Archive for ‘truce’

09/03/2019

Man arrested over Kashmir grenade attack

Police at the site of the blast in Jammu city on 7 March 2019.Image copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionThe blast occurred at a busy bus station in Jammu city

Indian police have arrested an alleged member of the Hizbul Mujahideen militant group after a grenade attack killed at least two people and injured more than 30 others.

The attack took place on Thursday in a bus station in the Indian-administered state of Jammu and Kashmir.

Last month a suicide attack against security forces triggered cross-border air strikes between India and Pakistan.

Hizbul Mujahideen has said it was not behind Thursday’s attack.

But police told BBC Urdu that the accused, Yasir Javed Bhat, had confessed. He is a Kashmiri and reported to be in his 20s.

“He revealed that he was tasked with throwing the grenade by Farooq Ahmed Bhat, a district commander of Hizbul Mujahideen in Kulgam district,” inspector general Manish Kumar Sinha said.

Mr Sinha added that they were gathering more intelligence on Yasir.

Hizbul Mujahideen was formed in 1989 when an armed insurgency against Indian rule first broke out in the valley. It was the largest Kashmiri militant group through the 1990s and is considered to be pro-Pakistani.

India has blamed Pakistan for supporting militancy in the region – a charge Islamabad denies.

Cricket star-turned-politician Imran Khan, chairman of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), speaks after voting in the general election in Islamabad, July 25, 2018Image copyrightREUTERS
Image captionPakistan PM Imran Khan said Pakistan was not behind the suicide attack in February

This has long been a source of tension between the nuclear-armed neighbours as groups based in Pakistan have carried out deadly attacks on Indian soil. The suicide attack last month killed more than 40 central reserve policemen in Indian-administered Kashmir.

Tensions between the two sides escalated quickly. India carried out air strikes against what it said was a militant camp based in Pakistan and the latter retaliated with air raids of its own.

An Indian fighter jet was shot down in Pakistan-administered Kashmir and the pilot was captured. Two days later, Pakistan handed over the pilot to Indian officials establishing a fragile truce.

Source: The BBC

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21/12/2018

Crude refusal: China shuns U.S. oil despite trade war truce

SINGAPORE (Reuters) – China, the world’s top oil importer, is set to start 2019 buying little or no crude from the United States despite a three-month truce in a trade scrap between the two nations, with relatively high freight costs and political uncertainty choking demand.

That muted appetite means the United States, which became the world’s top oil producer this year as its shale output hit record levels, will continue to hold only a sliver of China’s market even as a wave of new refining capacity starts up there.

It also suggests that China is unlikely to use crude purchases to help plug a widening trade gap with the United States, which remains a core source of tensions between the world’s top two economies.

The U.S. trade deficit with Beijing hit a record $43 billion in October as its firms stockpiled inventory from China to avoid higher tariffs that may kick in next year.

“Chinese companies have little incentive to buy U.S. crude due to the wide availability of crude supplies today from Iran and Russia,” said Seng Yick Tee, an analyst at Beijing-based consultancy SIA Energy.

“Even though the trade tension between China and the U.S. had been defused recently, the executives from the national oil companies hesitate to procure U.S. crude unless they are told to do so.”

China stopped U.S. oil imports in October and November after the trade war intensified. It resumed some imports in December, but purchased just 1 million barrels, a minute portion of the more than 300 million barrels of total imports, Refinitiv data showed.

Chinese refineries that used to purchase U.S. oil regularly said they had not resumed buying due to uncertainty over the outlook for trade relations between Washington and Beijing, as well as rising freight costs and poor profit-margins for refining in the region.

Costs for shipping U.S. crude to Asia on a supertanker are triple those for Middle eastern oil, data on Refinitiv Eikon showed.

(GRAPHIC: China’s appetite for U.S. crude muted by high freight costs, competitive Mid East supplies – tmsnrt.rs/2GyFnJI)

A senior official with a state oil refinery said his plant had stopped buying U.S. oil from October and had not booked any cargoes for delivery in the first quarter.

“Because of the great policy uncertainty earlier on, plants have actually readjusted back to using alternatives to U.S. oil … they just widened our supply options,” he said.

He added that his plant had shifted to replacements such as North Sea Forties crude, Australian condensate and oil from Russia.

“Maybe teapots will take some cargoes, but the volume will be very limited,” said a second Chinese oil executive, referring to independent refiners. The sources declined to be named because of company policy.

A sharp souring in Asian benchmark refining margins has also curbed overall demand for crude in recent months, sources said.

(GRAPHIC: Singapore refining margins slump 50 pct in 3 ths amid demand growth concerns – tmsnrt.rs/2RhnHXv)

Despite the impasse on U.S. crude purchases, China’s crude imports could top a record 45 million tonnes (10.6 million barrels per day) in December from all regions, said Refinitiv senior oil analyst Mark Tay.

Russia is set to remain the biggest supplier at 7 million tonnes in December, with Saudi Arabia second at 5.7-6.7 million tonnes, he said.

China’s Iranian oil imports are set to rebound in December after two state-owned refiners began using the nation’s waiver from U.S. sanctions on Tehran.

02/12/2018

The US-China trade war: from first shots to a truce

  • Washington has agreed to hold off on new tariffs but the core conflicts have yet to be resolved
PUBLISHED : Sunday, 02 December, 2018, 5:44pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 02 December, 2018, 5:44pm
Sarah Zheng

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China and the United States agreed to a 90-day ceasefire on new tariffs in their trade war at the G20 summit in Buenos Aires, allowing a reprieve after months of threats and stalled talks.

The decision for the US to hold off on planned tariff increases on US$200 billion in Chinese goods from 10 to 25 per cent on January 1 came over a grilled steak dinner in Argentina, the first face-to-face meeting between US President Donald Trump and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping since the start of the conflict.

Here is a look back at how it all began.

The first shots

The truce comes almost a year after the two countries began sparring over trade. Trump first slapped 30 per cent tariffs on solar panels and washing machines in February, prompting a complaint to the World Trade Organisation from Beijing. Then in March, the Trump administration imposed steel and aluminium tariffs across the board, including on China, which the Chinese government responded to with tariffs on 128 US products such as wine, fruit, and pork.

But the trade war began in earnest in July with the US levying its first round of punitive tariffs, triggered by an investigation under Section 301 of the Trade Act into Chinese trade and intellectual property practices.

Washington’s duties on US$34 billion in Chinese products was quickly matched by Beijing. The US imposed tariffs on another US$16 billion in August – again matched by China – and then US$200 billion in September. Beijing responded to the third round by targeting US$60 billion in US goods.

Beijing’s US$110 billion total targeted industries that analysts said were aimed at Trump’s political base, including a particularly stinging 25 per cent duty on American soybeans.

While business leaders in both countries called for a resolution, a series of trade talks – including low-level discussions in Washington in late August – failed to yield a breakthrough.

After the Chinese side reportedly cancelled scheduled talks in September, US officials signalled that they would not return to the negotiating table without a concrete proposal from Beijing.

Then just before the G20 summit, Chinese Vice-Premier Liu He, Xi’s top economic aide, called off a planned meeting in Washington at the last minute and pinned everything on talks in Buenos Aires.

Just how bad has it been?

The trade war cast a long shadow over the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Papua New Guinea in November, resulting in the leaders failing for the first time to issue a joint communique. And as the China-US conflict has rolled on, it has spilled over into a broader strategic concern, one some analysts have described as the start of a new cold war.

In October, US Vice-President Mike Pence slammed Beijing not only for unfair trade practices, but for militarisation of the energy-rich South China Sea, domestic repression including massive state imprisonment of ethnic Uygurs in Xinjiang, and expanded global influence through “debt diplomacy”. Without offering evidence, Trump also accused China of meddling in US elections ahead of the November midterms.

As tensions escalated, Washington tightened export restrictions on strategic industries, sanctioned a key department of the Chinese military for purchases from Russia, and increased visa scrutiny for Chinese academics in the US.

Meanwhile, American companies in China have reported increased scrutiny from regulators and delayed approvals for licences.

What’s next?

Xi and Trump initially appeared to hit things off with reciprocal lavish state visits in Mar-a-Lago in Florida and Beijing, but their apparent honeymoon was short-lived. A 100-day plan that outlined ways for China to open its economy failed to address the Trump administration’s fundamental concerns.

Those concerns include US complaints about Chinese intellectual property theft and industrial subsidies, centred on Beijing’s state-backed “Made in China 2025” initiative, a programme to turn China into a leader in a range of advanced technologies.

Despite the ceasefire, analysts are sceptical that a deal can be reached on the wide range of prickly trade issues. Only days before the G20 summit, Trump told The Wall Street Journal that it was “highly unlikely” he would delay the January 1 tariff increases, insisting that the brunt of the existing tariffs were being borne by China.

He also said the US was ready to levy tariffs on the remaining US$267 billion in Chinese imports, including consumer goods such as Apple products.

The White House is insisting on structural reforms to China’s economy, beyond window-dressing measures to close the trade imbalance, but Xi is unlikely to make major concessions given the inevitable domestic political backlash, analysts say.

“Both sides got the time out they wanted, to recalibrate their strategies and figur

e out what to do next,” Patrick Chovanec, managing director and chief strategist at Silvercrest Asset Management, said on Twitter.

“But the underlying issues – some due to China’s protectionist ideology, some due to Trump’s – remain unresolved.”

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