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US power waning in Pacific, warns top Australian think tank – Journal du Cameroun

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19.08.2019 at 04h54
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AFP

The United States no longer has military primacy in the Pacific and could struggle to defend allies against China, a top Australian think tank has warned.

A hard-hitting report from the United States Studies Centre at the University of Sydney released on Monday said the US military is an “atrophying force” that is “dangerously overstretched” and “ill-prepared” for a confrontation with China.

If correct, the assessment has far-reaching implications for US allies like Australia, Taiwan and Japan who depend on American security guarantees.

Donald Trump’s presidency has deepened concerns that Washington would not defend its allies in the face of aggression from China. But this latest report has suggested that the United States may struggle to help even if it wanted to.

Accusing Washington of “strategic insolvency”, the authors said decades-long Middle East wars, partisanship and under-investment have left Pacific allies exposed.

“China, by contrast, is growing ever more capable of challenging the regional order by force as a result of its large-scale investment in advanced military systems,” they warned.

Under President Xi Jinping, China’s official defence budget has increased by around 75 percent to $178 billion — although the true figure is believed to be much more.

Crucially, Beijing has invested in precision ballistic missiles and counter-intervention systems that would make it difficult for the US military to reach contested areas quickly.

According to the report, “almost all American, allied and partner bases, airstrips, ports and military installations in the Western Pacific” lack hardened infrastructure and are under major threat.

That advantage could be used to seize territory in Taiwan, Japanese-administered islands or the South China Sea before US forces could get there.

Experts believe that the deployment of US land-based missiles and a changed role for the United States Marine Corps will be vital to countering China, as well as collective regional defence — with the likes of Australia and Japan doing more.

In Australia, concerns have been growing about inadequate defences, prompting debate about whether the country should think about developing nuclear weapons.

Similar discussions are have periodically taken place in neighbouring Indonesia.

A separate report released on Sunday by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute recommended Australia boost and harden military capabilities in the thinly-populated north of the country.

“Because of the significantly reduced warning times for future conflict,” wrote author John Coyne, it is likely the north of Australia will be used as a forward operating base or a “lily pad” to reach conflict zones.

The US military has already earmarked around US$210 million to boost a Marine Corps base near Darwin.

During a recent visit to Australia, Defense Secretary Mark Esper suggested the United States wants to deploy intermediate-range missiles in Asia. So far, the Australian government has stressed it has not received a formal request to host those weapons.

Cameroon

Hamdok, UN economist turned Sudanese premier – Journal du Cameroun

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22.08.2019 at 10h54
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AFP

Sudan’s new prime minister, Abdalla Hamdok, is a seasoned economist who faces the daunting task of rescuing his country’s moribund economy.

Hamdok built a career in international continental and international organisations, most recently as deputy executive secretary of the UN’s Economic Commission for Africa in Addis Ababa.

He was welcomed off the plane Wednesday by two civilian members of the new Sovereign Council that was sworn in hours earlier and will oversee his government’s work.

The joint civilian-military council replaced the transitional military council that took charge in April when Islamist general Omar al-Bashir was forced from power by relentless street protests.

The Sudanese people’s main expectation of Hamdok will be tangible solutions to the dire economic crisis Bashir’s rule and the last few months of political turmoil have caused.

“With the right vision, with the right policies, we will be able to address this economic crisis,” he told reporters after taking the oath on Wednesday.

He vowed to devise an urgent recovery programme addressing the shortages of basic commodities that have plagued Sudan and its 40 million inhabitants recently.

The protests that eventually ended Bashir’s 30-year rule were ignited in December last year by the tripling of bread prices.

– Good governance –

In the longer term, Hamdok emphasised the need to improve productivity and rebuild a banking sector he said had all but collapsed.

His credentials as an economist seem solid, as was abundantly documented in the official biography distributed to media during his oath-taking ceremony.

The text stressed Hamdok is “highly credible among African finance and development institutions, the International Monetary Fund and the Paris Club” of creditor countries.

Hamdok worked for the African Development and Trade Bank and is credited with shaping some of the policies that spurred Ethiopia’s rapid economic growth under the late prime minister Meles Zenawi.

Greeted as the saviour of Sudan’s economy, the greying, moustachioed technocrat was all smiles when he took questions from journalists on his first day on the job.

While he was outside Sudan and not directly involved in the protest movement that terminated Bashir’s rule, Hamdok’s appointment appeared to be well received by the population.

“He has the skills we need the most at the moment,” said Sumaila Ibrahim, a 21-year-old student at Khartoum University.

Hamdok is also an alumnus, having completed a degree in agricultural economics in the capital before moving to Manchester in the United Kingdom for his masters.

Besides his credentials as an economist, Hamdok has carved an image as a champion of transparency and good governance in the course of his rich career in African organisations.

– ‘Grave concerns’ –

He sat on the board of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, which was founded by the eponymous Sudanese-British billionaire to promote good governance and leadership in Africa.

Last year he turned down an offer by Bashir to become finance minister as part of a government reshuffle.

As the head of Sudan’s future government, which according to a roadmap laid out by protest leaders and generals is to be formed by August 28, Hamdok is not only in charge of the economy however.

He will need to draw on his experience in his various African peace-building initiatives to bring an end to deadly conflicts in Sudan’s regions of Darfur, Kordofan and Blue Nile.

This is where the co-existence between generals who all rose to their positions in Bashir’s wings and the civilians in the transition’s new institutions could be most tested.

Hamdok was born in 1958 in the state of South Kordofan, which found itself on Sudan’s southern border when South Sudan became independent in 2011, after decades of war with the north.

His own native village is now in a war zone and Hamdok will be keen to push for a resolution of Sudan’s civil conflicts, but he has his work cut out reconciling the military with the rebels.

US Congressman Jim McGovern, a keen observer of Sudanese affairs and vocal critic of Bashir’s Islamist regime, highlighted that pitfall in a statement on Wednesday.

“I look forward with hope to a transitional period that places the rights and aspirations of the Sudanese people front and centre,” the Democrat said.

“I have grave concerns, however, about whether military and political officials associated with the former regime will prove trustworthy partners given their history of violence, repression, corruption and bad faith,” he warned.

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Cameroon

Damascus to let civilians flee rebel-held Idlib – Journal du Cameroun

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Published on
22.08.2019 at 10h54
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AFP

Damascus said Thursday it is opening a corridor for civilians to leave the rebel-held northwestern region of Idlib, where government bombardment has killed hundreds since late April, state media said.

The announcement came a day after government forces captured the key Idlib province town of Khan Sheikhun from jihadists and allied rebels.

Damascus has opened such corridors out of other rebel bastions in the past as a prelude to retaking them either by force or through negotiated surrenders.

The Idlib region, which sits on the Turkish border, is now the last major stronghold of opposition to the Russia-backed government of President Bashar al-Assad.

Wednesday’s advance saw government forces cutting of a pocket of territory stretching from the south of Idlib province into neighbouring Hama, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said.

“The Syrian government announces the opening of a humanitarian corridor in Souran in the northern countryside of Hama province,” state news agency SANA quoted a foreign ministry source as saying Thursday.

The corridor will be used to evacuate “civilians who want to leave areas controlled by terrorists in northern Hama and the southern countryside of Idlib.

The Idlib region has been ruled since January by the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham alliance, which is led by jihadists from Syria’s former Al-Qaeda affiliate.

The government refers to all rebel groups in Idlib as “terrorists”.

The region of some three million people was supposed to be protected by a proposed buffer zone agreed by Moscow and rebel backer Ankara last September.

But the jihadists of HTS failed to pull back from the zone as agreed and in April government and Russian forces resumed intense bombardment of the region.

Around 890 civilians have been killed, according to the Britain-based Observatory.

More than 400,000 more have led their homes, the United Nations says.

The entry of government forces into Khan Sheikhun raises the stakes between Damascus and Ankara, which has troops deployed in the nearby town of Morek, that is now cut off.

The war in Syria has killed more than 370,000 people since it started with the brutal suppression of anti-government protests in 2011.

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Cameroon

Macron expected to rebuff Johnson during Brexit talks in Paris – Journal du Cameroun

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22.08.2019 at 10h54
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AFP

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson heads to Paris on Thursday for talks with French President Emmanuel Macron who is expected to rebuff his last-ditch efforts to renegotiate the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union.

Macron, who has said previously he is happy to be the “bad guy” on Brexit, roundly rejected Johnson’s calls to scrap a key plank of a deal negotiated between the EU and former British premier Theresa May.

“Renegotiation on the terms currently proposed by the British is not an option that exists, and that has always been made clear by (EU) President Tusk,” Macron told reporters on Wednesday evening.

At stake is the so-called “backstop”, an arrangement guaranteeing that border checks will not return between EU member Ireland and Northern Ireland which is part of Britain.

Johnson considers the backstop to be “anti-democratic” and an affront to British sovereignty because it will require London to keep its regulations aligned with the EU during a transition exit period.

The EU argues this is necessary to avoid the re-emergence of border checkpoints which could lead to a return of fighting on the divided island where anti-British violence has claimed thousands of lives.

– Glimmer of hope? –

The Paris visit is the second leg of Johnson’s first foreign trip since he became prime minister a month ago.

On Wednesday, he told German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin that the backstop has “grave defects for a sovereign, democratic country like the UK” and insisted the provision “has to go”.

Merkel appeared to offer a glimmer of hope by saying Britain should try to find a breakthrough to the issue over the next month.

In the search for a solution, “we have said we would probably find it in the next two years, but maybe we can do it in the next 30 days, why not? Then we are one step further in the right direction,” she said.

Johnson told Merkel he welcomed the “very blistering timetable of 30 days,” adding that “I’m more than happy with that”.

The remarks fit a pattern in which Merkel has often been more conciliatory in public about Brexit than Macron, whose abrasive remarks have sometimes caused anger in London.

“There is not the width of cigarette paper between Paris and Berlin on these issues,” a Macron aide said on Wednesday on condition of anonymity.

Macron risked further irritating Johnson, whom he described in 2017 as having “no strategic vision”, with a series of bruising remarks during his lengthy press conference on Wednesday evening.

He said the 2016 Brexit referendum had posed a question to the British people about EU membership “perhaps in a simplistic fashion” and without telling voters how the withdrawal would be achieved.

“Many lied about how it would be done,” he added in another attack on Brexit campaigners, of which Johnson was the most high profile.

– Blame game –

Johnson, who has deployed his French language skills to charm diplomats in Paris before, has staked his leadership on withdrawing Britain from the EU by the current deadline of October 31 — “do or die”.

His tough stance is seen by the French as making a “no deal” Brexit the most likely scenario and Paris has briefed journalists that it would be prepared to see Britain crash out of the EU rather than yield to Johnson’s demands.

Some analysts see a risk of relations between Macron and Johnson becoming stormy in public, which could lead to a blame game about a “no deal” Brexit that is expected to wreak major economic damage on Britain and the EU.

Johnson reportedly once called the French “turds” over their stance on Brexit during his time as foreign secretary — remarks he later said he could not recall.

But Macron pre-empted any attempt to deflect blame onto the European side.

“It will be the responsibility of the British government, always, because firstly it was the British people that decided Brexit, and the British government has the possibility up to the last second to revoke Article 50,” he said.

Article 50 is the legal mechanism used by EU members states to withdraw from the bloc which was triggered by Britain in March 2017.

At the weekend, Macron, Merkel and Johnson will meet US President Donald Trump, a vocal supporter of both Brexit and Johnson, and the leaders of Canada, Italy and Japan at a G7 summit in the French seaside resort of Biarritz.

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Cameroon

Beijing hits back after Trudeau vows to stand up to China – Journal du Cameroun

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Published on
22.08.2019 at 10h54
by
AFP

Beijing on Thursday accused Ottawa of worsening bilateral relations after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau vowed to stand up to China amid deepening diplomatic and trade disputes.

The two countries have been locked in a feud since last December, when Canada detained top Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou and — in apparent retaliation — China detained two Canadian nationals over espionage-linked accusations.

On Wednesday, Trudeau pushed back against Beijing in a speech that promised to “always defend Canadians and Canadian interests” and to not “back down”.

“At present, China-Canadian relations are facing serious difficulties,” said Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang.

“The responsibility lies entirely on the Canadian side,” he told reporters at a press briefing in Beijing.

“We urge the Canadian side to reflect on its mistakes,” Geng said, adding that Canada should “immediately” release Meng.

He also called on Canada to refrain from making “irresponsible remarks” about Hong Kong, which has been plunged into weeks of unrest by pro-democracy demonstrations.

Beijing had warned Canada on Sunday to stop meddling in Hong Kong affairs after Ottawa and the European Union issued a joint statement in support of protestors’ “fundamental right of assembly”.

Canadians are one of the largest expatriate groups in Hong Kong, numbering 300,000, according to Canadian government figures.

Relations between Canada and China tumbled over the arrest of Meng on a US extradition request related to alleged Iran sanctions.

Since then, China has arrested Canadians Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig, while blocking billions of dollars in Canadian agricultural shipments.

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Cameroon

Hamdok, UN economist turned Sudanese premier – Journal du Cameroun

Published

on

Published on
22.08.2019 at 10h54
by
AFP

Sudan’s new prime minister, Abdalla Hamdok, is a seasoned economist who faces the daunting task of rescuing his country’s moribund economy.

Hamdok built a career in international continental and international organisations, most recently as deputy executive secretary of the UN’s Economic Commission for Africa in Addis Ababa.

He was welcomed off the plane Wednesday by two civilian members of the new Sovereign Council that was sworn in hours earlier and will oversee his government’s work.

The joint civilian-military council replaced the transitional military council that took charge in April when Islamist general Omar al-Bashir was forced from power by relentless street protests.

The Sudanese people’s main expectation of Hamdok will be tangible solutions to the dire economic crisis Bashir’s rule and the last few months of political turmoil have caused.

“With the right vision, with the right policies, we will be able to address this economic crisis,” he told reporters after taking the oath on Wednesday.

He vowed to devise an urgent recovery programme addressing the shortages of basic commodities that have plagued Sudan and its 40 million inhabitants recently.

The protests that eventually ended Bashir’s 30-year rule were ignited in December last year by the tripling of bread prices.

– Good governance –

In the longer term, Hamdok emphasised the need to improve productivity and rebuild a banking sector he said had all but collapsed.

His credentials as an economist seem solid, as was abundantly documented in the official biography distributed to media during his oath-taking ceremony.

The text stressed Hamdok is “highly credible among African finance and development institutions, the International Monetary Fund and the Paris Club” of creditor countries.

Hamdok worked for the African Development and Trade Bank and is credited with shaping some of the policies that spurred Ethiopia’s rapid economic growth under the late prime minister Meles Zenawi.

Greeted as the saviour of Sudan’s economy, the greying, moustachioed technocrat was all smiles when he took questions from journalists on his first day on the job.

While he was outside Sudan and not directly involved in the protest movement that terminated Bashir’s rule, Hamdok’s appointment appeared to be well received by the population.

“He has the skills we need the most at the moment,” said Sumaila Ibrahim, a 21-year-old student at Khartoum University.

Hamdok is also an alumnus, having completed a degree in agricultural economics in the capital before moving to Manchester in the United Kingdom for his masters.

Besides his credentials as an economist, Hamdok has carved an image as a champion of transparency and good governance in the course of his rich career in African organisations.

– ‘Grave concerns’ –

He sat on the board of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, which was founded by the eponymous Sudanese-British billionaire to promote good governance and leadership in Africa.

Last year he turned down an offer by Bashir to become finance minister as part of a government reshuffle.

As the head of Sudan’s future government, which according to a roadmap laid out by protest leaders and generals is to be formed by August 28, Hamdok is not only in charge of the economy however.

He will need to draw on his experience in his various African peace-building initiatives to bring an end to deadly conflicts in Sudan’s regions of Darfur, Kordofan and Blue Nile.

This is where the co-existence between generals who all rose to their positions in Bashir’s wings and the civilians in the transition’s new institutions could be most tested.

Hamdok was born in 1958 in the state of South Kordofan, which found itself on Sudan’s southern border when South Sudan became independent in 2011, after decades of war with the north.

His own native village is now in a war zone and Hamdok will be keen to push for a resolution of Sudan’s civil conflicts, but he has his work cut out reconciling the military with the rebels.

US Congressman Jim McGovern, a keen observer of Sudanese affairs and vocal critic of Bashir’s Islamist regime, highlighted that pitfall in a statement on Wednesday.

“I look forward with hope to a transitional period that places the rights and aspirations of the Sudanese people front and centre,” the Democrat said.

“I have grave concerns, however, about whether military and political officials associated with the former regime will prove trustworthy partners given their history of violence, repression, corruption and bad faith,” he warned.

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