Archive for ‘Reuters’

30/04/2019

Boxed in: $1 billion of Iranian crude sits at China’s Dalian port

SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Some 20 million barrels of Iranian oil sitting on China’s shores in the northeast port of Dalian for the past six months now appears stranded as the United States hardens its stance on importing crude from Tehran.

Iran sent the oil to China, its biggest customer, ahead of the reintroduction of U.S. sanctions last November, as it looked for alternative storage for a backlog of crude at home.

The oil is being held in so-called bonded storage tanks at the port, which means it has yet to clear Chinese customs. Despite a six-month waiver to the start of May that allowed China to continue some Iranian imports, shipping data shows little of this oil has been moved.

Traders and refinery sources pointed to uncertainty over the terms of the waiver and said independent refiners had been unable to secure payment or insurance channels, while state refiners struggled to find vessels.

The future of the crude, worth well over $1 billion at current prices, has become even more unclear after Washington last week increased its pressure on Iran, saying it would end all sanction exemptions at the start of May.

“No responsible Chinese company with any international exposure will have anything to do with Iran oil unless they are specifically told by the Chinese government to do so,” said Tilak Doshi of oil and gas consultancy Muse, Stancil & Co in Singapore.

Iran previously stored oil in 2014 at Dalian during the last round of sanctions that was later sold to buyers in South Korea and India. reut.rs/2yo9Se6

China last week formally complained to the United States over the unilateral Iran sanctions, but U.S. officials have said Washington is not considering a further short-term waiver or a wind-down period.

The 20 million barrels is equal to about a month’s worth of China’s imports from Iran over the past six months, or about two days of the country’s total imports.

Iran says it will continue to export oil in defiance of U.S. sanctions.

A senior official with the National Iranian Tanker Company (NITC), who spoke on condition of anonymity, told Reuters: “We will continue to sell our oil.”

“Iran is now desperate and will deal with anyone with steep discounts as long as they get paid somehow,” said Doshi.

SOME OIL TAKEN

Some Iranian oil sent to Dalian has moved, according to a ship tracking analyst at Refinitiv.

Dan, a supertanker owned by NITC moved 2 million barrels of oil from Dalian more than 1,000 km (620 miles) to the south to the Ningbo Shi Hua crude oil terminal in March, according to Refinitiv data.

Ningbo is home to Sinopec’s Zhenhai refinery, one of the country’s largest oil plants with a capacity of 500,000 barrels a day and a top processor of Iranian oil.

Sinopec declined to comment.

The Iranian tanker was chartered by state-run Chinese trader Zhuhai Zhenrong Corp, according to Refinitiv analyst Emma Li. The NITC official confirmed the oil was taken by Zhuhai Zhenrong.

Zhenrong was started in the 1990s and brokered the first oil supply deals between Iran and China. At that time, Iran was supplying oil to China to pay for arms supplied by Beijing during the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war. Zhuhai Zhenrong still specializes mainly in buying Iranian oil.(reut.rs/2IHlvEx)

An official at the general manager’s office with Zhuhai Zhenrong’s office in Beijing said he could not immediately comment. The company did not reply to a fax seeking comment.

For now, more Iranian oil is heading to China, with the supertankers Stream and Dream II due to arrive in eastern China from Iran on May 5 and May 7, respectively, Refinitiv data showed.

Some of this crude may be from Chinese investments into Iranian oilfields, a sanctions grey area.

Whether China will keep buying oil from Iran remains unclear, but analysts at Fitch Solutions said in a note “there may be scope for imports via barter or non-compliance from … China.”

Muse, Stancil & Co’s Doshi said the only way to get the Iranian oil out of Dalian now was by cheating.

“Only rogue parties might try to cheat the system and try to pass the Iranian oil at Dalian as something else via fraudulent docs. But I doubt this is easy or can amount to much in terms of volume.”

(MAP: Iranian supertanker frees some oil from China storage in March, tmsnrt.rs/2W1FJvK)

Source: Reuters

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25/04/2019

Exclusive: In rare move, French warship passes through Taiwan Strait

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A French warship passed through the strategic Taiwan Strait this month, U.S. officials told Reuters, a rare voyage by a vessel of a European country that is likely to be welcomed by Washington but increase tension with Beijing.

The passage, which was confirmed by China, is a sign that U.S. allies are increasingly asserting freedom of navigation in international waterways near China. It could open the door for other allies, such as Japan and Australia, to consider similar operations.

The French operation comes amid increasing tensions between the United States and China. Taiwan is one of a growing number of flashpoints in the U.S.-China relationship, which also include a trade war, U.S. sanctions and China’s increasingly muscular military posture in the South China Sea, where the United States also conducts freedom of navigation patrols.

Two officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said a French military vessel carried out the transit in the narrow waterway between China and Taiwan on April 6.

One of the officials identified the warship as the French frigate Vendemiaire and said it was shadowed by the Chinese military. The official was not aware of any previous French military passage through the Taiwan Strait.

The officials said that as a result of the passage, China notified France it was no longer invited to a naval parade to mark the 70 years since the founding of China’s Navy. Warships from India, Australia and several other nations participated.

China said on Thursday it had lodged “stern representations” with France for what it called an “illegal” passage.

“China’s military sent navy ships in accordance with the law and the rules to identify the French ship and warn it to leave,” defence ministry spokesman Ren Guoqiang told a regularly scheduled media briefing, while declining to say if the sailing had led to the withdrawal of France’s invitation to the parade of ships this week.

“China’s military will stay alert to firmly safeguard China’s sovereignty and security,” he said.

Colonel Patrik Steiger, the spokesman for France’s military chief of staff, declined to comment on an operational mission.

The U.S. officials did not speculate on the purpose of the passage or whether it was designed to assert freedom of navigation.

MOUNTING TENSIONS

The French strait passage comes against the backdrop of increasingly regular passages by U.S. warships through the strategic waterway. Last month, the United States sent Navy and Coast Guard ships through the Taiwan Strait.

The passages upset China, which claims self-ruled Taiwan as part of its territory. Beijing has been ramping up pressure to assert its sovereignty over the island.

Chen Chung-chi, spokesman for Taiwan’s defence ministry, told Reuters by phone the strait is part of busy international waters and it is “a necessity” for vessels from all countries to transit through it. He said Taiwan’s defence ministry will continue to monitor movement of foreign vessels in the region.

“This is an important development both because of the transit itself but also because it reflects a more geopolitical approach by France towards China and the broader Asia-Pacific,” said Abraham Denmark, a former U.S. deputy assistant secretary of defence for East Asia.

The transit is a sign that countries like France are not only looking at China through the lens of trade but from a military standpoint as well, Denmark said.

Last month, France and China signed deals worth billions of euros during a visit to Paris by Chinese President Xi Jinping. French President Emmanuel Macron wants to forge a united European front to confront Chinese advances in trade and technology.

Source: Reuters

14/03/2019

Trump says he is in no rush to complete China trade deal

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump said on Wednesday he was in no rush to complete a trade pact with China and insisted that any deal include protection for intellectual property, a major sticking point between the two sides during months of negotiations.

Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping had been expected to hold a summit at the president’s Mar-a-Lago property in Florida later this month, but no date has been set for a meeting and no in-person talks between their trade teams have been held in more than two weeks.
Bloomberg reported on Thursday that a meeting between the two was more likely to take place in April at the earliest.
A person familiar with the matter told Reuters that there “were rumblings” in Washington about a possible meeting in late April.
The president, speaking to reporters at the White House, said he thought there was a good chance a deal would be made, in part because China wanted one after suffering from U.S. tariffs on its goods.
But he acknowledged Xi may be wary of coming to a summit without an agreement in hand after seeing Trump end a separate summit in Vietnam with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un without a peace deal.
“I think President Xi saw that I’m somebody that believes in walking when the deal is not done, and you know there’s always a chance it could happen and he probably wouldn’t want that,” Trump said.
China has not made any public comment confirming Xi is considering going to meet Trump in Florida or elsewhere.
The president, who likes to emphasize his own deal-making abilities, said an agreement to end a months-long trade war could be finished ahead of a presidential meeting or completed in-person with his counterpart.
“We could do it either way. We could have the deal completed and come and sign, or we could get the deal almost completed and negotiate some of the final points. I would prefer that,” he said.
Trump decided last month not to increase tariffs on Chinese goods at the beginning of March, giving a nod to the success of negotiations so far.
But hurdles remain, and intellectual property is one of them. Washington accuses Beijing of forcing U.S. companies to share their intellectual property and transfer their technology to local partners in order to do business in China. Beijing denies it engages in such practices.
Asked on Wednesday if intellectual property had to be included in a trade deal, Trump said: “Yes it does.”
He indicated that from his perspective, a meeting with Xi was still likely.
“I think things are going along very well – we’ll just see what the date is,” Trump told reporters at the White House.
“I’m in no rush. I want the deal to be right. … I am not in a rush whatsoever. It’s got to be the right deal. It’s got to be a good deal for us and if it’s not, we’re not going to make that deal.”

‘MAINTAINING CONTACT’

China’s Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday that Xi had previously told Trump that he is willing to “maintain contacts” with the U.S. president.

Trump says he’s ‘in no rush’ to reach a trade deal with China
Over the weekend, Vice Commerce Minister Wang Shouwen, who has been deeply involved in the trade talks with the United States, did not answer questions from reporters on whether Xi would go to Mar-a-Lago.
Two Beijing-based diplomatic sources, familiar with the situation, told Reuters that Xi would not be going to Mar-a-Lago, at least in the near term.
One said there had been no formal approach from the United States to China about such a trip, while the second said the problem was that China had realized a trade agreement was not going to be as easy to reach as they had initially thought.
“This is media hype,” said the first source, of reports Xi and Trump could meet this month in Florida.

Though Trump said he is not in a hurry, a trade deal this spring would give him a win to cite as an economic accomplishment as he advances his 2020 re-election campaign. The trade war has hurt the global economy and hung over stock markets, which would likely benefit from an end to the tensions.

In addition to smoothing over sticking points on content, the United States is eager to include a strong enforcement mechanism in a deal to ensure that Beijing can be held accountable if it breaks any of its terms.

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, who has spearheaded the talks from the American side, said on Tuesday that U.S. officials hoped they were in the final weeks of their talks with China but that major issues remained to be resolved.

Source: Reuters

10/03/2019

India and Pakistan: How the war was fought in TV studios

An Indian man watches live news channels broadcasting images of Indian Air Force (IAF) Wing Commander pilot Abhinandan Varthaman returning to India from the India-Pakistan Wagah border in New Delhi on March 1, 2019.Image copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionAn Indian man watches the news broadcasting images of the released Indian pilot

As tensions between India and Pakistan escalated following a deadly suicide attack last month, there was another battle being played out on the airwaves. Television stations in both countries were accused of sensationalism and partiality. But how far did they take it? The BBC’s Rajini Vaidyanathan in Delhi and Secunder Kermani in Islamabad take a look.

It was drama that was almost made for television.

The relationship between India and Pakistan – tense at the best of times – came to a head on 26 February when India announced it had launched airstrikes on militant camps in Pakistan’s Balakot region as “retaliation” for a suicide attack that had killed 40 troops in Indian-administered Kashmir almost two weeks earlier.

A day later, on 27 February, Pakistan shot down an Indian jet fighter and captured its pilot.

Abhinandan Varthaman was freed as a “peace gesture”, and Pakistan PM Imran Khan warned that neither country could afford a miscalculation, with a nuclear arsenal on each side.

Suddenly people were hooked, India’s TV journalists included.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi gestures as he speaks during the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) "Sankalp" rally in Patna in the Indian eastern state of Bihar on March 3, 2019.Image copyrightAFP
Image captionIndian PM Narendra Modi is accused of exploiting India-Pakistan hostilities for political gain

So were they more patriots than journalists?

Rajini Vaidyanathan: Indian television networks showed no restraint when it came to their breathless coverage of the story. Rolling news was at fever pitch.

The coverage often fell into jingoism and nationalism, with headlines such as “Pakistan teaches India a lesson”, “Dastardly Pakistan”, and “Stay Calm and Back India” prominently displayed on screens.

Some reporters and commentators called for India to use missiles and strike back. One reporter in south India hosted an entire segment dressed in combat fatigues, holding a toy gun.

And while I was reporting on the return of the Indian pilot at the international border between the two countries in the northern city of Amritsar, I saw a woman getting an Indian flag painted on her cheek. “I’m a journalist too,” she said, as she smiled at me in slight embarrassment.

Print journalist Salil Tripathi wrote a scathing critique of the way reporters in both India and Pakistan covered the events, arguing they had lost all sense of impartiality and perspective. “Not one of the fulminating television-news anchors exhibited the criticality demanded of their profession,” she said.

Media captionIndia and Pakistan’s ‘war-mongering’ media

Secunder Kermani: Shortly after shooting down at least one Indian plane last week, the Pakistani military held a press conference.

As it ended, the journalists there began chanting “Pakistan Zindabad” (Long Live Pakistan). It wasn’t the only example of “journalistic patriotism” during the recent crisis.

Two anchors from private channel 92 News donned military uniforms as they presented the news – though other Pakistani journalists criticised their decision.

But on the whole, while Indian TV presenters angrily demanded military action, journalists in Pakistan were more restrained, with many mocking what they called the “war mongering and hysteria” across the border.

In response to Indian media reports about farmers refusing to export tomatoes to Pakistan anymore for instance, one popular presenter tweeted about a “Tomatical strike” – a reference to Indian claims they carried out a “surgical strike” in 2016 during another period of conflict between the countries.

Media analyst Adnan Rehmat noted that while the Pakistani media did play a “peace monger as opposed to a warmonger” role, in doing so, it was following the lead of Pakistani officials who warned against the risks of escalation, which “served as a cue for the media.”

What were they reporting?

Rajini Vaidyanathan: As TV networks furiously broadcast bulletins from makeshift “war rooms” complete with virtual reality missiles, questions were raised not just about the reporters but what they were reporting.

Indian channels were quick to swallow the government version of events, rather than question or challenge it, said Shailaja Bajpai, media editor at The Print. “The media has stopped asking any kind of legitimate questions, by and large,” she said. “There’s no pretence of objectiveness.”

In recent years in fact, a handful of commentators have complained about the lack of critical questioning in the Indian media.

Indians celebrated on hearing news of the strikesImage copyrightAFP
Image captionIndians celebrated news of the strikes

“For some in the Indian press corps the very thought of challenging the ‘official version’ of events is the equivalent of being anti-national”, said Ms Bajpai. “We know there have been intelligence lapses but nobody is questioning that.”

Senior defence and science reporter Pallava Bagla agreed. “The first casualty in a war is always factual information. Sometimes nationalistic fervour can make facts fade away,” he said.

This critique isn’t unique to India, or even this period in time. During the 2003 Iraq war, western journalists embedded with their country’s militaries were also, on many occasions, simply reporting the official narrative.

Secunder Kermani: In Pakistan, both media and public reacted with scepticism to Indian claims about the damage caused by the airstrikes in Balakot, which India claimed killed a large number of Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) militants in a training camp.

Hamid Mir, one of the most influential TV anchors in the country travelled to the area and proclaimed, “We haven’t seen any such (militant) infrastructure… we haven’t seen any bodies, any funerals.”

“Actually,” he paused, “We have found one body… this crow.” The camera panned down to a dead crow, while Mr Mir asked viewers if the crow “looks like a terrorist or not?”

There seems to be no evidence to substantiate Indian claims that a militant training camp was hit, but other journalists working for international outlets, including the BBC, found evidence of a madrassa, linked to JeM, near the site.

A cropped version of a satellite image shows a close-up of a madrasa near Balakot, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, Pakistan, March 4, 2019. Picture taken March 4, 2019.Image copyrightPLANET LABS INC./HANDOUT VIA REUTERS
Image captionThe satellite image shows a close-up of a madrassa near Balakot in Pakistan’s Khyber Paktunkhwa

A photo of a signpost giving directions to the madrassa even surfaced on social media. It described the madrassa as being “under the supervision of Masood Azhar”. Mr Azhar is the founder of JeM.

The signpost’s existence was confirmed by a BBC reporter and Al Jazeera, though by the time Reuters visited it had apparently been removed. Despite this, the madrassa and its links received little to no coverage in the Pakistani press.

Media analyst Adnan Rehmat told the BBC that “there was no emphasis on investigating independently or thoroughly enough” the status of the madrassa.

In Pakistan, reporting on alleged links between the intelligence services and militant groups is often seen as a “red line”. Journalists fear for their physical safety, whilst editors know their newspapers or TV channels could face severe pressure if they publish anything that could be construed as “anti-state”.

Who did it better: Khan or Modi?

Rajini Vaidyanathan: With a general election due in a few months, PM Narendra Modi continued with his campaign schedule, mentioning the crisis in some of his stump speeches. But he never directly addressed the ongoing tensions through an address to the nation or a press conference.

This was not a surprise. Mr Modi rarely holds news conference or gives interviews to the media. When news of the suicide attack broke, Mr Modi was criticised for continuing with a photo shoot.

Imran KhanImage copyrightAFP
Image captionImran Khan was praised for his measured approach

The leader of the main opposition Congress party, Rahul Gandhi, dubbed him a “Prime Time Minister” claiming the PM had carried on filming for three hours. PM Modi has also been accused of managing his military response as a way to court votes.

At a campaign rally in his home state of Gujarat he seemed unflustered by his critics, quipping “they’re busy with strikes on Modi, and Modi is launching strikes on terror.”

Secunder Kermani: Imran Khan won praise even from many of his critics in Pakistan, for his measured approach to the conflict. In two appearances on state TV, and one in parliament, he appeared firm, but also called for dialogue with India.

His stance helped set the comparatively more measured tone for Pakistani media coverage.

Officials in Islamabad, buoyed by Mr Khan’s decision to release the captured Indian pilot, have portrayed themselves as the more responsible side, which made overtures for peace.

On Twitter, a hashtag calling for Mr Khan to be awarded a Nobel Peace Prize was trending for a while. But his lack of specific references to JeM, mean internationally there is likely to be scepticism, at least initially, about his claims that Pakistan will no longer tolerate militant groups targeting India.

Source: The BBC

09/03/2019

China exports saw biggest fall in three years in February

Men stand on a port in ChinaImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES

Chinese exports saw the steepest fall in three years in February, adding to worries about growth in the world’s second largest economy.

Official data show exports from China plunged 20.7% from a year earlier, as its trade war with the US took a toll.

Imports fell 5.2% and the figures sent Asia stock markets sharply lower.

Economists caution the data for the first two months of the year can be affected by the Lunar New Year holiday.

The fall in exports was far bigger than the 4.8% drop forecast in a Reuters poll of economists.

Imports also saw a sharper than expected fall of 5.2% year-on-year, the data showed.

Julian Evans-Pritchard, Senior China Economist at Capital Economics said even accounting for seasonal distortions, the figures were “downbeat”.

“Tariffs are weighing on shipments to the US,” he wrote in a research note.

The US and China have placed tariffs on billions of dollars worth of one another’s goods since July, casting a shadow over the global economy.

Even though officials have sounded more positive about negotiations with the US recently, failure to achieve a deal would see tariffs on $200bn (£152bn) of Chinese goods rise almost immediately and could see the US impose fresh tariffs.

Still, Mr Evans-Pritchard said “broader weakness in global demand means that, even if Trump and Xi finalise a trade deal soon, the outlook for exports remains gloomy.”

The data comes as Beijing this week unveiled $298bn worth of tax cuts to boost slowing growth.

Source: The BBC

08/03/2019

Indian cricketers wear army camouflage caps as patriotism grips country

NEW DELHI (Reuters) – Indian cricketers wore army camouflage-style caps in a match with Australia on Friday in solidarity with Indian paramilitary police killed in a militant attack by a Pakistan-based group and in an unusually strong display of patriotic fervour in sport.

The suicide bombing last month killed 40 in Indian-controlled Kashmir, a region also claimed by Pakistan. The attack prompted India to launch an air strike inside Pakistan, which responded with an aerial attack the next day.

The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has in recent days tried unsuccessfully to isolate Pakistan in the cricketing world. The International Cricket Council rejected India’s calls to boycott games against Pakistan, whose prime minister is former cricketing hero Imran Khan.

But there are still calls within India for the national team to pull out of a World Cup match against Pakistan in June in England.

“(Indian cricket) teams have expressed solidarity in the past but not this kind of public display of that solidarity,” Majumdar told Reuters.

“Sport has always been meshed with politics and people have often used it to make very strong points. This is yet another one. This is a peaceful way of expressing solidarity in a manner which I don’t see problematic at all.”

But Pakistani lawyer Abdullah Nizamani said on Twitter the BCCI and international cricket board should keep “sports away from petty politics”. Some Pakistanis even asked on social media if Indian cricketers would turn up for the World Cup match with Pakistan in military fatigues.

Nuclear-armed neighbours India and Pakistan have fought two of their three wars since independence over Kashmir, which both sides claim in full but rule in part.

Source: Reuters

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