The Police in southern England on Friday charged a 64-year-old man with smuggling eight Albanian illegal migrants into Britain on a small motor yacht.
The National Crime Agency said British citizen Charles Edward Lynch was charged with facilitating illegal entry to the UK, following the discovery of eight Albanian migrants on board the vessel in the English Channel.
He was due to appear at Portsmouth Magistrates’ Court on Friday, following his arrest at sea on Wednesday, the agency said.
Police found seven adults and one child on board the yacht after it was intercepted by a Border Force boat off the coast near Portsmouth, it said.
The seizure of the yacht follows the latest crackdown on illegal migration across the English Channel by small boats from France to Britain.
The two governments agreed in mid October to double patrols on French beaches and intensify efforts to tackle criminal gangs involved in smuggling migrants.
Home Secretary Priti Patel promised to do everything in my power to stop these dangerous Channel crossings, which are putting vulnerable lives at risk.
The British government has increased its focus on illegal migration since the discovery of the bodies of 39 Vietnamese migrants in a refrigerator lorry on Oct 23.
Edited by Halima Sheji/Felix Ajide
ADB introduces new loan pricing for higher-income countries, economies
The Asian Development Bank (ADB) says it approved the introduction of diversified financing terms for its developing member countries and economies, with higher income sub-groups paying higher maturity premiums for longer-term loans.
The Manila-based bank said in a statement released on Thursday that the new pricing structure will be effective on Jan. 1, 2021.
Recipients of the loans and grants from the ADB are classified under groups A, B, and C, according to their per capita income levels and creditworthiness.
The bank said only members in the three groups have access to loans and grants.
“Some of them will not be affected because they are vulnerable countries such as small island developing states.
“The list of countries under each category will be updated before the effectivity of the diversification with the latest Gross National Income (GNI) per capita data,’’ the ADB said.
The financing terms offered to Group A and B countries and economies are already diversified with a combination of grants, concessional loans and market-based loans.
Group C countries have a wider spread of per capita incomes but are all offered the same financing terms.
In the new pricing framework, the ADB said Group C countries would be divided into several sub-groups according to their GNI: lower-middle-income, upper-middle-income and high-income.
Higher-income sub-groups will pay higher maturity premiums for longer-term loans, the ADB added.
For instance, it said upper-middle-income countries with GNI per capita of $6,976 to $12,375 (in 2018 prices) will pay up to 30 basis points additional maturity premium depending on the loan tenor.
The ADB said the new pricing framework would provide more favourable terms to more vulnerable countries such as Small Island developing states and countries transitioning from Group B to Group C.
It said the additional income from the new pricing would supplement existing Technical Assistance Special Funds to support policy advice, institution building and knowledge sharing in ADB’s developing member countries and economies.
The pricing framework will also help build reserves for expanding ADB’s lending capacity in the long term, it added.
“The current flat pricing structure offered to our recipient countries borrowing only market-based loans does not reflect the high level of diversity among these countries in their income levels, capacities to mobilise domestic resources and access to capital markets,’’ said ADB President Takehiko Nakao.
“The new structure will enable us to continue engaging with countries at a more advanced stage of development on terms that remain fair and competitive with other multilateral development banks and contribute to ADB’s long-term sustainability.’’
The ADB said this reform reflects a regional landscape that had changed over the past 50 years.
“The situation in Asia and the Pacific region is now different compared to 1966 when ADB was established.
“Most ADB recipient countries are currently middle-income countries.
“These countries, though with relatively higher income and strong financial capacity, still need ADB’s support to tackle pockets of poverty, strengthen institutions and address climate change as well as other areas with externalities,’’ the ADB further said.
Established in 1966, the ADB encompasses 68 members, with 49 from the region.
Edited by Fatima Sule/Abdulfatah Babatunde (NAN)
Pentagon denies report U.S. mulls pulling up to 4,000 troops from South Korea
The U.S. on Thursday denied a South Korean news report that it was considering withdrawing up to 4,000 troops from South Korea if it does not pay more for maintaining a 28,500-U.S. contingent deterring North Korean aggression.
South Korea’s Chosun Ilbo newspaper reported that the withdrawal of a U.S. brigade, typically 3,000 to 4,000 soldiers, had been discussed with the top brass of the U.S. military in South Korea, citing an unidentified diplomatic source in Washington.
The report came two days after the U.S. broke off defense cost talks after demanding that South Korea raise its annual contribution for maintaining the U.S. contingent to 5 billion dollars, a South Korean official said.
More than five times what it pays now, in rare discord in the alliance, Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said in a statement.
“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,” Hoffman said.
U.S. Defence Secretary Mark Esper said earlier he was not aware of any plans to withdraw troops from South Korea if cost-sharing talks failed.
“We’re not threatening allies over this. This is a negotiation,” he told reporters during a trip to Vietnam.
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
South Korea, which remains technically in a state of war with nuclear-armed neighbor North Korea following their 1950-53 conflict.
North Korea has also developed a missile believed to be capable of firing a nuclear weapon at the U.S. mainland.
South Korea’s defense ministry said the Chosun report was “not the official position of the U.S. government” while Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha told a parliamentary panel no cut in U.S. troops had been discussed.
The allies have for 70 years formed a buffer against North Korean aggression but their failure to agree on an increase in South Korea’s contribution to the costs of hosting the U.S. troops has raised questions about the deployment.
U.S. President Donald Trump has insisted that South Korea pay more – and has also suggested pulling the troops out altogether.
(Edited by Fatima Sule/Emmanuel Yashim (NAN))
North Korea says ‘pointless’ for Kim to attend South Korea ASEAN summit
North Korea rejected an invitation for leader Kim Jong Un to attend a planned summit in South Korea next week with Southeast Asian nations, North Korean state media reported on Thursday.
North Korea said that it would be “pointless” due to strained ties with Seoul.
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 U.S.
“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 U.S., 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 in 2020, 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.
Ewha Womans University is a private women’s university in Seoul, South Korea founded in 1886 by Mary F. Scranton under Emperor Gojong.
It is currently the world’s largest female educational institute and is one of the most prestigious universities in South Korea.
(Edited by Fatima Sule/Emmanuel Yashim (NAN))
Smoke envelops Sydney, bushfire warnings issued across Australia
Smoke from bushfires raging north of Sydney enveloped the Australian city on Thursday, while high temperatures and strong winds prompted authorities to issue warnings of severe fire danger across the eastern and southern regions of the country.
For the second time in three days, health officials advised schools to keep children inside and weather forecasters said the haze was unlikely to clear for several days as bushfires continue to burn north of Sydney.
Hundreds of bushfires have been burning for weeks along the eastern seaboard, but fresh outbreaks in 40-degree heat in southern Australia on Wednesday caused residents near Adelaide to evacuate their homes.
Electricity was turned off to 6,000 properties in the fire zone on the Yorke Peninsula in South Australia to avoid the possibility of power lines sparking fire outbreaks.
The state of Victoria is bracing for potentially catastrophic fires on Thursday as temperatures are expected to soar above 40 degrees.
Melbourne is expecting its hottest November day on record at 39 degrees.
Six people have died and close to 600 homes have been destroyed since the bush fires broke out in October.
Police have taken legal action against 54 people since August for breaching bans on lighting fires.
Stuart Smith, Assistant Commissioner of New South Wales Police, said offenses ranged from lighting a backyard barbecue to people charged with suspicion of deliberately starting bushfires –
Bushfires are an offense that carries jail terms of up to 21 years.
(Edited by Fatima Sule/Emmanuel Yashim (NAN))
Pope Francis delivers speech on humanitarian issues to Thai Govt
Pope Francis was officially welcomed by the Thai Government in a ceremony on Thursday at the prime minister’s office in Bangkok where he delivered a speech that touched on a range of humanitarian issues.
An honour guard of marching Thai soldiers came to a halt as they stood for the Vatican City national anthem.
In his opening remarks to a room of Thai government officials and priests, Francis said he welcomed Thailand’s transition from a military government to a civilian one.
The comment was met with a bright smile from Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, who led the former military government after overthrowing an elected government in a 2014 coup.
Prayut leads the current civilian coalition government after his junta introduced new election laws to favour his return as prime minister.
Francis’ speech then touched on the global issue of refugees, which he described as an “important ethical issue for our times”.
He said the problem is not about the migration of people but stems from situations that force people to flee their homes.
“Thailand was once a country that had a reputation of accepting refugees,’’ he said.
“I plead that communities in each country to responsibly proceed with addressing the problems that lead to people having to flee their countries.’’
Francis said the issue of refugees reminds him of women and children, who are taken advantage of and face “violence and forced labour in many forms’’.
Later in the evening, Francis is scheduled to meet the Thai king before addressing a stadium in Bangkok for a holy mass, where around 50,000 people are expected to attend.
Edited by Fatima Sule/Abdulfatah Babatunde (NAN)
China says it will strive to reach ‘phase one’ trade deal with U.S.
China says it will strive to reach an initial trade agreement with the U.S. as both sides keep communication channels open.
Gao Feng, spokesman for the Chinese commerce ministry said this on Thursday in an attempt to allay fears that talks might be unraveling.
According to Gao, China is willing to work with the U.S. to resolve each other’s core concerns on the basis of equality and mutual respect, and will try hard to reach a “phase one” deal.
“This is in line with the interests of both China and the U.S., and of the world,” he said.
Economists warn that the prolonged trade dispute between China and the U.S. is escalating risks to the global economy by disrupting supply chains, discouraging investment and dampening business confidence.
Completion of a phase one deal could slide into 2020, trade experts and people close to the White House said, as Beijing presses for more extensive tariff rollbacks and the U.S. administration counters with heightened demands of its own.
Global equities retreated on Thursday due to concerns that the ‘phase one’ deal would be delayed.
The trade jitters also sent the 10-year U.S. Treasury yield down to near its lowest levels in three weeks.
The Chinese yuan also softened against the dollar.
Officials from Beijing had suggested that Chinese President Xi Jinping and U.S. counterpart Donald Trump might sign a deal in early December.
Some experts said the next date to watch was Dec. 15, when U.S. tariffs on about 156 billion dollars in Chinese goods are set to take effect, including holiday gift items such as electronics and Christmas decorations.
In a dinner speech in Beijing on Wednesday, Chinese Vice Premier Liu He said he was “cautiously optimistic” on a phase one deal, Bloomberg News said, citing people who attended the event ahead of a forum organised by Bloomberg LP.
Liu, China’s chief negotiator at the trade talks, separately told one of the attendees that he was “confused” about the U.S. demands, but was confident the first phase of a deal could be completed nevertheless, Bloomberg added.
Gaosaid he did not have more information to disclose beyond the fact that both parties would continue to communicate, and “outside rumors are not accurate.”
A former Chinese commerce minister said that both sides should return to the time when the trade war first started.
“We should return to the point of origin and cancel all tariffs,” Wei Jianguo said on the sidelines of the Bloomberg forum.
Wei said he was hopeful for a phase one pact, in light of the pressure on both the U.S. and Chinese economies as the trade war dragged on.
“Now, Trump himself is cognizant about the needs of the (upcoming U.S.) elections, and the U.S. economy has also suffered great losses,” he said.
“Under such circumstances, it is entirely possible to reach a phased agreement.”
(Edited by Fatima Sule/Emmanuel Yashim (NAN))
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