Category Archives: Asia

(Diplomat) How Portugal Forged an Empire in Asia

(Diplomat) How did a small, impoverished kingdom on the edge of Europe become a global maritime power at the beginning of the 16th century?

In just a little over 16 years at the beginning of the 16th century, the impoverished Kingdom of Portugal, under the House of Aviz, became the dominant power in the Indian Ocean region and laid the foundation for one of the largest and longest-lived empires in world history. Between Vasco de Gama’s epoch-making 309-day voyage from Lisbon around the Cape of Good Hope and across the Indian Ocean to the docking at the Indian port of Calicut on May 20, 1498, and the death of the general Afonso de Albuquerque in December 1515, Portugal established a permanent foothold in Asia from which it would not be finally dislodged until 1999 when China repossessed Macau.

The Portuguese were the first exporters of shipborne western imperialism into Asia. As a result, the kings of Portugal, a country with a population of a little over a million in the middle of the 15th century, became rich monarchs, or rather “merchant capitalists, sucking in large monopolistic profits,” from the Asian spice trade (primarily cinnamon, cloves, and pepper) in the 16th century, according to Roger Crowley’s Conquerors: How Portugal Forged the First Global Empire. Muslim traders had dominated that trade, prior to the arrival of the Portuguese to the Indian Ocean, with monopolistic Venice as their European intermediary. The breaking of this monopoly was one of the principal objectives of Lisbon’s expansion into Asia. Profits reaped from the trade were enormous. For example, Vasco da Gama returned from his first voyage to India with cargo worth sixty times the initial capital investment. And despite annually dispatched Portuguese India Armadas suffering losses in ships and men of up to 35 percent, it remained hugely profitable throughout the 16th century.

Besides trade, the Portuguese, steeped in Iberian crusading traditions where the last Muslim outpost (Grenada) was only conquered in 1492, also ventured into Asia to outflank the Ottoman Empire and attack it from the rear by linking up with the mythical figure of Prester John, who was thought to rule a powerful Christian kingdom somewhere in the East.  Their ultimate goal was the liberation of Jerusalem. In other words, the Portuguese fidalgos (noblemen), sailors and soldiers saw themselves first and foremost as devout crusaders in the name of Christ. At the seafaring empire’s apogee in 1572, Portugal’s nobles, because of their daring exploits against infidels and conquests in Asia, considered themselves not less equal if not superior to the heroes of antiquity, as the poet Luís de Camões, in the dedicatory prologue to his epic poem, The Lusiads, boldly manifests: “Let us hear no more…of Ulysses and Aeneas and their long journeyings, no more of Alexander and Trajan and their famous victories. My theme is the daring and renown of the Portuguese, to whom Neptune and Mars alike give homage.”Enjoying this article? Click here to subscribe for full access. Just $5 a month.

Yet, how did the Portuguese come to dominate the Indian Ocean region and its trade routes in the first years of the 16th century?

As with any historical development, there are multiple reasons for Portuguese dominance at the beginning of the Age of Discovery, but one stands out: military power, predicated upon superior Portuguese naval gunnery, shipbuilding (e.g., the caravel, a light sailing ship that could sail windward), and seamanship paired with a ruthless fighting style, centered around the fidalgos’ honor code, which was infused by a deep-seated hatred of Muslims, and an “unbending ethic of retribution and punitive revenge,” according to Crowley. As the historian J.H. Elliot notes: “The history of the Portuguese intrusion into the Indian Ocean is an epic of ruthless savagery.” In the bloody annals of the European conquest of Asia, Portuguese barbarity stands out. Indeed, it apparently was an essential component of the Portuguese’s strategy to subdue the local populations. “This use of terror will bring great things to your obedience without the need to conquer them,” Afonso de Albuquerque, chief strategic mastermind behind the Portuguese expansion into Asia and intermittently known as “the Terrible” or “the Great,” wrote to the King of Portugal in 1510 after the sacking of the Indian city of Goa. “I haven’t left a single grave stone or Islamic structure standing,” he boldly claimed. In another letter to the king, he wrote: “I tell you, sire, the one thing that’s most essential in India: if you want to be loved and feared here, you must take full revenge.”

Exemplary terror and wanton violence were therefore integral to Portuguese expansion and the securing of trading rights in Asia right from the start of the European conquest. Diplomacy came second. Examples of Portuguese wanton violence abound throughout the historic record. For example, following Vasco da Gama’s first voyage, the nobleman Pedro Alvares Cabral was dispatched with a large fleet to the Indian Ocean. When the fleet stopped at Calicut in southern India on the Malabar coast in 1500, fighting ensued that killed over fifty Portuguese. In response, Cabral seized ten Arab merchant ships anchored at the port and killed over 600 of their crews. In addition, he bombarded the entire city with his ships’ artillery killing countless others.

During his second voyage to the region in 1502, Vasco da Gama attacked a ship carrying 240 Muslim pilgrims including women and children off the coast of Malabar and despite the vessel surrendering without a fight and the rich Muslim merchants offering their wealth, da Gama refused and decided to burn the ship and everyone on it. “[W]ith great cruelty and without any pity the admiral burned the ship and all who were in it,” an eyewitness recounted. The shock upon hearing of the massacre was profound, according to chroniclers, and Hindus and Muslims in India would not forget the heinous deed for centuries. During the same voyage, da Gama bombarded Calicut as further retribution for the attack on Cabral and his men in 1500, hanged 34 Muslim captives, had their heads, hands and feet cut off and sent the decapitated body parts in a small fishing boat with a letter attached to its prow to the city. In the letter, da Gama wrote: “I have come to this port to buy and sell and pay for your produce.  And here is the produce of this country. If you want our friendship you must pay for everything that you have taken in this port under your guarantee. (…) If you do that, we will immediately be friends.”

Da Gama’s behavior was the rule and not the exception. In December 1508, Portuguese naval forces attacked the Indian port city of Dabul (now Dabhol) breaching its defenses and slaughtering its populations indiscriminately after which it was burned to the ground. The assault on Dabul was in retribution for the earlier defeat of Portuguese forces by an Egyptian Mamluk fleet in the harbor of Chaul. Francisco de Almeida, whose son died at Chaul, told his captains prior to the attack to “instill terror in the enemy that you’re going after so that they remain completely traumatized (…)”  Crowley calls the attack “a black day in the history of European conquest that would leave the Portuguese cursed on Indian soil.” Along the Indian coast, a new curse would emerge around that time among the locals: “May the wrath of the Franks [Portuguese] fall upon you.” Afonso de Albuquerque, in a letter to the kind emphasized that although, your “Highness thinks one can keep them with good words, offers of peace and protection (…) the only thing they respect is force…No alliance can be established with any king or lord without military support.”

Yet, there was method to this violent madness.

Francisco de Almeida and Afonso de Albuquerque were cold-blooded killers, but they were also the chief architects of the permanent Portuguese presence in Asia. They were the first and second Viceroys of India and locked in fierce competition with one another. Crucially, both men, during their respective tenures, sought to expand the network of permanent fortified trading bases, stout forts along coastlines capable of withstanding prolonged sieges, in what was to be called the Estado da Índia—the state of India or Portugal’s Empire in the East. While under Almeida’s leadership, Portugal for the first time permanently stationed a fleet in Asia. And it was Albuquerque, who attempted to secure all strategic exit points of the Indian Ocean to put the entire oceangoing trade of the region under Portuguese control, a task for which Portuguese military resources, however, proved ultimately insufficient. “The Islamic world, even if divided within itself, was too extensive and too powerful to crumble beneath the attacks of a handful of Portuguese stretched out over vast areas,” Elliott writes. Consequently, the Portuguese were never able to establish a monopoly over the spice trade. They had to share it with the Mamluks in Cairo. However, because of the Portuguese, spice consumption in Europe more than doubled in the 16th century.

Despite the failure to control all trade in the Indian Ocean region, Albuquerque did seize Goa, “the Rome of the East,” which would become the lynchpin of Portugal’s presence in the region, and Malacca, the major port at the eastern entrance to the Indian Ocean and “the center and terminus of all the rich merchandise and trades (…) source of all the spices,” according to Albuquerque, who was the first to recognize it as the nerve center of all Indian Ocean trade.

By seizing Goa and Malacca, Albuquerque permanently established the Portuguese presence in Asia and laid the foundation for further expansion into Southeast and East Asia. When he died in 1515 off the coast of Goa, Portugal was an Asian power. The important role of Albuquerque in the establishment of this overseas empire cannot be overemphasized according to Crowley, who writes that the Portuguese general consolidated a revolutionary concept of empire:

The Portuguese were always aware of how few they were; many their early contests were against vastly unequal numbers. They quickly abandoned the notion of occupying large areas of territory. Instead, they evolved as a mantra the concept of flexible sea power tied to the occupation of defendable coastal forts and a network of bases. Supremacy at sea; their technological expertise in fortress building, navigation, cartography, and gunnery; their naval mobility and ability to coordinate operations over vast maritime spaces; the tenacity and continuity of their efforts—an investment over decades in shipbuilding, knowledge acquisition, and human resources—these facilitated a new form of long-range seaborne empire, able to control trade and resources across enormous distances.

The Portuguese’s immense cruelty as such in their subjugation of the Indian Ocean region and other parts of Asia was then partly the result of their numerical inferiority and the need to avoid unnecessary fighting. They did so by a brutal psychological warfare campaign that spread throughout the region by clearly conveying what would happen to those who resist Portuguese demands. As the historian William Greenlee writes, the Portuguese “were few in numbers and those who would come to India in future fleets would always be at numerical disadvantage; so that this treachery must be punished in a manner so decisive that the Portuguese would be feared and respected in the future. It was their superior artillery which would enable them to accomplish this end.”

However, it is worth pointing out that Crowley’s observation about the Portuguese’s multiple strengths and advantages under Albuquerque, neglects to mention some of their numerous shortcomings. For one thing, Portugal’s imperial ambitions in the East were chronically underfunded (the main ambitions of the Portuguese kings remained the Iberian Peninsula and North Africa.)

Furthermore, when it came to warfare, the Portuguese, especially the fidalgos, were slow to adapt to new methods of warfare. The Portuguese expansion into the Indian Ocean occurred at the time when medieval warfare, centered around the individual and hand-to-hand combat, was slowly passing and being replaced by a more modern Renaissance style of warfare, focused on massed formations (the so-called Swiss fighting tactics) and long-range fire (whether by crossbow or musket). The death of the medieval military culture, however, was slow and more than once Portuguese troops were defeated or almost met disaster because they chose to engage in close combat rather than rely on their superior fire power. Despite that clash of cultures, Portugal nevertheless prevailed.

The Portuguese triumphed in the 16th century in Asia because of their superior naval and military technology combined with seemingly boundless aggression and a propensity for cruelty and violence. Without a doubt, the Indian Ocean was not exactly a peaceful region prior to the arrival of the Portuguese. “A peaceful state never existed in South Asia,” the historian Upinder Singh notes in Political Violence in India describing three millennia of almost continuous warfare on the Indian subcontinent. If nothing else, the Portuguese just proved to be better navigators and killers throughout the 16th century than their Asian counterparts and utterly ruthless. Or as the Florentine merchant Piero Strozzi, who witnessed the Portuguese conquest of Goa, noted: “I think they [the Indians] are superior to us in infinite ways, except when it comes to fighting.”

(ZH) Global Chip Supply In Jeopardy As New Trade Feud Erupts Between Japan And South Korea

(ZH)

The US trade war with China may have entered a tentative truce period, but a brand new, emerging trade feud threatens to jeopardize an entirely new universe of technological supply chains.

On Tuesday, Japan unexpectedly announced that it was considering imposing stricter export controls on more items bound for South Korea, in an apparent effort to raise pressure on Seoul to help resolve a bilateral dispute over compensation for wartime labor. The envisaged plan comes in response to what Tokyo views as Seoul’s failure to address the months-long dispute properly and prevent it from hurting mutual trust between the two neighbors.

Expanding the list of items, possibly to include electronic parts and related materials that can be diverted to military use, will likely exacerbate bilateral tensions, according to the Japan Times, and some within the government remain cautious about taking further steps, even though Japan has already announced that effective today, it will require manufacturers to file applications when they export to South Korea three materials used in the production of semiconductors and displays for smartphones and TVs.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Wednesday defended the government’s export controls.

“We cannot give the preferential treatment that has been afforded until now, as the other country has not kept its promise,” he said during a nationally televised debate with leaders of other political parties, a day before official campaigning begins for the July 21 Upper House election. “This does not go against WTO agreements at all.”

Meanwhile, Seoul, which regards the move as conflicting with the spirit of free trade, has threatened to launch a complaint against Japan at the World Trade Organization.

Commenting on the latest trade feud, the Nikkei warned that Japan’s new export controls on South Korea, a country that produces the bulk of the world’s memory chips, threaten a ripple effect that spreads beyond the two wary neighbors to electronics manufacturing globally, and could result in another semiconductor shockwave across the globe.

The restrictions mark the latest setback in a bilateral relationship between the two Pacific Rim nations, fraught with colonial-era grievances. The move prompted Seoul to say it was considering retaliatory measures and left chipmakers to confront an immediate supply challenge.

Adding to the complications, Japan’s government expects export reviews to take about three months. But South Korean chipmakers typically keep only one to two months’ worth of parts and materials in stock.

A source at chipmaker SK Hynix told Nikkei the company does not have three months of inventory. The chipmaker would have to halt production if it cannot procure necessary materials from Japan for that long, the source said. Top memory chip maker Samsung Electronics said it was assessing the situation, without elaborating.

The impact could spread worldwide.

South Korean players control 70% of the global market for dynamic random access memory and 50% for NAND flash memory. Samsung leads the global chip market by revenue, with SK Hynix in third. These chips go into devices such as Apple’s iPhone, rival models from Huawei Technologies, personal computers made by HP and Lenovo Group as well as televisions from Sony and Panasonic.

A representative at a major Japanese electrical equipment maker expressed concern that the new controls could backfire.

“If supplies of things like memory from South Korea are delayed and production of Apple’s iPhone falls [as a result], there could be an impact on our provision of parts,” the representative said.

Lesser-known Japanese companies hold leading market shares in the three restricted materials. Polyimides are used to make flexible organic light-emitting diode displays. The others are used in forming circuit patterns: resist – a coating substance – and etching gas. These companies include JSR, Showa Denko and Shin-Etsu Chemical – all of which are a third or more owned by foreign investors.

Japan also plans to remove South Korea by August from an export “whitelist” of 27 friendly countries that includes the U.S., Germany and France, meaning that shipments of products with potential military applications will require government approval. No country has ever been dropped from the list.

* * *

Tokyo cited a deteriorating relationship with Seoul as the reason for the controls, seemingly referring to a long-running dispute over compensation from Japanese companies to South Koreans for wartime labor.

The move follows Tokyo’s increase in inspections of some South Korean seafood that began last month, reportedly in retaliation for continued curbs on imports of food from areas affected by Japan’s 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster.

“It’s become difficult to manage exports based on a relationship of trust with South Korea,” Japanese Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasutoshi Nishimura told reporters Monday.

* * *

In response to the sudden trade aggression, South Korean Vice Foreign Minister Cho Sei-young summoned Japanese Ambassador Yasumasa Nakamine to demand that the export controls be removed. He expressed concern about the impact on South Korean industry and bilateral relations, and argued that the restrictions directly contradict Japan’s advocacy for “free and fair trade” at the Group of 20 summit in Osaka last week.

Cho said that the government would work with businesses to prepare countermeasures. South Korea’s Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy also said it would respond with “appropriate measures,” including filing a complaint with the World Trade Organization.

“We’ll make this an opportunity to enhance South Korea’s technological capabilities,” industry Minister Sung Yun-mo said.

Experts differed on whether the new regulations are valid under WTO rules. “This is an area where Japan can make decisions on its own, so it’s probably not a violation,” said Keisuke Hanyuda, partner at Japan-based Deloitte Tohmatsu Consulting. But Yuka Fukunaga, a professor at Waseda University in Tokyo, argued that the curbs may violate WTO agreements, as they fall into a “gray area.”

Whether a quick ceasefire follows in the coming weeks, and whether the US trade war with China ends up in a deal, remains unclear, but should trade relations collapse between Japan and South Korea, two nations at the cutting edge of global semi and tech manufacturing, the consequences not only for global trade but for corporate profitability would be disastrous. And case in point, this just hit:

Yonhap News Agency@YonhapNews

(URGENT) Samsung Electronics Q2 operating profit dips 56.3 pct to W6.5tln http://yna.kr/AEN20190705000800320 …912:41 AM – Jul 5, 2019Twitter Ads info and privacy(URGENT) Samsung Electronics Q2 operating profit dips 56.3 pct to W6.5tln | Yonhap News Agencyen.yna.co.kr

(Reuters) U.S. and Russia blame each other for near collision in East China Sea

(Reuters)

MOSCOW/TOKYO (Reuters) – Russia and the United States blamed each other for a near collision between their warships in the East China Sea on Friday with both countries accusing one another of dangerous and unprofessional behaviour.

Russia’s Pacific Fleet said that the USS Chancellorsville, a guided-missile cruiser, had come within just 50 metres (165 feet) of the Russian destroyer Admiral Vinogradov which had been forced to take emergency action to avoid a collision, Russian news agencies reported.

They cited a Russian Pacific Fleet statement as saying the incident took place in the early hours of Friday morning in the eastern part of the East China Sea at a time when a group of Russian warships was on a parallel course with a U.S. naval strike group.

“The U.S guided-missile cruiser Chancellorsville suddenly changed course and cut across the path of the destroyer Admiral Vinogradov coming within 50 metres of the ship,” the statement said.

“A protest over the international radio frequency was made to the commanders of the American ship who were warned about the unacceptable nature of such actions,” it said.

That version of events was rejected by the U.S. Navy, which said the behaviour of the Russian ship had been “unsafe and unprofessional”.

“While operating in the Philippine Sea, a Russian Destroyer…made an unsafe manoeuvre against USS Chancellorsville,” U.S. Seventh Fleet spokesman Commander Clayton Doss said.

“This unsafe action forced Chancellorsville to execute all engines back full and to manoeuvre to avoid collision.”

He described a Russian assertion that the U.S. ship had acted dangerously as “propaganda”. The Russian destroyer came within 50 to 100 feet of the Chancellorsville, he said, putting the safety of her crew and the ship at risk.

The incident comes days after Washington and Moscow sparred over an allegedly unsafe spy plane intercept by a Russian fighter jet near Syria.

(CNN) After years of fierce debate, Taiwan celebrates the first same-sex weddings in Asia

(CNN)

Taipei, Taiwan (CNN)Beaming in the bright sunshine, Amber Wang took the hand of her new wife, Kristin Huang, on the steps of the Xinyi District office in Taipei, Friday, making history as one of the first same-sex couples to marry in Asia.As of 10am, 166 same-sex couples had already registered their marriages across Taiwan, according to the island’s Interior Ministry.But just kilometers away, in the city’s outer suburbs, emboldened opponents of marriage equality announced to the press that they would create a new political party to fight for a ban on same-sex marriage at the 2020 election.Taiwan is an island bitterly divided over a moment which should have made it a shining light for LGBTQ rights in an increasingly repressive region.

Amber Wang and Kristin Huang at a party held in Taipei to celebrate the first same-sex weddings in Asia on Friday.

Amber Wang and Kristin Huang at a party held in Taipei to celebrate the first same-sex weddings in Asia on Friday.Across the island of 24 million people, the first gay and lesbian couples in Asia legally tied the knot, to tears and applause from their friends and family.It followed two years of fierce debate after the island’s Constitutional Court ruled that the existing marriage law was unconstitutional, violating LGBTQ citizens’ human rights. The judges gave the island’s parliament two years to amend and enact new laws.After months of stalling and acrimony, the laws finally passed on May 18, just one week before the deadline.Still, there’s no indication that the majority of Taiwan’s population is happy to see Wang and Huang and others like them married. A referendum during the 2018 Taiwan local elections asking voters if they supported same-sex marriage failed by a large margin.In total, 69% of voters said they wanted the marriage code restricted to between a man and a woman.”Friday will be the darkest day in Taiwan’s judiciary history,” same-sex marriage opponent Stability of Power Alliance chiarman Sun Chi-Cheng said the day before the historic event.


Joy in Taiwan

It is the day for which LGBT rights activist Chi Chia-Wei has been waiting for more than four decades.One of the first people in Taiwan to publicly come out as gay, Chi has been campaigning for marriage equality since the 1980s, and was one of the plaintiffs who brought the case in the Constitutional Court which led to its legalization.”I have been preparing for this day to come, although it took a long while to happen … But I knew it would eventually come,” he said.

Marc and Shane register their marital status and receive new identification cards on May 24 in Taipei, Taiwan.

Marc and Shane register their marital status and receive new identification cards on May 24 in Taipei, Taiwan.Chi was present at the wedding of Wang and Huang on Friday, dressed in a bright red suit with plush rainbow bears attached.He signed the first Xinyi same-sex couples’ marriage registration as a witness, with the same pen Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen used to sign the marriage equality bill just one week ago.Tsai gifted it to Chi with a handwritten note.”May love unite everyone on this land,” the president wrote.Friday was technically Wang’s third “wedding” to her wife, Huang. They were both married, unofficially, in January 2018, less than a year after the court decision and again in May shortly after the bill passed.But they only officially became wife and wife on Friday.

LGBT rights activist Chi Chia-Wei in Taiwan on Thursday, the day before same-sex marriage becomes legal on the island

LGBT rights activist Chi Chia-Wei in Taiwan on Thursday, the day before same-sex marriage becomes legal on the island”I’m so proud that Taiwan is on the right side of the history and the first in Asia to have done so … Taiwan has set an example in making progress in safeguarding human rights,” Huang said.The two, who have been dating for about three years, co-host a YouTube channel called BBDiary. It’s named after their nicknames for each other — BB, a synonym for baby. The video of their first “wedding” in 2018 has since been watched more than 420,000 times on their channel.For China’s LGBTQ people, Taiwan’s rainbow victory is a moment of joy and painHuang said she first realized the need for equal rights for same-sex relationships when Wang had a medical emergency and she found herself treated by hospital staff not as a loved one, but as a “roommate.”They were standing in the rain last week with thousands of others when the final bills legalizing marriage equality passed, a moment which they both said was “unbelievable.”Huang understands opponents of same-sex marriage. Her own father used to object to her being in a same-sex relationship.”(After they) got to know my partner better, they came to the realization that gay people aren’t what they thought they were,” she said.But not everyone has changed their minds.

Kristin Huang and Amber Wang

Kristin Huang and Amber Wang

‘Darkest day’

At Xizhi district in suburban Taipei, Sun announced the formation of the Stability of Power party which aims to end marriage equality at the very moment same-sex couples were tying the knot across the island.Speaking at the Taiwan legislature Thursday, he said thegovernment’s decision to pass same-sex marriage was a “betrayal” of voters, who made their opinion clear in last year’s referendum.”Through President Tsai’s manipulation, the people of Taiwan are not only betrayed, but also toyed with while their rights are being abused. In her eyes, people’s opinion are nothing but trash,” he said.It’s clear the move to endorse same-sex marriage is divisive, to say the least. Three questions on same-sex marriage were asked in the 2018 Taiwan referendum. In all cases voters rejected same-sex marriage but weren’t opposed to Taiwan’s LGBTQ couples having rights other than marriage.

Sun Chi-Cheng, chairman of the Stability of Power Alliance, announced a new political party in Taiwan Friday opposing same-sex marriage

Sun Chi-Cheng, chairman of the Stability of Power Alliance, announced a new political party in Taiwan Friday opposing same-sex marriageBut given the Constitutional Court’s decision, legislators couldn’t leave the law as it was, which led to extensive negotiations and concessions.The final version doesn’t mention “same-sex marriage” specifically, instead saying couples of the same gender are allowed “marriage registration.” It doesn’t allow LGBTQ couples full adoption rights either.But Sun said that isn’t enough and he wants the marriages outlawed. His group will put up candidates at the 2020 election to run on the issue. “Let’s elect a new president and new legislators next year. And we will overturn the bills,” he said.One of Sun’s volunteers, Becky Huang, said gay people in Taiwan don’t actually want to get married, blaming legislators for stoking the issue for personal gain. “I have a gay nephew. He doesn’t want to get married,” she said.

‘Faith, hope and love’

If Taiwan does backtrack on same-sex rights, it would be a decision in keeping with an increasingly conservative region.In recent years, LGBTQ rights across Asia have seen repeated backtracks and growing obstacles as local governments become more reluctant to embrace their gaypopulations.Activists had hoped the Taiwan decision would create a surge of support for same-sex marriage across Asia, but so far, only China has reacted to the announcement, apparently attempting to take credit for the advance in a tweet with a gif saying “love is love.”

Just days after Taiwan's legislature passed a bill legalizing same-sex marriage for the first time in Asia, couples register their marital status and receive new identification cards, Friday.

Just days after Taiwan’s legislature passed a bill legalizing same-sex marriage for the first time in Asia, couples register their marital status and receive new identification cards, Friday.Homosexuality is not illegal on the mainland, but same-sex marriage is not permitted and activists there don’t see the situation changing any time soon.Taiwan’s gay men and women may now be able to marry but say the battle for their rights isn’t over. “We all know that, even though the bills have been passed, this won’t be the end of the fight,” newly-wed Huang said.Chi said he was optimistic about the future of same-sex marriage in Taiwan, despite Sun’s attempts to rally opposition to the new laws. He believes that people will grow used to the change once they see that same-sex couples are just like everyone else.To his fellow same-sex marriage advocates across Asia, Chi has a simple message: “Faith, hope and love. Keep your faith, hold onto your hope and continue to love.”

(NBC) U.S. seizes North Korean ship suspected of violating U.N. sanctions

(NBC) The 17,000-ton freighter, called the Wise Honest, was stopped in Indonesia last year after it was found to be carrying coal.

Image:  The North Korean ship, "Wise Honest."

The North Korean ship, “Wise Honest.”Department of JusticeMay 9, 2019

The U.S. has seized a North Korean freighter that was caught shipping coal in violation of U.N. sanctions, the Justice Department revealed Thursday.

The 17,000-ton cargo ship, called the Wise Honest, was stopped in Indonesia last year after it was found to be carrying coal. The ship’s captain was charged with violating Indonesian law, and last July, the U.S. filed an action to seize the ship, according to court papers.

Federal prosecutors said the seizure marks the first time the U.S. has taken possession of a North Korean ship for violating international sanctions.

“This sanctions-busting ship is now out of service,” said John Demers, assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s National Security Division.

The Wise Honest, North Korea’s second-largest ship for carrying bulk cargo, was on its way to American Samoa, U.S. officials said.

On Thursday, the Justice Department asked a federal judge to give the U.S. ownership of the vessel through a civil forfeiture action — the same thing prosecutors do when they seek to take ownership of planes or boats used by drug smugglers. The Justice Department says the U.S. is entitled to take this action because payments to maintain and equip the vessel were made through American banks.

“Our office uncovered North Korea’s scheme to export tons of high-grade coal to foreign buyers by concealing the origin of their ship, the Wise Honest,” said Geoffrey Berman, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York. “This scheme not only allowed North Korea to evade sanctions, but the Wise Honest was also used to import heavy machinery to North Korea, helping expand North Korea’s capabilities and continuing the cycle of sanctions evasion.”

The North Korean ship, "Wise Honest."
The North Korean ship, “Wise Honest.”Department of Justice

The announcement of the seizure came just hours after North Korea launched suspected short-range missiles — the second such weapons test in a week. But Berman said the effort to take control of the Wise Honest had been in the works for some time and was not spurred by North Korea’s overnight actions.

The Justice Department said the Korea Songi Shipping Company used the Wise Honest from at least November 2016 through April 2018 — and broke American law by paying U.S. dollars to “unwitting” banks for several improvements, equipment purchases and service expenditures for the vessel.

The March 2018 cargo shipment yielded payments totaling more than $750,000, the Justice Department said.

Berman declined comment when asked if the heavy machinery shipped back to North Korea was used in the country’s weapons program.

The seizure follows a report in March by a U.N. panel of experts that found North Korea is successfully evading United Nations sanctions through elaborate smuggling and deceptive tactics, allowing the regime to import oil and ship coal to China and other countries.

The sanctions are designed to deprive Pyongyang of cash for its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs and force the regime to abandon its arsenal. The Trump administration has led international efforts to tighten sanctions against North Korea, vowing to impose “maximum pressure” to persuade North Korea agree to relinquish its weapons in return for an end to sanctions.

“These violations render the latest United Nations sanctions ineffective by flouting the caps on the import of petroleum products and coal oil” by North Korea imposed by the U.N. Security Council in 2017, according to the U.N. report. “These transfers have increased in scope, scale and sophistication,” it said.

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Despite U.S. warnings to keep up the economic pressure on North Korea, the regime has not suffered a spike in fuel prices in recent months, a sign that analysts say shows the country is able to secure enough fuel to keep its economy afloat.

North Korea has adapted to sanctions over the years and now employs increasingly sophisticated methods, the U.N. panel found in its March report. Pyongyang used to alter sections of shipping documents but now creates entirely fake registration and other papers that enable it to smuggle illicit cargo through ports around the world.

The regime also steals the identities of other ships and spoofs the location of vessels on the global electronic tracking system for ships, according to the U.N. panel.

(NH) The Asian century is set to begin

(NH)

Economists, political scientists and emerging market pundits have been talking for decades about the coming of the Asian Age, which will supposedly mark an inflection point when the continent becomes the new centre of the world.

Asia is already home to more than half the world’s population. Of the world’s 30 largest cities, 21 are in Asia, according to UN data. By next year, Asia will also become home to half of the world’s middle class, defined as those living in households with daily per capita incomes of between $10 and $100 at 2005 purchasing power parity (PPP).

Since 2007, Asians have been buying more cars and trucks than people in any other region — by about 2030 they will be buying as many vehicles as the rest of the world combined, according to LMC Automotive. 

Leaders in the region are beginning to talk more openly about the shift. “Now the continent finds itself at the centre of global economic activity,” Narendra Modi, prime minister of India, told the last annual meeting of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. “It has become the main growth engine of the world. In fact, we are now living through what many have termed the Asian Century,” he said. 

So when will the Asian Age actually begin? 

The Financial Times tallied the data, and found that Asian economies, as defined by the UN trade and development body Unctad, will be larger than the rest of the world combined in 2020, for the first time since the 19th century. The Asian century, the numbers show, begins next year.

To put this in perspective, Asia accounted for just over a third of world output in 2000. 

To make its calculations, the FT examined IMF data based on gross domestic product after adjusting for price differences in different countries. This method, which assesses economies by PPP, is widely considered the most relevant measure as it takes into account what people can actually buy in developing countries where prices are often cheaper. 

Even at market exchange value, Asia still accounts for 38 per cent of global output, up from 26 per cent in the early 2000s. 

What lies behind Asia’s economic eclipse of the rest of the world? The rise of China and India explains a large part of this trend. China is now a bigger economy at PPP than the US, accounting for 19 per cent of world output this year, more than double the 7 per cent recorded in 2000. India is now the world’s third-largest economy, with a GDP about double the size of either Germany or Japan, both of which had economies larger than India’s on a PPP basis in 2000.

The world’s imminent entry to an Asian age is coming not just because of its two largest economies, but also thanks to growth among smaller and midsize countries. 

Indonesia is on track to become the world’s seventh-largest economy at PPP by 2020, and will have overtaken Russia by 2023 as the sixth biggest.

Chart showing how Asian countries are set to rise up the rankings of GDP, as their economies overtake many mid-size European countries in size

Vietnam, one of Asia’s fastest-growing economies, has overtaken 17 countries in a ranking of economies in PPP terms since 2000, including Belgium and Switzerland. The Philippines is now a larger economy than the Netherlands while Bangladesh has overtaken 13 other economies in the past 20 years. 

Asia’s recent surge, which began with Japan’s postwar economic surge, represents a return to a historical norm. Asia dominated the world economy for most of human history until the 19th century. 

“Around the end of the 17th century, Europe was looking with admiration and envy at a region of the globe which concentrated . . . more than two-thirds of the world’s gross domestic product, and three-quarters of the world’s population,” said Andrea Colli, professor of economic history at Bocconi University in Italy.

In the 18th century, India’s share of the world economy was as big as Europe’s, according to Indian politician and author Shashi Tharoor. 

Then, for three centuries, Asia’s place in the world shrank as western economies took off, powered by what academics refer to as the Scientific Revolution, then the Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution. 

“What you are looking at is the great reversal,” says Joel Mokyr, professor at Northwestern University. “Between 1500 and 1750 Europe changed dramatically; the rest of the world did not.” 

By the 1950s, Asia accounted for less than 20 per cent of world output, despite hosting more than half the world’s population. 

“In the 19th century, Asia was transformed from the world’s manufacturing centre into classic underdeveloped economies exporting agricultural commodities,” said Bob Allen, professor of economic history at NYU, Abu Dhabi, who was formerly at the University of Oxford. 

But in recent decades that trend has been reversed.

The dramatic rise of Japan and South Korea, the first countries in Asia to catch up with the west, has been “dwarfed” by China’s take-off following the country’s introduction of market-oriented reforms under Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping in the late 1970s. 

In just a couple of generations, a “winning mix of integration with the global economy via trade and foreign direct investment, high savings rates, large investments in human and physical capital, and sound macroeconomic policies” contributed to Asia’s economic leap forward, according to the IMF’s latest regional outlook compiled by a team led by Koshy Mathai.

“The west’s two-century epoch as global powerhouse is at an end,” argues Kishore Mahbubani in his latest book “Has the West Lost It?” 

Over the past five decades, hundreds of millions of people in Asia have been lifted out of poverty and many Asian economies have graduated to middle-income or advanced economic status, according to World Bank definitions. 

Asia remains poorer than the rest of the world, but the gap is narrowing. China’s GDP per capita at PPP is still only about one-third of that of the US, and about 44 per cent of that of the EU. India has a GDP per capita at PPP of only about 20 per cent that of the EU, according to IMF data. 

But India and China’s per-capita income gap with the US and Europe has narrowed dramatically since 2000. Over that period, China has become nearly five times richer than the average per capita output of sub-Saharan Africa. The two regions were at similar levels in the mid-1990s.

By any measure, Asia is about to reoccupy the centre of the global economic stage. When it does, “the world will have come full circle”, Prof Allen said.

(Reuters) South Korea to work with U.S. and North Korea after failed nuclear talks

(Reuters)

SEOUL/HANOI (Reuters) – South Korea will work with the United States and North Korea to ensure they reach agreement on denuclearisation, the South’s president said on Friday, a day after talks between the U.S. and North Korean leaders collapsed over sanctions.South Korean President Moon Jae-in delivers a speech during a ceremony celebrating the 100th anniversary of the March First Independence Movement against Japanese colonial rule, in central Seoul, South Korea, March 1, 2019. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji

A second summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, in Vietnam, was cut short after they failed to reach a deal on the extent of sanctions relief North Korea would get in exchange for steps to give up its nuclear programme.

South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in has been an active supporter of efforts to end confrontation on the Korean peninsula, meeting Kim three times last year and trying to facilitate his nuclear negotiations with the United States.

“My administration will closely communicate and cooperate with the United States and North Korea so as to help their talks reach a complete settlement by any means,” Moon said in a speech in the South Korean capital, Seoul.

RELATED COVERAGE

Moon also said South Korea would consult the United States on ways to resume joint projects with the North including tourism development at Mount Kumgang and the Kaesong industrial complex, both in North Korea.

The Hanoi summit came eight months after Trump and Kim met for the first time in Singapore and agreed to establish new relations and peace in exchange for a North Korean commitment to work towards complete denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula.

Trump said two days of talks had made good progress but it was important not to rush into a bad deal. He said he had walked away because of unacceptable North Korean demands.

“It was all about the sanctions,” Trump told a news conference after the talks were cut short. “Basically, they wanted the sanctions lifted in their entirety, and we couldn’t do that.”

‘BIGGEST STEP’

However, North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho told a midnight news conference after Trump left Hanoi that North Korea had sought only a partial lifting of sanctions “related to people’s livelihoods and unrelated to military sanctions”.

He said North Korea had offered a realistic proposal involving the dismantling of all of its main nuclear site at Yongbyon, including plutonium and uranium facilities, by engineers from both countries.

“This is the biggest denuclearisation step we can take based on the current level of trust between the two countries,” Ri said.

North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui told the briefing she had the impression that Kim “might lose his willingness to pursue a deal” after the U.S. side rejected a partial lifting of sanctions in return for destruction of Yongbyon, “something we had never offered before”.

Speaking to South Korean media later on Friday, Choe appeared more pessimistic chances for progress.

“Having conducted the talks this time, it occurs to us that there may not be a need to continue,” she said, adding that North Korea had taken “many steps” to try to reach a deal.

“We’re doing a lot of thinking,” she said while adding, the situation would change “if our demands can be resolved”.

But despite raising that doubt, both sides have indicated they wanted to maintain the momentum and press on.

“We are anxious to get back to the table so we can continue that conversation that will ultimately lead to peace and stability, better life for the North Korean people, and a lower threat, a denuclearised North Korea,” U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told a news conference in Manila.Slideshow (4 Images)

North Korean media adopted a conciliatory tone.

The state KCNA news agency said Kim and Trump had a constructive, sincere exchange and decided to continue productive talks, without mentioning that the talks ended abruptly with no agreement.

Kim, who is due to leave Vietnam on Saturday, also expressed gratitude to Trump for putting in efforts to get results, KCNA said.

‘OPPORTUNITY TO TALK’

A U.S. State Department official said the North Korean media coverage had been constructive, indicating “ample opportunity to talk”.

U.S., N. Korea spar over talks breakdown

The United Nations and the United States ratcheted up sanctions on North Korea when the reclusive state conducted repeated nuclear and ballistic missile tests in 2017, cutting off its main sources of hard cash

The United States has demanded North Korea’s complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearisation before sanctions can be lifted. North Korea has denounced that position as “gangster like”.

The U.S. official said North Korea had proposed closing part of its Yongbyon nuclear complex in exchange for the lifting of all U.N. sanctions except those directly targeting their weapons of mass destruction programmes.

The U.S. side said “that wouldn’t work”, he said.

“The dilemma that we were confronted with is the North Koreans at this point are unwilling to impose a complete freeze on their weapons of mass destruction programmes,” said the official, who declined to be identified.

“So to give many, many billions of dollars in sanctions relief would in effect put us in a position of subsidising the ongoing development of weapons of mass destruction,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Analysts estimate North Korea may have a nuclear arsenal of 20 to 60 weapons which, if fitted to its intercontinental ballistic missiles, could threaten the U.S. mainland.

The collapse of the summit leaves Kim in possession of that arsenal though Trump said the North Korean leader had agreed to maintain his moratorium on nuclear and ballistic missile tests.

Failure to reach an agreement also marks a setback for Trump, a self-styled dealmaker under pressure at home over his ties to Russia and testimony from Michael Cohen, his former lawyer who accused him of breaking the law while in office.

Additional reporting by Eric Beech, Matt Spetalnick and David Brunnstrom in WASHINGTON; Jeff Mason, Soyoung Kim, James Pearson, Josh Smith, Ju-min Park, Mai Nyugen, Khanh Vu, Jack Kim in HANOI; Martin Petty and Karen Lema in MANILA; Editing by Robert Birsel and Lincoln Feast

(BBC) Pakistan-India: Pakistan ‘shoots down two Indian jets’ over Kashmir

(BBC)

Pakistan soldiers by what Pakistan says is a downed Indian jet
Image captionPakistani soldiers by what Pakistan says is wreckage from a downed Indian jet

Pakistan says it has shot down two Indian Air Force jets in a major escalation of the Kashmir conflict.

A spokesman said one plane had fallen inside Pakistani territory and two pilots had been captured. India has not yet given details. Pakistan has denied reports one of its jets was shot down.

Both India and Pakistan claim all of Kashmir, but control only parts of it.

The nuclear powers have fought three wars since independence from Britain in 1947. All but one were over Kashmir.

The aerial attacks across the Line of Control (LoC) dividing Indian and Pakistani territory are the first since a war in 1971.

They follow a militant attack in Kashmir which killed 40 Indian troops – the deadliest to take place during a three-decade insurgency against Indian rule in Kashmir. A Pakistan-based group said it carried out the attack.

The BBC’s Soutik Biswas, in Delhi, says the challenge for India and Pakistan now is to contain the latest escalation before things get completely out of control.

What’s the latest?

Pakistan’s information ministry published but subsequently deleted a video purporting to show one of the Indian pilots that the Pakistani military says it has captured.

In the video, the pilot – who is blindfolded and appears to have blood on his face – identifies himself as Wing-Commander Abhinandan.

Image purportedly showing captured Indian pilot
Image captionPakistan’s information ministry tweeted a video purporting to show a captured Indian pilot

The ministry also tweeted what it said was footage of one of the downed Indian jets.Skip Twitter post by @MoIB_Official

Embedded video

Information Ministry@MoIB_Official

Wreckges of Indian fighter planes burning. Well done Pakistan Air Force. The entire nation is proud of you.7646:59 AM – Feb 27, 2019298 people are talking about thisTwitter Ads info and privacyReport

End of Twitter post by @MoIB_Official

Pakistan’s assertion that it had shot down two Indian aircraft came shortly after Islamabad said its warplanes had struck targets in Indian territory.

Pakistan said it had “taken strikes at [a] non-military target, avoiding human loss and collateral damage”.

Indian authorities said the Pakistani jets had been pushed back.

In a briefing, Maj Gen Ghafoor said that Pakistan “had no alternative to respond” to Tuesday’s Indian air strikes on its territory.

However he said Pakistan had not hit Indian military targets because “we don’t want to go on the path of war”.Skip Twitter post by @OfficialDGISPR

Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor@OfficialDGISPR

In response to PAF strikes this morning as released by MoFA, IAF crossed LOC. PAF shot down two Indian aircrafts inside Pakistani airspace. One of the aircraft fell inside AJ&K while other fell inside IOK. One Indian pilot arrested by troops on ground while two in the area.88.8K6:19 AM – Feb 27, 2019Twitter Ads info and privacy65K people are talking about thisReport

End of Twitter post by @OfficialDGISPR

Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj has also said that her country will act “with responsibility and restraint”.

“India does not wish to see further escalation of the situation,” she said, speaking from a meeting with Russian and Chinese foreign ministers in China.

India said Tuesday’s air strikes on Balakot in north-western Pakistan killed a large number of militants but Pakistan said there had been no casualties.

The US, EU and China have all called for restraint.

Are flights affected?

Pakistan has closed its entire airspace, its civil aviation authority said. Nine airports in northern India have been closed, reports in India said.Skip Twitter post by @AirportPakistanView image on Twitter

View image on Twitter

CAA Pakistan@AirportPakistan

🇵🇰

Civil Aviation Authority of #Pakistan has officially closed its airspace until further notice & issued NOTAM. 1268:05 AM – Feb 27, 2019164 people are talking about thisTwitter Ads info and privacyReport

End of Twitter post by @AirportPakistan

The flight monitoring group Flight Radar says international flights are also avoiding the area.Skip Twitter post by @flightradar24View image on Twitter

View image on Twitter

Flightradar24@flightradar24

International flights that transit between Indian and Pakistani airspace now being affected. Some flights returning to origin, while others appear to be seeking alternate routing. https://www.flightradar24.com/multiview/1fa269b4,1fa270f4,1fa21283,1fa21c61,1fa20062,1fa25484 …7366:39 AM – Feb 27, 20191,013 people are talking about thisTwitter Ads info and privacyReport

End of Twitter post by @flightradar24

Presentational grey line

‘These are uncharted waters’

By Soutik Biswas, BBC News, Delhi

The challenge for India and Pakistan now is to contain the escalation before things get completely out of control.

It is almost unprecedented for two nuclear-armed countries to carry out air strikes into each other’s territories.

“We are in uncharted waters,” Husain Haqqani, the former Pakistani ambassador to the US and adviser to three Pakistani prime ministers, told me late on Tuesday.

An Indian defence analyst believes Indian security forces will now have to be prepared for a “full spectrum of conflict”.

However Daniel Markey from Johns Hopkins University in the US says we are “several steps away” from nuclear escalation.

A further escalation, he believes, will happen if Pakistan’s “next step were to raise the stakes by hitting Indian civilian targets”.

That is highly unlikely.

Read more from Soutik on this story

Presentational grey line

What else is happening?

Troops have been shelling across the LoC. Four Pakistani civilians were killed and 10 others were injured in cross-border shelling on Tuesday.

On the Indian side, five soldiers were also injured in the firing, officials told the BBC. Schools in at least two districts along the LoC – Rajouri and Poonch – have been closed.

People living along the de facto border have been asked to leave their homes.

Map of region
Grey line

Timeline of India-Pakistan tensions

Media captionIn December Yogita Limaye examined why there had been a rise in violence in Kashmir

October 1947: First war between India and Pakistan over Kashmir just two months after they become independent nations.

August 1965: The neighbours fight another brief war over Kashmir.

December 1971: India supports East Pakistan’s bid to become independent. The Indian air force conducts bombing raids inside Pakistan. The war ends with the creation of Bangladesh.

May 1999: Pakistani soldiers and militants occupy Indian military posts in Kargil mountains. India launches air and ground strikes and the intruders are pushed back.

October 2001: A devastating attack on the state assembly in Indian-administered Kashmir kills 38. Two months later, an attack on the Indian parliament in Delhi leaves 14 dead.

November 2008: Co-ordinated attacks on Mumbai’s main railway station, luxury hotels and a Jewish cultural centre kill 166 people. India blames Pakistan-based group Lashkar-e-Taiba.

January 2016: Four-day attack on Indian air base in Pathankot leaves seven Indian soldiers and six militants dead.

18 September 2016: Attack on army base in Uri in Indian-administered Kashmir kills 19 soldiers.

30 September 2016: India says it carried “surgical strikes” on militants in Pakistani Kashmir. Islamabad denies strikes took place.

(NYT) In North Korea, Missile Bases Suggest a Great Deception

(NYT

A satellite image of a secret North Korean ballistic missile base. The North has offered to dismantle a different major missile launching site while continuing to make improvements at more than a dozen others.CreditCreditCSIS/Beyond Parallel, via DigitalGlobe 2018

WASHINGTON — North Korea is moving ahead with its ballistic missile program at 16 hidden bases that have been identified in new commercial satellite images, a network long known to American intelligence agencies but left undiscussed as President Trump claims to have neutralized the North’s nuclear threat.

The satellite images suggest that the North has been engaged in a great deception: It has offered to dismantle a major launching site — a step it began, then halted — while continuing to make improvements at more than a dozen others that would bolster launches of conventional and nuclear warheads.

The existence of the ballistic missile bases, which North Korea has never acknowledged, contradicts Mr. Trump’s assertion that his landmark diplomacy is leading to the elimination of a nuclear and missile program that the North had warned could devastate the United States.

“We are in no rush,” Mr. Trump said of talks with the North at a news conference on Wednesday, after Republicans lost control of the House. “The sanctions are on. The missiles have stopped. The rockets have stopped. The hostages are home.”

His statement was true in just one sense. Mr. Trump appeared to be referring to the halt of missile flight tests, which have not occurred in nearly a year. But American intelligence officials say that the North’s production of nuclear material, of new nuclear weapons and of missiles that can be placed on mobile launchers and hidden in mountains at the secret bases has continued.

And the sanctions are collapsing, in part because North Korea has leveraged its new, softer-sounding relationship with Washington, and its stated commitment to eventual denuclearization, to resume trade with Russia and China.

Moreover, an American program to track those mobile missiles with a new generation of small, inexpensive satellites, disclosed by The New York Times more than a year ago, is stalled. The Pentagon once hoped to have the first satellites over North Korea by now, giving it early warning if the mobile missiles are rolled out of mountain tunnels and prepared for launch.

But because of a series of budget and bureaucratic disputes, the early warning system, begun by the Obama administration and handed off to the Trump administration, has yet to go into operation. Current and former officials, who said they could not publicly discuss the program because it is heavily classified, said there was still hope of launching the satellites, but they offered no timeline.

The secret ballistic missile bases were identified in a detailed study published Monday by the Beyond Parallel program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a major think tank in Washington.

Image
The existence of a series of ballistic missile bases contradicts President Trump’s assertion that his diplomacy with North Korea is leading to the elimination of its nuclear and missile program.CreditDoug Mills/The New York Times

The program, which focuses on the prospects of North-South integration, is led by Victor Cha, a prominent North Korea expert whom the Trump administration considered appointing as the ambassador to South Korea last year. His name was pulled back when he objected to the White House strategy for dealing with Kim Jong-un, the North Korean leader.

A State Department spokesman responded to the findings with a written statement suggesting that the government believed the sites must be dismantled: “President Trump has made clear that should Chairman Kim follow through on his commitments, including complete denuclearization and the elimination of ballistic missile programs, a much brighter future lies ahead for North Korea and its people.” A spokesman for the C.I.A. declined to comment.

The revelation of the bases comes as Mr. Trump’s signature piece of diplomacy, based on his meeting exactly five months ago with Mr. Kim, appears in peril. Publicly, Mr. Trump remains relentlessly optimistic, to the point that he said at a campaign rally that he and Mr. Kim, one of the world’s most brutal dictators, “fell in love.” But last week, talks with the North hit another snag, as it declared that it would not send its chief negotiator to meet with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in New York to plan the next summit meeting.

Since the initial meeting between Mr. Trump and Mr. Kim, on June 12 in Singapore, the North has yet to take the first step toward denuclearization: providing the United States with a list of its nuclear sites, weapons, production facilities and missile bases. North Korean officials have told Mr. Pompeo that would amount to giving him a “target list.”

American officials have responded that they already have a detailed target list — one that goes back decades — but want to use the North’s accounting to determine whether it is revealing all the known facilities and moving honestly toward denuclearization.

The new satellite imagery suggests the opposite.

“It’s not like these bases have been frozen,” Mr. Cha, the leader of the team that studied the images, said in an interview. “Work is continuing. What everybody is worried about is that Trump is going to accept a bad deal — they give us a single test site and dismantle a few other things, and in return they get a peace agreement” that formally ends the Korean War.

Mr. Trump, he said, “would then declare victory, say he got more than any other American president ever got, and the threat would still be there.”

The North Korea experts who have examined the images believe that the North’s motivations are fairly easy to interpret. “It looks like they’re trying to maximize their capabilities,” Joseph S. Bermudez Jr.,a co-author of the report and a veteran analyst of satellite images of North Korea, said in an interview. “Any missile at these bases can take a nuclear warhead.”

“The level of effort that North Korea has invested in building these bases and dispersing them is impressive,” he added. “It’s very logical from a survival point of view.”

Weapons experts, as well as Mr. Pompeo, say that North Korea, despite engaging in denuclearization talks, continues to produce the fissile material that fuels nuclear arms. The North is believed to have about 40 to 60 nuclear warheads.

The new report profiles a missile base known as Sakkanmol, a little more than 50 miles north of the Demilitarized Zone. It is one of the closest to South Korea. Seoul, the capital, is about 80 miles away, as are American troops.

Image

Support facilities within the base, which is a little more than 50 miles north of the Demilitarized Zone.CreditCSIS/Beyond Parallel, via DigitalGlobe 2018

The report contains a dozen or so satellite images of Sakkanmol — each heavily annotated to show the base checkpoint, headquarters buildings, barracks, security areas, maintenance depots and the entrances to the warrens of underground tunnels that hide mobile missiles and their transporter trucks.

The base runs through a narrow mountain valley over an area of three square miles. Each tunnel entrance, the report says, is protected by a neighboring berm of rock and dirt about 60 feet high and two outward-opening doors about 20 feet wide. They are meant to protect the tunnel entrances from artillery fire and aerial attack.

The report says the Sakkanmol base conceals seven lengthy tunnels that can accommodate up to 18 transporters that move the missiles. Each is typically fitted with one warhead.

If tensions rose, the report says, the missiles would be transported from the base to prearranged launching sites — often no more than a wide spot in a road. The mobile launchers can move quickly — they can be ready to fire in under an hour — which is why the United States has been trying to get the small satellites into the sky for early warning. The satellites have a special kind of sensor using “synthetic aperture radar” that cuts through clouds.

The current, multibillion-dollar constellation of large satellites that keep an eye on North Korea is often out of position, and officials say the country’s ballistic missile sites are under surveillance less than 30 percent of the time. (The exact figure is classified.)

A map of North Korea in the report shows three belts of missile bases that run from short-range tactical emplacements, to sites with midrange missiles that could strike most of South Korea, Japan and American bases in the Pacific, to strategic ones for missiles that threaten to reach American shores.

The strategic bases appear to be home to the intercontinental ballistic missiles that North Korea test-fired in 2017, alarming the world. The North’s tests, while demonstrating significant progress, did not prove that it had solved all the technical problems inherent in launching a nuclear warhead that could reach the continental United States. That is why Mr. Trump and Mr. Pompeo have argued that the halt to missile testing is a major accomplishment: It prevents Mr. Kim from demonstrating that he can take those last steps.

The report, which was also written with Lisa Collins, a research fellow at the center, supplemented the satellite imagery with interviews of North Korean defectors and government officials around the world.

The North’s missile bases, with few exceptions, are “in mountainous terrain, often spread out within narrow dead-end valleys,” Mr. Bermudez said. He added, “These bases simply do not look like missile operating bases as seen in the United States, Russia, China or Europe.”

Major nuclear powers tend to house their land-based missiles in underground silos, which can be vulnerable to pre-emptive attack. The North’s heavy reliance on missiles that can be repositioned with the changing circumstances of war is part of an effort to avoid that mistake, while giving the country a stronger hand in the game of nuclear diplomacy and brinkmanship.

“The bases are clearly active,” Mr. Cha said. “It’s not like these things have been frozen and are decaying.”

(Newsweek) ARE KOREAS ABOUT TO FINALLY MAKE PEACE? U.S. HELPS DISARM WORLD’S MOST HEAVILY FORTIFIED BORDER

(Newsweek) North and South Korean personnel have completed disarming an important section of the massive demilitarized zone that lies between them, an unprecedented step amid a warming of relations between the longtime foes.

Officials from both sides of what has been described as the world’s most heavily fortified border—alongside members of the U.S.-led United Nations Command—completed the removal of defense posts, landmines and armed soldiers Thursday from the Joint Security Area, where troops from both Koreas have stood face-to-face since the ceasefire that ended their mid-20th-century conflict. Despite technically remaining at war, North and South Korea have embarked on a series of top-level meetings this year aimed at settling their decades-long feud.

In the most recent inter-Korea summit last month, North Korean supreme leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in agreed to begin scaling down their countries’ military presence on the border. As a result, personnel began demining activities at the beginning of the month.

“The military authorities of the two Koreas and the UNC will make joint efforts to ensure that the JSA disarmament, stated in the Sept. 19 military agreement, will be implemented normally,” South Korea’s Defense Ministry said Thursday in a statement, according to the official Yonhap News Agency.

GettyImages-1053241776A South Korean soldier (center) carries a coffin containing a piece of bone believed to be the remains of an unidentified South Korean soldier killed in the Korean War in the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), in Cheorwon, South Korea, on October 25. The excavation project is part of a comprehensive military agreement that the two Koreas signed last month.JUNG YEON-JE/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

The U.S. has cautiously supported peace efforts between its ally South Korea and foe North Korea. The U.S.-led U.N. Command that assisted in the recent demilitarization efforts fought alongside South Korea in battles against North Korea and its Chinese allies in the 1950s, a war that ended in an armistice along the border that stands today. With the Cold War long over, however, Washington’s main concern is North Korea’s possession of nuclear weapons.

After a year of challenging Kim, President Donald Trump ultimately embraced the young ruler’s peace overture toward Moon in January, a move that led to two inter-Korean summits before Trump himself in June became the first sitting U.S. president to meet a North Korean head. In exchange for peace, Kim vowed to give up the weapons of mass destructions his country has long argued were necessary for its protection.

The U.S. and North Korea have accused one another in recent months of making insufficient progress toward their pledge of bettering relations. Washington wants North Korea to completely shutter its nuclear program before lifting international sanctions and making peace. Meanwhile, Pyongyang argues that the suspension of nuclear and missile tests, the return of U.S. soldiers’ remains and prisoners as well as the partial or whole destruction of certain key military sites was enough to warrant concessions.

Despite U.S. apprehensions, South Korea has moved forward with an ambitious plan to forge ties with its northern neighbor. Moon has green-lit the restoration of cross-border military communications, the linking of the two countries’ railroad systems and various projects designed to unify the economies of the Koreas.

GettyImages-1036438018North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in (from left) walk together during a visit to the Samjiyon guesthouse in North Korea, on September 20. Since the beginning of this year, the two countries have met more times than in any previous period in their history.PYONGYANG PRESS CORPS/POOL/GETTY IMAGES

In a reminder of the bloodshed that took the lives of millions on the Korean Peninsula, personnel demilitarizing the border this month discovered what the South Korean Defense Ministry said Thursday was likely the remains of at least two soldiers who died fighting in the Korean War. One of them was found with dog tags intact, reading “Pak Je Kwon,” who was believed to be a South Korean sergeant.

Both Koreas have pledged to conduct joint searches for other war casualties once they complete the removal of mines from the area.

(Economist) Chinese and American warships nearly collide

(Economist) Tempers are flaring as the South China Sea grows crowded

IT IS getting hard to sail across the South China Sea without bumping into a warship. On September 30th an American destroyer (the USS Decatur, pictured) passed within 50 metres of a Chinese naval vessel which was conducting “unsafe and unprofessional” manoeuvres, according to the Americans. Earlier in the month Japan sent a submarine to conduct drills in the sea for the first time. In August a British warship was confronted there by Chinese ships and jets. And this month ships from Australia, Singapore, Malaysia, New Zealand and Britain will take part in more than two weeks of joint naval drills in the same crowded waters.

The maritime hubbub is an attempt to push back against China’s claim to the entire South China Sea, which other littoral states dispute and which a UN tribunal has rubbished. China wants military vessels and aircraft to notify it before passing through the sea, something America and others would view as an infringement of international norms even if China’s claims had been upheld. To make matters even more fraught, China has reclaimed land around a series of reefs and rocks in the sea to build bases teeming with guns, missiles and radar. Should these constructions be deemed rocks or islands under international law, and rightful Chinese territory, then certain restrictions would apply to military vessels passing within 12 nautical miles. But America and the UN tribunal, among others, consider several of them “low-tide elevations”—shoals, in effect—that do not enjoy the same rights. America and its allies keep sending warships to sail around the sea in ways that demonstrate that they do not accept China’s position.

Since 2015 America has conducted 12 of these “freedom of navigation operations” (FONOPs, in Pentagon jargon). These flout China’s claims in several different ways. By sailing within 12 nautical miles of genuine islands, for example, America’s navy demonstrates that it does not need and will not seek permission to exercise its right of “innocent passage”. By conducting military manoeuvres within 12 nautical miles of other fortified specks it shows that it considers them mere elevations around which no restrictions are warranted. And by entering the sea at all, it rejects China’s stance that it has any say in military activity in open waters within the area it claims.

FONOPs have grown “more regular and strident” under the Trump administration, says Alessio Patalano of King’s College London. America’s European and regional allies are not quite as confrontational. They do not trumpet the details of how they have affronted China and they tend to keep a greater distance from its bristling baselets (although France and Britain have grown a little bolder lately). But simply by showing up, they help to demonstrate a united front. Australian, Japanese, British and French vessels have all sailed across the sea together, in various pairings. The hitch is that there are a lot more warships ploughing around, and so a lot more scope for dangerously heated encounters.

(Reuters) Two Koreas plan third summit of Kim, Moon next month

(Reuters) North and South Korea agreed on Monday to hold a summit in the North in September, another step towards boosting cooperation between the old rivals, even as doubts grow over efforts to end the North’s nuclear weapons program.

Officials from both sides meeting in the truce village of Panmunjom, in the demilitarized zone (DMZ) that separates the two Koreas, reached an agreement on a September summit between the countries’ leaders in the North’s capital of Pyongyang.

No date was announced for what will be the third meeting this year between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in.

They first met in April in Panmunjom, a remarkable thaw in ties after more than a year of rising tension and fears of war over the North’s development of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles.

There they agreed that Moon would visit the North’s capital in the autumn, though the pair met again in May in an unannounced meeting at Panmunjom.

No details on an agenda for next month’s talks were announced, but the two Koreas have been discussing a range of issues, from a possible peace declaration to joint economic and infrastructure projects.

The progress between the two Koreas comes as North Korea and the United States are struggling to agree on how to bring about the North’s denuclearization, after Kim vowed to work toward that goal at a landmark summit in June in Singapore with U.S. President Donald Trump.

U.S. officials have told Reuters that North Korea had yet to agree to a timeline for eliminating its nuclear arsenal or to disclose its size, which U.S. estimates have put at between 30 and 60 warheads.

After Monday’s talks, Ri Son Gwon, the chairman of a North Korean committee aiming for the “peaceful reunification” of the peninsula, told his South Korean counterpart, Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon, it was important to clear “obstacles” preventing inter-Korean relations from moving forward.

“If the issues that were raised at the talks aren’t resolved, unexpected problems could emerge and the issues that are already on the schedule may face difficulties,” Ri said, without giving details.

South Korean Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon and Ri Son Gwon, chairman of the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Country, arrive for their meeting at the truce village of Panmunjom inside the demilitarized zone, North Korea, August 13, 2018. Yonhap via REUTERS

PROBLEMS

One issue that has angered North Korea recently has been the case of a dozen North Korean restaurant workers who came to the South in 2016 via China.

The North says they were abducted by the South and should be returned, and has raised the possibility of the issue creating an obstacle to the reunion of some families divided by the 1950-53 Korean War, planned for next week.

Cho did not say if North Korea had raised the case of the restaurant workers on Monday, merely saying it had not brought up new issues.

“There were mentions that if there are problems to be resolved by both sides, on humanitarian issues or for the development of inter-Korean relations, we should do it,” the minister told reporters.

Cho said the two sides had exchanged views on the North’s denuclearization and on a peace mechanism to replace the armistice that ended fighting during the Korean War.

Moon and Kim agreed during their first summit to push for a declaration of an end to the Korean War together with the United States this year, but Washington has said it would only be possible after the North abandons its nuclear program.

Last month, the North’s state media criticized the South accusing it of only caring only about the views of the United States and failing to take practical steps to advance inter-Korean relations.

South Korea hopes to restart efforts on a cross-peninsula railway and a joint industrial park but has been cautious about major projects due to international sanctions chiefly engineered by Washington over the North’s nuclear and missile programs.

The North has urged the United States to end the sanctions, saying it had made goodwill gestures, including a moratorium on nuclear and missile tests, the dismantling of a nuclear site, and the return of the remains of some U.S. soldiers killed in the Korean War.

“The North is asking the South to play a bridging role as they want the United States to speed up progress in declaring an end to the war officially,” said Seo Yu-seok, a researcher at the Institute of North Korean Studies in Seoul.

Christopher Green, a senior adviser at the International Crisis Group, said the North could try to increase pressure on the South to deliver on economic promises made at the April summit, while widening the distance between Seoul and Washington.

Ri said the two sides had agreed on a date for the summit, but he declined to elaborate.

Kim Eui-kyeom, a spokesman of South Korea’s presidential office, said it would be difficult for the summit to happen before the Sept. 9 anniversary of North Korea’s founding, a major holiday there.

(BBC) Korea remains: Pyongyang returns US troops slain in Korean War

(BBC)

US military airplane arriving at base in South KoreaImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionThe remains arrived at a US airbase in South Korea

North Korea has returned remains believed to be of 55 US troops killed during the Korean War, bringing renewed hope to families who have waited decades for closure.

The return of the remains, brought to a US base in South Korea, is the latest move in the cautious diplomacy between Washington and Pyongyang.

The repatriation was agreed at the June summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korea’s Kim Jong-un.

It is hoped more will follow.

“It’s hard to live your life not knowing what happened to your loved one,” the daughter of one missing serviceman told the BBC ahead of Friday’s news.

The Singapore summit, where Mr Trump and Mr Kim agreed to work towards the “complete denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula”, has been criticised for a lack of detail on when or how Pyongyang would renounce nuclear weapons.

Media captionTrump thanks Kim Jong-un for repatriation of fallen troops

But the return of US remains was one of four points actually listed in that June declaration, and comes on the 65th anniversary of the signing of the armistice that ended the 1950-1953 Korean War.

It is believed that 55 soldiers have been returned this time, but their remains will need to be forensically tested to ensure they are indeed slain US troops – and it’s possible the identification process could take years.

John Zimmerlee, the son of a US serviceman who is among the missing, told the BBC there was no guarantee these were the remains of American soldiers.

Mr Zimmerlee, the founder of the Korean War Prisoners Of War and Missing In Action Network, said: “Keep in mind that these 55 remains that are coming back, these are people that they [North Korea] suspected were their enemy during the (Korean) war – not necessarily Americans.

“They could be British, they could be Australians, Belgians – could be a lot of different people.”

Presentational grey line

‘An emotional and symbolic gesture’

By Laura Bicker, BBC Seoul correspondent, Osan air base

The small wooden caskets were draped in the UN flag and carried carefully one by one from the aircraft onto US soil.

Hundreds of US soldiers and some of their families from the Osan base came to salute and line the route of their final journey.

Before the ceremony they’d been told they would be watching a key moment in history. They stood silently and watched.

Earlier I’d asked Korean War veterans from the US and the UK what this meant to them. Amazing news, they told me.

“This is an emotional and symbolic gesture,” said another.

Presentational grey line

Why are US remains in North Korea?

More than 326,000 Americans fought alongside soldiers from South Korea and a UN coalition during the war to support the South against the Communist North.

Thousands of US military personnel from the Korean war remain unaccounted for and most of them – about 5,300 – were lost in what is now North Korea.

The missing US soldiers are among around 33,000 coalition troops still unaccounted for.

US troops during the Korean warImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionThere are thought to be around 5,300 remains of US soldiers in North Korea

The remains are believed to be located at:

  • prisoner of war camps – many perished during the winter of 1950
  • the sites of major battles, such as the areas around Unsan and Chongchon in the north-west of the country – said to contain approximately 1,600 dead
  • temporary UN military cemeteries – China and North Korea returned about 3,000 dead Americans in an effort called Operation Glory in 1954, but others remain
  • the demilitarised zone that separates North and South Korea – said to contain 1,000 bodies

Between 1990 and 2005, 229 sets were returned, but this halted as relations deteriorated with the development of North Korea’s nuclear ambitions.

What happens now?

A US military aircraft took the remains to the US base at Osan in South Korea where, according to the White House, a repatriation ceremony will be held on 1 August after some initial testing.

The remains will then be brought to the US to undergo thorough forensic testing.

The White House said it was “a solemn obligation of the United States Government to ensure that the remains are handled with dignity and properly accounted for so their families receive them in an honorable manner”.

What has the reaction been?

The US government said it was “encouraged by North Korea’s actions and the momentum for positive change”.

The return of the dead soldiers was “a significant first step to recommence the repatriation of remains from North Korea and to resume field operations in North Korea to search for the estimated 5,300 Americans who have not yet returned home”.

Media captionNukes, Trump Towers and human rights – what might peace look like between the US and North Korea?

The repatriation will be welcomed by relatives who have waited decades for progress.

But Bill Richardson, a former UN ambassador who secured the return of six bodies in 2007, remains sceptical.

He told the Washington Post: “They’ll give a certain amount of remains for free right away, but then they’ll say, ‘The next ones, we need to find them, locate them, restore them.’ And then they’ll start charging.”

It is thought North Korea has about 200 sets of remains collected already.

What about North Korea’s wider intentions?

The 12 June summit between Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un saw both sides speak with ambition about concrete steps to improve relations but experts have cast doubt on whether Pyongyang is genuine in its apparent commitment to “denuclearise”.

Last week North Korea appeared to begin dismantling part of a key rocket launch site but there have been reports it secretly continues its weapons programme. Meanwhile, Pyongyang has accused the US of “gangster-like” tactics.

There’s also been little clarity about what exactly the two sides mean by “complete denuclearisation” and no details on a timeline for this to take place.

Nevertheless, Friday’s repatriation will likely be seen as a concrete goodwill gesture after years of efforts by relatives and US authorities to retrieve the remains.

(Reuters) North Korea making bomb fuel despite denuclearization pledge: Pompeo

(Reuters) North Korea is continuing to produce fuel for nuclear bombs in spite of its pledge to denuclearize, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Wednesday, even as he argued that the Trump administration was making progress in talks with Pyongyang.

Asked at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing whether North Korea was still making bomb fuel, Pompeo responded to Democratic Senator Ed Markey by saying: “Yes, that’s correct … Yes, they continue to produce fissile material.”

Pompeo declined to respond when asked whether North Korea was continuing to pursue submarine-launched ballistic missiles or whether its nuclear program was advancing generally.

He said he would be happy to answer the latter question if necessary in a classified setting, but suggested public statements on the issue would not help “a complex negotiation with a difficult adversary.”

Pompeo defended what he termed progress in talks with North Korea stemming from an unprecedented June 12 summit between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in sometimes testy exchanges with skeptical lawmakers from both parties.

He said the United States was engaged in “patient diplomacy” to persuade North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons, but would not let the process “drag out to no end.”

Briefing on his July 5-7 visit to North Korea, Pompeo said he had emphasized this position in “productive” discussions with his North Korean interlocutor, Kim Yong Chol.

He said Trump remained upbeat about the prospects for North Korean denuclearization, but Kim needed to follow through on his summit commitments.

Pompeo said U.S. North Korea policy was guided by a principle stated by Trump on July 17 that “diplomacy and engagement are preferable to conflict and hostility.”

Trump has hailed his summit with Kim as a success, even saying the day after that North Korea no longer posed a nuclear threat, but questions have been mounting about Pyongyang’s willingness to give up a nuclear weapons program that threatens the United States.

Kim committed in a broad summit statement to work toward denuclearization but Pyongyang has offered no details as to how it might go about this.

Pompeo left Pyongyang on July 7 saying he had made progress on key issues, only for North Korea to accuse his delegation hours later of making “gangster-like” demands.

Pompeo reiterated that North Korea had agreed to denuclearize. However, he did not respond when asked by Senator Bob Menendez whether Pyongyang agreed with the U.S. definition of denuclearization, except to say he was fully confident North Korea understood this.

DEMOCRAT DENOUNCES “REALITY TV ‘SUMMIT’”

Menendez, the ranking member of the committee, called Trump’s meeting with Kim “a reality TV ‘summit’ that was little more than a photo-op with a brutal dictator.”

“We have seen only a vague agreement of promises to make more promises – but with weaker commitments than North Korea has previously made,” he said.

Pompeo conceded that there was an “awful long way to go” with North Korea but in answer to a question, said the U.S. goal was for North Korea’s complete, verifiable, irreversible denuclearization by the end of Trump’s current term in office, which runs until January 2021, and “more quickly if possible.”

Trump said last week there was “no rush” and “no time limit” on the denuclearization negotiations, but Pompeo has given varying statements about how patient Washington might be.

He rejected Markey’s suggestion that the United States was being “taken for a ride” by North Korea, replying, “fear not senator, fear not.”

However he indicated that no progress had been made on a key U.S. demand – that North Korea disclose the range of its nuclear capabilities, saying: “An initial declaration … is something that is at the very forefront of what … we think, makes sense to get them to a point where we can verify their full denuclearization.”

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo arrives to testify before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., July 25, 2018. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

The Republican chairman of the committee, Bob Corker, criticized Trump for saying that Kim was “very talented” and that “he loves his people,” given the country’s serious human rights abuses and the death of U.S. college student Otto Warmbier after imprisonment there.

“Really?” Corker said.

(ABC) Malaysia’s former prime minister Najib Razak arrested over 1MDB investigation

(ABC

Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak speaks at de-radicalisation conference.

Former Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak has been arrested, Malaysia’s anti-corruption task force told the ABC, amid an investigation into how billions of dollars went missing from a state fund he founded almost a decade ago.

Authorities picked Mr Najib up from his home after serving him with a remand order, two sources close to the family said.

Charges, including embezzlement and bribery with government money, are expected to be handed down early Wednesday morning.

Mr Najib was arrested at his Kuala Lumpur home at 2:35pm (local time) today, sources said.

Mr Najib has been under investigation over the misappropriation of billions of dollars from Malaysia’s 1MDB infrastructure fund.

He has consistently denied wrongdoing claiming no knowledge of how the money had found its way into his personal account.

But raids of homes linked to the former prime minister recovered $370 million in cash and goods.

It took three days, six counting machines and 22 officials from the central bank to count the seized cash, totalling $39.2 million.

Millions of dollars worth of jewellery, handbags, watches and other items were also seized.

Family under suspicion

Mr Najib’s wife is also under investigation and his stepson, Riza Aziz, was brought in for questioning earlier today along with a Hollywood film producer, as part of the probe into alleged theft and money-laundering.

The metaphor that illustrates the graft and sleaze of Najib Razak’s reign is 300ft yacht Equanamity. 4 Corners reporter Linton Besser asks whether Mr Najib will finally have to answer the corruption allegations which surrounded his prime ministership.

Mr Riza was solemn as he arrived at the anti-graft office and did not speak to reporters.

US investigators say Mr Riza’s company, Red Granite Pictures Inc., used money stolen from 1MDB to finance Hollywood films including the Martin Scorsese-directed The Wolf of Wall Street.

Red Granite agreed in March to pay the US Government $60 million to settle claims it benefited from the 1MDB scandal.

Since his shock election loss to Mahathir Mohamad in May, Mr Najib has been barred from leaving the country, quizzed by the anti-corruption agency and had his personal and family houses searched as part of the 1MDB probe.

Mr Mahathir said in an interview last month that embezzlement and bribery with government money were among the charges that Malaysia was looking to bring against Mr Najib, adding they had “an almost perfect case” against him.

It is unclear how many charges Najib will or if he will be allowed to apply for bail.

Founded by Mr Najib in 2009, 1MDB is being investigated in at least six countries for alleged money laundering and corruption.

Civil lawsuits filed by the US Department of Justice allege that nearly $4.5 billion was misappropriated from 1MDB.