh Smith; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)

12/4/2019 China demands ‘fighting spirit’ from diplomats as trade war, Hong Kong protests simmer
FILE PHOTO: File photo of China's top diplomat Wang Yi speaking during a meeting with former Ethiopian President
Mulatu Teshome in Beijing, on October 30, 2019. Madoka Ikegami/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo
    SHANGHAI (Reuters) – Chinese diplomats have been instructed to promote Beijing’s view more aggressively as the country grapples with the trade war with the United States, anti-government protests in Hong Kong and other crises that could dent its image.
    The government’s top diplomat, Wang Yi, prodded officials at a foreign ministry gathering last month to display stronger “fighting spirit” in the face of international challenges, three sources with knowledge of the matter said.
    While Wang did not give explicit direction at the event, the instructions come after several senior Chinese diplomats set up Twitter accounts, some of which have been used to attack Beijing’s critics.    This week, the foreign ministry also launched a Twitter account.
    More than 1,000 current and former officials attended the event in Beijing, singing patriotic songs to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the founding of the foreign ministry.
    “This is the first time we have been told to show more ‘fighting spirit’,” said one source who attended the celebration.
    Wang’s comments reflect President Xi Jinping’s revamp of foreign and military policy, in which he has abandoned the approach laid out by reform architect Deng Xiaoping, who said China should hide its strength and bide its time while it developed.
    Xi’s wide-ranging policies have included the multi-billion dollar Belt and Road Initative and the establishment of the China-controlled Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank.
    On Monday, the foreign ministry made its debut on Twitter.    One of @MFA_China’s inaugural tweets outlined China’s response to a new U.S. law on Hong Kong while another took a poke at the case of a man claiming to be a Chinese spy seeking asylum in Australia.
    Within a day and a half it had nearly 10,000 followers.
    The ministry did not reply immediately to faxed questions about its new Twitter account, the November event or the policy.
RE-SHAPING NARRATIVE
    State-run Chinese news outlets have had a presence on overseas social media platforms for years.
    And the government has been accused of being involved in other ways – Twitter and Facebook said in August they had suspended hundreds of accounts that they said were part of a coordinated state-backed effort by China to undermine protests in Hong Kong.    Beijing has defended the right of Chinese people and media to make their voices heard on Hong Kong.
    In the last few months, Chinese ambassadors and other senior diplomats have set up at least a dozen Twitter accounts.    Twitter has said it considers “official government voices on Twitter an important element of the service.”
    The new accounts reflect efforts by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to attempt to re-shape the global narrative, said Anne-Marie Brady, a Chinese politics specialist at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand.
    “China’s international image is a big preoccupation for the CCP leadership,” she said.
    Hu Xijin, editor-in-chief of the Global Times newspaper which is published by the party, said China’s pushback, while perhaps appearing defensive at times, was natural.
    The West’s voices are more numerous and its “apparatus of public opinion” more developed than China’s, he told Reuters.
    “I think this is a problem for China,” he said.
    In the last six months, Chinese ambassadors to Austria, Iran, the Maldives, Mali, Namibia, Nepal, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Suriname, the United States and the UK have joined Twitter.
    Zhao Lijian, a deputy head of the ministry’s information department, has been one of the highest profile diplomats on the platform, building on a Twitter following he started when posted to Pakistan until taking his new post in October.
    Zhao has regularly needled the United States, with recent tweets thanking America for “squandering trillions of dollars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria” and highlighting racism in Washington, DC.
    Mike Chinoy, a non-resident senior fellow at the University of Southern California’s U.S.-China Institute, said he expected China to aggressively make use of social media, perhaps even drawing inspiration from the U.S. president.
    “I assume there are diplomats in the foreign ministry and elsewhere in the Chinese bureaucracy who’ve been watching the extraordinary skill with which Donald Trump used Twitter to shape the political debate in the States and beyond, and so why can’t we do that too?
(Reporting by John Ruwitch and Reuters; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)

12/4/2019 U.S. envoy to rejoin Doha talks with Taliban after Kabul visit, says State Department
FILE PHOTO: U.S. envoy for peace in Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad speaks during a
debate at Tolo TV channel in Kabul, Afghanistan April 28, 2019. REUTERS/Omar Sobhani
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Special Envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, after a visit to Kabul, will travel to Qatar to rejoin talks with Taliban negotiators on steps that could lead to a ceasefire and a settlement to the war in Afghanistan, the State Department said on Wednesday.
    Khalilzad arrived in Kabul earlier on Wednesday to follow up on U.S. President Donald Trump’s visit to Afghanistan last week and to discuss with Afghan officials and others how to convene talks with the Taliban on a political settlement, the State Department said.
(Reporting by Jonathan Landay; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)

12/4/2019 Iran protests are sign of real popular dissatisfaction: UK PM Johnson
FILE PHOTO: People protest against increased gas price, on a highway in Tehran, Iran November 16, 2019.
Nazanin Tabatabaee/WANA (West Asia News Agency) via REUTERS/File Photo
    WATFORD, England (Reuters) – Protests in Iran are a sign of “real popular dissatisfaction” with the country’s leaders, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Wednesday.
    Disturbances in Iran began in mid-November over gasoline price hikes but quickly turned political, with demonstrators demanding the removal of the country’s leaders in the bloodiest anti-government protests since the 1979 Islamic revolution.
    “My own feeling is that this is not just about fuel prices, this is a sign of real popular dissatisfaction with the regime and frankly I am by no means surprised,” Johnson told reporters at a news conference following a NATO summit.
    “As so often, Iranian disruption in the region is a distraction from the failings of the Iranian regime.”
(Writing by Kylie MacLellan; editing by Stephen Addison)

12/4/2019 Thousands of animals sacrificed in Nepal Hindu ritual amid outcry by Gopal Sharma
A head of a sacrificed buffalo lies on the ground a day after the sacrificial ceremony of the "Gadhimai Mela"
festival held at Bariyarpur in Nepal December 4, 2019. The festival, renowned for its large number of
animal sacrifices, is held every five years at the Gadhimai Temple where devotees from Nepal and bordering
India will sacrifice buffaloes, goats and birds while offering prayers to Gadhimai, the goddess of power. REUTERS/Navesh Chitrakar
    KATHMANDU (Reuters) – Tens of thousands of devout Hindus thronged a temple in southern Nepal where thousands of animals and birds were sacrificed this week, amid an outcry from animal rights activists who said the ritual was a cruel and gruesome spectacle.
    The ceremony, held every five years at the Gadhimai temple in Bara in southern Nepal, is believed to be the largest such mass-slaughter event in the world and animal rights activists have been campaigning to end the practice for years.
    About 80% of Nepal’s 30 million population are Hindus and many sacrifice animals to appease deities during festivals.    Thousands of devotees also travel from India to sacrifice animals at the festival.
    On Tuesday, devotees carrying swords and large curved knives called khukurs beheaded more than 3,000 buffaloes near the temple, witnesses said.    Animal sacrifices continued on Wednesday when goats and other animals were slaughtered.
    “There is no justification for this mass killing, and it is truly heartbreaking to witness,” said Tanuja Basnet, director of the Nepal unit of Humane Society International, in a release that also called on the Nepal government to introduce a law banning animal sacrifice.
    In 2016, Nepal’s Supreme Court said the practice should be prohibited, and it called on the government to frame a law that would gradually bring an end to the sacrifices.
    Rajan Nepal, an official with Nepal’s Tourism and Culture Ministry, told Reuters the government has begun to implement the court directive.
    “We’ve issued public appeals and consulted with stakeholders in the temple area,” he said.    “It is related with tradition and cannot be halted immediately.”
    Devotees believe the sacrifice, meant to appease Gadhimai – an avatar of the Hindu goddess of power, Kali – brings them luck and prosperity.
    Authorities deployed 1,100 police to prevent clashes between activists and devotees at the site 10 km (6 miles) from the Indian border.
    “We can only try and convince devotees not to sacrifice the animals, but cannot force them to stop,” said Bikash Khanal, the head of district police in Bara.
    Khanal said fewer animals were sacrificed this year compared with five years ago due to awareness campaigns.
    The heads of the sacrificed animals are buried in huge pits and hides and skins are often sold to traders.    Some of the local communities also take the dead animals away for meat.
(Reporting by Gopal Sharma; Editing by Euan Rocha and Giles Elgood)

12/5/2019 Hong Kong gives protesters green light for big march on Sunday by Sarah Wu and Twinnie Siu
Tsang Chi-Kin (C), who was shot by a police officer during a protest, arrives for
a court hearing in Hong Kong, China, December 5, 2019. REUTERS/Thomas Peter
    HONG KONG (Reuters) – Hong Kong authorities granted protesters permission to march this weekend, organizers said on Thursday, giving the green light to a rally seen as a gauge of the pro-democracy movement’s support following its sweeping victory in local elections.
    The Civil Human Right Front, the group that organized million-strong marches in the China-ruled city in June, said it had received permission from police for a planned Human Rights Day rally on Sunday.
    During the past six months of increasingly violent anti-Beijing demonstrations, authorities had denied requests from the group to hold rallies.    Some calm has descended since the Nov.24 district elections, when pro-democracy candidates won nearly 90% of the seats.
    Also on Thursday, a protester who was shot by police in an altercation two months ago appeared in court for the first time to face charges of rioting and assaulting a police officer.
    Tsang Chi-kin, who had been hospitalized after the October shooting incident, walked into a Hong Kong court and left about an hour later after his case was adjourned until February.
    An officer shot Tsang in the chest with a live round. Police said the officer involved was under serious threat and acted in self-defense.
    Police say they have exercised restraint in the face of escalating violence, but they are facing accusations of excessive use of force.
    A rally has been planned for Friday evening to protest the use of tear gas by police.
    Demonstrators have repeatedly called for an independent inquiry into police use of force as one of their “five demands” on government.    The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has also called for an investigation into allegations of excessive police force.
    Hong Kong’s Commissioner of Police Chris Tang will visit Beijing on Friday to discuss the security situation, his first such visit since his appointment last month.
    Tang will pay a “courtesy visit” to Beijing, where he will call on the Ministry of Public Security, meet with counterparts and discuss the security situation, the Hong Kong government said in a statement.
    He is due to return early on Sunday morning, according to police, hours before the afternoon rally.
    Tang took office in November with a warning that “fake news” was undermining the reputation of his police force.
    He replaced Stephen Lo amid an police siege of anti-government protesters at a university that saw some of the shocking scenes of violence.
    Tang has called for people across Hong Kong to end the unrest that has plunged the city into its biggest political crisis in decades.
    The protests were sparked by a controversial and since-withdrawn extradition bill and have swelled into broader calls for greater democratic freedoms.
    Protesters accuse China of increasingly interfering in freedoms promised to the former British colony when it was returned to Chinese rule in 1997.    China denies interfering in Hong Kong’s affairs.
(Reporting by Sarah Wu and Twinnie Siu; Writing by David Dolan; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)

12/5/2019 South Korean president hears reassurances from senior Chinese diplomat by Sangmi Cha
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi is greeted by South Korean President Moon Jae-in during their meeting
at the Presidential Blue House in Seoul, South Korea, December 5, 2019. Yonhap via REUTERS
    SEOUL (Reuters) – A senior China diplomat offered conciliatory remarks to South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Thursday amid efforts to repair ties strained by a U.S. anti-missile system, while leveling sharp criticism at the United States for “Cold War” thinking.
    State Councillor Wang Yi, who is also China’s foreign minister, met with Moon on the final day of a two-day visit to Seoul, his first in four years.    Relations between the two countries have been strained by South Korea’s installation of a U.S. Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system in 2017.
    “We agree to deal with THAAD and other issues properly so we can earnestly respect each other’s core interests,” Hua Chunying, spokeswoman for the Chinese foreign ministry, said during a briefing in Beijing.
    But Wang sharply criticized the United States over THAAD in remarks to a lunchtime gathering of South Korean business people and former government officials in Seoul.
    “The U.S. made it to target China,” Wang said, according to South Korea’s Yonhap news agency.    A “Cold War way of thinking” is out of date and “hegemony cannot win people’s hearts,” he said.
    “China’s revival is inevitable in history and no one can stop it,” he said at the lunch, which was organized by the Chinese embassy in Seoul.
    Moon, meanwhile, asked Wang for Beijing’s help to “reach a nuclear-free, peaceful peninsula” as tensions with North Korea rise.
    “A close dialogue and cooperation between the two countries will help to stabilize Northeast Asia’s security and overcome the uncertainty the global economy is facing,” Moon said.
    South Korea sees China as instrumental in reviving the stalemated nuclear talks between the United States and North Korea, a longtime ally of Beijing.
    Denuclearization negotiations between North Korea and the United States reached stalemate after a working-level meeting in Stockholm broke down in October.
    On Wednesday, Wang met South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha and agreed to hold the first gathering of a planned joint vice-ministerial panel on people-to-people exchanges “in the near future” and create a new meeting on maritime affairs, South Korea’s foreign ministry said in a statement.
    Kang and Wang also agreed to cooperate to facilitate negotiations with North Korea based on the shared view that its nuclear programs cannot be accepted, peace should be maintained and there must not be war again, a South Korean foreign ministry official told reporters.
(Reporting by Sangmi Cha; additional reporting by Catherine Cadell in Beijing; writing by Josh Smith; editing by Larry King)

12/5/2019 China too distracted to worry about Taiwan, Taipei mayor says by Ben Blanchard
Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je speaks during an interview with Reuters in his office
at the Taipei City Hall, Taiwan December 5, 2019. REUTERS/Fabian Hamacher
    TAIPEI (Reuters) – China has too many other issues to worry about at the moment, from protests in Hong Kong to a slowing economy, to give much thought to Taiwan, the mayor of Taipei, sometimes seen as a potential future president, said on Thursday.
    China claims self-ruled and democratic Taiwan as its own territory, to be brought under Beijing’s control by force if necessary.    It regularly calls Taiwan the most sensitive issue in China-U.S. ties, Washington being Taiwan’s main arms supplier.
    But Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je, who has advocated for better relations with China, told Reuters that while Taiwan was important to China, it was not currently the “core issue” that Beijing likes to portray.
    “They say that Taiwan is a core issue, but I’m very clear that it isn’t.    Taiwan is not China’s core issue,” he said.
    “In comparison to Hong Kong, to Xinjiang, Taiwan is not on the top of the priority list.    For mainland China, there are their economic problems, their GDP has already fallen to below 7%,” Ko added in an interview, where he switched between Mandarin and English.
    Chinese-ruled Hong Kong has been rocked by anti-government protests for nearly six months, the biggest challenge to President Xi Jinping since he took charge in 2012.    China has come under international opprobrium for locking up a million or more Muslims in the western region of Xinjiang as part of what it calls a de-radicalisation program.
    In any case, Ko said, the United States – Taiwan’s most important international backer even in the absence of diplomatic ties – would not let Taiwan become formally independent or be taken over by China.
    While the 60-year-old Ko decided not to run for the presidency for elections scheduled for Jan. 11, the position he holds is traditionally a stepping stone to the presidency.    The three presidents preceding current leader President Tsai Ing-wen all served as Taipei mayor.
    If Tsai wins re-election – and polling is on her side – she cannot then stand for a third term in 2024.
    Ko, who this year formed a new political party, the Taiwan People’s Party, said it was still too early for him to say if he would run in 2024, adding he would decide when his mayoral term runs out in three years time.
    “Do what you should do now and let God decide,” he said.
    A surgeon turned politician, Ko is known for his colorful personal style.    Last year he made a rap video for his mayoral re-election campaign called “Do the right thing”, which quickly went viral.
    Ko has sought his own path between Taiwan’s two main parties, Tsai’s pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party and the Kuomintang, which favors close ties with China.
    Visiting the United States earlier this year, Ko told the conservative Heritage Foundation that Taiwan can be close to the United States but also friendly with China.
    In July, Ko also went to Shanghai to meet the city’s mayor, Ying Yong.    While there, he reiterated previous comments that the two sides of the Taiwan Strait “are one family.”
    Ko said he had no plans so far to go to China next year.
    Senior Chinese leaders are always on their guard in such meetings, as if you make a mistake in China “you will be disappeared from the world,” he added, with a laugh.
    “They were very, very nervous when they talked with me.    Because I’m very unpredictable.    We’re very easy.    We say what we think.    They can’t.    They’re very rigid.”
(Reporting by Ben Blanchard)

12/5/2019 North Korea warns President Trump against continuing to call Kim Jong Un ‘rocket man’ by OAN Newsroom
FILE – In this June 30, 2019, file photo, President Donald Trump, left, meets with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at
the North Korean side of the border at the village of Panmunjom in Demilitarized Zone. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)
    North Korea is threatening to retaliate against if he continues to provoke Pyongyang.    In a statement Thursday, the country’s vice minister of foreign affairs said it would be a “very dangerous challenge” if President Trump continues to refer to Kim Jong Un as “rocket man.”
    The vice minister added, the president’s nickname “intentionally amplifies the confrontational mood between the U.S. and North Korea at a critical moment” in bilateral relations.    This comes after President Trump referred to Kim Jong Un as “rocket man” Tuesday, during a NATO meeting in London.    The president had this to say:
    “Likes sending rockets up, doesn’t he?    That’s why I call him rocket man.    You know my relationship with Kim Jong Un is really good, but that doesn’t mean he won’t abide by the agreement we signed.    You have to understand, you have to go look at the first agreement that we signed.    It said he will denuclearize.    That’s what it said.    I hope he lives up to the agreement but we’re going to find out.”
    President Trump went on to say the U.S. would not hesitate to use military force against North Korea if needed.
This undated photo provided on Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2019, by the North Korean government shows North Korean leader Kim Jong Un,
right, speaks to lieutenants as he visits Mount Paektu area, North Korea. (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP)

12/5/2019 U.S. says Iran may have killed more than 1,000 in recent protests by Humeyra Pamuk
FILE PHOTO: Brian Hook, U.S. Special Representative for Iran, speaks at a
news conference in London, Britain June 28, 2019. REUTERS/Simon Dawson
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Iranian security forces may have killed more than 1,000 people since protests over gasoline price hikes began in mid-November, U.S. Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook said on Thursday, adding that many thousands were also wounded in the unrest.
    “As the truth is trickling out of Iran, it appears the regime could have murdered over a thousand Iranian citizens since the protests began,” Hook told reporters at a briefing at the State Department.
    Among those were at least a dozen children, Hook said, but cautioned that the numbers were not definitive as Tehran blocked information.    He said that “many thousands of Iranians” had also been wounded and at least 7,000 detained in Iran’s prisons.
    The unrest, which began on Nov. 15 after the Iranian government abruptly raised fuel prices by as much as 300%, spread to more than 100 cities and towns and turned political as young and working-class protesters demanded clerical leaders step down.
    Tehran has given no official death toll but Amnesty International said on Monday it had documented the deaths of at least 208 protesters, making the disturbances the bloodiest since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
    Tehran’s clerical rulers have blamed “thugs” linked to its opponents in exile and the country’s main foreign foes – the United States, Israel and Saudi Arabia – for the unrest.
    The struggle of ordinary Iranians to make ends meet has become harder since last year, when U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from Tehran’s nuclear deal with six world powers and reimposed sanctions that have further crippled Iran’s oil-based economy.
    Hook also said a U.S. Navy warship seizing advanced missile parts believed to be linked to Iran from a boat it stopped in the Arabian Sea on Nov. 25 was likely further proof of Tehran’s efforts to inflame conflict in the region.
    “We interdicted a significant hoard of weapons and missile parts evidently of Iranian origin.    The seizure includes sophisticated weapons,” he said, adding that the vessel was reportedly heading to Yemen to deliver the weapons.
    “The weapon components comprise the most sophisticated weapons seized by the U.S. Navy to date during the Yemen conflict,” Hook said.
    In recent years, U.S. warships have intercepted and seized Iranian arms likely bound for Iran-aligned Houthi fighters.
    Under a United Nations resolution, Tehran is prohibited from supplying, selling or transferring weapons outside the country unless approved by the Security Council.    A separate U.N. resolution on Yemen bans the supply of weapons to Houthi leaders.
(Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk; Writing by Mohammad Zargham; Editing by Tom Brown)

12/5/2019 Iran vows to continue missile work, dismisses EU powers’ U.N. letter by Parisa Hafezi
FILE PHOTO: Iran's Foreign Minister Javad Zarif reacts during a news conference with Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov
(not pictured) after their meeting in Moscow, Russia, September 2, 2019. REUTERS/Evgenia Novozhenina/File Photo
    DUBAI (Reuters) – Iran on Thursday rejected pressure to shelve its ballistic missile program after a European letter to the U.N. Security Council accused Tehran of developing missiles capable of delivering nuclear bombs.
    The British, German and French ambassadors to the Council, in a letter circulated on Wednesday, called on U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to tell the body in his next report that Iran’s missile program was “inconsistent” with a U.N. resolution underpinning the 2015 nuclear deal reached between Iran and six world powers.
    Iran responded defiantly, saying it was determined to proceed with its missile program, which it has repeatedly described as defensive in purpose and nothing to do with its nuclear activity.
    “Iran is determined to resolutely continue its activities related to ballistic missiles and space launch vehicles,” Iranian U.N. envoy Majid Takhte Ravanchi said in a letter to Guterres.
    Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif denounced the European powers’ intervention.
    “Latest E3 letter to UNSG on missiles is a desperate falsehood to cover up their miserable incompetence in fulfilling bare minimum of their own #JCPOA obligations,” Zarif tweeted, referring to the nuclear deal by its formal acronym.    He urged Britain, France and Germany not to bow to “U.S. bullying.”
    The letter surfaced at a time of heightened friction between Iran and the West.    Tehran is rolling back its commitments under the deal step by step in response to Washington’s withdrawal from the pact last year and reimposition of sanctions on the Islamic Republic that has crippled its economy.
    A 2015 U.N. resolution “called upon” Iran to refrain for up to eight years from work on ballistic missiles that could be capable of delivering nuclear warheads.
    Some states – including Russia, which with four other world powers wields a veto on the Security Council – argue that the language does not make it obligatory.
    France said on Thursday that Iran’s ballistic missile activities did not conform with the Security Council resolution and called on Tehran to respect all of its obligations under that resolution.
    The Security Council is due to meet later this month on the state of compliance with the resolution underpinning the nuclear deal, and the European letter “will add to that discussion,” a senior European diplomat told Reuters.
    Britain, France and Germany have sought to salvage the nuclear pact, under which Iran undertook to curtail its disputed uranium enrichment program in return for relief from sanctions.    But Tehran says European powers have failed to shield Iran’s economy from U.S. sanctions.
    The United States and its allies in the Middle East view Iran’s missile program as a Middle East security threat.
(Additional reporting by John Irish in Paris and Tuqa Khalid in Dubai; Writing by Parisa Hafezi; Editing by Mark Heinrich and Grant McCool)

12/5/2019 State Dept.: Ayatollah regime killed over 1,000 Iranians during protests by OAN Newsroom
FILE – In a Nov. 25, 2019, file photo, a demonstrator chants slogan while holding up an Iranian national flag during a
pro-government rally in Tehran, Iran, denouncing violent protests over a government-imposed fuel price hike. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi, File)
    The State Department is denouncing the latest attempts by Iran’s Ayatollah regime to crack down on anti-government protests across the country.    On Thursday, special envoy for Iran Brian Hook said the Ayatollah’s security forces have killed more than 1,000 protesters.
    Hook praised the Iranian people’s efforts to restore freedom to their country.    He said Iranian officials are trying to conceal the true scale of the protests.
    “We do not yet know where these bodies went, but we are learning more and more about how the Iranian regime treats its own people.    We have seen reports of many hundreds more killed in and around Tehran.    Among those murdered are at least a dozen children, including 13 and 14-year-olds.” – Brian Hook, U.S. Special Representative for Iran.
FILE – In this Nov. 25, 2019, file photo, an Iranian soldier stands guard overlooking a pro-government rally organized by
authorities in Tehran, Iran, denouncing violent protests over a government-imposed fuel price hike. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi, File)
    Hook called on the international community to slap sanctions on Iranian security officials over violations of human rights.
    “We are unified here in the United States, and the international community likewise should be unified and support the Iranian people,” he said.
    Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the U.S. will keep punishing Iran as long as it continues to use violence on protesters.    During a press briefing at the State Department last week, Pompeo said he and President Trump have been following the anti-government demonstrations in the Islamic Republic.
    The U.S. secretary said people are taking to the streets as a result of the regime’s poor economic management, adding, the government is responding to their concerns with violence.    He has asked demonstrators to send videos of the government’s abuses, so the U.S. can expose their violence.
    “We have received to date nearly 20,000 messages, videos, pictures, notes of the regime’s abuses through telegram messaging services…I hope they will continue to be sent to us,” he stated.    “We will continue to sanction Iranian officials who are responsible for these human rights abuses.”
    The protests have been ongoing for weeks after the country imposed a sharp increase to oil prices.

12/5/2019 U.S. Uighur bill’s threat to surveillance economy puts China on offensive by Matt Spetalnick, Patricia Zengerle and David Brunnstrom
FILE PHOTO: A Chinese police officer takes his position by the road near what is officially called a vocational education
centre in Yining in Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, China September 4, 2018. REUTERS/Thomas Peter/File Photo
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – China reacted angrily to President Donald Trump’s approval of legislation supporting Hong Kong protesters last month, but movement on another congressional bill, backing Uighur Muslims in China’s northwest, has cut even closer to the bone and could trigger reprisals and hurt efforts to resolve the U.S.-China trade war.U.S. congressional sources and China experts say Beijing appears especially sensitive to provisions in the Uighur Act passed by the House of Representatives this week banning exports to China of items that can be used for surveillance of individuals, including facial and voice-recognition technology.
    China will also be upset that the bill – which still requires Senate passage and Trump’s signature to become law – calls for sanctions against a member of the powerful politburo for the first time.    But its commercial stipulations have even more practical power to hurt the interests of Chinese leaders, sources say.
    Senior members of both Congress and the Trump administration have sounded the alarm on China’s detention of at least a million Uighur Muslims, by U.N. estimates, in the northwestern region of Xinjiang as a grave abuse of human rights and religious freedom. China rejects the charges.
    A Chinese government source, who did not want to be identified, told Reuters China could tolerate the Hong Kong bill, but the Uighur Act went too far and could jeopardize efforts to reach a phase-one deal to end a trade war buffeting the global economy that Trump has made a key priority.
    A U.S. congressional source also said a Washington-based figure close to the Chinese government told him recently it disliked the Uighur bill more than the Hong Kong bill for “dollars and cents reasons,” because the former measure contained serious export controls on money-spinning security technology, while also threatening asset freezes and visa bans on individual officials.
    Victor Shih, an associate professor of China and Pacific Relations at the University of California, San Diego, said mass surveillance was big business in China and a number of tech companies there could be hurt by the law if it passes.
    China spent roughly 1.24 trillion yuan ($176 billion) on domestic security in 2017 – 6.1% of total government spending and more than was spent on the military.    Budgets for internal security, of which surveillance technology is a part, have doubled in regions including Xinjiang and Beijing.
    Shih said investors in such firms included family members of China’s political elite, who could suffer financially if the bill became law.
    “This bill affects bottom lines, this is why there is a stronger reaction from Beijing,” he said.
    Shih said the bill would affect the ability of Chinese companies to procure technology from the United States and this would adversely affect their product development.    He said it could also affect their ability to list on U.S. markets.
CHINESE WARNINGS
    China has warned that the Uighur bill would affect bilateral cooperation, raising concerns about the impact on trade talks, less than two weeks before a new round of U.S. tariffs already threatening another breakdown is scheduled to take effect.
    In editorials on Thursday, Chinese official media called for harsh reprisals in response to bill. [L8N28F02P]
    The English-language China Daily called the bill a “stab in the back, given Beijing’s efforts to stabilize the already turbulent China-U.S. relationship” and warned of reprisals.
    “It seems an odds-on bet that more (sanctions) can be expected if the latest approval for State Department meddling goes into the statute books,” it said.
    China’s envoy to the United States, Cui Tiankai, said on Wednesday the two countries were trying to resolve their differences over trade, but “destructive forces” were trying to drive a wedge between them.
    The White House has yet to say whether Trump would sign or veto the bill, which contains a provision allowing the president to waive sanctions if he determines it to be in the national interest.
    No dates has yet been scheduled for a vote on the bill in the Republican-controlled Senate, a decision which rests with Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.    Senator Jim Risch, the Republican chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said lawmakers would proceed with caution.
    “Because of the relationship we have with China, because of the trade negotiations going on, and everything else, it’s important that we don’t do anything that would cause those negotiations not to bear fruit,” Risch told Reuters.
(Additional reporting by Heather Timmons, Andrea Shalal and David Lawder; writing by David Brunnstrom; Editing by Mary Milliken, Heather Timmons and Tom Brown)

12/6/2019 Hong Kong police chief calls for peace ahead of weekend protest march by Clare Jim and Sarah Wu
FILE PHOTO: Anti-government demonstrators gather for a lunchtime protest at
Chater Garden in Hong Kong, China, December 2, 2019. REUTERS/Leah Millis
    HONG KONG (Reuters) – Hong Kong’s police chief has urged citizens to demonstrate peacefully ahead of an expected large turnout on Sunday for a pro-democracy march that organizers said aimed to show the movement retained strong momentum.
    Police have given a rare green light to the demonstration, organized by the Civil Human Rights Front (CHRF), the group that called the largely peaceful million-strong marches in the summer.
    “We hope our citizens can show the whole world (that) Hong Kong people are capable of holding a large scale rally in an orderly and peaceful manner,” new police commissioner Chris Tang said before departing on a “courtesy visit” to Beijing.
    Tang was expected to meet senior officials of China’s ministry of public security and return to Hong Kong hours before Sunday’s protest.
    The march will be a gauge of support for the pro-democracy movement following its victory in local elections last month.
    “We want to tell Carrie Lam that the election results are not the end of the movement,” CHRF vice-convener Eric Lai said, referring to the chief executive of the Chinese-ruled city.
    The unrest in Hong Kong is the biggest popular challenge to Chinese President Xi Jinping since he came to power in 2012.
    The former British colony has been racked by six months of pro-democracy protests, sparked by a now-withdrawn China extradition bill, but which widened into calls for greater democratic freedoms.
    Protesters have set out five demands, including an investigation into alleged police brutality and universal suffrage.    Beijing has condemned the unrest and blamed foreign interference.
    Despite the increasingly violent tactics of some protesters, pro-democracy candidates won almost 90 percent of seats in the Nov. 24 local elections, following the highest voter turnout since local polls began in 1999.
    Hong Kong has since enjoyed some calm, which the police chief said he hoped could be maintained.
    “In the last two weeks the city was relatively peaceful,” he said.    “When the citizens have a chance to take a breather, we hope the violent people will really stop engaging in illegal activities.”
ECONOMIC STRAIN
    Results of a survey by the Hong Kong Public Opinion Research Institute (PORI) released Friday show public satisfaction with the police has plummeted in the past year.
    Calculated on a ranking out of 100, with zero representing very dissatisfied, the police scored 35.34, almost halving from November last year when police scored 62.48.
    Net satisfaction with the police is the lowest since 1997, when PORI began comparable polling.
    Protesters plan a smaller rally late Friday against police use of tear gas, which they say is excessive and harms innocent bystanders.     Police have said their use of force has been restrained.
    Economic data this week points to the growing toll of the sustained protests on the major global financial hub, which slid into recession this year for the first time in a decade.
    The unrest has contributed 2 percentage points to Hong Kong’s third-quarter economic contraction of 3.2%, Finance Secretary Paul Chan told legislators on Friday.
    On Wednesday, Chan pledged new relief measures of an extra HK$4 billion ($511.19 million), taking total stimulus plans to HK$25 billion.
    Subway operator MTR Corp expects a decline of HK$1.6 billion in full-year net profit, hit by a drop of 14% in passengers during the protests, as well as damage to its stations and facilities.
    By Saturday, transport authorities will complete a review of plans for a cash injection for Hong Kong Airlines, which is battling a steep decline in demand as a result of the protests.
    Raising funds is crucial for the local carrier, partly owned by cash-strapped Chinese conglomerate HNA Group, to get its license renewed.
(Reporting by Clare Jim and Sarah Wu; Writing by Kate Lamb; Editing by Michael Perry, Clarence Fernandez and Alison Williams)

12/6/2019 The Lady and The Hague: Myanmar leader Suu Kyi courts home audience by Shoon Naing, Thu Thu Aung and Poppy McPherson
FILE PHOTO: Myanmar pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi shakes hands with supporters after
giving a speech in Monywa, Myanmar November 30, 2012. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun/File Photo
    YANGON (Reuters) – The last time Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi traveled to western Europe, she was feted as the freshly elected civilian ruler of a fledgling democracy who had brought an end to half a century of military dictatorship.
    When the Nobel peace prize laureate returns next week, her first trip to the region since a 2017 military crackdown on Rohingya Muslims in western Myanmar, it will be to face accusations of genocide, alongside the army she spent much of her life battling.
    Gambia, a tiny, mainly Muslim West African state backed by the 57-nation Organisation for Islamic Cooperation (OIC), lodged a lawsuit at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) last month against Myanmar for genocide, including mass murder and rape.
    Myanmar denies the allegations, and Suu Kyi’s office said she would fly to The Hague for the first hearings, from Dec. 10, to “defend the national interest.”
    “There is a discrepancy between the opinion of Myanmar and the international community,” said Myo Nyunt, the senior spokesman for her National League for Democracy Party.    “She has to explain what has really taken place in northern Rakhine.”
    Her decision to attend took some by surprise. People close to her with strong international connections voiced concerns it could further tarnish her image abroad, according to two people familiar with the discussions.
    But at home the announcement has unleashed a wave of popular support, with the leader who spent 15 years under house arrest for defying the army lauded as once again championing the interests of the people against a common enemy.
    Richard Horsey, Myanmar advisor to the International Crisis Group, said while her appearance carried considerable risks for Suu Kyi overseas, “she likely feels that she must do all she can to defend the national interest against what most people in Myanmar see as biased and politically-motivated charges.”
    Suu Kyi was still a heroine to many when she last visited western Europe and the United States months after taking office in 2016.    Her star faded in office amid sluggish reform and protracted ethnic conflicts, and she faced increasingly harsh criticism from the West as the Rohingya crisis unfolded.
‘NO GENOCIDE’
    An offensive by security forces and local Buddhists in northern Rakhine state in August 2017 drove more than 730,000 Rohingya into neighboring Bangladesh, where they created the world’s largest refugee camp.
    United Nations investigators have said the exodus was the result of a military campaign executed with “genocidal intent.”
    Myanmar authorities have strongly disputed that conclusion, categorizing the military operation as a legitimate response to attacks by Rohingya militants that killed 13 members of the security forces.
    In September 2017, Suu Kyi said terrorists were behind an “iceberg of misinformation” about the violence.
    “Myanmar people do not support people being driven from their homes.    But it is different with these Bengalis leaving,” spokesman Myo Nyunt said, using a term common in Myanmar but rejected by the Rohingya because it implies they are interlopers from Bangladesh who invented an ethnic identity.
    Seven soldiers were jailed for 10 years for killing 10 Rohingya men and boys in the village of Inn Din, but granted early release last November after serving less than a year in prison.
    Late last month, the military began a court martial of an unspecified number of soldiers over events in another village, Gu Dar Pyin, the site of an alleged massacre of 10 Rohingya.    The military said the soldiers were “weak in following the rules of engagement.”    No further details were given about the court martial, which is continuing.
    “As far as we know there is Inn Din massacre and Gu Dar Pyin,” said Myo Nyunt.    “That’s all… As far as [Suu Kyi] knows, there is no such thing as genocide.”
‘EVERYTHING IS POLITICS’
    Recent weeks in Myanmar have had the flavor of election season, with several pro-Suu Kyi rallies in major cities attended by hundreds of people carrying flags.    More are planned for the first day of the hearings.
    “Now there are demonstrations across the whole country.    This is an attempt to make her image stronger,” said Ko Ko Gyi, a longtime democracy activist and former Suu Kyi ally.    “There is a saying – everything is politics.”
    Myanmar is due to go to the polls again in 2020 and, while an opinion poll from the People’s Alliance for Credible Elections, an independent group of election monitors, in July showed Suu Kyi retains tremendous support, her government has faced criticism for failing to bring an end to worsening ethnic conflicts in the borderlands or reform the constitution.
    Under the charter drafted by the former ruling junta, the military chief nominates a quarter of lawmakers, giving it a veto over constitutional change.
    In the southeastern Karen state, regional authorities put up dozens of billboards showing a smiling Suu Kyi flanked by three green-clad soldiers laughing heartily underlined by the words “we stand with you.”
(Reporting by Poppy McPherson, Shoon Naing, and Thu Thu Aung; Additional reporting by Sam Aung Moon; Writing by Poppy McPherson; Editing by Alex Richardson)

12/6/2019 China to waive tariffs on some U.S. soybeans, pork in goodwill gesture by Dominique Patton and Yawen Chen
FILE PHOTO: Pork vendors' stalls at a market in Beijing, China, November 11, 2019. REUTERS/Fang Nanlin
    BEIJING (Reuters) – In a positive gesture, China said on Friday that it will waive import tariffs for some soybeans and pork shipments from the United States, as the two sides try to thrash out a broader agreement to defuse their protracted trade war.
    The tariff waivers were based on applications by individual firms for U.S. soybeans and pork imports, the finance ministry said in a statement, citing a decision by the country’s cabinet.    It did not specify the quantities involved.
    China had imposed the levies in response to tariffs launched by Washington over allegations that China steals and forces the transfer of American intellectual property to Chinese firms, known as Section 301. That includes tariffs of 25% on both U.S. soybeans and pork in July 2018 and a further 10% on pork and 5% on soybeans in September this year.
    The waiver comes amid negotiations between the United States and China to conclude a ‘phase one’ or interim deal to de-escalate a 17-month trade war that has roiled financial markets, disrupted supply chains and weighed on global economic growth.
    A deal had initially been expected last month, but the two sides are said to be still seeking agreement on major issues such as which tariffs to roll back and the size of U.S. farm purchases China is willing to make.
    Though President Donald Trump struck an upbeat tone on progress in talks on Thursday, a new round of U.S. tariffs covering about $156 billion of Chinese imports is set to kick in just over a week away on Dec. 15.
    China’s tariff waivers on key U.S. agricultural products is a sign of its commitment to the deal, said an industry source who declined to be identified because of the sensitivity of the matter.
    “The goal (of this move) is to expand purchases and reassure the United States,” said a Chinese source who advises Beijing on the trade talks.
    “It should be interpreted as a positive signal. Despite the many political difficulties the two sides face, economic and trade cooperation and moves to stop the escalation of the trade war are in the interest of both parties.”
    Since late 2018, Washington has similarly exempted some Chinese goods from U.S. tariffs, even as the tone of the trade talks waxed and waned.
    At end-October, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) began accepting tariff exclusion requests for Chinese goods subject to additional taxes in effect since Sept. 1.
    Prior to that, 14 batches of exclusions for Chinese products had been granted between December 2018 and mid-October this year.
    Washington imposed additional tariffs on about $125 billion worth of Chinese goods on Sept. 1, on top of 25% tariffs levied on an earlier $250 billion list of industrial and consumer goods.
U.S. SOYBEANS
    Beijing’s levies on U.S. soybeans initially brought its purchases of the U.S.’ most valuable farm export to a virtual halt, although it has offered waivers to buyers in recent months.
(GRAPHIC: U.S. soybeans and pork product exports to China vs rest of world – https://fingfx.thomsonreuters.com/gfx/ce/7/7711/7693/USSoyPorkExpChinaRoW.png)
    The Chinese government never made the details of these waivers public, however, as well as how to implement such waivers.
    Those waivers are said to have expired, although new exemptions may come too late, said an analyst.
    “December arrivals are already pretty high and then we’re getting into the Brazil crop,” said Darin Friedrichs, senior Asia commodity analyst at INTL FC Stone.
    “There’s limited space to buy new U.S. soybeans at this point.”
    Exemptions for pork are likely to be in higher demand, with less than two months until China’s Lunar New Year holiday, the country’s peak consumption period.
    China has been scouring the world for more meat to fill a big shortage of protein after an outbreak of African swine fever devastated its massive hog herd, cutting supplies of pork.
    U.S. pork exports to China and Hong Kong are already up 47% in volume terms from January to September, even with high duties in place.
    A second adviser to the Chinese government said exemptions on the products suited Beijing, as they helped meet market demand for such goods while reducing the trade surplus with the United States.
    “We might as well buy soybeans from the U.S. rather than from Brazil.    Brazil is actually selling us what was purchased from the United States and they even hiked the prices up before selling to us.    In that case, we’d better just buy from the United States,” she said.
(Reporting by Min Zhang, Huizhong Wu, Yawen Chen and Dominique Patton; writing by Se Young Lee; editing by Richard Pullin & Kim Coghill)

12/6/2019 Iran deal limps on as Europeans delay sanctions blow by John Irish and Francois Murphy
Iran's top nuclear negotiator Abbas Araqchi and EEAS Secretary General Helga Schmid attend a meeting
of the JCPOA Joint Commission in Vienna, Austria December 6, 2019. REUTERS/Francois Murphy
    VIENNA (Reuters) – European powers demanded at talks on Friday that Iran stop violating their nuclear deal, but stopped short of triggering a mechanism that could renew U.N. sanctions and kill the 2015 accord, officials said.
    The meeting came amid heightened friction between Iran and the West. Tehran has rolled back its commitments under the 2015 deal in response to Washington’s withdrawal last year and reimposition of sanctions that have crippled its economy.
    With Tehran angry over a lack of European protection from U.S. sanctions, there appears scant scope for compromise.
    The Europeans and Iran clashed on Thursday over the Iranian ballistic missile program before senior diplomats from the remaining parties to the deal – Britain, France, Germany, China and Russia – met Iranian officials in Vienna on Friday to assess the state of the nuclear agreement.
    As the U.S.-Iran confrontation has eroded the accord, the Europeans are torn between trying to save it and responding to Iran’s breaches, which have increasingly tested their patience.
    The breaches have included exceeding the maximum amount of enriched uranium it is allowed under the deal and resuming enrichment at Fordow, a plant buried inside a mountain that Iran hid from U.N. nuclear non-proliferation inspectors until Western spies exposed it in 2009.
    The European “E3” powers – France, Britain and Germany – have been considering triggering a mechanism in the deal that could lead to reimposition of global, United Nations sanctions.
    “All countries need to refrain from taking actions that further complicate the situation,” Fu Cong, director general of the Department of Arms Control of the Chinese Foreign Ministry told reporters after the talks.
PRESSURE
    “In our view there is an element of automaticity into this and we can’t be sure that countries can keep this process under control.    It could aggravate tensions,” he said, adding that the European powers had not indicated whether or when they would trigger the mechanism.
    A European diplomat said the E3 had stressed the need for Iran’s compliance.    “The good thing is it’s still alive,” the diplomat said, highlighting the low expectations.
    Diplomats have said a political decision was unlikely to be made until January, when Iran is expected to further scale back its adherence to the pact, under which it curtailed its nuclear activities in return for relief from sanctions.
    “The European parties to the deal should know that the clock is ticking for them.    They try to keep Iran in the deal but then take no action against America’s bullying and pressure,” said a senior Iranian official.
    Iran’s envoy to the talks declined to take questions.    Underlining the tension, the Iranian delegation had earlier threatened to boycott the talks after discovering that an exiled Iranian opposition group planned an anti-government protest outside the hotel where the meeting was due to take place.
    Tehran has criticized the three European powers for failing to shield Iran from the far-reaching U.S. sanctions, which have driven away foreign companies interested in business there.
    “I don’t think the Europeans have reached their red line yet, but the repeated violations and the fact we’re now entering (nuclear) proliferation territory means their credibility is on the line,” said a Western diplomat.
(Additional reporting by Parisa Hafezi Editing by Mark Heinrich, William Maclean)

12/6/2019 U.S. has not yet decided whether to hold U.N. meeting on North Korea rights abuses by Michelle Nichols
FILE PHOTO: North Korean leader Kim Jong Un attends a welcome ceremony as he arrives at the railway station in the
Russian far-eastern city of Vladivostok, Russia, April 24, 2019. REUTERS/Shamil Zhumatov/File Photo
    UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – The United States has not yet decided whether to hold a United Nations Security Council meeting to discuss human rights abuses in North Korea on Tuesday, said U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Kelly Craft after even the prospect of such a meeting angered Pyongyang.
    At least eight members of the 15-member council support a request for a meeting and the final decision rests with the United States, diplomats said.    A minimum nine countries need to support the move in order to defeat any bid to block it. Between 2014 and 2017, China failed to stop the annual discussion.
    Such a meeting would come at a time of increasing tensions between Washington and Pyongyang after North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un gave U.S. President Donald Trump until the end of the year to show more flexibility in talks that the U.S. hopes will lead North Korea to give up its nuclear and missile programs.
    Kim’s deadline has raised concerns among some diplomats that North Korea could next year resume nuclear and long-range missile testing that has been suspended since 2017.    Trump has held up the suspension as a key achievement of his North Korea engagement.
    “Human rights to me are important, I don’t care where it is,” Craft said in a news conference on Friday to mark the U.S. presidency of the Security Council for December.    “We have not made a decision on whether or not there’s a Dec. 10 meeting.”
    Last year, the United States dropped a push for the council to hold a meeting as it did not have enough support, diplomats said.    They could have tried again in January when five new members rotated onto the council, but they did not.
    On Wednesday, North Korea’s U.N. ambassador Kim Song warned the council in a letter that any discussion of the country’s human rights situation would be a “serious provocation” and Pyongyang would “respond strongly.”
    Kim Song wrote such a meeting would be an “act of conniving at and siding with the U.S.’ hostile policy, which will lead to undermining rather than helping reduction of tensions on the Korean Peninsula and resolution of the nuclear issue.”
    “I have read the letter.    We care about human rights,” Craft told reporters.    “None of us can stand by and allow … human rights to be abused.”
    North Korea has repeatedly rejected accusations of human rights abuses and blames sanctions for a dire humanitarian situation.    Pyongyang has been under U.N. sanctions since 2006 over its ballistic missiles and nuclear programs.
    A landmark 2014 U.N. report on North Korean human rights concluded that North Korean security chiefs – and possibly leader Kim himself – should face justice for overseeing a state-controlled system of Nazi-style atrocities.    The United States blacklisted Kim in 2016 for human rights abuses.
(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Paul Simao)

12/6/2019 Hong Kong stands by ‘one country, two systems’ policy with China by OAN Newsroom
Pro-democracy protesters raise their hands to symbolize the five demands of the pro-democracy movement as they march against
the Central district scenic during a rally at the Water Front in Hong Kong, Sunday, Dec. 1, 2019. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)
    China is planning to develop the country’s Greater Bay Area, using a strategy officials said will further encourage the ‘one country, two systems’ policy with Hong Kong.    Chinese officials released the initiative on Friday, calling it “a role model of high quality development” and cooperation between the mainland and Hong Kong.
    The ‘one country two systems’ policy has allowed Hong Kong to remain capitalist, despite mainland China being socialist.
    The report said the major infrastructure and city development plan includes a city cluster and tech hub.    It will also expand on the Belt and Road Initiative, which is already in place.
    “I hope that Hong Kong will be confident and can actively implement the policy,…grasp the opportunities brought by the Belt and Road Initiative and the Greater Bay Area development, and make full use of its advantages,” stated HKETO Director Bill Li.
FILE – In this Saturday, Nov. 2, 2019, file photo, pro-democracy protesters react as
police fire tear gas during a protest in Hong Kong. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung, File)
    The unveiling of the plan comes at a unique time.    Hong Kong has been experiencing social unrest for the last six months.
    President Trump recently passed a law to protect the people of Hong Kong from human rights abuses, which was dubbed the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act.    It will empower the Trump administration to impose sanctions on officials from China or Hong Kong for violating human rights.
    Chinese officials condemned the legislation and warned that it will result in “firm counter measures.”    President Trump previously expressed concerns the legislation could hurt ongoing trade talks with Beijing.    However, he signed the bill in hopes that China and Hong Kong will settle their differences in a peaceful manner.
    In his official statement, the president said he signed the bill out of respect for both pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong and for mainland China.

12/7/2019 Chinese-American freed from Iran, Iranian freed from U.S. in prisoner swap by Parisa Hafezi
FILE PHOTO: Iran's Foreign Minister Javad Zarif reacts during a news conference with Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov
(not pictured) after their meeting in Moscow, Russia, September 2, 2019. REUTERS/Evgenia Novozhenina/File Photo
    DUBAI (Reuters) – A Chinese-American detained in Iran for three years on spying charges was freed and an imprisoned Iranian was released by Washington in return, President Donald Trump and an Iranian official said on Saturday.
    The prisoner swap took place at a time of particularly strained relations between the longtime foes.
    Trump said Chinese-American Xiyue Wang was returning to the United States.
    An Iranian official said that Iranian Massoud Soleimani had been freed from detention in the United States.
    In a statement issued by the White House, Trump made no mention of the freeing of Soleimani but thanked the Swiss government for its help in negotiating Wang’s release.
    “Freeing Americans held captive is of vital importance to my Administration, and we will continue to work hard to bring home all our citizens wrongfully held captive overseas,” he said.
    Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said earlier the prisoner swap was imminent.
    “Glad that Professor Massoud Soleimani and Mr. Xiyue Wang will be joining their families shortly.    Many thanks to all engaged, particularly the Swiss government,” he tweeted.
    Switzerland represents U.S. diplomatic interests in Iran, since Washington and Tehran cut diplomatic ties shortly after the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran.
    Hua Qu, Wang’s wife, welcomed her husband’s release.
    “Our family is complete once again.    Our son Shaofan and I have waited three long years for this day and it’s hard to express in words how excited we are to be reunited with Xiyue,” she said in a statement.
    “We are thankful to everyone who helped make this happen.”
    Wang, a U.S. citizen and Princeton University graduate student, was conducting dissertation research in Iran in 2016 when he was detained and accused by Iran of “spying under the cover of research,” an allegation his family and the university deny.
    He was subsequently convicted on espionage charges and sentenced to 10 years in prison in 2017.
    Soleimani, a stem cell expert, was arrested at Chicago airport in October 2018 for allegedly attempting to export biological materials to Iran in violation of U.S. sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program.
    Washington has demanded Iran release the Americans it is holding, including father and son Siamak and Baquer Namazi; Michael R. White, a Navy veteran imprisoned last year, and Robert Levinson, a former FBI agent missing since 2007.
    Several dozen Iranians are being held in U.S. prisons, many of them for breaking sanctions.
    Tensions have heightened between Iran and the United States since Trump last year pulled Washington out of a 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and six major powers and reimposed sanctions that have crippled Tehran’s economy.
    In return, Iran has gradually scaled back its commitments to the agreement.
(Writing by Parisa Hafezi; Editing by Frances Kerry)

12/7/2019 China’s top diplomat tells Pompeo U.S. should stop interfering in China’s internal affairs
FILE PHOTO: China's Political Bureau member Yang Jiechi speaks during Munich Security
Conference in Munich, Germany February 16, 2019. REUTERS/Andreas Gebert/File Photo
    BEIJING (Reuters) – China’s top diplomat Yang Jiechi told U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in a phone call on Saturday that the United States should stop interfering in China’s internal affairs, according to a report by state TV.
    Citing the passing of the Uighur Human Rights Policy Act of 2019 and the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act of 2019, Yang said the United States had seriously violated international relations, and urged Washington to “correct its mistakes” and “immediately stop interfering in China’s internal affairs.”
    The U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation on Tuesday requiring a stronger response to Beijing’s treatment of its Uighur Muslim minority.
    U.N. experts and activists say China has detained possibly one million Uighurs in mass detention camps in Xinjiang, a region in China’s far west.
    China says the camps are part of an anti-terror crackdown and are providing vocational training.    It denies any mistreatment of Uighurs.
    The Uighur Act followed U.S. legislation recently signed into law by President Donald Trump aimed at protecting human rights in Hong Kong amid a crackdown on pro-democracy protests.
    What started as demonstrations against a now-withdrawn bill allowing extradition from Hong Kong to mainland China has morphed into calls for greater democratic freedoms and nearly six months of sometimes violent protests in Hong Kong.    Beijing has condemned the unrest and blamed foreign interference.
    Yang said U.S. officials have repeatedly made statements that distorted and attacked China’s political system and domestic and foreign policies, and interfered in China’s internal affairs.
    “China expresses its firm opposition and strongly condemns this,” said Yang, according to the report.
(Reporting by Dominique Patton; Editing by Ros Russell)

12/7/2019 Hong Kong police to take both ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ approaches against protests: commissioner
Hong Kong's Commissioner of Police Chris Ping-keung Tang speaks at a news conference
at the Regent hotel in Beijing, China December 7, 2019. REUTERS/Jason Lee
    BEIJING/HONG KONG (Reuters) – The Hong Kong police will use both “hard” and “soft” approaches when dealing with protests, Hong Kong’s police commissioner Chris Tang told reporters in Beijing on Saturday.
    The police chief spoke ahead of a potentially large pro-democracy demonstration on Sunday and following nearly six months of sometimes violent protests in Hong Kong, sparked by a now-withdrawn bill allowing extradition to Mainland China.     Tang said the police will take a “humanistic” approach to minor incidents but warned of resolute measures against more violent actions, and added that he hopes the march will be peaceful.
    Hong Kong, a major financial hub, had enjoyed relative calm for the past few weeks since local elections late last month delivered an overwhelming victory to pro-democracy candidates.
    Tang was appointed to his position in November.    He was in Beijing for a “courtesy visit” to meet mainland officials, the Hong Kong police said in a short statement on Thursday.
    He said he met with Zhang Xiaoming, the head of the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, and Zhao Kezhi, China’s minister of public security.
    The protesters are angry at what they see as Chinese meddling in the freedoms promised to the former British colony when it returned to Chinese rule in 1997.
    China denies interfering, says it is committed to the “one country, two systems” formula put in place at that time and has blamed foreign forces for fomenting unrest.
    Earlier on Saturday Tang observed a flag-raising ceremony in Tiananmen Square, according to a video footage carried by Hong Kong broadcaster Cable TV.
    “I am very excited to see the country’s flag fly and to feel the country’s greatness,” he told reporters.    “I would like to thank… President Xi Jinping (for his) unwavering support of the Hong Kong police strictly enforcing the law.”
(Reporting by Cate Cadell, Nanling Fang in Beijing and Noah Sin in Hong Kong; Editing by Shri Navaratnam)

12/7/2019 HK Police Commissioner: Officers will be ‘flexible’ in handling protesters by OAN Newsroom
In this photo released by Xinhua News Agency, Hong Kong new Police Chief Chris Tang speaks to Chinese medias after
watching a flag raising ceremony at Tiananmen Square in Beijing, Saturday, Dec. 7, 2019. (Yin Gang/Xinhua via AP)
    The new commissioner of the Hong Kong Police Force said he’s ready to take a “soft and hard approach” to policing pro-democracy protests in the city. On Saturday, Chris Ping-Keung Tang said officers are prepared to be “stringent on illegal violent action,” but flexible on other issues.
    “So for the protesting of tomorrow, I really hope that it will be conducted in a peaceful manner,” stated Tang.    “I think apart from me, this is the hope from Hong Kong people, (who) hope this is conducted in a peaceful way.”
    The commissioner was appointed last month amid the ongoing, sometimes violent protests against the Chinese government.
Riot police move forward as anti-government protestors occupied a road in Hong Kong on Oct. 1, 2019. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)
    Tang was reportedly in Beijing to meet with Chinese officials, who are in charge of security and Hong Kong affairs.    His comments came after Hong Kong police approved a mass rally, which was scheduled for Sunday by the Civil Human Rights Front.
    Police approved the event on the condition the group observes police instructions.    Officers have been given the authority to end the march if there is a threat to public order.

12/7/2019 Iran to unveil new generation of enrichment centrifuges soon
FILE PHOTO: An Iranian flag flutters in front of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)
headquarters in Vienna, Austria September 9, 2019. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger/File Photo
    DUBAI (Reuters) – Iran will unveil a new generation of uranium enrichment centrifuges, the deputy head of Iran’s nuclear agency Ali Asghar Zarean told State TV on Saturday.
    “In the near future we will unveil a new generation of centrifuges that are domestically made,” said Zarean, without elaborating.
    In September, Iran said it had started developing centrifuges to speed up the enrichment of uranium as part of steps to reduce compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal following the withdrawal of the United States.
(Writing by Parisa Hafezi; Editing by Peter Graff)

12/7/2019 North Korea’s U.N. envoy says denuclearization off negotiating table with United States by Michelle Nichols and David Brunnstrom
FILE PHOTO: North Korean ambassador to the United Nations Kim Song speaks during a
news conference in New York, U.S., October 7, 2019. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/FIle Photo
    UNITED NATIONS/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – North Korea’s ambassador to the United Nations said on Saturday that denuclearization is off the negotiating table with the United States and lengthy talks with Washington are not needed, the starkest statement yet emphasizing the gulf between the two sides ahead of a year-end deadline set by Pyongyang.
    U.S. President Donald Trump sought to play down a recent surge in tensions with North Korea, stressing what he said was his good relationship with its leader Kim Jong Un and saying he thought Kim wanted a deal, not to interfere in next year’s U.S. presidential election.
    “We’ll see about North Korea. I’d be surprised if North Korea acted hostilely,” Trump told reporters at the White House before leaving for Florida.
    “He knows I have an election coming up.    I don’t think he wants to interfere with that, but we’ll have to see … I think he’d like to see something happen.    The relationship is very good, but you know, there is certain hostility, there’s no question about it.”
    Trump has invested considerable time trying to persuade North Korea to give up a nuclear weapons program that has grown to threaten the United States, but progress has been scant in spite of his three meetings with Kim Jong Un.
    Tensions have risen ahead of a year-end deadline set by North Korea, which has called on the United States to change its policy of insisting on Pyongyang’s unilateral denuclearization and demanded relief from punishing sanctions.
    Kim Jong Un has warned of an unspecified “new path” next year, raising fears this could mean an end to a suspension in nuclear bomb and long-range missile testing in place since 2017 that Trump has held up as a key win from his engagement efforts.
    U.N. Ambassador Kim Song said in a statement the “sustained and substantial dialogue” sought by the United States was a “time-saving trick” to suit its domestic political agenda, a reference to Trump’s 2020 reelection bid.
    “We do not need to have lengthy talks with the U.S. now and denuclearization is already gone out of the negotiating table,” he said.
    Kim Song’s comments appeared to go further than North Korea’s earlier warning that discussions related to its nuclear weapons program might have to be taken off the table given Washington’s refusal to offer concessions.
    On Tuesday, North Korea’s Foreign Ministry repeated a call for Washington to change its “hostile policies” and said it was up to Washington to decide what “Christmas gift” came at the end of the year.
    Kim Song also hit out at a statement this week from EU members of the U.N. Security Council criticizing recent short range launches by North Korea, calling it a “serious provocation” and saying they were playing the role of “pet dog” of the United States.
SUMMITS, BUT LITTLE PROGRESS
    Recent days have seen a return to the highly charged rhetoric that raised fears of war two years ago.
    In 2017, Trump and Kim Jung Un famously engaged in a war of words, with Trump calling Kim Jong Un “Rocket Man” and North Korea calling Trump, now 73, a “dotard.”
    On Tuesday, Trump once again called Kim “Rocket Man” and said the United States reserved the right to use military force against North Korea.    Pyongyang said any repeat of such language would represent “the relapse of the dotage of a dotard.”
    In spite of Trump’s reprise of the Rocket Man meme, he has still expressed hope that Kim Jong Un would denuclearize.    On Friday the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations said the United States had not yet decided whether to have a U.N. Security Council meeting to discuss North Korean human rights abuses that has angered Pyongyang.
    On Friday, South Korea said Trump and South Korean President Moon Jae-in held a half-hour phone discussion on ways to maintain diplomacy with North Korea.
    It said the two leaders agreed the situation has become “severe” and “dialogue momentum should be maintained to achieve prompt results from denuclearization negotiations.”
    Many diplomats, analysts and U.S. officials have long doubted North Korea’s willingness to negotiate away a nuclear program it has invested decades and a large proportion of limited national resources in creating.
    Even so, Jenny Town of 38 North, a Washington-based North Korea project, said it was unclear how literally Kim Song’s words should be taken.
    “It’s an interesting choice of spokesperson. Kim Song is not directly involved in the negotiation process,” she said.
    “These kinds of hardline messages are increasing in frequency as the deadline approaches, perhaps to try to compel a last-minute offer.    Although the more they push like this, the less likely they are to get what they want.”
    Town said North Korea has previously indicated a willingness to give up parts of its nuclear program as a first-phase deal, but not to discuss complete denuclearization up front.
    “The North Koreans have always preferred a step by step approach rather than negotiating everything all at once,” Town said.    “It is possible this is what Kim Song means, since we haven’t heard anything quite so stark from those involved in the negotiations.”br> (Reporting by Michelle Nichols, Jan Pytalski, David Brunnstrom and Tim Ahmann; editing by Chris Reese and Grant McCool)

12/8/2019 Thousands of protesters throng streets of Hong Kong as government urges calm by Kate O’Donnell-Lamb and Jessie Pang
A protester wearing a Guy Fawkes mask waves a flag during a Human Rights Day march, organised
by the Civil Human Right Front, in Hong Kong, China December 8, 2019. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui
    HONG KONG (Reuters) – Thousands of black-clad protesters from all walks of life thronged the streets of Hong Kong on Sunday in a sign of broad support for anti-government demonstrations that have roiled the Chinese-ruled city for six months.
    With chants of, “Fight for freedom, stand with Hong Kong,” anti-government activists, young and old, marched from Victoria Park in the bustling shopping district of Causeway Bay to Chater Road near the heart of the financial district.
    Authorities gave the green light to Civil Human Rights Front (CHRF) – organizer of largely peaceful million-strong marches in June – to hold the rally, the first time the group has been granted permission for a protest since Aug. 18.
    “I will fight for freedom until I die because I am a Hong Konger,” said June, a 40-year-old mother dressed in black seated on the grass in Victoria Park.    “Today is about standing with Hong Kong, and the international community.”
    The former British colony is governed under a “One Country, Two Systems” formula that guarantees freedoms not allowed in mainland China, but many fear Beijing is tightening the screws on the city and increasingly meddling in its affairs.
    Beijing denies meddling, has condemned the unrest and blamed foreign governments, including the United States and former colonial power Britain, of interfering in the country’s internal affairs.
    Echoes of “five demands, not one less” echoed through the streets, referring to protesters’ calls for universal suffrage in choosing the city’s leader, among other demands.
    Police said earlier on Sunday they had arrested 11 people, aged 20 to 63 and seized weapons including army knives, firecrackers, 105 bullets and a semi-automatic pistol, the first seizure of a handgun in six months of protests.
    Roads that would normally be jammed with traffic on a Sunday near the heart of the city were empty, as a snaking crowd that included young families, students, professionals and the elderly clogged the streets of the Asian financial hub.
    The violence in six months of demonstrations has escalated as protesters have torched vehicles and buildings, hurled petrol bombs at police, dropped debris from bridges onto traffic below and vandalized shopping malls, while police have responded with tear, gas, water cannon and, at times, live fire.
    The large turnout on Sunday signaled still broad support for the anti-government demonstrations despite the escalating unrest in a city where violence is rare.
    The protest comes two weeks after democratic candidates secured almost 90% of 452 district council seats in local elections that saw a record turnout, posing a fresh conundrum for Beijing and piling pressure on Hong Kong’s leader Carrie Lam.
    The protests intensified in June over a now-shelved extradition bill that would have allowed people to be sent to mainland China for trial, but have now evolved into broader calls for democracy, among other demands.
    In a statement on Saturday, the government appealed for calm and said it has “learned its lesson and will humbly listen to and accept criticism.”
    Hong Kong’s new police commissioner, Chris Tang, said his force would take a flexible approach to demonstrations, using “both the hard and soft approach.”
    The former British colony has been rocked by more than 900 demonstrations, processions and public meetings since June, with many ending in violent confrontations between protesters and police, who have responded at times with tear gas and rubber bullets.
    Demonstrators are angry at what they perceive are more curbs on freedoms promised to Hong Kong when the then British colony returned to Chinese rule in 1997.
    The chairman and president of the American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) in Hong Kong were separately denied entry to the neighboring Chinese-ruled city of Macau on Saturday after being detained by immigration officials.
    Hong Kong has enjoyed relative calm since local elections on Nov. 24 delivered an overwhelming victory to pro-democracy candidates.
    Nearly 6,000 people have been arrested in the protests since June, more than 30% aged between 21 and 25.
(Additional reporting by Noah Sin and Sarah Wu, Martin Pollard, Danish Siddiqui, Writing by Anne Marie Roantree; Editing by Jacqueline Wong)

12/8/2019 North Korea carries out ‘very important’ test at once-dismantled launch site: KCNA by Josh Smith
FILE PHOTO - A North Korean flag flutters on top of the 160-metre tall tower at North Korea's propaganda village of Gijungdong,
in this picture taken from Tae Sung freedom village near the Military Demarcation Line (MDL), inside the
demilitarised zone separating the two Koreas, in Paju, South Korea, September 30, 2019. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji/File Picture
    SEOUL (Reuters) – North Korea has carried out a “very important” test at its Sohae satellite launch site, state media KCNA reported on Sunday, a rocket testing ground that U.S. officials once said Pyongyang had promised to close.
    The reported test comes as a year-end deadline North Korea has imposed nears, warning it could take a “new path” amid stalled denuclearization talks with the United States.
    The KCNA report called it a “successful test of great significance” on Saturday but did not specify what was tested.
    South Korea’s defense ministry said South Korea and the United States are cooperating closely in monitoring activities at major North Korean sites including Tongchang-ri, the area where Sohae is located.,br>     Missile experts said it appeared likely the North Koreans had conducted a static test of a rocket engine, rather than a missile launch, which are usually quickly detected by neighboring South Korea and Japan.
    “If it is indeed a static engine test for a new solid or liquid fuel missile, it is yet another loud signal that the door for diplomacy is quickly slamming, if it isn’t already,” said Vipin Narang, a nuclear affairs expert at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the United States.
    “This could be a very credible signal of what might await the world after the New Year.”
    Tensions have risen ahead of a year-end deadline set by North Korea, which has called on the United States to change its policy of insisting on Pyongyang’s unilateral denuclearization and demanded relief from punishing sanctions.
    On Saturday North Korea’s ambassador to the United Nations said denuclearization was now off the negotiating table with the United States and lengthy talks with Washington are not needed.
    “The results of the recent important test will have an important effect on changing the strategic position of the DPRK once again in the near future,” KCNA reported, using the initials of North Korea’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
BUILDING UP TO A LAUNCH
    The test is the latest in a string of statements and actions from North Korea designed to underscore the seriousness of its deadline.
    North Korea has announced it would convene a rare gathering of top ruling-party officials later this month, and on Wednesday state media showed photos of leader Kim Jong Un taking a second symbolic horse ride on the country’s sacred Mt. Paektu.
    Such meetings and propaganda blitzes often come ahead of major announcements from North Korean authorities.
    While North Korea has not specified what its “new path” could be, observers have suggested the launch of a space satellite is a possibility, allowing Pyongyang to demonstrate and test its rocket capabilities without resorting to overt military provocation such as an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) launch.
    “Such testing is meant to improve military capabilities and to shore up domestic pride and legitimacy,” Leif-Eric Easley, a professor at Ewha University in Seoul, said of Saturday’s test.
    “North Korea is avoiding violations of its long-range missile test moratorium for now, but it is still improving the propulsion and precision of its missiles so that it can claim a credible nuclear deterrent,” he said.
    Kim Dong-yub, a former South Korean Navy officer who teaches at Kyungnam University in Seoul, said North Korea may have tested a solid fuel rocket engine, which could allow North Korea to field ICBMs that are easier to hide and faster to deploy.
    “North Korea has already entered the ‘new path’ that they talked about,” he said.
‘REVERSIBLE STEPS’
    U.S. President Donald Trump told reporters in June 2018 after his first summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un that North Korea had pledged to dismantle one of its missile installations, which U.S. officials later identified as Sohae.
    Shortly after that summit, analysts said satellite imagery showed some key facilities at Sohae being dismantled.
    However, in the wake of the second summit between Trump and Kim earlier this year, which ended with no agreement, new imagery indicated the North Koreans were rebuilding the site.
    At the time Trump said he would be “be very disappointed” if the reports of rebuilding were true.
    “Remember this is at the site that was supposedly dismantled as a ‘denuclearization step,'” Narang said.    “So this is a first step at ‘renuclearizing.’    Reversible steps are being…reversed.”
    In recent weeks, media reports indicated a high number of U.S. military surveillance flights over the Korean peninsula, suggesting growing expectation of North Korean tests.
    Commercial satellite imagery captured on Thursday by Planet Labs showed new activity at the Sohae Satellite Launching Station and the presence of a large shipping container, CNN reported, with analysts suggesting it indicated a test was imminent.
(Reporting by Josh Smith; Additional reporting by Hyonhee Shin, Sangmi Cha and Jack Kim; Editing by Himani Sarkar and Lincoln Feast.)

12/8/2019 Myanmar leader Suu Kyi departs for genocide hearings amid fanfare at home by Thu Thu Aung and Poppy McPherson
FILE PHOTO: Myanmar State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi walks off the stage after delivering a speech to the nation on
the Rakhine and Rohingya situation, in Naypyitaw, Myanmar September 19, 2017. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun/File Photo
    YANGON (Reuters) – Myanmar leader and Nobel peace prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi departed on Sunday for the U.N.’s top court in The Hague to defend the country against charges of genocide of its Rohingya Muslim minority.
    Suu Kyi was pictured smiling as she walked through the airport in the nation’s capital, Naypyitaw, flanked by officials, a day after thousands rallied in the city to support her and a prayer ceremony was held in her name.
    Demonstrations are planned throughout the coming week, with hearings set for Dec. 10 to 12, and several dozen supporters are also bound for The Hague, in the Netherlands, to cheer Suu Kyi on.
    “I believe in Mother Suu and love her,” said Tin Aung Thein, the organizer of a group tour, told Reuters at the airport in Yangon.    “I want (the world) to know the truth.    The country has suffered a lot because of fake news.”
    Gambia, a tiny, mainly Muslim West African country, filed a lawsuit in November accusing Buddhist-majority Myanmar of genocide, the most serious international crime, against its Rohingya Muslim minority.
    During three days of hearings, it will ask the 16-member panel of U.N. judges at the International Criminal Court of Justice to impose “provisional measures” to protect the Rohingya before the case can be heard in full.
    More than 730,000 Rohingya fled Myanmar in 2017 after a brutal military-led crackdown the U.N. has said was executed with “genocidal intent” and included mass killings and rape.
    Despite international condemnation over the campaign, Suu Kyi, whose government has defended the campaign as a legitimate response to attacks by Rohingya militants, remains overwhelmingly popular at home.
    “I believe in Mother Suu forever,” said Zaw Htet, a former political prisoner who joined the trip to The Hague.
    On Saturday, thousands rallied in Naypyitaw while senior officials held a prayer ceremony at St Mary’s Cathedral in the former capital of Yangon.
    Among them was religion minister Thura Aung Ko, who was been vocal in his disdain for the minority and last year said refugees in the camps in Bangladesh were being “brainwashed” into “marching” on Buddhist-majority Myanmar.
    Suu Kyi spent the eve of her departure meeting with Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi, with both countries pledging stronger ties, according to Zhao Lijian, deputy director general of the information department at China’s foreign ministry.
    “Aung San Suu Kyi thanked China for its strong support and help in safeguarding national sovereignty, opposing foreign interference, and promoting economic and social development,” he said on Twitter on Sunday.
    Pro-Suu Kyi demonstrations have been held in major towns and cities since the news was announced that she would attend the hearings in person.
    Billboards with her picture and the words “stand with Suu Kyi” have also been erected around the country, including in historic former capital Bagan, the country’s major attraction for tourists who come to see the centuries-old temples.
(Reporting by Thu Thu Aung. Writing by Poppy McPherson. Editing by Lincoln Feast.)

12/8/2019 Fire at New Delhi factory kills 43
Ambulences and a firefighting vehicle at the scene of a deadly fire that swept through a factory where laborers
were sleeping, in New Delhi, India December 8, 2019, in this still image taken from video. ANI/via REUTERS TV
    MUMBAI (Reuters) – At least forty-three people were killed in India’s capital New Delhi on Sunday when a fire swept through a six-storey factory where laborers were sleeping, government officials said.
    The factory was making handbags and lots of raw material was stored inside the building due to which the fire spread quickly, local media reported.    However, no details were immediately available on the cause of the fire.
    “Till now we have rescued more than 50 people, most of them were affected due to smoke,” Atul Garg, an official with Delhi Fire Services told reporters.
    Nearly 30 fire tenders were rushed to the spot and injured were admitted in four nearby hospitals, he said.
    The factory was operating in a congested residential area.
    “Have instructed concerned authorities to provide all possible assistance on urgent basis,” Amit Shah, India’s home minister, said in a tweet.
    The fire was doused and a team of National Disaster Response Force was searching the factory to find out if any more people were trapped, a police official told Reuters.
    The Delhi state government will conduct a probe and action will be taken against those responsible for the fire, Imran Hussain, minister of food and civil supplies, told reporters.
(Reporting by Rajendra Jadhav; Editing by Himani Sarkar)

12/8/2019 Iran outlines budget to resist U.S. sanctions as oil exports plunge
FILE PHOTO: Iranian President Hassan Rouhani speaks during the National Insurance and Development Conference
in Tehran, Iran, December 4, 2019. Official President website/Handout via REUTERS
    DUBAI (Reuters) – Iran’s president presented a draft state budget of about $39 billion to parliament on Sunday, saying it was designed to resist U.S. sanctions by limiting dependence on oil exports.
    Officials have not given figures for the oil price and export volumes used in the calcul