Why Huawei arrest deepens conflict between US and China


chief financial officer of Huawei, Meng Wanzhou

Washington has been pushing other countries not to buy the equipment from Huawei, arguing that the company may be working stealthily for Beijing’s spymasters.

British Telecom said this week that it would stop using Huawei equipment in its 5G network, the BBC reported, and US lawmakers have lobbied Canada’s prime minister to freeze out the Chinese supplier

WASHINGTON: The dramatic arrest of a Chinese telecommunications executive has driven home why it will be so hard for the Trump administration to resolve its deepening conflict with China.
In the short run, the arrest of Huawei’s chief financial officer heightened skepticism about the trade truce that Presidents Donald Trump and Xi Jinping reached last weekend in Buenos Aires, Argentina. On Thursday, US stock markets tumbled on fears that the 90-day cease-fire won’t last, before regaining most of their losses by the close of trading.

But the case of an executive for a Chinese company that’s been a subject of US national security concerns carries echoes well beyond tariffs or market access. Washington and Beijing are locked in a clash over which of the world’s two largest economies will command economic and political dominance for decades to come.
“It’s a much broader issue than just a trade dispute,” said Amanda DeBusk, chair of the international trade practice at Dechert LLP. “It pulls in: Who is going to be the world leader essentially.”

The Huawei executive, Meng Wanzhou, was detained by Canadian authorities in Vancouver as she was changing flights Saturday — the same day that Trump and Xi met at the Group of 20 summit in Argentina and produced a cease-fire in their trade war. The Globe and Mail newspaper, citing law enforcement sources, reported that Meng is suspected of trying to evade US sanctions on Iran. She faces extradition to the United States, and a bail hearing was set for Friday.
The British bank HSBC is cooperating with US authorities in its investigation, people familiar with the matter said Thursday.

Huawei, the world’s biggest supplier of network gear used by phone and Internet companies, has long been seen as a front for spying by the Chinese military or security services, whose cyber-spies are widely acknowledged as highly skilled. A US National Security Agency cybersecurity adviser, Rob Joyce, last month accused Beijing of violating a 2015 agreement with the US to halt electronic theft of intellectual property.

Other nations are increasingly being forced to choose between Chinese and US suppliers for next-generation “5G” wireless technology. Washington has been pushing other countries not to buy the equipment from Huawei, arguing that the company may be working stealthily for Beijing’s spymasters.
Beijing protested Meng’s arrest but signaled that it doesn’t want to disrupt progress toward settling its trade dispute with the Trump administration. Chinese Commerce Ministry spokesman Gao Feng said China is confident it can reach a deal during the 90 days that Trump agreed to suspend a scheduled increase in US import taxes on $200 billion worth of Chinese products.

US national security adviser John Bolton told NPR that he knew of the pending arrest in advance. He noted that there has been much concern about the suspicion that Chinese firms like Huawei use stolen US intellectual property.

In the view of the United States and many outside analysts, China has embarked on an aggressive drive to overtake America’s dominance in technology and global economic leadership. According to analysts, China has deployed predatory tactics, from forcing American and other foreign companies to hand over trade secrets in exchange for access to the Chinese market to engaging in cyber-theft.
Washington also regards Beijing’s ambitious long-term development plan, “Made in China 2025,” as a scheme to dominate such fields as robotics and electric vehicles by unfairly subsidizing Chinese companies and discriminating against foreign competitors.

In addition to Trump’s tariffs, the administration is tightening regulations on high-tech exports to China. It’s also making it harder for Chinese firms to invest in US companies or to buy American technology in such cutting-edge areas as robotics, artificial intelligence and virtual reality.
Earlier this year, the United States nearly drove Huawei’s biggest Chinese rival, ZTE Corp., out of business for selling equipment to North Korea and Iran in violation of US sanctions. But Trump issued a reprieve, possibly in part because US tech companies are major suppliers of the Chinese giant and would also have been scorched. ZTE got off with paying a $1 billion fine, changing its board and management and agreeing to let American regulators monitor its operations.

The US and Chinese tech industries depend on each other so much for components that “it is very hard to decouple the two without punishing US companies, without shooting ourselves in the foot,” said Adam Segal, cyberspace analyst at the Council on Foreign Relations.
Dean Garfield, president of the US Information Technology Industry Council trade group, said innovation by US companies often depends utterly on product development and testing by Chinese partners, not to mention component suppliers.

British Telecom said this week that it would stop using Huawei equipment in its 5G network, the BBC reported, and US lawmakers have lobbied Canada’s prime minister to freeze out the Chinese supplier. New Zealand and Australia already have.  Other, less wealthy nations are concerned less about spying and more about low prices, which play to Huawei’s advantage.

Both Huawei and ZTE have not only been barred from use by US government agencies and contractors; they have also been mostly locked out of the American market. A 2012 report by the House Intelligence Committee report urged US businesses to avoid their products and called for blocking all mergers or acquisitions involving them.

And nearly a year ago, AT&T pulled out of a deal to sell Huawei smartphones.
“There is ample evidence to suggest that no major Chinese company is independent of the Chinese government and Communist Party — and Huawei, which China’s government and military tout as a ‘national champion’ is no exception,” Sens. Mark Warner, D-Virginia, and Marco Rubio, R-Fla., wrote in October to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. They urged him to keep Huawei off Canada’s next-generation network.

Priscilla Moriuchi, a former East Asia specialist at National Security Agency now with the cybersecurity firm Recorded Future, said both ZTE and Huawei are wedded to China’s military and political leadership.
“The threat from these companies lies in their access to critical Internet backbone infrastructure,” she said.

“No matter what happens in the short term, (the arrest of Huawei’s CFO) is a symptom of a long-term technology clash,” said Derek Scissors, a China specialist at the conservative American Enterprise Institute. “We’re not going to deal that away in 90 days.”

Scissors said he doubts that China will change its tech policies. Beijing must develop innovative technologies to keep its economy growing as its labor force ages and it confronts a huge stockpile of debt. Yet its political and economic system — which promotes inefficient state-owned companies at the expense of nimbler private ones — discourages innovation.
“I don’t see a way out of this,” Scissors said.

Likewise, Rod Hunter, an international economic official in President George W. Bush’s White House and a partner at law firm Baker McKenzie, said, “I’m skeptical that the Chinese are going to want to say ‘uncle.’ ” US and Chinese officials are “trying to tackle a problem that is going to take years, maybe a decade, to resolve.”



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Trump says interior secretary to leave office at year's end

US Interior Secretary Zinke resigning, cites ‘vicious’ attacks

US Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke

As head of Interior, Zinke made plans to realign the agency’s bureaucracy, trimming the equivalent of 4,600 jobs, about 7 per cent of its workforce

WASHINGTON: Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, facing federal investigations into his travel, political activity and potential conflicts of interest, will be leaving the administration at year’s end, President Donald Trump said Saturday. In his resignation letter, obtained by The Associated Press, Zinke said “vicious and politically motivated attacks” against him had “created an unfortunate distraction” in fulfilling the agency’s mission.

Trump, in tweeting Zinke’s departure, said the former Montana congressman “accomplished much during his tenure” and that a replacement would be announced next week. The Cabinet post requires Senate confirmation.

Zinke is leaving weeks before Democrats take control of the House, a shift in power that promises to sharpen the probes into his conduct. His departure comes amid a staff shake-up as Trump heads into his third year in office facing increased legal exposure due to intensifying investigations into his campaign, business, foundation and administration.

Zinke’s resignation letter, obtained from a Zinke aide on Saturday, cites what he calls “meritless and false claims” and says that “to some, truth no longer matters.”
The letter, dated Saturday, said Zinke’s last day would be Jan. 2. It was not clear whether Zinke had already submitted the letter when Trump tweeted.

Zinke, 57, played a leading part in Trump’s efforts to roll back federal environmental regulations and promote domestic energy development. He drew attention from his first day on the job, when he mounted a roan gelding to ride across Washington’s National Mall to the Department of Interior.
Zinke had remained an ardent promoter of both missions, and his own macho image, despite growing talk that he had lost Trump’s favor.

On Tuesday, Zinke appeared on stage at an Environmental Protection Agency ceremony for a rollback on water regulations. Mentioning his background as a Navy SEAL at least twice, he led the audience in a round of applause for the US oil and gas industry.

Trump never established a deep personal connection with Zinke but appreciated how he stood tall against criticisms from environmental groups as he worked to roll back protections. But the White House concluded in recent weeks that Zinke was likely the Cabinet member most vulnerable to investigations led by newly empowered Democrats in Congress, according to an administration official not authorized to publicly discuss personnel matters who spoke on condition of anonymity.

His tenure was temporarily extended as Interior helped with the response to California wildfires and the West Wing was consumed with speculation over the future of chief of staff John Kelly. But White House officials pressured him to resign, the official said, which he did after his department’s Christmas party on Thursday night. On Saturday night, hours after his resignation became public, Zinke was spotted at the White House for another holiday party, the Congressional Ball.
As interior secretary, Zinke pushed to develop oil, natural gas and coal beneath public lands in line with the administration’s business-friendly aims. But he has been dogged by ethics probes, including one centered on a Montana land deal involving a foundation he created and the chairman of an energy services company, Halliburton, that does business with the Interior Department.
Investigators also are reviewing Zinke’s decision to block two tribes from opening a casino in Connecticut and his redrawing of boundaries to shrink a Utah national monument. Zinke has denied wrongdoing.

The Associated Press reported last month that the department’s internal watchdog had referred an investigation of Zinke to the Justice Department.

Zinke’s travels with his wife, Lola Zinke, also had come under scrutiny.
Interior’s inspector general’s office said Zinke allowed his wife to ride in government vehicles with him despite a department policy that prohibits nongovernment officials from doing so. The report also said the department spent more than $25,000 to provide security for the couple when they took a vacation to Turkey and Greece.

Trump told reporters this fall he was evaluating Zinke’s future in the administration in light of the allegations and offered a lukewarm vote of confidence. Zinke in November denied he already was hunting for his next job.

“I enjoy working for the president,” he told a Montana radio station. “Now, If you do your job, he supports you.”
“I think I’m probably going to be the commander of space command,” Zinke said. “How’s that one?“
Zinke outlasted EPA chief Scott Pruitt, another enthusiastic advocate of Trump’s business-friendly way of governing who lost favor with Trump amid ethics scandals. Pruitt resigned in July. Trump’s first Health and Human Services secretary, Tom Price, also resigned under a cloud of ethical questions.
Democratic leaders in Congress were scathing in response to the news that Zinke was leaving as well.
“Ryan Zinke was one of the most toxic members of the cabinet in the way he treated our environment, our precious public lands, and the way he treated the govt like it was his personal honey pot,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of the New York tweeted Saturday. “The swamp cabinet will be a little less foul without him.”

House Minority Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi, who is set to become speaker in January, said Zinke had “been a shameless handmaiden for the special interests” and his “staggering ethical abuses have delivered a serious and lasting blow to America’s public lands, environment, clean air and clean water.”
Arizona Rep. Raul Grijalva, the top Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee, had warned that after Democrats took control of the House they intended to call Zinke to testify on his ethics issues.

Grijalva spokesman Adam Sarvana said Saturday that committee leaders still intended to ask for Zinke’s testimony. “It’s safe to say that Citizen Zinke may be leaving, but real oversight of former Secretary Zinke has not even started,” Sarvana said in an email.
Earlier this month, Zinke unleashed a jarring personal attack on Grijalva, tweeting, “It’s hard for him to think straight from the bottom of the bottle.”

Zinke got a warmer send-off from Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, head of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, who said in a statement that he had been a “strong partner for Western states.”

Under Zinke’s watch, the Interior Department moved to auction off more oil leases, ended a moratorium on new sales of federally owned coal, and repealed mandates governing drilling. Zinke’s focus on the president’s energy agenda was cheered by oil, gas and mining advocates, who credit the administration with seeking to balance conservation with development on public lands. But his tenure was denounced by most conservation groups.

“Zinke will go down as the worst Interior secretary in history,” said Kieran Suckling, executive director of the Center for Biological Diversity, in a statement released Saturday. “His slash-and-burn approach was absolutely destructive for public lands and wildlife. Allowing David Bernhardt to continue to call the shots will still be just as ugly. Different people, same appetite for greed and profit.”

Bernhardt, the deputy secretary, is in line to lead the Interior Department on an interim basis. He has spent years in Washington as a lobbyist for the oil and gas industry and has deep ties to Republican politicians and conservative interest groups.

Two outgoing Republican congressmen are said to be interested in the job.
Rep. Raul Labrador of Idaho planned to go to the White House on Saturday to discuss the job with officials, said a GOP congressional aide who spoke on condition of anonymity to describe Labrador’s private plans. Labrador, 51, a member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, who is retiring from Congress after eight years. He lost a bid for his state’s GOP gubernatorial nomination last spring.

Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Calif., is also interested in Zinke’s job, according to another Republican congressional aide who described the situation only on condition of anonymity. The aide said the White House has made inquiries about Denham to Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., who will be House minority leader next year. Denham, 51, has been involved in water issues in California. He lost his bid for re-election last month.

As head of Interior, Zinke made plans to realign the agency’s bureaucracy, trimming the equivalent of 4,600 jobs, about 7 per cent of its workforce. He also proposed a massive overhaul that would have moved decision-making out of Washington, relocating headquarters staff to Western states at a cost of $17.5 million.

Zinke was a one-term congressman when Trump selected him to join his incoming Cabinet in December 2016.

An early Trump supporter, Zinke is close to the president’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., and publicly expressed his interest in a Cabinet post when Trump visited Montana in May 2016.

Former U.S. President George H.W. Bush dead at 94

Former U.S. President George H.W. Bush
(Reuters) - Former U.S. President George H.W. Bush, who presided over the end of the Cold War and routed Saddam Hussein's Iraqi army but lost a chance for a second term after breaking a no-new-taxes pledge, died on Friday at the age of 94, a family spokesman said.

Bush, the 41st president of the United States, lived longer than any of his predecessors. His death at 10:10 p.m. Central time was announced in a statement issued by longtime spokesman Jim McGrath. No further details about the circumstances of his death were immediately available.

He was the father of former President George W. Bush, who served two terms in the White House from 2001 through 2008, and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, who unsuccessfully sought the 2016 Republican nomination for president.

The elder Bush, a Republican like his sons, also served as vice president for eight years during Ronald Reagan's two terms as president, before being elected to the White House himself.

He defeated former Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis, the Democratic nominee, in the 1988 presidential campaign, and lost his 1992 re-election bid to Democrat Bill Clinton.

Bush's death came seven months after that of his wife, former first lady Barbara Bush, to whom he was married for 73 years.

The former president, who served as a U.S. naval aviator during World War Two, had attended his wife's funeral in Houston in a wheelchair and wore a pair of colourful socks festooned with books, in honour of his late wife's commitment to literacy.



See AP’s complete coverage of George H.W. Bush here

Mauritius President to resign

Mauritius President to resign over expense claims, prime minister says

Mauritius President Ameenah Gurib-Fakim delivers a speech in Paris in 2015.

The President of Mauritius will resign next week, the island country's prime minister has said.

Ameenah Gurib-Fakim will step down over allegations she misused a credit card given to her by a charity.

Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth said Gurib-Fakim, who was facing impeachment proceedings over the alleged expense irregularities, had agreed to step down after the country's 50-year independence celebrations on March 12.

"The President of the Republic told me that she would resign from office and we agreed on the date of her departure," Jugnauth told reporters in Port Louis, the country's capital.
"The interests of the country come first," he said.

Attempts to obtain comment from Gurib-Fakim and her office were not immediately successful.

The president was left fighting for her political career after local media published a report that she had paid for personal expenses on a credit card given to her by London-based charity Planet Earth Institute (PEI) in 2016.

The report alleged that Gurib-Fakim had spent thousands of dollars on the card on clothing and luxury items.

She has denied any wrongdoing and said she had refunded all the money.
"I do not owe anything to anybody. Why is this issue coming up now almost a year later on the eve of our independence day celebrations," she said on March 7, Reuters news agency reported.
The Planet Earth Institute is accredited to the United Nations Environmental Program and its mission is the "scientific independence of Africa." When contacted, a spokeswoman for PEI declined to comment.

Gurib-Fakim was appointed to the PEI board in 2015, but resigned two years later in 2017.
She is internationally renowned and is feted on the world stage, and is the recipient of the L'Oréal-UNESCO award for women in science.

Despite her huge international profile, commentators say Gurib-Fakim's popularity closer to home was waning.

Mauritians increasingly saw her as a "president in transit," because of her frequent trips abroad, said Rabin Bhujun, managing editor of ION News, a digital news platform in the country.
"How does it benefit the country for her to be on the Forbes list? This is an important factor which encouraged the government to get rid of her.

They felt she wasn't a heavyweight in politics and had no problem sacking her," Bhujun said.



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Russia's Defense Ministry says a Russian cargo plane has crashed in Syria, killing 32 people onboard.

Russian cargo plane crashes in Syria, 32 killed



 Russian military says a Russian cargo plane crashes near Hmeimim base in Syria.
All people on board of the aircraft, including 26 passengers and six crew members died in the incident, the Russian Defense Ministry said.

The Russian An-26 plane crashed near Syrian Hmeimin base on Tuesday when landing, according to the ministry of defence.

The Latest on the war in Syria (all times local):

4 p.m.

Russia says a military cargo plane has crashed at the Russian air base in Syria, killing all 32 people onboard.

The Defense Ministry says the An-26, with 26 passengers and six crew members onboard, crashed Tuesday just 500 meters (1,600 feet) from the runway. The military blamed the crash on a technical error.

Russia, a key ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad, leases a military base in Syria near the Mediterranean coast.

___

2 p.m.

U.N. war crimes investigators say a Russian plane was apparently behind a deadly airstrike in November in Syria's Idlib province that killed 84 people at a marketplace, an attack which could amount to a war crime.

The findings were reported by the U.N.'s Commission of Inquiry on Syria on Tuesday.

It's the first time the commission has pinned responsibility for civilian deaths in Syria on Russia. The report says "all available information" indicates a Russian plane carried out the Nov. 13 airstrike that hit a market, surrounding houses and a police station run by Western-backed Syrian rebels in the town of Atarib, in northern Idlib.

At least 84 people were killed and about another 150 were wounded in the attack.

The commission, which was created 6-1/2 years ago to document alleged human rights violations by any side in Syria's war, says the plane that carried out the airstrike took off from an air base in Syria run by Russian forces, the Hemeimeem air base.

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12:30 p.m.

A war-monitoring group says Syrian government shelling and airstrikes killed 80 people in the besieged eastern suburbs of Damascus the previous day, making it the deadliest day there since the U.N.'s Security Council last month demanded a cease-fire across Syria.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says 80 died and dozens more were wounded on Monday as government forces ignored the U.N. call and pressed their assault on the rebel-held eastern Ghouta.

The United Nations estimates 400,000 people are trapped under a government siege in the area.

The Syrian American Medical Society charity, which supports several hospitals in eastern Ghouta, gave a slightly lesser death toll from the Observatory, saying 79 people were killed.

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12:05 p.m.

The Russian defense ministry has extended an offer to Syrians in the besieged eastern suburbs of Damascus, saying armed rebels with their families - not just civilians - can also leave eastern Ghouta through a safe corridor.

The ministry says its negotiators in Syria late on Monday called on all rebels leaders in eastern Ghouta to allow civilians leave the area, which has been under a crippling siege for weeks. It says the rebels are also free to leave the enclave with their weapons and families unhindered.

The first shipment of humanitarian aid reached eastern Ghouta on Monday but was cut short on Tuesday after Syrian government forces began shelling the area again.

Russia has been a staunch ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad, helping him the tide of the bloody civil war in his favor.

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10:55 a.m.

Turkey's Foreign Ministry says the country plans to establish camps in nine locations in northern Syria to house people displaced by fighting amid Ankara's offensive against Syrian Kurdish fighters.

Ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy said on Tuesday that the camps would be built in a zone controlled by Turkish-backed forces, as well as in Idlib province where Turkish forces are trying establishing a "de-escalation zone" under an agreement reached between Turkey, Russia and Iran.

Aksoy said the camps would host a total of 170,000 people.

Turkey controls a swath of territory revolving around the town of al-Rai, al-Bab and Jarablus - a border zone that Turkey and Turkey-backed rebels took from the Islamic State group in 2016.

Turkey has also launched a campaign to oust a Syrian Kurdish militia from the enclave of Afrin that Ankara considers to be "terrorist" and linked to an insurgency within Turkey's own borders.

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10:45 a.m.

The International Committee for the Red Cross says it was forced to halt aid delivery to the besieged eastern suburbs of Damascus the previous day after the security situation deteriorated while aid workers were on the ground.

Ingy Sedky, the ICRC spokeswoman in Syria says most of the aid from a 46-truck convoy was delivered to the town of Douma in eastern Ghouta on Monday but the mission was cut short before the rest of the supplies could be unloaded.

Iyad Abdelaziz, a member of the Douma Local Council, says nine aid trucks had to leave the area after government shelling and airstrikes intensified in the evening.

Monday's shipment was the first to enter eastern Ghouta amid weeks of a crippling siege and a government assault that has killed hundreds.





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