By Jueseppi B.
From The Washington Post:
U.S., G-7 allies will impose new sanctions against Russia as soon as Monday
SEOUL — The United States and other members of the Group of Seven will impose new sanctions against Russia as early as Monday because it continues to support separatist actions in Ukraine, White House officials said Saturday.
President Obama, traveling through Asia, has been consulting with U.S. allies about the worsening situation in Ukraine, where a peace agreement struck a week ago has yet to defuse tensions. On Friday, Obama spoke with French President Francois Hollande, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and British Prime Minister David Cameron about the crisis in eastern Ukraine.
The Pentagon said late Friday that Russian aircraft had entered Ukrainian airspace “on several occasions in the last 24 hours” and called on Moscow to take “immediate steps” to defuse the situation.
In a statement released Saturday morning, the members of the G-7 accused Russia of failing to deliver on its part of the accord brokered earlier this month in Geneva.
“We reiterate our strong condemnation of Russia’s illegal attempt to annex Crimea and Sevastopol, which we do not recognize. We will now follow through on the full legal and practical consequences of this illegal annexation, including but not limited to the economic, trade and financial areas,” the statement read.
“We have now agreed that we will move swiftly to impose additional sanctions on Russia. Given the urgency of securing the opportunity for a successful and peaceful democratic vote next month in Ukraine’s presidential elections, we have committed to act urgently to intensify targeted sanctions and measures to increase the costs of Russia’s actions,” it added.
Ben Rhodes, the administration’s deputy national security adviser for strategic communications, told reporters on Air Force One that G-7 leaders have agreed there must be further sanctions against Russia but that each country will determine which sanctions they will impose. The sanctions will be coordinated, but not necessarily identical.
Thank you The Washington Post.
From The Associated Press:
IN ASIA, OBAMA CAREFULLY CALIBRATES CHINA MESSAGE
By Julie Pace
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — President Barack Obama is hopscotching through China’s neighborhood with a carefully calibrated message for Beijing, trying both to counter and court.
During visits to U.S. allies, Obama has signaled that American military power can blunt Chinese aggression in the Asia-Pacific region, even as he urges Beijing to use its growing clout to help resolve international disputes with Russia and North Korea.
The dual tracks underscore Beijing’s outsized importance to Obama’s four-country swing through Asia, even though China is absent from his itinerary.
The president opened a long-awaited visit to Malaysia on Saturday, following stops in Japan and South Korea, and ahead of a visit to the Philippines. On a hot and muggy Sunday morning, the president padded through the National Mosque of Malaysia in black socks, removing his shoes in keeping with protocol, and stopped for a few moments to bow his head in the mausoleum, where two former prime ministers and two former deputies are buried. He later met privately with current Prime Minister Najib Razak at his residence.
Obama’s trip comes at a tense time for the region, where China’s aggressive stance in territorial disputes has its smaller neighbors on edge.
There also are continued questions about the White House’s commitment to a greater U.S. focus on Asia. In an affirmation, Obama is expected to sign a security agreement with the Philippines clearing the way for an increased American troop presence there.
In Tokyo, Obama asserted that a treaty obligating the U.S. to defend Japan would apply if Beijing makes a move on a string of islands in the East China Sea that Japan administers but China also claims.
Yet at times, the president has tempered his tough talk in an attempt to avoid antagonizing Beijing.
To the chagrin of the Japanese, Obama said the U.S. would not pick sides in the sovereignty claims at the heart of the region’s territorial disputes. He repeatedly declared that the U.S. is not asking Asian allies to choose between a relationship with Washington and Beijing.
“I think there’s enormous opportunities for trade, development, working on common issues like climate change with China,” Obama said during a news conference in Tokyo. “But what we’ve also emphasized — and I will continue to emphasize throughout this trip — is that all of us have responsibilities to help maintain basic rules of the road and an international order.”
U.S. officials see Russia’s provocations in Ukraine and North Korea’s nuclear threats as tests of China’s willingness to take on more responsibility in enforcing global norms.
Cut off from most of the world economy, North Korea is deeply dependent on Chinese trade and assistance, giving Beijing enormous leverage. The U.S. and its allies, including South Korea, have pressed China to wield that influence more aggressively with the North, which is threatening to launch a fourth nuclear test.
“China’s influence in North Korea is indeed huge,” South Korean President Park Geun-hye said Friday during Obama’s visit to Seoul.
Beijing has a permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council and has supported some efforts to penalize North Korea, but has not taken sweeping unilateral actions to choke off the North’s economy.
As with North Korea, the crisis in Ukraine has again put Obama in the position of asking China to prioritize international order over its own close relationship with Moscow.
China and Russia frequently join forces as a counterweight to the West. But in the face of Vladimir Putin’s aggression in Ukraine, the Obama administration has sought to temper Beijing’s support for Putin by appealing to China’s traditional aversion to foreign meddling in domestic affairs.
The White House has little expectation that China will fully abandon the Kremlin and join with Western nations in levying sanctions on Russia. U.S. officials are hoping China will at least avoid making overt gestures of support for Russia’s actions, and were heartened when China abstained in a Security Council vote condemning Moscow.
Analysts say Obama can maintain a China policy that both looks to Beijing for help while also trying to counter its rise, but only if the dividing line between those positions remains clear.
“If you are consistent, they’ll be willing to have you push them occasionally on things that are sensitive or where there are areas of dispute,” Chris Johnson, a China scholar at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies, said of Beijing’s leaders. “It’s where you’re not consistent and they’re not sure what you’re going to do next that causes them a great amount of consternation.”
China will factor into Obama’s meetings in Southeast Asia, given that Beijing has territorial disputes with both Malaysia and the Philippines. Obama had planned to visit both countries in October, but canceled the trip due to a government shutdown in Washington.
Obama’s visit to Malaysia is the first by an American president since Lyndon B. Johnson traveled here more than four decades ago. Obama was feted by Malaysia’s royal family at a state dinner Saturday night and had planned to meet later Sunday with young Southeast Asian leaders.
Absent from Obama’s schedule in Malaysia: a meeting with opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, who presents the most potent political threat to Razak amid a decline in Najib’s popular support over the past two elections.
The U.S. spurned calls from human rights groups for the president himself to meet with the 66-year-old former deputy prime minister, but was instead sending Susan Rice, Obama’s national security adviser and former U.N. ambassador, to see with him.
Anwar recently was convicted for the second time on sodomy charges that the U.S. and international human rights groups deem politically motivated. Anwar is appealing, and could be forced to give up his seat in parliament and go to prison if he loses.
Associated Press writer Darlene Superville contributed to this report.
G-7 Leaders Statement on Ukraine
We, the leaders of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, the United States, thePresident of the European Council and the President of the European Commission, join in expressing our deep concern at the continued efforts by separatists backed byRussia to destabilize eastern Ukraine and our commitment to taking further steps to ensure a peaceful and stable environment for the May 25 presidential election.
We welcomed the positive steps taken by Ukraine to meet its commitments under the Geneva accord of April 17 by Ukraine, Russia, the European Union, and the United States. These actions include working towards constitutional reform and decentralization, proposing an amnesty law for those who will peacefully leave the buildings they have seized in eastern Ukraine, and supporting the work of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). We also note that the Government of Ukraine has acted with restraint in dealing with the armed bands illegally occupying government buildings and forming illegal checkpoints.
In contrast, Russia has taken no concrete actions in support of the Geneva accord. It has not publicly supported the accord, nor condemned the acts of pro-separatists seeking to destabilize Ukraine, nor called on armed militants to leave peacefully the government buildings they’ve occupied and put down their arms. Instead, it has continued to escalate tensions by increasingly concerning rhetoric and ongoing threatening military maneuvers on Ukraine’s border.
We reiterate our strong condemnation of Russia’s illegal attempt to annex Crimea and Sevastopol, which we do not recognize. We will now follow through on the full legal and practical consequences of this illegal annexation, including but not limited to the economic, trade and financial areas.
We have now agreed that we will move swiftly to impose additional sanctions on Russia. Given the urgency of securing the opportunity for a successful and peaceful democratic vote next month in Ukraine’s presidential elections, we have committed to act urgently to intensify targeted sanctions and measures to increase the costs of Russia’s actions.
Russia’s actions in Ukraine and the response from the international community already have imposed significant costs on its economy. While we continue to prepare to move to broader, coordinated sanctions, including sectoral measures should circumstances warrant, as we committed to in The Hague on March 24, we underscore that the door remains open to a diplomatic resolution of this crisis, on the basis of the Geneva accord. We urge Russia to join us in committing to that path.
From The Hill:
South Korean PM resigns over ferry disaster
South Korean Prime Minister Jung Hong-won resigned on Sunday over the government’s handling of a deadly ferry sinking, citing the slow initial response that left more than 300 people dead or missing.
Early reports said Chung offered to resign early Sunday morning, but during a press conference shortly after Chung detailed his decision, apologizing to the victims’ families and stating his plans to resign as prime minister, CNN reports.
“During the search process, the government took inadequate measures and disappointed the public,” Chung said. “I should take responsibility for everything as the prime minister, but the government can assume no more. So I will resign as prime minister.”
Chung also encouraged South korea to stand united.
“Please come together as one for the recovery efforts,” he said. “As I saw grieving families suffering with the pain of losing their loved ones and the sadness and resentment of the public, I thought I should take all responsibility as prime minister.”
Chung is the first hug-profile public figure to step down following the disaster and response.
Eleven days after the April 16, disaster and researchers are still searching for passengers and crew aboard the Sewol ferry. So far, 187 bodies have been found, another 115 remain missing.
Thank you The Hill.
From The Hill:
Rand Paul: GOP needs to diversify ranks
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) says the GOP must expand its base into a broader coalition that welcomes diversity if it wants to win national elections.
Paul, a possible 2016 presidential hopeful, addressed the Maine Republican Party convention on Saturday.
Speaking to the state’s GOP, which has been troubled by infighting since libertarian activists devoted to Paul’s father took control, the audience heard words of compassion, the Associated Press reports.
Matching with this year’s convention theme of “unity,” Paul told the crowd that Republicans must extend a hand to groups that the country has mistreated.
“If we want to want to have a bigger party, we have to show concern for those who aren’t doing very well: the long-term unemployed … lose who live in poverty, those who live in big cities,” he said.
Paul emphasized the need to attract more minorities, women, and young people to the Republican ranks.
He went on to shoot down reports that Republicans are entering defining elections as a divided party.
“This doesn’t look like division to me,” Paul said to a standing ovation from the Maine GOP. “I see unity and I smell victory.”
He added that in order to move forward the GOP cannot be the party tied to corporate welfare, and criticized government waste and overspending.
Thank you The Hill.